The Atlanta Falcons are an absolute disaster right now, and if you invested heavily in the Dirty Birds this year in fantasy football, you're feeling the pain too.
The Falcons were actually my pick to win the Super Bowl this year, behind the arm of Matt Ryan and the development of third-year wide receiver Julio Jones. And honestly, despite a slow start to the season, I was feeling pretty good about them picking things up in the second half when Roddy White and Steven Jackson got healthy.
And then, Jones got hurt and was lost for the season. Jones, in my opinion, was playing as well as any NFL wide receiver when he was injured. Then, we learned White -- hampered by a ankle sprain all season so far -- suffered a hamstring injury and will miss the first game of his nine-year NFL career today. Jackson, who suffered a hamstring injury in week 2 and was expected to return this week after the Falcons bye, also remains sidelined indefinitely.
Bad times indeed and suddenly one of the most fantasy-friendly offenses in the NFL is in shambles.
And while he's still standing and healthy, Matt Ryan owners should panic. As good as Matty Ice is, even he can't get it done without sufficient weapons. And when nearly twice retired Tony Gonzales is the best you got, you're in for a rough go.
For what it's worth, I think Gonzales is still fantasy viable despite the myraid injuries in Atlanta. Gonzo is going to have value because Ryan has to complete passes to someone.
WR Harry Douglas? Not so much. he was a popular sleeper option this week, but I'm not buying. He's undersized and, if he were any good, would've been a fantastic PPR option out of the slot when everyone else was healthy because no one would've bothered to cover him. Oh, and this week he'll likely draw Darrell Revis. Let someone else make this mistake.
RBs Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling will have some value until Jackson gets back, especially in PPR leagues. When Ryan isn't finding Gonzo, expect him to check down often. Both are solid pass catchers.
When and if Jackson comes back, he should actually be pretty valuable. Remember, he played on some pretty bad teams in St. Louis where the offense filtered through him and was still a very good fantasy back. Consider seeking out the S-Jax owner in your league and buying low.
In the meantime, here are some guys who can help -- or hurt -- your team this week.
Start 'em if you got 'em
QB Jay Cutler. Chicago's gunslinger has been surprisingly consistent this year, averaging just over 22 fantasy points per game, according to fftoolbox.com. He has another nice match-up this week against the Washington Redskins, who have been improving, but still can be had. The Bears have a lot of fire power on offense and should take it to the burgundy and gold.
RB Eddie Lacy. The rookie has run well the last two weeks and Cleveland's run defense hasn't been as strong as it was to start the season. Lacy is a top 20 RB going forward and will flirt with RB1 status from week to week.
RB DeAngelo Williams. He's still the only show in town at the running back position for Carolina and St. Louis hasn't exactly been stout. He could surpass 100 total yards again.
WR Justin Blackmon. This is the last time he shows up in this list. He's been dominant since his return from a 4-game suspension and with Cecil Shorts still out, Jags will have to force feed him the ball. Even with his sore groin, he's a must-start WR the rest of the way.
WR Keenan Allen. Chargers rookie WR just keeps getting better and better and has a nice juicy match-up against the Jags. Philip Rivers will feed him the ball. If he's still on your waiver wire (he is in about 30 percent of Yahoo leagues) go get him.
WR T.Y. Hilton. Colts are probably going to have to throw a lot to keep up with Peyton Manning, and Hilton should be the recepient of a lot of deep looks. He's been boom or bust, but this sets up nicely for a boom week.
TE Kyle Rudolph. He re-emerged last week with 9 catches for 97 yards and a TD, and if you're Jimmy Graham-less this week, he's a viable option with a good match-up (New York Giants). New QB Josh Freeman will likely use him as a safety valve while he's getting used to a new offense.
Take a seat son
QB Chad Henne. Everyone expected big numbers last week versus the Broncos and it didn't really happen. San Diego has been playing better against the pass as well and Henne just isn't that good.
RB Le'Veon Bell. He's getting plenty of work, but struggled against Jets and may have a tough time against Baltimore's front seven as well. Brighter days are ahead for Steelers' "Bell" cow.
RB Zac Stacy. Full disclosure: I'm starting him in one league because of a lack of other options. Like Bell, he'll get volume, but Carolina has been stingy to running backs and he -- and the rest of the Rams -- still don't have a rushing touchdown this season.
WR Greg Jennings. After torching the Steelers in Week 4, he came back to earth after the bye and, even with a good match-up against the Giants shaky secondary, I can't trust him in my line-up. The ceiling isn't high enough and the floor is too low.
WR Anquan Boldin. Since his week 1 heroics, Boldin has been horrible fantasy-wise and draws a very difficult assignment this week against Tennessee's air-tight pass defense. Combined with Kaepernick's struggles, stay far, far away.
TE Joseph Fauria. Last week, he caught three passes, all for touchdowns and for the season, has five TDs on seven catches, but just 66 yards. That's absurd. If you're in a TD-only league, maybe you take a flier, otherwise, counting on touchdowns for all your fantasy points is a risky proposition. (If you're league gives out bonus points for varying up your TD dances though, Fauria is your man.)
Taking a flier
QB Ryan Tannehill. He's been solid, if not spectacular, and Buffalo has been struggling the last few weeks against opposing quarterbacks. He's a nice match-up play this week.
RB Joseph Randle. No one is surprised DeMarco Murray got hurt, but it's a shame he'll miss out on a fantastic match-up against Philly. The rookie will come in and should play better with a week of reps with the starters. He's a lottery ticket who could pay off big.
RB Chris Obgonnaya. Technically a fullback, he's quickly turning into this year's Marcel Reece, catching a ton of passes and making the most of them. I'd rather have him than Browns' "starter" Willis McGahee, especially in a PPR.
RB Brandon Jacobs. What is this, 2008? Jacobs is the equivilant of a football zombie, rising from the dead to rush for 100 yards last week. He's honestly the Giants only option in the run game, and has another good match-up.
WR Terrance Williams. The Cowboys speedster didn't have a lot of catches last week, but he has scored a touchdown in each of the past two. He's an upside WR3 play with Miles Austin playing, but ailing.
WR Rueben Randle. You're rolling the dice with any Giants WR not named Victor Cruz, but he's been solid the last two weeks and seems to be taking a much bigger role in the offense.
WR Jarrett Boykin. No one outside of his parents knew who this guy was a week ago. Today, he might be the Packers starting WR opposite Jordy Nelson if James Jones can't go. Aaron Rodgers has the ability to make guys look better. Plus, his name is fun to say. Boykin.
TE Tim Wright. Rookie TE from Rutgers is developing a rapport with fellow rookie QB Mike Glennon. Added bonus: He's listed as a WR/TE in some leagues, so he gives you position flexibility.