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Instant reactions from Week 16

Senior Fantasy Writer
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In case there was any doubt, Peyton Manning won the Fantasy MVP with his performance Sunday. He helped many owners win a championship with his record-setting outing at Houston.

By comparison, Drew Brees might have lost the championship for Fantasy owners with his poor showing at Carolina. More on him later.

Manning set the NFL single-season record against the Texans with 51 touchdowns, which broke Tom Brady's record set in 2007. Manning was 32 of 51 passing for 400 yards and four touchdowns, connecting with Eric Decker for two scores, Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas. Julius Thomas caught the historic touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Manning has the chance to add to his totals in Week 17 at Oakland since the Broncos are still chasing the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC. That's great for Fantasy owners who still play into the final week of the season and own all the prominent Broncos.

As for Brees, he struggled outdoors again, which was disappointing. He was 30 of 44 passing for 281 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions against the Panthers in a rain-soaked game. This is now three games this season with 15 Fantasy points or less outdoors, and it could be trouble for Brees and the Saints heading into the playoffs if they don't end up winning the NFC South and have to travel in the first round to an outdoor venue.

The good news for Fantasy owners in Week 17 is Brees and the Saints will likely be playing all their regulars against Tampa Bay -- at home. He'll bounce back and end his season on a high note.

In terms of teams resting players next week, the only playoff team you have to worry about is Kansas City since the Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 seed in the AFC. That impacts Jamaal Charles, so keep an eye on Knile Davis on waivers if you play in Week 17.

Injuries of note: Shane Vereen (groin), Tony Romo (back), Emmanuel Sanders (knee), Steve Smith (knee), Eddie Lacy (ankle), Andre Brown (concussion)

Vereen left the game at Baltimore in the first quarter, and hopefully he'll be OK for Week 17 against Buffalo. Prior to leaving, Vereen had two carries for 6 yards and one catch for 4 yards and a touchdown. He was potentially on his way to a big game.

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Romo finished the game against the Redskins and led the Cowboys to a game-winning touchdown to DeMarco Murray in the fourth quarter. He was 17 of 27 passing for 226 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. But he's scheduled for an MRI on Monday for his back, although it's not believed to be serious. He's expected to play in Week 17 against Philadelphia.

Sanders injured his knee at Green Bay, but first he caught two passes for 7 yards and a touchdown. If he's able to play in Week 17 against Cleveland then consider him a No. 3 Fantasy receiver at best.

Smith said he felt something pop in his knee after he left the game against New Orleans in the first half. He finished the game with one catch for 44 yards. If he's able to play in Week 17 against Atlanta he would be just a No. 3 Fantasy receiver.

We hope Lacy is OK for Week 17 against Chicago because that's a dream matchup against the Bears. Lacy did well against the Steelers in Week 16 before leaving with 15 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns and two catches for 6 yards. If Lacy is out, James Starks should be added in all leagues against the Bears.

Brown suffered the concussion in overtime at Detroit, and you have to be concerned about his status for Week 17 in a meaningless game against the Redskins. We'll see what the Giants do at running back against Washington, but Michael Cox could be forced into a featured role. Brown struggled against the Lions as expected, finishing with 16 carries for 40 yards and two catches for 14 yards.

Fred Jackson good, C.J. Spiller just average: It's fitting that Jackson was the better running back for Fantasy owners in the championship week against Miami than Spiller, because it's been that way all season. Jackson was a great surprise this year, and Spiller was arguably the biggest bust.

Jackson finished with 19 carries for 111 yards and a touchdown and two catches for 7 yards against the Dolphins. Spiller, meanwhile, had 20 carries for 77 yards and three catches for 26 yards.

We'll see how each one does in Week 17 against the Patriots, but hopefully Jackson isn't with the Bills in 2014 when it comes to Spiller's Fantasy value. If Jackson is gone, Spiller has a chance to be special, but if Jackson is back then his upside will again be limited. Stay tuned this offseason.

Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson crush Fantasy dreams: Stafford and Johnson were terrible for the past three games, which ruined many Fantasy seasons. They were awful in Week 16 against the Giants.

Stafford was 25 of 42 passing for 222 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions, and Johnson had three catches for 43 yards on four targets. There was a report Sunday morning that Johnson could miss the game, but he played and was disappointing. Stafford now has 21 Fantasy points combined in his past three games against Philadelphia, Baltimore and the Giants. And Johnson had 18 Fantasy points in his past three.

Also leaving Fantasy owners in a lurch against the Giants was Reggie Bush, who was benched after he fumbled and finished with 12 carries for 34 yards and two catches for 10 yards. He was replaced by Joique Bell, who had 20 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown and 10 catches for 63 yards. If you play in Week 17, you should probably consider starting Bell over Bush at Minnesota.

Kirk Cousins helps Pierre Garcon shine: Garcon might have had big games the past two weeks against Atlanta and Dallas given the deficiencies of those two defenses, but he's dominated with Cousins under center. He had 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown Sunday against the Cowboys, one week after catching seven passes for 129 yards and a touchdown against the Falcons.

What changed for Garcon? Not much. The targets were up against Dallas with 18, which is a season high. But his 11 targets against Atlanta were on par with the rest of the season since he had 11 or more targets nine times in his first 13 games.

You can argue Cousins gave Garcon more chances to make plays down the field, which is fair, but I expect Garcon to be dominant next season as well when Robert Griffin III regains his starting job. I look at Garcon as a Top 15 Fantasy receiver with the chance to be a Top 10 option. He's that good, and we hope these past two games are proof of that.

Cordarrelle Patterson establishing himself: Patterson had another big game Sunday at Cincinnati and extended his scoring streak to four games in a row. He had three carries for 54 yards and a touchdown, three catches for 8 yards and four kickoff returns for 143 yards. We hope he can carry this momentum into 2014 when he could be a viable Fantasy option in all formats, especially if the Vikings upgrade at quarterback.

In the past four weeks, Patterson has two rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns and continues to develop his skills. He's going to be a potential breakout candidate next season.

One downside for the Vikings as far as Fantasy owners are concerned was the play of Adrian Peterson. He returned after missing Week 15 with a foot injury and struggled with 11 carries for 45 yards and one catch for 2 yards. He has a tough matchup in Week 17 against the Lions, but we expect him to finish strong as long as he's healthy.

Andy Dalton heating up again: The Bengals dominated at home Sunday against the Vikings, and Dalton led the way. He was 27 of 38 passing for 366 yards and four touchdowns and one carry for 10 yards.

Dalton has been good at home of late with at least 36 Fantasy points against the Colts in Week 14 and now the Vikings. He also has at least 36 points in three of his past four home games.

We know when Dalton gets hot he can be among the best Fantasy quarterbacks, and with the way he's playing at home he should be started in Week 17 against the Ravens. He had 18 points at Baltimore in Week 10.

Fun with rookie running backs: There were three rookie running backs who might have been key contributors to Fantasy championships Sunday. Lacy and Le'Veon Bell were great head-to-head in Green Bay, and Zac Stacy was fantastic against the Buccaneers.

Lacy had 20 Fantasy points before getting hurt, and Bell wasn't far behind with 26 carries for 124 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 5 yards, which was 16 points. Stacy faced a tough matchup against Tampa Bay, but he still managed 33 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown and one catch for 5 yards, which is 14 Fantasy points.

It wasn't all great as the fourth member of this rookie group, Giovani Bernard, finished with just 13 carries for 20 yards and two catches for 47 yards against Minnesota. But all four of these running backs have established themselves as elite Fantasy options heading into 2014, especially if the Bengals part ways with BenJarvus Green-Ellis to help Bernard.

Also, Andre Ellington only had six Fantasy points at Seattle with 15 carries for 64 yards and two catches for 8 yards. He has played well at times this season, but Rashard Mendenhall has limited his upside. If Mendenhall is gone next season, Ellington could be a star and is one of my breakout candidates heading into 2014.

Waiver Wire preview: Here is a preview of the players we will highlight in Playing the Waiver Wire on Tuesday.

Quarterback: Kirk Cousins, Redskins (42 percent)

Running backs: James Starks, Packers (48 percent), Dennis Johnson, Texans (37 percent), LeGarrette Blount, Patriots (32 percent), Shonn Greene, Titans (21 percent), Knile Davis, Chiefs (18 percent), Edwin Baker, Browns (3 percent), Michael Cox, Giants (1 percent), Deji Karim, Texans (0 percent)

Wide receivers: Jarrett Boykin, Packers (82 percent), Terrance Williams, Cowboys (68 percent), Marvin Jones, Bengals (67 percent), Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings (43 percent), Nate Washington, Titans (39 percent), Mike Brown, Jaguars (9 percent), Mohamed Sanu, Bengals (8 percent), David Nelson, Jets (1 percent), Jerrel Jernigan, Giants (0 percent), Stedman Bailey, Rams (0 percent)

Tight ends: Zach Miller, Seahawks (25 percent), Brent Celek, Eagles (22 percent), Jermaine Gresham, Bengals (18 percent), Joseph Fauria, Lions (14 percent), Marcedes Lewis, Jaguars (9 percent), Ryan Griffin, Texans (3 percent)

Start 'Em/Sit 'Em star: Ryan Mathews was spotted in a walking boot after Sunday's game against Oakland because of an injured ankle, but he's expected to play in Week 17 against Kansas City. Mathews was great as our Start of the Week with 25 carries for 99 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 20 yards. As long as he's healthy, start him in all leagues against the Chiefs.

Start 'Em/Sit 'Em flop: Arguably the biggest win in Week 16 belongs to the Cardinals for going into Seattle and beating the Seahawks to keep their playoff hopes alive. Part of the reason for their success was containing Russell Wilson, who was 11 of 27 passing for 108 yards, one touchdown and one interception and just two carries for 32 yards. Wilson now has three games in a row of 17 Fantasy points or less, which hurt a lot of Fantasy owners down the stretch.

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
Malcolm Jenkins: Eagles players not surprised by McCoy trade
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:12 am ET) While most folks were shocked when the news broke in early March the Eagles were trading running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills, apparently McCoy's Philadelphia teammates were not

Safety Malcolm Jenkins told NFL Network on Wednesday it was not surprising when it was announced McCoy was being traded for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

"In the locker room a lot of guys weren't surprised by the trade, what we were more surprised of was that it was just a player-for-player trade," Jenkins said. "I think everybody thought we would have gotten more -- Kiko, plus a couple draft picks, you know, somebody else...

"You look at the style of runner that Chip wants in his offense and even though Shady is one of the best backs in the league, he's not necessarily what Chip is looking for all the time. Chip thinks he's a great running back, he knows his talent is there, but our (system) is really predicated on downhill, somebody who is going to hit the hole every time. It's about getting up in the defenders face as fast as you can and that's not necessarily Shady's running style."

The Eagles replaced McCoy's absence in the backfield by signing former Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 1,845 yards in 2014, and former Chargers running back Ryan Mathews.

"When you talk about what you can get for -- if you are looking to acquire more talent -- I just think Shady's cap number and what we were able to get in return for Shady, I think made sense," Jenkins said. "And some guys in the locker room who kind of know what's going on weren't surprised by it."


Joe Lombardi: Lions excited to see what Broyles does in offseason
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:57 am ET) The Lions are not yet giving up on wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who has been hampered in his career by knee and Achilles injuries. 

“I think he’s a guy you have a lot of respect for because he’s had three major injuries and fought his way back,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said Tuesday, per The Oakland Press. “When he’s been in there he’s been productive. We’re excited to see where he is now after a full season of not coming back from an injury. He’s had a full year to be healthy we’re excited to see what he does in the offseasaon.’’


Michael Thomas signs tender with Dolphins
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:54 am ET) Michael Thomas, an exclusive rights free agent, formally signed his one-year tender with the Dolphins on Wednesday morning, reports Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. The 24-year-old played in eight games last season, making 18 tackles, until landing on IR with a chest injury.

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


Report: Rolando McClain agrees to one-year, $3M deal with Cowboys
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) The Cowboys have reached an agreement with linebacker Rolando McClain on a one-year deal, a source told The Dallas Morning News. McClain's deal will pay him $3 million in base salary and potentially another $1 million in incentives.

McClain made his return to the NFL in 2014 after twice retiring. The former first-round pick thrived in his first season with Dallas, totaling 81 tackles (65 solo), one sack and two interceptions in 13 games. 

Although, he did have some injury issues last season. Knee and groin injuries, as well as an illness forced McClain to miss three regular season games. He was then limited in the playoffs due to a concussion.

McClain remained a sought-after free agent this offseason despite reports he is facing a four-game fine for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Also, an arson investigation into a fire that destroyed his Alabama home in December remains open but inactive.


Texans' O'Brien: WR DeAndre Hopkins can 'be one of the best'
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) Texans head coach Bill O'Brien is very encouraged by the performance of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins last season, per ESPN. O'Brien went as far as to say that Hopkins can be one of the best.

"He had a really productive year," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said. "The thing that we really like about Hop and that we want him to continue to do is his work ethic. He’s a hungry player. He works every single day. He came into the spring a year ago and he was learning the offense and thinking out there, then all of a sudden you could see all the work he put in and learning, he just took off."

Due to the departure of wide receiver Andre Johnson, the progression of Hopkins will be under the microscope as he is now the focal point of the passing offense.

"We just want to see him continue and progress," O'Brien said. "We think he can be one of the best, we think he is one of the best. We have a lot of confidence in him and we’re looking forward to seeing him progress when the offseason program starts."

In two years with the Texans, Hopkins has reeled in 128 receptions for 2012 yards and eight touchdowns.


Giants won't rush WR Victor Cruz back to the field
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(12:12 am ET) Although Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is hopeful that wide receiver Victor Cruz will be ready by training camp, the team will not rush him back, reports ESPN.

"I shouldn't say this, because medically I really don't have a definite answer, but by training camp hopefully, even if it's just to bring him," Coughlin said. "We're not going to just throw him to the wind. He'll work his way through. But I hope that would be the target."

Cruz tore his patellar tendon in week six of the 2014 season, causing him to miss the rest of the year. Coughlin is hopeful that he'll return to be the player that he was before the injury.

"I think he'll be the player that he was, and hopefully better," Coughlin said of Cruz. "But as far as when, I would be careful of what I would say there. Hopefully it's the first game. But if it isn't, you know we've done that one before. We just went through it. But I'm hoping it would be."

The former undrafted free agent has tallied 264 receptions for 3,963 yards and 24 touchdowns.


Lions QB Matthew Stafford to take more chances through the air
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was in new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's system for the first time last season. The team plans on taking more chances down the field in Stafford's second season in the new offense, Lombardi said, according to the team's official website.

“In his second year (in the offense) he’s going to be that much more comfortable,” Lombardi said.

“We’ll be able to tailor the offense a little bit more to what he likes and what he’s good at. I thought he played smart football and sometimes to a fault. We’ll look for him to maybe take a few more chances this year with the football.”

Although Stafford didn't take many shots down the field, he did throw a career-low 12 interceptions in 2014. 

The former first overall draft pick has thrown for 21,714 yards with 131 touchdowns and 85 interceptions during his six-year career.


Colts OLB Robert Mathis plans to be ready for training camp
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Colts outside linebacker Robert Mathis is not ready to run yet, he told Alex Marvez of SiriusXM NFL. Mathis added that he plans to be ready for the start of training camp.

“It’s not going as fast as I would like to, but we are getting well and we should be clicking in camp,” Mathis told Sirius.

Mathis was suspended for the first four games of last season due to violating the league's substance abuse policy. He then suffered a torn achilles, forcing him to miss all 16 games of the 2014 season.

During his 11-year career with the Colts, Mathis has collected 487 total tackles, 111.0 sacks, 15 passes defensed and 48 forced fumbles.


Lions TE Eric Ebron has been working out with Matthew Stafford
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said that tight end Eric Ebron has been working out with quarterback Matthew Stafford in Atlanta this offseason, reports the Detroit News. Lombardi also said that the plan is to have Ebron be the No. 3 weapon in the passing game this year.

Ebron, 21, finished his rookie season with 25 catches for 248 yards and one touchdown. 

"Listen, there's a big learning curve, obviously, for any rookie. And the tight end position is one that requires a lot," Lombardi said, per MLive.com. "As you look back, if you're self critical, maybe we asked a little too much from him from that perspective. I think there was just a volume that he struggled with early.

"But, listen, he was productive, and for anybody the second year is always where you see the biggest jump."


Cowboys' Tony Romo: DeMarco Murray asked me to take a pay cut
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/31/2015) Eagles running back DeMarco Murray was really hoping to remain with the Cowboys this offseason. So much so, he asked quarterback Tony Romo to take a pay cut to remain with the team, Romo said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Tuesday, per the Dallas Morning News.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."


 
 
 
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