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Dear Mr. Fantasy: No time for complacency

Senior Fantasy Writer
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So ... you ready for the playoffs?

I don't mean, like, emotionally. I mean intellectually. Have you put in the time to prepare yourself for a win-or-go-home scenario?

If you're still fighting for a playoff spot, you get a pass. Your energies belong elsewhere. Chances are playoff preparations would subvert your short-term goals anyway.

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But if you've already clinched a playoff spot, now is the time to act, before someone else beats you to it. Scope out Weeks 15 and 16. See what needs you might have at that point.

Waiting around until the Wednesday before could be what ends your season.

I've made the playoffs. What's the No. 1 thing to do now? Add depth? -- @CT_FOX (via Twitter)

SW: Wait, you mean you don't just plan to go on autopilot and assume all that win-loss stuff will take care of itself? OK, Mr. Overachiever.

Assuming the trade deadline has passed in your league -- and if not, what's up with that? -- I don't see how you have any choice but to add depth. You have to be smart about it, of course. If you've already clinched, chances are you have a lineup full of studs such as Adrian Peterson and Doug Martin -- players who you wouldn't consider sitting except because of injury -- meaning the kind of depth you should pursue is their handcuff options, such as Toby Gerhart and LeGarrette Blount. What good is gambling on a David Wilson if he has no legitimate chance of sniffing your lineup?

If, however, you have a starting spot that isn't quite as settled -- maybe you've been shuffling between Ryan Mathews and Michael Turner or have had to make do with Marcel Reece -- then you're more likely to benefit from a risk-reward type like Wilson. Jackie Battle isn't any kind of remedy for poor production.

You could also stand to benefit from looking ahead to Weeks 15 and 16 (or whenever your particular league conducts its playoffs). Knowing Beanie Wells is facing the Jets' 30th-ranked run defense this week is a great help for right now, but you don't so much care about right now. You care about Week 16, when he's facing the Bears' eighth-ranked run defense.

True, Wells is a borderline case. You probably wouldn't sit Peterson in Week 16 just because he's facing the Texans' second-ranked run defense. But at some position on your roster, even if it's just DST, you'll want to be prepared for when the matchups go bad. The playoffs are no time to cross your fingers and hope for the best.

Danario Alexander or Malcom Floyd at wide receiver this week? -- @Oh_Dinky (via Twitter)

SW: Philip Rivers just hasn't taken to Floyd the way I thought he would at the start of the season. Yeah, Floyd has put up some Fantasy points lately with three touchdowns in his last four games, but to have only two games with more than 70 yards all season? Sorry, but I expected more. You'd think with Vincent Jackson out of town and Antonio Gates a shell of his former self, Rivers would have no choice but to lean on Floyd, but he hasn't.

So who has he leaned on? Over the last three weeks, it's been Danario Alexander, who already has three games with 70-plus receiving yards even though he's only been active for five. Before then, it was ... Ronnie Brown, maybe? I'd venture to say no one. In his first eight games, otherwise known as pre-Alexander era, Rivers averaged 233.3 passing yards 1.5 touchdown passes. In his last three, with Alexander unhinged, he's averaged 274.3 with 2.0 touchdown passes.

In other words, you don't have to make the decision because Rivers has already made it for you: He would rather fail than throw the ball to Floyd.

OK, so he still throws the ball to Floyd plenty. The targets kind of speak for themselves there. Still, by now, you have to recognize that Alexander is capable of doing more with those throws than Floyd is. The Chargers recognized it from the first time he saw extensive action in Week 9. Just think back to what coach Norv Turner had to say about the Rams castoff back before all this mess started Week 10 at Tampa Bay:

"Danario's going to play," Turner told the San Diego Union-Tribune. "He's going to be a big part of what we do."

And don't you forget it.

Truth be told, I can't say whether or not Floyd will catch another touchdown pass Week 13 against the Bengals. It's plenty possible. But I can say with unwavering assurance that Alexander is the more consistent of Chargers wide receivers and the one with the higher upside.

I need to win to make playoffs in a points-per-reception league. Would you pick up Ryan Broyles or T.Y. Hilton to play over Steve Smith or Percy Harvin? -- @Westernsubs (via Twitter)

SW: I love Broyles. Let's get that out there right now. After that six-catch, 126-yard effort he put together on Thanksgiving, I'd carve a heart with his name in it into a tree if I could -- which is a total lie because, well, what's stopping me?

Why am I so found of him? Hey, I was the same way with Titus Young when Nate Burleson went down with a broken leg back in Week 7, and Young delivered similar results with nine catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns Week 8 against the Seahawks. The reason he couldn't keep it up is because a little guy named Broyles kept getting in his way -- and because, you know, he kept putting himself before the team, which is what got him suspended last week, which is what allowed Broyles to put up those numbers.

So let me ask you this: With Young now out of the picture, who's left to get in Broyles' way? Tony Scheffler?

When the Lions eventually settle on a second wide receiver opposite Calvin Johnson, that wide receiver is predisposed to big numbers. The Lions as a whole are predisposed to big numbers. They like to pass, and with Matthew Stafford under center, they do a pretty good job of it. No, he hasn't had the best season Fantasy-wise, but he still leads the NFL with 3,429 passing yards. They can't all be going to Calvin Johnson. Free up a few cooks in that kitchen, and you'll really see a meal made.

Now, Young isn't off the team or anything. The Lions could always reinstate him for Week 13 against the Colts, but I think they'll have a pretty easy time justifying the transition to Broyles after the way that whole episode went down.

OK, now that I've made my feelings on Broyles perfectly clear, we can tackle the question at hand: Would I start him over Smith or Harvin?

Probably not Harvin, provided he's healthy. His role as sort of a split-wide running back makes him too productive to sit in points-per-reception leagues. But since I don't necessarily expect this week to be the week he returns from a sprained ankle, yes, I would anticipate starting Broyles instead.

And if it comes to it, I'd also start Broyles over Smith, who even in Cam Newton's best game of the season Monday, managed just four catches for 60 yards. He's become mostly a deep-ball threat on an offense that hasn't had much success with the deep ball this season. Newton doesn't have enough completions in him to sustain Smith along with Brandon LaFell and Greg Olsen.

Most Traded Players (as of 11/28)
Player # of trades
1. Steven Jackson, RB, Rams 1,236
2. Mikel Leshoure, RB, Lions 1,219
3. Ryan Mathews, RB, Chargers 1,208
4. Andrew Luck, QB, Colts 1,207
5. Aaron Hernandez, TE, Patriots 1,197
6. Josh Freeman, QB, Buccaneers 1,173
7. Jamaal Charles, RB, Chiefs 1,159
8. Carson Palmer, QB, Raiders 1,141
9. Michael Turner, RB, Falcons 1,136
10. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Bengals 1,122

As for Hilton, he has some big-game potential, but he's in a kitchen with too many cooks himself. And the Colts' passing game isn't quite as productive as the Lions'.

Given Bryce Brown's performance Monday night, how worried do I need to be about LeSean McCoy losing his job? I have him in multiple keeper leagues. -- @liefmeyer (via Twitter)

SW: Brown unseating McCoy is a possibility worth pondering, but ultimately, it won't happen. With all of Michael Vick's struggles over the last couple years, McCoy has essentially been the Eagles offense, and his contributions in that role have made him a Fantasy stud. He scored 20 touchdowns last year, for crying out loud. I don't see how they could abandon him so quickly.

Of course, he wouldn't be the first high-profile running back to lose his job seemingly through no fault of his own, right in the thick of his prime. Shoot, if he played for the Bills, he'd just be the latest in a long line of early removals, from Willis McGahee in 2007 to Marshawn Lynch in 2009 to Fred Jackson just this year.

But for as good as McGahee, Lynch and Jackson were, they weren't McCoy. None was a top-three pick in Fantasy. None was on pace for a third straight 1,500-yard season at the time of his removal.

The Eagles like Brown, and his performance Monday will likely make them extra cautious in their treatment of McCoy's concussion. But now that they've fallen out of the playoff race, they don't stand to gain anything by transitioning to Brown now. Even if they think he's the better running back (which is still very much in question), all they do by benching McCoy is deplete the value of their greatest asset.

So when McCoy returns, he'll return as the starter, if for no other reason than to keep his trade value intact. Yes, I imagine the Eagles would trade him before they dropped him behind Brown on the depth chart, so as a keeper option, he's still about as safe as it gets.

But that's not even the most likely scenario. The most likely scenario is that Brown looks a little more human next time out and the Eagles decide to keep him in the backup role for the foreseeable future. He may cut into McCoy's carries a little more, but not enough to make McCoy any less than a first-rounder in Fantasy.

Which two of C.J Spiller, Ahmad Bradshaw and Knowshon Moreno should I start this week? -- @KingFinlay (via Twitter)

SW: Now that Moreno has seemingly captured the starting job in Denver with Willis McGahee done in by a torn ACL, my immediate reaction is that Bradshaw is suddenly the least valuable of the three.

But of course, Bradshaw stands to benefit from an injury as well. The biggest impediment to his value, cherry picker Andre Brown, is now out for the season with a broken fibula. That development potentially vaults Bradshaw back over Moreno and perhaps even Spiller, but only if rookie David Wilson doesn't seize this opportunity to make a name for himself. The Giants did invest a first-round pick in him back in April, after all, and coach Tom Coughlin, when announcing Brown's injury, mentioned Wilson as a replacement with the endorsement of "it's his time."

For now, I'm assuming Bradshaw gets the majority of the carries, which means he should be in for a productive Monday night at Washington. Given the uncertainty there, though, Spiller I think is still the safest of your three options. He's part of a split backfield as well, but it hasn't slowed him down. Against the 29th-ranked Jaguars run defense, he's automatic.

Moreno's value is certainly on the rise, but his opponent this week, Tampa Bay, ranks first against the run. Given the matchup, you might as well take a chance on Bradshaw instead.

Is it time to drop Ben Tate for Justin Forsett? Would Forsett be a better add than Knowshon Moreno, Jacquizz Rodgers, Beanie Wells or Kendall Hunter? -- Don Gerardi (via Facebook)

SW: The answer to the second question should be pretty obvious at this point. Moreno and Wells are the most worth owning of that group. They're the ones with starting jobs, after all, so before you try to figure out the best handcuff option for Arian Foster, you need to make sure those two both have homes in your league -- preferably on your roster.

Now, as for the backfield situation in Houston, I don't believe Forsett has overtaken Tate on the depth chart. I understand he ran for 87 yards on Thanksgiving, which is more than Tate has offered in any game this season, but keep in mind 81 of those yards came on a single carry. He had just 6 on the other four. Forsett is a fine change-of-pace option, but his small stature has limited him to nothing more than that role over his five-year career. I don't believe the Texans -- or any other team, for that matter -- view him as a potential starter at running back. Tate would be starting for a third of the teams in the league.

I think the Texans have everything they could want out of a backup in Tate. He just needs to get healthy -- and by all indications, he's about there. Forsett might still have some long runs after Tate returns, but if something happened to Foster, Tate would be the one to carry the load.

Incidentally, my third choice from this list (after Moreno and Wells) would be Rodgers. He split nearly 50-50 with Michael Turner last week and was clearly the more effective back of the two. I smell a change coming.

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Does Randall Cobb lose must-start status when Greg Jennings returns? -- @theonly1Avenger (via Twitter)

SW: You mean he hasn't already?

That's not fair. Week 12 was the first time he hadn't scored a touchdown in five games. But he has averaged just 44.5 receiving yards over his last four games, so maybe his four-catch, 39-yard effort Sunday was the reality check we all needed.

I think Cobb will still have a role when Jennings returns, presumably this week. His ability to make plays underneath helps the Packers make up for their lack of running game. Still, quarterback Aaron Rodgers can throw only so many passes, and with another mouth to feed in Jennings, the 40-yard games could become all the more common for Cobb, making him a touchdown-or-bust-type Fantasy option.

I'm not saying you should release the guy. In fact, in points-per-reception leagues, you'll still want him active more often than not. But in standard formats, you'll need to choose your spots with him. Against a Vikings defense that ranks in the middle of the pack against the pass and the run, you could certainly do worse than him this week.

Should I drop Mike Williams, Colin Kaepernick, Danario Alexander or Marcel Reece for Greg Jennings? -- @jayceex37 (via Twitter)

SW: No.

Oh, you want more than that? OK, fine. Williams is droppable for Jennings just for the sake of upside. And if you have your sights set on the playoffs rather than the next week or two, the same goes for Reece, who is sure to lose the starter role when Darren McFadden returns from a high ankle sprain.

But as for Kaepernick and Alexander, I think they have more to offer than Jennings at this point.

Alexander should be obvious by now. Each of his last four games are better than any of the three Jennings had before getting hurt. He's beginning to look like a must-start Fantasy option, not to mention must-own.

Kaepernick is trickier because he plays a different position and still isn't the definitive starter in San Francisco. But by now, coach Jim Harbaugh has pursued the possibility of a quarterback change to the point that he probably can't turn back anymore. It's happening soon, even if not in Week 13.

And when it happens, you'll have a rushing quarterback who throws the deep ball -- kind of like Cam Newton, but perhaps even more reliable.

What will you have in Jennings? Hard to say. Randall Cobb and James Jones have both stepped up in his absence, and of course Jordy Nelson is still in the picture as well. My guess is Jennings will still have his big games, but from week to week, he'll be about as up and down as James Jones, making him borderline rosterable in standard 10- and 12-team leagues. Frankly, I'd rather have Kaepernick, especially if I was less than satisfied with whoever I was starting at quarterback.

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
Saints WR Nick Toon seeks to seize best opportunity of career
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:32 pm ET) The path is clear for Saints wide receiver Nick Toon to earn more playing time than ever. But he realizes that he must get on that path and stay on it through superior performance.

The offseason losses of Kenny Stills, Jimmy Graham and Robert Meacham should result in more reps for Toon, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He has been buried on the depth chart, though he did catch a career-high 17 passes last year.

He believes that now is the time for him to step up and break out.

"Pressure is not something that I've every worried about or thought about," he told the New Orleans Advocate. "I just try to be consistent. Anything outside of that is out of my control, so do what you've got to do to put yourself in the best position for things to work out."

Toon has a shot at the third receiver role behind Brandin Cooks and Marques Colston.


Giants WR Victor Cruz believes he'll be back in action for camp
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) Giants standout receiver Victor Cruz believes he can avoid starting the season on the PUP list despite continuing to deal with his recovery from a patellar tendon tear.

"The plan is to be ready for training camp and I feel good," he told SiriusXM NFL Radio.

Placing Cruz on the PUP list would give the Giants roster flexibility if he is not ready by training camp. If he lands on the regular-season PUP list, he would be forced to miss the first six games.

Cruz has experienced weakened production every year since his breakout season of 2011. But he was limited to just six games in 2014.


Report: Packers have no plan to release TE Andrew Quarless
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:28 am ET) The Packers have no intention of releasing tight end Andrew Quarless despite his arrest on July 4 for allegedly shooting off his gun in public, sources have told ESPN.

Quarless was charged with a misdemeanor after firing two shots into the air outside a parking garage in Miami Beach, per police reports. He was seen arguing with two women before the incident.


Report: Giants DE Jason Pierre-Paul can forget long-term deal
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:25 am ET) The Giants will not take back their one-year franchise tag offer of $14.813 million to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul in the wake of a fireworks accident that resulted in a hand injury and hospitalization, a source has told the New York Daily News.

But the source added that there is "no chance" the Giants will now work on a long-term contract for Pierre-Paul. 

Giants officials made the trek to South Florida on Tuesday to see how he is recovering, sources have told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Pierre-Paul is coming off his best season since 2011. He contributed to 77 tackles and racked up 12 1/2 sacks.


Eagles LB Brandon Graham could be on verge of breakout year
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(9:29 am ET) Eagles linebacker Brandon Graham feels the optimism of a guy coming off his best season.

"I'm feeling the best I've ever felt," he told the team website.

It's no wonder. He recorded career-highs in tackles (36), tackles for losses (13 1/2), assists (11) and sacks (5.5) in 2014. He earned significant playing time in a rotation at that position. And with Trent Cole off to Indianapolis, those reps could increase this year.

Graham has toiled feverishly to improve his game and adapt to a new defensive system. The result was a new four-year contract with the team.

"I understand the game and the league and what it takes to get it done here," he said. "I think I've grown up. I'm serious about being a great player. I want to be the best."


Giants pulling long-term contract offer to Jason Pierre-Paul
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/6/2015) In the wake of a Fourth of July fireworks mishap, the Giants on Monday pulled their long-term contract offer to defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who remains hospitalized in Miami, per NFL.com insider Ian Rapaport. 

The Giants had applied the franchise tag to Pierre-Paul this offseason, but the player has not yet signed it, technically leaving him not under contract with the team. The Giants move to yank the longer deal is a bit of gamesmanship, since according to Rapoport, Pierre-Paul was not going to sign the $60 million deal anyway. 


Bills sign veteran tackle Wayne Hunter
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/6/2015) The Bills took another step to shore up their offensive line, signing veteran tackle Wayne Hunter to a one-year deal Monday, per the National Football Post. 

Hunter, who has not played in the NFL since 2012, did spend three years with the Jets under new Bills coach Rex Ryan from 2009-2011. 

Hunter's deal is reportedly worth $870,000.


RB Khiry Robinson could be odd man out in Saints backfield
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/6/2015) Running back Khiry Robinson is a fan favorite with the Saints, but the third-year pro, who once was viewed as a breakout candidate for the team, may find his role squeezed by the presence of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, per ESPN.com. 

Robinson dealt with a broken arm last season, which limited him to 12 carries and 32 yards over the final 10 weeks of the year. The Saints then re-upped with Ingram and brought in Spiller to replace Pierre Thomas, meaning Robinson will have to fight hard in training camp to establish a role. 

"I just gotta keep working," Robinson said. "It's all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it's a good thing we've got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we've got another player right up there to do the same thing."


Report: Giants Jason Pierre-Paul hurt in fireworks accident
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(7/5/2015) Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul reportedly hurt his hand in a Fourth of July fireworks accident in Miami, according to the Daily News

The paper reports that the injury is not considered career-threatening, but that varying accounts of what happened have been reported. The Giants have not confirmed nor denied the incident. 

The Giants applied the franchise tag to Pierre-Paul this offseason, but the 26-year-old has not yet signed it as he seeks a long-term deal, meaning that he technically is not under contract. 

Pierre-Paul had 53 tackles and 12 1/2 sacks last year for New York. 


Report: Torn pectoral sidelines Vikings CB Josh Robinson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) The Vikings secondary took a hit last month when cornerback Josh Robinson sustained a partially torn pectoral muscle, a league source has told ESPN.

The nickel back played in 690 snaps last season and was expected to battle several others for playing time. The injury could sideline him from training camp and land him on the PUP list.


 
 
 
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