Thursday Night Football started off as an exciting game. Atlanta and Carolina produced 30 points of offense and we saw multiple explosive plays giving us the makings of a high-scoring game. But then injuries ruined the game plans for both teams. Calvin Ridley went down in the second quarter and didn’t return. Teddy Bridgewater was kicked and hit in the back of the head on the same play forcing him into the blue tent for a time. A game that started off fast-paced ended with just 12 points scored in the second half. Let’s dive into the game recap and get to all of the news coming out of Thursday.
Falcons-Panthers Part II
The Falcons won despite getting in their own way on multiple occasions on Thursday night. Their first drive inexplicably ended with a field goal on a fourth and one play from Carolina’s three-yard line. To make matters worse, the Falcons called a timeout just so they could decide to settle on three points instead of going for a touchdown. After Carolina scored two relatively quick touchdowns, Atlanta was more willing to open up their offensive playbook. Calvin Ridley went down with an injury in the second quarter, but Julio Jones continued his dominance on the field shaking loose from defenders with comedic ease. Jones’ 10 targets on the night were what fantasy managers wanted and it wasn’t just for those rostering him. I noted Ryan’s decreased efficiency without Jones in the lineup and Ryan was at least able to complete 70% of his passes on Thursday night. Jones also opens up lapses in coverage at other spots in the defense as Hayden Hurst (5-54-0) and Russell Gage (2-25-0) create explosive plays to keep the chains moving. Matt Ryan even snuck in for the longest rushing touchdown of his career. While we need to see how the target share will change with Ridley’s absence, Atlanta at least has their alpha receiver as they now prepare for Denver in Week 9.
Carolina opened the game with the right plan to attack Atlanta’s defense. A mix of passes on 62.5% of Bridgewater’s dropbacks to D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, and Mike Davis got them their first touchdown in three minutes. Their second touchdown drive came with similar efficiency in the second quarter after a flea-flicker to Curtis Samuel. Davis displayed some of his talents as a pass catcher, but Samuel stole the show on offense much to the chagrin of anyone invested in other parts of the Panthers’ offense. The last time Samuel scored as both a rusher and a receiver was in Week 6 of 2019. His 19.2% target share is his second-highest weekly share on the season and now raises concerns about the future outlook for D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. But, all of their values intersect with the performance of their quarterback. The Falcons had enough time to adjust their defensive scheme and sack Bridgewater three times. Our game preview noted his inability to deal with pressure and it manifested in multiple sacks and a game-sealing interception in the final minute. After taking a cheap shot in the third quarter, the team was unable to mount a comeback after multiple red zone attempts by both P.J. Walker and Bridgewater. The Panthers were looking to solidify their place in the playoff hunt with another divisional win, but fall another game back and now face Kansas City in Week 9.
Storylines to Follow
The fantasy world awaits news on Calvin Ridley’s health. After being tackled in the second quarter, Ridley was seen grabbing at his foot and then limping on the sidelines shortly before the end of the half. The Falcons ruled out the star wide receiver with an ankle injury, but the replay caused speculation of a foot sprain or Lisfranc injury given the injury mechanism. Raheem Morris didn’t have an update on Ridley after the game and expressed optimism regarding Ridley’s outlook. Atlanta has a ‘mini-bye’ given they played last night, but fantasy managers are already preparing for the worst as we wait for more news.
The battle between D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson didn’t feel like much of a battle after last night. Box-score scouts will note that Moore received six targets to Anderson’s eight and their usage is similar. But the benefit of an island game is that we all saw the Panther’s target distribution in real time. Moore saw one of his targets on the Panthers’ first offensive snap. He didn’t see another target until the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Anderson saw at least one target per drive even when P.J. Walker came in to replace Bridgewater. It’s not an indictment on Moore nor is it a declaration that he’s a bust. But Curtis Samuel showed us Carolina’s offense is much more diverse leaving both in flux as viable fantasy assets on a week-to-week basis.
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Week 8 COVID-19 Watch
A team sent home the majority of their starting offensive live due to a positive COVID-19 test. No, this story wasn’t copied in error from last week. It’s happening again ahead of Week 8. The Giants’ starting guard, Will Hernandez, was flagged for a positive test result on Thursday morning. Consequently, the players he was in close contact with were quarantined which included all but four of their offensive linemen. Similar to the Raiders story from Week 7, the timing comes suspiciously close to unsanctioned activities involving players on the team being brought to the public’s attention. Both Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley were recorded out partying after their loss to the Eagles in Week 7. While it’s unclear if there’s a connection, the team has launched an internal investigation into the event while dealing with the fallout of their missing personnel. Assuming (and hoping) Hernandez is asymptomatic, he will have to wait a minimum of five days prior to re-test making him ineligible for their upcoming matchup against the Buccaneers. His close contacts were not considered ‘high risk’ and should be back at the facility on Friday. Since the Giants close out Week 8 on Monday night, they’ll have some extra time to adjust their line without at least one of their starters.
The Chargers canceled practice on Thursday after one of their offensive linemen tested positive for COVID-19. Los Angeles learned of the results on Wednesday night and starting guard Ryan Groy was played on the reserve/COVID-19 list later in the day. Despite the cancellation, the team was able to meet virtually out of an abundance of caution. Their facility will be open for practice, but all team meetings will continue virtually for the rest of the week until their game on Sunday.
Aaron Jones missed another practice due to his calf strain on Thursday. Fantasy managers are already expecting the Packers’ starting running back to miss another week, but we’re hoping we’ll see him do something on Friday. Mark Ingram also missed practice for the second consecutive day as he continued to work through his ankle injury. We’ll need his Friday status to confirm, but it’s possible Ingram may sit for their game against the Steelers. Julian Edelman had arthroscopic surgery on his knee and will miss at least Week 8 against the Bills. Edelman has held the ominous ‘Questionable’ tag for the past month and it’s been evident on the field with just 6 catches over the last three weeks. Even if he returns, the Patriots’ offense in enough disarray there may be no value in rostering Edelman moving forward. Both Andy Dalton and Allen Robinson remain in the concussion protocol through Wednesday. Ben DiNucci is set to start in Dalton’s place while the Bears will look to Anthony Miller and rookie Darnell Mooney to fill the void left by Robinson. Michael Thomas and Jamison Crowder both got in limited practices on Thursday and are trending in the right direction to play in Week 8.