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Week 15 Fantasy: Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

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Thumbs Up of the Week: Justin Herbert (v TEN)

Herbert is an obvious must-start in all leagues, but he’s worth listing here as our overall QB2 for the week for a cupcake matchup versus a Tennessee defense that’s allowed the second-most passing yards per game (283.7) and passing touchdowns (25) in the league. With his full supporting cast back last Sunday night, Herbert threw for 367 yards, and I don’t see the Chargers being stopped through the air this weekend.


Thumbs Up: Tom Brady (v CIN)

Week 14 was another disappointment for the Tampa Bay offense, but I get the feeling that Brady could have a big day versus Joe Burrow and the Bengals. The lack of success on the ground has put a lot on Brady’s arm, and he’s thrown 54+ times in three of the past five games—boosting him to 44.5 attempts per game on the year. Look for perimeter cornerbacks Eli Apple and rookie Cam Taylor-Britt to be tested by Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, and Julio Jones. Brady is a top-ten option for me.


Thumbs Up: Mike White (v DET)

Mike White (ribs) insists he’s playing this week, and the matchup will be much easier than it was last week in a wintry Buffalo matchup with the Lions coming to town. Although Detroit has often played better defensively in recent weeks, they just allowed 400+ passing yards to Kirk Cousins, and the Jets have the weapons to give them problems on the backend. Those looking for a streamer to begin the fantasy playoffs can view White as a borderline QB1/QB2.


Thumbs Up: Matt Ryan (@ MIN)

On the other end of Kirk Cousins’ 400-yard game last week was Jared Goff putting up 330 yards and three touchdowns versus Minnesota, so Ryan—rested coming off the bye—should be in position to have a big game in a comfortable dome environment. The coaching staff is different now, but Matty Ice torched the Vikings for 371 yards and four touchdowns just a couple of years ago. With the Colts seeming unlikely to feed Jonathan Taylor 25+ carries, a case could be made for Ryan as a top-15 option in Week 15.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Tua Tagovailoa (@ BUF)

There is enough big-play upside on the Miami offense for Tagovailoa to be worth starting as a low-end QB1, but ranking him any higher than that would probably be a mistake heading into a forecasted snow game against the Bills. Even without considering the weather, Buffalo would be a difficult matchup as a stingy defense that’s allowed a 15:13 touchdown-interception ratio on the season—especially with former All-Pro cornerback Tre’Davious White back in the lineup. Those with Tua might want to consider adding another quarterback because of his rest-of-season schedule (v GB, @ NE, v NYJ).


Thumbs Down: Deshaun Watson (v BAL)

Watson was again not very good last week in a loss to the Bengals, and the only thing that might provide a boost on Saturday is playing at home—though I wouldn’t be surprised if he was given a not-so-warm reception from the home crowd. Furthermore, I could see Baltimore’s talkative defense getting in his head, and things seem to be setting up for Nick Chubb to be re-unleashed after back-to-back sub-par outings. Watson is firmly in QB2 territory and will likely need to be reliant on his legs to pay off as a start.


Thumbs Down: Ryan Tannehill (@ LAC)

Tennessee had to throw more than they would have liked last week after falling behind to the Jaguars, but I’m expecting them to get back to a run-heavy offense with Derrick Henry powering them back into the win column. Tannehill has been very limited in terms of his rushing volume and production this season, so he’s settled in as a weekly low-end QB2—including this week against a Los Angeles defense that’s much more susceptible on the ground than through the air.


Thumbs Down: Baker Mayfield (@ GB)

I don’t think those in the fantasy playoffs would seriously consider Mayfield, but in case you are, a couple of clutch touchdown drives shouldn’t suddenly boost him into streaming territory. The Rams still have a weakened supporting cast without Cooper Kupp (ankle) or Allen Robinson (foot), and Green Bay has a top-five pass defense this season (compared to the Raiders being in the bottom five). I’d say the former No. 1 overall pick raises the floor and ceiling of the offense, but he’s not a recommended fantasy play.


Running back


Thumbs Up of the Week: Damien Harris (@ LV)

A return for Harris (thigh) is still uncertain, but it’s a good sign that he’s been with the team for their trip to the west coast—suggesting he has a decent shot to return against the Raiders. If so, and Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle) is out, Harris should be leaned on with at least 15-18 touches and the goal-line work as rookies Pierre Strong Jr. and Kevin Harris both possibly mix in. Harris should be a solid RB2 to begin the fantasy playoffs.


Thumbs Up: Brian Robinson Jr. (v NYG)

Robinson rushed 21 times for 96 yards against the Giants before the bye, and Washington’s third-round pick has averaged 17.3 rush attempts per game since taking over as the starter in Week 6. The talent and volume—against a defense that’s allowing 5.4 yards per carry—should make Robinson a clear top-24 option that could easily rush for 80+ yards and multiple scores on Sunday night in the biggest game of the season for the Commanders.


Thumbs Up: Cam Akers (@ GB)

I still think rookie Kyren Williams (who rushed three times for 19 yards last week) should get more work down the stretch, but the Rams have wanted to feature Akers—who has scored three touchdowns over the past two weeks—as the no-doubt lead back on early downs. Because of that, he’s set up to return low-end RB2/FLEX value against a Green Bay defense that’s allowed the third-most rushing yards per game in the league (154.8), and the Rams will want to run the ball with temperatures set to be in the single-digits on Monday night.


Thumbs Up: Latavius Murray (v ARI)

Murray had a negative game script last week with Denver falling behind to the Chiefs, but he still handled 11 touches and played 53% of the team’s offensive snaps. Against an Arizona team that he’s dominated in two career matchups (315 total yards and three total touchdowns), fantasy owners can start Murray as a top-30 option at running back—even with bye weeks now concluded.


Thumbs Down of the Week: David Montgomery (v PHI)

One of the players I would recommend starting Latavius Murray over is David Montgomery, as the Eagles have really tightened up the run defense since adding Linval Joseph and Ndamukong Suh—limiting opposing running backs to 79 carries for 307 yards (3.9 YPC) and two touchdowns over the past four games. Those numbers might not seem too discouraging if not for Philadelphia having faced Jonathan Taylor, Aaron Jones, Derrick Henry, and Saquon Barkley in those four games, so Montgomery is more of a FLEX than RB2 this week.


Thumbs Down: Cordarrelle Patterson (@ NO)

Patterson dominated the Saints back in the opener with 25 touches for 136 yards and a touchdown—but the workload has been scaled back since his return from injury with exactly 10.0 carries per game over the past five weeks. While New Orleans hasn’t been a challenging matchup for running backs this season, they will be healthier following the bye week, and the floor should be lower for Atlanta’s offense with rookie Desmond Ridder making his first career start in a difficult spot.


Thumbs Down: D’Onta Foreman (v PIT)

High volume was there for Foreman last week, but he continued alternating big games with relative disappointment—turning 22 touches into 75 scoreless yards in a 30-24 victory over Seattle. Despite Foreman having a great game against Pittsburgh last season (24 touches for 135 total yards) and the Steelers allowing J.K. Dobbins to go off in Week 14, the veteran is just a FLEX option for me in a possible slugfest while splitting work with Chuba Hubbard and Raheem Blackshear.


Thumbs Down: Jerick McKinnon (@ HOU)

You always want to play guys based on future performance rather than the past, so missing out on a monster day from McKinnon last week (28.9 fantasy points) shouldn’t be something to chase in Week 15. I know the Texans are allowing the most fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, but Sunday sets up to be an Isiah Pacheco game, and getting Kadarius Toney (hamstring) back could lead to decreased opportunities for McKinnon.


Wide receiver


Thumbs Up of the Week: Mike Williams (v TEN)

Similar to Justin Herbert, those with Williams should have him locked into lineups—but I think even increased expectations (ranked as a high-end WR2 by the consensus this week) are still too low. In his return versus the Dolphins, Williams caught all six of his targets for 116 yards and a touchdown, and the Titans don’t have anyone that can compete with him in terms of size and skill on downfield throws. We have Williams as a top-seven wideout that can easily finish atop the position in Week 15.


Thumbs Up: Mike Evans (v CIN)

Evans had a 68-yard touchdown wiped out by a holding call last week, and he’s basically in the same spot as the aforementioned Mike Williams as a big-bodied wideout that might not be able to be matched by Cincinnati’s cornerback group. The struggles have been frustrating, but I think Evans is primed for a breakout game and should be viewed as a borderline WR1/WR2 to begin the fantasy playoffs against a defense that just allowed 114 yards to Donovan Peoples-Jones.


Thumbs Up: Michael Pittman Jr. (@ MIN)

Pittman Jr. has been another frustrating wide receiver this season, but the matchup against the Cowboys prior to the bye was expected to be difficult—and he had 9.0 targets per game and 6.7 receptions per game in the three previous outings since Matt Ryan regained his starting job. In a home-run spot versus the NFL’s worst pass defense, Pittman Jr. should not only provide a high floor, but also has more upside than usual.


Thumbs Up: Michael Gallup (@ JAX)

Rounding out the section with another Mike/Michael, the Cowboys have started to get Gallup going—and those that didn’t watch the game last week might have missed him dropping a would-be touchdown (not a bad drop because he was drilled) and being underthrown before that (due to pressure on Dak Prescott) on a long would-be touchdown. If available, Gallup should be added in all leagues for a matchup this week versus Jacksonville and Week 17 versus the Titans.


Others: Donovan Peoples-Jones (v BAL), Jahan Dotson (v NYG)


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

Cooper’s production has nosedived since Deshaun Watson has been under center, as the duo has connected on just six-of-16 targets for 41.0 receiving yards per game—down from 72.0 yards per game when Jacoby Brissett was the starter. The Ravens held Cooper to three receptions in the first meeting, and 55 of the 74 yards came on one deep ball. I have Cleveland’s top wideout off the WR2 track with Nick Chubb and David Njoku being the more central options on offense right now.


Thumbs Down: Gabe Davis (v MIA)

Again, snow in the forecast could be bad news for the downfield passing attack if it’s heavy enough on Saturday night, so Davis needs to be downgraded for the start of the fantasy playoffs. Over the past three games, Davis has gone for yardage totals of 38, 15, and 31, and the Dolphins held him to three receptions for 37 scoreless yards in September. The best chance of a huge game might be Davis catching a defender slipping to get free, but that’s not something fantasy owners should bank on happening.


Thumbs Down: D.J. Chark (@ NYJ)

Chark has caught fire since Thanksgiving with a touchdown against the Bills followed by lines of 5/98 and 6/94/1 on a very efficient 13 targets—but now he gets a very tough matchup versus the stout New York secondary. I’d anticipate the Lions playing more through Amon-Ra St. Brown and D’Andre Swift after Chark and rookie Jameson Williams led the way in Week 14; keep Chark on the bench until next week (@ CAR) or the fantasy championship in Week 17 (v CHI).


Thumbs Down: Chris Olave (v ATL)

Olave has shown a tremendous floor this season with at least 7.6 fantasy points in all but one game, and that alone makes him worth starting as a WR2 or FLEX option. However, the Falcons limited the rookie to one of his two games with less than 52 receiving yards this season (three receptions for 41 scoreless yards), and the playing time for the rookie has curiously dipped in recent weeks due to New Orleans using heavy personnel rotations. Olave tips more towards FLEX status for Week 15.


Others: Treylon Burks (@ LAC), Drake London (@ NO)


Tight end


Thumbs Up of the Week: Gerald Everett (v TEN)

One concern here is that Everett was limited to just one reception for three yards last year against Tennessee despite playing 80% of the offensive snaps (when with Seattle)—but it’s impossible to ignore what Evan Engram just did in this matchup (11/162/2). Everett has run-after-catch potential to do damage on between Mike Williams and Keenan Allen; both of them being healthy last week didn’t have a huge impact on Everett with eight targets, so he’s a definite TE1.


Thumbs Up: Greg Dulcich (v ARI)

It’s a surprise that Hunter Henry only saw three targets against the Cardinals on Monday night, but he took full advantage of them with three receptions for 70 yards. The chunk gains of 30 and 39 yards down the seams for Henry should be where Dulcich can thrive in the matchup versus the last-ranked defense in terms of fantasy points per game allowed to opposing tight ends, and the rookie is a top-ten option whether it’s Russell Wilson (concussion) or Brett Rypien under center.


Thumbs Up: Taysom Hill (v ATL)

He’s still not seeing enough action in my opinion, but New Orleans has at least given Hill increased involvement prior to the bye with touch totals (excluding passes) of ten, seven, and five—while playing over 40% of the team’s offensive snaps in each of those games (after not hitting that mark before then). Hill should be a low-end TE1 with upside against an Atlanta defense he rushed four times for 81 yards and a touchdown against in the opener.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Mike Gesicki (@ BUF)

Gesicki has been held without a catch in each of the past three games, and it would be a shock if he suddenly became a bigger factor versus the Bills on Saturday night. I’d strongly recommend investing in Gesicki as a dynasty option based on his talent, but it doesn’t appear it will happen under Mike McDaniel—though maybe defenses replicating the game plan by the Chargers on Sunday night will result in some changes for Miami.


Thumbs Down: Foster Moreau (v NE)

Those who relied on Moreau last week—with the consensus ranking him as a top-ten option—were disappointed as he failed to haul in his only target, and the Raiders simply aren’t operating at a high enough level to feel good about anyone other than Josh Jacobs or Davante Adams with Hunter Renfrow (oblique) and Darren Waller (hamstring) out. Moreau can probably be left on the waiver wire heading into a matchup against the Patriots.


Thumbs Down: Noah Fant (v SF)

Fant followed up a 4/42/1 line by not catching a pass in Week 14, so he’s not someone to start at tight end with the stingy San Francisco defense coming to town on Thursday night. Earlier this season, Fant was held to two receptions for 11 scoreless yards against the Niners, and we have him outside the top 24 at the position this week.