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.
New York Giants kicker Aldrick Rosas is on the verge of being streamable this week against the Lions. The former Pro Bowler hasn't had much success this year and has yet to make more than one field goal in a game all season. However, he's in a good matchup. The Giants figure to move the ball against a banged-up Lions Defense, and they will need to push the tempo to keep up with quarterbackMatthew Stafford and the Lions offense. Rosas still isn't a recommended option, but he can be considered in deep leagues.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Zach Pascal has seen his stock consistently grow over the past few weeks. He's still not a player that you can have a ton of confidence in starting, but he does have some flex consideration this week. His size allows him to be a mismatch against most corners, and the Denver Broncos don't have a guy that can match up with him consistently in that regard if cornerback Chris Harris Jr. shadows wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. If you're missing wideouts due to injuries or bye weeks, Pascal gives you upside thanks to his touchdown production and big-play ability.
Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett went off on the Houston Texans in Week 7. In Week 8, his matchup gets more difficult against the Denver Broncos. Through seven games, Denver has yet to allow a player to clear 300 passing yards, and no quarterback has thrown for more than two touchdowns against them. The Colts have a lot of pieces on offense, especially with the emergence of wide receiver Zach Pascal, but expectations for Brissett should be tempered this week. He's still a starter in two-quarterback leagues, but you have better options at QB in standard formats.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton has a bad matchup this week, but you have to start him anyway. He's scored five touchdowns in the five games that he's played, and he's averaging an impressive 17.2 PPR points per game this season. He has 15 more targets than any other Indianapolis pass-catcher, and quarterback Jacoby Brissett looks his way whenever he needs a reliable receiver. He's gotten at least nine targets in three out of his five games, and those looks will continue to be there for him against the Denver Broncos.
Indianapolis Colts running back Marlon Mack got shut down in Week 7, but he has a good bounce-back spot in Week 8. Teams like the Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars have beaten the Denver Broncos by running the ball at them all game to control the clock. Mack does his best work when he gets a ton of volume, and that's how the Colts like to win games. If the passing game struggles, which is possible against a solid passing defense, they could lean on Mack throughout the game, especially down in the red zone.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs is in line for an increased workload on Thursday night with target-hog Adam Thielen (hamstring) sitting out for the first time in his career. Week 8's matchup against the Washington Redskins is a favorable one as Diggs should be able to take advantage of coverage by either Quinton Dunbar or a struggling Josh Norman. Cousins and the play-action passing game have been on point as of late, as has Diggs with 14 catches for 310 yards and three touchdowns over his last two games. They remain a run-first team and are likely to lean on Dalvin Cook as they're favored by over 15 points at home, but Diggs needs to be started as a WR1/WR2 with upside considering Thielen's absence.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford absolutely feasted on the Vikings secondary in Week 7, and the feast may not be over with the New York Giants coming to town in Week 8. The Giants currently allow 8.92 yards per attempt, which trails only the Dolphins, so fantasy owners could be in for another huge performance from the 31-year-old signal-caller. The Giants don't present much in the way of run defense either, but with Kerryon Johnson recently being placed on IR a more pass-heavy approach can be expected. With top quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Dak Prescott on byes this week, and with Matt Ryan still yet to practice, Stafford vaults up the charts as one of the top quarterback options in Week 8 no matter the fantasy format. Get him in your lineups.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (knee) fully participated in practice Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Wilson threw his first interception last week but still has posted 15 passing touchdowns in seven games. He should have success against the Atlanta Falcons this week and can be a No. 1 quarterback in all fantasy leagues.
Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett (non-injury) was limited during practice Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Lockett has posted at least 50 yards in each of the last six games and has been targeted 12 times over the last two weeks. He should have a favorable matchup in Week 8 and can be a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver in all leagues.
Seattle Seahawks S Lano Hill (elbow), DE Quinton Jefferson (oblique) and S Bradley McDougald (back) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Oct. 23. OT Duane Brown (biceps), OT George Fant (shoulder), CB Tre Flowers (neck), DE Ziggy Ansah (ankle) and S Quandre Diggs (hamstring) were limited during practice. OG D.J. Fluker (hamstring) fully participated in practice.
Seattle Seahawks RB Chris Carson (non-injury) was limited during practice Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Carson has received at least 20 carries in each of the last four games and has posted three 100-yard games in that span. He will continue to be the focal point in the running game for the Seahawks and is a must-start option in all fantasy leagues.
Detroit Lions running back Ty Johnson, arguably this week's hottest waiver wire pickup after Kerryon Johnson was put on IR Tuesday, has a real chance to establish himself as the Lions lead back against a porous New York Giants squad in Week 8. Johnson should see most of the action out of the Lions backfield Sunday and can be expected to be involved in the passing game even with J.D. McKissic likely suiting up as the Lions passing-down back. Johnson's small stature does put into question whether he can be an every-down back, but with the Giants nonexistent run defense standing in his way this week fantasy owners should get some clarity as to whether Johnson can truly take over this backfield. Johnson will be considered a mid-range RB2 this week in a matchup where the game script should work to his benefit.
San Francisco 49ers RB Raheem Mostert (knee) was limited during practice Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Mostert appears to have a chance to play in Week 8, but fantasy players will know more about his status later in the week. He will see a handful of touches if he is active for the game but can be avoided in most leagues.
San Francisco 49ers FB Kyle Juszczyk (knee), OT Mike McGlinchey (knee) and CB Ahkello Witherspoon (foot) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Oct. 23. DE Dee Ford (quadriceps), DT D.J. Jones (hamstring) and OT Joe Staley (leg) were limited during practice.
Arizona Cardinals WR Christian Kirk (ankle) was limited during practice Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Kirk has been limited during practice over the last two weeks but has also been inactive for the last two games, so his status for Week 8 is uncertain. Fantasy players may want to look at other options since he would have a tough matchup if he plays in the game.
Arizona Cardinals DE Zach Allen (neck), RB D.J. Foster (hamstring), LB Jordan Hicks (calf), DT Corey Peters (non-injury) and LB Terrell Suggs (non-injury) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Oct. 23. LB Dennis Gardeck (ankle), LB Haason Reddick (knee), LB Zeke Turner (hamstring) and TE Maxx Williams (ankle) were limited during practice. DT Zachariah Kerr (ankle) and S Charles Washington (shoulder) fully participated in practice.
San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle (groin) was limited during practice Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Kittle has been on the injury for the last few weeks but is in no danger of missing the Week 8 game. He should continue to be a weekly starting option in all fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers OT Bryan Bulaga (non-injury), TE Marcedes Lewis (non-injury) and CB Tramon Williams (knee) were limited during practice Wednesday, Oct. 23. S Adrian Amos (shoulder), CB Tony M. Brown (hamstring), LB Oren Burks (chest), DT Kenny Clark (shin), LB B.J. Goodson (shoulder), LB Blake Martinez (wrist), S Will Redmond (ankle), S Darnell Savage (ankle) and TE Robert Tonyan (hip) fully participated in practice.
Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (non-injury) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Oct. 23.
Fantasy Spin: Fitzgerald is coming off a disappointing Week 7 performance but has still be targeted at least seven times in five of the seven games this season. He will be facing one of the better defenses this week but still has a chance to be a flex option in leagues.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle, knee) put in a full practice on Wednesday after being questionable for Week 7 against the Raiders. MVS ultimately played, albeit limited snaps, and finished with over 100 yards and a touchdown with No. 1 wideout Davante Adams (toe) sidelined again. Adams missed practice on Wednesday and could very well sit out again this Sunday night against the Chiefs. Against a porous secondary, Valdes-Scantling would be a boom/bust WR3/flex. Geronimo Allison, Jake Kumerow and Allen Lazard should all continue to see more run if Adams misses anymore time, but they're all hard to trust as anything more than low-ceiling flexes in deeper formats.