COMMENTARY | The Atlanta Falcons erased another half-game off of the New Orleans Saints' NFC South lead with their 31-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 7. Atlanta now sits three games back in the division.
Even though the Falcons still have an uphill battle to try and remain relevant in the NFL postseason hunt, individual players for Atlanta are having a big impact in the fantasy football world.
Harry Douglas, WR
Hopefully everyone took my advice when I wrote about Harry Douglas being a waiver wire steal earlier this month. If not, you missed out on his truly impressive debut as Atlanta's new go-to option in the passing game.
With Julio Jones done for the year and Roddy White missing the first game of his NFL career with a hamstring injury, Douglas became the default receiving option for Matt Ryan. All he did was catch every one of his seven targets for 149 yards and a touchdown.
Even if White is healthy enough to play next week, Douglas should still be looked at as a solid WR option in most leagues. White has been slowed all season with a lingering ankle injury and is yet to even break the 50-yard plateau in any game this season.
An even better indication of Douglas' ability for sustained fantasy success is that fact that he was left stranded on "Revis Island" for much of the game and still put up big numbers. The Falcons get the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, who were ranked No. 29 in the NFL in passing defense entering Week 7.
Jacquizz Rodgers, RB
With both Jones and White out, many wondered exactly what this new Atlanta passing game would look like. Douglas helped fill the role of the premiere receiver admirably, but a new philosophical change was very apparent through the air.
The Falcons were not trying to force the ball down field but rather took the dump off passes and screens underneath whenever the defense allowed them. The results found Rodgers looking very much like a poor-man's Darren Sproles in the passing game.
Atlanta's speedy running back got next to nothing on the ground -- seven carries for 14 yards -- however, he picked up eight catches for 46 yards and two scores receiving. Rodgers is still available in a lot of leagues and should be considered as a solid flex option moving forward.
Steven Jackson was thought to be on his way back to the field very soon, but a setback with his hamstring injury has had him sidelined even longer than previously expected.
The team-leading nine targets that Rodgers saw on Sunday will make him a hard-to-bench fantasy player for any game he remains the starter.
Tony Gonzlaez, TE
With the receiving corps decimated by injuries, the smart money was on Gonzalez becoming the new go-to option for Ryan in the passing game; however, perhaps NFL defenses were thinking the same thing.
Gonzalez received double-coverage all game long and could only muster two catches for 30 yards. Douglas' big game could make defense relax on their game plan of taking Gonzalez away completely, but expect teams to still focus primarily on the future Hall of Famer moving forward. I don't like the four total targets Gonzalez saw on Sunday, and it did not appear as though he was the first read on any of the passing plays.
Despite losing so many of his top weapons, Ryan has been as consistent a fantasy quarterback as anyone. Ryan tossed a season-high three touchdowns on Sunday and pushed his mark to 71 straight pass attempts without an interception.
On the season, Ryan has 10 TDs to only three interceptions while averaging 275 yards per game through the air. Unless your team already has Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers or Tony Romo, Ryan is an automatic start every week.
Atlanta's banged up defense showed a little spark on Sunday, although that may have had more to do with them playing the now 0-6 Buccaneers than anything else.
Thomas Decoud was able to put Atlanta on the board early with a fumble return for a touchdown, but the Falcons were still up-and-down all day. They allowed 138 yards and two touchdowns to Bucs' wide out Vincent Jackson while giving up 111 yards on the ground. They were also outscored in the second half for the fifth time in six games this season.
Given the performance Atlanta gave against the substandard level of competition they faced in Week 7, their defense will remain untouched on the waiver wire for the foreseeable future.
Anthony Schreiber is a freelance sportswriter who has been following the Atlanta Falcons since they first started playing games inside the Georgia Dome. He has penned articles for a variety of online publications and magazines.
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