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Dear Mr. Fantasy: Doing the quarterback shuffle

Senior Fantasy Writer
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I want my quarterback.

Careful how you say that. The spoken language doesn't reveal spacing --- or in this case, lack thereof -- so if you say you want your quarterback, people might assume you had a run-in with a defective vending machine and are filing a complaint. Probably in the wrong place.

(As if there's a right one.)

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To avoid such confusion, you're better off saying "I want my quarterback ... back," which sounds either extraneous or like the beginning of a home run call. But it's necessary. It's one of those quirks of the English language, like consecutive "thats" or consecutive "hads". Sometimes you have no choice but to go back-to-back on the backs.

Sorry for that little aside. Just wanted to give you a heads up. Based on what happened to Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler and Alex Smith this weekend, you're going to be saying it a lot.

And not always for the reasons you'd think.

With Jay Cutler possibly out this week, is it worth starting Denarius Moore over Brandon Marshall? -- @nicerackersFF (via Twitter)

SW: Way to pause and reflect on the peripheral impact of Cutler's concussion. Not everyone thinks to do that.

Unfortunately, I believe it misses the mark in this case. Marshall's biggest obstacle this week isn't Cutler's playing status -- which has yet to be determined -- but the team on the other side of the field. The 49ers rank fifth against the pass and have allowed the fourth-fewest Fantasy points to wide receivers this season.

Against the Lions, Vikings, Packers or just about anyone else, I'd be as confident as ever starting Marshall. It's not like Caleb Hanie is still backing up Cutler. Jason Campbell is a legitimate NFL quarterback. He completed six passes to Marshall in the second half last week. But, again, the Bears are facing the 49ers, which gives me some reason for hesitation.

I'm not necessarily saying Marshall is a bad start this week. The Rams' Danny Amendola had 11 catches for 102 yards against the 49ers last week, so it's not like they're invincible. I am acknowledging that Marshall is a riskier start than usual, though. A quarterback who has spent all season on the bench certainly has the potential to struggle against a defense that is widely regarded as the league's best.

Is Moore enough incentive to take my acknowledgment a step further and bench Marshall? It's not an easy call, even with the Raiders facing a pitiful Saints defense. I think the determining factor for me is the consistency Moore has shown over the last five weeks, averaging 78.4 receiving yards and catching four touchdown passes. If that's the projected outcome for him now, it's on the high end of what you can expect for Marshall with such an unfavorable matchup. And, of course, Moore could always exceed that projected outcome with such a favorable matchup.

So even though the potential quarterback change and difficult matchup may not compel the average Fantasy owner to bench Marshall, your high-end alternative gives you justification to do so.

I'm the Ben Roethlisberger owner in my league. Assuming he'll miss a few weeks, should I go with Matt Schaub, Tony Romo or Andy Dalton as his replacement? -- @ClipperCitizen (via Twitter)

SW: For the record, nobody has ruled out Roethlisberger for any definite period of time, so perhaps we shouldn't assume he'll miss a few weeks. Given the extent of his shoulder sprain, though, that seems to be the most likely scenario.

That said, even if he returns tomorrow, a couple of the quarterbacks you've listed here are just as valuable as Roethlisberger, if not more so. I understand they don't rank as high as Roethlisberger in terms of Fantasy points to date, but if that's all that mattered to you, you wouldn't have asked me this question. You'd have just picked up Dalton and called it a day.

Yes, between Schaub, Romo and Dalton, Dalton is the highest-scoring so far, thanks mostly to his four-touchdown game last week and his trio of three-touchdown games earlier this season. If he put up those numbers every week, he'd be the obvious choice to add. Unfortunately, he's also had weeks when he's thrown one or zero touchdown passes -- four of them, actually. He isn't the most consistent source of yardage either.

Now, you could argue that when you dig this deep into the position, consistency is nothing more than a pipe dream. Certainly, Schaub isn't any better off in that regard. The Texans lean so heavily on their defense and running game that Schaub rarely has need to throw for multiple scores, doing so only four time this season. I'm guessing track record is the only reason you even bother to consider him.

If that's the case, Romo's track record is just as strong -- stronger, even. He's been a Fantasy stud pretty much since he first became the Cowboys' starting quarterback in 2006. And consistency isn't an issue for him, at least in terms of yardage. He's actually on pace for a career-high 4,628 yards this season.

So why is he available in your league? Well, yardage isn't everything. The Cowboys' mysterious inability to get the ball in the end zone has compromised Romo's numbers, limiting him to just three multi-score games all season.

How unlikely is that? A guy who throws constantly, completes nearly 70 percent of his passes and has a stellar receiving corps led by Miles Austin and Dez Bryant has to break through sooner or later, doesn't he?

I say he does, and I say his two-touchdown effort last week at Philadelphia is the start of it. With relatively easy matchups against the Redskins (twice), Bengals and Saints (in what would be the championship game in most Fantasy leagues), he might be on the verge of a touchdown binge.

Dalton and Schaub, on the other hand, are likely confined to the status quo. While that's not such bad news for Dalton, who's about as valuable as Roethlisberger as is, the potential upgrade to Romo might be the biggest move you make all season. I say it's worth a shot, particularly if you're also able to add Dalton as a fallback option.

How do you feel about Marcel Reece in a points-per-reception league? -- @pjrock45 (via Twitter)

SW: Oh, I'm a fan, especially with his matchup against the Saints this week.

I'll admit I didn't think Reece would be the primary ball carrier in Oakland with Darren McFadden down. I thought that role would go to the speedier Taiwan Jones. But the distribution of carries between the two last week speaks for itself. Reece had 13. Jones had two. End of story.

I never once doubted Reece would be the primary receiver out of the backfield. He had five catches for 54 yards in Week 4, four for 58 in Week 7 and eight for 95 in Week 9 -- and that was with McFadden healthy. Now that he can add this past week's seven for 56 to the tally, the debate in points-per-reception leagues should be long over. He's worth owning. Duh.

His value in standard leagues is a little more up for debate -- just because he's the Raiders primary rusher right now doesn't mean he's their best one -- but against the Saints, you'll want to put your faith in him. They rank 31st against the run, allowing a ghastly 162.0 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry. Even if Reece averages 3.7 yards per carry like he did last week, his expected contributions as a receiver give him a good chance for a 100-yard game.

And of course, in your league, the receptions count for something in and of themselves.

I need a bye-week replacement at running back. Should I go with James Starks, Michael Bush or Daryl Richardson? -- @UberLuc (via Twitter)

SW: Do you have to?

I'm not suggesting you take a zero from whichever of your running backs is on bye, but I'm not sure you'll get much more than that from any of these three.

Don't get me wrong: Bush and Richardson are well worth owning in standard Fantasy leagues, but mostly for their potential to pay big dividends if either Matt Forte or Steven Jackson goes down. In their current roles, neither is particularly useful.

And Starks ... you're better off forgetting about Starks. Yeah, he's technically splitting carries with Alex Green now, but he was practically useless in a similar timeshare with Ryan Grant last year. The fact of the matter is the Packers live and die by the pass, and nothing about their matchup with the Lions this week figures to change that.

Most Traded Players (as of 11/14)
Player # of trades
1. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions 2,081
2. Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions 2,062
3. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons 2,053
4. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams 1,997
5. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals 1,977
6. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills 1,867
7. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins 1,840
8. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins 1,832
9. Hakeem Nicks, WR, NYG 1,802
10. Andre Johnson, WR, HOU 1,791

Obviously, Bush, Richardson and Starks will each do something this week, but when their upside in any given week is only five or six points ... well, what's the point? Personally, I'd want my bye-week replacement to at least have a chance of matching my usual starter's usual production.

"OK, Mr. Bigshot, but where do you expect me to find a player like that this time of year?"

The waiver wire, of course. I'll give you two names: Marcel Reece and Chris Ivory. I can't guarantee they're still available in your league, but coming out of Week 11, they were available in most -- Ivory especially. By now, you should already know where I stand on Reece, so let's focus on the Saints backfield.

Ivory didn't get the most touches out of the Saints backfield last week. That honor went to Mark Ingram. But Ivory was the one who left an impression with a 56-yard touchdown run reminiscent of the one Marshawn Lynch broke off (against the Saints, actually) in the playoffs two years ago. A stiff-arm here, a broken tackle there ... and there ... and there ... and, eventually, paydirt. His explosive running style energized his teammates and caught the attention of his coaches, who promise more carries for him this week. At the Raiders, that can only mean good things.

I'm not saying the Saints will suddenly abandon the pass or that Ingram and Pierre Thomas will be out of the picture entirely, but even with just 10 carries, Ivory has a much better chance of breaking a long one than Bush, Richardson or Starks do. With the favorable matchup, I'd be willing to gamble on Ingram or Thomas over that trio as well.

I'm on the verge of going 10-0. Life is good, so I'm thinking playoffs. Our league's playoffs run through Week 17 (don't tell me, I know), so I'm wondering if I should consider trading my quarterback-running back duo of Matt Ryan and Arian Foster for someone like Aaron Rodgers, who might not be sitting in Week 17. I do have a deep bench and Josh Freeman as my backup quarterback, but I hate the thought of having my studs on the bench for the big game. -- Mark Cove (via e-mail)

SW: Well ... yeah, that's a dreadful thought. Unfortunately, you have no way of predicting if it will happen.

Sure, you can pinpoint teams that could potentially have nothing to play for in Week 17, but making a lopsided trade now to avoid getting burned in such a scenario seems like a drastic and desperate move unbefitting of a 10-0 team. Ryan is nearly as productive as Rodgers at quarterback, and Foster is arguably the most valuable running back in Fantasy. By trading the two for the one, you're basically limiting yourself to only one stud in the championship game when, if you had just let things play out, you might have had two.

By now, I think we can safely assume both the Falcons and Texans will make the playoffs, but keep in mind they'll still play for seeding even after they've clinched their playoff berths. Right now, the Falcons have only one fewer loss than the Bears and the 49ers. They still have another tough matchup against the Saints, as well as one against the Giants and two against the Buccaneers. Safe to say they're no lock for the No. 1 seed.

Likewise, the Texans have tough matchups against the Lions, Patriots and Colts (twice). If they lose one or two of those games, any of the Ravens, Patriots and Broncos could be within a game of them heading into that final week. And that's all it takes for them to play their regular lineup.

Your team is 10-0 precisely because you have such dominant players at quarterback and running back. By breaking up that duo now, you deal a significantly blow to your team's projected week-to-week output that might prevent you from even reaching the championship game. Faced with that possibility, wouldn't you rather just cross your fingers and hope that the Falcons and Texans don't win out?

Maybe if the deal was Ryan and Foster for Rodgers and Adrian Peterson, I could understand it a little more, but the one you propose would likely do more harm than good.

Would you trade either Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning for Willis McGahee and Reggie Wayne in a standard league? I can't use both quarterbacks at once. -- @MuchAdo1 (via Twitter)

SW: No, you can't, and now that your two quarterbacks have had their byes, you don't have much incentive to hang on to both.

But obviously, they still have value. They're both top-four Fantasy quarterbacks, for crying out loud. Someone with a need at that position should be willing to pay dearly for one. Let's face it: You won't find a quicker or cleaner way to improve your team's bottom line than to upgrade a tier or two at quarterback -- from, say, Cam Newton to Manning.

So you have the right idea. And the person on the other end of this deal has the right idea also, offering you two pieces you'd actually use -- potentially every week -- instead of trying to take advantage of your excess by making you a joke of an offer. As long as Manning is the quarterback you're trading and not the higher-upside Rodgers, it works. It's fine.

But I think you can do a little better.

Maybe I'm being greedy. Maybe by turning down this deal, you'd scare away the only owner willing to make you a fair offer. If you have a pressing need at wide receiver or running back, I could see why you wouldn't want to risk it. Maybe instead of rejecting the trade outright, you should leave it on the table for now and see what some of the other owners can do for you. You can always come back to it later.

If, on the other hand, you don't have a need to fill, then you're just negotiating backups for backups. Why rush to take the first deal that comes your way?

My biggest gripe with this trade is McGahee. A few big games have helped bump him up in the rankings, but for the most part, he has underwhelmed. In four of his last five games, he's run for fewer than 70 yards with no touchdowns, and now that Manning is clearly healthy and the focal point of the offense, I have a feeling those games will become the norm for McGahee going forward.

In Manning (or Rodgers), you're offering a definite stud, which means you should get a definite stud in return. Wayne is close -- maybe as close as you're able to get -- but I think I'd hold out for a Roddy White or Brandon Marshall type (or a LeSean McCoy or Marshawn Lynch type at running back) before taking the plunge.

Should I go with James Jones or Josh Gordon at wide receiver, or should I go with one of Darrius Heyward-Bey, Cecil Shorts and Andrew Hawkins off the waiver wire? -- @edjk38 (via Twitter)

SW: In my mind, Jones trumps those other four by a significant margin. Yes, he has to contend with Jordy Nelson again, but even before Nelson went down with a hamstring injury in Week 8 (and stayed down with an ankle injury in Week 9), Jones had emerged as one of quarterback Aaron Rodgers' preferred red-zone targets, catching six touchdown passes over a three-game stretch.

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And Rodgers has had plenty of red-zone targets to go around lately. He's thrown 22 touchdown passes in his last six games.

Even though the Lions, Green Bay's Week 11 opponent, haven't been as productive this season as last season, they still have plenty of scoring potential, which should keep the Packers as motivated as ever to throw the ball. In that scenario, I'd say the chances of Jones scoring a touchdown are greater than not even if he doesn't deliver big yardage.

Of the remaining four, Gordon, Heyward-Bey and Shorts all have some Fantasy viability. (Hawkins' touchdown in Week 10 was a fluke occurrence. He hadn't been a consistent target for quarterback Andy Dalton in recent weeks and didn't do anything else in that game.) But Gordon is dependent on big plays, Heyward-Bey on a bad game for Denarius Moore and Shorts on an unreliable passing game in Jacksonville.

Relative to Jones, those three have too much to overcome to meet your expectations in Fantasy.

Should I sit Calvin Johnson, Danny Amendola, Randall Cobb or Steve Smith? -- @d_parsons520 (via Twitter)

SW: Not Johnson. He's gearing up for a shootout with the Packers and just showed with his 207-yard performance last week that he's as studly as ever, knees and hands and other afflicted body parts be darned.

Not Cobb. He's on the other side of that shootout and has emerged as an impact wide receiver in the absence of Greg Jennings.

Not Smith. He has underwhelmed -- that deep-ball connection he had with Cam Newton last year has mostly missed this year -- but he's facing a Buccaneers defense this week that ranks dead last against the pass. If Smith's connection with Newton falls flat again, you can bench him forevermore, but he deserves one last shot with a matchup as favorable as this one.

So I guess that leaves Amendola as the choice to sit, which is kind of a bummer. He proved his health in his first game back from a separated SC joint last week with an 11-catch performance against the 49ers, of all teams. But quarterback Sam Bradford is still too susceptible to sub-150-yard performance for you to place your undying faith in the Rams' passing game -- especially this week, when they have another unfavorable matchup against the Jets.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Facebook . You can also follow Scott via Twitter @CBSScottWhite .

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