November 11, 2023, 11:44 am
Atlanta Falcons (4-5) at Arizona Cardinals (1-8)
Falcons (-125) at Cardinals (+105): O/U 44 (-108/-112)
Falcons -2 (-110) at Cardinals +2 (-110)
Bet: 2-5, -3.18u
Lean: 2-3, -1.3u
The Atlanta Falcons will fly out west to battle it out with the Arizona Cardinals. The Falcons are hoping a change at QB can provide a spark to their offense, while the Cardinals are welcoming their franchise QB back after missing the first nine weeks. Are we totally sure the Cardinals still view Kyler as the franchise? That’s probably a topic for an offseason article. For now, we’ll focus in on the present and dissect what Vegas is calling a closely contested matchup.
Main Storylines to Watch
Kyler Murray’s return: He’s finally ready to make his long anticipated 2023 NFL debut after recovering from an ACL tear. We all know he’s talented and has been electric for fantasy football in previous seasons, but what will THIS WEEK look like? It’ll surely be an upgrade over Clayton Tune last week, but I’m not so sure it’ll be much better than Dobbs was the games prior. To be fair to Dobbs, he was largely serviceable. As the second half of the season rolls on, Murray should get more comfortable, things should get going more. It’s possible just the energy around his return could elevate the team around him for this week. Let’s just be happy we get to see him play ball this season and the Cardinals didn’t shut him down in hopes of better setting themselves up for the 2024 draft.
The Three Top Ten Picks: Will Bijan ever get a full workload? will Drake London ever consistently get double digit targets? Will Arthur Smith stop ignoring Kyle Pitts for Jonnu Smith? The fantasy community needs answers, and Arthur simply does not care. He probably shouldn’t, because he’s got real games to worry about (but it doesn’t seem he’s doing a great job there either). Maybe us fantasy pundits are onto something with the idea of using their three most recent top ten picks more often. With nine weeks of data for 2023, we can probably safely assume that the offense is what it is at this point. Our only hope could be that Heinicke has a Foles-in-Philly type success and open things up more than Ridder ever could.
Taylor Heinicke: At least he’s willing to throw the ball around the yard it, unlike Ridder. When Heinicke has gotten the opportunity to start, he’s been fun to watch. He was solid for the Commanders in 2021, but that didn’t lead to a ton of fantasy football success. He will open up the offense to have more potential for big plays/games, but I’m still leary of how far he can take this offense. The Cardinals are middle of the pack against QBs this year. I’m steering clear of Heinicke in 1QB leagues (though I personally have to start him in a dynasty league, pray for me). He’ll be a risk/reward QB2 for those in SF or 2QB leagues.
Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier: What’s the deal here? Is the reason Bijan isn’t getting a bellcow role or volume really because he’s able to open things up for others? Is it really because Allgeier is superior around the goal line? If so, why draft him at eight? The season started out pretty well, finishing inside the top 11 three out of the first four weeks. Since week five, however, it’s been back end RB2 territory and worse. Outside of an RB4 finish week one, Allgeier has been usable twice as an RB2. Otherwise his usual landing spot is between RB41-63. You’re starting Bijan because of his immense talent, but we may have to face the fact that the ceiling may not be what we were hoping for based on the first nine games this team has played. Look for Bijan to be more of an RB2 with the ability to light it up should his head coach allow. Allgeier is nothing more than a deep league deep flex play hoping he lands in the endzone.
Drake London: Unfortunately, we didn’t see him with Heinicke last week due to injury, but he’s making his way back from a one game absence. Even when healthy, he hasn’t had the breakout season many were hoping for and maybe even expecting. His only top ten finish was week six, where he was WR6. Otherwise, he’s been in WR2 territory twice, and WR30 or worse the other five weeks. That includes the giant goose egg he gave us week one. I wanted to scream for Arthur Smith to use the eighth overall pick here, but his target counts are actually decent-to-solid, ranging from 6-12 if you take out week one where he only got a single target. This offense would rather keep the ball on the ground and spread the ball around. The matchup with Arizona for WR’s has been hit or miss. They’ve finished anywhere from 32nd (aka worst), making their way all the way up to third. Even without an elite shadow corner, and even with a QB who’s not afraid to sling the ball, London profiles as a WR3 this week. The other names in this WR room can safely be ignored.
Kyle Pitts and Jonnu Smith: Only the falcons have more serviceable TE’s than WR’s. again, Arthur, for the love of our collective sanity, please use the fourth overall pick. In PPR leagues, Smith is outscoring Pitts in total points by a count of 88 to 76. I know total points can be a bit misleading, for the average PPG crowd, Smith is also leading 9.8 to 8.5. Fun stat to make this even better: Smith didn’t score in week 1, having ZERO points. Let’s go even further. By week, here are Pitts fantasy finishes: TE 22, 42, 16, 31, 8, 3, 16, 22, 17. For Smith, it looks like this: N/A, TE 18, 15, 3, 12, 4, 21, 37, 5. If you eliminate week six, where they finished TE3 and TE4, respectively, you get four Pitts weeks, and four Smith weeks. You’d be better off starting Smith every week, seeing as he’s finished in the top 5 three times, while Pitts has only managed that once (and only one other time in the top ten). The Cardinals are no slouches against the position, ranking 12th. In 12 team leagues, they can be started equally as fringe TE1’s, but you might want to see if more consistent options are out there.
Kyler Murray: He’s back. But how well will he play? Will he be rusty? Will he run? Anyone who says they know is lying to you. Historically speaking, Murray has shown the capability to be an elite fantasy QB. In his second year, 2020, He rattled off 10 straight 20+ point games to start the year. The remaining six games saw him only eclipse that mark once when he hit 33. The following year was a bit more inconsistent for Murray, who ranged from nine to 30 points. 2022 was shaping up to be the same before he tore his ACL. If you’re looking at sheer fantasy scores, it looks like he’s gotten slightly worse year to year. The Falcons have been bleeding fantasy points to QBs all season, and even more so the past four weeks; during that stretch they are 30th against QBs. After laying all of this out there, I’m willing to start Kyler Murray as a back end QB1 simply because of his skillset and the matchup. I will say that it also depends on how risk-tolerant you are. Personally, I’m willing to take on more risk than some are comfortable with. If you’re a risk averse fantasy player, or are projected to win big this week, a safer option for week 10 might be more palatable.
James Conner: He’s been limited all week at practice and carries a questionable designation heading into Sunday. If he plays, the team might want to manage his workload since he was unable to practice fully all week. With Emari Demercado ruled out, that leaves Keaontay Ingram as the lone healthy backup on the active roster. In case you missed it, Ingram had nine carries for eight yards last week. If Conner is active, he should see a large portion of the backfield touches and can be trusted as an RB2. This will especially ring true if Murray takes off less as it could lead to some extra dump offs in Conners direction.
Marquise Brown: Brown was drafted based on the volume he was expected to earn as the only WR who’s proven something in the NFL. While he’s certainly had his fair share of targets, it may not be as much as some thought during the offseason. Only four of the nine games he’s played in has Hollywood eclipsed double digit targets. However, he’s been at seven or better every game but the first one of the year. The speedy WR has yet to have a top 12 finish this season, topping out at WR14. Outside of that, he’s only been a WR2 four other times. As for those other four weeks, Brown was a WR4 or worse. Kyler should provide a boost in value, as does the matchup against a bottom five defense against WRs. All of that considered, this could be a week where starting him pays off. Rondale Moore has largely been an afterthought, as has Michael Wilson aside from his week four WR6 finish.
Trey McBride: Last week was a bit of a disappointment after having a breakout game, but I’m willing to write that off due to Clayton Tune being at the helm. Wirth Ertz still on IR, McBride will have another opportunity to take over just about all of the tight end volume. Over the course of his career, McBride has played nine games without Zach ertz in the lineup. Only two of those games really stand out in terms of volume and touchdowns. The tight end position in fantasy is notoriously shallow, so even in the games where the box score doesn’t catch your attention, he’s been relatively serviceable. Still, as an ascending second year player getting an upgrade at QB, McBride should be started in most leagues as a low end TE1 with the potential to climb the rankings by the end of the weekend.
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After starting 2-0 in my bets, I’ve gone 0-5 since. I need to get back in the win column. This matchup isn’t doing me any favors in terms of picking a winner. Both teams have a losing record against the spread, with the Falcons at 2-7 and the Cardinals at 4-5. I feel like Bijan Robinson is due for a big game. The Cardinals are a a soft matchup for running backs, and his rushing prop is set at 55.5 I’ll take the over at -120. Kyler’s passing line is interesting, as its set at 222.5. Over the course of his career, he averaged almost 243 pass yards per game. In 2022, he averaged 215 pass yards per game before he got injured. I’m confident enough to start him in fantasy this week, so I should be comfortable betting on fine performance. However, I need to be a little more risk averse with my wallet until I get back in the green, so I’ll simply lean Kyler getting over 222/5 pass yards at -115
BET: Bijan Robinson over 55.5 yards (-120), 1.2u to win 1u (DK)
Lean: Kyler Murray under 222.5 pass yards (-115), 1.15u to win 1u (DK)