With the usual disclaimers out of the way, here's some detailed analysis for the Falcons-Jets game. I'll try to make it back later for a full write-up on Seahawks-Chiefs, but will leave you with a few nuggets on that one as well.
If you want to take a chance on a starter making some noise despite limited reps, Matt Ryan is your guy. Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn has said the starters will get more snaps this week, and Ryan only needed one series to score 7.4 fantasy points against Tennessee. For what it's worth, the Jets' first-string defense got burned on a 35-yard touchdown catch by Golden Tate in their preseason opener. Despite all that, Ryan won't play for more than a quarter, leaving QB duties to T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree for the majority of the game. Renfree impressed against the Titans' scrubs last week, completing six of seven passes for 68 yards. The performance resonated with Falcons' brass, as Renfree began receiving snaps with the second team in practice this week. It would make sense for them to take a longer look at Renfree, to see if he can unseat Yates for back-up duties behind Ryan. Of the two Atlanta backups, I'd prefer Renfree, but will be looking elsewhere for a quarterback tonight.
The Falcons got both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman back at practice this week, but as of this writing, it doesn't appear either will suit up tonight.
It appears Antone Smith will also be held out due to a hamstring injury, leaving Terron Ward, Jerome Smith, and Michael Ford to carry the ball against the Jets. Both Ward and J. Smith got first team opportunities in practice this week, but I see Smith as the clear play of the two, and he will probably be in all of my lineups tonight. Smith out-snapped all Atlanta running backs with the exception of Antone Smith last week, broke a nice looking 12 yard run against Tennessee, and was singled out by Matt Ryan for his pass protection. He deserves a long look from the Atlanta coaching staff tonight.I do not expect Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman to play vs. Jets. No need to rush them back. Not participating in 11-on-11 today telling.— vaughn mcclure (@vxmcclure23) August 20, 2015
Rookie Justin Hardy led the Falcons wide receivers in both snaps and targets last week. He makes for a fine play tonight, as he tries to push training camp standout Leonard Hankerson for Atlanta's number three wide receiver spot. If you're willing to gamble a bit on a hot start by Ryan, then it makes sense to pair him with Julio Jones. The rest of Atlanta's wide receivers are a complete crap shoot.
Levine Toilolo played the most snaps of any Atlanta tight end last week, and responded with a respectable three catches for 36 yards. Tight end has been a tough position to nail down in these preseason games, making Toilolo worth a look. If Quinn is true to his word about the starters getting more reps, Jacob Tamme could be a worthwhile play as well.
With new QB acquisition Matt Flynn still nursing an injury, the Jets will turn to Bryce Petty for at least a half. In other words, the Atlanta defense is in play tonight.
New York Jets
It appears the plan is for Ryan Fitzpatrick to play most of the first half tonight, which makes him my preferred QB play of the short slate. Fitzpatrick has only had five practices and one preseason possession working with the first team, so he can certainly use the reps. If last week proved anything, it's that we should ignore Bryce Petty, no matter how much playing time he gets.
The Jets' distribution of backfield snaps was too even last week for any of their running backs to stand out as strong plays tonight. It's a shame because Atlanta was awful at stopping the run last year, and began the preseason by allowing two rushing touchdowns to the Titans last week. If I had to play one NY running back it would be Bilal Powell, who led the team in snaps, rushing attempts, and rushing yards against the Lions last week.
With Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker figuring to play limited roles, I'm most interested in pairing Fitzpatrick with either Jeremy Kerley, or Quincy Enunwa. Kerley led the team in wide receiver snaps last week, and finds himself locked in a battle with Enunwa for the third receiver spot. Both players should be motivated to put up a strong showing, but I'm going with Enunwa, who should be lower owned, and has the higher upside (Enunwa goes 6'2'', 225 lbs., runs a 4.4 forty, and caught double digit touchdowns in his last season at Nebraska).
It doesn't look like Jace Amaro will play through a shoulder sprain, opening up some snaps for Jeff Cumberland, Wes Saxton, and Kellen Davis. I'd be more inclined to target a tight end from the KC-SEA game.
If I don't make it back to write up the Seahawks-Chiefs later, here's a quick run down of the players I'm looking at from that game:
- Thomas Rawls - Led team in RB snaps last week, locked in a battle with Christine Michael for no. 3 role.
- Anthony McCoy - Played the majority of the TE snaps for Seattle last week, but had two wide open drops and a holding penalty. His back is against the wall to produce if he's going to stick on a crowded tight end depth chart.
- Chase Daniel - Had a huge preseason opener against Arizona, finishing with 189 yards and three TD passes. It's worth a shot to see if he can continue dominating scrub defenses.
- Da'Ron Brown - In addition to catching a TD last week, he led KC in both wide receiver snaps, and targets.
- Charcandrick West - Darrin Reaves had more carries and a rushing TD last week, but West out-snapped him 29-14. He also broke a 34 yard run, and can move like this with the ball in his hands: