Lovie Smith is already in a difficult position. Even though his Buccaneers started the season with consecutive home games against the Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams, they find themselves in an 0-2 hole. Now they must go to Atlanta for the Thursday night game.
The Falcons pulled off a key win in their opener against the favored New Orleans Saints, but they struggled badly against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week Two as they could not get their offense going on the road.
The Bucs are hoping to get just enough opportunistic play from quarterback Josh McCown and their offense to get their first win, while the Falcons want to dominate with their offense and put this game away early.
Here’s a look at the key fantasy players on both sides, and our recommendation on whether you should start them or sit them in your fantasy lineup.
QB Josh McCown — The Bucs are depending on McCown to make smart decisions with the ball, read defenses and not turn the ball over. Those are admirable goals that can lead to winning football, but they are not necessarily going to help fantasy football players. While McCown probably will have more openings against the Atlanta defense than he did against Carolina or St. Louis, it’s difficult to see him throwing for more than 225 yards. BENCH HIM
RB Doug Martin – Martin could not play in Week Two vs. the Rams because of a knee injury, and he’s questionable in this game. While he wants to play, the Bucs can’t afford to put him in the lineup before he is ready. Backup Bobby Rainey has rushed for 156 yards and is averaging 6.0 yards per carry, so there’s no reason to rush Martin back. We’re not going to play either running back. BENCH HIM (Martin or Rainey)
WR Vincent Jackson – If the Bucs are going to come up with an upset in this game, it seems reasonable that Jackson will provide most of the offensive momentum. Jackson is a big man (6-5, 230) with outstanding reach. Jackson had two huge games against the Falcons last year, catching 10-138-2 and 10-165-1 against them. Look for another big game here. PLAY HIM.
QB Matt Ryan – After his stellar opener vs. the Saints, Ryan could not ignite the Falcons offense in Week Two against the Bengals. He comes home to the Georgia Dome where he is most comfortable, and that means Ryan should have another big game. Look for him to come out throwing, and he should have at least 300 yards through the air and three TD passes. PLAY HIM
RB Steven Jackson – The Falcons are most likely going to turn over their primary RB chores to rookie Devonta Freeman at some point this season. Jackson was a hard-charging, yard-gathering machine earlier in his career, but now he is just going through the motions. Jackson is looking forward to a career in the art world once his playing days are over, and his head is no longer in the game. BENCH HIM
WR Julio Jones – After last year’s injury-plagued season, Jones is happy to be back in the lineup where he is the Falcons’ primary deep threat. Jones has caught 14-204-1 in his first two games, and it’s just a matter of time before he starts reeling off sensational efforts. While the Bucs know how dangerous Jones is, they won’t be able to stop him. He goes for at least 125 yards and two touchdowns in this game. PLAY HIM
Steve Silverman has been writing, talking about and playing fantasy football since the early 1990s. He co-hosted Fantasy Football Weekly, the first Fantasy Football television program, in 1994 and ’95. Follow Steve on Twitter @profootballboy.
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