If you have spent any time reading this column, you know that it has been a tough year for the NFL’s Thursday Night Football. Luckily, that all changed this week, thanks in part to the uber-talented rosters of the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers going head-to-head. There’s not much that gets a football fan’s blood boiling more than a quarterback showdown of Marcus Mariota and PJ Walker and running back rooms fronted by Cordarrelle Patterson and D’Onta Foreman. NFL Thursday Night Football.
Add in five field goals in four quarters, and you’ve got yourself an instant classic on prime time TV. Now, this wasn’t the worst game of the season, not by any stretch of the imagination. But top fantasy options like Patterson (2.5 half-PPR points), Kyle Pitts (3.8 points) and DJ Moore (4.9 points) all crapped the bed, while Foreman (19.0 points), Laviska Shenault (13.4 points) and Drake London (12.3 points) shined to varying degrees.
Safe to say, this was not a joyous day for most fantasy managers. Memes portraying Mariota as a trash can in a squad car have surfaced, which is honestly an insult to garbage disposal devices everywhere. This game was really between the Splatlanta Fartcons and the Terdalina Pantnerds. And yes, that is really the best I could come up with. It’s clearly time for some deep introspection.
Anyway, here’s what else I saw in another riveting edition of Thursday Night Football.
The Stage NFL Thursday Night Football
Line: ATL -2.5
What Happened: Carolina led from start to finish, holding off a pair of second-half touchdowns by Atlanta’s Drake London and KhaDarel Hodge thanks to a four-field-goal game by kicker Eddy Pineiro and touchdown runs by Laviska Shenault and D’Onta Foreman. The passing games were both shaky at best, but the Panthers came away with a 25-15 win despite just 16 pass attempts and 108 yards through the air from QB PJ Walker.
Falcons Pregame Outcome vs. Projections (Half-PPR) NFL Thursday Night Football
RB Cordarrelle Patterson – 2.5 (PROJ 11.9)
TE Kyle Pitts – 3.8 (PROJ 8.8)
WR Drake London – 12.3 (PROJ 8.7)
RB Tyler Allgeier – 1.8 (PROJ 5.9)
WR Olamide Zaccheaus – 4.4 (PROJ 4.5)
RB Caleb Huntley – 3.2 (PROJ 3.6)
WR Damiere Byrd – 7.3 (PROJ 2.2)
WR KhaDarel Hodge – 10.7 (PROJ 1.8)
TE Mycole Pruitt – 1.1 (PROJ 1.1)
RB Avery Williams – 2.5 (PROJ 1.1)
Panthers Pregame Projections vs. Outcome (Half-PPR) NFL Thursday Night Football
QB PJ Walker – 5.7 (PROJ 13.0)
WR DJ Moore – 4.9 (PROJ 11.1)
RB D’Onta Foreman – 19.0 (PROJ 10.8)
RB Chuba Hubbard – 1.4 (PROJ 8.7)
WR Terrace Marshall Jr. – 4.8 (PROJ 8.3)
WR Shi Smith – 2.2 (PROJ 4.1)
WR Laviska Shenault Jr. – 13.4 (PROJ 4.0)
TE Tommy Tremble – 0.0 (PROJ 3.5)
TE Ian Thomas – 0.0 (PROJ 2.3)
RB Raheem Blackshear – 3.2 (PROJ 1.2)
1. D’Onta Foreman – 31 carries, 130 yards, 1 TD; 0 receptions. Foreman wasn’t a factor in the passing game, but then again, nobody really was. He saw a whopping 31 carries and rushed for 4.2 yards per attempt with that volume, eventually finding the end zone with a 12-yard scamper in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Raheem Blackshear had just three carries, and Chuba Hubbard finished with five.
2. Laviska Shelnault – 2 carries, 42 yards, 1 TD; 3 receptions (4 targets), 17 yards. The bulk of Shenault’s fantasy production came on a 41-yard touchdown rush in the second quarter. Shenault saw four targets — his second-highest total of the season. Unfortunately, his passing game usage is not formidable enough to garner weekly consideration.
1. DJ Moore – 4 receptions (6 targets), 29 yards. Moore was the clear lead option in the passing game with a team-high six targets, but that doesn’t mean much in this offense with PJ Walker under center. Moore has finished outside the top-35 wide receivers six times through nine weeks and looks to be on track to add another such performance in Week 10.
2. Kyle Pitts – 2 receptions (8 targets), 28 yards. Exactly how does a quarterback fail to connect with a target as big as Pitts on 75% of throws? The volume continues to be there, as evidenced by three-straight weeks of seven-plus targets — but the production simply is not.
3. Cordarrelle Patterson – 5 carries, 18 yards; 1 reception (1 target), 2 yards. Patterson’s five carries were three fewer than Tyler Allgeier’s eight and matched Caleb Huntley’s five. This appeared to be a favorable matchup for Patterson, but he failed to deliver.
What We Learned
2. DJ Moore should be ranked outside the WR2 range and is a back-end WR3 at best for the remainder of the season. The offensive scheme and quarterback play in Carolina is simply too much to overcome on a weekly basis.
3. Moving forward, pencil Cordarelle Patterson in as a back-end RB2 with little upside. For what it’s worth, I don’t see many fantasy championship teams having him on the roster.
4. There’s little you can do with Kyle Pitts other than continue to roll him out. With the lack of options at the position, Pitts’ volume in the passing game is hard to move away from.
5. Despite a strong week, Laviska Shenault’s passing game usage is not sustainable enough to warrant weekly consideration. He remains well outside of WR3/Flex range.
6. The Atlanta offense is too shaky to trust, but Drake London is a ROS WR4 that you can feel comfortable deploying in leagues with the 3WR/2FLX format.
1. Can Kyle Pitts find any fantasy consistency in the second half of the season? Many signs point to no, but I still believe Pitts is a legitimate buy-low candidate, given his target share and talent.