Falcons look to avenge Week 10 loss to Saints, possibly clinch NFC South
The New Orleans Saints will get together with the Atlanta Falcons for the second time in less than a month when the two NFC South foes square off at 8:20 p.m. ET on the NFL Network. The Falcons (10-1) will not only be looking to avenge a Week 10 loss to these Saints, their only defeat so far this season, they also could sew up the division crown with a win and a loss by Tampa Bay in Denver on Sunday.
Who's healthy enough to start for your fantasy football team?
This is the last of the bye weeks. It’s all up to health and strategy from here on out to get you to a fantasy football championship. Here are some updates on injured players, their status for the Week 11 games or the outlook for their replacements.
The 'Boys will try to get to .500 by surprising the unbeaten Falcons.
Two NFC teams with drastically different 2012 results will clash on Sunday Night Football, when the Atlanta Falcons host the Dallas Cowboys at 8:20 p.m. EST on NBC. Mike Smith’s club is the only undefeated team left in the NFL, especially impressive since four of the Falcons’ seven victories have come on the road.
Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan will lead two solid offenses on Monday Night Football.
An excellent quarterback battle will be the focus on Monday Night Football, when the Atlanta Falcons host the Denver Broncos at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN. Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning led their respective clubs to double-digit victories in Week 1, with the Falcons beating the Chiefs on the road and the Broncos topping the Steelers at home.
What can the Atlanta Falcons do for you this fantasy season? Check out Athlon Sports' team report as we break down the rookies, veteran players to watch and avoid, fantasy playoff schedule and more to help you get ready for the 2012 season.
Inside the Locker Room
with Knox Bardeen, CBSSports.com
Falcons coach Mike Smith went for it rather than punt in overtime against the Saints.
Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith went for it rather than punt on 4th-and-Inches from his own 29-yard-line with 10:52 remaining in overtime against the NFC South division rival New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Athlon Sports takes a look at which running backs have touched the ball the most per game over the last three years and over the last two years. This gives you an idea of both which backs have been given the most opportunities, while at the same time lets you know which backs might be wearing down.
It's interesting to note that Arian Foster, having played just one full season, already ranks eighth in touches per game in both charts.
If you are in a keeper or dynasty league, we believe the following players will begin their descent down the rankings after this season.
Steven Jackson, RB – STL Athlon Top 280 Rank: 14
Jackson, one of the league’s last true workhorses, turned 28 in July. Even at such a young age, he’s already cracked the NFL’s top 40 in career carries with 1,878. He’s bounced back from missing a combined eight games in 2007 and ’08, but the Rams still probably won't be involving Cadillac Williams or Jerious Norwood in the game plan enough to releive pressure from Jackson.
Michael Turner, RB – ATL Athlon Top 280 Rank: 16
Turner’s YPC average dropped to a career-low 4.1 last season, and that was with a cohesive offensive line. The Falcons’ front wall could have three starters leave via free agency, and several untested youngsters would fill the holes. Add the potential deep threat of Julio Jones, and Turner may not be needed or able to roll the kinds of numbers we’re used to seeing.
Reggie Wayne, WR – IND Athlon Top 280 Rank: 27
In single-season leagues, Wayne is still elite. If you have to plan for next year, though, free agency could rear its ugly head. Wayne still produces like a top-10 receiver, but at the age of 32, will the Colts be willing to pay him like one until he’s 37 or 38?
Anquan Boldin, WR – BAL Athlon Top 280 Rank: 51
Boldin’s chemistry with QB Joe Flacco was slow to develop last season, so the two worked together as much as possible during the lockout. Even so, the Ravens will also look to get rookies Torrey Smith and Tandon Doss up to speed with Flacco. Boldin absorbs a lot of shots and will be 31 in October, so tailor your expectations when deciding what receivers to keep.
Cedric Benson, RB – CIN Athlon Top 280 Rank: 60
There's a lot of wear on these tires. Benson ranks fourth amongst running backs in touches per game over the last three seasons at 22 TPG (901 overall over 41 games). There aren't a lot of options in Cincy with rookie Andy Dalton quarterbacking the team, so the ball will find itself in Benson's hands a lot this season as well. So add another 300 touches and that's 1,200 touches on a player that will be 30 near the end of next season.
Tony Gonzalez, TE – ATL Athlon Top 280 Rank: 123
It’s not breaking news that Gonzalez is getting old (35 this season). The developing news is how the Falcons’ offense will integrate rookie Julio Jones and to what extent the deep ball will be emphasized. If Jones’ speed becomes a focal point quickly, there will be much less need for Matt Ryan to target his tight end 100-plus times.
LaDainian Tomlinson, RB – NYJ Athlon Top 280 Rank: 97
L.T. leaped off the line like a classic muscle car in 2010, averaging 106 yards from scrimmage in the first five games. From Week 6 on, the car had a flat. In the season’s last 11 games, he averaged 3.3 yards per carry. In the last five, he caught only nine passes for 53 yards. Whether he even stays in the game could be riding on how he produces this season.
Steve Smith, WR – CAR Athlon Top 280 Rank: 108
His flagging production can be blamed on bad quarterback play even more than the aging process. Still, Smith Version 1.0 has dealt with nagging injuries for years (2004 was his last 16-game season) and a nagging one already sidelined him this training camp (a finger injury).
Charles Woodson, DB – GB Athlon Top 100 IDP Rank: 31
Soon to be 35, Woodson carries the perpetual threat of retirement. Even this year’s production may be restricted by his increased use as a slot corner. He can attack running backs and force fumbles like no other CB in the game, but don’t plan on a huge interception total.
Ray Lewis, LB – BAL Athlon Top 100 IDP Rank: 34
Lewis’ continuing production is impressive. Still, his coverage ability is beginning to suffer thanks to Father Time, and it’s possible that he may continue to soldier on when his tackling begins to do the same. He remains a leader on the field, but there are better (read: younger) options for your fantasy squad.
Brian Urlacher, LB – CHI Athlon Top 100 IDP Rank: 45
Dhani Jones didn’t rate him as one of the league’s top 10 linebackers, and many might agree. Like Lewis and London Fletcher, he’s still productive despite his creeping age, and younger players are racking up comparable numbers. Draft them first.
London Fletcher, LB – WAS Athlon Top 100 IDP Rank: 99
A linebacker playing in 208 straight games is an incredible feat. Fletcher is 36 years old and still producing, but the linebacker position has a fresh jolt of talent on the rise. Even if London keeps calling on opposing ballcarriers, it’s hard to draft him over guys like Lawrence Timmons or A.J. Hawk.
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.