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Inside the Matchup

Week 15

By: Andy Swanson | Ken Ilchuk | Nick Caron | HC Green





Sunday Early:



Sunday Late:

CIN @ DEN | ATL @ SF | SEA @ LAR | GB @ BAL | NO @ TB



- Green highlight indicates plus matchup (top eight)
- Red highlight indicates negative matchup (bottom eight)

Chiefs at Chargers - (Caron)
Line: KC -3.0
Total: 52.5

Passing Game Thoughts: There was reason to remain optimistic about the Chiefs offense heading into their Week 14 matchup against the Raiders and while quarterback Patrick Mahomes delivered a decent enough fantasy performance, he still fell short of the expectations that many fantasy managers have for him. Mahomes threw for just 258 yards and two touchdowns, marking the eighth time in nine games that he’s failed to contribute more than two touchdowns in a game. By comparison, Mahomes had started the season off with four straight games of more than two scores. The reality is that, while the Chiefs defense has been stepping up in a big way which has allowed them to avoid being in many shootouts, the offense has not been its usual self throughout the second half of the season.

Now the Chiefs head on the road, on a short week, to face the Chargers in an extremely important division matchup. The winner of Thursday’s contest will be in first place in the AFC West.

We saw these teams play earlier this season when the Chargers surprised many by going into Kansas City and winning 30-26. That game saw Mahomes throw for 260 yards and three scores, but he also threw a pair of interceptions which is uncharacteristic for him. Now with the Chiefs offense sputtering and the Chargers offense putting up big numbers as of late, the pressure is on Mahomes and the Kansas City passing game.

Despite his struggles as of late, Mahomes is probably unbenchable for most teams in traditional seasonal leagues, but this is a difficult matchup. The Chargers have given up the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season.

Worse than that is how they’ve performed against opposing wide receivers as they’ve held that position to the second-fewest points per game of any team in the league this season. Tyreek Hill didn’t have a terrible game when these teams matched up earlier this season as he was held to five receptions for 56 yards on seven targets, but it wasn’t anything special either. Hill has had some huge blow up games even during the Chiefs’ offensive lulls, but he has also been held to fewer than 12 PPR fantasy points in three of his past five games. It’s also interesting to note that he has been held to just nine total targets over his past two games after being targeted at least 10 times in seven of his previous eight games. Hill is one of the few players in the league who can still turn in a quality fantasy day on few targets, but we want to see the ball come his way more often if we’re going to be excited to call him a top-end WR1. He’s not that right now, unfortunately, especially in this matchup. Still, Hill should see more volume this week as the Chiefs will almost certainly need to pass the ball more often against Los Angeles than they did this past week in a blowout victory over the Raiders.

Tight end Travis Kelce is the only other Kansas City pass catcher who we have any interest in for fantasy, but he has been going through a down stretch as well. Kelce has actually turned in back-to-back three catch, 27-yard, zero touchdown performances. Certainly we have to expect that he’ll turn things around eventually as he’s been one of the league’s best tight ends throughout his career and remains a premium weekly option, but there’s certainly some cause for concern right now. Thankfully, he actually has the best matchup of anyone in the Kansas City passing game this week as he faces a Los Angeles defense that has given up the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season and, more importantly, a defense that he already exposed for seven catches for 109 yards on 11 targets earlier this season.

LAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.27
LAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.5
LAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.31
LAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.6

Running Game Thoughts: Clyde Edwards-Helaire hasn’t looked effective running the ball since returning from his injury, and he still hasn’t done much in the passing game, but his two touchdown game against the Raiders should remind fantasy owners that opportunity remains king in fantasy football. Edwards-Helaire took only 10 carries in the blowout victory over the Raiders which has to be a bit of a disappointment given the game script, but those trips to the end zone still made him an RB1 on the week, even despite the fact that Darrel Williams scored a touchdown of his own.

One note of concern is that the Chiefs backfield snap count has been split almost evenly between Edwards-Helaire and Williams over the past three weeks. Certainly we can explain the even snap distribution this past week away as being indicative of the team just trying to keep Edwards-Helaire healthy, but the fact that Williams has been playing just about as many snaps in other, more competitive games is something to keep an eye on.

Still, Edwards-Helaire should be on fantasy owners’ good side right now as we head into Week 14. A game against the Chargers and their awful run defense has been good for quite a few backs this season, including Edwards-Helaire himself who carried the ball a season-high 17 times for 100 yards against them back in Week 3. He also caught a touchdown pass in that contest. We should expect that Williams is more involved this week than he was back in Week 3, but this is still a nice matchup for CEH and one that fantasy owners should be confident in.

Value Meter:
QB1: Patrick Mahomes
RB2: Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WR1: Tyreek Hill (low end)
TE1: Travis Kelce
Bench: Darrel Williams, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle

Passing Game Thoughts: “No Keenan Allen? No problem,” says Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert. The 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year torched the Giants in Week 14 as he threw for 275 yards and three scores, including one of the finest passes we’ve seen all year long when he bombed the ball nearly 70 yards in the air to hit Jalen Guyton in stride for a touchdown. Herbert has now scored at least 19 fantasy points in five of his past six games and he appears to be getting hot at the right time as the Chargers look to take control of the AFC West with a victory over the Chiefs this week.

Herbert should have Allen back this week as the team activated him from the COVID/IR list on Tuesday, meaning that the Chargers should be at near full strength heading into Thursday’s game. Allen has been excellent all season, having contributed double-digit PPR points in every single game he’s started, including an eight catch performance with a touchdown when he played the Chiefs earlier this season. Allen has been able to deliver a steady stream of high-end WR2/low-end WR1 performances all year long. Kansas City won’t have top-level slot cornerback L’Jarius Sneed after he missed Week 14 due to a death in his family.

Fellow wide receiver Mike Williams had a chance to really step up and be the lead dog with Allen out in Week 14, but that didn’t come to fruition. The big-bodied outside receiver did catch all six of the passes that came his way for 61 yards, but he failed to get into the end zone for the seventh time in eight weeks. He started the season off very hot, but has since cooled down quite a bit and he’s now back to being more of a high-end WR3/Flex option. If you’re looking for some positive news, though, it should be noted that Williams completely crushed the Chiefs when these teams played in Week 3. Williams caught seven passes for 122 yards and a pair of touchdowns in that game, so don’t be afraid to put him back in your lineup if you need some potential upside. He’s done it before and there’s plenty of reason to believe that he can do it again if given another big target share game.

We mentioned that highlight reel pass to Jalen Guyton above and it’s easy to look at his back-to-back weeks with a touchdown and project more of that going forward, but fantasy owners need to dig a bit deeper than that now that we’re headed into the fantasy playoffs. Guyton has had two productive fantasy games in a row, but he’s done so on an extremely low target share with unsustainable deep balls. We know that Herbert is capable of delivering deep passes, but Guyton hasn’t seen more than five targets in any game this season, including this past week when Keenan Allen was out. Sure, you could hope for another long touchdown, but the floor for a guy like Guyton is just way too low to make him a serious fantasy option.

Josh Palmer actually saw the biggest increase in usage in Allen’s absence as he saw a season high seven targets, five of which he caught for 66 yards and a touchdown. It was his only double-digit PPR game so far this season and with Allen expected back this week, Palmer can go back to the free agency pool.

Tight end Jared Cook has caught touchdowns in two of his past three games, but still hasn’t been fantasy relevant in traditional leagues even with those scores. He hasn’t surpassed even 30 yards in a game since Week 9, so it’s safe to look elsewhere for fantasy production.

KC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.5
KC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.13
KC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.24
KC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.10

Running Game Thoughts: The only real negative take away from the Chargers’ whooping of the Giants was that running back Austin Ekeler suffered an ankle injury that knocked him out of the contest. While Ekeler was back on the practice field in limited capacity on Tuesday, we still aren’t certain that he’ll be able to suit up on a short week against Kansas City.

Of course, if he’s on the field, Ekeler has proven himself to be an RB1 for fantasy all season long. Even in this past week’s shortened game, Ekeler delivered his 12th double-digit PPR performance in 13 games. He’s now scored eight touchdowns over his past five games and he’s remained one of the league’s most prolific pass catchers out of the backfield - a dream combination for fantasy points.

If Ekeler is unable to play, look for the Chargers to implement some sort of committee approach in their backfield, likely led by veteran Justin Jackson. Jackson got 10 touches this past week, most of which came after Ekeler’s injury. Of course, Joshua Kelley did also get 10 touches, so this will likely be a split backfield from a carry standpoint, but we also know that Jackson’s skill set makes him the more likely player to be on the field on passing downs.

Neither Jackson nor Kelley would be particularly exciting fantasy options if Ekeler is out, but you could probably sneak Jackson into your lineup as a Flex in PPR leagues, while Kelley is more of a touchdown-or-bust option that probably has minimal value in normal seasonal leagues.

Value Meter:
QB1: Justin Herbert
RB1: Austin Ekeler
WR1: Keenan Allen
WR3: Mike Williams
Flex: Justin Jackson (if Ekeler is inactive)
Bench: Joshua Kelley, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, Jared Cook, Donald Parham

Prediction: Chargers 30, Chiefs 27 ^ Top

Raiders @ Browns - (Green)
Line: LV -3.5
Total: 38.0

Passing Game Thoughts: In six games since Henry Ruggs’ release, the Raiders have gone 1-5 while Derek Carr averaged 276 yards, 1 TD and 0.8 INTs per game. The yardage isn’t bad, but the deep game has dried up, and the short passing attack isn’t scaring anyone. It's easy to spot the pattern for success: in Las Vegas’ six wins, Carr has averaged 9.0 yards per attempt or more in five of them; in seven losses, he’s averaged less than 7.0 five times. He simply can’t be relied on in fantasy circles right now.

It doesn’t help that Darren Waller (knee) hasn’t played since Thanksgiving due to a knee injury. There was some hope he could return this Saturday, but that reportedly will not be the case. In his absence, Hunter Renfrow (13-117-1) is Carr’s primary target. The Clemson product has developed into a capable possession receiver with his 86 catches tied for fifth-most in the NFL. He’s a viable WR2. Beyond that you’re throwing darts, hoping someone like DeSean Jackson (1-19-0) or Zay Jones (5-25-0) hits.

Ranked seventh in the NFL against the pass, the Browns are allowing 215 yards per game via the air. Led by Defensive Player of the Year candidate Myles Garrett (15 sacks), Cleveland is sixth in the league in sacks and could get some pressure on Carr. There’s little to like here from the Raiders’ perspective.

CLE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.19
CLE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.20
CLE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.22
CLE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.12

Running Game Thoughts: With Kenyan Drake (wrist) done for the season, Josh Jacobs (9-24-0) sees nearly all the backfield work. Last season, Jacobs ran for 192 yards in miserable weather against the Browns. While it’s not expected to be nearly as bad this time, the forecast still calls for some less-than-ideal conditions. Play Jacobs as an RB2 against the Browns’ 11th-ranked run defense (106.2 yards per game).

Value Meter:
RB2: Josh Jacobs
WR2: Hunter Renfrow
Bench: Derek Carr, Darren Waller (inj-knee)

Passing Game Thoughts: Put bluntly, it’s hard to even know who will be on the field for the Browns this Saturday due to what is the NFL’s worst COVID outbreak of 2021. Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum and Jarvis Landry are currently on the Reserve/COVID-19 list, having all tested positive for the virus. If they’re vaccinated, Mayfield and Landry have a shot at being cleared, but with the game on Saturday that’s dubious.

More likely, Nick Mullens will get the nod. Mullen started eight games for the 49ers last season, averaging 266 yards, 1.25 TDs and 1.38 INTs per game. Assuming Landry is out, Donovan Peoples-Jones (5-90-0) would become the top available receiver. The Michigan alum has logged four games of 70 yards receiving or more on the season, so there is some upside. While Mullens wouldn’t be worth a look, DPJ could offer plug-and-play value as a WR3 or flex.

Las Vegas is 13th against the pass this year, surrendering 231.3 yards per game. They have allowed 24 TDs (T-27th) with just five INTs (T-29th), but between the weather and the depleted roster they should be able to hold up.

LV FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.16
LV FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.3
LV FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.28
LV FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.2

Running Game Thoughts: With Kareem Hunt (ankle) expected to miss Week 15, Nick Chubb (17-59-0) could be a busy man. Chubb has only logged over 20 carries once in the last five games, but he should carry a heavy load here. This might also be a week to take a chance of D’Ernest Johnson, who had 168 yards of offense in Keenum’s start and could be called upon here. The Raiders are certainly susceptible to the run, allowing 125.3 yards per game on the ground, which is 26th in the league.

Value Meter:
RB1: Nick Chubb
Flex: D’Ernest Johnson
WR3/Flex: Donovan Peoples-Jones
Bench: Baker Mayfield (IR/COVID), Kareem Hunt (inj-ankle), Jarvis Landry (IR/COVID)

Prediction: Browns 18, Raiders 16 ^ Top

Patriots @ Colts - (Swanson)
Line: IND -2.5
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: With the Patriots sitting atop the AFC standings and playing excellent football on both sides of the ball, it looks like Bill Belichick and the Pats got the steal of the first round in Mac Jones.

It is too early in the process to say that the other first-round quarterbacks taken in the NFL, but it is pretty clear that the Pats found the best match in Jones for the system they want to run.

From a fantasy perspective, Jones has been solid enough to make some of the skill position players on the roster valuable, including Hunter Henry, who is among the league leaders in touchdowns at the tight end position. And Kendrick Borne, who despite the crazy weather game in which Jones threw just three passes, is a top 20-WR over the past five weeks.

Jakobi Meyers has also had fantasy value as of late, with a touchdown or 98 yards in two of his last three games. Neither player is an elite option, but in matchups like this against a solid run defense, their value increases significantly.

A matchup to watch in this game will be the Patriots tight ends against the Colts defense. Indy ranks 8th in points allowed to opposing tight ends, with monster games allowed to Rob Gronkowski, Mark Andrews, and even Dawson Knox.

It may take some guts to play Hunter Henry or Jonnu Smith based on their limited volume over the past few weeks. But in this matchup, it would not surprise us to see one of them reach pay dirt.

IND FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.12
IND FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.26
IND FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.18
IND FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.5

Running Game Thoughts: One of the best things Mac Jones has done for the Patriots for fantasy purposes is he provides enough of a threat to make the New England running game effective.

The Pats want to be a run-heavy team that plays good defense. To pull that off, you need to have a smart QB who doesn’t make mistakes and does enough in the passing game to make the opposing linebackers respect the pass. Jones, despite being a rookie, has done this quite well.

The big question heading into this game is the health of running back Damien Harris, who suffered a hamstring injury in Week 13 against the Bills. Despite having the bye week to heal, Harris was listed as limited on Thursday. Should he miss or be limited, look for a huge helping of rookie Rhamondre Stevenson.

The Colts give up the 10th fewest points per game to opposing running backs on the season. Yet, over the past five weeks, they have given up the 7th-most points to running backs, with solid games by Leonard Fournette, Elijah Mitchel, and even the Jets trio managed a touchdown.

Look for Belichick to establish the run early while taking advantage of Indy’s aggressive linebackers with play-action passes to the tight ends. If Harris is active, you are starting him with fingers crossed that he does not re-aggravate his hammy.
Regardless of the status of Harris, Stevenson looks like he would be a decent flex play. If Harris is out, Stevenson becomes a solid RB2.

Value Meter:
QB2: Mac Jones (Mid-Range)
RB2: Damien Harris (High-End)
RB2: Rhamondre Stevenson (Low-End)
WR3: Jakobi Meyers (Low-End)
WR3: Kendrick Bourne (Low-End)
TE1: Hunter Henry (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Like their opponent in this game, the Colts enter Week 15 fresh off a late-season bye week. Wentz has been a solid fit in his first season with the Colts, throwing for just under 3000 yards and 22 touchdowns in his first 13 games.

There have been some head-scratching plays and some forced throws, but for the most part, Wentz has helped his team more than hurt it.

When you think of the Colts, the first thing that comes to mind is Jonathan Taylor and the vaunted Indy offensive line. And for a good reason, as the Colts have made a playoff push on the shoulders of Taylor, who is locked in as the first overall pick in fantasy drafts next year.

It appeared as though Michael Pittman Jr. was on a trajectory to be a stud wide receiver with a run over four games in the middle of the season in which he posted five touchdowns in five games and his second 100-yard game of the year. His snap percentage has been about the same over the past few games, but his targets and production have been down.

He also faces a tough matchup in JC Jackson, one of the best young cornerbacks in the league. You are starting Pittman Jr., but you should temper your expectations. Only a few No.1 WRs have scored touchdowns against Jackson this season, and no opposing WR has topped 100 yards against the former Maryland Terrapin, including Stefon Diggs, who was limited to 41 yards.

Only the Broncos and Cardinals have given up fewer points to opposing tight ends than New England, with just three total touchdowns allowed in 2021. It would not surprise us to see Jack Doyle or Mo Alie-Cox catch a few balls and a random touchdown, but it is not something worth chasing.

This game projects to be a low-scoring affair, with each team trying to stop the run while also trying to run the ball effectively against their opponent. Belichick will look to stop the number one threat of the Colts, which is the running game and Jonathan Taylor.

That should open up some single coverage for Pittman and T.Y. Hilton. The question is can they beat the strong secondary of New England.

NE FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.31
NE FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.15
NE FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.30
NE FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.32

Running Game Thoughts: Even the best run defenses in the league have struggled at containing Jonathan Taylor, and the Colts will be stubborn at trying the run the ball heavily against New England.

Only three opposing running backs have posted a rushing touchdown vs. New England, and only two have topped 100 rushing yards. This is not a great matchup on paper for Taylor, but neither was his game against the Bucs back in Week 12, and he still managed nearly 100 total yards and a score.

You are starting Taylor no matter what. But expectations should be closer to what he did against the Bucs than how he fared against Houston with 143/2.

The Patriots have some injuries that could affect the outcome of the running game, but most of their questionable players are likely going to start. The two to watch are linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley and defensive lineman Christian Barmore.

Value Meter:
QB2: Carson Wentz (High-End)
RB1: Jonathan Taylor (High-End)
WR2: Michael Pittman Jr. (Low-End)
WR4: T.Y. Hilton (Low-End)
TE2: Jack Doyle (Low-End)

Prediction: New England 24, Indianapolis 17 ^ Top

Panthers at Bills - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: BUF -12.0
Total: 44.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Panthers have a revolving door at QB. Cam Newton hasn’t been the answer and has been replaced by P.J. Walker on a regular basis. And now, Sam Darnold is designated to return from IR, and HC Matt Rhule has hinted that Darnold could be in the mix down the stretch. That whole scenario, including the in-season firing of OC Joe Brady, is a fantasy nightmare, but the fact still remains, none of them are a good option for the fantasy playoffs.

D.J. Moore saw 10 targets last week, but has just one touchdown and one 100-yard game in his last nine. Given the QB carousel, he’s even risky as a WR3. Robby Anderson is better with Walker it seems, but this is still a hard play to have any confidence in, especially with the Bills, owners of one of the NFL’s top defenses, as this week’s opponent.

BUF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.19
BUF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.32
BUF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.28

Running Game Thoughts: Chuba Hubbard has taken over in the backfield in the wake of Christian McCaffrey’s season-ending injury and is still the RB1 despite getting fewer touches than Ameer Abdullah last week. Abdullah definitely has a role in the offense, but over time Hubbard figures to be the 1st and 2nd down back with a significant role in the passing game. The problem is with uncertainty surrounding the offensive game plan, uncertainty at QB, and a Bills defense looking to get back to its winning ways, this doesn’t seem like a backfield that’s worth the fantasy risk. The Bills have been gashed by the run in recent weeks, but the Panthers don’t seem equipped to repeat that feat.

Value Meter:
RB3: Chuba Hubbard (mid-range)
WR3: D.J. Moore (low-end)
FLEX: RB Ameer Abdullah, WR Robby Anderson
BENCH: QB Cam Newton, QB P.J. Walker, QB Sam Darnold, TE Tommy Tremble

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Josh Allen is banged up and has been limited in practice this week, but with every game being critical in Buffalo’s run to the playoffs, there’s no way Allen doesn’t try to play. He may not be making as many plays with his legs this week, but he may not have to against a fading Panthers defense. He’s a QB1 in all leagues.

Stefon Diggs has struggled with ups and downs in a disappointing season overall. But if you have him, you’re playing him. He’s got 11 catches for 125 yards over the last two weeks, but needs to find the end zone in order to be anything more than a low-end WR1. With Emmanuel Sanders likely out this week, Diggs could get a further bump in snaps and targets, as could Cole Beasley. Carolina has been tough against the pass throughout the season, but has lost some of its intensity late in the season. With Allen potentially limited physically, Beasley could be a nice outlet for a QB trying to get the ball out of his hand quickly. Look for Gabe Davis in 3-WR sets in Sanders’ absence, making him a flex consideration. TE Dawson Knox had a season-high seven catches last week for 60 yards and a score, his third in three weeks. He remains a solid TE1 throughout your playoff run.

CAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.30
CAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.31
CAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.27
CAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.22

Running Game Thoughts: The Panthers are allowing just over 4.0 yards per carry and a little more than 115 ground yards per game, so it will be tough sledding for the Bills on the ground. Devin Singletary and Matt Breida should be factors in the passing game early in this one, but their lack of volume carries on the ground will limit their fantasy ceiling.

Value Meter:
QB1: Josh Allen (high-end)
RB3: Devin Singletary (low-end)
WR1: Stefon Diggs (low-end)
WR2: Cole Beasley (mid-range)
TE1: Dawson Knox (mid-range)
FLEX: RB Matt Breida, WR Gabe Davis
BENCH: RB Zack Moss, WR Emmanuel Sanders

Prediction: Bills 27, Panthers 13 ^ Top

Texans @ Jaguars - (Swanson)
Line: JAX -5.0
Total: 39.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Texans head to Jacksonville to take on the Jags in the 2021 toilet bowl between the two worst teams in the league. The Texans are in full tank mode with the second overall pick, and possibly the top seed should the Lions lose.

Although there is little reason for the fans of either team to care much about this matchup, there are a few players in this game worthy of starting in your fantasy playoffs.

The only player who should be considered in the passing game for the Texans is wide receiver Brandin Cooks, who enters Week 12 as the No. 24 wide receiver in half-point scoring. Cooks posted a solid 8/101/0 game last week in a blowout loss to the Seahawks, with a team-high 11 targets on the day.

A similar stat line this week, with a decent chance of a receiving touchdown, is well within reach for Cooks.

A homerun play in deeper leagues in rookie Nico Collins, who is coming off his best game of the season. The former Michigan star caught five passes for 69 on ten targets. He is likely more of a DFS option considering fellow rookie Davis Mills will be under center, but he is certainly someone to watch in this matchup.

As far as Mills goes, he should not be started in anything other than the deepest of two-QB leagues.

JAC FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.26
JAC FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.23
JAC FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.7
JAC FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.13

Running Game Thoughts: The flaming dumpster fire that is the Houston Texans rushing offense has been a frustrating unit for fantasy managers this season. The team has used more than a handful of over-the-hill veterans and cast-offs from other teams, effectively killing any chance of one play offering fantasy value.

A bright spot last week for the team was the receiving work by Royce Freeman. The former Bronco and Panther caught six of eight targets for 51 yards. He did not score, but if he is able to provide similar production in the passing game while making more of his 10-15 carries, he could be a low-end flex in very deep leagues.

As bad as the Jags have been this season, their defense is not as bad as people think. If you take out big games from Jonathan Taylor and Derrick Henry, only one other running back has rushed for more than 100 yards this season, and only one running back has scored a reciting touchdown.

Mark Ingram, back when he was on the team in Week 1, did manage to put in Yeoman’s work and deliver 85 yards and a score. It took him 26 touches to reach that mark, but if you combine his rushing production and David Johnson’s receiving touchdown, it was not a terrible day for the Texans running backs.

Hopefully, if you made it to the fantasy playoffs, you have better options than David Johnson, Royce Freeman or Rex Burkhead (hip). If not, Freeman is the one to play, but as always, with this team - temper your expectations.

Value Meter:
QB2: Davis Mills (Low-End)
RB3: Royce Freeman (Low-End)
WR2: Brandin Cooks (Low-End)
WR4: Nico Collins (Low-End)
TE2: Pharoh Cooper (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Like most quarterbacks who are first overall picks, Trevor Lawrence landed in a dumpster fire in Jacksonville. Fortunately for Lawrence, the Jags owner emptied a large portion of the trash from the bin with the firing of Urban Meyer late Wednesday Night.

Hopefully, for Lawrence and the other young Jags players, a fresh start with a new coach will help their development and cleanse themselves of the pariah that is Urban Meyer.

The coaching change could be just what the doctor ordered for Lawrence and the other skill position players for the Jags. While we cannot recommend for anyone in the first week of the playoffs to start a quarterback with one passing touchdown since Week 9, we do think the offense overall should fare well in this game.
Houston ranks in the middle of the pack in points allowed to QBs, but they are 14th in points allowed to WR and 5th in points given up to running backs. Expect a huge day for James Robinson in this game and some deep chances on play-action for the wide receivers.

The wide receiving corps of Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, and Laquon Treadwell were all on the field for at least 80% of snaps last week, with 7,7,6 targets for each player, respectively.

Treadwell led the group with 4/68, yet none of them managed to post more than nine fantasy points. Hopefully, you have better options for your playoff team.

HOU FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.17
HOU FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.6
HOU FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.15
HOU FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.9

Running Game Thoughts: James Robison is going to run like he lost a grumpy 250-pound old coach off his shoulders now that Urban Meyer has been kicked to the curb.

Hopefully, Darrell Bevell will quickly adjust from Meyer’s ineptitude and give Robinson a full workload in this plus matchup.

Rashaad Penny’s 16/137/2 line from last week is an indication of how opportunistic the Houston defense has been to running backs as of late. They are a sieve, and Robinson should get you around 100 total yards and a score.

Value Meter:
QB2: Trevor Lawrence (Low-End)
RB1: James Robinson (Low-End)
WR3: Laquon Treadwell (Low-End)
WR3: Marvin Jones (Low-End)
WR4: Laviska Shenault (High-End)
TE2: James O’Shaughnessy (Low-End)

Prediction: Jacksonville 30, Houston 21 ^ Top

Titans @ Steelers - (Green)
Line: Pk
Total: 43.0

Passing Game Thoughts: When Derrick Henry (foot) went down, it made sense that more of the offensive burden would shift to Ryan Tannehill. It hasn’t worked out that way. While injuries to the receiving corps certainly bear some of the blame, the veteran QB hasn’t distinguished himself, either. In five games since Henry’s injury, Tannehill has averaged 193 yards, 0.8 TDs and 1.3 INTs per. He passed for a modest 220 yards and 2 TDs versus Pittsburgh last season and isn’t worth taking a chance on this week.

While AJ Brown (chest) remains on IR with a chest injury, Julio Jones (4-33-0) made his return last Sunday, at least providing Tannehill with a proven option at receiver after he spent previous games passing to names like Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and Dez Fitzpatrick. Jones’ first year in Tennessee has been a disappointment with hamstring issues and shaky production. He can be played as a WR3 against the Steelers this Sunday, though, with some modest upside.

For as bad as the Steelers looked at times last Thursday, they held up well against Kirk Cousins, holding him to 14 completions on 31 attempts and picking him off twice. On the year, Pittsburgh is 14th against the pass, giving up 231.8 yards per game. If T.J. Watt (groin) can return from a groin injury that would provide a boost as well.

PIT FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.22
PIT FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.8
PIT FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.12
PIT FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.23

Running Game Thoughts: In the absence of Henry, D’Onta Foreman (13-47-1) and Dontrell Hilliard (6-13-0) have been the primary cogs of the running game. Of the two, Foreman holds greater value. In fact, Hilliard’s role is murky after Jeremy McNichols (8-16-0) saw more usage last Sunday against the Jags. Pittsburgh embarrassed themselves in Week 14, allowing Dalvin Cook to run for 205 yards and 2 TDs on 27 carries. Foreman is an RB3 this week, and Hilliard is a flex; both carry risk/reward potential based on how the Steelers respond to that dreadful showing.

Value Meter:
RB3: D’Onta Foreman
Flex: Dontrell Hilliard
WR3: Julio Jones
Bench: Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry (IR), A.J. Brown (IR)

Passing Game Thoughts: For most of the first three quarters last Thursday, the Steelers looked as though they didn’t know they had a game to play. Everything changed over the final 20 minutes, however, with Ben Roethlisberger nearly leading a comeback from 29 points down. He ultimately came up short, but Big Ben still finished with 308 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT. Statistically, Roethlisberger has been better of late, throwing for multiple scores in four of his last five games -- something he did only once over the first seven.

Diontae Johnson (5-76-0) was targeted 10 times in the loss to Minnesota, marking the 10th time in 12 games he’s seen double-digit looks. That kind of usage is fantasy gold, and Johnson has entrenched himself as a top-10 option. Chase Claypool (8-93-0) led the team in receiving but made a terrible play late, wasting time celebrating a first-down conversion as precious seconds ticked off the clock. Doubtless he’ll be looking to atone for his mistake with a big Week 15. Pat Freiermuth (2-32-1) scored his seventh TD of the season last Thursday and had the potential game-tying score punched away on the final play of the game. Clearly, Freiermuth has Big Ben’s confidence.

The Titans are 22nd against the pass with 250.7 yards allowed per game. They stifled the Jaguars last week, intercepting Trevor Lawrence four times in what proved to be Urban Meyer’s final game, but that shouldn’t scare fantasy owners. Roethlisberger is better off on the bench, though he could be played if needed. Johnson, who scored twice against the Titans last season, is a WR1. Claypool is best used as a WR3 that could trend up or down. Freiermuth is playable as a decent TE1.

TEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.6
TEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.30
TEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.1
TEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.27

Running Game Thoughts: It was easy to overlook Najee Harris when Cook was running wild on the other side, but the rookie had a strong game of his own, amassing 104 total yards and two TDs. After holding Jacksonville to eight yards rushing last week, the Titans now sit second in the NFL at 90.9 yards allowed per game. Despite that, Harris still offers RB1 appeal this week.

Value Meter:
RB1: Najee Harris
WR1: Diontae Johnson
WR2/WR3: Chase Claypool
TE1: Pat Freiermuth
Bench: Ben Roethlisberger

Prediction: Titans 24, Steelers 20 ^ Top

Cardinals @ Lions - (Green)
Line: ARI -12.5
Total: 47.5

Passing Game Thoughts: With a chance to maintain their hold on the No. 1 overall seed and essentially lock down an NFC West crown, the Cardinals stumbled and fell to the Rams on Monday night. Part of the blame has to fall to Kyler Murray, who threw a pair of critical interceptions and showed zero clock awareness in the closing moments. He finished with 444 yards of combined offense (383 passing, 61 rushing) but neither ran nor threw for a touchdown -- it was the most yards without a score from a player in an NFL game since Matthew Stafford (445) in 2012.

Murray’s job will be tougher down the stretch minus DeAndre Hopkins (knee), who is expected to miss at least the rest of the regular season after suffering a torn MCL in Week 14. Minus Hopkins, A.J. Green (7-102-0) and Christian Kirk (3-86-0) move back into the increased roles they played when Hopkins was sidelined by a hamstring issue. Look for more of Rondale Moore (3-5-0) and Zach Ertz (5-42) as well. Clearly, the Cardinals’ cupboards are not bare. You can play Green as a WR3 with Kirk slightly lower as a low-end WR3 or flex. Ertz can also be used as a borderline TE1.

The Lions continue to function as a middling pass defense, ranking 17th in the NFL at 244 yards allowed per game. As has been noted before, however, this has more to do with their struggles against the run, so if the Cardinals decide they want to attack via the air it’d still be to their advantage. As such, Murray, who accounted for 3 TDs and 3 INTs against Detroit last year, is a solid QB1 this Sunday.

DET FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.24
DET FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.4
DET FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.21
DET FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.14

Running Game Thoughts: Although the Rams did a nice job on James Conner (ankle) as a runner, holding him to 31 yards on 13 carries, he showed off his improved receiving skills and finished the night with 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Arizona is likely to get Chase Edmonds (ankle) back from IR, though now Conner is dealing with an ankle issue of his own. It’s something to monitor leading up to kickoff. Assuming both play, Conner is an RB2 with a returning Edmonds as an RB3 against the Lions, which have given up 135.2 rushing yards per game (28th) this season.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kyler Murray
RB2: James Conner (inj-ankle)
RB3: Chase Edmonds (IR)
WR3: A.J. Green
WR3/Flex: Christian Kirk
TE1: Zach Ertz
Bench: DeAndre Hopkins (IR), Rondale Moore

Passing Game Thoughts: Let’s be honest, the Lions are a threadbare offense at the best of times. Last Sunday, they took the field without T.J. Hockenson (hand), D’Andre Swift (shoulder) and Jamaal Williams (illness). Under the circumstances, Jared Goff passing for 215 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT doesn’t seem too bad. The veteran threw for 351 yards versus the Cardinals last season, though that was with the Rams, so there’s little reason to expect big things from Goff this Sunday.

It looks as though Hockenson will miss the rest of the season after undergoing thumb surgery, thrusting Amon-Ra St. Brown (8-73-0) and Josh Reynolds (3-52-0) into the spotlight. St. Brown has been a nice find with the rookie posting 18 receptions over the past two games; that includes the game winner in Week 13. He’s climbed his way into WR3 territory. Reynolds was a smart addition as well. In three games since reuniting with Goff, the former Ram has 10 catches, 191 yards and a touchdown. Both wideouts are playable this week; St. Brown as a WR3 and Reynolds as a flex.

Arizona ranks fifth in pass defense (209.8 yards per game) but had tons of problems with the Rams on Monday night when Matthew Stafford threw for 287 yards and three scores. The Lions can’t match what LA did to be sure, but St. Brown and Reynolds might outperform expectations.

ARI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.28
ARI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.18
ARI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.17
ARI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.31

Running Game Thoughts: With Swift and Williams inactive, Craig Reynolds led the team in rushing, carrying 11 times for 83 yards. Assuming Williams clears COVID protocols he’s likely to be the lead back as Swift continues to deal with a shoulder injury. If not, Reynolds could see the majority of the work. The Cardinals are 16th in run defense at 111.8 yards allowed per game, though only two teams have yielded fewer rushing TDs. It's all about who plays for Detroit. If Williams is back, he’s an RB3 with Reynolds as a flex. Minus Williams, Reynolds could be used as an RB3.

Value Meter:
RB3: Jamaal Williams (IR/COVID)
Flex: Craig Reynolds
WR3: Amon-Ra St. Brown
Flex: Josh Reynolds
Bench: Jared Goff, D’Andre Swift (inj-shoulder), T.J. Hockenson (inj-hand)

Prediction: Cardinals 37, Lions 17 ^ Top

Jets at Dolphins - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: MIA -9.5
Total: 41.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Zach Wilson is the worst quarterback in the NFL. There, I said it. It’s easy to see he is still thinking his way through plays instead of just playing. As a result, his decision-making is slow, his accuracy is off, and his receivers are frustrated. It’s even become harder to blame the o-line, which has been playing pretty well recently.

The worse news is that Corey Davis and Elijah Moore, his two best receivers, are both out, leaving some combination of Braxton Berrios, Keelan Cole, and Jamison Crowder as his top targets. That group doesn’t instill much fear in opposing defenses, but if there is a fantasy sleeper in there somewhere, it might be Crowder, who has accumulated nearly a third of his targets (20 of 62) in the last four games. Leave everyone else alone.

MIA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.13
MIA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.24
MIA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.4
MIA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.17

Running Game Thoughts: RB Michael Carter has been designated to return from IR this week, and HC Rob Saleh has been quoted as saying he expects Carter to play. He was the driving force behind the Jets run game before his injury, and is a threat in the passing game as well, but with Tevin Coleman also back to full practice and Ty Johnson still in the fold, Carter’s ceiling this week is limited to a RB2 role until we’re sure he’s back to full speed.

Value Meter:
RB2: Michael Carter (low-end)
WR3: Jamison Crowder (low-end)
FLEX: RB Ty Johnson, WR Braxton Berrios, WR Keelan Cole
BENCH: QB Zach Wilson, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Corey Davis, WR Elijah Moore, TE Ryan Griffin, TE Tyler Kroft

Passing Game Thoughts: Tua has been better. Over the last three weeks, he is completing well over 80% of his passes, has attempted at least 30 passes per game, and has multiple passing TD’s in two of the last three games. But this isn’t exactly Dan Marino-Ken O’Brien here. He still just has one 300-yard effort this season back in Week 6. That will limit his ceiling to a QB2.

The Dolphins have been hammered by Covid protocols, leaving DeVante Parker as Tagovailoa’s most viable receiving threat. He caught five of five targets in his return from a hamstring injury in Week 13. Normally I might flex him this week, but this is the Jets he’s playing, which puts him in mid-range WR2 territory for me. TE Mike Gesicki has inserted himself as a go-to guy for Tua, but he had found himself short of his usual production before 11 targets coming his way against the Giants in Week 13. That’s good news, but he still hasn’t surpassed 50 yards in a game since Week 9 and hasn’t scored since Week 7. Keep hope alive and make him a TE1 against the Jets, but this is not the Gesicki of last season.

NYJ FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.11
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.1
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.25
NYJ FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.8

Running Game Thoughts: RB Myles Gaskin has been activated off the Covid list along with Salvon Ahmed and Malcolm Brown may get off IR just in time. Gaskin becomes the priority play here in a great matchup as the Jets are allowing 4.5 per carry and almost 140 rush yards per game. They've allowed the most fantasy points to running backs this season including 19 TDs to the position.

Value Meter:
QB2: Tua Tagovailoa (mid-range)
RB: Myles Gaskin,
WR2: DeVante Parker (mid-range)
TE1: Mike Gesicki (high-end)
FLEX: RB Malcolm Brown, TE Durham Smythe
BENCH: WR Jaylen Waddle, WR Will Fuller

Prediction: Dolphins 33, Jets 12 ^ Top

Cowboys at Giants - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: DAL -10.5
Total: 44.5

Passing Game Thoughts: QB Dak Prescott is coming off his second straight inconsistent start. He has failed to throw for 250 yards in his last two games and in four of his last six, tossing six interceptions in that time.

He will have his full complement of weapons on hand for this game – WR’s CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup and TE Dalton Schultz, along with RB’s Ezekiel Elliott and Corey Clement. The trouble is, he had all of them last week, too and it didn’t seem to help.

They should be able to run the ball against a Giants defense that is allowing over 125 ground yards per game. That should open up the play-action pass game for Prescott and set up some timing throws to get him in rhythm and give him some downfield shots to those dangerous receivers, particularly Lamb who is averaging nearly 14 yards per catch.

The Giants have actually played pretty well against the pass over the course of the season, but have allowed over 500 passing yards and five touchdowns through the air over the past two weeks. This is a taxed unit that has been shouldering the load for an offense that is barely producing.

Prescott has a very high ceiling due to the matchup, if he can get back in rhythm and make better decisions with the ball. Lamb is a WR1 based on volume and his big play ability, while Cooper and Gallup will see their value increase with improved play from Prescott. Schultz’ production has dipped in recent weeks with the healthy return of the receiving corps, but with Cedrick Wilson sidelined due to covid protocols this week, he could see a bump.

NYG FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.10
NYG FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.9
NYG FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.9
NYG FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.16

Running Game Thoughts: Ezekiel Elliott is saying he feels as good as he has in a while, but he’s still not 100% and was actually out-carried by Clement last week. Tony Pollard was thought to be a potential return this week, but he hasn’t practiced this week as of this writing, so that seems unlikely. Expect Elliott and Clement to both get a fair share of the load this week against a Giants team that is allowing nearly 4.5 yards per carry. I would love to see some more scripted runs for Prescott, or at the very least see him take advantage of running lanes when they open up for him. On the surface, that may sound like stealing touches from the RB’s, but if this defense has to account for Prescott as a runner, it will open up opportunities for Zeke and Clement.

Value Meter:
QB1: Dak Prescott (high-end)
RB2: Ezekiel Elliott (low-end),
WR1: CeeDee Lamb (mid-range)
WR2: Amari Cooper (low-end)
WR3: Michael Gallup (low-end)
TE1: Dalton Schultz (low-end)
BENCH: RB Corey Clement, RB Tony Pollard

Passing Game Thoughts: We’ve heard nothing officially as of this writing, but it certainly doesn’t look like Daniel Jones will be playing any more quarterback for the Giants this season. He made a trip to the west coast this week to seek additional opinions on his ailing neck, which quite frankly, is never a good sign.

Don’t expect to see him, and don’t expect much from Mike Glennon in his place. Despite averaging 40 throws per game over the last two weeks with new OC Freddie Kitchens, Glennon has yet to surpass 200 passing yards in a game and is averaging less than 5.0 yards per attempt. It’s gotten so desperate that Jake Fromm is reportedly getting ready to take some snaps this week.

This is obviously bad news for guys named Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton and Sterling Shepard, who have both essentially disappeared with Glennon under center. Kadarius Toney and John Ross have been put in Covid protocols, leaving TE’s Evan Engram and Kyle Rudolph as the only marginally viable fantasy options in this passing attack.

DAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.8
DAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.28
DAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.11
DAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.15

Running Game Thoughts: The good news, at least for some Giants fans, is that RB Saquon Barkley has taken on a bigger workload in the absence of a passing attack, and he’s handled it without getting hurt! Barkley has at least 17 total touches in each of the last three games, and though he still hasn’t rushed for 100 yards in a game since 2019, his production has been steady and worthy of RB2 status. Devontae Booker could have potential flex value as his backup, with a higher ceiling should the injury bug find Barkley again.

Value Meter:
RB2: Saquon Barkley (mid-range)
TE2: Evan Engram (high-end)
FLEX: RB Devontae Booker, WR Kenny Golladay, TE Kyle Rudolph
BENCH: QB Daniel Jones, QB Mike Glennon, WR Sterling Shepard, WR Kadarius Toney, WR Darius Slayton, WR John Ross

Prediction: Cowboys 24, Giants 9 ^ Top

Washington at Eagles - (Ken Ilchuk)
Line: PHI -10.0
Total: 42.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Taylor Heinicke (Covid-19 list) is fun to watch, but not necessarily fun to own, particularly in recent weeks. He plays with great effort and energy, but in terms of fantasy that just means the big mistake is as likely as the big play. But the big play hasn’t come as often as anyone would like. Heinicke hasn’t eclipsed 200 passing yards in a game since Week 12. Playing through knee and elbow injuries isn’t helping his cause, but on a team loaded with covid-related issues, he’s all this team’s got. He’ll play, but not enough to trust in your playoff game this week.

One never knows who he’ll be throwing to. WR DeAndre Carter has turned invisible, Curtis Samuel is hurt…again, WR Cam Sims is on the Covid list, WR Terry McLaurin and RB J.D. McKissic are coming out of concussion protocol, and TE Ricky Seals-Jones caught exactly one pass last week against the Cowboys in his first week as the top TE target replacing injured Logan Thomas. No one who is part of this passing game is playoff-ready against an Eagles team that is one of the best in the league in fantasy points allowed to WR’s.

Editor's Note: Heinicke has landed on the Covid-19 list. Kyle Allen is also on the list which leaves Kyle Shurmur in line to start at QB.

PHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.18
PHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.11
PHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.29
PHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.1

Running Game Thoughts: Honestly, this offense is the Antonio Gibson show. Before logging just 10 carries last week against Dallas, he was averaging about 25 carries a game over the previous four games. He also has 14 catches over the last three games, and had at least 75 total yards in four straight games going into Week 14. He has struggled with ball security and it reared its’ head again last week. If McKissic returns, Gibson could see a reduction in snap percentage. If not, expect Gibson to get the ball on early downs with Jaret Patterson working in.

Value Meter:
QB2: Taylor Heinicke (low-end)
RB2: Antonio Gibson (mid-range)
TE1: Ricky Seals-Jones (mid-range)
FLEX: RB J.D. McKissic, RB Jaret Patterson, WR Terry McLaurin
BENCH: WR Curtis Samuel, WR Cam Sims, TE Logan Thomas

Passing Game Thoughts: The general feeling was that QB Jalen Hurts would be recovered from his ankle injury coming out of the team’s Week 14 bye, but there are rumors that Hurts is still hurting and could be a game time decision come Sunday. That’s a tough spot for fantasy managers during playoff time. Washington presents a favorable matchup as several defensive players are sidelined due to Covid issues. But it’s hard to recommend him as anything more than a QB2, given how much his running ability is part of his game. Friday’s injury report will be telling, but probably not a bad idea for Hurts owners to think about handcuffing Gardner Minshew.

WR DeVonta Smith hasn’t caught five passes in a game in over a month, which is the last time he posted a 100-yard game. He also hasn’t found the end zone in the last three games, not exactly WR1 numbers. Quez Watkins had taken over as the second WR in 2-WR sets, but is now headed to the Covid list. Jalen Reagor is in freefall having not recorded at least three catches in a game since Week 5. RB Kenneth Gainwell has been the 3rd down passing down back for most of the season, but with Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, and Jordan Howard all potentially available this week, it’s hard to see a major role for him.

That leaves owners with TE Dallas Goedert, who has been money all season and should be played in all formats.

WAS FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.1
WAS FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.29
WAS FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.3
WAS FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.21

Running Game Thoughts: As I mentioned above, it seems the status of everyone in the Eagles backfield is up in the air right now. Owners need to be on the injury and practice reports on Friday. If Miles Sanders is good to go, he’s a reliable play this week. Boston Scott and Jordan Howard are essentially stealing touches, unless Sanders is out, which will have them trading series and snaps on 1st and 2nd down. Gainwell is only a factor if one or two of the above are out for Sunday.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jalen Hurts (mid-range)
RB2: Miles Sanders (mid-range)
WR3: DeVonta Smith (mid-range)
TE1: Dallas Goedert (mid-range)
FLEX: RB Kenneth Gainwell
BENCH: RB Jordan Howard, RB Boston Scott, WR Jalen Reagor, WR Quez Watkins

Prediction: Washington 16, Eagles 15 ^ Top

Bengals at Broncos - (Caron)
Line: DEN -3.0
Total: 44.0

Passing Game Thoughts: Joe Burrow is dealing with a finger injury after this past week’s game, but was able to get back on the field even after the injury was sustained and he’s expected to play as the Bengals head to Denver to face the Broncos. Assuming he’s ready to go, Burrow does look like he’ll be a borderline QB1 this week against a tough Denver pass defense. The Broncos have conceded the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season and they haven’t yet allowed anyone to pass for more than two touchdowns in a game against them. Still, Burrow has been productive as of late and he has some of the league’s best young playmakers to throw the ball to.

Wide receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins have established themselves as one of the league’s premiere outside pass catching duos. While it was Chase who really got out to the hot start in his rookie season, Higgins has been the one who has been a bit more productive as of late. Either way, though, both players are must-starts right now given their impressive target shares and efficiency.

Tyler Boyd has had back-to-back double-digit PPR games, but don’t let that fool you into starting him this week. The wide receiver just doesn’t have a high enough ceiling to be starting him in your seasonal leagues unless you’re in an absolutely desperate situation.

DEN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.29
DEN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.22
DEN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.26
DEN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.30

Running Game Thoughts: Bengals running back Joe Mixon was this season’s poster boy for injury discount in fantasy drafts but he hasn’t let that label stop him from being one of 2021’s most valuable fantasy assets. Mixon has quietly carried the ball at least 10 times in every game and he’s actually had 15 or more carries in nine of the Bengals’ 13 games. Better yet, he’s now scored 14 total touchdowns on the season which has allowed him to deliver both a high floor and a high ceiling for fantasy owners. This isn’t an easy opponent in the Broncos, but he’s seeing far too many touches to be benched.

Value Meter:
QB1: Joe Burrow (low end)
RB1: Joe Mixon
WR1: Ja’Marr Chase (low end)
WR2: Tee Higgins (high end)
Bench: Samaje Perine, Tyler Boyd, C.J. Uzomah

Passing Game Thoughts: At one point it looked as though the Broncos might have four fantasy-relevant pass catchers, but at this point we’re struggling to even find one. Wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick have completely fallen off and have just one double-digit PPR game between the two of them over the past six weeks. Even Jerry Jeudy, who’s been the team’s most productive receiver since returning to the lineup, hasn’t yet reached even 14 PPR points in a game this season. If you need 10 PPR points in a game, sure, you can drop Jeudy in your lineup - but if you’re trying to win your fantasy league, it’s probably best to avoid these receivers.

Even tight end Noah Fant, who plays an extremely depleted position, has fallen out of the top-12. Since his big Week 6 game against the Raiders in which he caught nine passes for 97 yards and a touchdown, Fant has since failed to catch more than five passes in any game, has not reached 60 yards in any game, and has not scored a single touchdown.

Add Teddy Bridgewater into the mix as an extremely low upside option and you have what is one of the league’s most disgusting passing games at the moment. Avoid in fantasy.

CIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.21
CIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.10
CIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.16
CIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.11

Running Game Thoughts: While the Broncos’ passing game has been horrible as of late, their running game has been absolutely red hot. Both Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams finished as PPR RB1s this past week as they crushed the Lions for 194 total yards and four combined touchdowns.

It’s worth pointing out that both players are banged up heading into this game, but they’re both expected to play and that shouldn’t be the thing that keeps you from starting them. They do, however, have a bit of a difficult matchup against a Bengals defense that hasn’t allowed an opposing running back to reach even 60 rushing yards in a game against them since Week 9. The only running back that has scored a touchdown against them over that stretch was Austin Ekeler in Week 13.

While we’re going to downgrade these back just a bit in the rankings, they’re both must-starts as long as they’re playing this well.

Value Meter:
RB2: Javonte Williams
Flex: Melvin Gordon
Bench: Teddy Bridgewater, Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam

Prediction: Bengals 27, Broncos 20 ^ Top

Falcons at 49ers - (Caron)
Line: SF -9.5
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s now been five straight games since Matt Ryan threw for multiple touchdown passes in a game and, not surprisingly, his fantasy numbers have been pretty ugly. Ryan simply is not a QB you can trust right now given the ineffectiveness of this offense.

Similarly, the Falcons pass catchers have also been going through some tough times. Tight end Kyle Pitts continues to see at least five targets each week, but he’s only seen a double-digit target share once all season. His health and solid (for the tight end position) target share have allowed him to be a top-12 option but he’s just not contributing the difference-making games that many had hoped he would when they made him a top five-drafted tight end this offseason. He remains a fantasy weekly starter but he does have a very difficult matchup this week against a 49ers defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season.

The only wide receiver in Atlanta who fantasy owners should be at all interested in is Russell Gage. Gage has been targeted 33 times over his past four games, clearly establishing himself as the team’s top wide receiver in the process. While the fantasy production hasn’t been anything amazing, aside from his Week 13 game against Tampa Bay, Gage has been a reliable PPR option and someone who should be in most lineups as at least a WR3, if not a low-end WR2.

SF FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.20
SF FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.14
SF FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.13
SF FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.29

Running Game Thoughts: Running back Cordarrelle Patterson continues to be one of the NFL’s best stories this season and he’s now scored double-digit PPR fantasy points in 10 of the 12 games he’s played in. While passing game usage has slowed down a bit from where it was earlier this year, Patterson has become his team’s lead ball carrier, having rushed the ball 45 times for 244 yards and three touchdowns over his past three contests. It would’ve been hard to imagine that we’d eventually be here when the season began, but Patterson is a legit RB1 each week even when he’s playing tough run defense like San Francisco who have allowed just one 100-yard rusher all season.

Mike Davis has been fully demoted to RB2 status in Atlanta, even in rush attempts, but he’s been able to remain a decent PPR fantasy option most week because of his underrated usage in the passing game this season. Despite sharing a backfield with Patterson, Davis has caught 39 passes this season, including catching at least three passes in four straight games. His upside is limited as long as Patterson is healthy, but Davis isn’t a terrible Flex option if you’re dealing with injuries.

Value Meter:
RB1: Cordarrelle Patterson
WR3: Russell Gage
TE1: Kyle Pitts
Flex: Mike Davis
Bench: Matt Ryan, Olamide Zaccheaus, Tajae Sharpe, Hayden Hurst

Passing Game Thoughts: Jimmy Garoppolo really isn’t someone who we can trust as a QB1 for fantasy, but he’s still been decent even when his pass catchers have been depleted this season. Now that he’s got a healthy Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle, though, Garoppolo is someone who you could reasonably trust as an injury replacement QB1 or a high-end QB2 this week. The 49ers will be facing a Falcons defense that has been horrible against opposing passing games this season, having allowed the second-most fantasy points per game to quarterbacks on the year. This is an ideal situation if you’re a Garoppolo owner and it’s certainly a smash opportunity for Samuel, Aiyuk and Kittle.

Samuel is technically still listed as a wide receiver in fantasy, but he’s been utilized much more as a runner lately than as a pass catcher. Still, he’s contributing WR1 numbers, having scored five rushing touchdowns over his past three games, so who are we to complain? The 49ers clearly make a concerted effort to get him the ball one way or another, especially near the goal line, so he needs to remain in fantasy lineups as a WR1.

Aiyuk saw his highest target game of the season this past week when he saw 11 passes come his way against the Bengals. He caught six of those passes for 62 yards and a touchdown and has now delivered double-digit PPR fantasy points in five of his past seven games. The season started off extremely poorly for the second-year wide receiver but he’s pretty clearly the top pass-catching WR on the roster at this point so he can be dropped back into fantasy lineups as a borderline WR2/WR3.

With Travis Kelce (prior to Thursday) and Darren Waller struggling, the only real difference-making fantasy tight ends as of late have been Baltimore’s Mark Andrews and San Francisco’s George Ktitle. Kittle returned from the IR back in Week 9, and has since scored six touchdowns in six games while delivering three 100-yard games. Better yet, he’s been absolutely ridiculous over his past two games, having caught an impressive 22 of the 27 passes that’ve come his way for 332 yards and three touchdowns. If you’re considering benching Kittle at this point, you’re probably playing the wrong fantasy sport.

ATL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.2
ATL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.7
ATL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.8
ATL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.18

Running Game Thoughts: Running back Elijah Mitchell missed this past week’s game with a concussion and still has not practiced as of Thursday, which could mean that we’ll see another committee approach in the 49ers backfield this week. Jeff Wilson was the lead ball carrier for San Francisco this past week when Mitchell was out, but he carried the ball just 13 times for an uninspiring 56 yards and no touchdowns. He also lost passing down work to JaMycal Hasty. But worst of all was the reality that wide receiver Deebo Samuel is easily the team’s best ball carrier when Mitchell is out—and the coaches know it. That alone limits whoever is the “starting” running back to a pretty minimal upside.

If Mitchell does end up being active, however, he could be in for another big day against a horrible Atlanta defense in what could end up being a blowout. Mitchell has carried the ball a whopping 76 times over his past three starts and is truly the exception to the otherwise committee approach that the 49ers have rolled out this season. If he’s active, expect Mitchell to see plenty of carries yet again and he’s a low-end RB1 this week.

Value Meter:
QB2: Jimmy Garoppolo
RB1: Elijah Mitchell (low end)
WR1: Deebo Samuel
WR2: Brandon Aiyuk
Bench: Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty, Jauan Jennings, Trent Sherfield

Prediction: 49ers 30, Falcons 17 ^ Top

Seahawks at Rams - (Caron)
Line: LAR -4.0
Total: 45.5

Passing Game Thoughts: While he’s now made it three straight games of two or more touchdown passes, the chances of Russell Wilson finishing the season as a top-12 fantasy QB appear to be dwindling. We used to be able to rely on Wilson to contribute three or four points per game with his legs, but even that is not happening in 2021. We’ve now gotten to the point that Wilson is back to essentially being a game manager who’s a weekly QB2 for fantasy, but it’s unlikely that we’re going to see more than that from him this season. A matchup with the Rams defense doesn’t make that any easier, either.

The Rams could, however, be without All-Pro cornerback Jalen Ramsey who is currently on the COVID-IR list and hasn’t yet been able to pass the league protocols. Metcalf turned in his best performance of the 2021 season when these teams played back in Week 5 and while not all of the catches came against Ramsey, it would certainly be nice to avoid him if possible. Metcalf has been ice cold as of late, having turned in just one double-digit PPR game over his past five contests. That, of course, corresponds exactly with when Wilson returned from injury and it’s safe to say that this duo just has not been on the same page. Metcalf is still a must-start if he’s active just because we know he’s capable of turning in some huge games and he’s still seeing a sizable target share. We’ll rank him as a WR2 if Ramsey is active, but he moves back up into the WR1 conversation if he can avoid the league’s best cornerback.

While Metcalf has been struggling as of late, it’s been teammate Tyler Lockett who’s been in the midst of another one of his hot streaks. Lockett has turned in four straight double-digit PPR games, including a five catch, 142 yard, one touchdown performance this past week against the Texans. He’s one of many players around the league on the Covid list so check this weekend to see if he’s active. He’s been targeted 17 times over his past two weeks so the opportunities are there and Lockett should be looked at as a WR2 if he plays.

Tight end Gerald Everett has scored in two of his past three games, but that alone hasn’t been enough to make him a quality fantasy option as he’s caught just 11 passes for 59 total yards over that stretch. The Rams have allowed just four touchdowns to tight ends this season so this isn’t the type of matchup you’re looking for if you’re considering playing Everett.

LAR FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.25
LAR FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.16
LAR FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.14
LAR FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.19

Running Game Thoughts: Don’t look now, but it looks like former first round NFL Draft pick Rashaad Penny might be getting a second chance at a career in the league as the running back performed quite well in his first opportunity of 2021 to be the Seahawks’ starter. Penny carried the ball 16 times against the Texans, turning that into 137 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He showed by far the most impressive raw talent of any Seahawks running back this season and it’s hard to believe that the Seahawks will suddenly look another direction now that they’re finally getting something out of Penny.

Unfortunately, the running back could be in some trouble this week as he plays against a Rams defense that has been quite good against opposing rushers as of late. While James Conner did a pair of touchdowns against them this past week, he was only able to muster 31 rushing yards on 13 carries. If you look past that game, the Rams have now conceded under 3.1 yards per carry to opposing running backs over their past six games. They have been a defense that’s able to be attacked by backs through the passing game, but Seattle is one of the least-effective teams in the league at throwing the ball to their running backs so don’t bank on that.

There are a ton of injuries throughout the league so it’s very possible that Penny will have to be an RB2 for some fantasy owners this week, but it’s probably more realistic to expect him to produce Flex numbers in this matchup.

Value Meter:
QB2: Russell Wilson
WR2: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett (Covid list)
Flex: Rashaad Penny
Bench: Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, Freddie Swain, Gerald Everett

Passing Game Thoughts: Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. is coming off of three straight games with a touchdown but his status for this week’s game is now in question as the receiver was placed on the COVID-IR list on Tuesday. While he is vaccinated according to reports which leaves open the potential for him to still be activated, this certainly throws a wrench in what has been a very good Los Angeles passing game as of late. If Beckham is unable to play, look for the Rams to give Ben Skowronek more playing time as they have a few times this season. Skowronek is not a relevant fantasy asset.

Beckham Jr. being out would likely lead to more opportunities for second-year wide receiver Van Jefferson. Like Beckham Jr., Jefferson is also coming off of three straight games with a touchdown, although his production has been coming in big chunk plays which has made him a little more dangerous to play in fantasy. Jefferson has averaged nearly seven targets per game and a further depletion to the Rams wide receiver group would almost certainly mean a higher floor and ceiling for Jefferson.

Fellow wide receiver Cooper Kupp is someone that we practically don’t even need to speak about at this point. He’s been so incredible this season that there’s really nothing more to discuss - he’s an elite WR1 every single week. To put things into perspective, he caught seven passes for 92 yards on 10 targets when these teams played back in Week 5 and that 16.2-point PPR day is the second-worst game he’s had all season.

Tight end Tyler Higbee could also see a bit of an uptick in playing time if Beckham Jr. is out, but he’s just not seeing enough work to be considered a TE1 for fantasy at this point. He’s a contributor that the defense does have to account for, though, so that does help quarterback Matthew Stafford and the entire offense as a whole.

Even if Beckham does end up being out, Stafford has been good enough that we shouldn’t be considering benching him in fantasy. He’s contributed three straight three-touchdown games as a passer and he’s averaging nearly 300 passing yards per game over that stretch. He also threw for 365 yards when these teams played back in Week 5.

SEA FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.23
SEA FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.2
SEA FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.23
SEA FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.3

Running Game Thoughts: Darrell Henderson missed this past Monday’s game after being a late addition to the COVID-IR list, which led to Sony Michel leading the backfield for the second straight week. Michel has carried the ball 190 yards and a touchdown on 44 carries over those two games and would be a must-start RB2 if Henderson is unable to play again this week. Henderson was not activated immediately and while there’s still potential for him to get activated later in the week, things are not looking particularly good. Even if he does suit up, there’s a chance that Henderson takes a back seat to Michel - at least for one week - given that he hasn’t been able to practice as of Thursday. If Henderson is active, then this is probably a backfield to avoid in most leagues, although you could Flex both players if you’re in need.

Value Meter:
QB1: Matthew Stafford
RB2: Sony Michel (if Henderson is inactive)
WR1: Cooper Kupp (high end)
WR3: Odell Beckham Jr., Van Jefferson
Flex: Sony Michel (if Henderson is active), Darrell Henderson
Bench: Tyler Higbee

Prediction: Rams 30, Seahawks 20 ^ Top

Packers @ Ravens - (Green)
Line: GB -6.5
Total: 43.5

Passing Game Thoughts: Death, taxes, and Aaron Rodgers beating the Bears. While Chicago came out fired up in the first meeting between the longtime rivals since No. 12 declared himself the franchise’s owner, it was unsustainable, and Rodgers took the Bears to the woodshed once again on Sunday night. He finished with 341 yards and 4 TDs as part of a 45-30 win that helped move the Packers into the No. 1 seed. The reigning MVP is making a late push for his fourth such award, passing for 300-plus yards with three or more total touchdowns in three straight games.

As you’d suspect, the top beneficiary of Rodgers’ recent dominance is Davante Adams (10-121-2), who has surpassed 100 yards receiving in each of those three games while also amassing four of his seven touchdowns on the season. With Randall Cobb (core) possibly out until the playoffs, Allen Lazard (6-75-1) stepped up with his best game of the year on SNF. It’s going to be difficult to anticipate who will get targets after Adams on a weekly basis between Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (3-20-0), but a good rule of thumb is Lazard has a higher floor and MVS the higher ceiling.

Both could flourish against the Ravens, however, as Baltimore ranks 31st in the NFL against the pass at 266.1 yards per game. Their secondary has been hit hard by injury this season, and they may be without defensive signal-caller Chuck Clark this week after he was placed on the COVID list. While Rodgers and Adams are locked in as No. 1s, Lazard and MVS could be lottery-ticket flex selections in Week 15.

BAL FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.14
BAL FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.25
BAL FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.19
BAL FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.4

Running Game Thoughts: With Aaron Jones (5-35-1) still not looking fully healthy, AJ Dillon (15-71-0) got most the work out of the backfield last week. That didn’t stop Jones from having a good game for fantasy owners as he turned eight combined touches into 65 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Baltimore poses a real test for Green Bay’s running game as they lead the NFL with just 85.5 yards allowed per game. Despite the level of competition, Jones (RB2) and Dillon (RB3) are both playable -- this assumes Jones, who missed practice on Thursday due to illness, is good to go on Sunday.

Value Meter:
QB1: Aaron Rodgers (inj-toe)
RB2: Aaron Jones
RB3: AJ Dillon
WR1: Davante Adams
Flex: Allen Lazard
Bench: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Josiah Deguara

Passing Game Thoughts: It’s unclear who will start under center in Week 15 after Lamar Jackson (ankle) suffered an ankle injury last Sunday. John Harbaugh said the “plan” was for the former MVP to start, but he hasn’t practiced this week, and it’s debatable how wise it would be to play in a nonconference game when, win or lose, the Ravens will still control their fate in the AFC North. If Jackson goes, he’d be a shaky QB1. If not, Tyler Huntley would get the call. Huntley threw for 270 yards and a TD in relief, but you’d need to be hard up to roll the dice on him here.

Like Aaron Jones, Marquise Brown logged a DNP on Thursday due to illness. Unless you hear otherwise, assume Hollywood will go this Sunday. His speed could give Green Bay some problems as the Packers’ mostly solid secondary has given up some long TDs over their past two games. Mark Andrews (11-115-1) continues to deliver no matter who is under center, and he has solidified himself as a top-four tight end. Rashod Bateman (7-103-0) had a nice game last Sunday, but that followed a three-week span where he posted 60 receiving yards combined.

As noted, Green Bay’s secondary has played well for most of 2021. They rank ninth against the pass at 218.5 yards allowed per game and are tied for sixth with 14 INTs; that includes back-to-back games with pick-sixes from Rasul Douglas. All-Pro Jaire Alexander (shoulder) has also been designated to return from IR and has a shot to play here, which would provide an additional boost.

GB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.15
GB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.21
GB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.20
GB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.20

Running Game Thoughts: What was once almost a committee backfield has turned into the Devonta Freeman show. The veteran ran 13 times for 64 yards in Week 14 and has double-digit carries in six straight games. Green Bay also ranks ninth against the run, yielding 105.2 yards per game -- their 4.5 YPC allowed (T-23rd) is less impressive. One thing to watch here is the status of Kenny Clark, who was placed on COVID IR but has a chance to be cleared. He’s a huge part of their run defense and pass rush, so his absence would help the Ravens. For now, view Freeman as an RB3.

Value Meter:
QB1: Lamar Jackson (inj-ankle)
RB3: Devonta Freeman
WR2: Marquise Brown
TE1: Mark Andrews
Bench: Latavius Murray, Rashod Bateman

Prediction: Packers 30, Ravens 19 ^ Top

Saints @ Buccaneers - (Swanson)
Line: TB -11.0
Total: 46.5

Passing Game Thoughts: The Saints head to Tampa Bay to take on the Bucs in the second of their two division games this season. In the first matchup, the Bucs won 36-27, with Tom Brady throwing for four touchdowns and nearly 400 yards.

Jameis Winston started that game but suffered a gruesome season-ending knee injury. Trevor Siemian came in and played well, completing 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards and a score.

Taysom Hill was out that game with a concussion but is fully healed from the head injury and will start under center in this matchup. In two starts since taking over the starting role, Hill has averaged 27 fantasy points per game, with only Aaron Rodgers averaging more points per game over the past three weeks.

Those numbers are a bit skewed, with Hill scoring a questionable rushing touchdown in the closing minute of last week's blowout against the Jets. By all intents and purposes, the right play was to take a knee and let the clock run. Instead, Hill padded his stats to the chagrin of those playing against him.

The Bucs are one of the best run defenses in the league, and they are going to make Hill beat them with his arm. Josh Allen ran wild last week for 109 yards and a score, but he also needed to throw for 300 yards and a pair of scores to force overtime. Will the Saints and Hill be able to do that? I doubt it.

The Bucs are relatively healthy on defense entering this matchup. Starting safeties Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr are banged up but should play. While starting corner, Jamel Dean missed Wednesday with an illness but should suit up.

The Saints, on the other hand, are still beat up on the offensive line. Left tackled Terron Amstead is questionable with a knee but will likely play. The outlook is not so good for his opposite tackle, Ryan Ramcyk, who has not played since week 10 with a knee injury.

Hill’s upside in the run game makes him a must-start, but he will need to produce more in the passing game for the Saints to pull off the upset.

Since Hill took over back in Week 13, no Saint has topped 100 receiving yards, and only Deonte Harris has a long touchdown in garbage time against the Cowboys. Based on target volume, none of the starting WRs for the Saints are great plays, but they should get some work against a Bucs team that is far easier to beat in the passing game than on the ground.

If forced to start one, it would be Marquez Callaway.

TB FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.3
TB FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.27
TB FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.5
TB FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.7

Running Game Thoughts: Alvin Kamara returned to the field last week and picked up right where he left off prior to the injury as one of the best fantasy running backs in the league.

Kamara rushed for 120 yards and a score on a whopping 27 carries against the Jets - so much for Sean Payton easing him back into action. We doubt he will get anywhere near 27 carries in this game, as he has never topped 20 carries against the Bucs in the past three seasons.

Sean Payton is a smart coach and knows that running against that defensive front over and over again is not wise. He will get Kamara his touches, but likely more in the passing game than running between the tackles.

Dating back to 2019, Kamara has not scored fewer than 12 fantasy points against the Bucs and has three touchdowns in his last three matchups against Bruce Arian’s team. Start him.

Value Meter:
QB1: Taysom Hill (Low-End)
RB1: Alvin Kamara (High-End)
WR3: Marquez Callaway (Low-End)
WR3: Tre’Quan Smith (Low-End)
TE2: Nick Vannett (Low-End)

Passing Game Thoughts: Tom Brady looks to be on pace for his fourth NFL MVP with 36 passing touchdowns and a league-best 4,134 passing yards in 13 games. He trails Josh Allen by just a few points for the fantasy lead at the position - not bad for a 44-year-old man.

It helps to have some of the best pass-catching weapons around and one of the best offensive lines in the league. Only the Rams wide receivers have more fantasy points than the Bucs, and only the Chiefs have more fantasy points scored by tight ends.

Oh, and only the Raiders have more receptions to running backs than the Bucs.

From a fantasy perspective, you have to like this game for Brady and the passing weapons. The Saints have a talented defense, but they are far better at stopping the run than the pass.

On the season, New Orleans has given up the 5th most points to opposing wide receivers and the fourth most yards. Seventeen opposing wide receivers have topped ten fantasy points against Dennis Allen’s defense this season in 13 games, so the odds of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin doing the same are fairly high.

The one area in which the Saints have excelled in the pass defense arena is in limiting tight end production. Although Dawson Knox put up two touchdowns last week, only one other tight end has reached the end zone, and no tight end has topped 65 yards.

This does not mean you are benching Rob Gronkowski. But tempering expectations may be a wise move.

NO FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.7
NO FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.32
NO FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.6
NO FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.24

Running Game Thoughts: Based on where he went in drafts, you could make an argument that Leonard Fournette should be this year’s fantasy MVP. The former LSU star is 5th in points scored at the position and leads all running backs in receptions.

He has been a revelation for fantasy managers in the second half of the season and should be in your lineup this week if he is active. Fournette did miss practice on Thursday with an ankle injury.

It should also be noted that his second-worst game of the season came against the Saints when the two teams faced off back in Week 8, with just 43 total yards on 11 touches.

Should he be out or limited, look for Ronald Jones to get more work. The Saints have the best run defense in the league and have given up just 877 yards on the ground and five rushing touchdowns.

For running backs to find success against this defense, they must do so in the passing game, which is not exactly Jones’ strong suit.

Value Meter:
QB1: Tom Brady (Elite)
RB2: Leonard Fournette (High-End)
WR1: Mike Evans (Low-End)
WR1: Chris Godwin (Low-End)
TE1: Rob Gronkowski (High-End)

Prediction: Tampa Bay 24, New Orleans 14 ^ Top

Vikings @ Bears - (Green)
Line: MIN -5.5
Total: 44.0

Passing Game Thoughts: In case you needed a reminder as to why fans and fantasy owners are hesitant to trust Kirk Cousins, look no further than last Thursday. Even with the Vikings gashing Pittsburgh via the run, the veteran quarterback just couldn’t get it going. He finished 14 of 31 for 216 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs. Although his 62-yard bomb to K.J. Osborn was a critical play, his two second-half picks were rookie stuff. Cousins will look to rebound against the Bears; last year, he averaged 282 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT while splitting the season series.

With Adam Thielen (ankle) out, Justin Jefferson (7-79-1) was targeted a career-high 15 times, though he and Cousins were just a hair off on a few deep shots. The result was Jefferson’s lowest yardage output since Nov. 7. The LSU product torched the Bears for a pair of 100-plus-yard games as a rookie, and he’s a strong WR1. Thielen seems unlikely to play this Monday, which should mean another sizable workload for Osborn (3-83-1). Although Osborn caught only a third of his nine targeted passes, that 62-yard TD might’ve saved Minnesota’s bacon in a game they almost gave away.

While the Bears rank an impressive eighth against the pass (216.5 yards per game) and have some high-end individual talent in the secondary, most notably Jaylon Johnson, they got tuned up for 341 yards and 4 TDs on Sunday night against the Packers. All while Green Bay played without four of their five starting offensive linemen. It’s fair to wonder how much the Bears have left with the playoffs out of reach and big changes looming in the offseason. Consider Cousins a low-end QB1 and Osborn a WR3.

CHI FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.9
CHI FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.17
CHI FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.10
CHI FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.26

Running Game Thoughts: It was surprising to see Dalvin Cook back on the field less than two weeks after being carted off with a shoulder injury. Perhaps the Vikings knew they’d be able to open gaping holes in Pittsburgh’s defense, allowing Cook to run 27 times for 205 yards and 2 TDs, seemingly without taking any big hits. Chicago has had their share of troubles stopping the run, too, allowing 120 yards per game on the ground.

Value Meter:
QB1: Kirk Cousins
RB1: Dalvin Cook
WR1: Justin Jefferson
WR3/Flex: K.J. Osborn
Bench: Alexander Mattison, Adam Thielen (inj-ankle), Tyler Conklin

Passing Game Thoughts: Justin Fields returned from a two-game absence due to injured ribs last Sunday night. He was OK, though his numbers (224 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) paint a slightly skewed picture -- his 46-yard TD to Jakeem Grant came on a jet sweep shovel pass, and the 54-yarder to Damiere Byrd was a quick slant that broke loose. The rookie still rarely worked downfield, and while he was impressively elusive, he didn’t scramble much until garbage time. Keep Fields on the pine on MNF.

With Grant and Byrd corralling the big plays, usual mainstays Darnell Mooney (1-19-0) and Allen Robinson (2-14) did little in primetime. It was disappointing for both. Mooney had posted back-to-back games of 120-plus receiving yards in Weeks 11 and 12 but has just 46 yards combined in his last two. A-Rob played his best game prior to injuring his hamstring but couldn’t build on that in his return. While Mooney can be tried as a WR3 or flex, Robinson should remain on the bench.

Minnesota seemed to have things well in hand last Thursday, carrying a 29-0 lead late into the third quarter. After that, things fell apart with shocking speed. The Steelers scored 28 points over the final 20 minutes and hand a potential game-tying TD knocked away at the last split second by Harrison Smith. The Vikings rank 25th in pass defense at 251.9 yards allowed per game, and they’ve proven repeatedly this year that their revamped secondary isn’t to be trusted.

MIN FPts Allowed vs. QBs: No.4
MIN FPts Allowed vs. RBs: No.12
MIN FPts Allowed vs. WRs: No.2
MIN FPts Allowed vs. TEs: No.25

Running Game Thoughts: David Montgomery (10-42-0) was solid on SNF, gaining 81 total yards on 16 touches. He was downright dominant against the Vikings last year, however, piling up 162 yards and a pair of TDs in a Week 15 win in Minnesota. No doubt slowing Montgomery will be a focus for the Vikings, which have had all manner of issues with the running game this year; they’re currently 27th against the run, giving up 129.5 yards per game. That makes Montgomery a strong RB2.

Value Meter:
RB2: David Montgomery
WR3: Darnell Mooney
Bench: Justin Fields (inj-hand), Khalil Herbert, Allen Robinson, Cole Kmet

Prediction: Bears 26, Vikings 24 ^ Top