Week 8 of Thursday Night Football was a wet and windy NFC South showdown that fell short of its high-scoring expectations.
Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looked strong out of the gate, but faltered later on. He also had a scary moment after a dirty hit from Falcons defensive end Charles Harris, paving the way for the debut of former XFL star P.J. Walker. An unexpected, two-touchdown performance from wide receiver Curtis Samuel helped Carolina keep it close through nearly three quarters.
In the end, the Falcons managed to not blow a lead and bested their divisional rivals 25-17 for their second win of the year. The win may have come at a price, however, as star receiver Calvin Ridley suffered an ankle injury early.
The Panthers drop to 3-5 and the Falcons move to 2-6 in third and fourth place in the NFC South, respectively.
Here are six things you need to know for fantasy football:
1. Falcons, Matt Ryan dominate time of possession
Ryan shockingly did not post a passing touchdown all evening, but scored a 13-yard rushing touchdown halfway through the second quarter which salvaged an otherwise lackluster game. He finished completing 21 of 30 passes for 281 yards and one interception. It may not have been the prettiest stat line for fantasy, but Ryan did help the team control time of possession. They were in control of the ball for 36:30 to the Panthers’ 23:30.and were able to call 68 plays to the Panthers’ 52.
2. Calvin Ridley suffers ankle injury in first half; Julio Jones targeted heavily
Ridley caught three of four targets for 42 yards before exiting early with an ankle injury. He limped to the sidelines and was eventually downgraded to out. Jones led the Falcons in receiving and caught seven of ten targets for 137 yards.
The extent of the injury remains unclear, but this would be a massive blow to fantasy managers and the Falcons if Ridley — who has been one of the league’s top wideouts — were to miss time. His absence could mean more targets to go around for Jones, Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheus, as well as tight end Hayden Hurst, who was second in receiving for the Falcons and caught five of seven passes for 54 yards.
3. Teddy Bridgewater falters after near-perfect first half; briefly replaced by P.J. Walker
Bridgewater posted a near-perfect first half stat line, but faltered big time down the stretch. He completed 15 of 23 for 176 yards, one touchdown and one costly interception with 1:04 on the clock to effectively end the game. He also tallied 30 rushing yards on five attempts.
Bridgewater was briefly replaced Walker — the Panthers’ backup QB and former XFL sensation — after the dubious Harris hit. Harris was ejected for unnecessary roughness.
Walker completed one of four attempts for three yards and was replaced by Bridgewater on the next drive.
It’s an overall disappointing effort from Bridgewater, who should have capitalized on a favorable matchup against the Falcons’ defense. He remains a high-end QB2 with QB1 upside in the correct matchup, which will not come next week on the road against the Chiefs.
4. Curtis Samuel scores twice; D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson post mediocre stat lines
It was Samuel — not Moore or Anderson — who scored both of the Panthers’ touchdowns. He caught all six of his targets (a season-high) for 48 yards and a touchdown and scored on a 12-yard run on 1st and 10 on Carolina’s first drive. He remains a dart-throw flex option.
Moore caught two of six targets for 55 yards, while Anderson finished with five catches on eight targets for 74 yards. Moore’s utilization is odd, especially on the heels of a two-touchdown game in New Orleans. Both should fall into the WR2 territory moving forward.
5. Todd Gurley II scores amid ineffective night
Gurley had 18 attempts for a mere 46 yards (2.6 yards per carry) in a favorable matchup against the Panthers. He did pick up a touchdown, though the efficiency is a bit concerning.
Brian Hill was the much more efficient back and saw 11 carries for 55 yards and caught two of three passes for nine yards. He is an extremely valuable handcuff for Gurley and has standalone value.
6. Mike Davis has respectable night with Christian McCaffrey’s return looming
Davis saw 13 carries for 66 yards and caught one of two targets for 11 yards. His window for fantasy relevance is closing quickly with star running back Christian McCaffrey’s imminent return. McCaffrey practiced with the team this week, but was ultimately held out of this game. He should be ready to go in Week 9 barring a setback, moving Davis back down the depth chart.