Mike McCarthy got the sentimental stuff out of the way before his first home game as coach of the Dallas Cowboys, in the stadium where he won his Super Bowl with Green Bay a decade ago.
After getting hired, McCarthy wanted to know how long the ride was from team headquarters to AT&T Stadium, so he made the trip. Before a glorified practice in Dallas' $1.2 billion home during training camp, McCarthy took himself back in time.
When the Cowboys play Atlanta in a meeting of 0-1 teams Sunday, McCarthy will be thinking about home-field advantage - with a limited number of fans, of course - and other things associated with taking the proud franchise where it hasn't been in the playoffs in 25 years.
''I've had the chance to do the walk down memory lane,'' McCarthy said. ''I'm really kind of past that and just want to establish ourselves at home this year.''
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McCarthy's Dallas debut coincided with the opening of the new stadium in Los Angeles, and the Cowboys lost to the Rams 20-17. The Falcons fell to Seattle 38-25 despite 450 yards passing from Matt Ryan.
Atlanta lost four of its first five games in 2018 and began 1-7 a year ago on the way to a pair of 7-9 finishes. The first 0-2 start in six seasons under Dan Quinn would further cloud the future of a coach who likely needs to make the playoffs to keep his job.
''That's kind of something we preach around here a lot, be where your feet are,'' cornerback Isaiah Oliver said. ''Wherever you are right in that moment, wherever you are right at that time. Keep looking forward.''
Dak Prescott had a big first half leading the Dallas offense against the Rams, but the Cowboys scored just three second-half points and couldn't produce with a chance to tie or win late. The theme was all-too-familiar after a disappointing 2019, when Dallas was 1-6 in one-score games.
''I take pride in having the ball in my hands late in the game,'' Prescott said. ''I'm not very proud of the way I've handled it and the team has handled it recently. But it's something I'm sure will change. Everybody has got to embrace that.''
WHAT'S THE NUMBER?
The Cowboys continue to be vague about how many fans will be allowed. Perhaps speaking out of turn, McCarthy volunteered 25% capacity in a stadium with 80,000 permanent seats. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized up to 50% capacity in stadiums.
Regardless, it will be the first game with fans for both teams. The Falcons didn't allow fans in their opener, same with the Rams at palatial SoFi Stadium.
''I just didn't think it was going to be that quiet,'' McCarthy said of the LA opener. ''We'll have some live energy in the building. I'm pretty confident the music and the game operations will be a little different than it was this past week.''
SPREADING IT AROUND
Dallas Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper suggested the possibility of three 1,000-yard receivers after the Cowboys drafted CeeDee Lamb in the first round to join him and Michael Gallup. The Falcons are off to a much better start in that regard.
The second-most prolific passing game of Ryan's career was most notable because of three receivers surpassing 100 yards. Julio Jones led with 154 yards, followed by Calvin Ridley with 130 and Russell Gage at 114 - each with nine catches.
Gage's performance was especially encouraging. A sixth-round pick out of LSU in 2018, he is getting a shot to play a much bigger role as the third receiver.
''He's always been a guy who I thought had a lot of talent,'' Ryan said. ''You're always unsure when a guy gets his opportunity, is he going to be able to handle that role and do it week in and week out? He certainly exceeded everyone's expectations.''
ZEKE/GURLEY ROUND 4
Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott and Atlanta newcomer Todd Gurley - both top 10 draft picks a year apart - will meet for the fourth time. The first three were when Gurley was with the Rams, including a divisional playoff during the 2018 season.
Gurley leads in yards rushing, 256-249, with Elliott having a slight edge in yards receiving, 116-115. Elliott has five total touchdowns to Gurley's four. Gurley has two wins, including the playoff game when LA reached the Super Bowl.
ON THE CORNERS
The Falcons will be looking to tighten up their coverage after Seattle's Russell Wilson did whatever he pleased in Week 1, completing 31 of 35 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns.
Most notably, Isaiah Oliver was burned on a fourth-and-short play when DK Metcalf ran by him to haul in a 38-yard touchdown that helped break the game open for the Seahawks.
''It was definitely a technique issue,'' Oliver said. ''A drop step with my left foot put me behind the receiver immediately. ... You do that with a good receiver and you're always going to be a couple of yards behind on any route he runs.''
The Falcons' other starting cornerback is rookie A.J. Terrell, who'll have his hands full trying to cope with the Dallas trio. Look for the Cowboys to try to exploit Atlanta's secondary youth.
Five Hot Plays: Week 8
New York Jets wide receiver Braxton Berrios could be headed towards a big game with the team banged up heading into their Week 8 matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs. Both Jamison Crowder (groin) and Breshad Perriman (head) are considered questionable for Sunday's matchup. That means, Berrios could be in line for the start and plenty of targets here. He saw seven targets against the Buffalo Bills last week, but hauled in four of them for 35 yards in the loss. Berrios could see a heavy volume of targets this week, but he still remains a desperation deep league option.
The Seattle Seahawks plan to sign running back Alex Collins to their practice squad next week, according to sources. Collins flew in to Seattle on Thursday to start his COVID-19 testing. The 26-year-old was a fifth-round pick by the Seahawks in 2016, but he played just one season for them before landing with the Ravens for two years. He hasn't played in an NFL game since 2018 with Baltimore, however, when he was released following a car accident. Collins averaged just 3.6 yards per carry in his final season with the Ravens and lost his job at the time to Gus Edwards. Seattle is hurting at the position with Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde and Travis Homer all banged up, so Collins will provide some much-needed depth. He can be ignored for fantasy purposes for now.
New York Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims made his NFL debut against the Buffalo Bills in Week 7. He finished with four receptions on seven targets for 42 yards in the loss. A decent outing for Mims, considering the Jets offensive unit is horrendous. It appears that the Jets want to get Mims heavily involved in the gameplan. His fantasy value is trending up with Jamison Crowder (groin) unlikely to suit up for the Week 8 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. Mims could make for an interesting PPR streaming option this week.
X-rays on Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley (ankle) came back negative after he was knocked out of the Thursday night win over the Panthers in the second quarter, according to sources informed of the situation. Ridley will undergo an MRI exam to determine if he can return in Week 9 against the Broncos, and the good news is that Atlanta will have extra rest before that contest next Sunday. However, with a bye coming in Week 10, it's possible that the team plays it safe and holds Ridley out. He had three catches for 42 yards before leaving on Thursday and has 43 receptions for 657 yards and six touchdowns in eight games this year. Whenever Ridley is ready to play again, he needs to be in all fantasy lineups.
New York Jets wide receiver Breshad Perriman (head) entered the league's concussion protocol earlier this week. It's uncertain if Perriman will be cleared in time for the Week 8 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs. He hauled in both of his targets for 27 yards last week versus the Buffalo Bills. Perriman has only finished with 30 receiving yards or more in a game once this season. The Jets offensive unit cannot be trusted besides Jamison Crowder. Fantasy owners should consider Perriman a desperation deep league option here.
New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore (knee) tweaked his knee in practice on Thursday and underwent an MRI exam. His injury is considered to be minor, but his status for Week 8 against the Bills isn't clear. Losing the 30-year-old All-Pro shutdown cornerback would be a big loss this Sunday against the division-rival Bills and gunslinger quarterback Josh Allen. On the flip side, it would be a boost to the fantasy value of Bills No. 1 receiver Stefon Diggs, who would carry WR1 upside. The Patriots Defense is a streaming option for fantasy managers in a bind this week, but they certainly won't have as much upside if Gilmore cannot play.
Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said that quarterback Andy Dalton (concussion) remains in the NFL's concussion protocol and that the team is preparing rookie Ben DiNucci to start in Week 8 against the Eagles. A final decision will be made on Saturday. "He's a confident young man. He has a lot of tools to work with," McCarthy said about DiNucci. Dalton is a long shot at this point to play against the division-rival Eagles, so DiNucci looks set to make his first career NFL start. He should be considered a desperation low-end QB2 for superflex leagues, while receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup need to be downgraded even against Philly's shaky secondary. The Eagles Defense will be a strong streaming option Sunday.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (foot) is missing practice again on Friday, making it likely that Giovani Bernard will be starting for the second straight week on Sunday against the Titans. Mixon didn't play in Week 7 and hasn't practiced at all this week, so things are looking grim for him suiting up this weekend. Bernard carried the ball a season-high 13 times for 37 yards in the Week 7 loss to the Browns, adding five catches for another 59 yards and his second touchdown of the season. He should see most of the backfield touches once again if Mixon is inactive, which will make him an RB2 against a Tennessee defense allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.
The Baltimore Ravens signed All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley to a five-year contract extension on Friday. It comes after the team recently signed cornerback Marlon Humphrey to a long-term deal, showing that they are committed to keeping their young talent on the roster for the long haul. Stanley has been a key asset for Baltimore's offensive line ever since he was taken sixth overall in the 2016 draft. The 26-year-old earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in 2019. The deal is for $98.75 million and carries $70.9 million in guarantees and locks in Stanley as quarterback Lamar Jackson's blind-side protector for years to come.
Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley (foot) had X-rays on his injured foot, which were negative. He'll have an MRI to determine his fate for the next few weeks.
Fantasy Spin: Ridley will have about 10 days to heal up before Week 9, and the team has a Week 10 bye. He has been one of the few bright spots on the struggling team and remains a WR1.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (knee) is likely headed to the Reserve/Injured list after having surgery to clean up his knee.
Fantasy Spin: Ian Rapoport also went as far to say that Edelman's knee was a bone-on-bone situation, which spells doom for a football player. You can stash Edelman on an IR spot for now in hopes of getting something from him in the stretch run, but this was a grim report for a gritty player.
Carolina Panthers WR Curtis Samuel caught four passes for 31 yards and a touchdown during the team's Week 8 game against the Atlanta Falcons. Samuel also carried the ball three times for 23 yards and a score.
Fantasy Spin: Samuel scored both of Carolina's touchdowns on Thursday night, one on a run up the middle and the other on a flea flicker. The fourth-year pro is a valuable do-it-all option for the Panthers offense, but gadget guys are tough to count on from one week to the next. Still, Samuel should be able to offer value as a flex most weeks.
Carolina Panthers WR Robby Anderson caught five passes for 48 yards against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, Oct. 29. Anderson was targeted eight times.
Fantasy Spin: Anderson led the way in targets and receptions but most of his work was underneath as, outside of a 27-yard grab, his four catches covered just 21 yards. Atlanta simply refused to let Carolina's WRs get over the top and seemed to be a step ahead of the Panthers protection schemes all night long. Nobody delivers every week at the receiver position, but Anderson remains a steady WR2 going forward.
Carolina Panthers WR D.J. Moore caught two passes for 55 yards against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8. He was targeted six times.
Fantasy Spin: Moore hauled in a 42-yard jump ball on Carolina's final drive to salvage a little respectability from a game where he was otherwise a complete nonfactor. You can blame some of it on the elements, but the offensive line didn't help matters either as Teddy Bridgewater seemed to be constantly under pressure. Keep Moore in your lineup in Week 9 and hope for a better performance.
Carolina Panthers RB Mike Davis had 13 carries for 66 yards against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, Oct. 29. Davis also caught one pass for 11 yards.
Fantasy Spin: Davis looked physical against the Falcons Thursday night in what's likely to be his last start since Christian McCaffrey is expected to return in Week 9. While that should be the end of Davis' immediate value he's proven to be a quality handcuff for all Run CMC owners. A disclaimer: don't drop Davis until it's confirmed that McCaffrey will play against the Chiefs. Setbacks happen.
Carolina Panthers QB Teddy Bridgewater (neck) completed 15 of his 23 passes for 176 yards, a touchdown and an interception against the Atlanta Falcons on Thursday, Oct. 29. He also ran five times for 30 yards.
Fantasy Spin: Even before exiting the game temporarily following a nasty hit to the head, Bridgewater wasn't getting much done, settling for a steady diet of shallow crossing routes amid surprising pressure from the Falcons. Entering the final drive he'd barely topped the century mark in passing yards and his final throw was a terrible interception that had zero chance to be completed. It'll be interesting to see if the offense adjusts significantly following the expected return of Christian McCaffrey in Week 9.
Atlanta Falcons RB Brian Hill had 11 carries for 55 yards against the Carolina Panthers in Week 8. He also caught two passes for nine yards.
Fantasy Spin: Thursday represented the second time in three games that Hill has hit double digits in carries, and he's averaging a respectable 46 total yards per game over the last month. That's not enough to give him standalone value most weeks, but given Todd Gurley's workload and injury history Hill is certainly someone you could feel good about stashing on your bench.
Atlanta Falcons TE Hayden Hurst logged five receptions (on seven targets) for 54 yards in a Week 8 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Fantasy Spin: While he hasn't quite been the second coming of Austin Hooper, Hurst has topped 50 yards receiving in five of his first eight games with the Falcons and is becoming a fairly reliable contributor at a position that's severely lacking in that department. Consider him a decent TE1.
Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley (ankle) had three receptions for 42 yards on Thursday, Oct. 29, against the Carolina Panthers before leaving the game with an ankle injury. He was targeted four times.
Fantasy Spin: After the game, head coach Raheem Morris had no official update on Ridley's condition but indicated he's hopeful that the extra few days of rest will be enough to get Ridley back on the field for Week 9. If Ridley can heal up in time he'll deserve a spot in your lineup as a WR1/WR2. If not, Russell Gage should inherit a larger role. Given the team is off in Week 10, make sure to have a contingency plan in case the Falcons decide Ridley is better off with an extra couple weeks off to recover.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones caught seven passes for 137 yards against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday, Oct. 29. He was targeted a team-high 10 times.
Fantasy Spin: Jones had little trouble shaking man coverage or finding soft spots in the zone on Thursday night, and the result was his second game of exactly 137 receiving yards in the past three weeks. Even at 31, Jones is nearly unstoppable when healthy and remains a WR1.