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Fantasy & Reality: Names to know for Week 16

Senior Fantasy Writer
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Once upon a time -- 2010 -- I made my 14-team PPR league finals with Kerry Collins as my quarterback.

I can't say exactly how I got so lucky to somehow make my finals in spite of this, but it ultimately came down to a loaded roster other than at quarterback. I drafted Joe Flacco, traded him for Austin Collie, had Jay Cutler on my roster, dumped him for Jon Kitna after Tony Romo got hurt that year, rode him and the Lions backups (Matthew Stafford also got hurt) and then decided that Collins, who piloted the Titans, was my guy.

That is until Week 16, when he played at the Chiefs. Tennessee was going nowhere, Kansas City was playoff bound. The Chiefs defense was solid and the matchup suggested a rough week for Collins.

In the same week, the Broncos were to host the Texans, whose pass defense was dicey. Quarterbacking the Broncos was a rookie named Tim Tebow. Ever hear of him? A week earlier at Oakland he completed just half of his 16 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown but also ran for 78 yards and a touchdown. He wasn't anything special as a quarterback but the Texans were nothing special as a defense, plus he would run. And he was on waivers.

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Facing one of the perennial contenders in the league for the title, I decided to take a calculated risk and played the matchup. Tebow threw for 308 yards, the only 300-plus-yard game of his career, ran for 27 yards, totaled two scores and had a turnover. Collins also had two touchdowns but also two turnovers and threw for just 235 yards. Tebow outscored Collins by seven -- I won my league title by five points. I've since put Tebow on my bench for every title game since, including the one I'm in this week, if only for good luck.

My story is a reminder that playing the matchups is still vital. You won't ever bench a proven talent unless you have another proven talent to take his place. And you'll never start a good-but-not-great player in a very tough matchup. But it's those players in the middle that you'll struggle with. And with that in mind, I've dug up some players who aren't exactly studs but are looking at some juicy matchups in Week 16. They should be considered for your lineup.

Kirk Cousins, QB, Redskins (vs. DAL): Cousins took advantage of a favorable matchup last week, throwing for 381 yards and three touchdowns despite three turnovers. I liked how he played in the fourth quarter, completing 13 of 17 passes for 126 yards, a score and a pick after stinking in the third quarter. He played mostly well when under pressure, was willing to throw deep and while on the run and made very good throws on his first two touchdowns. If Cousins had a game against a tough defense then I'd stray from him, but the Cowboys just got done making Matt Flynn look like Aaron Rodgers. If Flynn could withstand the Cowboys pass rush then Cousins should be able to as well. Dallas ranks dead last in Fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks and has allowed three four-touchdown games in their last five with an average of nearly 300 passing yards given up per game.
Early week projection: 333 pass yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions (21 Fantasy points)
Worth starting over: Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson

Chris Ivory, RB, Jets (vs. CLE): Ivory is owned in most leagues but could go from the bench to the starting lineup quickly. Without question he's the Jets' best answer at running back -- he barely leads the team in carries but has more than 100 rush yards than anyone else on the team. He's also scored in two of his last three home games. But the matchup is the real reason for putting him in a prominent roster spot as the Browns have allowed a rushing score in each of their last two games along with a rush average of 4.9 yards per carry over their last three games. When the Browns lost defensive tackle Desmond Bryant for the season three weeks ago their defensive line became a lot more vulnerable and as a result, teams have had an easier time running on them. I'd expect the Jets to do what they can to protect their young quarterback and give Ivory a lot of work -- every time this season he's had at least 15 carries he's turned in at least 10 Fantasy points.
Early week projection: 71 rush yards, one touchdown (13 Fantasy points)
Worth starting over: Fred Jackson, Bobby Rainey, C.J. Spiller, Ben Tate

Jordan Todman, RB, Jaguars (vs. TEN): Todman is another poster boy for when opportunity meets a good matchup. There isn't a worse defense at stopping the run than the Titans and Todman could be in a position to exploit it. A lot of teams might allow one rushing touchdown a week. Tennessee has allowed two or more scores per week to a running back in seven of their last nine games! Week 12 was the last time they didn't allow a running back to run for a touchdown against them (but one caught a touchdown) and Week 4 was the last time they didn't allow any running back to score on them at all. It all depends on Maurice Jones-Drew's status: If he's in then Todman is out, but if MJD is out then Todman should rack up the numbers.
Early week projection: 78 rush yards, 29 receiving yards, one touchdown (12 Fantasy points)
Worth starting over: Chris Johnson, Ray Rice, Pierre Thomas, DeAngelo Williams

Greg Jennings, WR, Vikings (at CIN): It took the improbable situation of Matt Cassel leading the Vikings offense and the Bengals defensive secondary losing bodies to turn Jennings from an over-the-hill receiver to a guy you'd actually want to use as a PPR flex or No. 3 wideout. There's no denying the production Jennings has had with Cassel under center: Over five games where Cassel attempted even one pass toward Jennings the two have combined for 31 completions on 44 targets for 416 yards and all four of Jennings' touchdowns. Without Cassel, Jennings has 50 targets for 28 catches, 317 yards and no scores. This duo will catch the Bengals defense down two starting cornerbacks. I suspect the Vikings won't play much with the lead which means we'll see a lot of passing. Jennings has at least 10 targets in each of his last three of Cassel's starts.
Early week projection: Seven catches, 90 receiving yards (9 Fantasy points)
Worth starting over: Anquan Boldin, Riley Cooper, Michael Floyd, T.Y. Hilton

Delanie Walker, TE, Titans (at JAC): Just how big of a weapon has Walker been with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center? He's scored in three of the four games he's finished, getting at least eight targets in each of them. His weekly involvement might negate any challenge a matchup gives him, but in the case of Week 16 it sure doesn't hurt. Jacksonville has allowed nine touchdowns to tight ends on the year and is most definitely weaker against the pass than the run.
Early week projection: Five catches, 48 receiving yards, one touchdown (10 Fantasy points)
Worth starting over: Jordan Cameron, Tony Gonzalez, Dennis Pitta

Fantasy & Reality

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

Fantasy: I'm done overanalyzing Tom Brady. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Last week I used this space to make an argument to sit Brady in place of a number of other passers. While many of the suggestions I made ended up as good or better than Brady, it wasn't like he was awful, throwing for 364 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. I said it would take the rest of the Patriots offense to step up and make Brady a hero and they did. The guy's a winner and a heck of a passer, so it would have to take a convincing and simple argument for anyone to confidently call him a sit.

Maybe something like this: The Ravens have held him under 20 Fantasy points in each of their last five games against him, including three playoff meetings.

Reality: Don't be scared of Matthew Stafford. The Lions look ugly following two losses but some circumstances have left Stafford looking worse than he actually is. Two weeks ago he played in a blizzard and couldn't do much right, completing 10 of 25 passes. Last week he was plagued by drops (three by Calvin Johnson!) and only came up with a late touchdown versus three interceptions while throwing 34 times (18 completions). But no one with the Lions is discouraged -- even coach Jim Schwartz said Stafford needs to "keep on throwing." They'll play the Giants this week, a defense that has allowed 21 passing touchdowns on the year. Perfect timing for the struggling Stafford.

Fantasy: Aaron Rodgers won't help Fantasy owners this year. You have to think that if Rodgers is anywhere close to being ready to play that he will give it a go now that the Packers can make a run at the NFC North. With two wins they'll clinch a playoff spot and a home game, pretty remarkable considering where they were a couple of weeks ago. The Steelers have allowed five passing touchdowns and an average of 215.0 passing yards over their last two to quarterbacks, enough evidence to suggest Rodgers will have a solid game if he indeed plays. And if he gets Randall Cobb back as well then it could be time for a major Packers run for Fantasy owners.

Reality: Handcuffing pays off. Matt Asiata and Jordan Todman were Fantasy heroes in Week 15 filling in for Adrian Peterson/Toby Gerhart and Maurice Jones-Drew, respectively. Edwin Baker would have been another one had we been privy to Cleveland's plan to let him be their "primary" running back (he had eight carries but did well with them). It's yet another reminder of why handcuffing your top running backs is vital. File it away for 2014 since you won't need your starters' backups any longer if your league's title game is in Week 16.

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
Browns list 10 players on final injury report for Week 9
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:32 pm ET) The Browns listed 10 players on its final injury report leading up to Week 9 against Tampa Bay. Jordan Cameron (concussion) and Phillip Taylor (knee) were the only two players ruled out for Sunday. Rodney Smith is the only questionable on the list.

Meanwhile, Desmond Bryant (wrist), Jim Leonard (hamstring), Barkevious Mingo (shoulder), Ahtyba Rubin (ankle), Joe Thomas (rest), K'Waun Williams (shoulder, neck) and Billy Winn (quad) were all labeled probable.


Texans rookie LB Clowney in danger of missing Week 9
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:25 pm ET) Texans coach Bill O'Brien didn't sound optimistic about linebacker Jadeveon Clowney's status for Week 9 against the Eagles, according to the team's official website. O'Brien told reporters that the team will continue to evaluate the rookie and reiterated that at the moment his status "doesn't look very good" for Sunday.

Clowney played Week 8 for the first time since injuring a knee Week 1. He had one tackle in the Texans' 30-16 win at Tennessee.


Chiefs S Eric Berry will return Week 9 vs. Jets
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:14 pm ET) Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters that safety Eric Berry will play Week 9 against the Jets, according to the team's official website. It'll be Berry's first game action since suffering a high ankle sprain against Denver in Week 2. Reid wouldn't specify Berry's role for Sunday, so it remains if he'll be eased back into action.

Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman expected to play Week 9
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:09 pm ET) Broncos coach John Fox told reporters that running back Ronnie Hillman was a full participant in practice Friday and is expected to play Week 9 against the Patriots, according to the Denver Post.

Hillman is expected to take his usual workload and will be seeking his third straight 100-yard game at Foxboro. He has 283 yards on the ground over his first three games since taking over for an injured Montee Ball.


Chargers safety Addae still not cleared after concussion
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(2:02 pm ET) Chargers safety Jahleel Addae has yet to be medically cleared from a concussion. He was unable to practice on Friday and is not expected to play Sunday afternoon against the Dolphins, according to U-T San Diego.

Addae sustained the injury Week 8 against the Broncos on Oct. 23. He has 23 combined tackles and one sack on the season.


Bengals rule WR A.J. Green questionable for Week 9
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:50 pm ET) Bengals wideout A.J. Green was officially labeled questionable for Sunday's clash at home against the Jaguars, according to the team's official website. Green was able to practice the entire week on a limited basis and if he experiences no setbacks leading up to the game, he'll play Week 9.

Green has been on the shelf since Week 5 because of a nagging toe injury. He has 17 catches for 314 yards and two touchdowns on the season.


Bengals RB Giovani Bernard officially ruled out for Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:45 pm ET) Bengals running back Giovani Bernard has been ruled out for Sunday against the Jaguars in Week 9 with a hip pointer, per the team's official website. Bernard wasn't able to practice all week after sustaining the injury in Week 8. Jeremy Hill is expected to start in his place.

His next chance to return will come Thursday night against the Browns in Week 10.


Eagles quite healthy heading into Week 9 game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:38 pm ET) Wide receiver Brad Smith (groin) and safety Nate Allen (hamstring) are the lone Eagles deemed questionable for the Sunday game in Houston. Both practiced in full Friday.

All the others on their injury report are probable. They are cornerback Brandon Boykin (hamstring), tight end Brent Celek (back), offensive linemen Todd Herremans (biceps) and Jason Kelce (hernia), linebackers Mychal Kendricks (calf) and DeMeco Ryans (groin), wide receiver Jeff Maehl (foot), running back Darren Sproles (knee) and cornerback Jaylen Watkins (wrist).


Steelers head into Week 9 relatively healthy
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:20 pm ET) The Steelers listed 10 players on their final injury report leading up to Week 9 against the Ravens.
Ike Taylor (forearm) and Ross Ventrone (hamstring) were both ruled out.

Marcus Gilbert (concussion), Mike Mitchell (groin), Ryan Shazier (knee), Matt Spaeth (hamstring), Shamarko Thomas (hamstring), Brett Keisel (rest), Heath Miller (rest) and Troy Polamalu (rest) were all deemed probable for Sunday.


Patriots sign LB Deontae Skinner, release WR Jonathan Krause
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:14 pm ET) The Patriots made a pair of roster moves on Friday leading up to Week 9 against Denver, the Boston Globe reports. The team signed linebacker Deontae Skinner from the practice squad and released rookie wide receiver Jonathan Krause to clear roster space.

 
 
 
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