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We made it: The final Wednesday morning of the fantasy regular season. The usual disclaimer still holds that Tuesday isn't the most eventful day of the week for football purposes, but that doesn't mean yesterday was devoid of all news. With that in mind, let's dig into the most important news and notes from around the league with an eye on fantasy football.
Adam Thielen Does Not Practice on Tuesday
Adam Thielen did not practice on Tuesday after suffering a high ankle sprain early in the Vikings' Week 13 loss to the Lions. Mike Zimmer indicated he doesn't think Thielen is out for the year, but high ankle sprains are typically tricky injuries, so it's reasonable to expect Thielen to miss some time – and that train of thought was substantiated when the veteran wideout missed practice yesterday. With the Vikings facing the Steelers on Thursday, we can almost certainly rule Thielen out for Week 14.
Justin Jefferson gets a bump, as the second-year superstar recorded career-highs in both receptions (11) and yards (182) in Week 13. K.J. Osborn also gets a boost; he ran 43 routes on 46 Kirk Cousins dropbacks against Detroit. Dede Westbrook is next in line – he ran 23 routes – but Jefferson is the main beneficiary with Osborn a halfway-viable flex play. Tyler Conklin should also see a boost in his target share now that he's competing with Osborn and Westbrook for looks rather than Thielen. Fantasy players who have Thielen on their team(s) will have to monitor reports in the coming weeks to gauge when the 31-year-old will be able to return.
Dalvin Cook Gets in a Limited Practice
Dalvin Cook practiced on a limited basis on Tuesday, somewhat of a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers who hope to rely on him down the stretch. While this bodes well for his Week 15 availability, it still seems like a longshot for him to play in Week 14 simply because the Vikings have a short week before dueling against the Steelers on Thursday night. That means Alexander Mattison will start for Minnesota against a solid Pittsburgh defense. Mattison had 22 carries on Sunday, which was in line with where he was earlier in the year when Cook missed and in previous campaigns when the Vikings were without their star runner.
However, the real story this year has been Mattison's involvement as a receiver. In years prior, the Vikings always relied on a complementary piece alongside Mattison when Cook couldn't play. This year, Mattison has played on all three downs. In Week 13, the Boise State product ran 29 routes on 46 Kirk Cousins dropbacks – not an elite route participation route, but that's certainly passable. Consider Mattison a must-start in Week 14, assuming Cook is out. Once Dalvin is back, Mattison is nothing more than an insurance policy.
Ryan Fitzpatrick to Undergo Surgery, Out for the Year
Washington QB Ryan Fitzpatrick will undergo surgery on his injured hip. He is out for the season. Taylor Heinicke will start for the Football Team for the rest of the year, health-permitting. It's no surprise that Fitzpatrick won't play again this year, as Washington has been completely mum about the veteran quarterback since he got hurt in Week 1. For all Washington fantasy pieces, expect more of the same with Heinicke under center.
Kyle Shanahan "Hoping" Deebo Samuel Can Return in Week 14
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan is "hoping" that star wideout Deebo Samuel (groin) will be able to return for Week 14. The ailment kept Samuel from playing on Sunday, which opened the door for Brandon Aiyuk and Trent Sherfield to start at receiver for San Francisco. Aiyuk ran 30 routes on 31 Jimmy Garoppolo dropbacks, while Sherfield ran 29. Jauan Jennings filled in as the 49ers' WR3 and got 20 routes. Samuel will return to elite WR1 status once healthy, and Aiyuk would take a hit as well, although the second-year receiver has emerged over the past month from the doghouse to take on an every-snap role even with Samuel healthy.
Samuel has also been involved in the ground game, recording 19 total carries in the three weeks leading up to his injury. With the current state of the 49ers' backfield – Elijah Mitchell in concussion protocol, Jeff Wilson dealing with an ankle injury, Trey Sermon on injured reserve – Samuel also fills a need as a rusher. His return will be a big boost to the 49ers' offense, but we'll just have to wait and see whether he'll be healthy enough to suit up in Week 14.
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David Njoku Sent to COVID List
The Browns placed TE David Njoku on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday, which puts his status in jeopardy for Week 14. If he's out, Austin Hooper would get a slight bump and could be a deep streaming option against a Baltimore defense that has been suspect at defending opposing tight ends all year long. Harrison Bryant would step into the TE2 role as well, although he's not on the fantasy radar as much. This is worth keeping an eye on for TE-desperate fantasy managers.
Other News and Notes
- The Giants signed QB Clayton Thorson to their practice squad. Daniel Jones could miss Week 14 because of his neck injury, plus backup Mike Glennon is in concussion protocol, so New York needs signal-caller help. Jake Fromm would likely be in line to start if Jones and Glennon can't play. Thorson makes sense as a signing because he spent some of 2020 with the Giants and knows the system as a result.
- Chase Claypool practiced fully on Tuesday, so he should be good to go for the Vikings game on Thursday.
- The Vikings activated CB Patrick Peterson off the COVID list, so he should also play in Thursday's showdown in Minneapolis.
- When asked whether coach David Culley would be back after the season, Texans GM Nick Caserio refused to comment. That is not exactly a ringing endorsement, and it's no secret that Houston has one of the worst cultures in the league right now, so we'll see what happens after the year.