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Fantasy & Reality: More of the same from CJ?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Down 28-10 to the Patriots late in the third quarter last Sunday, the Titans lined up for the first play of a new series in a shotgun formation with three receivers and tight end Jared Cook in the slot. Everything from the scoreboard to the formation suggested a pass was coming and the defense was looking for such a thing. Instead, quarterback Jake Locker handed off to Chris Johnson, who couldn't find a hole in the middle of his line and bounced to the outside. Three Patriots defenders were waiting for him, tackling him to the ground. As he lay there on his belly, fresh off of a zero-yard gain, Johnson rolled the ball out of his hands, hung his head and shook it in disgust.

Fantasy owners who had Johnson in their lineups might have done the same thing.

It was a year ago when Johnson morphed from a lightning-quick speedster into a slower, more tentative running back with smaller statistics and a bigger wallet. We watched helplessly as he went scoreless through his first four games, ultimately finding the end zone four times in three matchups. Our jaws dropped as we watched a guy who previously would wake up in the morning with 100 rushing yards only accomplished that feat four times in 2011 (he had seven 100-total-yard games). And we somehow couldn't believe it when his season ended with just over 1,000 rushing yards and over 1,450 total yards -- he never looked good enough to put up those kind of numbers.

Now it's déjà vu, as Johnson opened the season with only the 11th sub-15 carry game since 2010 (he had eight last season). Is Johnson on the verge of being a Fantasy nightmare again? Head coach Mike Munchak won't say so.

"I probably won't evaluate it over one game," Munchak said while affirming Johnson won't lose his starting job. "For 11 carries, I'm not going to break down every run he made or whose fault it was or why it went the way it went. ... Anything's possible but I don't think [benching him is] anything that's going to ever happen."

A look at the tape suggests Johnson is a little more quick-twitch than he was last season. At worst he has the same acceleration and speed as he had last year, though you couldn't really tell because he didn't have any plays longer than 16 yards.

The more substantial issue was the Titans' run blocking. On many occasions, Johnson had nowhere to go because the Patriots' big boys clogged lanes the offensive line couldn't crack. On a first-and-goal in the fourth quarter Johnson barely had time to get the ball from Matt Hasselbeck before Vince Wilfork beat center Fernando Velasco and wrapped up Johnson like he was a six-foot submarine sandwich. Maybe part of the problem was the matchup itself as the Patriots' run defense was outstanding in Week 1, but unless this O-line can work out its kinks Johnson will have to ramp up his efforts to break long gains and based on what we saw last year and through the preseason, I'm not convinced he's dying to put in the work.

Last year some owners never hit the panic button with Johnson and just took their lumps with him. This year it's going to be tough to wait as long, knowing what he did in 2011. The matchups don't get much easier -- he's at the Chargers this week followed by the Lions at home and at Houston in Week 4. Those defenses allowed 202 rush yards (none more than 79 yards) and zero touchdowns combined in Week 1. Later on in the season he'll have some favorable matchups for sure, but it might not mean much.

After one week, he looks more like CJ2011k than CJ2K, and that's not good.

Fantasy & Reality

Quick observations about the misconceptions (Fantasy) and truths (Reality) from around the league.

Fantasy: Adrian Peterson's knee cannot be trusted! Exactly what was "limited" in Peterson's "exposure" when he cannonballed over the top of his offensive line and into the end zone for his second touchdown of Week 1? While it stings if you lost with Peterson on your bench, at least you know what to do with him going forward. And if we knew then what we know now, there's no doubt Peterson would have been a Top 8 pick, maybe even a Top 4 pick, in drafts.

Reality: It was better to wait on quarterbacks after all. It's only one week, but just two of the Top 5 consensus quarterbacks drafted this summer finished in the Top 10. Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton all failed to live up to expectations in their openers. Meanwhile Matt Ryan, Tony Romo and Robert Griffin III finished as the top three passers. Mark Sanchez and Blaine Gabbert were barely drafted and they even found their way into the Top 10. It's only one week, but if this continues then there will be no reason to spend an early pick on a quarterback ever again.

And on a related note, the Top 2 tight ends are both 1 for 1 in justifying their lofty draft positions. Maybe we should keep track of this.

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Fantasy: DeAngelo Williams will bowl over the Buccaneers. What a crock! The Panthers barely gave Williams the chance to play, calling six running plays for him and 13 total in the game. When Carolina fell behind 13-0 late in the first half, Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski went into two-minute drill mode and never snapped out of it. The Panthers had eight runs in the second half split between Williams and Newton. It is worth noticing that the Panthers offensive line struggled in the game.

Reality: We're going to get the best from Pierre Garcon. For lack of a better comparison, Garcon is Kendall Wright. Doesn't make sense at face value but when you go back and look at how Wright succeeded at Baylor with Robert Griffin III, you'll recognize Garcon could be in the same position. On the big play everyone couldn't stop talking about, Garcon ran a deep crossing pattern, got some help from Saints defenders running into each other and sped off to the end zone. Mike Shanahan brought Garcon to Washington for his speed and ability to run after the catch and it paid off in Week 1.

Fantasy: Fred Jackson has the Bills' running job on lockdown. It's not fair to anyone who drafted Jackson, but the injury he suffered combined with the dynamic play of C.J. Spiller against a good Jets run defense will change the pecking order of the Bills' run game. It has to. Chan Gailey knew Spiller had playmaking ability but what he flashed against a Jets defense that allowed four 100-yard rushing efforts last season will leave an impression. His 169 yards on a mere 14 carries is the kind of thing he did last year and it'll only continue so long as Jackson is out. We said all summer that Jackson would be the Bills' best back until he gave the team a reason not to be. Seems like that has happened.

Reality: Alfred Morris will be involved in the Redskins offense. Involved here meaning starting, dominating the carries with Roy Helu and Evan Royster and working the goal line for two touchdowns. Statistically it was a nice start for "ALF" but it didn't begin pretty. In the first half he looked every bit as awful as the 2.3 rushing average he had on nine carries suggested. But then he turned it up in the second half, averaging nearly 4.0 yards per carry and punching in touchdowns when called upon. Our little gamble on Morris as a late-round flier has paid off thus far. His next few games -- at St. Louis, vs. Cincinnati and at Tampa Bay -- should yield more good numbers. By then, we might be talking about a "sell-high" running back, not a guy you should count on the rest of the year. Check out the Redskins' schedule starting in Week 7 and you might get nervous.

Impactful injuries

Greg Jennings, WR, Packers: Groin injury kept him out of practice following a tepid game against the Niners. Playing on the short week could force him to miss Week 2 on Thursday.

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles: Hip problem puts his Week 2 availability in jeopardy. The Eagles are in big trouble if he can't play against the Ravens. Moreover, Maclin is starting to wear the "injury prone" sash a little more prominently than we'd like.

Fred Jackson, RB, Bills: Knee sprain to an unknown degree puts him on the shelf for at least three weeks. Spiller looked bad on Draft Day but he looks incredible now.

David Nelson, WR, Bills: Torn ACL means he's out for the season. Brutal blow to the Bills who just can't stay healthy. Scott Chandler and Donald Jones should pick up some targets as might speedy rookie T.J. Graham.

John Skelton, QB, Cardinals: Will miss at least two weeks with an ankle sprain. Enter Kevin Kolb, exit Larry Fitzgerald's Fantasy potential.

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Rodger Saffold, LT, Scott Wells, C, Rams: Saffold suffered a serious neck injury but should eventually be fine. Wells is done for the foreseeable future with a broken foot but could return later in the year. The next few weeks could be tough on Steven Jackson and Sam Bradford.

Brent Grimes, CB, Falcons: Out for the year with a torn Achilles. Passing against the Falcons just got a little easier, just in time for Peyton Manning and the Broncos to visit the Georgia Dome.

DST sleepers for Week 2

Bengals (vs. CLE) ... Brandon Weeden threw four interceptions and fumbled twice against Philadelphia last week. The Browns offense failed to score a touchdown.
Raiders (at MIA) ... Ryan Tannehill tossed three interceptions and the Miami offense couldn't find the end zone. A better week is expected but better doesn't necessarily mean bigger.
Chargers (vs. TEN) ... Nice effort from the Bolts against the Raiders. Titans couldn't run against the Patriots, Jake Locker banged up. Don't love this one but if you're desperate they'll do.

Two for the road

• If you buy into Stephen Hill, then you also have to buy into Mark Sanchez. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. Lost in the Tebowmania from this summer is the rock-solid fact that Sanchez totaled 32 touchdowns last season. If all it takes for Sanchez to keep up his level of productivity is lobbing jump balls to Hill, he might not have deserved the criticism we've been dumping upon him. At the very least, Hill can reprise the role Plaxico Burress had last season with the Jets as the big receiver in the offense. He's raw, but per ProFootballFocus.com he was on the field for 33 snaps, which suggests he's a big part of their game plan and certainly their passing attack (he missed plenty of running plays). Hill went to the same school as Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas and has a lot in common with them physically. Probably couldn't hurt to stash him on your roster. I actually like his upside more than Kevin Ogletree but not as much as Randall Cobb.

• Peyton Manning doesn't look exactly the same as I remember him in 2010 but his receiving corps doesn't look the same as I remember them in 2010. That's to say it's better. Demaryius Thomas offers incredible explosion as evidenced on his touchdown. Eric Decker is a solid route runner and he almost got in for a score. Jacob Tamme didn't drop a pass near the goal line. Manning's protection against the Steelers was fine. Maybe this game turns out differently if Ryan Clark and James Harrison play for the Steelers, but at the very least we should all feel comfortable rolling with Manning in our lineups.

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
Sherman, Chancellor, Thomas all set to play in Super Bowl Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:57 pm ET) The Seahawks secondary starters are all active for Sunday's Super Bowl, the team announced. Cornerback Richard Sherman (elbow) and safeties Earl Thomas (shoulder) and Kam Chancellor (knee) are all active for Sunday after being listed as probable for the contest throughout the week.

Running back Marshawn Lynch (back) is also set to play after being listed as probable.

The game is currently pick'em between Seattle and New England.


Seahawks unveil inactives for Super Bowl 49
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:53 pm ET) The Seahawks have listed the following players as inactive for Sunday's Super Bowl: B.J. Daniels, Marcus Burley, Patrick Lewis, Keavon Milton, David King, Garry Gilliam and Kevin Norwood, the team announced.

Gilliam caught a fake field goal touchdown during the NFC Championship Game for Seattle.

The game is currently pick'em between Seattle and New England.


Tom Brady, Akeem Ayers get the green light for Super Bowl Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:46 pm ET) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (ankle) and linebackers Akeem Ayers (knee) and Dont'a Hightower (shoulder) are active and set to play in the Super Bowl Sunday against the Seahawks, the team announced.

All three were considered probable and in no real danger of missing the game Sunday. Brady threw for 4,109 yards with 33 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2014.

Patriots center Bryan Stork is also active after being upgraded to probable for the game Saturday.

The game is currently pick'em between New England and Seattle Sunday.


Jonas Gray among Patriots' inactives for Super Bowl 49
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:41 pm ET) Patriots running back Jonas Gray will be inactive for Super Bowl 49 along with Zach Moore, Josh Boyce, Brian Tyms, Joe Vellano, Jordan Devey and James White, the team announced.

Gray, who ran for 412 yards on 89 carries in eight games this season, had four carries for four yards in the AFC Championship game for New England. It was his first action in a game since Dec. 21 againt the Jets when he had six carries for five yards.

The game is currently pick'em between Seattle and New England Sunday.


Report: Peyton Manning could decide on playing future this week
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:55 pm ET) Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning may be making his decision sooner rather than later. The soon to be 39-year-old Manning is reportedly set to make his decision as early as this week, according to ESPN NFL Insider Chris Mortensen.

Manning, who has already met with new coach Gary Kubiak, said last week he was waiting to meet with John Elway when he got back from vacation before making up his mind.

Manning, who threw for 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns in 2014, is due $19 million guaranteed if he is still on the team March 9.


Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman will play Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is indeed playing in Sunday's Super Bowl. With his girlfriend preparing to have their son very soon, but it will not be happening Sunday.

"I'm playing today," Sherman texted Peter King before the game Sunday.

Sherman totaled 57 tackles and four interceptions in 2014 with one forced fumble.


Lions' president optimistic team will re-sign Ndamukong Suh
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:47 pm ET) Lions team president Tom Lewand is expecting the team to be able to re-sign defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

"I really do believe he's got a lot invested in here, in himself and the community and the football team," Lewand said Sunday morning during an interview on WDIV-TV's Flashpoint. "He wants to have success in the NFL, obviously, but he wants to do that with us.

"I think there's a very, very good chance that we can get something done with him in the next few weeks."

Suh can become a free agent if the team does not use their franchise tag on him by March 2. 

"We've had a good chunk of our salary cap tied up in three players over the last few years," Lewand told WDIV. "Matthew, Calvin and Ndamukong have all had very lucrative contracts under the old rookie system, and even as Matthew and Calvin have done their extensions. So we've done that, we've lived in that environment. There's no reason we can't continue to live in that environment."


Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant expects to remain with team
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:50 pm ET) Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant said Saturday he is expecting to be back in Dallas in 2015 and have fans excited for a long time.

"Regardless, I’m a Cowboy," Bryant said to NBC Dallas. "But it is what it is. It’s business. I am a free agent. I’m very confident that something is going to happen, something is going to get done, and have these Cowboys fans excited for a long time."

Bryant is set to become a free agent this offseason if he and the Cowboys cannot agree to a deal or Dallas uses the franchise tag on him.

"I’m a Cowboy at heart. It’s Cowboys forever," Bryant said.


Falcons' owner wants Julio Jones long term, but not his decision
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:45 pm ET) Falcons owner Arthur Blank said Sunday the team wants to sign Julio Jones to a contract extension, but it is not his decision to make.

"As the owner, it's not my decision to make," Blank said. "The new coach will spend a great deal of time assessing the roster and all of our players, and obviously Julio is a critical one.

"Well, I think it's a decision that the head coach will look at the talent on the roster," Blank said. "Julio's been a great player for us and a great talent, and he represents us on the field and off the field as well as anybody else."

Jones is set to make $10.2 million in 2015 and will become an unrestricted free agent in 2016 if a new deal is not signed. In 2014, Jones set a franchise-record 1,593 receiving yards in 15 games on 104 receptions with six touchdowns.


Lions' Calvin Johnson wants to keep Ndamukong Suh in Detroit
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:26 am ET) Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson said he's willing to do just about anything to keep defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in a Lions uniform, reports MLive.com.

Suh is set to become a free agent in March if the Lions cannot reach a deal with him and Johnson said he wants Suh to remain a Lion.

"I'll do whatever I got to do," Johnson said.


 
 
 
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