Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Week 15 WR/CB matchups and TE breakdown

Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) against the Los Angeles Rams at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We're on to Week 15! I'll be breaking down the WR/CB matchups all season long with a focus on figuring out who could be facing shadow coverage as well as the best and worst overall situations. We'll also briefly touch on each team's TE group.

The following tables denote snap rate data by alignment, target share, air yard market share, yards per route run and yards allowed per coverage snap.

Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders

Chargers Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Tyron Johnson 73 193 3 Nevin Lawson 69 192 4.48 0.92
R Jalen Guyton 73 202 0.77 Trayvon Mullen 74 199 4.46 1.14
S Keenan Allen 74 211 4.58 1.93 Lamarcus Joyner 68 191 4.55 1.32

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Mike Williams (back) should be considered questionable for Thursday night. Both Tyron Johnson and Jalen Guyton have made numerous big plays downfield throughout the season, but they’ve each had just two games all season with five or more targets. It wouldn’t be surprising if Johnson or Guyton finds a way to get behind this secondary. But realize that the floor for each is extremely low.

The floor for this passing game in general has been low with Austin Ekeler in action. We’ve seen fairly stark splits from Justin Herbert with and without the Chargers’ stud running back in the lineup this season:

  • Herbert with Ekeler (5 games): 66.9 PFF passing grade, 5 TD, 6 INT, 6.1 yards per attempt, 73.8% adjusted completion rate, 78 QB rating, 7-yard average target depth
  • Without (7 games): 79.8 PFF passing grade, 20 TD, 4 INT, 7.7 yards per attempt, 77% adjusted completion rate, 109 QB rating, 8.1-yard average target depth

Herbert faced off against the Chiefs, Panthers, Bills, Patriots and Falcons with Ekeler; his schedule was arguably more difficult without the Chargers' No. 1 running back involved. Almost any offense in the NFL would objectively be better off having Ekeler as its starting running back, but his presence might be leading to enhanced conservative play from the team’s rookie quarterback and play-caller alike. We’ve seen a similar phenomenon from the Panthers this season; teams are better off flowing their passing game through their wide receivers than their running backs.

However, it might not matter who Herbert decides to throw the ball to this week against a Raiders defense that was so brutal in Week 14 that it fired defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Don’t be surprised if this passing game as a whole gets back to balling out against the league’s 28th-ranked defense in explosive pass-play rate. Allen will obviously continue to be the featured No. 1 option; the last time he faced this secondary and didn’t catch at least five passes was Week 6 of 2014. The WR5 in PPR points per game is locked in as a weekly upside WR1.

TE breakdown: Hunter Henry has at least six targets in all but three games this season. He’s surpassed 50 receiving yards only once since September ended. And yet, Henry remains a TE1 largely by virtue of just how weak the position has been this season. The Chargers versus Raiders’ 52.5-point game total is the highest mark in Week 15, and Henry is my PPR TE9.

Raiders Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Bryan Edwards 75 215 1.27 Casey Hayward Jr. 71 192 1.36
R Nelson Agholor 72 198 4.42 1.79 Michael Davis 74 196 1.01
S Hunter Renfrow 70 184 4.59 1.93 Chris Harris Jr. 70 199 1.39

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Henry Ruggs III (COVID-19) is out for Thursday night. His rookie wide receiver teammate will take his spot in three-receiver sets.

It’s fair to wonder how Derek Carr and company will look without Ruggs’ field-stretching speed. The Chargers have also emerged as a legit pass defense despite missing some of their key secondary pieces throughout the season:

  • Explosive pass-play rate allowed: 12.5% (No. 5)
  • Passing yards per attempt allowed: 6.85 (tied for No. 7)
  • Pressure rate: 34.1% (No. 8)

One of just seven defenses to allow fewer than 35 PPR points per game to opposing wide receivers, Casey Hayward Jr. and company probably shouldn’t be bet against in this spot. Nelson Agholor is the only Raiders wide receiver I’d truly feel comfortable firing up in the fantasy playoffs, and even then we’re talking about more of a boom-or-bust WR3 as opposed to someone who needs to be in lineups of all shapes and sizes.

Hunter Renfrow will have his work cut out for him in the slot, while Bryan Edwards should see a mix of both outside corners. Ultimately, the Raiders didn’t even go out of their way to get Edwards the ball back when he was starting in Weeks 1-3; Renfrow is my preferred DFS showdown pick. 

TE breakdown: Darren Waller has an absurd 27 targets over the past two weeks and looks more unguardable by the minute. He’s posted relatively mundane lines of 3-40-0, 4-37-0 and 5-22-1 against this secondary over the past two seasons, but c’mon people — there’s no way you’re putting the Raiders’ No. 1 pass-game option anywhere near the bench. Waller (15.8 PPR points per game) joins George Kittle (16.4) and Travis Kelce (20.6) as the only players at the position averaging more than even 12.5 PPR points per game this season.

Buffalo Bills at Denver Broncos

Bills Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Gabriel Davis 75 212 4.54 1.2 Michael Ojemudia 73 199 4.45 1.51
R Stefon Diggs 72 191 4.46 2.31 Duke Dawson Jr. 70 198 4.46 0.55
S Cole Beasley 68 174 2.1 Will Parks 73 194 0.83

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Josh Allen continues to ball out, but we need to give some credit to his top two wide receivers, as well. Overall, each of Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley has emerged as bona fide studs through 14 weeks:

  • PFF receiving grade: Diggs (No. 7 among 117 WRs with 25-plus targets); Beasley (No. 6)
  • Yards per route run: Diggs (No. 8); Beasley (No. 19)
  • Receptions: Diggs (No. 1); Beasley (No. 15)
  • Receiving yards: Diggs (No. 2); Beasley (No. 18)

Diggs and Beasley are the WR3 and WR26, respectively, in PPR points per game; there’s no debate as to who is the No. 1 pass-game option in Buffalo. Still, there should continue to be enough production to go around for both against a Broncos defense that will continue to be without No. 1 cornerback A.J. Bouye due to suspension. Diggs (obviously) and Beasley are recommended starts against the Broncos’ well-coached but banged-up defense.

John Brown (ankle) could return this week. His presence could result in split duties with Gabriel Davis as the field-stretching wide receiver, particularly in Brown’s first game back. Neither should be started with any level of confidence if both are active, while Davis would continue to be a boom-or-bust WR4 if Brown remains sidelined.

TE breakdown: The Bills usually dial up at least one deep ball or end zone target for Dawson Knox (neck) per week, but he’s ultimately scored just twice while failing to reach even 40 yards in a game all season. The ceiling here isn’t high enough to warrant fantasy consideration, particularly against a Broncos defense that is one of just seven units to allow three or fewer scores to the position this season.

Broncos Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Tim Patrick 77 210 1.88 Levi Wallace 72 179 4.63 1.19
R Jerry Jeudy 73 192 4.45 1.61 Tre'Davious White 71 192 4.47 1
S K.J. Hamler 69 173 1.3 Taron Johnson 71 192 4.5 1.56

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Tre'Davious White’s shadow schedule hasn’t made a lot of sense this season; he didn’t even shadow DeAndre Hopkins during the Bills’ epic Week 10 loss to the Cardinals. The Bills could certainly decide to match him up with Tim Patrick or Jerry Jeudy on the outside, but I’d bet on them not assigning him to a particular receiver with Drew Lock spreading the rock around fairly evenly more weeks than not.

This means that Patrick can again be treated as a legit boom-or-bust WR3 who has been doing far more of the former this season. Excluding Week 12’s practice squad WR-turned-QB-induced mess, Patrick has surpassed 100 yards or scored in seven of his past nine games.

Jeudy hasn’t had more than five targets in a game since Week 11. This is truly a shame, as he is already a handful for any cornerback to deal with in one-on-one coverage.

And then we have K.J. Hamler, who roasted Rasul Douglas on 49- and 37-yard touchdowns in Week 14. The rookie is always one of the fastest players on the field, although the Bills do deserve credit for posting top-12 marks in yards per attempt and explosive pass-play rate to targets out of the slot.

Ultimately, Lock has a top-five big-time throw rate and a bottom-three turnover-worthy play rate. It’s anyone’s guess as to which version of AFC Jameis will show up during any given week. Lock is capable of engaging in a fun shootout with Josh Allen, but it’s also probably asking a lot for back-to-back terrific performances.

The Bills have largely done a great job on defense against the Chargers (17 points), 49ers (24) and especially the Steelers (15) since their Week 11 bye. I’m inclined to largely fade this Broncos’ passing game in fantasy formats other than DFS GPPs. Even then, meh.

TE breakdown: Noah Fant (illness) played just five snaps in Week 14 before departing. Troy Fumagalli (3-53-0) and Nick Vannett (4-20-1) split snaps and picked up the slack. None are appealing fantasy options this week, even in a cozy matchup against the league’s fourth-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing tight ends.

Carolina Panthers at Green Bay Packers

Panthers Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L D.J. Moore 71 215 4.56 2.18 Kevin King 75 200 4.43 0.95
R Robby Anderson 75 190 2.24 Jaire Alexander 70 196 4.38 0.68
S Curtis Samuel 71 195 4.31 1.68 Chandon Sullivan 71 194 4.6 1.19

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: D.J. Moore has been activated off the COVID-19 list and is expected to be ready to go for Saturday night. Perhaps the Packers decide to check him with Alexander, but the stud cornerback hasn’t been asked to travel with a single wide receiver since Week 7.

Both Moore and Robby Anderson have emerged as two of the league’s more efficient talents at the position, ranking 15th and 14th, respectively, in yards per route run among 117 wideouts with at least 25 targets this season. Anderson is the WR18 in PPR points per game and the safer option, but Moore (WR27) has provided a high floor of late with at least 90 receiving yards in five of his past eight games.

Even Curtis Samuel has impressed throughout most of the season, posting a stellar 84.7% catch rate while also producing a season-long 29-139-2 rushing line with those carries usually coming as a true running back. The continued absence of Christian McCaffrey (shoulder, quad) would be good news for Samuel’s rushing floor, but Moore's return should relegate him back to the No. 3 option in this passing game.

This matchup against the league’s sixth-best defense in fewest PPR points per game allowed to the position isn’t ideal for anyone involved. I’m fine firing up Anderson (my PPR WR20) and Moore (WR23) as low-end WR2 options, but they aren’t necessarily must-starts for some of the more spoiled teams remaining in the fantasy playoffs. Try to find a better option than Samuel; I’m not overly confident in Teddy Bridgewater’s ability to excel in this outdoor spot. 

TE breakdown: Ian Thomas hasn’t caught more than three passes or cleared 30 receiving yards in a game this season. For that reason, he’s well off the fantasy radar.

Packers Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Marquez Valdes-Scantling 76 206 4.37 1.49 Donte Jackson 70 180 4.32 1.27
R Allen Lazard 77 227 4.55 1.88 Troy Pride Jr. 72 190 4.4 1.24
S Davante Adams 73 215 4.56 3.03 Jeremy Chinn 74 211 4.45 0.66

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Davante Adams has objectively been the best wide receiver in the league this season:

  • PFF receiving grade: 92.1 (No. 1 among 117 WRs with 25-plus targets)
  • Receptions: 91 (No. 4)
  • Receiving yards: 1,144 (No. 5)
  • Receiving TDs: 14 (tied for No. 1)
  • Drops: 0 (tied for No. 1)
  • Yards per route run: 3.03 (No. 1)
  • PPR points per game: 26.1 (No. 1)

Adams is the only receiver with over 70 targets without a drop. Madness. Continue to fire him up as the position’s No. 1 option against literally anybody.

Allen Lazard continues to be used sparingly, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling remains the No. 2 pass-game option in this offense. Credit to the much-maligned third-year receiver for catching all six of his targets for 85 yards and a score last week, but he’d previously gone eight consecutive quarters without a catch. Treat Valdes-Scantling as a true boom-or-bust WR4, and consider lighting up a lucky candle before starting him in any sort of meaningful playoff matchup.

TE breakdown: Robert Tonyan is the PPR TE6 on the season and has scored a touchdown in five consecutive games. The third-year tight end hasn’t received even eight targets in a game this season, but he’s been a favorite of Aaron Rodgers for largely the entire campaign. Continue to fire up Tonyan as a touchdown-dependent TE1 who does nothing except score. I’d start only Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and Mark Andrews ahead of him this week.

San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys

49ers Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Brandon Aiyuk 73 206 4.5 1.81 Rashard Robinson 74 177 4.49 0.99
R Richie James 69 185 4.48 1.89 Deante Burton 74 205 1.8
S Kendrick Bourne 73 203 4.68 1.32 Jourdan Lewis 70 195 4.54 0.91

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Deebo Samuel (hamstring) is unlikely to suit up this week. Credit to Kendrick Bourne for making some solid snags in Week 14 and to Richie James Jr. for showing legit wide receiver ability with his newfound reps during the second half of the season.

Still, Brandon Aiyuk is the man in San Francisco with Samuel sidelined. The rookie has been borderline unstoppable for the better part of the last three months.

Aiyuk has scored or surpassed 100 yards in six consecutive games. He’s ripped off target totals of 10, 14, nine and 16 in his past four games. Fire him up as a true upside WR2 against the Cowboys’ league-worst scoring defense. You’d better have a damn good reason to keep Aiyuk on the bench in this dream matchup.

TE breakdown: George Kittle (foot) has been designated to return from injured reserve, but a Week 16 comeback (if anything) seems more likely than this Sunday. The good news is that we know the 49ers will be ready to feature him once active. Kittle had 15 targets and played 99% of the offense’s snaps in Week 4 after missing two games due to injury. He’ll be back to being the weekly No. 2 option at the position once active. It’d be easier to get behind either Jordan Reed or Ross Dwelley if one or the other was featured, but Reed is merely a touchdown-dependent, low-end TE2 as long as they continue to split targets and reps.

Cowboys Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Michael Gallup 73 198 4.51 1.25 Jason Verrett 70 188 4.38 0.84
R Amari Cooper 73 210 4.42 1.89 Richard Sherman 75 195 4.54 0.4
S CeeDee Lamb 74 191 4.5 1.77 Dontae Johnson 74 200 4.45 0.94

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Andy Dalton has looked “good” for eight quarters this season against the Vikings and Bengals — the league’s two worst defenses in pressure rate. The 49ers (No. 23) aren’t much better, but either way, the Cowboys' offense lost the benefit of the doubt a long time ago. Dalton hasn’t reached 300 passing yards in a game this season.

Amari Cooper is the only player from this offense at this point who fantasy football managers should actually feel some semblance of joy with starting. The sixth-year receiver has actually shown some level of consistency this season, racking up at least 65 yards or a touchdown in all but two games despite the team’s tumultuous situation under center.

Cooper obviously doesn’t have the same ceiling without Dak Prescott, but he’s caught at least four passes for 50 yards in seven of eight contests without the team’s franchise quarterback. The WR15 in PPR points per game can continue to be relied on as a solid top-20 option at the position despite the less-than-ideal matchup.

Michael Gallup has been a boom-or-bust WR4 all season. I wouldn’t count on the former scenario happening against the 49ers’ pair of talented corners. CeeDee Lamb still looks like one of the league’s next great receivers, but he’s ultimately had fewer than 50 receiving yards in all but two games since Prescott (ankle, injured reserve) was lost for the season.

TE breakdown: Dalton Schultz has surpassed 50 yards in just one game since Prescott's season ended. He’s also found the end zone just once during that span. Do not start Schultz against the league’s single-best defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position. Just don’t do it.

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team

Seahawks Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L D.K. Metcalf 75 229 4.33 2.25 Kendall Fuller 71 198 1.06
R David Moore 72 215 1.38 Ronald Darby 71 193 4.38 1.41
S Tyler Lockett 70 182 4.4 1.71 Jimmy Moreland 70 179 1.09

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Defenses simply can’t guard the Seahawks the same way that they can approach other offenses. D.K. Metcalf is borderline impossible to handle in single coverage.

  • PFF receiving grade: 93.8 (No. 4 among 66 WRs with at least 25 targets in single coverage)
  • Receiving yards: 814 (No. 1)
  • Yards per reception: 22 (No. 5)
  • Yards per route run: 4.99 (No. 2)

The Football Team boasts the league’s fifth-best defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers. In other words, this matchup isn’t a cakewalk. Still, the lack of any sort of size from their trio of starting corners could be incredibly problematic against an alpha like Metcalf. Continue start him as a top-five option at the position, and don’t be surprised if or when his streak of five games without 100 yards and a touchdown comes to an end.

It’s been eight weeks since Lockett has cleared the century mark and found his way to the end zone in the same game. The Seahawks’ overqualified No. 2 wideout is averaging career-low marks in yards per reception (10.8) and average target depth (10.9). Lockett’s standing as a truly great real-life wide receiver hasn’t gone anywhere, but this less-than-ideal matchup probably isn’t the week to expect him to get back to his triple-touchdown ways. Treat him as more of a boom-or-bust WR2 than a locked-in WR1 throughout the fantasy playoffs.

David Moore struggles to clear 50% snaps on a weekly basis, so he’s not a realistic fantasy option.

TE breakdown: Will Dissly scored last week but continues to split snaps right down the middle with Jacob Hollister. Neither is a realistic fantasy option as long as reps continue to be so equal.

Football Team Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Terry McLaurin 72 208 4.35 1.99 D.J. Reed Jr. 69 188 4.51 1.47
R Cam Sims 77 214 1.41 Shaquill Griffin 72 198 4.38 1.09
S Isaiah Wright 74 220 0.87 Ugo Amadi 69 201 4.51 0.9

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Alex Smith (calf) could be sidelined, meaning Dwayne Haskins would be back under center. Terry McLaurin has put up duds two weeks in a row, but we can’t forget that he has largely balled out regardless of who has been under center over the past two seasons.

McLaurin is quickly approaching Allen Robinson II/Andre Johnson levels of inadequate quarterback play. Alas, there’s no way that the artist known as F1 can be left on fantasy benches this week against the league’s single-worst secondary in PPR points per game allowed to the position. Credit to the Seahawks for playing better recently against the Eagles' (180 passing yards), Giants' (100) and Jets' (116) “vaunted” passing attacks, but I’m at least confident in McLaurin having his way with this secondary.

Isaiah Wright and (especially) Cam Sims have each flashed some solid after-the-catch ability this season. So, there’s simply not enough volume or efficiency in this passing game to enable more than one fantasy-relevant wide receiver.

TE breakdown: Logan Thomas has posted 4-20-1, 9-98-1 and 6-43-0 lines over the past three weeks. “Chris Hogan played lacrosse” is now “Logan Thomas used to play quarterback.” Regardless, this versatility has presented a few fantasy-friendly rushes and pass attempts this season. Continue to treat the TE11 in PPR points per game as a borderline TE1, particularly if Smith is back under center.

Chicago Bears at Minnesota Vikings

Bears Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Allen Robinson II 75 211 4.6 2.03 Cameron Dantzler 74 185 4.64 1.46
R Darnell Mooney 71 175 4.38 1.02 Chris Jones 72 200 4.57 1.36
S Anthony Miller 71 190 1.2 Jeff Gladney 72 183 4.48 1.62

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: A-Rob looked fully recovered from his Week 13 knee issue against the Texans, catching nine of 13 targets for 123 yards and a score. Up next is a Vikings secondary that limited him to a 6-43-0 line on just nine targets back in Week 10, although the insertion of Mitchell Trubisky under center has actually led to a mini-boost for this offense as a whole. Overall, the Bears have quietly averaged 30.3 points per game in three contests since their Week 11 bye.

Mooney and Miller are viable stacking parters with Trubisky in contrarian GPP contests; just don’t get carried away with this newfound success from the Bears’ passing game. Continue to fire up Robinson as the upside WR2 that he’s been all season against the league’s fifth-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position.

TE breakdown: Jimmy Graham scored last week, but Cole Kmet continued to dominate snaps and had seven targets for the second consecutive game. Again: Don’t get greedy in fantasyland with the Bears’ complementary pass-game options. Still, this sort of near every-down usage and solid-enough pass-game role has Kmet in the TE2 conversation; just realize I’d prefer to wait until Week 16’s matchup against the Jaguars before trusting him or Mooney as anything more than a desperate dart throw.

Vikings Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Justin Jefferson 73 202 4.43 2.66 Jaylon Johnson 72 195 4.5 1.21
R Adam Thielen 74 200 2 Kyle Fuller 71 190 4.49 0.77
S Chad Beebe 70 183 0.8 Duke Shelley 69 180 1.43

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Jefferson (8-135-0) and Thielen (4-43-2) each had their way with this secondary back in Week 10. A trip back to the friendly confines of U.S. Bank Stadium could produce even better performances. Through 14 weeks Thielen (WR8) and Jefferson (WR12) have each functioned as true fantasy WR1s in PPR points per game.

The largest issue that faces this passing game is simple: volume. Luckily, Kirk Cousins is averaging a career-high 8.0 yards per attempt on the season. Cousins has more big-time throws (22) than he did in 2019 (21); the man deserves some credit for playing largely great ball throughout the season. He’s a legit QB1 anytime 1) Dalvin Cook doesn’t go absolutely bonkers, and 2) the Vikings’ offensive line holds up even a little bit.

It’s not a guarantee these factors swing the Vikings’ way in Week 15, but we’ve seen enough of a ceiling throughout the year to confidently rank all parties involved inside the top 15 options at the position.

TE breakdown: Kyle Rudolph (foot) was sidelined in Week 13, leading to Irv Smith to catch all four of his targets for 63 yards and a score. The production made sense: Smith is one of the league’s most-talented “backup” TEs. Still, his 35% snap rate was a season-low mark, and the second-year TE ultimately ran a route on just 17 of Cousins’ 49 dropbacks. I’m fine treating Smith as a legit TE1 if he gets in a full week of full practices, but we shouldn’t expect the same level of production in Week 15 if it looks like he’ll once again have a limited role.

New England Patriots at Miami Dolphins

Patriots Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Damiere Byrd 69 180 1.46 Byron Jones 72 205 4.49 1.34
R N'Keal Harry 74 228 4.53 1.14 Xavien Howard 73 192 4.58 1.25
S Jakobi Meyers 74 203 4.63 2.15 Nik Needham 72 203 1.39

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Cam Newton and company were rather abysmal against the Rams’ juggernaut defense in Week 14. There’s been an extremely low floor here all season; Cam has thrown for fewer than 175 passing yards in all but three starts.

The strong point of the Dolphins’ defense is their pair of stud outside corners. The reality that Meyers has 60 or fewer scoreless yards in all but one game this season reinforces the reality that we can’t trust anybody from this passing game in fantasy formats of all shapes and sizes.

TE breakdown: Nope.

Dolphins Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Jakeem Grant 67 169 1.51 J.C. Jackson 73 198 4.46 1.05
R DeVante Parker 75 216 4.45 1.7 Stephon Gilmore 73 202 4.38 1.02
S Lynn Bowden Jr. 71 199 1.37 Jonathan Jones 70 190 4.33 1.49

Projected shadow matchups: DeVante Parker (hamstring) vs. Stephon Gilmore

WR/CB breakdown: The Dolphins actually had Gilmore shadow Preston Williams (foot, IR) during their Week 1 matchup, perhaps because the Dolphins’ No. 1 WR boat raced Gilmore to the tune of an 8-137-0 line in Week 17 of 2019.

Either way, it’s not an easy matchup for Parker even if he’s emerged victorious before, and the fact that he’ll be operating at less than 100% adds another layer of risk to this spot.

This entire Dolphins offense is all kinds of banged up. In Week 14 the Dolphins:

  1. Were down to their No. 4 RB with each of Myles Gaskin (covid, IR), Matt Breida (covid, IR) and Salvon Ahmed (shoulder) out.
  2. Started three rookies across the offensive line.
  3. Were without Parker (hamstring), Grant (hamstring) and Mike Gesicki (shoulder) by the end of the game.

Sheesh. Rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa has actually impressed in recent weeks; the same can’t be said for this banged-up supporting cast.

The only potential fantasy option in this offense is fantasy RB/WR hybrid Bowden, who has caught 11 of 13 targets for 123 yards over the past two weeks to go along with 13 rushing yards and an incompletion. The Dolphins don’t have much of a choice but to feature their Swiss Army knife at this point; Bowden is a legit upside WR3 this week and worthy of strong consideration as a spot starter thanks to his position versatility across the industry.

Check out the Wednesday edition of The PFF Fantasy Football Podcast for more thoughts on Bowden and every Week 15 matchup.

TE breakdown: The likely absence of Gesicki (shoulder) will lead to a two-TE committee between Adam Shaheen and Durham Smythe. Neither is a recommended fantasy option against the league’s third-best defense in fewest PPR points per game against the position. 

Jacksonville Jaguars at Baltimore Ravens

Jaguars Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L D.J. Chark Jr. 76 198 4.34 1.41 Jimmy Smith 74 210 4.42 0.37
R Laviska Shenault Jr. 74 220 4.58 1.48 Marcus Peters 72 195 4.53 1.16
S Keelan Cole 73 194 1.19 Marlon Humphrey 72 197 4.41 1.02

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Gardner Minshew is back under center, but who knows how long his leash will be. A road trip to face the Ravens’ blitz-happy defense is hardly the sort of spot that fantasy football managers should be willing to gamble on.

Chark has surpassed 60 yards on one occasion since Week 4. Shenault had a season-high 11 targets in Week 14 but ultimately has struggled to maintain high-end weekly involvement. Cole’s 7-67-1 performance in Week 14 was his first game with more than 50 receiving yards since Week 6.

Don’t play anybody (other than James RB1son) from this Jaguars offense unless you have to. These three receivers aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination, but each has a near-zero floor as a member of the league’s 28th-ranked scoring offense against the Ravens’ ever-talented secondary. The potential absence of Smith (shoulder) would help; it’s still a stretch to expect much of anything from anybody involved in this mediocre passing game.

TE breakdown: Please refer to the back half of the previous section’s final sentence.

Ravens Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Miles Boykin 76 220 4.42 0.97 Greg Mabin 73 200 1.07
R Marquise Brown 69 170 1.63 Sidney Jones 72 181 4.47 2.32
S Willie Snead IV 71 205 4.62 1.58 Tre Herndon 71 185 1.25

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Both Boykin and Brown are on the covid list. A positive test would rule either receiver out. Devin Duvernay and Dez Bryant would be the most likely additions to three-WR sets if the Ravens’ starters can't go.

Other than DFS, stay away from the backup receivers in this passing game. Hollywood has resumed being deserving of his nickname with 4-85-1, 5-39-1 and 2-50-1 performances over the past three weeks, but even then we’ve seen a troublingly steady supply of drops.

The rest of the group has largely been mediocre all season; Duvernay is the only one I have any potential interest thanks to his proven speed and play-making as a kick returner this season. Even then we’re talking about a boom-or-bust WR5 at best.

TE breakdown: Mark Andrews *should* be the huge beneficiary of Brown and Boykin’s potential absences. He’s posted 7-61-0, 5-96-1 and 5-78-0 receiving lines over the past three weeks and might be able to flirt with double-digit targets for the first time all season in a matchup that could bring out the best in Lamar Jackson as a passer. Overall, the Jaguars rank 30th in pressure rate and dead last in yards per attempt allowed this season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons

Buccaneers Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Mike Evans 77 231 4.53 1.42 A.J. Terrell 73 190 4.42 1.47
R Antonio Brown 70 181 4.56 1.57 Darqueze Dennard 71 200 4.51 1.02
S Chris Godwin 73 209 4.42 1.83 Isaiah Oliver 72 210 4.5 1.72

Projected shadow matchups: Mike Evans vs. A.J. Terrell

WR/CB breakdown: Terrell has matched Adam Thielen (3-51-1), Michael Thomas (9-105-0) and Keenan Allen (9-52-1) this season with mostly poor results. This makes sense: Each of those WRs is objectively a baller and Terrell is just 22 years of age. Regardless, the matchup isn’t anything for Evans’ fantasy managers to fear if it winds up occurring.

TB12 only threw the ball 23 times in Week 14, resulting in just 196 yards and two scores through the air despite posting his highest PFF passing grade (78.6) since Brown joined the fold in Week 8. We haven’t seen the sort of high-end production that we expected over the past month, although the best enlightenment over the Buccaneers’ last two games is the reality that Brady has re-found his long ball. The 43-year-old QB started off hot when throwing at least 20 yards downfield, cooled off for a bit, but has been back to lighting up defenses deep in recent weeks:

  • Weeks 1-4: 13-for-24 on passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield (55% completion rate)
  • Weeks 5-11: 5-for-34 (15%)
  • Weeks 12-14: 6-for-11 (55%)

The lack of effectiveness downfield was always more of a timing issue than anything to do with arm strength. A lack of passing volume can doom any passing game; we need to go back to the well here with each of Evans, AB and Godwin against the league’s second-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing WRs. Each of Evans (WR18), Godwin (WR26) and Brown (WR28) are ranked among my top-30 options at the position ahead of Week 15.

TE breakdown: Gronk has scored or surpassed 100 yards in six of his last eight games. The 31-year-old TE has overcome his slow start enough to score the 10th-most PPR points at the position. Continue to fire up Gronkowski as the TE1 that he’s been all season, particularly against a Falcons defense that is one of just six units that has allowed at least nine scores to the position through 14 weeks.

Falcons Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Brandon Powell 68 181 0.62 Sean Murphy-Bunting 72 195 4.42 1.38
R Calvin Ridley 73 190 4.43 2.36 Carlton Davis 73 206 4.53 1.33
S Russell Gage 72 184 1.53 Ross Cockrell 72 190 4.56 0.31

Projected shadow matchups: Calvin Ridley vs. Carlton Davis

WR/CB breakdown: Ridley has posted the following receiving lines in 16 career games with at least eight targets:

  • 7 receptions-146 yards-3 TDs
  • 6-71-1
  • 8-93-1
  • 8-105-1
  • 5-88-1
  • 8-143-1
  • 6-85-1
  • 8-91-0
  • 9-130-2
  • 7-109-2
  • 5-110-0
  • 8-136-0
  • 5-90-0
  • 6-50-1
  • 5-108-0
  • 8-124-1

That’s good for a 109-1,679-15 line overall, and an average of 6.8-105-0.9 per game.

Ridley has emerged as one of the league’s most matchup-proof WRs. Spare me the Jaire Alexander argument. It’s unclear if the Buccaneers will even ask Davis to track Ridley after being scorched against Tyreek Hill to the tune of 204 yards and three scores in his direct coverage. Either way, continue to fire up Ridley as the top-10 WR that he’s been all season.

Gage will again be a viable low-ceiling WR3 play if Julio Jones (hamstring) remains sidelined. I wouldn’t expect too much upside; the Buccaneers are a top-10 defense in both explosive play-rate and yards per attempt allowed to targets out of the slot. Still, perhaps Gage will stay hot as arguably the best pure thrower of the football in the league. 

Neither Powell nor Christian Blake are realistic fantasy options due to volume concerns.

TE breakdown: Hayden Hurst had at least 50 yards in six of his first nine games of the season, but he’s limped to 0-0-0, 4-48-0, 1-9-0 and 1-7-0 performances ever since. It’s tough to expect a major turnaround with Matt Ryan struggling to operate as anything resembling an average passer with Jones sidelined. The reality that Hurst isn’t even getting a true target bump with Jones sidelined reinforces the reality that he’s not a recommended fantasy option this week.

Detroit Lions at Tennessee Titans

Lions Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Quintez Cephus 73 207 4.73 1.49 Tye Smith 72 195 4.6 1.13
R Marvin Jones 74 198 1.3 Malcolm Butler 71 190 1.24
S Danny Amendola 71 190 4.58 1.98 Desmond King II 70 200 0.77

Projected shadow matchups: Marvin Jones vs. Malcolm Butler

WR/CB breakdown: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports Matthew Stafford’s (ribs) status is in doubt, but he hasn’t been ruled out yet. Clearly, reduced passing volume is on the table if he’s able to play through the pain. Daniel has thrown eight career TDs despite finding four different teams to agree to pay him at least $10 million to play professional football.

The Titans are hardly a defense to fear, but it’s tough to get behind any of these pass-game options with Daniel under center. The next game that Daniel manages to clear even 250 passing yards will be his first. Jones has emerged as a lower-end WR3 with Kenny Golladay (hip) sidelined, although even he isn’t a recommended fantasy option if Stafford is ultimately ruled out.

TE breakdown: T.J. Hockenson has scored or reached 50 receiving yards in all but one game this season. He’s the only viable pass catcher in this offense with Daniel under center, and his matchup against the Titans’ bottom-12 defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position is certainly exploitable. Continue to fire up the Lions’ talented second-year TE as a true fantasy TE1; just realize he’s a bit closer to the bottom of the spectrum as opposed to his usual positioning near the top.

Titans Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L A.J. Brown 72 226 4.49 2.58 Darryl Roberts 72 182 1.38
R Corey Davis 75 209 2.76 Amani Oruwariye 73 205 4.47 1.42
S Cameron Batson 68 175 0.76 Justin Coleman 71 190 4.53 1.28

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: I wrote a feature on the Titans’ pair of great WRs last week and concluded the following:

“AJB is objectively and subjectively better only because he’s that fooking good compared to almost any other WR in the league. There have not been 10 better receivers than Brown over the past two seasons. Period. The fact Davis has even been in the same ballpark during this span is a testament to his own high-end talent, improvement and chemistry with Tannehill.

The answer to Brown vs. Davis is Brown, but it’s close enough to not matter in fantasy and real life alike. Fantasy football managers as well as the Titans organization and their fans should be thankful to be associated with both WRs — all either has done for the better part of the past two years is ball the hell out. It’s always AJB WR1 szn, but that doesn’t mean CD WR2 szn business can’t be booming as well.”

Week 14 was certainly better for Brown (7-112-1) than Davis (3-34-0), but the latter player’s underwhelming performance was simply a side effect of Ryan Tannehill only needing to throw 24 times. A lack of overall passing game volume is always a concern in Tennessee; just realize both of these receivers remain far too talented to be placed anywhere near a fantasy bench.

Both Brown (WR7) and Davis (WR21) are top-24 options for me this week against the Lions’ 29th-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position.

TE breakdown: The Titans basically use a four-TE committee between Jonnu Smith (62% snaps), MyCole Pruitt (52%), Geoff Swaim (48%) and Anthony Firkser (24%). The former TE remains the most likely candidate to find the end zone, but ultimately Smith hasn’t reached even 50 receiving yards since September. There’s nothing wrong with the matchup; just realize Smith’s best-case scenario is as the No. 3 pass-game option in this run-first offense. He’s a low-floor TE2 that deserves credit for playing through the pain for most of the second half of the year.

Houston Texans at Indianapolis Colts

Texans Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Brandin Cooks 70 183 4.33 1.82 Xavier Rhodes 73 218 4.43 0.86
R Chad Hansen 74 202 4.53 2.04 Rock Ya-Sin 72 192 4.51 1.68
S Keke Coutee 71 180 4.43 1.64 Kenny Moore II 69 190 1.21

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Week 14 marked just the second time since Week 3 that Deshaun Watson was held under 300 total yards. This week’s matchup is far from ideal, but the return of Cooks (foot, neck) would at least give Watson the sort of field-stretching talent that’s usually brought the best out of him.

Cooks will be a borderline WR2 if active against the same secondary he posted a 5-65-0 performance against back in Week 13.

If not, both Coutee and Hansen have earned low-end WR3 appeal. Each has made the most out of each and every opportunity thrown their way since being thrust into the starting lineup in Week 13:

  • Coutee: 12 targets, 11 receptions, 165 yards, 1 TD
  • Hansen: 14 targets, 12 receptions, 157 yards, 0 TD

Credit to the Colts for allowing the ninth-fewest PPR points per game to opposing WRs; Watson is a borderline Jedi in his ability to get the most out of his surrounding talent. Fire up whoever winds up being active around him; the man that Dabo Swinney said would be the “Michael Jordan of football” has played well enough over the past four seasons to at least not rule out the lofty proclamation just yet. 

TE breakdown: Akins was blinded by the light revved up like a deuce, another runner in the night and dropped a sure-fire TD in Week 14. Anybody with even a part-time role in this offense will get the occasional scoring opportunity by virtue of having Watson under center, but the 2020 Texans have embraced more two-RB sets than two-TE formations when pressed at WR. Akins remains the preferred play to Darren Fells, but neither is a recommended fantasy option against a Colts defense that has allowed just two scores to the position all season.

Colts Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Michael Pittman Jr. 76 220 4.52 1.44 Vernon Hargreaves III 70 204 4.5 1.47
R T.Y. Hilton 70 183 4.34 1.71 Keion Crossen 70 185 0.88
S Zach Pascal 74 219 4.55 1.17 Eric Murray 71 199 4.49 1.24

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: I wrote the following about the Colts last week:

Credit to Rivers for game-managing the Colts to an 8-4 start; just realize he’s spreading the ball around more than just about anybody. The Raiders’ 25th-ranked defense in explosive pass-play rate allowed isn’t a unit to fear; we just don’t know who the ball is going to go to.

Pittman deserves to be the top-ranked WR in this offense. However, that honor doesn’t rank him inside of the position’s top-35 options even in this cozy matchup. The same is true for Hilton: There simply isn’t enough consistent volume in this passing game to feel good about anybody involved.

This sentiment holds true. Hilton hasn’t exactly broken away as the offense’s primary pass-catcher; his 35 targets since the Colts’ Week 7 bye trail Pittman (36) and aren’t far removed from either Nyheim Hines (34) or Zach Pascal (28).

Still, this is again the sort of matchup that we know Rivers is plenty capable of exploiting. Hilton’s seven targets last week made him the only Colts player with more than five pass-game opportunities. He and Pittman are each worthy of upside WR3 treatment; just realize this passing game likely won’t need to put their foot on the gas, prime matchup be damned.

TE breakdown: The potential absence of Mo Alie-Cox (knee) would elevate Trey Burton to a borderline TE1. If not, neither MAC, Burton nor Jack Doyle are realistic fantasy options due to their painfully low snap ceiling. Rivers is plenty capable of enabling a high-end fantasy TE; we just can’t live with a three-player committee at the position. 

Philadelphia Eagles at Arizona Cardinals

Eagles Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Alshon Jeffery 75 218 4.48 0.34 Patrick Peterson 73 203 4.31 1.12
R Jalen Reagor 71 195 4.47 1.22 Dre Kirkpatrick 74 196 4.5 1.41
S Greg Ward 71 186 0.94 Byron Murphy 71 190 4.55 1.32

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: PFF’s Seth Galina wrote a great breakdown about Hurts’ first start against the Saints. The main takeaways:

  • The Eagles’ supporting cast on both offense and defense put forward their best game of the season.
  • Hurts didn’t make much happen as a passer and still has a lot to prove in that department.
  • Hurts brought some newfound rushing goodness to the equation and picked up first down after first down on scrambles.

The latter point is the main reason why Hurts will be a fantasy QB1 for the remainder of the season and also why none of these Eagles WRs are realistic fantasy options moving forward. Credit to Jeffery for corralling a 15-yard back shoulder fade for a score, but no receiver in this RB- and TE-heavy offense managed to surpass even five targets last week. Only Ward (74% snaps) played even 70% of the offense’s reps at the position. Please don’t expect anything from a passing game rotating five WRs inside of a run-first offense.

TE breakdown: Both Dallas Goedert (86% snaps) and Zach Ertz (72%) were more involved than Reagor (68%) and Jeffery (45%) last week. The former TE holds some upside TE2 appeal purely thanks to his status as one of the league’s more-talented receivers at the position. Still, I’d refrain from starting either TE unless you have to. 

Cardinals Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L DeAndre Hopkins 73 212 4.57 2.29 Darius Slay 72 190 4.36 1.68
R Christian Kirk 71 200 4.47 1.21 Avonte Maddox 69 180 4.39 1.43
S Larry Fitzgerald 75 218 4.48 0.93 Nickell Robey-Coleman 68 180 1.19

Projected shadow matchups: DeAndre Hopkins vs. Darius Slay (concussion)

WR/CB breakdown: The Eagles could be without each of Slay, Rodney McLeod (ACL, IR) and Maddox (knee). Not great, Bob.

It’s not like Slay has been a matchup for fantasy managers to fear anyway. He’s produced the following results in six shadow dates this season:

Hopkins can safely be treated as an upside WR1 that might just go the hell off against this injury-ravaged secondary. It’d make sense if Kirk manages to find the end zone or surpasses 50 receiving yards for the first time since Week 9. This Cardinals’ passing game hasn’t impressed for the majority of 2020, but this Eagles secondary made Taysom Hill look like a competent passer for the second half of last week. It’d be surprising if Kyler Murray and company don’t keep the ball rolling.

TE breakdown: Dan Arnold has posted 1-4-1, 1-17-0, 2-61-2 and 2-27-1 receiving lines over his past four games despite not playing more than 30 snaps even once. Clearly Kyler Murray and the third-year TE have some chemistry; he just remains nothing more than a TD-dependent TE2 in fantasyland without a more secure role.

New York Jets at Los Angeles Rams

Jets Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Breshad Perriman 74 215 1.52 Darious Williams 69 187 0.8
R Jeff Smith 73 195 0.83 Jalen Ramsey 73 208 4.41 0.49
S Jamison Crowder 69 177 4.56 1.75 Troy Hill 71 183 4.55 1.03

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Sam Darnold threw for 132 scoreless yards and led the Jets to three points against the Seahawks last week. That was in the best-case scenario matchup for this passing game; now they have the worst-case part against the single-best defense in fewest PPR points per game allowed to QBs and WRs alike. Expecting literally anything from Perriman or Crowder is probably too much. Pass.

TE breakdown: Chris Herndon post-Gase breakout star, heard it here first. But until then: pass.

Rams Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Josh Reynolds 75 196 4.52 1.33 Blessuan Austin 73 195 0.98
R Robert Woods 72 195 4.51 1.74 Bryce Hall 73 200 1.28
S Cooper Kupp 74 208 4.62 1.99 Javelin Guidry 69 193 4.29 1.44

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Jared Goff and company had to throw just 25 times in Week 14. Of course, it’d make sense if they pick things up against this sad excuse for a secondary:

  • Passing yards allowed per attempt: 7.89 (No. 30)
  • Explosive pass-play rate allowed: 16.3% (No. 26)
  • QB rating allowed: 113.1 (No. 29)
  • Contested target rate: 14.5% (No. 25)

Woods (WR16) and Kupp (WR23) are each top-24 WRs in PPR points per game. This has largely been the case ever since Sean McVay came to town back in 2017. Treat each as such ahead of a smash spot in which the only concern is high-end volume to go along with their inevitable elite efficiency.

Reynolds and rookie Van Jefferson are splitting snaps; neither are realistic fantasy options.

TE breakdown: Both Tyler Higbee (87% snaps) and Gerald Everett (84%) played full-time roles in Week 14. Still, Week 13 is the only time all season both tight ends had at least five targets in the same game. Neither is anything more than a touchdown-dependent TE2 with this sort of split usage, even in this sort of prime matchup.

Kansas City Chiefs at New Orleans Saints

Chiefs Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Demarcus Robinson 73 203 4.59 0.9 Marshon Lattimore 72 192 4.36 1.48
R Sammy Watkins 73 211 4.43 1.33 Janoris Jenkins 70 190 1.04
S Tyreek Hill 70 185 2.26 Chauncey Gardner-Johnson 72 208 4.48 1.09

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Watkins jumped over a guy last week, but ultimately finished with just two receptions for 52 yards. Robinson and overqualified No. 4 WR Mecole Hardman continue to split reps and not see enough targets to garner realistic fantasy consideration.

Patrick Mahomes has put up stupid numbers this season and managed to do so by largely condensing the majority of the team’s targets to just two players. Both Hill and Travis Kelce find themselves at the top of receiving leaderboards through 14 weeks:

  • Targets: Kelce 117 (No. 6 in the NFL); Hill 116 (No. 7)
  • Receptions: Kelce 90 (No. 5); Hill 77 (tied for No. 14)
  • Receiving yards: Kelce 1,250 (No. 1); Hill 1,158 (No. 4)
  • Receiving TDs: Kelce 9 (tied for No. 6); Hill 14 (tied for No. 1)

The duo has managed to do so with efficiency all season long: Kelce (2.57) and Hill (2.26) rank sixth and 12th in yards per route run among 93 players with at least 50 targets. The only WR that deserves to be ranked higher than Hill is Davante Adams, while nobody has taken Kelce’s PPR crown at TE for five years running. Credit to the Saints for truly turning around their defense during the second half of the season, but nobody can stop the Chiefs’ high-flying passing attack when they’re clicking like they have been all season.

TE breakdown: Assuming Kelce finishes the season as the overall PPR TE1, he will join Tony Gonzalez as the only players at the position with five such seasons since 2000. Nobody else has even had two such seasons. Madness.

Saints Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Michael Thomas 75 212 4.57 2.14 Bashaud Breeland 71 195 4.62 0.81
R Emmanuel Sanders 71 180 4.4 1.73 Charvarius Ward 73 200 0.89
S Tre'Quan Smith 74 210 4.49 1.1 L'Jarius Sneed 73 193 4.37 0.94

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: It seems more likely than not that Drew Brees (ribs/lung, IR) returns in Week 16 as opposed to this Sunday.

The Saints have produced three of their four worst point totals under Taysom Hill, with their only game with more than 24 points coming against a team that was quite literally starting a practice squad WR under center. There’s no debate as to whether or not Brees should get his job back upon returning. I also firmly believe Jameis Winston gives this offense a higher ceiling. However, it doesn’t matter what I believe, it matters what Sean Payton wants to do, and he continues to seem perfectly content with letting Hill function as the engine of this offense as long as Brees remains sidelined.

Hill and this passing game didn’t really get things going until the Eagles lost three starters in their secondary last week; it’s extremely fair to question if he’ll be able to find the same sort of second half success against the Chiefs if a similar negative game script presents itself. Sanders has cleared 50 yards on just one occasion with Hill under center, while Thomas has maintained a solid floor with 9-104-0, 4-50-0, 9-105-0 and 8-84-0 receiving lines over the past four weeks.

Don’t expect anybody other than Thomas to put up anything resembling high-end fantasy production as long as Brees remains sidelined. Pass-game and scoring volume alike are reduced with Hill under center, even against a Chiefs offense that will inevitably force the Saints to keep their foot on the gas to the best of their ability.

TE breakdown: Jared Cook has scored in consecutive weeks with rookie Adam Trautman largely returning to the bench. The change in workload moves the former TE back into the position’s top-20 options, but again anybody other than Thomas in this passing game is best approached with extreme caution as long as Brees remains sidelined.

Cleveland Browns at New York Giants

Browns Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Donovan Peoples-Jones 74 208 4.48 2.27 James Bradberry 73 212 4.5 0.82
R Rashard Higgins 73 198 4.64 1.96 Isaac Yiadom 73 190 4.52 1.18
S Jarvis Landry 71 196 4.77 2.12 Xavier McKinney 73 200 4.63 0.47

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Baker Mayfield has balled out in three consecutive weeks against the Jaguars (258 yards-2 TD-0 INT), Titans (334-4-0) and Ravens (343-2-1) alike. You could actually make the argument that he’s played great since the end of October, as he dominated the Bengals (297-5-1) in Week 7 before the passing game was largely doomed by inclimate weather in each of Weeks 8-11.

Landry is the best bet to keep on keeping on against a Giants secondary that likely won’t ask their No. 1 CB Bradberry to match him in the slot. Coming off 8-143-1, 8-62-1 and 6-52-0 performances, Landry is a legit low-end WR2 against a Giants defense that has allowed the fourth-most yards after the catch to targets lined up in the slot.

Higgins has emerged as a boom-or-bust WR3 in OBJ’s absence, clearing 100 yards or scoring a TD in three of seven games with Beckham sidelined and finishing with 70 or fewer scoreless yards in his other four matchups.

Peoples-Jones has caught five of eight targets for 166 yards and a score over the past three weeks; he’s the clear odd-man out in this equation when we consider the Browns *should* be able to play with a lead and run the ball to their heart’s desire.

TE breakdown: Austin Hooper (neck) was sidelined in Week 13. Both Harrison Bryant (66% snaps) and David Njoku (61%) split snaps and targets (6 vs. 4) alike. Neither are more than TD-dependent TE2 options with Hooper sidelined, and the Browns’ high-priced offseason addition wouldn’t be a recommended start if active considering the potential for limited snaps.

Giants Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Darius Slayton 73 190 4.39 1.41 Terrance Mitchell 71 191 4.63 1.12
R Sterling Shepard 70 201 4.48 1.57 Kevin Johnson 72 185 4.52 1.01
S Golden Tate 70 197 4.42 1.35 M.J. Stewart 71 200 4.54 1.37

Projected shadow matchups: Darius Slayton vs. Terrance Mitchell

WR/CB breakdown: Daniel Jones (hamstring, ankle) is looking unlikely to suit up in Week 15. This would slot Colt McCoy under center, which is incredibly problematic considering he produced just 17 points and 105 passing yards against the Seahawks back in Week 13. Overall, McCoy’s average of 4.4 yards per attempt ranks 54th among 55 QBs with at least 25 dropbacks this season.

Shepard (6 targets), Tate (4) and Evan Engram (8) were the only players with more than one target during McCoy’s start against the Seahawks. None managed to clear even 35 yards. Stay away from each of these receivers; the small reward isn’t worth the far more-likely risk of a near-zero point total.

TE breakdown: Engram is pretty much the only player in this passing game that deserves true fantasy consideration. Even then, the man has finished with fewer than 50 receiving yards in all but three games this season. Engram has just one score through 14 weeks of action. The TE18 in PPR points per game is still nothing more than a borderline TE1 at best with or without Jones under center. At worst he’s a non-recommended fantasy option.

Pittsburgh Steelers at Cincinnati Bengals

Steelers Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L Diontae Johnson 70 183 4.6 1.71 William Jackson 72 196 4.37 1.05
R Chase Claypool 76 227 4.42 1.95 LeShaun Sims 72 203 4.53 1.66
S JuJu Smith-Schuster 73 215 4.54 1.27 Mackensie Alexander 70 192 1.37

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Johnson’s drops finally caught up to him enough to land the second-year receiver on the bench for a large portion of the first half during the Steelers’ Week 14 loss to the Bills. The good news is that Johnson (19 snaps) got his job back in the second half, but it was at the expense of Claypool (3), who worked behind each of JuJu (19) and James Washington (16).

I believe Claypool has been the best Steelers receiver this season, but he can’t be relied on as anything more than a boom-or-bust WR5 as long as his own offense is treating him as the No. 4 option at the position. Washington has scored in consecutive games but has had more than five targets in a game just once since Week 7.

JuJu and Johnson are the only realistic fantasy options out of this high-volume passing game this week. Smith-Schuster has caught at least six passes in nine of 13 games this season, yet hasn’t managed to clear 100 yards. The reality that old-man JuJu (WR19) is a top-20 PPR WR is everything that’s wrong with full point-per-reception scoring. The Steelers realize Johnson is their best option out wide; just realize we can’t treat him as more than a boom-or-bust WR2 while in-game benchings remain a drop or two away from occurring.

Similarly ranked start/sit questions should lean towards non-Steelers WRs. The matchup is plenty winnable; this passing game has simply been struggle bussing recently and doesn’t offer much of a ceiling. 

TE breakdown: Eric Ebron’s snap rate dipped below 70% for the first time since Week 1. Tied for fourth in the league with seven drops on the season, Ebron joins Johnson as theoretical high-volume players that would be excellent weekly fantasy assets if they could just hold onto the ball. As it stands, both should probably continue to be fired up in fantasy, particularly Ebron against the league’s third-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing TEs.

Bengals Offense
WR Player Height Weight Speed YPRR CB Height Weight Speed YPRR
L A.J. Green 76 210 4.48 0.93 Steven Nelson 71 194 4.49 0.93
R Tee Higgins 76 215 1.75 Cameron Sutton 71 188 4.52 1.05
S Tyler Boyd 74 203 4.58 1.73 Mike Hilton 69 184 1.48

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Brandon Allen threw for 217 yards and led the Bengals to three points against the Cowboys in Week 14 and it honestly felt like a massive improvement for everyone involved. The sad, sad state that this offense has been in for the past two seasons should be blamed on coach Zac Taylor. The fact Joe Burrow won two games with this unit is a minor miracle; there has been one questionable schematic and personnel blunder after another for the better part of the past two years.

The reality that Gio Bernard was benched following a first quarter fumble was especially maddening. The last time the veteran back lost a fumble from a rush attempt was Week 5 of his rookie season back in 2013. Trayveon Williams fumbled the next possession and wasn’t benched. If coach Taylor is trying to hold his team accountable for their performance, what exactly has Green done to deserve every-down treatment despite goose-egging on four separate occasions this season?

Sigh. Anyway, please don’t touch anyone involved in this offense with a 10-foot pole. The Bengals have struggled to protect their QB all season, and this Steelers’ pass-rush held the Burrow-led version of this offense to just 10 points back in Week 10. The Bengals and Jets are both implied to score a pedestrian 13.5 points this week; stay the hell away everyone. 

TE breakdown: Please read the previous sentence again.

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