UPDATE: 12:23 a.m. Saturday
We’re a few hours away from the rare thrill of Saturday NFL action, but the big fantasy news concerns tomorrow’s Superdome showdown between what might be the NFL’s two best teams, the Chiefs and the Saints.
All is well with the defending Super Bowl champs, but New Orleans’ lineup is in upheaval. Quarterback Drew Brees is back in the lineup, which is a bit surprising considering his number of rib fractures exceeds his uniform No. 9. The Saints, though, will be missing all-world wideout Michael Thomas again.
We’re guessing that, when the Saints get close to the goal line Sunday, you’ll be able to admire the talents of Taysom Hill again. But his quarterbacking stint is over for now.
Detroit is also in disarray, which is the Lions’ usual state. QB Matthew Stafford is very questionable for their game against Tennessee, and top receiver Kenny Golladay is on the verge of being shut down for the season.
Star Atlanta wideout Julio Jones has been ruled out yet another week. Others ruled out include Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, while Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey and Washington RB Antonio Gibson are considered very doubtful.
Dallas RB Ezekiel Elliott leads the list of the still questionable, though he is expected to play. Also on that list are Denver RB Melvin Gordon, Giants QB Daniel Jones, Miami pass catchers DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki, and Giants TE Evan Engram.
ORIGINAL POST: 12:33 p.m. Wednesday
If you were counting on the Vikings overcoming their 1-5 start and making a mad dash to the postseason, last weekend’s kicking-challenged loss in Tampa Bay was a bitter pill to swallow.
You might think that your Minnesota favorites can still lift the fortunes of your fantasy team. But a look at the Vikings’ schedule during the next two weeks of fantasy playoffs shows that may not be the case.
Now Dalvin Cook is still one of the top three running backs in all of football. So you’re fine there. But the next two games against Chicago and New Orleans will not be particularly helpful for the fantasy numbers for the Vikings’ other offensive headliners.
It goes without saying that QB Kirk Cousins is not going to break the bank against the league’s second-ranked defense (Saints) and the No. 13 (Bears). But it’s likely that Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson will also underperform their 2020 averages.
You might have no choice but to start those Vikings receivers. And that could be the case for these other stars who have testing matchups over the next two weeks:
Russell Wilson (Seahwks QB) — Remember how No. 3 locked up the Most Valuable Player award in the first two months of the season. Seems a long time ago. His resume won’t be padded against Washington and the Rams, arguably the league’s two best defenses over the past month.
Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys RB) — The lack of an offensive line and the injury to QB Dak Prescott have reduced Zeke to D-list status. He hasn’t run for a touchdown in more than two months, and he likely won’t against either the 49ers or the Eagles.
Kenyan Drake (Cardinals RB) — Arizona’s No. 1 back started the year very slowly but has scored in each of the past four games. But that streak is likely to end as he’s facing the same two run-stifling defenses that Elliott is, and he may do no better.
D.J. Chark (Jaguars WR) — It might be an improvement for Jacksonville to have Gardner Minshew back at QB, but that may not matter much against the Baltimore and Chicago defense. And Chark is ice-cold, catching passes on only four of his past 16 targets.
Tyler Lockett (Seahawks WR) — Speaking of ice-cold, remember Lockett’s 200-yard night against Arizona in Week 7? He’s averaging only 49 per game since, and the Washington and Rams defenses won’t make things any easier.
It’s been a pretty painful season for Houston QB Deshaun Watson, and it won’t get any better against the Colts. … Jacksonville’s James Robinson has had a great rookie year, but he will not do much against the revived Ravens. … Even if Ronald Jones plays Sunday, he might struggle against Atlanta’s surprisingly decent run defense. … The Chiefs will mostly throw in their showdown against the Saints, so you won’t get a ton of numbers from RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire. … and we will not be jumping on the Jalen Hurts bandwagon quite yet. The new Philly QB will have a tougher time in his second start, now that Arizona has gotten to study game films of his coming-out party last week.
Will Tennessee MVP candidate Derrick Henry put up another 200-yarder Sunday against the Lions? Maybe. … Rams RB Cam Akers will only look like a 200-yard back rushing through the Jets. … With questions at running back this week, look for Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady to go to the air against the Falcons. … Bears WR Allen Robinson should be open a lot against the Vikings, and Mitchell Trubisky should be able to continue finding him. … Players who will feast on bad defenses include Colts RB Jonathan Taylor and WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Houston, and Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins vs. Jacksonville.
We start in Carolina, where the Panthers hoped to have back both RB Christian McCaffrey and wideout D.J. Moore. It’s likely they’ll only get the latter. … San Francisco WR Deebo Samuel is done for the year, and RB Raheem Mostert is very iffy. That makes Brandon Aiyuk and Jeff Wilson great starting options facing that unimpressive Dallas defense. … If Tampa Bay RB Ronald Jones cannot go because of his broken pinky, then Leonard Fournette will come back off the inactive list, for whatever that is worth. … Detroit QB Matthew Stafford is likely out. … So, too, is Washington RB Antonio Gibson. … Is this the week the Steelers get back RB James Conner? … Others listed as questionable include Vegas RB Josh Jacobs, Falcons WR Julio Jones, Chargers RB Austin Ekeler and WR Keenan Allen, New England RB Damien Harris, Texans WR Brandin Cooks and Broncos TE Noah Fant.
THE DEEPEST SLEEPER
The Miami Dolphins are chasing a playoff berth with an injury ravaged lineup. With Myles Gaskin, Savon Ahmed, DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant and Mike Gesicki either sidelined or getting hurt last week, rookie running back-receiver Lynn Bowden came to the rescue. The former Kentucky Wildcat caught seven passes for 82 yards last week, becoming a fast favorite of fellow rookie Tua Tagovailoa. Bowden qualifies at both positions and will be heavily relied on this week when the Dolphins face the hated Patriots.
THE EARLY PICKS
Chargers at Raiders (-3½):
Pick: Raiders by 5
Bills at Broncos (+6½): .
Pick: Bills by 9
Panthers at Packers (-8½):
Pick: Packers by 14
We’ll be updating our column, based on the latest injuries and innuendo, right up until Sunday’s kickoff. Go to TwinCities.com/theloop.