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Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown: Seattle Seahawks vs. Atlanta Falcons | Week 1

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Make parlays using Awesemo's NFL Sports Betting Model to maximize your profits on football parlays for Week 13 on Sunday, December 5, 2021.

The Seahawks head to Atlanta for a battle between the birds to kick off Week 1. It doesn’t get much better than Russell Wilson taking on Matt Ryan. For the 2020 NFL season, Matt Savoca will be providing his weekly NFL Fantasy Football Matchups Breakdown column, going through every single game and offensive and defensive matchup every week of the season. For your viewing convenience, we have broken up the matchups breakdown into several single columns, each one covering a single game. You can find links to every game right here. We have 16 games on tap for Week 1 NFL DFS and NFL Fantasy Football, so let’s dive in. The entire matchups article will be available in podcast form every Friday afternoon on the Awesemo Podcast Network. Lets get into Seahawks – Falcons.

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Seahawks (25.25) at Falcons (23.75) – Sunday 9/13/2020, 1:00 p.m.

Seattle Seahawks Fantasy Football and NFL DFS Breakdown

The Seahawks travel cross-country to the Falcons in Week 1, who are still coached by former Seattle defensive coordinator Dan Quinn. Quinn’s firing seemed all but certain after a disastrous 1-7 start in 2019, but the players rallied behind Quinn, ripping off a 6-2 record to close the season, including wins against NFC juggernauts New Orleans and San Francisco. Part of the team’s resurgence was an improved defense, who gave up more than 26 points on only one occasion over the final eight games of the season. Meanwhile, the Seahawks offense scored at least 27 points on 10 occasions last year, going 9-1 in those games. If the Falcons want a chance to compete Sunday, they very likely will need to hold the Seahawks below that 27-point threshold.

Led by six-time Pro-Bowler Russell Wilson, the Seattle front office has assembled arguably the most talented receiving corps Wilson’s ever possessed. Wilson and Tyler Lockett (6.9 targets per game, 23% of team weighted opportunity) have a near-telepathic connection on the field. Passes to Lockett last season had an average passer rating of 124.7, No. 5 in the NFL, and the touchdown upside is immense, as the 5-foot-10, 182-pound Lockett remains a favorite of Wilson’s near the goal line. Last year, he nabbed 17 red zone receptions, second only to New Orleans’ Michael Thomas.

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Across from Lockett stands D.K. Metcalf (6.2 targets per game, 21% of team weighted opportunity). At 6-foot-3, 228 pounds, Metcalf succeeded against NFL defenses even though they likely knew what was coming: Metcalf played nearly two-thirds of snaps from the left receiver position and ran one of either two routes: The slant or the go, on over half his 2019 routes (via Reception Perception). Wilson clearly trusts him on high-leverage plays, throwing Metcalf over 1.5 targets of 20 or more air yards per game. He also was not swayed by tight coverage, as Metcalf came down with 48% of his contested catches in 2019, No. 14 in the NFL (via PlayerProfiler).

The efficiency of Wilson plus the play-making ability of his two receiver options have had Seahawks fans, particularly in the analytics community, clamoring to “Let Russ Cook,” a plea to coach Pete Carroll and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer to install an offensive scheme that let’s Wilson drop back at an above-average clip. If the reigns of an aggressive, pass-happy offense (say, the Atlanta offense) were ever handed to Wilson, there’s no doubt that No. 1 overall fantasy quarterback and league MVP would be in the range of outcomes. Regardless of whether or not this is the year that the run/pass ratio alters drastically for the Seahawks, Chris Carson will serve as the lead back for an offense that was third in run plays per game a season ago. It’s very likely he will earn 15 carries, but don’t be surprised when he’s spelled more often than last year by both free agent acquisition Carlos Hyde and 2020 fourth-round receiving back DeeJay Dallas.

Atlanta Falcons Fantasy Football and NFL DFS Breakdown

The Falcons offense, likely forced to keep pace with a notoriously efficient Seattle offensive attack, will lean on All-Pro Julio Jones. Jones could easily be the highest-targeted receiver in the NFL this season, and superb talent Calvin Ridley could join him as the primary engines of a pass-happy offensive scheme (Falcons led the NFL in pass plays per game with 45.9 in 2019). It was Ridley in particular who stepped up after the trading of Mohamed Sanu to New England at the trade deadline last year, seeing his targets increase by nearly two per game. Hayden Hurst replaces Austin Hooper as the pass-catching tight end and clear-cut No. 3 option. Hurst, who split time with two other “starting” tight ends (and a fullback) in Baltimore, projects as a full-time player for 2020, and his targets should skyrocket past his 2.5 per game average in 2019, leveling out much closer to Hooper’s average of 7.5 in 2020. Expect at least five targets for Hurst on Sunday, with a ceiling of 8-10 if the game script favors more passes.

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The Falcons brought in Todd Gurley to replace Devonta Freeman as their primary ball carrier. Gurley, only a year removed from being the No. 1 running back in fantasy football, fell off the proverbial cliff from an efficiency standpoint in 2019 (No. 10 to No. 22 in the NFL in evaded tackles and from No. 10 to No. 48 in yards per touch). Though his fantasy value was ultimately buoyed by earning the third-most red zone touches of any back last year (he was No. 1 in the NFL in 2018), he saw his passing game work shrivel last season as his target average dropped precipitously from 5.8 to 3.3.

In Atlanta, his red zone touches are much less of a given (Freeman was 25th in red zone touches in 2019), but the receiving work should have a chance to make a comeback. Last year, Devonta Freeman never saw fewer than three targets in a game, and had games of eight, nine and 11 targets. As long as Gurley is (relatively) healthy, he should be a lock for 15 touches, including 4-6 targets, every single week. If the Falcons are playing from behind in the second half, expect a few extra dump-offs from Ryan to Gurley as well.

Seattle did not have a formidable pass rush last season, even with Jadeveon Clowney (whom they let go in free agency this offseason), placing dead last in Football Outsider’s pressure rate at 24%. The acquisition of arguably the league’s top safety, Jamal Adams, in a blockbuster deal this offseason, should not only vastly improve the Seahawks secondary but also add many new wrinkles in applying pressure, as Adams is a highly skilled blitzer.

Prediction: Seahawks 28, Falcons 27

Alternative: The “first half” Falcons show up. Wilson cooks en route to four passing touchdowns. Seahawks 42 – Falcons 27

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A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position at age 14, I've been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, I love to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone. You can contact me by e-mailing [email protected]

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