The Loop Fantasy Football Update Week 12: Last-minute moves

UPDATE: 9:38 p.m. Saturday
More disappointing news out of Cincinnati for Bengals fans. Wide receiver Ja’Maar Chase will not return from his hip injury this week, though he is expected to be ready for next week’s AFC championship rematch with Kansas City.

Tampa Bay pulled the plug on the Leonard Fournette watch one day early. He will not play against Cleveland on Sunday.

One noteworthy add to the slate today. Arizona is reactivating Marquise Brown, though the receiver known as Hollywood will likely be on a limited pitch count against the Chargers.

We’ll be back in the morning with the news from the early inactives lists.

UPDATE: 9:58 p.m. Friday
The big news in fantasy at this hour comes out of Cincinnati, where star running back Joe Mixon has not made it out of the concussion protocols and has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against Tennessee.

This means Samaje Perine, who caught three touchdown passes last week in relief of Mixon, will be a must-start vs. the Titans.

The news is better for Arizona, which will have Kyler Murray back at quarterback against the Chargers. And in Kansas City, where JuJu Smith-Schuster will return to face the Rams.

Of particular concern to The Loop is the status of Chicago quarterback Justin Fields. Both we and the Bears will have to wait until Sunday’s game-time to see if he can play with his injured shoulder. It’s quite obvious, though, that he won’t be doing a whole lot of running if he does.

Ruled out in recent days has been four notable receivers (Chargers’ Mike Williams, Broncos’ Jerry Jeudy, Cardinals’ Rondale Moore and Chiefs’ Kadarius Toney), and two running backs, the Bucs’ Leonard Fournette and the Dolphins’ Raheem Mostert, are listed as doubtful. That means Tampa Bay’s Rachaad White and Miami’s Jeff Wilson will be good starting options.

ORIGINAL POST: 8:43 a.m. Wednesday
With three early games, fantasy owners have to make critical moves earlier than they normally would for Week 12.

Here are the pressing fantasy issues for each of Thursday’s contesting teams:

Does the Vikings’ leaky offensive line make you bench Kirk Cousins?

Minnesota obviously missed left tackle Christian Darrisaw against Dallas, and he won’t be protecting his quarterback’s blind side this week, either. New England’s defense is solid, so while Cousins will likely not absorb another seven sacks, he’s not going to post huge numbers, as the Vikings rely on their running game on a short week.

If the Patriots’ offense can’t score on the Jets, can you start any of them against the Vikings?

Over the past three weeks, New England managed only one offensive touchdown in two games against the less-than-vaunted New York defense. The Patriots won’t do much better Thursday night in Minneapolis in what will likely be a very low scoring game. RB Rhamondre Stevenson is the only Patriot you can even consider using.

Are both Dallas running backs now must-starts?

Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott had two touchdowns each in their blowout of the Vikings last Sunday. So the answer is yes, though maybe not this week. Elliott is nursing a knee injury and has been limited in practice this week. So they might let Zeke watch the Cowboys’ next victory from the sideline.

Has the Giants’ bubble burst, and does this mean you can’t count on Saquon Barkley?

It’s hard to believe New York started the season 6-1, but they’ve had a rash of injuries that have left many holes, including on the offensive line. Barkley only averaged 1.5 yards on his 22 carries last week against Detroit, and Dallas’ defense will be even tougher. Benching Saquads is a bold move you might have to make.

Will the suddenly hot Lions be able to throw on the Bills, like everyone else recently?

Buffalo has given up nearly 700 passing yards the past two weeks, and Detroit’s offense showed some fire earlier this year, especially at home. WR Amon-Ra St Brown should definitely be in your starting lineup, and QB Jared Goff is an interesting sleeper for Turkey Day.

Is this the week you can trust Buffalo players not named Allen or Diggs?

Both Devin Singletary and rookie James Cook rushed for 86 yards last week against Cleveland, as the Bills turned to the run in response to Josh Allen’s recent rash of sloppiness. You can definitely start Singletary, whose three rushing touchdowns have come in the past two weeks.

SITTING STARS

The 49ers’ defense is playing at a very high level now, and that will put a damper on the numbers from New Orleans RB Alvin Kamara this week. … Jacksonville RB Travis Etienne will have a tough day against Baltimore. … Cleveland’s Kareem Hunt hasn’t done much lately, and he won’t against Tampa Bay, either. … You can forget about Carolina WR D.J. Moore vs. the Broncos. … Chicago pass catchers Cole Kmet and Darnell Mooney have thrived recently, but will they do as well with Trevor Seimian at the helm against the Jets? … Atlanta QB Marcus Mariota will learn that the Washington defense is quite legit.

MATCHUP GAME

We think the Colts are looking better lately, so Jonathan Taylor may find more running room against the Steelers. … Former Viking Latavius Murray is now the undisputed No. 1 RB in Denver with Melvin Gordon exiled, so start him vs. Carolina. … Rachaad White looked really good running for Tampa Bay in Germany and will do so again against Cleveland if Leonard Fournette is still out. … Chicago will have to rely on RB David Montgomery against the Jets and will post decent numbers as a result. … The Chargers’ Joshua Palmer will again fill the L.A. wide receiver void against Arizona. … San Fran tight end George Kittle scored twice Monday night in Mexico City and will score at least once against the Saints. … And the two aged quarterbacks will improve this week: the Buccaneers’ Tom Brady vs. Cleveland and the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers in a must-win game against once-beaten Philadelphia.

INJURY WATCH

Chicago QB Justin Fields dislocated his shoulder and is likely out a few weeks with the Bears’ bye week coming up. … Cincinnati RB Joe Mixon is in the concussion protocols, so Samaje Perine is someone worth adding, considering he had three TD receptions last week in Pittsburgh …. Two players done for the year after knee injuries: Atlanta TE Kyle Pitts and Giants WR Wan’Dale Robinson, the latter being especially painful coming in his first 100-yard game. … Rams QB Matthew Stafford is dealing with another concussion. … Players listed as questionable include Arizona QB Kyler Murray, five prominent receivers (Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase, the Chargers’ Mike Williams, the Chiefs’ Juju Smith-Schuster, Denver’s Jerry Jeudy and Arizona’s Rondale Moore) and Chargers tight end Gerald Everett.

THE DEEPEST SLEEPER

With the pickings as slim as always at tight end, New Orleans’ Juwan Johnson is worth grabbing this week. He has five TDs over the past five games. His other stats are not too impressive (31 catches for 349 yards through 11 games), but he might end up being the only Saints pass catcher who gets open against the 49ers’ defense.

THE THURSDAY PICKS

Patriots at Vikings (-3½): Pick: Vikings by 3
Bills at Lions (+9½): Pick: Bills by 7
Giants at Cowboys (-9½): Pick: Cowboys by 17

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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