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Divisional matchup alert! The Panthers head to Atlanta to take on the 1st place (wait what?) Falcons. Fantasy stars litter both teams, but which ones should you start? Hint: Answers below.

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  • Atlanta Falcons

    No Josh Norman? No problem. No outside receiver has gained more than 55 yards against Carolina this season. In fact, the 2 players with the most yards against this team (Vance McDonald and Kyle Rudolph) are both tight ends. After allowing touchdowns to the tight end position in consecutive weeks, it is definitely worth giving the position a look. This week against the Falcons, play Jacob Tamme and bank on that trend extending another week.

    The Panthers front-7 is still very capable of getting in the quarterback’s face, and defensive back Bene Benwikere has stepped up to the challenge of being the team’s #1 corner so far. We’ve yet to see how a quarterback in the upper echelon plays against this defense, so don’t be quick to judge how the Panthers defend the pass just yet. Matt Ryan and the Falcon’s weapons are head and shoulders above Sam Bradford, Trevor Siemian, and Blaine Gabbert and their respective weapons. Matty Ice’s play will hopefully tell us a little more about what to expect moving forward this season against Carolina, but I wouldn’t start Ryan unless you don’t have any better options. He is not a great streaming choice this week.

    Against the Panthers, Stefon Diggs was held in check just as Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Torrey Smith have been. If you are a Julio Jones owner, you aren’t sitting him any week. I wouldn’t count on Mohamed Sanu however considering the stingy play of the Carolina secondary thus far.

    Carlos Hyde and the 49ers had a tough day on the ground against Carolina. C.J. Anderson had a good day against this team, but the Broncos are a different team than the 49ers. The Vikings have struggled to run the ball all year, and against the Panthers that narrative did not change. The run defense will be something to watch moving forward. For my money, I would be skeptical about starting any back against Luke Kuechly and Kawann Short. Sit Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman in standard formats, both are only flex options this week for PPR. Don’t let last week’s matchup versus the lowly Saints fool you: The Falcons’ running backs are just average fantasy plays in their timeshare situation.

    The Panthers offense is dangerous. Despite only 10 points against what looks like the NFL’s premier defense, (the Minnesota Vikings) they should be able to easily score 20+ points, making the Falcon’s D/ST a poor play. They are rarely even a streaming play as their defense has been pretty horrid thus far.

    Players to start for the Falcons:

    • Jacob Tamme
    • Julio Jones

    Players to sit for the Falcons:

    • Devonta Freeman
    • Tevin Coleman
    • Mohamed Sanu
    • Matt Ryan
    • Falcons D/ST
    • Matt Bryant

    Big Questions:

    • How will this team play against a good quarterback?
    • Was C.J. Anderson the exception or the rule for how the Panthers will defend good running teams?
  • Carolina Panthers

    Opposing quarterback’s have a grin on their face when they see the Falcons up next on their schedule. 10 TD’s and 956 yards through the air in 3 games is pretty embarrassing for a team that employs a defensive minded coach and boasts one of the best corners in the NFL in Desmond Trufant. Without a pass rush or much help elsewhere in the secondary, it’s pretty much been open season on the Falcons defense so far.  Trufant doesn’t shadow WR1s, so no receiver should be taken out of your lineup completely when they play the Falcons. Knowing that, Cam Newton and Kelvin Benjamin should be must-starts this week against Atlanta.

    Atlanta has been susceptible to a lot of big runs. Teams have been forced to pass more against them because the offense scores a lot of points, but the lack of volume doesn’t mean backs have been less efficient. Jonathan Stewart will sit again with a hamstring injury this week. With that said, I wouldn’t expect big days from Cameron Artis-Payne or Fozzy Whittaker. Neither are all that talented, and if the volume of touches is shared, neither are worth much in fantasy. The best bet if you are thinking about starting either is that the Panthers may be playing with a lead. (They are favored by 3 points) Whittaker would only be a desperate play in PPR, and same goes for CAP in standard.

    This is another team that has allowed touchdowns to tight ends every week. That trend should continue with Atlanta facing the league’s top ranked fantasy tight end thus far. Greg Olsen is a must-play.

    The Falcon’s offense hasn’t faced a quality defense yet. They did struggle against defensive teams last year, but they have more weapons this go-around. The Panthers defense has been above-average, but not at the level they played in 2015. They aren’t a terrible play this week, but there are likely better streaming options available.

    Players to start for the Panthers:

    • Cam Newton
    • Greg Olsen
    • Kelvin Benjamin
    • Graham Gano

    Players to sit for the Panthers:

    • Panthers D/ST
    • Panthers running backs

    Big Questions:

    • Can Vic Beasley take another step towards becoming the pass-rusher he has the potential to be? If he does, will it even make a difference?

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