Thursday Night Fantasy Preview: Bucs at Falcons

Jackson lit up the Falcons for more than 300 yards in their two matchups last season.

Daniel Shirey

Each Thursday during the season, we’ll post a quick look at the fantasy dos and dont’s for that night’s game.

The Falcons have a strong offense and a bad defense, so look for a decent amount of points here. The over-under is 45, which puts this game squarely in the middle of the Week 3 slate.

Strong plays

Vincent Jackson, WR, Bucs – The Falcons gave up 252 passing yards to Andy Dalton in Week 2. A.J. Green missed most of that game with a foot injury, so the numbers could have been bigger. In related news, Jackson had 20 receptions for 303 yards and three touchdowns in two games against the Falcons last season. Jackpot, right? V-Jax might not explode to that extent, but he’s a top-10 fantasy WR play this week.

Matt Ryan, QB, Falcons – The Bucs are in the middle of the pack in pass defense after playing against backups Derek Anderson and Austin Davis. They’re also dealing with plenty of injuries to their defense, headlined by gametime decision DT Gerald McCoy (broken hand). Look for Ryan to carve up the Bucs, continuing his comeback from a disappointing 2013.

Julio Jones and Roddy White, WRs, Falcons – See Ryan, Matt. Jones figures to have a very nice game and is a must-start, as always. White is more of a question due to a hamstring injury, but he’s expected to play. I’ve got Roddy at WR18, which keeps him solidly in fantasy starting range.

Doug Martin and Bobby Rainey, RBs, Bucs – Martin’s knee still has him listed as questionable, but he’s expected to play. Rainey had 174 yards from scrimmage in place of Martin against the Rams, so will he head back to the bench? Heck, no – look for the Bucs to use a committee, annoying millions of fantasy owners.

In this case, maybe it’s not so annoying, as the Falcons have allowed 309 rushing yards in two games. I’ve got Martin at RB25 this week, with Rainey at RB33, because there’s room for both Tampa backs to be productive against the Falcons’ generous defense. Maybe neither of these guys is a "strong play," but they’re plays.

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UPDATE, 1:25 p.m. ET: NFL Network reported today that Martin isn’t expected to play. If he’s out, Rainey becomes a top-15 RB play.

Stay aways

Josh McCown, QB, Bucs – Despite the earlier derogatory comments about the Falcons’ D, McCown is my QB25 this week. I’m more down on him this week than most fantasy analysts, but he’s looked very shaky so far, averaging 181 passing yards per game with three interceptions and a couple of fumbles. It’s OK if you like McCown more than I do tonight, but don’t let this attractive matchup sucker you into starting him.

Steven Jackson, RB, Falcons – SJ39 is nominally the Falcons’ lead back, but he’s carried 23 times and caught two passes in the season’s first two games. Jacquizz Rodgers has 11 carries of his own so far, and rookie Devonta Freeman lurks on the bench. Jackson plays in a high-powered offense, but he’s far from the focal point. He checks in at WR34 on my board.

Mike Evans, WR, Bucs – Great matchup? Yes, as the Falcons have the league’s 31st-ranked pass defense (we know, we know – one of the games was against Drew Brees). Part of the plan already? Sure – Evans caught four passes for 49 yards in Week 2, and has a respectable nine receptions through two games? Recommended? Not just yet, as he competes with V-Jax (along with Rainey and Martin) for targets. At WR40, Evans shouldn’t start in most formats. 

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