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.
Sunday Morning Update: Week 7
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Andy Isabella wasn't able to contribute much in the team's 37-34 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 7. Isabella caught just one pass for seven yards on three targets in the game. It's been a rough stretch for Isabella lately. He has just five receptions over his last four games. Christian Kirk has been coming on strong lately, which has led to far fewer opportunities for Isabella to contribute. Isabella should remain on waivers in all leagues at this point.
The Cardinals Defense was the latest victim of the scorching hot Seattle Seahawks offense. The Seahawks compiled 572 yards from scrimmage and put 34 points on the board against the Cardinals in Week 7. Luckily, the Cardinals offense kept pace and managed to lead the team to a win. The Cardinals defense did come up with some key turnovers as they forced three Russell Wilson interceptions and also recorded two sacks. Safety Budda Baker almost scored a defensive touchdown, but was tackled by DK Metcalf inside the 10-yard line after a long interception return.
Arizona Cardinals tight end Dan Arnold had his best game of the season so far in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks. He caught two of his three targets for 57 yards. His 41-yard reception was the team's longest passing play in the game. No other Cardinals tight end recorded a catch in the game. Arnold is the clear top pass-catching tight end on the Cardinals, but just hasn't been involved enough to warrant any fantasy consideration. He had four receptions in Week 4 against the Carolina Panthers, then failed to record a catch in his next two games. He should remain on waivers in all leagues for now.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk came up with some big plays for the team in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks. Kirk caught five passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns on eight targets. Kirk has now posted back-to-back two-touchdown games. He tied with Larry Fitzgerald for second on the team in targets in this week's game. DeAndre Hopkins led the way with 12 targets. Kirk has been delivering great production lately. While he may be a bit inconsistent going forward, he's a solid WR3 or flex option most weeks.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had his most productive game of the season so far in Week 7 against the Seattle Seahawks. Fitzgerald caught all eight of his targets for 62 yards. He was second on the team in receiving yards in the game, behind DeAndre Hopkins, and he tied with Christian Kirk for second on the team in targets. It was the first time this year that Fitzgerald had topped 50 receiving yards in a game and only the second time he'd compiled over four receptions in a game. This week's performance puts Fitzgerald back on the PPR map, though the Cardinals have a bye next week, so he should remain on waivers in all leagues for now.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins caught 10 of his 12 targets for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night in Week 7. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the season and he now has three touchdowns on the year. Hopkins benefitted from a fantastic performance from Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who threw for 360 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Murray and Hopkins have been clicking all year long as Hopkins has dominated targets for the team. Hopkins leads the NFL with 704 receiving yards on the year. He is a no doubt, high-end WR1 going forward.
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds gave the offense a solid boost in the team's 37-34 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Week 7. Edmonds carried the ball five times for 58 yards and caught all seven of his targets for 87 yards. He severely outplayed the team's No. 1 back Kenyan Drake (ankle), who managed just 34 yards on 14 carries before leaving the game late with an ankle injury. Drake was carted off to the locker room, which suggests his injury could be significant. Edmonds is going to be a hot waiver wire add this week as he could potentially be the team's new No. 1 back. Keep in mind that the Cardinals have a bye next week, but Edmonds could be a great Week 9 start against the Miami Dolphins.
Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake (ankle) couldn't get anything going on Sunday night against the Seattle Seahawks. Drake received 14 carries in the game, but managed to gain just 34 yards. He was targeted twice in the passing game and came down with one catch for seven yards. On his last run of the game, Drake injured his ankle and he had to be carted to the locker room. We don't know much about the injury at this point, but Drake could be forced to miss some time, which would make Chase Edmonds the team's new No. 1 back. The Cardinals have a bye next week, so Drake will have extra time to recover before the team's Week 9 matchup against the Miami Dolphins.
Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray took advantage of a fantastic matchup against a weak Seattle Seahawks secondary in Week 7. Murray completed 34 of 48 passes for 360 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. He also rushed for 67 yards and a touchdown. Murray has now through for over 350 yards in two of his past three games. However, he's been held under 200 passing yards in two of his past four. This week's game was Murray's best fantasy output of the year. It was the first time he scored four touchdowns in a game this year. He's a no doubt QB1 going forward and this week's performance was clear evidence that he can be a high-end QB1 when he is at his best.
Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson was forced from the Sunday Night Football game against the Arizona Cardinals with a foot injury. Coach Pete Carroll described it as a mid-foot sprain, and Carson will have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Carlos Hyde took over as the lead running back after Carson exited the game, after missing the last two games with his own injury, and is now looking like one of the top waiver wire adds for Week 8. Hyde racked up 15 carries for 68 yards and a touchdown, and also added three receptions for eight yards. Stay tuned for further updates on Carson's injury and how long he may be sidelined for.
Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake injured his ankle against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. This did not look like a minor injury as he had to be carted to the locker room and even had a towel over his head. Drake was ruled out for the game and we should know more about the extent of the injury in the coming days. This is a tough break for Drake, the Cardinals and fantasy football managers. Chase Edmonds is now the lead running back for the Cardinals, and had a strong showing against the Seahawks. Edmonds is currently rostered in 62% of fantasy football leagues, and is the top waiver wire pickup for Week 8 if he's somehow still available.
The Atlanta Falcons Defense had another quiet statistical day in a 23-22 loss to the Detroit Lions. Not only did they record just two sacks and no interceptions, but they also gave up the game-winning score to tight end T.J. Hockenson. This unit is definitely one to avoid for fantasy purposes, especially considering they offer no upside. Leave them on the waiver wire.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo had just two opportunities- a pair of extra-points- and he made both of them in a 23-22 loss to the Detroit Lions. It was Koo's first game this year without at least one field-goal made. Otherwise, he's been an excellent fantasy kicker playing on a team whose offense constantly finds itself in or near the red zone. That alone gives Koo upside in most weeks. He should be in lineups for next week's divisional clash against the Panthers.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense was quiet in a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. Pittsburgh was unable to force a turnover and was credited with just two sacks in the game. While it wasn't a fantasy-scoring bonanza for the Steelers, they held their own against a Tennessee offense that had been one of the highest-scoring in the league coming into Week 7. T.J. Watt and Vince Williams both led the way in the win with one sack apiece. Pittsburgh's defense draws another tough matchup in Week 8 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Hayden Hurst caught six of seven targets for 68 receiving yards against the Lions. Hurst and Matt Ryan had a rhythm all game, as the former worked the intermediate routes to perfection. That's two games in a row for the 27-year-old with at least 50 yards receiving, as the coaching staff seems to be finding more ways to get him the ball. A tough matchup with the Panthers awaits- they held him to just eight yards- though Hurst is playing too well to bench right now.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage hauled in six of seven targets for 54 receiving yards in a loss to the Lions. Gage tied with Calvin Ridley and Hayden Hurst for second on the team in targets. The 24-year-old did injure his knee in the first quarter but was able to return to the action. He has seen at least seven targets in two of the three games that fellow wideout Julio Jones has been healthy for, indicating that Jones' presence does wonders for Gage in terms of opening up opportunities on the outside. As long as Matt Ryan continues to play well, Gage should be in the conversation as a WR3/4.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron caught six of his eight targets for 50 yards in a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. Ebron finished third on the team in receiving, behind Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster, and surprisingly ahead of rookie Chase Claypool. It continues a strong stretch of play for Ebron, who has caught at least five passes in three of his past four games. While he only has one touchdown on the year, Ebron is turning out to be a high-end TE2 for fantasy purposes in his first season with the Steelers. He will face the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool lost two yards on his lone reception in a 27-24 win over the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. It goes down as a disappointing outing for the rookie, who had scored five total touchdowns in the previous two games. The return of Diontae Johnson certainly played into Claypool's slow outing, as did the resurgence of JuJu Smith-Schuster, who drew 14 targets. Claypool's fantasy value going forward appears to be tied to the availability of Johnson, who is the clear alpha wide receiver in Pittsburgh. That being said, Johnson injured his ankle late in the game. The injury doesn't appear to be serious but neither did the back injury that held him out of almost all of the past two games. After looking like a must-start heading into Week 7, Claypool is all of a sudden a shaky flex play for Week 8 against the Baltimore Ravens.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Calvin Ridley caught five of seven targets for 69 receiving yards and a touchdown in a narrow 23-22 loss to Detroit. Ridley corralled Matt Ryan's lone touchdown throw of the day and made a couple of highlight-reel grabs, including a nifty sideline catch where he got both feet in-bounds. Ridley has produced at least seven targets in all but one game and has eclipsed 100 yards four times already, after doing it twice all of last year. The breakout is in full effect and should continue into Week 8 against the Panthers, who Ridley torched for 136 receiving yards back in Week 6.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Rob Gronkowski had another terrific performance in Week 7, getting five receptions for 62 yards and a score on eight targets. Gronk is starting to look like himself and that's encouraging for fantasy managers. The big tight end has now scored a touchdown in two straight games. He has also seen at least six targets in the past three games and has gotten over 52 yards in those games as well. Gronk is definitely in the starting conversation going forward.