Tom Brady on the fantasy bench isn't far-fetched

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Marcas Grant: "Handcuff" has become the phrase that pays in recent weeks as an epidemic of injuries to top flight running backs has decimated the position. The problems is that in Minnesota -- unlike other places -- it's not easy to identify a true understudy for Adrian Peterson. The player with the second-most carries is ... Teddy Bridgewater. Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon have alternated as the team's third-down back with no clear indication of who would get the job in case of injury. If somehow you have two healthy running backs, consider yourself a unicorn and take a chance on a backup Viking. If you need someone to help fill a slot right away, you're better off chasing another team's starter like Thomas Rawls or Javorius "Buck" Allen.

M.G.:Jeremy Langford has been a nice fill-in for the Bears over the past few weeks, but he's just that -- a fill-in. When Forte returns (which could be as soon as Thursday), he's going to return to his starting role. Now that doesn't mean Langford will become an afterthought as he's earned touches with his play. As for Forte over Danny Woodhead? That's not even a competition. The Chargers offense has become a smoldering wreck. The offensive line is terrible, the wide receiving corps has been stretched beyond its limits, Antonio Gates appears to literally be on his last legs and Philip Rivers isn't a wizard. That all adds up to a lack of production. Not even someone as gritty as Danny Woodhead can overcome that. Make this deal yesterday.

M.G.: Speaking of not being a wizard. Tom Brady has been pretty magical throughout his career without having a slew of Hall of Fame caliber receivers, but this might be too much even for him. Brandon LaFell has underwhelmed in his few starts this season and now Danny Amendola will try to play through an injury. Can Brady make a star out of Chris Harper? It's possible, but do you want to bank your fantasy season on that? As for quarterbacks I like through the playoffs, I've been firmly on record as backing Blake Bortles for the final weeks. But I'm also pretty big on Drew Brees who gets to finish out with the Buccaneers, Lions and Jaguars. One other name to keep in mind is Matthew Stafford. While he can be the picture of inconsistency, he also has a pretty nice season-ending slate with games against the struggling Rams, Saints and 49ers.

M.G.: It's absolutely a good idea. If there's anything we've learned from this season it's that volume running backs are like gold. With plenty of speculation that Matt Forte won't be in Chicago next season, the job appears to be Langford's to lose. Meanwhile Edelman was having a nice season, but nothing special before suffering a foot injury. It's also worth remembering that there is no deeper position in fantasy football right now than wide receiver. Edelman was likely never going to be a WR1 for you. Langford has the potential to be a solid RB2. That's a pretty good trade off.

M.G.: Yeah, last week didn't go as planned -- especially for Derek Carr. Blake Bortles also had a pretty sloppy game, but it reinforced the notion that the Titans defense is better than many people have recognized. You will have done well to learn that lesson if you're thinking about starting Carr this week. He's facing that same Titans defense this week in Nashville. Meanwhile Bortles has a much better matchup against a Chargers team in disarray. San Diego's pass defense hasn't been terrible, but with the offense's inability to sustain drives, it could be a group that finds itself worn down by the end of the day. I'd like Bortles to bounce back ahead of Carr this week.

M.G.: I would. Part of it is this disconcerting tweet from Jets beat writer Rich Cimini. Trimming the beard?!? Say it ain't so! But in all seriousness, it's about looking at the potential for fantasy production. Both players generally have a floor of around 14 fantasy points and a ceiling of somewhere about 25 points in a given week. The latter number goes up for Brian Hoyer when you consider just how bad the Saints pass defense has been all season. The Dolphins admittedly haven't been great against the pass this season, but they also haven't been a dumpster fire. That's why I'm rolling with Hoyer.

M.G.: With the running backs you have on your roster, I'm not sure that making a move for Devonta Freeman is totally necessary. It's always nice to have a productive RB1 on your roster, but keep in mind that his playoff schedule isn't super friendly. It includes two matchups against a tough Carolina Panthers defense sandwiched around a game against a Jaguars defense that has been fairly tough in the past month. Of that group you listed, Yeldon has the best schedule, followed by Mark Ingram and then Latavius Murray. That should be good enough to get you through the playoffs. And for all of Calvin Johnson's fantasy mediocrity this season, he has a playoff schedule that makes him hard to part ways with. I'd actually stand pat here.

M.G.: You can feel free to let go of both of those tight ends. If that's who you're dealing with, you are essentially streaming tight ends for the rest of the season. Martellus Bennett hasn't been a major factor since the first month of the season and is now losing targets to a reanimated Zach Miller. Meanwhile, Antonio Gates is dealing with both nagging injuries and a debilitating case of "old". With all of the problems going on with San Diego's offense (see above answer), it's hard to expect him to be a threat the rest of the season. Brent Celek does hold some value this week. The Lions struggle to cover tight ends and likely starting quarterback Mark Sanchez has a habit of featuring the position. It's likely a one-week option, but Celek does have some value.

M.G.: Define "good". Drew Brees has been a roller coaster this season with highs like his seven-touchdown game in Week 8 and lows like his 11-point outing in Week 7. Where the Texans were an awful defense at the start of the season, they've turned things around in recent weeks. Over the past four weeks, the Texans are allowing just 9.22 fantasy points to quarterbacks. That would put Brees more toward his floor than his ceiling. In this case, I'd think that the floor for the Saints quarterback would be around 14 points. That's not exactly a good game. But you could do worse. You could be starting Matt Hasselbeck.

M.G.: I don't spend a lot of time on trends that generally turn out to be nothing more than coincidence, but Lambeau Field has been a house of horrors for Jay Cutler. The biggest fear for Alshon Jeffery isn't that Cutler throws a bunch of picks -- that won't impact your fantasy score at all. It's that Green Bay's defensive line continues is resurgence after last week's domination of Minnesota. If the front seven is getting consistent pressure on Cutler, he won't have time to get the ball out to Alshon Jeffery. The news that Josh McCown is starting again in Cleveland makes things a lot nicer for anyone with Gary Barnidge on their roster, but Jeffery's potential for a huge stat line far outweighs that of Barnidge. Going with the BYD is a little too bold for me.

Bonus question:

M.G.: I don't know what you're talking about. hops in Aluminum Falcon flies away

In the latest episode of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast the gang discusses Week 12 waiver targets and previews all three of the Thanksgiving Day games. Don't forget to subscribe and listen in HERE!

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com and a man who would be pretty happy to be a Gummy Bear. Tweet him your sugar coated daydreams or fantasy football questions @MarcasG.

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