Miles Sanders bounces back, injury roundtable: Week 14 recap

December 15, 2020

The Steelers dropped their second game in a row while the Chiefs barely squeaked out a win over the Dolphins. It was a shaky but exciting week for AFC contenders while over in the NFC, the Saints got upset by the Jalen Hurts-led Eagles and the Jets failed to cover a (16.5-) spread against the Seahawks.

Welcome to Week 15: home of the fantasy semifinals. Unless, of course, you play in a Week 17 finals. You should fix that for next year.

Game of the week

Baltimore Ravens @ Cleveland Browns (47-42)

Pour one out for Browns +3 betters but what a game this was. It was 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson out there, making defenders look silly while rushing for 124 yards and two scores. Those big, explosive plays on the ground have been missing this year, but the Ravens offense looked unstoppable. Marquise Brown saved his own day with a long score, but he’s quietly logged three straight weeks with a touchdown with 22 targets in that span. Consider him a volatile, high-risk, high reward play against Jacksonville next week. This has “trap game” written all over it though…

On the rushing end, Mark Ingram appears to be totally phased out — it’s the Gus Edwards/J.K. Dobbins show. Dobbins gets the edge as the pass-catcher and should be treated as a low-end RB2 while Edwards a RB3. They eat into each other’s ceiling, but both could be played next week against Jacksonville.

On the Browns side Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt look like they’re competing each week against each other to see who looks better. You could make the argument for both this week, as they combined for 213 yards and four scores. They’re both strong starts moving forward given Hunt’s receiving ability (six receptions, 77 yards) and Chubb’s talent on the ground (17 carries, 82 yards). Jarvis Landry is also a reliable start — he’s filled in quite well for Odell Beckham Jr. (ACL) provided the weather isn’t catastrophic. Treat him as a low-end WR2, high-end WR3 in PPR formats moving forward.

Player of the week

Miles Sanders (14 carries, 115 yards, two touchdowns)

It’s been a while since Sanders owners felt good about themselves. And they probably still don’t, as most owners benched him ahead of a tough slate versus the Saints.

But as one may have hoped, Jalen Hurts’ rushing ability opened lanes for Sanders and while a majority of his points came on his 82-yard touchdown, he still saw 80% of the snaps, his second-highest mark of the season and his highest since Week 5. Hurts also looked Sanders way through the air, targeting him five times. It’s still puzzling while Sanders only saw 14 carries when the Eagles were winning for the majority of the game, but that’s Doug Pederson for you. Regardless, it was a relief to see and while he remains a bit scary for owners to trust, he should be fired up in all formats ahead of their game against Arizona.

Bust of the week

Corey Davis (Two receptions, 34 yards, one fumble)

I can sing his praises everywhere but letting owners down in the first week of fantasy playoffs with a gorgeous matchup is almost unforgivable. The Titans rumbled to an early lead thanks to Derrick Henry, his 215 yards and his two touchdowns. The Titans only attempted 24 passes, and the worry is that it could be more of the same next week against Detroit, especially if Matthew Stafford (ribs) misses the game. On the other hand, it’s another great matchup for Davis against the Lions, who allow the third-most fantasy points in half-PPR formats.

Ultimately, I’m still lining Davis out there. This was his first game under 60 yards since Week 9 and losing a couple points on a fumble won’t happen most weeks. He’s still a WR3/FLEX option — not quite a forgive-and-forget but still a viable fantasy start in your semifinals.

Storyline to watch

Can Gardner Minshew save D.J. Chark?

Chark has completely fallen off the fantasy radar and likely still can’t be trusted against Indianapolis or Baltimore over the next couple games. But we have seen Chark and Minshew play well together plenty of times before — last year he was the WR16 with Minshew at the helm. This season had some ups-and-downs with Minshew, although Chark was also dealing with some nagging injuries before Minshew himself got hurt. With both of them healthy, Chark is a name to keep an eye on, especially for DFS. It’s a tough task against a stout Colts defense, but he needs to show something to establish himself as a foundation for this Jaguars rebuild.

Injury roundtable

Matthew Stafford (ribs)

Just as Kenny Golladay (hip) might be getting close to a return, Stafford injured his ribs. Initial reports said that the Lions quarterback was in doubt for their Week 15 matchup, possibly because playoffs are a lost cause. But x-rays did come back negative, so this will likely be an issue of pain management for Stafford. He’s a tough guy so he can and likely will play through this but watch out for his practice reps this week. If he misses this week, Chase Daniel will step in and make all fantasy options too volatile for your fantasy playoffs.

Deshaun Watson (elbow)

Thankfully, the star quarterback was able to stay in the game, but he probably shouldn’t have. The Bears sacked him seven times and hit 11 times. But his elbow injury was described as hitting the “funny bone” by head coach Romeo Crenel, and Watson himself said he wasn’t injured. He should be good to go for next week, but his fantasy viability has been shaky without Will Fuller.

Brandon Allen (knee)

Truthfully, it doesn’t matter who lines up under center for the Bengals — it’s not Joe Burrow (ACL). Allen hurt his knee late in the game and is listed as “day-to-day.” Ryan Finley will step in as an unspectacular backup should Allen miss Week 15.

Alex Smith (calf)

The frontrunner for “Comeback player of the year” thankfully seemed to avoid a significant injury. He suffered a mild calf strain and could play this week if he can log in some practice time. Washington is in a playoff push (go figure), so I’d expect him to be out there. Dwayne Haskins would step in and downgrade all options not named Terry McLaurin.

Damien Harris (back)

The Patriots’ bulldozer has played fairly well in recent weeks but left the game late with a back injury. It’s not serious, however, and he should be on track for Week 15. If Harris misses, Sony Michel becomes a low-ceiling, decent floor play.

Ronald Jones (finger)

Head coach Bruce Arians revealed that the running back broke his pinky finger. Jones will undergo surgery, leading him to need a pin put through. Early expectations are still positive, but stay on top of this. Leonard Fournette was a healthy scratch this week, but he would still take the brunt of the work. You can’t trust anyone else, though — these are risky plays only to be used in case of emergency. Break glass if needed.

Raheem Mostert (ankle)

Of course, he’s being evaluated for an injury ahead of a mouthwatering matchup against Dallas in the fantasy playoffs.

As with any Mostert injury, stay tuned. It’s too early in the week to gauge the severity while the team awaits results. Should he miss time the 49ers will employ an envoy of Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman. It’s anyone’s guess who leads that — my guess would be on Wilson.

Deebo Samuel (hamstring)

Sigh. That’s all I really want to write here.

Samuel will miss the remainder of the regular season, a shame for such a talented player who finishes the year with more yards after catch than actual receiving yards. Brandon Aiyuk, who has actually played his best football with Samuel, becomes a solid start for the rest of the way but the entire offense takes a hit from Samuel’s injury as they likely struggle to move the chains.

Mike Williams (back)

Another sigh.

Williams has not shaken the injury bug since entering the league, contributing to his inconsistency this season. He only played a couple snaps before leaving the game, and his status should be considered doubtful given that they play on Thursday night. The future outlook remains bright with a young and promising Justin Herbert, but that will have to wait until 2021 with Williams in a contract year.

DeVante Parker (leg)

Both Parker and Jakeem Grant (hamstring) left the game with injuries, which led Lynn Bowden and Mack Hollins to lead the team at wide receiver. News has been scarce on Parker, who the team desperately needs out there during a playoff push while Grant is listed as week-to-week, meaning he should miss Week 15 at a minimum.

Quietly, Preston Williams is eligible to come off the injured reserve if he’s healthy enough, although that seems a long shot.

Mike Gesicki (shoulder)

The Dolphins have no receiving options left. Gesicki was fantastic in Week 14, likely winning owners their week. Unfortunately, he went down with a painful shoulder injury in the fourth quarter and is expected to miss time. He’s awaiting MRI results, but you should be looking to the wire ahead of your semi-finals.

Noah Fant (illness)

I thought for sure this would be COVID-19 related, but apparently not — Fant just felt too sick to continue. He should be good to go with time to recover ahead of their Week 15 game against Buffalo. Troy Fumagali and Nick Vannett filled in admirably in lieu of the 2019 first-round pick, but neither can be trusted if Fant misses time.

Austin Ekeler (quad), Keenan Allen (hamstring), Hunter Henry (hip)

The Chargers didn’t actually practice Monday, but all were expected to not participate. They should all be healthy and active on Thursday Night Football, but it’s something to watch. Keep an eye on Henry, in particular. He missed a couple snaps with a hip injury although he played the rest of the game.

A final trio of quick hitters

  • Chase Claypool’s snaps continue to dip and Dionate Johnson continues to drop passes. Juju Smith-Schuster has played well, at least, but the Steelers passing offense has fallen a bit off the tracks. They have a “get right” matchup against Cincinnati this week. Play Smith-Schuster and Johnson, but Claypool is too risky an option for your semifinals. High-risk, high-reward — play at your own risk.
  • The Seahawks receive some reinforcements this week, as Rashaad Penny and Josh Gordon return to the fold. Their roles will likely be limited early on but it’s nice to see them out there after such a long hiatus.
  • The Saints finally fell behind with Taysom Hill under center, and Alvin Kamara finally saw receiving work, catching seven of his 10 targets for 44 yards. With Drew Brees (ribs) uncertain to return, you can still confidently slide Kamara into your lineup.