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NFL Matchups: Atlanta Falcons at Indianapolis Colts Fantasy Football Preview

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This a snippet of Adam Pfeifer’s NFL matchups column, previews Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons vs. the Indianapolis Colts for Fantasy Football Lineups. Fantasy rosters needed protective spray because players were bit hard by the injury bug in Week 2. Multiple starting quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers all suffered injuries this past weekend, with a handful of key offensive linemen also going down. As a result, we missed on plenty in this article, but we hit on plenty, as well. Back on the horse. With that in mind, let’s dig into some NFL matchups and NFL game breakdowns for your Week 3 Fantasy Football Lineups.

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Atlanta Falcons @ Indianapolis Colts

Total: 47.5

Line: IND -2.5

Falcons passing game

Matt Ryan has been all over the place through two weeks, passing for 624 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. There have been some good throws and some really questionable ones, but despite the turnovers, Ryan has remained a top-tier fantasy quarterback. No quarterback has more throws to the end zone than Ryan (nine) and through two games, the run game has been non-existent. Indianapolis has an underrated defensive unit but they could be without two of their five best defenders, as Pierre Desir will miss this game and star middle linebacker Darius Leonard is now in the concussion protocol.

The Colts have allowed opposing offenses to score a touchdown on 80 percent of their red zone trips through two weeks and could now be missing two key cogs of their defense. You would like to see better red zone play-calling, which is somehow always an issue for the Falcons, no matter who their offensive coordinator is. But Ryan still has great weapons to throw to and should be able to post strong numbers once again. Hopefully the Colts offense can keep up.

Remember when Julio Jones didn’t score touchdowns? The star wideout has now scored a touchdown in six consecutive games after his five-catch, 106-yard, two-touchdown outing on Sunday night. He has three touchdowns through two games and is always a strong bet to reach the century mark, which gives you a bonus on DK. There are a ton of head-scratching wide receiver price tags this week, including Julio at just $7,300. Per usual, Julio is a no-brainer top-three wide receiver play this weekend. Meanwhile, second-year Calvin Ridley has also scored in each of Atlanta’s first two games.

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Ridley constantly got open against Ronald Darby on Sunday night, resulting in over 100 yards and a touchdown. His night could have been bigger if Ryan didn’t overthrow him on a deep pass. Ridley would have lined up against Desir, but since Desir won’t play, second-round draft pick Rock Ya-Sin will step into the starting lineup. He’s a long, physical corner, but his footwork was a big question mark entering the draft. That could be an issue against Ridley, who I believe is a top-five route-runner in the NFL already. Ridley paces the Falcons in end zone targets with four and it looks like he’ll easily improve on his 5.8 targets per game from 2018. He’s a top-25 play this week.

Finally, Austin Hooper quietly remains productive for Atlanta, hauling in 13-of-15 targets for 111 yards. He remains the third (sometimes fourth) option in this passing game and gets a solid matchup here. Indianapolis allowed the most receptions per game to opposing tight ends in 2018 (6.4), as well as the third-most targets per game (8.1). They give you the intermediate stuff and limit the big play, which bodes well for Hooper. If I’m not paying up at tight end this week, Hooper is a guy I am targeting, especially if Leonard, who patrols the entire field, can’t play.

Falcons running game

It is no secret that Devonta Freeman has been disappointing to open the season. Through two weeks, he has just 19 carries for 41 yards and no touchdowns. The Falcons were chasing points from the jump in Week 1, and in Week 2, Freeman faced perhaps the best run defense in the Eagles. Ito Smith is taking some work away but Freeman is still getting the majority of the carries. Things should turn around this week, as the Colts have been gashed on the ground so far. They allowed three touchdowns to Austin Ekeler in Week 1, as well as over seven yards per carry to both Los Angeles backs. And they just allowed 81 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries to Derrick Henry last week. Again, they have been a bad red zone defense thus far, while continuing to give up a lot of receptions to running backs. Freeman is under $5,000 on DraftKings, making him difficult to ignore. This should be the breakout game for Freeman.

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Colts passing game

Jacoby Brissett is doing just enough for the Colts and fantasy rosters to stay competitive. He’s been held under 200 passing yards in each game but has thrown five touchdowns during that span. The Colts are relying heavily on their running game and offensive line, which has limited Brissett’s upside. His 6.1 yards per attempt are good for the fourth-lowest mark in football so far. With their key defensive players healthy, the Falcons defense (obviously) looks much better, making this way less of an enticing matchup than it was last year. And their pass rush really put pressure on the Eagles offense last week.

I like Brissett as a seasonal streamer, especially going forward due to a good schedule. But outside of that, don’t expect a monstrous performance. As for daily leagues, Brissett is just $5,200 but we also have two new starters who have the same, if not more, upside at sub-$5,000.

Apparently, T.Y. Hilton didn’t get the memo about being downgraded with Andrew Luck gone. Through the first two weeks, Hilton has caught 12 balls for 130 yards and three touchdowns, serving as the unquestioned WR1 in this Indianapolis offense at over 28 percent of the team targets. You likely aren’t benching him and are feeling good if you got him at a discount on draft day. And given what he’s done so far, he remains under-priced in DFS. The matchup definitely isn’t as favorable as it was last year but Hilton remains a locked-in top-15 wide receiver play this weekend.

With Devin Funchess sidelined, rookie Parris Campbell took advantage, scoring his first career touchdown on Sunday. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead to more snaps or targets for Campbell, who has been targeted just twice so far this season. The Colts essentially split time between Campbell, Deon CainZach Pascal and Chester Rogers. Cain played 32 snaps on Sunday, Rogers 34 (18 in the slot) and Pascal 47, though 16 of them came on special teams. There is some potential value here but you have to get it right because it is highly unlikely that two of these guys will be productive.

Your best bet would be Campbell or Rogers, who will operate as a receiver more than the other two. Rogers at least saw four targets last week and is running out of the slot 77 percent of the time, an area where the Falcons struggled last year and have struggled to start this season.

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Eric Ebron returned to the end zone last week but he remains a touchdown-dependent option. His snaps went up from 25 to 33 with Funchess out, but Jack Doyle has still played 43 and 49 snaps through two weeks. The tight end position gets worse every week, making Ebron a top-15 option by default, though ranking 27th among tight ends in routes run (35) is less than ideal.

Colts running game

After his monster Week 1 performance, Marlon Mack came back down to earth on Sunday, rushing 20 times for just 51 yards. At least he was targeted three times in the passing game and through the first two weeks, Mack is averaging an awesome 23.5 touches per game. The Colts are relying on Mack and their elite offensive line and as home favorites, look for them to continue doing it here. We know Atlanta has allowed the most receptions to opposing running backs in each of the last four seasons under Dan Quinn, potentially giving Mack some more receiving upside than usual. The Falcons play defense a lot like the Colts, giving you the underneath stuff. Brissett hasn’t been taking many shots down the field so far so we could see a lot of intermediate passes this week, which will be good for guys like Campbell, Rogers and Mack. They have also allowed two rushing scores per game this year, one of only three teams that can say that. If Mack continues to see an uptick in third-down usage, he has one of the highest ceilings of the slate this week, especially at just $5,800 over on DraftKings. He makes a lot of sense this weekend.

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