Photo by William Howard/Icon Sportswire
Each week, our staff here at QB List will be previewing all the fantasy-relevant things you should be on the lookout for in this week’s games. Today, we preview all the upcoming Week 2 action.
Panthers vs. Falcons
QB Cam Newton and RB Christian McCaffrey (C+C) accounted for 52% of the Carolina Panthers total offensive yards (technically they accounted for more, but I’m only including passes to CMC for that number) against the Dallas Cowboys last week. On the ground, they averaged 4.7 yards per carry. Through the air, they averaged 7.5 yards per connection. The Atlanta Falcons allowed 113 rushing yards to a Philadelphia Eagles backfield that’s less talented than Carolina’s, but Atlanta’s defense is built on speed and should be more effective in the controlled environment of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. They are, however, without linebacker Deion Jones and safety Keanu Neal, which bodes well for C+C. I think Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner leans more on McCaffrey than Cam this game, and he finishes as the Panthers’ leading rusher and receiver.
Will the Panthers passing game improve?
TE Greg Olsen refractured the foot that kept him out most of last season, so we’ll see the passing attack lean more heavily on McCaffrey and WR Devin Funchess in the coming weeks. With the two best defenders on Atlanta sidelined for this contest, I’m not going out on a limb guessing that Carolina will outdo their 161-yard performance from last week. The only thing that could hold them back is Norv Turner’s play calling if he leans more on the run, which he may seeing the success that Newton had against Atlanta in both games last season (149 rushing yards). Another thing to look out for is which receiving threat earns the largest target share this week after Funchess. Last week it was WR Jarius Wright, and if that persists he may be worth an add.
Will the defense continue to be dominant?
Linebacker Luke Kuechly was not limited in practice this week, and the defense is significantly better when he’s on the field. They were able to hold RB Zeke Elliott to under 70 yards last week and sacked QB Dak Prescott six(!) times. With RB Devonta Freeman ruled out, they should be able to hold the Falcons rushing game in check; RB Tevin Coleman averaged only 2.1 yards per carry against Philadelphia last Thursday, and in 16 rushing attempts against Carolina last year averaged only 1.94 YPC. Their biggest concern is going to be Julio Jones, the only part of the Falcons offense operating efficiently in their season opener. If the Panthers can apply enough pressure on Matt Ryan, they’ll be able to mitigate that enough for another strong outing.
How will the absence of Keanu Neal and Deion Jones affect the Falcons’ defense and the output of the Panthers’ offensive players?
There is no question that Keanu Neal and Deion Jones are the heart and soul of this defense. Neal will unfortunately miss the entire year, but reports are that Jones will be back when the Falcons take on the Cowboys. Nevertheless, that does not help them in this game. Being without these two takes a huge toll on the team’s run defense. This is a huge concern, considering Carolina is primarily a rushing team. Christian McCaffrey and Cam Newton, without question, get a bump due to these injuries. Deion Jones is also a gifted coverage linebacker. None of the players behind him possess the same ability to cover in the open field. Luckily, in Neal’s relief, Damontae Kazee and Ricardo Allen have shown the ability to make plays and cover space quickly in coverage. I do expect the Panthers to try and exploit the middle of the field without Deion Jones. With Greg Olsen out indefinitely, look for the Panthers to use Devin Funchess early and often to attack the middle of the field.
How serious is Devonta Freeman’s injury? What will Tevin Coleman’s workload look like?
RB Devonta Freeman is out for Sunday’s game after injuring his knee late in the game against the Eagles. Meanwhile, RB Tevin Coleman will be a surefire starter. However, owners should temper expectations, after the Panthers held RB Ezekiel Elliott. He will get all he can handle, but don’t be surprised to see rookie Ito Smith mix in, especially in passing situations.
Do you Expect Julio Jones to keep it rolling against Carolina?
Julio Jones is the focal point of the Falcons’ offense. Matt Ryan force fed him targets throughout the whole game last week. He seemed to be the only consistent factor in the Falcons’ woeful offensive performance. In the two games against Carolina last year, Julio combined for 11 catches for 198 yards. Look for him to have a ton of targets, which he should turn into top five wide receiver production this week.
Who is someone under the radar that fantasy owners should be watching?
Atlanta has to find someone else to rely on in the passing game. To succeed, they will have to spread the ball around. One of the most reliable chain-movers on this team is Mohamed Sanu. Ryan did not look his way enough in game one. Sanu will have to be more involved if Ryan and the offense want to be more successful in week two. Sarkisian needs to find ways to get him the ball in the red zone as well. Perhaps this week is the time to break out the “wild bean” package again and let Sanu toss one for a score.
What is the biggest factor in this game that will lead to a Falcon’s win and positive production from their players?
With injuries to the defense, Atlanta’s offense absolutely has to step up. Week one looked too similar to last season. There was no rhythm and Atlanta came away empty too many times in the red zone. Steve Sarkisian must find ways to get his playmakers the ball. The team possesses too much talent to stay stagnant forever. Matt Ryan must also elevate his level of play to carry the team. Without the ability to move the ball effectively, the Falcons will struggle to come away victorious against a tough division rival.