Green Bay Packers' Ibraheim Campbell forces a fumble by Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. McCaffrey recovered his own fumble. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Green Bay Packers' Davante Adams catches a pass in front of Carolina Panthers' Donte Jackson during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Carolina Panthers' Christian McCaffrey runs during the first half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill (23) carries on a touchdown reception in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws a touchdown pass to running back Brian Hill, not pictured, in the second half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) carries against New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Shy Tuttle (99) in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rusty Costanza)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) drops back to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) drops back to pass in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) passes under pressure in the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints in New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Carolina Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson (26) reacts with linebacker Brian Burns (53) and defensive tackle Vernon Butler (92) after recovering a fumble during the first half of an NFL football game against the Tennessee Titans in Charlotte, N.C., Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn)
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Matt Ryan is coming to town, which tends to mean trouble for the Carolina Panthers.
The Falcons quarterback has dominated the rival Panthers of late, going 6-1 in his past seven starts while averaging 318 yards passing with 15 touchdown passes and only three interceptions.
Ryan is 14-8 against Carolina.
So, while much of the attention this week has been on Carolina's porous run defense - they've allowed opponents to run for a combined 516 yards and 10 touchdowns in the past three games - defensive coordinator Eric Washington knows the Panthers can't forget about old No. 2 and his favorite target Julio Jones.
''We know what he's capable of and they have explosive talent at the wide receiver position,'' Washington said of Ryan. ''So we need to make sure we do a good job of getting him in third down situations they don't want to be in. And we have to be really efficient with our pass rush. The ball tends to come out fast on third-and-medium.''
That won't be easy.
Carolina's top cornerback James Bradberry is coming back from a groin injury this week, but the team's second- and third-best cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Ross Cockrell missed the first two days of practice this week with injuries and may not play. That means the Panthers (5-4) could have to lean on young players such as Javien Elliott, Cole Luke and Corn Elder, who was re-signed earlier this week because of injury concerns.
The Falcons (2-7) may not be contending for a playoff spot, but showed last Sunday they still have plenty of life - and firepower - by throttling the Saints 26-9
NEW LOOK AT RUNNING BACK
If Devonta Freeman is held out with a sprained foot, as expected, the Falcons will have a new look at running back. The position was considered to be the team's deepest spot before Ito Smith was placed on injured reserve last week following a concussion and a neck injury.
Brian Hill played well behind Freeman last week and is expected to start. Former Panthers backup Kenjon Barner would be the top backup and Qadree Ollison, who was active for the first time against the Saints, could play a bigger role. Notably, Barner was used in the wildcat formation, filling the role formerly held by Mohamed Sanu before the receiver was traded to New England. There could be more direct snaps for Barner against the Panthers.
NEW KICKER IS A KEEPER
The Falcons may have found their kicker, at least for the remainder of the season, in Younghoe Koo. Koo made four field goals, including a career-long 48-yarder, in last week's win at New Orleans in his Falcons debut. Koo was signed after veteran Matt Bryant's second stint with the team didn't go well and Giorgio Tavecchio couldn't hold the job.
Koo was the NFC special teams player of the week following his successful debut. He made three of six field-goal attempts with the Chargers in 2017 and kicked for the Atlanta Legends of the short-lived Alliance of American Football earlier this year. Koo, from South Korea, played for Georgia Southern.
The Panthers drafted Greg Little in the second round earlier this year to be their left tackle, but two concussions have limited him to two games and one start this season.
However, Little has now been cleared from the concussion protocol and is expected to start Sunday at left tackle with Dennis Daley sitting bothered by a groin injury. The Panthers have won both games that Little has played this season.
Before last week's game, Atlanta ranked last in the league with only seven sacks. Suddenly the Falcons rediscovered their pass rush with six sacks against the Saints, including 2 1/2 by defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Vic Beasley Jr., who has been unable to duplicate his 2016 production, when he led the NFL with 15 1/2 sacks, added 1 1/2 sacks.
''To me, it was just a good example to show what we're capable of,'' Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. ''If we apply those things time after time, those are the results that we hope to get.''
MORE OF MOORE
The Panthers are getting more production of late out of second-year wide receiver D.J. Moore, who is coming off back-to-back 100-yard receiving games for the first time in his career. Moore had seven catches for 101 yards against the Titans two weeks ago and followed that up with a nine-catch, 120-yard performance last week against the Packers. Moore is leading the Panthers in receptions (54) and yards receiving (684). The next goal for him is getting into the end zone - he only has one TD catch.
New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee, shoulder) returned to practice on Thursday after being held out on Wednesday. The Patriots were just giving Edelman a rest on Wednesday, as he's battled through nagging injuries for much of the season. He's clearly quarterback Tom Brady's favorite target -- eight straight games with double-digit targets -- and he'll be a no-brainer must-start in fantasy against a Bengals squad that the Patriots should be able to take advantage of through the air in Week 15. Edelman isn't in any danger of sitting out this Sunday.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (hamstring) said "I'll be ready to go" for Week 15 against the Raiders. Henry has been rested early in the week recently as he navigates a nagging hamstring injury, but he should be fine for this Sunday and is a must-start in all fantasy lineups. The bruising 25-year-old back is once again carrying teams in the fantasy playoffs in 2019 with four straight 100-yard performances. We see no reason why that shouldn't continue against Oakland this weekend as long as Henry plays the entire game.
Atlanta Falcons kicker Younghoe Koo has certainly risen to the occasion since joining the team in November. He's hit 16 of his 18 field goal attempts on the year, with three made field goals in four of the five games he's played with the Falcons. This week, the Falcons face the 49ers and both teams should be able to put some points on the board. Expect Koo to get around three field goal attempts in the game with a few extra-point opportunities to boot, making him a solid starting kicker option once again this week.
The Falcons Defense faces an extremely tough task in Week 15. They're up against a 49ers team that has put up 36-or-more points in three of the past four weeks. The only time they were held under that number was against the Ravens. Needless to say, the Falcons don't have quite as formidable of a defense as the Ravens. The Falcons will likely cede over 30 points in this game and they may struggle to come up with a turnover, let alone multiple turnovers, to save their day. They should be avoided in all formats.
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (calf) is returning to practice on Thursday. It gives him a chance to suit up on Monday night against the Saints. Hilton hasn't seen game action since Nov. 21 against the Texans, though, so he could have his snaps limited if he returns against New Orleans. That would obviously make him a pretty risky fantasy option, especially on a Colts team that is usually run-first. Making the decision even tougher for fantasy owners is that the game is on Monday. Zach Pascal is Indy's No. 1 receiver with Hilton out, so he'd be the plug-and-play option if you take your decision all the way to Monday.
Atlanta Falcons rookie wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus made waves with his first NFL catch last week. It went for 93 yards and a touchdown. Unfortunately, it was his only catch of the game. There might be more opportunities for Zaccheaus going forward as Calvin Ridley (abdominal) is out for the season and Julio Jones (shoulder) is currently questionable for Week 15 as well. Zaccheaus was fourth on the team in offensive snaps amongst receivers in Week 14, behind Jones, Ridley and Russell Gage. If Jones sits this week, Zaccheaus could be a worthwhile dart throw in DFS or as a WR4 in deep leagues. If Jones plays, it's probably best to just keep Zaccheaus on your watch list or add him to your bench.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Russell Gage should see his role increase going forward with Calvin Ridley (abdominal) out for the year. Gage has earned at least four targets in each of his past six games, with nine-plus targets in three games over that stretch. Julio Jones (shoulder) and Devonta Freeman (ankle) have been dealing with injuries this week and are both questionable for Week 15 against the 49ers. If one or both of them sit, Gage's upside becomes even higher, making him a must-start in PPR and a more realistic non-PPR option as well. Regardless of Jones and Freeman, Gage is a great WR3 or flex play in PPR as he should have a great chance to catch about five passes for 60-plus yards.
Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper has had an absolutely exceptional season with 58 catches for 640 yards and six touchdowns over 10 games. Last week, in his return from a three-game absence, he had one of his weaker showings of the year, catching just two passes for 32 yards. However, it was a rare off-game in an otherwise top-end season. Plus, the team just lost Calvin Ridley (abdominal) for the season and there's a chance they could be without Julio Jones (shoulder) and/or Devonta Freeman (ankle) this week as well. Hooper should see at least six or seven targets regardless of the availability of Jones and Freeman, and we've seen him turn in high-end tight end numbers with targets like those all year, so make sure to get him in your lineups.
Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (calf) is expected to be a limited participant in practice Thursday, Dec. 12, as the Colts return to the field. Head coach Frank Reich said the team plans to take it careful with Hilton, and he will play in Week 15 on Monday night only if the Colts feel he's 100 percent.
Fantasy Spin: Hilton has played in only one game with three receptions for 18 yards since Week 8, and it would be a nice early Christmas for his fantasy teams if he were able to return. That still seems like more of a longshot at this point, but we'll have to monitor Indy's practice reports over the next few days to get a better gauge.
Atlanta Falcons running back Qadree Ollison is currently third on the team's depth chart behind Devonta Freeman (ankle) and Brian Hill. Freeman has been dealing with an ankle injury this week and is currently questionable for Week 15, but even if he sits, it would be Hill who stands to benefit more than Ollison. In Week 14, Freeman earned 17 carries, while Hill had nine and Ollison had only four. If Freeman plays, Ollison's playing time will be greatly limited and if Freeman sits, Ollison will be a touchdown-or-bust option. He's best to avoid in all formats.
Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (shoulder) has been limited in practice this week and is currently questionable for Week 15 against the 49ers. It was recently announced that Jones's teammate and fellow wide receiver Calvin Ridley (abdominal) would miss the rest of the season. So now, Jones figures to see an even heavier workload as Ridley had been seeing around 10 targets per game the past month. Jones is a must-start if he plays this week. He's had a disappointing season by his lofty standards with only four 100-yard games and no touchdowns since Week 3. However, he's been essentially a lock for five-plus catches and 60-plus yards all year, which is a fantastic baseline and we all know how high his ceiling is.
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is coming off a solid game against the Panthers in which he threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. This week, the Falcons face a tougher matchup against the 49ers, but Ryan should still have ample opportunities to pile up yardage. The team will be without Calvin Ridley (abdominal) this week and for the rest of the season, but Ryan should have the rest of his primary arsenal intact. Expect him to throw for over 300 yards with two touchdowns on the day. He might throw one or two interceptions or lose a fumble, which makes him a low-end QB1 option this week as opposed to mid-tier or high-end.
Atlanta Falcons running back Brian Hill had a strong showing in Week 14 against the Panthers. He rushed the ball nine times for 62 yards and a touchdown playing as a backup to Devonta Freeman (ankle). There's a chance Freeman is out this week as he's dealing with an ankle injury and is currently questionable. If Freeman suits up, he's likely to receive around 20 touches and greatly limit Hill's workload. However, if Freeman is out, Hill becomes a potential RB3 or flex play against the 49ers. He doesn't have high upside as a starter, but could pull through with another touchdown or a few big plays.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (thumb) is throwing tennis balls in practice on Thursday. Winston suffered a fractured thumb in Week 14 against the Colts but played through it. He's listed as day-to-day this week, but it's far from a guarantee that he'll even play in Week 15 against the Lions. Even if Winston is active, the thumb ailment could hamper his production, especially now that he no longer has talented wideout Mike Evans at his disposal the rest of the season. Winston has high-end QB1 potential against the Lions, but there's far more risk with him this week because of his fractured thumb. If he can't go, Ryan Griffin would get the nod and would be a weak QB2 play.
Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark (ankle) will miss his second straight practice of the week on Thursday. Chark is considered week-to-week and is looking like a long shot to play in Week 15 against the Raiders. The 23-year-old has had an excellent season with 67 catches for 956 yards and eight touchdowns, but he's in danger of missing the final three games with his injury. Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley and Keelan Cole should be in three-wide sets if Chark misses any games. Westbrook is your best bet in fantasy, although Conley is also worth a look as a boom/bust type against a weak Raiders Defense this weekend if Chark is out.
Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (ankle) was held out of Wednesday's practice and is currently questionable for Week 15 against the 49ers. Freeman had 21 touches in Week 14 against the Panthers and gained 94 yards and scored a touchdown in the game. As long as he suits up, he should be set for around 20 touches against the 49ers, which makes him a solid RB2 option in most leagues. He has more value in PPR as he has 46 receptions on the year.
Buffalo Bills running back T.J. Yeldon has been inactive for seven straight weeks. The team has been rolling with the combination of Devin Singletary and Frank Gore at running back and it has worked well for them as Singletary has flourished. Yeldon will likely be inactive for the eighth straight week as the team faces the Steelers in Week 15. He should remain on waivers in all leagues.
The Bills Defense finds itself in a great spot going into Week 15. They face a Steelers offense that has been riddled with injuries surrounding rookie quarterback Devlin Hodges. While the rookie quarterback has performed decently the past two weeks, he was up against the Cardinals and Browns, two defenses that pale in comparison to Buffalo's. Expect the Bills to make things difficult all day for Hodges. They should record multiple sacks and force a few turnovers while holding the Steelers under 20 points in the game. They're an excellent starting option this week.
Miami Dolphins wide receivers Devante Parker (concussion) and Albert Wilson (concussion) will remain in the league's concussion protocol at least "through the end of the week," according to head coach Brian Flores. Parker is having the best season of his career and has become pretty close to a must-start in fantasy because of it, but both he and Wilson are in serious danger of sitting out in Week 15 in a very nice matchup with the Giants secondary. Allen Hurns is also dealing with an injury, so Miami's offense could be severely undermanned this weekend. Parker is the only one of Miami's pass-catchers that needs to be in fantasy lineups if he's active, but you'll have to check back on Friday to get a better read on his status.
Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (concussion) will be in the concussion protocol 'at least through the end of the week,' according to head coach Brian Flores.
Fantasy Spin: It's unknown if he meant through the weekend or just the practice week Friday. Either way, Parker isn't expected to play in light of this news. Albert Wilson (concussion) is in the same boat with Parker. Trevor Davis and Isaiah Ford could be thrust into significant action, but they're relative unknowns. They could be decent DFS flyers at basement prices, but they aren't much as flex options in traditional fantasy.