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.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not looking to trade tight end O.J. Howard this year, according to sources. The former first-round pick had high expectations for him in head coach Bruce Arians' offense in 2019, but so far he's looked more like a glorified fullback, but that doesn't mean Tampa will try to trade him as the deadline nears at the end of October. The 24-year-old has been a huge disappointment to fantasy owners, catching just 13 passes (18 targets) for 176 scoreless yards. Receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have been dominating the aerial targets, while tight end Cameron Brate has also vultured a few touchdowns. Until something changes, Howard will be a touchdown-dependent TE2 in fantasy. Maybe Tampa will look to get him more involved coming out of their Week 7 bye.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (thumb) said that he's back to working with a regulation-sized football in his rehab. "I have a really kind of disciplined plan for what I need to do for strength and flexibility and then my throwing and all that stuff. So really starting to get back into it, doing football stuff, and just trying to get back as quick as I can," Brees said. When he returns to action, Brees said he'll be wearing a splint on his thumb "because it does take a while for that ligament to actually heal." The team was initially targeting a potential Week 8 return for Brees, but it's unknown if he'll be able to meet that timetable. Continue to stash the future Hall of Famer in all leagues.
The Oakland Raiders signed tight end Darren Waller to a multi-year extension on Thursday that is expected to pay him around $9 million per season in what amounts to a three-year extension, according to the NFL Network. Waller was scheduled to become a restricted free agent after this season. He served a pair of suspensions while with the Ravens and has gone public in his fight for sobriety, which reached two years this training camp. Waller has caught a team-high 37 passes for 359 yards through five games after entering the year with 18 catches for 178 yards and two touchdowns in 22 career games. As a result, he's turned into a must-start, high-end TE1 for fantasy owners in 2019.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receivers Dede Westbrook (shoulder) and Marqise Lee (ankle) and tight end Geoff Swaim (ankle, concussion) will all sit out of practice on Thursday. Westbrook has a nice matchup in a Bengals team likely to be missing their top cornerbacks this weekend, but he might be questionable to suit up. If he plays, he'll have clear WR2 upside. If he sits out, D.J. Chark and Chris Conley will be more involved in the passing attack. Lee and Swaim were both injured in Week 6. Neither player has been very involved in the offense up to this point and can remain on waiver wires.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said that running back Todd Gurley (thigh) is "on a good pace to hopefully be able to play on Sunday" in Week 7 against the Falcons after he was inactive last week. McVay also said Gurley is "feeling good" and is "going to participate in a limited fashion" in practice again on Thursday. Gurley is trending towards returning this weekend, but there's a good chance he'll be limited. Malcolm Brown is also dealing with an injury, but if both are active they should split the backfield duties between the two of them with rookie Darrell Henderson mixing in. That would make Gurley more of a low-end RB2 with more volatility, albeit in a great matchup against the Falcons.
Indianapolis Colts tight endJack Doyle hasn't had the resurgent season he was hoping for after dealing with a hip injury last season. In Week 7, it's unlikely for that to change. He's had no more than 46 receiving yards in any game this season, and in four out of the five he's gone for 22 or fewer yards. After the top echelon of tight ends, it becomes mostly a dart throw at the position. However, when selecting your dart, you'll want to reach for a different player than Doyle for this week.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal has seen a surge in his workload over the past few weeks. Thanks to his size and athleticism, he's been able to get onto the field and he makes big plays happen, as he's had catches for 53 and 72 yards in the last three weeks. Against a Houston Texans offense that figures to score a fair amount of points, the Colts could use a big night out of him. The Texans are giving up over 250 passing yards per game, and Pascal should be on the receiving end of a few of those. If he can break one for a long touchdown, it could win you your week in deeper leagues.
Indianapolis Colts tight end Eric Ebron has struggled this year. He's caught just one ball in three out of the five games he's played, and he's been plagued with drops thus far. The key for him is getting into the end zone. Last season when he was a top-five tight end, he scored 14 total touchdowns. The Colts don't have another elite threat in the red zone, and he just has to come down with the ball when it's thrown to him. He's seen at least four targets in all but one game, so the opportunity is there. If he can come down with at least one touchdown, that will give him a solid stat line for the week.
The Indianapolis Colts Defense doesn't do anything all that exciting, and they aren't loaded with star power. However, they are well-coached and disciplined in their scheme. Despite that, you should still look to start a different defense in Week 7. The Houston Texans offense is sixth in the NFL in yards per game, and they've been heating up in recent weeks. Moving forward, the Colts may have some streaming upside in certain weeks, but Week 7 is not the right one.
Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri has shaken off the struggles from the beginning of the season, and he's been rolling as of late. The Colts offense does a great job of moving the ball down the field, but they can struggle to put the ball into the end zone at times, which is where Vinny shines. He's not going to get you a lot of the long balls that you'll get from other younger kickers, but on the shorter end of things he's the best to ever do it.
Cincinnati Bengals RB Samaje Perine was released Thursday, Oct. 17.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack was a workhorse in Week 5 with 29 carries and 32 total touches. However, he wasn't able to punch the ball into the end zone. In Week 7, he should get some opportunities to carry the ball, but his workload is almost guaranteed to be lower. The Houston Texans are allowing just 88 yards on the ground at 4.4 yards per carry. They have a stout front and their team has been rolling as of late. Mack is the clear lead back for Indianapolis, and he belongs in your lineup. However, it is wise to temper expectations on his upside this week.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett is coming off the bye with a good matchup awaiting him. The Houston Texans are allowing the 24th most passing yards in the NFL. In the team's last game prior to the bye, Brissett had a quiet game because the team chose to ride running back Marlon Mack against the Kansas City Chiefs. With how the Houston offense has been putting up points, Brissett will likely be given more opportunities to air it out. This gives him his usual safe floor as a QB2 with some upside.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (quadriceps) is off of the injury report and he needs to be in your lineups for Week 7. Despite not playing with quarterback Andrew Luck, Hilton is proving that he is a must-start every week. He's scored four touchdowns in the four games that he has played, and he gets a juicy matchup against the 24th ranked passing defense of the Houston Texans. Additionally, this game is at home for Indianapolis, which will give the offense less of a struggle with crowd noise. In his eight-year career, he's had just one season in which he didn't put up at least one 100-yard game against Houston.
Miami Dolphins RB Kenyan Drake has been involved in trade discussions, and the team is willing to trade him for the right offer.
Fantasy Spin: Drake's value would remain about the same in a new situation. He's a low-end RB3 in PPR leagues. Kalen Ballage is worth stashing in case Drake is dealt.
Updating a previous report, New York Jets DT Steve McLendon's one-year extension is worth $3 million with $1.65 million in new guarantees.
Arizona Cardinals WR Christian Kirk (ankle) will not play until his ankle is 100 percent, according to head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who added that Kirk's ankle is not there yet.
Fantasy Spin: Kirk hasn't played since Week 4, and though Kingsbury added that the receiver is closer to playing than he was last week it certainly looks possible that Kirk will miss his third straight game this Sunday.
Houston Texans QB Alex McGough was waived Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Los Angeles Rams CB Aqib Talib (rib) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Dallas Cowboys DE Tyrone Crawford (hip) was officially placed on the Reserve/Injured list on Wednesday, Oct. 16.