Sun Sep 8 4:34pm ET
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Pro Football Writer
Minnesota Vikings defensive end Danielle Hunter, right, and Eric Kendricks (54) celebrate with teammates during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) scores on a 1-yard touchdown run during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan walks to the sideline during the first half of an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Wilson (50) blocks a punt by Atlanta Falcons punter Matt Bosher, left, during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) carries the ball during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins throws a pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) celebrates with teammate Brian O'Neill after a 19-yard touchdown run during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen celebrates after catching a 23-yard touchdown pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Anthony Harris highlighted a thorough thrashing by Minnesota's defense with two interceptions of Matt Ryan and a fumble recovery, Dalvin Cook carried a revived running attack, and the Vikings started the season with a 28-12 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
Eric Wilson recovered his own blocked punt at the Atlanta 21-yard line after a three-and-out by the Falcons on the first possession of the game, and the Vikings were well on their way to winning a fourth straight opener. Including the blocked punt, their first in five years, they turned all four Falcons turnovers into touchdowns.
Kirk Cousins connected with Adam Thielen for a 23-yard score to finish the short first drive and crossed the goal line on a 1-yard sneak in the second quarter to cap a 79-yard march to give Minnesota a 21-0 lead. Cousins went 8 for 10 for 98 yards, all career lows for games he started, but there was no need for more.
Cook had 21 rushes for 111 yards and two touchdowns behind the new zone blocking scheme influenced heavily by new offensive adviser Gary Kubiak, the former Houston and Denver head coach. Cousins averaged 38 attempts per game in his first season with the Vikings, and much to head coach Mike Zimmer's chagrin they finished with the third-fewest rushing yards in the NFL. The new system directed by offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski and the favorable field position sure shifted the ratio hard the other way.
Ryan played more like a rookie than a 2016 league MVP beginning his 12th NFL season, unable to find his footing all afternoon in the face of a fierce pass rush that racked up four sacks. The worst moment came at the end of Atlanta's first possession of the second half, a 13-play, 82-yard drive thwarted when his second-and-3 fling into the back of the end zone for backup tight end Luke Stocker was picked off by a leaping Harris.
Ryan finished 33 for 46 for 304 yards and two fourth-quarter scores to Calvin Ridley and Julio Jones to make the fantasy football players happy, but the Falcons left without much to be pleased about. Devonta Freeman had only 19 yards on eight carries, plus the lost fumble. Jones, who signed a $66 million, three-year contract extension on Saturday, was targeted 11 times but managed only 31 yards on six catches.
The Falcons, trying to get a once-potent offense back on track this year after missing the playoffs along with the Vikings in 2018, started rookies Kaleb McGary and Chris Lindstrom on the right side of their offensive line. James Carpenter won the left guard job over Jamon Brown, who signed an $18.75 million, three-year contract in free agency. McGary took turns at right tackle with Ty Sambrailo, with Matt Gono inactive because of a back injury. Lindstrom left the game with a foot injury.
Falcons: WR Russell Gage was removed from the game on the final drive of the first half with a concussion, after converting a first down and being leveled by Vikings FS Harrison Smith. A woozy Gage twice tried to get up and jog off, only to fall back to the turf.
Vikings: Nickel CB Mackensie Alexander injured his elbow in the second quarter and did not return. ... WR Stefon Diggs was in the lineup after being listed as questionable with a hamstring injury. He had two catches for 37 yards.
Falcons: Host Philadelphia on Sept. 15, one of two night games on their schedule at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this year.
Vikings: Play at rival Green Bay (1-0) on Sept. 15. Their visit to Lambeau Field in Week 2 last season resulted in a 29-all tie with the Packers.
New York Jets wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) was limited in practice on Thursday. Thomas should be fine to play on Monday night against the Patriots. The 31-year-old is a little bit more attractive to fantasy owners with quarterback Sam Darnold back under center. Thomas has eight catches for 109 scoreless yards the last two weeks, but he's still third on the receiving depth chart behind Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder. The Jets have a tough matchup in the Patriots on Monday night, making Thomas more of a WR5 in fantasy.
The New Orleans Saints are doing their due diligence in making phone calls to see what's available on the trade market. Wide receiver and tight end seem to be the most likely options for them on the trade market, and they could be targeting Cincinnati Bengals tight end Tyler Eifert now that he is fully healthy. The Saints already have Jared Cook at tight end, but they could utilize more two-tight end sets if they were to acquire Eifert, especially since they don't have a ton of receiver depth behind Michael Thomas. In a bad Cincy offense this year, Eifert has just 15 receptions (22 targets) for 108 yards and one touchdown. He'd be more attractive in New Orleans in the second half of the season, but he wouldn't be guaranteed to be a TE1 with Cook also in the fold.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron (illness) and rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell (abdomen) both missed practice on Thursday. Campbell also missed practice on Wednesday and is on pace to miss his second straight game. He's well off the fantasy radar for now in redraft leagues. Ebron should be fine to play in Week 7 against the Texans, although he's a low-upside, touchdown-dependent TE2 against a Houston defense that has shut down the tight end position in 2019.
Houston Texans wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins (ribs), Will Fuller (calf, oblique) and Kenny Stills (hamstring) all practiced in full on Thursday. All three receivers should be in uniform for Week 7's divisional tilt against the Colts. Stills missed the last game and should return to split slot duties with Keke Coutee, limiting both player's fantasy upside as a WR4/5 in deeper leagues. Hopkins has been quiet this year but could blow up at any moment and is a must-start. Fuller boomed in Week 5 and busted last week. He typically has high-end WR2 upside on a week-to-week basis.
Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller (foot) was limited in practice on Thursday after being a full participant on Wednesday. Waller should be fine for Week 7 against the Packers, but his foot injury is worth watching. The first-year Raider should be targeted heavily with wide receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) out for the foreseeable future, but keep in mind that Waller had his worst game in Week 5 with Williams out of the lineup. The Packers have been pretty stingy against opposing wideouts, too, so they'll likely devote attention to slowing Waller down. His expected high target share should give him a high floor, so continue to roll Waller out there as a strong TE1.
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (quadriceps) and quarterback Case Keenum (foot, shoulder) both returned to a full practice on Thursday after sitting out on Wednesday. The Redskins were likely just resting their veterans on Wednesday, so expect Peterson and Keenum to be out there in Week 7 against the 49ers. Peterson had 20-plus carries and over 100 yards against the winless Dolphins in Week 6, but he'll have a much tougher time finding holes against San Fran's strong defense this Sunday. He makes for a low-upside RB3/flex. Keenum has a tough challenge ahead and not many weapons to work with. He's an unattractive low-end QB2.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes(knee) was ruled out of Thursday night's game after suffering a dislocated knee cap on a fourth-and-one sneak attempt. Everybody is still waiting for more information, but being ruled out so quickly is not encouraging for his availability going forward. If you have Mahomes, you may want to plan ahead at quarterback for the foreseeable future. Matt Moore is Kansas City's backup. All of the Chiefs skill players will take a hit with Mahomes likely to miss some time with this injury.
New England Patriots TE Eric Tomlinson's role within the offense is still being determined, according to head coach Bill Belichick.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has caught 13-of-16 targets for 187 yards and three touchdowns over the last two games (Giants and Eagles). Week 7's matchup is a bit less favorable, however, as the Lions have been stingy against outside wide receivers with top cornerbacks Darius Slay and Rashaan Melvin. However, Thielen runs about one-third of his routes from the slot this season - an area that the Lions Defense has really struggled to contain. There remains a possibility that Slay shadows Thielen all over the field, which would clearly be a downgrade for Thielen's expected production. The Vikings also still lean on the run and will be featuring Dalvin Cook heavily against the Lions' weak rush defense. Start Thielen as a WR2 in Week 7 but keep in mind that his volume (and ceiling) could take a hit.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph is not a player you need to force into lineups in Week 7. Rudolph caught 3-of-3 targets for 36 yards in his best game of 2019 in Week 6. He has just nine catches this year and his average target distance is 2.2 yards. He's still playing at least 90% of offensive snaps every game, but he doesn't get enough targets or red-zone work to be in consideration for fantasy lineups. Rudolph is an unexciting TE3 with limited upside in a run-heavy offense and he should not be started in Week 7.
Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes left the Thursday night game with what looked to be some sort of knee injury. He walked to the locker room after suffering the injury.
Los Angeles Rams CB Jalen Ramsey (back) was listed as a full participant in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has provided an uptick in production the last two weeks, compiling 639 passing yards and a 6/1 TD/INT ratio in wins against the Giants and the Eagles. Cousins will look to keep it going against the Detroit Lions in Week 7 on the road in what should be a close contest (Vikings are currently favored by one point). The Lions Defense has not performed up to their reputation so far in 2019 as they're allowing 280 passing yards per game (fifth highest) and have surrendered multiple passing touchdowns in 3-of-5 weeks. Their pass rush hasn't been there either as they have just 10 total sacks on the season. The Lions are also getting destroyed on the ground at 133.8 rushing yards per game (sixth highest), so it does seem likely that the Vikings revert to featuring Dalvin Cook and the rushing attack as the focal point of their offense. Start Cousins as a high-end QB2 in Week 7 as he should be afforded enough opportunities to take advantage of a struggling secondary - though the likelihood of scaled-back volume limits his ceiling.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook is in line for a monster game in Week 7 against the Detroit Lions. The Lions Defense has already given up seven rushing touchdowns and are allowing 5.1 yards per carry and 133.8 rushing yards per game. They've also allowed a running back to score at least 20 PPR points in 4-of-5 weeks. Cook only received 18 touches in Week 6 against the Philadelphia Eagles and still had a useful fantasy day (54 yards and a touchdown) despite the brutal matchup. Expect his touches to return to the 20-25 range as the Vikings will again look to feature him in their run-heavy attack. Start Cook as a top-tier RB1 option with tremendous upside and consider using him in all daily formats as well.
Free-agent CB Parry Nickerson (Seahawks) signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars Thursday, Oct. 17. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (calf, oblique) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Fuller has been targeted at least seven times in four of the last five games but has posted at least 60 yards in only two games this season. He can still be considered at least a flex option in some leagues because of his big play ability.
Houston Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins (ribs) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Hopkins has caught at least five passes in every game this season but has not found the end zone in the last five games. He is still a must-start option in all leagues because of the targets he receives each game.
Houston Texans WR Kenny Stills (hamstring) fully participated in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Stills appears to be on track to play this week after missing the last two weeks because of his injury. He has posted 188 yards in four games this season and could be a flex option in some deeper leagues.
Washington Redskins TE Vernon Davis (concussion) was limited during practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Davis needs to be cleared by doctors before he will be allowed to play, so he only has a few more days before the Week 7 game. Fantasy players in all leagues should avoid Davis this week even if he is cleared to play.
Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson (non-injury) was upgraded to a full participant in practice Thursday, Oct. 17.
Fantasy Spin: Carson has continued to hold off Rashaad Penny as the workhorse out of the Seahawks' backfield. He has seen 20-plus carries in three straight games and topped 100 yards each time. There's no need to worry about Penny unless Carson were to miss time.