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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
Giants' Odell Beckham says he played with hamstring tears
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:24 am ET) Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham said he played all season with two tears in his hamstrings, according to the New York Daily News.

Beckham took part in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, but admitted he's still not fully healed. Beckham said the injuries prevented him from getting to that "last gear that I wanted to have." He added that the injuries really bothered him against the Eagles and Colts. Beckham said he was "stumbling" and falling over during those games. He added that he's not sure whether he'll ever be 100 percent again.

The rookie had a tremendous season, hauling in 91 balls for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. 


Patriots' Tom Brady meeting with NFL after Super Bowl 49
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady doesn't expect to meet with the NFL until after Super Bowl 49, according to NFL.com.

The Patriots have been in the headlines all week due to DeflateGate, and it appears the situation won't be resolved until after the season. "I believe they're going to do [a meeting] after the season," Brady said. "So we'll deal with it after this game. I think everybody is locked in, ready to go for the Super Bowl." Both Brady and coach Bill Belichick have held separate press conferences during the week to deny the team's involvement in deflating their footballs. 

The Patriots are subject to punishment from the NFL if the leauge finds any wrongdoing during the investigation. 


Earl Thomas on bad shoulder: 'I'll still play fearless'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who dislocated his shoulder in the NFC Championship Game, could remain limited in practice this week ahead of the Super Bowl, reports the Seattle Times. But he said he won't be thinking about the injury against the Patriots.

"When I come alive nothing is limited,’’ he said. “I’ll still play fearless, throw my body around, and let whatever happens, happens.’’

Thomas did allow that he might have to rely more on his teammates.

“My mindset is I have an opportunity to really trust my teammates,’’ he said. “This is the first game I’m going to have to trust them because of my injury. So I really, really, really trust my teammates, and that’s what I’m banking on, my teammates doing what they need to do and I need to come through myself.’’

It's unclear if Thomas will need offseason surgery.

The Seahawks are 1-point underdogs after opening as 2.5-point favorites.


Colts QB Matt Hasselbeck pondering retirement
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck told ESPN.com he's not sure if he'll retire or return for a 17th season. Hasselbeck, 39, appeared in four games this season and played well, posting a 102.6 passer rating.

He's set to hit unrestricted free agency.


Colts expected to part ways with center A.Q. Shipley
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Colts center A.Q. Shipley is headed for unrestricted free agency, and the team is expected to let him go, reports ESPN.com. 

"Shipley went from starting in Week 1 to losing his starting job, to being inactive, to being the third-string center," the report said. "All without any explanation from coach Chuck Pagano or anybody in the front office."

Shipley, 28, has played in 45 career games, starting 19.


Report: Dolphins aim to re-sign TE Charles Clay
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) The Dolphins have privately indicated they want to re-sign impending free agent tight end Charles Clay and will make him an offer in coming weeks, reports the Miami Herald. Clay caught 58 passes for 605 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games this season.

Miami also is high on Clay's backup, Dion Sims, who's signed through 2016, the paper said.


Browns extremely thin -- and short -- at wide receiver
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) With wideout Josh Gordon facing a one-year suspension, the Browns are dangerously thin at receiver entering 2015. ESPN.com notes the Browns have two returning slot receivers in Andrew Hawkins and Taylor Gabriel and "an undersized situational receiver" in 5-10 Travis Benjamin.

Miles Austin is scheduled for unrestricted free agency after catching 47 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns in 12 games. Tight end Jordan Cameron also is set to be an unrestricted free agent.

Hawkins, a 5-7, 180-pounder, led the team with 63 grabs for 824 yards, with two touchdowns. Cleveland failed to add a wideout in last year's draft but almost certainly must address the position in the 2015 draft.


Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas to practice this week
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told SiriusXM NFL Radio that cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and safety Earl Thomas (shoulder) will practice this week and should be "good to go" for the Super Bowl. Both got hurt in the NFC Championship Game.

Seattle is a 1-point underdog to the Patriots after opening as a 2.5-point favorite.


New optimism regarding Justin Blackmon's potential return
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) A lot of people inside the NFL are optimistic Jaguars receiver Justin Blackmon is "overcoming his issues" and will be back in the league in 2015, reports Fox Sports. Blackmon got suspended in November 2013 following his third violation of the league's substance-abuse policy.

He checked into a treatment facility last September. General manager Dave Caldwell said recently he hopes Blackmon wins reinstatement, but is not counting on it.


Reports: Josh Gordon tests positive again, facing 1-year ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Browns wideout Josh Gordon tested positive for alcohol and "now will be subject to a one-year banishment," sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Gordon was suspended for the first 10 games this season for a repeat violation of the league's drug policy.

Pro Football Talk reports that because of Gordon's past DUI, alcohol was one of the substances for which he was being tested. The website said a one-year suspension is likely a "done deal."

The Browns also suspended Gordon for missing a Saturday walkthrough before the regular-season finale, and CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported then the Browns might be ready to part ways with the ultra-talented 23-year-old.

The Browns released the following statement regarding the news: 

"Clearly we are very disappointed to hear the latest report regarding Josh. At this point, due to the confidential nature of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, we have not been made aware by the league of a failed test. We are in the process of gathering more information and will provide further comment at the appropriate time."


 
 
 
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