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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 .

Want an edge in your draft? Download the Fantasy Draft Kit App.

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Player News
Arian Foster eager for season opener
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:02 pm ET) Texans running back Arian Foster told reporters Tuesday he felt, "Wonderful, physically," after being held out of preseason action for precautionary reasons. Foster underwent season-ending back surgery in 2013.

"I’m excited about that (Sunday’s regular-season opener against Washington). I can’t wait to play football," he said, per the Houston Chronicle.


Vikings adjust practice squad
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:44 pm ET) The Vikings signed guard Austin Wentworth to their practice squad and waived cornerback Kendall James from the squad.

T.Y. Hilton a divisive figure Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:40 pm ET) T.Y. Hilton is the Colts' most explosive receiver and he opens the season with a projected shootout in Denver. Indy will throw plenty to keep up with Peyton Manning, making Hilton an easy start, right?

Senior Fantasy Writer Dave Richard thinks so, ranking Hilton 13th among wideouts. Colleague Jamey Eisenberg isn't on board.

Eisenberg buries Hilton at 41st in his rankings, noting Hilton's struggles when playing outdoors. Hilton averages 79.9 receiving yards in indoor games, 48.6 yards outside. Hilton averages 7.3 yards after the catch indoors, 4.5 yards outdoors. But he's scored the same number of touchdowns, six, in each setting.

Hilton ranked 16th in the NFL last year with 138 targets; that will be tough to duplicate this season with a healthy Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen and Hakeem Nicks' arrival.

But in this game, with Andrew Luck expected to throw 40 times, consider Hilton a high-end WR3 with the potential to go off.


Steven Jackson ready to go for Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:38 pm ET) Falcons running back Steven Jackson, who missed most of training camp nursing a hamstring problem, says he's amped up to face the Saints on Sunday.

"I'm extremely excited for Week 1," he told the team's website. "It's been a training camp that I missed the majority of the time, but I've been working hard physically and mentally to prepare for this coming Sunday. I feel good about it."


Julio Jones looking to make up for lost touchdowns
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:26 pm ET) Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones, who missed the final 11 weeks last year with a fractured foot, will be taking on the division rival Saints for the first time in nearly a full calendar year when they come to town in Week 1. He scored a touchdown in that last meeting, catching seven passes for 76 yards, and seems eager to do so again.

"That's a big emphasis this year," wide receiver Julio Jones told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "We have to score in the red zone. We have too many weapons to get [stopped] in the red zone."

Jones was referring to last year's season opener -- a game the Falcons lost 23-17 after stalling twice inside the 10-yard line. Given the Jones' size and physicality, the Falcons will obviously look to him in those situations, especially with tight Tony Gonzalez now out of the picture.

Jones has expressed concern recently that he's not quite ready for a full workload yet, but even if the Falcons rest him a little more than usual, you can bet they'll take advantage of his time on the field. Even though the Saints technically ranked second against the pass last year, allowing 194.1 yards per game, you shouldn't hesitate to start Jones in Fantasy. Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard both rank him fifth among wide receivers for the week.


Bill Belichick: No decision on Gronk's status yet
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:15 pm ET) While Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (knee) said he'll definitely play Sunday at Miami, coach Bill Belichick said no final decision has been made, reports CSNNE.com.

"I'm glad that Rob's optimistic about this situation," Belichick said. "We'll go through the week of practice and take a look at everything, everybody, and see where everybody's at and try to do what we like is best for the team. With all due respect to Rob -- I'm glad he feels the way he does -- but in the end, we'll have to make the decision we feel like is best for the team and we'll do that as we go through the week."


Antonio Brown to return punts
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1:02 pm ET) Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said receiver Antonio Brown will return punts along with rookie Dri Archer. "He's a Pro Bowl-caliber return man, so that's how you play him," Tomlin said of Brown.

Matt Ryan begins with familiar foe
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:58 pm ET) Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan made the most of his opening-week matchup against the Saints last season, completing 25 for 38 passes for 304 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The hope is he can do something similar with the Saints coming to town in Week 1.

While last year's opener was at New Orleans, this one is at home, where Ryan went without a touchdown against the Saints in Week 12 last year. But he was without star wide receiver Julio Jones in that game. The Saints did rank second against the pass last year, allowing 194.1 yards per game, but against the Falcons, coming off a year in which they threw the ball more often than any other team, that probably won't impact a Ryan's numbers too much. It certainly didn't limit his yardage last year. Even in that Week 12 meeting, he threw for 292.

Bottom line: Based on where you drafted Ryan, you'd need an awfully good reason to consider sitting him in Fantasy, and this matchup against the Saints isn't it. Jamey Eisenberg ranks him ninth among quarterbacks for the week, and Dave Richard is even more optimistic, ranking him sixth.


Real test for Reggie Wayne comes Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:56 pm ET) Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, 35, looked sharp in training camp in his return from a torn ACL. The comeback continued in the third preseason game, when Wayne suited up for the first time and caught two passes for 11 yards and was targeted a third time. (Both receptions were negated by penalties).

"It felt good," Wayne told reporters. "Everything felt normal and that's what I expected. Coach tells you you've got about 8-10 plays and you feel like that's the perfect number, but once you go out there and start playing and getting involved, you feel like that's not enough.

"It was good to get a real live game under my belt," Wayne added. "There is no way you can simulate that."

Wayne didn't play much, however, and it will be interesting to see if he plays a full complement of snaps in Sunday night's anticipated shootout in Denver. Wayne caught five of eight targets for 50 yards against the Broncos in Week 7 last year before reaching for an underthrown pass midway through the fourth quarter and ripping up his right knee.

Wayne appears ready to reclaim his spot as Andrew Luck's chain mover, but watch his usage closely. Keep expectations in check and start him as a WR3.

Le'Veon Bell, LeGarrette Blount will play Week 1 as expected
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:50 pm ET) Steelers coach Mike Tomlin confirmed running backs Le'Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount will play Sunday against the Browns despite their recent arrests on marijuana possession charges, reports NFL.com.

 
 
 
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