It was a bummer to see two of the best fantasy QBs, Carson Wentz and Josh McCown, suffer season-ending injuries last week, but at least we have some good news at that position in the immediate future. Aaron Rodgers, who has been out since Week 6 with a broken collarbone, is expected to be back under center Sunday when the Packers visit the Panthers.
That return comes not a moment too soon for both 7-6 Green Bay and hordes of Rodgers owners, who will be delighted to add an elite talent to their lineups in an all-important playoff week. It's not the easiest matchup, but the two-time NFL MVP, who began the season with 300-plus yards and/or three-plus TD passes in each of his first five games, should hit the ground running.
The bigger question will be whether Jordy Nelson, who has dropped off a cliff with Brett Hundley at QB, gets back on track right away. The veteran WR makes for a risky fantasy start in Week 15, and then faces the Vikings' imposing secondary in Week 16, so it's probably best to temper excitement for him unless he goes bonkers at Carolina.
Jordan Howard, RB, Bears
Matchup: at Lions, Saturday
He scorched the Lions just four weeks ago, Detroit's defense hasn't looked much better since then and Howard is coming off an impressive, 147-yard rushing performance at Cincinnati. So what's not to like?
Well, for starters, the fact that each of Howard's four previous 100-yard days were followed by a dud. Then there's the distinct possibility that the Lions take a big lead at home, which could take the receiving-challenged RB off the field if Chicago goes into catch-up mode.
However, if he can come through in this spot, Howard appears set up to continue a nice playoff run. The Bears get the Browns at home in Week 16, although the Vikings loom in Week 17 (but your league is smart enough to finish its season before then, right?).
Alex Smith, QB, Chiefs
Matchup: vs. Chargers, Saturday
Now's a good time to point out that, yes, you are reading "Saturday" correctly in this and the preceding matchup. We'll have two Saturday NFL games this week and the next, so be sure to double-check your lineups well before Sunday morning.
On this week's episode of The Fantasy Football Beat (too late to subscribe? Never!), I made the case that Smith should get benched this week, based on his recent history, including 12 or fewer fantasy points in three of his past four games and 13 or fewer in four of his past six, plus his matchup. The Chargers haven't allowed more than 13 points to a QB in any of their past four games and have been that generous just twice since Week 4.
Even with his recent slide, Smith is the third-highest scoring QB on the season — second if we remove Wentz from the equation — so his owners have been used to rolling him out there. If he does do well against the Bolts, that would go a long way toward restoring confidence in him ahead of a Week 16 matchup with the Dolphins, who have suddenly looked tough to throw on in wins over the Broncos and Patriots.
Nick Foles, QB, Eagles
Matchup: at Giants, Sunday
Having mentioned Wentz a couple of times, there would be no way to write about key Week 15 situations without discussing his replacement. Given the MVP-caliber level at which Wentz was performing, Foles can't be seen as anything but a downgrade for Philadelphia's offense as whole, and its pass-catchers in particular.
However, Foles does have a magical Eagles season of his own under his belt (27 TDs to just two picks in 2013), and as some have noted online, he probably deserves a bit of a mulligan for not looking good in his most recent extended stretch of starts, 11 with the 2015 Rams, given that his head coach at the time was deservedly much-maligned Jeff Fisher. Plus, his previous stint in Philly has given Foles experience throwing to Zach Ertz, who is expected back after missing last week's game with a concussion, and in a terrific matchup with the Giants, he has nice weapons at WR in Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor.
Now Foles just needs to show he knows how to use those weapons and keep on track an offense that's been great for fantasy. It will also bear watching to see if the Eagles choose to offset the loss of Wentz by running the ball more, and if that makes Jay Ajayi a more trustworthy commodity heading into a tasty Week 16 date with the Raiders.
Matchup: at Seahawks, Sunday
The Rams' No. 1 receiver, Robert Woods, is expected back after a three-week absence, during which time Cooper Kupp was the WR10 in fantasy after being the WR37 for Weeks 1-11. So will Kupp go back to being a shaky flex play? The matchup isn't as imposing as it would have been earlier in the season, as Seattle has lost Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor, but it will be hard to start Kupp.
The other Los Angeles WR of note, Sammy Watkins, has been on a TD tear, scoring in five of his past six games. He's been held to 41 yards or fewer in four of his past five, though, so he also seems like a boom-or-bust bet with Woods back, but QB Jared Goff has shown an ability to spread the ball around this season.