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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
Luke Willson's lack of targets telling
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:13 pm ET) Seahawks tight end Luke Willson had a career performance Week 16 at Arizona, going for 139 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder in the second quarter. But those numbers distract from one just as important: His three catches were his only three targets on the day.

Even with quarterback Russell Wilson attempting more than 30 passes for just the second time in five games, Willson wasn't any more targeted than usual. It's just that two of them happened to result in big plays.

The long touchdown was probably a fluke. He got behind the defense, an oversight on its part, and ran away from everyone after he caught the ball. Big deal. Take it away, and he had two catches for 59 yards and a touchdown -- a good performance by his standards, but nothing that would send Fantasy owners flocking to the waiver wire.

Even though Willson got the numbers, Wilson's preferred targets were wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson, who had 11 and seven targets, respectively. Those were season highs for each.

If you can't count on them to get consistent looks in the Seahawks offense, you certainly can't count on Willson to. He's had only three games with more than four all season, none in the last three weeks.


Jaguars RB Toby Gerhart still feeling pain in rib
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:00 pm ET) Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart said he is still feeling the rib contusion sustained Thursday against Tennessee, per the Florida Times-Union.

The team has yet to issue an update on his condition, but the problem could prevent him from playing in the season finale Sunday at Houston. If his season is indeed over, he will end it with just 318 yards on 97 carries.

Those are not strong numbers considering he entered the year as the team's featured back.


Jaguars DT Roy Miller still optimistic about playing Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:52 am ET) Jaguars defensive tackle Roy Miller is still optimistic about playing in Sunday's season finale against Houston, the Florida Times-Union reports. Miller sat out Week 16 against Baltimore with a knee injury. A previous report had him missing the rest of the season and in order to have surgery to repair a torn meniscus.

"I'm trying to get it right and hopefully tomorrow or Wednesday, I'll feel a lot better," Miller said.


Russell Wilson could be in for strong finish
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(11:50 am ET) With the Cardinals struggling to get anything going offensively behind third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley, the Seahawks offense got repeated opportunities to shine Week 16 in Arizona. And quarterback Russell Wilson took advantage, throwing for a season-high 339 yards while rushing for 88. For the second time in three games, he contributed three total touchdowns, two in the air and one on the ground.

The Seahawks have gotten back to winning with their defense in recent weeks, making Wilson at times an afterthought. But when pressed to make plays, he's shown he's still capable of putting up big numbers.

Chances are he'll need to make plays in Week 17 against a Rams team that has played well of late, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Wilson's previous season high in passing yards came in his first meeting with them back in Week 7, when he threw for 313 and ran for 106. Despite his up-and-down tendencies, you'll want him active for the season's final week.


Bears' Trestman will talk to Jimmy Clausen before naming starter
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:43 am ET) Bears coach Marc Trestman said Monday morning on WBBM Newsradio 780 that he'll talk to Jimmy Clausen before naming a starter for Sunday's season finale against Minnesota, CBS Chicago reports.

Clausen earned his first start since his rookie year with the Panthers in 2010. He compiled 181 yards while completing 22 of 39 passes. He added two touchdowns and one interception in a 20-14 defeat to Detroit.

"We'll talk about it today," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "I thought he had a good performance. He needed some help. He didn't get it -- had a few drops along the way, had a couple missed assignments up front in the running game, where we could've had a little bit more yardage. But I thought he handled himself (well), for two practices and having not played (much) for four years. It was certainly a good performance."

Chicago is currently a 6 1/2-point underdog at Minnesota.


Eagles coach Chip Kelly: Mark Sanchez is our quarterback Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:32 am ET) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said on Sportsradio 94WIP in Philadelphia that he'll start Mark Sanchez against the Giants in Week 17, per Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.

Sanchez has been picked off 10 times since taking over as the starter in Week 9. He threw a costly interception at the end of Saturday's 27-24 defeat to Washington that ruined Philadelphia's postseason hopes. The Eagles won't rush Nick Foles back from a collarbone injury now that Philadelphia was officially eliminated following Dallas' win over Indianapolis on Sunday.

"Mark's our quarterback, and I thought Mark played a really good game [Saturday]," Kelly said. "He goes 37 of 50, he was 36 of 49 before that last pass.

"I'm sure he wants that pass back, everybody wants that pass back, but I think Mark played a good game and we'll continue to go with Mark."

Philadelphia is a 4-point favorite at N.Y. Giants.


Report: Cardinals won't release WR Fitzgerald
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:21 am ET) Cardinals Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will not be cut, as some expect due to the team's salary cap issues, a source has told Pro Football Talk.

Fitzgerald has a cap number of $23.6 million for 2015. He could be traded or have his deal restructured. He could also decide to negotiate an extension.

Few non-quarterbacks have cap numbers anywhere near $20 million. Committing that much to a fading Fitzgerald, who hasn't totaled more than 34 yards receiving in his last four games, could prove disastrous. But the Cardinals are apparently willing to take that chance.

Fitzgerald has also been victimized this year and in recent seasons by inconsistent quarterback play.


Lions RB Joique Bell was benched for 'violation of team rules'
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:12 am ET) Lions coach Jim Caldwell told reporters that running back Joique Bell was suspended for the first quarter of Sunday's 20-14 victory over Chicago for what he deemed "violation of team rules," reports ESPN.

Bell took a backseat to Reggie Bush early on before emerging late in the second half. After logging only three carries in the first half, Bell finished the game with 74 yards on 13 attempts and a 17-yard score midway through the fourth quarter that gave Detroit the lead to stay. 

Detroit is a 7 1/2-point underdog at Green Bay in Week 17. The Lions have a 22-game losing streak at Lambeau Field, an NFL record for most consecutive road losses against a single opponent. The winner will clinch the NFC North title.


Bears K Robbie Gould shuts down for season finale
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:03 am ET) Bears kicker Robbie Gould told WSCR 670 AM radio in Chicago he'll sit out the final game of the season because of a nagging right quadriceps injury, reports the Chicago Tribune. Gould converted 9 of 12 field goal attempts, adding 28 extra points. Jay Feely will take over as the starter for the fourth consecutive game.

Report: NFL will review Dominic Raiola's ankle stomp
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:51 am ET) The NFL will review Lions center Dominic Raiola's action during the third quarter of Detroit's 20-14 victory over Chicago, according to ESPN.

After walking away from a pile, Raiola was caught on camera stepping on Chicago defensive lineman Ego Ferguson's ankle. Following the game, he told reporters his actions were "not intentional."

"It was totally unintentional," Raiola said. "I remember I was stumbling out. I didn't see the end of it. I apologized at the end of the game, told him it was unintentional and we shook hands and that was it."

Raiola got slapped with a $10,000 fine for cut block in the final minute of a Week 12 loss to New England and could be in line for a heftier fine this time around. The league will likely make an announcement before Detroit's Week 17 showdown at Green Bay.


 
 
 
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