Josh Jacobs or Peyton Barber Start/Sit Week 15: Has rescheduling changed their upside for the playoffs?

As fantasy managers begin their dive into the fantasy playoffs, can they rely on Josh Jacobs or even Peyton Barber against Cleveland?

As Week 15 of the NFL season rolls around, so do the fantasy football playoffs — and they’re anything but routine this season. Yet, fantasy football stops for no one, and managers must set lineups in the hopes of advancing. As the NFL continues to navigate the current climate, games like the rescheduled Raiders/Browns contest are prominent topics of conversation. Meanwhile, fantasy-relevant players are in precarious positions. How should fantasy managers approach Josh Jacobs and Peyton Barber? Should they be reliably started in Week 15 with fantasy hopes on the line?

Raiders at Browns is being moved to Monday 

This felt like an inevitability. Given the explosion in COVID cases in recent days, the NFL and NFLPA had no choice but to react and juggle the schedule around. The Raiders/Browns game was originally supposed to be played on Saturday as the NFL does its usual weekend takeover following the conclusion of college football. However, due to the widespread impact of COVID-19, the NFL has stepped in and made a change.

Instead of the Raiders and Browns playing on Saturday, the game has been rescheduled to Monday, December 20 at 5 PM ET. This postponement does give fantasy managers more time to make decisions. But the unfortunate side effect is it also allows extra time for something to go wrong. And right now, things are going wrong quicker than ever.

Josh Jacobs remains a must-start for fantasy with newfound passing upside

Which one is a bigger surprise: Cordarrelle Patterson’s blowup, or Josh Jacobs finally having receiving upside?

After setting a new career-high with 9 receptions in Week 13 against Washington, Jacobs backed it up with 5 more receptions for 46 yards last week. Those catches ultimately saved his game from a fantasy perspective. Of Jacobs’ 10 PPR points, only 2.4 came on the ground. That has been a bit of a pattern this season, as Jacobs has rushed for over 70 yards just twice. Even in games where Jacobs has struggled on the ground or had his usage reduced, receiving work pulled him back into RB2 status.

Among RBs, Jacobs is seventh in receptions (44) and 10th in targets while adding 282 yards but no scores. He’s the RB16 on the season and the RB17 in points per game (14.7). Jacobs has put together a better season than some might have initially expected, especially once the Raiders added Kenyan Drake in free agency. Sure, Jacobs won’t approach the 306 touches and 1,303 yards he managed last year. But after being entirely written off, he’s been a player who can be trusted in lineups when healthy.

Peyton Barber has taken a nosedive since Week 3

In Weeks 2 and 3, when Jacobs was inactive, Barber became a workhorse for the then-Jon Gruden-led Raiders. After posting 13 attempts for 32 yards in Week 2, Barber had a massive game against the Dolphins in Week 3. He rushed 23 times for 111 yards with a touchdown while adding 3-of-5 receiving for 31 additional yards. Gruden stuck to his word on using Barber instead of Drake, but this was also the last time Barber had a noteworthy game.

Barber hurt his foot after just a single carry in Week 4 and was diagnosed with turf toe. Yet, it wasn’t the injury that kept him inactive for the Raiders’ next five games — it was a coaching decision. While Barber has at least been active in three of Las Vegas’ last four games, he’s hardly seen the field. Since Week 3, Barber has played just 13 snaps, recording 2 carries for 10 yards while catching 3 targets for 15 additional yards. 

Can fantasy managers rely on Jacobs or Barber, given the chaos?

Fantasy managers are in an awful spot this week. Until a game kicks off, no player or lineup is safe. The Raiders wanted this contest to be played Saturday despite the widespread COVID-19 outbreak in Cleveland, and I get it. A win is a win. 

Moving the game to Monday does two things. First, the Browns can get healthy, and we could see a better game. Second, this allows more time for players who are currently healthy (like Jacobs) to suddenly test positive. There are no absolutes anymore. 

Right now, Jacobs is a must-start in Week 15. Even if the Browns get some guys back, they likely will not get all of them — which helps make this a better matchup for Jacobs. On the season, the Browns are No. 9 vs. RBs in fantasy points allowed (21.58) and No. 8 over their last four (18.07).

Jacobs comes in as a mid-RB2 who now has a better floor thanks to his receiving upside. As for Barber, he should not be rostered even if Jalen Richard cannot return from the reserve/COVID-19 list in time.

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