The National Football League moves into Week 15, and there are a few really big treats for Fantasy Football players who stayed alive to this point. Some Fantasy owners might find an early holiday gift on the waiver wire, as Minnesota Vikings RB Adrian Peterson (knee) appears likely to suit up against the Indianapolis Colts. Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green (hamstring) is another big-name player who might be back soon, although it appears more likely to be Week 16 for Green, if at all.
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton (shoulder) went for an MRI earlier this week after complaining of soreness in his throwing shoulder, but he ended up checking out fine. The team has lightened his workload this week, and he was a limited participant in practice Friday. He will be fine for Monday’s game in Washington, and faces a Redskins pass defense ranking 22nd in the NFL by allowing 257.8 yards per game with 18 touchdowns and 42 pass plays of 20 or more yards.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (calf) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, but there should be little question he’ll play. He was also questionable last week and was able to not only play, but excel.
Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford (finger) suffered a dislocated finger last week. He will wear a protective glove and should be just fine for his game against the New York Giants. He has managed just eight TDs and three INTs over his past seven games and he has just one 300-yard game in the past 10 outings since posting two in his first three games. Still, he can be trusted for Fantasy purposes against the league’s 23rd-ranked pass defense.
Peterson (knee) has been working out in recent weeks, working on making cuts and doing all of the little things to make sure his knee is sound and he is 100 percent healthy. He returned to practice this week and all indications are he is at full speed and ready to return. The Vikings kept their end of the deal up by remaining in the postseason hunt, which was a stipulation for Peterson to return. The Colts rank 24th against the run, allowing 115.4 yards per game with nine rushing scores, so even if he has a carry cap, he is still a solid ‘flex’ play at the very least.
New York Jets RB Matt Forte (knee) is officially questionable for Saturday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. It is sounding like a long shot that he will be able to suit up. He missed practice Tuesday and Wednesday, practiced on a limited basis Thursday and did the walk-through Friday. RB Bilal Powell would be the player to pick up off of the waiver wire should Forte sit. The Dolphins rank 30th in the NFL, allowing 133.8 yards per game on the ground, with 10 rushing touchdowns while tying for a league-high 15 runs of 20 or more yards allowed.
Philadelphia Eagles RB Darren Sproles (concussion) has been ruled out for Sunday’s game with the Baltimore Ravens. Rookie RB Wendell Smallwood (knee) hit the Reserve/Injured list a couple of weeks ago with his sprained medial collateral ligament, so that means RB Ryan Mathews (knee) will likely see a bulk of the carries. He rumbled for 60 yards last week against Washington in his return from injury, but he is only worth a look as a ‘flex’ Fantasy play in leagues of 12 or more teams facing the league’s No. 1 rush defense. RB Kenjon Barner will be his backup, with RB Byron Marshall up from the practice squad to serve as the third back, but neither of those guys have much in the way of Fantasy appeal unless Mathews goes down.
San Diego Chargers RB Melvin Gordon (hip) will not play in Sunday’s AFC West battle with the Oakland Raiders, so it will be a two-headed monster with RBs Kenneth Farrow and Ronnie Hillman working in a platoon situation. Farrow is the better play since he has a better knowledge of the playbook, and the only reason he would be losing snaps is the fact he is a liability on pass blocking. He missed a key block that led to a strip sack last week in Carolina. Hillman might see his first playing time since signing with the team Nov. 22, but blocks do not amount to Fantasy points. Farrow is the better play between the two.
Pittsburgh Steelers RB DeAngelo Williams (foot) appears poised to return after a month-long absence, as he is no longer on the injury report. However, after RB Le’Veon Bell‘s monster performance in Buffalo last week, Williams is unlikely to make much of an impact on the stat sheet.
Detroit Lions RB Theo Riddick (wrist) is listed as doubtful for this week’s game against the New York Giants. RB Dwayne Washington stepped up with 64 yards on 16 carries last week against Chicago, and he added a 10-yard catch. He won’t put up giant numbers, pardon the pun, but he is a decent ‘flex’ option in 12-team Fantasy leagues since the team appears to be leaning on him primarily in the backfield.
Atlanta Falcons WR Julio Jones (toe) has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers due to his toe sprain, so it will be WR Taylor Gabriel continuing to see increased targets with WR Mohamed Sanu (groin) also helping out if he is active. With the Falcons a bit banged up at receiver, Fantasy owners of RBs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are likely to reap the reward. The 49ers are last in the NFL in rush defense, so expect a healthy diet of Freeman on the ground with Coleman seeing double-digit targets as a receiver out of the backfield. Gabriel can be trusted as a WR3 in all Fantasy formats with Jones on the shelf.
Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant (back) was listed as a limited participant for practice both Thursday and Friday, but head coach Jason Garrett told NFL.com that the receiver is feeling much better. Officially, Bryant is listed as questionable to play, but he’ll be active against a middle of the pack Tampa Bay Buccaneers pass defense allowing 249.8 yards per game with 22 touchdowns. Start him as you normally would, even if rookie QB Dak Prescott is tailing off a bit.
Oakland Raiders WRs Amari Cooper (shoulder) and Michael Crabtree (finger) are each questionable for Sunday’s game in San Diego. Cooper lit up the Bolts for six grabs, 138 yards and a touchdown in the first meeting in Week 5, and he should be a great Fantasy play despite his questionable tag. Crabtree isn’t as much of a certainty, but all indications are he should suit up, too. Both are solid WR2 options when healthy.
Jets WR Brandon Marshall (back, knee, foot) has all the body parts covered for the injury report this week. Despite the multitude of ailments, it appears he will be ready to go. NJ.com reported Marshall plans to carry a penalty flag to throw at CB Byron Maxwell during the game, if he does suit up. That might not get him on the good side of his coaching staff, as a 15-yard penalty would certainly follow, and perhaps more. Stay tuned.
Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin (back) was listed as a limited participant in practice, although it’s hard to imagine him not being up when the team visits Washington and former teammate CB Josh Norman on Monday night. Benjamin can be trusted as a WR3 in all Fantasy leagues for what could turn into a shootout.
The Chicago Bears will be without both WRs Marquess Wilson (foot) and Eddie Royal (toe) due to assorted foot ailments. Wilson fractured his left foot, while Royal will miss his 12th game in two seasons with the team due to a nagging toe issue. The team will welcome back WR Alshon Jeffery from a four-game suspension, and he should see ample targets with WR Cameron Meredith picking up the scraps. Jeffery is a decent low-end WR2, as he could have a little rust after the four-game layoff, while Meredith is more of a WR4 with upside.
Buffalo Bills WR Sammy Watkins (foot) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s battle with the Cleveland Browns. Watkins is a marginal Fantasy play against Cleveland’s pass defense, which is actually ranked 17th in the NFL and improving as the season progresses. If anything, Buffalo will pound the ball on the ground early and often against the terrible run defense of the Browns.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Hurns (hamstring) has been ruled out for a third consecutive game due to his hamstring injury, so it will be WR Allen Robinson and WR Marqise Lee as the top two targets in the pass offense. Lee has emerged as the No. 1 threat for the Jags, and he is coming off a season-high 113 yards on five receptions last week against a good Minnesota pass defense. He has three or more catches in six straight weeks and two visits to the end zone in the past four. He can be trusted as a WR3 in most Fantasy formats, especially since Robinson has disappeared lately.
Colts WR Donte Moncrief (hamstring) has been ruled out for Sunday’s with the Vikings, so scratch him from your plans. It will be all T.Y. Hilton all the time in the pass game, as he is the only viable Fantasy option for Indy at the moment. WR Phillip Dorsett has the chance to be a solid complement, but he is yet to step up and assume a meaningful role.
49ers WR Torrey Smith (concussion) is out after suffering a scary concussion in a game with the Jets last week. He was knocked cold, and reported memory gaps following the injury. WRs Jeremy Kerley and Quinton Patton are the two top wideouts for Frisco, and they could fare surprisingly well against an Atlanta Falcons pass defense ranking last in the NFL. Patton is a sleeper WR4 in Fantasy leagues this week.
As mentioned above, Green of the Bengals is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He appears to be nearing a return, as promised, before the season comes to a close, but he won’t help Fantasy owners this weekend in the playoffs.
New England Patriots TE Martellus Bennett (ankle, shoulder) is nicked up heading into Sunday’s game in Denver. Officially he is questionable, although he should be able to play. Still, facing the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense is a daunting task, even for QB Tom Brady. The run game should flourish, though. Bennett should be treated more like a TE2 this week due to the injuries and difficult matchup on the road.
Lions TE Eric Ebron (knee) is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with the Giants. He could be very productive if he is active, as the Giants have had a lot of trouble containing the tight end recently. See Pittsburgh Steelers TE Ladarius Green and what he was able to do to them two weeks ago.