The Atlanta Falcons are reeling coming off of a Week 1 defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles. In a game where they scored just 12 points, Atlanta did have some solid fantasy performances as well as some duds.
In last week’s start/sit column, I’d say that the advice was overall very good. Out of nine players (including the defense) whom I suggested for you to start in your lineup or sit on your bench, eight of them were in compliance with the advice given.
This week, the Falcons host the Carolina Panthers, who are coming off of a sloppy 16-8 win over the Dallas Cowboys, in a divisional matchup where both teams have been stung by injuries. Today, we’ll look at the Falcons whom you should start in your lineup or sit on your bench in your Week 2 fantasy matchup.
Matt Ryan - Start
I understand if you’re hesitant to start Matt Ryan this week. In last week’s column, I suggested you sit Ryan on your bench in a tough matchup against the Eagles, and he went on to have a stinker of a game with 251 yards passing, no touchdowns and a bad interception.
Ryan is set to play in the friendly confines of Mercedes-Benz Stadium this week, however, after playing on a soggy terrain in a hostile environment in Philadelphia. The Panthers were middle of the pack regarding fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks last season and Matt Ryan torched them for over 300 yards in both meetings. He was one Julio Jones drop away from going for over 350 yards and three touchdowns in the first game, and he moved the ball at will in the regular season finale.
Moreover, Carolina’s All-Pro linebacker Luke Kueckly may not be at 100% following a late injury he picked up in Week 1’s victory. I’m not suggesting to start Ryan over an elite option like Aaron Rodgers, but if you don’t possess that type of elite fantasy QB, then start Atlanta’s signal caller in your matchup this week.
Devonta Freeman - Sit
Out of the nine start/sit suggestions last week, eight were successful. The one which wasn’t a success was me advocating for you to start Devonta Freeman and him putting together a stinker of his own, accounting for just 50 yards from scrimmage and no touchdowns. It would’ve been a much more joyous night for both Freeman fantasy owners and Falcons fans had he found the end zone on one of his three goal-line looks on the game’s first drive.
This week, Freeman is dealing with a knee injury which will keep him out of the game entirely. It’s an early season injury blow for both the Falcons and Freeman fantasy owners, as we can only hope that he’ll get healthy soon.
Tevin Coleman - Start
In a roll of the dice, looking at his successful history against the Eagles, I advocated for Tevin Coleman fantasy owners to start him at the flex position in Week 1, and he delivered with a touchdown run in the third quarter.
This week, you should slot him into your lineup once again, with Freeman out due to an injury. The Panthers weren’t kind to opposing fantasy running backs last year, giving up the third-fewest fantasy points to the position, but Coleman should see the type of volume which will make him a worthy starter.
With Freeman ruled out completely, Coleman becomes an immediate RB2 with RB1 upside as he’ll be in line for 20+ touches as the team’s bell-cow RB. Thomas Davis being suspended and Luke Kuechly possibly not being at 100% should also make things easier for the University of Indiana alum.
Julio Jones - Start
Start Julio Jones, this is the easiest advice to give. He was force-fed against the Philadelphia Eagles and would have gone for over 200 receiving yards had he not been unjustly robbed of a deep catch by the refs.
Jones went for 116 yards in the first matchup with Carolina last year, and then for 80 more yards in the second game. Matt Ryan will likely look to him early and often as the Panthers’ DBs have had trouble keeping up with him since the team cut Josh Norman back in 2015.
Don’t overthink anything when you have Jones on your roster — unless he’s injured, slot him in to start every week.
Mohamed Sanu - Start
Mohamed Sanu didn’t do much of anything last week, accounting for just four catches and 18 receiving yards. Matt Ryan peppered Julio Jones with so many targets that there weren’t enough to satisfy the fantasy prospects of any other wide receiver. Sanu will be good for a spot start here and there over the course of the season, depending on the matchup, and this is a game where you can start him at the flex position if you really have to.
While the Panthers have an excellent defensive line and linebacker corps, they are very weak in the secondary. Carolina was fifth in fantasy points allowed to opposing WRs last season and Sanu had two good performances against them — scoring a touchdown in the first game, and then accounting for seven catches and 71 receiving yards in the second game.
Start Sanu and expect another solid outing against Carolina, but I wouldn’t have massive expectations of him. The Rutgers product should score enough points to be a worthy flex start at best.
Calvin Ridley - Sit
I’ll get to the point quickly on this one. Calvin Ridley was held without a catch in Week 1, and he didn’t do a great job of getting open. I can’t advocate starting him until he builds a proven rapport with Matt Ryan.
Austin Hooper - Sit
Hooper had a disappointing performance in the Eagles game, catching three passes for just 24 yards. The Panthers gave up the fifth fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends last season but will be without their main TE stopper, Thomas Davis, in this one.
Nonetheless, just like with Ridley, Hooper will need to prove himself before he can be trusted within fantasy lineups. If you’re really struggling at the TE position and have no better options, you can roll the dice with Hooper against a Davis-less Panthers, but only do that in a worst-case scenario.
Matt Bryant - Start
Other than a missed extra point, Bryant looked every bit his usual self in Week 1 following some injury concerns in the preseason. He was kicking in windy conditions and off a soggy playing field so the miss shouldn’t be too alarming.
Bryant converted both of his field goal attempts, including one from over 50 yards out, and he should get plenty of opportunity against a Panthers defense which has had a lot of trouble in keeping the Falcons from moving the ball against them.
Start Bryant with confidence in a matchup with a Panthers side whom he kicked five field goals against in last season’s Week 17 matchup.
Atlanta Falcons D/ST - Sit
The Panthers will be without both starting tackles and will likely be without three-time Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner, who entered concussion protocol this week. The Falcons’ defensive line should be disrupting Cam Newton plenty of times this weekend, and if this defense were fully healthy, they’d be a must-start.
However, with Keanu Neal and Deion Jones both going down to long-term injuries, I can’t advocate starting the Falcons’ defense at all unless Duke Riley surprises us with consistently strong performances at the starting middle linebacker position.
Leave the Falcons’ defense on the waiver wire for the time being.