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FFL: Week 8 | NFL: Week 8

Winless Falcons may not get chance to blow lead at Green Bay

Thu Oct 1 6:08pm ET
By STEVE MEGARGEE
AP Sports Writer

Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley (21) runs against the Chicago Bears during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)


Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) hands the ball off to Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill (23) against the Chicago Bears during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)


Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn watches play against the Chicago Bears during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)


Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) dives over the goal line for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) dives over the goal line for a touchdown in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) celebrates his touchdown with offensive guard Elgton Jenkins (74) in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)


Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard (13) celebrates his touchdown reception with offensive guard Lucas Patrick (62) and tight end Robert Tonyan (85) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Brett Duke)


The next challenge for the winless Atlanta Falcons is imposing enough that it might not afford them an opportunity for another fourth-quarter collapse.

After blowing two-touchdown leads in the final period each of the last two weeks, the Falcons could have trouble getting ahead Monday night when they visit the unbeaten Green Bay Packers.

''I know the first three weeks haven't been what we would have wanted,'' Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan said. ''That's for sure. But I still have a lot of faith and a lot of belief in this football team, that we're capable of winning, and winning regardless of who we're going against.''

Green Bay (3-0) is the first team in NFL history to have at least 35 points and no turnovers in each of its first three games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Packers average 6.9 yards per play to lead the NFL.

''I feel like it's not realistic to think we'll have 40 every game, but it's not unrealistic to think we can do it, either,'' receiver Davante Adams said.

The Packers have trailed in each of their games this season, which could offer Atlanta (0-3) reason for hope.

Then again, getting ahead hasn't been a problem for the Falcons. Staying in front has proved much more difficult.

Atlanta led the Dallas Cowboys 20-0 in the first quarter and 39-24 with 5 minutes remaining before falling 40-39 on a field goal as time expired, thanks in part to the Falcons' inexplicable failure to recover a slow-rolling onside kick.

The Falcons followed that up by falling 30-26 to Chicago as the Bears scored 20 unanswered points in the final 6 1/2 minutes. The collapses brought back reminders of the Falcons blowing a 28-3 lead to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl after the 2016 season.

''There's anger, obviously,'' embattled Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. ''There's frustration that goes along when you don't play well. For us losing two games that, in the regular season, is as tough as it gets. You get tested, but you also find out a lot and learn a lot from those `L's.' And that's what I saw from our team.''

LaFleur expects the Falcons' recent misfortune will only add to their incentive.

''We're going to have a very hungry Atlanta Falcon team coming in here that, no doubt about it, should be 2-1 right now,'' said LaFleur, a former quarterbacks coach on Quinn's Atlanta staff. ''And they're not, but that's life in this league. Every game comes down to just a couple of plays here and there that can really change the outcome.''

QUINN'S FUTURE

All eyes in Atlanta are on Quinn.

The sixth-year coach came into 2020 knowing he would likely need to guide the Falcons to the playoffs to keep his job after two straight 7-9 seasons.

Players have been vocal in their support of Quinn, but their opinions won't matter if the losses keep piling up.

''Look at what he's done here,'' defensive back Blidi Wreh-Wilson said. ''He's always got our backs. He's a really great coach. This is a tough spot for the team. A lot of things are being said. We just need to stay together.''

UNCERTAINTY FOR RECEIVERS

Each team has a star receiver who didn't play last week due to injury. An ankle injury sidelined Green Bay's Adams while Atlanta's Julio Jones had a hamstring problem.

Both returned to practice this week. But each team now has another injury in its receiving corps. Atlanta's Calvin Ridley (ankle) and Green Bay's Allen Lazard (core) didn't practice Wednesday.

PROTECTING THEIR PASSERS

Green Bay has started a different combination on the offensive line for each of its first three games due to injuries, yet the Packers have allowed only two sacks all year. The Packers have given up sacks on 1.9% of their dropbacks to rank second in the NFL behind Kansas City.

The Falcons have been sacked on 3.7% of their dropbacks, which is sixth-best in the league.

INJURY ISSUES ON DEFENSE

Atlanta safety Ricardo Allen (elbow) and cornerback A.J. Terrell (COVID-19) missed the Bears game. And now the Falcons have lost their most experienced cornerback, placing Darqueze Dennard (hamstring) on injured reserve.

Quinn is hoping cornerback Kendall Sheffield plays Monday after he missed the team's first three games with an ailing foot.

Green Bay could be missing linebacker Christian Kirksey, who left the Packers' win over the Saints with a pectoral injury.

Player Notes
Julian Edelman Oct 29 1:20pm ET

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) isn't at practice on Thursday and is expected to miss some game action, according to a source. Edelman has been bothered by a knee injury, which could require surgery, although he's not expected to miss the rest of the season. It could be why the veteran just hasn't been himself this year, even though Tom Brady is in Tampa. Edelman caught just one pass for 13 yards in the Week 7 blowout loss to the 49ers and he's now droppable in 12-team leagues. He's been held to 35 yards or less in four straight contests. N'Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd and Jakobi Myers should see more work with Edelman set to miss time. It's more bad news for quarterback Cam Newton as well.

From RotoBaller

Julio Jones Oct 29 1:20pm ET

Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones has played in only five games this year due to injury, but he's been crucial in three of those games. Jones is averaging 11.2 air yards per target while also facing press coverage on nearly one-third of his 31 catches on the season. Quarterback Matt Ryan has a 131.5 passer rating when targeting the All-Pro wideout. The 31-year-old always seems to be banged up at this point in his career, but when he does play, he remains productive and should continue to be considered a must-start WR1. He's had great success against the Panthers -- the team's Thursday night opponent -- in the past, so go ahead and fire him up this week. Jones has 16 catches (19 targets), 234 yards and two scores in the last two weeks.

From RotoBaller

Jamison Crowder Oct 29 1:10pm ET

New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder has somehow been productive in New York's otherwise atrocious offense in 2020. In only four games played, Crowder has racked up 194 yards after the catch. He's made plays with the ball in his hands as the team's top playmaker, gaining more than half of his total receiving yards after he's caught the ball. Crowder has taken what the defenses have given him. The Jets offense as a whole is dead last in the league in yards per game and passing yards per game, making Crowder's achievements even more impressive. The 27-year-old missed last week with a groin injury, though, and he may be questionable for Week 8 against the Chiefs. If he plays, he should be peppered with targets in a game in which the Jets will likely be behind by multiple scores throughout.

From RotoBaller

Terry McLaurin Oct 29 1:00pm ET

Washington Football Team wide receiver Terry McLaurin is second in the NFL through seven weeks with 309 yards after the catch, trailing only Alvin Kamara. The second-year receiver is averaging a full 10 air yards per target as well, meaning he's not just catching short passes and racking up the yards after the catch. McLaurin hasn't been over the top in gaining yards after the catch based on expectations, but he's gotten the job done as Washington has already made a quarterback switch from Dwayne Haskins Jr. to Kyle Allen. Washington is on bye this week, but McLaurin should be back in all lineups in Week 9 against the Giants after he caught seven passes for 90 yards and a touchdown in last week's win over Dallas.

From RotoBaller

Eric Ebron Oct 29 12:50pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Eric Ebron has been productive over the last month of the season, catching at least five passes in three of his last four games. He could struggle to keep it going in Week 8 as he will face off against a tough Baltimore Ravens team. Baltimore's pass defense ranks seventh in DVOA and is allowing the 16th-most fantasy points per game to the tight end position. Ebron settles in as an uninspiring TE2 for Week 8.

From RotoBaller

JuJu Smith-Schuster Oct 29 12:40pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster finally showed some signs of life in Week 7, setting season highs with nine catches and 85 yards in a win over the Tennessee Titans. While his big performance helped to ease concerns about his slow start to the season, Smith-Schuster could struggle to produce against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8. Baltimore's defense is tough against the pass, ranking seventh in DVOA and allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per game to the wide receiver position. Fantasy managers can still start Smith-Schuster, but treat him as a WR3 for Week 8.

From RotoBaller

Chase Claypool Oct 29 12:40pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Chase Claypool disappointed in Week 7, finishing with just one catch on his lone target. The slow outing by Claypool coincided with the return to action by No. 1 wideout Diontae Johnson, who caught two touchdowns in the game. Claypool appears to have a tough matchup on tap for Week 8 as he will go up against the Baltimore Ravens, a pass defense that is ranked seventh in DVOA this year. That being said, Claypool does draw the most favorable matchup of the top three Pittsburgh wideouts, as he will primarily run his routes against Marcus Peters. Peters has struggled in coverage this season, so Claypool could see more targets come his way if the Ravens can successfully shut down JuJu Smith-Schuster and Johnson. Treat Claypool as a WR3 for Week 8.

From RotoBaller

Justin Jefferson Oct 29 12:30pm ET

Minnesota Vikings rookie wide receiver Justin Jefferson has 28 catches for 537 receiving yards so far this year, and 36.3 percent of those yards have come after the catch. Jefferson has proved to be extremely difficult to cover and tackle for opponents, and his contributions have helped overcome the departure of Stefon Diggs. At the rate he's currently on, Jefferson will finish his first year in the NFL with well over 1,000 yards receiving, with nearly half of those yards coming after he's caught the football. The 21-year-old is the real deal. He's averaging 3.20 yards per route run and had nine catches for 166 yards and two touchdowns before the team's Week 7 bye. The LSU product has become a must-start WR2.

From RotoBaller

Diontae Johnson Oct 29 12:30pm ET

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (toe) is coming off a two-touchdown outing in Week 7 against the Tennessee Titans. Johnson's big day was evidence that he is still the No. 1 wide receiver in Pittsburgh, despite the emergence of rookie Chase Claypool. Johnson is a bit banged up, however, as he missed practice on Wednesday with a toe injury. This is a situation worth monitoring ahead of his Week 8 game against the Baltimore Ravens. If Johnson does play, he faces a tough matchup against the Baltimore secondary. Treat Johnson as a high-end WR3 for Week 8.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Brown Oct 29 12:30pm ET

Tennessee Titans wide receiver A.J. Brown had 2.9 receiving yards per route run in his rookie year in 2019, which trailed only Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Michael Thomas and Antonio Brown since 2016. Brown has played in only four games this year due to injury, but he's still been a yards-after-the-catch monster despite only accounting for 20.5 percent of the team's total receiving output. He had 96 yards after the catch in the Week 7 loss to the Steelers, and that one game accounted for almost two-thirds of his total yards after the catch for the season. Since returning from injury, Brown has 293 receiving yards and four touchdowns in three games. We'd say he's back. Keep him in your lineups as a high-end WR1 against Cincinnati this weekend.

From RotoBaller

Gardner Minshew II Oct 29 12:10pm ET

X-rays this week showed that Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II (thumb) has multiple fractures and a strained ligament in his right thumb, according to sources. Minshew has been dealing with pain in his thumb since Oct. 11 against the Texans, but the team didn't know about his injury until this week. The Jags are on bye this week, but it's unclear if he'll be able to play in Week 9 against the Texans. We'd be surprised if the 24-year-old is ready to go coming off the bye with this injury, so plan ahead if you've been using him in superflex leagues as a QB2. Mike Glennon is the team's backup and would get the starting nod against Houston if Minshew cannot go.

From RotoBaller

Andy Dalton Oct 29 12:10pm ET

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (concussion) took part in the quarterback meeting on Thursday, showing that he's making some progress in the league's concussion protocol. However, he will not practice again on Thursday, according to head coach Mike McCarthy. Rookie Ben DiNucci will continue to see first-team repetitions in practice and looks increasingly likely to see his first career NFL start in Week 8 against the division-rival Eagles. DiNucci will be an unappetizing low-end QB2 in superflex leagues if Dalton cannot get cleared, while the Eagles Defense will be a strong play this weekend. Dallas receivers should be downgraded with the rookie likely to start.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Jones Oct 29 11:50am ET

Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (calf), who did not practice on Wednesday, is itching to get back onto the field after sitting out in Week 7. Jones thinks he can play in Week 8 against the Vikings and wants to play, but the Packers medical staff continues to be very conservative, especially with Green Bay having a short turnaround in Week 9 against the 49ers on Thursday night. As of right now, it seems like the Packers will err on the side of caution and keep Jones out for the second straight week. Jamaal Williams stepped in last Sunday for a season-high 19 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown against the Texans, and he also caught four passes for 37 yards. If Jones is inactive again, Williams will be a plug-and-play RB2 against Minnesota.

From RotoBaller

Christian McCaffrey Oct 29 11:00am ET

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (ankle) will not be taken off Injured Reserve and activated for Thursday's game against the Atlanta Falcons. McCaffrey returned to practice this week, but the short week probably prevented him from getting back up to speed and ready for game action. Mike Davis can be started by fantasy owners with confidence and should flourish in a great matchup against the Falcons. McCaffrey, meanwhile, should be considered likely to make his return in Week 9 against the Kansas City Chiefs.

From RotoBaller

Ben Roethlisberger Oct 29 10:30am ET

In Week 8, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will be looking to bounce back from his worst performance of the season. Roethlisberger threw three interceptions and two touchdowns in Week 7, although the Steelers still wound up winning. He draws a tough matchup against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8. Baltimore's defense is allowing the 13th-most fantasy points per game to the quarterback position but their pass defense does rank seventh in DVOA. Fantasy gamers should treat Roethlisberger as a mid-range QB2 for Week 8.

From RotoBaller

James Conner Oct 29 10:30am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner has been a productive fantasy option for much of the season, having found the end zone four times in six games. He may struggle to reach his normal production levels in Week 8, however, against a tough Baltimore Ravens run defense. Baltimore is allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to the running back position and has a run defense that is ranked third in DVOA. Conner should see enough work to finish as an RB2, just don't expect a big game out of him this weekend.

From RotoBaller

Cleveland Browns Oct 29 10:20am ET

The Cleveland Browns Defense has been a solid play in fantasy for much of the 2020 season. While they are allowing opposing offenses to score frequently, Cleveland's defense has been opportunistic, leading the league with 14 takeaways through seven games. Cleveland is installed as three-point home favorites for their Week 8 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. While the Las Vegas offense has been good this season, Cleveland can still be treated as a top-12 fantasy option for Week 8.

From RotoBaller

Jarvis Landry Oct 29 10:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry is averaging just 5.57 targets per game through the first seven weeks of the season. He should, however, see an uptick in targets with Odell Beckham Jr. out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Now Cleveland's No. 1 WR, Landry draws an excellent Week 8 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders. Las Vegas' pass defense ranks just 29th in the league in DVOA and is allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to the position. While he has been borderline unstartable most weeks this season, fantasy gamers can trust Landry as a low-end WR2 for Week 8.

From RotoBaller

Rashard Higgins Oct 29 10:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins set season-highs in Week 7 with six catches for 110 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals. Slated to see a larger role thanks to Odell Beckham's season-ending knee injury, Higgins is all of a sudden very fantasy viable in Week 8 against a weak Las Vegas Raiders defense. Las Vegas is allowing the 10th-most fantasy points per game to the wide receiver position and ranks just 29th in pass-defense DVOA. Fantasy gamers in a pinch can fire up Higgins as a solid flex option this Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Harrison Bryant Oct 29 10:10am ET

Cleveland Browns tight end Harrison Bryant had a huge game in Week 7, finishing with four catches for 56 yards and two touchdowns. The rookie tight end took on a larger role in the game with Austin Hooper unavailable after needing an emergency appendectomy. Hooper didn't practice on Wednesday and is looking unlikely to play in Week 8 against the Las Vegas Raiders. Provided Hooper doesn't play, fantasy gamers can use Bryant as a mid-range TE2 against a Raiders pass defense that ranks just 29th in the league in DVOA.

From RotoBaller