Not your average Tuesday! Because of COVID-related issues, we actually had two NFL games yesterday. Those two games marked the end of Week 15, meaning they were of utmost importance for numerous fantasy managers across the world who needed things to break right in order for them to continue their championship hunt. Hopefully, you're still alive in your leagues, and that means you need to stay on top of all the news from around the league. Let's dig into everything that happened yesterday.
Buccaneers "Likely" to Place Leonard Fournette on Injured Reserve
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that the Buccaneers are likely to place RB Leonard Fournette on injured reserve, which would end his regular season (there are only three regular-season weeks left) but allow him to return for the playoffs. Fournette left early on Sunday Night Football against the Saints with a hamstring injury and was promptly ruled out for the rest of the game. Ronald Jones took over lead-back duties in his absence with Ke'Shawn Vaughn mixing in on passing downs.
This is a crushing blow for fantasy players who relied on Fournette all season long. The veteran running back emerged as a true three-down workhorse for the Bucs, marginalizing both Jones and Giovani Bernard en route to a position-leading 69 catches in 14 games. Schefter indicated Tampa Bay expects Fournette to be back for the playoffs, which certainly helps them from a real-life perspective but does little to comfort fantasy managers who will now have to find a replacement. Jones is the obvious choice, as he should handle the bulk of between-the-tackles work in Fournette's absence.
Tampa Bay also added Le'Veon Bell on Tuesday evening. Bell averaged an abysmal 2.7 yards per attempt across 31 carries with the Ravens earlier this season, and he's nothing more than a complementary piece despite his big-name appeal. Still, it's further indication that the Buccaneers don't view Jones as a viable pass-catching option. Tampa Bay inserted Vaughn in the two-minute drill against the Saints in Week 15, and Vaughn and/or Bell (once he knows the system) could siphon a large portion of passing-down snaps from Jones. Interestingly, Bell will reunite with former Steelers teammate Antonio Brown with the Bucs. That's not fantasy-relevant news, but it's a fascinating storyline given how dominant both were in Pittsburgh and how they have been reunited.
For fantasy purposes: Jones is the only Bucs back worth trusting with Fournette out, but don't expect a Fournette-level workload considering Bucs coach Bruce Arians has shown us time and time again that they don't view him as a pass-catcher. Vaughn or Bell will be involved as well, especially on third down.
Chiefs Send Tyreek Hill to COVID List
The Chiefs placed WR Tyreek Hill on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday. He was joined by CB Rashad Fenton and TE Blake Bell – who also join K Harrison Butker and TE Travis Kelce on the list. As it stands right now, the Chiefs are severely depleted for Week 16, especially in terms of offensive weapons. There's still a chance these players can play Sunday if the clear protocols. The NFL set a precedent by postponing three games in Week 15, so it's also possible the league could choose to do that again if the Chiefs are at half-strength heading into the weekend. We'll just have to wait and see what happens over the next few days. In the meantime, Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson, Josh Gordon, and Mecole Hardman could see increased work if Hill and/or Kelce are out. Patrick Mahomes would take a sizable hit without his top-two pass-catching weapons.
Bills Send Cole Beasley to COVID List
The Bills sent WR Cole Beasley to the COVID list on Tuesday afternoon. Beasley is outspokenly anti-vaccine and engaged in numerous episodes of social media warfare over the summer. Since he's unvaccinated, he will have to adhere to the stricter NFL protocols for unvaccinated players and is out for Week 16. Emmanuel Sanders had three DNPs last week before missing Week 15, so it could be Gabriel Davis as the Bills' WR2 behind alpha Stefon Diggs. Davis tied for the team lead in routes (34) and targets (seven) on Sunday and managed a 5-85-2 stat line. Especially if Sanders is out again next weekend, Davis would approach must-start territory as a solid WR2 option. If Sanders plays, both he and Davis would be more volatile. Fantasy managers will have to monitor news throughout the week.
Thursday Night Injury Watch
The 49ers and Titans square off on Thursday in a critical matchup for the real-life playoff picture. Both teams are dealing with some important injuries, so let's recap quickly:
- Elijah Mitchell is out of concussion protocol but looks like a game-time decision because of his knee injury. If he's out, Jeff Wilson would get the start again – and Wilson handled a three-down role with JaMycal Hasty barely playing in Week 15. Of course, Deebo Samuel is essentially the 49ers' RB2 right now, but Wilson would be a solid fantasy starter if Mitchell misses despite sharing some carries with Samuel.
- Julio Jones did not practice on Tuesday, his second straight DNP. Jones exited Week 15's contest against the Steelers with a hamstring injury and did not return. It's not looking good for Thursday night.
- The Titans designated A.J. Brown (chest) to return from injured reserve. If he's active on Thursday, he's a starter on most fantasy squads, especially if Julio Jones is out.
- D'Onta Foreman was a full participant on Tuesday, suggesting he will be ready to lead the Titans' backfield once again in Week 16.
Washington Sends J.D. McKissic to IR
Washington placed J.D. McKissic on injured reserve on Tuesday, meaning Antonio Gibson will continue to see an expanded role in the passing game for the rest of the regular season. Gibson briefly left Washington's game against the Eagles yesterday before returning, much to the relief of his fantasy managers who are depending on him during a playoff run. Gibson ran 23 routes on 33 team dropbacks against the Eagles. That type of route participation doesn't happen with McKissic healthy.