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Reality Check: The C.J. Spiller debacle

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Thanks a lot, C.J. Spiller.

Just when you thought it was safe to bench him, just when you had finally come to terms with the idea that your top pick wouldn't be anywhere close to your best player, he went and piled up 155 yards against a Chiefs defense that had single-handedly won its Fantasy owners about four games this year.

It's enough to make you wonder what it's all for -- you know, rankings, projections, matchup info, real-time scoring, Sunday afternoons, football, competition, humanity, life. Assigning random outcomes to each of your players each week simply won't do. This isn't a study in chaos theory. At some point, the numbers have to actually mean something.

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They have to, right? Well, right? Please, tell me they mean something!

You see that? You see what this game is doing to us? All that time, all that effort spent trying to get an edge, and what do you have to show for it? Madness! You want an edge? I'll give you an edge ...

Crash!

Just imagine I toppled a giant stack of plates or did something similarly loud, showy and completely incongruous to what I just said.

And with that, you're in the middle of an after school special -- the kind designed to wake you from your trance, enlighten you to the ramifications and return you to meaningful pursuits like horticulture and rocketry.

But since you and I know that won't actually happen, let's instead work to be smarter about the way we process certain information. Specifically, our approach to underachievers is at times less than sensible.

Most require patience and a reminder that they're better than their last week's numbers. Others legitimately aren't worth the trouble anymore, though they're fewer and farther between than the typical angry commenter would have you believe.

Anger -- that's an emotion that won't win you games. It can serve as a motivator, sure, but if you're this deep into a Fantasy Football column this abstract this far into the season, motivation is the least of your concerns.

Frankly, we'd be better off eliminating emotion from the start-sit and add-drop processes. If we approached them as a machine would, using past data to predict future data and recognizing that any anomalies are just additional data and not part of some vast conspiracy to thwart our sincerest efforts, we'd make fewer boneheaded moves.

Like sitting Spiller?

See, I wouldn't go that far. Based on the information we all had collected on him (and on the Chiefs, for that matter) up to that point, sitting him made perfect sense. But would you believe that in my shallowest league, for the briefest of moments, I actually considered dropping him?

Dun dun dun!

And to further the conversation, I did drop Trent Richardson ... like, just a couple days ago ... after Spiller's resurgence.

Those who can't remember the past are condemned to repeat it, right? Having just survived a brush with boneheadedness, here I am following through on it with a player of similar standing.

But you know, I feel good about it. They're different players with different sets of circumstances. And while I ultimately talked myself out of dropping Spiller, the arguments for keeping Richardson just weren't as compelling.

Of course, knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em is the eternal dilemma of gaming, but if you can recognize the difference between a Spiller and a Richardson, you won't be so hesitant to pull the trigger. And I don't know about you, but after a week chock-full of attractive waiver claims -- with more to come, to be sure -- I'd rather not devote any more roster space to deadweight.

So how do you act decisively in a game where so much changes from week to week?

The No. 1 pitfall in Fantasy Football is an overemphasis on the micro. You could argue the game is built for it. It has the shortest season of any major professional sport and yet the longest wait between samplings. Had the inventor anticipated the ensuing torment, he would have thrown up his hands and gone back to bed, but alas, here we are.

Every player has a range of potential outcomes from week to week. Though you can't predict where he'll land within that range, you can predict the range itself by weighing a variety of influences, which include ability, health, workload, role, scheme, supporting cast and opposition. Let's go ahead and call that the definitive order. Sounds about right to me.

The one that changes most often is opposition, so it tends to get the most attention from week to week, but in the grand scheme of influences, it's relatively low on the list.

And the rest? Well, unless you're in win-or-die mode -- which, admittedly, some Fantasy owners are this time of year -- they keep you from doing something boneheaded, like dropping Spiller.

Allow me to demonstrate with a side-by-side comparison of Spiller and Richardson. We'll begin with supporting cast. For Spiller, it's at least adequate, judging by Fred Jackson's production. Richardson has Andrew Luck to keep defenses honest, but it's not like the Colts have churned out productive running backs in recent years. The Bills and Colts are two of the few teams in the NFL that would prefer to run, so both players have scheme going for them. As for role, they're both platoon backs, though the Colts intended Richardson to be a workhorse when they acquired him. Workload? Again, the Colts want to give Richardson as much as he can handle, but you could argue the same is true for the Bills with Spiller judging by offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's comment this preseason that they'd give him the ball until he threw up. In terms of health, Spiller had played on a bad ankle for three weeks before finally getting a break in Week 8 while Richards, as far as we know, is as right as rain.

Now ability ... that's the kicker. We know Spiller has it from his 6.0 yards per carry last year and penchant for breaking long runs. All Richardson has backing him up is the fact he went third overall in the 2012 draft.

So in Spiller, you have an explosive back capable of taking any play all the way whose struggles are at least partially explained by injury, and in Richardson, you have a plodder who has yet to prove capable of more than 30-40 yards and maybe a touchdown if Luck doesn't take matters into his own hands. Shoot, James Starks could do better than that.

One of those players strikes me as somebody worth protecting in all leagues. The other strikes me as just roster filler.

The focus here is on those two, but as with every "big picture" column, the concept is meant to apply beyond just them. You could try it on any player who has you on the fence. Steven Jackson? His team isn't the most committed to the run, but he gets a full workload and has been mostly productive with the carries he's gotten. He deserves a longer look after missing so much time with injury. Ray Rice? He has been embarrassingly unproductive this year, but the Ravens remain committed to him. Given his track record, you shouldn't discount the possibility of a Chris Johnson-like resurgence. Doug Martin? His ability was never in question. His health is a concern, but until the Buccaneers rule him out for good, you have to stick with him, especially with his supporting cast showing signs of improvement. BenJarvus Green-Ellis? An obvious beneficiary of being in the right place at the right time a couple years ago, he has zero big-play ability and is splitting carries with an up-and-comer who seems to be gaining trust by the week. Cutting him loose wouldn't be the most regrettable thing ever.

Of course, just because you could justify dropping someone doesn't mean you absolutely should. I've limited this discussion to running backs not because it couldn't apply elsewhere, but because they're generally in higher demand and, thus, more deserving of protection. At most every other position, your best bet is obvious, and your next best is comparable to what's already on waivers. Cutting somebody loose doesn't have the same repercussions as at running back, where virtually anyone getting regular carries has value. That said, in a league where I also have Reggie Bush, the Tampa Bay duo, Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden, Starks and, what could be the biggest find of all, Ben Tate, I'm fairly confident I won't be missing Richardson.

But again, this isn't about me or him, but those tough decisions we all face every time we enter our waiver claims for the week. If your inner robot can't find reason for optimism, by all means, pull the plug.

But if that inner robot made the wrong call in Spiller, take a moment now to recalibrate.

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
Report: Rams among teams interested in trade for Eagles' Foles
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:02 am ET) Teams are beginning to show interest in Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, as reports are surfacing Philadelphia is unsure of what to do with the third-year quarterback, per NJ.com. A source said the Rams have interest in Foles should the Eagles choose to trade him this offseason. 

The Titans and Texans have also been mentioned as teams that would have interest in Foles, if he hits the trade market.

It's still unclear if the Eagles would be willing to move Foles. NJ.com reported last week the Eagles, who have the 20th pick in the NFL Draft, are considering making a run at Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota in the draft. 

"From No. 20, it's certainly not going to be easy,'' a source said. "It's probably going to take moving up twice to do it. There's going to be some wheeling and dealing involved.

"Can it happen? I don't know. But they're going to try."

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly recruited Mariota to Oregon and coached him for two years.

"Obviously, [with] my relationship with coach Kelly, it'd be a lot of fun to be a part of that offense and be a part of that team," Mariota said when asked about a potential reunion with Kelly.

Foles is 15-9 as a starter in the NFL, but he has yet to play a full season. He has completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 6,753 yards, 46 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.


Colts' Luck on new contract: 'There's nothing there right now'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:01 am ET) An ESPN report surfaced last week stating the Colts were working on making quarterback Andrew Luck the highest-paid player in the NFL. When asked about the subject at the Pro Bowl, Luck seemed surprise when he heard the news.

"There's nothing there right now," Luck said, per The Indianapolis Star. "I didn't think about it all during the season and it's only been a few days since it ended. I haven't thought about it. I will have conversations with my agent just because you have to prepare, but I'm not sure where that report came from."

Luck has two years remaining on the $22 million deal he signed as a rookie in 2012. It includes a team option for 2016, which must be exercised later this year.

Luck just completed his third season in the NFL. He has been to the Pro Bowl every year he's been in the NFL. He's gone 11-5 in every season as an NFL starter. He threw for a career-best 40 touchdowns in 2014 and led Indianapolis to the AFC title game this season.


Seahawks' Sherman disappointed he won't receive gifts from Pro Bowl
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:48 am ET) In case you missed Sunday's Pro Bowl, Team Irvin knocked off Team Carter, 32-28, thanks to a second-half rally, which included touchdown catches by Emmanuel Sanders and Jimmy Graham.

While many Pro Bowl players that made the original roster were absent from the game due to injuries, Pro Bowl players from the Patriots and Seahawks also did not play due to preparations for next Sunday's Super Bowl.

One player who seemed upset about missing the Pro Bowl was Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. However, it was for a reason you probably wouldn't suspect.

“Only thing I’m disappointed in is they won’t give us our gifts from the Pro Bowl, which is kind of dumb,” Sherman said, per The Boston Globe. “The NFL is the only league that punishes the players who actually make the All-Star game by not giving them their gifts. It’s supposed to be watches and some other stuff, but we don’t get them so I couldn’t tell you.”


Patriots' Tom Brady on Deflategate: 'My feelings got hurt'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:33 am ET) If you have been out of the loop for the last week, then you might be unaware the Patriots have been under a lot of scrutiny since the AFC title game due to improperly inflated footballs used against the Colts. The media hoopla has transformed the controversy into what we know as Deflategate.

If you haven't been out of the loop, then you are well aware of the nonstop coverage it has received the last week and despite the Patriots pleas for it to go away, it just won't.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has had to deal with the backlash from Deflategate, and he found himself talking about the subject again Monday morning during an interview with WEEI.

“It’s all speculation,” Brady said. “I’ve tried to wrap my head around it, too. I’ve done that and I’m trying to move past that, because I continue to try to rehash things. I personalized a lot of things and thought this was all about me, and my feelings got hurt. Then I moved past it, because it’s not serving me. What’s serving me is try to prepare for the game ahead. I’ll deal with whatever happens later. I’ll have my opportunity to try to figure out what happened and figure out a theory like everyone else is trying to do. But this isn’t the time for that. Honestly, I’m not interested in trying to find out right now, because we have the biggest game of our season ahead.”

One topic Brady didn't have a problem addressing was the speculation coach Bill Belichick threw him under the bus during a press conference on Thursday. But Brady came to the defense of Belichick, who has won three Super Bowls as the Patriots coach.

“I’ve never once felt that we’re not on the same page,” Brady said. “He’s a great coach. He’s the only coach I’ve ever played for; he’s the only coach I’d ever want to play for. There’s a lot of people over the years that have criticized him, but I’d say there’s not one player who’s ever played for him who’s not had an unbelievable amount of respect for him and how he prepares and his diligence and his preparation."


Giants' Odell Beckham says he played with hamstring tears
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:24 am ET) Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham said he played all season with two tears in his hamstrings, according to the New York Daily News.

Beckham took part in the Pro Bowl on Sunday, but admitted he's still not fully healed. Beckham said the injuries prevented him from getting to that "last gear that I wanted to have." He added that the injuries really bothered him against the Eagles and Colts. Beckham said he was "stumbling" and falling over during those games. He added that he's not sure whether he'll ever be 100 percent again.

The rookie had a tremendous season, hauling in 91 balls for 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns. 


Patriots' Tom Brady meeting with NFL after Super Bowl 49
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady doesn't expect to meet with the NFL until after Super Bowl XLIX, according to NFL.com.

The Patriots have been in the headlines all week due to Deflategate, and it appears the situation won't be resolved until after the season. "I believe they're going to do [a meeting] after the season," Brady said. "So we'll deal with it after this game. I think everybody is locked in, ready to go for the Super Bowl." Both Brady and coach Bill Belichick have held separate press conferences during the week to deny the team's involvement in deflating their footballs. 

The Patriots are subject to punishment from the NFL if the league finds any wrongdoing during the investigation. 


Earl Thomas on bad shoulder: 'I'll still play fearless'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who dislocated his shoulder in the NFC Championship Game, could remain limited in practice this week ahead of the Super Bowl, reports the Seattle Times. But he said he won't be thinking about the injury against the Patriots.

"When I come alive nothing is limited,’’ he said. “I’ll still play fearless, throw my body around, and let whatever happens, happens.’’

Thomas did allow that he might have to rely more on his teammates.

“My mindset is I have an opportunity to really trust my teammates,’’ he said. “This is the first game I’m going to have to trust them because of my injury. So I really, really, really trust my teammates, and that’s what I’m banking on, my teammates doing what they need to do and I need to come through myself.’’

It's unclear if Thomas will need offseason surgery.

The Seahawks are 1-point underdogs after opening as 2.5-point favorites.


Colts QB Matt Hasselbeck pondering retirement
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Colts backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck told ESPN.com he's not sure if he'll retire or return for a 17th season. Hasselbeck, 39, appeared in four games this season and played well, posting a 102.6 passer rating.

He's set to hit unrestricted free agency.


Colts expected to part ways with center A.Q. Shipley
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) Colts center A.Q. Shipley is headed for unrestricted free agency, and the team is expected to let him go, reports ESPN.com. 

"Shipley went from starting in Week 1 to losing his starting job, to being inactive, to being the third-string center," the report said. "All without any explanation from coach Chuck Pagano or anybody in the front office."

Shipley, 28, has played in 45 career games, starting 19.


Report: Dolphins aim to re-sign TE Charles Clay
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/25/2015) The Dolphins have privately indicated they want to re-sign impending free agent tight end Charles Clay and will make him an offer in coming weeks, reports the Miami Herald. Clay caught 58 passes for 605 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games this season.

Miami also is high on Clay's backup, Dion Sims, who's signed through 2016, the paper said.


 
 
 
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