Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws in the pocket against the Philadelphia Eagles during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) makes a touchdown catch against Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby (21) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Indianapolis Colts cornerback Quincy Wilson (31) breaks up a pass intended for Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown (11) to end the Titans' final drive in the final seconds of the fourth quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne)
Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) flips as he is hit by Indianapolis Colts defenders including Clayton Geathers (26) and Pierre Desir (35) in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/James Kenney)
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II understands this week's challenge each time he pops in an Atlanta Falcons tape.
He sees quarterback Matt Ryan, the 2016 league MVP, adjusting on the fly to new wrinkles posed by defensive coordinators. He sees Julio Jones , the fast, physical two-time All-Pro receiver, and the emerging Calvin Ridley, who posted his second career 100-yard game last weekend, stressing secondaries. He sees Mohamed Sanu, the perfect complementary piece to Atlanta's home-run hitters, and tight end Austin Hooper exposing the middle of the field.
It helps Moore recognize what he and his teammates must do to keep Ryan and his receivers under control Sunday.
''They're very talented, very crafty receivers,'' Moore said. ''Everybody knows what Julio brings to the table. We just have to be on point.''
For Moore and most of Indy's young defense, game tapes are all they have. Only six players have ever faced Ryan up close and personal, and safety Clayton Geathers is the only one in the Colts' back seven to experience it.
Moore recognizes it may take a few series to adapt to the Falcons' potentially high-scoring offense at game speed.
But that's only one potential problem for the Colts (1-1). They could be short-handed, too.
All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard spent this week in the concussion protocol. Indy's top cornerback, Pierre Desir, was limited in practice by a bruised right knee. Starting defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who has played Ryan twice including in New England's fifth Super Bowl win, returned for a light practice Wednesday after missing eight weeks with a knee injury.
If the defense can't slow down Falcons receivers, there could be other options.
Indy could rely on its suddenly strong ground game to control the clock. The Colts could use a vastly improved pass rush to make Ryan uncomfortable as they did the last two weeks with Phillip Rivers and Marcus Mariota. Or, perhaps they'll take advantage of the Falcons' biggest early season bugaboo: turnovers.
After throwing seven interceptions all of last season, Ryan already has five this year, including two in the red zone.
''It's not the start you want, but it's like that sometimes,'' said Ryan, now in his 11th season. ''You've just got to weather the storm and keep making good decisions and be aggressive.''
And keep finding Jones and Ridley, Sanu and Hooper.
''It's going to be a big test,'' Colts cornerback Quincy Wilson said. ''We just have to make sure we're staying on our details, making sure our techniques are on point and don't walk past any mistakes.''
With Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning both retired, the Colts have taken advantage of a run-first philosophy that's reflected in fashionably impressive numbers.
Indy and Minnesota are tied for second this season in yards rushing, Marlon Mack ranks No. 3 among all runners and Indy's 370 yards are the franchise's highest for two games to start a season since 1971. Equally strange is the fact Indy ranks No. 32 in passing offense.
Nobody minds. All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson keeps a hat with the phrase ''Run The Damn Ball'' in his locker and quarterback Jacoby Brisset t appreciates the impact the running game has had.
''Our guys up front sense that and they like when that happens,'' Brissett said when asked about seeing defenses wearing down. "They ask for more runs, so they get more runs.''
The Falcons, in contrast, are 28th in rushing at 65 yards per game. Devonta Freeman has only 41 yards with no run longer than 9. Freeman looked quick early in last week's win over the Eagles when he had three carries for 18 yards in Atlanta's first five plays. But after he was tackled for losses twice, Atlanta changed course.
Injuries, which derailed Freeman last season, don't seem to be the problem, either.
''He showed the speed, the burst, the finish,'' coach Bob Quinn said. ''He looked stronger in a lot of ways.''
CHANGE OF DIRECTION
Indy returns to Lucas Oil Stadium for the first time since Aug. 24, when fans booed as Andrew Luck left the field before announcing his retirement.
Players acknowledge it will seem strange without Luck on the sideline or field.
''I hadn't really thought about that but it will be different,'' longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. ''I think it will be a good atmosphere, I think it will be rockin'.''
The Falcons may make a late decision on the status of punter Matt Bosher, who strained his groin in warmups before last week's game. Atlanta signed Matt Wile to the practice squad as a possible backup on punts and kickoffs.
Matt Bryant handled kickoffs last week. Wile was with Minnesota in 2018 and Atlanta briefly in 2016.
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.
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.
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.
The Oakland Raiders worked out free-agent RB Bo Scarbrough (Cowboys) on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Free-agent RB LeGarrette Blount (Lions) worked out for the Oakland Raiders on Wednesday, Oct. 16.
Oakland Raiders TE Darren Waller was signed to a three-year contract extension through the 2023 season, a source said Wednesday, Oct. 16. He was slated to be a restricted free agent in March 2020. His deal is around $9 million annually.
Fantasy Spin: Waller has emerged as a low-end TE1 in most fantasy leagues, as he is a legit option in the passing game in Oakland. The Raiders head to Green Bay to tangle with the Packers in Week 7.
Oakland Raiders WR Tyrell Williams (foot) has yet to return to practice, and head coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday, Oct. 16 that the wideout is dealing with plantar fasciitis. 'Whatever that is, he has,' Gruden said. 'It's not getting much better.''
Fantasy Spin: It's uncertain when the de facto No. 1 receiver for Oakland will be able to return to the practice field or game action. Plantar fasciitis can take a lot of time to heal, even with aggressive treatment. Fantasy owners will want to make alternate plans for Week 7 against the Green Bay Packers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE O.J. Howard will not be traded at the deadline, according to a source. The organization can also have him under control for two to three more years depending on franchise or transition tags, too.
Fantasy Spin: Howard is having a down year statistically, as head coach Bruce Arians has relied upon the tight end more for his blocking ability. At this point he has devolved into a TE2 in most fantasy formats, but at least it appears he won't be changing organizations anytime soon.
Green Bay Packers SS Ibraheim Campbell (knee) and TE Jace Sternberger (ankle) were able to practice Wednesday, Oct. 16. The team has 21 days to let them practice to decide upon activating them and having the players count against the 53-man roster.
Miami Dolphins DE Robert Nkemdiche (undisclosed) and CB Cordrea Tankersley (undisclosed) returned to practice Wednesday, Oct. 16. Both players started on the Physically Unable to Practice (PUP) list. The two players can practice up to 21 days before the team has to decide to activate them and count against the 53-man roster.