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Dear Mr. Fantasy: What's the deal with/for CJ?

Senior Fantasy Writer
  •  

Chris Johnson ... safe to say people are down on him right now.

If you thought his numbers last year were bad, his performance through two games this year might be what causes you to lose all faith in humanity. So far, he has picked up 21 yards on the ground, which not only ranks dead last among starting running backs but would rank only 12th among starting quarterbacks. Even backup Colin Kaepernick has 17.

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So as you might expect, he's a hot topic on the Interwebs right now, with questions ranging from the specific ...

Is Chris Johnson worth trading if all I can get in return is Trent Richardson, Ryan Mathews or Peyton Manning? -- Chris Layton (via Twitter)

All you can get? That's pretty good stuff right there. I don't know about Manning if you're already satisfied with your starting quarterback, but either of those running backs could ultimately provide the numbers you were expecting from Johnson.

... to the optimistic ...

What do I do with Chris Johnson? What can I get for him in a trade? -- @d_parsons520 (via Twitter)

That's right. You're not throwing in the towel on Johnson. You're just using his slow start as an opportunity to explore the marketplace. And judging by some of the trades made in actual CBSSports.com leagues, the market hasn't exactly given up on him either. Doug Martin for Johnson. Reggie Bush for Johnson. I like the sound of those.

... to the narcissistic ...

Chris Johnson? I could have more rushing yards than him by now! -- everyone with a pulse (via various message boards across all of cyberspace)

Uh ... yeah. Normally, anyone who takes to titansfever.com with such bravado is full of it, but in this case, simply falling forward 19 times would probably do the trick.

... to, my personal favorite, the fatalistic ...

I am beyond frustrated with Chris Johnson. I also had him last year, so after two games, I'm done. I want to trade him, but I need to know which players you think I could get for him. You may provide a list of as many names as you can think of, as I plan to offer him to everyone and anyone who will listen. -- Jeff Ill (via e-mail)

Yes, the fatalistic. A man resigned to his fate doesn't waste time kicking around what-if scenarios. He acts.

And in this case, his action may be warranted. Sure, Johnson could come around -- he did last year, to a degree -- but if I had a shot at any of these players instead, I'd prefer not to sweat it out with him.

Yes, it's a list, but it's a list of every running back I'd take over Johnson right now. If that's too boring for you, just imagine I made a song out of it, like Yakko in front of the world map in the old Animaniacs cartoon.

Arian Foster, Ray Rice, LeSean McCoy, Marshawn Lynch, DeMarco Murray, Maurice Jones-Drew, Trent Richardson, Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, Reggie Bush, Darren McFadden, Adrian Peterson, the C.J. Spiller-Fred Jackson tandem and the Michael Bush-Matt Forte tandem.

Not as extensive as you'd think? To be honest, I'm a little surprised myself, but knowing the way Johnson bounced back last season after looking similarly inept in the early going, I'd rather not bail on him for a platoon back like Darren Sproles or Jamaal Charles or an injury risk like Frank Gore or Steven Jackson. And I'm not completely sold yet on Alfred Morris or Stevan Ridley, especially given the tendencies of their coaching staffs.

Should I start Jay Cutler against the Rams, Joe Flacco at the Patriots or Ben Roethlisberger at the Raiders? -- @theonly1Avenger (via Twitter)

Most Traded Players (as of 9/19)
Player # of trades
1. Alfred Morris, RB, Redskins 1329
2. C.J. Spiller, RB, Bills 1135
3. Chris Johnson, RB, Titans 1051
4. Kevin Smith, RB, Lions 814
5. Robert Griffin III, QB, Redskins 785
6. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons 781
7. Cedric Benson, RB, Packers 767
8. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Cardinals 764
9. Willis McGahee, RB, Broncos 753
10. Ben Tate, RB, Texans 749

SW: So ... I'm guessing you were the odd man out in the race for the top 11 quarterbacks on Draft Day. It's a shame you didn't target Robert Griffin III as No. 12 -- a shame, but nothing you can go back and change now.

And I'm sure you weren't the only one to go that route. Griffin offered the upside, but with your No. 1 quarterback, you wanted some sort of track record, which these three were able to provide. But you can't rely on stud numbers from any of them week to week, which leaves you with this same dilemma over and over again. Talk about agonizing.

The good news is all three of these quarterbacks should fare well with these matchups. The bad news is, accounting for the law of averages, one probably won't, and if you happen to go with that one, it could cost you a win.

So if the goal is to pick out which of these quarterbacks is least likely to disappoint this week, my choice is Roethlisberger, for three reasons:

1. He's the one who has most often performed like an elite option in his career, namely during the 2007 and 2009 seasons.
2. He's the one off to the best start this season, having thrown two touchdown passes in back-to-back games as the Steelers have struggled to find their running game.
3. He's the one facing what I perceive to be the weakest defense. I mean, the Raiders just gave up 35 points to the Dolphins, of all teams. How good could they be?

Sure, Flacco is facing the Patriots, who could force the Ravens into a shootout if they get back to their high-scoring ways. But they just got shut down by the Cardinals and have had trouble getting in sync under returning offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. If the potential for a shootout is your entire basis for starting Flacco, it could easily backfire, especially given the Ravens' defensive prowess.

As for Cutler, the downside is pretty obvious with him. He just threw four interceptions against the Packers and remains far too susceptible to such meltdowns for you to gamble on him when you have such favorable alternatives. The matchup against the Rams is attractive enough, but they have forced their share of turnovers this year. Why chance it if you don't have to?

Is it time to cut bait on Greg Olsen and pick up Martellus Bennett, Dennis Pitta, Brandon Myers or Kyle Rudolph? -- Gregory Koger (via Facebook)

SW: You mean you're still messing around with Olsen -- he of the one catch for 13 yards against the Saints last week? Get with the times, sir. I understand his Week 1 performance was fairly adequate, but was it really enough to grant him a reprieve? The Panthers pretty much phased him out at the end of last season. He had no more than three catches in any of his last seven games.

The abundance of tight ends we've already seen emerge off the waiver wire this season -- these four included -- demonstrates exactly why you were encouraged to wait at the position on Draft Day (assuming you didn't get Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski, of course). Everybody wants a legitimate receiver there now, so the position only figures to get deeper with time. Clearly, you recognized that much, which is why you didn't mind settling for Olsen on Draft Day. But to take the next step, you have to make the switch here.

I'd feel pretty good about any of those as my starter, which is more than I can say for Olsen. If I had to rank them, I'd go Bennett, Pitta, Myers and Rudolph.

Bennett seems to have replaced Mario Manningham as Eli Manning's third receiving target in a pass-driven offense, and his size makes him an ideal red-zone target. I wouldn't be surprised if he put up similar numbers to the ones Aaron Hernandez had last year. Pitta, likewise, has been earning plenty of looks from Joe Flacco and should make an impact in the red zone. The difference between him and Bennett is that the Ravens aren't quite as reliant on the pass as the Giants. Myers is a bit of a wild card, but Carson Palmer has to throw to someone. So far, he's been the beneficiary there. Rudolph should score his share of touchdowns, but I'm not sure the yardage will be there for him in an Adrian Peterson-driven offense.

What's up with Larry Fitzgerald? -- James Harrison Padley (via Facebook)

SW: What is up with him? If the Cardinals were to upset the Patriots, as happened in Week 2, you'd think he'd be the main reason why, yet he had just one catch for 4 yards in the contest. The last time he had a game that unproductive was as a rookie in 2004.

Hey, he was on the field. He was running routes, commanding double teams and even getting a few passes thrown his way -- five, to be exact. But he wasn't getting the numbers.

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The biggest issue, of course, is that the Cardinals' quarterback situation is arguably the worst in the league. They keep going back and forth between John Skelton and Kevin Kolb, but the truth is neither is the answer. You can't expect Fitzgerald to be his complete self with those two throwing him the football.

That said, he had 80 catches for 1,411 yards with those same two throwing him the football last year, and I don't think anyone would complain about that. The difference is that last year the Cardinals were able to divert some of the defense's attention away from Fitzgerald by establishing a halfway decent running game. So far through two games this year, Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams haven't gotten the job done.

But Wells was the main man last year and can do it again if he's able to bounce back from offseason knee surgery. He's not there yet, but he showed signs of coming around against the Patriots last week. If the trend continues, Fitzgerald's struggles could soon become a distant memory.

And even if it doesn't, I'd still expect Fitzgerald to come through with another productive season. He's arguably the most talented wide receiver in the league. The Cardinals aren't going anywhere if they don't deliver him the football, so sooner or later, you can bet they'll force the issue.

One way or another, he'll get his numbers. I'd rather be the one buying than selling him right now.

Do you like Jay Cutler or Alex Smith this week? What about Alfred Morris or Darren McFadden? Larry Fitzgerald or Demaryius Thomas? -- @S49erfan (via Twitter)

SW: Week 3, and we're already to the point where we consider benching our studs? Can't say I blame you. McFadden and Fitzgerald both were positively useless last week.

And I'm not sure this week will be better for either. McFadden faces the vaunted Steelers defense, which is one of the best against the run year after year. This year is shaping up to be no exception. Just look at the way Willis McGahee's production changed against the Falcons in Week 2 after facing the Steelers in Week 1. Just look at the way Shonn Greene's production changed against the Steelers in Week 2 after facing the Bills in Week 1.

Similarly, the Eagles defense has feasted on the pass this year, making a mockery of Brandon Weeden in his NFL debut and bringing Joe Flacco back down to earth last week. Fitzgerald's inability to get anything going against the Seahawks and Patriots doesn't bode well for his chances in this matchup.

Maybe if Morris and Thomas had stinker matchups themselves, I'd be inclined to stick with the status quo. But Morris' against the Bengals could be his best one yet, and Thomas' against the Texans, though not favorable in the strictest sense, should turn out OK just because the Broncos will be forced to pass. Based on what those two have done so far, I'm will to depart from my usual philosophy of sticking with the studs and roll with Morris and Thomas.

Not so sure about Smith over Cutler, though. The Rams have given up some yards through the air this season, and Cutler's ceiling from week to week is significantly higher than Smith's. He's perhaps not as steady as Smith, as his four interceptions last week showed, but I'm not going to let one bad game scare me away from him if Smith is my only alternative.

Both of my starting running backs -- Matt Forte and Ahmad Bradshaw -- have gone down with injuries, and my backups are Isaac Redman and Knowshon Moreno. Is now the time sell high on Danny Amendola, or am I giving away a diamond in the rough? Jeremy Maclin, Jordy Nelson, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Robert Meachem are my other wide receivers. -- Martyn Vanderlugt (via e-mail)

SW: First of all, do you still have a shot at landing Andre Brown off the waiver wire? If you do, your situation isn't so dire. You can just plug him in with Bradshaw out and trust him to deliver. He did against the Buccaneers in Week 2. Why not at the Panthers in Week 3?

If someone else beat you to him ... yeah, you're in trouble. Moreno doesn't have a significant role with the Broncos, and though Redman gets touches, he doesn't have enough big-play potential to make the most of them. He's already practically worthless when he doesn't score a touchdown, and he'll only lose opportunities when Rashard Mendenhall returns from offseason knee surgery, which could happen as soon as this week. In that scenario, what Amendola may or may not do for you is irrelevant. You have to make a trade.

Fortunately, you have the depth at wide receiver to pull it off. Trading Amendola would certainly be the safe way to go since he's still an unproven commodity, but in any trade scenario, you have to look at it from the other owner's perspective. Amendola isn't any more of a proven commodity on his team than yours, so how much can you honestly expect to get in return? It's the classic case of shopping the guy you just plucked off the waiver wire. To some Fantasy owners, it's downright offensive.

To make sure you maximize your return, why don't you be the one to take the chance on Amendola? Honestly, I think it'll work out OK. I'm not guaranteeing 15 catches every week, but the double-digit targets and short routes turned to moderate gains -- a la Wes Welker -- were exactly what everyone was expecting from him last year, before he suffered a season-ending arm injury. Plus, the Rams offense as a whole seems to be more stable under the new coaching staff, so chances are Amendola isn't going to disappear on you. Again, it's no guarantee, but when you're in a desperate situation, those are the chances you have to take. It's certainly better than relying on Moreno.

So who should you trade? Maclin would be ideal since his relative inconsistency makes his actual value less than his perceived value -- or at least, that's what I think -- but with him nursing a hip injury, I'm not sure he'd fetch you a big return either. Your only choice might be Nelson.

Granted, I'm not thrilled with the prospect, but the silver lining is that you'd no longer have to worry about how much his role could change with the emergence of Randall Cobb in Green Bay. That offense can only sustain so many wide receivers, after all. Plus, Nelson should fetch you the kind of running back that you'd be happy to start even after Forte and Bradshaw return, such as Maurice Jones-Drew or Doug Martin.

If that doesn't work, the easier (and cheaper) approach would be to just trade for Forte's and Bradshaw's replacements (Michael Bush and Brown, respectively). You wouldn't even have to give up Nelson in that scenario.

Who should I grab off the waiver wire: Mike Williams or Donnie Avery? Should I drop Titus Young for either of them? -- @Juan_S_Alba

SW: If we're talking disappointments, Young is at the top of the list. "Oh, he's going to emerge as a big-time receiving threat opposite Calvin Johnson" was a popular refrain coming into the season. But now two games into it, I'm having a hard time understanding the rationale. Because he's young and Nate Burleson is old? Is that all there is to it?

It's not, of course -- he also took on a bigger role in the passing game toward the end of last season and was routinely praised in training camp -- but in retrospect, his coronation was a bit premature with Burleson still in the picture. Burleson has been a steady contributor in the Lions' passing game over the last couple years and still has something left in the tank at age 31. I'm not saying Burleson will outperform Young every week or even most weeks, but with the two splitting looks under the long, long shadow of Johnson, I'm not so sure Young is worth the wait.

That said, I'm not so sure you can count on Williams for significant production either. He had a couple big catches Sunday and will have his share of those over the course of the season, but he's clearly the secondary target to Vincent Jackson. I don't think the Buccaneers' passing game can sustain two 1,000-yard receivers.

Can Indy's? Well, it's a more likely scenario. The team that drafts Andrew Luck doesn't intend to build around the running game. It intends to pass and, with questions on the defensive side of the ball, will likely be forced to pass much of the time. Reggie Wayne will get his, but what he doesn't get will go to Avery.

Of course, Austin Collie could muddy the waters if and when he returns from his concussion, but in the early-season rush for potential breakout players, Avery's production so far makes him well worth a flier.

I just picked up Martellus Bennett and Andre Brown and am starting them over Antonio Gates and Michael Turner in Week 3. Good idea? -- @Cweb1981 (via Twitter)

SW: Just when you thought lineup decisions couldn't get any more excruciating in Fantasy Football, Roger Goodell had to go and introduce Thursday Night Football. It's not just for Thanksgiving anymore.

These are the kinds of dilemmas owners will face on a week-to-week basis. If the Giants-Panthers game was on Sunday, you could just wait to see if Gates (rib) was healthy enough to return in Week 3. You wouldn't have to commit to your backup so soon. As it is, though, your options are limited. You could always replace Bennett with a backup who isn't playing Thursday, such as Dennis Pitta or Brandon Myers, but that's hardly a solution. Bennett is the best of the bunch, after all.

The good news is Bennett has been such a consistent part of the Giants offense so far that the drop-off from him to Gates probably won't be too significant. And rather than getting stuck with a big fat zero or being forced to pick up a third tight end Sunday, you'll live with that slight drop-off. Or at least I would.

The Brown-Turner dilemma is a bit easier. So far, Turner has struggled to pick up yardage in the Falcons' new offense, and he faces his toughest challenge yet at the Chargers this week. Plus, his playing time is in question following his DUI arrest early Tuesday morning. Provided Ahmad Bradshaw misses Thursday's game with a sprained neck, which seems a near certainty at this point, Brown is the obvious choice for your Fantasy team.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB or Facebook . You can also follow Scott via Twitter @CBSScottWhite .

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Player News
Le'Veon Bell makes Steelers' history on MNF
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:43 pm ET) Running back Le'Veon Bell totaled 145 yards from scrimmage Monday against the Texans, becoming the first Steelers player to surpass 100 yards from scrimmage in the first seven games of a season. Bell joined Dallas' DeMarco Murray as the only players to accomplish the feat this year.

Bell caught eight passes for 88 yards and a touchdown and ran 12 times for 57 yards (4.8 ypc). He broke free from linebacker Brian Cushing in the second quarter, turning a short reception into a 43-yard gain. Right before halftime Bell exploited a blown coverage for a 2-yard score.

Bell's eight targets ranked second on the team behind Antonio Brown's 13. Bell, who surprisingly has only two touchdowns this year, plays the Colts in Week 8.


Antonio Brown throws touchdown pass on trick play
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:36 pm ET) Steelers wideout Antonio Brown did his usual damage as a receiver Monday against the Texans, and he also threw his first career touchdown pass on a trick play. Late in the first half, Brown took a toss, reversed field and fired a 3-yard strike to Lance Moore in the end zone.

Brown also had a touchdown grab called back when it was ruled his toe came down out of bounds.

Brown drew a team-high 13 targets, catching nine balls for 90 yards. It was his 23rd straight game with at least five catches and 50 receiving yards. He'll face the Colts in Week 8.


Packers CB Davon House says he'll play after dislocating finger
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:10 pm ET) Packers cornerback Davon House, who dislocated a finger in the Week 7 win over Carolina, said he'll be ready to practice Wednesday and will play Sunday at New Orleans, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. House said his finger was popped back into place on the sideline.

Short week will make it hard for Brandon Flowers to play
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:23 pm ET) Chargers starting cornerback Brandon Flowers, who suffered a concussion Sunday against the Chiefs, "very well could be sidelined" for Thursday's game at Denver, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The paper noted it's generally difficult for players who sustain concussions on Sunday to play on Thursday.

Flowers has 23 tackles and two interceptions this season.


Steelers RT Marcus GIlbert out with concussion
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:08 pm ET) Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert has a concussion and won't return to Monday's game against the Texans. Mike Adams will continue to fill in.

Report: Bucs reach deal with return man Trindon Holliday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:06 pm ET) The Buccaneers agreed to terms with receiver/returner Trindon Holliday, reports the Tampa Tribune. He was released by the Giants this month after going on IR with a hamstring injury in late August.

Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert checked for concussion
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:25 pm ET) Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert left the game against Houston in the second quarter and was being evaluated for a concussion. Mike Adams came in to replace him.


Report: Colts WR Reggie Wayne could miss one or two games
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:14 pm ET) Colts wideout Reggie Wayne, who had an MRI on his elbow Monday, could miss one or two games, reports WRTV in Indianapolis. Wayne sustained the injury in the first quarter of Sunday's win over the Bengals.

The MRI results have not been released.


Seahawks CB Byron Maxwell might return Sunday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8:50 pm ET) Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell, who missed the loss at St. Louis with a calf injury, has a chance to play Sunday at Carolina, coach Pete Carroll told reporters. Maxwell suffered the injury Week 6 against Dallas.

Seahawks TE Luke Willson, C Max Unger could return Week 8
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8:02 pm ET) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said tight end Luke Willson (groin) almost certainly will play Sunday at Carolina, and that center Max Unger (foot) has a chance to play, reports the Seattle Times. Both missed the Week 7 loss at St. Louis.

 
 
 
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