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Falcons players to start in your fantasy lineup or sit on your bench in Week 3

It should be a shootout in Atlanta this weekend, and these are the players who should benefit from a fantasy standpoint.

Carolina Panthers v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Now that was more like it from the offense in Week 2. Following a 12-point stinker against the Eagles, Atlanta’s offense exploded for 31 points against another solid defense in the Carolina Panthers. Matt Ryan blossomed, and was named this week’s “fantasy stud” as a result.

Last week’s start/sit column was more hit and miss than the one leading up to Week 1. Not counting the Devonta Freeman sit advice (because he was injured and obviously wasn’t going to be started), the column went 5/8 in terms of how compliant the suggestions were to the actual player performance.

It’s not as successful as the 8/9 from Week 1, and isn’t the best average when you take into account the fact that there’s always some layups (like the weekly advice of starting Julio Jones, you’re obviously going to do that). Let’s try to do better this week.

Atlanta matches up with the arch-rival New Orleans Saints in Week 3, in a big-time early season divisional game. The Saints have showcased an incredibly burnable defense two weeks into the season — getting toasted by Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Buccaneers in Week 1, and then struggling against the Cleveland Browns this past weekend.

In what I’m expecting to be a shootout, there should be plenty of Falcons worthy of a start in your Week 3 fantasy matchup. Here are this week’s starts and sits.

Matt Ryan - Start

The claim to fame in last week’s column was the advice to start Matt Ryan following a rough Week 1 outing. Ryan had his best fantasy game since 2016, accounting for more than two touchdowns for the first time since Week 17 against the Saints that season (he scored four times).

Ryan gets another home game this week against a team whose pass defense has looked very suspect early on. The Saints were dead average regarding points given up to fantasy QBs last year (ranking 16th), and are the third worst team in that category after two games in 2018.

Ryan, admittedly, struggled against the Saints’ defense last year, putting up a TD/INT ratio of 2/5 in two meetings but, based off of what we saw last week, Steve Sarkisian seems to be figuring things out as the offensive coordinator. This also doesn’t look like the same defense from last year. Start Ryan with confidence in what should be a shootout at the Benz on Sunday.

Tevin Coleman - Start

Tevin Coleman isn’t your regular, run-of-the-mill, backup running back. He’s a must-start when Devonta Freeman isn’t available (and it doesn’t look like he will be). Coleman was given 20 touches to work with against the Panthers’ stout front seven, and he parlayed them into 125 yards from scrimmage while becoming the first player to rush for over 100 yards against Carolina in 22 games.

The Saints have given up the third fewest points to opposing fantasy RBs this season, but that may mostly be a result of the Bucs and Browns somewhat abandoning the run in favor of gashing that defense through the air.

Coleman will once again be given plenty of touches, and he should find plenty of holes with how good the offensive line has looked so far this season. Fire him up in your lineup, and consider him an RB2 at worst this week.

Julio Jones - Start

Jones had a solid but unspectacular game against the Panthers, going for 64 yards on five catches. His day could and should have been a lot more dominating, but unfortunately, Matt Ryan overthrew him on what should’ve been a deep touchdown connection after Jones got open on the second drive of the game.

Jones always has game-breaking potential for both the Falcons and your fantasy team. However, he’ll have some duds to go along with his incredible performances; you just have to take the bad with the good.

Julio went for 98 yards and then 149 yards in two games against the Saints last year. If they’re foolish enough to let Marshon Lattimore match up one on one against him, Jones should feast once again.

Mohamed Sanu - Sit

So this is the one I got very wrong last week, advocating for Sanu fantasy owners to give him a look at the flex position before he put up an absolute dud. I knew that a Falcons receiver not named Julio Jones would have a big game, but I guessed the wrong WR.

Sanu looks like he’ll have more targets siphoned from him at the hands of Calvin Ridley this year than he did with Taylor Gabriel as the team’s number three WR last season. He has 37 receiving yards in the first two games combined to start the new season.

Sanu is a big body who has a chance to catch a red zone touchdown in any game, but that’s a difficult thing to bank on when it comes to trusting him within your fantasy lineup. Sit him out this week.

Calvin Ridley - Start

Ridley had a breakout performance against the Panthers, after not being involved in the game plan against the Eagles at all in Week 1. He caught four of his five targets for 64 yards and a touchdown this past Sunday, showcasing himself as a menace for the opposing defense on crossing patterns especially.

In what looks to be a shootout on Sunday, receivers other than Julio will get involved, and Calvin Ridley seems to have earned his QB’s trust enough to be that prime benefactor.

The Saints have allowed the most fantasy points to opposing WRs in the NFL this season, after finishing in the top half of the league in that category last year. You could do a lot worse than Calvin Ridley in your flex position this week.

Austin Hooper - Sit

Austin Hooper had, statistically, a better game this past week than he had all of last season outside of that Week 1 performance against the Bears. He amassed 50+ receiving yards for the first time since Week 4 against the Bills last season, and even scored a touchdown.

Hooper was maybe the prime beneficiary of Sarkisian’s fantastic scheming in Week 2’s win, but it’s difficult to trust him in this matchup. Even with all of their struggles defending the pass this season, the Saints are still one of the 10 stingiest defenses against opposing fantasy tight ends, after giving up the second-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends last year.

TE is a very shallow position so feel free to start Hooper if you have no better options, but temper expectations this week if you do.

Matt Bryant - Start

Bryant feels like an auto-start at this point. He went 4/4 on extra points in Week 2 and converted his only field goal attempt. The offense getting better is nothing but a boon to Bryant’s fantasy prospects moving forward.

Slot him into the lineup this week, in a game where the Falcons shouldn’t have much of a problem moving the ball.

Atlanta Falcons D/ST - Sit

Against a Panthers team which was missing most of their starting offensive line and star TE Greg Olsen, the Falcons defense managed to generate only two sacks while giving up 24 points. The interception was nice, albeit lucky.

Unfortunately, I’m sure the Saints won’t have a problem moving the ball either, in this one. Sean Payton is probably scheming up ways to get Alvin Kamara matched up with Duke Riley one on one as we speak, and if/when that happens, all we’ll be able to do is close our eyes and hope for the best.

The Falcons defense shouldn’t even be rostered at this point.