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.
Five Waiver Wire Adds: Week 8
Buffalo Bills CB Josh Norman (hamstring) hasn't been ruled out, but he's unlikely to play in Week 8.
Fantasy Spin: It's a tough break for Norman, who was going off in fantasy before the injury. He can be dropped for fresh legs in IDP leagues.
Cincinnati Bengals DE Carlos Dunlap was told to stay home while the team attempts to trade him.
Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy doesn't intend to bench quarterback Nick Foles in favor of Mitchell Trubisky after the team's 24-10 Monday night loss to the Rams in Week 7. The Bears are 5-2 but rank 27th in points per game (19.7), 30th in yards per play (4.8), 30th in yards per run (3.8), 29th in yards per pass (5.6), 30th on third-down conversions (35.1 percent) and 29th in red-zone efficiency (47.6 percent). Foles took over for Trubisky in Week 3 and was 28-for-40 for 261 yards and two interceptions against the Rams. Foles has thrown for 1,139 yards, six touchdowns and six interceptions in five appearances (four starts) this year. The Saints -- Chicago's Week 8 opponent -- allow the sixth-most fantasy points per game to signal-callers, but Foles remains a low-end QB2 in superflex leagues in Chicago's stagnant offense.
Atlanta Falcons wide receivers Julio Jones (hip) and Russell Gage (knee) were both limited in practice on Tuesday. Jones' injury is new, but the 31-year-old always seems to be fighting through some sort of injury and he should be fine for the Thursday night matchup with the Panthers. The All-Pro wideout missed the Week 5 matchup with Carolina due to an injury, but he should be fine for this one and he remains a locked-in, must-start WR1 whenever he's on the field as the team's No. 1 receiver. Jones has 16 receptions on 19 targets for 234 yards and two touchdowns in the last two weeks against the Vikings and Lions. The Panthers allow the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to wideouts, but Jones should be in all starting lineups regardless. Gage should play on Thursday, but he's been a non-factor the last five weeks and can be left to the waiver wire in shallow leagues.
The San Francisco 49ers reached an injury settlement with wide receiver Tavon Austin (knee) on Tuesday, and he is no longer on their Injured Reserve list. Austin was put on IR before the 2020 regular season started. He spent the last two years in Dallas, recording 21 catches on 37 targets for 317 yards and three touchdowns in 21 games. The eighth overall pick in the 2013 draft by the Rams, Austin had his best season in 2016, catching 58 passes for 509 yards and three touchdowns. He has just 15 touchdowns in seven NFL seasons and has essentially become a little-used gadget player in recent seasons. Don't expect Austin to resurface anywhere in 2021 as a fantasy relevant option.
Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay said that rookie third-round safety Terrell Burgess (ankle) broke his ankle in the Monday night win over the Bears and will miss the rest of the season. The 21-year-old will finish his rookie season with eight tackles (seven solo) and one pass defensed in seven games of action. Burgess was taken with the 104th overall pick in April and has the versatility to also play nickel cornerback in the NFL. He's a smart player and anticipates routes in coverage. The former Utah Ute should have plenty of time to recover in time for training camp next summer.
Because of COVID-19 protocols, the Detroit Lions Defense will not have newly acquired defensive end Everson Griffen available to play in Week 8 against the Colts. Griffen's debut with Detroit will come on Nov. 8 against the Vikings, the team that he spent the first 10 years of his career with while earning four Pro Bowl nods. The Lions sent a sixth-round draft pick in 2021 to the Cowboys for Griffen's services on Tuesday, and he'll be a veteran present for Detroit's defensive line the rest of the season. While the 32-year-old isn't an IDP starting option at his position on a weekly basis, he should help improve their defensive line. However, the Lions defense overall is near the bottom of the league in fantasy points through seven weeks, so you should continue to avoid them everywhere.
Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley has either topped 50 receiving yards or caught a touchdown pass in all seven games this season.
Fantasy Spin: Beasley's 470 receiving yards rank in the top 20 in the NFL, and he sits inside the top 15 in receptions. He's a PPR flex option.
Atlanta Falcons RB Todd Gurley's 122 rush attempts rank second in the NFL, and he has logged at least 14 carries in all seven games.
Fantasy Spin: The heavy workload is a bit of a surprise given Gurley's history of knee problems, and while he has managed just one 100-yard game, he has scored seven times and topped 50 yards six times. He's a volume-based RB2 heading into a friendly matchup against Carolina in Week 8.
Free-agent WR Dwayne Harris (Texans) was signed to the Chicago Bears' practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Los Angeles Rams DL A'Shawn Robinson (undisclosed) will be activated from the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list this week, head coach Sean McVay said Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee (hand) could be ready to play against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8, according to head coach Sean McVay Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Fantasy Spin: Higbee was forced to sit out Week 7 for his first missed game of the season. He has 18 catches on 21 targets for 222 yards and three touchdowns through six games and is a low-end TE1 most weeks.
Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't being shopped for a trade, according to a source with direct knowledge Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Fantasy Spin: Fitzpatrick would definitely have at least some measure of fantasy value on any one of the NFL's current QB-needy teams, but it appears he'll be staying in Miami to mentor rookie Tua Tagovailoa. It will help Tagovailoa, but it's a shame for fantasy managers in two-QB leagues.
Tennessee Titans RB D'Onta Foreman, PK Tucker McCann, QB Trevor Siemian and LB Tuzar Skipper were designated as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Pittsburgh Steelers WR Deon Cain, RB Trey Edmunds, LB Jayrone Elliott and RB Wendell Smallwood were named to the team's Week 8 practice squad protection list Tuesday, Oct. 27.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers PK Greg Joseph and DT Jeremiah Ledbetter were chosen as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
New York Giants RB Alfred Morris, P Ryan Santoso, G Chad Slade and QB Clayton Thorson were named as protected practice squad players for Week 8 Tuesday, Oct. 27.
San Francisco 49ers running back Tevin Coleman (knee) could be back in the mix as soon as Sunday versus Seattle, with head coach Kyle Shanahan saying that he was hopeful that they'd have Coleman for the game. The 49ers' backfield has been a constant shuffling endeavor with Raheem Mostert (ankle) and Jeff Wilson Jr. (ankle) both now out of the mix for the foreseeable future. Coleman's return coincides with Jerick McKinnon likely moving up the depth chart, although how any share of carries would be split remains unclear. Coleman started 11 games for San Francisco last season, so despite having compiled just 30 yards across 18 carries this year, he's likely to see an increased role whenever he's officially ready to return. Check back throughout the week for updates on his status as they become available.