IAs I’ve said before, I’m a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. I’ve seen him in concert more than a dozen times over the Remember March 11, 2020? Of course you do. That was the day that all COVID hell was breaking loose everywhere. Major sports leagues shut down operations either that day or right after. Sports stars were getting COVID. Major movie stars like Tom Hanks were testing positive around the world. Everyone seemed to be hoarding beans, rice, potatoes and bananas at the grocery stores. Un desmadre, as we’d say in Spanish.
This week in the NFL has a bit of that feel, and it’s amplified by the start of the fantasy playoffs for most leagues. Familia, stay cool. Keep an eye on the news and just keep checking your lineup to make sure your players don’t have a different designation by the time their games start.
This too shall pass. But while it may take some of the fun out of getting your lineups ready for the week, the games are going on. That’s what you have to remember. And a big one is kicking off tonight. Yes, Chiefs-Chargers has been hit with players being ruled out – it feels like every game has players out because of the virus – but it still looks like it will be a great game. Any game with Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert should be great. So let’s focus on who’s on the field for Week 15 and your fantasy playoffs. I’ll answer a question for each of the games through the Sunday 1 p.m. ET games. All defensive rankings at the bottom of each teams’ writeup cover Weeks 10-14. Vamonos!
THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
CHIEFS (9-4) @ CHARGERS (8-5)
KC -3 / 52
(SPECIAL NOTE): If the Chargers win, it’s a first-place tie and they would have tiebreaker for sweeping the Chiefs. Enormous game for the Bolts. SoFi Stadium will be lit.
Is Travis Kelce going to come back to his dominant self? He has 3 catches for 27 yards in the last 2 games. Before getting 4 targets last week, in 7 of the previous 8 games Kelce drew at least 8 targets. He went 7-11-104-0 last time against the Chargers. If Derwin James is not cleared, this could be a bounceback game for Kelce.
DEF QB (3) RB (18) WR (11) TE (9)
How do Chargers attack with stud rookie LT Rashawn Slater on the COVID-IR and possibly a hobbled Austin Ekeler nursing an injured ankle? Mi amigo Dr. Edwin Porras tweeted that he’s getting flashbacks to Keenan Allen battling a hamstring injury last year during the fantasy playoffs. That did not go well. The Chargers will put the ball in Justin Herbert’s hands, and here are his fantasy finishes for his last 4 games: 1, 6, 4, 5. Keenan Allen is back, and it was good to see young receivers Jalen Guyton and Joshua Palmer step up and score TDs. They say 3 and 7 targets, respectively. Instead of looking to Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley, look to the pass catchers to make some noise.
DEF QB (25) RB (26) WR (12) TE (23)
SAT @ 1:30 P.M.
RAIDERS (6-7) @ BROWNS (7-6)
LV -1.5 / 38.5
39 & DRIZZLE POSSIBLE (ONLY GAME WITH WEATHER ISSUES)
What to do without Darren Waller? Here are Hunter Renfrow targets for the last 6 games: 9, 9, 4, 9, 10 and 14. He saw 33% targets last week, and has been a top 12 WR 5 of the last 6 games. Renfrow has arrived, Familia. Also, Josh Jacobs has 15 targets his past 2 games.
DEF QB (32) RB (31) WR (25) TE (27)
Who’s left to play? BakerMayfield, Jarvis Landry and Austin Hooper are on the COVID list. HC Kevin Stefanski tested positive. Even in a good matchup, it’s hard to trust anyone other than Nick Chubb to start in the fantasy playoffs. Donovan Peoples-Jones, who had 7 targets in Week 14, may be last man standing in a fantastic matchup. Even Case Keenum is a cheap, sneaky start in DFS.
DEF QB (8) RB (17) WR (3) TE (30)
SAT 8:20 P.M. ET
PATRIOTS (9-4) @ COLTS (7-6)
IND -2.5 . 45
Start Damien Harris and/or Rhamondre Stevenson? I say, both! Harris was nursing hamstring injury before the bye, but both have been getting double-digit carries in their 3 previous games before the bye (Harris sat Week 10).Anyone else worth starting? I just can’t recommend anyone going against a defense that’s allowing just 177.5 passing yards a game.
DEF QB (1) RB (8) WR (1) TE (8)
Is Jonathan Taylor bullet proof? He beat up the Bucs’ vaunted run defense for 83 yards after gouging the Bills and their seemingly impenetrable front for 185 yards (and 5 total TDs). The Pats have been great against the run, but the last elite RB they faced was Austin Ekeler, who tore them up for 124 total yards and a score in Week 8.
DEF QB (2) RB (23) WR (2) TE (26)
SUN 1 PM ET
PANTHERS (5-8) @ BILLS (7-6)
BUF -10.5 / 44.5
Are you starting Chuba Hubbard? He had 10 carries last week against a Falcons D that is middle of the road against the run. Hubbard’s seen 1 target in 4 games, so he’d have to get 15-20 carries to be viable. In Buffalo, I’m just not banking on him having a good game. Afuera.
DEF QB (5) RB (16) WR (8) TE (19)
Will Josh Allen’s foot sprain going to let him dominate the game? There were unconfirmed reports that he was walking without a limp while going to see Hamilton in Buffalo. He definitely didn’t throw away his shot in passing for 308 yards and rushing for 109 yards and 3 TDs. That Panthers haven’t seen a dual-threat QB since Jalen Hurts stuck them for 198 passing and 30 rushing yards along with scampering in for a couple more scores. As long as he’s healthy, Allen is a top 4 QB.
DEF QB (4) RB (28) WR (4) TE (2)
CARDINALS (10-3) @ LIONS (1-11-1)
AZ -13.5 / 47.5
Who gets the targets with no Deandre Hopkins? I poised that question to Jess Root, who covers the Cardinals for Cards Wire and USA Today, and he said that Christian Kirk and A.J. Green would get the bulk or the targets. Kirk saw 19 targets to Green’s 12 during Weeks 9-11 when Hopkins was out. Those shots were more down the field. Zach Ertz drew 20 targets during that same span, so he’s a must start against the #29 TE defense. Rondale Moore saw most of his targets around the line of scrimmage so he could get on YAC duty, with him catching all 11 targets for 51 yards in Week 11.
DEF QB (14) RB (25) WR (26) TE (5)
Anyone startable on the Lions? Look no further than Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has 12 targets in each of the past 2 weeks. With T.J. Hockenson out for the season, St. Brown is in line to see a lion’s share of targets (pun intended). The Cards have been leaky in the secondary of late, #26 against fantasy WRs.
DEF QB (12) RB (24) WR (15) TE (29)
JETS (3-10) @ DOLPHINS (6-7)
MIA -10 / 42
With the Jets possibly getting Michael Carter back, do you fire him up right off the bat? The Jets just had 13 rush attempts from RBs last week. If Carter’s healthy, you’re starting him. He already had 9 carries for 63 yards in Week 11 when he hurt his ankle. Even with Tevin Coleman trending back from a concussion, Carter is the Jets’ best back and should get at least a dozen touches.
DEF QB (27) RB (27) WR (13) TE (25)
Is Tua going to be a top 10 QB this week? Losing Jaylen Waddle to the COVID list is huge. He’s been the Dolphins’ best receiver. DeVante Parker and Mike Gesicki are going to have to step in and soak up the targets from Tua. Even with Waddle out, I’m still very tempted to keep Tua in my DFS starting lineups.
DEF QB (6) RB (2) WR (9) TE (13)
COWBOYS (9-4) @ GIANTS (4-9)
DAL -10.5 / 44.5
Ezekiel Elliott says he’s feeling better. Believe him? I learned a long time ago, you trust what the doctors say, not the players. Fire up all Cowboy WRs in this one. CeeDee Lamb (23) and Michael Gallup (18) are leading in targets the past 2 games, while Amari Cooper has just 9 in the same span after being out with injury. The Giants had a rough time with Charger and Dolphin WRs in their last 2 games. Even in New Jersey, the Cowboys fly high.
DEF QB (7) RB (6) WR (18) TE (14)
Any way you’re sitting Saquon Barkley? His 95 total yards last week were a high since Week 4 – he missed 4 weeks with an ankle injury in there. The Thanksgiving memory of Josh Jacobs running all over the Cowboys for 112 total yards and a score is fresh. You’re not sitting Barkley.
DEF QB (23) RB (15) WR (29) TE (20)
WFT (6-7) @ EAGLES (6-7)
PHI -7 / 44
What Antonio Gibson are we getting? He had 10 carries last week, but the previous 4 games he averaged almost 24 carries per game. J.D. McKissic has still not practiced after his concussion, so Gibson is in line for a big day. Even though the Eagles are #5 against the RB, Mark Ingram ran for 88 yards and caught 6 balls for an additional 25 yards in Week 11.
DEF QB (18) RB (10) WR (19) TE (4)
Do you trust Devonta Smith and Dallas Goedert if Gardner Minshew is starting? Goedert went for 6-6-105-2 last week, while Smith caught just 2 balls for 15 yards. Washington has been better against the pass of late, but you’re definitely starting Goedert. Smith is in flex consideration.
DEF QB (22) RB (5) WR (5) TE (28)
TITANS (9-4) @ STEELERS (6-6-1)
TEN -1.5 / 41.5
Fire up both D’Onta Foreman and Dontrell Hilliard against Steeler D? The holes that Dalvin Cook was running through Pittsburgh’s defense were massive. If there’s a player to prioritize among the two listed, it’s Foreman, who was the only Titan with double-digit carries last week with 13. Don’t expect 205 yards like Cook, but it’s December and the Titans like to run it.
DEF QB (19) RB (4) WR (17) TE (10)
Is Najee Harris getting a second wind? He has 107 and 104 total yards over the last 2 games after a lull that lasted a couple games. The Titans are allowing just 50.5 rushing yards a game, so nothing will come easy for the Titans. You’re starting Harris, but tempering your expectations.
DEF QB (21) RB (32) WR (20) TE (3)
TEXANS (2-11) @ JAGUARS (2-11)
JAX -3 / 39.5
Is Brandin Cooks Adentro or Afuera? Last week he had 11 targets, while here are his targets the previous 3 weeks: 3, 5 and 6. Cooks wrecked the Jags for 132 yards, catching 5 of 7 targets in Week 1. Passes will be flying in this game for both sides, and Cooks is the only player expected to get a large volume.
DEF QB (9) RB (30) WR (21) TE (12)
Is James Robinson going to kick into gear with an interim coach? In Week 13 against the Texans, Taylor rushed for 143 yards and last week Rashaad Penny finished iwth 137 rushing yards and 2 TDs. In the post-Urban era, the Jags will have to get some sort of run game going to take the pressure off rookie Trevor Lawrence.
DEF QB (10) RB (22) WR (16) TE (15)
SOURCES: PFF / Pro-Football-Reference / Fantasy Pros / Football Guys / Lineups.com