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Player Challenge strategies for Week 2

Senior Fantasy Writer
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This column is primarily designed to help strategize for our four-week Player Challenge games, but is essentially about great matchups and overlooked stats, offering deeper options for those in daily leagues.

Here's a fun fact: As frustrating as Titans running back Chris Johnson has been in Fantasy since his 2009 "2K" season, he's totaled at least 1,400 yards in each of his six seasons. In Week 1, he had the second-most carries (25) in the NFL. His 70 rushing yards were the 11th-most in the league. And while his seven total points barely had him in the top 24, he was facing a Steelers team that held opponents to the second-fewest rushing yards in the league last year, and probably didn't benefit from being the center of Pittsburgh's attention, as the Tennessee receiving corps is largely underwhelming.

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Johnson gets the Texans in Week 2 -- Houston had the seventh-best run defense last year and held the Chargers running backs to 60 rushing yards in Week 1 -- so this may not be the best week to start Johnson in the Challenge or daily games. But he has the Chargers lurking in Week 3, so his time may be coming

On to the Week 2 picks! I've split this column into my actual starts in the Player Challenge, and offered some deeper plays for readers who participate in daily leagues and may be bargain-hunting to fill out holes in the lineups.

Quarterback

You can't go wrong with Aaron Rodgers, who faces Washington in Week 2 -- a team that gave up the third-most passing yards in 2012. Rodgers is facing a bye in Week 4, so he's going to have an upcoming hole in these early Player Challenge weeks -- you might as well use him now in this favorable matchup.

Like the rest of the Fantasy-playing world, I'm also on board with starting Michael Vick for Week 2. The Chargers gave up the eighth-most rushing yards and seventh-most passing yards in the NFL in Week 1, and that was against the predictable Texans offense. With the lightning-fast Eagles still a relatively unknown quantity to opposing defenses, expect Vick to rack up a good amount of stats in both (running and passing) categories.

In that same game, Philip Rivers makes for an interesting deeper/budget pick in daily league formats. The Eagles gave up 308 passing yards in Week 1 to Washington and with their hurry-up offense, they could be on and off the field very quickly. That means Rivers will be out there a good amount. More Rivers = more passes = more stats. Huzzah!

Running Back

You can apply the Vick logic to his teammate, LeSean McCoy. I'm going to use the Eagles' skill players as much as I can early on (before the league catches on and figures out a way to stop the offense), and the Chargers are a favorable matchup, regardless.

Doug Martin faces off against the Saints in Week 2. In 2012, New Orleans gave up 147.6 rushing yards per game and an average of 5.2 yards per carry. While the Saints only yielded 88 rushing yards in Week 1 against the Falcons, those came on just 14 carries -- meaning they're giving up 6.3 yards per carry this season, a marked increase from their already-miserable run defense last year. Martin's a stud going against a porous run defense, so he gets the start in the second slot.

If you feel like going a little deeper with your backs, there's a case to be made for DeAngelo Williams, who faces the Bills in Week 2. Buffalo gave up 158 rushing yards in Week 1 (third-most in the league) and 145.8 rushing yards per game in 2012 (second-worst in the league). Williams managed a surprisingly decent 86 yards on 17 carries in Week 1 against a stout Seahawks defense and has little competition in the backfield with Jonathan Stewart out. Despite his random disappointments, Williams has a 4.9 ypc average for his career and could put up some nice numbers in Week 2.

Wide Receiver

Not to pick on the Saints, but they had a pretty bad defensive campaign in 2012 -- they gave up the second-most receiving yards in the NFL. And I consider Vincent Jackson an elite wideout. So having him go up against the Saints in Week 2 is an easy justification for a start. I'm not too worried about the Josh Freeman drama -- he torched the Saints last year for 699 passing yards in two games (although the first matchup was far better than the second).

Brandon Marshall faces the Vikings in Week 2, and not only did Minnesota give up the eighth-most receiving yards in 2012, they also tend to be something like a ball of yarn to Marshall's bored cat. In four career games against the Vikings, Marshall has averaged 109.3 yards (on about nine receptions), with two total touchdowns over those four games. He's gone over 90 yards three times against the Vikings, has two 100-plus yard games and is carrying momentum forward from a 104-yard performance in Week 1 against the Bengals.

A fun deeper play here is Hakeem Nicks. The Peyton Manning Kickoff Show overshadowed a really poor defensive performance by Denver. The Broncos allowed the fourth-most receiving yards in the NFL in Week 1 -- and this was to a Ravens team that was starting a nearly retired tight end and a Dancing With the Stars champion. Nicks could put up some nice numbers against a Denver defense that, 1. May be without a hobbled Champ Bailey and, 2. Is already smarting from the Von Miller suspension and Elvis Dumervil defection.

Tight End

Over the course of the Player Challenge, you're only going to need four tight ends, and with the season so young and defensive weaknesses not really apparent yet, it's probably best to just go with what we know. So for this week, I'm starting Jimmy Graham. Tampa Bay was terrible against the pass last year, and while Darrelle Revis should address some of the problems, it will probably end up being Marques Colston who feels the effects. And this isn't just a wild guess here on Graham exploiting the Bucs -- Jets tight end Kellen Winslow had seven receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown against Tampa Bay in Week 1.

As far as a deeper tight end, Dallas Clark was targeted 12 times last week, but Browns coach Rob Chudzinski is a tight end guru and may be able to gameplan against him. Still, Baltimore liked to use the tight end last year and Clark quietly put together a nice season for the Bucs (423 yards, five touchdowns) in 2012.

DST

With the switch from Blaine Gabbert to Chad Henne at quarterback in Jacksonville, the Jaguars are no longer the start-your-DST-against-them-every-week creampuff that they were in the hours following their Week 1 loss. Over the last four seasons, Henne has nine games of 300-plus yards -- which is fairly impressive considering he's been painted as this second-stringer in pretty uninspiring offenses. So as bad as Jacksonville was last week -- and as surprisingly tenacious as Oakland's defense looked -- I'm not going to start the Raiders here.

There's a case to be made for the Seahawks, but I'm probably going to hold off for their Week 3 game against Jacksonville. Not to totally de-merit all those nice words about Henne, but you'll probably see more defensive points scored against the Jaguars than you will against the 49ers.

The Bengals are a nice play in Week 2 against a Steelers team that didn't look great last week. And while the Bears face a tough challenge in stopping Adrian Peterson, they should be able to handle the passing offense.

In deeper challenges, I'm starting the Panthers, who get Buffalo in Week 2. I like the Bills and think Doug Marrone is a great offensive mind. But I also think Carolina had a really stellar preseason and the team doesn't get enough credit for that. They led the NFL in preseason interceptions and defensive touchdowns and finished in the top six for sacks and forced fumbles.

Kicker

Instead of your usual, "just pick a guy!" strategy (because there really is no proven way to pinpoint top performers), I've decided to employ random celebrity/athlete/cool people cameos in this section to help select a kicker. Today's special guest: Mike Erwin, Chairman of Team RWB, an organization that aims to enrich the lives of America's veterans, "by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity." Mike (@ErwinRWB) and the organization (@TeamRWB) are definitely worth a follow on Twitter. Also, feel free to plunk down 20 bucks for one of these awesome T-shirts. Erwin ran 100 miles in 100 hours this summer to raise awareness for Team RWB. And now he's picking your Fantasy kicker.

Special Guest Mike Erwin's kicker pick for Week 2: Matt Prater, K, Broncos

There will be a new guest next week. Stay tuned. I think this is going to be a fun section all season long.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
49ers' Phil Dawson makes only FG try in loss vs. Seahawks
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:28 am ET) 49ers kicker Phil Dawson was successful on his only field-goal attempt Thursday, making a 40-yard kick in his team's 19-3 loss to the Seahawks in Week 13.

Dawson was the victim of a flailing performance by the 49ers offense, as the team was only able to put together one long drive in the loss. The kicker has been held to only one field-goal try in each of his last two games. He'll hope to see more chances against the Raiders in Week 14.


49ers' pass catchers share very small pie in loss vs. Seahawks
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:25 am ET) There wasn't much offense to go around for the 49ers' wide receivers and tight ends in the team's 19-3 loss to the Seahawks in Week 13, with wide receiver Steve Johnson leading the receiving unit with three catches for just 28 yards.

Running back Carlos Hyde led the team with 38 receiving yards, but there was simply no offense to speak of for the 49ers on Thanksgiving. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin caught three of his five targets for just 18 yards, while teammate Michael Crabtree managed just 10 yards on three catches of his own. Tight end Vernon Davis kicked in two receptions for 13 yards.

The 49ers will hope for a big bounce-back performance in Week 14 against the Raiders.


49ers' Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde sputter in loss vs. Seahawks
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(12:21 am ET) The 49ers couldn't find much success on the ground in Thursday's 19-3 loss to the Seahawks, with running back Frank Gore leading the way with 10 carries for just 28 yards and an eight-yard reception in Week 13.

Rookie Carlos Hyde was the more explosive of the two backs Thursday, rushing for 19 yards on five carries while catching all three of his targets for a team-high 38 receiving yards, but the Seahawks defense virtually shut down the entire 49ers offense on Thanksgiving. The pair will look to bounce back in a much better matchup against the Raiders in Week 14.


49ers QB Colin Kaepernick shut down in loss vs. Seahawks
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:18 am ET) 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick had no answer for the Seahawks defense Thursday, completing 16 of his 29 passes for only 121 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions while adding 17 rushing yards on three carries in his team's 19-3 loss to the Seahawks in Week 13.

Kaepernick also took four sacks for 21 yards, giving him just 100 net yards of passing offense in the rough outing. He managed to piece together just one significant drive, taking the offense from his own 19-yard line to the Seahawks' 19-yard line before taking a sack on third down and settling for a field goal in the third quarter with the 49ers down 16-0. Kaepernick will look to get back on track in Week 14 against the Raiders.


49ers WR Michael Crabtree quiet in Week 13 after rib, knee issues
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:11 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree caught all three of his targets for jut 10 yards in his team's 19-3 loss to the Seahawks in Week 13.

Crabtree was hit by an injury almost immediately on the team's first drive but was able to resume play. The team had announced that he was dealing with a rib injury, but coach Jim Harbaugh added after the game that the receiver was also suffering from a knee injury. He's in line for a few extra days of rest going into his Week 14 matchup against the Raiders.


Seahawks CB Richard Sherman notches two INTs vs. 49ers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:08 am ET) Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman picked off two passes to help spearhead a dominant performance by the Seahawks defense in his team's 19-3 win over the 49ers in Week 13.

The Seahawks were relentless against the 49ers offense on Thanksgiving, holding the opposition to only 164 total yards on offense and just 3.2 yards per play. Sherman's first interception came on a misfired 20-yard pass from San Francisco's 30-yard line that made it appear the Seattle cornerback was the intended target. His second pick came on one of San Francisco's few trips into Seattle territory as Colin Kaepernick appeared to lose the cornerback in coverage and threw another pass directly to the defender.

The Seahawks defense managed a total of four sacks and three turnovers in the win. They'll look to keep rolling in Week 14 against the Eagles.


Seahawks K Steven Hauschka nails four FGs in win vs. 49ers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:02 am ET) Seahawks kicker Steven Hauschka made all four of his field-goal attempts and one extra point in Thursday's 19-3 win over the 49ers in Week 13.

Hauschka was called upon to provide plenty of points with the Seahawks offense continually stalling deep in 49ers territory. He picked up field goals of 21 and 36 yards in the second quarter before adding two more kicks from 35 and 46 yards out in the second half. He's now racked up eight field goals in his last two games, and he takes a 90 percent success rate into a Week 14 matchup with the Eagles.


Seahawks' pass catchers limited by light workload in Week 13
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/27/2014) Seahawks tight end Tony Moeaki led his offense with 63 receiving yards on just one reception in his team's 19-3 win over the 49ers in Week 13.

Moeaki caught a pass of about 12 yards near the sideline early in the second quarter and ran past his defender to bring the ball all the way down to the one-yard line before being caught. The Seahawks weren't able to punch the ball into the end zone on the drive, but a dominant performance by the defense meant the points left on the board wouldn't come back to haunt the offense.

The rest of the receiving corps didn't have much of a workload in the win Thursday, with quarterback Russell Wilson completing just 15 passes on 22 attempts. Tight end Luke Willson led the Seahawks with four receptions and six targets, gaining just 39 yards in the game. Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse managed three receptions for 34 yards, while wide receiver Doug Baldwin could only haul in two passes for 28 yards. Rookie Paul Richardson was able to catch his only target for six yards.

The Seahawks have a trip to Philadelphia on the schedule in Week 14.


Seahawks' Robert Turbin scores lone TD in win vs. 49ers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11/27/2014) Seahawks running back Robert Turbin caught both of his targets for 47 yards and a touchdown while adding eight rushing yards on four carries in his team's 19-3 win over the 49ers in Week 13.

Turbin grabbed a short pass to the left and was able to work his way towards the end zone and maintain his balance to score a 13-yard touchdown that put his team up 7-0 in the first quarter. The Seahawks would pile on two field goals before halftime in a game where the 49ers had virtually no answers for the Seattle defense. Turbin's touchdown was just his second of the season and his first since Week 2. He'll match up with the Eagles in Week 14.


Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch racks up 104 rushing yards Thursday
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(11/27/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 104 yards on 20 carries while adding a seven-yard reception in his team's 19-3 win over the 49ers in Week 13.

Lynch took a heavy portion of the workload on Thanksgiving as the Seahawks jumped out to an early lead and leaned on the defense. Despite struggling against the Cardinals in Week 12, Lynch has posted three 100-yard performances on the ground in his last four games. However, he hasn't reached the end zone in any of his last three games. He'll look to rectify the recent lack of scoring against the Eagles in Week 14.


 
 
 
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