The Loop Fantasy Football Report: Week 15

If you were counting on the Vikings overcoming their 1-5 start and making a mad dash to the postseason, last weekend’s kicking-challenged loss in Tampa Bay was a bitter pill to swallow.
You might think that your Minnesota favorites can still lift the fortunes of your fantasy team. But a look at the Vikings’ schedule during the next two weeks of fantasy playoffs shows that may not be the case.
Now Dalvin Cook is still one of the top three running backs in all of football. So you’re fine there. But the next two games against Chicago and New Orleans will not be particularly helpful for the fantasy numbers for the Vikings’ other offensive headliners.
It goes without saying that QB Kirk Cousins is not going to break the bank against the league’s second-ranked defense (Saints) and the No. 13 (Bears). But it’s likely that Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson will also underperform their 2020 averages.
You might have no choice but to start those Vikings receivers. And that could be the case for these other stars who have testing matchups over the next two weeks:
Russell Wilson (Seahwks QB) — Remember how No. 3 locked up the Most Valuable Player award in the first two months of the season. Seems a long time ago. His resume won’t be padded against Washington and the Rams, arguably the league’s two best defenses over the past month.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) makes a touchdown pass to wide receiver DK Metcalf (not shown) as San Francisco 49ers safety Marcell Harris, right, pressures during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Scott Eklund)
Ezekiel Elliott (Cowboys RB) — The lack of an offensive line and the injury to QB Dak Prescott have reduced Zeke to D-list status. He hasn’t run for a touchdown in more than two months, and he likely won’t against either the 49ers or the Eagles.
Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) gets knocked off his feet against the Washington Football Team in an NFL football game in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Kenyan Drake (Cardinals RB) — Arizona’s No. 1 back started the year very slowly but has scored in each of the past four games. But that streak is likely to end as he’s facing the same two run-stifling defenses that Elliott is, and he may do no better.
Arizona Cardinals running back Kenyan Drake (41) scores a touchdown as Los Angeles Rams cornerback Troy Hill (22) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
D.J. Chark (Jaguars WR) — It might be an improvement for Jacksonville to have Gardner Minshew back at QB, but that may not matter much against the Baltimore and Chicago defense. And Chark is ice-cold, catching passes on only four of his past 16 targets.
Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith intercepts a pass intended for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver DJ Chark Jr., left, during overtime in an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Minneapolis. The Vikings won 27-24. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn)
Tyler Lockett (Seahawks WR) — Speaking of ice-cold, remember Lockett’s 200-yard night against Arizona in Week 7? He’s averaging only 49 per game since, and the Washington and Rams defenses won’t make things any easier.
Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett (16) misses a catch against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Trae Waynes (26) during the second half of an NFL wild-card football game, Sunday, Jan. 10, 2016, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
SITTING STARS
It’s been a pretty painful season for Houston QB Deshaun Watson, and it won’t get any better against the Colts. … Jacksonville’s James Robinson has had a great rookie year, but he will not do much against the revived Ravens. … Even if Ronald Jones plays Sunday, he might struggle against Atlanta’s surprisingly decent run defense. … The Chiefs will mostly throw in their showdown against the Saints, so you won’t get a ton of numbers from RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire. … and we will not be jumping on the Jalen Hurts bandwagon quite yet. The new Philly QB will have a tougher time in his second start, now that Arizona has gotten to study game films of his coming-out party last week.
Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson (4) is sacked by Chicago Bears’ Mario Edwards (97) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
MATCHUP GAME
Will Tennessee MVP candidate Derrick Henry put up another 200-yarder Sunday against the Lions? Maybe. … Rams RB Cam Akers will only look like a 200-yard back rushing through the Jets. … With questions at running back this week, look for Tampa Bay QB Tom Brady to go to the air against the Falcons. … Bears WR Allen Robinson should be open a lot against the Vikings, and Mitchell Trubisky should be able to continue finding him. … Players who will feast on bad defenses include Colts RB Jonathan Taylor and WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Houston, and Ravens RB J.K. Dobbins vs. Jacksonville.
Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry (22) gains yardage as he tries to get around Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Sidney Jones (35) during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
INJURY WATCH
We start in Carolina, where the Panthers hoped to have back both RB Christian McCaffrey and wideout D.J. Moore. It’s likely they’ll only get the latter. … San Francisco WR Deebo Samuel is done for the year, and RB Raheem Mostert is very iffy. That makes Brandon Aiyuk and Jeff Wilson great starting options facing that unimpressive Dallas defense. … If Tampa Bay RB Ronald Jones cannot go because of his broken pinky, then Leonard Fournette will come back off the inactive list, for whatever that is worth. … Detroit QB Matthew Stafford is likely out. … So, too, is Washington RB Antonio Gibson. … Is this the week the Steelers get back RB James Conner? … Others listed as questionable include Vegas RB Josh Jacobs, Falcons WR Julio Jones, Chargers RB Austin Ekeler and WR Keenan Allen, New England RB Damien Harris, Texans WR Brandin Cooks and Broncos TE Noah Fant.
San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel (19) walks off the field after getting injured during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Football Team, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
THE DEEPEST SLEEPER
The Miami Dolphins are chasing a playoff berth with an injury ravaged lineup. With Myles Gaskin, Savon Ahmed, DeVante Parker, Jakeem Grant and Mike Gesicki either sidelined or getting hurt last week, rookie running back-receiver Lynn Bowden came to the rescue. The former Kentucky Wildcat caught seven passes for 82 yards last week, becoming a fast favorite of fellow rookie Tua Tagovailoa. Bowden qualifies at both positions and will be heavily relied on this week when the Dolphins face the hated Patriots.
Miami Dolphins running back Lynn Bowden (15) runs away from Kansas City Chiefs middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens (53), during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Miami Gardens, Fla. With Miami’s top four receivers sidelined by the end of Sunday’s game against Kansas City, Bowden was busy. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
THE EARLY PICKS
Chargers at Raiders (-3½):
Pick: Raiders by 5
Bills at Broncos (+6½): .
Pick: Bills by 9
Panthers at Packers (-8½):
Pick: Packers by 14
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers signals on the scrimmage line during the second half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
BREAKING NEWS
We’ll be updating our column, based on the latest injuries and innuendo, right up until Sunday’s kickoff. Go to TwinCities.com/theloop.
You can hear Kevin Cusick on Wednesdays on Bob Sansevere’s “BS Show” podcast on iTunes. You can follow Kevin on Twitter — @theloopnow. He can be reached at kcusick@pioneerpress.com.

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