The NFL continues to feel the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis. The New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and now the New York Jets have had positive tests which have caused disruption in the weekend schedule.
Of course, there are other injuries impacting this weekend’s games. Here’s a look at a few of the major storylines.
Dallas Line Takes Another Hit
The Dallas Cowboys have been rolling on offense, thanks to the historic start of quarterback Dak Prescott. But its only resulted in a 1-3 start as they prepare for Sunday’s home game against the woeful New York Giants (0-4).
But the Cowboys are now in big trouble along the offensive line. Their stud left tackle Tyron Smith will miss the remainder of the year with a neck injury. Smith has been to the Pro Bowl seven times. They also found out this week that center Joe Looney will miss at least two weeks with a sprained MCL. And remember, they are already without right tackle La’el Collins for the season with a hip injury.
Thanks to the explosiveness of their playmakers, don’t expect this to really hurt the Cowboys against the Giants, who come in a 9 ½-point dog. The Giants are averaging a league-low 278 yards per game and a league-worst 11.8 points per game. But it might make it a little harder for Dallas to cover.
Garoppolo Cleared For Sunday
After watching the San Francisco 49ers struggle at quarterback with Nick Mullens last week in their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, you figured they couldn’t wait for Jimmy Garoppolo to return from his high ankle sprain. Well, Jimmy G. practiced this week without wearing extra protection and the 49ers announced Friday he’s playing against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
That doesn’t mean the injury-riddled 49ers, a seven-point favorite at home against Miami, are totally in the clear. Their secondary remains decimated. Cornerback K’Waun Williams sprained his ACL last week and he now joins Dontae Johnson (groin), Richard Sherman (calf), Emmanuel Moseley (concussion) and Ahkello Witherspoon (hamstring) on the sidelines. And DE Ziggy Ansah, who was signed after Nick Bosa’s knee injury, is now on IR with a torn bicep.
Darnold Injury Threatens His Jets Future
There’s been much conjecture that if the winless New York Jets fall totally off the cliff, they’ll use the first overall pick on Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence. Of course, that would end the Sam Darnold era after just three seasons.
Ironically, it may be an injury to Darnold (right shoulder sprain) that might help insure the Jets dive into the basement. Hurt in last Thursday’s loss to Denver when sacked by linebacker A.J. Johnson, Darnold is out for Sunday’s home game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Darnold will be replaced by veteran Joe Flacco, who will play for the first time since injuring his neck in Week 8 last season while with the Broncos. He played in four snaps from scrimmage last week, while Darnold briefly convalesced, and completed two passes for 16 yards to Jeff Smith.
If you ask us, despite getting Le’Veon Bell (hamstring) back this week, Flacco’s presence pretty much assures a Cardinals cover. They come in a 7-point favorite and are pissed about the way they’ve been playing recently.
Patriots Not Counting Out Cam, Gilmore
Thanks to Cam Newton, Stephon Gilmore and a practice squad player testing positive for COVID, New England’s home game against the Broncos has been pushed back to Monday at 5:05 p.m.
Coming off their loss to the Kansas City Chiefs last week, the Patriots have been forced into virtual team meetings before getting back into Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
The postponement gives the Patriots some extra time to find out if they can activate Newton and Gilmore, both of whom remain asymptomatic. But they must provide two negative COVID tests at least 24 hours apart in order to rejoin the 53-man roster.
If the Patriots are forced to play either Brian Hoyer or Jarrett Stidham again in place of Newton, there’s little chance they’ll cover the 11-point spread.
Jackson Certain To Play
Don’t worry about Lamar Jackson. He missed a few days or practice this week to rest a cranky knee, but he was back Friday and the Baltimore QB is a go for Sunday against Cincinnati. …New Orleans receiver Micheal Thomas (ankle) and tight end Jared Cook (groin) are practicing. Both are questionable for their game against the Chargers. …Atlanta’s Julio Jones (hamstring) hasn’t practiced this week, but WR Calvin Ridley (thigh/knee) has been cleared for the Carolina game. …Eagles WRs Alshon Jeffery (illness) and DeSean Jackson (hamstring) will miss the Steelers game. …The Chiefs will have DT Chris Jones (groin) back for the Raiders game.
Washington has put receiver Steven Sims (toe) on IR and DE Chase Young (groin) has been limited, but RB Terry McLaurin (thigh) will play against the Rams, an easy 7 ½-point favorite. Rams running back Cam Akers (ribs) returned to practice this week and looks ready. …Tampa Bay defensive tackle Vita Vea broke his leg in Thursday’s loss to the Chicago Bears. … Seattle RB Carlos Hyde (shoulder) is questionable against the Vikings, but WR Adam Thielen (shoulder) is ready to return for the Vikings. …New Orleans TE Jared Cook (groin) and G Andrus Peat (ankle) remained limited in practice and are questionable against the Chargers. … It’s too early to tell if Denver QB Drew Lock (shoulder) can play in New England. …Rookie WR Henry Ruggs (hamstring) looks ready to get back in the Las Vegas lineup on Sunday.
LB Darius Leonard (groin) won’t play against the Browns, so look for Cleveland to be able to run the ball even without injured Nick Chubb (MCL). The Colts will also be without stud OL Anthony Castonzo (ribs). …Expect the Chargers to feel the brunt of the losses of Austin Ekeler (hamstring) and WR Mike Williams (hamstring) against the Saints. …DL Geno Atkins (shoulder) will play for the first time this season Sunday for the Bengals.