Falcons-Saints Thursday night fantasy preview

Don't look now, but we're closing in on the half way point of the season. I know, I know, it's going by too fast. But time flies when you're having fun, no? Anyway, Week 6 offers up an intriguing Thursday Night Football matchup when the Atlanta Falcons travel to play the New Orleans Saints. Regardless of the respective quality of these teams in a given year, they always play hotly contested, down-to-the-wire contests, and this week should be no different. There are loads of fantasy implications in this one though, as Julio Jones' hamstring is an issue, while owners are wondering if Devonta Freeman can continue his torrid fantasy scoring pace. On the flip side, Willie Snead seems to have lapped Brandin Cooks as the top Saints wide receiver in a move NO ONE saw coming. Get the full scoop on both squads and how you should set your fantasy lineups in the preview below.

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints, 8:25 p.m. ET on CBS

Atlanta Falcons:

Ryan's effectiveness as a passer has diminished over the last few weeks, coinciding with Julio Jones' hamstring flare ups. With Jones still not likely 100 percent, as well as Leonard Hankerson being nicked up, Ryan is more on the QB2 radar for this road game against the Saints. While the Saints defense on it's own isn't exactly intimidating, there are probably safer options to deploy than Ryan in a matchup that is always played very close.

With the passing attack sputtering, Freeman has been the workhorse for the Falcons, racking up 539 total yards and seven rushing touchdowns over the last three weeks. Tevin Coleman could see a few more carries this week as he gets worked back into the offense, but not enough to take Freeman out of RB1 status for this Week 6 tilt.

Jones' hamstring injury is becoming worrisome for the Falcons and fantasy fans, but if Julio starts in real life he starts for your fantasy team. He's just too good to bench, making this a simple (but potentially frustrating) decision.

Hankerson is probable for Thursday Night Football after suffering a rib injury last week. This is good news, as Hankerson has been the No. 2 option in the Falcons passing attack. He's a safer play as a WR3 this week, but if Julio isn't himself we could see more targets funneled to Hankerson.

Tamme led the team with eight catches on 10 targets last week, racking up 94 yards in the process. Given the injuries to the other pass-catchers, Tamme could see a decent amount of looks again in Week 6, but will be tough to trust given his limited production prior to Week 5. He's a TE2 with upside.

New Orleans Saints:

Brees has thrown for north of 300 yards in three of his four starts, but turnovers have limited his fantasy output, as he's scored more than 17 fantasy points just once on the season. Given how bad the Saints defense is playing Brees could be leading plenty of comebacks the rest of the season -- this game included. With the Saints in desperation mode, look for them to rely on the right arm of Brees as they have for the last several years. We like him as a QB1 this week.

Ingram was one of the steadiest fantasy RBs, scoring at least 9.8 fantasy points in each of the first four weeks before posting a 7.4-point stinker last week. Ingram is still the lead back in this offense and will get all of the early looks. He's a solid RB2 this week, as the Saints could try to control the clock to keep Matt Ryan and company on the sidelines. The Falcons have also allowed the second-most fantasy points to opposing running backs, but that's been on the back of eight rushing touchdowns as opposed to gobs of yards.

Last week Spiller played on the second-most snaps (19) behind Mark Ingram (35), but he wasn't able to do much damage in the stat sheets with those opportunities. Back on the fast track in the Superdome, Spiller will have deep flex appeal in PPR formats, but owners in standard leagues might want to look elsewhere until we see Spiller become a more consistent part of the offense.

Willie Snead has become the top option in the Saints passing attack, and can be safely deployed as a WR3, especially in PPR formats. Cooks posted a nice stat line in Week 5, but much of that came on a garbage time touchdown literally as time expired. He also might get the Desmond Trufant treatment, which has not been kind to opposing pass-catchers this season. He's also on the WR3 radar, but we feel a little less confident about his upside.

-- Alex Gelhar is a fantasy football writer/editor for NFL.com, and the producer of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast. Hit him up on Twitter @AlexGelhar for movie recommendations or fantasy advice.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.