NFL injury report: Latest news on Julio Jones, Christian McCaffrey, Drew Brees and top fantasy stars for Week 15

By Matt Johnson
Nov 8, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) catches a touchdown pass against the Denver Broncos during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

NFL injury report: The 2020 NFL season enters the final turn with Week 15 right around the corner. It’s been a year full of complications for NFL teams and fantasy football managers, with countless players going down due to injuries or COVID-19. As we look at the NFL injury report for Week 15, plenty of NFL stars are in jeopardy of missing more time.

For starters, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey are looking shaky for Week 15. They each have missed more than a month of action, but seemingly were heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, recent updates have cast uncertainty for their returns.

We could also be looking at season-ending injuries for several top players. Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay and Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon headline a growing list of players whose returns before the regular season ends feel in jeopardy. Meanwhile, with COVID-19 cases spiking across the United States, the virus will also be impacting player availability for Week 15.

Update: Dec. 20, 11:30 AM EST

NFL Week 15: Schedule and game-by-game predictions

Let’s dive into the latest NFL injury report for Week 15, with the latest news and updates coming in throughout the week.

NFL injury report: Julio Jones, Alex Smith, Michael Thomas out in Week 15

The Atlanta Falcons will once again be without Jones as he nurses a nagging hamstring injury, as reported by SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan. Typically an iron man, Jones doesn’t have much to play for at this point with the Falcons being eliminated from playoff contention. It’s not a massive surprise to see Atlanta deactivate him.

What is more alarming in terms of postseason stakes is the fact that Alex Smith won’t be in action on Sunday for the Washington Football Team. ESPN insider Adam Schefter reported the news. Smith suffered a calf injury last weekend, and hasn’t progressed well enough to suit up against the Seattle Seahawks.

Washington already faced a disparity at quarterback entering Week 15, but Dwayne Haskins presents a more lopsided matchup at the most important position opposite Seattle’s Russell Wilson. Not that the Football Team has given Haskins much of a chance to develop. Nevertheless, Haskins gets the nod to face an improving Seahawks defense with the outright NFC East lead at stake.

On to the final headliner. While the New Orleans Saints will welcome back signal-caller Drew Brees to face the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, according to ESPN’s Schefter, Brees’ favorite target, Michael Thomas, won’t be able to play. Some serious injuries happening across the NFL right now.

In other news: Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr is expected to recover from his groin injury in 10 to 14 days, per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. That means Marcus Mariota is likely to be starting for the Raiders next Saturday versus Miami.

NFL injury report: Latest news on Julio Jones status for Week 15

Julio Jones will remember the 2020 season for the hamstring issue that never went away. He first appeared on the NFL injury report with a hamstring strain in Week 1, aggravating it in Week 2 and it’s caused problems ever since. While he has played in nine games this season, the All-Pro receiver has often played at less than 100%. After suiting up in Week 13, Atlanta ruled him out for Week 14 days in advance of the game.

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At this point, it’s fair to wonder if Jones will return in 2020. He couldn’t practice at all before Week 14 and the Falcons are now seemingly competing for a higher pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. The 31-year-old receiver has regularly put his body on the line for Atlanta, but it might be time for the organization to take a cautious approach. Jones is inactive for Week 15, we wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t return this season.

Miami Dolphins injury report: Myles Gaskin (COVID-19), unlikely to play in Week 15

NFL injury news: Week 15
Dec 6, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins running back Myles Gaskin (37) stiff arms Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Margus Hunt (70) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Dolphins placed Myles Gaskin on the Reserve/COVID-19 less than 24 hours before their Week 14 matchup. After testing positive for the coronavirus on Saturday morning, Miami’s top running back is now looking at a multi-week absence. As noted by ESPN’s Field Yates, due to the NFL’s COVID-19 protocols requiring a player be clear for 10 days after their first positive test, Gaskin is unlikely to play in Week 15.

With Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed (shoulder) and Matt Breida (COVID-19) sidelined in Week 14, Miami put its rushing attack in the hands of DeAndre Washington. While the team won’t update the availability of Ahmed and Breida until much later in the Week, Breida is more than 10 days removed from being placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. As a result, if his condition has improved, he could return for Week 15. With that said, even facing a compelling matchup against the New England Patriots, Miami’s starting running back won’t be more than an RB3.

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Cincinnati Bengals injury report: Latest news on Joe Mixon for Week 15

NFL injury update
Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (28) recognizes the fans as he walks off the field following the 33-25 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday, Oct. 4, 2020, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. Jacksonville Jaguars At Cincinnati Bengals Oct 4

Since Joe Mixon suffered a mid-foot sprain in Week 6, the Cincinnati Bengals have been secretive about when their top running back could return. It wasn’t until Week 10 that the team finally placed him on injured reserve and the Bengals haven’t provided many updates since that time.

Before Week 14, head coach Zac Taylor said there was “a possibility” for Mixon to return before the regular season ends. Given Cincinnati isn’t playing for anything the rest of the way and this coaching staff has been vague regarding injuries, it’s safe to assume Mixon likely won’t be back anytime soon. As for Week 15, we don’t recommend starting Gio Bernard in the fantasy playoffs unless you’re desperate. Even then, there’s little upside for him against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

NFL injury report: When will George Kittle be back?

NFL injury report
Nov 1, 2020; Seattle, Washington, USA; San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle (85) participates in pregame warmups against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Update: George Kittle (foot) returned to practice this week, inactive for Week 15.

The San Francisco 49ers have been devastated by season-ending injuries this season. When George Kittle went down in Week 8 with a broken bone in his right foot, many feared he wouldn’t return in 2020. But the 49ers remained hopeful and that hasn’t wavered as Week 15 approaches.

Before the team’s game against the Washington Football Team, general manager John Lynch again expressed hope that both Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo would return before the season ends. Before the 49ers decide on Kittle, though, he needs medical clearance from doctors. For those fantasy managers who make it to the championship round, Kittle could be ready to play in Week 16.

Detroit Lions injury report: Kenny Golladay out for Week 15

NFL injury news
Oct 4, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay (19) before the game against the New Orleans Saints at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Update: Kenny Golladay inactive for Week 15

Similar to Cincinnati, Detroit hasn’t revealed much about its star’s injury. Golladay hurt his hip on Nov. 1 against the Indianapolis Colts and it was expected to be a multi-week absence. He couldn’t practice before Week 15 and last drew ‘limited participation’ before Week 12, an estimated practice report.

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With the Lions tumbling further down the NFL standings, there’s no reason for Golladay to risk further damage to his hip. The Pro Bowl receiver will be eligible for free agency this offseason, an opportunity to get paid and to escape the Lions. Don’t count on Golladay returning this season, especially for Week 15. With Matt Stafford’s top receiver out, Marvin Jones becomes a FLEX play against the Tennessee Titans.

NFL injury report: When will Drew Brees return?

NFL injury report: Drew Brees return
Nov 15, 2020; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) celebrates against the San Francisco 49ers during the second half at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

\Update: Drew Brees (ribs, lung) will start Week 15

Brees suffered one of the most painful injuries in sports this year, going down with 11 fractured ribs and a collapsed lung. Most people wouldn’t dream of playing football again after going through that pain, but the future Hall of Famer is determined to compete for a Super Bowl. After watching Taysom Hill lead the Saints the past four weeks, marking the second consecutive season the Saints have won multiple games with a backup quarterback, Brees is itching to take the field once again.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Week 15 was always the team’s target date for a return. New Orleans eyed the matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 15, a pivotal game for both Super Bowl contenders. That was the expectation, until Adam Schefter’s report on the eve of Week 14.

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It seems New Orleans was trying to deceive everyone. Brees is prepared to start against the Chiefs in Week 15, coming off a full week of throwing without any issues. The Saints feel confident that Brees is 100% healthy and that’s great news for everyone/

Brees is a starting-caliber fantasy quarterback in this matchup. More importantly, for Alvin Kamara’s fantasy managers, this returns the star running back to elite fantasy status. Kamara will be a target monster against the Chiefs and should be ranked as a top-three running back for Week 15. With Michael Thomas on IR, Emmanuel Sanders becomes a WR3 in PPR scoring.

NFL injury report: Latest update on Matthew Stafford

NFL injury report: Week 15: Matthew Stafford
Dec 13, 2020; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) reacts after an injury during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Update: Matthew Stafford now expected to start

Known for playing through extreme pain at several points in his career, Matthew Stafford didn’t return after taking a shot to the ribs in Week 14. The blow came in the fourth quarter, with the game close, but Detroit’s long-time franchise quarterback couldn’t make it out for the final drives and a potential comeback.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Stafford is in an “unbelievable” amount of pain. He wasn’t able to practice on Wednesday nor Thursday, furthering pushing him towards being inactive for the upcoming game. While he isn’t ruled out for Week 15, there is a strong possibility that Chase Daniel will be starting for Detroit on Sunday.

Suddenly, Stafford is now expected to play. Despite barely practicing this week, Stafford is planning to play in Week 15. While he might be a bit physically limited, dealing with a hand and rib injury, the matchup against the Tennessee Titans is very appealing from a fantasy perspective. Consider Stafford a top-15 quarterback for Week 15.

San Francisco 49ers injury report: Deebo Samuel (hamstring) out for Week 15, could miss remainder of the season

It’s been a frustrating year for Samuel and the San Francisco 49ers. After an impressive rookie season, the 24-year-old came into 2020 as a breakout candidate. Unfortunately, thanks to his own injuries and Jimmy Garoppolo missing time, that hasn’t come to fruition.

Samuel, who has played in just seven games this season, left early in Week 14 with a hamstring injury. After the game, head coach Kyle Shanahan was concerned about the severity of the hamstring strain. On Sunday night, Samuel posted then deleted an IG story indicating his season might be over. Kyle Shanahan confirmed that Samuel will miss time.

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With Samuel out of action, rookie Brandon Aiyuk will step in as the go-to target in San Francisco’s passing attack. Facing the Dallas Cowboys, Aiyuk will be a high-end WR2 for next Sunday. Given he saw 16 targets this past game, the rookie could be a PPR monster in the final weeks of the season.

NFL injury report: Antonio Gibson (turf toe) unlikely to play in Week 15

NFL injury report
Nov 26, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson (24) runs for a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Update: Washington signs Lamar Miller, Gibson inactive for Week 15

When Antonio Gibson was diagnosed with a turf toe injury on Monday night in Week 13, alarm bells immediately went off. While the severity of this specific injury varies, an absence is almost always guaranteed. When Washington disclosed that Gibson had a “severe” turf toe injury, his availability for Week 14 was immediately ruled out.

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We don’t expect Gibson to return for Week 15, either. He was sidelined throughout practice this past week, without even a chance of seeing limited activity.

Washington also signed Lamar Miller this week and Gibson couldn’t practice for Wednesday’s estimated session. On Sunday, Hibson was among Washington’s inactive for Week 15. In his expected absence, J.D. McKissic is a high-end RB2 in PPR scoring against the Seattle Seahawks.

NFL injury report: Mike Gesicki injury update, Week 15 status

NFL injury news: Mike Gesicki
Dec 13, 2020; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins tight end Mike Gesicki (88) walks off the field after an apparent injury during the second half against the Kansas City Chiefs at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Just as everything started to click for Mike Gesicki and Tua Tagovailoa, Gesicki goes down with an injury. The 25-year-old tight end racked up 65 yards and two touchdowns against the Kansas City Chiefs but walked off the field with trainers after taking a hit to his shoulder.

Coming into Week 15, many expected Gesiciki to miss at least one game. However, he seems to have turned a corner. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Gesicki has a real chance of playing against the New England Patriots. If he’s active, he should be in fantasy lineups. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough improvement for Miami to feel safe playing him. Once again, this offense will be short-handed on Sunday.

NFL injury news: Latest injury updates before Week 15

  • Buffalo Bills WR John Brown: Off injured reserve, inactive in Week 15
  • Los Angeles Chargers RB Austin Ekeler: Fighting through a quad injury, expected to play on TNF.
  • Tennessee Titans WR A.J. Brown: Limited in Wednesday’s practice, active for Week 15

NFL injury report: Will Christian McCaffrey play this week?

NFL injury report
Sep 13, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey (22) runs for a touchdown as Las Vegas Raiders safety Johnathan Abram (24) defends in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Update: Christian McCaffrey (quad) inactive for Week 15

It’s been a season of setbacks for Christian McCaffrey. The All-Pro running back went down in Week 2 with a high-ankle sprain, which kept him out of action until Week 9. Upon his return, McCaffrey exploded for 151 scrimmage yards and two total touchdowns. Unfortunately, following the dominant performance, it was revealed a shoulder injury would keep him out multiple games.

Finally, McCaffrey was expected to return in Week 14. Suddenly, head coach Matt Rhule revealed that the team’s star tweaked his quad in a private workout the week prior. After being a limited practice participant that Wednesday, McCaffrey missed the next two practices and was ruled out for Week 14.

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There will be even less time to rehab for McCaffrey in Week 15. The Panthers face the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, a matchup that should have fantasy managers foaming at the mouth. However, McCaffrey’s growing list of injuries adds to an increased level of concern that he might not return in 2020.

Those concerns were elevated on Sunday morning before Week 14, when Adam Schefter reported that McCaffrey is just hopeful to return this season. It casts extreme doubt on his Week 15 status.

McCaffrey hasn’t practiced with the team this week and the team anticipates he won’t play on Saturday. In his absence, Mike Davis would become a mid-tier RB2 in PPR formats for Week 15.

Los Angeles Chargers injury report: Will Mike Williams, Keenan Allen play in Week 15?

NFL injury report: latest injury news: Week 15
Dec 6, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (81) catches a pass in the fourth quarter as New England Patriots cornerback Joejuan Williams (33) defends at SoFi Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Chargers 45-0. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Update: Mike Williams (back) and Keenan Allen (hamstring) active for Thursday Night Football, on snap count

Mike Williams has battled injuries throughout his career, with Sunday creating the latest issue for the former first-round pick. The 6-foot-4 receiver took a huge in on the team’s opening drive, forcing him to leave the game. He never returned to the game due to a back injury.

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On Thursday night, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Williams and Allen are both active. Williams can’t be trusted, given his inconsistent volume in the passing attack and his lack of reps. Because Allen is an elite receiver, fantasy owners face a difficult decision in Week 15. There is a lot of risk in starting Allen, but it’s too difficult to leave a star on the bench. Allen remains a fantasy starter on Thursday night, but there is a ton of risk with playing him.

Tyron Johnson is the name to add if you need a DFS flier or are thin at wide receiver in Week 15. He saw seven targets in Week 14, hauling in six passes for 55 yards and a touchdown. Facing the Las Vegas Raiders, Johnson could be a nice WR3 for those hurting at receiver.

Carolina Panthers injury report: D.J. Moore could return for Saturday’s game vs. Green Bay Packers

NFL injury report
Nov 29, 2020; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore (12) his helped off the field in the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

D.J. Moore injured his leg against the Minnesota Vikings, coming down awkwardly on his right foot. Non-contact injuries are always concerning and everyone is alarmed when a player can’t return to the game. Luckily, X-rays determined Moore avoided a serious injury. With the Panthers on a Week 13 bye, the timing seemed perfect for him to avoid missing any time.

He had a chance to return in Week 14, but tested positive for COVID-19 six days before the game. Carolina immediately placed him on the Reserve/COVID-19 list and ruled him out for the upcoming game. Moore came off the list on Wednesday and is cleared to return in Week 15.

Moore’s ankle injury from Week 12 should also be healed. With that said, he’ll be a difficult WR2 to trust in a tough matchup against shutdown cornerback Jaire Alexander.