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.
Chicago Bears running back David Montgomery totaled only six rushing yards in the Bears 36-25 drubbing by the Saints in Week 7. Montgomery added two receptions for 13 yards but saw only two carries in the game. The Bears offense was a mess from the jump and the team totaled only seven rushing attempts in the entire game. Montgomery has talent but has struggled to get anything going behind a slumping offensive line. The rookie needs to be downgraded in fantasy heading into Week 8 until the Bears offense can prove it can produce.
San Francisco 49ers kicker Robbie Gould provided all the scoring in a 9-0 shutout against the Washington Redskins in Week 7. Gould converted three of four field goal tries, all inside the 30-yard line. Kicking with a new crew in 2019, Gould hasnt been as automatic as past years and is now 12-for-19 on the season (63 percent). Gould is still a solid fantasy kicking option.
Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen caught nine passes for only 19 yards in the Bears 36-25 letdown loss against the Saints. Cohen also carried the ball three times for 10 yards in a game that featured a stagnant Bears offense. For three quarters, the Bears couldn't move the ball and Cohen's receptions led to nowhere. The nine catches salvages Cohen's fantasy day in PPR leagues but all of the Bears offensive weapons need to be downgraded heading into Week 8's action.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Olabisi Johnson caught 4-of-8 targets for 40 yards and a touchdown in Week 7 against the Detroit Lions. Johnson was able to take advantage of some increased volume due to an early exit from Adam Thielen (hamstring). The rookie scored his first career touchdown on a one-yard play-action pass in the first quarter and worked in as the Vikings' clear second option in the passing attack with Thielen sidelined. Johnson is worth a look as a bye-week streamer with an opportunity to produce against the burnable Washington Redskins in Week 8, depending on the playing status of Thielen.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller caught five passes for 64 yards in the Bears 36-25 loss to the Saints in Week 7. Miller saw nine targets in the game but rarely generated any kind of production until the final two garbage-time drives. The second-year receiver also lost a costly fumble in the first half in a game that was dominated by the Saints. Miller now has back-to-back games of 50-plus receiving yards but the Bears offense is a mess right now. Miller lacks fantasy appeal heading into Week 8.
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky completed 34 of 54 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns in the Bears 36-25 loss to the Saints in Week 7. Practically all of the third-year quarterback's stats came in the final moments after the Bears had fallen behind 36-10. The Bears offense was abysmal for three quarters and Trubisky showed plenty of rust. He was able to salvage his outing from a fantasy perspective but will not be a viable option until he can show sustained accuracy and efficiency.
San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida handled eight totes for 44 yards and added a one-yard grab in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins. Discouragingly, Breida was thoroughly out-touched 22-9 by backfield mate Tevin Coleman, who raced for 62 yards of his own. It was an all-around team effort for the Niners in sloppy conditions and they remain undefeated. Breidas become a clear second fiddle to Coleman since the latters return from injury and should be modestly downgraded for fantasy purposes. In a run-heavy offensive scheme, Breida still has the volume to be a weekly RB3/flex option. The Carolina Panthers weak rush defense awaits in Week 8.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson tallied 10 receptions for 87 yards and one touchdown in the Bears 36-25 loss to the Saints in Week 7. Robinson's final fantasy line looks a lot better thanks to two late-game garbage drives for scores. The Bears offense is really struggling right now but the veteran receiver continues to be the only consistent source of production. Despite the Bears offensive woes, Robinson will remain a solid WR2 heading into Week 8.
Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison carried seven times for 18 yards (2.6 yards per carry) in Week 7's 42-30 win over the Detroit Lions. Mattison took a clear back seat in this one as Dalvin Cook carried 25 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns. Mattison was also not targeted in the passing game. The rookie back out of Boise State has been productive this season (5.3 yards per carry) but remains more of a high-priority handcuff than a player to consider starting in re-draft formats. However, he could be worth a look as a sneaky RB3 option with higher expected volume in Week 8 against the Washington Redskins' porous run defense.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman converted 20 carries into 62 yards, also recording two catches for negative one yard in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins. Coleman wasnt efficient, but continued dominating touches over backfield mate Matt Breida by a 22-9 margin. Colemans been used as a workhorse since returning from an ankle injury, giving him a solid floor in a run-heavy offense. Hell be a high-end RB2 in Week 8 against a porous Carolina Panthers run defense.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown in the Bears disappointing 36-25 loss to the Saints. Patterson flashed what makes him so valuable in the first quarter, taking a kick from the end zone all the way to the house. Patterson was used at times on the offensive side of the ball, racking up 23 yards on one carry and two receptions. Patterson is a threat and makes an above average fantasy defense better with his ability to produce on special teams.
Indianapolis Colts RB Jordan Wilkins rushed twice for nine yards in Week 7 against the Houston Texans and he posted one grab for six yards on his only target.
Fantasy Spin: Wilkins did very little. As long as Marlon Mack is healthy, Wilkins is only worth keeping on a roster as a handcuff or in the deepest of fantasy leagues.
New Orleans Saints CB Eli Apple (knee) suffered an apparent knee injury late in the Week 7 game against the Chicago Bears. He grabbed at his knee on a play in the end zone and was down for a bit before walking off slowly under his own power.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Alex Erickson finished with a game-high eight receptions (14 targets) for 137 yards in the loss to the Jaguars on Sunday. Though Tyler Boyd received an equal amount of looks from quarterback Andy Dalton, his five catches for 55 yards opened the door for increased production from Erickson on a day where nothing was going right. With A.J. Green (ankle) expected back within the next week or so, the sell-high window is wide open for the 26-year-old as this type of performance won't happen too often moving forward, if at all.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense continued its dominant run, shutting out the Washington Redskins in Week 7. Aided by a wet field, the Niners limited the Skins to 154 meaningless yards, collecting three sacks and recovering a fumble in the process. A driving force behind the teams undefeated start, San Franciscos defensive unit continues to take care of business and serve notice to the football community. Theyve evolved into a weekly must-start fantasy squad. The Carolina Panthers await in Week 8.
Indianapolis Colts QB Jacoby Brissett completed 26-of-39 passes for 326 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in Week 7 against the Houston Texans.
Fantasy Spin: Brissett was super sharp in helping the Colts to a 4-2 record. Andrew who? OK, not one is going to forget Andrew Luck, but Brissett has certainly stepped up as a low-end QB1 fantasy option to make the transition seamless. The Colts host the Denver Broncos in Week 8.
Indianapolis Colts RB Marlon Mack rushed 18 times for just 44 yards in Week 7 against the Houston Texans while adding three grabs for 12 yards on three targets.
Fantasy Spin: Mack went over 500 rushing yards through six games, although the total wasn't a very good one in this one. He also hasn't scored since Week 3. He remains a solid RB2 in most fantasy leagues heading into Week 8 against the Denver Broncos.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard finished with no yards on four attempts in addition to four yards off of two receptions against the Jaguars in Week 7. As the team's offensive woes continue, the veteran is having one of his worst seasons as a professional. As the Bengals continue to be plagued with a horrendous offensive line and a plethora of injuries, Bernard hasn't done much this season. He has little, if any, fantasy value at the moment, with that likely staying the same moving forward unless Joe Mixon loses his spot on the depth chart.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed 12 of 21 passes for 151 yards, no scores and an interception in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins. The Niners leaned on their defense and wet conditions to overmatch the Redskins in the 9-0 shutout. The nondescript performance from Garoppolo has become the norm, as hes managed the team to a sparkling 6-0 start to 2019. With the continued emphasis on the run game and Jimmy G yet to push the gas, hell remain a middling QB2 in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers.
Atlanta Falcons TE Austin Hooper finished with four receptions, 46 yards and a touchdown on five targets in Week 7 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Fantasy Spin: The Falcons have been an absolute train wreck this season, but Hooper is a TE1 in all fantasy leagues, posting touchdowns in back-to-back outings while grabbing at least four balls in all seven of his games. Of course, the team lost QB Matt Ryan (ankle) to injury, so if he is forced to the shelf, that hurts Hooper and the passing game heading into Week 8.