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Fantasy & Reality: Scheduling conflicts

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It's about that time. Either you're in the hunt or out of it, and if you're not sure if you're in the hunt then you're probably not. The Fantasy postseason starts in four weeks for most of us and the one thing every Fantasy owner can't afford to do is ignore the late-season schedule.

In a perfect world, our quarterbacks would throw against the Titans and Redskins every week and our running backs would go off against the Raiders and Bills. But only a handful of teams have good matchups down the stretch -- others have some nightmarish opponents that could cause some lineup-setting headaches. Knowing who plays who for the last chunk of the season could make all the difference in the moves you make before trade deadlines pass and waiver wire sleepers wake up.

Keep in mind that the strengths and weaknesses in defenses vary based on available personnel. When the season started the Ravens and Eagles were considered staunch defenses while the Dolphins and Broncos weren't on anyone's radar. Now the Ravens have lost a lot of talent and are struggling against the run and the pass and the Eagles' veterans aren't playing at a high level while the Dolphins and Broncos are opening eyes.

For the purpose of this study, we're evaluating defenses based on how they've been playing lately and not factoring in their stats from earlier in the season. We're also looking at Weeks 11 through 16, not Week 17.

Five teams with favorable schedules

Texans JAC @DET @TEN @NE IND MIN
Might be the best season-ending schedule for any passing attack. Patient Andre Johnson owners should get rewarded and shrewd Matt Schaub owners could find some pleasing matchups.
Cowboys CLE WAS PHI @CIN PIT NO
Five home games really help, especially against some suspect defenses (Redskins AND Saints). Those are wrapped around a trip to Cincinnati. Tony Romo, Miles Austin and Jason Witten could be easy starters for the stretch run.
Broncos SD @KC TB @OAK @BAL CLE
Cake schedule, but we've known that for a while. Still not too late to swipe Willis McGahee and Demaryius Thomas for a decent price (Eric Decker's value is too high).
Panthers TB @PHI @KC ATL @SD OAK
Could Cam Newton be a Fantasy hero? The only scary opponent (Atlanta) is the one he put up his best Fantasy week against this year. Should bode well for Steve Smith, too.
Giants BYE GB @WAS NO @ATL @BAL
The Giants are one of two teams to face the Redskins and Saints poor pass defenses in this six-game stretch. Really not a bad finishing slate for the G-Men, even with a bye week and four road games.

Five teams with terrible schedules

Vikings BYE @CHI @GB CHI @STL @HOU
For a team that's already in some trouble on both sides of the ball, playing at home once against division-leading Chicago over this stretch is bad news. If Percy Harvin misses Week 10 the time might be right to trade him for a starter (maybe two) who can help since he could be in for some tough games down the stretch here.
Chargers @DEN BAL CIN @PIT CAR @NYJ
No one should rely on Philip Rivers as a solid Fantasy starter in the first place, but this schedule doesn't offer a lot of promise. These road games are brutal.
49ers CHI @NO @STL MIA @NE @SEA
This won't be an easy finish for the 49ers: Four tough run defenses and three tough road games in the final six suggest selling high on Frank Gore. Vernon Davis might have similar difficulties.
Seahawks BYE @MIA @CHI ARI v@BUF SF
Probably the hardest run-defense schedule for any team between Weeks 12 and 16 -- maybe even enough to sell high on Lynch (Lynch for Doug Martin?).
Redskins PHI @DAL NYG BAL @CLE @PHI
Good matchups for Alfred Morris but not exactly the smoothest closing schedule for RG3. For him to really exploit some of these matchups he'll need his receivers to step up. Otherwise it could be ugly.

Fantasy & Reality

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

Fantasy: The Panthers' starters won't be helpful in Week 10. Start with the run game, which is a total mess. Jonathan Stewart seemed like he had a firm grip on the running job but tough matchups led to some weak stats and last week opportunities were pulled in what was a good matchup. The Broncos defense should be fundamentally sound to handle whoever gets the ball on handoffs. As for the Panthers' passing game, if Cam Newton couldn't get it done against the Redskins, I'm just not sure how effective he'll be against the Broncos. John Fox has a good working knowledge of Steve Smith's strengths and weaknesses as well as the running backs he brought to Carolina while he was the head coach there. Fox and Cam never crossed paths but I'm pretty sure Fox has a good defense for the read-option after running it for much of last season with Tim Tebow. The aggressive Broncos pass rush should play a big role and limit the upside of Carolina's receivers. The Broncos should play well.

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Reality: Two Steelers -- Emmanuel Sanders and Isaac Redman -- will be helpful in Week 10. With a big thanks to our two Steelers RapidReporters -- Chuck Finder and Chris Adamski -- I've gathered that Isaac Redman will be the primary rusher for the Steelers on Monday against Kansas City. That's important since he'll get the biggest chance to slice into the 181.7 total yards per game the Chiefs are giving up to running backs. Jonathan Dwyer should be solid too, but Redman's 5.7 rushing average against the Giants last week was impressive, as were the 26 carries the Steelers gave him (Dwyer had 17 in both of his nice games a couple of weeks ago). As for Sanders, he's playing better this year compared to the two previous years. He's catching over 60 percent of his passes and will see a big bump in playing time for Antonio Brown, who has received at least eight targets in most of his games. Oh, and Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley gets to extract some revenge on the team that sent him packing last season and might not hold back. Get these guys active.

Fantasy: Jamaal Charles is trustworthy. I'll take you back to four games ago when the Chiefs gave Charles a whopping 31 carries against Baltimore. The Ravens barely beat Kansas City but Charles trounced them for 140 rush yards. Things seemed peachy for Charles, but in the three games since he's totaled 29 carries for 83 yards. Injuries have played a role, but the lack of carries for Charles is what ultimately makes me nervous. How are Fantasy owners supposed to trust him against the Steelers, who have been dynamite against the run? The answer: You cannot. Pittsburgh has allowed just one 100-yard rusher all year and contained Charles to 58 yards on 17 carries (with a receiving touchdown) when they last played in 2009 in Kansas City. With all the turmoil surrounding the Chiefs and Charles' role questioned, he's a big big risk.

Reality: Cecil Shorts is pretty good, and he can get better. Count on Shorts being the Jaguars' best Fantasy option for the rest of the season. He's got some wheels on him and can break short passes for big gains or catch deep passes (he was robbed of one on Thursday against the Colts). What a lot of people might not mention is that Shorts played on all but one snap against Indy. Anyone think Jacksonville is going to have the lead in a lot of games this season? Shorts will play plenty and put up good numbers the rest of the way.

DST sleepers for Week 10

All of our DST sleepers are owned in 50 percent of CBSSports.com leagues or less.

Last week's DST sleepers: Buccaneers (Eight Fantasy points), Raiders (Muscle Hamster-ed) and Saints (23 points).

I'm not going to lie to you -- this is a bad week for DSTs. You can check my rankings for proof that I liked the Colts DST as a sleeper (and they came through) but since I'm writing this on Friday it would be mischievous of me to write them off as a sleeper. With that said, your remaining choices are pretty nasty.

Buccaneers (vs. Chargers) ... San Diego is putting points on the board, landing at least 24 points in four of its last five, but DSTs still have managed to score double digits in two of those four 24-plus-point games along with the one game it didn't get to 24 points (Week 8 against the Browns). Philip Rivers has not thrown an interception in two games and he's been sacked at least once in every game. And the Chargers have a fumbling problem: As a team they've lost a fumble in each of their last four. Even with a depleted secondary the Bucs don't look half bad.

Eagles (vs. Cowboys) ... Yeah, it's that bad on the waiver wire. Romo hasn't thrown an interception in two of his last three games but the one he did he followed it up with three more. He's been sacked five times in the last two games. And the Cowboys have scored 24 points or less in all but one game this year. It's another Kamikaze DST (the Saints were one last week).

Three more things

• There are a zillion questions stuffing my inbox about the Raiders running game now that Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson have matching high ankle sprains. I'm familiar with both Marcel Reece and Taiwan Jones, the two men tasked with replacing both Raiders runners this week. And I can tell you I am decidedly more confident in Reece being a factor in Fantasy than Jones.

Let's start here: Following the two times Mike Goodson left the field last week vs. the Bucs, Reece played 23 snaps while Jones played five. Jones basically gave Reece a little rest in the second half and had one carry for 2 yards where he was thrown to the turf by linebacker Lavonte David. Reece, meanwhile, was much more than just a running back. He lined up everywhere: in the backfield, as an in-line tight end, in the slot and even out wide as a receiver, which is where he was when he caught a touchdown pass from Carson Palmer on a go-route in single coverage. And that wasn't his only end-zone target in the game, as it became increasingly clear to me that Palmer liked throwing to him. And before you go writing off Reece as a poor rusher, you should know that he had a nice run negated by a holding penalty on his offensive line.

I know a lot has been made about both backs contributing this week against the Ravens, and there's no question Jones should see the most snaps of his career on Sunday. But from the very second Goodson went down against the Bucs, Reece was in and he rarely left. The Raiders have a human Swiss Army Knife in Reece and I expect him to be very useful against the Ravens.

• Two Dolphins players are big on my list this week because of the matchup against the Titans: Ryan Tannehill and Brian Hartline. The Titans have allowed nine-plus Fantasy points to five wideouts over their last four games. In that four-game span they've allowed eight passing scores total and 20 on the season. And this is wild: The only starting quarterback who did not post 19 Fantasy points or more against the Titans this season is Andrew Luck. Everyone else they've faced including Jay Cutler last week, Philip Rivers in Week 2, Matt Schaub in Week 4 and Christian Ponder in Week 5 have managed to hit that 19-point number. Tannehill has thrown multiple touchdowns in just one game and totaled two scores in two games, but the matchup is just too good to ignore.

• Before you settle in for the action on Sunday, take a gander at your live scoring page and consider any last-minute lineup changes based on the current score of your game. For instance, let's say you went up against Cecil Shorts this week and find yourself down by a bunch of points already. You might want to start a player with some upside for a big week over a "safe" player. Here's an example: Raiders running back Taiwan Jones versus Rams running back Steven Jackson. For all that we love about him, S-Jax just isn't having a productive season and has one game with 10-plus Fantasy points. There isn't a lot of upside to Jackson, especially facing off against the 49ers. Jones, however, has nothing but upside since expectations are already low for him. No one knows just how much he'll play against the Ravens, but one good run can throw dust on Jackson and help Fantasy owners get out of a hole dug by Shorts.

Point is, if you're losing heading into Sunday, consider making a move to a player with some big upside over a player who might be dependable for a certain range of points but nothing more.

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
Saints TE Orson Charles pleads guilty in road rage incident
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:44 pm ET) Saints tight end Orson Charles will enter a diversion program after pleading guilty to wanton endangerment in a road rage incident, according to CBS affiliate WKYT.

Last April, Charles was accused of pointing a firearm at another driver on a Madison County, Ky. road. As part of the diversion program, Charles must check in with a parole officer once a month via telephone. If he has no other run-ins with the law, this charge will be dropped from his record. 

Charles spent most of the 2014 season on the Saints' practice squad.

Charles was a former fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft by the Bengals. A standout tight end in college at Georgia, Charles was moved to fullback in Cincinnati before being released prior to the 2014 season. 


Cardinals release defensive tackle Darnell Dockett
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(4:14 pm ET) The Cardinals are set to move on from defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, the team announced Friday.

Dockett has played his entire 11-year career with the Cardinals, totaling 459 tackles and 40 1/2 sacks. He missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his ACL in the preseason.

Dockett was entering the final year of his contract and saves Arizona $6.8 million in cap space. He also may return to the team wit ha pay cut.

"We have been very clear about our feelings for Darnell and our desire to have him back," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said of the announcement.


Dolphins release wide receiver Brandon Gibson
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:46 pm ET) The Dolphins have released wide receiver Brandon Gibson, the team announced Friday. Gibson was entering the final year of his three-year contract, but played in just 21 of a possible 32 games for Miami. He totaled 59 catches for 621 yards and four touchdowns.

The Dolphins will save $3.2 million in cap space for 2015 by cutting Gibson, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.


Broncos defensive lineman Mitch Unrein hopeful to remain with team
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:28 pm ET) Broncos defensive lineman Mitch Unrein is set to become a free agent this offseason, but he is hopeful to re-sign with the club, according to the team's website.

"Hopefully I can be back in Denver because this is the place I want to be and the only place I want to be," Unrein said. "Only time will tell, but it's been a good offseason. It hasn't snowed too much—it's snowing tonight, obviously, but it's just good to be in Colorado, no matter what it's doing outside."

Unrein has spent all five seasons in the league with the Broncos, totaling 49 tackles in 54 games. He only played eight games in 2014.

"I had Kubiak my rookie year when I was down in Houston—great guy, great motivator," he said. "Unfortunately, I wasn't good enough my rookie year to stick on that team but hopefully I'm good enough this time to stick on this team. The D-line coach, Bill Kollar, great motivator. He gets anyone to work for him. Blood, sweat and tears, as they say, for that guy. So I'm looking forward to it, and hopefully be here in Denver next year."


Report: Ravens, Christo Bilukidi reach agreement on two-year deal
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:24 pm ET) The Ravens and defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi have an agreement in principle on a two-year deal, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Bilukidi played just four games with Baltimore in 2014 because of injuries, totaling three tackles. In his four seasons in the league, Bilukidi has played a 24 of a possible 64 games.


Redskins announce pair of roster moves Friday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:12 pm ET) The Redskins announced Friday the release of defensive end Stephen Bowen and the re-signing of tackle Tom Compton.

Bowen played eight games in 2014, totaling 11 tackles. In four seasons with the Redskins, he totaled 96 tackles with seven sacks. By releasing Bowen, the Redskins will save $5.52 million in cap space, according to the Washington Post.

Compton has spent all three years with Washington, starting nine of 16 games in 2014.


Adrian Peterson's dad: I've heard 'rumors' of Colts, Cards, Cowboys
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:53 pm ET) If Adrian Peterson were to be traded by the Vikings this offseason, his father, Nelson Peterson, may have an idea of his potential landing spots.

"I've heard rumors, Arizona," Nelson said in a phone interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "I've also heard the rumors of Indianapolis and the Colts, going there with a quarterback the caliber of (Andrew) Luck. I've also heard the Cowboys, coming back home with the Cowboys, behind that offensive line that they have.

"If a blockbuster deal opens and a team wants to gave them something they can't turn down, they're going to have to take a look at it," his father said.

Peterson ad been suspended by the NFL until April 15 and upheld by an arbitrator. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge David Doty overturned the arbitrator's decision, sending the case back down to go through the CBA. The NFL has removed the suspension, for now, while moving Peterson back to the Commissioner's Exempt list.

According to the report, the Vikings at this point aren't inclined to trade Peterson, though that may depend on his playing status for next season. The 30-year-old is set to make $12.75 million in 2015. Following Thursday's ruling, the team released the following statement:

"Adrian Peterson is an important member of the Minnesota Vikings, and our focus remains on welcoming him back when he is able to rejoin our organization."


Falcons cut offensive guard Justin Blalock Friday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:04 pm ET) The Falcons released offensive guard Justin Blalock, the team announced Friday. Blalock has played with Atlanta for the entirety of his eight-year career in the league, missing just three games in total.

The move saves the Falcons $3.79 million against the cap, according to ESPN. He had two years remaining on his deal.


Vikings cut ties with offensive lineman Charlie Johnson
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:57 pm ET) The Vikings have released offensive lineman Charlie Johnson, the team announced Friday. Johnson has spent the last four seasons with Minnesota after coming over from the Colts in 2011. 

The veteran only missed three games in his four seasons with the Vikings. He was due $2.45 million in base salary and has a $2.5 million cap hit for 2015. There is no dead money associated with the transaction.


Eagles officially cut offensive lineman Todd Herremans
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:49 pm ET) The Eagles have officially moved on from offensive lineman Todd Herremans, the team announced Friday.

"Todd has been the ultimate professional during my two years in Philadelphia with him," coach Chip Kelly said in a statement Friday. "He is a tough player and I wish him all of the best as he moves forward in his NFL career. I spoke to him earlier today and one of the things I told him was that by releasing him now, he will have a full opportunity to explore all of his options around the league."

Herremans has spent all 10 years in the league with the Eagles. The move will reportedly save Philadelphia $2.8 million in cap space for 2015.


 
 
 
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