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Dear Mr. Fantasy: Patience is wearing thin

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The Bills have an actual buffalo on the sides of their helmets, which would be like the Raiders having an oak tree or the Jaguars having a portrait of Andrew Jackson.

You kind of just have to accept that they do things backward.

Yeah, they looked like one thing coming into the season, but after a blowout victory and two come-from-behind victories, including one against the mighty Patriots, you can pretty much conclude that the bad are actually quite good.

If nothing else, their offense is. An average of 37.7 points in three games is hard to dispute, meaning you can trust that Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson and Steve Johnson are more or less who they say they are. It's not a complete surprise given the flashes of greatness they've shown in the past. It just doesn't make much sense given where they were drafted in Fantasy.

But again, they have an actual buffalo on the sides of their helmets.

Time to sell high on Ryan Fitzpatrick? I have Rashard Mendenhall, Frank Gore, Cedric Benson and Joseph Addai at running back. I'm currently starting Matt Schaub at quarterback. I can get Peyton Hillis for Fitzpatrick straight-up. Is that a good deal? -- Vince Smith (via Twitter)

SW: Fitpatrick may be a logical player for you to trade right now, but I don't know that you'd be selling high on him. Granted, it's easier to admit in retrospect, but the Harvard grad was a surprisingly productive Fantasy quarterback last year as well, throwing for multiple touchdowns and at least 200 yards in five of his 13 starts. He's only more experienced in that offense now, so I get the impression that his numbers through the first three games are exactly what they should be.

Of course, because you have Schaub at quarterback, Fitzpatrick's greatest value to you is as a trade chip. The depth doesn't hurt, of course, but when you have a need elsewhere on your roster, a stellar backup quarterback is a luxury you can't afford.

You, Vince, clearly have a need. You probably didn't feel that way coming out of the draft, but given the way the first three weeks have gone, you can't feel confident about your stable of running backs. The only one of the four I'm still confident will finish with starter-caliber numbers is Mendenhall -- and not everyone feels that way about him.

We've seen enough from the Colts offense by now to know that Addai won't be a reliable option, and Gore, whether because of last season's hip fracture, his recent contract or the 49ers' struggles on offense, doesn't seem to be the same player anymore. I'm not saying you'll never have reason to start either again, but relative to the running backs that most other teams have in their lineups, they'll be liabilities more often than not.

Benson might end up OK since the Bengals will likely continue to lean on him with a rookie under center, but he figures to miss the next few weeks because of a suspension. With those four running backs, you're probably in a big enough hole already that you can't afford to wait for him to return.

For as much attention as Hillis got as a bust candidate coming into the season, he's still the focal point of the Browns offense and a factor in both the running and passing games. He's the kind of running back you can trust on an every-week basis, which is exactly the kind that you desperately need. You should feel good about this deal, Vince.

What should Ben Tate owners do with Arian Foster on his way back? -- Craig Wilson (via Twitter)

SW: Can't have a Dear Mr. Fantasy without an assessment of the Texans backfield, can we?

Yes, Foster appears to be in good shape for Week 4. Coach Gary Kubiak gave his most optimistic update yet Monday, saying Foster at least has a chance to be full-go Sunday. The Texans sat him in Week 3 after giving him limited touches in Week 2, so dating back to the preseason, he'll have had about five weeks of rest heading into Sunday's game. That's enough to heal a strained hamstring, right?

Still, I'm skeptical the Texans will turn Foster loose in (sort of) his first game back. They don't need to given the way Ben Tate performed in his absence. Over time, the Texans will probably turn more and more of the carries over to Foster since he's by far the better blocker and the superior player overall, but in his first game back -- well, sort of his first game back -- you shouldn't hope for much more than a 50-50 split.

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For that reason -- not to mention the fairly high probability that Foster suffers a setback -- I'm holding on to Tate for now. Frankly, I'd like to hold on to him all season if possible. Unlike most handcuff options, he's guaranteed to put up big numbers if he gets the opportunity. We've already seen it. And who knows? Maybe he performed well enough in the first three games to earn more of a timeshare with Foster than I'm predicting.

Most likely, we'll learn a lot more about the Texans' backfield situation in Week 4, so sit tight. Fortunately, the Texans are facing the Steelers in the contest, which eliminates the dilemma over which running back to start for at least one week. With that matchup, you wouldn't want to start either if you can help it.

Someone offered me Cam Newton for Shonn Greene. I have Maurice Jones-Drew and Daniel Thomas as my other running backs. My current quarterback is Matt Schaub. Should I make this trade? -- Reed Toombs (via Facebook)

SW: Having Newton as your backup couldn't hurt, but honestly, when would you start him over Schaub?

Oh, you plan to play the matchups, do you? Yeah, that worked out great in Week 3, when Newton had the good fortune of facing the Jaguars. Too bad he ended up having his worst game by far.

Face it: If you have a proven commodity like Schaub at quarterback, you're never going to sit him for your backup, even if that backup is as good as Newton. A stud quarterback is the most consistent weapon in Fantasy -- one that often transcends matchups because his team relies so heavily on the passing game. Remember how Tony Romo was a bad start at the Jets in Week 1? Yeah, two touchdowns and 326 yards say otherwise.

I'm not saying you should never play the matchups at quarterback. If you drafted a shaky option like Josh Freeman as your starter, then a supplemental option like Newton, Joe Flacco or Eli Manning is vital to your team's success. But you can't touch Schaub. He's capable of monster numbers any given week.

With this deal, Newton's purpose on your team would be as a bye-week replacement. You'd be trading a starting-caliber running back for excess.

What about Greene? Isn't he excess? If you want to get technical about it, yeah. Assuming your league doesn't offer a flex spot, you might not need Greene if you have Jones-Drew and Thomas starting at running back. But I'm guessing at some point you'll be glad you have him.

Running backs are different from quarterbacks. Not only are they more likely to get hurt -- which is especially noteworthy since you'll need two healthy options every week -- but they're also more susceptible to matchups. A team can abandon the running game if it isn't having much success with it early a lot easier that it can abandon the passing game. Plus, look at the names here. A player like Thomas isn't nearly the certainty that Schaub is. What if he fumbles four times next week and the Dolphins lose all confidence in him? That kind of stuff happens to rookies.

No matter how you break it down, Reed, this deal doesn't make sense for you. You'd be risking too much for a part you don't need. If you're really desperate for a backup quarterback, take a look at Matt Hasselbeck or Rex Grossman off the waiver wire.

Is it wise to give up on Dallas Clark for a waiver wire tight end like Brandon Pettigrew or someone else? -- Quackinthe319 (via Twitter)

SW: I'm willing to give Clark the benefit of the doubt for at least a week or two more. For one thing, I want to see how he fares now that Kerry Collins is likely to miss time with a concussion. Maybe the inexperienced Curtis Painter will lean on Clark more as an underneath option than Collins did.

But even if Collins makes a quick return in Week 4, Clark's potential is still too high for me to pull the plug on him after only three weeks.

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I understand he hasn't been great so far. He hasn't even had a 40-yard game. But he has 19 targets and a touchdown to his credit, which shows that the Colts clearly haven't forgotten about him. They may not be able to get him the ball as often as they did with Peyton Manning under center, but as long as they keep trying, Clark will have his games of 75-plus yards. Even a low-end quarterback like Collins is capable of throwing for 150-200 yards every time out. You have to figure Clark and Reggie Wayne will be on the receiving end of most of them.

You want to know how much Clark's value can change with one big game? Pettigrew is a perfect example. Through two games, the Lions tight end had only five catches for 64 yards, ranking him behind Clark in both categories. One 11-catch, 112-yard game later, he's the hottest thing off the waiver wire. Who's to say Clark won't do in Week 4 what Pettigrew did in Week 3?

And who's to say another Pettigrew won't emerge off the waiver wire down the line? One of the main reasons why you can afford patience with Clark right now is because the supply of Fantasy-relevant tight ends outweighs the demand. Because most Fantasy leagues offer only one tight end slot and because most Fantasy owners wouldn't want to use a tight end in their flex slot, you'll rarely see more than 12 tight ends in play at once.

Would you be dissatisfied starting any of Rob Gronkowski, Jermichael Finley, Jason Witten, Jimmy Graham, Aaron Hernandez, Dustin Keller, Tony Gonzalez, Fred Davis, Greg Olsen, Owen Daniels, Vernon Davis or Scott Chandler? That's 12 without even mentioning Clark or Pettigrew ... or the banged-up Antonio Gates, for that matter.

Give Clark a week or two more to adjust to life without Manning. If he still doesn't, you can always replace him later.

Who should I start in Week 4: Darren Sproles or Thomas Jones? -- Jeremiah Davis (via Twitter)

SW: I'd go with Sproles here. Jones didn't have a stellar debut as the Chiefs' starting running back in Week 3, picking up just 31 yards on 14 carries. Granted, he was facing a solid Chargers defense, but the bottom line is he's a 33-year-old with over 2,500 career carries on a team without a steady passing game to keep defenses honest. I'll need to see it to believe it.

Sproles may not be the most consistent Fantasy option as a less-than-every-down player on an offense with more weapons than the Jaguars, Seahawks and 49ers combined, but in three weeks, he has yet to give his Fantasy owners reason to complain. He managed to catch six passes even with Lance Moore back from injury and playing a key role in the passing game in Week 3, coexisting with the Saints' primary underneath route runner in a way Reggie Bush never could. Plus, Sproles' quickness gives him a chance to break off a big play every time he touches the ball, regardless of the matchup.

If it helps, he has a favorable matchup at Jacksonville in Week 4 while Jones has a less-than-enticing one against the Vikings. But even if the matchups were reversed, you wouldn't want to start Jones until he gives you a reason to start him.

I have Joe Flacco and Josh Freeman at quarterback and Larry Fitzgerald, Wes Welker and Mike Wallace at wide receiver. Should I trade a wide receiver for a top-tier quarterback, or am I OK? -- Ernie Rupp (via Twitter)

SW: Maybe with Freeman as your only viable option, you'd be in trouble, Ernie, but with Flacco also available, I think you're in pretty good shape.

Flacco has had two great games and one terrible game so far. Considering he was a good Fantasy option more often than not last year, throwing for multiple touchdowns in nine of his 16 starts, I'm of the belief that the two will be more common than the one.

Of course, the Ravens are still defined by their defense, and as a defensive-minded team with a quality running back in Ray Rice, they could at times make Flacco a lesser part of the game plan. If that ends up being the case this year, as it was many times last year, Freeman will be a worthy platoon partner. He might not be having the Fantasy breakout that everyone expected, but he's still the most important offensive weapon on a team with a legitimate chance of making the playoffs.

For Week 4, you'll want to sit Flacco because he's facing the Jets, but if he has a good performance off your bench, then you'll have every reason to believe you can trust him on a week-to-week basis going forward. If he doesn't, it doesn't necessarily mean you can't trust him, but it'll reinforce the need to be selective with him, starting him mostly in games that figure to be high-scoring, such as Week 6 against the Texans and Week 8 against the Cardinals.

If nothing else, the combination of Flacco and Freeman gives you the luxury of waiting to see how big of a need you actually have at the position. Give it a try and see where it takes you. If you're 3-5 after eight weeks, you'll still have the option of trading one of those wide receivers.

Should I sit Michael Turner (at Seattle) for Fred Jackson (at Cincinnati) in Week 4? I only see Turner putting up good numbers when the Falcons have a lead. Lately, they've been playing from behind and not giving him the ball enough. Jackson seems to be a big part of the offense whether the Bills are trailing or in the lead. -- Joseph Mata (via Facebook)

SW: You're right about one thing, Joseph: You have to like what you've seen from Jackson so far. He always had the talent but was at times easy to shut down as the only weapon on a miserable Bills offense. Now that the Bills actually have a passing game, we're seeing the full extent of his abilities. And, yes, they're extensive.

He can break off a big run. He can work at the goal line. He can catch the ball. He's the definition of an old-school Fantasy running back -- a guy who can do everything out of the backfield. If he keeps it up, he has the potential for first-round production.

My one word of caution is that Turner already is a first-round talent and has been for the last few years. I wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea about him coming off an 11-carry, 20-yard performance at Tampa Bay in Week 3. The Falcons weren't throwing the ball over and over again simply because they were trailing. They did it because the Buccaneers forced them to do it by completely neutralizing the running game.

Some teams will take that approach with them, but Matt Ryan is a good enough quarterback that not every team will. And when the Falcons can lean on the running game -- which has always been their preference during the Mike Smith era -- Turner is a near lock for a 100-yard game. Shoot, he did it the first two weeks of the season. You're going to sour on him because of one bad game?

You really can't go wrong here. Jackson might have the slightly tougher matchup, but it's still a halfway decent one. If you feel more confident with him than Turner right now, go ahead and start him. Just don't be surprised if Turner also has a big game against the Seahawks.

Who's the better Kenny Britt replacement off the waiver wire: Antonio Brown, Brandon Gibson or Torrey Smith? -- Craig Cozort (via Facebook)

SW: If you're in the unfortunate position of having to replace Britt, keep in mind what exactly you're replacing. The guy had 271 receiving yards and three touchdowns in two games. Brown and Gibson have a combined 285 receiving yards and one touchdown in three games.

I'm not pointing out the numbers to rub salt in the wound but to emphasize the need to think big. When it comes to replacing Britt, cutesy peripheral players like Brown and Gibson aren't going to cut it.

I don't know where exactly Smith's 2011 season goes from here. I don't know if he goes back to being a spare part once Lee Evans returns from an ankle injury, and even if he doesn't, I don't know if Joe Flacco will continue to look his way over Anquan Boldin. But I do know he had five catches for 152 yards and three touchdowns at St. Louis in Week 3, which means, unlike Brown and Gibson, he at least has the capacity for big numbers.

It's not the safe pickup, but it's the right pickup given what you're trying to replace. Because if this pray-for-rain-type pickup doesn't pan out, your only hope of getting anything close to Britt-like production from the slot he used to fill is by making a trade.

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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Player News
Patriots' Devin McCourty: There's a 'chance that I might not be back'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) With the Patriots deciding to use their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, safety Devin McCourty knows his time in New England could be coming to an end. 

In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson, McCourty said he didn't have much information on what the Patriots would do and was going off of various media reports that came down to the organization deciding whether to franchise him or Gostkowski. 

Now that Gostkowski is ineligible from hitting the free agent market, McCourty will test the waters beginning on March 10. 

"I guess it's more realistic now that [there's] a chance that I might not be back there," McCourty said. "Or there's still a chance that I will, but I guess [there's] more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process."

In 2014, McCourty recorded 68 tackles and two interceptions. 


Report: Texans' Andre Johnson given permission to seek trade
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Wide receiver Andre Johnson has been given permission by the Texans to seek a trade, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle

The Texans told Johnson that he'd have a reduced role this upcoming season opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. Therefore, Johnson wanted out of his deal. If a trade cannot be made with a suitor, Johnson will be released

Johnson was the third overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft and is the greatest player in the history of the Texans. He's recorded 1,012 catches, 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns in his career.

A trade could be difficult, however, based on Johnson's upcoming $16.1 million cap figure and $10.5 million base salary for the 2015 season. 


Colts RB Vick Ballard (Achilles) 'on schedule' with recovery
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Running back Vick Ballard is poised to be back in the Colts' plans for the 2015 season. 

Ballard, who has missed almost all of the previous two seasons due to injuries, hasn't suffered any setbacks with his recovery, according to the Colts' official website. Ballard tore his ACL in 2013 and suffered an Achilles tear before the 2014 season. 

“Vick’s doing well. He’s going through rehab right now. He’s on schedule,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He’s been working his tail. When the doctors say he’s 100 percent and ready to roll, then we’ll get him back on the field.”

Ballard led the Colts in rushing as a rookie in 2012 with 814 yards and two touchdowns. He only played in one game in 2013 before tearing his ACL in a practice the following week. His Achilles tear came during the 2014 preseason. 


Report: Jaguars looking for help at RB this offseason
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) It appears Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart will have new role in 2015. 

According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the Jaguars are planning to move Gerhart around on offense at H-back in addition to running back. This also means the Jaguars will be in the market for additional help at running back. 

Gerhart was plagued by injuries in 2014, which paved the way for Denard Robinson to assert himself as a potential starting running back down the road. Robinson, however, is injury prone himself, which goes back to his days as a standout quarterback in college at Michigan.

Robinson's 2014 season ended on injured reserve with a mid-foot sprain.

Gerhart's season ended with just 326 yards and a patry 3.2 yards per carry average. Robinson emerged late in the year and ran for 582 yards and held a 4.3 yards per carry average.  


Report: Titans parting ways with safety Bernard Pollard
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Titans will release veteran safety Bernard Pollard, according to a report from The Tennessean

Pollard had previously requested for the Titans to release him. He's coming off a season that ended prematurely due to an Achilles tear in early October. He was slated to earn $3.5 million with the Titans this year if he stayed on. 

In the five games he appeared in during the 2014 season, Pollard recorded 27 tackles and one sack. 


Report: Browns looking to add another quarterback
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Browns are not done just yet in their search for quarterback talent, according to ESPN.com. Cleveland is reportedly looking to add at least one more quarterback through the draft or free agency.

The Browns made their signing of Josh McCown to a three-year deal official last week, but appear to want another to go along with him and Johnny Manziel.


Report: Redskins will pursue Ndamukong Suh as free agent
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) After the Lions chose not to use the franchise tag to retain DE Ndamukong Suh, it became more likely that he'll become an unrestricted free agent on March 10. 

When Suh hits the market, the Redskins will be interested in signing him, reported Dianna Marie Russini of DC's NBC 4, citing sources within the organization. 


Browns don't use franchise tag on Jordan Cameron
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Browns won't use their franchise tag on any player, meaning that TE Jordan Cameron will become a free agent on March 10. 

Cameron had 24 catches for 424 yards and two touchdowns last season, at a salary of $1.431 million.


No franchise tag for Broncos' Julius Thomas
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Broncos will not use their franchise tag on TE Julius Thomas. The team instead tagged WR Demaryius Thomas. 

Julius Thomas will be able to become a free agent on March 10. He had 43 catches for 489 yards and 12 touchdowns last year. Thomas made $645,000 salary last year. 


Report: Bills do not apply franchise tag to linebacker Jerry Hughes
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) The Bills reportedly chose not to apply their franchise tag to linebacker Jerry Hughes Monday, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

Buffalo has been working on signing Hughes to a new, long term deal for the past month. The veteran linebacker racked up 10 sacks and totaled 54 tackles in all 16 games in 2014 for the Bills. 


 
 
 
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