Thumbs Up of the Week: Matthew Stafford (v WAS)
Quarterback looks very strong for options on the backend of the QB1 ranks this week, and Stafford tops the list with a dream matchup versus the Commanders to begin the fantasy playoffs. On the season, Washington has allowed six games of 300+ passing yards and multiple touchdowns through the air, and they’ve fallen apart in recent weeks with the bye week unlikely to result in them having things figured out. Stafford carries major upside throwing to Cooper Kupp and Puka Nacua.
Thumbs Up: Geno Smith (v PHI)
Smith needs to be healthy after missing last week with a groin injury, but Philadelphia is the only team allowing more fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks than Washington—and I don’t see the Eagles stopping DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and Jaxon Smith-Njigba on Monday night. If Geno is able to suit up, he’ll be a definite top-ten play at quarterback, and if not, Drew Lock would probably be a high-end QB2 option after looking good last week in a difficult matchup versus San Francisco.
Thumbs Up: Jordan Love (v TB)
Love entered Week 14 on fire, but he wasn’t sharp in the loss to the Giants, so some might be hesitant about keeping him in lineups this weekend. However, the Buccaneers have struggled on the backend, and Green Bay has the weaponry—especially if Christian Watson (hamstring) and Aaron Jones (knee) are back—to do damage through the air versus a defense that’s allowing the fourth-most passing yards per attempt (7.7) in the league. Love should bounce back as a low-end QB1 on Sunday.
Thumbs Up: Russell Wilson (@ DET)
Detroit is another team that has fallen apart defensively, and they have allowed at least 21.16 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks in four of the past five games since their bye. At the same time, Wilson has plateaued a bit for Denver, but Saturday night has the makings of a potential shootout in a comfortable dome environment, and the Lions can be vulnerable to rushing production from quarterbacks. I like Wilson to be a top-12 option with a high floor in Sean Payton’s offense.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Tua Tagovailoa (v NYJ)
Tyreek Hill (ankle) not playing after returning on Monday night would be surprising, but even with a healthy group of weapons, Tagovailoa is in a difficult spot this week versus a New York defense that played them tough on Black Friday and should have some energy after a win last week. In general, I would expect Miami to have more of a run-heavy offense centered around Raheem Mostert and De’Von Achane, so fantasy owners relying on Tua might need multiple big plays for him to be more than a QB2.
Thumbs Down: Kyler Murray (v SF)
Murray has done a decent job versus the 49ers throughout his career, but he hasn’t faced them in over two years, and the passing numbers have been very modest through four starts this season (216.0 yards per game and a 3:2 touchdown-interception ratio). Basically, if Murray doesn’t find the end zone as a runner like he did in his first three games of the year, he is in danger of a low-floor performance—which we saw prior to the bye with 11.8 fantasy points. Wait until at least next week (@ CHI) or Week 17 versus the Eagles to get Murray back in the QB1 ranks.
Thumbs Down: Sam Howell (@ LAR)
Since a close loss to Seattle in Week 10, the Commanders have struggled in three consecutive games—and Howell hasn’t played his best football during the stretch with a 1:5 touchdown-interception ratio (including a pick-six in every game). The Rams will put up points and could allow Howell to get in a shootout, but I don’t think that’s something to count on, and the Rams had been playing very solid defense before last week’s loss. We have Howell outside the top 15 at the position for a team that seems to be looking towards 2024.
Thumbs Down: Patrick Mahomes (@ NE)
If you have Mahomes and are alive for the fantasy playoffs, you’re almost certainly starting him—and we still have him as a top-seven option at quarterback. But the matchup will be challenging versus a New England defense that continues to play at a high level, and Bill Belichick will have had a few extra days to prepare for the rubber match versus Mahomes (2-2 record, including playoffs). Maybe an angry Mahomes will go off, but the Chiefs obviously haven’t been at their best in 2023.
Thumbs Up of the Week: Kenneth Walker III (v PHI)
Although the matchup for Walker versus the Eagles doesn’t appear to be a good one on paper (fewest fantasy points allowed to running backs), the Philly run defense has fallen off in recent weeks—and a lack of tackling is a big reason for it. Walker should get more work after handling just eight carries last week, and he could rip off chunk yardage if able to reach the second level on Monday night. Seattle would also be wise to involve Walker as a pass-catcher again (four receptions last week), and we have him as a high-upside RB2.
Thumbs Up: Ezekiel Elliott (v KC)
Elliott turning back the clock just in time for the fantasy playoffs is great for anyone rostering him, as he turned 29 touches into 140 yards and a touchdown last Thursday night—and will now take on a Kansas City defense that is allowing 4.8 yards per carry to enemy running backs this season. Considering his workhorse outlook with a lock on goal-line carries and targets in the passing game, Zeke should be an excellent RB2 this weekend.
Thumbs Up: Zamir White (v LAC)
Josh Jacobs (quad) is unlikely to suit up on a short week, so White is in line to start in a plus matchup with the Chargers—who typically struggle versus the run and could be deflated following what was essentially a season-ending loss in Week 14 (not to mention Justin Herbert being done for the year with a finger injury). Ameer Abdullah will also be involved as a pass-catcher, but White can be a low-end RB2 option, and the possibility of Las Vegas turning to Jimmy Garoppolo would further boost his outlook.
Thumbs Up: Ty Chandler (@ CIN)
Chandler is also in line for a potential spot start this week if Alexander Mattison (ankle) can’t go, and Cincinnati is a terrific matchup with 4.7 yards per carry allowed on the season. Ideally, we would see better efficiency from Chandler with more than 3.0 yards per touch just once over the past four games, but he’s seen 14+ touches in three of those outings, and Minnesota could be a more traditional, balanced offense with Nick Mullens at quarterback. I like Chandler as a top-30 play.
Thumbs Down of the Week: D’Andre Swift (@ SEA)
Seattle has allowed 30.0 points per game since the start of November, and their run defense has been one of the worst in the league dating back to last season. That said, Philadelphia continues to not establish the run, and Swift himself hasn’t played his best so far this month with 17 carries for 52 yards (3.1 YPC). The upside and big-play ability keeps him as a low-end RB2/FLEX option, but Swift isn’t a must-start back with the Seahawks expected to be fired up in primetime.
Thumbs Down: Jerome Ford (v CHI)
Ford has seen increased involvement in the passing game to boost his value, but the second-year runner has seen carry totals of 12, nine, nine, and 12 over the past four weeks, and now he’ll take on a Chicago defense allowing the second-fewest rushing yards per game in the league (83.7). Unless he finds the end zone or gets a chunk gain either on the ground or through the air, Ford could disappoint with just a handful of fantasy points this week.
Thumbs Down: James Conner (v SF)
The only defense in the league allowing fewer rushing yards per game than the Bears this season is San Francisco (78.3), and the danger with Conner is game flow not being in Arizona’s favor—which happened in Week 12 when he handled just six carries in the 37-14 loss to the Rams. So, while it might be difficult to consider benching a guy that went for 105 yards and two touchdowns prior to the bye, Conner is more of a FLEX than RB2.
Thumbs Down: Zack Moss (v PIT)
Moss began the season on fire in place of Jonathan Taylor, but he’s been contained in back-to-back starts with 32 carries for 79 yards (2.5 YPC), and the former Utah standout hasn’t found the end zone since October. The volume should still make Moss a solid RB2 and well worth a start, but I have a difficult time getting on board with him being ranked ahead of options like Raheem Mostert and Kenneth Walker III.
Thumbs Up of the Week: DeVonta Smith (@ SEA)
Smith is here yet again, but the ranking remains low by most of the industry, and he could have had another huge game last week if not for a couple of drops (including a tough grab that he usually makes the end zone) and a lost fumble. The last time Smith dealt with drops, he rebounded by catching fire, and the return of Dallas Goedert didn’t lead to a decrease in production with ten targets and 73 yards last Sunday night. Keep rolling with Smith as a top-ten option at wide receiver.
Thumbs Up: Tyler Lockett (v PHI)
On the other side of the Eagles-Seahawks matchup, Lockett appears to be in a blow-up spot facing a defense that has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, and I’m not sure the secondary will be able to stick with him. It is worth noting that Philadelphia has contained Lockett throughout his career by holding him below 40 yards in all four regular season matchups, but the last meeting came in 2020. Lockett should be a high-upside WR2.
Thumbs Up: Odell Beckham Jr. (@ JAX)
Beckham has quietly emerged since the start of November with double-digit fantasy points in four of the past five games, and downfield production has been key with a reception of 40+ yards in three of those outings. Sunday night turning into a shootout would be the best-case scenario for Beckham staying hot, and Jacksonville has been exposed by Jake Browning and Joe Flacco in back-to-back losses—leading to increased confidence about the matchup for Lamar Jackson and his weapons.
Thumbs Up: Noah Brown (@ TEN)
Recommending a wideout that has been held without a catch both games since his return to the lineup could be risky, but Nico Collins (calf) being out would certainly increase Brown’s outlook—and we can’t ignore what he did before getting injured with consecutive lines of 6/153/1 and 7/172. Tennessee ranks in the bottom ten in terms of yards allowed per completion allowed (11.3), so we’ll see if C.J. Stroud and offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik take advantage with Brown being a top target on Sunday.
Others: Romeo Doubs (v TB), Josh Downs (v PIT)
Thumbs Down of the Week: Michael Pittman Jr. (v PIT)
An on-fire Pittman might be too hot to take out of lineups with at least eight receptions and 84+ yards in each of the past four games, but drawing the shadow coverage of shutdown rookie cornerback Joey Porter Jr. could cool him off in a hurry. Because of the matchup, I’d downgrade Pittman to the low-end WR2 ranks, and Josh Downs could be a decent pivot for DFS lineups as someone that will avoid Porter on Saturday.
Thumbs Down: Amari Cooper (v CHI)
Cooper saw a team-high 14 targets last week, and having Joe Flacco at quarterback is a huge benefit for the fantasy playoffs. For this week, though, Chicago has shown they can limit primary receiving options with Chris Olave, Adam Thielen, Jordan Addison, and Amon-Ra St. Brown (in the second matchup) all being held below 50 receiving yards in recent games. I don’t think Kevin Stefanski and Flacco will want cornerback Jaylon Johnson to be tested much, so Cooper is a volatile FLEX for Week 15.
Thumbs Down: Marquise Brown (v SF)
The first matchup for Brown this year versus the 49ers went well for him by catching seven-of-ten targets for 96 yards, and now he’ll have Kyle Murray under center for the rematch. However, the connection hasn’t been there for the duo with fewer than 30 yards in three-of-four games together this year, and Brown was held to one reception in his other two career matchups versus San Francisco. Similar to Amari Cooper, I’d view “Hollywood” as a boom-or-bust option that slants more towards the latter for this week.
Thumbs Down: Jahan Dotson (@ LAR)
I’m still very high on Dotson’s talent, and the touchdown potential that he’s shown over the past two seasons could allow him to pay off as a start. Unfortunately, wide receivers simply haven’t been a priority for Sam Howell and Eric Bieniemy, and if there is a change this week, it might come in the form of feeding Terry McLaurin after the veteran was held without a catch in Week 12. Dotson will have brighter days ahead—but they might not come until 2024.
Others: Adam Thielen (v ATL), Jordan Addison (@ CIN)
Thumbs Up of the Week: Dalton Kincaid (v DAL)
Kincaid was held in check last week, but he did have five receptions (for 21 yards) and eight targets, so the return of Dawson Knox doesn’t seem like it’ll impact the rookie much down the stretch. This week, the Cowboys will have more of a focus on stopping Stefon Diggs, and I think the big game from James Cook in the win over Kansas City could open things up for Kincaid in the middle of the field. We have the rookie as a borderline top-five option for a potential shootout.
Thumbs Up: Isaiah Likely (@ JAX)
Likely has gone for lines of 4/40 and 5/83/1 in two games without Mark Andrews, and any concerns about Baltimore leaning on their wideouts too much should be erased based on the second-year tight end’s play. Sunday night will be a terrific matchup versus a Jacksonville defense that just allowed David Njoku to catch six passes for 91 yards and two scores, so Likely is a definite TE1 in primetime.
Thumbs Up: Hunter Henry (v KC)
Although he is very touchdown-dependent, Henry showed his upside last week with two trips to the end zone, and Bailey Zappe should have plenty of trust in him as the Patriots try to upset the Chiefs. Henry hasn’t faced Kansas City since joining New England, but he went for lines of 6/69, 5/42/1, and 6/83 in the final three matchups against the former division rival when with the Chargers, and he can again thrive on play-action opportunities.
Thumbs Down of the Week: Gerald Everett (@ LV)
Keenan Allen (heel) not playing would boost Everett’s outlook on Thursday night, but assuming the star wideout is active, it’s difficult to trust him as a non-featured option on an offense that won’t have Justin Herbert. Plus, Everett himself is banged up with a hip injury, and in general, the Raiders have been solid on defense with the Chiefs being the only team to score more than 20 points on them since the start of November.
Thumbs Down: Cole Kmet (@ CLE)
Evan Engram just torched Cleveland for 27.0 fantasy points last week, but he’s almost a wide receiver (especially with Christian Kirk out for Jacksonville), and the Browns are still allowing the second-fewest points to opposing tight ends. Kmet should have a quality floor with an average of 6.0 receptions over the past six games, but I’d rather target the upside of others to begin the fantasy playoffs.
Thumbs Down: Juwan Johnson (v NYG)
There was hope for Johnson as a late-season breakout candidate entering December, but he’s been held to two receptions for ten scoreless yards in two games—and his playing time has dipped with season-lows in back-to-back weeks (57% and 40%). Even if Taysom Hill (foot/hand) were to miss another game, Johnson isn’t a strong start alongside Jimmy Graham and Foster Moreau.