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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
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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