With three weeks in the books, we’re all getting a clearer picture of the true fantasy value of most players in the NFL. Obviously there are outliers (Julio’s performance last week, for example), but in general, our decisions can be more informed with each passing week.
The Falcons have been electric on offense thus far, while the defense has been playing like hot wet poo. Carolina, on the other hand, has looked beatable thus far. They’ve struggled on offense for large portions of two games (against two elite defenses) and haven’t been nearly as dominant on defense.
In summary, the Panthers shouldn’t scare you off of playing your Falcons this week like they may have in previous years. You should, however, lower your expectations accordingly.
Let’s take a look at some of the players you’ll want to consider starting and sitting this week.
WR Julio Jones
Normally, I wouldn’t need to tell you to start Julio Jones on a weekly basis. But after last week’s dud performance, you might be considering benching him. Don’t. Julio is a threat to score 30 points every week and is virtually match-up proof. Not to mention, last year in Atlanta was a great game for him and the Panthers no longer have Josh Norman.
QB Matt Ryan
Ryan is not an elite play at the position like last week, but he is still a low-end QB1 against the Panthers. He’s at home (where he historically plays well) and is going against a Panthers team that hasn’t been nearly as dominant on defense. Unless you’ve got a better option, you can still start Ryan this week.
TE Jacob Tamme
Tamme probably burned you last week, as the game quickly got out of hand and Atlanta was able to lean on the RBs. But the stats support Tamme as a solid play at a ravaged TE position this week. Carolina allowed at least 88 yards and a TD to TEs in Weeks 2 and 3. I also believe the more difficult match-up will cause Ryan to lean more on Tamme as a safety valve.
WR Kelvin Benjamin
The Falcons actually have performed well this season against #1 WRs, but Benjamin is a bit of a different beast. Atlanta has given up a ton of TDs through the air over three weeks and I expect that trend to continue. Treat Benjamin as a WR2 with upside against the Falcons.
TE Greg Olsen
You should consider starting any TE against the Falcons at this point, but Olsen’s talent makes him an elite option at a weak position this week. Start him with confidence, particularly if Falcons LB De’Vondre Campbell remains out.
Other Falcons WRs
Until a more consistent usage pattern is seen, you should avoid the Falcons receivers that aren’t named Julio Jones. Sanu, Hardy, and Gabriel all have a chance to have a fantasy-relevant day, but good luck guessing which one it’ll be. You’re better off finding WR help elsewhere.
RB Devonta Freeman and RB Tevin Coleman
Look, you probably can’t afford to bench Freeman, and Coleman could still be a decent FLEX option. But the Panthers have contained the Falcons run game in the past, and you should expect this dynamic duo to struggle this week. Temper your expectations significantly for Atlanta’s backfield on Sunday.
With Jonathan Stewart out, the Panthers backfield is a three-headed monster consisting of Fozzy Whittaker (passing downs), Cameron Artis-Payne (between the 20s), and Mike Tolbert (goal line). Based on history, one of them should have a good day. Good luck figuring out which one.
Kevin’s Spicy Play of the Week
WR Devin Funchess
Continuing the trend of players that have done next to nothing until they play the Falcons, Devin Funchess could be a sneaky desperation FLEX this week against Atlanta. Benjamin is likely to draw most of the attention, which could give Funchess a better match-up. He’s got a decent chance to catch a few passes and a TD, but expecting more than that is silly.
I hope you all find success this week in your fantasy trials. If you have any fantasy questions, feel free to @ me.