The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 1: Last-minute moves


Sep. 12—UPDATE: 10:46 a.m. Sunday

The first Sunday morning of the NFL season has arrived with a mixed outlook for folks counting on ailing first-round running backs.

The good news comes out of Los Angeles, where Austin Ekeler (hamstring) is going to be a full-go today against the Washington Football Team, according to NFL Network. That’s a better forecast than for Giants RB Saquon Barkley (knee), who will be “used sparingly,” according to that same network, in their opener against the Broncos. When you combine that report with Denver’s tough defense, you might want to count on someone else for Week 1.

The early inactives lists are out, and the big news is two surprise healthy inactives: San Francisco RB Trey Sermon and Buffalo RB Zack Moss. So Raheem Mostert and Devin Singletary will get full shares of work today.

As for Odell Beckham Jr., the Browns’ receiver is still questionable, and we’re still a few hours from seeing the inactive list for the big game in Kansas City.

UPDATE: 10:53 a.m. Saturday

Some NFL teams have had good preseasons. Some have had bad preseasons. But only one has had a truly catastrophic summer: the injury-ravaged Baltimore Ravens.

The AFC North favorites suffered a huge blow on Aug. 28 when starting running back J.K. Dobbins blew out his knee in the exhibition finale. A season-ending injury followed to backup Justice Hill, leading the Ravens to bring in well-past-their-prime veterans Le’Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman off the scrap heap.

Then came Tuesday’s torn anterior cruciate ligament for new starter Gus Edwards, leaving the Ravens desperate for immediate help. They found it in New Orleans.

Former Vikings running back Latavius Murray has thrived with the Saints as the backup to all-pro Alvin Kamara. But he was waived last week after being beaten out for the No. 2 job by Tony Jones Jr.

Baltimore wasted no time, picking up the veteran with nearly 5,000 rushing yards and 45 touchdowns. He is very likely to be the Ravens’ top RB within the next couple of weeks, and very likely to be the most-coveted player in fantasy football waiver pick-ups next week.

The biggest injury question this morning regards Chargers RB Austin Ekeler, who has an ailing hamstring. He’s expected to play but could be on a restricted pitch count, so he likely won’t post the numbers folks were counting on when they drafted him in the first round.

Giants RB Saquon Barkley is still listed as questionable and is also likely to see a lighter workload in his return from knee surgery.

On the positive side, Detroit RB D’Andre Swift has been cleared to start against San Francisco.

ORIGINAL POST: 11 a.m. Wednesday

Fantasy football can make for strange bedfellows. Players you’ve loathed suddenly turn into treasured gems, and hometown favorites get thrown overboard faster than unvaccinated cruise passengers.

So it has evolved for your humble narrator. We’ve been hating on the Dallas Cowboys since the retirement of Dandy Don Meredith. From Tom Landry to Jimmy Johnson to Barry Switzer, we’ve always had ample reasons to diss America’s Team. What’s not to not like about showboats like Michael Irvin, Deion Sanders, Terrell Owens, Hollywood Henderson … the list literally never ends.

But funny things happen in August. When the smoke cleared after our fantasy draft, we realized that four stalwarts of our starting lineup wear the helmet with the star.

Now let me tell you how WONDERFUL we consider Dallas’ Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper. Even the kicker, Greg Zuerlein. How ’bout them Cowboys!

For the first time ever tonight, we’ll be rooting right along with our new best friend, Jerry Jones. No more jokes about this master of the universe and football tactician.

Hopefully, our new biases will not taint our coverage, though we do believe Prescott could return with a bang tonight in Tampa Bay, especially if the Bucs show a touch of a post-championship hangover.

So feel free, Minnesota mavens, to stop holding your nose while cheering for future “Jeopardy!” host Aaron Rodgers. And rest assured, Cheeseheads, that it’s OK to toast each Dalvin Cook run, along with everything else that you might toast.

And now on to our other opening week musings:

SITTING STARS

As mediocre as the Vikings’ pass defense has been, you still shouldn’t start Cincinnati rookie Ja’Marr Chase until he remembers how to actually catch a football … If you went crazy and penciled in New England rookie Mac Jones to be your starter last week, you should probably cool it and start someone else vs. Miami. … Indy RB Jonathan Taylor will see a lot of stacked boxes against Seattle thanks to the Colts’ shaky QB situation. But you will probably need to start him anyway. … We picked the Rams to host the Super Bowl, so it might not be the best week to start Chicago RB David Montgomery or WR Allen Robinson. At least until the Justin Fields Show begins in a couple of weeks. … If Washington has one of the league’s best defenses, and it does, then maybe you should start someone other than Chargers QB Justin Herbert.

MATCHUP GAME

Spoiler alert: Our favorite fantasy running back each week will be whoever is playing the lowly Texans. Sunday, it will be the Jaguars’ James Robinson. … Similar story for Lions foes, so the 49ers’ Raheem Mostert should have a big day. … Speaking of Houston, which will stink: There’s a chance Brandin Cooks will still be a productive receiver worthy of a flex start. … The Jets’ secondary won’t test Carolina’s Sam Darnold in his revenge game, so look for big numbers from Panthers wideouts Robby Anderson and D.J. Moore. … A young QB we like this week, Philly’s Jalen Hurts, should run free against the usually porous Atlanta defense. … With all the injuries in New Orleans, Marquez Callaway is a must-start receiver against the Packers.

INJURY WATCH

The biggest question at press time involves the health of Giants running back Saquon Barkley, who is not certain to return from his 2020-ending knee injury. It’s a late Sunday game, so you might have to set your lineup before the inactive list comes out. … Among start-worthy players who are listed as questionable are Detroit running back D’Andre Swift, Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Vikings wideout Justin Jefferson, new Tennessee WR Julio Jones, Giants WR Kenny Golladay and TE Evan Engram, Tampa Bay WR Chris Godwin and San Francisco receiver Brandon Aiyuk. … Indy WR T.Y. HIlton will miss Week 1 and a bit beyond.

THE DEEPEST SLEEPERS

Thanks to injuries and some roster shuffling, there are three teams that have new No. 2 running backs that were mostly undrafted and could prove worthy of picking up. First, there’s Baltimore’s Ty’Son Williams, helping fill the void left by J.K. Dobbins’ season-ending injury. Then you have Tony Jones Jr., who has displaced former Viking Latavius Murray as New Orleans’ understudy for Alvin Kamara. Finally, there is Wayne Gallman, a Deepest Sleeper blast from the past. He was caught in the numbers game in San Francisco, was waived and is now the backup to the underwhelming Mike Davis in Atlanta. All three are now just one key injury away from seeing heavy duty.

THE THURSDAY PICK

Cowboys at Buccaneers (-8):

Pick: Buccaneers by 7

BREAKING NEWS

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 kcusick@pioneerpress.com.

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