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CBSSports.com Playoff Challenge preview

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The regular season might be over, but the Fantasy fun doesn't have to stop. You can still keep those competitive Fantasy juices going in our Playoff Challenge (click here to learn more).

It's a simple game, really, that's fun for everyone, especially if you love Fantasy Football. You get 300 units to set your lineup, which consists of eight players (QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, K and DST). You are allowed eight moves throughout the playoffs, and the scoring is standard.

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The goal is to choose players who will play in as many games as possible through the four rounds of the playoffs: Wild Card, Divisional, Conference and Super Bowl. The key is making as few moves as possible to save transactions for the end.

The fun of setting your lineup is trying to figure out who will advance in each round, ultimately choosing a Super Bowl winner. The key to winning in this game is not just being a good Fantasy owner, but you also have to be knowledgeable in picking games. And you have to be a little lucky.

You want to choose teams with the chance to play four games to maximize points, and since 2000 there have been eight different teams -- Giants (2011), Packers (2010), Cardinals (2008), Giants (2007), Colts (2006), Steelers (2005), Panthers (2003) and Ravens (2000) -- to play in the Wild Card round and reach the Super Bowl. Six of those teams actually won it all with the Giants twice, Packers, Colts, Steelers and Ravens.

Last year, for example, if you had Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks you had a pretty good chance of winning as they dominated the postseason. Who will do that this year?

My Wild Card lineup is as follows:

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Packers -- 82 units
Running back: Arian Foster, Texans -- 68 units
Running back: DuJuan Harris, Packers -- 7 units
Wide receiver: Greg Jennings, Packers -- 39 units
Wide receiver: Torrey Smith, Ravens -- 36 units
Tight end: Jermaine Gresham, Bengals -- 17 units
Kicker: Kai Forbath, Redskins -- 17 units
DST: Ravens -- 30 units

The total is 296 units, and I'm counting on Green Bay beating Minnesota, which is why I went with three Packers. Rodgers is a must at quarterback because Green Bay could easily make it to the Super Bowl from the Wild Card round, and he should have plenty of success. He is getting hot at the right time with 11 total touchdowns in his past three games with no interceptions and an average of 333 passing yards over that span.

I went with Jennings as the Packers receiver of choice even though Randall Cobb (44 units), Jordy Nelson (41) and James Jones (40) are within the same range. Jennings, as you know, just scored twice against Minnesota in Week 17. He was also targeted a team-high 12 times and now has seven touchdowns in his past five meetings with the Vikings. Cobb also is dealing with injuries to his ankle and knee.

At running back, Harris is the No. 2 choice for two reasons: cost and effectiveness. He is the best buy at seven units, especially since he has at least eight Fantasy points in three of his past four games, including 14 carries for 70 yards and two catches for 17 yards against the Vikings in Week 17. The Packers don't have a true running back, but he's worth the gamble based on his price.

I also expect the Ravens to beat the Colts, which is why I went with Smith and the Ravens DST. Smith has seven touchdowns at home this year, and No. 1 receivers have done serious damage against the Colts with 12 reaching double digits in Fantasy points. The Colts have also allowed four of the past seven DST options to reach at least 12 Fantasy points, and the Ravens should get linebacker Ray Lewis (triceps) back.

I'm torn on the Bengals-Texans and Seahawks-Redskins. I went with Foster at running back because even in one game he should do well. He scored double digits in Fantasy points in all but one game this year with 17 total touchdowns. Last year against the Bengals in the Wild Card round -- with T.J. Yates at quarterback -- he had 24 carries for 153 yards and two touchdowns and three catches for 29 yards. And Gresham, despite his recent struggles, is facing a Texans defense that has allowed five touchdowns to tight ends in the past four games.

Forbath was my kicker because of cost at 17 units, and I took him at home with the chance the Redskins keep their seven-game winning streak alive. He also has at least eight Fantasy points in three of his past four games.

We'll continue to update you on the Playoff Challenge each week and also look players who are improving their Fantasy value for 2013 with strong postseason performances. Like we said, just because the regular season is over doesn't mean the Fantasy fun should stop.

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 and on Facebook .

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

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Player News
Saints WR Nick Toon has best shot to make an impact
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(3:22 pm ET) With the Saints losing players who combined for 239 receptions last season, the door is open wider than ever for fourth-year receiver Nick Toon to finally make his mark on the team, per NOLA.com. 

Toon has 21 career receptions, including 17 last season. Now, he's got a clear path to be the team's No. 3 wideout, but he isn't banking on anything. 

"No, I don't have any more security. It's one of those things, whether you're an undrafted free agent or the first pick in the draft, you can never get complacent in this field," he said. "There's always someone coming in, looking to compete for your job. Complacency will cut your career short. You can never be complacent in this industry."


Report: Texans lose LB Reshard Cliett to knee injury for season
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(3:01 pm ET) Texans rookie linebacker Reshard Cliett has been lost to a knee injury suffered during the team's first practice, per the Houston Chronicle

Cliett was a sixth-round pick by Houston out of South Florida, where he had 38 tackles and six sacks last season. 


Dolphins OL Branden Albert not guaranteed for Week 1
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:55 pm ET) While Dolphins tackle Branden Albert avoided the PUP list at the start of training camp and has spent some time practicing with the team, the lineman is being brought along slowly and his status for Week 1 of the regular season remains in doubt, per the Palm Beach Post

Albert tore his ACL and MCL during Week 10 last season, and the team remains cautious about his recovery. 

"I don’t think surprised is the right term," Dolphins offensive line coach John Benton said about Albert's return for the regular season. "I'm a positive person so I'm sure expecting that to happen. At the same time, I understand it's a fairly serious injury he's recovering from."


RB Duke Johnson (hamstring) falling behind at Browns camp
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:46 pm ET) Browns rookie running back Duke Johnson missed practice again Tuesday with a hamstring injury, and the team's coaching staff is being to appear frustrated with his absence, per ESPNCleveland.com.

"It's just disappointing that a guy we're counting on being a big part of what we do, to lose him at this formative time of what we're getting done … he'll have a lot of catch-up work to do," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. 

Johnson, a third-round pick out of Miami, is expected to be a big part of the Browns' run-heavy offense and a part of their special teams - if he can get on the field. 


Browns WR Terrelle Pryor completes pass, hurts hamstring
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:32 pm ET) Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, who is making the transition to that position from quarterback, got to show off some of his old skills Tuesday, completing a pass on an end-around in both offense-only and full-team drills before tweaking his hamstring and leaving the field, per Cleveland.com. 

Coach Mike Pettine said he didn't think the injury was serious, but that the team would take a closer look at the injury as a precaution. 


Patriots announce four signings to fill roster
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:15 pm ET) The Patriots announced they have signed four players Tuesday: linebackers L.J. Fort and Cameron Gordon, fullback Eric Kettani and defensive lineman A.J. Pataiali’l .

Gordon and Kettani have both previously spent time with the Patriots, while Fort was on the practice squads of the Seahawks and Bengals in 2014. Pataiali’l was on both the Ravens and Browns practice squads last season. 


Jaguars GM says WR Justin Blackmon 'unlikely' to return
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:47 pm ET) Wide receiver Justin Blackmon , who hasn't practiced or played since 2013 after being suspended for the third time for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy, is unlikely to return to the Jaguars according to GM David Caldwell, per ESPN.com. 

Blackmon hasn't been in contact with the team and his time away from the game signals he is not prepared to hit the field anytime soon. 

"I don't know to expect but I would say common sense would probably be if you haven't played football in two-and-a-half years apparently that's not a priority for you," Caldwell said. 

The Jaguars have no plans to cut Blackmon, who would have to apply for reinstatement and go through a two-month vetting process before being allowed to play again. 


Packers RB Eddie Lacy leaves practice with foot issue
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:40 pm ET) Packers running back Eddie Lacy left practice Tuesday with what the team is labeling as a foot issue, per ESPN.com. 

"Eddie had some foot soreness," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "They just pulled him out there near the end."

The Packers had said they wanted to limit Lacy's workload, but during the first few days of camp, he had taken the majority of reps. Veteran James Starks is Lacy's backup. 


Report: Texans RB Arian Foster injures groin, may need surgery
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(1:19 pm ET) Texans running back Arian Foster suffered a groin injury Monday during the team's first fully padded practice, per a report from ESPN.com. 

During last night's practice, Foster hobbled off the field during a pass play, and several sources, including the Houston Chronicle, have described the injury as serious enough to require surgery. 

Foster has battled a variety of injuries during his career, including a hamstring issue that knocked him out of the team's season finale last year. 

Foster finished 2014 with 1,246 yards and eight touchdowns on 255 rushing attempts. He also caught 37 passes for 317 yards and four touchdowns


Browns DL Billy Winn (ankle) to miss week of practice
by Matt Rybaltowski | CBSSports.com
(12:23 pm ET) The Browns defensive line dodged a bullet when the ankle injury suffered by defensive lineman Billy Winn was not ruled to be that serious, per the Associated Press

Browns coach Mike Pettine said that Winn will miss at least a week; however, he didn't feel it was the kind of high ankle sprain that could keep Winn out of action for several months. 

Winn was carted off the field during last Saturday's practice. He appeared in 13 games last season and totaled 31 tackles with one interception.


 
 
 
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