Twelve catches, 253 yards and two touchdowns.
This is more like what fantasy players were expecting of Julio Jones this season.
The Atlanta Falcons star came into the game with just one touchdown in 2017, and his yardage and reception totals on Sunday both represented season highs. Against a struggling Buccaneers secondary — among the bottom five in both yards and yards per attempt allowed this year — Jones dominated.
His performance was reminiscent of last year. The Falcons were able to work him open on a variety of medium and deep routes. The first big play of the day, though, came via a little bit of trickeration on a 51-yard touchdown pass from receiver Mohamed Sanu. Yes, Mohamed Sanu.
Getting Jones one-on-one deep down the field is usually a good option, and Sanu, who played some quarterback at Rutgers, is now 6-for-6 for 228 yards and three touchdowns in the NFL.
A little bit later, Jones put a filthy move on Ryan Smith for his second score of the day.
JULIO JONES IS GOING OFF pic.twitter.com/OXSGSoBtUh
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) November 26, 2017
Jones hasn’t necessarily been bad this year — he was fifth in receiving yards coming into the game — but his inability to find the end zone had really limited his fantasy output compared to other top receivers. For at least one Sunday, that wan’t an issue, and Jones put up the best fantasy line of any receiver this season with 38.8 points in standard scoring leagues.
Now the question is: Will he start finding the end zone on a consistent basis down the stretch with the fantasy playoffs looming? Looking forward, it remains a tough hill to climb. Three of Atlanta’s next four games aren’t exactly forgiving: Minnesota, New Orleans, at Tampa Bay and at New Orleans.
Minnesota has an outstanding defense, but in terms of fantasy performance against opposing receivers, the Vikings haven’t been as dominant. They had great days against offensively challenged teams such as Chicago and Cleveland earlier in the year but have struggled in recent weeks. Three weeks ago Minnesota gave up 181 yards and a score to Redskins wideouts, and on Thanksgiving, Lions wide outs accrued 12 catches for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Marvin Jones Jr. did most of the damage for Detroit with six catches for 109 yards and two scores, and the Lions use him similarly to how the Falcons use Julio Jones. Still, Xavier Rhodes will present a challenge for Julio.
The bigger question mark, though, is New Orleans. Saints rookie Marshon Lattimore has been a big reason for the vastly improved secondary, but when he exited last week, the Saints struggled against Washington’s receivers. He is also absent for the Saints’ Week 12 matchup with the Rams. If he’s active and healthy against the Falcons, it drastically changes Jones’ prospects.
Overall, it’s far from an ideal stretch upcoming. While we’re not suggesting keeping Jones out of your lineup, expectations should be adjusted accordingly. The good news is Jones gets the Bucs once more, and the Falcons finally made him a clear point of emphasis. If they continue to do so — and they should given the results — Jones could take gamers to title town as they had hoped when they used a first-round pick on him during draft season.