Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury makes a call during the second half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia watches during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford warms up before an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray has an intriguing personality, mixing introverted tendencies with supreme confidence that has helped Arizona push to a 2-0 start for the first time in five years.
Teammates love that the soft-spoken Murray works hard and is humble. They also love his unique swagger.
''It's not my first time dealing with success in my lifetime,'' Murray said. ''This is part of the game. We work hard in the offseason, we work hard to practice to win. We expect to win.''
Now the impressive Cardinals host the struggling Lions on Sunday at State Farm Stadium. Detroit has lost its first two games and given up the most yards rushing in the NFL.
That doesn't bode well for stopping Murray, who is the first quarterback in NFL history to run for at least 150 yards and three touchdowns in the season's first two games. He ran for scores of 14 yards and 21 yards in a 30-15 win over Washington last week, darting and dancing around defenders on the way to the end zone.
''He's like a punt returner back there,'' Lions defensive end Trey Flowers said. ''Any type of space he has, he takes advantage of it. He makes the most athletic guys miss.''
Arizona's success isn't just because of Murray and new receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who has 22 catches through two games. The rebuilt defense is giving up just 17.5 points per game, which ranks second in the NFL.
Detroit gave up 42 points in a loss to the Green Bay Packers last week. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is once again putting up big numbers, but it's not been enough to overcome the mediocre defense.
Embattled coach Matt Patricia is 9-24-1 in two-plus seasons as a first-time NFL head coach. The Lions have lost 11 times after leading in the fourth quarter under Patricia. That doesn't even count last year's 27-27 tie against the Cardinals, which came after Detroit blew an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Losing three in a row to start the season would make a return to the playoffs unlikely. But that's not even a concern at the moment.
''We're not focused on the playoffs,'' Lions receiver Danny Amendola said. ''We're focused on the Cardinals.''
KENNARD SWITCHES SIDES
Arizona gave up the most total yards in the NFL last season, so it rebuilt that side of the ball by adding a handful of free agents in the offseason, including linebackers Devon Kennard and De'Vondre Campbell and defensive lineman Jordan Phillips. The Cardinals also drafted linebacker Isaiah Simmons with the No. 8 overall pick.
Kennard played the past two seasons with the Lions, starting 15 games in both 2018 and 2019. He had one of his best games with Detroit against Arizona in 2019 with three sacks of Murray, who was playing his first NFL game.
Now Kennard will be going after Stafford. The linebacker got his first sack with the Cardinals in last week's win over Washington.
Arizona's second-year coach Kliff Kingsbury is like most in the NFL when he says it's strange playing in front of empty stadiums. It's not an ideal situation, but it does make for better communication.
If Kingsbury wants to convey a message to someone on the field in 2020, all he has to do is raise his voice.
''I can literally yell at the receivers or running back or quarterback and get his attention,'' Kingsbury said. ''He can look over, and we can have some communication or dialogue from the sideline, which hasn't been possible in the past.''
LARRY FROM STATE FARM
Arizona's veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald needs just two catches in Sunday's game to set the NFL record for most career receptions at one stadium. He has 645 at State Farm Stadium. Hall of Famer Jerry Rice had 646 during his career at Candlestick Park.
Matthew Stafford, drafted No. 1 overall by Detroit in 2009, seems to keep his emotions in check no matter how long the team's losing streak is or when the team has had success during his career.
''It doesn't mean that inside I'm not pissed at times or pumped at times,'' said Stafford, whose career record is 69-81-1 in the regular season and 0-2 in the playoffs. ''All of that is in there, but I have to make sure I move on to the next play. It does me no good to get lost in my emotions.''
Detroit is off to such a tough start that its punter has been one of its best players so far. Jack Fox, an undrafted rookie last year, has helped the Lions rank second in the NFL with a net average of 51.3 yards on punts over the first two games of his NFL career.
''I'd love for him to have a really calm day and only hold for extra points and field goals,'' Stafford said.
Five Hot Plays: Week 8
Carolina Panthers kicker Joey Slye made one field goal and a pair of extra points in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Slye didn't get many opportunities in this one, as Carolina made just one trip to the red zone against a surprisingly resurgent Falcons' defense. There's not much that a kicker can do when he's simply not seeing the opportunities. With that said, Slye may be needed more in Week 9 against Kansas City, as the Panthers will probably have to put up a lot of points to win.
The Carolina Panthers Defense had an average day in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Carolina registered two sacks and an interception, holding strong on Atlanta's first two trips to the red zone. However, they couldn't stop the Falcons from marching down the field, ultimately surrendering 25 points to their division rival. At this point, there's nothing to suggest that the Panthers' defense is worthy of streaming for fantasy purposes. Don't even think about starting them in Week 9, as they face the Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel enjoyed his most productive game of the season in a losing effort against Atlanta. Samuel caught four of five targets for 31 receiving yards and carried the ball three times for 23 rushing yards. The 24-year-old made a nice run in the red zone to start the scoring for the Panthers, then hauled in a deep pass from Teddy Bridgewater on a flea-flicker. It's Samuel's second straight game with a rushing touchdown. This was an encouraging performance from the former Buckeye, though it's worth noting that he was held under 50 receiving yards for the seventh time in eight games. He'll be a low-end flex at best in Week 9 against the Chiefs.
Carolina Panthers tight end Ian Thomas caught all three targets for 28 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. It was a juicy matchup for Thomas, but he certainly didn't exploit it, as his modest stat-line will support. His three targets were the most he's seen in weeks, though he seemed to surrender some playing time to fellow tight end Chris Manhertz. It's best to avoid Thomas completely until he picks up his production.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore had a quiet game in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons on Thursday Night Football. Moore caught two of six targets for 55 receiving yards, including a huge 42-yard reception on a 3rd-and-17 in the fourth quarter. In a strange turn of events, Moore went without a catch until the final drive of the fourth quarter. Fortunately, the 23-year-old still saw six targets, second on the team to only fellow wideout Robby Anderson. There should be better days ahead for Moore, as he had compiled at least 93 receiving yards in three straight contests coming into this one. He'll get a Week 9 matchup against Kansas City in what could turn out to be a high-scoring affair.
Carolina Panthers running back Mike Davis carried the ball 13 times for 66 rushing yards and caught one of two targets for 11 receiving yards in a loss to the Falcons. The 27-year-old disappointed in likely his last ride as the Panthers' lead back, as Christian McCaffrey (ankle) is expected to return in Week 9 against Kansas City. Davis was a PPR machine in McCaffrey's absence, with at least six targets in four games as the starter. He was so impressive at times that it's possible he earned himself a bigger role, though it likely won't amount to much with McCaffrey around to gobble up the majority of the touches. Keep Davis rostered until we find out McCaffrey is back for sure.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage finished Thursday's win with two receptions for 25 yards on three targets. Gage continued to show his inconsistency on Thursday after coming into the game having gotten at least 54 yards in the past two contests. The WR is definitely streaky, which makes him a risky play most weeks. An ankle injury suffered by fellow wideout Calvin Ridley is worth monitoring. If Ridley cannot play next Sunday, Gage's value will surely go up, but it would still be hard to trust him for good production given his lackluster numbers this season.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson hauled in five of eight targets for 48 receiving yards in a 25-17 loss to the Falcons. It could have been a bigger day for the former Jet, as he nearly made a one-handed touchdown grab on a throw from backup P.J. Walker, who came in relief of Teddy Bridgewater for one series. It certainly didn't help Anderson that Bridgewater was under constant pressure the whole night. However, his fantasy managers can take solace in the fact that he's now seen at least eight targets in six of eight contests this season. That sort of volume should keep him in the WR2 mix next week, even in a tough matchup against Kansas City.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had seven receptions for 137 yards on 10 targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. For the past three weeks, the WR has been playing at a tremendous level and has gotten at least seven receptions, nine targets, and 97 yards the past three games. His volume keeps him in the WR1 tier each week.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater completed 15 of 23 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown along with 30 yards rushing on five attempts in a 25-17 loss to Atlanta. Bridgewater left the game after taking a nasty hit in the third quarter, but he was able to return after making it through the league's concussion protocol. The 27-year-old made some nice throws when he was given time, including a beautiful deep ball to Curtis Samuel on a flea-flicker. Unfortunately, he was constantly under pressure, as he was sacked twice and hit six times by the Falcons Defense. A bounce-back could be in the cards next week- Carolina may need to rely on Bridgewater's arm in Week 9 against Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley finished with three receptions for 42 yards on four targets in Week 8. The WR went down with an ankle injury in the first half of the game and didn't return. Managers will now have to monitor the status of the WR heading into the Week 9 clash against the Broncos.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst finished with five receptions for 54 yards on seven targets in the Week 8 win over Carolina. Hurst has now seen seven targets in the past two games and has gotten at least 50 yards in four of the past five games. The TE has a decent role in this offense and the latest numbers are backing that up. Hurst should be considered a low-end TE1 each week given his consistency.
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill finished with 11 carries for 55 yards and two receptions for nine yards on Thursday. It was the RB2 of the team who surprisingly led in rush yards, but this was a rare occurrence. Hill doesn't see enough weekly touches to merit good fantasy value going forward.
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley II finished Thursday night's win with 18 carries for 46 yards and a score. The back still had a decent night despite Brian Hill getting more rushing yards total. Gurley has now had at least 18 carries in the past three games and has three rushing touchdowns in the past two games. With a steady number of carries each week, the RB should remain in the low-end RB1/high-end RB2 tier every week.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan went 21-for-30 and gained 281 yards and one interception in the Thursday night win over the Panthers. It was a rainy game and many players were clearly affected by the conditions. Ryan finished with an average night, which he has sometimes had this season. With a high-powered offense, the QB should remain in the starting tier most weeks, but is most effective in favorable matchups.
Teddy Bridgewater, after being tripped while trying to scramble, took a shot to the head as he fell to the ground against the Falcons. Obviously, the first concern after a hit to the head is a concussion. Bridgewater's head abruptly twisted to the side and he went into the tent shortly thereafter. The Panthers' backup tonight is XFL sweetheart, P.J. Walker.
Calvin Ridley has been ruled out for the Falcons' Week 8 game against the Panthers. He was tackled by a defender and his left foot got caught under the defender. Ridley immediately grabbed his left foot and went to the locker room. His status for Week 9 will now be in question.
New York Jets running back La'Mical Perine has been buried on the depth chart for most of the season. However, head coach Adam Gase mentioned last week that he wants to get Perine more involved. Perine was on the field for 70 percent of the offensive snaps during the Week 7 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He saw 11 carries for 40 yards and a touchdown in the loss. He'll get a decent matchup here against the Kansas City Chiefs who are average against the run this season. Perine could be worth looking at as a desperation option for owners in need of a running back.
New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (groin) was able to go through limited practice on Thursday. That is actually an upgrade since Crowder sat out of practice the day prior. Crowder has been basically the only bright spot for this team all season long. His absence would doom the Jets chances of doing anything at all on offense versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8. Crowder has seen 10 or more targets in each game that he has played in this season. He'll be a reliable WR2, assuming he suits up here.
New York Jets running back Frank Gore has seen a significant role in the backfield this season. The departure of Le'Veon Bell has opened up lead back duties for Gore over the last few weeks. Sadly, the Jets offensive line and team as a whole is horrible this season. Gore has done what he can, but will likely see his role decrease going forward. Head coach Adam Gase wants to see La'Mical Perine more involved in the offense. That means, Gore is going to be a tough option to trust versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 8.