Monday Night Football Preview: Falcons at Packers

In Week 4, Monday Night Football showcases two teams with high-level talent who are having two very different seasons. Green Bay has been crushing it, having one of the top offenses so far this season, and having an average point differential of 12.3 through Week 3. Meanwhile, Atlanta has had a terrible start, highlighted with their last two games being colossal late-game collapses. We shall see if this MNF game will be more of the same, or new things to come.

Monday Night Football Preview

Falcons (0-3) at Packers (3-0)

Atlanta (+7.5) at Green Bay (-7.5) | Over/Under 56.5

Vegas Odds

With the Falcons traveling up to Lambeau Field, they are slotted by Vegas as 7.5 point underdogs on Monday Night. The Packers have covered all of their spreads so far in 2020 and there is no reason to believe they won’t again on Monday night. Take Green Bay and the points this week. For the Over/Under, 56.5 is one of the highest totals of the week. Atlanta has had trouble keeping teams from scoring all season and should be bending plenty to Green Bay. Take the over and feel confident including it in any parlays/teases this week.

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Quarterback

Many prospective fantasy owners were down on Aaron Rodgers when the Packers not only didn’t bring in proper skill-position help this offseason but drafted his eventual replacement in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft. This caused his average draft position (ADP) to plummet to QB12, his lowest in more than a decade. Those that took a swing on him have reaped the benefits so far this season. Rodgers has started this season on fire, throwing for 887 yards, nine touchdowns, and zero interceptions through three games. This has been especially impressive since Green Bay has been dealing with injuries to the wide receiver position, including Davante Adams and now Allen Lazard. Despite this, Rodgers has found a way to continue looking like his old QB1 self in 2020 and will keep that trend going Monday night. Expect a top-five fantasy quarterback performance from Rodgers on MNF.

Matt Ryan has been a top-five quarterback in terms of passing attempts this season but is yet to convert those opportunities into a top-five fantasy performance in 2020. Ryan is still a QB1, ranking as the QB8 through Week 3, but has yet to take the elite jump in fantasy production has done in years past. This is somewhat understandable as he has not fully healthy weapons so far this season with injuries to both Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones. Ryan has relied heavily on both of those players for targets in recent years and it has a noticeable impact on Atlanta’s offense when they are off the field. The Packers have the 19th ranked defense against fantasy quarterbacks (depending on scoring format) so the matchup is a good one for Ryan, but it is still not a favorable enough one that gives me overwhelming hope for Monday night, especially considering the injuries he will have to contend with. Ryan will be a fine start on Monday night and should be expected to be a low-end QB1 this week, but could be benched in favor of more favorable options if they are on your roster.

Running Backs

When the Falcons signed Todd Gurley back in April 2020, many were unsure what his role would be in Atlanta’s offense and if he would be able to regain his former fantasy glory. So far this season he has shown some flashes but has yet to put a full productive game together. One glaring issue that has hurt Gurley’s numbers is his lack of passing game work. In his last five seasons as a member of the Rams, Gurley had 301 targets, averaging just over four targets per game during that time. So far this season, however, Gurley has only seen seven targets through three games, including one game with zero. These numbers are surprising, especially when you consider the high passing volume the Falcons have had so far this season and Gurley’s known abilities as a pass catching back. This week will be a perfect opportunity for Gurley to start getting that portion of his game going. The Packers defense has been susceptible to receiving backs so far in 2020, ranking in the bottom five among receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns allowed to running backs through Week 3. This is a matchup that should help Gurley get back to his true old form, expect an RB1 performance from him Monday night.

Aaron Jones compressorAaron Jones burst onto the fantasy football scene last season finishing the season as the RB2 in PPR format leagues. Most expected him to regress in some form this season but Jones has kept true so far in 2020. Jones is near the top of the league in all rushing categories through three games and there is no sign of him slowing down, especially in this MNF matchup. Keep Jones in your lineup and anticipate a big performance from him Monday night.

Wide Receivers

This position will be the ward of the wounded in this contest. Both Green Bay and Atlanta are dealing with multiple injuries at wide receiver this week and will need to rely on their depth on Monday night. The Packers are the slightly healthier group among the two with only Lazard confirmed to be out after being placed on injured reserve this week. Adams practiced in a limited capacity this week after missing Week 3 with a hamstring injury. However, he has been ruled out based on a (now deleted) tweet he sent earlier Monday morning.

 

With this absence, the two remaining Packers wide receivers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Darrius Shepard will get plenty of looks on Monday night. This opportunity will be paired with an excellent matchup as the Falcons defense are the third-worst against fantasy wide receivers in 2020 (depending on scoring format) and allowing an average of 245 yards per game to the position group so far this season. Both players should be snagged off of waivers, if still there, and inserted into your starting lineup this week, especially if you were planning on starting Adams.

Dirk Koetter will have to reach deep into his bag of tricks in this matchup as all of his starting wide receivers are dealing with some sort of injury in Week 4. Atlanta’s top two wideouts, Jones and Ridley, practiced in a limited capacity Thursday and Friday and are marked as questionable for Monday night, but reports indicate both players should be suiting up on Monday night. Assuming they do play, this matchup against Green Bay will be an interesting one. The Packers secondary have allowed the eighth fewest yards against wide receivers so far in 2020 but also tied for the second-most touchdowns given up to wide receivers through Week 3 with five. Ridley is the best option to start, as he has not missed anytime so far in 2020 and is the WR1 through Week 3. If active, start Ridley with confidence this week.

Jones is riskier start as he has missed time in the past two games and is having a down year so far, ranking as the WR23 through Week 2 in PPR leagues. Jones is the type of talent that you have to start if he is active, which I would recommend for this week, but I would keep expectations low. Jones could very well have an explosive game like he did last time he was at Lambeau, going for 106 yards on eight receptions and two touchdowns, but could also continue his career trend of dud performances when dealing with injuries. I expect him to have at least a WR2 level performance this week with low-end WR1 upside.

Outside of those two, the Falcons will be once again relying on Russell Gage to catch passes this week. Gage suffered a concussion in Week 3 but has been cleared for the game on MNF. Gage will surely take a step back on the Ryan target priority chart with Ridley and Jones on the field but has made enough of a role in the offense that he can still be a viable fantasy option. Gage is a solid WR3/flex option this week that will be in line for a lot more work if Ridley or Jones are inactive or miss any snaps on Monday night.

If Ridley and/or Jones are inactive, the next man up on the depth chart to keep an eye on will be Olamide Zaccheaus. He would be next in line for the Falcons and had a decent outing in Week 3 against the Bears (six targets for four receptions and 41 yards). Zaccheaus would be a deep league flex option if anyone is ruled to be inactive but should be left on your bench/waiver wire if the usual starters are active for Week 4.

Tight Ends

One of the toughest positions to decipher in fantasy football is tight end. Outside of the handful of elite talents at the top of the food chain, it can feel like a complete crapshoot when trying to find players to start each week. One player that may have elevated his status to a considerable weekly start is Robert Tonyan. Tonyan has primarily been a backup for the Packers since 2018 but has found recent success as a target for Rodgers, especially in the red zone. In fact, over the last two weeks, Tonyan has been the TE11 in PPR leagues and also caught a touchdown in each contest. He seems to have found a role within the high powered Packers offense and should be able to make an impact on Monday night against the second-worst defense against fantasy tight ends (depending on format). Start Tonyan in all formats this week.

For Atlanta, Hayden Hurst has shown he is closer to the middle of the pack than the elite, start-every-week tight ends. Many owners were interested in what he could be this season after he was traded from the Ravens to the Falcons back in March. Hurst is tied for third on the team in targets through Week 3, so he is getting a good amount of looks in the offense but has yet to make much of them. But, he should be in line for more work with a large number of injuries Atlanta’s wide receiver group. This matchup in particular will be tough for Hurst, as the Packers have the ninth-best defense against fantasy tight ends through Week 3 (depending on scoring format). But, based on the targets voided based on injury and the need for the Falcons to keep up offensively to potentially win, Hurst, will have chances on Monday night. Start Hurst and expect a low-end TE1 performance.

Defense/Special Teams

Neither of these D/ST units has been strong starts so far in 2020, outside of Green Bay’s Week 2 performance against Detroit where they had four sacks and a pick-six. They have been mediocre in terms of turnovers caused and points allowed so they should only be considered in favorable matchups. With the power of both offenses, I would stay clear of both D/ST units and leave them on your bench/waiver wire.

Prediction

Green Bay has looked like one of the best teams in the NFL so far in this young season and will continue that roll on Monday night. Atlanta has the talent on their roster to put up a fight against them but, based on their injuries and recent season momentum, will not be able to this week. The Falcons recent streak of blowing big leads late in games will come to an end on Monday night, just not for the reason Atlanta fans will want. I have the final score as 42-17 in favor of Green Bay.

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