The Falcons receivers won't put up many fantasy points against Jacksonville
It’s semifinals weeks for most of us in the fantasy football world, and you start clinching up a little more when it comes to setting your lineups. Such is the case with the opening game of Week 15 as the Jacksonville Jaguars travel to play the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday night.
Falcons receivers Roddy White and Julio Jones are certainly two players many of us are counting on to get our semifinals started off the right way, but the numbers say they might not come through.
The Atlanta Falcons wide receiver will have a breakout game on Sunday
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones missed three straight days of practice this week with the injured hamstring that forced the rookie out of the Falcons’ Week 10 game against New Orleans. It was the same hamstring injury that had made Jones a questionable play leading up to the Saints game. And now his availability today against the Tennessee Titans is highly in doubt.
Fantasy owners are wondering what to do with the Atlanta rookie. Is he a reliable start?
Atlanta Falcons receiver Julio Jones jumped back on the fantasy radar after his two-touchdown, 131-yard performance in a quarter and change against Indianapolis last week.
However, he did not come out unscathed from the Colts game. He has again battled the hamstring injury this week, being limited in practice on both Thursday and Friday. He is probable for Sunday’s game against AFC South rival New Orleans.
It leaves fantasy owners wondering what to do with the rookie. Is he a reliable start?
Never bench your studs. Yeah, right. Just because you drafted a running back in the first round, don't think you can just set him in the starting lineup and not have to worry about him falling on his face.
Case in point is Week 1 and Baltimore's Ray Rice. If you're in a non-PPR sit him. If you're in a league without a flex position, sit him. And if you're in a PPR league with a flex position, really consider going somewhere else this week if you have better options/matchups.
Ray Rice gets Pittsburgh to open the season — he will also have to face the Steelers and their No. 1 run defense in the NFL and No. 1 in points per game allowed to RBs in fantasy last season at just 12.9 in Week 9. Yes, we love Ray Rice. But maybe we love him too much considering he has to face the Steelers twice this season and the Jets in Week 4 (No. 2 in PPG to RBs at 14). But back to Week 1. In two games against the Steelers last year, Rice ran for 52 yards total, caught three balls for 27 yards total and failed to reach the end zone. In two starts that's 10.9 points in a full PPR league and 7.7 in a standard league — in TWO starts.
In five regular-season games against the Steelers in his career, Rice has a total of 281 yards rushing, nine catches for 108 yards and NO touchdowns. That's 77.8 total yards and 1.8 catches per game. So his career fantasy average vs. the Steelers in a full-PPR league is 9.5 points and 7.7 in non-PPR.
You need look no further than what Chris Johnson, coming off a 2,000-yard rushing season, did in the opener against Pittsburgh last year: 34 yards rushing and five catches for 19 yards — 5.3 in a non-PPR and 10.3 in a full-PPR.
Rice was the ninth-best back in PPG last year at 15.3. Seeing Pittsburgh twice a year, along with the Jets, all before the fantasy postseason, is not a confidence builder for his 2011 prospects if you just assume he is not going to come close to reaching his average in those three games.
No other top-12 back faces Pittsburgh twice, but there are three that face Pittsburgh and the Jets: Rice, Jamaal Charles and Maurice Jones-Drew.
We know Rice's numbers vs. the Steelers. He has played the Jets once (last year's season opener) and went for 43 yards rushing, 19 yards receiving on two catches and no scores. That's 6.2 points in a non-PPR and 8.2 in a full-PPR.
Charles has faced the Steeler and Jets once each — 58 yards rushing, two catches for eight yards and one score against the Steelers in 2009 and 45 yards rushing, one catch for four yards and no scores against the Jets in his rookie season of 2008.
MJD has faced the Steelers three times, rushing for 80 yards and one score and adding 13 catches for 59 yards and no scores. He has faced the Jets twice, rushing for 182 yards and three scores and catching two balls for 22 yards and no scores. Clearly, MJD is the best against these two teams, but now with the release of QB David Garrard and teams knowing it's stack the box time, having success against these two teams in the first six weeks of the season is a tall order.
Here are the top five fantasy defenses against RBs last season, and which RBs have to face them this year.
Pittsburgh — 12.9
New York Jets — 14.0
Green Bay — 15.7
Atlanta & Baltimore — 16
No. 1 Arian Foster — Pittsburgh (Week 4), Baltimore (Week 6), Atlanta (Week 13) No. 2 Adrian Peterson — Green Bay (Week 7), Green Bay (Week 10), Atlanta (Week 12) No. 3 Ray Rice — Pittsburgh (Week 1), N.Y. Jets (Week 4), Pittsburgh (Week 9) No. 4 LeSean McCoy — Atlanta (Week 2), New York Jets (Week 15) No. 5 Jamaal Charles — Pittsburgh (Week 12), New York Jets (Week 14), Green Bay (Week 15) No. 6 Chris Johnson — Baltimore (Week 2), Pittsburgh (Week 5), Atlanta (Week 11) No. 7 Rashard Mendenhall — Baltimore (Week 1), Baltimore (Week 9) No. 8 Maurice Jones-Drew — New York Jets (Week 2), Pittsburgh (Week 6), Baltimore (Week 7), Atlanta (Week 15) No. 9 Darren McFadden — New York Jets (Week 3), Green Bay (Week 14) No. 10 Steven Jackson — Baltimore (Week 3), Green Bay (Week 6), Pittsburgh (Week 16) No. 11 Matt Forte — Atlanta (Week 1), Green Bay (Week 3), Green Bay (Week 16) No. 12 Frank Gore — Baltimore (Week 12), Pittsburgh (Week 15)
Of course you can't run from all of the top-12 backs in fantasy football, but this is just meant to inform you of when to beware. And maybe with eight of the first 12 backs each facing a top-five fantasy run defense at least three times, perhaps their value is not as great as once thought.
Bottom line: Sit em vs. the Steelers and Jets and cross your fingers for the rest.
On to Ask Athlon for Week 1...
Kevin Kolb or Jay Cutler Week 1? — Mike Crowther from Athlon Sports on Facebook
Wow, that's a tough one. Cutler was sacked a league-high 56 times last season, but Kolb's opponent, Carolina, wasn't far behind with 50 sacks allowed. Cutler faces an Atlanta team that allowed the fifth-most points to fantasy WRs last year (30.5 PPG), while Carolina was much better at fifth-best (22.8 PPG). Arizona has Larry Fitzgerald and Todd Heap and a new QB in Kolb and the Cardinals are on the road against a coach In Ron Rivera hired for his defensive mind. The Bears are at home, with more weapons and Cutler in his second year in Mike Martz's offense. It's a close call, but I'd go Cutler.
Julio Jones, Jonathan Stewart or Marshawn Lynch at the flex spot, non-PPR — Chris Kaschok from Athlon Sports on Facebook
All I see when I think of the Falcons, Week 1 and a receiver is Michael Jenkins streaking down the field to catch Matt Ryan's first-ever pro pass for a 62-yard touchdown in 2008. One play and Jenkins had 12.2 points in non-PPR leagues, add a point in PPR. Chicago's Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are no bums when it comes to covering receivers but the Bears' rush defense was second in the league last season. So expect the Falcons to come out showing off their new weapon in the rookie receiver from Alabama. I feel better about his opportunities to get you the 12 points you want from your flex spot than the other two options.
Stewart ran for 137 yards and no scores against Arizona last season when he was the primary back. But DeAngelo Williams is back, rookie QB Cam Newton can't throw and expect the Cardinals to key on the run. With Stewart playing second fiddle and the Cardinals focused on one thing — stopping the run — hard to expect much from JStew in this one.
Lynch is in Seattle. Enough said. Get the great playoff run he had against the Saints out of your mind. I am not touching a single Seahawk this season until they get a new QB — and that QB is not currently on the roster.
Who do you like more this week. Big Ben at the Ravens or Tony Romo at the Jets? — @AthlonBraden on Twitter (because even Athlon editors need help setting their lineups)
Both teams are in similar situations. The Steelers and Cowboys go up against top-notch run defenses and will probably have to go to the air to have success. I give the edge to Roethlisberger for three reasons: familiarity, health and the other team's defensive backfield.
Roethlisberger has not lost in his last seven tries against his AFC North rivals, and averages 21.6 points per game over the last 12 meetings. The Steelers are healthy, minus Emmanuel Sanders being banged up with his foot injury, although Antonio Brown filled in nicely in the preseason. Jets shutdown corner Darrelle Revis is not on the other side of the field for Big Ben to face.
Romo has only faced the Jets once — 195 yards, two scores and an interception in 2007. Romo does have to face Revis. He does so with a hamstring injury to his No. 1 receiver, Miles Austin, who would be lined up against Revis. His No. 2, Dez Bryant, is unproven with Romo at the helm so far. Add all that with the fact the Cowboys' No. 16 run offense from a year ago, now minus Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode who they released, goes up against the No. 3 ranked rushing defense.
We take a look at the Falcons chances at making a Super Bowl run this year.
The Saints and Packers rode the explosive offense and opportunistic defense formula to the past two Super Bowl titles. The Falcons appear to be following a similar plan.
Few teams can match the Falcons’ firepower on offense. Their weaponry at the skill positions equals any team in the league. Yet instead of fortifying the defense, the Falcons used two of their first three draft picks on wide receiver Julio Jones and running back Jacquizz Rodgers, bolstering an already loaded offense.
• Inside the Locker Room
With Jeff Duncan of the New Orleans Times-Picayune
Do you see Michael Turner getting the same 325-plus carry workload this season?
If things go as planned, the Falcons should be playing with a lot of leads this season. That’s where Turner becomes the workhorse and finishes games with his powerful runs. The addition of Julio Jones and Jacquizz Rodgers should only help Turner’s production because it will force defenses to cover more of the field.
With his average dropping below 10 yards per catch for the first time in his career last season, have we seen the end of Tony Gonzalez as an elite tight end?
At this stage of his career, Gonzalez is a notch below the game’s elite fantasy tight ends, but he remains a solid weekly points producer. He’s in terrific shape, can beat most linebackers in single coverage between the numbers and is highly trusted by Matt Ryan. Expect another solid year from him, but his reception totals might decline a little because there’s more competition for catches with the addition of wideout Julio Jones.
What type of numbers do you expect from Jones in his rookie season?
While Jones will start from Day 1, he’s no better than the No. 3 option right now behind Roddy White and Gonzalez. Still, he figures to see a lot of single coverage with teams concentrating their coverage on White, and that should lead to some big-play possibilities. White will still catch the bulk of Ryan’s passes, but Jones could easily score 8-10 touchdowns as a rookie. Much will depend on how quickly he masters the Falcons offense.
• Fantasy Playoff Run — Weeks 14-16: @CAR, JAC, @NO
So we’re all expecting the aerial game to improve for the Falcons, and the fantasy playoff schedule should cater to that. Matt Ryan threw a combined six TD passes and averaged 210 yards in the four meetings against the Panthers and Saints in 2010, and the Jags’ 28th-ranked pass defense is sandwiched in between. The porous run defenses of the Jags (22nd) and Panthers (23rd) are also inviting for Michael Turner and Co.
• Athlon Best Bets
Sleeper: Julio Jones, WR Deep-Sleeper: Jacquizz Rodgers, RB Overvalued: Tony Gonzalez, TE Top Rookie: Julio Jones, WR Bounce-Back: Harry Douglas, WR Top IDP: Curtis Lofton, LB
• Try to Avoid John Abraham, DL
The addition of Ray Edwards as the other bookend on the Falcons’ line and Kroy Biermann in the rotation means, Abraham, the 12-year veteran, may not get enough snaps to warrant being a top IDP defensive lineman. WAIT UNTIL: 20th Rd
• Draft Class Fantasy Impact
The Falcons paid a steep price to move from No. 27 to No. 6 in the first round, but they believe they landed the missing piece to make a Super Bowl run. Jones should help ease the pressure on Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez while adding even more fantasy value to Matt Ryan. Jones should be Atlanta’s No. 2 receiver this season and a solid WR3 or WR4 pick. Rodgers lacks ideal size (5'6") but will slide into a third-down role.