Monday Night Football

Atlanta @ Tampa Bay
Team Totals: Falcons 27, Buccaneers 21

Devonta Freeman resumed dominating Atlanta’s backfield in last Thursday night’s win over the Saints, matching his season high in touches (24) and out-snapping Tevin Coleman 69% to 32% in an effort that reinforced Freeman as the Falcons’ superior back. Since returning from his concussion two games ago, Freeman has outplayed Coleman with a 4.58 YPC average to Tevin’s 3.18, also out-touching him 37 to 20. As Coleman (concussion) was ruled out on Saturday, Freeman is a white-hot fantasy play at Tampa Bay, which is missing difference-makers DT Gerald McCoy (biceps) and WLB Lavonte David (hamstring) and gave up six rushing scores in its last three games. … 2017 has been a forgettable, upside-lacking season on Matt Ryan’s track record. This is one of his final shots at a ceiling game against a porous Bucs pass defense Ryan has touched up for weekly results of QB13 > QB1 > QB6 with passing-yardage/TD counts of 317/1 > 344/4 > 334/2 since Mike Smith took over as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator. The matchup also suggests Ryan has a solid floor; 10 of the last 12 quarterbacks to face the Bucs logged top-16 results. It’s probably not bold, but I personally am starting Ryan over Marcus Mariota this week. It helps strongly that each of Ryan’s top-two pass catchers – Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu – are in gorgeous spots. 

Ryan’s target distribution in Atlanta’s last eight games: Julio Jones 81; Mohamed Sanu 53; Austin Hooper 34; Taylor Gabriel 18; Freeman and Coleman 13. … The Bucs have shown zero ability to limit Jones, yielding stat lines of 4/66/1 > 8/111/1 > 12/253/2 to Julio since Mike Smith took over as defensive coordinator. On the year, the Bucs have given up league highs in catches (190) and yards (2,470) to wide receivers. … Sanu has 60-plus yards and/or a touchdown in 8 of his last 11 games, while the Bucs have been skewered by slot men Larry Fitzgerald (10/138/1), Adam Thielen (5/98/0), Jarvis Landry (6/95/1), Golden Tate (8/85/1), Danny Amendola (8/77/0), Kendall Wright (7/69/0), and Sanu himself (8/64/0). … Hooper hasn’t reached 50 yards since Week 4 and is a TD-or-bust streamer. 

Jameis Winston’s Week 14 on-field play revealed a new level of recklessness with three turnovers and multiple more that didn’t count. Winston’s extreme-gunslinger approach lowers his floor but raises his ceiling against an Atlanta defense that has yielded top-12 scores to six of its last eight signal callers faced. Winston’s four career fantasy results against Dan Quinn’s unit are QB10 > QB5 > QB16 > QB12. It can’t hurt that the Falcons have allowed the NFL’s second-most rushing yards (278) to quarterbacks this year. … Atlanta has maintained a stout run defense for nearly two months, holding enemy running backs to a 135/474/3.51/3 rushing line in their last seven games and stymieing the Saints’ vaunted run game for 52 scoreless yards on 13 carries last Thursday night. This provides even more reason to avoid Tampa Bay’s quagmire backfield after touches were split three ways between Peyton Barber (13), Doug Martin (12), and Charles Sims (5) in last week’s loss to Detroit. As Martin continued to struggle (2.6 YPC) and got benched for losing a fumble, Barber would be the best flex-play dart throw from the three-man group. 

Winston’s Weeks 13-14 target distribution: Mike Evans 11; DeSean Jackson 10; Chris Godwin 9; O.J. Howard 8; Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate 7; Sims and Barber 5; Martin 3. … Evans is scoreless in six straight with measly target counts of 6 > 5 since Winston returned two games ago. Michael Thomas’ Week 14 blowup game (10/117/1) against the Falcons does create some optimism Evans can rebound here. Evans is also this week’s No. 4 buy-low target in Josh Hermsmeyer’s predictive Air Yards model. … With the exception of Thomas, Atlanta has played shutdown pass defense in its last five games, checking D-Jax (8/60/0), Paul Richardson (5/56/0), Adam Thielen (4/51/0), Dez Bryant (4/39/0), Tyler Lockett (4/37/0), Stefon Diggs (2/32/0), and Ted Ginn (2/10/0) during that span. The Falcons have allowed the NFL’s sixth-fewest receptions of 20-plus yards (33). Jackson lacks an ideal setup to rip a big play and has reached 90 yards in 1-of-13 games this season. … As Brate set or equaled season lows in routes run (19) and playing time (35%) in last week’s loss to the Lions, Howard’s 79% playing-time clip was a season high, and his 23 routes run were Howard’s second most of the year. The timeshare renders both dicey streamers, but I think Howard is the superior streamer at this point. Atlanta gave up 4/36/1 to Kyle Rudolph in Week 13, 7/58/1 to Jimmy Graham in Week 11, and 7/59/0 to Jason Witten in Week 10. 

Score Prediction: Falcons 27, Buccaneers 21

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