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Instant reactions from Week 15

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Who needs Rob Gronkowski? Apparently not Tom Brady, who was great in Week 15 at Miami despite not having his best weapon.

Gronkowski was lost for the season with a torn ACL in Week 14 against the Browns. We saw Brady in the first six games of the season without Gronkowski when he was dealing with forearm and back injuries, and he struggled with only one game with more than 20 Fantasy points.

Brady – and Fantasy owners – would love Gronkowski on the field now, obviously. But the second go-round without Gronkowski got off to a much better start against the Dolphins for Brady, who was 34 of 55 passing for 364 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. This was a tough matchup, but Brady looked great.

A big reason for Brady's production was the play of his receivers. Julian Edelman had another huge game with 13 catches for 139 yards and a touchdown on 19 targets, which gives Edelman four games in a row with double digits in Fantasy points. And Danny Amendola showed up with 10 catches for 131 yards on 14 targets. Brady even threw a 13-yard touchdown to tight end Michael Hoomanawanui.

The Patriots play at Baltimore in Week 16, which is a tough matchup, but you can't sit Brady now after his outing against the Dolphins. Edelman has become a must-start option in all leagues. And even Amendola could now be trusted as a quality No. 3 receiver, especially in PPR leagues. You can pass on Hoomanawanui since the touchdown was his lone reception.

The only disappointment for the Patriots from a Fantasy perspective was Shane Vereen, who came into the game playing at a high level but was limited to two carries for 13 yards and three catches for 8 yards. We expect Vereen will rebound against the Ravens, but he hurt a lot of Fantasy owners at a crucial time in the playoffs with his poor performance.

Injuries of note: Victor Cruz (concussion), Peyton Hillis (concussion), Donald Brown (stinger), Andre Ellington (thigh), Carson Palmer (ankle), Larry Fitzgerald (concussion)

Cruz's tough season continued Sunday against the Seahawks. He finished with two catches for 25 yards on seven targets before getting hurt. If he does play in Week 16 at Detroit he would be a No. 3 Fantasy receiver at best.

Hillis also left the Seahawks game with a concussion. He had three carries for 8 yards and two catches for 24 yards before leaving. Even if he plays against the Lions he would not be worth starting in the majority of leagues. Andre Brown remains the only Giants running back worth owning.

Donald Brown was hurt in the first quarter against Houston, which ruined a potentially big game. He started the game with five carries for 38 yards. Once he went down, Trent Richardson took over with 19 carries for 64 yards and four catches for 38 yards and a touchdown. If Brown is out for Week 16 at Kansas City then Richardson would be a flex option in the majority of leagues.

The Cardinals were beat up against the Titans with Fitzgerald and Ellington leaving the game, and coach Bruce Arians said after the game that Palmer suffered a high ankle sprain. All three are now questionable for Week 16 at Seattle.

Ellington and Rashard Mendenhall played well against Tennessee. Ellington had 10 carries for 71 yards and four catches for 87 yards, and Mendenhall had 21 carries for 69 yards and two touchdowns.

Palmer and Fitzgerald were mediocre at best. Palmer was 20 of 30 passing for 231 yards and one touchdown, and Fitzgerald had six catches for 49 yards on nine targets. Even if all the Cardinals are healthy against the Seahawks you should avoid them in a brutal matchup on the road.

Backup running back star of the day No. 1: Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) was out against Buffalo, but hopefully Fantasy owners picked up Jordan Todman as a direct replacement. Todman was awesome with 25 carries for 109 yards and four catches for 44 yards.

We'll find out if Jones-Drew can return in Week 16 against Tennessee, but if Todman starts again then he would be a must-start Fantasy running back against a bad Titans run defense.

Backup running back star of the day No. 2: Adrian Peterson (foot) and Toby Gerhart (hamstring) both missed Week 15 against Philadelphia, but third-string Matt Asiata got the start and delivered in an upset win. Asiata had 30 carries for 51 yards and three touchdowns and three catches for 15 yards.

The Vikings have a tough matchup at Cincinnati in Week 16, and we'll find out if Peterson or Gerhart can return. If not, Asiata might be worth using as a flex option against the Bengals with the hope he scores at least once.

Minnesota had some great performances against the Eagles with Matt Cassel, Greg Jennings and Cordarrelle Patterson. Cassel was 26 of 35 passing for 382 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and he now has at least 22 Fantasy points in consecutive games. He could be an option in two-quarterback leagues against the Bengals if you're stuck.

Jennings had 11 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown on 13 targets, and he now has double digits in Fantasy points in two of his past three games. Cassel has helped him improve, so he could be under consideration as a No. 3 Fantasy receiver against the Bengals.

Patterson had five catches for 35 yards and a touchdown on six targets and two carries for 15 yards. He has now scored a touchdown in three consecutive games and should be considered a sleeper against the Bengals as well.

Strange backup running back situation: The Browns were without Willis McGahee (concussion) against Chicago, and we expected Chris Ogbonnaya would benefit. Instead, it was Edwin Baker, who was just signed off Houston's practice squad this week.

Baker had eight carries for 38 yards and a touchdown and four catches for 46 yards. Ogbonnaya was limited to five carries for 7 yards and five catches for 39 yards. The Browns play at the Jets in Week 16, so the starting running back for Cleveland should be avoided in the majority of leagues.

Welcome back Jay Cutler: Cutler returned after sitting out four games with an ankle injury, and he helped Fantasy owners with a quality performance. Despite two early interceptions, Cutler finished 22 of 31 passing for 265 yards and three touchdowns.

It might have taken Cutler some time to shake off the rust, but he showed why this Chicago offense is great with touchdown passes to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. You should feel good starting Cutler in Week 16 at Philadelphia in what should be a shootout with Nick Foles.

Ryan Tannehill continues to roll: Tannehill is looking like a must-start Fantasy quarterback following his performance against the Patriots. He was 25 of 37 passing for 312 yards and three touchdowns, and he now has at least 19 Fantasy points in five of his past six games, including four in a row.

The Dolphins close the season with two favorable matchups against the Bills and Jets, and it's time to start Tannehill in all leagues if you need a No. 1 option. He's playing that well.

It helps that Mike Wallace had another solid game against the Patriots with six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown on nine targets. He now has three games with double digits in Fantasy points in his past four outings and should be started in all formats at Buffalo.

Kirk Cousins has quality stats: Cousins made his first start for the benched Robert Griffin III, and he did well for Fantasy owners at Atlanta. He was 29 of 45 passing for 381 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions with a lost fumble.

Cousins has the chance for another game with 20-plus Fantasy points against Dallas in Week 16, and he should be considered a sleeper. The best thing Cousins did, however, was get Pierre Garcon going.

After four games in a row with single digits in Fantasy points, Garcon was a star against the Falcons with seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets. We hope Garcon can remain hot over the final two games.

Waiver Wire preview: Here is a preview of the players we will highlight in Playing the Waiver Wire on Tuesday.

Quarterbacks: Jay Cutler, Bears (75 percent), Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (57 percent), Ryan Fitzpatrick, Titans (30 percent), EJ Manuel, Bills (22 percent), Kirk Cousins, Redskins (17 percent), Matt Flynn, Packers (14 percent), Matt Cassel, Vikings (4 percent)

Running backs: Trent Richardson, Colts (81 percent), DeAngelo Williams, Panthers (80 percent), Mike Tolbert, Panthers (60 percent), James Starks, Packers (52 percent), Daniel Thomas, Dolphins (47 percent), Michael Bush, Bears (21 percent), Jordan Todman, Jaguars (19 percent), Knile Davis, Chiefs (19 percent), Matt Asiata, Vikings (2 percent), Edwin Baker, Browns (0 percent), Marcus Thigpen, Dolphins (0 percent)

Wide receivers: Michael Crabtree, 49ers (82 percent), Greg Jennings, Vikings (46 percent), Doug Baldwin, Seahawks (46 percent), Nate Washington, Titans (38 percent), Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings (37 percent), Andre Holmes, Raiders (14 percent), Robert Woods, Bills (11 percent), Ace Sanders, Jaguars (8 percent), Santana Moss, Redskins (7 percent), Jason Avant, Eagles (2 percent), Jairus Wright, Vikings (2 percent), Earl Bennett, Bears (1 percent), Aldrick Robinson, Redskins (0 percent), Griff Whalen, Colts (0 percent), Michael Preston, Titans (0 percent), Andre Caldwell, Broncos (0 percent)

Tight ends: Delanie Walker, Titans (72 percent), Timothy Wright, Buccaneers (42 percent), Zach Ertz, Eagles (10 percent), Jeff Cumberland, Jets (7 percent), Fred Davis, Redskins (5 percent), Andrew Quarless, Packers (4 percent), Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars (3 percent), Mychal Rivera, Raiders (1 percent), Sean McGrath, Chiefs (1 percent), Lance Kendricks, Rams (1 percent), Michael Hoomanawanui, Patriots (0 percent), Jake Ballard, Cardinals (0 percent), Ryan Griffin, Texans (0 percent), Cory Harkey, Rams (0 percent)

Start 'Em/Sit 'Em star: Zac Stacy shook off a hip injury to dominate the Saints with 28 carries for 133 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 10 yards. He ended a two-game stretch of single digits in Fantasy points, but he should be considered a must-start option even with a tough matchup against Tampa Bay in Week 16.

Start 'Em/Sit 'Em flop: Alex Smith's stat line against the Raiders is going to look amazing, but Jamaal Charles did all the work. Smith was 17 of 20 passing for 287 yards and five touchdowns, but Charles caught four touchdowns of 49, 39 16 and 71 yards. Still, Smith will likely be the No. 1 Fantasy quarterback in Week 15, so kudos to him, and he's having an amazing season.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg .

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Player News
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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