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Week 15 Fantasy: “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down”



Thumbs Up of the Week: Aaron Rodgers (@ CAR)

He’s back. Aaron Rodgers posted last night on Instagram that he was cleared to return from his broken collarbone, and the two-time NFL MVP needs to be picked up and started if he’s somehow available in your league. Green Bay would most likely make the playoffs with three-straight wins to close out the regular season, and I like their chances with Rodgers on the field. Fantasy owners should waste no time getting him in lineups as an elite QB1.


Thumbs Up: Cam Newton (v GB)

It’s obviously not good for Carolina as a team that the Packers will have their superstar passer out there on Sunday, but it certainly increases the likelihood of a shootout for Cam Newton and his fantasy owners. In two career home contests against Green Bay, Newton has scored 29 fantasy points per game, and he’s shown all season that he’s at his best when making plays as a runner, which he should continue to do in a big NFC matchup. Cam is actually on pace for a career-high 750 rushing yards and 5.9 yards per carry this year, and he’s a high-end, high-upside QB1 for Week 15.


Thumbs Up: Ben Roethlisberger (v NE)

While Packers-Panthers is a possible shootout in the NFC, we should have another high-scoring matchup between New England and Pittsburgh in the AFC. Ben Roethlisberger is averaging over 375 passing yards per game against the Patriots in the regular season since 2010, and he’s been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the league over the past four weeks with 25.75 fantasy points per game, including three games of 28+ points at home. Look for Big Ben to stay hot as he looks to earn home-field advantage in the postseason.


Thumbs Up: Jameis Winston (v ATL)

Jameis Winston has actually had tremendous success against Dan Quinn’s defense to start his career, as he’s 3-1 against the Falcons with 236 yards per game and a 9:2 touchdown-interception ratio. He’s also scored twice on the ground, giving him 21 fantasy points per game in matchups with Atlanta. I’m usually lower on Winston than most, but while I personally would probably look elsewhere because he’s too unreliable in my opinion, he’s ranked as a borderline QB1 this week.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Alex Smith (v LAC)

Alex Smith set a career-high in passing yards last week with 3,507 on the season, and he’s already tied his career-high of 23 touchdowns, putting him on pace for an MVP-worthy 4,316 yards with a 28:6 touchdown-interception ratio. All that, combined with an offensive explosion followed by a win, has quieted the unjustified calls for Patrick Mahomes to take over for Kansas City, but this would be the week to sit Smith for fantasy purposes. When he was in the midst of a white-hot stretch to start the season, Smith had just 155 yards and two touchdowns against the Chargers, and their attacking defense should give the Chiefs problems on Saturday night in a battle for first place in the AFC West.


Thumbs Down: Kirk Cousins (v ARI)

Kirk Cousins knows firsthand how good the Los Angeles defense is after last week’s loss, and it caused the Redskins to be officially eliminated from playoff contention. This has been a lost season for Washington due to injuries, but the players on the field haven’t performed either; Cousins isn’t getting much help from his inconsistent playmakers, and it’s difficult to rely on them playing well with a potential spot in your fantasy title game on the line.


Thumbs Down: Dak Prescott (@ OAK)

The Dallas passing attack woke up in last week’s win over the Giants, as Prescott threw for 332 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions in the second-straight blowout win, but I think people are getting a little ahead of themselves by considering Dak a solid QB1 again. New York had just fired their head coach and general manager earlier in the week, which undoubtedly had an impact on the players no matter how they personally felt about Ben McAdoo and/or Jerry Reese. Now, Oakland’s defense isn’t great by any means, but they’ve been better recently. I think Prescott needs a rushing score to finish inside the top-12 quarterbacks for Week 15.


Thumbs Down: Derek Carr (v DAL)

Derek Carr will face Dak and the Cowboys this week on Sunday Night Football, but I think he should stay out of fantasy lineups, too. Perhaps it turns into a shootout, but Carr is averaging a mediocre 12.8 fantasy points per game this season, which is less than Josh McCown, Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles, and Case Keenum. I don’t see how fantasy owners can rely on him in one of the biggest weeks of the season, especially with a lot of other good options likely available.


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Thumbs Up of the Week: Latavius Murray (v CIN)

Those who stuck with Murray in Week 14 against the Panthers were unfortunately faced with a tilted game script that forced Minnesota to go away from the run, so Latavius had just nine carries for 14 yards in a difficult matchup. He should be in all lineups this week, though, as Murray has been one of the best fantasy backs in the league since the end of October, and Cincinnati has been gashed on the ground recently, including last week when Jordan Howard went for 147 yards and two scores. The Vikings starter is back as a borderline RB1 after spending a week in low-end RB2/FLEX territory.


Thumbs Up: Alex Collins (@ CLE)

Coming off a career-high 120 rushing yards (and 166 total yards) against Pittsburgh, Alex Collins needs to be locked into lineups over the final three weeks of the season. The 2016 fifth-round pick is likely going to reach 1,000 rushing yards soon, and only Alvin Kamara (7.0), Cam Newton (5.9), and Dion Lewis (5.2) are averaging more yards per carry than him this season. Collins should have no problems for the contending Ravens against a still-winless Cleveland team on Sunday.


Thumbs Up: Jay Ajayi (@ NYG)

You just saw Alvin Kamara’s eye-popping 7.0 yards per carry this season, but there’s someone else that equals the impressive rookie: Jay Ajayi in midnight green. Since being traded to the Eagles, Ajayi has rushed for 307 yards on 44 attempts (6.98 yards per carry to be exact, which is slightly lower than Kamara’s 6.99 clip). The 24-year-old is coming off a team-high 15 carries in last week’s win over the Rams, and Philadelphia should feed their talented back with Carson Wentz done for the year. Ajayi is a strong RB2 this week, and another nice workload could move him up to the RB1 ranks by the fantasy championship.


Thumbs Up: Wayne Gallman (v PHI)

I’ve talked up Gallman a lot this season with the hopes that New York would have made him their featured back, but it hasn’t quite happened. However, he handled a career-high 19 touches last week, rushing 12 times for 59 yards and catching seven passes for 40 yards. While long overdue, the rookie out of Clemson could finally get the role that fantasy owners have been waiting for as New York looks ahead to 2018, and he’s a great desperation play in Week 15.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Joe Mixon (@ MIN)

It’s still unclear if Joe Mixon will be able to pass the concussion protocol in time to face the Vikings in Week 15, but even if he’s cleared, fantasy owners shouldn’t get too excited about putting him in lineups. Minnesota just allowed 100 yards and three scores to Jonathan Stewart, and there’s no way they won’t be ready to stop the run against the Bengals. Plus, Giovani Bernard should continue to remain involved after a combined 24 carries for 139 yards over the past two weeks. Mixon is just a weak FLEX if he plays.


Thumbs Down: Isaiah Crowell (v BAL)

He’s come on of late, but Isaiah Crowell has basically been the definition of weak FLEX in 2017. Despite being on pace for a career-high 214 carries, Crowell has just 714 yards and two touchdowns this season, and I’m not expecting him to build on his first 100-yard game from last week’s loss to Green Bay, especially against Baltimore. Earlier this season, the Ravens limited Crowell to 37 yards on 10 attempts, and it would make sense for Cleveland to give Duke Johnson or Matthew Dayes more work with Crowell in a walk year.


Thumbs Down: Marshawn Lynch (v DAL)

Marshawn Lynch has at least 60 yards in each of the past four games and has scored in three-straight games, but I wouldn’t feel confident about playing him with a fantasy championship potentially at stake. Lynch had just seven carries last week, but was saved by a garbage-time touchdown run. With difference-making linebacker Sean Lee healthy for the Cowboys, Marshawn should stay out of lineups.


Thumbs Down: Ameer Abdullah (v CHI)

The reasons for Ameer Abdullah being inactive last week for the Lions is still a little vague, but whether it was as a healthy scratch or due to his neck injury, it’s almost impossible to trust him against Chicago on Saturday. I thought this would be a big season for the third-year back, but he’s averaged just 3.4 yards per carry due to poor blocking, and Detroit has been content with Theo Riddick—despite averaging 3.3 yards per carry—leading the backfield recently. I still think Abdullah could succeed if they scheme him the ball in space, but it’d be unwise to bet on that happening in the fantasy playoffs.


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Thumbs Up of the Week: Jordy Nelson (@ CAR)

There probably isn’t a quarterback-wide receiver duo with more chemistry in recent memory than Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson, so no one should be happier than the former All-Pro receiver that Rodgers will make his return this Sunday. Jordy had six scores over the first four games of the season with #12 healthy, and only Antonio Brown is averaging more fantasy points per game than Nelson did with Rodgers in the lineup. He should be an elite WR1 over the final three weeks of the season, including this week against Carolina.


Thumbs Up: JuJu Smith-Schuster (v NE)

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s social-media game is on a whole different level than anyone not named Joel Embiid, but he’s a pretty good receiver, too. The rookie will be back from his one-game suspension in a huge AFC matchup with New England, and he should benefit from Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell being the focus of Bill Belichick’s defense. Expect a lot of single coverage in the slot for JuJu, making him a strong WR2 option in Week 15.


Thumbs Up: Dede Westbrook (v HOU)

Since making his NFL debut in mid-November, Dede Westbrook has shown steady improvement for the Jags with lines of 3/35, 6/41, 6/78, and 5/81/1. Considering he was a Heisman finalist that averaged 19.1 yards per reception last season at Oklahoma, the most impressive part about the rookie’s game so far is might be that’s he’s producing with no catches of 30+ yards. I think Westbrook will get behind the defense sooner or later, and it could come this week against a Houston team that’s been susceptible to the deep ball. I like Westbrook as a high-upside FLEX.


Thumbs Up: DeVante Parker (@ BUF)

Since returning from a month absence due to a high-ankle sprain, Parker hasn’t scored and is averaging just over 36 receiving yards per game, which is unfortunate after he got off to a solid start. Fantasy owners that are still in it could see him pay off, though, as despite being shadowed by New England’s Stephon Gilmore, Miami made it a point to get Parker the ball last week on short passes, and he has the size to give Buffalo’s cornerbacks problems this Sunday. He’s in the FLEX conversation in standard leagues.


Thumbs Down of the Week: A.J. Green (@ MIN)

The “Thumbs Downs” at wide receiver are filled with big names this week, and A.J. Green has the toughest matchup out of all of them. Unless you were lucky enough to get Adam Thielen and Devin Funchess to go along with another WR1 option, you probably have to play Green, but temper your expectations against Xaiver Rhodes. I know Rhodes allowed two touchdowns to Marvin Jones on Thanksgiving, but it might be worth sitting Green if you need to go for upside in two-week formats.


Thumbs Down: DeAndre Hopkins (@ JAC)

Hopkins has been an absolute monster no matter who’s under center for the Texans, but like Green, it might be worth sitting him if you somehow have two other WR1 options. The Jaguars uncharacteristically busted a couple coverages against Seattle last week, but I would be shocked if that happened again. Hopkins’ 7/55/1 line against Jacksonville from the season opener would probably be a win for fantasy owners rolling with him this Sunday.


Thumbs Down: Mike Evans (v ATL)

While A.J. Green and DeAndre Hopkins are undoubtedly two of the top receivers in the NFL, I’m not sure the same can be said for Mike Evans. I didn’t expect him to have a huge season like last year because of the talent added to the offense, but Evans doesn’t have a 100-yard game all season and hasn’t scored since October, which is remarkable. Perhaps a multi-score game will come in primetime this Monday night when fantasy owners need it most, but Evans has been a FLEX all year and that doesn’t change in Week 15.


Thumbs Down: Amari Cooper (v DAL)

Cooper’s status is up in the air after re-aggravating his ankle injury in last week’s loss to Kansas City, but even if Oakland wasn’t playing on Sunday night, I would have a difficult time trusting him. Besides his TNF explosion of 11 catches for 210 yards and two touchdowns, Cooper is averaging fewer than three receptions and barely 26 yards per game. Play him at your own risk.


. . .




Thumbs Up of the Week: Jimmy Graham (v LAR)

Fantasy owners might be a little hesitant about Graham after he had more tackles (one) than receptions (zero) last week, but it’d a mistake to go away from one of the league’s premier touchdown threats in the fantasy playoffs. Prior to last week, Graham had scored nine times in eight games, including a 6/37/1 line against the Rams at the start of that stretch. Graham is only behind Rob Gronkowski in this week’s rankings.


Thumbs Up: Ricky Seals-Jones (@ WAS)

Ricky Seals-Jones has been quiet over the past two weeks after a two-game breakout, but he’s still had a reception of 20+ yards in every game and is averaging 19.0 yards every time he gets the ball in his hands. The 22-year-old will remain a touchdown and big-play threat in a great matchup with Washington this Sunday, and he’s a borderline TE1.


Thumbs Up: Benjamin Watson (@ CLE)

Most people probably know that targeting the Browns for this position is never a bad idea, and that includes Watson this week. Back in Week 2, the veteran tight end had a season-high eight receptions and 91 yards against Cleveland, so he’s a quality desperation option in Week 15.


Thumbs Up: Jesse James (v NE)

Coming off a 10-catch, 97-yard game, Jesse James should remain a factor and is a “Thumbs Up” for the same reasons JuJu Smith-Schuster is. Look for Big Ben to work the middle of the field with James and JuJu with New England expected to take away Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell.


Thumbs Down of the Week: Vernon Davis (v ARI)

It seemed inevitable, but Jordan Reed’s season was officially ended on Tuesday when the Redskins placed him on IR. That leaves Vernon Davis as the unquestioned starter for the rest of the season, but the soon-to-be 34-year-old has fallen off recently. Because the Cardinals aren’t a cupcake matchup, I don’t think Davis is a TE1 in this one.


Thumbs Down: O.J. Howard (v ATL)

O.J. Howard was able to catch four passes for 54 yards and a touchdown in last week’s loss to Detroit, but Cameron Brate remains the tight end to own in Tampa Bay. The sample size of Brate producing with Jameis Winston under center is much more reliable than Howard’s volatile production, and isn’t worth the risk with so much potentially at stake on Monday night for fantasy owners.


Thumbs Down: Austin Hooper (@ TB)

Hooper isn’t worth the risk, either, as nothing would be worse than needing a handful of points in the final game of the week to win your playoff matchup but coming up short. Hooper hasn’t surpassed 50 yards since the season opener, and he’s not a good enough threat in the red zone to feel good about in lineups.


Thumbs Down: Julius Thomas (@ BUF)

He’s had plenty of opportunities to make plays for Miami, but there are simply better players to consider instead of Julius Thomas. The 29-year-old looks extremely uncoordinated for a professional athlete at times, including on Monday night when he failed to adjust to a back-shoulder throw by Jay Cutler. Besides a 6/84/1 game against Oakland last month, Thomas has been largely ineffective for the Dolphins.



For defense and kicker advice—and all your start/sit decisions—check out our full Week 15 rankings, and good luck to those in the fantasy playoffs.


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