This week’s maximum value match-up comes at a crucial time for many owners either looking to solidify a playoff position or to grind past the first round. While most of this year’s column has focused on rarely-owned players with the potential for big weeks, this week’s article will focus on guys who might be on your bench, but should be in your lineup.
San Diego Chargers’ Passing Game and Atlanta Falcons’ Passing Game
These are two offenses typically thought of as high-octane, yet most owners have been talking about benching their players thanks to unfavorable match-ups. Taking a closer look and you’ll notice that the match-ups are not as intimidating as they seem upon first glance.
The Patriots’ secondary has been highly praised this season for good reason. The Patriots are allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to WRs. However, San Diego is a much better team in the air than most and will have an advantage playing in the still-warm California weather.
The Patriots are a middling-to-good match-up for RBs and TEs, but only one of those positions should be of much interest to your playoff chances. Ryan Mathews is an okay start, but the Chargers have scored just 5 touchdowns on the year running the ball and the relegated Brandon Oliver scored two of them. If the Chargers are to score 22 points, it will be done through the air.
Two players stand out to me in this game: Antonio Gates and Eddie Royal. Gates is still a touchdown machine in his old age and despite an up-and-down season so far, has been about as good a tight end as you can find outside the elite guys. With the Patriots’ giving up the 10th-most points per game to tight ends and San Diego’s reliance on the pass, Gates should be heavily targeted in the red zone in this favorable match-up. If you don’t have Gronk, Graham or Thomas (assuming he plays), plug Gates into your lineup with confidence.
Royal is the quintessential boom-or-bust guy, but he has a great opportunity to boom on Sunday. Davante Adams stepped up big for Green Bay last week as New England focused on shutting down Cobb and Nelson and Royal will play that dangerous third receiver role this week. Keenan Allen will draw either Revis or Browner with some safety help and while still startable in PPR leagues, should not be depended upon for a big game. Malcom Floyd is a better fantasy receiver than some people realize, but will garner whichever top corner doesn’t take Allen. That leaves Royal, who can be a touchdown machine when the Chargers need him to be and should be a big part of the game plan, especially if the Pats manage to neutralize the Chargers’ top two WR threats. The potential for 3 touchdowns split between Gates and Royal is real this week and I’ll be playing both of them in some daily leagues.
Maybe, but Vegas still gave this game the highest over/under of the week and it’s unlikely that the Packers will put up the entire 56-point line themselves. Vegas does have the Falcons as 12.5 point dog. While Green Bay should have the game well in hand, the Falcons will be throwing all day to try to steal one from the NFC North powerhouse. If the Falcons are to score 22 points to the Packers’ 34, that’s three touchdowns we need to steal from our opponents who might be overlooking this game as a Packers-only affair.
Packers fans are quick to point out their surprisingly-capable secondary, but don’t get ahead of yourself and think this is a unit to be feared – Green Bay still allows the 11th-most fantasy points to WRs, the 17th-most to TEs and the 18th-most to QBs. Not enticing numbers, but not scary ones either.
The Falcons are not quite as reliant on the passing game as the Chargers, but they still make their money on the arm of Matt Ryan with 9 touchdowns on the ground so far this season compared to 21 through the air. You already know you’re starting Julio Jones, but who else will be seeing targets this week?
If Roddy White is out (play him if he looks healthy), try dusting off Harry Douglas from last season. He might not be Roddy White, but he sure does a nice job putting up Roddy-like stats when he fills-in. Douglas had 9 catches for 116 yards last week. Maybe he’s a more of a circa-2010 Roddy? While he might not be the flashiest pick this week, he should produce good value in daily leagues and has the talent to have a big day if the Packers sell out to stop Julio. Levine Toilolo might seem like an interesting pick, but I’ll be staying away. There’s only so much opportunity can make up for with regard to ability and while Toilolo might score a TD, this 6’8” TE isn’t talented enough for me to feel comfortable rolling him out.
Matt Ryan has admittedly been frustrating this season, but don’t buy the idea that he won’t be able to score on Sunday. After all, Vegas thinks differently and Vegas makes a lot of money on being right more than they’re wrong. The Falcons’ offensive line has been bad, but they have had their good days as well. Even Detroit’s fearsome front couldn’t shutdown Atlanta’s passing game completely. If you’re struggling between Ryan and another QB this week, go with the guy who will be throwing all night in what should be a high-scoring affair. Though given the Packers’ heavy odds, you might not want to check Ryan’s score until he gets some late garbage points.
Bottom line: When you’re setting that lineup this week, don’t be intimidated by match-ups people are telling you are impossible obstacles. These guys might not be studs, but this weekend they will have opportunities to get the job done. In fantasy football, you can’t ask for anything more than that.