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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
Tom Brady on Peyton Manning: 'I certainly hope he comes back'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:21 pm ET) While the football world anxiously awaits official word from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning about his playing status for the 2015 season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady -- and longtime Manning rival -- said Thursday he hopes the five-time NFL MVP will continue his career.

"What a great player he's been for this league," Brady said Thursday, per NFL.com. "He's a great competitor, and I've been fortunate to play against him a bunch of times. I certainly hope he comes back, 'cause the league will miss him if he doesn't. But those decisions are up to him. I'm sure it's up to whether he's mentally and physically -- that's what he wants to do. But I certainly hope he's back."

Archie Manning, Peyton's father, told NFL Network on Thursday that his son hasn't made a decision yet.

"Well, Peyton evaluates things; he's pretty good at that," he said. "I can't tell him what to do, and he hasn't told me what he's going to do. But I do know that he's really giving a lot of things a lot of thought. He's thinking about where he is physically, he wants to see how he can do this some more, trying to get over an injury."

Archie added starting over with new Broncos coach Gary Kubiak will not be an issue for Peyton, if he decides to return next season.

"Yeah, but he loves Gary. He likes Gary," Archie Manning said. "He liked John Fox. He liked Adam Gase. All those things, I think, are considered with. But my deal is he's always made good decisions; he's pretty thorough. He's going to evaluate a lot of things, and I think he'll make a good decision."


RG3: 'I could've sat out the rest of last year' after hurting ankle
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:04 pm ET) During a radio interview Wednesday night, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III indicated the dislocated ankle he suffered in Week 2 against the Jaguars hindered him the rest of the season. He missed six games due to the injury.

“I had never suffered an ankle injury of that severity before, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Griffin said, per The Washington Times. “It just became more and more tough the more games that we lost, because you know how hard your guys work, and you want to get out there and help them win games.

“I could’ve sat out the rest of last year, with how bad the ankle was, but I felt like I could play, and I wanted to get out there and play with my guys and help them win games. And that didn’t happen when I got back out there. Then coach made a decision [to bench me]. That was an unfortunate decision, and something we all had to go with because that was coach’s choice.”

Griffin will be entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2015. The Redskins have until May 3 to decide if they want to exercise the fifth-year option on his contract for 2016. 

Griffin added his focus this offseason will simply be on getting healthy.

“Last year, I wasn’t healthy, and it sucked,” Griffin told ESPN 980. “There’s no other way to say it other than that. When you dislocate your ankle in the second week of the season, when you and your team had big things in mind. So I guess it’s just getting healthy, getting a mental break, getting a chance to spend time with family, and then formulate my plan going forward from this year so we can go out there and win games.”


DeMarco on free agency: 'At end of day it's about winning a Super Bowl'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:21 am ET) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray was on The Dan Patrick Show on Thursday talking about his thought process heading into free agency. Murray obviously said all the right things about wanting to return to Dallas, and hoping the team can sign him and Dez Bryant, who will also be a free agent, to long-term contracts.

However, Murray was also very forthcoming about the notion of playing for another NFL team.

“Yeah. I understand the business aspect of it,” he said, per The Dallas Morning News. “There’s no hard feelings if we can’t reach a deal together. But hopefully we can and we’ll see what happens.”

Murray, who rushed for a career-best 1,845 yards in 2014, will likely sign the most-lucrative contract of his career this offseason. But he added money won't be the only factor in who he signs with.

“I don’t think about [the one big contract], I’m thinking about winning a Super Bowl,” Murray said. “What’s best for me to win a Super Bowl and win one now. At the end of the day, the money is irrelevant to some degree. But you definitely want to get what you’re worth and things like that.

“At the end of the day it’s about winning a Super Bowl.”


Patriots QB Tom Brady expects to be 100 percent by Super Bowl
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:32 am ET) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has been dealing with a cold for about a week, said Thursday he is feeling "pretty good." Brady is still expecting to be OK for the Super Bowl.

"I've been through it plenty of times," Brady said of having a cold, per NFL Network. "But I'm glad it happened early in the week. I expect to be 100 percent by Sunday."

Brady is 3-2 in five Super Bowl appearances. He has completed 127 of 197 passes for 1,277 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. He also has a 93.8 quarterback rating and hasn't had lower than a 86.2 quarterback rating in five Super Bowl starts.

As of Thursday, the Patriots remain 1-point favorites for Sunday's game against the Seahawks.


Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell on injury: 'The knee is close to 100 percent'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:21 am ET) Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell missed Pittsburgh's playoff game against the Ravens and the Pro Bowl because he suffered a hyperextended knee in the regular-season finale against the Bengals in late December.

It's been about a month since Bell suffered the injury, but he said he has been able to work out on the injured knee.

"The knee is close to 100 percent," Bell told NFL Network on Wednesday night. "I'm probably about 85-90 percent, been able to run on it a little bit. So I'm getting back to work out a little."

Bell had a monster year in 2014, rushing for a career-best 1,361 yards. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry. He also had 83 catches for 854 yards and finished with 11 total touchdowns (eight rushing).


RG3 on Deflategate: 'I didn't know the ball had to be a certain weight'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(9:55 am ET) As Deflategate pushes into Day 11 on Thursday, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III is the latest in the long list of current or former professional football players to weigh in on underinflated footballs being used in the AFC Champhionship Game. Although, his take on the issue might be a first.

“I didn't even know that the ball had to be a certain weight,” Griffin told Chris Russell in an interview on ESPN 980 on Wednesday night, per CSNWashington.com. “I know they pump up the balls and they get inspected before every game. But I wasn't aware that the ball had to be at a certain limit, or higher, which is interesting. I think it’s very interesting.”

While Griffin said he was unaware of the rules, he added he does pay attention to how he can grip the football before each game. If the football doesn't meet Griffin's standards, he said he tosses it aside.

“I think it could be something that we look at going into the future about how much we pump up the ball,” Griffin said. “But at the same time, for me, going this far in my career, all we worry about is, can we grip the ball? Not how much air is in it.

“I just think it's really funny,” Griffin added with a chuckle, “especially when you don't specify that you're talking about footballs. …I think I said balls seven times already.”

Check out video of CBSSports.com's Dave Richard and Brady Quinn talking about Griffin's comments on Deflategate.


Pats QB Tom Brady fighting a cold
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who's been battling a cold for nearly a week, said he expects to be fine for Super Bowl 49 on Sunday. Brady sniffled often during his news conference Wednesday.

The Patriots are 1-point favorites over Seattle after opening as 2.5-point underdogs.


Raiders not expected to re-sign RB Darren McFadden
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) With expectations sky-high for Latavius Murray in 2015, the Raiders aren't expected to re-sign impending free agent running back Darren McFadden, reports CSNBayArea.com. McFadden, 27, averaged 3.4 yards per carry this season and has not had a good year since 2011.

Oakland also is expected to part ways with 29-year-oold running back Maurice Jones-Drew, saving the team $2.5 million.

Murray, 25, averaged 5.2 yards on his 82 carries and will enter next season as the starter.


Bengals could bring back TE Jermaine Gresham
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham is headed for unrestricted free agency after five years with Cincinnati. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson indicated the team has not moved on from Gresham.

"To me, there's a place for him," Jackson said, via ESPN.com. "But again, he's free, so that's going to work itself out for him however it works itself out."

Gresham caught 62 passes for 460 yards and five touchdowns, but he fumbled three times and missed two key late-season games with injuries.


Report: Warrant issued for Ravens S Will Hill
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(1/28/2015) New Jersey law-enforcement officials confirmed there is an active warrant out for Ravens safety Will Hill, for failure to pay child support, reports the Baltimore Sun. The amount owed is $16,588, the report said.

Hill played in 10 games this season, making 41 tackles and returning an interception for a touchdown.


 
 
 
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