For a team about to start the NFL season as a favorite to take the NFC crown, the Atlanta Falcons sure look a little glum this week. Falling flat on your face in a final dress rehearsal in front of a packed crowd celebrating your new $1.5 billion stadium will do that, I guess.
Anyone familiar with the Falcons has to assume the offensive follies exhibited in their 24-14 loss to Arizona is an anomaly. Matt Ryan will be expected to do considerably better than his 4/11, 36-yards and an interception line reflected. The wide receivers will catch passes and the running game will be fine when Devonta Freeman comes off concussion protocol this week.
But for now, the Falcons are trying to figure out what happened.
Not everything was bad. The defense gave up too many rushing yards and cornerback depth is a concern after the backups allowed two 20+ yard touchdown passes. But they also caused four fumbles and registered two sacks, while creating pressure on Cardinals’ quarterbacks all night.
Rookie wide receiver Josh Magee turned a 5-yard dump pass from Matt Simms into a 57-yard touchdown, but otherwise, the Falcons would do well to forget this game and move on in preparation of the regular season.
What did we learn?
It was hard to learn much when everything looks like it is a fluke. Ryan’s very first pass was deflected for an interception and he had a second interception dropped. He missed receivers and when he put it on target to Mohamed Sanu, the receiver dropped it.
Tevin Coleman was the rare player who looked good, carrying the ball three times for 19 yards and adding a 14-yard catch-and-run. In Freeman’s absence, we got no clue as to how snaps might be divided between the two. For now, we will have to take Dan Quinn at his word that the offense will be unchanged despite a new offensive coordinator in Steve Sarkisian.
Terron Ward and rookie Brian Hill handled the bulk of the backfield work as they compete for the third running back spot. Ward’s numbers were slightly better. Hill left with an ankle injury.
Julio Jones was on the field for a few series. His only target sailed over his head. He says his injured toe felt fine and was not a factor in the overthrow. Ryan also missed Taylor Gabriel and Sanu on deep targets.
Atlanta’s quarterback won’t see a precipitous drop in his ADP based on an exhibition game. He is currently the QB4, with a range from 2-7. You could argue that Russell Wilson will give the top quarterbacks a run for their money, but a top-five finish from Ryan seems sensible.
Julio Jones is a top-three wide receiver with Odell Beckham, Jr. and Antonio Brown. Jones has the best quarterback situation of the three. Taylor Gabriel is drafting ahead of Sanu in the late rounds. Gabriel’s 8.8 fantasy points-per-game ranked 19th in 2016. With a full season, he could prove to be a real bargain at his current WR57 ADP. He is worth a bit of a reach.
Devonta Freeman is coming off the board right after David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, and LeSean McCoy. A healthy Melvin Gordon might offer an argument, but otherwise, it seems to be the right spot for Freeman. Tevin Coleman is coming off the average draft board as the RB33 one year after finishing as the RB17. If the offense is not supposed to change, and if Atlanta wants to preserve Freeman a bit, Coleman could be undervalued. I have him at number 22 on my PPR board and 25 in standard leagues.
Those other fantasy guys
Atlanta’s defense is getting some talk as a sleeper option and top streaming value. They are not very deep, however, so don’t draft them.
Matt Bryant is drafting as a top three kicker after winning the fantasy PK1 crown last year. I see no reason why not to draft him.
Austin Hooper is being talked up in deep sleeper pools. It’s too deep for me. His current ADP of TE19 sounds rational.
So… that’s that
Falcons’ fans are a little nervous about their 0-3 preseason record and what they saw from Ryan this week. They shouldn’t be and neither should fantasy fans looking for solid roster contributors.
Ryan and the rest will find their groove and help put someone in their fantasy playoffs, even if the Falcons don’t win the NFC again.
If the situation changes, we’ll be reporting it right here at RealSport. Check back regularly for the updates you need to hear about!
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