The last thing we need or want to see during the Fantasy playoffs are injuries, so of course we saw a bunch of high-profile players leave Sunday's games. Why would it be any different in this season that has been defined as much by who isn't playing as who is.
The biggest injury of note was probably Lamar Jackon's, as he had to be carted off with an ankle injury, putting his availability for the Fantasy playoffs in doubt. However, we also learned after Sunday night's game that Aaron Rodgers suffered a setback of some sort with his fractured toe which will require him to be re-evaluated Monday -- with surgery remaining on the table as a last resort.
At a time when the QB position is shallower than it's been in a long time, losing two of the top names would be a big blow in the playoffs. Hopefully we'll know more about their status for Week 15 Monday or Tuesday, but it's entirely possible you'll head into next weekend without knowing whether they are available.
And the same could be true for the following players who also left Sunday's games with injuries:
- Austin Ekeler (ankle) -- Ekeler tried to play through the injury, getting the ankle taped up and running on the sidelines, but he had a visible limp and was ruled out shortly thereafter. That would be a crushing blow for Fantasy players who have ridden Ekeler to the playoffs, especially because it's not at all clear whether Justin Jackson or Joshua Kelley would get enough work to be more than touchdown-dependent RB3s.
- Kareem Hunt (ankle) -- Kevin Stefanski said after the game Hunt was pushing to go back in, which is a good sign, I suppose. But it doesn't really mean all that much -- the issue with ankle injuries isn't necessarily the day of the injury but how it looks after the adrenaline dies down and the swelling starts. He's slated to have an MRI Monday, so we'll wait for the results of that, but Nick Chubb could be in a very good position down the stretch if Hunt misses time. And D'Ernest Johnson could be one injury away from being a legitimate league-winner. If you're looking for stashes, make sure he's not on your wire.
- Terry McLaurin (concussion) -- McLaurin put up a goose egg on four targets Sunday before leaving the game, and that bad luck surely cost countless Fantasy players a playoff spot. At least in this case, it's pretty straight forward for his return to play -- if he's cleared from the concussion protocol in time for next week's game, he'll play. And he'll be a low-end WR2 with a ton of weekly upside, as he has been all season, as frustrating as it's been.
We'll surely learn about more injuries Monday and we'll have all of the updates you need for Tuesday's newsletter, along with the first look at the rankings and Jamey Eisenberg's top waiver-wire targets. For now, here's an early look at the waiver wire, plus my biggest winners and losers and some big storylines from Sunday's action that matter -- and some that don't. If you have any waiver-wire or trade questions, make sure you send them my way with the subject line #AskFFT to Chris.Towers@ViacomCBS.com.
- Rashaad Penny, RB, SEA 27%
- Jeff Wilson, RB, SF 57%
- Justin Jackson, RB, LAC 9%
- Rashod Bateman, WR, BAL 47%
- Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR, DET 29%
Week 14 Winners and Losers
Here are the biggest winners from Sunday's action -- the players that stood out as clear-cut winners in Week 14 and moving forward:
These players come out of Week 14 looking better than they did coming in.
- Alvin Kamara -- It's no great surprise that, with Mark Ingram out, Kamara ended up with 27 carries in an easy win over the Jets. The way this season has gone, that really is to be expected. But his five targets are a very good sign coming from Taysom Hill. Hill threw five of his 21 passes to Kamara, which is notable since he had three or fewer targets in three of Hill's four starts last season. We'll see whether that holds up when Ingram is back (presumably in Week 15), but I'm more optimistic about that now than I was going into the game. Especially with a tough run defense in Tampa on the schedule next week. If Kamara isn't going to be so reliant on his rushing production, he can remain a must-start option even in that matchup.
- Rashaad Penny -- Penny is the top waiver-wire target for me because he's the only player who entered Week 14 with real questions about his role to come out of it looking like a bona fide No. 1 RB for his team. And it wasn't just in the running game -- Penny ran a route on 14 of 29 pass plays for the Seahawks, compared to just for DeeJay Dallas, a sign that they were really using him as a three-down back. If Penny can get involved in the passing game even a little bit, he could be a must-start Fantasy RB moving forward given how much we know the Seahawks want to run the ball.
- Justin Fields -- Fields wasn't quite good enough to come up with the win for Chicago, and he still made enough mistakes that you certainly can't say he was blameless -- he was throwing while falling back or even jumping a few too many times, which left plenty of points on the field. However, Sunday's game was pretty close to the type of performance we've been wanting to see from Fields since he was drafted. Fields was productive as a passer and as a runner, finishing with 22.4 points in six-per-pass-TD leagues despite the three turnovers. He's far from a finished product, but this was an excellent performance coming off his rib injury, and it gives me reason to hope he can be this good down the stretch.
- Brandin Cooks -- I don't know if Cooks is back to being a must-start option, but it's clear Davis Mills is just a lot better for his Fantasy value than Tyrod Taylor was. He had eight catches for 101 yards on 11 targets Sunday, and now has a 16-game pace in games Mills has appeared in of 101 catches on 153 targets for 1,052 yards. He has just two touchdowns in nine games with Mills, but he's still averaging 14.5 PPR points, which would be good for WR26 this season. So, not quite "must-start," but given the state of the position it's going to be tough for me to go away from him down the stretch.
- Justin Herbert -- Look, it wasn't against the toughest matchup in the league, but you've gotta be impressed with 275 yards and three touchdowns while playing without Keenan Allen and (for much of the game) Austin Ekeler, his top two pass-catchers. Herbert has multiple passing touchdowns in each of his past four games and is the first quarterback in NFL history with at least 30 passing touchdowns in his first two seasons. With matchups against the Chiefs and Texans in the next two weeks, he might be a top-three QB the rest of the way -- and he should have at least Allen back in Week 15.
It's hard to feel better about these players coming out of Week 14 than you did coming in.
- Aaron Jones -- Jones scored a couple of touchdowns, so maybe it doesn't really matter, but this was a pretty alarming game. He ran the ball just five times, compared to 15 for A.J. Dillon, and while he was the only RB to be targeted in the passing game, just three on 37 pass attempts isn't exactly reassuring. He played fewer snaps than Dillon (34 to 29) and ran a route on fewer than half of Aaron Rodgers' drop backs. I assumed the bye week would allow Jones to return to his old role, more or less, but that's not what happened. He'll always have a good chance of scoring a touchdown, but he might be pretty touchdown dependent down the stretch, and neither he nor Dillon might be more than a low-end RB2 now.
- Antonio Gibson -- Look, it doesn't matter, you're starting Antonio Gibson every week. But, you can't not be disappointed by the regression in Gibson's usage this week. He had just 10 carries, but more disappointingly, after earning 13 targets in his previous two games, he had just two Sunday, despite J.D. McKissic remaining out and Terry McLaurin leaving early with a concussion. The good news is, Gibson still ran a route on 28 of 42 pass plays, a much higher share than we typically see, so don't panic. But it was certainly disappointing.
- James Robinson -- 4 yards. Four. 0.4 Fantasy points -- just a plain old zero in non-decimal scoring. It's hard to overstate how bad this showing was for Robinson, especially coming off his controversial usage last week. The Jaguars abandoned the run early on and Trevor Lawrence was a disaster with four interceptions, so there weren't many opportunities to be had. However, Robinson also wasn't even targeted and only ran a route on 21 of 43 passes. I don't know if he just isn't healthy or if Urban Meyer just doesn't like him, but I don't see how you could possibly view him as a must-start RB at this point. Or even a "should-start".
- DK Metcalf -- In five games since Russell Wilson returned from his finger injury, Metcalf is averaging 6.9 PPR points per game; in the three games Wilson missed, Metcalf averaged 15.9. It's hard to make sense of that, especially with Wilson playing better the past few weeks. It's just that most of the production has gone to Tyler Lockett. But Metcalf has eight targets in four of five games, so it's not like Lockett is just squeezing him out. I have to bet on Metcalf and Wilson turning this thing around, but I can't tell you with any certainty that it's going to be this season.
- Marquise Brown -- It was certainly easier for me to keep my faith in Brown before Jackson's ankle injury Sunday, but this was a continuation of a pretty troubling trend for Brown. He had 41 yards on five catches, so it's not like he was a disaster, but that's three games in a row for Brown with at least seven targets and no more than 55 yards. He just hasn't been efficient at all, as the big plays have largely disappeared from this passing game. And it's hard to argue things are going to be much better with Huntley at QB. Brown falls back to the WR3 range for me at this point.
What mattered in Week 14?
Sometimes, random things just happen, and when there are a dozen games going on at the same time, figuring out what was random and what mattered in any given week is a tall task. That's what I'm trying to do here. Here are three things that happened Sunday that I think will matter moving forward and two things I think you don't need to spend too much time worrying about. But first ...
I can't tell if this matters …
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire's two-TD game -- On the one hand, he scored two touchdowns from inside the 10-yard line, something he had done just two times in his entire career prior to Sunday. He's often come off the field in those situations, so that's a positive. But it also came in a game where Edwards-Helaire had just 10 carries and three targets; he also played just 39% of the snaps. But it was a game the Chiefs were leading 28-3 at halftime, so he played just seven snaps from the start of the third quarter on, none of which came during the fourth. So many questions remain about CEH's role -- and his value, as a result -- and a game like Sunday's did very little to provide us anything actionable. This makes him a risky RB2 for Week 15 even against the Chargers.
Three things that mattered:
- Deebo Samuel's lone target -- This kind of seems how the 49ers are using him now. Samuel made an impact in the running game, scoring a touchdown and rushing for 37 yards on eight carries, but he also had just one catch for 22 yards; that's three straight games with just one catch. He still played a significant role, running a route on 81% of the team's pass plays, but Brandon Aiyuk and especially George Kittle have been more of a focal point in the passing game over the past month or so. I don't think he'll be a one-catch-per-game guy moving forward, but I don't expect Samuel to flirt with a 30% target share either. The rushing keeps him valuable, but Samuel's not a top-10 WR with his current usage.
- DEN RB Split -- Can you imagine the collective fury of Fantasy analysts and players if Williams hadn't scored his two touchdowns Sunday. He had a fine game, rushing for 73 yards on 15 carries with one catch for 10 yards, but it came with Melvin Gordon rushing for 111 yards on 24 carries and scoring two rush touchdowns. The more important thing here is that Williams and Gordon reverted back to a 50-50 split in terms of snaps despite Williams' massive Week 13 in Gordon's absence, which means I don't think Williams is going to take over this backfield. That's frustrating because Williams could be a league-winner down the stretch, but he's still someone you want active every week, I think.
- Hunter Renfrow's big game -- Renfrow had a stretch from Week 7 through Week 11 where he averaged 13.95 PPR points per game, and I really didn't take him seriously. He was consistently catching a bunch of passes but doing very little with them, and I just didn't think it was going to last. And it didn't, because Renfrow has been a completely different type of player since. He hasn't just been some short-area dump-off target; Renfrow put together his third straight game with 100-plus yards, and Sunday was the first time in those three games where his air yards dipped below 75. Part of his breakout has been fueled by Darren Waller's absence, but it's not at all clear if Waller is likely to return this week anyways. And even if he did, I'm not sure Renfrow's usage will -- or even should -- change much. This team is desperate for playmaking in the passing game, and Renfrow provides that.
Two things that (maybe) didn't matter:
- Jalen Guyton's big game -- Guyton stepped up with 87 yards and a touchdown in Keenan Allen's absence, but he's not someone I'm going to be chasing on waivers this week, because it came on just three catches and three targets. Which is a pretty typical workload for him. His snap share did trend up, but not much -- he played just 59% of the snaps. Guyton is what he is -- a really good deep-ball receiver whose role is pretty much set. If he hits a big play, he'll be good, but it won't happen consistently enough for him to matter.
- Robby Anderson's big game -- I don't know if you can just say the same thing about Anderson, because we do have examples of him being more than just a deep-ball receiver, and the Panthers did play their first game with a new offensive coordinator Sunday, so maybe his role has changed. But I'm gonna need to see more than just one week given how bad he's been this season -- he entered play Sunday with a 42% catch rate and 4.2 yards per target. I don't dislike the idea of adding him where available, but I would need to see a big game in Week 15 to think about starting him unless I was desperate.