There is nothing quite like the nervous excitement that comes from the fantasy football playoffs. Months of research and dedication to maintaining a team all come down to individual plays that can be the difference in advancing or being eliminated. Week 15 was just another example of this as the pressure to win was cranked up to 11. By now, most of you know your fate. For those of us that will sneak away with a win, there is one more week of work left ahead. Everything has led to this. So let’s start preparing by looking back at what happened over the weekend, and it’s impact moving forward in the Week 15 fantasy football recap. 

Before we break down the Week 15, here is a reminder that if you have any questions regarding fantasy football, check out our recent articles from our talented staff here at PFN. We have you covered from PPR & Standard rankings, waiver-wire additionsstart/sit recommendationsdaily dynasty contentpodcasts, and much more to help you make the most of this fantasy season.

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Dalvin Cook is injured — again

The last thing anyone wants to deal with, especially heading into your championship game, is an injury to your star running back. Unfortunately, that is the case with Minnesota Vikings star Dalvin Cook. Just a minute into the 3rd quarter, Cook took a pitch from Kirk Cousins to the right and was tackled behind the line of scrimmage on what seemed like a routine play. However, he stayed down on the ground in pain, holding onto his left shoulder. When you watch the tape, it is unclear what caused the injury to happen as there was little contact on the play. When he gets tacked at his ankle, he first makes contact on his bottom, and then momentum carries him onto his left side/shoulder. Trying to speculate on the severity of the injury this early without any official news would be foolish. However, the speed with which the Vikings ruled him out during the game is not a good sign. When asked postgame in regards to Cook’s injury, head coach Mike Zimmer said, “I don’t know. I’m not a doctor.” Not precisely helpful, but he did clarify that it is not related to his recent chest injury. 

Regardless, his status for next week is very much in doubt. Rookie Alexander Mattison would be the primary person to take the role in Cook’s absence. The issue here is Mattison missed Week 14 because of an ankle injury of his own. Mike Boone was left to carry the workload as the sole running back with a functioning body on Sunday. If Mattison is somehow on waivers, this is priority number one for waiver wire claims. Even if you don’t have the spot or need to start him, pick him up, and block your opponent from using him against you. Next week the Vikings take on the Green Bay Packers in what should be another exciting NFC North divisional game. 

Despite critical injuries, Jameis continues to get it done

Coming into Week 15 already down Mike Evans, Jameis Winston was facing a tough task in finding guys to replace his production. Luckily for him, he still had Chris Godwin. Well, for a little while, at least. Prior to Godwin’s departure in the third quarter, he racked up what ended up being a team-best 121 yards on his five catches. The sounds coming out of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are not good. Godwin pulled up lame and grabbed the back of his leg, which normally means a hamstring injury. The team has since come out and confirmed those reports. Winston is now out the #3 and #7 wide receivers in PPR scoring for what looks to be the rest of the year. So with both Evans and Godwin out, you would expect Winston to struggle. Well, you would be wrong. Winston completed 28 of 42 passes for 458 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in the Buccaneers’ 38-17 win over the Lions. He did all of that while having a fractured thumb. Yeah, that’s pretty good. Winston became the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 450 yards in consecutive games, after throwing for 456 yards in Week 14 against the Indianapolis Colts. It was also Winston’s second straight four-touchdown performance, and his third this season. 

The primary beneficiary of the holes created at wide receiver was Breshard Perriman. Targeted 6 times, Perriman caught 5 of them for 113 yards and 3 touchdowns. Two of his touchdowns came while Godwin was still on the field. Given the injuries to Evans and Godwin, expect Perriman to see nearly every snap next week against the Houston Texans. He was already a hot pickup off waivers coming into the week, and now needs to be rostered in all leagues. If Perriman can come anywhere close to his 34.60 fantasy point total in Week 16, it could very well be your name on that trophy at the end of the day.

Saquon Barkley is here to save the day

Ah, this one feels good to write I’ll be honest. Back on November 25th, I put out an article covering Barkley’s disappointing season. In that, I stated that while I didn’t like the matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles, the games against the Miami Dolphins in Week 15 and Washington Redskins in Week 16 could make Barkley end up being the playoff MVP for your team. So, what happened in Week 15? Just Barkley having his best fantasy day of the season is all. He had 24 carries for 112 yards and 2 touchdowns to go along with his 4 catches for 31 yards on Sunday. The crazy thing is that it could have been better because he had a touchdown vultured away on the 1-yard line from Javorius Allen. 

This is what I was talking about when I said he could win you your leagues so long as you made it this far without him. Barkley is finally healthy, and has actually benefited from the return of Eli Manning. Next week the New York Giants get the Redskins. If I am Barkley, or one of his owners in fantasy, I am licking my lips at this game. The Redskins are a bottom 10 run defense, and I fully expect Barkley to have just as good of a day next week. Look at the day Miles Sanders just had against them if you need any proof. You might have had a sour taste in your mouth midseason, but it could get very, very sweet before this is all said and done.

Quick Notes from Week 15:

  • Kenyan Drake single-handedly decided the fate of fantasy football players this week with his career-best 39.60 points against the Cleveland Browns. Its rare we see someone traded midseason, and they have this kind of impact for their new team. Whats is even more amazing is that Drake scored more rushing touchdowns (4) than Leonard Fournette (3), Le’Veon Bell (3), Joe Mixon (3), Alvin Kamara (1) have scored all season. Yup, totally saw that one coming, right?
  • Julio Jones finally had a week when it was supposed to be a “Julio Week.” With Calvin Ridley out for the season (abdominal), Matt Ryan hyper-targeted him with 20 targets in Week 15. Jones ended the day with 13 receptions for 134 yards and two touchdowns. Sunday’s game also ended his 9-week drought of not scoring. With Ridley out of the picture, I would expect a similar type of game plan next week against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Chris Carson was the workhorse we expected him to be with Rashaad Penny out for the season. Carson had 24 carries for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns in what was a fantastic matchup against a lousy defense. The Seattle Seahawks want to run the ball, making Carson a top-3 option again next week against the Arizona Cardinals
  • A.J. Brown continues to show he is an extraordinary talent. Brown caught 8 of his 13 targets for 114 yards and scored another touchdown. Week 15 marked his third game out of the last four to go over 100 yards. He currently sits with 47 receptions for 893 yards and 7 touchdowns on the year. Next week we get to see how developed he is as we would expect to see him get quite a bit of coverage by Marshon Lattimore when the Tennessee Titans face off against the New Orleans Saints. Regardless of the tough matchup, Brown will be a WR2 for me next week in fantasy football.
  • One of the surprises for me of the weekend was the effectiveness of Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon. Mixon was able to take his 25 carries and rush for 136 yards in Week 15 against an outstanding New England Patriots defense. While he didn’t score, he didn’t hurt fantasy owners either in what was a difficult matchup. Mixon has quietly gone over 100 yards in 4 of his last 6 games. He will be a high-end RB2 next week against a Miami Dolphins’ defense that just got torched. What he has been able to do behind one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL is remarkable and shows that he is one of the best talents in the league.

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.