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Fantasy Start/Sit for Falcons at Panthers

Which Falcons and Panthers can you trust in your lineup for the fantasy championships?

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

The fantasy championships have arrived. If you’ve made it this far, congratulations: just making it to the final round takes a fair amount of skill and a pretty good amount of luck. For those that didn’t make it, good luck next season.

Atlanta travels to take on the Carolina Panthers on Saturday. Earlier in the year, this match-up provided the best day of Matt Ryan and Julio Jones’ careers. While we shouldn’t expect that kind of outcome again, the match-up remains excellent for the Falcons’ passing attack.

While the Falcons have improved somewhat on defense, they’ve shown that they can still be exploited. Several Panthers players have choice match-ups, which may make them preferred starts in your league.

A Note on Julio Jones: Jones is going to play this weekend, and if you have him, it’ll be difficult to bench such a high-ceiling player. We must also be aware that this is his first game back from injury, and take into account the fact that he might not receive his normal amount of touches. You have to go with your gut on Julio—if you feel comfortable starting him, do it. If you have other options and are nervous, sit him.

Let’s take a look at which players you should start or sit this weekend.

Start

Falcons

QB Matt Ryan

Ryan had another good game last week against a bottom-tier defense in the 49ers. The Panthers are, statistically, worse than the 49ers at defending the pass. If you think the Panthers will put up a fight in this one, that leaves more opportunities for Ryan to post big numbers. Ryan is a high-floor QB1 this week with an exciting ceiling, but the hostile environment of Carolina puts a slight element of risk into the equation.

RB Devonta Freeman

Freeman came through for you big time last week, with a huge 3 TD performance. While the Panthers are significantly better at the defending the run than the 49ers, Freeman is still the clear lead runner for the high-scoring Falcons offense. He’ll have ample opportunities in the red zone and is a high-floor RB2 on Saturday.

WR Taylor Gabriel

I’m going to keep telling you to start Gabriel until he disappoints. Despite missing the end of the 49ers game, Gabriel still had an excellent fantasy showing. He’s one of the most efficient WRs in fantasy, and can be depended upon even with limited touches. Julio returning may even make Gabriel a more effective option, with Jones drawing the majority of the coverage.

Panthers

TE Greg Olsen

The “start any TE against the Falcons” trend has held strong this year, and it absolutely continues with the Panthers’ top target in Greg Olsen. Olsen actually struggled against the Falcons throughout most of their Week 4 tilt, but rebounded to close out the game. Olsen is a top-tier TE1 this week against Atlanta’s poor pass defense, and should be a great championship option.

RB Jonathan Stewart

Stewart has played very well after returning from injury earlier in the season. The Panthers seem to have committed to allowing Stewart to take the goal-line touches away from Cam Newton in an effort to protect their MVP QB from additional hits. That has greatly benefited Stewart’s fantasy season, and he receives plenty of touches outside the red zone as well. Stewart is a high-end RB2 for this match-up.

Sit

Falcons

Falcons’ TEs

With Hooper sitting this one out, you might think the Falcons would make Toilolo their de-facto #1 TE this weekend, making him a desperation play. You’d be wrong, however, as the Falcons have shown little interest in funneling targets to any one TE on the roster. With Toilolo and Perkins, and now blocker Tialavea being promoted to the active roster, there is no clear start here. Avoid these TEs and target someone else on waivers.

Other Falcons WRs

There was some Aldrick Robinson hype building after his impressive Week 15 showing, but with Julio returning, the targets simply aren’t there for anyone else. Of all the other receivers on the roster, Sanu is the only one that might produce a FLEX-worthy outing. Outside of him, it’s purely a dart throw as to who gets open on the right play.

Panthers

WR Kelvin Benjamin

Man, has this player disappointed fantasy owners big time. After an explosive Week 1 showing, Benjamin has become the model of inconsistency, even getting benched by the Panthers at times. He’s a tempting play against the Falcons’ exploitable secondary, but in a championship match-up, you should ideally go for someone with a better track record. However, if you need the ceiling, I understand the desperation play.

WR Devin Funchess

This might as well go for all the other Panthers’ WRs, too. Carolina has been incredibly inconsistent as a passing offense. Some weeks, Ted Ginn might go off, or Corey Brown might catch a TD. Funchess is the same way, occasionally posting start-able numbers but never establishing any consistent usage pattern. Avoid these players and look to higher-upside options on the waiver wire.

Kevin’s Spicy Play of the Week

QB Cam Newton

In this case, I actually hope my spicy play is wrong, and Cam sucks badly against the Falcons. But, you can’t deny the numbers: the Falcons remain one of the worst defenses against QBs, even after two cupcake games. In a week with a few star QBs having bad match-ups (Aaron Rodgers, for example), you might be looking for a high-ceiling play to take your team over the top. Well, Cam always has his running ability, and the Falcons are likely going to force Carolina to pass early and often. At the very least, he should have some tolerable garbage time stats.

I wish you all the best of luck in your championship match-ups. As always, you can send me your nagging fantasy questions on Twitter @FalcoholicKevin.