It looks like we’ll have a real barn-burner on our hands when the Green Bay Packers come to town to face the Atlanta Falcons in their 2017 home opener. Not only that, it’s the Falcons’ first regular season game in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Needless to say, the crowd is likely to be electric.
What should hopefully be equally electric is the fantasy performances from the players involved. Both the Falcons and Packers have a wide variety of players that are fantasy-relevant in 2017. To help you sort through who you should start and sit during Sunday Night Football, here are my recommendations. Note: you shouldn’t need me to tell you to start Julio Jones and Jordy Nelson. You should start them pretty much independently of any match-up.
QB Matt Ryan
This is a great setup for Ryan to have a fantastic fantasy performance. The Packers have a relatively weak secondary, and this is likely to be a high-scoring affair—meaning that Ryan is likely to throw the ball early and often. I think the Falcons will emphasize targeting Julio in this game, which should lead to an impressive fantasy score from Ryan. He’s a safe QB1 with high upside on Sunday Night Football.
RB Devonta Freeman & RB Tevin Coleman
Normally, I’d recommend only starting one of these two backs. But against the Packers, I think both Freeman and Coleman will see work. Freeman will get the majority of touches in the running game, but Coleman will seek to take advantage of the Packers’ somewhat uninspiring LB corps in the passing game. Freeman is an RB1 on Sunday, and Coleman is a FLEX play with upside. He’s a good replacement for David Johnson this week and should get you enough points to get by.
TE Austin Hooper
With the barren wasteland at TE that we’re currently facing, Austin Hooper is actually the #1 TE in fantasy after his spectacular performance in Week 1. It’s unreasonable to expect that kind of production going forward, but Hooper is, in my opinion, a safe option as a borderline TE1. There’s no guarantee on Hooper’s workload against the Packers, but I think he’ll be a big factor. He has better match-ups in LBs Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez than he did against the Bears (Trevathan and Freeman), which could mean more consistent targets for the young TE.
QB Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers might have the highest projection of any QB this week, outside of perhaps Tom Brady (who plays the Saints). Starting him should be a no-brainer. Even if the Falcons manage to play a similar game to the NFC Championship, Rodgers will still be a productive QB1 option. This game profiles as a shootout, and you definitely want to have Rodgers in your line-up.
WR Davante Adams
Adams had a quiet debut against the Seahawks, but the WR is still the #2 target in the Packers passing game. He may not ever get peppered with targets like Nelson and Cobb, but Adams is always targeted deep. All he needs is one long catch to justify his starting spot on your roster, and I think he’s got a decent shot to get one on Sunday. Start Adams as a high-ceiling WR2.
TE Martellus Bennett
Bennett had a disappointing game against Seattle, and looked a little on the slow side throughout the game. Still, the Falcons have long had a thing for giving up big fantasy days to TEs. Until they prove me wrong, I’ll recommend that you start any decent TE against the Falcons. Bennett isn’t likely to have a huge day, but he’ll get you enough points to justify the start. He’s a TE1 against Atlanta.
WR Mohamed Sanu
Sanu is essentially a TD-dependent option, unless you’re in PPR. Even then, Sanu is generally a low-end FLEX play that is best reserved for desperation situations. He’s a much better real-life option than he is a fantasy one, and with the Falcons’ plethora of weapons, he’s simply not likely to get enough volume to justify a start.
RB Ty Montgomery
Montgomery struggled mightily against the Seahawks last week, and I don’t think he’ll fare much better against Atlanta. He isn’t going to sneak up on the team like Tarik Cohen, and the Falcons’ defense played the run pretty well against the Bears outside of a long broken play. I think Atlanta matches up well against his running style, and Montgomery isn’t likely to have a ton of success on the ground.
WR Randall Cobb
Cobb is essentially Green Bay’s third WR. He got a lot of action against the Seahawks, particularly once their nickel CB was ejected for a questionable “punch”. He’s likely to get a fair amount of targets, but he’s in the same category as Sanu for me: mostly short-yardage throws, and TD-dependent to justify a starting spot. Avoid Cobb if you have any better options, as I think the Falcons’ secondary (assuming Poole isn’t ejected) will do a better job of containing him.
Kevin’s Spicy Play of the Game
WR Taylor Gabriel
Last week’s Spicy Play (Austin Hooper) probably won you your match-up. You’re welcome. Let’s swing for the fences again this week with one of my favorite fantasy players from last year in Taylor Gabriel. Gabriel had a quiet first game, but the Falcons will likely need to open up the passing attack more against Green Bay. “Turbo” is the Falcons’ best deep threat outside of Julio Jones, and I think we’ll see Ryan try to get Gabriel involved throughout the game. Consider Gabriel a classic DeSean Jackson-esque “boom or bust” FLEX play this week. If you need a big game from someone to win your match-up, Gabriel might be your guy.
Well, there you have it: my favorite starts and sits for the Falcons Week 2 Sunday Night Football game against the Green Bay Packers. Remember, if you’ve got strong feelings about a player that don’t jive with my predictions, go with your gut. Ultimately, it’s up to you to make your own lineup decisions.
As always, if you guys have any fantasy questions, feel free to send them to me on Twitter @FalcoholicKevin.