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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
Eagles release starting CB Cary Williams
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:53 am ET) The Eagles released cornerback Cary Williams, who started all 32 games during his two-year tenure in Philly. Williams recorded 127 tackles, five interceptions and 24 passes defensed since joining the Eagles.

Williams, 30, was scheduled to make $6.5 million this season with a cap hit of $8.1 million.

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


Falcons sign LB Nate Stupar to one-year deal
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:30 am ET) The Falcons signed linebacker Nate Stupar, a special teams standout, to a one-year extension for the minimum, $585,000, reports ESPN.com. Stupar ranked second on the team with nine special teams tackles, seven solo, while appearing in 15 games last season.

Report: WR Torrey Smith likely gone unless he gives discount
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:39 am ET) It's unlikely the Ravens will re-sign receiver Torrey Smith unless he gives the team a hometown discount, reports the Baltimore Sun. Owner Steve Bisciotti recently expressed pessimism about the team's chances of retaining Smith.

Smith, 26, caught a career-high 11 touchdowns last season.


Report: Ray Rice received $1.6 million in wrongful termination case
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:09 am ET) The Ravens and former running back Ray Rice settled his wrongful termination grievance in January for $1.588 million, sources told the Baltimore Sun. The financial details were not disclosed until now.

In the grievance, Rice had sought $3.529 million in back pay. The Ravens cut him Sept. 8, hours after the release of a video showing Rice knocking out his then-fiancee in a casino elevator.

Rice hasn't visited any NFL teams, but he's working out regularly and hoping to latch on with a team this season, the paper said.


WR Brian Hartline visiting Browns
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:48 am ET) Free agent wideout Brian Hartline, who's spent his entire six-year career with Miami, is visiting the Browns on Tuesday, reports Pro Football Talk. Hartline posted 1,000-yard seasons in 2012 and 2013 before dipping to 474 receiving yards last season.

He's never caught more than four touchdowns in a season.


Saints S Jairus Byrd close to 100 percent after knee surgery
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:27 am ET) Saints safety Jairus Byrd, who underwent surgery in early October to fix torn meniscus, is on schedule in his rehab, coach Sean Payton told The Advocate.

“He’s doing well," Payton told the paper. "He’ll be cleared for minicamp. We’re really looking at about two or three weeks away from him being 100 percent.”

Byrd had 22 tackles and a forced fumble in four games last season.


Sean Payton hopeful about retaining RB Mark Ingram
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:18 am ET) Despite the fact that New Orleans is $22 million above the salary cap, Saints coach Sean Payton expressed optimism about the team's chances of re-signing free agent running back Mark Ingram, per The Advocate.

“I spoke with him today," Payton told the paper Monday nght. "The good thing about Mark is that we’re real close with his agent. We work a lot with Joel (Segal). [GM] Mickey [Loomis] will talk with him quite a bit. Obviously he’s someone that we want to keep. Hopefully we can do that.”

In 13 games last season, Ingram ran for 964 yards and nine touchdowns while catching 29 passes for 145 yards.

According to NFL.com, it's unlikely the Saints can afford to bring back Ingram.


Patriots' Devin McCourty: There's a 'chance that I might not be back'
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) With the Patriots deciding to use their franchise tag on kicker Stephen Gostkowski, safety Devin McCourty knows his time in New England could be coming to an end. 

In an interview with ESPN's Josina Anderson, McCourty said he didn't have much information on what the Patriots would do and was going off of various media reports that came down to the organization deciding whether to franchise him or Gostkowski. 

Now that Gostkowski is ineligible from hitting the free agent market, McCourty will test the waters beginning on March 10. 

"I guess it's more realistic now that [there's] a chance that I might not be back there," McCourty said. "Or there's still a chance that I will, but I guess [there's] more of a chance now with the franchise tag going to Steve that I could be playing in a different place. Still, keeping an open mind and trying to enjoy the process."

In 2014, McCourty recorded 68 tackles and two interceptions. 


Report: Texans' Andre Johnson given permission to seek trade
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Wide receiver Andre Johnson has been given permission by the Texans to seek a trade, according to a report from the Houston Chronicle

The Texans told Johnson that he'd have a reduced role this upcoming season opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. Therefore, Johnson wanted out of his deal. If a trade cannot be made with a suitor, Johnson will be released

Johnson was the third overall pick in the 2003 NFL draft and is the greatest player in the history of the Texans. He's recorded 1,012 catches, 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns in his career.

A trade could be difficult, however, based on Johnson's upcoming $16.1 million cap figure and $10.5 million base salary for the 2015 season. 


Colts RB Vick Ballard (Achilles) 'on schedule' with recovery
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(3/2/2015) Running back Vick Ballard is poised to be back in the Colts' plans for the 2015 season. 

Ballard, who has missed almost all of the previous two seasons due to injuries, hasn't suffered any setbacks with his recovery, according to the Colts' official website. Ballard tore his ACL in 2013 and suffered an Achilles tear before the 2014 season. 

“Vick’s doing well. He’s going through rehab right now. He’s on schedule,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said. "He’s been working his tail. When the doctors say he’s 100 percent and ready to roll, then we’ll get him back on the field.”

Ballard led the Colts in rushing as a rookie in 2012 with 814 yards and two touchdowns. He only played in one game in 2013 before tearing his ACL in a practice the following week. His Achilles tear came during the 2014 preseason. 


 
 
 
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