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Koerner’s Week 15 Fantasy Football Tiers: Your Guide to the Playoffs

Dec 16, 2018 6:45 AM EST
Credit:

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Amari Cooper, Lamar Jackson and Todd Gurley.

  • Sean Koerner -- the No. 1 in-season fantasy football ranker in 2015, 2016 and 2017 -- takes a detailed look at his Week 15 tiers for every position: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, tight end, defense and kicker.
  • Use the strategies outlined below to build the most optimal starting lineup for your fantasy football team.

Below you’ll find my tiers for Week 15 fantasy football. These are based on standard scoring and cover every position.

As a reminder, these tiers are not updated after publication. If you want my most up-to-date rankings for PPR, Standard and Half-Point PPR leagues, check out this post.

Jump to a position: Quarterback | Running back | Wide receiver | Tight end | Kicker | Defense


Quarterbacks

Tier 1
Patrick Mahomes (vs. LAC)

Mahomes struggled early on in Week 14 but eventually ended with 377 yards in a thrilling overtime win over the Ravens. There’s a pretty good chance that if you own Mahomes, you earned a BYE in the first round of your fantasy playoffs. He has shown time and time again to be truly matchup-proof.

Tier 2
Jared Goff (vs. PHI)
Drew Brees (@ CAR)
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. NE)
Andrew Luck (vs. DAL)
Cam Newton (vs. NO)

To say Jared Goff flopped on Sunday night doesn’t even do it justice. In leagues that dock two points for interceptions, he likely put up negative points with his career-high four interceptions.

I wouldn’t panic over this too much, though. The Bears’ defense is the real deal and as a Los Angeles resident myself, I think 50 degrees is freezing weather. I have to imagine the actual freezing temperatures in Chicago played a big part in the Rams being shut down.

Look for him to bounce back in a big way at home this week against an Eagles defense that was just torched by Dak Prescott and Amari Cooper.

Ben Roethlisberger had to leave Week 14’s game against the Raiders due to a rib injury. There appeared to be some confusion to the severity of his injury. Mike Tomlin and Roethlisberger blamed the antiquated X-Ray machines at Oakland’s stadium for the chaos.

They likely felt they could still beat the Raiders with Josh Dobbs under center, but they were sadly mistaken.

Roethlisberger came in to lead the Steelers on a touchdown drive, but the Steelers ended up losing, 24-21. Big Ben should be fine for this week’s showdown at home against the Patriots.

Tier 3
Lamar Jackson (vs. TB)
Kirk Cousins (vs. MIA)
Matt Ryan (vs. ARI)
Deshaun Watson (@ NYJ)
Mitch Trubisky (vs. GB)
Russell Wilson (@ SF)

Jackson has the dream matchup against the Bucs this week. My only concern is that Joe Flacco will be active and could see some snaps, making this a very tricky situation to handle this early in the week.

Given that the Ravens (-7.5) are in a very favorable home game this week, I find this scenario less likely this week. But we may have to worry about it in Week 16 at the Chargers.

Tier 4
Tom Brady (@ PIT)
Dak Prescott (@ IND)
Philip Rivers (@ KC)

Tom Brady broke out for a huge game Week 14 against the Dolphins with 358 yards and three touchdowns through the air. I was one of the few experts who had him in my top 10 mainly because I was banking on some positive touchdown regression as he had been conceding a ton of short touchdowns to his running backs so far this season.

Around this time of year, I expect a quarterback like Brady to take matters into his own hands a bit more to close out the season, which should elevate his touchdown odds in a potential shootout at Pittsburgh this week.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12).

Tier 5
Josh Allen (vs. DET)
Jameis Winston (@ BAL)
Aaron Rodgers (@ CHI)

Josh Allen is currently the leading rusher for the Bills, as he has rushed for at least 99 yards in three straight games. We discuss why this is and what to expect going forward on this week’s Fantasy Flex pod so check that out.

I think Allen is a high-ceiling/low-floor QB2 this week and have a hard time trusting him in standard 12-team leagues where I stress the importance of increasing your floor, which he does not do.

Tier 6
Baker Mayfield (@ DEN)
Marcus Mariota (@ NYG)
Jeff Driskel (vs. OAK)
Nick Foles (@ LAR)
Derek Carr (@ CIN)

With Carson Wentz already ruled out for Week 15, people in 2-QB leagues can consider plugging in Nick Foles into their playoff matchup. I think he’s in a spot on the road against the Rams where we can count on him having to throw a ton, which elevates his floor/ceiling.

The Raiders-Bengals game features two very bad defenses that can be a sneaky game to target for some fantasy gold. If there was ever a week to start Derek Carr or Jeff Driskel in 2-QB leagues, this would be it.

Tier 7
Eli Manning (vs. TEN)
Case Keenum (vs. CLE)
Cody Kessler (vs. WAS)

There was some buzz that the Giants could turn to Kyle Lauletta to close out the season as they try to evaluate their quarterback position going forward. But after going 4-1 in their past five games with Eli playing well, it seems less likely now.

I was sort of hoping for the Giants to announce this week that it would be Eli’s “final start” and would have had a great narrative to it, but now I think they just let him close out the season and draft a quarterback in the 2019 draft.

It’s worth noting that Lauletta came in last week in garbage time and went 0-for-5 with an interception.

Tier 8
Ryan Tannehill (@ MIN)
Nick Mullens (vs. SEA)

Tannehill put up top-five numbers in Week 15, but a lot of that was due to the “Miami Miracle” play where he dumped it off and Kenyan Drake did most of the work. You are in serious trouble if you are having to start him in any format this week at Minnesota.

Tier 9
Matthew Stafford (@ BUF)

Stafford will want to forget this season ASAP. You can blame a lot of his disappointing season on his offensive line and the fact that he lost two of his top receivers (Golden Tate via trade and Marvin Jones due to injury).

Either way, Stafford is unplayable right now and has a pretty brutal matchup at Buffalo this week. Stay away.

Tier 10
Josh Johnson (@ JAX)
Josh Rosen (@ ATL)
Sam Darnold (vs. HOU)

It was pretty incredible to see fourth string quarterback Josh Johnson put up top 10 numbers at the position last week in just under a half. Any quarterback with rushing ability is someone we need to pay attention to, but I feel his big game was mainly due to the Giants playing soft defense in garbage time after game planning for Mark Sanchez.

Johnson gets a touch matchup against the Jaguars in what should be an anemic matchup where the total is a ridiculously low 36 (exactly what I thought it would be).

Running Backs

Based on standard scoring; +/- indicates how many Tiers up/down each player would move in a PPR format.

Tier 1
Todd Gurley (vs. PHI)

Todd Gurley flopped on Sunday night with just 28 yards rushing for the game against the Bears. You can place a lot of the blame on the Rams’ offensive line, which could be a bit of a short-term concern.

Luckily, many teams that have Gurley likely earned a first round bye, so they weren’t affected by last week’s dud.

Tier 2
Ezekiel Elliott (@ IND)
Saquon Barkley (vs. TEN)

Zeke is coming off a massive 40-touch game. He is trending way up after being heavily involved in the passing game (12 catches). With the Cowboys slight underdogs on the road at Indy this week, we no longer have to worry about potential negative game scripts for Zeke now that he is so involved in the passing game.

Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21).

Tier 3
Christian McCaffrey (vs. NO)

With Newton’s surgically repaired shoulder giving him some issues down the stretch, the Panthers are likely to lean on McCaffrey even more.

We sort of laughed at Ron Rivera when he was saying they intend to give CMC about 25 touches a game. He bulked up in the offseason and has been more than capable of handling bigger workloads in his sophomore season.

Tier 4
Joe Mixon (vs. OAK)
Nick Chubb (@ DEN)
Phillip Lindsay (vs. CLE)
David Johnson (@ ATL)
Alvin Kamara (@ CAR)
Leonard Fournette (vs. WAS)

Joe Mixon is in a smash spot this week at home versus the Raiders. He entered Week 14 a bit banged up, but still managed to handle at least 30 touches for a big week. My only slight concern is the Bengals possibly limiting his touches to close out the season as they are out of the playoff picture.

I can see them starting to give rookie Mark Walton some looks. It’s nothing to worry about this week, as I have Mixon as my RB5.

Tier 5
Aaron Jones (@ CHI)
Dalvin Cook (vs. MIA)

The Mike McCarthy firing likely helped Aaron Jones’ rest-of-season value; he should get a majority of the work as the Packers’ true workhorse back.

Unfortunately, Week 15 poses a brutal matchup against the Bears. Jones is too talented for you to bench him, but just lower you expectations for his output a bit.

Tier 6
Justin Jackson (@ KC)
Spencer Ware (vs. LAC)
Lamar Miller (@ NYJ)
Gus Edwards (vs. TB)
Tarik Cohen (vs. GB) +1

Austin Ekeler seems likely to miss this week’s Thursday night game against the Chiefs. Melvin Gordon appears to have a chance to be ready for the short week but I’m currently projecting him to miss. I want to illustrate where Justin Jackson will land if both starting running backs are out.

Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Melvin Gordon.

I think it goes without saying that if Melvin Gordon is active and near 100% you are going to want to start him and Justin Jackson will no longer be an option. Spencer Ware is a game-time decision, as well.

Ultimately, you don’t get any extra points for locking in lineups early, so check to see how any news on these running backs affects my updated rankings before making any sit/start decisions.

Tier 7
Chris Carson (@ SF)
Jaylen Samuels (vs. NE) +1
Sony Michel (@ PIT)
Tevin Coleman (vs. ARI)
Mark Ingram (@ CAR)
Derrick Henry (@ NYG)
Marlon Mack (vs. DAL)
James White (@ PIT) +1
Doug Martin (@ CIN)
Josh Adams (@ LAR)
Jordan Howard (vs. GB)

Jaylen Samuels should get another week as the Steelers’ starting running back if James Conner has to miss Week 15. I will remind people that Samuels gets a boost in PPR formats and is more of a mid-to-low-end RB2, but his real value is on sites where he has tight end eligibility, as he is a top-three tight end.

Derrick Henry erupted for 238 yards and four touchdowns on Thursday Night Football and very likely was on a ton of benches.

If you listened to our Fantasy Flex preseason pods I was pretty disappointed that the Titans signed Dion Lewis in the offseason. Lewis had surprisingly been the main workhorse back for the Titans to date, but I think in the later weeks of the season, when defenses are worn down, it makes sense to turn to Henry as the lead back.

I think he gets 15-20 touches this week, but still view him as fairly touchdown dependent.

A lot of people were asking me why I had Sony Michel so low last week, and it’s impossible for me to explain every rankings discrepancy Sunday morning, but he ended up a bit lower in my model because I have James Develin and Rex Burkhead (who is now back from IR) as potential goal-line vulture threats.

Additionally, James White has the third-down role all locked up. This leaves 15-20 carries between the 20s for Michel, which helps give him a bankable floor, but does hurt his upside some.

Tier 8
Jeff Wilson (vs. SEA)
Elijah McGuire (vs. HOU)
Adrian Peterson (@ JAX)

This is going to be a very volatile tier because I currently have Matt Breida tentatively expected to return in a limited role. The entire Jets backfield is banged up, but I think there is a pretty realistic possibility that Elijah McGuire could be the only active back come Sunday.

It is way too soon to consider these running back rankings anywhere close to final, so be sure to check my updated rankings before making any sit/start decisions on game day.

Tier 9
Kenyan Drake (@ MIN)
Chris Ivory (vs. DET)
Peyton Barber (@ BAL)
Frank Gore (@ MIN)
Ito Smith (vs. ARI)
Jalen Richard (@ CIN)
Dion Lewis (@ NYG)

Kenyan Drake has put up useful fantasy value the past three games despite averaging fewer than 10 touches a game over that span. He needed to get the ball on the third lateral of the “Miami Miracle” play to score the game-winning touchdown.

Drake’s lack of volume is always concerning, along with the tough Week 15 matchup. If you are in a bind and have to start him, you just have to bank on his sheer talent to get you a useful score this week.

Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Miami Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake (32).

Tier 10
Kenneth Dixon (vs. TB)
Theo Riddick (@ BUF)
Damien Williams (vs. LAC)
Royce Freeman (vs. CLE)
Chris Thompson (@ JAX)

If Spencer Ware is unable to play, Damien Williams will shoot up my rankings.

Another reason to wait as long as possible before we have all relevant news/info before making lineup decisions was the Chiefs’ backfield last week.

I had been giving newly acquired Charcandrick West a few touches for Week 14. He ended up being inactive so I immediately gave those touches to Ware/DWill and it ultimately boosted them much higher. Just goes to show the level of detail I’m putting into my projections after the inactive lists come out.

Kenneth Dixon seems to have taken over as the Ravens’ main backup running back. The Ravens are a run-heavy team in a great spot this week.

We have seen time and time again that the Ravens tend to go with the hot hand approach, so it’s not crazy to think Dixon could be their top scoring running back this week. He’s worth a dart throw in deeper leagues.

Wide Receivers

Tier 1
Julio Jones (vs. ARI)
Keenan Allen (@ KC)
Tyreek Hill (vs. LAC)
Michael Thomas (@ CAR)
Adam Thielen (vs. MIA)
DeAndre Hopkins (@ NYJ)
Antonio Brown (vs. NE)
Davante Adams (@ CHI)

The massive WR1 Tier is pretty straight forward in that you shouldn’t be worried about the matchup with these guys. Don’t overthink it; put ’em in your lineup.

I view our weekly WR/CB matchups column as more of a way to raise/lower your expectations of your stud, but all of these wideouts are too talented to ever consider sitting if fully healthy.

Tier 2
T.Y. Hilton (vs. DAL)
Robert Woods (vs. PHI)
Odell Beckham (vs. TEN)
Amari Cooper (@ IND)
JuJu Smith-Schuster (vs. NE)
Brandin Cooks (vs. PHI)

The Giants shocked the fantasy football world when they announced on Saturday that Odell Beckham Jr. would miss Week 14. Not ideal timing for people relying on him heading into the fantasy playoffs, so we will need to monitor his situation closely this week.

T.Y. Hilton gutted out a nagging shoulder injury to put up his third straight big game. Despite the tougher matchup, I think he’s still a no-brainer play this week, as Luck will likely force it to his top wideout no matter what.

Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton (13).

Cooper’s trade to the Cowboys has elevated him to WR1 status. It’s been good to see a team finally make him the centerpiece of the offense. He has been one of the best second-half surprises of 2018.

Tier 3
Stefon Diggs (vs. MIA)
Mike Evans (@ BAL)
Julian Edelman (@ PIT)
Tyler Boyd (vs. OAK)

Tyler Boyd is in a tricky spot this week. He has a fantastic matchup and is clearly the Bengals’ top option in the passing game, but you are relying on Jeff Driskel getting him the ball, which is a concern.

I’m leaning toward starting him with confidence this week. The Bengals-Raiders game has sneaky shootout potential, as neither defense can be counted on to stop anyone right now.

Tier 4
Josh Gordon (@ PIT)
Tyler Lockett (@ SF)
Courtland Sutton (vs. CLE)
Kenny Golladay (@ BUF)
D.J. Moore (vs. NO)
Jarvis Landry (@ DEN)
Allen Robinson (vs. GB)
Chris Godwin (@ BAL)

Kenny Golladay hit rock bottom last week with a dreadful 2/5/0 performance. He was shutdown by Patrick Peterson and now faces another shutdown corner in Tre’Davious White in Week 15. I’m still banking on Golladay’s sheer talent and view him as a low-end WR2 this week.

Jarvis Landry finally broke out with a huge game last week as new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens created some plays in the running game as well. He even designed a trick play where Jarvis Landry nearly threw a touchdown pass to Nick Chubb.

Landry gets the Broncos this week which would normally be a matchup we stay away from, but top slot corner Chris Harris Jr. is on injured reserve.

Tier 5
Corey Davis (@ NYG)
Alshon Jeffery (@ LAR)
Calvin Ridley (vs. ARI)
Kenny Stills (@ MIN)
Dante Pettis (vs. SEA)
Josh Reynolds (vs. PHI)
Dede Westbrook (vs. WAS)
Adam Humphries (@ BAL)
Larry Fitzgerald (@ ATL)

This would be the ideal WR3 tier to be choosing from to round out your starting wide receivers this week. I’d be a bit cautious with Calvin Ridley, Kenny Stills, and Josh Reynolds, all of whom offer very high ceilings but also very low floors. I am a big believer in boosting your floor in head-to-head season long formats.

Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Dede Westbrook (12), Tennessee Titans cornerback Logan Ryan (26).

Dede Westbrook has emerged as the Jaguars’ pass-catcher to own. We saw last week how the Redskins have all but given up, which helps elevate my outlook on Westbrook this week.

Tier 6
Golden Tate (@ LAR)
Tyrell Williams (@ KC)
Taylor Gabriel (vs. GB)
Curtis Samuel (vs. NO)
Mohamed Sanu (vs. ARI)
Doug Baldwin (@ SF)
Mike Williams (@ KC)
Robby Anderson (vs. HOU)
DaeSean Hamilton (vs. CLE)

DaeSean Hamilton stepped up in Week 14 with a 7/47/1 line against the 49ers. He seems to be one of the main receivers the Broncos are expecting to replace Emmanuel Sanders the rest of the season.

Robby Anderson is another high-upside flier for Week 15. The Texans secondary has been vulnerable, and I think Robby could take advantage with a big game.

Tier 7
John Brown (vs. TB)
Jordy Nelson (@ CIN)
Robert Foster (vs. DET)
Zay Jones (vs. DET)
Sterling Shepard (vs. TEN)
DeVante Parker (@ MIN)
Donte Moncrief (vs. WAS)
Chris Conley (vs. LAC)
Isaiah McKenzie (vs. DET)
Bruce Ellington (@ BUF)
Tim Patrick (vs. CLE)
Michael Gallup (@ IND)
Michael Crabtree (vs. TB)
Marquise Goodwin (vs. SEA)
Demaryius Thomas (@ NYJ)
Randall Cobb (@ CHI)

The best-of-the-rest tier can help teams in deeper leagues round out their roster this week. No one is talking about them, but Robert Foster and Isaiah McKenzie are sneaky fliers.

With Zay Jones possibly facing off against Darius Slay, Foster could be a high-upside deep threat to gamble on. McKenzie has been upgraded to a near-every-down player with Kelvin Benjamin shipped off to Kansas City.

He has been getting some direct snaps in the running game, as well, with two rushing touchdowns over his past three games. If LeSean McCoy is ruled out this week I can see McKenzie getting even more designed run plays this week. You could do worse in this range.

Tight Ends

Tier 1
Travis Kelce (vs. LAC)

Kelce has now scored a touchdown in three straight games and has scored a total of seven touchdowns in his past six contests. He is peaking at the best time heading into the playoffs and will likely be on high percentage of first-place teams this year.

Tier 2
Jaylen Samuels (vs. NE)
Zach Ertz (@ LAR)
Eric Ebron (vs. DAL)
George Kittle (vs. SEA)

I mentioned that my projections have Samuels as a low end RB2, yet is a top-three tight end for sites where he has tight end eligibility. Last week was sort of the worst-case-scenario for the immense value he has as a tight end.

Samuels not only had Stevan Ridley score a goal-line touchdown, but we also saw a lot of the mid-range TE1s go off last week. The ideal team that added Samuels is one that was relying on a tight end like Trey Burton until last week. Y

You really do have to think of it as basically picking up Ertz off of waivers (as long as James Conner is out).

Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Pittsburgh Steelers running back Jaylen Samuels (38).

Tier 3
Rob Gronkowski (@ PIT)
Jared Cook (@ CIN)

Jared Cook has become a reliable TE1 and has a great matchup for Week 15. He has put up either 100 yards and/or a touchdown in four straight games.

Gronk was partly responsible for the “Miami Miracle” for what was a pathetic attempt at a tackle. Look for him to possibly play with a bit of motivation to have a good game and get everyone to shut up about his defensive blunder.

Tier 4
Austin Hooper (vs. ARI)
Evan Engram (vs. TEN)
David Njoku (@ DEN)
Vernon Davis (@ JAX)
Cameron Brate (@ BAL)
Kyle Rudolph (vs. MIA)
C.J. Uzomah (vs. OAK)
Vance McDonald (vs. NE)
Trey Burton (vs. GB)
Jimmy Graham (@ CHI)
Christopher Herndon (vs. HOU)
Ian Thomas (vs. NO)

The massive sit/start tier is not one to pull hair out over. You can argue for or against anyone of these guys but let’s face it, they are all mostly touchdown or bust in this range at a very weak position.

One tight end who could jump up my ranks is Engram in the event that Beckham ends up missing his second straight game.

Tier 5
Gerald Everett (vs. PHI)
Anthony Firkser (@ NYG)
Ricky Seals-Jones (@ ATL)

Only for deeper leagues, Anthony Firkser is an interesting dart throw this week. I had been projecting him for at least two receptions the past couple weeks when I noticed he had begun splitting targets with Jonnu Smith.

Now that Smith is on IR, Firkser needs to be taken seriously and has a sneaky chance of being a top-15 TE in the fantasy playoffs.

Kickers

Tier 1
Greg Zuerlein (vs. PHI)

Tier 2
Justin Tucker (vs. TB)
Harrison Butker (vs. LAC)
Wil Lutz (@ CAR)
Matt Bryant (vs. ARI)
Stephen Gostkowski (@ PIT)
Dan Bailey (vs. MIA)
Adam Vinatieri (vs. DAL)

Tier 3
Ka’imi Fairbairn (@ NYJ)
Sebastian Janikowski (@ SF)
Randy Bullock (vs. OAK)
Cody Parkey (vs. GB)
Mike Badgley (@ KC)

Tier 4
Chris Boswell (vs. NE)
Brandon McManus (vs. CLE)
Jake Elliott (@ LAR)
Josh Lambo (vs. WAS)
Aldrick Rosas (vs. TEN)
Brett Maher (@ IND)
Chandler Catanzaro (vs. NO)
Ryan Succop (@ NYG)
Steven Hauschka (vs. DET)
Robbie Gould (vs. SEA)

Tier 5
Daniel Carlson (@ CIN)
Mason Crosby (@ CHI)
Greg Joseph (@ DEN)
Jason Myers (vs. HOU)
Cairo Santos (@ BAL)
Matt Prater (@ BUF)
Jason Sanders (@ MIN)
Zane Gonzalez (@ ATL)

Tier 6
Dustin Hopkins (@ JAX)

Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey (20), Philadelphia Eagles tight end Josh Perkins (83).

Defense

Tier 1
Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. WAS)

Tier 2
Houston Texans (@ NYJ)
Atlanta Falcons (vs. ARI)
Seattle Seahawks (@ SF)
Baltimore Ravens (vs. TB)
Minnesota Vikings (vs. MIA)
Detroit Lions (@ BUF)
Buffalo Bills (vs. DET)

Tier 3
Denver Broncos (vs. CLE)
Los Angeles Rams (vs. PHI)
Chicago Bears (vs. GB)
New York Giants (vs. TEN)
Washington Redskins (@ JAX)

Tier 4
New Orleans Saints (@ CAR)
Indianapolis Colts (vs. DAL)
Tennessee Titans (@ NYG)
New York Jets (vs. HOU)
Green Bay Packers (@ CHI)
Cincinnati Bengals (vs. OAK)
Dallas Cowboys (@ IND)

Tier 5
New England Patriots (@ PIT)
Cleveland Browns (@ DEN)
Oakland Raiders (@ CIN)
Kansas City Chiefs (vs. LAC)
Arizona Cardinals (@ ATL)
Miami Dolphins (@ MIN)
Los Angeles Chargers (@ KC)
San Francisco 49ers (vs. SEA)

Tier 6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@ BAL)
Pittsburgh Steelers (vs. NE)

Tier 7
Philadelphia Eagles (@ LAR)
Carolina Panthers (vs. NO)

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