Welcome back to Beyond the Box Scores! Whether your playoffs start next week or in Week 15, there’s a good chance every matchup from now on is a must-win. This means that I’ll be focusing a lot more on start/sit and matchups and a lot less on trade advice, as most leagues will have had their deadlines. Let’s get started!
Los Angeles Chargers @ New England Patriots
- Rhamondre Stevenson is likely to miss multiple weeks with an ankle injury. I hate to say it, but this puts Ezekiel Eliott firmly on the fantasy radar. He saw every running back carry (minus one if you count Ty Montgomery as a running back) with Stevenson sidelined, as well as five targets. This offense as a whole has essentially zero upside, but volume is king, so he’s in the flex conversation.
- I was going to write an “Austin Ekeler is benchable” blurb … then I saw his schedule. The eye test and the stats agree that he is not the rusher he once was, and he is posting by far his lowest receiving numbers since 2018 … but that doesn’t matter against the Broncos. With two matchups against Denver (the best fantasy matchup for running backs) and one against Vegas (the fifth-best), Ekeler is still a must-start in three of the four remaining weeks of the season, and even Week 16 against Buffalo is a slightly above-average matchup.
- DeVante Parker saw nine targets this week, more than every other Patriots WR combined. However, rookie Demario Douglas is likely to clear concussion protocol by next week and reclaim a solid chunk of targets. Both are nothing more than dart-throw flexes on Thursday night against the Steelers.
Detroit Lions @ New Orleans Saints
- Derek Carr is currently listed with three separate injuries. Following Carr’s early exit, Taysom Hill played 16 snaps as a QB, easily his season high. He isn’t likely to actually provide much value with his arm (both of his pass attempts were incomplete in this one), but every snap under center is a snap where he touches the ball, and that’s valuable. He was already a borderline TE1 (actually TE7 in both total points and PPG), but he is firmly a weekly start as long as Carr is sidelined.
- Jameson Williams looked FAST on his end-around TE. But he still has yet to post higher than a 65% route participation rate or a 12% target share. Dan Campbell did talk after the game about getting him more involved, but his tone wasn’t as convincing as his words — I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, he’s not worth playing as anything more than a boom-or-bust deep-league flex.
- Jameis Winston, who will start for the Saints while Carr is out, is not necessarily a better NFL quarterback. But he is a much better quarterback for the fantasy hopes of the Saints’ wide receivers. His 12.7 ADOT on 47 attempts this season is slightly skewed by having mostly come in late in games when the Saints are already trailing, but it is still two full yards higher than any other quarterback. His career 10.8 ADOT would also be the highest of any QB this season.
Atlanta Falcons @ New York Jets
- I noted two weeks ago that Breece Hall had been putting up very unimpressive rushing metrics since a hot start to the season. That has continued each of the last two weeks, and he has now gone seven straight weeks without cracking 51 rushing yards while averaging just 2.39 yards per carry. He has seen an absurd average of 7.7 targets per game since Michael Carter’s release, but even that hasn’t been enough to keep him from back-to-back weeks below 10 Half-PPR points. With this offense dragging him down, he’s by no means a must-start in any matchup.
- Last week, I said you could drop Kyle Pitts, so he of course turned around and posted a 90% route participation rate and a 32% target share. He still only caught four of eight targets for 51 yards, but, especially considering his good matchups in Week 16 and 17, he’s worth considering if his usage stays high in Week 14.
- Hard Knocks star Xavier Gipson was second on the Jets with a 70% route participation rate and led the team with 77 yards on six targets. With some good matchups coming up and the Jets finally playing their best quarterback (A: How sad is it that I mean Trevor Siemian? B: Assuming they don’t convince Zach Wilson to humiliate himself further), he’s a deep dart throw worth considering.
Arizona Cardinals @ Pittsburgh Steelers
- The Steelers’ offensive renaissance following the firing of Matt Canada lasted just one week. Admittedly this game was a weird one, with Kenny Pickett exiting early, multiple delays, and pouring rain throughout, but 10 points against the Cardinals is bad. Especially with Pickett looking likely to miss extended time, this offense can return to the fantasy black hole tier, which is disgustingly crowded this year.
- This was easily Kyler Murray’s worst fantasy outing since his Week 10 return, as the weather, the Steelers’ defense, and the game script combined to hold him to just 11.8 fantasy points. With a bye and then the imposing 49ers’ defense next up on his schedule, it may be tempting to drop him. But I strongly recommend holding this short king: He averages over 20 fantasy points per game for his career and has great matchups in Weeks 16 and 17.
- Under Matt Canada, Najee Harris saw 54% of snaps, a 54% rush share, a 39% route participation rate, and a 9% target share. Under Eddie Faulkner, those numbers are essentially identical: 56%, 54%, 42%, and 4%. Meanwhile, Jaylen Warren’s usage has, if anything, gotten worse, with a 7% smaller route participation rate and a 5% lower target share. Given my earlier take that this offense as a whole is trending back towards dumpster fire status, I recommend you treat both as flex options, although they do have some positive matchups coming up.
Indianapolis Colts @ Tennessee Titans
- I made the case for Chigoziem Okonkwo heading into this week, and I can’t be too mad at the results. He caught three of six targets for a season-high 62 yards, finishing as the TE11 on the week. His matchups over the next four weeks are all above average, so he might be able to maintain fringe TE1 production down the stretch.
- Zack Moss was a disappointment in his first game back in the starter’s role, finishing with just 57 total yards on 22 opportunities. However, he had a 94% snap share and a 74% route participation rate and saw literally every single running back carry. Especially given that the Colts are the fastest-paced team in the league, he is an absolute must-start in all formats while Jonathan Taylor remains out.
- It’s sacrilegious, but I’m going to be benching Derrick Henry in some places next week. We’ve seen him consistently disappear in negative game scripts this season — he has just 7.08 points per game in weeks where the Titans lose by six or more points — and Tennessee is currently 13-point underdogs on the road in Miami.
Miami Dolphins @ Washington Commanders
- Brian Robinson suffered a hamstring injury, leaving Antonio Gibson as the lead back for the Commanders. However, rookie Chris Rodriguez Jr. was also very involved, playing 43% of snaps in the second half and finishing with just three fewer carries than Gibson. Gibson will dominate receiving work, but the presence of Rodriguez plus some tough matchups means he is more of a flex play than an immediate must-start RB.
- I don’t know what to make of De’Von Achane’s second return from injury. On the one hand, he had just two fantasy points on five touches before the Dolphins hit 99% win probability. On the other hand, it’s not his fault the entire second half, in which he racked up 21.8 more fantasy points en route to an RB3 finish on the week, was garbage time. At the end of the day, a guy with 20 fantasy points in every game where he plays over 40% of snaps is a must-start … but I wouldn’t be surprised if his limited usage leads to a very costly bust in one of his two tough matchups in Week 16 and 17.
- With an absolute goose egg this week, Terry McLaurin is averaging just 8.6 fantasy points per game. He also hasn’t scored double-digit points since Week 8. With a bye this week and then tough matchups every week of the fantasy playoffs, he’s closer to a shallow-league drop candidate than a weekly WR2. Even if he performs against the Rams in Week 15, are you trusting him against the Jets or 49ers in the fantasy semifinals or finals? If your answer is no, drop him, name value be damned.
Denver Broncos @ Houston Texans
- Dameon Pierce reclaimed the lead role in the Texans’ backfield, carrying 15 times to Devin Singletary’s eight. However, Pierce still posted just a 38% snap share, and he was a goal-line TD away from a four-point outing. Especially with Dare Ogunbowale returning from the dead to play 17% of snaps, run eight routes, and see as many targets as each of the other two (one), both Pierce and Singletary are suddenly nothing more than boom-or-bust flex options.
- Jerry Jeudy is in a similar position to McLaurin, where name value is the only thing keeping him on rosters (let alone in lineups). His 6.8 fantasy points per game certainly isn’t doing it, nor is his 16% target share over the last four weeks. On the other hand, unlike McLaurin, Jeudy at least has some favorable matchups coming up. Especially against the Chargers (the third-best fantasy matchup for WRs) in Weeks 14 and 17, he may be able to end a disappointing season on a relatively high note.
- With Tank Dell done for the season and C.J. Stroud still cooking, Noah Brown is a must-add. He didn’t catch either of his two targets this week but tied Nico Collins with 30 routes on 34 dropbacks from the future Rookie of the Year. We saw him explode for back-to-back top-10 finishes with Collins sidelined earlier, and we could get more of the same in the fantasy playoffs with Dell out.
Carolina Panthers @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- In the Panthers’ first game in the post-Frank-Reich era, rookie WR Jonathan Mingo saw a season-high 10 targets. However, he has zero weeks above 10 Half-PPR points all season and the Panthers’ next three matchups are all in the bottom nine in points allowed to WRs. He can be left on the waiver wire.
- This one is mostly for shallow (or Standard) leagues, but Chris Godwin belongs with McLaurin and Jeudy on the “Don’t Let Name Value Keep You From Dropping This Underperforming WR” list. Again, 8.7 points per game just doesn’t cut it, and he hasn’t scored double digits since Week 8. With only one remaining matchup outside the bottom 10 in wide receiver points allowed, he’s unlikely to be someone you want in your lineup in the fantasy playoffs.
- Chuba Hubbard has back-to-back RB1 finishes on exactly 64% of snaps. This week’s outing was much more on the ground, with a 74% rush share and zero targets compared to 48% and five in those metrics last week, but the points count all the same. We have to predict some regression (he has all three of the Panthers’ touchdowns over the last two weeks), but diverse usage should be enough to keep him start-worthy going forward.
Cleveland Browns @ Los Angeles Rams
- I don’t really care about Elijah Moore’s splits with Joe Flacco from their time together in New York. I do care that he saw 12 targets after Amari Cooper left early with an injury. He was still inefficient on a per-target basis, catching just four of 12 for 83 yards, but that kind of volume makes him an instant flex option. Cedric Tillman and David Njoku also get slight bumps with Cooper out (each saw caught two of six targets this week), but neither is someone I’d feel comfortable starting.
- Matthew Stafford has now scored 22+ fantasy points in each of the last two weeks. However, those are also his only two weeks all season above 17. Outside of a matchup with the piece of Swiss cheese the Commanders call a secondary in Week 15, he isn’t worth considering in 1-QB leagues.
- Jerome Ford still played 51% of snaps, but he recorded just nine carries to Kareem Hunt’s 12 (Pierre Strong also saw two). A receiving touchdown saved his fantasy day, but I will be leaving him on benches in plenty of leagues for a tough matchup with the Jaguars next week.
San Francisco 49ers @ Philadelphia Eagles
- Add Kenneth Gainwell everywhere you can. We haven’t heard anything about it, so he may be fine, but D’Andre Swift certainly looked shaken up after taking a huge hit in the closing minutes of this game. If Swift misses time, Gainwell becomes a must-start. It’s also worth noting that Gainwell out-snapped Swift even in this game, 37 to 29.
- Every main member of this 49ers offense is a must-start, so I’m going to use this blurb to recommend (again) stashing Elijah Mitchell. I will keep knocking on wood that Christian McCaffrey stays healthy, but even a 5% chance that he misses time makes Mitchell more valuable than a random WR5 at this stage of the season.
- Even if he is healthy, D’Andre Swift isn’t necessarily a must-start against Dallas. As I mentioned, he was out-snapped by Gainwell this week, and he managed just 8.4 points against the Cowboys (at home) in Week 9. Don’t get too cute and bench the RB13 unless you have a solid option, but there’s a real chance you have a better flex option in 10 or even 12-team leagues with only the Commanders and Cardinals on bye in Week 14.