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Fantasy & Reality: QBs with more name than game

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Not everyone is lucky enough to have Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. Some of us have some questions/concerns/fears about the passers we start from week to week. Those of us who do need answers.

Five quarterbacks drafted as a Top 12 option on Draft Day have not fulfilled expectations thus far. Robert Griffin III, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson and Tom Brady are the five in question. A sixth quarterback -- Matt Ryan -- has been a Top 5 passer so far but is expected to be without receiver Julio Jones for a considerable period of time, potentially the rest of the season. It's for these quarterbacks that a plan must be hatched.

Let's take a look at what to expect from each of these guys over the next five weeks. You'll find each quarterback's matchup under each week. If you like what you read you'll feel good about starting them going forward. If not, some replacements are provided. Keep in mind that some replacements won't be found on waivers but on other people's rosters. It might be time to make a trade if that's the case (our weekly Trade Value Chart should come in handy for those).

Week 6

Tom Brady: vs. Saints (10th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Will there be Gronk? If Brady has his behemoth tight end back then there are going to be a slew of options for him to use against an aggressive New Orleans defense that will likely try to put pressure on him much like Cincinnati did a week ago. It might be too much to ask a Fantasy owner to sit Brady in his first game with his receiving corps at full strength.

Robert Griffin III: at Cowboys (32nd in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Perfect matchup for RG3 coming off the bye. The Cowboys' pass defense not only got walloped by the Broncos last week but has allowed four of five opposing quarterbacks to post at least 25 Fantasy points against them. Griffin should be trusted.

Colin Kaepernick: vs. Cardinals (15th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Kaepernick should be able to connect with Vernon Davis. Anquan Boldin is a different story, as No. 1 receivers have had a hard time besting Arizona. I wouldn't expect a meltdown like Cam Newton had last week against the Cardinals, but I wouldn't expect a big game either.

Cam Newton: at Vikings (22nd in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
The streaky Newton will roll against a Vikings defense that has allowed over 290 pass yards to every team they've played and two-plus scores to all but one quarterback this year. The only time this year Newton has been any good was against a bumbling pass defense that couldn't get a hand on him. The Vikings have nine sacks in four games and are ranked 30th in pass yards allowed per game (326.0).

Matt Ryan: Bye

Russell Wilson: vs. Titans (7th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
We've seen Wilson run like crazy over the last two weeks against defenses that have crashed his pocket. The Titans have a very capable defensive line, so it could mean more scrambling. Problem is that the Titans also have been great against opposing quarterbacks, shutting down the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith. Can he find a way to do what no one's done in three weeks: score multiple touchdowns on the Titans? The home-field advantage helps, but Tennessee's solid track record vs. receivers over the last three weeks makes Wilson a risk.

The replacements (in order of preference with ownership percentage)

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Jay Cutler (Thu. vs. NYG), 88 pct.
Terrelle Pryor (at KC), 47 pct.
Ben Roethlisberger (at NYJ), 67 pct.
Matt Schaub (vs. STL), 84 pct.
Alex Smith (vs. OAK), 77 pct.
Chad Henne (at DEN), 2 pct.
Joe Flacco (vs. GB), 65 pct.

Week 7

Tom Brady: at Jets (20th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Want a reliable Brady stat? In each of the last four years he has played considerably better in his second meeting with the Jets than his first. It's no coincidence that Rex Ryan has been the Jets head coach over those four years. Hopefully Brady's receiving corps comes out of their Week 6 game healthy and with little rust left to kick off.

Robert Griffin III: vs. Bears (15th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Through five weeks the Bears have allowed multiple touchdowns to four of five quarterbacks. Eli Manning might make that number five of six in Week 6, setting up Griffin for a nice home matchup against a defense once ferociously dangerous but not any longer. Roll with RG3.

Colin Kaepernick: at Titans (7th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
The Titans' issues with tight ends will be appealing to Kaepernick, as will the game film the Titans will have put out after playing the Seahawks the week before. Kap's best games tend to come at home and he's certainly not rushing as much as he has in the past. Not sure I love him here.

Cam Newton: vs. Rams (21st in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Assuming the Rams secondary is still running on backups, this should be a slam-dunk for Newton. Every team has connected for multiple passing scores against St. Louis this season. Their pass rush has 11 sacks this year but only three have come in two road games thus far. The money is on Newton playing well.

Matt Ryan: vs. Buccaneers (12th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
I don't like the matchup -- the Bucs have done well against the pass and have the size up front to crash Ryan's offensive line. Ryan has one game with more than one touchdown in his last four against the Bucs, and that was with Julio Jones. Roddy White's last touchdown against Tampa Bay came in the 2009 season.

Russell Wilson: Thu. at Cardinals (15th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
I think Wilson is going to have to throw in this game -- the Cardinals run defense is pretty darn good. The Seahawks won't be able to win handily without a good game from Wilson. He'll also have the advantage of seeing how the Cardinals defended Kaepernick a week prior to get an idea of how to attack them. I like his abilities and the matchup is decent, but the early game doesn't help the argument.

The replacements (in order of preference with ownership percentage)

Philip Rivers (at JAC), 99 pct.
Jay Cutler (at WAS), 88 pct.
Eli Manning (vs. MIN), 94 pct.
Chad Henne* (vs. SD), 2 pct.
Ryan Tannehill (vs. BUF), 38 pct.
Matt Cassel* (at NYG), 7 pct.
Brandon Weeden (at GB), 11 pct.
*-denotes current starter

Week 8

Tom Brady: vs. Dolphins (19th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
The Dolphins defense should be feeling good coming off a game at home vs. the Bills but will certainly have its hands full with the Pats. This should be a monster game for Rob Gronkowski as Miami has struggled against opposing tight ends for much of the early portion of the year. Brady's had a three-game streak of multi-score games against the Dolphins at home.

Robert Griffin III: at Broncos (25th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
The Broncos defense has struggled against the pass this season in part because Peyton Manning tips the scales in the team's favor, leaving opponents to throw from behind. We haven't seen the Broncos defense play with Von Miller yet this year but this will be his second game back from suspension and chances are he'll make it tough on Griffin. I'd still expect RG3 to be a start-worthy choice.

Colin Kaepernick: at Jaguars (28th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Irresistible matchup. The Jaguars defense stinks and could be looking at 0-8. The poor Jags will be dragged to London for this game and have a bye immediately after. Some of those players might be more interested in getting to the bye than making life tough for 'Kap. We're going to like Kaepernick a lot in this game.

Cam Newton: Thu. at Buccaneers (12th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Short week and a tough matchup will make Newton a problem for Fantasy owners. It might boil down to how well he'll have played the week before -- if Newton takes it to the Rams then it'll be tough to sit him. If Newton has been only good or worse, bad, then owners should go in a different direction. Newton stunk in both games vs. the Bucs last year.

Matt Ryan: at Cardinals (15th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Ryan will play against a rested Cardinals defense (they'll have played on Thursday the week before) likely champing at the bit to run off a big home win before their Week 9 bye. It's another defense with a physical front and a great cornerback to make things hard on Ryan.

Russell Wilson: at Rams (21st in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
I'm not sure how much Wilson will have to throw in this game but at the very least he should be efficient. St. Louis' pass defense isn't expected to be rebuilt in time to challenge Wilson here. But he might have 250 yards or less, just like he had in each game against the Rams in 2012.

The replacements (in order of preference with ownership percentage)

Eli Manning (at PHI), 94 pct.
Terrelle Pryor (vs. PIT), 47 pct.
Carson Palmer (vs. ATL), 55 pct.
Matt Cassel* (vs. GB), 7 pct.
*-denotes current starter

Week 9

Tom Brady: vs. Steelers (9th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
The history between Brady and Pittsburgh has favored the quarterback. Though the two sides don't play each other every year, Brady has posted some outstanding numbers against the Steelers over his career -- like over 300 yards and at least three touchdowns. There have been exceptions, including the 198-yard, two-score game he had against them in 2011, but Brady should be able to pick on their defense for a good game.

Robert Griffin III: vs. Chargers (30th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
RG3's schedule continues to amaze. The Chargers will be coming off of a bye but with no dangerous pass rush and no quality secondary to speak of, Griffin should have his way against the Bolts at home.

Colin Kaepernick: Bye

Cam Newton: vs. Falcons (26th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Newton is an up-and-down player but when it comes to the Falcons it's all good. After struggling in his first-ever matchup against them as a rookie, he's posted three straight mammoth performances. We're talking at least 22 points per game and two with over 30! The Falcons defense hasn't impressed yet this year and shouldn't be difficult in this game. Getting a little rest in after a Thursday game in Week 8 helps.

Matt Ryan: at Panthers (1st in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Like Cam, Ryan has had three straight great games against the Panthers. But I'll again point to Ryan's offensive line and thinned receiving corps as reasons to be nervous about him, even with history on his side. The Panthers' top-ranked defense against Fantasy quarterbacks is very good.

Russell Wilson: vs. Buccaneers (12th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
This is a matchup that might mirror the Seahawks' home blowout win against the Cardinals in 2012. The Bucs will come into a tough environment with a less-than-ideal offense to take on a feisty defense that always plays better at home. It could mean Wilson won't have to do much ... though we thought that would be the case back in Week 3 and Wilson threw four touchdowns. The decision to start him might be based on how well he's been playing.

The replacements (in order of preference with ownership percentage)

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Philip Rivers (at WAS), 99 pct.
Terrelle Pryor (vs. PHI), 47 pct.
Alex Smith (at BUF), 77 pct.
Jay Cutler (at GB), 88 pct.
Matt Schaub (vs. IND), 84 pct.
Matt Cassel* (at DAL), 7 pct.
*-denotes current starter

Week 10

Tom Brady: Bye

Robert Griffin III: Thu. at Vikings (22nd in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Same story for Griffin as it's been throughout: Another favorable matchup against a defense that won't put too much pressure on him and can't do well against his receivers. The fast track helps him but the Thursday date hurts him, however not enough to sway his owners.

Colin Kaepernick: vs. Panthers (1st in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
I like that it's at home coming off a bye and that Michael Crabtree could be close to returning, but I'm not so sure he can put together a huge game. Maybe if we build confidence in him over his previous few games.

Cam Newton: at 49ers (8th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Newton is going to be coming off of a home game against the Falcons we're already penciling in as a big game. Even if that's the case, Fantasy owners will be skittish about using him in San Francisco against a Niners defense coming off their bye. Will Patrick Willis be back? What about Aldon Smith? This matchup screams brutality for Newton.

Matt Ryan: vs. Seahawks (5th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
Ryan torched the Seahawks for three touchdowns in the divisional playoffs -- none to Julio Jones. That sounds great, but the reality is that Ryan's entire offense could be a mess by then. The matchup against the Seattle defense will be tough unless someone else steps up for the Falcons besides Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez.

Russell Wilson: at Falcons (26th in Fantasy points allowed to QBs)
I suspect we'll see Wilson have some success against the Falcons secondary. Geno Smith just threw for three touchdowns against them and the likes of Sam Bradford and Ryan Tannehill have already been moderately successful against Atlanta. Wilson should follow suit.

The replacements (in order of preference with ownership percentage)

Philip Rivers (vs. DEN), 99 pct.
Eli Manning (vs. OAK), 94 pct.
Terrelle Pryor (at NYG), 47 pct.
Ben Roethlisberger (vs. BUF), 67 pct.
Ryan Fitzpatrick* (vs. JAC), 7 pct.
*-denotes current starter

Final thoughts

The upcoming schedule for Griffin is fantastic. He's a guy to go get if you have any doubts or concerns about your quarterback situation. Brady's schedule isn't necessarily second-best but he's the passer you should have the second-most confidence in.

I'd be most nervous about Newton and Ryan. Newton should do well in Weeks 6, 7 and 9 but he's had favorable matchups before and blanked (Week 5 is an example). Eli Manning and Terrelle Pryor are sensible backups for Newton if only to use in Weeks 8 and 10 if you don't have the confidence to go with the Panthers' signal caller. As for Ryan, every matchup looks bleak when you don't have your best receiver. The official word on Jones isn't out yet but it doesn't look promising -- and that's directly from the Falcons head coach Mike Smith. Pryor has four interesting matchups in the next five weeks -- he'd be at the top of my list if I owned Ryan.

Chances are if you have Kaepernick or Wilson on your team then you likely have another passer to go with them. If it's someone you feel somewhat good about then you probably don't need to make another move. If it's not, then look over some of the replacement names and find one or two to consider. Matt Schaub is one.

Fantasy & Reality

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

Fantasy: Knowshon Moreno is tough to expect big numbers from. As the season moves forward, so does the Broncos' trust in Moreno. He shattered the 12-to-16 touch range he had been at over the first four weeks of the year with a 19-carry, five-catch game against Dallas last week -- and the Broncos really needed him badly. I don't think they win the game without him keeping the Cowboys defense off balance. While I don't know how much work he'll get against Jacksonville on Sunday, he'll probably take on a bigger role in more competitive games against the Colts and Redskins in Weeks 7 and 8.

Reality: Denarius Moore will light up the Chargers. I love it when matchup data pays off. In the case of Moore, his game against San Diego suggested that opposing receivers would do well. Moore's history with Terrelle Pryor suggested they'd connect a bunch. It happened. Magic. I don't know if Moore will keep it up in tough matchups, but I'm confident Pryor is going to continue finding ways to throw at him so long as he stays healthy.

Fantasy: Owen Daniels is the only decent tight end in Houston. Get ready to hear more about Garrett Graham in the next four-to-eight weeks as the Texans' top tight end while Daniels is sidelined with a leg injury. When the Texans drafted him in 2010 I wrote he was basically a Daniels clone -- a big physical tight end from Wisconsin. So far this year Graham has three touchdowns in five games and at least three grabs in four games. Mind you, this is with Daniels on the field. Expect those numbers to get pumped up; Schaub has tossed 18 of his 30 touchdowns to tight ends over his last 21 regular-season games.

Reality: Alshon Jeffery is for real -- and Brandon Marshall will be back. So why has Jeffery done well the past two weeks? The proof is in the games: Defenses have double-teamed Marshall, effectively daring Jay Cutler to throw to someone else. That someone else is Jeffery, who has exceeded expectations with a ridiculous 325 yards and two touchdowns in his last two games. I'm not sure how long Jeffery's fun ride will last because eventually defenses will think of another way to play against the Bears and not let Jeffery beat them up. I don't think it'll happen this week against the Giants, though.

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: Chargers hold workout for Austin Pettis
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(12/26/2014) The Chargers held a workout for former Rams wideout Austin Pettis, according to ESPN.

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The team should also have Tony Moeaki and Russell Okung. Both players were listed as probable on the final injury report. 

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(12/26/2014) Saints tight end Jimmy Graham will have an MRI on his shoulder next week, according to the New Orleans Advocate

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