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Saints preparing to start Andy Dalton with Jameis Winston doubtful to play; Michael Thomas ruled out vs. Vikings

The New Orleans Saints offense will be short-handed in London on Sunday versus the Minnesota Vikings.

Coach Dennis Allen said Friday it's doubtful that quarterback Jameis Winston (back, ankle) plays, as the Saints are prepping to start Andy Dalton. Additionally, Allen officially ruled out receiver Michael Thomas due to a foot injury.

"I think it's doubtful that Jameis plays in the game, and so our plan right now is to have Andy ready to go," Allen said. "We'll see how things go overnight, but Andy will be ready to go if that's the direction that we go."

The Saints have since listed Winston as doubtful and Thomas out on the official injury report. Also ruled out are guard Andrus Peat (concussion) and safety Marcus Maye (rib) while running back Alvin Kamara (rib) and wide receiver Jarvis Landry (ankle) are questionable.

For the Vikings, pass rusher Za'Darius Smith (knee) is questionable, while cornerback Andrew Booth (quad) is doubtful to play. Dalvin Cook, who missed Wednesday's practice with a shoulder injury, is off the injury report.

Winston sat out practices this week while dealing with a back injury that hindered him in last week's loss to the Carolina Panthers. Assuming Winston doesn't make a miraculous turnaround in the next day, Dalton will be in line to make his first start in a Saints jersey.

Allen said Winston didn't suffer a setback.

"I don't think so. I think just a little bit of the accumulation of the wear and tear," he said. "It's a long season. I don't think his body responded quite the way we anticipated over the first couple of days. We've rested him this week and we still have a couple of days, but we'll see."

Dalton looked solid in his preseason appearances, but facing a Vikings defense capable of getting after the quarterback is a different test. Taysom Hill is in line for the backup role, and the do-it-all threat could see additional snaps under center.

"Whatever happens, I know I'll be ready. This week, I've just gotten a little more practice time out there. However this thing goes, I'll be ready when I'm called," Dalton said. "For me, I had the whole spring while Jameis was rehabbing, and I think that was a great time for me to get to know these guys, be around them. … I feel really good about where we're at."

With Thomas out, more of the spotlight will fall on rookie Chris Olave, who has shined with Winston under center. The rookie should see a significant target share with Dalton at the helm, but we'll have to see if the generous amount of air yards towards Olave continues.

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