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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
Report: Patriots RB Shane Vereen expected to go Week 8
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:39 am ET) Patriots running back Shane Vereen is expected to play Week 8 against the Bears.

Vereen missed Friday's practice due to an illness, and is considered questionable for Sunday's game. Despite the illness, it would be a surprise if Vereen did not play, according to the report. Vereen scored two touchdowns Week 7 against the Jets. 


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by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) There's a chance Chargers running back Ryan Mathews will return Week 9, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"That's in my head," Mathews said. "I'm just going keep doing my treatment this week, come back on Monday, and see what they say." Mathews has missed six straight games due to an MCL sprain. Mathews was able to put in some work prior to Thursday night's game, though he was not a candidate to play. He seemed to handle the workout well. 


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by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Lions running back Reggie Bush is unlikely to play Week 8 against the Falcons.

Bush is considered doubtful due to an ankle issue, so the move shouldn't come as a big surprise. With Detroit on a bye Week 9, the team will rest Bush another week so that he's healthy down the stretch. 


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Johnson was officially listed on the team's final injury report as questionable due to an ankle injury. With Detroit on a bye Week 9, the team is leaning toward resting Johnson in order to make sure he's healthy down the stretch. 


Cardinals DE Calais Campbell a game-time decision Week 8
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10/24/2014) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Friday that defensive end Calais Campbell will be a game-time decision Sunday against the Eagles in Week 8, per ESPN. Campbell missed the last two games after suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain against Denver in Week 5. He returned to the practice field Thursday and Friday and was officially listed as questionable.

"I feel explosive and everything, so it depends on what you consider limited," Campbell said. "In my opinion, I feel like I can play football and help the team win."

Raiders CB D.J. Hayden could be activated before Sunday's game
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The Raiders have 12 days remaining to activate Hayden, or else he lands on the injured reserve list.


Raiders will place Usama Young, LaMarr Woodley on IR
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(10/24/2014) Raiders safety Usama Young and defensive end LaMarr Woodley will likely be placed on season-ending injured reserve list, Tony Sparano told the Bay Area News Group on Friday. Young suffered a torn ACL and MCL and Woodley suffered a torn bicep Week 8 against Arizona.

Saints RB Mark Ingram: 'I've got to step up' for my teammates
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(10/24/2014) Saints lead back Mark Ingram wants to return the favor to the backfield mates that carried the load when he missed three games with a broken hand by performing well with them out.

Ingram has been thrust back into the featured back role for Sunday night against Green Bay with injuries sidelining Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson.

"A couple guys are down, so I've got to step up and pull my weight and do my job," Ingram told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Ingram certainly pulled his weight before his injury. He rushed for 143 yards on 6.0 YPC with three touchdowns in the first two games. But he managed just 16 yards on 10 attempts at Detroit in Week 7.


Patriots add LB Davis, WR Krause to practice squad
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(10/24/2014) The Patriots announced a pair of minor roster moves Friday. The team re-signed linebacker Ja'Gared Davis to the practice squad and signed rookie wide receiver Jonathan Krause to the practice squad, per the team's official website.

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Chancellor has started in every game this season and has registered 44 tackles.


 
 
 
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