The Atlanta Falcons had the taste of victory touch their lips for the first time in over a month this past Sunday, with a thrashing of the Arizona Cardinals. After going down 7-0, the Birds strung together a 40-7 run to close out their final home game of the season.
The offense was expected to struggle against Arizona’s underrated defense, but they ended up firing on all cylinders (with the exception of Austin Hooper).
For the second straight week, the column went a respectable 6/8 in terms of how close the advice was to actual player performance.
We’ll try to keep things rolling as fantasy football championship week descends upon us.
Matt Ryan - Start
Ok, last week was my mistake. I doubted Matt Ryan for the first time since Week 1, and he went out there and scored three touchdowns while leading the offense to a tremendous scoring output. I won’t repeat that same mistake again this week.
This is a Carolina Panther defense which Ryan gashed for 272 passing yards and four total touchdowns in Week 2. Yes, they did just shut down Drew Brees on Monday night, but Brees has been well below average in every game of New Orleans’ three game road trip which concluded in Charlotte (averaging 177 passing yards and having a TD/INT ratio of 2/3 over the course of those three games).
Even with the great performance on Monday, the Panthers defense still gives up the eighth-most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs. Roll with Matt Ryan on your way to a fantasy title.
Tevin Coleman - Start
Tevin Coleman burned me when I suggested to sit him last weekend — he had 145 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries, and flashed his big play ability with two runs of over 40 yards — and the opportunity is there for him to put up a big performance again this week.
While the Panthers do rank in the top 10 in fewest fantasy points allowed against opposing fantasy running backs, they’re the same defense that Coleman gashed for 107 rushing yards on 6.7 yards per carry in Week 2.
The biggest reason for my faith in Teco this weekend has to do with backup RB Ito Smith being placed on injured reserve following Sunday’s win. That should open the door for Coleman to get as many touches as he can handle, with Brian Hill and Jeremy Langford being the only other healthy RBs on the roster. The opportunity and confidence are there for Coleman to have a big afternoon.
Julio Jones - Start (if he plays)
Did you know that Julio Jones is already at over 1500 receiving yards with two games left to play? Did you also know that he’s scored six touchdowns in the past seven games? You know where I’m going with this — start Julio, if he plays.
If Julio ends up being ruled out, however, then of course you should sit him.
Calvin Ridley - Sit
Ridley has hit the rookie wall and has been putting up poor fantasy numbers all too frequently in recent weeks. He’s only put up a performance of 6.0 fantasy points (in standard scoring) or more in one of his last six games, and twice since Week 4.
No matter what the defensive matchup is, it’s difficult to place your trust in Ridley with how poorly he’s performed since that hot three-game stretch at the beginning of the season.
Mohamed Sanu - Start
I trust Sanu in this one a bit more than Ridley, as he’s a veteran player who has experienced going through the grind of a 16-game schedule.
The Panthers defense ranks in the top 10 in most points allowed to opposing fantasy WRs. With Ridley struggling, this is the perfect opportunity for Sanu to claim his spot as the number two receiving option next to Julio this weekend (no I don’t mean long term, I mean just for this game).
Austin Hooper - Start
Hooper put up quite a dud, in the form of 0 catches, this past weekend. He was listed as a sit in last week’s column, as the Cardinals were a stingy defense against opposing fantasy TEs coming into the game. Hooper has proven to be more matchup dependent than any other player on the Falcons’ roster.
Fortunately for him, the Panthers give up the third-most fantasy points to opposing TEs, so that sets the stage for the Stanford product to have a nice bounce-back game.
Moreover, he had 59 yards and a touchdown against Carolina in Week 2, in what was one of his best stat-lines of the season.
Matt Bryant - Start
Atlanta’s offense is expected to be firing against what could be a downtrodden Panther defense that just had almost all of its playoff hopes evaporate, at the hands of the Saints on Monday night.
That’s good news for Matt Bryant, who’s been excellent once again this season (just one missed FG and two missed XPs all year, with a back injury playing a role in more than one of those). The Falcon offense should frequently find itself in field goal range on Sunday.
Atlanta Falcons D/ST - Start
Last week was the first time I listed the Falcons defense as a start in this column since Week 1, and they went out and had their strongest performance of the season. This week, they face a Panthers offense which won’t have Cam Newton, and which put up only 7 points against New Orleans.
The defense should be able to tee off against Taylor Heinicke. They’re a worthy stream.