Shark Bites

The Bears announced that QB Jay Cutler has been benched for Week 16 in favor of QB Jimmy Clausen.  It's rock bottom for Cutler and a desperation move by Chicago.  Cutler certainly hasn't played up to his massive contract, but it's the Bears' fault for giving it to him.  Cutler has been a league-average QB this season, ranking 17th in QB Rating.  Clausen is in no way an upgrade.  He's not a fantasy option against the Lions this Sunday, and we're moving Alshon Jeffery, Marquess Wilson and Martellus Bennett down our rankings.

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The Ravens left WR Torrey Smith off their initial Week 16 injury report Wednesday. That's noteworthy, because Smith barely played at Miami last week after his injured knee swelled up in pregame warm-ups. We'll watch for further reports on his health this week, because it's tough to believe he's already back near 100%. If he's anywhere in that neighborhood, though, Smith would make for a high-upside fantasy football play against the Texans.

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49ers RB Carlos Hyde (back, ankle) missed his 2nd straight practice on Wednesday and admitted afterward that he doesn't expect to play against the Chargers on Saturday night.  RB Frank Gore (concussion) also remains sidelined and is iffy for that contest.  If Hyde and Gore are out, San Francisco would be left with Alfonso Smith and the newly signed Phillip Tanner.  Neither guy would be a fantasy option.

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Texans WR Andre Johnson (concussion) returned to practice on Wednesday.  It puts him on track to play against the Ravens this weekend.  But with either Case Keenum or Thad Lewis at QB, Johnson will be a shaky WR3.

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Patriots WR Julian Edelman did not practice on Wednesday and is listed on the injury report with a concussion.  It's the 1st we've heard of the head injury (not surprising considering this is New England) and leaves him iffy for this weekend's game against the Jets.  If Edelman isn't cleared in time, Danny Amendola figures to soak up most of his snaps.  The Pats could also increase TE Tim Wright's usage.

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NFL Network's Ian Rapoport hears that Chargers QB Philip Rivers' status for Saturday night's game against the 49ers is "up in the air."  Rivers has yet to practice this week and is listed on the injury report with chest and back issues.  Of course, he's been playing through a rib injury for a while and even played with a torn ACL back in 2007.  "I expect him to play," HC Mike McCoy said Wednesday.  So do we, but Rivers will be tough to trust in fantasy lineups.  He's tossed multiple TDs in just 1 of his last 6 games.

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Chargers RB Ryan Mathews (ankle) remained sidelined on Wednesday.  His odds of playing against the 49ers on Saturday night are dwindling.  San Diego's backfield is best avoided in Week 16 fantasy lineups.

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Titans WR Kendall Wright (hand) is questionable for Thursday night's game against the Jaguars.  He put in a limited week of practice and will likely be a game-time call.  If Wright plays, he'll be a risky WR3 without a whole lot of upside.

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Falcons WR Julio Jones (hip) remained sidelined on Wednesday.  He's yet to practice since going down 9 days ago.  It's obviously not a good start to the week, but it certainly doesn't mean he won't play this Sunday.  Check back tomorrow for another update.

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Jaguars QB Blake Bortles (foot) is expected to start Thursday night's game against the Titans.  He's officially listed as questionable, and a final decision won't be made until pregame warmups.  But Bortles put in limited practices on Tuesday and Wednesday, so the sprained foot is obviously minor.  Despite the plus matchup, though, the rookie is a low-end QB2 in fantasy football.

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Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray (finger) is on the practice field Wednesday.  He's reportedly going through individual drills and catching passes.  It's impressive considering he's less than 48 hours removed from surgery.  The Cowboys will be keeping a close eye on how well Murray is able to function with that injured finger.  He remains a question mark for this weekend's game against the Colts, although we're a lot more optimistic about his status now than we were on Monday.

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Panthers QB Cam Newton threw passes at practice on Wednesday.  (You can check out the video here.)  How he feels during and after the workout will do a long way toward determining his availability for this weekend's game against the Browns.  We'll continue to track his status over the next few days.

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Titans RB Dexter McCluster (knee) has been ruled out for Thursday night's game against the Jaguars.  And insider Jim Wyatt hears that McCluster is unlikely to play Week 17, either.  The free-agent signee never became a big enough part of Tennessee's offense to be a fantasy asset.  McCluster finishes the season with 40 carries for 131 yards and 26 catches for 197 yards in 14 games.

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10 hours ago

Eagles HC Chip Kelly told reporters today that OLB Trent Cole will have surgery on his broken hand this week and miss Saturday's game at Washington. That pushes Brandon Graham into the starting lineup, which shouldn't present a drop-off for the pass rush against a Washington offense that has allowed a lot of sacks in recent weeks. Philly stands as 1 of the top defensive plays in fantasy football this week because of sack and turnover potential. Graham carries plenty of upside in sack-heavy IDP leagues.

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Giants RB Rashad Jennings (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday.  After being unable to stay on the field for the 2nd straight game last week, Jennings seems unlikely to play against the Rams this Sunday.  That'd leave Andre Williams as the feature back.  But the matchup would make him a weak RB3 or flex.

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