January 24, 2022

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Fit And Go Forward

Fantasy Football: Week 15’s toughest lineup decisions and biggest injuries, including Drew Brees’ return

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Chargers-Raiders on Thursday was a weird one. Fun, but weird. The Raiders lost their starting quarterback after five passes, and the Chargers never really had their top two receivers; their No. 1 running back also wasn’t his usual self. Somehow, the teams combined for 57 points and a bunch of Fantasy production. Go figure. 

The biggest takeaway from that game is Justin Herbert just smashed through the rookie wall. Given the injuries in L.A.’s offense, I’ll admit I was pretty skeptical, and he made me look awfully foolish by dropping 30-plus Fantasy points. Jalen Guyton and Tyron Johnson both stepped up in ways that make me think they could be pretty useful 2021 options, if not in Week 16. Oh, and Marcus Mariota … looked pretty good? Not good enough to be much more than a No. 2 QB if he started in Derek Carr’s (groin) place, but he’s certainly worth adding in any league that allows you to start multiple quarterbacks. 

That’s pretty much what you need to know about the first game of the week. Hopefully you didn’t take the risk on Keenan Allen — I started him in one league and benched him in another, so … yeah — and hopefully you avoided Darren Waller, but if you do find yourself in a hole for Week 15, I want to help out. I’ve gone through every game on the remainder of the schedule, updating the latest injury information and focusing on the toughest lineup dilemma for each game for today’s newsletter. Remember, you’ll have to lock in your lineups Saturday this week, at least if you have any Bills, Broncos, Packers, or Panthers to choose from. 

Read on to find out how to approach each game, and make sure you check out the rest of the FFT team’s Week 15 preview content to help you set a winning lineup: Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em | Starts & Sits, Sleepers & Risks | Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em: QB | Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em: RB | Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em: WR | Waiver Wire | QB Preview | RB Preview | WR Preview | TE Preview | Trade Values | Cut List | Winners | Losers

Also, here’s a something you should check out: CBS Sports is giving away a bunch of cool stuff in our Holiday Wishes Sweepstakes. Head here now for your chance to win one of 10 prize packs.    

Week 15 Game Previews

All lines from William Hill Sportsbook. For more game-by-game Fantasy advice, check out Dave Richard’s Week 15 preview. “The line wants us to believe” analysis from Dave.  

Bills at Broncos — 4:30 p.m. ET, Saturday

  • Line: BUF -6; O/U 49.5
  • Implied totals: BUF 27.75, DEN 21.75
  • The line wants us to believe: Denver will give Buffalo a fight. The oddsmakers know people will be all over the Bills after stomping the Steelers, which is why I think it’s curious they’re giving only six points. The Broncos offense was on fire last week, but a lot of it had to do with the defense they played against. I could see Buffalo taking care of business — the Bills’ past four wins have been by 10-plus points and the Broncos’ past six losses have been by at least six.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Noah Fant Start. Fant is healthy, and I’m going back to the well. He hasn’t quite taken the leap we hoped for, but he routinely plays big snap shares, runs a ton of routes and is always a threat to turn any catch into a 40-yard gain. There just aren’t a lot of tight ends with his upside, especially in a game the Broncos will likely be chasing points in. 
  • Injuries: John Brown (ankle) — Will not play this week. He could return in Week 16 and is an intriguing stash if you can get there … Melvin Gordon (shoulder)/Phillip Lindsay (hip) — Both are questionable, but neither is expected to sit out. Maybe if one were out, the other might be worth trusting; if both play, you probably have better options. 

Panthers at Packers — 8:15 p.m. ET, Saturday

  • Line: GB -8.5; O/U 51.5
  • Implied totals: CAR 21.5, GB 30.0
  • The line wants us to believe: Carolina is just as “good” as Detroit, Philly and Chicago. The Packers have been favorites by about eight points in each of their past three, so it’s a little surprising to see this line in the same place. Carolina is coming off a horrible defensive performance and shouldn’t have much punch, and Green Bay’s defense has done just well enough to hold opponents to around 25 points of late. The Packers should blow past their 30-point implied point total. That’s the side to be on.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: D.J. Moore Start. Moore looked like he was just getting ready to explode before an ankle injury and then a COVID-19 scare kept him off the field for Week 14. He’s expected back for Saturday, and he returns to a good matchup ready to close out the season strong. Moore isn’t a No. 1 WR for this week, but he’s got as much upside as anyone outside the top 12.
  • Injuries: Christian McCaffrey (thigh) — Doubtful. McCaffrey could be a surprise activation, but it seems quite unlikely to happen. Mike Davis is close to a top-12 back as long as McCaffrey is out .. Curtis Samuel (hamstring) — Questionable. It was surprisingly hard to find many details about Samuel’s status, which is weird because he was a late addition to the injury report on the final day. Maybe it’s nothing, but if you were planning to use Samuel — and he’s a viable WR3 option in a decent matchup — have a backup plan in case he is ruled out.

Seahawks at Washington — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: SEA -5.5; O/U 44.5
  • Implied totals: SEA 25.0, WAS 19.5
  • The line wants us to believe: Washington’s no good. It’s another disrespectful line for a Washington squad that’s convincingly won four straight games. They’ve done it with defense more than anything else, and Seattle’s run-first mentality seemingly would play right into their hands to keep the game close. Besides, Seattle’s defense isn’t as good as their last game against the Jets would suggest. The Seahawks could obviously win, but a six-plus-point victory against Ron Rivera’s crew feels a little less likely than the opposite. So I’ll take the Football Team.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Tyler Lockett Start. It’s important to keep things in perspective: As frustrating as Lockett’s season has been, he’s still averaging 7.2 targets per game over the last five and he’s still playing with Russell Wilson. Is he the No. 1 WR you hoped he would be? Of course not. But he’s better than he has played, and as a WR3, you can do worse. 
  • Injuries: Antonio Gibson (toe) — Gibson has not practiced since suffering the injury in Week 13, and it seems like he’s going to miss at least one more week. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see him again this season, though he obviously has the upside to be worth stashing … Alex Smith (calf) — Smith was ruled out Friday, so Dwayne Haskins will start at QB for Washington, a downgrade for hte offense as a whole… Peyton Barber (ankle) — Barber isn’t much more than a desperation play in his own right, but if this keeps him out, it could make J.D. McKissic a better play. Barber has been limited so far this week. 

Bears at Vikings — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: MIN -3; O/U 47
  • Implied totals: CHI 22.0, MIN 25.0
  • The line wants us to believe: This will be a close game. I think the oddsmakers could have gotten away with a Vikings minus-4 or minus-5 line here because there shouldn’t be too much respect for the Bears even after their commanding win over the lowly Texans last week. By that logic, the oddsmakers are trying to goad us into taking the Vikings. Minnesota hasn’t won a game by more than three points since Week 10 — at Chicago. I do believe the Bears are playing better now than they were then, but I simply have a hard time backing Mitchell Trubisky in what amounts to an elimination game on the road. Yes, I think the line is a sucker bet, but no, I can’t believe in the Bears without getting at least one more point. So Vikings it is.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Mitchell Trubisky Start. Trubisky actually hasn’t been terrible this season, with multiple touchdowns in four of his six starts, and this is actually a pretty spot for him to be in. The Bears will likely trail, and they’ve been one of the pass-happiest teams in the league, so that should create plenty of opportunities, and the Vikings haven’t been great against the pass. You probably didn’t expect to be starting Trubisky in a playoff matchup, but it’s not the worst idea. 
  • Injuries: Kyle Rudolph (foot) — Has yet to practice this week and seems unlikely to play. Irv Smith is a borderline top-12 TE if Rudolph is out … Alexander Mattison (illness) — Mattison made his return to practice for the first time since undergoing an appendectomy, which is a reminder that if he’s out there on your team, he’s a potential Week 16 lottery ticket if something happens to Dalvin Cook.

Patriots at Dolphins — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: MIA -2; O/U 41.5
  • Implied totals: NE 19.75, MIA 21.75
  • The line wants us to believe: New England isn’t as bad as it looked last Thursday. The Patriots are on the road for the third straight week and coming off an abysmal performance. But the idea of Bill Belichick scheming against a rookie quarterback will get some folks to put money down on New England. I think Tagovailoa played solid (if not gutsy) football last week, and Brian Flores should be in a better spot to defend a Patriots offense that doesn’t have many wrinkles to it. I’m going with the home team.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Salvon Ahmed Sit. Ahmed produced well enough in two starts for the Dolphins back in Weeks 10 and 11, and he could very well be the starter again if he is able to return from his injury. However, he didn’t exactly profile as a must-start guy in either game, catching one pass in Week 10 and then rushing for just 43 yards in Week 11. Given the matchup, you probably have better options. 
  • Injuries: Salvon Ahmed (shoulder) — Has been able to practice on a limited basis this week, a sign he could be close to making a return … Mike Gesicki (shoulder) — Gesicki was upgraded to a limited participant in practice Thursday. A good sign, but by no means a guarantee he’ll be back this week. DeVante Parker (hamstring)/Jakeem Grant (hamstring) — Both have been limited in the first two days of practice, which means they have a chance. The Dolphins tend to play things pretty close to the vest, however, so don’t expect to know much before Sunday on any of these guys. 

Jaguars at Ravens — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: BAL -16; O/U 47.5
  • Implied totals: JAC 15.75, BAL 31.75
  • The line wants us to believe: The Ravens will wipe the floor with the Jags. Given all the injuries and absences across the Ravens roster, my hunch is that John Harbaugh’s focus is getting out of the game healthy, not dominating the Jaguars. Gardner Minshew gives the Jacksonville offense a better chance of keeping up on the scoreboard, and the Ravens’ deep secondary is suddenly depleted. Jacksonville won’t win, but 16 points is too many to give them. They’ll cover.
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Gus Edwards Start. J.K. Dobbins is the better choice of the two but Edwards clearly has a lot of trust near the goal-line, and that matters here more than with most teams. You’re hoping for 10 carries, 50 yards and a score, which seems like a safe enough bet against Jacksonville. It’s a low-upside profile, most likely, but one you should be able to rely on. 
  • Injuries: Marquise Brown (Reserve/COVID-19) — It’s not clear if Brown will be able to play, but he’s just a flex play even if he does. The Ravens shouldn’t need to pass much in this one.  

Buccaneers at Falcons — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: TB -6; O/U 50.5
  • Implied totals: TB 28.25, ATL 22.25
  • The line wants us to believe: Atlanta can stay competitive with Tampa Bay. The Falcons defense actually played well for most of last week; it was Matt Ryan putting his team in bad spots that cost them the win. I’m actually at the point where trusting Ryan without Julio Jones is a no-go. Atlanta’s only win since Week 9 was a butt kicking over a Raiders squad that constantly bumbled the game away. The Bucs should take care of business.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Mike Evans Start. I don’t feel good about this one, honestly. Yes, it’s a great matchup, which is why I’m starting him, but I wish I could feel better about it. Evans just hasn’t been that good this season, despite the huge touchdown rate. If you’re looking for reasons to be confident, he does have a 22.5% target share over the last four games, which should be enough to be worth starting against the Falcons. 
  • Injuries: Julio Jones (hamstring) — Hasn’t practiced this week, so this could be another week without Julio, which would be bad news for Matt Ryan and this Falcons offense … Ronald Jones (Reserve COVID-19/finger) — It’s not clear if Jones will be able to play, but it sure seems unlikely at this point. Leonard Fournette figures to step into Jones’ role and I’ll view him about the same as I’ve viewed Jones recently — I think they are the running back version of the Spider-Man-pointing-at-Spider-Man meme. He’s an RB2 if Jones is out, with LeSean McCoy just a desperation play. 

49ers at Cowboys — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: SF -3; O/U 45
  • Implied totals: SF 24.0, DAL 21.0
  • The line wants us to believe: The Cowboys’ win last week was a fluke. Last week was a reminder that even Andy Dalton can have good games when he’s not pressured a ton. San Francisco ranks well in quarterback hurries and pressures but has just 23 sacks to show for it. Backing either team makes me violently ill, but if the 49ers don’t have Deebo Samuel, Raheem Mostert or George Kittle, then Dallas should be able to at least compete with them. I’ll take the home ‘dog. 
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Jeff Wilson Start (if Raheem Mostert is out). If Mostert plays, it’s hard to trust either of them, even against a great matchup. However, if we knew Wilson was going to be the lead back, it would be all systems go for him as a solid No. 2 RB. We know this is a good rushing offense, and Wilson and Mostert have split 23 carries per game between them since both returned from injury in Week 12. Even if Jerick McKinnon figures to cut into that work some, Wilson could be in line for 18 carries against a very susceptible defense. 
  • Injuries: Ezekiel Elliott (calf) — Elliott has yet to practice this week, though it isn’t expected to keep him sidelined for Sunday’s game. However, you might want to add Tony Pollard to your roster just in case Elliott isn’t able to go. Pollard would be in the No. 2 RB discussion if he got to start  … Raheem Mostert (ankle) — Of course, Mostert very well may play — he was able to practice on a limited basis Thursday. We’ll want to watch this one up to game time … Deebo Samuel (hamstring) — It seems like Samuel will be out for Week 15, and it’s not unreasonable to consider Brandon Aiyuk a top-12 WR, considering he’s averaging 20.5 PPR points over the last five games … George Kittle (foot) — It’s no guarantee Kittle will even be able to return this season, and a Week 15 return seems like a real long shot, but he was back on the practice field Thursday, a great sign. He could be there for Week 16. 

Lions at Titans — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: TEN -10.5; O/U 51.5
  • Implied totals: DET 20.5, TEN 31.0
  • The line wants us to believe: The Lions are one of the league’s worst teams. That’s true, obviously. But without Matthew Stafford, they figure to be pretty beatable on both sides of the ball. Tennessee has won three games this season by 12-plus points, including one last week against Jacksonville. I have a hard time believing either team will hit their projected point totals (20.25 for Detroit, 31.25 for Tennessee), but I also have a hard time believing the Lions will be competitive.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Marvin Jones Sit. Jones has at least six targets in five straight games, and he’s scored more than 11 PPR points just twice. There haven’t been too many all-out duds, it’s just been a lot of “four catches for 48 yards” kind of games. He could go off against a great matchup, but he has 10 catches for 96 yards and no touchdowns in matchups against the Texans and Packers in two of the last three games, so matchups may not matter much. Especially if his QB isn’t healthy. 
  • Injuries: Matthew Stafford (rib/right thumb) — Stafford is a tough dude, but it sounds like this one may be enough to keep him out. Even if he does play, it’s hard to imagine trusting him even against a good matchup … Kenny Golladay (hip) — Still not practicing, still unlikely to play. You wonder if he’ll play at any point this season. 

Texans at Colts — 1 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: IND -7; O/U 51.0
  • Implied totals: HOU 22.0, IND 29.0
  • The line wants us to believe: The Texans will be competitive. This feels like a slight overreaction to last week’s games, but then again, the Texans defense is among the worst in football (not to mention on the road for the second straight week). Honestly, the line feels like they want you to take the Colts because they’re only giving seven. I could see the Texans hanging around into the fourth quarter before Indianapolis puts in a big score to put the game away. Colts it is.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: David Johnson Sit. Johnson should see plenty of work, but that hasn’t translated to consistent production. He had 10.4 points in the last game with the Colts and has more than two catches in a game once since Week 1. As a low-end RB2 he’s OK, but there just isn’t much reason to get excited about him. 
  • Injuries: Brandin Cooks (neck) — Has been limited in practice so far, but is expected to be back this week. He’s a solid No. 2 WR … Duke Johnson (neck) — After being limited Wednesday, Johnson was downgraded to a DNP Thursday, a sign he is very much at risk of missing this one. 

Eagles at Cardinals — 4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: ARI -6.5; O/U 49.0
  • Implied totals: PHI 21.25, ARI 27.75
  • The line wants us to believe: The Cardinals’ win last week was for real. The Cards played better on both sides of the ball, but the Giants’ weak sauce offense had something to do with it. Not that Philadelphia has turned into a powerhouse — their way of moving the chains is pretty straight-forward at this point. The key here is that Philly’s secondary lost three starters last week and two definitely won’t play on Sunday. Kyler Murray’s play was encouraging last week and the defense should have a semblance of an idea of how to limit Jalen Hurts. I like the Cardinals, especially since all the focus this week has been on the Eagles and how they beat the Saints.
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Jalen Hurts Start. It’s only one game, and Hurts wasn’t overly impressive as a passer. But he was electric as a rusher, and that’s the key here. He isn’t a must-start option, but he’s one of the better streamers this week. If you’ve been relying on Ben Roethlisberger, I might consider Hurts over him. I’ll let you know Sunday. 
  • Injuries: Chase Edmonds (ankle) — Has yet to practice this week, so it sure looks like he could be out. Kenyan Drake could see a bigger role, and is a viable No. 2 RB for this one, with D.J. Foster or Eno Benjamin likely to serve as the primary backup — neither has any value unless Drake gets hurt, too … Zane Gonzalez (back) — Mike Nugent hit four field goals in Week 14, and could have another good game if Gonzalez is out. 

Jets at Rams — 4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: LAR -17.5; O/U 44.0
  • Implied totals: NYJ 13.75, LAR 31.25
  • The line wants us to believe: New York can stay within three scores. I almost wonder if the Rams could cover 21 points. The Jets have averaged 15.5 points per game in their past four — two with 28 points against awful defenses and two with three points against good defenses. It’s more likely they’ll finish around 3, 7 or 10 points, and it’s not that hard to imagine the Rams coming up with close to the 30.25 points their implied total suggests. Gang Green has been blown out by 18-plus points six times this year. This week will make seven. 
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Tyler Higbee Sit. I know the Jets have been horrible against tight ends, but I just can’t bring myself to trust a guy who has a touchdown in two of 12 games and only three games with more than four targets. He could have a good game, but Higbee just hasn’t had the role to buy in. 
  • Injuries: Robert Woods (thigh) — Woods missed practice Wednesday but was able to participate on a limited basis Thursday and is expected to be good to go. He’s a No. 2 WR for this one … Jamison Crowder (calf) — Crowder was upgraded to a limited participant Thursday, a good sign for his chances to play, but you probably shouldn’t be using him even if he does play. 

Chiefs at Saints — 4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: KC -3; O/U 51.5
  • Implied totals: KC 27.25, NO 24.25
  • The line wants us to believe: The Saints will keep it close. There’s no doubt in my mind that the general public seeing the Chiefs giving just three points will cause an avalanche of money to come in on their side. It’s probably by design. Getting three points with the Saints at home against anybody is typically a good thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Saints tried to slow the pace down and run the ball a bunch, then five-man blitz the snot out of Patrick Mahomes to try and force a turnover (kind of like the Dolphins did). The Saints, I believe, have a good chance to pull off the win.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Clyde Edwards-Helaire Start. This season hasn’t gone the way we were hoping for Edwards-Helaire and this is a tough matchup, but it’s hard to go away from a back averaging 16 touches per game over his last three in an offense like this. You figure at some point those touches will turn into big production, and you can’t leave that upside on your bench unless you have some killer alternatives. 
  • Injuries: Drew Brees (ribs) — According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Brees is expected to return to the starting lineup Sunday. That was reportedly the plan all along, and he apparently responded well to his return to practice this week. It’s hard to trust him coming back from this injury against a good defense, however. That being said, his return should be good news for Alvin Kamara, since the Saints should be more pass-heavy … Michael Thomas (ankle) — Has been ruled out for Week 15, which means Emmanuel Sanders will be the No. 1 WR for the Saints. He has just 17 targets in four games with Hill at QB, but should fare better with Brees. He’s still just a low-end starting option, but could surprise. 

Browns at Giants — 8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday

  • Line: CLE -5; O/U 45.5
  • Implied totals: Browns 25.5, NYG 20.5
  • The line wants us to believe: The Giants can stay within a touchdown. This feels sucker-ish for sure — why wouldn’t the Browns get more points? — but the Giants took a big step back last week, especially in the pass game. That should make things easy on a depleted Cleveland secondary. Cleveland may not have won last week, but they were very competitive. It’s just more evidence that they’ve turned the corner and become a legit playoff team. I could see Nick Chubb leading the Browns offense, not Baker Mayfield.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Wayne Gallman Sit. Outside of two games in his six as a starter, Gallman has been pretty touchdown reliant. There seems to be a pretty high floor here given the lack of competition for touches, but if he doesn’t find the end zone, he’s likely to be pretty disappointing. With Colt McCoy possibly at QB in a game that could be pretty slow-paced and low-scoring, I’ll bet you have an option with more upside. 
  • Injuries: Daniel Jones (hamstring/ankle) — It’s not a guarantee that McCoy will start, but even if it is Jones, I’m not sure it changes the outlook for this offense that much — he didn’t look right last week before leaving. 

Steelers at Bengals — 8:15 p.m. ET, Monday

  • Line: PIT -12.5; O/U 40.5
  • Implied totals: PIT 26.5, CIN 14.0
  • The line wants us to believe: Everything’s fine in the Steel City. Things definitely are not fine with the Steelers offense, but there’s nothing right with the Bengals on either side of the ball. This should be a game the Steelers defense rise up and dominate since the Bengals offense has scored exactly 27 points in the three-and-a-half games they’ve been without Joe Burrow. A 13-point win might be asking too much for a Steelers offense struggling like this one, but I’m far more comfortable doing anything than siding with Cincy.  
  • Toughest lineup dilemma: Diontae Johnson Start. For a while there, it seemed almost impossible for Johnson to have a bad game — Ben Roethlisberger threw the ball to him way too often for that to happen. Before Week 14, he had at least 12.6 PPR points in six of seven games with at least 10 targets in each of those six. However, after being benched in Week 14 due to his continued issues with drops, Johnson doesn’t feel like as much of a sure thing anymore. Still, he’s drawn praise from the coaching staff for how he responded to being benched, so I think he’s still going to be part of the game plan. In this matchup, you trust that. 
  • Injuries: James Conner (quad) — Conner missed practice practice Thursday, and it seems like there is a real chance he won’t play Monday night. Given that uncertainty and the fact that the Steelers have rushed for 100 yards as a team once in their last eight games, I’d rather just avoid Conner and/or Benny Snell, even against this matchup. 

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