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Fantasy Football Rundown: Week 15

Thoughts on every single NFL game and every single player that’s fantasy relevant for Week 15. 

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

Welcome to the Rundown where I give at least a sentence on every single fantasy relevant player this week. Let’s begin!

New England Patriots at Cincinnati Bengals

Tom Brady’s recent box scores have been so bad, even in a good matchup against the woeful Cincinnati Bengals, Brady can only be trusted as a back-end QB2. He’s got reasonable mid-to-high QB2 upside, given the matchup, but he is not a recommended start. Julian Edelman will assuredly see double digit targets once again come his way. He’s a tried and true WR1. The smorgasbord of ancillary Patriots receivers (Phillip Dorsett II, Mohamed Sanu, N’Keal Harry, and Jakobi Meyers) are as abundant as they are unreliable. Someone in this group is likely to make a little noise in such a nice matchup. Who that is, is anyone’s guess. They are all extremely risky deep, deep league flex options. None of them are recommended. There are no fantasy-relevant tight ends on the roster. James White is lone Patriots running back to trust. Sony Michel and Rex Burkhead have largely been ghosts, while White has Tom Brady’s unwavering trust. He retains rights to his now-weekly RB25 spot, coming in as the premier RB flex option of Week 15.

Things look even more grim on the Cincy side of things. Andy Dalton is a mere QB3 -- and a sure bet to toss a pass or two to the Patriots’ dominant secondary. He’s not a recommended start. Tyler Boyd could be used as a flex option but it’ll be tough sledding for the young man. Both Alex Erickson and John Ross III are tough starts. At best, they’re Hail Mary options in extremely deep leagues. Tyler Eifert belongs in fantasy free agency. Joe Mixon is a usage-based, back-end RB2. His dual threat skillset, arguably underutilized, brings intrigue to this matchup. New England has often shut down rushing attacks, however, they’ve been had by running backs through the air. You could do far worse than rolling with Mixon as an RB2 this week. Ignore Giovani Bernard.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Detroit Lions

Practice reports on Jameis Winston are not as promising as we’d hoped for. He is managing limited participation, however, he’s still only throwing a tennis ball -- he’s unable to grip a football at the moment. For the moment, expect Winston to start -- the message that the team is still verbally sending to the media. However, it would be prudent to prepare for a backup plan. If he’s good to go, this is a dynamite matchup. He’s the overall QB3 in our Week 15 tiered rankings. Ryan Griffin is a moderately solid backup quarterback who won’t move the needle too far south for the pass catching weapons should he take the reigns for this dreamy matchup with Detroit. With Mike Evans and his bum hammy shelved for the time being, Chris Godwin can expect an increase in his already healthy target share. He’s a QB-irrelevant WR1. Rounding out 3-wide sets will likely be Breshad Perriman and Scotty Miller, the latter’s return from a hamstring injury bounces would-be starter, Justin Watson, down a notch. The Lions’ secondary equates to that of a wet paper towel. Both Perriman and Miller are viable streamers. Consider them high-upside flexes. Justin Watson would slide into the same category should Miller suffer a setback with his hamstring. OJ Howard has become somewhat more stable as a back-end TE1 option while Cameron Brate shows up with good box scores out of nowhere. Brate is not a recommended start. This is a good matchup for Howard though. Ronald Jones II leads this 3-headed backfield into a great matchup with the hapless Lions run defense. HC Bruce Arians’ tendency to bench anyone who breathes incorrectly makes Jones a shaky start -- on top of the work that Peyton Barber and Dare Ogunbowale will take from him, Barber as the plodder, Ogunbowale as the pass catcher. The other two can be put out of sight and out of mind. Jones though can be considered a low floor/solid ceiling flex option.

Tampa Bay’s pass defense is among the worst in the NFL. Given that their run defense is top notch, it’s reasonable to expect a healthy number of pass attempts for Lions’ QB David Blough. Blough’s been a tale of two players in his two starts this year. It’s likely we see a solid box score from him in such a good matchup though. Consider Blough a mid-tier QB2 with Top 15 upside. With Marvin Jones Jr. big placed on Injured Reserve, Kenny Golladay should finally start averaging weekly double-digit targets. Golladay’s going to have a field day with this Bucs’ secondary. Expect a true WR1 performance. Likewise, Danny Amendola should also receive a target bump with Jones Jr. shelved. He’s a solid PPR flex option who could work his way into back-end WR2 PPR production. TE Logan Thomas should see fringer TE1/2 work and could hit paydirt in an excellent matchup. Bo Scarbrough would be no more than a volume-based flex option, should he play. However, after recording a limited participation in practice on Wednesday, he was unable to practice at all on Thursday. Should he sit, Ty Johnson would plod to unusable fantasy production while JD McKissic could produce as a deep, deep flex option in PPR leagues.

Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans

Tennessee’s pass defense is mid-tier, at best. Deshaun Watson should have no issue hanging points on them. He’s the overall QB2. Will Fuller V would be an excellent flex option, if he’s able to play (hamstring). He’s got sky-high upside. Kenny Stills would really only be worthy of flex consideration if Fuller was to sit. Stills has mostly cooled off since hot start to the season so and would be tough to trust, regardless. DeAndre Carter was just a one-week wonder. Darren Fells and Jordan Akins have worked their way into cancelling each other out. The Titans are especially bad at covering tight ends though so if you’re in need of a gamble, you could roll with one of them. Duke Johnson Jr. and Carlos Hyde are both just flex options. Duke in PPR and Hyde in Standard. Hyde’s lost a little work to the far superior Duke over the last few weeks. It’s not enough to make Duke a comfortable start though, despite the solid matchup.

Ryan Tannehill is unquestionably playing the best football of his career -- and currently some of the best in the NFL. These two offenses will play nicely off of each other. They’ll score with ease and force the other one to keep the pedal to the medal. This is an excellent matchup for Tannehill and he should be fearlessly started as this week’s overall QB5. AJ Brown is an outstanding, young talent and he deserves to be in your lineup as a WR2 with rocket-like upside. The Texans’ secondary is bad. They will not be able to contain him. Fellow WR Corey Davis also deserves flex consideration. Jonnu Smith and Anthony Firkser form a less-than-desirable 1-2 punch at tight end for the Titans. Smith typically gets the edge in targets and this is a strong matchup. If you’re in need of a Hail Mary, he’s a decent choice. Literal Titan, Derrick Henry, has been unable to practice both on Wednesday and Thursday this week (hamstring). Both he and HC Mike Vrabel have said he will, without a doubt, start and see a healthy workload this week. Believe it. And let this week’s overall RB1 take you to the Championship. He’s unstoppable -- and this is a seriously special matchup. That being said, it’s always smart to handcuff him with Dion Lewis.

Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs

Drew Lock has acquitted himself extremely well in his first two NFL starts. This week, he gets a date with the Chiefs where he should be forced to throw -- and KC’s weak pass defense -- all night long. He’s in serious contention as a legit, high-end QB2 streamer. Accordingly, Courtland Sutton has retained strong WR2 production and can be started as such this week. Lock has done his best to spread the ball around, making the remaining receivers too risky to start -- keep an eye on Tim Patrick this week though. He’s taken a liking to tight ends Noah Fant and Jeff Heuerman, making them a TE1 and a high-end TE2, respectively. The only thing certain about the fluctuating backfield is that Phillip Lindsay is the lead dog. In such a strong matchup, he can confidently be started as a high-end RB2. Royce Freeman is a Hail Mary flex option.

Patrick Mahomes’ swollen hand will likely keep him from being 100% this week. As long as he’s able to grip a football, a feat he accomplished on Wednesday, he’ll be good to go as a mid-to-high QB1. Denver’s secondary has been pummeled by opposing receivers as of late, setting things up nicely for a ceiling game from Tyreek Hill. He’s once again in contention to take overall WR1 honors for Week 15. Accordingly, this is a decent week to bet on Mecole Hardman and his Whac-a-mole production. The kid will unquestionably take the reigns from Hill one day as he’s already flashed outrageous speed and potential. That being said, when he flops he really flops. Hardman is a zero floor/Tyreek-Hill-lite ceiling flex play. Sammy Watkins could be used as a 2nd-flex in PPR leagues with deep benches. He’s got almost no ceiling and would not really be a recommended play for those in the semifinals, likely facing a high-scoring opponent. Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle require should not be started. Travis Kelce is a Top 3 TE1 option, as always, this week. Lead RB Damien Williams has resumed practicing in a limited fashion, although he’s still recovering from his rib injury. He’s likely to be a game time decision. Should he start, he would be no more than a decent flex play against a Denver front that’s largely kept ceiling games out of the picture for opposing running backs since Leonard Fournette’s showing in Week 4. In Damien Williams’ absence last week, LeSean McCoy took lead back duties with 11 rushes for 39 scoreless-yards and caught 1 of 3 targets for 4 yards. Darwin Thompson was afforded just 4 carries and produced a measly 7 yards with them. He was, however, given 5 targets in the passing game and caught 4 of them 36 yards. The target total there is noteworthy. Still, should Williams miss Week 15, McCoy and Thompson could only be started as unreliable (in Thompson’s case devastatingly so) 2nd-flex options. McCoy in Standard and Thompson in PPR. Neither are really recommended plays, although McCoy’s overall volume from last week provides far more hope than Thompson’s.

Miami Dolphins at New York Giants

Update 12/14/19: Per Joe Schad, DeVante Parker and Albert Wilson have cleared the concussion protocol. As it says below, treat Parker as a WR1. Wilson is on the fantasy radar only in leagues that reward points for return yards.

Should DeVante Parker clear the concussion protocol before kickoff -- he’s making excellent progress -- Ryan Fitzpatrick would jump up from his current, mid-tier QB2 ranking at QB18, to the front of the QB2 line as the overall QB13. This is an excellent matchup. Parker would immediately resume his back-end WR1 title, should he be cleared. Once Parker left last week’s contest with the concussion, Isaiah Ford and Allen Hurns were peppered with targets -- 9 and 8, respectively. Should Parker miss, both would be decent flex options in a good matchup. Ford hadn’t been heard from all year but he solidly outproduced Hurns. Ford would be more of the high-end flex option, with Hurns a a back-end one. Should Parker be cleared from the concussion protocol, would bump Ford to a boom/bust 2nd-flex option and Hurns’ (he has a knee injury -- but he’s very likely to play as he practiced in full on Thursday) to more of an unsexy 2nd-flex option in very deep leagues. Albert Wilson is also progressing through the concussion protocol but is only fantasy-relevant and a distant multi-flex option in leagues that reward for return yards. Surprisingly, Mike Gesicki put up a dud in Parker’s partial absence last week. It’s clear that Fitz likes him though should he should continue to be utilized as a TE1, with plenty of pre-Week 14 production/target totals to back him up. Patrick Laird has the keys to this backfield now and he has a secure passing game role to boot. He’s this week’s RB24 and he’s got decent upside in PPR. Myles Gaskin flopped last week in his 1B-back audition. He’s not worthy of starting consideration.

Eli Manning kept the game from imploding last week against Philly. This week, he’s -- unbelievably -- a strong streaming option, given that he’s facing the Miami Dolphins’ defense. He’s a mid-tier QB2, fueled by the strength of his playmakers. With TE Evan Engram declared Out (foot), Golden Tate III should rack up slot targets as a low-end WR2 with solid upside in PPR. Sterling Shepard hasn’t made much noise since coming back from his second 2019 concussion in Week 12. He’s got a shot to do some work in the box score this week though so consider him a strong flex play. Darius Slayton has staked his claim as one of the league’s top downfield threats. As always, this style of play comes with a low floor. He’s got a great matchup on tap though. Deep field burners have had huge success against this Dolphins secondary. Consider him a high-end flex with long-TD upside. TE Kaden Smith has held his own in relief of Evan Engram and Rhett Ellison and this is a decent spot for that production to continue. He’s a TE1. Saquon Barkley’s been a disappointment as of late. This is a get-right spot for him though. He’s the overall RB5.

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Football Team

Carson Wentz should build on his recent box score successes in another strong matchup with Washington. His receiving corps injury-depleted status is unfortunate, but he’s got the playmakers to get the job done. He’s the overall QB7. Greg Ward and JJ Arcega-Whiteside are the top candidates to lead the Eagles’ receivers in targets this week. Nelson Agholor is all but declared out, fully unable to practice this week (knee). Ward and JJAW’s unproven NFL track record make them risky plays. However, Ward did rack up the second-most targets on the team last week (9), making him the odds on favorite to produce as a flex. JJAW is not a recommended start. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert can be expected to lead the charge, overall, as the team’s likeliest candidates to both hit double digit targets. Ertz is a Top 3 TE option this week, against a Washington defense that operates as an unholy touchdown charity to the position. Goedert, likewise, has outrageous upside and should be started as a TE1. Miles Sanders blew an opportunity last week, failing to hydrate properly and missed in-game time due to cramps and the need for IV-rehydration. Boston Scott came in and set the field on fire with 128 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. He flashed excellent receiving ability and finished with the second-highest catch total on the team (6). With Jordan Howard still uncleared for contact, Sanders will once again operate as the lead back for the Eagles. Scott has earned a role though and both players can be started this week. Sanders is a rock-solid RB2. Scott, a similarly solid flex.

Although Dwayne Haskins Jr. will get to work against Phily’s hapless secondary, he still has to contend with their ferocious front-seven. He’s unlikely to succeed in the box score -- he hasn’t yet, so far this year -- and once again takes the QB32 spot. That being said, he can still spam targets at Terry McLaurin, making the promising receiving a viable flex play with respectable upside. Pass catchers like WR Kelvin Harmon, TE Jeremy Sprinkle, and WR Steven Sims Jr. are not worthy of starting consideration. RB Chris Thompson aptly resumed his pass catching role last week with Derrius Guice getting hurt (MCL sprain) and he could be used as a low-ceiling flex in PPR leagues. Adrian Peterson should plod for mediocre yardage on an abundance of carries. He’s a volume-based flex option in a bad matchup.

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers

Carolina has generally played stout pass defense this season, while getting lit up by opposing backfields. This is a dream scenario for HC Pete Carroll. Expect Russell Wilson to perhaps his back-end QB1 numbers. He’s ranked as such at the moment, but the reality is that his floor is well into the QB2 range. It’s tough to discount such a talent though. Tyler Lockett is now just a flex option, with his health unclear and his box scores empty. He is untrustworthy but, of course, has a high, Russell-Wilson-infused ceiling. DK Metcalf has retained steady .5PPR flex-able production and can be started as such this week. Josh Gordon is obsolete. TE Jacob Hollister’s magic has seemingly worn off. This is, however, a good matchup for him. He’s boom/bust TE1. RB Chris Carson can be billed for 20+ touches in this one, making him a surefire back-end RB1. Do not start CJ Prosise.

Kyle Allen continues to provide stellar box score production. This week is unlikely to be much different, although it’s possible that the playoff-eliminated Panthers take the pedal off the medal. They likely want to get Christian McCaffrey the yardage record though. We’ll split the difference and list Allen as a mid-tier QB2 with Top 15 upside. DJ Moore has been a reliable WR2 all year and he should be started as such this week. Curtis Samuel is a boom/bust flex play with a lean towards a boom this week. It’s a good matchup. With Greg Olsen still in the concussion protocol, he’s been declared Out. Ian Thomas gets a shot at glory, facing one of the NFL’s weakest TE-covering defenses. Fire him up as a top notch TE1. Christian McCaffrey has been knocked down to the overall RB2 spot behind The Mover of Mountains, Derrick Henry.

Chicago Bears at Green Bay Packers

Mitchell Trubisky has resumed his rushing ways and it’s paying off in the box score. He’s a mid-to-high QB2 with a rushing floor now established. Accordingly, Allen Robinson II can be teed up as a fringe WR1/2. Anthony Miller has ascended to the slot machine that this writer pegged him for last year. Trust him as a flex option with WR2 upside. It’s a great matchup for he and Robinson. The only other healthy pass catcher of note is RB/WR Tarik Cohen. He’s a PPR-only flex option and a Standard-scoring 2nd-flex. It’s a great matchup for both he and RB David Montgomery. Montgomery’s up-and-down production makes him tough to full-on trust though, as an RB2. Treat him an excellent flex option with RB2 upside.

Aaron Rodgers’ outlook is not good, facing a tough Bears’ pass defense. He’s a mid-to-low QB2. Davante Adams, of course, retains WR1 status but outside of him, the only receiver who could be considered for starting purposes is Allen Lazard. Lazard is hardly reliable though, making him just a multi-flex option. Adams’ is listed as Questionable, with a toe injury. In all likelihood, they’re just managing his reps after the toe caused him to miss multiple games this season. Jimmy Graham has sneaky TE1 upside though. The Bears seriously struggle to contain receiving tight ends. He’s a decent TE streaming option. Chicago has largely underwhelmed in running back-stopping as well. Aaron Jones is a locked-in RB1. Jamaal Williams’ recent inability to solidly produce makes him just a flex option.

Minnesota Vikings at Los Angeles Chargers

With the prodigal son, Adam Thielen, returning from his nagging hamstring injury, Kirk Cousins can be fired up as a back-end QB1, even in a tough matchup. Thielen and his hamstring were rushed back to action too quickly, causing a setback in Week 9. He’s had ample time to rest though and can be trusted as a WR2 with easy peasy WR1 upside. Stefon Diggs’ outlook is also of the WR2 with WR1 upside variety. Kyle Rudolph’s string of usable fantasy days may be coming to an end. He largely re-emerged as a pass catching weapon during Thielen’s absence. With the latter’s return, Rudolph has to be downgraded from a reliable TE1 to a boom/bust TE1/2. The fact that this is a tough matchup does not improve the situation. With Alexander Mattison Out (ankle), we may see a little bit of action from the perhaps even more talented Mike Boone. Boone shouldn’t be trusted in starting lineups as the flex-able asset that Mattison is. Nor should pass catching back, Ameer Abdullah. Boone could be speculatively added but it’s unclear as to whether that’s necessary. Regardless, Dalvin Cook should see heavy RB1 usage. He’s the overall RB4. There’s little concern for his sprained SC joint as he’s been a full participant in practice this week.

Philip Rivers is a tough start. This is a better matchup than most think but he’s just been so unreliable this year. He’s in the QB2/3 range, given the strong matchups for many of the other quarterbacks. He’s got a high-end QB2 finish well within his range of outcomes though. Keenan Allen is remains a WR1/2 fringer. Similarly, Mike Williams stays on the WR2/flex radar with his modest target totals and excellent ability. Hunter Henry remains a steady TE1 with an extremely high floor, if a limited ceiling. The Vikings’ defensive front is largely good against lesser backs and vulnerable to good ones. Both Melvin Gordon III and Austin Ekeler can be listed as the latter. Gordon is a back-end RB1. Ekeler just keeps rockin’ the house and can be trusted as a tried and true RB2.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Oakland Raiders

Although it’s unfortunate that WR DJ Chark Jr. (ankle) will be out this week, this is a smash spot for QB Gardner Minshew Jr. He’s the overall QB13 with easy QB1 upside. The Raiders have been eviscerated by perimeter and slot receivers alike, setting the table nicely for both Chris Conley and Dede Westbrook. Consider both players in the WR2/flex conversation, with Conley favored in Standard (as he’ll see more downfield targets) and Westbrook favored in PPR (given his high-volume slot work). Keelan Cole is a distant third option who should only be considered in deep, multi-flex PPR leagues. Oakland can’t stop anything thrown to opposing tight ends, making Nick O’Leary a streaming option. Leonard Fournette continues to see heavy passing game utilization on top of his gaudy carry totals. He’s this week’s overall RB6 in an excellent matchup.

The Raiders have a similarly strong matchup against a more or less retired Jaguars defense. Derek Carr’s unreliable box score results drop him to the QB2/3 range but if one is looking for a contrarian start, any QB facing Jacksonville has solid upside. Expect TE Darren Waller to exploit the Raiders’ weak sauce TE-coverage to the tune of TE1 box score results. Tyrell Williams’ continues to be bothered by his plantar fasciitis. It’s unfortunate, given the moderate matchup he has here. Consider him a decent flex option. Hunter Renfrow may be returning from his rib injury and could be considered for deep PPR, multi-flex leagues. He’s a talented kid. Zay Jones has been quiet all year and should not be considered for starting purposes. Josh Jacobs and his injured shoulder appear to be ready to rock this week against an embarrassingly bad Jaguars’ defensive front. The shoulder injury now appears to be a pain tolerance issue, which can be handled in the short term by pre-game injections. Given the small possibility of a re-aggravation, he’s being listed as a high-end RB2. His likely outcome though is that of an RB1-style box score.

Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals

Baker Mayfield’s performance seemed to be hindered by his injured throwing hand. Because it’s somewhat unclear if that will continue, Mayfield’s been ranked as a low-end QB2. In reality, a high-end QB2 performance is well within his range of outcomes. Odell Beckham Jr. is playing through a sports hernia in his groin. This is a good matchup for him though, as Patrick Peterson’s shadow coverage is no longer a threatening prospect -- nor are any of the other Cardinals’ defensive backs. Given the injury, Beckham is just a flex option with WR2 upside though. Jarvis Landry has more or less been flawless for weeks now. He’s a rock-solid WR2 with back-end WR1 upside. Rashard Higgins is ignorable. Tight end get interesting for the Browns. David Njoku returned from IR last week but failed to make a splash. The Cards are far and away the worst team in the league at covering tight ends though. Backup pass catching tight ends, Ricky Seals-Jones and Demetrius Harris, muddle the picture a bit. However, neither one of the two backups has truly made an impact this year in Njoku’s absence. David Njoku should be considered a zero floor/sky-high ceiling TE1 option. Nick Chubb’s weekly touches have slowly lessened as Kareem Hunt’s have slowly increased. Fortunately, this is an excellent matchup. Opposing backfields have pummeled the Cardinals both through the air and on the ground. Nick Chubb is still the lead back in Cleveland and can be trusted as a mid-tier RB1. Kareem Hunt is a mid-to-low RB2 with serious PPR upside.

The Cardinals offense has stumbled over the last two weeks. This is a moderate get-right spot for them though. The Browns can be had by good offenses and Arizona’s generally qualifies as such. Kyler Murray is the overall QB15 this week. Opposing receivers have a solid track record against Cleveland this year. We can trust Christian Kirk as a WR2/flex playm bearing moderate upside. Larry Fitzgerald has sprung a few useful days over the last month and starting him as a flex/2nd-flex option in PPR leagues is reasonable. His floor should be considered shaky though. Outside of him, the ancillary pass catchers like WRs Pharoh Cooper and Andy Isabella are far too hit-or-miss to be considered. Do not start any of their tight ends. David Johnson reappeared in the box score last week and Kenyan Drake has to be lowered in the rankings because of it. The two backs are both decent flex options with Drake being the better choice of the two. Cleveland’s run defense is only mid-tier, as evidenced by the days had by Benny Snell Jr. and Joe Mixon as of late.

Los Angeles Rams at Dallas Cowboys

Jared Goff heads to Dallas on the heels of two solid box score performances. Dallas’ defense has slumped over the same timeframe, but they’re still a solid bunch. Consider Goff a volatile QB2/3 option who could deliver a useful box score -- he’s just far too risky to start in the semifinals. Robert Woods has taken over as the top dog in this receiving corps. He’s a volume-based WR2 with solid upside. Cooper Kupp has turned things around after a devastating mid-season slump. Over the last two weeks, the Cowboys have been trounced by slot receivers, Anthony Miller and Cole Beasley. Roll with Kupp as a low-end WR2. Brandin Cooks is not a startable fantasy option. With TE Gerald Everett racking up more Did Not Participate designations, Tyler Higbee and his outstanding target totals walk into an eruption spot against a Dallas defense that struggles to cover the tight end position. He’s a high-end TE1. Todd Gurley II has returned to bell cow usage but faces a mid-tier Dallas run defense. He’s a mid-to-high RB2.

The Rams pass defense has basically been good against uncommitted passing offenses and been beaten by committed ones. Dallas has a good, committed passing offense. As such, Dak Prescott enters Week 15 as the overall QB8. Amari Cooper will face a stiff test in Jalen Ramsey’s shadow coverage, his target volume should keep him as a low-end WR2 at worst. He’s on the WR1/2 fringe. Non-No. 1 receivers have done well against Dallas, making Michael Gallup and Randall Cobb flex-able assets. Gallup is of the high-end flex variety, based on his volume and depth of target. Cobb is more of a low-end flex with little upside. While Jason Witten has been a viable fantasy tight end over the last two weeks, this is a much worse matchup than he’s had. He’s a TE2 and not a recommended start. The Rams run defense is nothing to write home about. Ezekiel Elliott is in line for a monster workload as the Cowboys vie for a playoff spot. He’s the overall RB3. Tony Pollard has been cast aside by the Dallas coaching staff for now.

Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers

Although the 49ers defense is a little banged up -- they’re likely to be missing both DL Dee Ford and CB Richard Sherman -- it’s still a talented, deep bunch. This is a tough spot for Matt Ryan to succeed in. He’s on the QB2/3 fringe but could swing up into the mid-to-high QB2 range. Julio Jones still retains WR1 status as Atlanta’s target hog in the Calvin Ridley-less (Injured Reserve) world. Russell Gage offers mild flex appeal. Outside of them though, it’s The Austin Hooper Show. He’s a locked-in TE1, based on volume and talent. Devonta Freeman’s knee is troubling him and he cannot be expected to take on a full workload if he’s active. He’s just a low-end RB2/flex option in a very tough matchup. Brian Hill should see 10 or so touches, making him a low-end flex option.

Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners’ offense has been kicking ass and taking names. Jimmy G’s played his way into the back-end of the QB1 rankings, taking the overall QB11 spot. The Atlanta defense, both against the pass and the run, is terrible. As you’d expect, Atlanta’s defense is middle of the road in slowing opposing tight ends. George Kittle is the easy favorite to take overall TE1 honors this week. Start him as such. Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel have asserted themselves as the top 1-2 punch in the SF receiver room. Although, to his credit, Kendrick Bourne has turned into great box score results from time to time. Role with Sanders as a WR1/2 fringe candidate, Samuel as a low-end WR2, and Bourne as a boom/bust 2nd-flex option. Raheem Mostert has earned lead back duties in the formidable San Fran rushing attack. He’s a dual threat maven, ready to rack up all purpose yards from scrimmage -- he’s had a nose for the end zone too, racking up 4 touchdowns over the last 3 games. Start him confidently as a back-end RB1. Matt Breida could be used sparingly and as multi-flex option in PPR leagues. Tevin Coleman can be safely dropped.

SNF: Buffalo Bills at Pittsburgh Steelers

Josh Allen is tasked with competing against a Steelers defense that’s so good, it even held Lamar Jackson in check. His unbelievable playmaking ability on land and through the air keeps him in the QB1 discussion, albeit as the final member of the tier. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh has defended the deep ball well, dropping John Brown from the WR1/2 fringe candidate he often is down to a merely boom/bust flex option. However, the Steelers have been had by opposing slot receivers, boding well for Cole Beasley’s outlook. Consider him a strong flex option with solid upside in PPR leagues. Dawson Knox is on the TE1/2 borderline. Pittsburgh is strong in tight end coverage but has allowed decent days to good tight ends. Knox doesn’t quite qualify yet, at this point in his career. Devin Singletary has taken control of the Buffalo backfield and can accordingly be depended on as a high-volume, mid-tier RB2. Pittsburgh’s defense plays running backs fairly well, however, their linebacker-centric scheme is ill-equipped to handle running backs utilized through the passing game. Singletary’s rock-solid weekly target totals make him Pittsburgh-proof. Expect him to produce a respectable statline. Frank Gore is just a handcuff.

Devlin Hodges faces a devastating matchup in the Buffalo Bills’ secondary. He’s just a QB3. With both Vance McDonald and JuJu Smith-Schuster Out, we can expect to see a decent target volume for James Washington and Diontae Johnson. As discussed above though, this is a terrible matchup. Washington and Johnson are just boom/bust flex options with Washington being the slight favorite for success, given his friendship with Hodges. Do not start TE Nick Vannett. James Conner is expected to return from his supposed AC joint sprain this week. He can shakily be expected to handle a full workload against Buffalo’s mid-tier run defense. Conner’s recurring injury make him extremely difficult to trust. Rolling with him as an RB2/flex-type option would be smartest. In theory though, he will regain 20-touch bell cow duties. His return takes North/South rusher, Benny Snell Jr., completely off of the streaming radar. Jaylen Samuels is expected to be active as well. Samuels hasn’t done much with Conner active. He’s a distant multi-flex, PPR-only option -- but he’s not a recommended one.