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.
Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis (concussion) was limited in practice all week but has been ruled out for Week 7 against the 49ers. Davis is recovering from his head injury but just couldn't get cleared in time. With Jordan Reed (concussion) on Injured Reserve, Jeremy Sprinkle will continue to start for the 'Skins. He's an unattractive TE2, though, having caught just four passes for 41 yards in the last two weeks with Davis banged up. You can't really trust any pass-catcher outside of rookie Terry McLaurin in this dysfunctional offense.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tyrell Williams (foot) has officially been ruled out for Week 7 against the Packers. Williams is dealing with plantar fasciitis and should be considered week-to-week at this point. In his absence, it'll be Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Keelan Doss and Trevor Davis battling for targets in a tough matchup on the road against the Packers. Expect the Raiders offense to continue to function through rookie running back Josh Jacobs and tight end Darren Waller, making all of the Raiders receivers low-upside WR4/5 options.
Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft (ankle) practiced in full all week and was left off the final injury report for Week 7 against the Dolphins. Kroft is set to make his season debut this Sunday. The matchup is a great one against the winless Dolphins, but fantasy owners can't expect much of Kroft right away, and he could split snaps with rookie Dawson Knox. Kroft is off the fantasy radar for now, even for those desperate at the position. His return is undoubtedly bad news for Knox owners, though.
Chicago Bears wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (concussion) practiced in full all week and was taken off the final injury report for Week 7 against the Saints. The last time Gabriel played, he caught three first-half touchdowns before suffering a head injury. He'll be back in the fold this weekend but shouldn't be in many team's starting lineups against a Saints Defense that has actually limited opponent's passing games quite well so far this year. Gabriel's three-score game the last time he played was an outlier.
The New Orleans Saints Defense gets a good matchup in Week 7 against the Chicago Bears. New Orleans ranks 11th in the NFL in points allowed and seventh in sacks. They'll take on a Bears offense that ranks 26th in scoring and will likely get injured quarterback Mitch Trubisky back on the field. Trubisky struggled with accuracy at times when he was healthy this season, so the Saints' defense has the potential to generate turnovers. Whether it's Trubisky or backup Chase Daniel, the Saints should be able to get several sacks and an interception or two in Week 7.
Washington Redskins running back Chris Thompson (toe) has officially been ruled out for Week 7 against the 49ers. Thompson is dealing with turf toe, so he could also wind up missing Week 8 and potentially beyond. It means that Adrian Peterson will handle the early downs, with Wendell Smallwood chipping in on passing downs. However, neither running back is a good fantasy weapon against a 49ers Defense that has yet to allow a rushing or receiving touchdown to a running back this year. Smallwood should be faded in deep PPR leagues, even if you're desperate.
Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone thinks that quarterback Nick Foles (collarbone) will return to practice next week. Foles broke his collarbone in the season opener and has given way to rookie Gardner Minshew. It's good news that Foles is progressing, but even if he returns to practice next week, he'll likely need at least several weeks before he's an option to replace Minshew under center. With the way Minshew has been playing, don't expect the Jags to rush Foles back. Foles should be stashed away in two-QB leagues, but you can likely leave him to the waiver wire everywhere else for now.
Chicago Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky (shoulder) practiced in full all week but is listed as questionable for Week 7 against the Saints. Trubisky should return after coming out of the bye week, but he's a mediocre QB2 option in an offense that hasn't done much through the air all season long. On top of it, the New Orleans defense has been good at limiting opposing quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Marqise Lee (ankle) and tight end Geoff Swaim (ankle, concussion) have both been ruled out for Week 7 against the Bengals. Neither Lee nor Swaim have moved the fantasy needle this year for the Jaguars offense. If Dede Westbrook can't give it a go, it'll be either C.J. Board or Keelan Cole as the team's No. 3 wideout behind D.J. Chark and Chris Conley on Sunday. With James O'Shaughnessy on Injured Reserve, rookie Josh Oliver will become the team's primary tight end if he can make his season debut. Stay away from the tight end position in Jacksonville, however.
New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz could be in for a tough game against the Chicago Bears in Week 7. Lutz has been excellent, ranking eighth in the league among kickers with 54 fantasy points this season. Unfortunately, the Bears Defense ranks third in the NFL in fantasy points against kickers. In what could end up being a low-scoring game, Lutz may not see enough red-zone chances to put up fantasy points. Given how good he's been, he's still a start in this one, albeit a risky one.
Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio said he's considering major changes on offense after the blowout loss to the Chiefs on Thursday night, but moving away from quarterback Joe Flacco is not one of them. The main reason is that current backup Brandon Allen wouldn't be a realistic solution. However, rookie Drew Lock is nearing a return from his injury and will be a viable alternative later in the year if Flacco continues to look terrible under center. The 34-year-old has shown that he has basically nothing left. He's gone over 300 yards passing in a game just once this year and has six touchdowns and five interceptions in seven games. Flacco is a low-end QB2 with pretty much no upside.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (shoulder) is listed as questionable for Week 7 against the Bengals. We still expect Westbrook to play, but you'll need to check the Sunday morning inactives just to be sure. Against a Cincinnati team missing their starting cornerbacks, Westbrook will be a high-end WR3 if he's active. If he's ruled out, D.J. Chark and Chris Conley will operate as quarterback Gardner Minshew's top two wideouts.
Despite missing practice on Friday, Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker (ankle) is likely to play in Week 7 against the Chargers. Walker has been playing through an ankle injury and should do so again this weekend. He's been extremely unproductive lately, though, and it may be a combination of his injury and the team's inept offense under quarterback Marcus Mariota. The good news is it'll be Ryan Tannehill under center this Sunday, but that may not be much of an upgrade. Treat Walker as a TE1/2 in this run-first offense. He has more volatility as long as he continues to play injured.
Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich has ruled out rookie wide receiver Parris Campbell (abdomen) for Week 7 against the Texans. It'll be Campbell's second straight missed game. The rookie is strictly a stash in dynasty/keeper leagues at this point. In his absence, it'll be Zach Pascal, Deon Cain and Chester Rogers fighting for more playing time behind T.Y. Hilton. All three are merely dart throws in DFS in deeper leagues in this run-first offense, although Houston's secondary is known to give up big plays through the air.
New Orleans Saints tight end Jared Cook (ankle) is currently questionable to suit up for Week 7 against the Chicago Bears after missing two consecutive days of practice. If he does play, Cook gets a stingy Chicago Bears Defense that is surprisingly susceptible to opposing tight ends, ranking 23rd in the league in points allowed to the position. Cook has yet to go over 50 receiving yards in a game but has found the end zone in back-to-back games. He's a risky TE1/2 because of the injury tag and the fact that quarterback Teddy Bridgewater may struggle with accuracy against the Bears defense.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Chad Henne (ankle), who broke his ankle in training camp, is "getting close," according to head coach Andy Reid. "Hes getting there. Hes been working his tail off. I havent taken him out there and thrown with him and done all that so I cant tell you how all that is gone," Reid said. Patrick Mahomes (knee) is expected to miss at least three weeks with a dislocated kneecap, so Henne could become an option to start games in the near future if Matt Moore isn't getting the job done. Even with options around them in the offense, neither Moore nor Henne would be much more than desperation options in two-QB leagues.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur said wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling (ankle, knee) and Geronimo Allison (chest, concussion) have 48 hours to "see if they come around" for Week 7 against the Raiders. The Packers are holding out hope, but MVS and Allison are extremely risky flex options in deeper leagues. MVS hasn't really taken advantage of Davante Adams (toe) being out the last couple weeks. If MVS and Allison are out on top of Adams, it'll be Jake Kumerow and Allen Lazard as quarterback Aaron Rodgers' top two receiving options. Kumerow and Lazard will be DFS sleepers and flex plays in deeper leagues, but the Packers will likely continue to lean heavily on the run.
Cincinnati Bengals cornerback William Jackson (shoulder), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (knee) and defensive end Carl Lawson (hamstring) have all been ruled out for Week 7 against the Jaguars. Defensive end Carlos Dunlap (knee) is also doubtful. The bad news continues for the 0-6 Bengals. Cincy actually hasn't been that bad against opposing wideouts this year, but not having their top corners for this one will make Jaguars receivers D.J. Chark and Dede Westbrook pretty appealing for fantasy purposes. Stay far away from Cincinnati's defense/special teams.
Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Russell Okung (heart) said that he could return as early as Week 7 against the Titans. Currently on the Physically Unable to Perform list, Okung has yet to play this year. It's great news for a Chargers offensive line that hasn't been giving quarterback Philip Rivers much time to stay in the pocket and deliver accurate passes. It still seems unlikely that Okung returns this quickly, but it's certainly something for Rivers and the Chargers offense to look forward to.
Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has ruled out wide receiver Davante Adams (toe) for Week 7 against the Raiders. It'll be Adams' third straight missed game while dealing with turf toe, and he'll be questionable for Week 8, at best. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers' fantasy luster hasn't been as strong without Adams in the lineup, and he could also be missing Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison this Sunday as well. Consider Rodgers more of a high-end QB2 this weekend with all the injuries to his receiving corps.