In 2019, the Green Bay Packers caught a few breaks with injuries to critical opposing players. They faced the Kansas City Chiefs without then-reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes in week eight, avoided Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford in the second half of the season, and faced a Vikings team without Dalvin Cook in week 16.
Now in the early part of 2020, it appears that the Packers are having similar luck. After beating a Danielle Hunter-less Vikings squad in week one and seeing the Lions put their top slot cornerback, Justin Coleman, on injured reserve before the teams’ week two game, they look set to face the New Orleans Saints without one of the NFL’s best wide receivers in week three.
That player is Michael Thomas, who suffered an ankle sprain in the Saints’ week one victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. According to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com, that injury is expected to keep him out multiple weeks, potentially landing him on injured reserve:
#Saints star WR Michael Thomas' high-ankle injury is worse than originally believed, and he’s now expected to miss several weeks, sources tell me and @RapSheet.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) September 15, 2020
Thomas is as tough as they come and surely will try to defy that timeline. But it'll be a battle.
A move to IR for Thomas would keep him out for a minimum of three weeks due to the tweaked roster rules for this season, but it would ensure that he is inactive for that week three contest.
The Saints still have talented pass-catchers on their roster even without Thomas. Alvin Kamara remains a dynamic threat out of the backfield, former Packer Jared Cook is coming off a 700-yard season, and New Orleans signed Emmanuel Sanders as a free agent this offseason. That is still a solid group of weapons to put on the field with Drew Brees. However, Thomas drew 185 targets last season and caught 149 passes, leading the league in the latter category. That is a massive amount of production that will be sitting on the bench, and head coach Sean Payton will need to get creative with his game plans over the next few weeks.
Thomas’ only career game against the Packers came as a rookie in 2017. In that contest, he caught seven of 11 targets for 82 yards, with one of his targets getting intercepted by Davon House.