Thu Sep 16 2:50pm ET
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) leaps over Seattle Seahawks defensive back Marquise Blair (27) during the second half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Chicago Bears quarterback Andy Dalton, right, is hauled down by Los Angeles Rams defensive end Aaron Donald during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey, left, defends against Chicago Bears running back Damien Williams during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks (56) sacks Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz (2) during the second half of an NFL football game in Indianapolis, Sunday, Sept. 12, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indianapolis Colts guard Quenton Nelson faces a daunting task every time he faces defensive tackle DeForest Buckner in practice.
The two All-Pros look for flaws and tip-offs when they square off.
On Sunday, Nelson will use those lessons in the biggest challenge of his career - playing against three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and the Los Angeles Rams, a matchup between the NFL's best interior brawlers.
''He's a force, he's a one-man wrecking crew,'' said Buckner, who saw Donald twice a year before joining the Colts in 2020. ''You've got to know where he is at all times. If you leave him one on one with anybody he's going to get his due.''
Anybody except, perhaps, Nelson.
Since being selected No. 6 overall in 2018, Nelson has earned three All-Pro selections and allowed just three sacks.
This time could be different, though.
Donald has been the league's top defensive player three of the past four years and needs 1 1/2 sacks to break Leonard Little's franchise record (87 1/2), though he's still chasing Deacon Jones' unofficial record of 159 1/2.
While Donald has a penchant for changing games, as he did with a late sack in last week's victory over Chicago, he may be motivated by coach Sean McVay asking last season's top-ranked defense to stop the run better.
''That's something we want to be able to do a better job with and taking guys down on first contact,'' McVay said. ''Our standards, and the way that our guys expect to play, we know that it's going to be a focal point, a point of emphasis and I expect to see improvement in that area from our guys.''
Both players took Wednesday off - Donald as a typical rest day, Nelson because of a sore back that didn't appear to hinder him against Seattle.
It's unclear how many times Donald and Nelson will actually line up across from one another given that Donald split his snaps almost evenly between the left and right side last season.
But when they do, it will be one of the purest matchups in football - one that could dictate the outcome.
''We have to scheme it up, we have to be able to adapt,'' Reich said. ''We have to be able to make some in-game adjustments, which we're prepared to do, and then at some point you're not going to be able to get him (Donald) schemed up on every play. At that time, you just have to hold up.''
Carson Wentz was sacked three times in his Colts debut last week and it won't get any easier this week.
He'll be facing a reconfigured Rams secondary that yielded 188 yards on 40 throws last week. Free safety Jordan Fuller led the team with 11 tackles and strong safety Taylor Rapp had eight. All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey and his counterpart, Darious Williams, played every snap and played well.
And injuries won't make it any easier for Wentz. Right tackle Braden Smith (foot) missed Wednesday's practice and it's uncertain whether two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Eric Fisher will be cleared after spending eight months rehabbing from a torn left Achilles tendon.
The Rams have been one of the NFL's best road teams during McVay's career, going 23-11 in regular-season games played outside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or SoFi Stadium.
McVay also is 4-0 in road openers, topping the 30-point mark in all four games.
Even as the Rams' road dominance has waned the past two years when they went 9-8, they did beat defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay on its home field last season.
THE BIG TRADE
Sunday's matchup brings back memories of one of the strangest trades in sports history.
In 1972, the late Robert Irsay paid $19 million to acquire the Rams franchise from the estate of Dan Reeves and then swapped franchises with the late Carroll Rosenbloom to become the Baltimore Colts' owner. The deal saved Rosenbloom $4.4 million in capital gains taxes, according to The New York Times.
The oddities didn't stop there.
Reeves was the man who took the Rams from Cleveland to Los Angeles in 1946. Robert Irsay moved the Colts from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984 and Rosenbloom's widow, Georgia Frontiere, moved the Rams from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995. Stan Kroenke, who purchased a majority interest in the Rams from Frontiere's estate, moved the franchise back to Los Angeles in 2016.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase caught eight passes on 10 targets for 201 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's 41-17 rout of the Ravens. He led the team in catches and receiving yards in Week 7. Bengals QB Joe Burrow and Chase showed great chemistry on Sunday, connecting for an 82-yard touchdown in the third quarter. The 21-year-old has had an impressive rookie campaign, hauling in 35 receptions, 754 yards, and six touchdowns over seven games. Chase is a borderline WR1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow completed 23-of-38 pass attempts for 416 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception in Sunday's 41-17 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He connected with tight end C.J. Uzomah for two touchdowns and fired an 82-yard score to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase. In his sophomore campaign, the 24-year-old has been excellent, throwing for 1.956 yards and a 17:8 TD: INT ratio over seven games in 2021. Burrow is a borderline QB1 against the New York Jets in Week 8.
The Philadelphia Eagles defense struggled again in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. In a 33-22 loss, the Eagles defensive unit allowed Derek Carr to throw for 323 yards and let multiple Raiders runners combine for over 100 yards on the ground. They did not record a sack or force a fumble, but they did end up with one interception. All of that made for a fantasy score of -2.0 in standard scoring, the fourth time this season where they've scored one point or less. This is not a defense worth starting in fantasy, regardless of their opponent. They can be left alone on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Quez Watkins made two catches in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Watkins saw four targets, catching half of them for 37 yards. Watkins is playing an important role on the Eagles offense, but this is not a passing game that can support multiple fantasy-relevant wide receivers. With tight end Dallas Goedert and rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith ahead of Watkins on the passing tree, Watkins is not much more than a hold-and-hope asset in most fantasy formats.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders (ankle) is undergoing X-rays on his injured ankle, but head coach Nick Sirianni doesn't think Sanders suffered a broken ankle in the Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday. Sanders was carted off the field and was quickly ruled out with his ankle injury. While he may have avoided a broken ankle, it doesn't mean that he won't be forced to miss time moving forward. The 24-year-old has been a huge disappointment so far this year and had six carries for 30 yards before his injury, adding one catch for minus-three yards. Quarterback Jalen Hurts led the team with 13 carries for 61 yards, but Boston Scott had seven carries (two more than rookie Kenneth Gainwell) for 24 yards and a rushing score after Sanders left the contest. Gainwell was second on the team with eight targets, catching four of them for 41 yards and a touchdown. If Sanders misses time, Scott and Gainwell figure to share the backfield, with Scott being the early down back and Gainwell playing in passing situations.
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jalen Reagor finally did something useful in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Reagor was targeted twice, catching both for 25 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came on a 17-yard catch in the fourth quarter to bring the Eagles within two scores. Last year's first round pick has two touchdowns on the year and hasn't totaled more than 25 yards since Week 3. He's been jumped on the receiver hierarchy by Quez Watkins and does not need to be rostered in most formats.
Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott attempted and made two extra points in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Elliott did not get a chance to attempt a field goal, leaving him with just two fantasy points in most scoring formats. Elliott is a decent enough NFL kicker, but he's kicking at a very low volume in this offense and doesn't have the big leg upside to make him worth starting in any formats. He can be left alone on the waiver wire.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie running back Kenneth Gainwell scored a touchdown in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. With starter Miles Sanders (ankle) forced to leave the game early, Gainwell and Boston Scott took over in the Eagles backfield. Both of them worked behind quarterback Jalen Hurts, however, who once again led the Eagles in rushing yards and attempts. Gainwell ran the ball five times for 20 yards and added four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown. He saw eight targets and scored on a 13 yard catch in the first quarter. If Sanders is forced to miss time, Gainwell should get the first crack at leading the Eagles running back room with Scott working behind him. Gainwell is likely to be one of the top waiver wire adds heading into Week 8.
Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert led the Eagles in receiving yards in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. After the Eagles traded Zach Ertz to the Arizona Cardinals, Goedert worked in an alpha-TE1 role in this one. He was the only Eagles tight end to see a target. He was thrown to five times, catching three for 70 yards. It was a decent game for Goedert, but more importantly it was a sign of things to come. Without Ertz around, Goedert should be an easy TE1 every week.
Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught five passes in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Smith led the Eagles in targets, seeing nine balls thrown his way. He came down with five, gaining 61 yards. Smith continues to see WR1 usage but just hasn't done much with his plentiful targets of late. He gained 122 yards in Week 4 but has gained just 169 total since then. He may be a decent buy-low target in redraft leagues right now, there should be big weeks ahead for the rookie.
The Las Vegas Raiders ruled running back Josh Jacobs (chest) out of the Week 7 game against the Philadelphia Eagles after he was injured during the game, but early indications are that he avoided a major injury, according to a source. The Raiders are on bye next week as well, so Jacobs will have extra time to recover and may not have to miss a game. The 23-year-old had six carries for 29 yards and managed to find the end zone before leaving the game, so at least it wasn't all bad for his fantasy managers on Sunday. He also caught all three of his targets for 39 yards. Jacobs has scored in three straight games after a rough start to the season, and it sounds like he won't have to miss much time, if any. With Peyton Barber a healthy scratch, Kenyan Drake led the team with 14 carries for 69 yards and a touchdown with Jacobs leaving the game against Philly.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts had another solid fantasy performance in a Week 7 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders. Hurts attempted 34 passes, completing 18 of them for 236 yards and two touchdowns. On the ground, he led the team in rushes and yards, running 13 times for 61 yards. It was another up-and-down performance on the field for Hurts, but he's the only quarterback in fantasy to score 20 points or more every week of the season (in standard scoring formats). Hurts has shown that he's probably not the long-term answer on the NFL field for the Eagles, but he's a valuable QB1 in all formats as long as he keeps running the ball.
Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott shows up on offense in Week 7 and scored a touchdown, his first of the season. Starting running back Miles Sanders (ankle) was forced to leave with an injury, leaving backfield duties to rookie Kenneth Gainwell and Scott. Scott had been playing exclusively on special teams this season, but ran the ball seven times in this game, gaining 24 yards and scoring a touchdown. His score came on a one-yard plunge at the end of the third quarter. If Sanders is forced to miss time, Scott will likely find his way into a role on offense, but he's unlikely to develop much if any fantasy value.
New York Jets running back Michael Carter has seemingly run away with the lead back job over the last few weeks. The fourth round rookie continued his success against the New England Patriots in Week 7. Carter rushed 11 times for 37 times, but hauled in a team-high eight receptions and 67 yards through the air. The rookie back hasn't surpassed 40 rushing yards in a game since Week 2. Despite that, Carter has continued to have fantasy value in PPR formats. Although, it's uncertain if his fantasy value will continue with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) likely sidelined next week. Fantasy managers in deep leagues might need to look for another option if Carter's touches decrease.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (finger, shoulder) is in danger of missing more time moving ahead. The veteran has reportedly been playing through multiple fractures in his finger, and even worse, a torn rotator cuff. However, he didn't appear to be injured by any means in Week 7, at least on the statistical end, as he would record two sacks during the win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Nonetheless, while it's apparent that the 32-year-old isn't as effective as he once was, any further absences would certainly be unfortunate for any fantasy manager participating in formats that utilize individual defensive positions.
New York Jets quarterback Mike White came into the game unexpectedly during the Week 7 matchup with the New England Patriots. Rookie quarterback Zach Wilson (knee) was forced out of the game earlier than expected on Sunday. That forced White into action and he struggled as expected against a tough Patriots secondary. White completed 20-of-32 passing attempts for 202 passing yards with one touchdown and two interceptions in the loss. It's uncertain whether or not Wilson will be able to make the next start versus Cincinnati next week. White might be asked to start and wouldn't be a recommended streaming option in any format.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Rondale Moore had just two catches for 17 yards during the win over Houston on Sunday. Moore had only three targets on the afternoon, one less than he got in Week 6 and three fewer than he had in Week 5. Nonetheless, the rookie should have a few more games of effective play moving forward. However, it's clear he's the No. 4 option behind DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, and A.J. Green, and with Zach Ertz now in town, his place on Kyler Murray's priority list could be even lower. Yet, he's worth a stash, especially in dynasty setups, and could see his value rise if an injury were to occur at some point. Still, his outlook isn't bright against the Packers on Thursday, although the upside is always there for DFS contests.
Houston Texans quarterback Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) is set to be designated to return and practice on Wednesday. After the designation, the team will have 21 days to activate him and place him back on the roster or be forced to keep him on the injured reserve list for the remainder of the 2021-22 campaign. Taylor hasn't played since suffering a Grade 2 hamstring strain during the second game of the year against the Cleveland Browns. He played relatively well before succumbing to the ailment and had thrown three touchdowns while maintaining an acceptable 70.5 completion percentage. Although it's unlikely Taylor suits up for the upcoming matchup against the Los Angeles Rams, there is a chance he could be back for Week 9 against the Dolphins. His presence would mean Davis Mills would head back to the bench, while Brandin Cooks could benefit from the play of a more stable signal-caller.
New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton caught 5-of-9 targets for 63 yards in Sunday's 25-3 win over the Carolina Panthers. He returned to action on Sunday after missing the last three weeks due to a hamstring injury. Kadarius Toney (ankle), Kenny Golladay (knee), and Sterling Shepard were ruled out ahead of Sunday's game. The 24-year-old was QB Daniel Jones' top option and led the Giants in targets (9) and receiving yards (63). Slayton's role in the Giants offense will depend on the availability of Toney, Golladay, and Shepard for Monday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver A.J. Green had three grabs for 66 yards in the win over the Houston Texans on Sunday. The veteran was entering this one coming off a 79-yard, one-touchdown effort against the Cleveland Browns in Week 6. Yet, while this wasn't the worst outing from a statistical standpoint, fantasy managers were hoping to capitalize on the favorable matchup in Week 7. Nonetheless, Kyler Murray has shown love to all of his wideouts this season, so it's logical to believe Green will find the end zone some more throughout the year. He's been healthy, which is even more promising news, and he should continue to be considered for any fantasy lineup ahead of Thursday Night Football against the Green Bay Packers.