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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
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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