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Offseason Extra: Boldin, Fitzgerald offer helping hands

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Larry Fitzgerald has already had a busy offseason -- and the Cardinals haven't even had a minicamp practice yet. He's had a lot to deal with on and off the field.

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With the Cardinals, Fitzgerald nearly had a new quarterback. The team, justifiably so, looked into signing free agent quarterback Peyton Manning after he was released by the Colts.

Manning ultimately decided to sign with the Broncos and Fitzgerald said he is comfortable with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, who will compete for the starting job in Arizona. But the idea of playing with Manning was exciting for Fitzgerald even though he will remain an elite receiver no matter who is throwing him the ball.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks in the game, so you have to see if it can work," Fitzgerald said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "But now we have to move on."

Fitzgerald spoke on the phone from Ethiopia, where he is with former teammate and current Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin. The two have teamed up with the international relief and development organization Oxfam to raise awareness of the food crisis in East Africa, which affects about 13 million people in the region.

This is the seventh time Fitzgerald has been to Africa, but this is the first trip for Boldin. The duo spent four days in Ethiopia and met with villagers affected by the crisis and also helped to work on an irrigation project that brings water to much needed areas.

"I'm just trying to give up my time and be helpful," Fitzgerald said. "We wanted to help and raise awareness."

Added Boldin: "I wanted to come and learn more about what's going on here. I wanted to get as much information as I can and help out as much as I can."

Fitzgerald said it's easy to take things for granted back home when you see people who can't drink the water in their own village. Boldin helped local villagers build a dam, and he was amazed that some used rocks as tools.

"Because of the drought, a lot of people are suffering," Boldin said. "It's hurting a lot of people."

Both receivers try to give as much time as possible through charitable efforts. When he returns from Africa, Boldin will turn his attention toward the eighth annual Q-Fest to raise money for Pahokee, Fla., where Boldin is from.

After that, it will be time for football. Boldin is hoping for a Super Bowl run after the Ravens fell short last year. He is glad the Ravens kept their main players because "the guys we have are guys we can win with."

Boldin was especially excited the Ravens will have Ray Rice back in 2012. Rice received the franchise tag from the Ravens as a free agent, and he will be a Top 3 overall pick in all Fantasy leagues.

"He's the total package," Boldin said of Rice.

Boldin also spoke highly of second-year receiver Torrey Smith, who is poised for a breakout campaign following a solid rookie season in 2011. We consider Smith a No. 3 Fantasy receiver with upside.

"For him, the sky's the limit," Boldin said of Smith, who had 50 catches for 841 yards and seven touchdowns. "He's one of those guys that's willing to learn and willing to get better."

As for Boldin, he is hoping to improve in 2012. He is now more of a No. 3 Fantasy receiver, but he can rebound if Smith continues to shine and draw coverage and Joe Flacco continues to improve.

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"It was a successful season," Boldin said of last year's performance when he had 57 catches for 887 yards and three touchdowns. "I'm just hoping to build off it."

Fitzgerald had another stellar year in 2011 with 80 catches for 1,411 yards and eight touchdowns. He would have been a monster if Manning signed with the Cardinals, but he has proven to post quality stats with any quarterback.

We would like to see Kolb win the job and prove that he's worth the money the Cardinals gave him last year, but Fitzgerald should still shine with either passer. Fitzgerald will likely be drafted in Round 2 in all leagues.

"Hopefully a good year," Fitzgerald said of his outlook for 2012. "I'm trying to improve and help everyone around me get better."

Two players who benefit from playing with Fitzgerald because of all the single coverage they get are receivers Andre Roberts and Early Doucet. Roberts had 51 catches for 586 yards and two touchdowns last year, and Doucet had 54 catches for 689 yards and five touchdowns. They should be considered late-round fliers in deeper Fantasy leagues.

"Andre is going to be good," Fitzgerald said. "He's starting to evolve. He has more potential inside as a slot guy. … Early improved and had the most productive year of his career. I'm excited for those guys."

Everyone should be excited for Fitzgerald and Boldin. They are great players on the field, but they are also excellent men off it with the work they do to make the world a better place.

For more information on Fitzgerald and Boldin's trip to Ethiopia, click here.

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

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Player News
An encouraging performance for Eli Manning
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:34 am ET) Playing his first game without star wide receiver Victor Cruz, who's out for the season with a torn patella tendon, Giants quarterback Eli Manning still managed to bounce back from arguably his worst game of the season with one of his best Week 7 at Dallas, completing 21 of 33 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

It was his fifth game in six with multiple touchdown passes and his second with at least three. And he did it against a defense that had generally kept quarterbacks out of the end zone, recording nearly as many interceptions (seven) as it had allowed touchdown passes (eight) prior to Week 7.

Though two of his touchdown passes went to rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, who wasn't even available to him the first four weeks, Manning did a nice job of spreading the ball around. None of the touchdowns went to his two leading receivers, Larry Donnell and Rueben Randle.

Judging by this performance, Manning knows how to make use of the weapons the Giants have and doesn't need Cruz to remain successful in Fantasy. His bad games can be really bad, but his good games have been frequent enough for you to give him another shot when he returns from a bye Week 9 against Indianapolis.


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It's not like he was invisible before then. He nearly had a great catch on a long pass along the sidelines in the second quarter, but it was ruled incomplete. He did have only two targets apart from his three receptions, though.

Clearly, it was a disappointing showing, but it's not like quarterback Derek Carr forgot about him. Only James Jones and Darren McFadden had more targets, tying for the team lead with eight. Holmes spent much of the game covered by Patrick Peterson, who remains one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. Holmes still has incredible play-making ability and will have better days.

But this performance shows why you can't trust him on an every-week basis yet. His matchup Week 8 against Cleveland is another tricky one because of cornerback Joe Haden, who has struggled at times this season but limited the Jaguars' Cecil Shorts to three catches for 12 yards in Week 7. You might want to leave Holmes on your bench for this one.


49ers' Phil Dawson makes 1-of-2 field-goal attempts in Week 7
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(12:22 am ET) 49ers knicker Phil Dawson made only one of his two field-goal attempts in Week 7, adding two extra points in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos.

Dawson couldn't deliver from 51 yards out in the first quarter, pushing the attempt wide left, but was true from 22 yards out in the second quarter. He's 13 of 16 on field-goal attempts this season but had been 10-for-10 in his previous three games coming into Week 7. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


49ers TE Vernon Davis catches two passes in Week 7 loss
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(12:20 am ET) 49ers tight end Vernon Davis caught just two of his five targets for 21 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

Davis was coming off an ugly Week 6 performance in which he dropped two passes, and he didn't fare much better in the team's blowout loss against the Broncos. He has 14 receptions for 142 yards and two touchdowns heading into the team's Week 8 bye. The 49ers will face the Rams after the week off.


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(12:16 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught four of his seven targets for just 27 yards in his team's 42-17 loss to the Broncos in Week 7.

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Anquan Boldin catches seven passes in 49ers' Week 7 loss
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Boldin had at least one bad drop in the game and was unable to find much room to work downfield. He came into the week average 12.4 yards per reception but managed just 7.1 YPC against the Broncos. Boldin has collected 39 receptions for 447 yards and one touchdown in seven games. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


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Johnson hauled in a four-yard score in the back of the end zone with only 11 seconds left in the first half to send the 49ers into halftime with a 21-10 deficit. The Broncos took over from there, scoring three touchdowns in the third quarter. Johnson has reached the end zone in three of his last four games, and he's up to 25 receptions, 315 yards and three scores on the season. The 49ers have a bye in Week 8 before facing the Rams the following week.


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(12:06 am ET) The Broncos defense racked up six sacks in Week 7's 42-17 blowout win over the 49ers, with defensive end DeMarcus Ware leading the team with three sacks.

Linebacker Von Miller added two sacks in the win as the Broncos pass rush abused a shorthanded 49ers offensive line that was struck by injuries to two centers in the game. Miller leads the league with eight sacks on the season in only six games, while Ware is right behind him with seven. The dangerous pass rush will square off with the Chargers on Thursday.


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(12:03 am ET) Broncos kicker Brandon McManus didn't receive a field-goal attempt Sunday but kicked six extra points in his team's 42-17 thrashing of the 49ers in Week 7.

McManus watched Peyton Manning march the offense up and down the field over the first three quarters of the game, and backup Brock Osweiler wasn't able to lead the team into scoring position once he took over in the fourth quarter. McManus has received more than one field-goal attempt just once this season. He and the Broncos will face the Chargers in Week 8.


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(12:01 am ET) Broncos tight end Julius Thomas caught four of his six targets for just 27 yards in his team's 42-17 win over the 49ers in Week 7.

Though Peyton Manning would throw four touchdowns en route to setting the career passing-touchdown mark, Thomas wasn't a part of the offensive explosion. It's the first time he's failed to score after racking up nine touchdowns in the team's first five games. He'll look to get back on track when the Broncos face the Chargers Thursday.


 
 
 
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