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I don’t think anyone is shocked that the Patriots made the Super Bowl. What’s the point of even analyzing or critiquing them anymore?
Did any of us see the Falcons in the Super Bowl? I suspect not. Perhaps, you’re like me and predicted the Falcons for a losing record and constantly predicted their demise all season…and thought Dan Quinn would get fired during/after this season? You didn’t see it…and that’s cool. I didn’t see it…and that makes me bad at my job.
This week, in honor of the Falcons, I am reprinting all of their 2016 game recaps to embarrass myself more publicly. Laying myself naked before you. Also, I am going back through and reading to see if there were clues to what I was off on and to see what I was thinking going negative on the Falcons as a Super Bowl season was unfolding. It’s not the first time…I didn’t buy into the Panthers all last season either.
I am reprinting the Falcons 2016 season throughout the week and adding some extra commentary on how bad (or good) my commentary was at the time. In honor of the Falcons and to publicly flog myself this week, here we go…
*Original commentary from the day it was published in black text with my 2017 comments in green.
Falcons 23, Broncos 16 — Four wins in a row for Atlanta now, as they jump to 4-1.
This win put Atlanta on the map for 2016. Denver seemed poised for another deep playoff run. In hindsight…this wasn’t as great a victory as it seemed at the time. Denver started falling apart right about this point in the season. It didn’t help who the Denver QB was for this game. Another ‘lucky break’ for the Falcons. Last week Cam was knocked out of the game 4th quarter. This week they face Paxton Lynch.
Well, color me shocked by this result. I would have never guessed the Falcons to go into Denver and manhandle them. This was no lucky win, per se. Atlanta played a solid game, and Denver did not. All that being said, if they were re-playing the game again today, I would lay the points and go with Denver.
I think this loss totally lies at the feet of Paxton Lynch. It was his debut, of sorts, so I’m not going to get crazy and proclaim him as a fraud or a bust…even though our computer scouting models for the NFL Draft didn’t care for him…I know every young quarterback is undeterred by NFL action, and more times better in the pros than in college these days. I’m not going to say Lynch is toast in the NFL, but after watching this effort as compared to all the other rookies who are slapping the NFL around, I’d be worried today possessing Lynch from an NFL or fantasy perspective.
The Atlanta Falcons have not been able to sack the quarterback on purpose for 3+ years, and now all a sudden they are the 2015 Denver Broncos of pass pressure. I’m supposed to believe Dan Quinn found some inventive scheme? (He did, actually) It was on Lynch. He took too long to make decisions. Even worse, his windup to throw the ball was very problematic. Under no pressure, with everything to his advantage, Lynch can fling a pass pretty quickly. When there’s any pressure, Lynch goes flat-footed, and takes an exaggerated windup to throw. There’s a hint of an indecisive hesitation in there as well. He’s lucky the Falcons didn’t pick off 3–4 more passes than they did – his slow delivery was telegraphing his throws.
If this game were played today, Trevor Siemian would be ready to go. He’s not my favorite QB either, but he’s definitely less rattled/more in control at this point than Paxton Lynch – Lynch is the ultimate scouting head fake right now. I got sucked into it last week as well. He has the look – he’s tall, he’s mobile, he looks good throwing some passes. It masks too many times where he’s rattled and using poor technique. It’s not over for Lynch, as all young QBs seem to be fine in this day and age, but he looks to be the most problematic out of the 2016 first-round guys.
As for the Falcons, if they get a ton of sacks and pressure on Russell Wilson this week – then I’m a believer. Right now, I think this was a one-off blamed on Paxton Lynch. (They would sack Wilson one time in a loss next week)
— I blame Paxton Lynch (23-35 for 223 yards, 1 TD/1 INT) for this Atlanta win, but if I were to award an MVP for the Falcons in this game, there’s no question who it would be – Tevin Coleman (6-31-0, 4-132-1/6 targets).
Coleman was so good in this game, it made me go back and re-look over his 2016. How could I miss it for 2016? I mean, I’ve been very positive on Coleman all year, and we had him highly ranked as a prospect last rookie draft. However, I started marking him down some for 2016 because of the split role with Devonta Freeman (23-88-1, 3-35-0/3 targets)…and that is my mistake.Apparently not from this point on…
The Falcons have taken a RB-centric approach to winning NFL football games. It’s beautiful in its simplicity. Wide receivers, to some degree, are decoys or a diversion. Teams chase after Julio Jones (2-29-0/6 targets) and friends, while the running backs slip out of the backfield or line up as wide receivers and go to work. Freeman is used as a traditional running back – hand-offs, screens, etc., and you have to play him like that because he’s a limited talent. However, with Coleman…with Coleman, I can’t believe what I’m seeing. This game really opened my eyes to it.
Basically, Tevin Coleman is half wide receiver, half running back. He’s lining up on several plays as a fourth or fifth wide receiver, and just like with Dion Lewis/Patriots last year – the mismatch is delicious. I had no idea Coleman was this good in the passing game. Dan Quinn figured it out, and credit to him because he’s put it to use. All the credit in the world to Quinn, a guy who I mocked going into the season. If this were, say, Jim Caldwell, he would have limited it to Devonta Freeman doing everything, regardless of what guys showed in practice. The whole world was enraptured by Freeman’s four-game hot streak last season. NFL analysts were proclaiming Freeman the best young running back in the NFL along with Todd Gurley during this four-game hot streak stretch. Fantasy people rated Freeman as a top 12 overall asset in the first six months of 2016…and then the rumors started leaking from Atlanta about how much they liked Tevin Coleman. The drumbeat got louder, and Freeman fell down draft boards. Freeman was seen as the main starter, and Coleman considered a problematic handcuff. Coleman is not the handcuff – he’s the talent. The reason why all the preseason quotes from the Falcons coaches were glowing praise for Tevin Coleman, and them making proclamations of how much they would use him – they saw how great Coleman was. They weren’t lying to us.
Coleman is like one of the best Dion Lewises in the NFL. He’s bigger, faster, stronger, with better hands, and could be main-carry runner as well as a pass-game weapon of mass destruction. Everyone’s trying to get cute figuring out how they can get their hands on Dion Lewis this week, in case he comes back healthy, but we should put way more energy into acquiring Coleman.
Coleman’s going to get 10+/minus carries per game, and when things get tough it will be Coleman who sees more touches. Regardless of his carries, Coleman is going to be a major part of the pass game. You wonder why Mohamed Sanu (3-43-0/6 targets) or Justin Hardy don’t matter, and why Julio Jones isn’t rocking big numbers (except that one game)…Tevin Coleman is happening. Freeman is a part of this too, but Coleman is the boss.
It was all downhill for Coleman after this game. His carries started to decline then spkie high/ow, but his targets really fell off…as if he were forgotten from how he started this season as a receiver.
I’ve been praising Coleman’s abilities on the field all season – he looks so fantastic. He’s gliding when he’s running. He’s catching passes all over the place. His acceleration past defenders is sublime, and something I noted on him in my pre-draft scouting of him out of Indiana. Rare few I’ve seen that can pull away from all defenders in the open field like Coleman. I want you to walk away from this believing Coleman is an RB1, because if you do, there’s a great opportunity. He was an RB1 for the first 5-6 games of 2016.
When I tell you that Coleman is the #6 ranked fantasy running back in PPR PPG, how shocked are you? Want to digest that? You don’t believe that will maintain do you (you were right to)? He doesn’t belong up there with the names of Le’Veon Bell, David Johnson, Demarco Murray, Ezekiel Elliott, LeSean McCoy, but he is. He is on a different type of opportunity – as a receiver/runner weapon, but more receiver.
Most people believe there’s another shoe to drop on Coleman (there was). They see Freeman as the starter, and Coleman as a very talented sidekick. I worried Coleman had a ceiling with Freeman muddying up the picture – I don’t anymore. He’s an RB2 or RB3 in most people’s eyes. They love what he’s done so far, but they do not believe it will maintain. Their inclination is to sell him high more than acquire/keep him. He’s the ‘acquire player of the week’ for us right now, on a scale I would put Doug Baldwin on – guys who are seen as barely a RB2/WR2 for the masses, but are actually RB1/WR1 talents in production.
Baldwin wound up WR1 by season’s end. Coleman #15 non-PPR, #13 PPR in PPG for fantasy 2016. It didn;t feel like it but Coleman was near a RB1. he scored 11 TDs in the regular season and has two more post season.
I’m so convinced of this that I’m opening up the vaunted trade tracker for you to send me deals you’re making for Coleman, to help others see the values. I’m that much of a believer. Don’t delay. Get going after Tevin – it’s a huge solution to your ‘my running backs are killing me‘ problem. If you don’t have a main running back in your stable, this is your chance at one at a very reasonable price. You might be able to get away with RB2.5 or WR2.5 type exchanges for Coleman. Act now, before this becomes a thing.
If the current owner has Devonta Freeman, it’s going to be a tougher pull – because Coleman is seen as a ‘handcuff’, but at a certain (reasonable) price, people will let handcuffs go. How much is DeAngelo Williams really worth today? Obviously, Coleman’s more than just DeAngelo, but remember, people still see Coleman as more handcuff than starter.
— I’m not buying into Matt Ryan (15-28 for 267 yards, 1 TD/0 INT), however…
Yeah, the Falcons won the game, and I’ll admit – Ryan is playing better football than he has been. You can see the confidence is back. He used to be OK a few years ago, and then he fell down a hole – it looks like he’s climbed back out of the hole. I’m not sure I consider him a QB1 again just yet. Hey, I’m finally waking up to Matt Ryan ion 2016!
He barely completed 50% of his passes here, with just one TD pass…167 of his 267 yards passing were to running backs, and most to Tevin Coleman. Just 100 yards passing to wide receivers in this game. I’m not a snob, and I’ll take numbers/output however they come, but I’m not ready to place Ryan as a top 10 among QBs, because he’s throwing passes to the running backs. I would fear teams will get wise to that. I don’t like Matt Ryan the forced pocket passer throwing downfield anymore. Matt Ryan the dump passer and Tevin Coleman mismatch thrower – I do like that.
— The more I look at it, I think I’ve arrived at the same conclusion many Fantasy analysts in the world are reaching – C.J. Anderson (11-41-0, 3-21-0/4 targets) is about to blow up in everyone’s faces again. It’s approaching an Eddie Lacy like problem. Everybody loves chunky Eddie Lacy and C.J. Anderson, because they can use their size to bully tacklers, which has to mean they’re great goal line guys, and their teams seem to start/love them – so what’s not to like? Then you see C.J. Anderson is pulling another 3.5 yards per carry season, and not hitting 50 yards rushing in his past three games and not creating any great magic in general…and you start flashing back to last season. C.J. Anderson was so bland, so nothing last season, that Ronnie Hillman created a split, resulting in CJA being a disaster for fantasy. I have a feeling the same thing is about to happen with Devontae Booker (6-23-0, 4-36-0/6 targets) in the role of Hillman. It’s not that I’m a Booker fan either, but I see the C.J. Anderson collapse happening again, and Denver has to go somewhere. I would also like to advance, for those in very deep roster leagues, you may want to take a longshot position in Kapri Bibbs to be an ‘out of nowhere’, poor man’s Jordan Howard type runner who takes over some carries this season. I’m not extremely confident of that, but I think CJA is opening the door to the possibility.
You’d be wise to grab Booker off of waivers this week, if you have a roster spot you want to invest in a surprise RB everyone’s talking about a week from now. I don’t think Booker can handle full workload either, and I think I’ll split to some degree with CJA for fantasy, but at least Booker will give you the PPR aspect.
I’d be a seller of C.J. Anderson quickly. I could see investing in Booker off waivers, and then trading him if he gets hot when the rumors fly in a week or two.
It all made sense, but Booker was no great answer either.
— I think Denver began the season planning to have their defense rule the day, while C.J. Anderson controlled the ground game, as Trevor Siemian just game-manages. However, the C.J. Anderson part of the equation is falling apart. I think that’s what’s giving rise to the explosion of Emmanuel Sanders (7-80-0/9 targets).
Denver has no running game again and has been missing their tight end (Virgil). Basically their offense of late comes down to getting the ball to D. Thomas and Sanders. I don’t know that that’s going to change. I thought maybe this was a blip of targeting spikes, but looking at the whole picture now – the trouble Denver may be in offensively…I’m buying into Sanders. However, I am late to the party because I didn’t believe when this started. So, I’m sorry for that because many of you probably turned your nose up at it as well. I missed it.
After a slow start, Sanders finished #18 in PPR scoring for 2016.
However, if I’m right about this, it does mean there’s room for Virgil Green to matter when he returns this week. They need more guys to throw to, and Green is perfect as a third wheel in the pass game. OR…trade for A.J. Derby and pretend Virigal green doesn’t exist.
— Again, maybe I’m wrong and this is the beginning of something, but I’m not buying into the narrative that Vic Beasley (8 tackles, 3.5 sacks) has all of a sudden figured it out. I’ll be interested to see how he follows this up, but I have to believe this was a Paxton Lynch thing, and not a Beasley moment of discovery. I hope it means Beasley’s finally going to pay off in IDP, but I’ve seen too much of him doing absolutely nothing for two seasons to sign on to the notion that everything’s fine now because of one game.
It was the beginning of something. Beasley had 1.0 sacks the first four games. And 14.5 sacks the next 12 games. FYI…in the playoffs he has no sacks and has yet to make a solo tackle.