Coming off of an emotional overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints in week one, the Atlanta Falcons now set their sets on their next opponent—the Cincinnati Bengals.
This game, much like the opener should see plenty of fantasy points scored with AJ Green and Giovanni Bernard on the other sideline. Luckily, besides those two the Falcons defense that was less than stellar against New Orleans will not have to deal with a quarterback nearly as good as the hated Drew Brees.
But with a full-fledged fantasy stud and consensus elite wide receiver in AJ Green there is still a reason for Falcons fans, and fantasy owners playing against the former Georgia Bulldog still need to be worried, very worried. Although I am super high on Desmond Trufant as the team’s no. 1 corner, and likely will be the one drawing the assignment of covering (or at least ATTEMPT to cover) Green, shutting him down is no easy task. As week one showed all it takes is one well-placed ball and he is off to the races.
Green is currently second in the NFL in receiving with 131 yards and barring something unforeseen, or Trufant really taking a giant step forward I see Green having a big day in the Bengals home opener. I see him approaching the 100 yard mark and I could see quarterback Andy Dalton, with less than Jay Cutler-esque arm strength being able to sit back all day against the Falcons pass rush… Or lack thereof and find his favorite target finding him breaking free from Trufant in coverage on a deep pass into the endzone.
Besides Green I also see Bengals running back Giovanni Bernard having a huge day after watching perennial first round bust Mark Ingram look like a young Deuce McCallister in week one. I see Bernard approaching 160 yards of total offense and getting into the end zone on multiple occasions. (if any of you are playing in those weekly fantasy eliminator pools, he would be an early consideration for me)
Luckily, besides those two there aren’t any Bengals that look to be huge fantasy contributors. With Tyler Eifert out Jermaine Gresham may have some nice sleeper appeal. After all, the Falcons are historically bad against tight ends and although they held Jimmy Graham out of the end zone in week one, they still gave up 8 catches for 82 yards to Graham which for him is a bad day after selecting him in likely the first round but for most other tight ends that is a phenomenal outing. With my confidence in the Falcons linebackers covering the tight end… Or lack thereof I could very well see Gresham having a 7 catch, 65 yard and a touchdown on Sunday.
Now, on to the Falcons side of things. This may sound crazy here but I don’t see Matt Ryan duplicating his career best performance in week one. Insane right?
Now that does not mean I don’t think Matt Ryan will be a bad start by any stretch. I have him as a top 10 quarterback in my weekly rankings and I do think he will have another nice fantasy day, especially with the Bengals defense, led by Geno Atkins, being one of the best run stuffing defenses in the league. Because of that I see Ryan needing to air it out early and often against the Bengals secondary which is their weakness. I see Ryan having another 300+ yard passing day with another two or three scores through the air.
For this very reason I am staying away from the Falcons running game for multiple reasons. First of which is the Bengals stout defensive front and the second is the convoluted mess that is the Falcons running game. Sure, Steven Jackson is the “starter” but if last week is any indication, Jacquizz Rodgers, Antone Smith and Devonta Freeman will also see touches and simply with that many mouths to feed it will be virtually impossible to know who is getting how many touches and where. I am staying away from the Falcons run game in most weeks this season, and this week for sure.
Now who will be on the receiving end of these Ryan passes? Well first and foremost is Julio Jones, who is every bit just as good as the aforementioned AJ Green. After coming off of a foot injury that sidelined Julio for 11 games last season, he looked as if he hadn’t missed a beat in week one hauling in 7 passes (four of which going for 20 yards or more) for 116 yards, good for fifth in the NFL. I could very well see Jones having a similar stat line and unlike in the opener I see him taking one of those catches 60+ yards to the house—which he was very close to on multiple occasions in week one.
I also see the usual suspects getting in on the action. Roddy White will get his fair share of looks and I could also see Devin Hester and Harry Douglas getting a few targets in the passing game, but neither will have the output that they did in week one’s shootout. Quite frankly, I would be hard pressed to imagine another scenario that would warrant Hester or Douglas to have as many looks as they did.
Same goes for tight end Levine Toiololo. Virtually every catch he made, including the touchdown were not in the same mold as former-Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez had plays drawn up for him, Toiololo was just simply open on a few occasions and with this game likely not being nearly as high scoring of an affair I see Toiololo being more of a role player and less of play maker this week. If he is held without a catch it would not shock me one bit if he isn’t even targeted.