What We Saw: Week 2 2018
Panthers vs. Falcons
After their defense seemed bona fide top five in week one, the Panthers surrendered 31 points to a Falcons team that looked like Julio or bust in their season opener. Their running game was surprisingly more efficient than it was last week, but they also never controlled the tempo and thereby deferred to the pass more often. The biggest problem for Carolina: They failed to sack QB Matt Ryan (QB Dak Prescott was sacked six time in last Sunday’s game).
We need a first down. What’s the call Norv? “Give the ball to McCaffrey.”
RB Christian McCaffrey accounted for 30% of the Panthers’ 27 first downs in yesterday’s contest. If you want to look at it just from the perspective of a McCaffrey fantasy owner, he converted 40% of his targets and 25% of his rushing attempts for first downs. His catch rate was also 93%, but considering a lot of his receptions were plays in which he acted as the safety valve on dink pass, it’s not as eye-popping. Regardless, it’s now safe to say this offense is structured around him and his skill-set, so he should be an RB1 in both PPR and standard formats.
You Flexin’ Wright?
WR Devin Funchess showed there’s no reason to fear for his fantasy production after a low volume week one performance. Funchess still has yet to score, but nine targets an 77 yards receiving were both the highest among Panthers wide receivers. WR Jarius Wright came in tied for third in target share with WR Torrey Smith, but finished with five catches to Smith’s three; both receivers scored. This is the second straight game Wright has received the second most WR targets, and only one of his eight catches thus far has not gone for a first down. He’s definitely worth at least a stash now, and could potentially be a FLEX option when you need to start filling in for players on a bye.
That feeling when Matt Ryan has two rushing touchdowns…
There’s no sugar-coating it: this was the worst performance the Panthers defense has had against the run in a long time. Sites aiming for click bait will surely make it sound even more putrid with headliners like “Backup RB Torches Panthers Defense”, but RB Tevin Coleman is not your typical second option. Regardless, 170 yards rushing allowed for this defense is rough. QB Matt Ryan looking like QB Cam Newton helicoptering into the end zone is baffling. The construct of this defense didn’t drastically change, so I think it’s presently safe to say this is an anomaly. Moving forward they should be more reliable than most defenses.
*QB Cam Newton looked sharp again, finishing with a passer rating of 105.3 and 377 yards (combined passing and rushing)
*WR DJ Moore turned his first career reception into a 51-yard touchdown, but was only targeted twice in the game.
After a sloppy performance in week one, the Atlanta Falcons needed to bounce back in a major way. All week there were criticisms about Steve Sarkisian’s play calling and QB Matt Ryan’s play. They answered by scoring 31 points and outlasting the Panthers in a thrilling game. With several injuries within the team, many young guys stepped up and made plays to seal the victory. Let’s take a look at all the fantasy relevant things for the Dirty Birds from Sunday.
Matt Ryan Running Wild
Other than Steve Sarkisian, QB Matt Ryan may have received the most backlash after the Falcons fell short in Philly. He rebounded in a huge way Sunday, throwing for 272 yards and two touchdowns. He also showed off the wheels. Rushing for two touchdowns, one of which was a spectacular helicopter into the end zone, carrying three Panther’s defenders with him. However, Ryan’s downfield accuracy was suspect. He missed WR Julio Jones on a wide open bomb and got picked on another shot downfield, that was underthrown. This is something to watch moving forward, but Ryan proved that he can be a QB1. He will be a top performer some weeks, but will not be someone you can rely on every week. The Saints come to Atlanta next, and is a matchup I would suggest firing up Matt Ryan.
A Star is Born
WR Calvin Ridley did not record a catch in week one. This week, he led the team in receiving. He tied fellow WR Julio Jones for yardage on almost half the targets. He also added a score late in the second quarter, that came on a beautiful seam route. The Falcons need Ridley to continue to step up and be a key player on offense. He certainly has the talent and will continue to grow into a preferred target for QB Matt Ryan. All that being said, if this man is on your waiver wire, scoop him up as fast as you can.
The Honorable Judge Ito
If you were not aware, Falcons’ rookie RB Ito Smith was named after the iconic judge, Lance Ito. He is also not a bad football player. With the injury to RB Devonta Freeman, Smith became the change-of-pace back to spell RB Tevin Coleman. Smith averaged 5.1 yards per carry on nine totes and added a reception. Ito was a formidable runner in college, and possesses the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He may only be a handcuff to Coleman, while Freeman is out, but could serve as a flex option moving forward. This could come as early as next week, when the Falcons play the Saints. There are sure to be plenty of fireworks in that one and the Falcons will need all hands on deck. He would come into a ton of usage if anything happens to workhorse Tevin Coleman.
TE Austin Hooper was a key cog in the passing offense and looked impressive. He hauled in all five of his targets for 59 yards and a score. He is a firm streamer that will be useful when bye weeks roll around. It is still unclear whether he is someone you can trust every week, but he could turn into Ryan’s go-to in the red zone, if he keeps catching every ball thrown to him. Through two games, he has nine targets and caught all, but one of them. The Falcons are most effective when they spread the ball around to their pass catchers, and Hooper could benefit from this moving forward.
Dinged Up and Disqualified
Atlanta’s defense did what they could without star LB Deion Jones and S Keanu Neal. Early on, it looked like it might get ugly, after a hit on QB Cam Newton caused S Damontae Kazee to be ejected. That hit would eventually lead to a Carolina touchdown. Atlanta did a nice job of holding the Panthers in check for most of the game, until late. Atlanta’s defense came up big, when the Panthers had a chance to tie it on the last play of the game. This defense will continue to get better down the stretch, but will need the offense to perform like this most weeks for the team to win. In favorable matchups, you can start this defense with confidence, but they are not a target for every week success.
Fantasy Facts Moving Forward
There are a few clear takeaways from this team moving forward. RB Tevin Coleman is an every week starter until further notice, but will be hindered when RB Devonta Freeman returns. QB Matt Ryan will lead you to victory some weeks, but disappoint you in others. WR Julio Jones needs to be started every week and is a target machine. WR Calvin Ridley needs to be owned. Keep an eye on TE Austin Hooper, he could become an every week starter for those in need at the position. Keep the Falcons defense on waivers, unless the matchup permits a stream.