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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 .

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Player News
49ers shopping LaMichael James
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/17/2014) The 49ers are looking to trade running back LaMichael James in advance of next month's NFL Draft, reports the Sacramento Bee.

Meanwhile, James is aware of the trade rumors, apparently for a while now, since he tweeted Wednesday "when old news becomes new news" following the report.

James, a second-round pick in 2012, finds himself behind Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and perhaps Marcus Lattimore on the depth chart at running back this season. James served as the team's primary returner last year, but he wants a bigger role since he carried the ball just 12 times in 2013.


Joe Reitz stays with the Colts
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/17/2014) Offensive lineman Joe Reitz signed his restricted free agent tender offer on Thursday, giving him another year with the Colts. He started three games last season. 

Chris Johnson says arthritis reports 'not accurate'
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/17/2014) On a conference call with New York media, new Jets running back Chris Johnson said the report that he had arthritis in his knee was "not accurate," adding that he was "pretty sure I wouldn't have passed the physical" if he did have it. 

Earlier Thursday ESPN reported the Jets had "some concerns" about his knee

Johnson is expected to serve as part of a one-two punch at running back with Chris Ivory for the Jets. 


Vikings sign Kurt Coleman
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/17/2014) The Vikings signed safety Kurt Coleman on Thursday. He spent the past four seasons with the Eagles and has seven career interceptions.

Coleman will try to make the final roster in Minnesota as a reserve defensive back and play on special teams.


Dwayne Bowe pleads guilty to amended charges
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/17/2014) Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe pleaded guilty to amended charges relating to his Nov. 10 arrest for marijuana possession, the Kansas City Star reports. He paid $610 in fines and didn't get probation. It remains to be seen if he'll be subject to the NFL's substance abuse program. 

Report: Giants should consider dealing Ryan Nassib
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/17/2014) Now that the Giants have signed Josh Freeman to a contract, does it mean that second-year quarterback Ryan Nassib will be off the roster soon? 

The Newark Star-Ledger believes the Giants should assess Nassib's value going into the draft considering the lack of great quarterback talent available. A team looking for a quarterback-of-the-future could make an offer. 

Nassib had 19 pass attempts during the preseason last August and wasn't active for a single regular-season game. 


Robert Griffin III looking like old self
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/17/2014) A couple of members of the Redskins organization have started raving about how good quarterback Robert Griffin III looks this offseason, reports the Washington Post.

Receiver Santana Moss said via an ESPN podcast that Griffin "looks more comfortable because he don't have to worry about that brace. I think the brace was the big discomfort last year. You know, he’s a young guy with those fiery legs that want to do so much, and that brace probably gave him a little pinch in the behind because he couldn't do the things that he was normally accustomed to doing. You can already see, when we're out there in conditioning and stuff, he's running around, looking like the old Robert Griffin."

And former tight end Chris Cooley, currently one of the team's radio broadcasters, said "he's another person right now. I was like, 'you're running unbelievably well.' It was silly to watch. ... When you watch him run, you're like, 'You're a freak. You're seriously a freak.'"


Report: Jets have concerns over Chris Johnson's knees
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/17/2014) Less than 24 hours after signing Chris Johnson to a two-year deal that might be worth as much as $9 million, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Jets have some concerns over the condition of his knee. Johnson apparently has some arthritis in it stemming from his torn meniscus in 2013 (which he played through). 

Johnson hasn't missed a game in five straight seasons. He's expected to form a one-two punch with Chris Ivory in the Jets' backfield this year. 


Brian Cushing says he's 100 percent
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/17/2014) Posting a picture of himself with his son from a beach, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing said via Twitter that he's been cleared for football. Cushing missed the last nine games of last season with a knee injury. 

"Quick Trip to Pensacola with my lead blocker, better believe I'm 100% #beachday #cleared #fivesixback," he wrote. 


Could Peyton Manning throw less in 2014?
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/17/2014) Peyton Manning might be asked to throw less so "the offense can be more," ESPN speculated on Thursday. Manning threw 659 passes last season, completing 450 of them (68.3 pct.) for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. The yardage and touchdowns are NFL records. 

The thought process behind Manning being asked to throw less is that it would accentuate the run game and give the offense (read: Manning) more of an opportunity to build confidence in the running backs, namely Montee Ball.

No one on the Broncos has come out and suggested Manning will throw less. He still passed 583 times in 2012, seventh-most that year. Expect Manning to still throw plenty in 2014.


 
 
 
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