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Four Quarters: Fantasy is a 50/50 proposition

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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I keep saying to myself, "50 percent. 50 percent."

No, I haven't lost my mind. This doesn't have to do Shaquille O' Neal's lifetime free-throw percentage in the NBA, which isn't far off from his substandard 52.7 percent success rate. And this doesn't have to do with President Barack Obama's approval rate, which is way south of the 50 percent barrier heading into the New Year.

No, I'm babbling like a mad man because 50 percent is the number of Fantasy owners in CBSSports.com Fantasy Football leagues that passed on the opportunity to start Cardinals running back Beanie Wells in Week 12, which includes yours truly.

In a 14-team league, I chose to start Arian Foster and Cedric Benson as my two running backs and used Willis McGahee as my flex option. All three players had double-digit Fantasy performances, but none measured up to Wells' career day.

In case you were forced to travel on Sunday following the holiday weekend or were wrangled into some bargain-hunting shopping with the wife, then you missed Wells thrashing the Rams defense for 228 rushing yards and one touchdown.

"That is what we have been striving to get Beanie to do for a couple of years now, and it's great to see him do that," coach Ken Whisenhunt said following his team's 23-20 victory.

Failed potential is only part of the reason Wells was benched in half of CBSSports.com Fantasy leagues. Another key component was the fact Wells' performance lately has been unnerving because of a lingering right knee injury, which he aggravated Sunday but was able to finish out the game after missing a few plays.

And yet here we are again at a crossroads with Wells heading into Week 13. Undoubtedly, his Week 12 performance is going to send Wells' Fantasy starting percentage skyrocketing. But the December road won't be easy.

Ahead on the Cardinals schedule in December are games with Dallas, San Francisco, Cleveland and Cincinnati. The Browns are the only favorable matchup on paper as the remaining three teams are yielding 15.1 Fantasy points or less per week to running backs.

It all comes back to 50 percent, which also happens to be the odds you get when flipping a coin, which is similar to the feeling you have when faced with starting Wells on a weekly basis.

First Quarter -- Surprises of the Week

Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez entered their Week 12 showdown with a combined four touchdown passes and 11 interceptions in November. The duo combined for seven touchdown passes and one interception Sunday ... Congrats to the 18 percent of Fantasy owners that started Redskins running back Roy Helu, who totaled 163 yards and one touchdown against the Seahawks. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan doesn't make this easy for us ... There was a report Ryan Mathews was going to be limited Week 12 because of injury. He didn't seem very hobbled as he showed great burst on his way to a season-high 137 rushing yards against Denver ... It's not hard to see who could become Caleb Hanie's favorite target while replacing the injured Jay Cutler, as Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox had his best performance of the season Week 12 ... Deion Branch had nine catches for 98 yards in his first three November games. He torched Philadelphia's vaunted secondary for six catches for 125 yards in Week 12 ... Leave it to Browns rookie Greg Little to score his first career touchdown against a Bengals secondary yielding 0.8 receiving touchdowns per game to receivers ... Bengals rookie A.J. Green became the first receiver to break 100 yards against the Browns this season, proving in the process that he has earned your trust as a must-start Fantasy option regardless of the matchup ... Jets tight end Dustin Keller had his first two scores in Week 12 since he scored in consecutive games to open the season ... Bears tight end Kellen Davis has scored in consecutive games and has scored on 33 percent of his receptions this season (4 for 12).

Second Quarter -- Busts of the Week

Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko has no touchdowns and six interceptions in two starts since replacing the injured Matt Cassel (hand). It's only going to be a matter of time before it's the Kyle Orton show ... John Skelton has been just as bad in his last two starts, throwing five interceptions and no touchdowns. It appears Kevin Kolb's job is waiting for him ... I couldn't save this for the injury report section because I think it deserves to be here. A week after bursting back onto the Fantasy scene, Lions running back Kevin Smith is once again battling an injury (ankle) and many frustrated owners had to witness the heartbreak on Thanksgiving Day ... Colts running back Joseph Addai returned from a hamstring injury in Week 12 and drew the start in a very favorable matchup against the Panthers. Sadly, he averaged 3.3 yards per carry and was eventually replaced by Donald Brown as the Colts' lead back ... Jackie Battle capped a disappointing November with 20 rushing yards on nine attempts against the Steelers and is no longer a hot Fantasy commodity ... With a one-catch, 5-yard performance against Oakland, we saw Sunday how much Earl Bennett is going to miss Jay Cutler ... Jerome Simpson followed up his career performance in Week 11 with two catches for 15 yards in Week 12 ... Vincent Jackson is just as inconsistent, frustrating Fantasy owners with another poor performance on Sunday following a great outing in Week 11 ... Mike Wallace saved his worst performance of the season with Fantasy playoff berths and seeding on the line ... Andre Johnson returned from a hamstring injury to deal with two backup quarterbacks and finished with just 22 yards on two catches.

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Third Quarter -- Injury Report

Matt Leinart is likely about to join fellow Texans quarterback Matt Schaub on injured reserve after suffering a reported collarbone injury Week 12 ... Packers running back James Starks came into his team's short Week 12 turnaround battling ankle and knee injuries and couldn't finish the Thanksgiving showdown with the Lions after tweaking his ankle ... Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice suffered another head injury Sunday, which is likely to put his Week 13 status in serious doubt.

Fourth Quarter -- Early Look Ahead

Indianapolis at New England clearly doesn't have the same allure sans Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, who is still out with a neck injury ... Cincinnati at Pittsburgh is a rematch of their Week 10 slugfest, which saw Pittsburgh escape with a 24-17 win ... Atlanta at Houston was a bigger matchup a few weeks ago when Matt Schaub was healthy. With T.J. Yates now at the helm for Houston, we might see a lot of Arian Foster and Ben Tate in Week 13 ... The Tim Tebow show makes its next stop in Minnesota ... Cleveland is 4-7, but would be in a lot worse of shape if not for its defense. Therefore, their Week 13 showdown with AFC North foe Baltimore could be a low-scoring affair ... Green Bay at N.Y. Giants will feature two of the best passing offenses in the NFL ... Detroit at New Orleans is another matchup of top 10 passing offenses.

Overtime -- Q & A

Where was Julio Jones in Week 12? -- Charan Sidhu (@CBSFantasyFB)

MH: I was one of many frustrated Jones owners on Sunday. The talented rookie returned from his latest hamstring injury and didn't even record a catch. Jones was on the field plenty against the Vikings. It's just that Atlanta saw other ways to beat the Vikings defense and didn't need to expose the rookie receiver to potentially another setback. The emergence of Harry Douglas and Tony Gonzalez still drawing coverage in the middle of the field should help open up favorable matchups for Jones moving forward. It's not time to give up on him.

I'm commissioner of a league that uses a team quarterback. One of the owners is complaining about getting torched by the Bills team quarterback this weekend because Brad Smith's stats went to that position. Clearly, Smith is playing wide receiver now. What is your take on what is fair? --Joel Mollhagen

MH: That owner is just mad he lost. What happened if Ryan Fitzpatrick scored a receiving touchdown on a trick play? Would you take that touchdown away from him? Smith is still listed as a quarterback by the Bills, and his ability to play multiple positions is part of the strategy that goes into using the Bills team quarterback. It's just sour grapes. If the shoe was on the other foot, that owner wouldn't have a problem taking Smith's points.

My trade deadline is on Wednesday. I have Brandon Lloyd, Andre Johnson, Mike Wallace and Santana Moss at wide receiver. I have Ray Rice, Roy Helu, Peyton Hillis and a concussed Jahvid Best at running back. I am thinking of trading a receiver for a running back, as I am still hesitant about Helu because of Mike Shanahan's shenanigans. I'm thinking Lloyd is the man to ship as he has been very consistent in St. Louis and has a very tough schedule ahead of him. Should I trade someone else? -- Josh Perusse

MH: Perhaps it is a little late right now to get full value for Johnson because we saw in Week 12 what his future holds without Matt Schaub at quarterback. But I think on name alone you could probably still land a pretty good running back for the veteran receiver. If you're not interested in trading Johnson, then Lloyd is your best bet. His remaining schedule is not the concern for me since he clearly thrives in offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels' system. He just has the most trade value for what you seek and his loss won't cripple your lineup.

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

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Player News
'No plans on how long' QB Logan Thomas plays Sunday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:39 am ET) After earlier saying Cardinals quarterback Logan Thomas would play at least the first half Sunday at San Francisco, coach Bruce Arians said there are "no plans on how long" the rookie will play, reports ESPN.com. Thomas will be making his first start after Ryan Lindley predictably flopped Week 16 against Seattle.

Thomas has appeared in two games, completing 1 of 9 passes. That completion was an 81-yard touchdown to running back Andre Ellington.

Quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) isn't expected to be ready until the playoffs, so Lindley is the only option behind Thomas. Lindley has zero touchdowns and eight interceptions in 225 career pass attempts. Arizona has not scored a touchdown in its past two games.

A 6-6, 250-pounder out of Virginia Tech, Thomas had a "shaky" start to Wednesday's practice before finishing "pretty strong," according to Arians.

Arizona is a 6-point underdog Sunday. The line opened at 4.5 before bettors pounced on the 49ers.

Despite their offensive struggles, the Cardinals can win the NFC West with a victory and a Seattle loss to the Rams.


Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse not practicing
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:12 am ET) Seahawks wideout Jermaine Kearse, who injured his hamstring Week 16, did not practice Wednesday as the team prepared for Sunday's game against St. Louis. Kearse also would not have been able to participate had the team practiced Thursday.

If Kearse sits out, rookie Paul Richardson would start in his place. Seattle is a 12.5-point home favorite.


Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams practices fully
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:30 am ET) Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who's missed three straight games with a hand injury, practiced fully Wednesday and is on track to return Sunday against the Falcons.

However, coach Ron Rivera has indicated he'll stick with Jonathan Stewart as the starting tailback. Stewart has run for 437 yards over the past four weeks.

Carolina is a 4-point underdog at the Georgia Dome.


Chuck Pagano 'hopeful' T.Y. Hilton will play Week 17
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:21 am ET) Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton put in his second straight limited practice Wednesday, with coach Chuck Pagano saying he's "hopeful" Hilton will play Sunday at Tennessee. Hilton sat out Week 16 with a hamstring injury -- the first game he's missed all season -- and Indy got destroyed 42-7 at Dallas.

Hilton leads the Colts with 82 catches for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns. Indy is a 7-point favorite over the 2-13 Titans.


Ravens RT Ricky Wagner undergoes foot surgery
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:12 am ET) Ravens right tackle Ricky Wagner underwent successful surgery to fix a Lisfranc foot sprain, reports the Baltimore Sun. He suffered the injury in the Week 16 loss to Houston.

Wagner, who allowed two sacks and drew high marks from coaches in his first season as a starter, is expected to be ready for next season, the report said.


Bears sign DE Austen Lane
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Bears have signed defensive end Austen Lane, Pro Football Talk reports.

Lane will fill the roster spot of defensive end Willie Young, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Lane was with the Bears during the preseason but didn't survive the final cuts. He's managed three sacks in 30 career games.


Cardinals' Thomas starts practice 'shaky,' finishes 'pretty strong'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians indicated that Week 17 starting quarterback Logan Thomas was "shaky" at the beginning of Wednesday's practice but finished "pretty strong" as he developed an understanding of where to throw his passes, ESPN.com reports.

"He's worked, fundamentally, extremely hard and gotten much better," Arians said. "But putting those fundamentals to use in the offense, that's two totally different things."

Thomas has just three days of practice before facing the 49ers in a game that has the possibility of landing his team with a first-round bye with a win and help from other results.

"It wasn't the greatest, but as it went on, it got better and better," Thomas added. "It just comes with reps and comes with time."

The Cardinals are a 6-point underdog in San Francisco Sunday.


Seahawks' Russell Okung, Max Unger practice Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung (lung) practiced in full Wednesday, while center Max Unger (ankle) was able to return to practice in a limited fashion.

Okung is on track to return in Week 17 after missing last week's game with a bruised lung. Unger hasn't played in any of the team's last five game due to a high ankle sprain. The Seahawks will earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win Sunday, and it's possible Unger suits up for the crucial game.

The Seahawks are a 12 1/2-point favorite at home against the Rams in Week 17.


Raiders QB Derek Carr practices Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was able to practice Wednesday despite dealing with an illness.

"I got here early to work out and see how I would feel during that and after that and I felt pretty good," Carr said at a press conference Wednesday. "So, felt good at practice today, obviously not 100 percent but it felt good to practice and be out here."

Carr has been able to start every game for the Raiders this season, completing 58.6 percent of his passes while racking up 3,112 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Raiders are a 14-point underdog in Denver in Week 17.


Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman practices in full Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman was able to practice in full Wednesday for the first time since suffering a left foot injury on Nov. 9, ESPN.com reports.

"We've had a chance to watch him all week, participate and he's obviously further ahead than he was this time a week ago," head coach John Fox said after Wednesday's practice. "And the fact we're on grass, not on Astroturf, lot of variables, but I like what I see."

Hillman has been able to practice in a limited fashion during the last two weeks but hasn't been active on gameday since the injury occured. The Broncos are a 14-point favorite at home against the Raiders in Week 17.


 
 
 
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