UPDATE: 11:21 p.m. Friday
We’re about 24 hours ahead of the Sunday kickoffs, but the most pressing NFL injury news of the moment has nothing to do with anyone playing tomorrow.
The talk of the league is the battering of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert on Thursday night in Kansas City and whether Los Angeles would have to do without its injured star for the foreseeable future.
Well, the news isn’t too bad. Herbert has broken rib cartilage and has been described by coach Brandon Staley as “day to day.” Pretty good considering Herbert looked like he was being tortured in the final minutes against the Chiefs.
Speaking of broken, that could be a good way to describe the Tampa Bay receiving corps. Chris Godwin has already been ruled out this week, and the rest of their top wideouts, Mike Evans, Julio Jones and Russell Gage, are all listed as questionable. Could be a long, long day for Tom Brady on Sunday in New Orleans.
The most prominent player also ruled out in recent days is Arizona WR Rondale Moore, but there are a ton of questionables. They include running backs (De’Andre Swift, Alvin Kamara, J.K. Dobbins), receivers (Michael Pittman, Allen Lazard, Kadarius Toney), a star tight end (George Kittle) and at least one QB (Jameis Winston).
ORIGINAL POST: 11:59 p.m. Wednesday
Welcome back to life, Saquon Barkley!
One week in, and it appears that the Giants’ star running back, The Artist Formerly Known as Saquads, is back to his all-pro form.
There have been three clear signs:
— Barkley tallied 194 yards and a touchdown in the Giants’ shocking victory over Tennessee late Sunday in Nashville.
— Barkley got 24 touches, including the game-winner on New York’s daring two-point conversion in the final seconds.
— Barkley was the first guest Monday night on the season-opening edition of ESPN’s Manningcast.
And just like that, the former Penn State standout is again a must-start first-rounder.
Barkley was not the only Lazarus to rise in Week 1. He had plenty of company:
James Robinson (Jaguars RB) –– So much for Travis Etienne taking his work load. Robinson proved healthy with 66 rushing yards, a touchdown catch and a TD run. He worked up a sweat as opposed to Etienne, who had only six touches.’
Michael Thomas (Saints WR) — Yep, it looks like the NFL record holder is back in form after two seasons of injury. He caught two second-half TD passes, tallied 57 receiving yards … and nearly left in tears The Loop, who left Thomas on his bench.
Jarvis Landry (Saints WR) — Speaking of New Orleans pass catches. Landry snagged seven for 114 yards. As good as that looked for the old pro, it looked bad for fans of young Chris Olave, who was targeted a mere three times.
Julio Jones (Buccaneers WR) — Who’s going to replace Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown as Tom Brady’s Fossil Favorite? It looks like the longtime Falcons star, who not only caught three passes for 69 yards, he RUSHED twice for 17 more.
Matt Ryan (Colts QB) — Only Patrick Mahomes had more than Ryan’s 352 passing yards in his Indianapolis debut, despite several critical drops by Colts receivers. But he appears to have a good connection with Michael Pittman, The Next Big Thing among NFL wideouts.
Carson Wentz (Commanders QB) — No quarterback was given up for dead more than this former Bison idol, starting for his third team in 22 months. But his District debut was good for 313 yards, four TDs and one inaugural win for the newly-named Commanders.
Don’t get carried away. Feel free to leave alone last week’s two-touchdown wonders. It’s unlikely we’ll see a repeat from Detroit RB Jamaal Williams, Titans RB Dontrell Hilliard, Baltimore WR Devin Duvernay or Houston tight end O.J. Howard. … We think the Vikings’ improved defense, along with the Eagles’ play calling in the red zone, will severely limit Miles Sanders. … Atlanta’s Cordarrelle Patterson is apparently still a relevant fantasy RB, just not this week against the rebounding Rams … For the second week in a row, you need not use any Patriots against Pittsburgh. … Since Houston still seems to have a thing for Rex Burkhead, you should keep rookie RB Dameon Pierce out of your lineup against Denver. … And don’t even THINK you might see a repeat of Geno Smith’s miraculous performance as Seattle quarterback on Monday night.
Speaking of two-TD wonders, Washington’s Jahan Dotson is one to keep, and to start against Detroit. … Running backs we expect to improve on their Week 1 showings include Saints’ Alvin Kamara vs. the Buccaneers, Cincy’s Joe Mixon vs. Dallas and Buffalo’s Devin Singletary against the Titans. … We liked the Vikings’ Adam Thielen last week, and we like him even more as Philadelphia will move heaven and earth Monday night to cover Justin Jefferson. … And as mediocre as they looked last week, we like the QBs in San Francisco (Trey Lance vs. Seattle) and Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers vs. his arch-enemy Bears).
The Dak Prescott injury has dominated the headlines, as his thumb injury will sideline him far longer than Jerry Jones pretends it will. Fortunately for Prescott’s fantasy backers, there are plenty of quarterbacks who can be a more adequate replacement than the Cowboys have (Cooper Rush? Really?) … San Francisco has lost No. 1 running back Elijah Mitchell for a month or two, so Jeff Wilson will be filling that role with modest success. … Steelers RB Najee Harris (foot) says he expects to play against New England. … That same optimism goes for Tampa WR Chris Godwin (hamstring) and Cincinnati WR Tee Higgins (concussion), who could also play this week. … Not so for Chargers wideout Keenan Allen (hamstring), who will likely sit out Thursday night’s game in Kansas City. … As for guys who missed Week 1, it’s still not looking great for Baltimore RB J.K. Dobbins or Green Bay WR Allen Lazard.
THE DEEPEST SLEEPER
Like most of you, we never really noticed Tennessee rookie wideout Kyle Phillips. But the fifth-round pick out of UCLA looks like a draft day steal. He had a team-leading nine targets and six catches for 66 yards. That included a nifty catch on the Titans’ final pass to move into field-goal range. Who knew he’d be the guy to replace the traded A.J. Brown instead of Treylon Burks (3 catches) or Robert Woods (1 catch).
THE THURSDAY PICK
Chargers at Chiefs (-3½):
Pick: Chiefs by 6
We’ll be updating our column, based on the latest injuries and innuendo, right up until Sunday’s kickoff. Go to TwinCities.com/theloop.