Usually, starting a fantasy defense against the Falcons is not a wise path to pursue. This week might not be usually.
Or it might be, and the recommendation directly below could blow up (#confidence) after Julio Jones and Matt Ryan cut up the Rams’ mighty fine cornerback tandem last week without the help of Steven Jackson, and with little from Roddy White. But in the vast wasteland of weekly defensive streaming, talent, the quality of a matchup, and availability must all work in beautiful harmony. That’s happening here, and it’ll bring a tear to your eye.
Let’s go a srteamin’ then. Here are the top three options you can pluck this week.
(Disclaimer: Ownership numbers always vary. These are taken from Yahoo)
1. Miami Dolphins vs. Falcons (Percentage Owned: 14%): This is both the most widely available option, and one of the most appealing options, which is pretty convenient. Under normal circumstances, the Dolphins would be a moderate play at best because the combination of Roddy White and Julio Jones is rather scary. But right now, that duo exists only in a physical form. Jones is still there and he’s still pretty ridiculous, but White is still a shadow of himself as he continues his routine of being limited in practice throughout the week, and then he’s a decoy on gameday. Through two games he’s caught only five balls for 40 yards. Worse, he’s only been targeted five times, and mostly on short routes (his longest catch is a 15-yarder). Last year at this time White had 189 receiving yards already.
He ain’t right, which should give the recovered and rejuvenated Brent Grimes the opportunity to focus solely on Jones. But it gets better, as the Falcons are also beginning life without Steven Jackson, a tearful existence that will last for a few weeks, and maybe up to a month. What’s left behind him leaves little reason to believe the Falcons will have anything that resembles a run game Sunday. Jacquizz Rodgers is fun and fast when he’s catching passes in space, or when he’s asked to bounce outside. But if he’s attempting to run anywhere around lots of bodies that ends poorly, which is why he finished with only 17 yards on 11 carries after Jackson went down early in the first quarter last week. The math on that is 1.5 yards per carry (his longest carry as only seven yards), which comes after just 3.9 YPC over 94 carries last year.
2. Buffalo Bills @ Jets (Percentage Owned: Yahoo – 30%): Long term, I’m still a Geno Smith believer, and I think he’ll be just fine after he sheds his rookie-ness. But right now he’s doing something that he’s very much allowed to do, and you should take full advantage: he’s playing like a rookie quarterback.
Often in these very early stages of his NFL career Smith has shown a firm grasp of fundamentals, and he’s been able to read the field well and make simple yet essential plays. But he’s also inaccurate, with his poor ball placement leading to a completion rate of only 42.9 percent in Week 2 against the Patriots and a passer rating of just 27.6. Inevitably that’s also translated into crushing interceptions (three last week). Right now, Smith is throwing an interception once every 20.5 drop backs.
All of this is looking quite rosy for the Bills. It would be even more peachy if Stephon Gilmore was around, but the Bills’ secondary as currently assembled is a unit that held Cam Newton to 5.4 yards per pass attempt last week, and there’s a chance they could get Jarius Byrd back. If you’re worried about Smith’s running ability, please note that while powered by standout rookie middle linebacker Kiko Alonso, the Bills held Newton to a modest 38 rushing yards on five attempts, the longest of which was an 11-yarder.
There’s also the matter of Smith’s frequent habit of holding the ball too long (or “burping the baby”…Mayock’ed) that’s contributed to the nine sacks he’s taken. Mario Williams is still strong and fast, and last week he set the Bill’s single-game sack record while taking Newton down 4.5 times.
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Patriots (Percentage Owned: 43%): Remarkably, the Bucs’ defense is widely available, and out there for you to grab and call your own. The core of Mason Foster and Lavonte David is still doing the run stuffing thing after they anchored a front seven that was the best in the league last year while defending opposing rushers, allowing only an average of 82.5 yards per game, and 3.5per carry. So far this year they’ve given up just 119 rushing yards to running backs, though the RBs they’ve faced have been something less than imposing (the various committee members trotted out sporadically by the Jets and Saints). Stevan Ridley should be a step up in weight class, but the early returns indicate maybe that’s a lie. Ridley is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, largely because he’s getting little support from a passing game that’s pretty buttery right now.
About that: with Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen out, and Rob Gronkowski listed as questionable for Sunday (it’s highly unlikely we see him before Week 4), Tom Brady isn’t really Tom Brady on the football field. He is in reality, as since Brady is a masterful wizard he can coax enough out of any offense to be productive, and put his team in position to win a game. But as a fantasy threat, and in this discussion, a threat to your fantasy defense, he’s become meek due to factors far out of his control. When he’s not throwing to Julian Edelman (who was targeted 18 times last week, nearly half of Brady’s pass attempts), the inexperience of rookies Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins has proven to be crippling. Combined they dropped five passes in Week 2, with Dobson accounting for four, and there were also several miscommunications and a general lack of cohesion.
That last part will gradually improve over time, but going against a secondary with Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson isn’t when sizable steps forward happen. If we exclude last year, over Revis’ last three healthy seasons opposing quarterbacks have averaged a passer rating of 44.6 against him, which is terrifying even when said quarterback is throwing to targets with experience.