Week 9 of the season is here, and by now you probably have a fairly good idea of your fantasy team’s prospects of making the playoffs and competing for a championship. No matter where you stand, these next four games could be the difference between a shot at a title, or a battle for the worst team in your league.
Don’t worry, I’m here to help you make some good decisions with your lineup. This Falcons-Panthers game isn’t likely to be a high-scoring affair, but there are still some good days to be had among the options available. Kelvin Benjamin’s trade opens up some intriguing possibilities for the other Panthers’ WRs, but might end up lowering the ceiling of their offense.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the top fantasy options to consider in this game.
WR Julio Jones
Even though this is a pretty tough match-up, you’ll still want to get Julio into your lineup against the Panthers. While James Bradberry is a pretty good CB, he’s shown in previous games that he isn’t capable of completely shutting down Julio. The Falcons will likely continue to lean on Jones, particularly in such an important game. Hopefully, his recent trend of red-zone targets continues and he’s able to start getting some TDs, as well.
RB Devonta Freeman
This is an equally tough match-up for the RBs, and with the questions surrounding Freeman’s injury (which doesn’t appear serious or that it will limit his snaps), there is some doubt surrounding the position this week. However, until we see Sark start consistently targeting Tevin Coleman in the passing game again, Freeman will continue to be the safer play. The Panthers have been stout against the run, but Freeman should still offer you an RB2 floor during a week with six teams on bye.
WR Mohamed Sanu
For those in need of FLEX help this week with several good offenses on a bye, Sanu is a pretty solid option. He’ll likely draw the coverage of Daryl Worley, who is a decent but unspectacular CB. Sanu has been one of the most consistent pass-catchers in the Falcons’ offense, and I don’t expect that to change against Carolina. He’s also been a factor in the red-zone, which helps increase his ceiling, too. Sanu is a WR3/FLEX play this week.
QB Cam Newton
Newton has been relatively poor throwing the ball in 2017, but he’s the Panthers’ biggest threat on the ground and has been consistently getting 10 carries a game. Without Kelvin Benjamin his ceiling as a passer is substantially lower, but he’s still a high-floor option at QB that has a very good chance at scoring rushing TDs. Against Atlanta, I rate Newton as a low-level QB1 this week.
RB Christian McCaffrey
If you play in PPR leagues, McCaffrey has been a goldmine for you despite his poor rushing and total yardage production. Benjamin’s absence likely leads to some more attention from defenses for the rookie RB. He isn’t a particularly high-ceiling player and he doesn’t score many TDs, but McCaffrey remains a high-end PPR FLEX play against the Falcons—who have had some issues with containing RBs in the passing game.
WR Devin Funchess
Funchess hasn’t done a whole lot in his career to justify being given a role as a WR1 in an NFL offense, but that’s exactly what the Panthers just did by trading away Kelvin Benjamin. Funchess should see a pretty substantial increase in targets and is now arguably Carolina’s top option in red-zone situations. He will now be facing #1 CBs every week, but the volume he should be getting gives him at least FLEX value going forward.
WR Taylor Gabriel
Until Gabriel starts consistently making plays, he needs to be benched at the least or cut if you need the roster space. He simply hasn’t made an impact and it’s clear that Sarkisian doesn’t know how to best utilize the dynamic WR. In 2016, you accepted Gabriel’s low target numbers because he was so incredibly efficient with his touches. That is no longer the case in 2017.
RB Tevin Coleman
I want Coleman to be a reliable fantasy starter. He should be a reliable FLEX option, at worst. But Sark has completely removed Coleman’s receiving from the offensive gameplan, and he’s simply too risky a play without getting 2-3 catches a game. If you’re desperate this week, there is some chance that Coleman gets a bigger share of the carries with Freeman’s injury, but it’s a dangerous proposition against a very stout Panthers defense.
TE Ed Dickson
There was a time when I would recommend playing every TE against the Falcons’ defense, but that time is gone. Atlanta has clamped down on TEs over the past several weeks, and the combination of Keanu Neal and De’Vondre Campbell appears to be an effective way of limiting the production of even elite TEs. Dickson is certainly not an elite TE, and is not worth starting unless you’re truly desperate at the position this week.
RB Jonathan Stewart
Stewart hasn’t seen his usually large role this season, and the Panthers have been woefully ineffective at running the ball. Last week, we saw Cameron Artis-Payne start to get more touches, which could spell even more trouble for Stewart down the road. If you’re starting Stewart, you’re essentially depending on a TD, as the yardage and catches simply won’t be there.
Other Panthers WRs
Somebody else is likely to benefit from the trade of Kelvin Benjamin, but good luck picking who it is. It’s likely that Russell Shepard and Curtis Samuel will be bigger parts of the gameplan, but neither is a particularly inspiring option. Someone like Samuel may be worth a speculative add, as Carolina has claimed they want to incorporate “more speed”, but I wouldn’t consider starting any of these players without more information.
Kevin’s Spicy Play of the Week
TE Austin Hooper
Hooper is becoming a staple in the spicy play section, and for good reason. When he gets touches, he seems to do good things with them. The Falcons will need to get him more involved against a Panthers defense that has been very good against the run, but somewhat vulnerable to TEs—particularly in the red-zone. Hooper is never going to be an elite TE1 option (unless the Falcons really commit to making him a consistent part of the gameplan), but he’s got the potential to get you a solid line this week.
I wish you luck in your Week 9 fantasy match-ups. If you have any fantasy-related questions, feel free to forward them to me @FalcoholicKevin on Twitter.