For most of the past two seasons, Tony Pollard has been one of the most obvious answers to the question, "Who could be a league-winning backup running back?" The Cowboys were, for the most part, a good offense committed to running the ball behind a good offensive, and Pollard has looked excellent anytime he has been used to fill in for or spell Ezekiel Elliott.
The second half of this season seemed to have changed a lot of the factors that Pollard was supposed to have going for him. Dak Prescott's injury has turned the Cowboys into a pretty bad offense, and injuries have wrecked the offensive line, so it was fair to be skeptical he would be able to make a big impact with Elliott out Sunday. However, there's one thing that hadn't changed: Pollard has continued to look good, even showing more big-play ability than Elliott has this season.
As it turns out, we should never overlook that, because Pollard was terrific Sunday when Elliott' sat out with a calf injury. Pollard rushed 12 times for 69 yards and caught six of nine targets for 63 yards, and his 132 yards were more than Elliott has had in a game since Week 4, before Prescott's injury. Pollard's big-play ability was firmly on display late when he put the Cowboys up for good with a 40-yard touchdown run just before the two-minute warning, his second of the day.
Pollard had the kind of game we've been waiting to see in his first NFL start, and for those of you who had him in your lineups, he probably helped you make the championship game. That wasn't too many of you because Pollard was started in just 25% of CBS Fantasy leagues and rostered in just 57%. The good news is, that means he's out there in 43% of CBS Fantasy leagues, and should be the top target on the waiver wire heading into Week 16.
Of course, we don't know if Elliott is going to be out for Week 16, but he did say earlier this week he thinks this calf injury is something he'll have to deal with all season. At 5-9, the Cowboys are still somehow in the thick of the NFC East race, just one game back of first-place Washington, which means they aren't likely to shut down Elliott unless they have to. However, the calf simply may not cooperate -- he wasn't initially expected to miss Sunday's game -- so you'll want Pollard around based on what he showed Sunday. He could help you win a championship in Week 16 against the Eagles.
A week of unfortunate injuries but also incredible QB performances. We recap it all on the Fantasy Football Today podcast. Listen below and subscribe at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts:
Here's who else could help you snag that one last win, including Le'Veon Bell, who is available in 28% of CBS Fantasy leagues heading into Week 16:
Wouldn't it be something if, after all this time, Bell helped you win a championship? He was pretty much a waste of a draft pick, getting hurt early on and then cut by the Jets, only to sign on with a Chiefs team that gave him double-digit touches once in his first seven games. However, he got 16 Sunday and could have a whole lot more in Week 16 if Clyde Edwards-Helaire's leg injury is as serious as it looked. We may not know for a few days, but if Bell is available in your league, he very well could be a must-start option in Week 16 against the Falcons. The Falcons haven't been a great matchup for running backs, but this could be a game where the Chiefs can sit on the ball, and that could make Bell very valuable.
Early Waiver Targets
Jalen Hurts QB
PHI Philadelphia • #2
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
One good game can be a fluke. But one good game followed by an elite performance? Well, it could still be a fluke, I suppose, but at this point, bet against Hurts at your own peril. He demolished the Cardinals defense Sunday, passing for 338 yards and three touchdowns on 44 attempts and added 63 yards and another score with his legs. We knew Hurts could run, but he's breathed new life into this entire offense in both facets of the game, creating more room for Miles Sanders to run and creating big plays for his receivers -- the Eagles had five receptions of at least 20 yards Sunday. He gets a great matchup against the Cowboys in Week 16, and should be viewed as a top-10 QB -- at least. The Eagles look like they've got a QB controversy on the way this offseason.
Salvon Ahmed RB
MIA Miami • #26
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
The Dolphins sure didn't work Ahmed in slowly Sunday. Ahmed returned from his three-game absence to shoulder a career-high 23 carries. He rushed for 122 yards on those 23 carries, scoring a touchdown and adding a 5-yard catch on three targets. He has averaged 15.9 PPR points per game in his three starts, and should be a solid starting option yet again in Week 16 against the Raiders if Myles Gaskin (Reserve/COVID-19) remains sidelined. We'll know more about Gaskin's status throughout the week, but Ahmed is worth adding just in case.
CLE Cleveland • #81
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
The Jets defense is generally pretty bad against all positions, but it's hard to ignore just how bad the Jets have been against tight ends especially. They have allowed seven touchdowns over the past five games, including six catches for 95 yards and a touchdown between Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett on Sunday. Higbee and Everett haven't exactly put up huge numbers this season, so it should set up well for Hooper, who returned from missing last week's game to score a touchdown against the Giants on Sunday night. Hooper hasn't had the season we hoped he would, but the Jets have been the cure-all for tight ends this season.
CLE Cleveland • #82
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
Higgins gets that same Jets defense in Week 16, and he's been quite a bit better than Hooper of late, with at least four catches for 65 yards in four of five games. That's more impressive than it sounds given the Browns typically low pass volume, and that could be an issue yet again in Week 16. However, Higgins is the kind of receiver who only needs one big play to have a good day, and he is averaging over 10 yards per target on the season, so he really doesn't need many opportunities to put up numbers. It would have to be in a deeper league, but Higgins has been solid enough for long enough that he deserves some love.
Sony Michel RB
NE New England • #26
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Injuries have kept him off the field more often than not, but Sony Michel is running a lot better this season, and that included Sunday against the Dolphins. Starting in place of Damien Harris, Michel ran for 74 yards on just 10 carries and added one catch for 8 yards. The volume wasn't great, but if Harris remains sidelined, Michel should have more opportunities moving forward. Week 16 against Buffalo isn't an ideal matchup, given Buffalo's offensive strength, but Harris rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown in their last meeting. There isn't much difference between Harris and Michel at this point, so if Harris is out again, Michel should be able to slide right into his spot as a fringe No. 2 Fantasy RB yet again.
Russell Gage WR
ATL Atlanta • #83
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Gage started off the season well, then he cooled off and it looked like it was just a fluke -- or that he was over-exposed as the No. 2 receiver when Julio Jones went down. However, he has at least 13 PPR points in three straight games and looks to be closing the season strong without Jones. The Falcons have a tough matchup coming up against the Chiefs in Week 16, but there should be plenty of opportunity available, and that's what matters more. As a WR3, he could be worth starting.