The Loop Fantasy Football Report: Week 12: Tough decisions on your plate for Thanksgiving

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Dallas Cowboys defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (56) celebrates after sacking Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
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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.

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. (56) celebrates after sacking Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

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.

New England Patriots Quarterback Mac Jones (10) Gets Up After Being Sacked During The First Half Of An Nfl Football Game Against The New York Jets, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, In Foxborough, Mass. (Ap Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones (10) gets up after being sacked during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Jets, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

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.

Dallas Cowboys Running Back Tony Pollard (20) Runs From Minnesota Vikings Linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) During A 68-Yard Touchdown Reception In The Second Half Of An Nfl Football Game, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, In Minneapolis. (Ap Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard (20) runs from Minnesota Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks (58) during a 68-yard touchdown reception in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)

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.

New York Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley (26) Runs The Ball Against Detroit Lions Linebacker Alex Anzalone (34), Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, In East Rutherford, N.j. (Ap Photo/John Munson)
New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley (26) runs the ball against Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone (34), Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Munson)

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.

Detroit Lions Wide Receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) Makes A Catch Against The New York Giants During An Nfl Football Game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, In East Rutherford, N.j. (Ap Photo/Adam Hunger)
Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (14) makes a catch against the New York Giants during an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

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.

Buffalo Bills Running Back James Cook (28) Rushes In The First Half Against The Cleveland Browns During An Nfl Football Game, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, In Detroit. (Ap Photo/Rick Osentoski)
Buffalo Bills running back James Cook (28) rushes in the first half against the Cleveland Browns during an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

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.

New Orleans Saints Running Back Alvin Kamara (41) Plays Against The Los Angeles Rams In The First Half Of An Nfl Football Game In New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (Ap Photo/Butch Dill)
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara (41) plays against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

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.

Indianapolis Colts Running Back Jonathan Taylor (28) Runs To The Outside During An Nfl Football Game Against The Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, In Indianapolis. (Ap Photo/Zach Bolinger)
Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (28) runs to the outside during an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Zach Bolinger)

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.

Chicago Bears Quarterback Justin Fields (1) Lies On The Field After A Hard Hit During The Second Half Of An Nfl Football Game Against The Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022 In Atlanta. (Ap Photo/John Bazemore)
Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields (1) lies on the field after a hard hit during the second half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

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.

New Orleans Saints Tight End Juwan Johnson Celebrates After Making A Catch Against The Los Angeles Rams In The First Half Of An Nfl Football Game In New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (Ap Photo/Gerald Herbert)
New Orleans Saints tight end Juwan Johnson celebrates after making a catch against the Los Angeles Rams in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

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

Minnesota Vikings Place Kicker Greg Joseph (1) Kicks An Extra Point As Punter Ryan Wright (14) Holds During The Second Half Of An Nfl Football Game Against The Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, In Miami Gardens, Fla. (Ap Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Minnesota Vikings place kicker Greg Joseph (1) kicks an extra point as punter Ryan Wright (14) holds during the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 16, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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 [email protected]

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