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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
Wes Welker expected to be suspended for Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker will be suspended for Week 1, according to the Denver Post.

Mike Klis initially reported that there was a chance Welker's suspension wouldn't kick in until after Week 1, but issued an update later. While the NFL has yet to officially announce the suspension, the Broncos have been informed of the move. The team is expected to send out a press release confirming the information Tuesday.


Report: Wes Welker may play Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Update: Welker will be suspended for Week 1, according to the Denver Post. The team is expected to send out a press release shortly.

Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker may play Week 1 against the Colts, according to the Denver Post

Welker is expected to be suspended for four games after reportedly testing positive for amphetamines. The league, however, has not officially announced the suspension. Suspensions are typically announced by Tuesday, according to Pro Football Talk. Since the NFL has yet to announce the move, it's thought Welker could be available for Week 1, but would serve his suspension once the NFL announced the move. 

There are a lot of uncertainties regarding the situation at this time. The club expects Welker to be available, provided he passes concussion protocal, but it remains to be seen how the NFL will handle this suspension. 


Randall Cobb to be tested Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers wide receiver Randall Cobb should be in for a tough test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Cobb caught just three passes during the preseason, picking up 34 yards and a score. His lack of work shouldn’t be a huge concern, as the Packers offense doesn’t need any fine-tuning. The main thing here is that Cobb is 100 percent healthy after playing in just six games last season due to a leg injury.

His Week 1 production could be dampened by a strong Seahawks DST. Seattle was exceptional against the pass last season, holding opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game. That figure was the second-lowest rate in the league. On top of that, Cobb may have to deal with Richard Sherman, who is considered one of the best cornerbacks in the league. Sherman may spend the majority of the game stopping Jordy Nelson, but he could find his way over to Cobb on a few occasions.

Cobb’s versatility makes him a strong candidate to be moved around the Packers’ offense. If Green Bay can create some nice matchups, and Sherman is preoccupied with Nelson, Cobb could be in for a better game than people might expect. 

Despite that, expectations should be tempered. Seattle’s DST was strong last season, and while Green Bay boasts a strong offense, things should be muted Week 1. Cobb is a fine start, considering his upside, but he carries more risk this week due to the matchup.


Jordy Nelson in for a tough test Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson should be in for a difficult test Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Nelson had a quiet preseason, catching just two passes for 19 yards. One of those catches wound up being a touchdown. Despite the lack of action during the preseason, Nelson’s upside with a healthy Aaron Rodgers is well-known among Fantasy owners. That said, he’s going to have to work for everything he gets against Seattle.

The Seahawks rated as the best defense in the league last year. They were strong in every facet of the game. Seattle held opposing wide receivers to just 14.79 Fantasy points per game, the second-lowest figure in the league. To make things even more difficult for Nelson, he’ll likely be covered by Richard Sherman. Sherman, by many counts, is arguably the best corner in the game. 

Still, it’s tough to pass up Nelson’s upside with a healthy Rodgers. The Packers boast an overabundance of weapons, and it’s possible moving Nelson around before the play could put him in a more favorable matchup. Even if Sherman covers him the entire game, Nelson is a good enough receiver to make some noise. While he doesn’t have a great matchup, Week 1 is not the time to take a player as good as Nelson out of your Fantasy lineup. 


Eddie Lacy to have his hands full Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers running back Eddie Lacy will have his hands full Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Lacy is coming off a tremendous rookie season, in which he rushed for nearly 1,200 yards and scored 11 touchdowns. He didn’t get a ton of use during the preseason, but seemed to be in midseason form. Lacy rushed for 61 yards on 11 carries, good for a 5.5 average over two preseason games. He also managed to run in a touchdown.

Though he looked strong in the preseason, Lacy should have a tough time against the Seahawks Week 1. Seattle allowed just 12.32 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs last season. That was the second-lowest rate in the league. While the Seahawks lost three defensive linemen during the offseason, the club is thought to still have the top-rated Fantasy defense.

In many circles, Lacy was considered a strong Fantasy pick after the elite four running backs were off the board. With that in mind, it’s unlikely he’ll be benched in many leagues Week 1. There are better matchups out there, but Lacy is a tough player to sit. Given Green Bay’s offensive capabilities, he’s still a decent start even against the best Fantasy defenses. 


Aaron Rodgers taking on a tough task Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has his work cut out for him Week 1 against the Seahawks.

Rodgers entered the season as one of the top Fantasy options at quarterback, but will take on the best defense in the league. Last season, Seattle held Fantasy quarterbacks to just 10.89 points per game. That was the lowest rate in the league. The Seahawks DST ranked tops in the league in limiting points and yards last year. On top of that, the team forced the most turnovers.

While Seattle lost three members of the defensive line during the offseason, the club is still expected to have one of NFL’s best defenses. If Seattle struggles to get to Rodgers, that could open things up for the Packers offense.

Given the cost to acquire Rodgers, in a snake or auction draft, he’s probably going to start for most Fantasy teams despite his tough Week 1 matchup. While there are better quarterback options for this week, Rodgers still has a strong potential for dominance. He’s healthy and still has a bevy of weapons at his disposal. It might not be Rodgers best game of the season, but he’s shown that he can put up numbers against even the best defensive clubs.


Percy Harvin looking to start the year on the right foot
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin is looking at a strong matchup Week 1 against the Packers.

A quiet preseason was a good preseason for Harvin. After missing nearly all of last season due to a hip injury, Harvin was able to play in all but the final game of the preseason. He missed the fourth game due to a personal issue, and not because of an injury. Harvin caught seven balls for 92 yards in August.

The Packers didn’t boast a strong pass defense last season. The team allowed opposing wide receivers to average 22.94 Fantasy points per game. That wasn’t one of the worst rates in the league, but it was below-average. The team attempted to address this during the offseason, taking Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round. Despite that, there’s no guarantee the team will perform better in the defensive backfield.

Despite the fact that Harvin is a five-year veteran, there are questions about how he’ll be used with the Seahawks. While Harvin was able to play during the club’s playoff run, it was unclear whether he was actually fully healthy last year. Harvin has shown the ability to be a game-changing wide receiver, so it’s assumed the Seahawks will find ways to get arguably their best playmaker the ball. The club has been been incredibly run-heavy over the past few seasons, but a healthy Harvin could make them more balanced. 


Marshawn Lynch ready to roll Week 1
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch is looking to get off to a good start Week 1 against the Packers.

Lynch had an abbreviated preseason, carrying the ball just three times for 16 yards. That’s probably not a bad thing considering his high workload over the past couple years. Lynch also had a brief holdout during the offseason, but reported to camp in shape, and should be ready to roll.

The Packers weren’t particularly strong against the run last season, giving up 19.18 Fantasy points per week to running backs. That was the eighth worst figure in the league. While the team tried to shore up things defensively during the offseason, the loss of B.J. Raji should make it easier for teams to gash the Packers up the middle. 

With that in mind, Lynch should be a strong start. The Seahawks modus operandi the past couple years has been the run game, and that probably won’t change now. There are concerns about Lynch’s workload and lack of preseason reps, but his pedigree and matchup make this a strong start Week 1. 


Russell Wilson ready to shine Week 1?
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson begins his post-Super Bowl year with a strong matchup against the Packers Week 1. 

Wilson performed well during the preseason, completing 78.6 percent of his passes. He threw for three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Wilson also managed three rushing touchdowns to cap off a strong preseason.

His ability to put up solid Fantasy numbers should be tested Week 1. The Packers did not boast a great defense against the pass last season. The team allowed quarterbacks to score 20.65 Fantasy points, which was the seventh worst clip in the league. Green Bay has been proactive in resolving the issue, drafting Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round, but it’s unclear how much better the team’s defensive backs will perform. 

The bigger question will be whether the Seahawks open up the offense for Wilson this season. With Marshawn Lynch out for much of the preseason, Wilson showed the ability to carry the team with his arm. Now that Lynch is back, the team could opt to get back to conservative play-calling with the franchise quarterback. Wilson has all the makings of a strong matchup here, but could get the short end of the stick if the Seahawks pound Lynch.


Matt Forte should live up to billing in Week 1
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9/2/2014) Bears running back Matt Forte was ranked as a top five Fantasy running back going into the season, and he falls in the top five in both weekly running back rankings from CBSSports.com experts. After setting career highs in rushing yardage, rushing touchdowns, receptions and receiving yardage in 2013, will Forte get this season started off on the right foot in Week 1 against the Bills?

While Buffalo put together a strong defense last season, the team's particular strength was against the pass. Rushers were able to gain 4.4 yards per carry against the Bills, leaving them 23rd in the league in the category. While the Bills did a good job defending against pass-catching backs last season, they now have to play without linebackers Kiko Alonso (season-ending injury) and Nigel Bradham (suspended for Week 1) as well as safety Jairus Byrd (signed with New Orleans).

New defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense was just average defending passes against running backs in Detroit last season. Forte has been excellent against Schwartz, who was the head coach of the Lions from 2009 through 2013. He has rushed for 1,005 yards and averaged 4.74 yards per carry while catching 38 passes for 360 yards in 12 career games against the Lions. Ten of those contests came with Schwartz at the helm, and Forte should be able to continue giving the Bills defensive coordinator nightmares this Sunday.


 
 
 
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