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.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz could have a hard time in Week 8 on the road against the Buffalo Bills. The Eagles offense looked like a mess in Week 7 against the Cowboys, with Wentz throwing for just 191 yards on 16 completed passes. The Bills Defense poses another threat to Wentz and the whole Philly offense. With DeSean Jackson (abdomen) still not a sure thing to suit up, it looks like a week to fade every fantasy-relevant Eagle a bit. Wentz is more of a high-end QB2 this week.
Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) underwent a procedure on Tuesday morning and will miss at least eight weeks while on injured reserve. After many had hoped that the 22-year-old would be in store for a breakout season, Johnson disappointed by compiling just 308 yards and three total touchdowns while averaging a subpar 3.3 yards per carry throughout six games. With his season potentially over, Ty Johnson and J.D. McKissic will take over, with Johnson potentially getting the bulk of the carries on the ground and McKissic being involved catching passes out of the backfield. How exactly the time will be split is unknown at the moment in addition to the team also rumored to make a deal before the trade deadline.
The Washington Redskins Defense will head to Minnesota on Thursday night to take on a Vikings team that has averaged 36 points a game over the last three weeks. Minnesota's recent offensive success directly coincides with its newly established willingness to air the ball out from the arm of Kirk Cousins, who has averaged 325 yards per game and thrown 10 total touchdowns in this span. Adding fuel to the grease fire that is Washington's fantasy outlook for Week 8, the Vikings also have a running back by the name of Dalvin Cook who just so happens to lead the NFL in rushing yards per game at 103.6. Even with Adam Thielen in danger of missing this game for the Vikings, there is no conceivable reason to deploy the Redskins defense in fantasy lineups this week.
Washington Redskins tight end Jeremy Sprinkle will presumably start for the fourth consecutive week on Thursday night against the Vikings, but that starting role has yet to yield any positive fantasy results. Vernon Davis has missed Washington's last three games, a time frame in which Sprinkle has caught a total of six passes for 54 yards. Even a visit to the endzone can't necessarily save him from a usage rate that low. The Vikings are allowing double-digit PPR production on average to tight ends, but the last thing you want to do is needlessly roll the dice on a risky Thursday night player and have it go up in flames. Whether Davis (who is currently listed as doubtful) unexpectedly suits up or not, there are safer and more proven options at tight end than Sprinkle for Week 8.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Paul Richardson has a relatively favorable matchup on his hands Thursday, but has done nothing this season to convince fantasy owners he can capitalize. The Vikings are allowing an average of 15 receptions and 159 yards per game to opposing receivers, along with 11 total touchdowns. Richardson hasn't caught a pass for two straight weeks, and Terry McLaurin is a productive target vacuum in Washington's offense, so the reliability scale tips in the latter's direction. As much as the Redskins would probably like to involve someone other than McLaurin and diversify their attack, Richardson simply cannot be trusted as a fantasy play in any format based on his output to this point in the season.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Trey Quinn has totaled seven catches for 56 yards in his last three games. His only double-digit PPR outing came all the way back in Week 1 when he happened to score a garbage-time touchdown. With a short week to prepare for Thursday night's game and a Redskins offense that hasn't looked any good for pretty much the entire season, Quinn's outlook remains grim even against a Vikings Defense that has been somewhat friendly to wide receivers. If he miraculously has a productive night against Minnesota after catching three or fewer passes in four consecutive weeks, it unfortunately needs to happen on the waiver wire.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Terry McLaurin should be in line for a ton of targets in Thursday night's game at Minnesota, making him the only reasonably safe fantasy option among his teammates. The Vikings have allowed the most receptions to wide receivers of any team in the league, for 1,116 total yards and a league-high 11 touchdowns. McLaurin's well-established rapport with Case Keenum through the first half of the season suggests he should be the pass-catcher tasked with exploiting Minnesota's secondary. Game flow figures to work in his favor as well, as the Vikings could reasonably be expected to jump out to an early lead. McLaurin's volume keeps him in flex territory for WR-needy fantasy teams.
Washington Redskins quarterback Case Keenum will look to bounce back from Sunday's 9-0 loss in which he threw for under 100 yards, but a date with Minnesota doesn't provide him with much more fantasy appeal. This should be interpreted more as a lack of faith in Washington's offense than a vote of confidence in the Vikings' relatively exploitable pass defense, but the point remains. The Redskins are averaging 12.9 points per game on offense, and they could be without both of Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson in the backfield. The hope here from a fantasy perspective is that Minnesota's suddenly explosive offense puts the Redskins up against a massive early deficit, thus forcing Keenum to air it out. Even if the Thursday night game unfolds as such, fantasy owners would be putting a ton of misguided faith in pass-catchers like Paul Richardson and Trey Quinn by starting Keenum in fantasy lineups. The reward does not outweigh the risk.
Washington Redskins running back Wendell Smallwood might be the starter by default in Thursday night's game at Minnesota. Adrian Peterson is questionable with a high ankle sprain, while Chris Thompson continues to nurse a toe injury that held him out of last week's contest. Considering the short week, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Redskins err on the side of caution regarding Peterson and Thompson. They don't have much to play for, and it wouldn't be worth risking further injury to either if one or both are not at 100% health. If Smallwood does have the backfield to himself, volume doesn't outweigh the unfavorable matchup. The Vikings are giving up 3.8 yards per carry to opposing backs, and have surrendered just one rushing touchdown to the position. Smallwood will have to turn in his fantasy value in the receiving game, which is not worth banking on. He is best avoided unless you find yourself in desperate need of a PPR flex.
Houston Texans CB Phillip Gaines (ankle) was placed on the Reserve/Injury list Tuesday, Oct. 22.
New York Giants LB Keion Adams (knee) was released from the Reserve/Injured list Monday, Oct. 21.
Baltimore Ravens LB Pernell McPhee (triceps) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Chicago Bears DE Jonathan Harris was released Tuesday, Oct. 22; the move cleared a spot for the signing of DL Brent Urban.
Cleveland Browns RB Elijah McGuire was released from the practice squad Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Atlanta Falcons WR Calvin Ridley was listed as the No. 2 receiver on the version of the Falcons' depth chart released following the trade of WR Mohamed Sanu Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Fantasy Spin: Ridley was already Atlanta's second-most productive receiver behind Julio Jones, but he stands to gain at least a few extra targets per game without much depth behind the top two wideouts for the Falcons.
Detroit Lions RB Kerryon Johnson (knee) was placed on Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Houston Texans RB Duke Johnson out-snapped RB Carlos Hyde 39-to-26 in the Week 7 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts Sunday, Oct. 20.
Fantasy Spin: Johnson received a total of nine touches and racked up 56 yards. It was his first start of the season but Carlos Hyde still had more carries. Johnson has the higher ceiling in PPR formats, but Hyde is the safer option in standard leagues.
New York Giants WR Sterling Shepard (concussion) said Tuesday, Oct. 22, he's confident he'll return to the field soon. 'Oh, I'll be back out on the field,' Shepard said. 'It's just whether it's gonna be this week or next week.'
Fantasy Spin: Shepard has been limited to four games this season, but he has been able to rack up 25 receptions on 34 targets for 267 yards and a touchdown. The more experience QB Daniel Jones acquires while Shepard is out of the lineup will only boost the receiver's production upon his eventual return. He's a solid buy-low candidate.
Free-agent DE Kasim Edebali (Eagles) signed an undisclosed contract with the Oakland Raiders Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Free-agent LB Nate Orchard (Dolphins) worked out for the Atlanta Falcons Tuesday, Oct. 22, along with free-agent DL Shane Ray (Ravens) and DE Quinton Bell (Raiders).