- 1 1. ARIZONA CARDINALS- (vs PHI 12th RB, 16th WR, 11th QB)
- 2 2. ATLANTA FALCONS- (vs TB 5th RB, 22nd WR, 18th QB)
- 3 3. BALTIMORE RAVENS (vs JAX 28th RB, 28th WR, 31st QB)
- 4 4. BUFFALO BILLS (@ DEN 22nd RB, 8th WR, 19th QB)
- 5 5. CAROLINA PANTHERS (@ GB 29th RB, 6th WR, 8th QB)
- 6 6. CHICAGO BEARS (@ MIN 14th RB, 31st WR, 14th QB)
- 7 7. CINCINATTI BENGALS (vs PIT 2nd RB, 19th WR, 2nd QB)
- 8 8. CLEVELAND BROWNS (@ NYG 23rd RB, 7th WR, 6th QB)
- 9 9. DALLAS COWBOYS (vs SF 7th RB, 14th WR, 10th QB)
- 10 10. DENVER BRONCOS (vs BUF 18th RB, 12th WR, 25th QB)
- 11 11. DETROIT LIONS (@ TEN 26th RB, 26th WR, 28th QB)
- 12 12. GREEN BAY PACKERS (vs CAR 25th RB, 17th WR, 20th QB)
- 13 13. HOUSTON TEXANS (@ IND, 10th RB, 10th WR, 5th QB)
- 14 14. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (@ HOU 31st RB, 24th WR, 23rd QB)
- 15 15. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (@ BAL 13th RB, 5th WR, 17th QB)
- 16 16. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (@ NO 1st RB, 13th WR, 4th QB)
- 17 17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (vs LAC, L 27-30 OT)
- 18 18. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (@ LV, W 30-27 OT)
- 19 19. LOS ANGELES RAMS (vs NYJ 17th RB, 25th WR, 30th QB)
- 20 20. MIAMI DOLPHINS (vs NE 15th RB, 9th WR, 3rd QB)
- 21 21. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (vs CHI 8th RB, 3rd WR, 9th QB)
- 22 22. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (@ MIA 10th RB, 21st WR, 7th QB)
- 23 23. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (vs KC 19th RB, 2nd WR, 16th QB)
- 24 24. NEW YORK GIANTS (vs CLE 9th RB, 23rd WR, 27th QB)
- 25 25. NEW YORK JETS (@ LAR 3rd RB, 1st WR, 1st QB)
- 26 26. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (@ ARI 21st RB, 11th WR, 13th QB)
- 27 27. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (@ CIN 24th RB, 15th WR, 15th QB)
- 28 28. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (@ DAL 27th RB, 32nd WR, 22nd QB)
- 29 29. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (@ WAS 6th RB, 4th WR, 12th QB)
- 30 30. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (@ ATL 4th RB, 30th WR, 32nd QB)
- 31 31. TENNESSEE TITANS (vs DET 32nd Rush, 27th Rcv, 26th Pass)
- 32 32. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (vs SEA 16th RB, 29th WR, 29th QB)
Last Updated on 17 Sep 2021 1:37 pm (UK Time)
(note-fantasy scoring ranks are according to ESPN Fantasy metrics, with 1st being the BEST defense among 32 teams, and 32nd being WORST defense among 32 teams)
Welcome to the playoffs! Hopefully your team is fortunate enough to still be alive in what is the semi-finals of most standard fantasy leagues. There are plenty of tough questions to address, and injury concerns have already burned some fantasy managers heading out of Thursday Night Football in Las Vegas. Keep reading for a team-by-team breakdown of fantasy relevance and nuggets heading into this high-stakes week 15 arena.
Note-The column format has changed this week to reflect points given up in terms of position, and not in terms of offensive stats (rush, receive, pass) as in previous weeks, in the interest of accuracy and specificity.
1. ARIZONA CARDINALS- (vs PHI 12th RB, 16th WR, 11th QB)
Kyler Murray seems to have alleviated the injury concerns that plagued him in the latter part of the fantasy regular season, putting up a decent performance on the road against the Giants last week. Still, he only rushed for 47 yards on 13 attempts, and regardless of how you slice it, the thing that made Murray so appealing as a fantasy option, his seemingly limitless rushing floor, has now found an apparent “limit”.
The Eagles’ defensive strength is the line, with the secondary being absolutely decimated. If Murray continues to be conservative as a rusher, look for Kenyan Drake to continue his RB1 role, with possibly even more usage, as backfield mate Chase Edmonds is banged up. Drake has 5 touchdowns in his last 4 games, although he hasn’t eclipsed 80 yards rushing in any of those contests.
TE Dan Arnold appears to be carving out a role in the offense, and provides some appeal for those desperate at the position (aka 75% of fantasy teams). Arnold has 4 touchdowns in as many games, albeit with low receiving totals.
2. ATLANTA FALCONS- (vs TB 5th RB, 22nd WR, 18th QB)
The Falcons are getting over a disappointing home loss to the Chargers last week, mostly laid at the feet of QB Matt Ryan, who threw 3 picks for the first time this year, a couple of which allowed the Chargers to snatch a late victory.
Julio Jones has already been ruled out of this game as of Friday morning, leaving Calvin Ridley as Ryan’s number one WR. However, the matchup against the TB defense is pretty difficult in all aspects, with the Bucs eyeing the playoffs and attempting to iron out any apparent defensive inefficiencies. Still, Ridley is a must-start WR1, with Russell Gage as a dart-throw WR3.
The backfield doesn’t seem to have much going, so I wouldn’t recommend starting any of the Falcons RB corps this week against the Bucs, although if you must, Ito Smith had a more significant role in the offense than did veteran Todd Gurley last week.
3. BALTIMORE RAVENS (vs JAX 28th RB, 28th WR, 31st QB)
Coming off of a scorching MNF game against Cleveland that was hailed by many as the game of the year, Baltimore heads into a seemingly inviting matchup with a Jags team that ranks in the bottom 3 of the league in all categories. We saw a resurgent Lamar Jackson exercise his awesome ground game against the Browns, and his fantasy managers pray that it continues this Sunday, as Jackson seems to be getting hot at exactly the right time.
Hollywood Brown has been added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list, but has the chance to play on Sunday according to John Harbaugh. Mark Andrews was fortunately cleared last week, and continues to be the most appealing fantasy option on this offense, at least in the pass-catching department. If for some reason Brown is not cleared, expect Willie Snead to absorb some targets in his stead.
The backfield continues to be something of a moving target, though JK Dobbins clearly has been running well and seems to have the most juice of the main 3 backs. Between he and Gus Edwards lie 6 touchdowns in the last 3 games; rest assured that if you start Edwards or Dobbins, you will likely be happy in this cake matchup.
4. BUFFALO BILLS (@ DEN 22nd RB, 8th WR, 19th QB)
Josh Allen should find this week’s road matchup a bit more inviting than last weeks tilt with Pittsburgh, and he continues to play like of of the most improved players in the league. Even his somewhat modest 238/2 performance against the Steelers looks OK, all things considered. The fantasy questions for the Bills are minimal. You pretty much know who you’re starting here. John Brown has once again been ruled out which could open up more shots for Beasley and Gabriel Davis.
Once again (tell me if you’ve heard this one before) there is almost no chance you want to start a Bills RB in your fantasy playoffs, except for in deeper 12-14 team leagues. You can probably do better on the waiver wire, and considering that the Bills just aren’t running the ball much at all, even the chances for red zone work will be few and far between this weekend.
5. CAROLINA PANTHERS (@ GB 29th RB, 6th WR, 8th QB)
The Panthers took a surprise L to the Broncos last week, with their defense looking totally impotent against the usually shaky young QB, Drew Lock. Still, Lock has been airing it out more than any other QB in the league, so the defense was bound to be susceptible to some long balls.
Christian McCaffrey is once again unavailable, but DJ Moore has been activated from the CV19 list and is eligible to play. It remains to be seen if Moore will show any rust from his two game absence, but what seems clear is that he will be needed if the Panthers offense is to have any chance of hanging with the smoking hot Packers offense.
Mike Davis should be a great start this week, not only because the Packers are susceptible to the run, but because Rhule and co. will almost certainly look to slow the game down and keep the ball out of Rodgers’ hands; the mistakes will be minimal and the plays will certainly be explosive. Keep an eye on Questionable WR Curtis Samuel, who showed up on the injury report with a hamstring injury.
6. CHICAGO BEARS (@ MIN 14th RB, 31st WR, 14th QB)
The story for the Bears has not only been the resurgent QB play from Mitch Trubisky, but the impressive performances of RB David Montgomery, who has compiled 4 touchdowns and almost 400 yards over the last 3 games. He should continue to get a lot of work this weekend, as he has proven to be reliable in the rushing and passing game.
Hopefully, WR corps ARob, Mooney, and Miller can get something going against the susceptible Vikings secondary. Montgomery should be helped out by the fact that LB Eric Kendricks has already been ruled out, not that MIN was a terribly tough matchup to begin with. TE Kyle Rudolph will also miss the game, opening possible opportunity for promising young Irv Smith, Jr.
The switch to Trubisky has provided a ceiling that the Bears offense didn’t have under Nick Foles. With the Vikings defense not looking as stout as typical under Mike Zimmer, the projected point total of 46 definitely has a good chance at being surpassed.
7. CINCINATTI BENGALS (vs PIT 2nd RB, 19th WR, 2nd QB)
Sadly, things remain very tough for the Bad Luck Bengals, unsure of the status of QB Brandon Allen this week against what would be a bloodbath against a desperate Pittsburgh team. The Steelers have lost two games in a row, and will be looking to once again dominate their division rivals as they did in week 10, 36-10.
There aren’t many appealing fantasy starts here at all, to be honest. Gio Bernard burned fantasy managers in a major way last week, losing a fumble in the first quarter that saw him banished to the land of wind and ghosts until well into the second half. Tee Higgins, despite being one of the most talented young wideouts in the game, holds little upside this week catching passes from either Allen or Finley. Stay far away!
Late Breaking Note: Brandon Allen has been ruled out and Ryan Finley will start at QB, per Zac Taylor.
8. CLEVELAND BROWNS (@ NYG 23rd RB, 7th WR, 6th QB)
Baker Mayfield is coming off one of his best games of the year, going for an impressive 343/2 at home against the tough (although perhaps showing some cracks) Ravens defense on MNF in week 14. Chubb and Hunt were both stellar, and it’s obvious you’re starting both of them. With Giants OC Jason Garrett testing positive for Covid-19, the Browns will see a familiar face on the opposing sideline, former HC Freddie Kitchens, in his new role as Giants TE coach.
It’s been said that this is more of a “revenge game” for the Browns than the other way around, with Kitchens being famous in his incompetence as Browns HC. Another Covid issue for the Giants will be the lack of top CB James Bradberry, which could portend another strong showing for Baker and the Cleveland passing game. CB Darnay Holmes will also miss with a knee injury. Big days could be in the offing for Rashard Higgins as well as the emerging Donovan Peoples-Jones in deeper leagues.
9. DALLAS COWBOYS (vs SF 7th RB, 14th WR, 10th QB)
The Cowboys and Andy Dalton are flying high after last week’s dismantling of the Bengals, 30-7. The Cowboys defense did a lot of the work for them, with Dalton looking competent, but not much more. Amari Cooper showed that he is pretty much the only reliable receiver on the squad for Fantasy, catching his third TD in 3 weeks. CeeDee Lamb got some looks but was unable to do much with them.
RB Ezekiel Elliott seems to be letting his managers down at the worst possible time, running tepidly against what should have been an ideal matchup with a great game script. Zeke hasn’t totaled 100 yards in three weeks, and sledding will be tough for him against a hungry SF defensive line. Most Cowboys shouldn’t be expected to carry your team this week, though some may be backed against the wall when it comes to using these players.
10. DENVER BRONCOS (vs BUF 18th RB, 12th WR, 25th QB)
The Broncos take the field for a Saturday afternoon contest against the talented Bills in week 15, with Drew Lock looking to stay hot after torching the Panthers for over 300 yards passing last week. Lock will surely need to come up with something to keep up with Josh Allen, who has been roasting opposing defenses who are much more talented than this Denver unit.
Both Broncos RBs, Philip Lindsay and Melvin Gordon, are questionable heading into this contest, although HC Vic Fangio expects both to be available. You’re basically throwing a dart starting either of these guys, though game script may favor Lindsay as the Broncos may be chasing points. That being said, Gordon has looked like the better runner in the last few games.
WRs Tim Patrick and KJ Hamler are sure to get some deep looks, with the former being preferable in most formats. TE Noah Fant is fully healthy after battling an illness and should be a big part of the game plan against a defense that has given up 7 TDs to the tight end position this season.
11. DETROIT LIONS (@ TEN 26th RB, 26th WR, 28th QB)
Many question marks surround the Lions this week, with Matt Stafford being held out of practice all week due to a rib injury. Interim HC Darrell Bevell still hasn’t tipped his hand one way or the other as to whether his QB will be available, but Chase Daniel would not be in the streaming conversation were Stafford to sit.
In fact, Daniel would indicate a downgrade across the entire Lions offense, who will once again (as expected) be without Kenny Golladay. RB Deandre Swift returned last week from an extended absence due to concussion and illness, and was somewhat eased back into the mix. The rookie only totaled 50 all-purpose yards last week against a great GB matchup, but did find the end zone.
Assuming Stafford is out, the offense may look to lean on the run game and short passing game, which could benefit Swift. Chase Daniel is not the arm talent nor the physical presence that Stafford presents, which could change what we are used to seeing from the Lions this week.
Late Breaking Note: The Lions have indicated that Stafford is “preparing to play” this weekend, and barring a setback, should be good to go.
12. GREEN BAY PACKERS (vs CAR 25th RB, 17th WR, 20th QB)
The Packers will look to stay hot as they host the Panthers for a Saturday Night Football extravaganza. Can you sense the sarcasm? The Packers will likely blow the Panthers out with the quickness, and RB Aaron Jones will almost certainly get back on track after last week’s seemingly lackluster performance.
This may even be the game to have a bit of trust in the Packers ancillary wide receivers. if the Panthers are struggling as much as it looks like they could, there will be plenty of garbage time and Aaron Rodgers may look to spread the ball around and get his weapons NOT named Davante Adams some action; the Packers DST is also in play here, although the Panthers haven’t been quite the defensive mark as some of the league’s other bad teams like the Jets and Bengals.
13. HOUSTON TEXANS (@ IND, 10th RB, 10th WR, 5th QB)
The good news for Deshaun Watson heading into his second matchup with the Colts in 3 weeks, is that Brandin Cooks doesn’t have an injury designation and has practised in full leading up to the game on Sunday. Cooks will be essential to the passing game, which looked a bit lacking last week. The Colts also aren’t the easiest matchup in the world, but perhaps having seen this defense recently will give the Texans a leg up.
Running back David Johnson will also return to the lineup, and he has been quietly solid this season, only scoring less than 10 standard fantasy points 3 times in the 9 games he’s played. Not only that, but Johnson scored against the Colts the last time the two teams played and was featured in the game plan. Duke Johnson returns to his usual change of pace role but could see some action if the Texans are chasing points.
14. INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (@ HOU 31st RB, 24th WR, 23rd QB)
Philip Rivers is playing some unexpectedly great football for this time of year, and a lot of the credit goes to HC Frank Reich and OC Nick Sirianni. One of the more creative offenses in the league this season, the Colts find ways to make the best of Rivers’ limited passing capability and spread the ball around so much, you never know who is coming at you next.
TY Hilton is having something of a resurgence as well, scoring 4 TDs in his last 3 games, with 80 or more yards receiving in each. Something of a forgotten man in Fantasy the last couple of years, Hilton could end up being one of the stashes/waiver wire pickups of the year. If you aren’t familiar with how Hilton torches the Texans, take a look at the following:
#Colts WR TY Hilton (calf) is expected to play tonight after missing the last 3 games.
Hilton has dominated the #Texans in his career.
• 15 games
• 87 receptions
• 1,519 yards
• 10 TDs pic.twitter.com/jJo4e3u50j
— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) November 21, 2019
15. JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (@ BAL 13th RB, 5th WR, 17th QB)
Gardner Minshew II will once again be under center for the Jags in a difficult test against the Ravens in Baltimore. Not much to say here fantasy-wise; you’re starting James Robinson, and in deeper leagues, the receivers as lottery tickets. A full complement of healthy pass-catchers should benefit Minshew, although he was only able to muster 178/1 against the very beatable TEN defense last week.
Despite their health, none of the receiving corps was able to do much last week, with Keelan Cole, Sr. being the one lucky enough to catch the lone TD thrown by Minshew. Consider the passing attack limited until further notice and all of these guys very high-risk fantasy starts in your semi-finals.
16. KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (@ NO 1st RB, 13th WR, 4th QB)
Shaping up to be one of the best matchups of the week and possibly the year, the Chiefs face a tough test on the road in New Orleans. Although at this point, you would have to be a bit naive to think that this is any old normal offense. The Chiefs have seemed to be matchup proof the last few weeks (dare I say, years) and still ran roughshod last week even after being bottled up early by the Dolphins.
Pat Mahomes threw an uncharacteristic three INTs last week, but his managers should not panic. If anything, perhaps the hiccup allowed him to refocus, and realize that maybe he can’t do ANYTHING he wants at any time, and must try a bit harder to find the right read on the field. You can bet Andy Reid wasn’t happy with the turnovers and knew that against a better team, the Chiefs might not have been able to skate.
Given that rookie RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire has been a somewhat underutilized weapon, as well as the fact that the Saints are at the top of the league’s run defenses, I would try to get away from the Chiefs running game this week if at all possible. That being said, with as much as this outfit is near the goal line, CEH could still have a chance or two at paydirt.
17. LAS VEGAS RAIDERS (vs LAC, L 27-30 OT)
Disaster struck for the Raiders on Thursday Night Football in week 15 as QB Derek Carr pulled his groin on an attempted scramble in the first quarter. Carr left the game not to return, leaving the door open for backup QB Marcus Mariota to step in, and the duel of the ducks ensued.
Mariota acquitted himself well in relief of Carr (who has been having one of his best seasons as a pro), and showed the ability to keep the Raiders relatively electric offense humming. However, they ran into a buzzsaw as it became apparent that they would not be able to contain Rookie QB Justin Herbert, who dissected the Raiders decimated secondary for 314 yards and 3 total TDs. Josh Jacobs looked great and was able to find the endzone, rewarding fantasy managers who started him.
It’s apparent that with the state of the Raiders defense, they WILL be chasing points going forward. If you’re in a pinch at QB (perhaps losing Taysom Hill with Drew Brees’ return), you could do worse than adding Mariota, as it looks like Carr’s injury will be a multi-week one.
18. LOS ANGELES CHARGERS (@ LV, W 30-27 OT)
High drama surrounded the Chargers last night, at least in the fantasy sense. Receivers Keenan Allen (an every-week starter, and the reason many managers were in the playoffs in the first place) and Mike Williams were questionable as of Thursday morning.
Williams was even supposedly ruled out; Allen would be questionable until the afternoon when it was announced he would go. THEN it was announced Williams would go. Fantasy owners rejoice, right? May not want to continue reading if you like happy endings.
Allen caught ONE pass. Williams caught…TWO. About 30 yards between the two players. It was even reported Keenan Allen yelled “START ME!” into a camera pre-game. Unfortunately, players aren’t always in control of their own fantasy destiny. While I’m sure Keenan Allen felt great and had EVERY intention of going off, the Raiders (and possibly Anthony Lynn) had other plans. Look forward to starting Allen next week, assuming he continues to recover from his hamstring injury. The sky continues to be the limit for this offense and all its pieces.
19. LOS ANGELES RAMS (vs NYJ 17th RB, 25th WR, 30th QB)
It seems like it’s been ages since the Rams dominated the Patriots last Thursday, with rookie RB Cam Akers taking the backfield by storm, amassing a staggering 171 yards on 29 rushing attempts. Akers is clearly the star here now, and I don’t expect Sean McVay to go back to either Darrell Henderson or Malcolm Brown heavily.
WR Robert Woods was questionable most of the week but has been cleared to play against the Jets. With a full arsenal at his disposal, Goff is a great QB streamer here, although if last week’s trend continues, the Rams will do a lot of running here. You’re pretty much starting your Rams here, with the matchup being truly inviting and the offense finding its stride.
20. MIAMI DOLPHINS (vs NE 15th RB, 9th WR, 3rd QB)
Last time the Patriots defense faced a rookie QB, they flummoxed Justin Herbert, who only produced 209 yards and no TDs. The Dolphins offensive weapons are ailing, presenting a challenge for rookie Tua Tagovailoa. The good news is that HC Brian Flores is a Belichick disciple who may be able to prepare his young signal-caller for the task at hand.
Though Salvon Ahmed, Mike Gesicki, and Davante Parker all practiced on Friday, it’s still unclear who will be available for the Dolphins on Sunday. Lynn Bowden, Jr. is intriguing if any of the main options are held out, and Matt Breida is also available in many leagues at RB if that situation shakes out poorly. The DSTs may be the most interesting plays in this game, with both being high quality starting options.
21. MINNESOTA VIKINGS (vs CHI 8th RB, 3rd WR, 9th QB)
The Buccaneers made the Vikings offense look pretty pedestrian last week, and their defense look even worse. Pretty much no one delivered a great fantasy performance, though Cook and TE Irv Smith, Jr. didn’t kill you. As with many teams at this stage, you pretty much know what you’re doing with these players…Dalvin Cook is pretty much matchup proof and gets so many looks regardless of the game script.
Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson should keep getting most of the looks in the passing game, but Irv Smith will be a factor, especially with Kyle Rudolph already ruled out as of Friday. The second-year TE is starting to prove what he’s capable of, and is definitely one to watch going forward.
22. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (@ MIA 10th RB, 21st WR, 7th QB)
When we last left the Patriots, they were getting trounced by the Rams on TNF, with Cam Newton looking more lost than he has in quite some time. Hopefully, the long layoff between then and this coming Sunday has given the coaching staff some time to figure a few things out, namely what they’re going to do with the offense. The defense has taken some steps since the beginning of the season but wasn’t able to stop the Rams rushing attack and Cam Akers.
I can’t advise starting anyone on the New England team for fantasy purposes, at least not in season-long leagues. The DST may hold some value, but with the ease that Cam Newton was bothered against the Rams, the Dolphins defense should have a field day and may create some short-yardage opportunities for their offense that could push Miami’s point total. As previously mentioned, Belichick protegé Brian Flores should be ready for most of what his former boss will throw at him.
23. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (vs KC 19th RB, 2nd WR, 16th QB)
New Orleans had their nine-game winning streak snapped last week against the Eagles in Jalen Hurts’ first NFL start; the news is swirling out of NOLA faster than we can keep up with it, but here’s where things stand as of Friday. Michael Thomas is out, but Drew Brees is in, and just in time to try to hang with Mahomes and the Chiefs devastating pass attack.
The good news for Brees is that he’s used to operating without Thomas this season, with last season’s receiving leader missing most of the games in which Brees played. Expect a heavy dose of Alvin Kamara and perhaps even Latavius Murray in this game as Sean Payton attempts to limit the Chiefs’ offensive opportunities.
One may be tempted to go to Tre’quan Smith on the waiver wire in the absence of Thomas, but do so with caution. The young talent has never shown the ability to truly step up when Mike misses time, and he only has 4 touchdowns this season. That being said, this could be the week that Brees looks his way, given that the Saints will surely need to get the ball downfield early and often.
24. NEW YORK GIANTS (vs CLE 9th RB, 23rd WR, 27th QB)
The G-men were only able to muster 7 points last week against the Cardinals in what many thought could be a chance to build momentum in the laughable NFC East. It doesn’t get much better for them this week as they have to face a scorching hot Browns team at home that can taste the playoffs for the first time in many years.
To make matters worse, it’s still unclear whether Daniel Jones will be available for the Giants. If Colt McCoy gets the start at QB, most of the usual options will have their upside capped, as McCoy is nowhere near as aggressive as Jones, and doesn’t have the same arm strength.
TE Evan Engram appears to have sustained a calf injury in practice and is questionable as of Friday, but the late kickoff on Sunday may help the tight end attain the results he needs in order to suit up. With that said, it would be a far cry for me to recommend any options outside of Wayne Gallman for fantasy football this week.
25. NEW YORK JETS (@ LAR 3rd RB, 1st WR, 1st QB)
What can I say? If you’re being forced into starting any Jets, you must be a very deep league indeed. Frank Gore and Ty Johnson will handle RB duties (poorly). Jamison Crowder is questionable and will likely hope to be able to sit out against his likely date with Jalen Ramsey.
Denzel Mims and Breshad Perriman will likely suit up and be tasked with dealing with this strong defense, who may be the DST play of the week (and who I am of course facing in one of my own semi-final matchups).
26. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (@ ARI 21st RB, 11th WR, 13th QB)
Things have changed a lot for this year’s iteration of the Eagles after Carson Wentz was benched last week for rookie Jalen Hurts. The young QB drastically elevated the ceiling of the Eagles’ offense, and has a similar running ceiling to mobile guys like Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen.
First start. First win.
— NFL (@NFL) December 19, 2020
Even Miles Sanders greatly benefitted, having his best game of the whole season against the very stout Saints run defense. (most of these stats were attributed to one long run that Sanders broke, which you obviously can’t take away from him).
I expect this to be a great matchup of young, mobile QBs, with neither defense really scaring you in any metric. Murray certainly has the potential to put a lot of points on the board, and especially with how beat up the Philly secondary is, Hurts will certainly need to make great use of all his weapons to prove he belongs among a special crop of young QBs currently making their names in the league.
27. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (@ CIN 24th RB, 15th WR, 15th QB)
The Steelers took their second loss in a row last week to Buffalo, with Josh Allen and the Bills offense outclassing Pittsburgh in almost every way. The disaster also struck for fantasy managers (or a stroke of luck, depending on which side you were on) as Diontae Johnson, the mostly undisputed WR1 for PIT, was benched in the first quarter after dropping two very catchable passes. Johnson came back later in the second half, but was only able to put together a modest performance after ceding so many snaps to James Washington.
However, the Steelers also lost. If Coach Mike Tomlin was trying to send a message to Johnson, it was almost certainly received. Johnson sent a message back to Tomlin as well: that the Steelers need him and his incredibly elusive YAC skills. If he can get his drops under control, he should be a great start this week.
In fact, a get-right game for most of the Steelers offense should be in store, with even the RBs having a chance to get some work in what will almost certainly be a blowout. Regardless, the PIT RBs should be approached with great caution as none of them has proven to have much upside, whatsoever.
28. SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (@ DAL 27th RB, 32nd WR, 22nd QB)
Speaking of get right games, here come the Cowboys for a 49ers team that is all but eliminated from playoff contention. To have any chance of continuing to compete for an NFC playoff spot, they have to extinguish the newly confident Cowboys, who rolled the Bengals last week.
There are question marks at running back for the 49ers, who are unsure if they will have RB1 Raheem Mostert, although he was able to practice on Friday and Coach Shanahan said he expects to have him for the DAL game. Jeff Wilson, Jr. should also figure to see a lot of work in a great matchup, especially given how shaky Nick Mullens has been at QB.
San Francisco has lost WR Deebo Samuel at least through the end of the regular season, and they will miss one of their most dynamic weapons. That being said, rookie WR Brandon Aiyuk stands to benefit and is looking like a truly special prospect.
29. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (@ WAS 6th RB, 4th WR, 12th QB)
The Seahawks romped last week as predicted against the Jets, not having to work very hard to win 40-3. Russ tossed 4 TDs and was looking great, but faces a stiffer test this week against the WAS D-line that absolutely tortured the 49ers last week. This is not the 49ers however, and despite what the WAS defense was able to do, Russell Wilson and his star weapons will have something for them.
Pretty much all of the Seahawks options are good to go here, and you likely don’t have a ton of better options. For whatever reason, Tyler Lockett has been a bit hard to trust lately, so if you get away from him, it’s understandable. If a blowup is coming from him, I don’t see it being this week.
30. TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS (@ ATL 4th RB, 30th WR, 32nd QB)
The Bucs are coming off a win against the Vikings in which Brady didn’t have to do a whole lot, with the defense doing most of the heavy lifting. Mike Evans caught his obligatory touchdown and is probably the only must-start option on this offense. Against the Falcons defense, which albeit has looked better than the stats indicate over the last few weeks, Brady should be able to get the passing game going.
The question is, will Chris Godwin and Gronk get in on the action? The answer is probably yes, considering that RB1 Ronald Jones will miss this game after having surgery on his finger. Leonard Fournette has been less than inspiring this season, although he hasn’t really gotten a chance to be “the guy”. The strength of the ATL defense is against the run, so expect Brady to have to get it done through the air this week.
31. TENNESSEE TITANS (vs DET 32nd Rush, 27th Rcv, 26th Pass)
Derek Henry looks to be well on his way to a 2000 yard season, and the DET defense will help him along the way this week. AJ Brown looks to have survived a couple of injury scares the past couple weeks and heads into this matchup with no designation. A heavy dose of Henry may limit the passing game, which makes Corey Davis or any other WR a risky proposition.
TE Jonnu Smith returned last week after a short layoff and was underwhelming in the effort, catching two passes for 20 yards. He still did more than fellow TE dart throw Anthony Firkser, who many were touting as a sleeper last week. The offense is likely to be so run-heavy, however, that banking on any of these TE options could spell your doom in a week when the stakes are very high.
32. WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM (vs SEA 16th RB, 29th WR, 29th QB)
It was unfortunate for fans of the Football Team as Alex Smith once again came up injured last week, this time with a calf strain. Dwayne Haskins, Jr. will step in at the QB position this week and has a tough test against a Seahawks defense that’s rounding into playoff form. Haskins has the same number of turnovers as TDs this season, so it’s hard to say what it means for the passing offense.
Based on talent and matchup alone, TE Logan Thomas is very intriguing. Terry McLaurin is an every-week start based on talent alone and has the skills to exploit the Seattle secondary if Haskins can get him the ball. Antonio Gibson looks to be out again this week with his turf toe injury, so look for Peyton Barber and JD McKissic to handle backfield duties. The Football Team recently signed veteran Lamar Miller off the Bears’ practice squad, but he won’t be available until next week at the earliest.
READ WEEK 13 THIRTY-TWO NOTES HERE