If your team flopped Sunday, maybe you can take some solace in knowing you aren't alone. In one league where I'm playing for a perfect record, I'm currently projected as a 72% favorite with a whopping 89.9 PPR points; one other playoff matchup in that same league has a projected winner on pace to put up just 84.7 points. The messed up thing is, my team was the highest-scoring team in the league and the other was the second-highest.
How bad was Sunday's action across the NFL? Well, per the NFL.com research team on Twitter, the 40 touchdowns scored in Sunday's games were the fewest in a 10-game slate since November 27, 1994. Only nine of the 20 teams playing scored even 20 points, and the Buccaneers, Bengals and Cardinals in particular combined for just 27 points between them.
The Bengals hurt me especially badly, as I'm heavily invested in Joe Mixon, Ja'Marr Chase, and Tee Higgins, but I'd bet the Buccaneers wrecked a whole lot more Fantasy championship dreams Sunday. And, while their struggles against the Saints are well documented at this point, you can't even say we should have seen this coming; they were shut out, but that was a footnote to the news that Leonard Fournette (hamstring), Mike Evans (hamstring), and Chris Godwin (knee).
Evans and Fournette were ruled out shortly after suffering their injuries, which is never a good sign, and Godwin is believed to have suffered an MCL sprain, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. It's good news that it isn't worse, but Godwin will almost certainly end up missing some time, and Evans and Fournette could be right there with him.
And those aren't the only high-profile injuries from Sunday, obviously. Before we get to the top early waiver-wire targets and the biggest winners and losers (and there were a lot of the latter), here are the injuries we'll be watching as we get ready for Week 16 if you were lucky enough to be in line to move on:
- Joe Mixon (ankle) – Mixon watched the end of the game in visible frustration on the sidelines after suffering the injury, and it looked like he was really trying to get cleared to go back into the game. The fact that he wasn't is obviously a concern, and it could make Samaje Perine one of the top waiver-wire targets for Week 16 if it looks like Mixon is going to miss time. He'll have a tough matchup against the Ravens, but Perine would be a top-24 RB in all likelihood if Mixon is out.
- Teddy Bridgewater (concussion) – This was a scary one, as Bridgewater went down awkward face-first into the turf and didn't move for several moments. He was taken to a hospital but coach Vic Fangio told reporters after the game Bridgewater seemed to be OK. He has a concussion, and given that it's his second of the season, you should probably expect to see Drew Lock starting for Week 16 against the Raiders. It's not a bad matchup, but he's not someone you want to trust if you can help it.
- Julio Jones (hamstring) – Jones' nightmare season continued, as he was forced out of yet another game due to his lingering hamstring injuries. That's two seasons in a row ruined by hamstring injuries, and at this point, I'm expecting we won't see Jones again until the 2022 season. I'd be happy to be wrong, but I wouldn't trust him even if I was.
- Pat Freiermuth (concussion) – This is also Freiermuth's second concussion of the season, which puts his availability for Week 16 (and beyond, perhaps) in serious jeopardy. He'll have to clear the concussion protocol, but for now, I would be operating as if I need a new tight end if I have Freiermuth.
- Sterling Shepard (achilles) – Shepard went down without any contact and is believed to have suffered a torn Achilles, an injury that not only ends his season but perhaps could linger into the beginning of next year. This is an incredibly difficult injury to come back from, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the Giants released him. His season got off to such a promising start, but it's been one disaster after another for Shepard.
We'll surely learn about more injuries Monday, and we'll have all of the updates you need for Tuesday's newsletter. Unlike most weeks, however, we won't have Jamey Eisenberg's top waiver targets or our rankings for Week 16 until Wednesday, on account of the two games set for Tuesday night. So, for now, here's an early look at the waiver wire, plus my biggest winners and losers from Sunday's action. If you have any questions about your lineup, waiver-wire moves, or are just looking back on the season or ahead to the offseason, make sure you send them my way with the subject line #AskFFT to Chris.Towers@ViacomCBS.com for a special mailbag tomorrow.
- Jeff Wilson, RB, SF 55%
- Samaje Perine, RB, CIN 25%
- Duke Johnson, RB, MIA 16%
- Tyler Huntley, QB, BAL 7%
- Gabriel Davis, WR, BUF 26%
Week 15 Winners and Losers
It's not that hard to find players who come out of Week 15 looking better than they did going in, but they probably weren't players most of you were starting. It was just that kind of day around the NFL. The question that's going to be really hard to answer is whether those players will be able to keep it up.
- Brandin Cooks – I was hoping the return of Davis Mills to the starting lineup for the Texans would spark Cooks, but I wasn't optimistic enough to hope for two consecutive 100-yard games. That's what we've gotten, with 15 catches and two touchdowns, both coming Sunday against the Jaguars. His 16-game pace in the eight games he has played with Mills comes out to 104 catches, 1,156 yards and six touchdowns. That's must-start territory, and I think Cooks has earned that with five of eight games with 18-plus PPR points.
- Gabriel Davis – Davis is one of those players we've been waiting to see get an opportunity to play a significant role, and he took advantage of it with his two touchdowns Sunday. It would be a stretch to say that all Davis does is catch touchdowns, but not really much of one – he had 11 touchdowns on 101 career targets before he had two on seven targets Sunday. For his career, Davis now had 108 targets, 64 targets, 1,069 yards and 13 touchdowns, and while I don't expect him to maintain that kind of absurd efficiency, he's got a lot of room to regress in a larger role and remain a viable starting Fantasy option. If Emmanuel Sanders' knee injury continues to keep him out down the stretch, I'm viewing Davis as at least a top-36 WR moving forward.
- Devin Singletary – Prior to Sunday's game, the Bills had never really settled on just one running back, and given that Josh Allen doesn't throw to his backs much and gets a ton of goal-line carries himself, that made it awfully hard to trust any running backs in Buffalo. You would need one back getting north of 70% of the touches to be much more than an RB3. Well, Singletary got 96% of the RB touches Sunday with Zack Moss a healthy scratch and Matt Breida getting just three snaps. There's a pretty slim margin for error here – the Bills have been happy to abandon the run if needed, and if Moss can get back into the coaching staff's good graces, this could return to being an unprofitable timeshare. However, if it looks like Singletary is going to be the true lead back again next week, he'll probably be in that RB2 discussion, even against a tough Patriots defense.
- James Robinson – Firing Urban Meyer didn't just magically fix everything that's wrong with the Jaguars offense, as they lost 30-16 to the lowly Texans, but it did have the hoped-for effect of clarifying Robinson's role. After averaging just 53% of the snaps and just 11.7 touches in his previous three games, Robinson had 18 carries Sunday, his most since Week 5; he also had six targets, his most since Week 3. Robinson played 83% of the snaps, and while some of that can be attributed to Carlos Hyde's absence, it's hard not to believe Meyer's firing played a role; Trevor Lawrence publicly advocating for Robinson to have more playing time probably helped, too. 75 rushing yards on 18 carries plus 13 yards on three catches isn't exactly a massive game considering the competition, but he's going to be a must-start RB for at least Week 16 against the Jets now that his role seems settled. It'll be tougher to trust him in Week 17 against the Patriots, but if he gets another 24 opportunities next week and helps get you to a championship, you'll take that and deal with it when you get there.
- Russell Gage – Based on the first three seasons of Gage's career, I really didn't expect much from him this season. Even when Julio Jones was traded, and honestly, even when Calvin Ridley left the team. From 2018 through 2020, Gage was one of 59 wide receivers with at least 190 targets, and he ranked 58th in yards per target, yards per reception, and touchdown rate. He'd had opportunities before and had never really done anything with them. So, this current run he's on – at least 9.9 PPR points in five straight games after Sunday's eight-catch, 91-yard-with-a-touchdown performance – has really been one of the more surprising developments of the season. However, he's been really impressive, especially on Sunday, as he came down with several contested balls in one-on-one coverage. With the Lions on the schedule in Week 15 and Gage averaging 17.1 PPR points per game over his past five, it's going to be hard not to rank him as a top-24 WR.
The hardest thing about writing about losers from Week 15 is whittling the list down to a manageable number. So, for full contexts, here are some of the players I initially listed as losers for this week who I ultimately chose not to write about: A.J. Dillon, Jerry Jeudy, Michael Carter, Myles Gaskin, Devonta Freeman, Cordarrelle Patterson, Najee Harris, Chase Claypool, Amari Cooper, Mike Gesicki, Chuba Hubbard, Stefon Diggs, Michael Pittman, Alvin Kamara, Tom Brady. And that list probably could have been even longer.
But here are the five (six, really) biggest losers in my eyes:
- Tee Higgins/Ja'Marr Chase – One of the risks with the Bengals' two receivers has always been that they are perfectly happy, when the game script suits them, to just sit on the ball and run the clock out. Sunday's game against the Broncos was a relatively low volume game for the Bengals as they ran just 51 plays, so the run-pass split being heavily shifted toward the run meant they only threw 22 passes. And six of those went to Tyler Boyd, who had his best game of the season. That didn't leave much room for Higgins and Chase. I'm probably still starting both of them in Week 16, but it's a tough matchup against the Ravens on the way, and this was our first real glimpse at the downside this duo has. It came at an especially bad time.
- James Conner – The Cardinals found themselves in a surprising spot Sunday, as they lost by 18 to the Lions, one of the biggest upsets of the year and a blowout to boot. That's how you ended up with the Cardinals throwing the ball 51 times and running it just 21 times, an inversion of how we all expected this game to go. However, that wasn't the real bad news for Conner. The real bad news for Conner was that, in Chase Edmonds' first game back from IR, Edmonds had eight touches and Conner had 10, and they basically split snaps evenly, with Conner getting 31 and Edmonds getting 29 – including a slight edge in pass snaps for Edmonds. Most weeks, there should be enough opportunities in this offense for both to be viable Fantasy starts, but Conner's time as an elite, must-start Fantasy option may be at an end.
- Rhamondre Stevenson – I was so sure Stevenson was going to have a good game with Damien Harris out. This is a Patriots team that loves to run the ball, and they've got the kind of defense that is supposed to keep them in good situations for running. Of course, you can't predict a blocked punt being returned for a touchdown to put a team down 14-0, and Mac Jones didn't help things when he threw a second-quarter pick, leaving them trailing by three scores for much of the game. Even with those caveats, it was disappointing to see Stevenson get just 10 carries and only one target when he's supposed to be the Patriots back with three-down potential. He played fewer than half of the team's snaps, fewer than Brandon Bolden, who ran 27 pass routes to Stevenson's 13. I thought he had league-winning potential if Harris had to miss time, and instead, he might have been a key reason why countless players lost this week.
- Michael Carter – You never want to overreact to the first game back from injured reserve, especially with a young player on a bad team with no real reason to push him. However, it's unquestionably disappointing that Carter returned to split carries with Tevin Coleman and had a limited passing game role even with Ty Johnson a healthy scratch. He ran a route on just half of the Jets' pass plays, and if that's going to be the case moving forward and Tevin Coleman is going to have more or less an even split in the running game, Carter isn't going to be very useful in a bad offense. I'm hoping he'll be the clear top back in Week 16, but you can't possibly trust him as a starter. That's disappointing from someone I thought could be an RB2 down the stretch.
- Brandon Aiyuk – Deebo Samuel had his best game as a pass-catcher since Week 10 and Aiyuk had his worst since Week 10, and that probably isn't a coincidence. The 49ers only threw the ball 24 times Sunday, and that's probably pretty close to their ideal outcome, which makes it tough to have three Fantasy relevant pass-catchers. George Kittle is demanding a huge target share these days, for good reason, so there is plenty of room for Aiyuk to be productive if Samuel isn't much of a factor in the passing game. However, he had a 20% target share Sunday and Aiyuk was left with just two. Now, it's worth noting that Jauan Jennings had six targets in this one, which won't happen most weeks, so those easily could have gone to Aiyuk. But even when Samuel had just seven targets over his previous three games, he was still running a route on nearly every pass play, so I wasn't ready to just write him off as a big part of the passing game. I'll probably still view Aiyuk as a WR3 for Week 16 against the Titans, so I'm not really moving him down much, but he's a risk in a low-volume passing offense where some weeks, he might be the No. 3 option.