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Fantasy & Reality: Time to arm yourself

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger are on a bye in Week 11. Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel are going bye-bye. Michael Vick might be a bystander for this week against the Giants.

Bet you never felt so lucky to own Mark Sanchez or Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Quarterback finder
Here's a matchup snapshot for passers expected to be available either via trade or off waivers.
QB (ownership pct.) Week 11 ROS
Sam Bradford (44) BAD BAD
Jay Cutler (83) GREAT GOOD
Andy Dalton (67) BAD BAD
Ryan Fitzpatrick (96) GOOD FAIR
Joe Flacco (92) FAIR BAD
Josh Freeman (85) FAIR FAIR
Rex Grossman (7) BAD BAD
Matt Hasselbeck (75) GOOD GOOD
Tarvaris Jackson (11) FAIR BAD
Matt Leinart (1) bye FAIR
Colt McCoy (54) BAD BAD
Tyler Palko (0) BAD BAD
Carson Palmer (66) GREAT GREAT
Christian Ponder (32) GOOD FAIR
Mark Sanchez (86) GOOD FAIR
Alex Smith (52) FAIR FAIR
Tim Tebow (83) BAD GOOD
Vince Young (4) BAD FAIR

Leave it to the last week of byes -- this displaced Week 11 slate after everyone played in Week 10 -- for quarterback issues to come up. Sure, you should have seen this coming the second you had Brees, Schaub and Roethlisberger on your roster, and kudos to you if you did have a backup in place ... even if that backup was Cassel.

There's a lot of quarterback maneuvering to be done, so for those of us who didn't take Aaron Rodgers or fell into Matthew Stafford or Cam Newton, let's put a plan together.

If you own Vick ...

The news is that he's got a pair of broken ribs to go along with a pair of consecutive games without a touchdown pass. He's expected to be without Jeremy Maclin (shoulder, hamstring) if he even goes in Week 11. And up next for him: The Giants, who have held him without a passing touchdown in two of three starts against them while with Philly (to be fair, his one good game against them was really, really good). He played through a rib cartilage injury last year but he clearly wasn't himself last week while playing with the new injury and without both of his top targets.

There are a slew of reasons to fear a bad game from Vick: The Giants' pass rush. Maclin's absence. DeSean Jackson's inept play. But how about the fact that Vick has topped 20 Fantasy points in four of nine starts this season? Or that the Giants have allowed only two quarterbacks to get over 20 Fantasy points all year?

It's one thing to bench Vick because he's not playing -- that makes sense. But the prospect of him playing hurt while sporting a bad completion percentage over his last four games (58 pct.) without Maclin against a tough defense familiar with his play is nerve-racking. But you might not have a choice -- save for Carson Palmer, Sanchez and Jay Cutler, there's no one out there that Fantasy owners can confidently trust. Christian Ponder has a good matchup and Tim Tebow has been productive, so they could be low-risk alternatives to Vick.

Complicating the issue further is that the Eagles play on Sunday night -- after the majority of Week 11 action. So if Andy Reid decides to keep the Giants in suspense and not say a peep about Vick's status, you'll be guessing on whether or not he'll play when you need to pick a quarterback in advance of the games (Thursday in the case of Tebow or Sanchez).

The move: If you can somehow snare Palmer, Sanchez or Cutler on the cheap, do it and go with them over Vick. If you can't get one of them and the Eagles don't say boo on whether or not he plays, you'll have to handcuff him with Vince Young and take your lumps with whomever the Eagles start. If the Eagles determine his status before Sunday afternoon -- say they list him as probable -- you can consider other options but don't have to bother with the Young handcuff. Regardless, you need to carry a reliable backup for Vick the rest of the way; if the guy you have now isn't someone you'd want to start, you better make a change.

If you own Schaub ...

According to a slew of reports out there, Schaub has a Lisfranc injury that might require season-ending surgery. At the very least he'll miss several weeks; the Texans could keep him off of injured reserve if it means getting him back for the playoffs. Assume that he's not going to help you in Fantasy the rest of the year, a terrible break. He would have been on a bye anyway in Week 11, so the timing is fine to find a long-term replacement.

Palmer is as good as it gets. Not only has he been productive in his first two starts with the Raiders (631 yards, five touchdowns, four interceptions), but the matchups he'll have down the stretch are second to none. Cutler is a close second in terms of schedule but he doesn't have the receiving talents or aggressive downfield playcalling (seriously) that Palmer will have. Ditto that for Matt Hasselbeck, who has some easy opponents but a lack of threats. Tebow is another safe alternative but he might not be so easy to land in your league.

What about Matt Leinart as a replacement for Schaub? I don't think it's a bad idea to have him and someone else. Realize that Leinart has a serious statistical ceiling to break through, however. In 17 career starts he has three games with 250 or more yards passing, three games with two passing touchdowns (none with three) and two rushing touchdowns. He has completed only eight passes for 40 or more yards, the most recent being a 2008 bomb to Larry Fitzgerald in a Week 16 blowout loss at New England in the snow. Accuracy is an issue too -- he has a 57.1 completion percentage. But if we're talking about him as a game manager who can rack up some decent passing yards between dumpoff passes to his running backs and mid-range shots to Andre Johnson, he's fine.

If you own Roethlisberger or Brees ...

You're lucky. In the case of Brees all you need is a bye-week replacement. Sanchez (at Denver) will do fine as might Fitzpatrick (at Miami), Hasselbeck (at Atlanta) and Ponder (vs. Oakland). Roethlisberger disclosed this week than he suffered a broken thumb on his throwing hand but that it won't impact him and that he'd play in Week 11 if the Steelers didn't had a bye. Easy for him to say without a game to play! He'll probably be fine but it makes sense for Big Ben's owners to make sure they have a good backup for the rest of the season.

If you own Palmer, Cutler, Sanchez, Tebow, Ponder ...

The timing has never been better to cut a deal, especially if these guys are your backups. Rare is the case where one of these guys was drafted or claimed off waivers to fill in as a week-to-week starter. The marketplace for quarterbacks has become active over the last few days because Fantasy owners are desperate to keep their playoff hopes alive. So now is the time to cash in.

Expect to do a two-for-one deal if you're the one giving a quarterback. For instance, in my 14-team PPR league I lost Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel. I reacted -- and perhaps overreacted -- by dealing Roddy White for Sanchez and Denarius Moore. I "dealt down" at receiver by going from White to Moore, but I got a quarterback I can start with relative confidence. Had I not done the deal, I'd be staring at John Skelton or Rex Grossman as my Week 11 starter. Not cool.

If you have a backup passer to move, improve your team by getting rid of him before Thursday. I promise you'll have some interested parties.

Fantasy & Reality

Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) from around the league.

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Fantasy: Chris Johnson is back to his old self. Johnson's final stats were awesome against the Panthers and unlike his game against the Bengals in Week 9, he had several decent runs. But he still hasn't shown that tremendous top gear and only once or twice in Week 10 was he able to keep going after first contact. Additionally, the majority of his rushing yardage came in the fourth quarter when the Titans were killing the clock. He had just 57 rush yards on his first 19 carries, true to his 3.0 rushing average. Problem is, he's had less than 19 carries in all but two games before Week 10. I'd be nervous about starting him in Week 11 (at Atlanta, which shut down the Saints' ground game last week) but I'd feel great about him in Week 12 (vs. Tampa Bay, who can't slow down the run at all).

Reality: If Dwayne Bowe wasn't a disappointment before, he might become one now. Here's what we know about Tyler Palko, the Chiefs' starter in place of Cassel for the time being: He beat out Joe Flacco for the starting job in college at Pitt but didn't get drafted (Flacco was a first-round pick). He's been in and out of the league since 2007. He's been cut by a UFL team and on the bench of a CFL team. He's thrown 13 regular-season passes and has zero career starts. He's never tossed a touchdown. This is not the kind of passer we want throwing to our stud receiver, especially one who hasn't scored or had 100 yards in four straight games.

Fantasy: John Skelton is a death sentence for Larry Fitzgerald. Funny how I bring this up after burying a stud receiver who's about to work with the backup quarterback in another city. But the Cardinals did a nice job "dummying down" the playbook for Skelton as many of his passes were short and simple timed routes. It helped that the Eagles were kind of out of place on several attempts he had. Though he's far from a polished, solid NFL quarterback, he's good enough to give Fitzgerald a shot to score every week. We can only hope to say the same about Palko -- and Leinart.

Reality: Reggie Bush might not slow down, but he won't be alone. Bush has been running better than at any previous point in his career. Chances are it won't stop, but the number of carries he gets continues to stay capped. Last week we saw Daniel Thomas lead Miami in carries; he didn't do a whole lot with them (2.47 yards per carry) but it's proof that he's a factor here. Bush won't get more than 15 carries in a game and it could be closer to a dozen with a handful of receptions per. So while that could temper Bush's upside, the Dolphins' remaining schedule with games against the Raiders, Eagles and two against the Bills is pretty darn good.

Week 11 waiver-wire DSTs

Jaguars (at Browns) ... As a special bonus for those of you who picked up the Jaguars off of waivers last week, you get to use them again when they take on an awful Browns offense (two touchdowns in their last four games).

Patriots (vs. Chiefs) ... This might not be quite as juicy of a matchup if not for Tyler Palko under center. Kansas City is having a hard time running the ball and Palko's inexperience could be a factor in converting some turnovers for the Patriots. It's hard to envision the Chiefs scoring more than 10 points, which they've failed to do in their last two games against weak defenses in the Broncos and Dolphins -- and that's with Cassel under center.

Vikings (vs. Raiders) ... Minnesota might give up a healthy amount of yards and points but they should pick up a couple of sacks and at least one interception of Palmer. That's about it though.

Parting shots

 • If you are relying on Vincent Jackson, start hoping that Vincent Brown is for real. If Brown continues to warrant coverage, that will leave Jackson free, and Fantasy owners should trust in Philip Rivers to find Jackson when he's wide open. He did it three times against the Packers two weeks ago.

 • Hunch: If Jacoby Ford's out this week we could see Darrius Heyward-Bey actually get targeted in the passing game. There are not a lot of explosive threats on the Raiders outside of Denarius Moore for Palmer to lean on.

 • The season-ending injury to Bills center Eric Wood could be a big problem for Fitzpatrick's pass protection and a small problem for Fred Jackson's run blocking. He was Buffalo's best lineman.

 • The Bengals pass defense has been mostly great this year, but they'll get tested quickly by the Ravens now that cornerback Leon Hall is out for the year. Hall was a huge factor for the Bengals. Without him, Kelly Jennings as a starter and Adam Jones as the nickel will see a lot of work. If there's a team in the league with the corners to absorb such a huge hit, the Bengals are it.

 • The Beast Mode nickname is fitting -- welcome back to Fantasy relevance, Marshawn Lynch. Go ahead and pencil in a sixth straight game with a touchdown for him. I'm sure glad he got that back issue from Week 7 taken care of.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Report: Titans, TE Craig Stevens agree to restructured contract
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:29 am ET) The Titans and tight end Craig Stevens agreed to a restructured contract Wednesday, The Tennessean reports.

Stevens had been scheduled to make $3.5 million in 2015, but he'll make a similar amount to his $1.6-million salary from 2014. He was placed on injured reserve after five games last season due to a thigh injury.


Vikings sign defensive end Caesar Rayford
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) The Vikings signed defensive end Caesar Rayford on Wednesday, Rayford's representation, the Willis & Woy Sports group announced.

Rayford attended the NFL veterans combine, which gave him another look for NFL teams. Rayford was last in the CFL and the Arena League. He was last in the NFL in 2013 when he was with the Cowboys. 


Broncos LB Reggie Walker said he'll add versatility to position
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Linebacker Reggie Walker is all right with doing whatever the Broncos coaching staff asks of him. 

Walker, in an interview with DenverBroncos.com, said one of his biggest assets as a football player is the ability to play multiple positions as a linebacker. However, his primary position is at inside linebacker. 

"I’ve had to play in multiple positions throughout my football career; I can do a lot," Walker said. "I think I can do a lot very well. Hopefully I can come out here and show that and I’m going to be ready to compete."

Walker will earn his pay check on special teams. That was a role he played with the Chargers and one the Broncos will rely on him for as well. 

"Special teams is all a mindset," Walker said. "It’s all just about who’s willing to work harder and I’m going to work as hard as I can so I’ll be great at it."


Browns' Randy Starks wants to 'take care of the defensive line'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) One attribute that defensive lineman Randy Starks is looking to bring to the Browns is leadership. 

Coming from Miami, Starks is hoping to be an outspoken leader to the younger members on the defensive line. Starks added that he doesn't necessarily want to try and assert his authority over the whole defense. 

“I’m not trying to come here and take over the whole defense," Starks said on Sirius XM radio, via ClevelandBrowns.com. "I’m just trying to take care of the defensive line, and that will help take care of the defense itself. Because we have (Karlos) Dansby and Joe Haden to take care of their respective positions.”

Starks recorded 28 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks in 15 games in 2014. In 11 seasons, Starks has only been to the playoffs twice. He's hoping that changes with the Browns. 

“That’s the same thing I told (coach Mike Pettine): I’m trying to win games," Starks said. "I’m trying to get to the playoffs. And we’re on the same page.”


Cardinals' Kareem Martin could move from DE to OLB
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) Cardinals pass-rusher Kareem Martin could be going from having his hand in the dirt to standing up with the intent of rushing the passer. 

Martin, who spent his rookie season at defensive end, is being considered for a move to outside linebacker, coach Bruce Arians told the team's website

"With his length, I wouldn't say he's (San Francisco’s) Aldon Smith at this point in his career, but he's got that body style and he's shown some stuff off the edge,” Arians said. “So we are going to look at him to see if he can play in space at all. That might be a spot where he can find his niche as a pass rusher.”

Martin actually spent one day during his rookie year in the outside linebackers meeting room before making the move to defensive end. When Martin worked with the scout team, he would occasionally work as an outside linebacker.

“Being on the edge won’t be so foreign to me,” Martin said. “I’m ready for it.” 


Ravens' Steve Bisciotti: Haloti Ngata could return in 2016
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) In a conference call with PSL ticket holders, Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti didn't rule out the possibility of defensive tackle Haloti Ngata returning to the organization in 2016. 

The Ravens tried to restructure Ngata's contract but were unable to, and thus traded him to the Lions. Ngata is in the final year of a four-year, $48.5 million contract he signed after the 2011 season started. 

Ngata was drafted by the Ravens in the first round in 2006. In his nine-year career, he's totaled 445 tackles and 25.5 sacks. 


Ravens working on contract extension with G Marshal Yanda
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) The Ravens are working on a contract extension with right guard Marshal Yanda, owner Steve Bisciotti said on a conference call with PSL ticket holders. 

Yanda is slated to earn a $5.5 million base salary and carry an $8.45 million cap number heading into 2015, the final year of his contract. Yanda's regarded as one of the top interior linemen in the NFL, making him a prime candidate for the Ravens to work a new deal out with. 


Jets re-sign offensive tackle Ben Ijalana
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) The Jets announced on Wednesday that they have re-signed offensive tackle Ben Ijalana

Ijalana has been with the Jets the previous two seasons after the organization claimed him of of waivers from the Colts prior to the beginning of the 2013 regular season. The Colts selected Ijalana in the second round of the 2011 draft. 


Reports: Stefan Wisniewski visited Jaguars, Patriots
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) The Jaguars hosted free-agent center Stefen Wisniewski on a visit on Wednesday, according to a report from the Florida Times-Union.

Wisniewski also recently visited the Patriots, according to NFL.com, with both New England and Jacksonville in need of interior offensive linemen. Wisniewski spent the past four years with the Raiders, appearing in 61 games. 


Jets sign linebacker Jamari Lattimore
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/1/2015) The Jets announced on Wednesday that they have signed unrestricted free agent linebacker Jamari Lattimore

Lattimore spent the previous four seasons with the Packers. Lattimore signed with the Packers in 2011 as an undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State. He's played inside linebacker and special teams for Green Bay. 

In 2014, Lattimore started five games and totaled 35 tackles. 


 
 
 
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