Can you trust James Robinson this week? I wrote about that in my RB rankings piece earlier this week, and I received some Twitter criticism for my admittedly wishy-washy take -- I ranked him 23rd, but noted that I had no confidence in that one way or the other. It's a dream matchup against the Texans, who allow the fourth-most points to opposing running backs on the season. However, Robinson got benched two weeks ago and then had just six carries and no targets in Week 14. I just can't feel confident in him.
But my colleagues feel quite a bit more confident than I do. Earlier in the week, Heath Cummings wrote about how he at least feels better about starting Robinson than he does Ezekiel Elliott this week. But Jamey Eisenberg is really going all-in with Robinson, naming him his Start of the Week for Week 15. That's a much bolder call than I'm willing to make, but it's one that I appreciate -- in a week with so much uncertainty all around, Jamey is willing to plant a flag on a controversial player. And there's no doubt about the upside for you if it works out -- and you've gotta feel at least a bit better about his chances with Urban Meyer and his ... ahem ... controversial coaching choices out of the way, as Jacksonville fired him late Wednesday night.
And, Robinson does have this going for him, at the very least: He's at least expected to play this week. Increasingly, it is becoming harder to say that about players right now. There are a ton of injury question marks around the league right now, as usual, but the bigger issue is that the NFL's most extended COVID-19 outbreak is tearing through the league, with over 90 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list right now -- over 5% of the league's active players.
Which is all to say, make sure you're staying on top of things this week. This newsletter is a good way to do that, but with how things look right now, there are going to be a ton of moving pieces all over the NFL throughout the week, so make sure you're subscribed to Fantasy Football Today podcast and YouTube channel to keep up with our reactions to all of the news you need to know about.
In the rest of today's newsletter, we're going to take a look at more of Jamey's Week 15 picks from his Start 'Em & Sit 'Em column, plus some of the players Dave Richard is highlighting in his Starts, Sits, Sleepers & Busts column. Plus, updates on all of the injury and COVID situations you need to know about as we get set to kick off what might be the wildest week in recent memory with tonight's Chargers-Chiefs game -- a game that is impacted by both COVID absences and potential injury situations. That's the reality we're facing right now, and it's going to be the case for more games than not this week.
Here's what you need to be prepared for it:
- Week 15 Start 'Em & Sit 'Em: QB | RB | WR
- Week 15 Position Previews: QB | RB | WR | TE
- My Week 15 Rankings: Flex Top 150 | QB | RB | WR | TE
Keep an eye out for tomorrow's newsletter, where I'll preview every game this week, including full injury report updates from around the league. Here's what else today's newsletter will cover:
- 👍Start 'Em & Sit 'Em👎
- 1️⃣5️⃣ Dave Richard's Week 15 Preview
- 🚑Week 15 Injury Watch
"Tagovailoa comes off his bye in Week 14 looking to keep playing well in a favorable matchup against the Jets. Tagovailoa has scored at least 20 Fantasy points in two of his past three games, including Week 11 at the Jets when he had 273 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He's actually one of just two quarterbacks (Tyrod Taylor in Week 12 is the other) with fewer than 22 Fantasy points against the Jets since Week 4, a span of nine games. I like Tagovailoa as a top 10 Fantasy quarterback this week in all leagues."
"Burrow broke out of his recent slump in Week 14 against San Francisco with 25 Fantasy points, ending a four-game skid where he scored 18 Fantasy points or less. But I'm not expecting him to start a positive scoring streak with his matchup against the Broncos. Denver allows just 16.3 Fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks for the season, and only three quarterbacks have scored more than 22 Fantasy points against the Broncos, with Derek Carr's 25 points in Week 6 the highest total. Burrow might find his way to being a low-end starter this week, but I would try to use another starting option if you can."
- Start 'Em: Clyde Edwards-Helaire and James Robinson
"Edwards-Helaire has played three games since coming back from a five-game absence due to a knee injury, and he has either a touchdown or 80 total yards in each outing. He should have the chance for a quality Fantasy performance this week against the Chargers, who are No. 6 in Fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs. The Chargers have allowed 18 total touchdowns to opposing running backs, and only twice this season (Week 1 at Washington and Week 4 against Las Vegas) has a running back failed to score against this defense. Edwards-Helaire was excellent against the Chargers in Week 3 with 17 carries for 100 yards, along with two catches for nine yards and a touchdown on two targets. He also scored 12 PPR points against the Chargers in his lone meeting with them last season, so this is a matchup where he tends to produce."
"Freeman will likely need to score to boost his Fantasy production based on his recent activity. In his past six games, he has three with 11 PPR points or less and three with 15 PPR points or more. When he hasn't found the end zone, his production has been minimal for the most part. The Packers have allowed just two total touchdowns to running backs in their past five games, and this Baltimore offense could be tough to trust if Lamar Jackson (ankle) is out. Freeman is more of a bust alert than a must-sit option, but I would only consider him a flex play this week in most leagues."
"Waddle and DeVante Parker are both worth starting this week against the Jets. Waddle had eight catches for 65 yards on nine targets against the Jets in Week 11, and he's scored at least 18 PPR points in three games in a row. Parker missed the first game against New York with a shoulder injury, but he's scored at least 11 PPR points in four of six games this year. And Parker has scored at least 16 PPR points in two of his past four meetings with the Jets dating back to 2019."
"Pittman hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 9, and he's been held to nine PPR points or less in two of his past three games. He's likely headed for a matchup with standout Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson this week, and that could be trouble for Pittman. New England also is No. 5 in fewest Fantasy points allowed to receivers for the season. At best, Pittman is a No. 3 Fantasy receiver in the majority of leagues this week."
"The last time Higbee faced the Cardinals in Week 4 he had four catches for 36 yards on six targets. He has one touchdown since Week 5 and has scored nine PPR points or less seven times in his past nine outings. For the season, Arizona is No. 5 in fewest Fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends, so this is a tough week to trust Higbee."
1️⃣5️⃣ Dave Richard's Week 15 Preview
There are the obvious calls, and then there are the ones you need help with. Dave Richard goes through each game to identify the most interesting matchups and biggest lineup dilemmas for Week 15. Here are some of his top picks for this week. You can find the rest of his advice for Week 15 here.
- Mike Williams -- "The entire Chargers offense is better off if the Chiefs don't have behemoth Chris Jones terrorizing their O-line. He's a trustworthy No. 2 receiver, especially in full PPR."
- Hunter Henry -- "This seems like the proper matchup for the Patriots to prey on Indy's suspect linebackers and safeties in coverage with an added dose of Henry. He's among the best low-end starting tight ends you could consider."
- Chuba Hubbard -- "The reality is that Hubbard's playing time is far from assured to begin with and will almost certainly evaporate if the Panthers can't keep the score close. Hubbard's touchdown saved him last week, and it's pretty much the only way he can be useful for Fantasy considering he has just two games with 80-plus total yards."
- Jakobi Meyers -- "If the Patriots manage to run the ball well, Meyers might see a serious target shortage, just as he has in three of his four games before the Buffalo wind storm matchup."
- Gabriel Davis -- "Davis has been chasing Emmanuel Sanders' role for weeks, but a knee injury to the ineffective veteran put Davis on the field for a season-high 83% of snaps in Week 14. In turn he busted out with a season-high 15.7% target share and a 2021-best five receptions."
- Donovan Peoples-Jones -- "Predictably, it's been high-volume receivers who have done the best against Las Vegas. For one week, Peoples-Jones qualifies, even with Case Keenum under center (Keenum might be an upgrade over Baker Mayfield at this point)."
- Ezekiel Elliott -- "It's one thing for Elliott to lose playing time to Tony Pollard. It's another for Elliott to lose playing time to Corey Clement! He's a touchdown-dependent Fantasy running back whose playing time seems to be limited by his coaches. Elliott qualifies as a low-end No. 2 running back, nothing more."
- Taysom Hill -- "In each of Hill's two starts he's needed a lucky break in the final two minutes to push his Fantasy point total over 20. If we have to count on Hill making last-second fluky plays, then it's a matter of time before he runs into a tough defense and finishes with an ugly number."
🚑Week 15 Injury Watch
Okay, so ... there's a lot here. The COVID outbreaks alone account for 90-plus players current on the reserve list, with most of them likely to miss Week 15 at least. We don't know vaccination statuses for most of the players, so whether they even have a chance to play this week or are at risk of missing Week 16 really isn't known. Usually, I'll separate injuries by what it seems it means for their status for Week 15, but the COVID issues complicate that. So, we'll start with a list of the Fantasy relevant players on the COVID list and the players who will step up if they are out, and then move on to a quick update of the Wednesday practice reports.
But first, we've gotta highlight DeAndre Hopkins' potential regular-season-ending knee injury. Hopkins is out for this week at least, and his status for the following three is in serious doubt. He was having a down season for Fantasy but that was mostly just an issue of volume -- the Cardinals just weren't throwing to him, but he was challenging for career-best per-catch efficiency numbers. Now the Cardinals are down their No. 1 target, which moves everyone up in the receiving hierarchy. However, that will probably still mean a very spread-out offensive approach, and I'd be surprised if anyone got more than Hopkins' 22% target share. There is room for A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, and Rondale Moore to break out here down the stretch, but I still view all of them as WR3s at best until we see someone really step up, with Green at the front of the pack.
And now, here are the injury situations we're watching for this week:
Thursday Night Football: Chiefs at Chargers
- Austin Ekeler (ankle) -- Ekeler was limited both Tuesday and Wednesday and he's officially questionable for the game. He'll work out prior to the game before a determination is made about his status, and if he can't go, Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley will work in tandem to replace him. Jackson is probably the better option to start if you need one, but neither would be more than an RB3 for me if Ekeler is out. However, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero did report Thursday morning that Ekeler is expected to play.
- Mike Williams (heel) -- Williams has no injury designation for the game after practicing in full Wednesday. Keenan Allen is also back after missing last week's game with COVID.
- Baker Mayfield -- Case Keenum is in line to start if Mayfield is out.
- Kyle Allen -- Taylor Heinicke is dealing with a knee injury, but it sounds like there's a pretty good chance he'll play. Allen is just one of 18 players on the COVID list for the Football Team.
- Myles Gaskin/Phillip Lindsay/Salvon Ahmed -- Duke Johnson is on their practice squad and the Dolphins worked out Lamar Miller earlier in the week. These players all went on the COVID list last week, so it's possible they'll be able to test out before the game.
- Jamaal Williams -- Williams was added to the COVID list on Dec. 10, so his chances of playing this week are better than most of the players on this list. If he does, he'll be a low-end RB2.
- Darrell Henderson -- Like Williams, Henderson was placed on the list last week, so there's a chance he'll be able to play this week. What his role will be after Sony Michel impressed over the past two games remains to be seen, but I wouldn't want to start Henderson this week.
- Mark Ingram -- Ingram tested positive back on Dec. 8, so there should be time for him to test negative and be cleared, but it hasn't happened yet.
- Alexander Mattison -- Mattison is a vital handcuff for Dalvin Cook, but he doesn't play much when Cook is active. Kene Nwangwu will be the backup to Cook for this week.
- Odell Beckham -- Beckham tested positive Tuesday, so his chances of returning this week are pretty slim. Van Jefferson figures to see a bigger role and is a top-30 WR if Beckham is out. He's not far from that if he's in, to be honest.
- Jarvis Landry -- Donovan Peoples-Jones and Rashard Higgins should see bigger opportunities if Landry is out.
- Josh Gordon -- Gordon doesn't really matter for Fantasy, but maybe his absence allows Byron Pringle to play a few more snaps.
- Kadarius Toney -- Toney has had a snake-bitten rookie season, with injury issues going back to training camp even before this. It's not clear if he would be able to play even if he tests out, due to an oblique injury.
- Austin Hooper -- David Njoku is also on the COVID list, so if he can't play, Harrison Bryant will be an interesting streamer -- if he can get past his ankle injury, of course.
Wednesday practice report updates
- Josh Allen (foot) -- LP. That's a good sign for his chances of playing, assuming there's no setback. I do worry his rushing might be limited, but Allen is still my No. 1 QB for this week against the Panthers.
- Lamar Jackson (ankle) -- DNP. Jackson is dealing with a low-ankle sprain and has a chance to play, but at this point it looks legitimately iffy. Tyler Huntley would start in his absence and is in the QB2 discussion even against a tough Packers defense thanks to his rushing abilities.
- Aaron Rodgers (toe) -- DNP. This will probably be how things work for the rest of the season, as Rodgers said he had a setback with the injury last week but that it likely won't keep him off the field for games. It's a pain tolerance issue, it seems, so they'll limit his reps.
- Jalen Hurts (ankle) -- LP. Hurts had the bye to get healthy, but he is apparently dealing with a high-ankle sprain, hence the slow recovery. If he plays, he's got a good matchup with Washington, and would be a No. 1 QB for me.
- Daniel Jones (neck) -- LP. It seems like more of the same for Jones, who still hasn't been cleared for contact. There's still reportedly a chance he can play this season, but it seems unlikely to be this week.
- Ezekiel Elliott (knee)/Tony Pollard (foot) -- FP/DNP. Elliott had a knee brace on but got a full practice session in Wednesday, a good sign. Pollard, who is playing through a torn plantar fascia, was originally expected to be limited, according to coach Mike McCarthy, but ended up sitting out the session. That's not a great sign.
- Aaron Jones (knee) -- DNP. Jones wasn't on the injury report at all last week, so maybe he suffered a setback in Week 14 -- that would explain why he his playing time took a hit in the second half. He's a risky start this week no matter what.
- Saquon Barkley (ankle) -- DNP. Barkley was limited last Wednesday with this injury, so that's a step in the wrong direction. However, right now, we don't have any reason to believe he's likely to miss this week's game. Devontae Booker would be in the RB2 discussion if Barkley does miss time.
- Leonard Fournette (ankle) -- DNP. This is a new one for Fournette, so let's just keep an eye on it for now. I'll have an update with any addition details Friday morning.
- D'Andre Swift (shoulder) -- DNP. It doesn't sound like Swift's chances of playing this week are great. Craig Reynolds seems like he would be the lead back again if Swift and Williams are out, but he's still just a desperation low-end play. It wouldn't be a surprise at all if Jermar Jefferson or Godwin Igwebuike saw a larger role instead.
- James Conner (ankle) -- DNP. Conner is considered day-to-day after having an MRI Tuesday, so this isn't necessarily too concerning. Yet. If Conner is unable to practice Thursday, that would be a real concern. Chase Edmonds would be the lead back if Conner is unable to play, in his return from IR with his own ankle injury. He would be a top-20 back if Conner doesn't play; Conner will be a top-20 back if he does.
- Melvin Gordon (thumb/hip)/Javonte Williams (knee) -- We don't have any reason to believe these injuries are too serious right now, but with Mike Boone on the COVID list, don't be surprised if the Broncos add someone this week just in case. We'll keep an eye on it.
- Miles Sanders (ankle)/Jordan Howard (knee) -- LP. Both were limited, so we'll have to wait until Thursday to see if one is ahead of the other.
- Elijah Mitchell (knee/concussion) -- It's not clear if Mitchell would have practice if it was just the knee injury, or vice versa, so there's very little clarity here. If Mitchell is out, Jeff Wilson would be the starter for the 49ers again and would be an RB3.
- Damien Harris (hamstring) -- LP. Harris has been limited both Tuesday and Wednesday, which tells us basically nothing about his chances of playing Saturday against the Colts. Rhamondre Stevenson would be a must-start player if Harris is out; if he plays, neither is more than an RB3.
- Kareem Hunt (ankle) -- DNP. Hunt has not practiced either Tuesday or Wednesday and is not expected to play Saturday against the Raiders. Given the COVID outbreak in Cleveland, make sure you pick up D'Ernest Johnson because he could be a top-12 RB if anything happens to Nick Chubb.
- J.D. McKissic (concussion) -- DNP. McKissic hasn't practiced since suffering the injury in Week 12, and this isn't a good start for his chances in Week 15. Antonio Gibson didn't get any targets last week, but he ran routes on 28 of 42 pass plays and remains a must-start Fantasy RB.
- Rex Burkhead (hip/quad) -- DNP. David Johnson and Royce Freeman would likely split work against a great matchup in Jacksonville, but I don't see how you can trust either unless you are truly desperate.
- Tevin Coleman (concussion) -- FP. Coleman looks in line to play against the Dolphins, but Michael Carter's expected return from IR should limit him to just a backup role.
- Carlos Hyde (concussion) -- DNP. It is at least a little bit easier to trust Robinson if Hyde is out.
- DK Metcalf (foot/back) -- DNP. The foot injury has lingered for a while but has mostly seemed to be a non-issue, so the back is the concern here, seemingly. That's a new injury, and we'll have to keep an eye on his status Thursday and Friday to see how concerning this actually is.
- D.J. Moore (hamstring) -- LP. The expectation seems to be that Moore will play this week, but he's a risky WR2 given the QB situation in Carolina. There's upside here, obviously, but it's hard to trust any WR when a team is benching their quarterback multiple times per game.
- Terry McLaurin (concussion) -- DNP. We'll see if he at least gets to limited Thursday. If not, he's at real risk of missing the game. I'm not sure if any of the other wide receivers on this roster would be worth starting in most leagues, but if you're desperate, Adam Humphries seems like a good bet to lead the team in targets if McLaurin is out.
- Emmanuel Sanders (knee) -- DNP. Sanders is not expected to play this week. Gabriel Davis is a high-upside WR3 for this one.
- George Kittle (knee) -- DNP. This is a new injury for Kittle, and the fact that he was held out is a bit of a concern. Of course, it could've been just a maintenance day. We'll watch the next few days to make sure.
- Darren Waller (knee/back) -- DNP. Waller hasn't practiced since suffering the injury in Week 12, so it looks like it'll be another week with Foster Moreau start -- assuming he can play through the abdominal injury that has left him limited both Tuesday and Wednesday.
- T.J. Hockenson (hand) -- DNP. Coming off a missed game, that's not a great start to the week. We'll have to watch this one until Friday again, it seems.