The most chaotic week of the NFL season so far, the timing couldn’t be much worse for fantasy managers in the playoffs. COVID-19 has made a comeback and the sports world is shaken up. There is a plethora of news to keep up with, some being regular injury concerns and others being COVID-19 news that remain fluid entering the weekend. Lineup decisions and roster management will also be layered this week due to games rescheduled, causing statuses of some players to be finalized mid-weekend. It is important that managers keep an eye on the status of every member of their roster and possible waiver wire additions affected by health in the NFL. This is the Week 16 fantasy football inactives list, Sunday to Tuesday edition.
Updated week 15 NFL schedule: pic.twitter.com/arIrOhkCgW
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 17, 2021
This series will continue to be live every Saturday morning, meaning that if brand new statuses appear later in the weekend, they are not covered here. You can also follow me on Twitter (@AhaanRungta) for more regular fantasy football discussions, including comments on injury-riddled fantasy rosters. If a game does not appear on this list, that means there is currently no current injury/COVID-19 threat in the realm of fantasy relevance.
Week 15 NFL Inactives
New England Patriots vs. Indianapolis Colts
QUESTIONABLE: RB Brandon Bolden, NE (knee) / K Nick Folk, NE (knee)
OUT: RB Damien Harris, NE (hamstring)
After the Raiders vs. Browns primetime game was punted to Tuesday, the epic renewal of the epic Patriots vs. Colts rivalry is now the only Saturday game on the slate. While the Colts have stayed relatively safe from losses to the offensive unit, the Patriots will be without starting running back Damien Harris, who they expect to see back with the team in Week 16.
With James White still out for the season and Brandon Bolden dealing with an injury designation entering the weekend, the Patriots backfield is expected to be led by Rhamondre Stevenson. New England also sees an injury designation to placekicker Nick Folk who continues to be a fantasy stud; however, Folk is expected to play through the injury that he has been dealing with for a good chunk of the season anyway.
Tennessee Titans vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
QUESTIONABLE: WR Dez Fitzpatrick, TEN (reserve/COVID-19 list)
Steelers continue to be without wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and tight end Eric Ebron and the Titans still don’t have running back Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown back on the field. The only fantasy-relevant motion on this game is wide receiver Dez Fitzpatrick being on the league’s COVID-19 protocol. Fitzpatrick is far from a fantasy start himself as the only noteworthy game he has had this season is a 6-target, 1-touchdown performance in Week 11. However, it is noteworthy that the Titans’ core wide receivers would be cut to a shallow trio of Julio Jones, Chester Rogers, and Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.
Carolina Panthers vs. Buffalo Bills
QUESTIONABLE: WR D.J. Moore, CAR (hamstring)
DOUBTFUL: WR Emmanuel Sanders, BUF (knee)
It’s a pair of core fantasy wide receivers that see injury trouble in this game. On the Carolina side, #1 option D.J. Moore is dealing with a nagging hamstring injury that doesn’t rule out the possibility that he misses Week 15. The Bills remain the best fantasy defense against wide receivers this season and with the Panthers in a seesaw situation at the quarterback position, Robby Anderson as the WR1 on Carolina would be an ugly situation for fantasy managers.
For the Bills, superstar wide receiver Stefon Diggs will obviously lead the pass-catching weapons but you might see added workload for slot receiver Cole Beasley and Dawon Knox, since veteran Emmanuel Sanders is likely to miss Week 15 after missing practice all week with a knee injury.
Houston Texans vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
QUESTIONABLE: RB Rex Burkhead, HOU (hip) / TE Brevin Jordan, HOU (hand)
OUT: RB Carlos Hyde, JAX (concussion)
This isn’t the prettiest matchup in the world for late-season NFL action but the fantasy implications are there. The Texans have had a roller-coaster committee situation over the last few weeks in their backfield. This week, Rex Burkhead is the man with limited practice entering the weekend. If Burkhead is unable to suit up, David Johnson and Royce Freeman would split duties in the Houston backfield against a Jacksonville defense that actually ranks a respectable #13 in rush DVOA as a defense but gives up fantasy points in bunches to running backs due to touchdowns.
For Jacksonville, their biggest news of the week came off the field as head coach Urban Meyer was finally fired. Additionally, backup running back Carlos Hyde is officially the only fantasy-relevant offensive player on the injury report, meaning it could be go time in the fantasy playoffs for starter James Robinson, who will be backed up by only Dare Ogunbowale.
Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
QUESTIONABLE: RB Tony Pollard, DAL (foot)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (calf) / WR Kadarius Toney, NYG (reserve/COVID-19 list)
OUT: QB Daniel Jones, NYG (neck)
After missing Week 14 with a foot injury that scared fantasy managers of the electric running back, it is encouraging that Tony Pollard isn’t already listed out. However, it looks like a game-time decision to be made for the Cowboys ahead of their 1:00 PM ET game on Sunday in their division. If Pollard is unable to suit up, the backup duties for Ezekiel Elliott will be held by Corey Clement, who knows a thing or two about finding the end zone against the Giants.
The only other Cowboys backup to Ezekiel Elliott is Corey Clement, who has scored 3 of his 7 career #NFL regular season TDs against the Giants.
The Cowboys face the Giants Week 15. Since Week 6 of last season, Elliott has taken at least 80% of the DAL offensive snaps just ONCE. https://t.co/0NkA4liOvc
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) December 9, 2021
On the other side, the Giants are going to be missing offensive core pieces yet again; quarterback Daniel Jones is a no-go again and with Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney both question marks, they could be once again reliant on Kenny Golladay, Darius Slayton, and Evan Engram to produce through the air from backup quarterback Mike Glennon and possibly third-stringer Jake Fromm.
Though Giants QB Mike Glennon is expected to start Sunday vs. Cowboys with Daniel Jones still out, recently acquired QB Jake Fromm could see some action in the game, per source. It’s something the team is considering.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) December 15, 2021
Arizona Cardinals vs. Detroit Lions
QUESTIONABLE: RB James Conner, ARI (ankle) / RB Chase Edmonds, ARI (ankle) / TE Zach Ertz, ARI (hamstring)
QUESTIONABLE: WR Josh Reynolds, DET (thigh) / RB Jamaal Williams, DET (reserve/COVID-19 list)
OUT: WR DeAndre Hopkins, ARI (knee)
OUT: RB D’Andre Swift, DET (shoulder) / TE T.J. Hockensen, DET (thumb)
Fantasy stars galore on this report. At the running back position, Chase Edmonds is trending up as he eyes his first NFL action since Week 9 and is expected to play. His partner in the backfield, James Conner, has trended down a bit with an ankle injury but he was limited in practice on Friday and is also expected to suit up on Sunday. Edmonds and Conner could work in unison and they get a great matchup in Detroit, who rank bottom 4 in the NFL in pass and rush DVOA as a defense.
Veteran tight end Zach Ertz also participated in practice in limited fashion, making him a likely candidate to play on Sunday. The worst news for Arizona is that DeAndre Hopkins is set to undergo surgery and is out for the remainder of the regular season and likely more. Once the news is confirmed, Hopkins can be dropped in all redraft formats and Christian Kirk and Rondale Moore can be bumped up in rankings.
For Detroit, they get similar bad news in that tight end T.J. Hockensen is done for the season after surgery on his left thumb. Additionally, the talented running back D’Andre Swift will miss yet another matchup, making Jamaal Williams the next option at running back. However, Williams tested positive for COVID-19 and the Lions haven’t dished out any good news on his availability for Week 15. If he is out again, Craig Reynolds is expected to see the lion’s share of backfield touches but Reynolds’ fantasy value could be disturbed by Jermar Jefferson or Godwin Igwebuike.
Finally, wideout Josh Reynolds was limited in practice headed into the weekend. If he is limited in opportunity or completely unable to participate, Amon-Ra St. Brown would be the clear pass-catching lead with Kalif Raymond likely seeing some looks.
New York Jets vs. Miami Dolphins
QUESTIONABLE: WR Jaylen Waddle, MIA (reserve/COVID-19 list)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Phillip Lindsay, MIA (reserve/COVID-19 list) / RB Malcolm Brown, MIA (quadriceps)
OUT: WR Elijah Moore, NYJ (reserve/COVID-19 list)
IN: RB Michael Carter, NYJ (ankle) / RB Tevin Coleman, NYJ (concussion)
IN: RB Myles Gaskin, MIA (reserve/COVID-list) / RB Salvon Ahmed, MIA (reserve/COVID-19 list)
The reserve/COVID-19 list is stacked this weekend and this game is quite the example. Nearly the entire Dolphins backfield has dealt with some action on this list recently but Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed are luckily being activated to return and get some game action in Week 15. The caveat—head coach Brian Flores provided fantasy managers a look into the uncertainty on usage in the backfield headed into this matchup against the bad Jets defense.
Brian Flores says both Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed have plenty reps in the offense this season but they’ll evaluate how they look before deciding if one of them gets most of reps or other guys who have practiced more this week (i.e. Duke Johnson).
— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) December 17, 2021
Running backs Phillip Lindsay and Malcolm Brown are also candidates to re-enter the backfield in Miami but they are currently on the wrong suit of suiting up in Week 15.
For the Jets, while rookie Elijah Moore will still not have a chance to catch passes in Week 15, rookie Michael Carter is back from injury and the indication on his fantasy relevance is a major headline, despite veteran Tevin Coleman also returning to join Carter and Ty Johnson in the Jets backfield.
RB Michael Carter, coming off IR, will have “a significant role” on Sunday, per Saleh. RB Tevin Coleman (concussion) also returning. #Jets
— Rich Cimini (@RichCimini) December 17, 2021
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Denver Broncos
QUESTIONABLE: RB Javonte Williams, DEN (knee) / RB Melvin Gordon, DEN (thumb)
Currently to be interpreted as housekeeping announcements, both Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams, who have split work in the Broncos backfield this season, are dealing with injuries that kept them restful at practice. However, both members of the committee are expected to play in Week 15 as of now. Naturally, if one of them does not suit up, the other immediately enters the RB1-RB2 threshold range in Week 15 fantasy projections.
Atlanta Falcons vs. San Francisco 49ers
OUT: RB Elijah Mitchell, SF (concussion, knee)
Rookie running back Elijah Mitchell, who has missed multiple weeks this season including Week 14, is primarily being held out of this Week 15 context due to some swelling in his knee. Mitchell’s status continues to be in a limbo as his Week 16 availability is still uncertain, given that the 49ers will have to play on Thursday Night Football on the road in Tennessee.
In Mitchell’s absence, Jeff Wilson Jr. will take the lead role in the San Francisco backfield and will be backed up by JaMycal Hasty.
Green Bay Packers vs. Baltimore Ravens
QUESTIONABLE: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, GB (back)
QUESTIONABLE: QB Lamar Jackson, BAL (ankle) / WR Marquise Brown, BAL (illness)
DOUBTFUL: WR Equanimeous St. Brown, GB (concussion)
OUT: WR Randall Cobb, GB (groin)
Deep threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling leads NFL pass-catchers in average depth of target entering Week 15 but is dealing with a back issue that tags him with an injury designation to enter the weekend. Still, he is expected to play and given the lack of depth in the Green Bay offense with Randall Cobb on the injured reserve, Valdes-Scantling’s availability will be important given the matchup.
On the other side, star quarterback-wideout duo Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown are both uncertainties entering Week 15. For Jackson, it’s an ankle injury that could leave him as a game-time decision on Sunday for the 4:25 PM ET start. For Brown, the issue is a non-COVID-19-related illness, meaning there is a good chance he plays as long as he feels good enough on Sunday.
In five full games this season where Lamar Jackson has rushed for fewer than 60 yards, he has averaged 17.3 #FantasyFootball points.
It's not obvious Lamar is a start with your season on the line and it depends on your options this week. https://t.co/lFY5IAJD37
— Ahaan Rungta (@AhaanRungta) December 17, 2021
New Orleans Saints vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QUESTIONABLE: WR Lil’Jordan Humphrey, NO (hamstring) / TE Adam Trautman, NO (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Leonard Fournette, TB (ankle)
OUT: RB Giovani Bernard, TB (hip)
For the Saints offense, there isn’t much fantasy relevance these days outside of the superstar playmaker Alvin Kamara, the quarterback streamer Taysom Hill, and in deeper leagues, pass-catchers like Marquez Callaway and Tre’Quan Smith. However, it is noteworthy that wideout Lil’Jordan Humphrey and Adam Trautman are two pieces to the puzzle that could affect the fantasy potential of Callaway, Smith, and Hill against a tricky matchup in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, the only relevant news is that wideout Antonio Brown is still serving a suspension and lead running back Leonard Fournette was limited in practice but is in line to play in Week 15. For deep league handcuff stashers, Giovani Bernard was placed on the injured reserve and Kenjon Barner was signed from the Tampa Bay practice squad to join Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn as backups.
Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears
QUESTIONABLE: WR Adam Thielen, MIN (ankle)
OUT: RB Alexander Mattison, MIN (reserve/COVID-19 list)
This Primetime game that hasn’t been moved yet is set to be played on Monday Night Football, luckily with little fantasy football drama so far. Adam Thielen is looking to make a miraculous comeback but fantasy managers of Thielen should not hold out hope for his return, that could be down to a game-time decision. Backup running back Alexander Mattison is officially a no-go for Week 15 as his unvaccinated status implies that he cannot make a return soon enough to participate in this game. In Mattison’s absence, Kene Nwangwu and Wayne Gallman will serve backup duties for Dalvin Cook.
For the following three games, all of which were previously moved from Sunday, the listed names marked with reserve/COVID-19 list are currently on the league’s COVID-19 protocol. Managers should simply eyeball the said players’ news on social media and fantasy football app alerts headed into Sunday morning. The strategy is simple here:
- Have backups available in case none of those players are able to go
- If news on possible returns aren’t close to progressing by Sunday kickoffs, go with the players that are for sure playing
Some notes of major relevance for these moved games include:
- Nick Mullens serves as the Browns backup quarterback if both Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum are unable to play.
- Garrett Gilbert serves as the Football Team’s backup quarterback if both Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen are unable to play.
Moved to Monday — Las Vegas Raiders vs. Cleveland Browns
OUT: TE Darren Waller, LV (knee)
QUESTIONABLE: QB Baker Mayfield, CLE (reserve/COVID-19 list) / QB Case Keenum, CLE (reserve/COVID-19 list) / RB Kareem Hunt, CLE (reserve/COVID-19 list) / WR Jarvis Landry, CLE (reserve/COVID-19 list) / TE Harrison Bryant, CLE (ankle)
Moved to Tuesday — Washington Football Team vs. Philadelphia Eagles
QUESTIONABLE: QB Taylor Heinicke, WAS (reserve/COVID-19 list) / QB Kyle Allen, WAS (reserve/COVID-19 list) / RB J.D. McKissic, WAS (concussion) / WR Terry McLaurin, WAS (concussion) / WR Curtis Samuel, WAS (hamstring) / WR Cam Sims, WAS (reserve/COVID-19 list)
Moved to Tuesday — Seattle Seahawks vs. Los Angeles Rams
QUESTIONABLE: RB Alex Collins, SEA (reserve/COVID-19 list) / WR Tyler Lockett, SEA (reserve/COVID-19 list)
QUESTIONABLE: RB Darrell Henderson Jr., LAR (reserve/COVID-19 list) / WR Odell Beckham Jr., LAR (reserve/COVID-19 list) / TE Tyler Higbee, LAR (reserve/COVID-19 list) / TE Brycen Hopkins, LAR (reserve/COVID-19 list)
To close out this report of chaos, enjoy a few hand-picked player reactions on social media.
— Odell Beckham Jr (@obj) December 17, 2021
@NFL Make up your damn mind on protocols. Showing up and making only 3 teams test?!? All so you can keep the game as scheduled to make money.
— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) December 16, 2021
This sun will b down by 5 pm. It’s Monday night baby!!! Feelin good‼️ https://t.co/yMEzwwHCle
— Chief David Njoku (@David_Njoku80) December 17, 2021
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