UPDATE: 9:30 a.m. Sunday
We’re a few hours away from the Week 2 kickoff, and the league’s receiving corps is already severely depleted with two of the top six wideouts ruled out for this week.
New Orleans’ MIchael Thomas has been ruled out from Monday night’s game in Las Vegas due to a high ankle sprain, and Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin is also out because he’s still in the concussion protocol
Who is still available at this late hour to fill a gaping receiving void? The Saints’ Tre’Quan Smith will pick up some of the slack from Thomas’ absence, and the Bucs’ Scotty Miller will get more attention from Tom Brady. Other options include Tennessee’s Corey Davis, Jacksonville’s Laviska Shenault, the Chargers’ Mike Williams and Green Bay’s Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Indianapolis tight end Jack Doyle will not play today against the Vikings, but there is better news about a couple of receivers. NFL Network is reporting that the Giants’ Golden Tate will play against Chicago, and Denver’s Courtland Sutton looks likely to play vs. Pittsburgh.
UPDATE: 11:22 a.m. Saturday
If you spent one of your top draft picks on one of the best tight ends, San Francisco’s George Kittle, then you will be spending your time this weekend scrambling for a replacement.
Kittle sprained his knee in the first half of last week’s surprising loss to Arizona, and he has been ruled out of Sunday’s likely blowout win over the New York Jets.
What tight ends are still available? Depending on the size of your league, you might find Philadelphia’s Dallas Goedert, Detroit’s T.J. Hockenson, the Jets’ Chris Herndon or Washington’s Logan Thomas.
Detroit WR Kenny Golladay (hamstring), another early-round pick who missed Week 1, will be joining Kittle on the sideline. Philly’s Alshon Jeffery (foot) will also miss another game.
Players ruled out because of Week 1 injuries include Tennessee WR A.J. Brown (knee), Jets wideout Jamison Crowder (hamstring) and Denver RB Phillip Lindsay (turf toe).
Tampa Bay’s Chris Godwin is in the concussion protocol and is considered doubtful for the Bucs’ game against Carolina.
Listed as questionable at the moment are five notable receivers. In order of importance, they are Denver’s Courtland Sutton (shoulder), Houston’s Brandin Cooks (quadriceps), Miami’s DeVante Parker (hamstring), the Giants’ Golden Tate (hamstring) and Indy rookie Michael Pittman (toe).
On the plus side, Eagles RB Miles Sanders says he’s a go for Sunday, as is Steelers RB James Conner.
And one update from our original post: It turns out you CAN expect good numbers from both Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt … when they’re playing the Bengals’ sorry defense. We stand corrected.
ORIGINAL POST: 1:32 p.m. Wednesday
2020 had been a lost year so far for Aaron Rodgers. He lost the NFC championship game. Badly. He lost his temper when the Packers drafted Jordan Love. And he lost Danica Patrick (or vice versa … depending on which tabloids you follow).
The Green Bay veteran needed to regain his mojo. He desperately needed someone to help him resume his championship-belt shtick.
He found his salvation in, of all places, Minneapolis. Where he tore a few new holes in the Vikings’ Swiss cheese secondary.
It was vintage A-Rodg: 364 yards and four touchdowns. Would have been more if not for some untimely drops by his modest receiving corps.
Is Rodgers going to display that MVP form again this season? Or will he have to wait until the Vikings come to Lambeau Field in November?
We’ll get a clue this weekend. He should be able to throw at will against a Detroit defense that worked mightily to revive Mitchell Trubisky’s career in the fourth quarter of their opener.
Here are some other pressing issues after a memorable, but quieter, opening week:
Bad News Browns — Cleveland lost its opener to Baltimore by 32 in a game that was not nearly as close as the score indicated. As predicted in this space previously, Baker Mayfield is a mess, dragging the rest of Browns’ playmakers down with him. You cannot count on either running back (Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt) to post great numbers because of Kevin Stefanski’s backfield committee plan.
J! E! T! S! S! U! C! K! — New York coach Adam Gase apologized for playing Le’veon Bell after he was injured in Buffalo. Now he’s on injured reserve. That means the Green’s running game will be led by the elderly Frank Gore. It also appears that Jamison Crowder is the only receiver that Sam Darnold can throw to. Other than that, the Jets are swell.
QBs hogging TDs — It almost seems like a lot of NFL quarterbacks have themselves on their fantasy teams. They’re calling their own number at the goal-line at an alarming rate. Seven TDs in Week 1, including a scoring jaunt for the rapidly-aging Tampa Tom Brady (more on him shortly) Remember, nobody likes a touchdown glutton.
The Brady Bucs — Tampa coach Bruce Arians says he expects “more grit” from his new quarterback, who’s nearly Arians’ age. Brady looked rusty in the opener, throwing two interceptions, including a pick six eerily similar to the one that ended his New England run in its January playoff. Time to panic? Not. Quite. Yet.
Waive runners — There’s a good chance they went undrafted in your league, but it’s time to hit the waiver wire to put in running-back claims on Indianapolis’ Nyheim Hines, Jacksonville’s James Robinson, the Rams’ Malcolm Brown, Pittsburgh’s Benny Snell and the Chargers’ Joshua Kelly.
Tough opener for Giants RB Saquon Barkley against Pittsburgh: only 6 yards on 15 carries. That’’s about 14 inches per rush. He’ll do infinitely better this week, but Denver RB Melvin Gordon may have similar trouble with the Steelers. … Philly’s offense is a mess, starting with the offensive line. Keep QB Carson Wentz on your bench against the Rams, and all other foes, until the troops return. … Houston’s David Johnson will be brought back to earth by the Baltimore defense. … Same goes for all Raiders not named Josh Jacobs in their Vegas opener against the Saints. … And you should not expect another bounty of TD receptions from Seattle RB Chris Carson, who tripled his career total last Sunday in Atlanta. Patriots defense will be much tougher Sunday night.
The Cam Newton Renaissance Tour is already on full throttle, and the New England QB is looking ahead to a Seattle defense torched for 434 yards by Atlanta. … Tennessee RB Derrick Henry has 441 yards and six TDs in his last three games against Jacksonville. He’ll be padding those stats. … Buffalo QB Josh Allen had his way last week against the Jets, and he should find the Miami defense just as supple, as will RBs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss. … The Texans’ run defense was poor in Kansas City and will have a hard time with Ravens rookie RB J.K. Dobbins. … Dallas’ stars, particularly QB Dak Prescott, will rebound from a bad opener against Atlanta’s porous D. … And which Tampa runner will fly through the Carolina defense this week? Take a flier on Leonard Fournette.
New Orleans’ Michael Thomas was the first receiver off most draft boards, and he’ll be among the first off the field. A sprained ankle will likely keep him out several weeks, making Emmanuel Sanders a must start. … Top tight end George Kittle has a sprained knee, and that has the 49ers concerned. … Two noteworthy players suffered season-ending injuries in the opener: Indy RB Marlon Mack and Dallas TE Blake Jarwin. … Pittsburgh’s James Conner is iffy (ankle), so Benny Snell will likely be the Steelers’ No. 1 running back. … Phillip Lindsay’s turf toe means Denver will give most of the running work to Melvin Gordon. … The Eagles are awaiting word on their ailing trio of RB Miles Sanders, WR Alshon Jeffery and backup RB Boston Scott. Three wideouts who missed Week 1 that we’re watching are Detroit’s Kenny Golloday, Denver’s Courtland Sutton and the Giants’ Golden Tate. .. San Fran WR Deebo Samuel will be out at least until Week 4.
THE DEEPEST SLEEPER
Colts wide receiver Parris Campbell was a disappointment last season as a rookie, but the former Ohio State star caught six balls for 71 yards in last Sunday’s opener. He’s no doubt salivating over the prospect of facing a Vikings defense that surrendered 522 yards to Green Bay in Week 1. Campbell could have as much fun running circles around Holton Hill, Mike Hughes and Cameron Dantzler as the Packers’ Davante Adams did.
THE THURSDAY PICK
Bengals at Browns (-6):
Pick: Bengals by 3
We’ll be updating our column, based on the latest injuries and innuendo, right up until Sunday’s kickoff. Go to TwinCities.com/theloop.
You can hear Kevin Cusick on Wednesdays on Bob Sansevere’s “BS Show” podcast on iTunes. You can follow Kevin on Twitter — @theloopnow. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.