Heading into the Week 13 Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints Thursday Night Football matchup, plenty of high-impact players are on the weekly injury report. What should fantasy football managers know, and how will this news potentially impact fantasy performances?
This year, New Orleans has lost its starting QB, No. 1 WR, No. 1 TE, and — most recently — their top two RBs. Mired in must-win mode at 5-6, we should expect this team to throw everything they have at the Cowboys on Thursday night. So what can we realistically expect from their injured stars?
Alvin Kamara, RB
I picked second in my fantasy draft and begrudgingly went with Alvin Kamara. I say “begrudgingly” not only because it’s a fun word to write, but also because it accurately defined my emotional state at that moment.
A nearly perennial elite RB1, the fifth-year running back was suddenly forced to lead the ground game like never before. Once it became clear defenses were going to stop this team by stopping Kamara, I sold high. His career-high pace of 300+ rushing attempts didn’t help.
Then, in Week 9, the all-world back sprained his MCL, and he’s been sidelined ever since. The good news is that he’s participated in a couple of limited practices to begin this short week. Unfortunately, we simply don’t know if Kamara will suit up, and if he does, whether he’ll resume his customarily full workload. Some of this might hinge on Mark Ingram’s availability. It also might hinge on game script — if the offensively-needy Saints fall behind early, the team could play it safe with their star RB.
I would advise managers to set modest expectations if Kamara and Ingram start. The opposing Cowboys are the league’s seventh-best fantasy defense in points yielded to RBs. Kamara would be a must-start RB2/3 with elite upside. But that’s the thing: his floor would be as low as we’ve seen all season.
Mark Ingram, RB
Now, let’s pivot to the nearly 32-year-old Ingram, whose resurgence back in New Orleans has been remarkable after he toiled away in virtual anonymity in Houston.
He’s also been back at practice this week after missing Week 12 with knee swelling. The Saints could have used him on Thanksgiving, as backups Tony Jones Jr. and Ty Montgomery mustered only 41 yards on 22 carries combined against Buffalo.
There are two likely scenarios, both involving Ingram playing. The first entails Kamara sitting, which would open the door for a 20-plus-touch evening for Ingram and a potential RB2 floor, thanks to his receiving game prowess.
The second entails Kamara starting, which would cap Ingram as a low-floor, medium-ceiling (top-30 RB) dart throw. In two games playing alongside Kamara this year, Ingram has averaged 11 touches. So while 7-9 points would be a reasonable expectation, 12+ probably would require a touchdown.
Taysom Hill, QB
Taysom Hill missed Weeks 7 and 8 following a concussion he sustained in Week 5. He then suffered a foot injury in Week 10 and missed the Saints’ last two games. Jeff Duncan of The Athletic reported Hill has been dealing with a plantar fascia injury, limiting his availability. He remains a question mark for Thursday.
While Hill looked terrific last season in three of his four starts, we should remember this isn’t the same Saints offense. Rather than targeting Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders (who accounted for 65% of his completions and 67% of his yards), Hill now has Tre’Quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, and Deonte Harris as his top options.
If he starts, Hill would be a higher-than-normal re-injury/early-exit risk, putting his floor near the bottom of Week 13 QBs. If Kamara is active, the offense will get a boost, giving Hill top-16 QB upside.
The once high-flying Cowboys have been grounded by injuries while losing three of their last four games. They are now 7-4 and looking to get back on track with some of their top players expected to return Thursday.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB
Reports from the Cowboys’ Thanksgiving game suggested Ezekiel Elliott was struggling with a bone bruise and implied he could have limitations going forward. However, he’s been a full participant in practice this week.
Owner Jerry Jones even said his starting RB would get a “serious load” on Thursday, and I don’t think he was talking about laundry. Despite the Saints boasting a high-end run defense based on opposing yards per carry, Zeke remains a must-start barring a setback.
CeeDee Lamb, WR
On Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed that WR CeeDee Lamb was set to return from his concussion ahead of the Cowboys’ Week 13 game.
This is hardly a surprise given that Lamb was considered close to playing in Week 12, only to be ruled out by an independent neurologist Thursday morning. He’s been back at practice this week, so no one should have reservations starting him as a WR1/2.
Amari Cooper, WR
The Cowboys were also without WR Amari Cooper in both of their last two games. Cooper tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of Week 11. However, since he’s unvaccinated, he was ruled out for Week 12 due to the mandatory 10-day quarantine period.
On Monday, QB Dak Prescott confirmed that Cooper was back in the building but not present on the practice field. Cooper was there to take a conditioning test ahead of the Cowboys’ medical staff clearing him for return.
Then, on Wednesday, ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Cooper is expected to travel with the team and play Thursday. If he’s out there, you know what to do. While he might be a little rusty (with his ceiling more in the WR2/3 range), I can’t rationalize sitting a starting Cooper.