Thumbs Up of the Week: Jalen Hurts (@ ARI)
The passing numbers don’t tell the whole story, but Hurts was exceptional in his first career start, and his 106 rushing yards boosted him to 19.2 fantasy points in a very difficult matchup (which would have been higher if not for a late fumble). Now, he will face an Arizona defense that has really struggled to defend dual-threat quarterbacks this year, and playing in the desert hasn’t helped the Cardinals much with 25.6 fantasy points per game allowed to the position over their last four home outings. I have Hurts as a midrange QB1.
Thumbs Up: Jared Goff (v NYJ)
A slight concern about Goff in this spot is that Los Angeles might roll over New York, but I would assume Sean McVay—who was throwing some late in their 24-3 win over the Patriots—will want to get the passing attack going ahead of two huge divisional matchups to close out the regular season (@ SEA, v ARI). Despite starting the year strong, the Jets have allowed 325.0 passing yards per game since Week 8, including three or more touchdown passes allowed in four-of-six games over that span. Goff should at least be viewed as a borderline top-ten play.
Thumbs Up: Philip Rivers (v HOU)
The veteran might not bring the monster upside of the young, mobile options around the league, but Rivers has thrown for multiple scores in every game over the past month, and Houston is a team that he—and the Indianapolis franchise, for that matter—has historically torched (18:3 touchdown-interception ratio in six career matchups). Just two weeks ago, Rivers threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns against the Texans, and the emergence of Jonathan Taylor should open up the passing attack even more.
Thumbs Up: Taysom Hill (v KC)
Hill had a somewhat modest showing in Week 14 with the Philadelphia defense playing stout at home, but he still finished with 18.9 fantasy points, and the upside should be there this weekend for what will likely need to be a shootout against the Chiefs. Before rushing for only 33 scoreless yards last week, Hill had averaged 13.9 fantasy points per game in three starts based on his rushing production alone; keep rolling with him as a no-doubt QB1 play for Week 15.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Deshaun Watson (@ IND)
Despite throwing for 341 yards and rushing for a touchdown in the previous matchup versus Indy, Watson was held to just 19.4 fantasy points, as a bend-don’t-break defense was able to hold strong in scoring territory. The upside will always be there with Watson due to his rushing ability, but Houston’s receiving corps remains worsened, and the Colts have limited the rival quarterback to seven passing touchdowns in six career matchups (including playoffs). I’d rather play Jalen Hurts or Taysom Hill in a more favorable spot.
Thumbs Down: Matt Ryan (v TB)
Julio Jones (hamstring) returning would give Ryan and the Atlanta offense a boost, but they have significantly struggled since the bye—scoring 17 or fewer points in three-of-four games (1-3 record). The primary concern is Tampa Bay having a pass rush that can again ruin the game for Matty Ice, so it’d be tough to feel good about him as anything more than a risky QB2 with the hopes that the Falcons are able to hold up and make it a shootout.
Thumbs Down: Kirk Cousins (v CHI)
Cousins actually had a strong performance in the first matchup versus Chicago (292 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception), but it was still a slugfest, and I don’t see Adam Thielen (4/43/2) and Justin Jefferson (8/135) having the same kind of success as the previous game. Last week, Cousins was sacked six times, while at the same time, the Bears brought down Deshaun Watson six times; the pass rush getting home would make things more difficult on Minnesota’s passing attack. Cousins is a mid-to-low QB2.
Thumbs Down: Cam Newton (@ MIA)
Miami’s strength being in the secondary could make this matchup less difficult than it appears for Newton and the run-heavy Patriots, but I doubt Brian Flores will let his defense be dominated like they were in the opener (75 yards and two scores allowed to Cam on the ground), so the sledding should be tougher in a rematch. Overall, this AFC East battle projects to be a low-scoring affair, and Newton—who has zero rushing scores in three of the past four games—may need to find the end zone multiple times to return QB1 value.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Raheem Mostert (@ DAL)
We have to keep an eye on his status with an ankle injury, but Mostert carries major upside against a Dallas defense that has been shredded on the ground all year. Even after containing a struggling Cincinnati offense, the Cowboys are still allowing the most rushing yards per game (162.7) and yards per carry (5.1) in the league—having already ceded 2,115 rushing yards through 13 games. If he suits up, Mostert would have top-five upside on Sunday.
Thumbs Up: J.D. McKissic (v SEA)
Antonio Gibson (toe) seems unlikely to return this week, so J.D. McKissic—particularly if Alex Smith (calf) is under center—should be positioned for another solid performance after averaging 14.0 touches and 82.0 total yards per game over the past two weeks. Seattle has surrendered seven or more receptions in eight of their 13 games this year, which should set up for McKissic to be a significant factor underneath. Consider him a low-end RB2/FLEX play.
Thumbs Up: Gus Edwards (v JAX)
He’s combined for only 34 snaps over the past two games, but that’s all that’s been needed for Edwards to put up 150 rushing yards and two scores as Baltimore goes with more of a two-back offense by phasing out Mark Ingram. Assuming the big runner remains the clear No. 2—including some valuable work in scoring territory—he should be a quality FLEX play, especially in a game that the Ravens should play from ahead in.
Thumbs Up: Lynn Bowden Jr. (v NE)
His role is completely different as more of a pure wide receiver (that can also carry the ball or even throw as a former college quarterback), but Bowden Jr. is similar to McKissic in that he projects to carry a very high floor; and the position eligibility at running back in most leagues almost makes him a cheat code. All the injuries to Miami’s receiving corps should allow Bowden—after new highs in targets (nine), receptions (seven), and receiving yards (82) last week—to be worth RB2 consideration in full PPR leagues.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Clyde Edwards-Helaire (@ NO)
Edwards-Helaire was boosted last week by having his most receiving yards (59) since September, but he struggled on the ground (16 carries for 32 yards), and the rookie has now been held to fewer than 40 yards and zero rushing scores in four of his past five appearances. Although the Saints just allowed an 82-yard touchdown to Miles Sanders in their upset loss, they still rank first in rushing scores allowed (seven) and trail only the Buccaneers in terms of rushing yards per game (89.2) and yards per carry (3.7) allowed. With Le’Veon Bell seemingly growing frustrated with his role, I could see the backfield evening out on Sunday.
Thumbs Down: Melvin Gordon (v BUF)
The Bills surrendered 106.9 rushing yards per game to enemy backs in ten outings prior to the bye, but since then, they’ve toughened up with 69.3 yards per game allowed, and I expect the defensive intensity to remain high for a Saturday matchup in Denver. Gordon has understandably struggled when the Broncos fall behind this year—which is a definite possibility based on a) how Buffalo’s offense is playing, and b) how depleted the Broncos are on defense. The low floor puts Gordon in FLEX range.
Thumbs Down: Todd Gurley (v TB)
Gurley talked as if he would receive a full workload in his return to Los Angeles, but his eight touches and 19 snaps were both season-lows, so the former NFL Offensive Player of the Year is simply too difficult to trust in lineups ahead of a brutal matchup versus Tampa Bay. Those still forced to start Gurley can only hope for a short score after he found the end zone nine times in the first nine games.
Thumbs Down: Ezekiel Elliott (v SF)
Elliott finishes off a high-profile group of “Thumbs Down” options at running back, but unlike those before him, many teams might not have a suitable replacement for a consensus first-round pick over the summer. Still, Zeke can’t be viewed as anything more than a low-end RB2 option, and the 49ers aren’t a great matchup to get back on track; in now a half season without Dak Prescott (ankle) in the lineup, Elliott is on a 16-game pace of 936 rushing yards and zero rushing touchdowns.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Terry McLaurin (v SEA)
It’s crazy that McLaurin has been better with signal-callers other than Dwayne Haskins (his college quarterback) under center, but no matter who starts on Sunday, I think he should break out of his statistical slump this month (four receptions for 38 yards). The Seahawks have undoubtedly been better on defense over the past few games, but McLaurin’s closest stylistic fit as a receiver might be Buffalo’s John Brown, who caught eight passes for 99 yards against Seattle last month. Washington’s top weapon should be ranked as a borderline WR1/WR2.
Thumbs Up: Brandon Aiyuk (@ DAL)
Not having Deebo Samuel (hamstring) for basically the entire game last week gave Aiyuk the spotlight for himself in Week 14, and he responded with season-highs in targets (16), receptions (ten), and receiving yards (119). The rookie receiver has now gone for lines of 6/115, 8/91/1, 7/75/1, 5/95/1, and 10/119 over his past five outings, and he should again be the focal point of the passing attack in a great matchup versus Dallas. At worst, Aiyuk is a high-end, high-upside WR2.
Thumbs Up: T.Y. Hilton (v HOU)
As most should know, Hilton has absolutely smoked Houston throughout his career, and including a big game just a couple of weeks ago, the veteran is now up to 93 receptions, 1,647 yards, and 11 touchdowns in 17 career matchups against the AFC South foe. Look for T.Y. to keep the hot streak going with the Texans not showing anything to suggest they can cover him on the perimeter.
Thumbs Up: John Brown (@ DEN)
Brown (ankle) is expected to be removed from IR and play this week, so his upside will immediately be worth lineup consideration—especially against a Denver cornerback group that will be without A.J. Bouye (suspension), Essang Bassey (knee), Duke Dawson (knee), and Kevin Toliver II (knee). With how pass-happy the Bills are this year, I’d expect there to be plenty of opportunities for Brown in his first game back, and he’s had 70+ yards in all four games with more than five targets.
Others: D.J. Moore (@ GB), Keke Coutee (@ IND)
Thumbs Down of the Week: D.J. Chark (@ BAL)
There is hope that Gardner Minshew will help Chark re-emerge over the final three games of the year, but the schedule is brutal (@ BAL, v CHI, @ IND), and it’s not like Jacksonville’s passing attack was firing on all cylinders with the former starter throwing passes (Chark was on pace for just a 69/776/8 line in six games with Minshew). While Marcus Peters is beatable on the outside if Chark can match up against him, Baltimore should be better after last week’s sub-par showing; you’ll probably need a deep ball for the LSU product to pay dividends.
Thumbs Down: Robby Anderson (@ GB)
Anderson’s lone career matchup against the Packers was a great one with nine receptions, 140 yards, and a score a couple of years ago, but then-rookie Jaire Alexander left the game early with an injury, and I would bet defensive coordinator Mike Pettine remembers the performance ahead of Saturday night’s rematch. Also, with the Panthers expecting to have D.J. Moore (ankle) back this week, Anderson could lose targets for what is going to be a frigid game at Lambeau Field. I would actually rather play Moore, who should have a more versatile role to avoid Alexander.
Thumbs Down: Darius Slayton (v CLE)
It sounds like Daniel Jones (ankle/hamstring) could be out of action this week, and that’s bad news for Slayton after he was targeted by Colt McCoy just once in a good on-paper matchup versus Seattle in Week 13. Overall, the second-year wideout has really cooled off with no scores since mid-October, and he’s totaled just 17 receptions for 223 yards in seven games since then. Denzel Ward (calf) coming back for Cleveland on Sunday night would be a further downgrade to Slayton’s outlook.
Thumbs Down: Rashard Higgins (@ NYG)
Speaking of receiver-cornerback matchups for Sunday night, Higgins could see a lot of James Bradberry, and I don’t think it’s wise to chase recent numbers for Cleveland’s No. 2 wideout (lines 6/95/1 and 6/68/1 this month). Remember, the Browns remain a run-first offense, and it’d be a surprise if the Browns air it out like they have over the past two weeks when they’ve averaged 41.5 points per game. Higgins isn’t a highly recommended FLEX option for me.
Others: Jets WRs (@ LAR)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Noah Fant (v BUF)
Hopefully it didn’t impact anyone reading this in a one-week playoff matchup, but Fant can’t be faulted for needing to leave last week’s game with food poisoning, and Buffalo is a good opponent to have a big game against for those sticking with him in the second week of a fantasy semifinal. For the season, the Bills have allowed the sixth-most points per game to opposing tight ends, and Fant should benefit from K.J. Hamler and others performing without him in the lineups to give Sean McDermott’s more targets to take into account.
Thumbs Up: Cole Kmet (@ MIN)
Kmet followed up a seven-target game in Week 13 with another in last week’s win, and Jimmy Graham again being used in scoring territory didn’t necessarily come at the rookie’s expense. In a weird year where first-year players seem to be gaining strength in some cases rather than hitting a “rookie wall,” Kmet should remain a quality streaming option against a Minnesota defense that could be without Eric Kendricks (calf) for the third game in a row.
Thumbs Up: Jared Cook (v KC)
He remains out of TE1 range because Drew Brees (ribs) will likely be out another week, but Cook has caught a touchdown in back-to-back games, and the Chiefs are a tremendous matchup not only for tight ends in general (20.7 points per game allowed to the position in four weeks since the bye), but also historically for Cook (two 100-yard games in four meetings when he was in Oakland). The floor is low, but the veteran carries plenty of upside.
Thumbs Down of the Week: None
Jimmy Graham looked left for dead and caught a touchdown last week. Dawson Knox suddenly seems to be a big factor for the Bills. Will Dissly scored for the first time since early October in a blowout win. David Njoku has the talent to put up numbers if Austin Hooper (neck) misses another game. Basically, the position is enough of a mystery that anyone can be considered a worthwhile gamble if you don’t have a clear TE1.