Injury-replacement running backs have carried many Fantasy owners this season, and we expected several new options to help us out in Week 15. Instead, Denard Robinson, Brandon Bolden, Bryce Brown and Fozzy Whittaker were huge letdowns, and it made for a frustrating day in a lot of crucial playoff matchups.
Thankfully, several prominent backup running backs were great in Week 15, including David Johnson, James White, Charcandrick West, DeAngelo Williams and Darren McFadden all scoring double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league. But we've been counting on many of these players for weeks. A lot of Fantasy owners added and started Robinson, Bolden, Brown and Whittaker in Week 15 since they were getting a great opportunity in some favorable matchups.
Robinson, starting for the injured T.J. Yeldon (knee) against Atlanta, had 14 carries for 28 yards and eight catches for 46 yards. We'll find out if Yeldon will return for Week 15 at New Orleans, but if he's out again you should give Robinson another chance in that great matchup with the Saints.
Bolden started for the injured LeGarrette Blount (hip), and Fantasy owners got ruined by Patriots coach Bill Belichick once again. Instead of leaning on Bolden against the Titans, the Patriots gave more work to practice squad signee Joey Iosefa, who had 14 carries for 51 yards. Bolden finished with 10 carries for 36 yards and two catches for 18 yards. The only New England running back to trust in Week 16 at the Jets is White, who had one carry for 6 yards and seven catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.
The Seahawks backfield was expected to be a guessing game with Thomas Rawls (ankle) out and Marshawn Lynch (abdomen) not expected to return. Brown appeared to have the inside track on the starting job, and he ran well against the Browns with nine carries for 43 yards. But he was outplayed by Christine Michael, who had 16 carries for 84 yards in his return to the Seahawks. Michael is expected to be the lead back in Week 16 against the Rams if Lynch remains out as expected, and he should be added in all leagues.
Like Seattle, the Carolina backfield was expected to be messy with Jonathan Stewart (foot) out, but Whittaker appeared to have the inside track to start at the Giants. But Whittaker played third fiddle to Mike Tolbert (five carries for 10 yards) and Cameron Artis-Payne (14 carries for 59 yards and two catches for 34 yards) with two carries for 2 yards and two catches for 14 yards. Artis-Payne would be the running back to use in Week 16 at Atlanta if Stewart remains out, but he would just be a flex option at best.
We could be looking at a few other new injury-replacement running backs in Week 16 with LeSean McCoy (knee), Adrian Peterson (ankle) and Lamar Miller (quad) banged up. All three could still play next week, but you'll want to add their backups as insurance if they are still available on waivers.
The Bills would use Karlos Williams and Mike Gillislee against the Cowboys if McCoy is out, with Williams the one to target if he's available off waivers. The Vikings would go with Jerrick McKinnon and Matt Asiata against the Giants if Peterson is out, and McKinnon should be added in all leagues where available. And the Dolphins will use rookie Jay Ajayi if Miller is out, and Ajayi would be a great player to add with his matchup against the Colts.
Player on the rise
Player on the decline
Quarterback injuries: T.J. Yates (knee), Marcus Mariota (knee), Brock Osweiler (shoulder) and Matt Hasselbeck (back)
Quarterback waivers: Kirk Cousins (44 percent ownership) and Teddy Bridgewater (35 percent)
- Congratulations Cam Newton on your MVP award this season, which you will officially win in a few weeks. He has been a Fantasy MVP all season, especially of late with three games in his past five outings with five touchdown passes, including Sunday at the Giants when he scored 51 Fantasy points in a standard league. He should again dominate at Atlanta in Week 16, and he just scored 28 Fantasy points against the Falcons in Week 14. Be prepared for him to sit in Week 17 against Tampa Bay, but he should be locked into your lineups next week.
- Russell Wilson cooled off slightly in Week 15 against the Browns with just 31 Fantasy points, which matched his low over the past five games. If there was an MVP award from Week 11 on then he would be a significant threat to Newton since he's been awesome over that stretch. He faces the Rams in Week 16, which won't be easy, and he scored 17 Fantasy points at St. Louis in Week 1. But he's too hot to even worry about his opponent right now, and he should have the chance for another big game against the Rams.
- Teddy Bridgewater did not have a good season statistically despite the Vikings on the cusp of making the playoffs, but he's closing the year strong, which is encouraging. He had a season-high 40 Fantasy points behind five total touchdowns against Chicago on Sunday, and this was after he had a nice outing at Arizona in Week 14 with 17 points. He's still too risky to trust in most standard leagues, but he's definitely worth starting in Week 16 against the Giants.
- Eli Manning is another quarterback closing the season on a high note, and he followed up his 35 Fantasy points at Miami in Week 14 with 31 points in a standard league against the Panthers on Sunday. He should be considered a low-end starter at Minnesota in Week 16, especially if the Vikings are still missing key guys on defense.
- Tyrod Taylor rebounded from his poor start at the Eagles in Week 14 with 19 Fantasy points to score 30 points at Washington in Week 15. He's now scored at least 30 Fantasy points in three of his past four games, but he could struggle in Week 16 against Dallas. The Cowboys have been great against opposing quarterbacks for the majority of the season and just limited Ryan Fitzpatrick to 16 Fantasy points on Saturday. I would only consider starting Taylor in two-quarterback leagues against Dallas.
- If Sunday was the last game for the Chargers in San Diego then Philip Rivers went out with a solid performance with 26 Fantasy points against the Dolphins. It was just his second game with more than 17 Fantasy points in his past six outings, and we hope this game carries him to a strong finish. He should be worth trusting in Week 16 at Oakland since he had 31 Fantasy points against the Raiders in Week 7, but this is a short week with the game Thursday night, so keep that in mind when setting your lineup.
- The Broncos could go back to Peyton Manning (foot) in Week 16 against the Bengals if he's healthy, and Osweiler could be hurt after suffering an injury to his left shoulder at Pittsburgh. He played well with 34 Fantasy points, but Denver has now lost two games in a row and could easily justify going back to Manning if he's ready to play. Manning is owned in 56 percent of leagues on CBS Sports if you are interested in adding him, but the matchup with the Bengals will be tough for whoever starts for the Broncos in Week 16.
- The Titans could and probably should shut down Mariota after he injured the MCL in his right knee at New England. Tennessee has nothing to play in the final two games against Houston and Indianapolis, and Mariota has now suffered two MCL sprains this year. If he's out, Zach Mettenberger would start for the Titans, and he scored 17 Fantasy points against the Patriots. He is owned in just 1 percent of leagues, but he should not be started in the majority of leagues in Week 16 against the Texans.
- The Colts are hoping Andrew Luck (kidney) returns in Week 16 at Miami, and he would be considered a starter in the majority of leagues with a plus matchup against the Dolphins even though he's been out for the past five games. Indianapolis needs him with the playoffs potentially slipping away, and Hasselbeck is struggling to keep his 40-year-old body upright after taking several big hits against the Texans on Sunday. If Luck (83 percent) is still available on waivers you might consider adding him this week.
- The Texans might be forced to start Brandon Weeden in Week 16 at Tennessee since it appears like Yates suffered a torn ACL and Brian Hoyer (concussion) could still be out. We hope Hoyer can play in a great matchup with the Titans, but you can't trust Weeden if he's the starter, even in two-quarterback leagues.
Player on the rise
Player on the decline
Running back injuries: LeSean McCoy (knee), Adrian Peterson (ankle), Lamar Miller (quad), Shaun Draughn (knee) and Melvin Gordon (knee)
Running back waivers: Rashad Jennings (68 percent ownership), Karlos Williams (64 percent), Bilal Powell (37 percent), Jay Ajayi (30 percent), Christine Michael (15 percent), Jerick McKinnon (9 percent), Cameron Artis-Payne (8 percent), Terrance West (6 percent), Mike Gillislee (0 percent) and Donald Brown (0 percent)
- Gordon left Week 15 against the Dolphins with a knee injury, and we'll find out the extent of his injury this week. If he's out, the Chargers would lean on Danny Woodhead and Brown, and that combination was awesome against Miami. Woodhead was a Fantasy star with eight carries for 10 yards and a touchdown and six catches for 50 yards and three touchdowns for 30 Fantasy points. Before you get overexcited about his performance, keep in mind this was his first game with double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league in his past five games, and he hasn't scored double digits in points on the road this season. The Chargers play at Oakland in Week 16 and close the year at Denver. Brown had his first game with double digits in carries, and he finished with 12 carries for 90 yards and two catches for 14 yards. He's worth adding since Gordon could miss the Thursday night game against the Raiders.
- If Draughn is out for the 49ers in Week 16 at Detroit then the San Francisco backfield would be a combination of Travaris Cadet and Kendall Gaskins. They combined for four carries for 4 yards in Week 15 against the Bengals, although both made impacts as receivers out of the backfield. Gaskins had six catches for 52 yards on seven targets, and Cadet had four catches for 32 yards on six targets. We would lean on Gaskins (7 percent) over Cadet (0 percent) off waivers if you were in desperate need of help in Week 16.
- Devonta Freeman got back on track in Week 15 at Jacksonville with 15 Fantasy points in a standard league, although it was ugly with 25 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown and seven catches for 45 yards. We'll take the production however we can get it, and this game was his first with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 9. He only had four Fantasy points at Carolina in Week 14, but that was a blowout loss where had just 15 touches. He should do better in the rematch in Week 16, so continue to start him in all leagues.
- A reason to trust Freeman against the Panthers is Jennings, who has become Fantasy relevant again over the past two weeks. He had 102 total yards at Miami in Week 14 and then his best game of the season in Week 15 against Carolina with 16 carries for 107 yards and a touchdown. We'll see if he can keep this up in Week 16 at Minnesota, but he appears to have broken out of the pack of Giants running backs, which was a mess all season with Shane Vereen, Andre Williams and Orleans Darkwa all sharing work. Jennings is worth adding if you need a running back based on his recent performances against the Dolphins and Panthers.
- Matt Forte continues to share work with Jeremy Langford, but Forte has been the better Fantasy option, which is all that matters. He had eight carries for 47 yards and six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown at Minnesota in Week 15, and it's the third game in a row he's found the end zone. Langford had more carries with 11 for 46 yards and one catch for 11 yards, but you have to trust Forte in Week 16 at Tampa Bay since the Fantasy production has been constant, especially as a receiver, even with Langford still sharing the ball.
- We thought the Bengals would lean on their running game with Andy Dalton (thumb) out, and Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard got plenty of touches at San Francisco on Sunday. Hill had 19 carries for 31 yards and two touchdowns, and Bernard had 14 carries for 33 yards and four catches for 18 yards. The rushing average is disgusting for Hill at 1.6 yards per carry, but we'll take the workload because this is now the fifth time he's had at least 16 carries in a game this season and scored at least nine Fantasy points. You can expect a similar gameplan at Denver in Week 16, and Hill should be considered a low-end No. 2 running back in standard leagues.
- The Chiefs used caution with Spencer Ware (ribs) and didn't play him a snap at Baltimore, which allowed Charcandrick West to return to a featured role. He didn't disappoint with 16 carries for 76 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 9 yards. Ware should get back on the field in Week 16 against the Browns, but West should remain the lead running back and is worth starting in all leagues. Remember, prior to hurting his hamstring in Week 11 at San Diego, West had gone three games in a row with at least 17 Fantasy points in a standard league, so he's capable of dominant performance when the workload is favorable.
- Maybe Alfred Blue actually had a significant back injury the past two weeks after he was limited to four carries in Week 13 at Buffalo and didn't play a snap in Week 14 against New England. He got a full workload in Week 15 at Indianapolis and ran well with 20 carries for 107 yards with a lost fumble. This is now three games with either a touchdown or 100 rushing yards in his past five outings, and he's done that every time he's had at least 16 carries this season. He should get a heavy workload again in Week 16 at Tennessee with the Texans situation at quarterback, but he had just 14 carries for 39 yards and five catches for 33 yards against the Titans in Week 8. Still, Blue (70 percent) is worth a look if you need help at running back if he's still available in your league based on his recent track record when healthy.
Player on the rise
Player on the decline
Wide receiver injuries: Danny Amendola (knee), A.J. Green (back), Michael Crabtree (concussion), Alshon Jeffery (hamstring), Seth Roberts (abdomen) and Phillip Dorsett (ankle)
Wide receiver waivers: Donte Moncrief (76 percent ownership), Ted Ginn (75 percent), Tyler Lockett (61 percent), Markus Wheaton (34 percent), Dorial Green-Beckham (28 percent) and Jermaine Kearse (15 percent)
- Fantasy owners are lucky Odell Beckham wasn't ejected for his fighting with Panthers cornerback Josh Norman on Sunday because at one point during the game he had two catches and three personal fouls. It was ugly, but Beckham eventually rewarded Fantasy owners when he beat Norman for a 14-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. He finished with six catches for 76 yards and the score on nine targets, but he could have had an even bigger day with a wide-open drop in the first quarter when he ran past Norman and the ball hit him in the hands. We expect Beckham to be focused in Week 16 at Minnesota, so look for another big game from the dynamic superstar.
- The other premier matchup in Week 15 was the Steelers receivers against the Broncos cornerbacks, and Pittsburgh easily had the better day thanks to Antonio Brown, who had 16 catches for 189 yards and two touchdowns on 18 targets. He was matched up with Chris Harris, who had not allowed a touchdown in two years before Brown torched him for two scores. Martavis Bryant wasn't as dynamic with 10 catches for 87 yards on 14 targets, but he certainly helped plenty of owners in PPR leagues. And Wheaton again played well with six catches for 62 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. Brown and Bryant are must-start options in Week 16 at Baltimore, but Wheaton is also worth a look since he's scored at least 11 Fantasy points in a standard league in three of his past four games.
- Amendola left the Patriots game against the Titans in the second quarter with a knee injury and did not return, and he finished Week 15 with one catch for 3 yards and a lost fumble. We'll see what his status is heading into Week 16 at the Jets, but the Patriots will likely be cautious with Amendola with the playoffs looming. This could get Julian Edelman (foot) back on the field in Week 16 since he's been able to practice the past two weeks, but if he's still out the Patriots would lean on Brandon LaFell, Keshawn Martin and potentially Leonard Hankerson, who was just signed this week after being released by Atlanta. Edelman would be the only receiver worth using in the majority of leagues if Amendola is out even though LaFell finally had a good game with four catches for 88 yards on five targets against the Titans.
- Green was dealing with a back injury prior to Sunday's game at San Francisco, and it's unknown if he re-aggravated the problem against the 49ers or just sat down with the game in hand by halftime. He only had one catch for 37 yards on three targets, but he looked fine running down the sideline on his long reception from AJ McCarron. We hope Green is healthy for Week 16, but the Bengals could use caution with the playoffs ahead. He also will be in for a tough matchup at Denver in Week 16, so Fantasy owners should start making plans for a replacement option.
- Crabtree was checked for a concussion during Sunday's game against Green Bay and eventually cleared to return. He finished the game with six catches for 70 yards on 11 targets, and he should be considered a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in Week 16 against San Diego. He had 12 Fantasy points against the Chargers in Week 7, so that bodes well for his matchup Thursday. Roberts was unable to return with an abdomen injury, but he's not Fantasy relevant in the majority of leagues. It's a good thing the Raiders have Amari Cooper, who had his best game of the season against the Packers with six catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns on nine targets. He should be considered a No. 2 Fantasy receiver against the Chargers, and he had 19 Fantasy points at San Diego in Week 7.
- Jeffery should be fine for Week 16 at Tampa Bay, but he did leave Sunday's game against the Vikings with a hamstring injury before coming back in the second half. He only had one catch for 10 yards, but thankfully it went for a touchdown. He's been banged up with a calf injury, and this hamstring problem will likely keep him out of practice. But if he starts against the Buccaneers he should be active in all leagues.
- The Broncos had trouble running against the Steelers, which forced Osweiler to throw the ball 44 times. As a result, we finally got a big game from Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at the same time. Sanders had 10 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown on 16 targets, and Thomas had five catches for 61 yards and two touchdowns on 12 targets. For Sanders, this was his first game with double digits in Fantasy points since Week 12, and Thomas had his best game of the season. We'll see if Osweiler or Manning start in Week 16 against Cincinnati, but both Broncos receivers should be considered No. 2 Fantasy options in the majority of leagues.
- The Panthers continue to get big games from their receivers with Newton churning out five-touchdown games on a regular basis. Against the Giants, Ginn had six catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns on 14 targets, Corey Brown had three catches for 51 yards and a touchdown on four targets and Devin Funchess had two catches for 30 yards and a touchdown on seven targets. Ginn now has six touchdowns in his past three games and should be considered a starter in all leagues heading into Week 16 at Atlanta. He had two catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns on three targets against the Falcons in Week 14.
- DeSean Jackson had his best game of the season in Week 15 against Buffalo with six catches for 153 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. He was able to play despite a knee injury, and he's now scored at least 12 Fantasy points in a standard league in four of his past five games. This sets up great for his matchup with the Eagles in Week 16, and he missed the first meeting at home in Week 4 when he was hurt. Last year, Jackson had two games with at least 117 yards against his former team, and he scored in his return to Philadelphia, so start him with confidence next week.
- Stefon Diggs broke out of his slump in Week 15 against Chicago with three catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns on four targets. He had gone six games in a row without a touchdown prior to facing the Bears, but we wish he had more than just four targets. Still, with a matchup against the Giants in Week 16, Diggs has the potential for another big game and is worth starting as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver, especially if Peterson is out.
- Jordan Matthews had his best game of the season in Week 15 against Arizona with 21 Fantasy points on eight catches for 159 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets. His big play came on a 78-yard touchdown thanks to blown coverage, but Matthews has now scored a touchdown in three of his past four games. Most of his production has come in garbage time, but he is worth using as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in a plus matchup with the Redskins in Week 16.
- Doug Baldwin was once again a Fantasy star in Week 15 with four catches for 45 yards and two touchdowns, and he's now scored 10 touchdowns in his past four games. We'll see if he can keep it up against the Rams in Week 16, but you have to start him in all formats based on his recent level of play. Lockett also stayed hot with five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown on seven targets, and he's scored at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league in four of his past five games, with five touchdowns over that span. And Kearse also played well with seven catches for 110 yards on eight targets, and this is now two games in a row with at least seven catches for 74 yards. He's worth using as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in the majority of leagues against the Rams, and Seattle's passing game is clicking right now as the season comes to a close.
Player on the rise
Player on the decline
Tight end injuries: No one of significance
Tight end waivers: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (67 percent ownership), Zach Miller (65 percent), Zach Ertz (27 percent), Will Tye (23 percent) and Tyler Kroft (0 percent)
- Jordan Reed was once again a star for Fantasy owners in Week 15 with seven catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns against the Bills on seven targets. He has now averaged 19 Fantasy points in a standard league in his past two games and should be a starter in all leagues against the Eagles in Week 16.
- Delanie Walker overcame a tough matchup at New England with two catches for 64 yards and two touchdowns on five targets, and he's now scored at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league in four of his past five games. He takes a hit with Mettenberger potentially starting for the injured Mariota, but Walker should still be started in all leagues against the Texans in Week 16 based on his upside.
- Tye scored for the second game in a row with five catches for 43 yards on eight targets. He has at least seven Fantasy points in a standard league in four games in a row, and he's worth adding in all leagues heading into his matchup at Minnesota. Eli Manning is leaning on Tye, and Fantasy owners should as well if you need a tight end with a floor of seven points in standard formats.
- Travis Kelce had his best game in a while against the Ravens with six catches for 73 yards on seven targets. He combined for five Fantasy points in his previous two games, and he's scored just one touchdown in his past six games. He faces the Browns in Week 16, but Kelce should only be considered a low-end starter in the majority of leagues. At this point, you should have more confidence in Tye than Kelce based on the recent body of work for both tight ends.