The fantasy playoffs are finally here. I hope you all made it to the dance in at least one of your leagues. If not, this column could help you avoid the dreaded “sacko”, or last place award. Don’t get the sacko.
Luckily, this game should be a fantasy goldmine (for Falcons players). If you’re a Falcons fan, chances are you have at least one Falcon on your squad. Los Angeles has been statistically solid against the pass, but they’ve allowed a ton of points the last few weeks and there are deep issues brewing between the players and coaching staff.
First of all, the Falcons are dealing with several injuries that may affect how they attack the Rams on offense. Julio Jones is officially listed as questionable, but I would be very surprised if he plays. WR Mohamed Sanu is out, and LT Jake Matthews is also questionable.
The Falcons offense more than likely won’t be operating at full strength on Sunday. You’ll want to have a back-up for Julio, just in case.
Here’s some interesting players to consider this week.
RB Devonta Freeman
Freeman has been seeing a steady dose of snaps every week, and lately he’s been getting ample opportunities in the red zone. The Rams are especially susceptible to the ground attack, and Freeman is going to be the primary runner. I expect the Falcons to have a run-heavy approach, making Freeman a borderline RB1 this week.
WR Taylor Gabriel
If Julio doesn’t play (and with Sanu already ruled out), Gabriel is likely to take over as Matt Ryan’s top target. He’s been excellent on limited touches, and this will be his opportunity to show what he can do with a larger role. I expect Gabriel to have a great game, as he’ll be used in play-action and even some jet-sweep plays. Start Gabriel as a high-ceiling WR2.
RB Todd Gurley
Gurley has been a complete disappointment in fantasy this year. Still, the Falcons have a knack for allowing rushing TDs in the red zone. I don’t expect the Rams to be in the red zone more than once or twice, but Gurley has the best chance of anyone to score a TD when they get there. Don’t push him into your lineup over better options, but expect him to outperform expectations as a low-end RB2.
TE Lance Kendricks
The Falcons suck at covering TEs, and allow a ton of fantasy points to the position. Kendricks isn’t anyone’s idea of an elite (or even good) TE, but Goff clearly has a rapport with him. Kendricks has a good shot at scoring a TD and should catch 3-5 passes in a game where the Rams will likely be trailing.
Other Falcons WRs
With Sanu and possibly Jones out, you might be thinking of starting another Falcons WR (such as Hardy or Robinson) as a desperation play. Don’t—none of these options can be trusted as we simply have no idea how the targets will be spread around. If you’re backed into a corner, my gut tells me Hardy will take over the Sanu role, and may produce as a low-end WR3.
It’s the same story with the Falcons TEs. With Tamme’s injury, we hoped that Hooper would take over the starting TE role, but it still hasn’t happened. Toilolo and Hooper seem to be splitting the role down the middle, and that means that neither is worth starting, even at a desolate position.
QB Jared Goff
You may be tempted to play Goff because of the match-up: the Falcons allow the most fantasy points to QBs. But I just don’t think the Falcons defense is that bad. Goff is prone to making mistakes and he’s surrounded by a sub-par offensive line—not a recipe for a good fantasy day. There are likely better options on your waiver wire, and if there aren’t, you’re in big trouble.
WR Tavon Austin
Austin is drafted every year by eager fantasy players hoping that he’ll finally “break out” and become a capable, consistent player. Well, it’s never happened, and Jeff Fisher has shown that he has no idea how to use him creatively. Austin may have a chance at a big play or two, but he’s too inconsistent to trust in your fantasy playoffs.
Kevin’s Spicy Play of the Week
If you have the Ravens or Chiefs D/ST this week, you likely need a replacement because of their poor match-ups. The Lions should be your first priority, but if you’re too far behind in the waiver wire to get them, the Falcons are an intriguing option this week. LA is allowing a ton of points to opposing D/STs, and just allowed a massive game to the Patriots (a below-average defense). I’m being forced to roll with them this week, and I think they’re a pretty good bet to get you a decent 8-10 point total.
Good luck this week. If you, like me, have Julio Jones in leagues, you just have to pray that you can make it through his potential absence this week. A guy like WR Malcolm Mitchell might make a good replacement this week, if he’s available. Taylor Gabriel is also out there in plenty of leagues, and I think he’ll produce a strong outing.
I hope you guys crush your match-ups in Week 1 of the fantasy playoffs! If you have any questions for this crucial week, hit me up on Twitter @FalcoholicKevin.