No, that isn’t a typo, the Atlanta Falcons really dropped a 55-point hammer down on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday Night Football.
The Falcons, coming off of one of the worst offensive performance’s of Matt Ryan’s career came out fast and furious on offense, scoring 35 first half points and cruised from there on out to move to 2-1 on the season, and the Falcons did all of this without Roddy White who was a late scratch.
Now, if any of you follow me on Twitter you will know that I am a hardcore, and extremely passionate fan of the team, and I apologize in advance for any homerism that comes through in this piece but it doesn’t take a Falcons fan to see just how explosive the Falcons offense can be when Matt Ryan, the NFL’s leading passer through three games…. Technically, has pass protection and with the return of rookie left tackle Jake Matthews and the absence of Gerald McCoy along the Bucs defensive front the seventh-year pro absolutely shredded the defense to the tune of 286 yards and three touchdowns in a little less than three quarters of action, and he could have potentially had a fourth had Devin Hester not taken a Jet Sweep the distance for a touchdown.
Now it is almost impossible for the Falcons to repeat this performance again this season but in two of three games this season– both of which at home coincidentally so, Matty Ice showed both fantasy owners and NFL fans just how great he can be as a fantasy quarterback and has quickly thrown himself back into the top-10 fantasy quarterback territory that he once was a staple in before the wheels fell off of the Falcons last year and with Julio Jones back healthy he has also picked up right where he left off before suffering a season ending foot injury in week five last year. Jones hauled in nine passes for 161 yards and two touchdowns against the porous Buccaneer defense and has now crossed the century mark in receiving yardage and scored a touchdown in each game this season and is an early candidate for fantasy MVP this season, and the frontrunner for fantasy comeback player of the year.
Along with Jones and Ryan, Devin Hester also had a game for the ages. Not only did he score a rushing score on a 20 yard end around but he also broke his record for punt return touchdowns with Deion Sanders, who was in attendance on Thursday as part of the Thursday Night Football crew with the NFL Network. Although in most formats the punt return touchdown didn’t help you out had you started him, which before Roddy White was ruled out seemed crazy but after it was a possibility for some owners.
Along with Hester’s rushing touchdown, Steven Jackson and Antone Smith also scored rushing touchdowns and with all four Falcons running backs getting touches, the backfield still looks to be a full fledged running back by committee which makes all of the running backs very dicey fantasy options but Steven Jackson led the team in carried again with 14 carries and yards with 54, and added an impressive one yard rushing touchdown to turn a so-so fantasy day into a solid one.
Antone Smith also scored a rushing touchdown in the third quarter to put the Falcons up 56-0. Smith is an explosive playmaker and has shown the ability to take any touch to the house but he is far to inconsistent to be a viable fantasy option and is currently the fourth back on the depth chart behind Jackson, Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman (who may be seeing even fewer touches after a second half fumble). All four backs are talented and combined give the Falcons a great running game in real life, but in fantasy it is very much akin to the Saints and Patriots backfields. Of the four backs Jackson is the only one worth owning to be totally honest with you, but with three other backs getting touches it is very hard to ever feel comfortable starting him with any confidence.
In a game that saw the Falcons drop 55 points on the Buccaneers defense that looked downright lost at times that must have meant there was a huge opportunity for Tampa Bay garbage points, right?
That isn’t entirely wrong, the Bucs scored both of their touchdowns well after the game was in hand– with the first coming off a very controversial non-call on a pushoff by Vincent Jackson, who had done nothing up to that point, and the second coming off of a pick six thrown by Falcons backup quarterback TJ Yates after Matt Ryan was pulled from the game because well, the Falcons had embarrassed the Bucs defense enough, I suppose.
With Doug Martin out, Bobby Rainey was in line for a huge fantasy game after the Falcons had been absolutely destroyed on the ground during the first two weeks of the season but after two fumbled relatively early in the game he found himself riding the pine in favor of Mike James but after four yards on four carries it appeared as if Tampa Bay realized that fumbles by their most explosive playmaker are forgivable. Or they just didn’t care anymore, being down by five touchdowns and all…
Rainey ended up having a decent fantasy day with over 100 all purpose yards (41 rushing, 64 receiving) which ended up being a decent start in a standard league, and was a downright great result in PPR leagues, but the two fumbles hurt his production, and possibly his value going forward. When Doug Martin is healthy I would imagine that he would take back his spot as the lead back in the offense, despite him not really being deserving of so, and no matter how much I want to say Rainey deserves at least a shot at the starting job or at least some touches even if Martin is healthy and Tampa should just chalk this up as a case of “everything that can go wrong, did” I am just not confident that it will necessarily happen.