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.
Miami Dolphins wide receiver Devante Parker made the last of his three receptions count on Sunday, with an 11-yard touchdown catch with just six seconds remaining in Miami's 17-16 loss to the Washington Redskins. Parker has now caught a touchdown in his last two games but was only targeted a total of eight times in those two, after averaging just under seven targets in his previous three. The speedy receiver only received four targets on Sunday, putting him behind five other players, all of whom received at least six looks. Getting less and less attention in an offense that's going nowhere fast, there are few reasons to take a flyer on Parker with Miami facing Buffalo's top-ranked pass defense in Week 7.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp was held to four catches for 17 yards in the Week 6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams were stymied on offense collectively and only threw for 78 yards. It ends Kupp's string of four consecutive 100-yard games. He should be poised to thrive next week as the Atlanta Falcons have been the worst against the position the last three weeks. They've allowed opposing receivers to score eight touchdowns during the stretch. Kupp will be a low-end WR1 in the matchup.
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald had a season-high seven tackles (four solo) and two sacks against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 6. Donald has struggled to make an impact for much of the season as he had just one sack entering the game. He'll have a tough matchup next week against the Atlanta Falcons. They've allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to defensive linemen over the last three weeks. He'll be a low-end defensive lineman to start in individual defensive player formats.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Marquise Goodwin had just two catches for 15 yards in Week 6 against the Los Angeles Rams. With the Niners using their wideouts as interchangeable pieces, Goodwin and the rest of the receiving corps continue to have very low floors. With second-year wideout climbing the depth chart in snaps and targets, Goodwin is becoming a more tertiary weapon for the run-heavy Niners. Hell be just a bye week WR5 filler in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins.
Cleveland Browns tight end Demetrius Harris was not targeted in a 32-28 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6. The big tight end did contribute by catching a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter. Harris has been up-and-down since David Njoku broke his wrist in Week 2 but he has been outproduced over the past three weeks by fellow tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, who has two touchdowns over that span. Harris simply isn't a big enough part of the Cleveland passing attack to trust in fantasy for now. He will take on the New England Patriots in Week 8 after his bye this weekend.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods didn't catch any of his four looks in the loss to the 49ers but managed to make some noise by running in a touchdown midway through the first quarter. With Cooper Kupp's efficient play this season, Woods continues to perform efficiently on an inconsistent basis. He should still remain a starter in deeper formats, with his stock rising for the Week 7 showdown against the struggling Falcons.
Cleveland Browns running back Dontrell Hilliard had an up-and-down game in a 32-28 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6. Hilliard got his team off to a fast start with a 74-yard kickoff return on the opening kick and went on to catch two passes for 17 yards. He did, however, allow a ball to go off his hands and into the hands of a Seattle defender for an interception on what ended up being the final drive of the game for his offense. Hilliard has 31 rushing yards, two touchdowns, and five receptions in five games this season. He is a low-end dynasty stash who will lose his role when Kareem Hunt is reinstated from his suspension in Week 10.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks didn't get anything going in the loss to the 49ers on Sunday, finishing with three catches for only 18 yards. To Cooks' credit, the entire team fell victim to the smothering 49ers Defense, and while it was good to see him back in the lineup after suffering a concussion in Week 5, it was a disappointing performance, to say the least. The veteran will look to get back on track against the struggling Falcons in Week 7.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (quad) suffered a quad injury late in the Week 6 game against the Los Angeles Rams. Samuel had just three grabs on five targets for 18 yards prior to exiting. The rookie played in 60 percent of snaps on Sunday, which has been his normal range, so the severity of the ailment is unknown. With wideout Dante Pettis starting to dominate snap share and the Niners leaning heavily on their running game, Samuel is fading as a fantasy factor. Hell be a bye week WR5 filler in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins.
Coming off a bye week, Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake seemed finally set up for success in Week 6, with the Dolphins facing a Washington Redskins Defense that was allowing over 400 yards of offense per game. However, Drake only set his owners up for another dud, rushing 10 times for forty yards in a 17-16 Miami loss, and failing once again to score for the first time in 2019. He was slightly more valuable in PPR leagues - catching six balls for 30 yards - but was also out-gained by backup Mark Walton totaling 75 yards on 11 touches. Drake may have been drafted as an RB3, but he isn't giving his owners any reason to start him going forward, particularly facing a tough Buffalo defense in Week 7, and seemingly in a partial timeshare with Walton.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff played miserably in the loss to the 49ers, finishing with just 78 yards on 13-for-24 passing, and while he didn't throw an interception in this one, he did fumble twice on the day. The 24-year-old had a day to forget for sure, and though Goff has an abundance of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, he continues to struggle. The good news for Goff, however, is that he has a chance to turn things around in Week 7 against the struggling Falcons. Goff should continue to be started in deeper formats, especially if Todd Gurley (thigh) is back in the lineup.
Pittsburgh Steelers kicker Chris Boswell made his only field goal attempt and all three extra points in Sunday's 24-17 win over the Chargers. Boswell hasn't missed a kick in 23 attempts this season, which makes him an extremely reliable fantasy option. However, on bye in Week 7, Boswell can be dropped this week. You can pick him back, up as a streamer, for a Week 8 contest with the Miami Dolphins, where he should have plenty of opportunities to continue his solid start.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end Cameron Brate scored his second touchdown of the year during a division battle against the Panthers Defense overseas in London, England. Jameis Winston did spread the ball around a bit more during this contest but still looked for Mike Evans or Chris Godwin on nearly every drop back. Brate caught two of his four targets for 47 yards, and Winston's only touchdown pass of the day. This is encouraging, but he is still a touchdown-dependent player on a talent-heavy team. The Bucs are on a bye Week 7 and will return Week 8 to face the Titans Defense in Tennessee. Brate is a TE2 for that matchup and can be used in an emergency.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard finally made an exciting play during the Bucs Week 6 loss to the Carolina Panthers. Since the start of the season, Howard has been relegated to nothing more than a blocking tight end. However, during a 30-yard reception and near touchdown against the Panthers Defense, you can still recognize the immense talent he possesses. Howard finished the day with two receptions for 35 yards. He is unfortunately still an afterthought in this offense, which makes him a TE2 with upside when the Bucs face the Tennessee Titans in Week 8, after their bye.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin continues to dominate the NFL. Jameis Winston force-fed Mike Evans all day with 17 total targets during the Week 6 London game against the Panthers Defense; however, Godwin was the more efficient receiver, finishing with 10 receptions on 12 targets for 151 yards. He did not catch a touchdown for the first time in three games, but it has been a career year so far for Godwin, nonetheless. Week 7, the Bucs are on a bye, but Godwin will be a low-end WR1 when he returns to face the Titans Defense in Week 8.
Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson hauled in both of his targets for just 14 yards in Sunday's 24-17 win over the Chargers. The rookie had 14 receptions over his previous three contests, but this one was definitely disappointing. However, it's important to note that quarterback Devlin Hodges heavily favored check-downs to James Conner in his first career start. As the Steelers go on bye in Week 7, it will be important to pay attention to who is starting at quarterback for the team's Week 8 game against the Miami Dolphins.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans was a target-hog versus the Panthers Defense, receiving a total of 17 looks from Jameis Winston. He did drop a ton of catchable balls but still ended with nine receptions for 96 yards. After his three-target, zero-catch performance last week, this was an over-correction on the Bucs part to get Evans more involved. The Bucs essentially have two No. 1 wide receivers, with Evans and Chris Godwin, who both can take over a game at any time. The Bucs don't play again until Week 8 after their bye against the Titans Defense.
Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Vance McDonald caught his sole target for just five yards in Sunday's 24-17 win over the Chargers. McDonald and the rest of the Steelers' pass-catchers got phased out of the offense, thanks to a 21-0 lead before halftime. This was one of the 29-year-old's worst games since the Steelers traded for him in 2017. It's important to note that Nick Vannett logged 37 snaps to McDonald's 39 in the contest, so the team clearly will look to utilize two-TE sets. Pittsburgh is on bye in Week 7 before welcoming the Dolphins in Week 8, however, McDonald is nearing drop status, unless he sees an uptick in usage once Mason Rudolph (concussion) returns.
The Pittsburgh Steelers Defense held the LA Chargers to just 17 points, while also scoring a touchdown on a fumble, and intercepting two passes in their 24-17 win on Sunday. Rookie Devin Bush was a man on a mission in Week 6, returning a recovered fumble for the team's first score before intercepting a Philip Rivers pass on the very next drive. After trailing 24-0, the Chargers were able to make it closer by scoring two touchdowns in fourth-quarter garbage time. Its worth noting that Stephon Tuitt (pectoral) left in the first quarter and did not return. With a bye in week 7, this surging defense should be considered the top streaming defense in Week 8 when they welcome the Miami Dolphins for Monday Night Football.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner took 16 carries for 41 yards and a score, while also catching seven passes for 78 yards and another score in Sunday's 24-17 win over the LA Chargers. The third-year back was the offensive MVP in Week 6, but was again dependent on scoring touchdowns. It's also important to note that Benny Snell Jr. rushed for 75 yards on 17 carries. It's possible that was all up to game script, but to see the rookie outperform Conner on the ground might make you raise your eyebrow. The Steelers are on bye in Week 7, before hosting the Dolphins for Monday Night Football in Week 8, where Conner can be viewed as a low-end RB1 in what should be a positive game script.