What better way to head into the fantasy playoffs than suffering a myriad of injures and having Derrick Henry go for 4 TDs this week? I honestly can't say I'd prefer it any other way. Let's jump into this one, taking a look at one of the worst QB situations my two eyes have ever seen.
COLT MCCOY - WASHINGTON REDSKINS
With Alex Smith going down with a leg injury a few weeks back, the fate of the Redskins was in the hands of Colt McCoy. He wasn't terrible, but he was far from good, which made this offense look even more shit than it had when Smith was under center. The good news is you won't need to see Colt McCoy in red on Sundays, but the bad news is, Mark Sanchez will be taking his place. What does this mean for their offense? What offense? Their receivers are extremely inconsistent and shouldn't touch your starting lineup and Jordan Reed is only somewhat viable due to the position's scarcity. The only guys I like in Washington are Adrian Peterson, when he draws a good matchup, and Chris Thompson, as long as his ribs are in tact. Overall, this injury isn't a huge downgrade for this offense because it was already a dumpster fire, but if you were thinking Josh Doctson could provide some WR3/4 upside, let those dreams die.
CAM NEWTON - CAROLINA PANTHERS
Cam was taken off the injury report, but if you watched him play last Sunday, you'd know he isn't 100%. On the final play for the Panthers, they had to actually take Newton out of the game because he didn't have the juice to get the ball into the endzone. On top of this, he also tossed 4 picks against a defense that gets their doors blown off week in and week out. With all this being said, I'm not confident in rolling Newton out there as anything more than a back-end QB1. Obviously, if you have him, you're likely still starting him, but I'd temper expectations. As for their other weapons, Christian McCaffrey is a locked in top-5 RB due to his volume and recent stretch of finding the end zone. In the receiving game, D.J. Moore is a back-end WR2 due to the volume he's likely to see with Olsen sidelined and Devin Funchess topping out at 6 miles per hour. We'll get into Curtis Samuel and Ian Thomas later, but as a sneak peak, they may or may not appear in the "waiver wire replacement" section of their respective positions.
MITCHELL TRUBISKY - CHICAGO BEARS
Mitch is returning from his two game absence due to a shoulder injury sustained late in the Vikings game. Following that game, reports were that he would have suited up if the following game was on a Sunday (they were playing on Thanksgiving that week), but to many people's surprise, he rode the pine last week, as well. Could it be because the Bears didn't think they needed him against the Giants? Maybe, but he was also limited earlier this week. It seems like he's nearing 100%, as he's been taken off the injury report, and now, he's getting a matchup where he might need to let it loose. The Rams have surrendered 30 or more points in 3 of their last 4, though they did get the Chiefs and Saints in that span, both of which rank top 3 in points scored per game. The Bears aren't far off, though, scoring an average of 28.7/week, good enough for 5th most in the NFL, so they should be able to cook in prime time. With the extended rest, his recent success, and the floor his rushing provides, I'd consider Trubisky a back-end QB1 in this spot. At home this year, Trubisky has only thrown less than two touchdowns ONCE, and that was against the Vikings, and rushed for less than 20 yards ONCE, though, he did score with his legs in that game. With him being a force to be reckoned with at home, all of his targets should get a boost. The upgrade from Chase Daniel to Trubisky is immense, so I'd bump up all of these guys, regardless. All of their receivers are viable FLEX plays, but I'd be a little concerned with Allen Robinson. Last week, in Talib's first game back, Kenny Golladay was limited to a 3/50/0 line, which could be in the cards for Robinson. As for their running game, Jordan Howard did nothing in a beautiful matchup, so I'm not starting him in almost all formats, and with Tarik Cohen, he's a solid RB2 in PPR/.5 PPR formats. Lastly, Trey Burton. He obviously jumps up the rankings with a competent QB at the helm now, but he still doesn't inspire much confidence. You're probably still starting him with 100 different tight ends on the I.R., but he's not going to be the guy that wins you your week.
WAIVER WIRE REPLACEMENTS
LAMAR JACKSON - BALTIMORE RAVENS
MATCHUP: @ KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
As we all know, Lamar Jackson can get it done with his legs. His rushing line over his first three starts have been 26/119/0, 11/71/1, and 17/75/1. He's only thrown one touchdown thus far, despite facing Cincy, Oakland, and Atlanta in that span, but none of those teams put up more than 21 points in those games. The difference between those 3 teams and the Chiefs, offensively, is immense, and even though the Ravens have a rock solid defense, they should have no problem dropping 30 against Baltimore. If KC does have that offensive drip this week, Lamar is going to need to throw more than 25 times, something he hasn't done yet, and against a mediocre defense, these pass attempts will certainly lead to production. Hell, Derek Carr threw 3 touchdowns against the Chiefs last week. Now, if the Ravens do somehow shut down Mahomes, their offensive gameplan will be to pound the rock. The good thing there is that Lamar isn't afraid to run 20 times. If he goes for 100 rushing yards, that's equivalent, in most leagues, to 2.5 touchdowns. However this game goes, I think Lamar Jackson has the combination of floor and ceiling to give you confidence in week one of the fantasy playoffs.
JOSH ALLEN - BUFFALO BILLS
MATCHUP: NEW YORK JETS
Never would I think I'd tout Josh Allen in such an important week, but here we are. He's finished as the QB2, on the road in Miami, and QB4, against the Jaguars, these past 2 weeks. Now, he's getting arguably his easiest matchup, at home against the Jets, who have allowed 2 or more touchdown passes in 9 of 12 games, including a two touchdown day to Matt Barkley. Similar to Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen has the rushing upside that gives him a fairly safe floor, as he's hit 99 and 135 yards on the ground over his last two games, respectively. The Jets let Marcus Mariota gain 43 yards rushing last week, Trubisky reached 51 in Week 8, and Tannehill even had a blast going for 44 yards on the ground in Week 2. Every somewhat athletic/running quarterback has had a decent rushing day against them thus far (even Bortles had 28 on 3 carries), and Josh Allen should as well. If you want someone with an unrivaled ceiling, not including Patrick Mahomes, and a fairly safe floor, I'd be comfortable rocking with Allen at the helm.
RYAN FITZPATRICK - TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
I say this every week; Jameis Winston could implode at any second. I highly doubt the Bucs make another QB change this late in the season, but who knows with these guys. If you need some sort of hope and have a deep bench, let Fitzy into your home.
MELVIN GORDON - LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Melvin Gordon sat out last week, so this is nothing new. Keenan Allen was targeted heavily, which was mainly due to the Steelers lining up linebackers across from him. In this spot, against an awful Bengals team, the only receiver that I feel comfortable starting is Allen since the Chargers should handle the Bengals, making them shift towards the run. Allen is the only one guaranteed volume in this spot, but even then, I wouldn't bank on him finishing inside the top 12, which he has done in 4 of his last 5. The real winners in this spot are the Chargers' runningbacks. Austin Ekeler looked terrible last week, and because of that, along with other reports, I wouldn't expect him to be the lead back. Instead, he revert back to the role he held when Gordon was active, but with kore volume. I'd expect somehwere in the realm of 10-12 touches, and against this run defense, that's certainly enough to make him a back-end RB2 play. Obviosuly, he's safer in PPR leagues, but no matter what scoring setting you play in, he's a viable start. Don't let recency bias cloud your vision, folks, as just a week before, in a similarly cake matchup in the Cardinals, he caught 10 balls, totaled 103 yards, and found the endzone on a goal line carry. As for their other runningback, Justin Jackson, I'd expect him to take the reins. He looked incredible against the Steelers, sealing the night with an 18 yard scamper, and tore apart Arizona the week before. In a game where Los Angeles should be in command early, I'd expect him to get around 15 touches, enough for him to be a back-end RB2 play.
JAMES CONNER - PITTSBURGH STEELERS
With Conner out this week, they're left with Jaylen Samuels and Stevan Ridley in the backfield. I know there's been a ton of hype about Samuels this past week, but do we really expect him to take over this backfield? I mean, the coaches said it's going to be a timeshare, Samuels and Ridley said they've been splitting first-team reps, and in college, he never topped 12 carries in a single game. In fact, he had more than double digit carries JUST ONCE. I know he didn't primarily play runningback, but is there any reason to believe he just steps in and dominates work? His receiving ability is elite, though, which gives him PPR value as a RB2, but in standard formats, I'm not convinced he has the touchdown upside that Conner had in this offense. As for Stevan Ridley...what are we doing here? The dude hasn't been good in about 17 years. I'm not playing him in any format, anywhere.
MATT BREIDA - SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Breida entered Week 13 with an ankle injury, one that limited him throughout that game. Because of this, Jeff Wilson Jr. stepped up, getting targeted 9 times, collecting 8 receptions, handled 15 carries, and totaled 134 yards. With the lack of depth remaining in this backfield, I'd be surprised if Wilson gets anything less than a 70% snap share, a percentage he topped last week. The only thing that scares me, though, is his matchup against the Broncos. Their defense has looked incredible recently, so I'm not sure he'll get much done on the ground. The good thing, though, is he has been involved in the passing game. With Bradley Chubb and Von Miller screaming off the edge, Nick Mullens is going to have two reads: hit George Kittle over the middle or dump it off the Wilson. Because of this, in PPR leagues, he's a middling RB2 play. His volume should be on par with a guy like Phillip Lindsay, but his upside isn't within spitting distance. He's much more of a floor play in this spot, which, in the first round of your playoffs, isn't the worst thing, especially if you lost Kareem Hunt/Melvin Gordon/James Conner/Matt Breida.
DOUG MARTIN - OAKLAND RAIDERS
Martin is questionable for Sunday's game and the Raiders just signed C.J. Anderson. Can this backfield get any less appealing? I mean, even Jalen Richard isn't the same safety net he once was. He's topped 4 targets once in his last five games and has averaged 4.6 carries per game over that span. Honestly, just stay far, far away from any piece of this backfield, especially since they're facing a stout Steelers' front line.
ISAIAH CROWELL - NEW YORK JETS
This is a very similar situation to the one above. Do you really have ANY confidence rolling out a Jets' runningback in your playoffs? If you answered yes, stop drinking. Sure, the Bills don't stop the run as well as they do the pass, but with Sam Darnold at the helm, they won't need to focus too much on shutting down the quarterback, as he'll do it for them. Also, it's not like Crowell is the bellcow in this offense. Last game was the first time since Week 5 that Crowell topped 13 carries and only the fourth time all year he surpassed 3.8 YPC. Elijah McGuire has also gotten 6 carries and is averaging 4 targets per game since his return. The Jets' backfield is a hands off situation, as it's basically a split between two guys who have done nothing consistently that would give any reason to roll them out there in the biggest week of the season thus far.
CHRIS CARSON - SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
Carson looks like he's good to go for Monday night against the Vikings, but I'm not sure he's anything more than a back-end RB2. First off, the Vikings' run defense is elite. Outside of Todd Gurley (17/83/0) and Aaron Jones (17/72/1), no runningback has topped 63 yards on the ground against them and they have allowed just 5 rushing touchdowns all season (James Develin is responsible for two of them). Along with the matchup, Carson is in a complete timeshare, though he is the head of the committee. Since week 11, when Carson returned, here are how the snap shares have panned out: Rashaad Penny, 20.33%; Mike Davis, 25.66%; Carson, 50.66%. The Seahawks have been incredible running the ball this season, but in this spot, it may cool down a bit. If Carson does sit, though, I'd move Penny, not Mike Davis, into Carson's spot (in terms of weekly rankings), maybe even a bit higher. This is only because it would be a two-headed monster instead of the 3-back split they're currently rolling with, so he'd likely be sitting around a 60% share. I'd expect CC to suit up though, which makes these other two backs fairly irrelevant this week.
WAIVER WIRE REPLACEMENTS
JUSTIN JACKSON - LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
MATCHUP: CINCINNATI BENGALS
I already touched on Jackson in the Gordon section, so I'll keep it brief. Justin Jackson looks like he'll be the lead back in MGIII's absence, and against a run defense that has been exposed all season, he should be able to produce RB2 numbers. If the Chargers get a comfortable lead, which they certainly should, I'd expect somewhere in the realm of 15 touches for JJ. He made Pittsburgh look like the Bengals last week, so I can't wait to see what he makes Cincy actually look like. I'd roll him out there with confidence.
CHRIS THOMPSON - WASHINGTON REDSKINS
MATCHUP: NEW YORK GIANTS
As I said before, I don't want a piece of this Redskins offense, but if you're in a PPR league and are desperate for a FLEX play, there are certainly worse options than CT. He didn't look great last week, but he was in for 64% of the offensive snaps in his first game back from a 4-week absence. Now, he draws the Giants, who have been TERRIBLE against the run, and just allowed Tarik Cohen to put up a 12/156/0 receiving line last week. Thompson only caught two balls against New York in their last meeting, but he also only played 38% of the snaps in that game. As he nears 100%, with a quarterback who's afraid to throw the ball more than 5 yards, Thompson should have the volume to produce as a RB3/FLEX in PPR leagues.
KENNETH DIXON - BALTIMORE RAVENS
Gus Edwards has been great recently, but he has yet to be targeted since taking over the starting role. Along with that, with the return of Dixon, Gus's snap share went from 61% in week 12 to 51% in week 13. There's no denying Dixon has the best all-around skillset in this backfield, and as we all know, the cream always rises to the top. Even if it doesn't and Dixon settles into the #2 role, he'll still get enough volume to produce, as the Ravens have run the ball an average of 48.3 times per game since Lamar drew his first start, which is almost 17 more than the Seahawks (31.7), who lead that category this season. I'm really banking on the competence of John Harbaugh with this one, but if you have a deep bench or are in serious need of a runningback, what do you have to lose?
EMMANUEL SANDERS - DENVER BRONCOS
Sanders tore his Achilles in practice early this week, which means one thing: the Broncos' receiving core has fully gone to shit. DT, left, Jeff Huerman hit the I.R., and now, without Sanders, they're left with Sutton, Tim Patrick, and DaeSean Hamilton. I'd expect Sutton to now be their #1 by default, and although he's looked good in spurts, I'm not confident enough to roll him out there as anything more than a WR3 week to week. He's now going to be drawing opposing teams' #1 corners, and with the running game, headed by Phillip Lindsay, looking stellar, the Broncos aren't going to need to force the ball to Courtland. Not to mention, his quarterback is Case Keenum. As for their other receivers, I honestly know nothing about Tim Patrick, but he hasn't proven anything all year, so I'm not rushing to the waiver wire to pick him up. The last receiver, DaeSean Hamilton, actually looks like a sneaky add, and I'll get into him later. Honestly, I think the biggest impact this injury has is on Lindsay/Royce Freeman. Because the Broncos' defense has been looking much improved as of late, they'd be smart to just pound the rock. Over the past three weeks, they have run on 47% of their plays, a number which I'd expect to hover around 50% from here on out. Lindsay is a back end RB1 from here on out, and even Royce Freeman could slip into a FLEX role. Over the next three weeks, Denver draws San Francisco, Cleveland, and Oakland, all of which are poor against the run, so I'd fire Lindsay up with confidence and even roll out Freeman if you're extremely desperate.
CHRISTIAN KIRK - ARIZONA CARDINALS
Kirk hit the I.R. this week, ending his decent rookie campaign. Let's make this simple: Kirk was barely a usable fantasy asset this season, so, whoever steps into his role won't get much of a boost. Larry Fitzgerald, though, may earn a few extra looks, as Kirk accounted for 5.8 targets/game. Even with this expanded volume, he's nothing more than a shaky WR3 due to this putrid offense. Lastly, David Johnson. He's barely been utilized in the passing game this season, only getting 4.3 targets/game, and has only averaged more than 3.71 yards per carry on 3 occasions. He gets volume on the ground already, but even if he sees 1-2 more looks a game in wake of Kirk's injury, he won't be anything more than a back end RB2.
SAMMY WATKINS - KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
We've already seen this offense without Watkins, so not much analysis is needed here. Mahomes is the QB1, Kelce is the TE1, Tyreek Hill is a WR1, and Spencer Ware, in a good matchup, is a fringe top-12 option. The only guy who benefits in Watkins' absence is Chris Conley, who has totaled 3 touchdowns in his last 2 games while being targeted a 15 times over that span. This week, I wouldn't feel great rolling him out there against the Ravens' secondary, but Mahomes can tear anyone apart, so he's a decent FLEX play.
ODELL BECKHAM JR. - NEW YORK GIANTS
Nobody saw this coming. Odell isn't traveling with the team to Washington, leaving Evan Engram, Sterling Shepard, and Corey Coleman in the receiving game. This would have been a good spot for OBJ, as the Redskins have allowed the 7th most fantasy points to the position, so with him out, I'd fire Sterling Shepard up as a high-end WR3. Another huge upgrade is Evan Engram.
As you can see, he has averaged 3.5 more PPR points per game without OBJ on the field through his first 2 years in the league. The Redskins have been great against tight ends this year, but at a position with absolutely no depth, there are only a handful of guys I'd start ahead of him. As for Saquon Barkley, he's a weekly top 5 option at the position, and in Washington, that is no different. He is arguably the safest player in fantasy football with an unrivaled ceiling. If you have any fear about starting him, you should drop him, because you don't deserve the power that is SaGAWD Barkley.
DOUG BALDWIN - SEATTLE SEAHAWKS
This has been standard procedure for Doug Baldwin: he sits all week, suits up Sunday, and looks fine. What's worrisome, though, is that Seattle plays on Monday. If he sits, we'll know about it before 1 P.M. kickoff on Sunday, but I wouldn't be banking on rolling DB89 out there. Not only is he under 100%, he's getting a defense that locks up receivers. Just last week, they held Julian Edelman, who plays a very similar role to Baldwin, to 3/25/0. Because of this combination, Douggie is no more than a FLEX play with limited upside.
T.Y. HILTON - INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Hilton is a true game-time decision against Houston this week. If he does suit up, I'd expect his regular production, despite facing an unforgiving secondary. Houston has allowed the 7th fewest points to the position this year, but Hilton is tethered to elite QB play, and even in a game where Andrew Luck threw for only 248 yards and zero scores, T.Y. dropped 8/77/0 on 13 looks. If he sits, the Colts are left with NOTHING at receiver, but this isn't much of a problem for Luck. Hilton has sat out twice this season, and over that two game span, Andy tossed 7 scores. The last time these two teams played, the Colts put up 34 points, so in what should be a similar gameflow, Luck will be an elite QB1, regardless of whether or not Hilton suits up.
STEFON DIGGS - MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Diggs played injured last week, and once again, he proved that when he enters a game on the injury report, he produces next to nothing. Now, drawing the Seahawks in Seattle, I wouldn't feel great slotting him in as a WR2 this week. Not only do the Hawks boast an above average pass defense, the Vikings' offense has looked terrible. They haven't put up more than 24 points since week 7, and I don't expect that to change in this spot. If you have him on your roster, you're likely starting him, but I honestly wouldn't feel great about it.
WAIVER WIRE REPLACEMENTS
TAYLOR GABRIEL - CHICAGO BEARS
MATCHUP: LOS ANGELES RAMS
Over his last 3 games, Gabriel has been targeted 25 times, and average of 8.33 looks per game. He hasn't produced much of anything with those looks, but in a game where Chicago will have to throw, I'd expect him to see around that number of targets. Aqib Talib will be on Allen Robinson most of the night, leaving Gabriel with a much easier task getting Marcus Peters when he's on the outside. He isn't the safest play, but if you need a high ceiling in your FLEX, there aren't much better options on waivers than Gabriel.
CURTIS SAMUEL - CAROLINA PANTHERS
MATCHUP: @ CLEVELAND BROWNS
Over the past 3 weeks, Samuel has been a WR2 in all but one contest, and even in that game, he finished as the WR35 on the week. He looks like he's finally earned a role in this offense, and even last week when Funchess returned, Samuel played 88.5% of the teams offensive snaps and was targeted 11 times. With Greg Olsen going down, there are more looks to go around, some of which will be funneled to CS. He's used all over the field, and against an offense that allows the most plays per game, he'll see enough volume to produce WR3 numbers.
CHRIS CONLEY - KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
I already touched on this earlier, so to sum it up, with Sammy Watkins and Kareem Hunt out for the foreseeable future, Conley slots into the 3rd option in this team's passing attack. They did just sign Kelvin Benjamin, but he looks like he's more concerned with learning the Taco Bell menu than the Chiefs' playbook. Conley doesn't get the best matchups from here on out, but with Mahomes at the helm, they could play the 2017 Jags every week and I'd still feel comfortable rolling him out as my WR3/FLEX.
ZAY JONES - BUFFALO BILLS
Kelvin Benjamin is out, meaning there's absolutely nothing left in this receiving game. Zay Jones has seen 6 or more looks in 5 of his last 7 games, and with Josh Allen not looking like a complete dumpster fire, his recent stretch of production should continue. Sure, he's not a weekly WR3, but he's his team's top option in the passing game and is owned in only 16% of Yahoo leagues. Against the Jets this week, he's not a bad play, and even against the Lions in week 15 he could provide value. I'm not saying if you pick him up he'll be a league winner, but there's no downside on taking a shot on a team's WR1 this late in the year.
DAESEAN HAMILTON - DENVER BRONCOS
This isn't one of my favorite pickups, but the Broncos are left with nothing in the receiving game after Sanders' recent injury. Hamilton will likely take over the slot role in this offense, which may not mean much, but Eman was averaging 8.2 targets per game. If Hamilton can work his way to earning 80% of that work, he'll have FLEX upside, especially since he's squaring off with San Fran, Cleveland, and Oakland over the next 3 weeks, all of which are very beatable secondaries.
JONNU SMITH - TENNESSEE TITANS
Smith went down this past Thursday with a knee injury and is out for the season. Now, Tennessee is left with Anthony Firkser at TE, which makes him a decent pickup in deeper leagues. He has seen 3 or more targets in each of his last 4 games, which isn't great, but at such a thin position, he's not the worst option.
GREG OLSEN - CAROLINA PANTHERS
Olsen is done for the year as well, opening up 5 targets per game (35 targets over the 7 games he played in over 20.7% of the team's offensive snaps). It obviously gives a boost to Ian Thomas, who will step up in Olsen's absence, and will funnel more looks to D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel.
Surprisingly, all fantasy relevant tight ends have been taken off the injury report heading into the weekend. Be grateful, because if there's one thing we all know, it's that by next week, two more guys will find their way onto the I.R.
WAIVER WIRE REPLACEMENTS
IAN THOMAS - CAROLINA PANTHERS
MATCHUP: @ CLEVELAND BROWNS
As stated earlier, Olsen is done for the season, meaning Thomas will be taking over that spot in this offense. Last week, when Olsen went down, Ian Thomas was targeted 5 times and finished as the TE12 in PPR. Now, he draws the Browns, who have allowed the 8th most touchdowns to the position (6), the most targets (111), and the most receptions (75). With Cam's arm looking weak, he may be forced to check it down to Thomas, which the Browns are susceptible to. He's not an elite play, but if you lost a guy like Jack Doyle/Greg Olsen/Jeff Heurman, or whoever you were leaning on prior to their respective injury, Thomas certainly isn't a terrible play.
DALLAS GOEDART - PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
I say it almost every week; if Zach Ertz gets injured, Goedart becomes a top 12 tight end, it's that simple. Ertz averages 10.1 targets per game, and even though Goedart wouldn't take over his full volume, if he gets 60% of the work, that would still the the 8th most targets/game in the league (one spot behind Hooper, one ahead of Gronk). The Eagles also draw the Rams and Texans in week 15 and 16, and both of rich rank inside the top 12 in terms of points allowed to the position.