UPDATE: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
As coronavirus continues to spike across the globe, it continues to wreak havoc on NFL lineups. The surge is so strong that it has been able to displace a single NFL game twice in one week.
At the moment, the Steelers-Ravens game that was scheduled for Thanksgiving night has been moved to Tuesday night. That’s if there is not another bunch of positive COVID tests among the Ravens, and that’s a very big if.
Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson is one of those cases, and he has been ruled out of the game. Realistically, he’s the only Raven we’d consider starting against one of the league’s best defenses.
The tricky issues have to do with the Steelers. It might be too risky to assume players such as Ben Roethlisberger, James Conner or the trio of top receivers (JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool) will get to play. A cancellation or further postponement could leave your lineup with a few unsightly zeroes for Week 12.
The list of players who already will miss this week is a long one, led by Carolina RB Christian McCaffrey, who is still not healthy enough to face the Vikings.
Others on the outs this week include Chicago QB Nick Foles, Falcons running back Todd Gurley, Indy RB Jonathan Taylor, Miami RB Salvon Ahmed, Jacksonville WR D.J. Chark, Arizona WR Larry Fitzgerald, Buffalo WR John Brown, Tennessee wideout Adam Humphries and Philly tight end Zach Ertz.
On the plus side, the Panthers (Teddy Bridgewater) and Jets (Sam Darnold) will be getting their quarterbacks back. San Fran WR Deebo Samuel is expected back, and Miami could get its top running back (Myles Gaskin) back in action.
Players who are questionable at the moment include Miami QB Tua Tagovailoa, Seattle RB Chris Carson, San Fran RBs Raheem Mostert and Tevin Coleman, Bengals RB Gio Bernard, Chargers RBs Austin Ekeler and Kalen Ballage, Atlanta’s star wideout Julio Jones, Denver WR Jerry Jeudy, Green Bay WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, San Fran’s Brandon Ayiuk and Rams tight end Tyler Higbee.
ORIGINAL POST: 2:07 p.m. Wednesday
Few things are as predictable, as inevitable, as the season-ending injury suffered by Cincinnati rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. Maybe white Christmases in Minnesota? Or long Wal-mart lines on Black Friday? Or passers-by shouting epithets at Minnesota’s governor.
The Heisman Trophy winner’s blown-out knee came as no surprise after a bruising season playing behind one of the world’s worst offensive lines. Heck, the Chargers beat the crap out of him in Week 1. But Burrow showed a toughness he will need until the Bengals draft a handful of new linemen.
It was a week of extremes last week for new quarterbacks. Burrow wasn’t the only newbie signal caller to make headlines:
Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins) — Miami’s QB with the mending hip was removed from the game in Denver after the Broncos sacked him six times. An act of mercy, or a desperate bid for more FitzMagic? Either way, No. 1 will be No. 1 again this week against the Jets despite completing only 11 passes for 83 yards in the Dolphins’ narrow loss. Nothing helps boost the stats quite like an afternoon of Jets defense.
Denver Broncos defensive end DeShawn Williams (90) sacks Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Justin Herbert (Chargers) — The best quarterback in Los Angeles will now be rookie of the year with Burrow out. He added 366 yards and three touchdowns to his tally in the Chargers’ pounding of the Jets. He’s the first rookie to post five games with three or more TDs. He’ll certainly add to that total, maybe even this week against Buffalo.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) makes a pass attempt during an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, November 22, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)
Taysom Hill (Saints) — Turns out Sean Payton knows what he’s doing. Drew Brees’ replacement rumbled for two touchdowns and passed for 233 yards in his first career start against Atlanta. He looked a bit more Tim Tebow than Steve Young, but he still showed he’s a better option than the overly generous Jameis Winston. He’ll do better against Denver than Tua did.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Taysom Hill (7) loses the ball as he carries in the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
P.J. Walker (Panthers) — The star of the most recent incarnation of the XFL filled in admirably for Teddy Bridgewater last week, throwing for 258 yards and a score. He might get another chance this week against the Vikings’ defense, which proved again last week against Dallas that it is still a few bricks shy of a load.
Carolina Panthers quarterback P.J. Walker (6) worlks as Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end William Gholston (92) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, in Charlotte , N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
The Bears’ offense is much more competent than their offense. Since Aaron Jones has only topped 100 total yards twice this season, don’t expect him to do so Sunday night. … This might be another week where you should stream a quarterback on waivers instead of counting on Lamar Jackson against the unbeaten Steelers. … Denver RB Melvin Gordon scored twice last week against Miami, but he will cool off facing a Saints defense that hasn’t given up a 100-yard rushing performance in more than three years. … Derrick Henry might be the only player you can count on in the upcoming Titans-Colts AFC South slugfest. … And the Bengals’ gaping quarterback void means you should stop starting Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, despite their matchup against the Giants.
Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Jones (33) runs against Indianapolis Colts’ Kenny Moore II (23) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
No matter who Carolina’s quarterback is Sunday, D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson will enjoy galavanting through the Vikings’ secondary as much as CeeDee Lamb did. … Cleveland might finally play without a monsoon this week, so both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are options for your No. 1 back position. … Houston’s Deshaun Watson will stay hot against the lowly Jaguars, and that will benefit WR Brandin Cooks and TE Jordan Akins. … It will be a very bountiful Thanksgiving for Andy Dalton if he can avoid the Washington pass rush. … Las Vegas QB Derek Carr and TE Darren Waller will have season-best days, perhaps, against the Falcons. … So will Miami RB Salvon Ahmed against the Jets. … And in a rarity, you might want to start the Seattle defense against the mess that is Carson Wentz’s Eagles offense.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) catches a pass against the Detroit Lions during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Vikings fans will be happy to miss out on Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey on Sunday, though the jury is still out on Teddy Bridgewater. … Of course, the Vikings need wideout Adam Thielen to pass his next few COVID tests. … Atlanta’s Julio Jones looked especially pained last week when leaving with a hamstring injury. We’re not counting on him this week. … Same goes for Houston receivers Randall Cobb and Kenny Stills. … New England won’t have RB Rex Burkhead the rest of the season, but the Pats are getting back Sony Michel, for what that’s worth. … Other questionables at this time include Indy QB Philip Rivers, Detroit RB D’Andre Swift, Seattle RB Chris Carson, Bears RB David Montgomery, Washington WR Terry McLaurin, Pittsburgh wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster and two big tight ends, Baltimore’s Mark Andrews and Detroit’s T.J. Hockenson.
Denver Broncos cornerback Davontae Harris (27) defends Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Atlanta. The Atlanta Falcons won 34-27. (AP Photo/Danny Karnik)
THE DEEPEST SLEEPER
The pickings are getting mighty slim, but there is one obvious back-bencher who will be a top-shelf option this week: Baltimore’s Gus Edwards. He’s the last man standing in the Ravens’ backfield after J.K. Dobbins and Mark Ingram were sidelined over COVID protocols. In fact, so many Ravens have tested positive that this game was moved from Thanksgiving night to Sunday. But Edwards is averaging more than four yards a carry and has three touchdowns in limited duty this season. He’ll get the goal line chances Sunday, at least whenever Lamar Jackson is too out of breath to run it in himself.
Baltimore Ravens running back Gus Edwards (35) runs over Pittsburgh Steelers free safety Minkah Fitzpatrick (39) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Baltimore. The Steelers won 28-24. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
THE THURSDAY PICKS
Texans at Lions (+3):
Pick: Texans by 7
Washington at Cowboys (-3):
Pick: Cowboys by 4
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow (9) is hit and sandwiched inbetween Washington Football Team defensive end Montez Sweat (90), defensive tackle Jonathan Allen (93) and Cincinnati Bengals offensive guard Mike Jordan (60), during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, in Landover, Md. After throwing a pass, Burrows was injured on this play and was carted off the field. (AP Photo/Al Drago)
We’ll be updating our column, based on the latest injuries and innuendo, right up until Sunday’s kickoff. Go to TwinCities.com/theloop.