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Fantasy & Reality: Offensive observations

Senior Fantasy Writer
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It feels like we're right back to square one with Tom Brady and his receiving corps.

No Shane Vereen (wrist) for a long time, no Rob Gronkowski (forearm, back) until maybe Week 3, presumably no Danny Amendola (groin) for at least one game and even Zach Sudfeld (hamstring) could find himself on the bench.

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It might only be for a week, but Brady is left with a near-empty cupboard. Available to throw to are rookies Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson, tight end Michael Hoomanawanui and veterans Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman, who looked awesome in Week 1 but has a bad track record of foot injuries (he was in a walking boot as recently four months ago). The running back corps is down to veteran third-down back Leon Washington and a group of bigger backs not known for their receiving skills, including Stevan Ridley.

The Patriots have always been good at using what they have to stay competitive in games, and it's in that spirit that Ridley's Fantasy owners should keep calm and carry on even in the face of his benching for fumbling last week (the turnover led to a Bills touchdown). If the Patriots are going to lean on their playmakers then Ridley is going to get work, even after fumbling.

Ridley's been taken out of games before for fumbling but the punishment never lasted too long. In both 2012 games he lost fumbles in he came back the following week and had just about his normal slate of work -- 17 carries on average. The stats that came with them weren't great but game circumstances played a role in that.

Now the Patriots need him badly. A sensible person would bet Ridley starts and sees a lot of work against the Jets on Thursday now that the biggest threat to his touches -- Vereen -- is sidelined. Plus, with the game being on a short week and Ridley only getting nine touches before hitting the pine, one would argue he's the most rested Patriot starter. We'll get an idea of how the Pats will use their backs until Vereen comes back beginning this week.

What about Edelman, the waiver-wire darling following his two-score game at Buffalo? He's also worth starting in Fantasy. Of all the receivers left for Brady to throw to, he's the one he likely trusts the most. Edelman and Brady have been teammates since 2009 and have hooked up for touchdowns long before this past weekend. Edelman was even locked into a big role this past weekend -- he lined up for 47 plays with Amendola at Buffalo and was on the field for 31 snaps without Amendola including just four when Amendola left with a groin injury. Edelman's worth rolling with.

Thompkins is your other sure-fire receiver. He struggled in his debut but the targets say a lot: 14 total, including three deep pass attempts (20-plus yards) and two passes into the end zone. Those targets aren't going to go away if other key Patriots receiving threats are sidelined. This is a big week for Thompkins; a preseason's worth of playing time with Brady along with more snaps played in Week 1 than any other receiver (87) should give him enough work to finally flourish.

As for the matchup ahead, I wouldn't worry about the Jets pass rush rattling Brady or Antonio Cromartie lining up on a specific receiver all game long. The Jets flipped him from side to side last week and if that continues the Patriots will adjust by moving their receivers around. Brady himself threw five touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Jets last year with at least 22 Fantasy points per game. He'll be fine.

Last point: The Patriots' next four games after Week 2 come against the Buccaneers, Falcons, Bengals and Saints. They'll need those offensive weapons back then or else their record will have some serious blemishes.

Chipping away at the Eagles

When I was younger, before a wife and kids, I spent a lot of my spare time playing Madden. And I was pretty darn good at it. One year I figured out how to consistently tear apart the All-Pro level by memorizing three separate audibles and calling one additional play, then running the no-huddle using just those four plays. I'd go undefeated en route to the Super Bowl in franchise mode just by out-hustling the defense game after game.

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I was reminded of this when I watched the fast break Eagles offense on Monday at the Redskins. The Eagles have ditched the huddle and use signals from the sideline in part to call in plays immediately after the last play has been run. The offense keeps the defense on its heels and uses simple philosophies to pick up gobs of yardage in a hurry. It's fun to watch.

But my video-game team is fictional. The Eagles are real. These guys can't be counted on to hold up week after week like this. LeSean McCoy had a personal-best 31 carries but needed attention from the trainers during the second half. Michael Vick totaled three touchdowns but was gimpy by the fourth quarter -- not the best news for a guy known for getting hurt. Again, this is the first game of the season.

And while the players might wear down, defenses will catch up with what Chip Kelly's doing. Just consider the two halves for the Eagles: They ran 51 plays in the first half, totaling 341 yards and 26 points. In the second half they ran just 23 plays, totaled 125 yards and scored seven points. The Redskins adjusted to the scheme by hitting Vick repeatedly and being more physical defensively while taking their time offensively -- Washington owned the clock by more than five minutes in the second half.

What it means to me is that the players involved are among the most high-risk, high-reward in Fantasy Football history. It'll be this way until Kelly makes some changes to limit his players' exposure to big hits. DeSean Jackson might be little but he is a good start so long as Vick is the one throwing to him. McCoy is a no-brainer No. 1 Fantasy running back but the second he gets worn down too much the offense is in trouble -- Bryce Brown had a weak camp and couldn't accelerate to the edge against the Redskins. Chris Polk isn't exactly a burner. And as for Vick ... I mean, use him so long as he is upright, but it's a game of hot potato. You just don't know which week he'll end up needing help getting up off the turf. And sorry, I can't see this offense being as electric with Nick Foles under center.

The good news is that not many people drafted Vick without taking another quarterback. That's the way it should be -- no one should carry Vick without another good option. The outlook for McCoy isn't nearly as simple because the handcuff for him isn't very good. I own McCoy in several leagues and am aiming to carry a number of capable runners from other teams for the possible moment when McCoy doesn't suit up for a game.

Thinking more short-term, the Eagles host the Chargers this week in what should be an outstanding matchup. The Bolts are making a cross-country trip fresh off a heartbreaking loss against the Texans -- Houston dominated them offensively.

This is a good week to reap the rewards of Kelly's offense but things get ugly in a hurry. The Eagles are at home on a short week against a very good Chiefs defense next Thursday before playing three straight on the road at Denver, at the Giants and at Tampa Bay. Then Dallas gets a crack at them. That's quite a gauntlet. I'm not in the injury predicting business but I'll be surprised if Vick's name doesn't start popping up on the injury report.

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 .

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Player News
Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:09 pm ET) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:01 pm ET) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2:56 pm ET) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


Jets DL Sheldon Richardson suspended four games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson was suspended four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, the NFL announced Thursday.

“I apologize for letting down my family, teammates, this organization and the fans," Richardson said in a statement via the Jets, per Fox Sports. "However, words aren't enough. This is something that can only be addressed by how I handle myself from this point on. I don't want this to take away from what the team is trying to accomplish. While I won't be there at the start of the regular season, I will do whatever I can to support my teammates until I'm able to return to the field.”

Richardson, who was a 2013 first-round pick, is entering his third season in the NFL. He was the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2014.

He has totaled 84 tackles and 11 1/2 sacks in 32 career games. He also has one safety.


Texans DT Brandon Ivory arrested on burglary charge
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Texans defensive tackle Brandon Ivory was arrested Wednesday morning in Alabama and charged with first-degree burglary, according to a Tuscaloosa Police Department report obtained by SportingNews.com.

Ivory and another man were allegedly involved in a home burglary when the two entered the residence by kicking open the back door and then demanding money from the residents. The two stole money and two Ipads from the residence. Ivory and the other suspect were arrested at their apartment shortly after the incident with the stolen money and property.


Embattled Brandon Spikes pleads guilty to leaving scene of crash
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/1/2015) Former Patriots and Bills linebacker Brandon Spikes has pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a recent car crash and has received a fine and year of probation, per WBZ, which is further reporting that he has lost his license and will be forced to attend a driver's safety class.

Spikes has lost far more than his license. He has lost his livelihood, having been cut by New England for hitting another car and abandoning his vehicle on the highway. He later told the police that he had hit a deer.

No other teams have been rumored to be targeting Spikes for the coming season.


Terrelle Pryor ready to embrace new role with Browns
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Terrelle Pryor once declared that he could not play football if he could not play quarterback.

Reality has since set in.

Pryor has been cut twice and is now playing on a Cleveland Browns team desperate for a quarterback, but apparently not desperate enough to give him a shot. He is instead embracing what he is calling a "slash-player" role.

"I'm going to give (it) a chance," he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "I just want to play football. I'm a playmaker, and I believe if I can touch the ball, I can go to the house, especially if I have space. This should definitely open up some opportunities."

Pryor has already taken the first step by contacting Steelers receiving stud Antonio Brown and making plans to work out with him and Randy Moss so they can teach him the nuances of the position.

He also figures there's another reason he's ahead of the game.

"The thing that helps me is that I played quarterback, and I know what the quarterback wants," Pryor said.


Lions new DT Haloti Ngata too busy to think about new contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata had his contract in mind in his last days with the Ravens, but he's too busy to think about it now that he's been traded to the Lions.

Ngata admitted that he suspected a deal could take place.

"The closer we got to free agency, I thought it could be a possibility," he told Monday Morning Quarterback. "It didn't surprise me ... since we weren't getting closer to any kind of contract stuff, I just figured there were a lot of things that could happen. I definitely started to have a trade in my mind as a possibility."

Ngata added that he's not thinking about a contract extension with Detroit.

"I'm just trying to get to know my teammates, get my playbook down, and my technique and terminology," he said.


Vikings RB Jerick McKinnon claims he'd pick himself in Fantasy
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon doesn't have a Fantasy football team, but if he did...

"If ... I could take myself, I would," he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Never mind that Adrian Peterson has returned to the backfield. Never mind that Peterson has traditionally not yielded many carries to teammates. In 2012, for instance, he totaled 348 of his team's 401 rushing attempts.

The Vikings, however, are expected to use a more balanced approach in 2015. And McKinnon, who flashed as a starter with Peterson sidelined last season, is feeling dandy after undergoing lower back surgery in December.

"Two hundred percent," he declared in regard to his health. "If there is a 300, I feel 300. It's all good."

McKinnon averaged 4.8 yards per carry a year ago, which buoyed his confidence.


Lions RB Joique Bell predicting at least a 1,200-yard season
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(6/30/2015) Lions featured back Joique Bell is coming off a knee injury that has sidelined him throughout the offseason and has also been dealing with an Achilles issue. But his confidence is not hurt at all.

Bell has made a rather lofty prediction for 2015, particularly for a guy that has never rushed for more than 860 yards in a season. He claims he will exceed that by plenty.

"I'm going to rush for over 1,200 yards," he told MLive.com. "That's the minimum. If I do less than that, I'll be surprised. I'll be disappointed. Anything more than that, I wouldn't be surprised at all."

Bell averaged a mediocre 3.9 yards per carry in both of the last two years.


 
 
 
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