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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
QB struggles begin to impact Cardinals DST
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:13 am ET) The Cardinals DST scored just one Fantasy point in standard CBSSports.com leagues Week 16 against Seattle, interrupting a stretch of 10 games in which it averaged 15.1, and the Cardinals' offensive woes may have had something to do with it.

Specifically, they've been unable to find a decent quarterback since losing Carson Palmer to injury in Week 10. Backup Drew Stanton at least mounted some kind of threat, but with him sidelined by a sprained knee in Week 16, the Cardinals had to turn to third-stringer Ryan Lindley. He turned the ball over twice without once leading his team into the end zone, completing less than half of his passes in the process.

The quick trips back to the sideline gave the Seahawks more chances to pile up points and yards, and they did, finishing with 35 and 596. Only one other time have the Cardinals allowed more than 30 points in a game, and the 596 yards were a season high. Worse yet, they were lacking in big plays, recording one sack with no takeaways.

Fortunately, the Cardinals will take on a struggling 49ers offense in Week 17, so even if Lindley is back under center, the DST at least has a chance of a respectable performance. Still, if you've been relying on it all season, you might want to make sure there isn't an appealing matchups play on the waiver wire.


Seahawks DST can't be stopped
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:04 am ET) The Seahawks DST had another dominant performance Week 16 at Arizona, continuing a nine-week run that has made it once again arguably the top unit in Fantasy. During that stretch, it has averaged 16.2 Fantasy points, allowing 11.9 points on 231.3 yards.

It allowed only six points on 216 yards in Week 16, recording four sacks and one interception. Of the Seahawks' 33 sacks this season, 20 have come in their last five games.

Clearly, they had a favorable matchup in this one, but they also shut down the Eagles in Week 14. You don't have any reason to shy away from the Seahawks DST against St. Louis in Week 17.


Kenbrell Thompkins comes out of nowhere
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:58 am ET) After making only modest contributions since coming over from the Patriots in Week 6, Raiders wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins suddenly emerged as quarterback Derek Carr's favorite target Week 16 against Buffalo, catching five passes for 90 yards. He hadn't caught even one pass since Week 13, and his previous high in yardage was 47.

Of course, you should know how this goes by now. Fellow wide receivers James Jones and Andre Holmes have both had their stretches of Fantasy relevance this season, as has tight end Mychal Rivera. The Raiders have a multitude of viable receiving targets, but their roles aren't so clear, which makes the task of picking the most impactful from week to week next to impossible.

In other words, you'd need to play in an especially deep league to take a flier on Thompkins for the season's final week.


Latavius Murray trustworthy up to a point
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:51 am ET) If his 23 carries Week 14 against San Francisco didn't convince you, Latavius Murray's 23 carries Week 16 against Buffalo should make the message loud and clear: He is the Raiders' top running back, and they're putting more faith in him than they ever did Darren McFadden.

Granted, it hasn't translated to much production yet, but the 49ers and Bills are two of the toughest defenses against the run. Unfortunately, Denver, the Raiders' Week 17 opponent, is ranked even higher at both.

Can you trust Murray to get his carries? He's gotten them two of the last three weeks, so most likely, yes. And with 20-plus chances, there's always the chance he breaks a long one. But the matchup will make it difficult.

You'd like to start him given his ever-increasing role, but you shouldn't force him into your lineup if you have two (or maybe three) respectable running backs already.


One way or another, Fred Jackson gets his
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:44 am ET) Trailing early Week 16 at Oakland with their playoff hopes on the line, the Bills didn't stick with the running game for long, attempting only three runs in the second half. But in a way, that worked to running back Fred Jackson's advantage. He's such a good pass-catcher out of the backfield that he still topped 100 total yards, doing so for the first time since returning from a groin injury in Week 12.

Even with the return of C.J. Spiller from a long-term shoulder injury, Jackson still led the Bills in carries, but with only six for 10 yards. He also led the team in catches with nine for 93 yards. He had 10 catches just two weeks ago, so clearly, he's a PPR stud.

Is he worth starting in standard leagues as well? Well, he's also gotten 20 carries twice in five games since returning. He hasn't been as effective on the ground as through the air, but yards are yards, however he gets them.

Their matchup Week 17 at New England will probably force the Bills to go pass-heavy again, so unless you're stacked at running back, you can find a spot for Jackson in your lineup.


Desperation fuels Kyle Orton's performance
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:35 am ET) Bills quarterback Kyle Orton didn't have the most efficient day throwing the ball Week 16 at Oakland, but from a Fantasy perspective, it was a productive one. He threw for 329 yards and three touchdowns but also had two interceptions.

What's crazy, though, is that 196 of those yards came in the second half. The Bills were trailing a winnable game with their playoff hopes on the line, and their desperation showed. Unfortunately, that desperation also contributed to the second of Orton's interceptions.

The Bills have been eliminated, so no matter how much they're trailing Week 17 at New England, they probably won't be quite as desperate. You can expect more typical numbers from Orton -- maybe about 250 yards with one or two scores -- even if the matchup appears to be a favorable one, making him a player better left for two-quarterback leagues.


Kenny Britt clearly better with Shaun Hill
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:27 am ET) Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt caught a season-high nine passes on a season-high 11 targets Week 16 against the Giants, but his 103 receiving yards actually weren't a season high.

That's because he had 128, along with a touchdown, Week 11 against the Broncos.

That was Shaun Hill's first game back under center. Week 16, obviously, was his latest one. In the six games since Hill reclaimed the role, Britt has averaged 3.8 catches for 66.3 yards. In the nine games before then, he averaged 2.3 catches for 34.7 yards.

Britt has been especially good lately, averaging 73.3 yards in his last three games. Hill has also been fond of Stedman Bailey, but he doesn't seem to have a clear preference for one or the other.

Of course, the Rams passing attack isn't prolific enough to sustain both, so if you're going to target Britt or Bailey off the waiver wire, make sure it's in a deeper league. You wouldn't want to roll the dice on either in the season's final week if you can help it.


Andre Williams showing more ability
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:19 am ET) Carrying the load for the third straight game with Rashad Jennings sidelined by an ankle injury Week 16 at St. Louis, Giants rookie running back Andre Williams delivered his second 100-yard effort during that stretch, picking up 110 yards on 26 carries. Of course, just like in Week 14, it wasn't the steadiest performance. He had a 50-yard run in that one en route to a career-best 131 yards. He had a 45-yard run en route to his 110 yards in this one.

But that's true for most 100-yard rushing performances. The best backs break long runs occasionally, which makes up for all the 2- and 3-yard gains in between. It's easy to discount Williams' performance because of a long run here or a long run there because he's been so bad on a per-carry basis this season (take that 45-yard run away, and he averaged only 2.6 yards per carry -- oh noes!), but the fact is those long runs count, too. And he barreled over a couple of tacklers to complete it, which was nice to see.

Because Williams is short on receiving ability, his numbers don't look so great when he doesn't break a long run, but with all the carries he's getting now, his chances are better than not of breaking one. He's worth starting in standard leagues Week 17 against Philadelphia.


Rueben Randle not overshadowed for once
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(1:08 am ET) Since the emergence of rookie Odell Beckham in Week 9, and especially since his even bigger emergence in Week 12, wide receiver Rueben Randle has been an afterthought in the Giants passing game, averaging 2.3 catches for 31.8 yards in the four games leading up to Week 16 at St. Louis. But quarterback Eli Manning finally had enough yards to go around in that one, delivering Beckham his usual eight grabs for 148 yards and still finding Randle on six passes for 132 yards.

Randle even caught a touchdown pass, his first since Week 5. Of course, Beckham caught two and is now up to eight in his last five games, averaging 9.6 catches for 131.4 yards during that stretch.

You see the problem here, don't you? Manning was able to sustain both Beckham and Randle in this one, but that's only because he threw for a season-high 391 yards. If he regresses to a more modest total Week 17 against Philadelphia, we all know Randle is the one taking a back seat. Beckham has other-worldly talent, and Manning is smart enough to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

Of course, the Giants will probably have to throw a lot to keep pace with the Eagles, which bodes well for Randle, but you should still treat him as no more than a No. 3 wide receiver in Fantasy.


Odell Beckham making Eli Manning a stud
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(12:58 am ET) Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham had another eight catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns Week 16 at St. Louis, which has become par for the course for him. It was his second straight game and third game in five with more than 140 receiving yards and multiple scores.

What you may not have noticed, though, is that quarterback Eli Manning has taken off during that same stretch. He had a season-high 391 yards and three touchdowns in Week 16, completing 25 of 32 passes. Over his last five games, he has averaged 297.2 yards with 11 touchdowns and two interceptions.

It stands to reason, of course. Beckham couldn't be putting up all those numbers without someone throwing him the ball. This may be one of those rare cases of the wide receiver making the quarterback as opposed to the other way around. Beckham is clearly a special talent, and Manning has made a point to deliver him the ball as often as possible.

It's reason enough to give Manning another chance Week 17 against Philadelphia if you've been suffering with Matthew Stafford or Colin Kaepernick and are somehow still alive in spite of it.


 
 
 
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