It just wasn’t my year. Maybe it wasn’t yours either. It’s been a while since this happened to me, but across my five fantasy leagues, I’ll have nothing to play for this week. Special thanks to Melvin Gordon and Odell Beckham for sending me home early, though at least Gordon had the decency to apologize for abandoning me in my time of need (still waiting for your apology, Odell). Now that my teams have flown the coup, I’m left to ponder one of life’s big questions—what do I do now?
My abrupt exit from this year’s fantasy proceedings presents an interesting moral dilemma. Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports showed us where his line in the sand is last week, arguing that spoilers have no place in the fantasy realm. If you’re not in the playoffs, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. No need to muddy the waters for everyone else by creating mayhem on the waiver wire.
While I myself am not a fantasy anarchist, there are plenty of others who embrace their villainous side, setting up road-blocks for teams still in the hunt by vengefully stockpiling waiver assets. We can use this example as a litmus test. A few weeks back when the Chiefs dumped Kareem Hunt in the wake of his domestic violence scandal, one player in my league who had already been eliminated trolled the rest of us by spending the remaining $81 of his free-agent auction budget on Hunt’s replacement, Spencer Ware.
That seems hard to justify and surely falls under the umbrella of poor sportsmanship, though others would argue that unless the league has rules preventing such behavior, being an agent of chaos is completely within your rights as a paying customer. It’s not like real-life teams can just pack it in once the playoffs are out of reach. Even if their games are meaningless, eliminated teams like Jacksonville and Arizona still have to play out their remaining schedule. Why should fantasy be any different? That’s not my belief, though I’m sure a certain percentage of the population feels this way.
So is it fair or foul to gobble up the Elijah McGuires and Justin Jacksons of the world, even if it means nothing? And are minor incentives like $10 high-score bonuses or consolation brackets reason enough to upset the apple cart when other teams are still competing for big money? Leagues that employ last-place punishments are able to get around this because there’s an understanding that avoiding humiliation is just as critical as winning, so nobody blows a gasket when 2-12 Tommy goes on a late-season spending spree.
If you’ve been dogged by someone playing spoiler or if you’re one of the folks that plays until the final bell, feel free to share your experiences in the comments section. That’s what it’s there for. Now let’s get to the rankings.
1. New Orleans Saints
Last Week: 1
Drew Brees ghosted fantasy owners with another no-show in Week 15, stumbling to 203 scoreless yards in a win over Carolina. The 39-year-old has been a god in the Superdome this year (139.1 quarterback rating, 20 touchdowns, one interception) but he’s been a regular joe outside Louisiana state limits (11 touchdowns, four picks, 6.88 yards per attempt). Pro Bowl snub Alvin Kamara pulled the plug on a rare three-game touchdown drought by punching in the go-ahead score in Monday night’s victory. The Saints can sew up home-field advantage in the NFC with a win against Pittsburgh in Week 16.
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2. Los Angeles Chargers
Last Week: 6
The Bolts ran their winning streak to four with an impressive come-from-behind triumph over Kansas City, a team they hadn’t defeated since the final week of 2013. Anthony Lynn went full Doug Pederson, dialing up a gutsy (and successful) two-point try to stun the Chiefs at Arrowhead. With Keenan Allen hurting, the Chargers got a pick-me-up from 2017 first-rounder Mike Williams, who delivered a trio of touchdowns while also supplying the game-sealing two-point conversion. Melvin Gordon should be ready to resume workhorse responsibilities this week after missing the last three games with a sprained MCL.
3. Kansas City Chiefs
Last Week: 2
The Chiefs squandered a 14-point fourth-quarter advantage in Thursday night’s loss while falling into a first-place tie with the surging Chargers in the AFC West. That marked Patrick Mahomes’ first home loss as an NFL starter. The Chiefs weren’t at their best on Thursday but Damien Williams was, shining with 123 yards and two touchdowns in the losing effort. I like to brag that I only missed one day of high school, but that’s nothing compared to the grit shown by slot corner Kendall Fuller, who plans to play through a broken wrist in Week 16.
4. Los Angeles Rams
Last Week: 3
There it is—the first two-game losing streak of the Sean McVay Era in Los Angeles. Jared Goff must have initiated his own self-destruct sequence. He’s collapsed over his last three games, faltering to a 54.8 quarterback rating with six interceptions and only one touchdown during that span. Once considered a lock for home-field advantage in the NFC, the Rams may need to win out just to avoid playing a Wild Card game. With Todd Gurley’s knee acting up, the Rams added some veteran insurance by taking a flyer on former Broncos 1,000-yard rusher C.J. Anderson.
5. Chicago Bears
Last Week: 5
After an eight-year hiatus, the NFC North-champion Bears are heading back to the postseason. Khalil Mack presented his case for Defensive Player of the Year by hounding Aaron Rodgers for 2.5 sacks in Week 15. Eddie Jackson—possessor of PFF’s No. 1 coverage grade among safeties—took a spill in the win over Green Bay, though his ankle injury isn’t thought to be season-ending. Jackson’s late-game pick, his sixth of the year, erased Aaron Rodgers’ record streak of 402 straight passes without an interception.
6. Houston Texans
Last Week: 9
A week after being shut down by Indianapolis, DeAndre Hopkins thrashed the Jets for a season-best 170 yards and two touchdowns in a Saturday matinee at MetLife Stadium. The sixth-year stud has yet to drop a pass this season. We don’t give much ink to kickers in the Power Rankings, but Ka’imi Fairbairn at least deserves a mention for his dominant Week 15. His haul included five field goals and two PATs for a grand total of 22 fantasy points. If you had Fairbairn in your lineup, congrats on making it to championship week.
7. New England Patriots
Last Week: 4
A two-game losing streak in December … what is this, 2002? The only thing that went right for New England on Sunday—aside from an insanely wide-open Chris Hogan touchdown—was this special-teams gem by jack-of-all-trades Rex Burkhead. The Patriots received just two Pro Bowl nods this year (Tom Brady and Stephon Gilmore), their fewest since 2008. The evil empire should take care of business the next two weeks against lowly Buffalo and New York, but the Pats are no longer a team to be feared, which hasn’t been said in quite some time.
8. Indianapolis Colts
Last Week: 10
T.Y. Hilton worked the Cowboys on Sunday (five catches for 85 yards) and he did it without seeing a single practice rep during the week. Allen Iverson would be proud. Marlon Mack pulled out all the stops in Week 15, running angry (career-high 139 rushing yards and two touchdowns) in the win over Dallas. The Pro Bowl must have a vendetta against Indianapolis. T.Y. Hilton (67-1,071-6), Andrew Luck (second-most touchdown passes behind Patrick Mahomes) and Darius Leonard (league-leading 146 tackles) all got the cold shoulder when rosters were announced Tuesday night.
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
Last Week: 12
Who needs James Conner when you have … Jaylen Samuels? Sure, why not. The former college tight end dominated against New England, dusting the Pats for 172 yards on a career-high 21 touches. Antonio Brown also had a say in the matter, matching a career-high with his league-leading 13th touchdown catch in the victory. Welcome to Snub City, population: JuJu Smith-Schuster. Despite ranking sixth in the league in both catches (95) and receiving yards (1,274), the second-year stud won’t be partaking in this year’s Pro Bowl festivities.
10. Baltimore Ravens
Last Week: 11
Lamar Jackson decided to spread some holiday cheer in Week 15, giving his fantasy owners an early Christmas gift by leaving 95 rushing yards under the tree. Gus “The Bus” Edwards provided a similar jolt, muscling his way to 104 rushing yards in a win over Tampa. The rise of Lamar Jackson has reduced Smokey Brown to moving scenery as the fifth-year deep specialist has totaled a meager 123 yards (17.6 yards per game) over his last seven showings. Only the Seahawks have rushed for more yards than Baltimore this season.
11. Seattle Seahawks
Last Week: 8
Seattle’s win streak came to a grinding halt as the Seahawks laid a massive egg against the Niners in San Francisco. If you’re going to assign blame for Sunday’s letdown, don’t point the finger at Chris Carson. He was marvelous, breaking out for a career-high 148 yards in the losing effort. Doug Baldwin has found new life, shrugging off his season-long struggles by providing four touchdowns over his last four appearances. The Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win in Week 16, though they’ll have to go through the high-powered Chiefs to accomplish that.
12. Dallas Cowboys
Last Week: 7
The Cowboys could have put the division out of reach with a victory in Week 15, but instead Dallas ran into a buzz-saw at Indianapolis. Prior to Sunday’s meltdown, Dallas hadn’t been shut out since Week 11 of 2003. Still full from his fantasy feast a week earlier (10-217-3 in a win over Philly), Amari Cooper took a backseat against the Colts, supplying his fewest yards (32) since arriving at the trade deadline. Zack Martin’s absence Sunday was his first since (checks notes) … ever? It’s true—he never missed a game in high school or college.
13. Tennessee Titans
Last Week: 13
A week after throttling the Jaguars on Thursday Night Football, Derrick Henry continued his late-season takeover by storming to 170 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Giants Sunday at rain-soaked MetLife Stadium. The former Heisman winner has collected more rushing yards in his last two games (408) than he had in his previous 10 combined (392). With Logan Ryan (No. 27 coverage grade among cornerbacks) done for the year, LeShaun Sims will handle slot corner duties for Tennessee down the stretch.
14. Minnesota Vikings
Last Week: 14
The Vikings shuffled the deck at offensive coordinator last week by throwing John DeFilippo to the wolves and replacing him with QBs coach Kevin Stefanski. Nobody benefited more from that change than Dalvin Cook, who rocked the house with 163 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s win over Miami. The 163 yards (136 rushing, 27 receiving) were his most since Week 3 of last season. It’s been a thorny stretch for Adam Thielen, who has fallen short of 30 yards receiving in two of his last three games including a 19-yard clunker in Week 15.
15. Philadelphia Eagles
Last Week: 16
That Nick Foles devil magic, man. It’ll get you. Foles and company sprung a huge upset Sunday in L.A., beating the Rams to keep their admittedly slim (39 percent) playoff hopes alive. Alshon Jeffery showed an immediate bond with Foles, pulling in all eight of his targets for 160 yards—his most since Week 13 of 2013—in the victory. Zach Ertz has missed the mark recently, collecting just eight grabs for 60 yards over his last two showings. Recent struggles aside, Ertz’s 101 catches are a single-season franchise record.
16. Cleveland Browns
Last Week: 18
Did you ever think Cleveland would win four out of five in your lifetime? It took an all-out effort, but the Browns made that lofty goal a reality by winning Saturday night’s nail-biter in Denver. Baker Mayfield has been phenomenal during that stretch, turning in an elite 113.5 quarterback rating with 11 touchdowns and a 71.1 completion percentage. If the Browns win out by beating Cincinnati and Baltimore over the last two weeks, they’ll finish with a winning record for the first time since 2007.
17. Miami Dolphins
Last Week: 15
The Vikings obliterated Ryan Tannehill on Sunday, dropping him for nine sacks as Minnesota sent the Dolphins packing. After spending most of his rookie year in storage, the Fins finally took Kalen Ballage out for a spin in Week 15, riding him for 123 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. With a foot injury shelving him for the final two games of 2018, the curtain could soon be coming down on Frank Gore’s illustrious career. And what a fabulous career it was—only three players in history have rushed for more yards than Frank the Tank.
18. Denver Broncos
Last Week: 17
The Broncos’ season went down in flames with a gut-wrenching loss to Cleveland in Week 15. Saturday’s debacle featured a sluggish showing from Case Keenum, who was intercepted for the first time since Week 8. Meanwhile Phillip Lindsay has hit a rookie wall, scuffling to just 54 yards on 28 carries (1.93 yards per attempt) over his last two outings. Most expected Courtland Sutton’s production to increase without Emmanuel Sanders, but instead his absence has had the opposite effect as the 23-year-old has managed just seven grabs for 56 scoreless yards over his last two contests.
19. Green Bay Packers
Last Week: 19
With their playoff hopes officially dashed—the Bears sealed their fate with a knockout punch in Week 15—the Packers have reached the “running out the clock” stage of their season. While the postseason won’t be on the menu for Green Bay, at least fantasy owners have reaped the benefits of Davante Adams’ breakout season. He enters this week as the overall WR1 in PPR leagues. With Aaron Jones (knee) lost for the season, Green Bay’s backfield will run through fellow sophomore Jamaal Williams over the final two weeks.
20. Carolina Panthers
Last Week: 20
Cam Newton looked broken in Week 15, struggling to 131 yards on pathetic 16-of-29 passing in a Monday night loss to the Saints. His surgically-repaired shoulder might be a bigger problem than the Panthers are letting on. D.J. Moore has done a lot right this year—he’s second among rookies with 688 receiving yards—but he’s also been reckless, committing three lost fumbles including one in the loss to New Orleans. In addition to slinging his first career touchdown pass on Monday night, Christian McCaffrey also broke DeAngelo Williams’ franchise record for most scrimmage yards in a single season (1,747).
21. Washington Redskins
Last Week: 23
After a decade spent navigating the football wilderness, well-traveled veteran Josh Johnson finally captured his first win as an NFL starter Sunday at Jacksonville. Johnson didn’t have much passing success in Week 15 (151 yards, one touchdown), but he put on a clinic with his legs, surging to a career-high 49 yards on nine carries. If you take away his 90-yard touchdown in Week 13, Adrian Peterson has averaged a sleepy 2.65 yards per rushing attempt over his last seven games. Despite his second-half swoon, the 33-year-old is still within striking distance of his eighth career 1,000-yard season.
22. New York Giants
Last Week: 21
Eli Manning had every reason to fail in Week 15—no Odell Beckham, horrible weather conditions at MetLife Stadium, a tough matchup against a sneaky-good Titans Defense—and he did! Manning was atrocious in the loss to Tennessee, completing a dismal 21-of-44 passes (47.7 percent) for 229 yards and two turnovers. Imagine if the Giants brought the clearly on-his-last-leg Manning back for another season (don’t laugh, it’s already been discussed). My condolences to fantasy owners who put all their eggs in the Saquon Barkley basket last week (2.2 yards per carry, season-low 56 yards from scrimmage).
23. Atlanta Falcons
Last Week: 25
The Cardinals woke a sleeping giant in Tevin Coleman. He ran all over them, burying Arizona with a career-high 145 rushing yards on only 11 carries in Week 15. With Devonta Freeman (groin) and Ito Smith (knee) both on I.R., Coleman should see as much backfield work as he can handle over the final two weeks. Julio Jones made a mockery of the Cardinals, adding to his NFL lead with 82 receiving yards while also notching his sixth touchdown of 2018. If this report proves true, Atlanta’s coaching staff could be headed for a facelift this offseason.
24. Buffalo Bills
Last Week: 26
Josh Allen completed just 50 percent of his throws (not far off from his season average, unfortunately) against the Lions in Week 15, but he kept the fantasy train rolling by providing his third rushing score in four games. It may be time for us to start taking Robert Foster seriously. He’s gathered 90 yards or more in four of his last five games while averaging an explosive 20.2 yards per catch during that stretch. With Buffalo’s backfield running out of healthy bodies, undrafted Texas A&M product Keith Ford could be headed for a prominent role in Week 16.
25. Detroit Lions
Last Week: 22
A week after being silenced by Patrick Peterson (five yards on two catches), Kenny Golladay lit it up in Week 15, crushing the Bills by snagging seven-of-eight targets for a career-best 146 yards. Golladay’s eruption against Buffalo secured his first career 1,000-yard season. Matthew Stafford was a staple of fantasy lineups as recently as last year, but without Golden Tate (injured) and Marvin Jones (injured reserve) to assist him, he’s been irrelevant. The depleted Lions have been held to 20 points or fewer in each of their last five games.
26. Cincinnati Bengals
Last Week: 27
Joe Mixon continued his annihilation of NFL defenses with another blistering performance in Week 15, bullying the Raiders for a career-high 129 yards on the ground as Cincinnati said goodbye to its five-game losing streak. Only Derrick Henry (478) and Saquon Barkley (427) have rushed for more yards than Mixon (414) since Week 12. Jeff Driskel earned his first win as an NFL starter on Sunday, but you wouldn’t know it from his nauseating stat line (14-for-33, 130 yards, 51.3 quarterback rating).
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last Week: 24
The Bucs walked the plank in Week 15, drowning at the hands of Baltimore’s elite defense. With Christmas around the corner, Jameis Winston mailed it in with an uninspired effort against the Ravens, hitting the mark on just 13-of-25 throws while faltering to a miserable 54.9 quarterback rating. Peyton Barber has garnered the eighth-most carries in football this year, though he ranks just 39th out of 50 qualified backs in yards per attempt (3.8). Meanwhile Mike Evans has quietly posted a career-high 1,328 receiving yards, second in the league behind Julio Jones (1,511).
28. San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 31
The Niners spent their Sunday afternoon playing spoiler, knocking Seattle down a few pegs with a three-point victory. Dante Pettis said so long to his three-game touchdown streak but he still put a crooked number on the Seahawks with a five-catch, 83-yard outburst in Week 15. He leads all rookies in receiving yards over the last month. First-time Pro Bowler George Kittle cut his post-game comments short, not out of anger, but because he had front row seats to WWE in San Jose. Matt Breida playing hurt—a tradition unlike any other.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars
Last Week: 28
Cody Kessler impressed as a ball-carrier in Week 15, gaining a team-high 68 yards on six rushing attempts in a loss to the Redskins. Unfortunately, Kessler was a disaster whenever he had to use his arm, completing just 9-of-17 throws for 57 yards and an interception while also taking six sacks. Jacksonville forked over a fifth-round pick for Carlos Hyde at the trade deadline, which in retrospect was a pretty steep cost for a guy currently losing snaps to seventh-round rookie David Williams. Hyde didn’t even dress for Sunday’s game against Washington.
30. New York Jets
Last Week: 30
Robby Anderson has let a lot of fantasy owners down this year (myself included) but at least he’s finishing on the right foot. He’s been firing on all cylinders over the last two weeks (11-172-2 on 18 targets), which coincides with the return of Sam Darnold. Elijah McGuire face-planted in Week 15, struggling to just 2.3 yards per carry with a lost fumble against Houston. He’s no Lamar Jackson, but Darnold can scoot when he has to. He proved that by rushing for a career-high 35 yards in Saturday’s defeat.
31. Oakland Raiders
Last Week: 29
Coming off an impressive upset of Pittsburgh in Week 14, the Raiders returned to form with a predictably awful showing in Sunday’s loss to Cincinnati. Why use a goal-line back when you can use a goal-line tight end? Lee Smith has been a model of efficiency, turning three targets into three touchdowns over his last three games. Monday night’s showdown with Denver will likely be the Raiders’ final home game at the Oakland Coliseum. Zero—that’s how many players Oakland will send to the Pro Bowl this year.
32. Arizona Cardinals
Last Week: 32
Give the Cardinals credit—they’re about as foolproof a slump-buster as you’ll find. Just ask the Falcons, who put a stop to their five-game losing streak by demolishing the Cardinals on Sunday. Josh Rosen’s season of horrors continued with another dreadful outing in Week 15 (38.4 quarterback rating). The rookie has yet to throw a touchdown in the month of December. Steve Wilks’ first year at the helm in Arizona could also be his last. According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic, it’s a “foregone conclusion” Wilks will be let go after the season.
Biggest Jump: Chargers
Biggest Drop: Cowboys