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These are the players who stood out for fantasy-relevant reasons — the good reasons, the bad reasons, and the in-between.
This column will be posted every Monday afternoon.
Players about whom we’re feeling more optimistic based on recent play or news.
Josh Allen (Buf) — Allen is carrying teams to the fantasy finals after posting a season-high 37.6 FP against the Broncos in Week 15. He seemingly had a chance to post a 40-burger on the Broncos until Drew Lock had a fumble-six in the third quarter to put the game on ice. Allen hit a lull in Weeks 5-8 when he failed to reach 19+ FP in four straight games, but he’s otherwise posted 29+ FP in seven of his other 10 games this season. Allen had his worst fantasy performance of the season against this week’s opponent, the Patriots, back in Week 8, but New England has nothing to play for and top CB Stephon Gilmore could miss this week with a knee injury. Allen will be a top-flight option this week if Stefon Diggs (foot) can play, and he’ll be more of a mid-QB1 option if he has to play without Diggs this week. (Tom Brolley)
Ryan Tannehill (Ten) — Tannehill had a big game in Week 15 against the hapless Lions defense, putting up 21/27 passing for 273 yards and 3 TD while adding 3/21/2 rushing, propelling plenty of fantasy teams to the championship round. While the Lions’ defense is a unique brand of awful, Tannehill could be in the position to need to put up big points against the Packers in a Week 16 tilt. The Packers’ pass defense — 19th in FootballOutsiders DVOA — is certainly gettable. One of the NFL’s most underrated and efficient players, Tannehill has now accounted for multiple TDs in five consecutive games and in all but two games all season. He has just 6 turnovers on the year. (Joe Dolan)
Lamar Jackson (Bal) — It only took until December, but it finally looks like the Ravens offense has started to turn a corner. Over the last three weeks against the Cowboys, Browns, and Jaguars, Lamar Jackson has posted 30.6 fantasy points per game. That’s what you drafted him to be. Jackson only needed 22 attempts to shred the Jags’ for 243 yards and 3 TDs and he added 10/35/1 on the ground. Jackson will be one of the linchpins in finals week when the Ravens face a Giants secondary that was just roasted for 297 yards and 2 TDs by Baker Mayfield on SNF. (Graham Barfield)
Tom Brady (TB) — Well, it’s not about how you start, it’s all about how you finish. Brady and the Bucs’ got off to a terrible start and were held scoreless in the first half against Atlanta, but they came out after halftime and exploded for 21 points in the third quarter and 10 more in the fourth as Brady ended up with 390 yards and 2 TDs on 45 attempts. The highlight of the second half was Brady and Antonio Brown finally connecting on a 46-yard score that ended up being the game-winner. In fact, for the first time since adding AB, their trio of wideouts all had good games as Mike Evans ended with 6/110, AB had 5/93/1, and Chris Godwin got into the box for 4/36/1. Brady will be a safe QB1 and his wideouts will be on the WR2 radar next week for the finals when the Bucs’ play the Lions. (GB)
Aaron Jones (GB) — Last week, I wrote in our Vantage Points article that Jones’ playing time had been trending upward, and Bob McGinn of The Athletic thought it meant coach Matt LaFleur felt it was time to unleash Jones heading into the cold-weather months. Well, McGinn was spot on… though an injury to Jones’ backfield teammate sparked that. Jones played 90% of the Packers’ snaps in Week 15’s win over the Panthers, in a game that was probably tighter than Green Bay would have liked. It was, by far, a season-high — his previous season-high was 71% in Week 3. He responded with a massive line of 20/145/1 rushing and 3/13 receiving, while Jamaal Williams played a season-low 4 snaps before exiting with a quad injury. While Williams’ status is obviously important to how much Jones will play next week, it seems inevitable that we have a serious old-school game in the fantasy championship week at Lambeau between Jones and Tennessee’s Derrick Henry. (JD)
Alvin Kamara (NO) — Kamara owners rejoiced last week when it came out that Drew Brees would start against the Chiefs in Week 15. The good news kept coming for him with the Saints deciding to shut Michael Thomas down for the rest of the regular season because of his ongoing high ankle injury. Kamara didn’t disappoint with 3/40/1 receiving on six targets and 11/54 rushing against the Chiefs in Week 15, which looks even better when you consider Brees completed just 15/34 passes. Kamara is now averaging 7.1/68.8/.5 receiving on 8.6 targets per game in 10 games with Brees in the lineup so he’s back in the elite RB1 conversation this week in his showdown with the Vikings on Christmas Day. (TB)
Le’Veon Bell (KC) — Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s rookie regular season is over after he suffered a high ankle sprain and a strained hip in Kansas City’s Week 15 victory over the Saints. The Chiefs hope Edwards-Helaire will be healthy enough to contribute in the postseason, but his availability will certainly be up in the air in January as he couldn’t place any weight on his injured left leg. CEH scored 11+ FP in each of his first six games this season, but he reached that mark in 4-of-8 games after Bell joined the Chiefs in Week 7. Bell had his best performance of the season against the Saints as he posted 16/76/1 scrimmage with CEH leaving early. Bell will be the lead runner in this offense to finish the regular season with Darrel Williams mixing in as a passing-down receiver. Bell will be a high-end RB2 in a tougher matchup against the Falcons this week. (TB)
David Johnson (Hou) — The NFL produces unexpected results and performances every week, and Johnson’s 11-catch, 106-yard receiving performance against the Colts was certainly one of the more surprising performances in Week 16. He finished with a season-high 24.3 FP despite not finding the end zone against Indianapolis, and his 133-yard performance was certainly aided by Duke Johnson’s absence from the lineup as DJ played on 80% of the snaps. Dookie came down with a late-week neck injury and he didn’t come close to playing in Week 15, and David Johnson could be looking at another massive workload against the hapless Bengals this week if Duke is unable to play. (TB)
D’Andre Swift (Det) — In a turd sandwich of a season for the Lions, at least fans can come away with three positives. Number one, Matt Patricia is no longer the coach. Number two, Matthew Stafford is an absolute warrior. And number three, Swift can ball. Yes, he lost a fumble at the goal line in Week 15’s loss to the Titans. But it was good to see interim coach Darrell Bevell stick with the talented rookie where Patricia might not have. Swift ended up having a big day, posting 15/67/2 rushing and 4/15 receiving on 5 targets (only Marvin Jones had more targets for the shorthanded Lions). He played 65% of the snaps. Swift, unfortunately, gets the tough Bucs defense in Week 16. But his usage was a positive, and his play was a massive bright spot after he got his feet wet in Week 14 following a multi-week absence. (JD)
J.K. Dobbins (Bal) — Dobbins extended his scoring streak to four games against Jacksonville as Baltimore continued to increase his role and rely on him as their featured back. After Mark Ingram only played one snap last week, the team made him a healthy scratch in Week 15. As a result, Dobbins handled 15 touches while Gus Edwards had 11. Any managers that were patient enough to stash Dobbins for the first 10 weeks of the season have been rewarded with a high-floor RB2. Dobbins will be a locked-in top-20 play next week against the Giants. (GB)
Jarvis Landry (Cle) — It only took getting to the holiday season, but Landry has finally settled in as the WR2 we were drafting him to be. Maybe it was because of a lingering hip injury, maybe it was because he wasn’t the true No. 1 target, or maybe it was Baker Mayfield — but Landry’s start to this season was brutal. In Week 1-11, Landry averaged just 8.5 fantasy points per game and didn’t score a single touchdown. Over his last four games, he’s gone off for 19.7 FPG and 3 TDs. Landry’s seen eight or more targets in every game in this span and will be a strong WR2 play in Week 16 against the Jets. (GB)
Darren Waller (LV) — Travis Kelce has firmly established himself as the class of fantasy tight ends this season, but Waller is making it a little more interesting with his performances over the last month. Waller erupted 9/150/1 receiving on 12 targets against the Chargers even with Marcus Mariota taking over as the team’s quarterback for the near future with Derek Carr suffering an early groin injury in Week 15. Waller now has 117.6 FP in his last five games (23.5 FPG), which includes 89.5 FP in his last three games (29.8). He gets a tougher matchup with the Dolphins in the fantasy finals, but he’s the clear #2 TE option every week no matter who is at quarterback for the Raiders. (TB)
Hunter Henry (LAC) — Henry is surging a bit heading into the fantasy finals this week in a tougher matchup against the Broncos. He’s run off double-digit FP in five of his last six games after leading the Chargers receiver in fantasy production against the Raiders with 5/65/1 receiving on seven targets. It didn’t hurt that Keenan Allen (hamstring) and Mike Williams (back) were limited in Week 15, and Henry should stay active this week with both those receivers likely playing at less than 100%. Henry has worked his way into the third tier of fantasy TEs behind Travis Kelce (tier 1) and Darren Waller (tier 2) for the fantasy finals. (TB)
Logan Thomas (Was) — There are very few situations in which anyone is happy about Dwayne Haskins throwing 55 passes, least of all Ron Rivera or fans of the Team. But some people happy about it are rostering Thomas for fantasy — he saw 15 targets and caught 13 of them for 101 yards in a loss to the Seahawks in Week 15. Over the last month, only Darren Waller and Travis Kelce have scored more points and seen more targets at the TE position. And the good news is that Thomas has produced with both Haskins and Alex Smith. The Team remains in good position to win the NFC East, and Thomas has been their go-to guy in the passing game. The Team gets the Panthers’ poor defense next week. (JD)
Mark Andrews (Bal) — This season has undoubtedly been a disappointment for the Ravens offense and Andrews’ production has suffered as a result. Missing two games with COVID didn’t help either. However, over his last four outings, Andrews has quietly really picked it up with 7/61, 5/96/1, 5/78, and he ended with 5/66/1 in their 40-14 thumping of the Jaguars. It only took four months, but we are finally seeing this offense turn a corner. Andrews will be a top-5 play for finals week against the Giants. (GB)
Players about whom we’re feeling less optimistic based on recent play or news.
Russell Wilson (Sea) — The Seahawks played Big Dumb Pete Carroll Football in Week 15 against Washington, eking out a 20-15 win with Russ throwing 27 passes compared to his backs and receivers getting 20 rushes (Russ added 6 of his own). Obviously, Carroll turtled on the football with a three-score lead against Dwayne Haskins, and nearly blew it. It was only Wilson’s 52 rushing yards that came even close to justifying him as a fantasy play, as he went 18/27 for 121 yards with a TD and a pick passing. Wilson’s 4.5 YPA was by far his lowest of the season — his previous low was 6.1 in Week 13’s loss to the Giants (though he did have a long TD to Freddie Swain wiped out). And he’s now accounted for just a single TD in three of his last four games, and 0 or 1 TD in four of his last six. Wilson opened the season with eight straight games of 2 or more TD, including 3 or more TD in seven of those eight. He’s accounted for 3 or more TD in just one of his last six games. Russ might be cooking right now, but it’s with a microwave. (JD)
Jared Goff (LAR) — In one of the most shocking results in recent NFL history, the Rams completely flopped against the Jets. LA only scored three points in the first half and had to chase the game in the second half, but fell just short 23-20. Let’s not mince words: Jared Goff was awful on Sunday. Against the worst secondary in the league, Goff could only muster 209 yards on 34 attempts (6.1 YPA) and 2 TDs. Goff also took three sacks and threw a pick and he should have had two INTs. The Rams struggled on third-downs largely because of Goff’s ineffectiveness, as the team converted just twice on 11 third-down tries. At least Robert Woods (6/56/1 receiving; 1/40 rushing) came through for a nice game, but the same can’t be said for Cooper Kupp (5/39). The Rams have two massive games up next against the Seahawks in Week 16 and Cardinals in Week 17 that will settle their playoff lives. Right now, Seattle is atop the NFC West at 10-4, LA is a wildcard at 9-5, and Arizona is the third wildcard at 8-6. (GB)
Ezekiel Elliott (Dal) — The Cowboys held Zeke out of the lineup in Week 15 with a calf injury, an issue that first landed him on the injury report before Week 13. Zeke’s absence paved the way for a monster performance from second-year RB Tony Pollard, who posted 12/69/2 rushing and 6/63 receiving on nine targets against the 49ers. Pollard’s 31.2 FP in his first game as the team’s starter was better than any fantasy performance from Zeke this season, who topped out at 27.7 FP in the season opener. Zeke can’t be used with any confidence in the fantasy finals this week against the Eagles, especially since Pollard’s role will likely be bigger even if Elliott is healthy enough to play. (TB)
Raheem Mostert (SF) — The 49ers may shut Mostert down in the final two weeks of the season as he can’t get back to full strength off his high-ankle injury. Mostert’s struggles are mirroring Michael Thomas’ ankle issues in New Orleans, and the Saints just shut him down for another three weeks before the playoffs. Mostert has been effective over the last three weeks with 37/175 rushing (4.7 YPC), but he has just 3/6 receiving without a touchdown so he hasn’t even been effective for fantasy with Jeff Wilson scoring three TDs in that span. Even if Mostert gets cleared to play against the Eagles this week, he shouldn’t be considered as a viable option since he’s clearly not healthy and since he’s stuck in a timeshare. (TB)
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (KC) — CEH’s bizarre rookie regular season is over after he suffered a high ankle sprain and a strained hip in Kansas City’s Week 15 victory over the Saints. The Chiefs hope Edwards-Helaire will be healthy enough to contribute in the postseason, but his availability will certainly be up in the air in January as he couldn’t place any weight on his injured left leg. CEH scored 11+ FP in each of his first six games this season, but he reached that mark in 4-of-8 games after Le’Veon Bell joined the Chiefs in Week 7. The aforementioned Bell will be the lead runner in this offense to finish the regular season with Darrel Williams mixing in as a passing-down receiver. Bell will be a high-end RB2 in a tougher matchup against the Falcons this week. (TB)
James Robinson (JAX) — Robinson deserves to go into the waiver wire Hall-of-Fame after coming out of nowhere this season. Frankly, Robinson looked like a potential star this season with 240/1070/7 on the ground and 49/344/3 receiving across 14 games on this putrid Jags’ team. Unfortunately, the dream may be over. Robinson entered Week 15 with a knee injury and ended up leaving in the second-half against the Ravens with an ankle sprain. His day ended with 53 scrimmage yards and a score on 19 touches. We don’t know how severe Robinson’s injury is at press-time. But, with only two weeks left in the season and the Trevor Lawrence Bowl to win, the Jags could shut Robinson down. We’ll have to wait until later this week for an update. Jacksonville gets Chicago in Week 16 and Indianapolis in Week 17. (GB)
Wayne Gallman (NYG) — After Devonta Freeman (ankle) went down, there was a nice stretch where Gallman settled in as a viable RB2. From Week 7-13, Gallman averaged 15.8 fantasy points per game and never dipped below 13 points once in six-straight games. With the Giants offense completely falling apart — they’ve scored one TD in their last two games — Gallman has stumbled to just 12/57 and 9/29 on the ground in Week 14 and 15. Unfortunately, his outlook doesn’t look much better for Week 16 with a road date against the Ravens. In a bad matchup and with Alfred Morris and Dion Lewis mixing in, Gallman will be a distant RB3 option for finals week decisions. (GB)
Keenan Allen and Mike Williams (LAC) — Allen (hamstring) and Williams (back) each came into Week 15 with injuries and they both played limited roles in LA’s victory over Las Vegas. Allen recorded just a 17-yard catch on three targets while playing only 36% of the snaps and Williams wasn’t much better with 2/22 receiving on a 42% snap share. Allen and Williams will each have 10 days to get healthy for a showdown with an undermanned Broncos secondary in the fantasy finals. They’ll both come with some risk since they’re playing through injuries, but Allen should be considered as a high-end WR2 and Williams will be a boom-or-bust WR4. (TB)
Julio Jones (Atl) — This week, Julio missed his second-straight game and fourth of the season while dealing with a lingering hamstring issue. Even though the Falcons are dead for the playoffs, Julio still wants to return for Week 16 or 17. He had a PRP injection last week, which could possibly allow him to suit up in the Falcons final two games against the Chiefs and Buccaneers. On the bright side, Calvin Ridley continued to dominate with Julio off the field this past week. In now six games that Julio has missed over the last two years, Ridley has gone off for 8/91, 5/110, 8/136, 6/50/1, 8/124/1, and 10/163/1. (GB)
Players whom we’re not ready to upgrade or downgrade, but their situations demand monitoring based on recent play, injuries, or news.
Christian McCaffrey and Mike Davis (Car) — The Panthers are obviously dead in the water, currently possessing a top-five pick in the NFL Draft and in the market for a new general manager after firing Marty Hurney on Monday. Obviously, the new GM would prefer CMC to be as healthy as possible heading into 2021, while coach Matt Rhule probably wouldn’t mind having a top-flight draft pick to potentially improve his QB situation. That all said, CMC is a competitor, and he likely wants to prove he was worth the massive contract Hurney gave him. Davis had a disappointing Week 15 game against the Packers after going nuts in Week 14, and if the Panthers want to win in Week 16, bringing CMC back would help that. But given the ankle, shoulder, and now thigh issues that have plagued his campaign, the wisest option would be to shut him down and to preserve his future with this promising franchise. (JD)
Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette (TB) — With Ronald Jones (finger, COVID) out, the Bucs’ turned to Leonard Fournette as their featured back against Atlanta one week after making him a healthy scratch. Fournette plodded to just 65 yards on 17 touches, but he fell into the endzone twice from the one yard line to save his day and score 21.5 fantasy points. This was just Fournette’s third finish as an RB2 or better (top-24) this season and his first time since Week 7. We’ll see if RoJo can make it back next week ahead of a top matchup against the Lions terrible front-seven. (GB)
Stefon Diggs (Buf) — Diggs has seemingly been open on every route he’s run for the last two months as he has 9+ catches in five of his last six games and 90+ yards in six of his last seven contests. His run of excellence could, unfortunately, come to an end this week in the fantasy finals after he picked up a foot injury in the fourth quarter of their blowout victory over the Broncos in Week 15. NFL Network’s Kim Jones reported that Diggs should be available going forward, but his status should be monitored throughout this week. His matchup with the Patriots this week may be a little easier if Stephon Gilmore is unavailable to play after he suffered a non-contact knee injury in Week 15. Diggs posted 6/92 receiving on nine targets in this matchup back in Week 8 even with Allen posting his worst fantasy production of the season in that contest. (TB)
Tyreek Hill (KC) — Hill is clearly playing through hamstring tightness in recent weeks as he grabbed for his hamstring late in their victory over the Dolphins in Week 14 before he was seen getting treatment on his hamstring during the first half of their Week 15 showdown with the Saints. Hill still came through like he always does with 6/53/1 receiving on 10 targets, which gives him 17 scores in 14 games this season. Hill didn’t miss any practice time last week but his hamstring issue is one to watch down the stretch since the Chiefs could look to rest him if they get the chance to do it against the Falcons and the Chargers. With that said, Tyreek can come through for fantasy with just one opportunity and the Chiefs are looking to lock up a first-round bye this week against a shaky Falcons secondary so continue to fire him up as an elite WR1 even if he carries a little more than usual.(TB)
DeVante Parker (Mia) — Parker was inactive for Week 15’s win over the Patriots with a hamstring injury, as Tua Tagovailoa managed to pull out a victory with one of the worst set of skill-position players we’ve seen in any game this year. It speaks to how big a mess the Pats are, but it was also a solid bit of work from coach Brian Flores, who might have a healthier group available for Week 16 against the Raiders (the Dolphins were apparently optimistic Parker could play before making him a scratch on gameday). Though the Dolphins now sit at 9-5, they are roughly a coinflip to make the playoffs in the loaded AFC, and it’s possible Miami wanted their group to be as healthy as possible for the last two weeks. The matchup against the Raiders is pristine for Parker, but the question is if fantasy players will want to use him given how poor his production has been with Tua under center. (JD)
George Kittle (SF) — Make sure to check your waiver wire to see if Kittle is available in any of your leagues because he has league-winning potential if he returns to action against the Cardinals this week. The 49ers started ramping up Kittle’s work in practice last week after they designated him to return from the injured reserve on Dec. 16. San Francisco has nothing to play for in the final two weeks, which is working against his potential return to the lineup. However, Kittle is uber-competitive and it’s tough to see the organization denying him a chance to play if his foot is completely healthy. (TB)
Mike Gesicki (Mia) — It always seemed like a long shot Gesicki would play in Week 15 given he was dealing with a shoulder injury, but NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport did express some optimism despite Gesicki eventually being inactive. Maybe Brian Flores was just exhibiting some gamesmanship against former boss Bill Belichick by using BB’s own tactics, but it’s also possible Gesicki is close and Flores (correctly) assessed that he didn’t need an offense to beat the hapless Patriots. Gesicki is more interesting for Week 16 against the Raiders than DeVante Parker, given Gesicki has been a legitimate TE1 with Tua Tagovailoa and Parker has produced very little. If Gesicki can go in Week 16, fantasy players will be very tempted to play him. (JD)