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.
Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram rushed 13 times for 52 yards and a touchdown in Week 6 against the Bengals. The Ravens play a Seahawks Defense that has allowed 557 rushing yards and given up six touchdowns to opposing backs in 2019. In Week 6 Seattle allowed the Browns to rush for 157 yards and three touchdowns. Ingram has rushed for at least 44 yards in every game this season, but is becoming a touchdown-dependent option. He hasn't even come close to his outlier performance against Kansas City when he rushed for 103 yards and three touchdowns. Baltimore still hosts a run-first offense so expect Ingram to get his touches, but he's in RB2 territory for Week 7.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson posted 236 passing yards, 152 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown against the Bengals in Week 6. Baltimore plays a Seahawks Defense in Week 7 that's allowed the eighth-most passing yards in the league through six games (1,602). Seattle has allowed at least 15 fantasy points every week to opposing quarterbacks in 2019 and let Baker Mayfield run for a touchdown in Week 6. Receiver Marquise Brown is still questionable to play with an ankle injury. If Hollywood is unable to go on Sunday, expect tight end Mark Andrews to get the bulk of targets and for Jackson to use his legs to get the ball moving. Jackson has firmly placed himself as a top-three QB start for the rest of the way.
New York Jets WR Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) was a limited participant in practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is questionable for Monday Night Football.
Fantasy Spin: Thomas may not get to face his former team in the New England Patriots. He's coming off his best game of the season in Week 6, catching all four of his targets for 62 yards. He's a flex option at best as a bye-week replacement if active.
New York Jets TE Chris Herndon (hamstring) didn't practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is considered doubtful for Monday, Oct. 21's game against the New England Patriots.
Fantasy Spin: Herndon is yet to play this season following suspension and now injury. WRs Jamison Crowder and Robby Anderson will remain the target hogs in New York's passing game.
New York Jets LB Albert McClellan (concussion) didn't practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is out for Monday, Oct. 21's game against the New England Patriots. DE Henry Anderson (shoulder), OL Kelvin Beachum (ankle), RB Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle), LB Neville Hewitt (neck/knee) and G Kelechi Osemele (shoulder) also didn't practice and are considered doubtful. OL Alex Lewis (neck), CB Nate Hairston (knee), LB C.J. Mosley (groin), DT Steve McLendon (hamstring), CB Darryl Roberts (ankle) and Brian Winters (shoulder/knee) were limited participants and are questionable. C Ryan Kalil (shoulder) didn't practice and is also questionable.
New England Patriots WR Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) was limited in practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is considered questionable for Monday, Oct. 21's games against the New York Jets.
Fantasy Spin: Dorsett is at risk of missing a second straight game after he left the Week 5 contest against the Washington Redskins with just four snaps played. WR Josh Gordon (ankle) has already been ruled out and WR Julian Edelman (chest) is also questionable. Expect plenty of work for RBs James White and Sony Michel in the passing game.
New England Patriots RB Rex Burkhead (foot) was a limited participant in practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is considered questionable for Monday Night Football against the New York Jets.
Fantasy Spin: Burkhead hasn't been noteworthy this season outside of a surprise Week 3 start with RBs James White and Sony Michel inactive. Expect his two teammates to see plenty of work this week.
New England Patriots TE Ryan Izzo (concussion) didn't practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and has been ruled out for Monday night's game against the New York Jets. TE Matt LaCosse (knee) also didn't practice and has been ruled out. S Patrick Chung (heel/chest) and WR Gunner Olszewski (hamstring) were limited and are questionable for Monday.
New England Patriots WR Josh Gordon (ankle) was ruled out for Monday, Oct. 21's game against the New York Jets.
Fantasy Spin: Gordon made just one seven-yard catch against the New York Giants last Thursday night. His absence should open up playing time and targets for Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers. Both are desperation flex plays as bye-week replacements.
New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman (chest) was a limited participant in practice Saturday, Oct. 19, and is considered questionable for Monday, Oct. 21's game against the New York Jets.
Fantasy Spin: Edelman had season highs with 15 targets, nine receptions and 113 yards last Thursday against the New York Giants. He should suit up Monday, but don't expect such high volume with added work for the running backs and WR Jakobi Meyers likely on the way.
Free-agent DT Mike Pennel was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs Saturday, Oct. 19. DT Terrell McClain was released in a corresponding move.
Despite being the starting tight end last week, Luke Willson was only able to scrape together three targets. Baltimore is a neutral-to-slightly bad matchup for TE's, but even in a plus matchup, Willson will only be relevant if he's able to break the plane. Until he builds a track record of decent usage, Willson isn't even worth a speculative add at this point.
Arizona Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson was added to the 53-man roster Saturday, Oct. 19, following his six-game suspension. OL Brett Toth (illness) was placed on the non-football injury list in a corresponding move.
No team in football has yielded more rushing yards per contest than the Cincinnati Bengals during 2019, who have allowed the opposition to storm down the field for over 184 yards per contest. What does all that mean? Leonard Fournette, the Jaguars unquestioned No. 1 option on the offensive side of the ball should be in line to feast. Not only has Fournette seen at least 20 carries in each of his last three contests, he has recorded at least four receptions in five of six games this year. While a lot of the talk surrounding Fournette has been focused on his aversion to finding the end zone through the first six weeks, the combination of one of the leagues top rushers facing the one of the leagues most permeable run defenses should equal big things for No. 27.
Jacksonville Jaguars second-year wide receiver D.J. Chark might wind up being the unlikeliest member of the Pro Bowl roster if he continues his dominant 2019 campaign. Through six games, Chark has totaled 528 yards and five touchdowns, bringing that hot stretch into a matchup against a Cincinnati Bengals Defense that has yielded the fewest points to opposing wide receivers entering this week. The 23-year-old has recorded four or fewer catches in two of his past three games, but the targets havent been an issue Chark has combined to see 26 balls thrown his way in that span. Hes a reasonably priced asset in DFS and should likely be roster in most traditional formats.
Houston Texas running back Duke Johnson is still drawing snaps and making the most of his time on the field, but has seen Carlos Hyde erupt over the past few weeks as a ball carrier. Johnson found the end zone as a receiver last week, his first receiving touchdown since Week 10 of last season. The former Miami (FL) standout is yet to record double-digit carries in a contest this season, limiting his fantasy value significantly. Despite averaging a gaudy 6.5 yards per carry through the first six weeks, owners will need to see Johnson consistently tip the scales as it pertains to a timeshare in the backfield before deploying him in lineups.
Houston Texans CB Bradley Roby (hamstring) on Saturday, Oct. 19, was downgraded to out for the Week 7 game against the Indianapolis Colts. Roby did not travel with the team.
Houston Texans wide receiver Will Fuller erupted onto the scene as a legitimate fantasy weapon in Week 5 with his 15-reception, three-touchdown game. He followed it up by a pedestrian outing last week, but he did see nine targets, with finding the end zone on multiple occasions very nearly coming to fruition. The Colts pass defense is nothing to be scoffed at, but Fullers boom/bust potential seems to be at its apex with his recent output. With quarterback Deshaun Watson under center, Fuller presents a definite traditional fantasy option and a great upside DFS play.
He may have been acquired in the wake of the Lamar Miller injury, but Houston Texans running back Carlos Hyde is making his impact felt with his new franchise. Houston is fifth in the league with nearly 140 yards gained on the ground per game, with Hyde now having established himself as the bell cow of the group. He carried the ball a season-high 26 times last week, resulting in his first performance that exceeded 100 yards since Week 2 of the 2017 year. In addition, he has found the end zone in three of his past four games, aiming to continue that trend against a middle of the pack Colts rush defense.
The primary concern surrounding Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook is a shoulder ailment that has kept his status for Sundays contest up in the air. While owners wouldnt be blamed for shying away with the injury lingering enough to keep the questionable tag on him, Westbrook has seen a combined 19 targets from quarterback Gardner Minshew over the past two weeks. The former Oklahoma standout has only pulled in one touchdown reception this season but has had numerous opportunities since then. A matchup against a thin Cincinnati secondary could lead to a high-volume passing afternoon for all those involved in the Jacksonville offense.