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.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Alex Erickson finished with a game-high eight receptions (14 targets) for 137 yards in the loss to the Jaguars on Sunday. Though Tyler Boyd received an equal amount of looks from quarterback Andy Dalton, his five catches for 55 yards opened the door for increased production from Erickson on a day where nothing was going right. With A.J. Green (ankle) expected back within the next week or so, the sell-high window is wide open for the 26-year-old as this type of performance won't happen too often moving forward, if at all.
The San Francisco 49ers Defense continued its dominant run, shutting out the Washington Redskins in Week 7. Aided by a wet field, the Niners limited the Skins to 154 meaningless yards, collecting three sacks and recovering a fumble in the process. A driving force behind the teams undefeated start, San Franciscos defensive unit continues to take care of business and serve notice to the football community. Theyve evolved into a weekly must-start fantasy squad. The Carolina Panthers await in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard finished with no yards on four attempts in addition to four yards off of two receptions against the Jaguars in Week 7. As the team's offensive woes continue, the veteran is having one of his worst seasons as a professional. As the Bengals continue to be plagued with a horrendous offensive line and a plethora of injuries, Bernard hasn't done much this season. He has little, if any, fantasy value at the moment, with that likely staying the same moving forward unless Joe Mixon loses his spot on the depth chart.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completed 12 of 21 passes for 151 yards, no scores and an interception in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins. The Niners leaned on their defense and wet conditions to overmatch the Redskins in the 9-0 shutout. The nondescript performance from Garoppolo has become the norm, as hes managed the team to a sparkling 6-0 start to 2019. With the continued emphasis on the run game and Jimmy G yet to push the gas, hell remain a middling QB2 in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon rushed for just two yards on 10 attempts against the Jaguars on Sunday. While he was able to bring in a two-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Andy Dalton, it was a disappointing outing overall for those who were hoping for a turnaround in Week 7. With the Bengals unable to get anything going behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league, Mixon's outlook moving forward doesn't look promising, especially in Week 8 against the Rams Defense.
Neither San Francisco 49ers wide receivers Dante Pettis nor Marquise Goodwin caught a pass in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins. The two receivers garnered three total targets in a sloppy contest dominated by the Niners defense. After a week of fantasy buzz, Pettis will fall back with Goodwin in fantasy obsolescence as zero-floor WR5s in Week 8 against the Carolina Panthers.
San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle recorded 38 yards on three catches in Week 7 against the Washington Redskins. The Niners managed just 151 pass yards in a wet and sloppy contest, resulting in Kittles lowest production of 2019. His five targets still led the squad. The Niners return home in Week 8 to host the Carolina Panthers where Kittle will be a premium TE1 against a tough pass defense.
Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph caught 5-of-6 targets for 58 yards and a touchdown in Week 7. Rudolph connected with Kirk Cousins on a 15-yard score in the fourth quarter, Rudolph's first touchdown catch of the year. Adam Thielen (hamstring) left the game early, meaning guys like Rudolph, Olabisi Johnson, and Irv Smith Jr. were asked to step up in the passing attack. To their credit, they all put up solid performances. That being said, Rudolph remains an uninspiring low-volume option at tight end and should only be played as a touchdown-dependent TE2 in Week 8 against the Washington Redskins.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton wasn't able to get anything going against Jacksonville in Week 7. While the veteran was able to accumulate 276 yards and two total touchdowns on the day, the Jaguars Defense was relentless by recording interceptions on three-straight drives, with one of those picks being returned for a score. Dalton is having one of his worst seasons in the league, though he can't take all of the blame as the team has been plagued with injuries across the board. Things likely won't get any easier in Week 8 as the Bengals will look for their first win of the year against the newly revamped Rams Defense.
Los Angeles Rams tight end Gerald Everett caught four receptions for 50 yards and a touchdown against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7. Everett was targeted a team-high 10 times in the game. He'll have a tough matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals next week. The Bengals have only allowed tight ends to grab 13 balls for 183 yards and no touchdowns in the last three weeks. Everett will be a low-end TE1 option.
The Los Angeles Rams Defense had a big day against the Atlanta Falcons with five sacks, two fumble recoveries, one that went for a touchdown, an interception and just 10 points allowed. They have upside next week against the Cincinnati Bengals and are a midrange start for Week 8.
Los Angeles Rams linebacker Dante Fowler had seven tackles (six solo), three sacks and a pass defense against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7. His tackles and sacks were both team highs. Fowler is a fringe player to own in individual defensive player leagues, but this might put him over the hump and onto rosters.
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs caught 7-of-8 targets for 142 scoreless yards in Week 7's win over the Detroit Lions. Adam Thielen (hamstring) leaving the game in the first quarter concentrated targets to Diggs, but the four receiving touchdowns went to Thielen, C.J. Ham, Kyle Rudolph, and Olabisi Johnson. Diggs got dragged down just before the goal-line on a 67-yard catch (set up by some beautiful play-action) late in the game. Diggs is back to seeing WR2-worthy targets and has exceeded 100 receiving yards in three of his last four games. Start him as a top-end WR2 in Week 8's Thursday night tilt against the Washington Redskins.
Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook tallied 25 carries for 142 yards and two touchdowns in Week 7's 42-30 win over the Detroit Lions. He also added one catch for seven yards. This was Cook's league-leading fifth 100-yard rushing game and he now has six touchdowns on the ground in what's becoming a breakout campaign for the third-year back out of Florida State. Cook has been absolutely dynamic all season and his ceiling is raised even higher with the form that Kirk Cousins and the play-action passing game is in. Cook is a surefire RB1 and will arguably be the top option at running back in Week 8 against the Washington Redskins.
Washington Redskins wide receiver Trey Quinn led the team in receiving yards on Sunday against the 49ers. This is a meaningless development, of course, because all that it means is he totaled more than 18 yards. Quinn turned in a familiar stat line with two receptions for 30 yards, while no one else on the team broke 20. He remains an outsider in the fantasy picture, as nothing he or the Redskins have done recently suggests he's poised to break through any time soon.
Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff bounced back with 268 passing yards and two touchdowns in a blowout of the Atlanta Falcons in Week 7. Goff was 22-for-37, didn't throw any picks and rushed for a touchdown as well. This comes after he threw for just 78 yards last week. He'll have a fabulous matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals next week, and he's a midrange QB1 option.
Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley rushed 18 times for 41 yards in Week 7, but he caught a 13-yard touchdown pass to salvage the ineffective day on the ground. The good news is that was the most rushing attempts that he has had all season after missing last week with a quadriceps injury. Gurley will have a great matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals next week, but his spotty production limits him to a high-end RB2.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Brandin Cooks caught four balls for 59 yards in Week 7 against the Atlanta Falcons. Cooks was targeted seven times, which tied for third on the team. He'll have a tougher matchup next week against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals are among the better half of teams that have defended the receiver position the last three weeks. Cooks will be a high-end WR3 in Week 8.
Los Angeles Rams running back Darrell Henderson rushed 11 times for 31 yards in Week 7 and caught an eight-yard pass against the Atlanta Falcons. It was the most action he has seen in his rookie season, but he wasn't able to do much with it. Running back Malcolm Brown's (ankle) status next week will determine whether Henderson is working using as a flex against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp had six grabs for 50 yards in the Week 7 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The line was decent in point-per-reception leagues, but it was underwhelming considering the matchup. He was second on the team with eight targets. He'll face a tougher Cincinnati Bengals matchup next week, but he'll remain a low-end WR1.