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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
Report: Wide receiver Ted Ginn to visit with 49ers Wednesday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:15 pm ET) Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. is reportedly scheduled to visit with the 49ers Wednesday, according to ESPN. Ginn, who was released by the Cardinals last month, reportedly visited with the Titans as well Tuesday.

Ginn Jr. caught 14 passes in 2014 for 190 yards. He was a member of the 49ers from 2010-2012, where he totaled 33 catches for 384 yards and one touchdown. He also averaged 23.5 yards per return in those three seasons.


Report: Kendall Langford visiting Jets, Saints
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(10:01 pm ET) Free agent DT Kendall Langford finished his visit with the Lions. The Jets and Saints are the next two scheduled stops on his tour, according to ESPN's Nick Wagoner

Langford was released by the Rams last week. 


C.J. Spiller: 'I won't be returning to Buffalo'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:58 pm ET) Impending free-agent running back C.J. Spiller said Tuesday that he will not return to the Bills, who reportedly have a deal in place to acquire Eagles running back LeSean McCoy, the NFL Network reports.

"I won't be returning to Buffalo," Spiller said.

Spiller indicated in February in an interview on Sirius XM radio that he wanted to remain in Buffalo but that his fate was up to the team. He played in just nine games in 2014 due to a stint on injured reserve caused by a shoulder injury. Spiller finished with 300 yards on 78 carries and 125 yards on 19 receptions, scoring just one touchdown.


Bills to trade Kiko Alonso to Eagles for LeSean McCoy
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:50 pm ET) The Bills intend to trade linebacker Kiko Alonso to the Eagles for running back LeSean McCoy, CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora confirms. ESPN first reported the news of the trade, which will be a one-for-one deal.

The trade will become official next week, but the Bills have notified Alonso, who was looking to leave Buffalo, that he will be dealt.

Alonso had 159 tackles for the Bills in 2013 but missed all of last season after undergoing successful surgery to repair a torn ACL in July. He said in late February that he expected to be 100 percent before the beginning of camp. The trade reunites Alonso with Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who was his coach at Oregon.

La Canfora added that McCoy may not be pleased with the deal. The Eagles are looking to clear cap space, possibly for a draft day trade for a quarterback. Kelly was reportedly not a fan of McCoy's contract. The running back has a $10.25-million cap hit for 2015.

McCoy has delivered four 1,000-yard rushing seasons in the last five years, most recently rushing for 1,319 yards and five touchdowns in 2014. The Bills have had just one player top 1,000 yards rushing in the last five years.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Titans claim Jonathan Massaquoi off waivers, cut Bernard Pollard
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:45 pm ET) The Titans have claimed free agent linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi off waivers and released safety Bernard Pollard, the team announced Tuesday.

Massaquoi totaled 22 tackles and two sacks in 15 games for the Falcons in 2014. Pollard was expected to be cut by the team after requesting his release earlier in the week. He suffered an Achilles tear in October, limiting him to just five games in 2014.


Report: Eagles plan to release defensive end Trent Cole
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:40 pm ET) The Eagles are planning to release long-time defensive end Trent Cole within the next 24 hours, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan. 

Cole, who has played his entire 10-year career in the league with Philadelphia, was reportedly attempting to re-negotiate his contract to remain with the team. Cole was set to make $11.6 million in base salary and would save the Eagles $8.4 million in cap room.

Cole totaled 52 tackles in 2014 with 6 1/2 sacks. In his 10 years, Cole amassed 85 1/2 sacks.


Raiders release longtime safety Tyvon Branch
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) The Raiders made it official, announcing the release of safety Tyvon Branch. The 28-year-old played seven seasons with Oakland and registered more than 100 tackles three times.

Injuries limited Branch to five games over the past two seasons.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: Greg Hardy to meet with NFL brass Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:08 pm ET) Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy is scheduled to meet with NFL officials in New York on Wednesday about domestic violence charges against him that were dropped, a league source told the Charlotte Observer. Misdemeanor charges against Hardy were dismissed when prosecutors could not locate Hardy's accuser to testify against him in a jury trial, the paper said.

Hardy will become a free agent March 10, and potential suitors "will want to know if and for how long Hardy will be suspended," the report said.

Hardy had 26 sacks in 2012-13 before playing in one game last season. The NFL put him on the Commissioner's Exempt List after Hardy was found guilty by a judge last summer of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: DeMarco Murray may give Cowboys a hometown discount
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4:55 pm ET) Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray will hit the free agent market on March 10. ESPN's Ed Werder reported that Murray wants to return to the Cowboys, and he's willing to re-sign if they come close to what other teams offer. 

Murray made $1.4 million last season and rushed for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Vikes' Tom Johnson, Joe Berger seeking big raises
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:32 pm ET) Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson and guard Joe Berger are looking for significant raises after playing last season on one-year minimum deals, reports the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Johnson ranked second on the team with 6.5 sacks. Berger began the year as a backup and ended up starting nine games. Both are headed for unrestricted free agency.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


 
 
 
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