The fantasy football playoffs and COVID-19 don't make for great dance partners.The coronavirus is threatening to make a mess out of the NFL's stretch run, with such players as Dalvin Cook, Travis Kelce and Taysom Hill landing on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Cook almost assuredly will miss Minnesota's game on Sunday at home against the Rams.
Maybe you picked up Alexander Mattison as an insurance policy for Cook. There isn't one for Kelce, though. And if you were starting Hill at quarterback the past couple of weeks, your team already was a mess at quarterback, and options will be thin.
It's really going to turn the fantasy playoffs into who can negotiate the waiver wire the quickest and most efficiently.
With most fantasy football leagues into at least the quarterfinals, if not semifinals, we're not asking a question of every team. Rather, we've asked ESPN fantasy sports researcher Kyle Soppe to limit his questions to the ones most relevant to the postseason. Here is what he came up with this week. (Teams are listed alphabetically.)
Should QB Kyler Murray no longer be viewed as a lock in fantasy starting lineups?
No. Look at it this way: If you don't start him and he gets back on track, throwing for 300 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for 50 and another touchdown, would you regret it? The problem with not starting Murray is the risk of him blowing up. The risk of starting him is that the Cardinals could play like they did at Detroit again and you're out of the playoffs. It's a gamble, but the upside might outweigh the downside -- but it also all depends on who else is on the bench. -- Josh Weinfuss
WR Russell Gage has been great for a month now. Can we keep counting on him with two plus matchups awaiting him?
Yes, you can. While Arthur Smith's offense can be sometimes unpredictable as far as usage, Gage has become the closest thing to a constant Atlanta has in its passing game. Gage has been targeted at least six times in each of the past five games and has four or more catches in each of those games. No one will mistake him for a No. 1 wide receiver, but he has shown enough consistency and big-play ability where you can figure he'll get at least some work every week. Keep him on your roster and, depending on how deep your league is (10 teams and above), perhaps put him in your lineup. -- Michael Rothstein
Should fantasy managers consider RB Ameer Abdullah as a flex option in what figures to be a pass-heavy game script against the Buccaneers?
No. Not if Cam Newton is playing quarterback. The Panthers will lean on Newton as a runner after he rushed for 71 yards last week at Buffalo. As long as the game is close, Chuba Hubbard will get more than his fair share of carries as the lead back. Abdullah will become more viable if Tampa Bay builds a big lead, but even then, inaccuracy in Carolina's passing game doesn't lend itself to big production. -- David Newton
Is it the rookie wall for WR Ja'Marr Chase, or should we trust the talent and keep rolling him out there?
Chase had his biggest game of the season against Baltimore in Week 7. But defenses are giving the rookie significant attention, and the Bengals have rolled out a limited passing attack. Chase's target share and the decreased passing volume make starting Chase a significant risk. -- Ben Baby
With all of the talent at RB/WR, is there enough meat on the bone for Dalton Schultz to be viable down the stretch?
If defenses are going to force QB Dak Prescott to go the long way down the field, then yes, there should be. Schultz was a major part of the offense at the start of the season when the Cowboys were rolling, catching at least five passes in five of the first six games. Prescott has to be patient, and if defenses are going to do their best to take away the big plays, then Schultz should be a factor like he was last week vs. the New York Giants. -- Todd Archer
The future is bright for WR Amon-Ra St. Brown. Can fantasy managers count on strong play to round out his rookie season?
Yes. The stars are aligning for St. Brown, who has established himself as a reliable receiver since Day 1 of training camp and now reaps the benefits. St. Brown has earned the respect of his peers and filled a much-needed void for the Lions at wideout, notably without Pro Bowl tight end T.J. Hockenson, who will miss the remainder of the year. Expect him to continue to get more targets, which will lead to more production. He has at least eight receptions in the past three games with 70 or more receiving yards. -- Eric Woodyard
Did you see enough on Sunday to lock in RB James Robinson for the remaining weeks in the post-Urban Meyer era?
It looks that way. Robinson did tie his season high with 18 carries, but remember, Carlos Hyde was out with a concussion, and the interim head coach is offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, who was part of the problem with Robinson's inconsistent usage all season. Hyde was placed on IR, so Robinson should -- should -- be by far the primary back. But, as with anything this season, it's the Jaguars, so ... who knows? -- Michael DiRocco
What should fantasy managers make of the big Duke Johnson game (127 yards and 2 TDs)?
It was a good day from an inspired player in an advantageous matchup. Let's make no mistake, Johnson ran the ball better than any Dolphins running back has this season, particularly with the way he fought through contact. The Dolphins' offensive line has been (rightfully) criticized as a pass-blocking unit this season, but it actually owns the ninth-best run block win rate in the NFL. If Johnson can continue to take advantage of the holes his offensive line opens up, he has a chance to save the Dolphins' and your fantasy seasons. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques
Are we chasing a ghost in hoping that the big Saquon Barkley game comes down the stretch?
Yeah, we said if it didn't happen against the Chargers and their 31st-ranked run defense, it wasn't going to happen this year. He had 64 yards rushing, 95 total yards and a touchdown in that contest. That's the ceiling. Anything bigger isn't going to happen with the way Barkley has been running and moving. It's clear he's not the player we saw during his rookie season and, again, he's on the injury report this week with that ankle problem. It's not going to keep him from playing, but it will keep him from that monster game everyone seems to keep expecting is inevitable. -- Jordan Raanan