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Fantasy Football Picks: Patriots vs. Falcons DraftKings NFL DFS TNF Showdown Strategy

Garion Thorne preps you for Thursday’s 8:20 p.m. ET contest between the Patriots and the Falcons with game-script analysis and Captain’s Picks.

Alright, here’s my Super Bowl LI story. It was the first Super Bowl I hosted with my current girlfriend and the “party” was attended entirely by her friends. I tried to deep fry my own chicken wings, it didn’t work, and what little interest our attendees had in the game had vanished by the time the Atlanta Falcons had taken a 28-3 lead.

I was hungry and agitated as the New England Patriots mounted their comeback and I actually excused myself to the bedroom to watch the end of the fourth quarter when it was apparent what was about to happen. When James White walked into the end zone in overtime, I sulked back to the living room where everyone was now watching “Blue Crush 2” on the big screen. I’ll save you the Google, it’s an awful and unnecessary sequel.

Anyway, let’s break it all down tonight’s contest from a Showdown perspective.

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL Showdown $2.25M Thursday Night Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry] (NE vs ATL)


Captain’s Picks

Mac Jones ($15,900 CP) - Let me be immediately clear about this: The Patriots are not a fun Showdown team. The squad is basically as balanced as any other in the league, and though some of the skill-position players are very well paid, there really isn’t a standout star of this offense. Sure, Jakobi Meyers ($8,000) leads New England in target share by a pretty wide margin, but even that’s only resulted in two games with at least 15.0 DKFP so far in 2021. As such, this is a spot where I’m inclined to trust the matchup more than the asset. The Falcons have been dreadful at defending the pass through 10 weeks, coming into Thursday’s tilt with the third-worst pass defense according to DVOA. Atlanta has also surrendered multiple touchdown passes in six of its nine contests, including five to Tom Brady and four to Tua Tagovailoa. Jones hasn’t generally enjoyed huge amount of volume in his rookie campaign, but he did exploit a similarly terrible Jets secondary to the tune of 25.2 DKFP back in Week 7. The first-round pick has looked very solid the past month and he’s thrived playing behind one of the best pass-blocking offensive lines in all of football. I think he’ll live up to his salary in this spot.

Editor’s Note: Falcons RB Cordarrelle Patterson (ankle) has been ruled out for tonight’s game vs. the Patriots.

Cordarrelle Patterson ($15,300 CP) - Despite getting in limited practices all week, Patterson has been dubbed a game-time decision by Arthur Smith for Thursday night’s festivities. If he ends up playing, I think he’s easily the Falcons’ best DFS asset. Patterson had only five touches and 15 snaps in a lopsided loss against the Cowboys this past Sunday, but I’m willing to say that was a script-induced outlier. Prior to Week 10, Patterson had logged at least a 55% snap share in four straight games, all while averaging 16.5 touches and 18.3 DKFP. The veteran has big-play potential, he’s second on the team in receiving yards (473) and New England has conceded seventh-most DKFP per contest to opposing backfields. What’s not to like? However, if Patterson is ruled inactive, you might as well just Captain Patriots D/ST ($5,600) because I have no idea how Atlanta plans to move the ball. Wayne Gallman ($8,400) flirting with 20 carries? Not for me.

FLEX Plays

Hunter Henry ($7,000) - I think we all know what Henry’s role on the Patriots is at this point. The tight end has been on the receiving end of a team-high seven touchdown passes through 10 weeks of action, while Henry also leads all New England skill-position players in red zone target share (21.7%). This is a role that has been trending in the right direction, too, as all seven of Henry’s trips to the end zone have come since the beginning of Week 4. Heck, the 26-year-old has six targets inside the opponent’s 20-yard line in the past three weeks alone. If you’re thinking about using Jones in the Captain’s slot, it only makes sense that you’d want some serious exposure to Henry, as well. I’d even consider Jonnu Smith ($2,400; shoulder) if the former Titans draft pick is available. Smith and Henry have similar snap shares and Jonnu’s seen nine red zone targets to Hunter’s 10. Smith’s translated those opportunities into just one TD, so some normalization might be on the horizon. In any case, Jones clearly loves his TEs near the goal line.

Lee Smith ($200) - Let’s stick with tight ends, shall we? Smith isn’t going to impress anyone with a massive DFS performance on Thursday, but as I always say with these assets priced at the absolute minimum: 10x value is one 10-yard catch away. The Falcons have been running a lot of 12 personnel with Calvin Ridley (personal) unavailable — well, it’s 12 personnel if you consider Kyle Pitts ($9,600) to be a TE — and with Hayden Hurst (ankle) now also sidelined, Smith could be looking at a huge snap share in Week 11. I would anticipate several of those snaps won’t translate into routes on passing downs, but I think we’re honestly looking at 3-4 targets for the veteran, especially if Atlanta finds itself in a negative script. Smith could be a perfect option for those attempting a “stars and scrubs” build.


Matt Ryan ($10,800) - Matt Ryan has been fine so far in 2021. He’s only produced 0.44 fantasy points per drop back through nine starts, but his four 300-yard passing games are tied for the third-most in the NFL. That’s an important stat, actually. You see, when Ryan hits the 300-yard bonus, he’s averaging 25.2 DKFP. In the five contests he’s failed to do so, Ryan is averaging just 12.8 DKFP. That might be bad news considering how stingy the Patriots defense has been against QBs. New England sports the AFC’s second-best pass defense by DVOA, while its also surrendered a league-low 4.8 yards per opponent pass attempt dating back to the beginning of Week 8. It’s the reason the Patriots have allowed the second-fewest DKFP per game to the quarterback position. There’s no doubting Ryan’s ceiling, yet this is not a matchup I envision him exploiting.


It’s not even that the Falcons have yet to win a game at home in 2021, it’s that they’ve yet to even cover. Meanwhile, the Patriots are undefeated on the road this season and they’re also 4-0 ATS in their past four games overall. According to DVOA, this is a matchup of the fifth-best team in football and the absolute worst. That’s right. Football Outsiders says Atlanta is worse than the Jets. Who am I to argue? Falcons fans will be watching “Blue Crush 2” by the third quarter.

Final Score: New England 27, Atlanta 17

Set your DraftKings fantasy football lineups here: NFL Showdown $2.25M Thursday Night Millionaire [$1M to 1st + ToC Entry] (NE vs ATL)

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