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Week 15 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Jimmy Garoppolo (v ATL)

Garoppolo has been on fire since tossing four touchdowns against the Cardinals on Halloween, and there is no reason to believe he won’t stay hot this week when the Falcons come to town. Despite injuries to his top playmakers, Jimmy G is on pace for 4,683 yards and a 43:11 touchdown-interception ratio over the past six games, so he can no longer be overlooked as a solid QB1 option. The 49ers have scored 36+ points in three of the past four games.


Thumbs Up: Kyler Murray (v CLE)

The past couple of weeks have been a struggle for Murray and the Arizona offense, but Sunday feels like a spot where they will break their slump. While the Browns have been better in coverage recently, quarterbacks have had plenty of success on the ground against them all season, including Josh Allen (28 yards, two touchdowns), Ryan Fitzpatrick (45 yards, one touchdown), Russell Wilson (31 yards, one touchdown), and Lamar Jackson (66 yards). Murray is an upside QB1 for Week 15.


Thumbs Up: Josh Allen (@ PIT)

The Bills couldn’t get going offensively until the fourth quarter of their loss to the Ravens, but the game plan could be much different this week in Pittsburgh. A big reason for Allen being perhaps the best late-game quarterback in the league is that Buffalo often picks up the pace with more no huddle, and we should see that on Sunday night, as I don’t think Sean McDermott will want to slow things down like last week (when they were trying to keep Lamar Jackson off the field). After a season-low two carries in Week 14, Allen should be unleashed with the Bills looking to clinch a playoff berth.


Thumbs Up: Tom Brady (@ CIN)

New England’s passing attack simply needs to get going if they want to come out of the AFC next month, and Sunday will be their best chance to build momentum before the regular season finale (Buffalo visits Foxborough next week). I have Sony Michel listed as a “Thumbs Up” hoping that the offense stays committed to him beyond the first couple of drives, but the Patriots have clearly felt their best chance to move the ball is through the air (Brady’s averaging 40+ attempts per game this season), and the young weapons should be able to get open against a defense that’s allowing the second-most yards per attempt (8.4) in the league.


Others: Ryan Tannehill (v HOU), Jared Goff (v DAL)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Matt Ryan (@ SF)

The 49ers won’t have Richard Sherman (hamstring) this week, but Ryan is still an option to avoid for a difficult road matchup. Prior to last week’s win over the Panthers, Ryan had been sacked 15 times in the previous two games, so Nick Bosa and company may be able to get to him early and often this weekend. Plus, not having Calvin Ridley really limits the firepower for Atlanta, and the Niners are surely going to be determined after Drew Brees had 350 total yards and five total touchdowns last week. Matty Ice is just a borderline top-20 option.


Thumbs Down: Kirk Cousins (@ LAC)

Cousins was overvalued last week as a consensus top-eight option, but most seem to be on board with him being downgraded to QB2 territory for a west coast trip in Week 15. Although the Chargers almost certainly don’t have the playoffs in their future at 5-8, they are confident following a beatdown of the Jaguars, and Mike Zimmer will likely want to get the rushing attack going ahead of next Monday night’s clash against Green Bay. Especially if Adam Thielen (hamstring) is held out one more week, Cousins won’t be a ceiling play.


Thumbs Down: Dak Prescott (v LAR)

I won’t call it “garbage time” because the games were still in question, but comeback attempts have really boosted Prescott’s numbers over the past two games, and Dallas hasn’t proven they can go toe-to-toe with the elite teams around the league. While being at home—where Dak is averaging 24.7 fantasy points per game—will help, the Rams have allowed 245 or fewer passing yards in all but one game since acquiring Jalen Ramsey. You might not want to bench the QB3 on the season, but Prescott is ranked as a high-end QB2 for me.


Thumbs Down: Aaron Rodgers (v CHI)

It looked like Rodgers had turned a corner with a four-touchdown game against the Giants in Week 13, but he disappointed to start the fantasy playoffs with just 195 yards and one touchdown against the Redskins. Green Bay’s quarterback now has one multi-score game since the start of November, and the still-contending Bears aren’t a matchup to get hot in, as they’ve limited Rodgers to 238.5 yards per game and a 1:1 touchdown-interception ratio in the past two meetings. I’m expecting a slugfest.


Others: Philip Rivers (v MIN), Sam Darnold (@ BAL)


Running Back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Nick Chubb (@ ARI)

Amazingly, Chubb saw just three carries in the first half of Sunday’s win over the Bengals, but that didn’t stop him from another 100-yard game to remain atop the rushing leaderboard heading into Week 15. I have seen enough people worried about Chubb to put him here, and a monster performance could be coming against a Cardinals team that may look to pick up the pace due to recent offensive struggles. I’m hoping for a two- or three-touchdown game to make up for just one score over the past seven weeks.


Thumbs Up: James Conner (v BUF)

Fantasy owners are also worried about Conner because of how his last appearance went (six touches before leaving), but I doubt the Steelers—having won three in a row without him—would risk another setback for their feature back if he isn’t close to full-go. The Bills are best attacked on the ground, so Conner should at least see 15-18 touches for a game Pittsburgh needs to win if they are going to be in good position for the No. 5 seed. Don’t hesitate to get him back in lineups.


Thumbs Up: Josh Jacobs (v JAX)

DeAndre Washington was originally here and would be a top-15 play if Jacobs (shoulder) is out again, but Oakland’s star rookie is expected to return and would be a must-start in a dream spot on Sunday. The Jaguars looked completely lost last week with Myles Jack out of the lineup, and since returning from the bye, they’ve allowed fantasy point totals of 43.1, 33.0, 21.6, and 55.1 to enemy backs. I currently have Jacobs as my RB13, and he may be moved up significantly depending on his practice status.


Thumbs Up: David Johnson (v CLE)

Johnson is unfortunately no longer in the same group as a fantasy asset compared to the three previous “Thumbs Up” selections at running back, but having four RB1 options to start the year here shows you should bet on talent above all else. DJ actually saw fewer touches last week (five) than he did the week before (six), but the playing time increased to 37%, and a 24-yard receiving touchdown could lead to more opportunities against the Browns for a game that I think may turn into a shootout. If you need to dig deep for a FLEX play, betting on a player of Johnson’s caliber isn’t a bad idea.


Others: Sony Michel (@ CIN), Raheem Mostert (v ATL)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Le’Veon Bell (@ BAL)

Bell has actually put up respectable yardage totals over his past five appearances (91.2 yards per game), but based on the matchup and potential for a limited workload coming off an illness, he might be lucky if his yardage total reached 20% of his bowling score (251) on Thursday night. The RB1 hopes that people have held onto are likely gone, and the Jets may give a look to other players over the final three games if they have plans to move on from Bell in the offseason. Consider him a low-end RB2/FLEX for Week 15.


Thumbs Down: Devonta Freeman (@ SF)

He certainly came through last week as the “Thumbs Up of the Week” with 94 yards and a score, but Freeman needs to be downgraded ahead of a tougher matchup against the NFC-leading 49ers. As if the opponent wasn’t stingy enough in general (San Francisco just limited Alvin Kamara to 43 scoreless yards on 17 touches), the fact that Robert Salah’s defense will likely be angry for allowing 46 points and nearly 500 yards last week is even more concerning in my opinion. Freeman is more of a FLEX this week.


Thumbs Down: LeSean McCoy (v DEN)

Whether or not Damien Williams (rib) is able to suit up this week, McCoy is very difficult to trust after playing just 24 snaps in the biggest game of the year for Kansas City—a number that ranked behind newly-signed Spencer Ware (31) and barely edged out rookie Darwin Thompson (21). The veteran runner is a touchdown-or-bust FLEX that may split touches four ways on a pass-first offense. I’d look elsewhere.


Thumbs Down: Aaron Jones (v CHI)

If you have Jones, you’re obviously starting him this week, but he’s definite fade in DFS lineups and more of an RB1/RB2 in season-long leagues. The Bears limited Green Bay’s starter to 13 carries for 39 yards in the opener, and Akiem Hicks—the best run-stiffer on the team—could be returning to make up for the loss of Roquan Smith (pectoral). Before last week, Jones was held under 40 total yards with zero touchdowns in back-to-back games, and for his career, he’s been limited to 3.3 yards per carry in four matchups against Chicago.


Others: Joe Mixon (v NE), Bo Scarbrough (v TB)


Wide Receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Christian Kirk (v CLE)

Touchdowns haven’t been there for Kirk this season besides the three-score performance versus the Buccaneers, but the second-year wideout has established himself as the clear focal-point of Arizona’s passing attack, and another breakout showing could be coming on Sunday. Including an eight-catch, 85-yard performance against the Steelers last week, Kirk has seen nine or more targets in three of the past four games, while the Browns have allowed 70+ yards and/or a touchdown to the opponent’s No. 1 receiver in seven consecutive games (excluding Week 11 when JuJu Smith-Schuster left early). I have Kirk as a top-15 option.


Thumbs Up: A.J. Brown (v HOU)

It isn’t an exaggeration to say Brown has been one of the best receivers in football this season, and even the Titans—who held Derrick Henry back for three months last year—should know the rookie needs to be featured for three huge games (v HOU, v NO, @ HOU) to close out the regular season. A first-year player on a run-first team could always disappoint, but Brown has earned high-upside WR2 status, and Houston doesn’t have a cornerback on the roster that can consistently cover him.


Thumbs Up: Deebo Samuel (v ATL)

Samuel has been nothing short of phenomenal for San Francisco, and since the team’s Week 7 bye, he’s averaged 12.8 fantasy points per game, which would make him the WR13 on the season. Over the past five weeks in particular, the rookie is on pace for nearly 1,500 total yards, and he should remain a great play against a Falcons defense that lost top cornerback Desmond Trufant (arm) for the season. Both Samuel and Emmanuel Sanders should be in lineups this week.


Thumbs Up: Breshad Perriman (@ DET)

Tampa Bay’s receiving corps will be a little cloudier if Scott Miller (hamstring) is able to return this week, but Perriman is the most likely candidate to replace Mike Evans (hamstring) as a starter across from Chris Godwin, and that could lead to fantasy gold in Bruce Arians’ offense. In his last three games with five or more targets, Perriman has gone for lines of 4/42/1, 5/87, and 3/70/1, so he makes for an excellent flier in Week 15 (and beyond).


Others: Kenny Golladay (v TB), Marquise Brown (v NYJ)


Thumbs Down of the Week: Amari Cooper (v LAR)

Cooper has done well to average 84.0 yards and 0.5 touchdowns per game in difficult matchups over the past two weeks, but the good times might end—at least until closing out against the Eagles/Redskins—as Jalen Ramsey and the Rams come to town on Sunday. Remember, the Patriots limited Cooper to zero receptions just three weeks ago, and the banged-up wideout could have another quiet game at less than 100% this weekend. I have him as a high-risk, high-reward FLEX.


Thumbs Down: Odell Beckham Jr. (@ ARI)

He’s played in every game this season, but Beckham has had more “headlines” (three; equipment issues, a war of words with Gregg Williams, and now the trade rumors) than he’s had touchdowns (two), and if I were relying on Odell for my fantasy team, I would be very concerned about him having already checked out mentally. For this week, Patrick Peterson isn’t a nightmare draw, but teammate Jarvis Landry seems to be in a much better position to make an impact. You’re basically hoping for a long touchdown if Beckham is going to have any chance of paying late-season dividends.


Thumbs Down: Brandin Cooks (@ DAL)

Things looked promising for Cooks in September, but it’s been all downhill since then, as the 26-year-old has totaled 12 receptions for 162 yards and zero touchdowns over the past seven games. Perhaps the Cowboys will get a curveball this week, but right now, Sean McVay’s offense is using Cooks as their fourth or fifth option in the passing game, and similar to OBJ but to an extreme, fantasy owners need to hope for a deep ball. Cooks doesn’t even make the top-50 at receiver for Week 15.


Thumbs Down: Robby Anderson (@ BAL)

Anderson has been on fire with lines of 4/86/1, 7/101, and 7/116/1 over the past three games, but a trip to Baltimore in below-freezing temperatures could extinguish his hot streak. The Ravens allowed some Buffalo receivers to get behind the defense in Week 14, but that should make it all the more likely that they’re prepared for Anderson on Thursday night. Fantasy owners should jump off the bandwagon before it costs them.


Others: Bengals WRs (v NE)


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