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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
Vikings' Adrian Peterson to begin probation on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:25 pm ET) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will begin his probation on Wednesday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Peterson will begin community service, and will undergo counseling to determine whether he has a drug problem. Peterson will report to a probation officer once a month in order to take a drug test. The strict drug testing stems from an Oct. 8 pre-trail urinalysis. Peterson admitted to "smoking a little weed," though the results from the test were never disclosed. 

Probation officials will also determine whether Peterson needs to attend parenting classes. 

Per his plea agreement, Peterson was fined $4,000 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service. He's required to perform at least 16 hours per month, which would allow him to complete to program prior to training camp.

Peterson is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million. The team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension. 


Austin Collie signs with CFL's BC Lions
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:35 pm ET) Free-agent receiver Austin Collie has signed with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, the team announced Thursday.

"I’m excited to be joining the Lions and very much look forward to playing in the CFL," said Collie. "The wide-open play of the Canadian game and the passion of fans across the league is going to be a lot of fun to experience."

Collie played four seasons with the Colts and one with the Patriots. In his last NFL action, he caught four passes for 57 yards in the 2014 AFC Championship Game.


Eagles RB LeSean McCoy: 'I don't want to take less money'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(4:39 pm ET) Eagles running back LeSean McCoy reiterated Thursday that while he'd be willing to restructure his contract if asked, he would not accept a pay cut, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

"I know how hard it is to keep a team together and I want to be part of this team. But I don't want to take less money," McCoy said. "I want to figure a way to make it happen [where] we're all together."

McCoy, who is due to count $11.95 million against the cap in 2015, turned in his fourth 1,000-yard season in the last five years in 2014, finishing with 1,319 rushing yards on 312 carries and 155 receiving yards on a career-low 28 receptions. All five of his touchdowns came on the ground.


Bills' Rex Ryan won't commit to EJ Manuel as starting QB
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:01 pm ET) When asked about who his starting quarterback would be in 2015, Bills coach Rex Ryan said the team would look at every available option, reports The Buffalo News.

"We're going to exhaust every resource we can," Ryan said. "We'll look at free agents. We'll look at the draft. We'll look at anything."

The Bills have former first-round pick EJ Manuel on their roster, but Ryan said he would not commit to Manuel as his starting quarterback at this time.

"To say that he's definitely going to be the guy, it's way too early to say that," Ryan said.


Bills RB Fred Jackson excited to play for new coach Rex Ryan
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(3:23 pm ET) Bills veteran running back Fred Jackson said he hasn't had the opportunity to meet with new coach Rex Ryan, but that didn't stop him from expressing his excitement about the new coaching regime in Buffalo.

"I can't wait to play for him. I've heard nothing but good things," Jackson said Wednesday of Ryan during an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "I'm looking forward to that [first] conversation when I sit down and talk to him."

The Bills finished 9-7 in 2014, which was their best record since 2004. While Jackson believes Ryan is going to "be that catalyst that comes in and pushes us over that hump," he didn't have many bad things to say about coach Doug Marrone, who opted out of his contract New Year's Eve.

"I thought he was a tremendous coach," Jackson said. "He showed up, he worked hard, he pushed players to give their best effort. He got us to a 9-7 record -- we hadn't won nine games in 10 years. There's definitely some things about him that made him a great coach. It's just the way he exited. I don't think anybody expected that. 

"Players, the way we found out is we got a generic text from him, saying that he was moving on and he had chosen to opt out of his contract." 


Justin Tuck: Raider Nation would appluad signing Ndamukong Suh
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(2:42 pm ET) If defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh doesn't sign a long-term deal with the Lions, then he will become a free agent March 10 and there will be plenty of teams interested in the Pro Bowl lineman. 

Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck indicated if Suh wanted to sign with Oakland, then he would be welcomed in Raider Nation.

"(He's) Raider-ish," Tuck said, per the Detroit Free Press. "And that's one of the reasons why I know Raider Nation would applaud that move, beyond the fact that he's an awesome football player. He kind of fits the mold of ... the toughness and the ferocious player that built the Oakland Raiders."

It is speculated Suh will receive a contract worth at least $100 million. Tuck believes the three-time All-Pro deserves such a lucrative deal.

"The thing about him, you know what you're getting every day. Some of the tactics, you could probably do without, but he's a hell of a football player," Tuck said. "I would love to have the opportunity to line up beside of him and let him take all the double teams that I normally take."


Nick Foles: 'I plan on being in Philly' in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:48 pm ET) There has been a lot of talk about quarterback Nick Foles' future with the Eagles, especially since Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly's former pupil at Oregon -- Marcus Mariota -- will be part of this year's draft class.

On Thursday, Foles addressed the rumors and stated he is expecting to be back on the Eagles' roster in 2015.

"Yeah you hear about it," Foles said in between doing paid appearances at Super Bowl XLIX, per NJ.com. "You are going to hear about it every single year. That's just part of it. The main word is 'rumor.' You can't put too much into it....I plan on being in Philly.

"I only listen to (head coach) Chip Kelly. That's what is most important. He is the one that will make the decision. Right now all I am going to do is work because I plan on being back in Philadelphia and playing with my team. That's all I ever thought. So that is what I plan on doing and I'm not looking at it any other way."

Foles added he hasn't talked with Kelly since the end of the season.

"We haven't talked a lot. He has a lot going on," Foles said. "This time of year you really just get away from everything. He is busy looking at the draft, doing all that. I saw he is more of the decision maker. Haven't really talked to him too much, but I'm sure I'll hear from him soon."


Dwyer pleads guilty in domestic violence case, gets probation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:38 pm ET) Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer pleaded guilty Thursday in Maricopa County (Ariz.) Superior Court to a single count of disorderly conduct pertaining to his domestic violence case, according to The Arizona Republic.

Dwyer was sentenced to 18 months of probation and community service following the plea, according to a court spokesman.

The 25-year-old Dwyer was arrested Sept. 17 for a July 21 incident in which he allegedly head-butted his wife in the face and broke her nose after she refused his sexual advances and bit his lip, according to reports taken at the time.

Dwyer's wife told police she reported the incident in September because she feared for their child's safety after seeing reports of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's arrest on child-abuse charges.

The Cardinals placed Dwyer on the reserve/non-football injury list after his September arrest. He did not play again during the 2014 season.


Tom Brady on Peyton Manning: 'I certainly hope he comes back'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:21 pm ET) While the football world anxiously awaits official word from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning about his playing status for the 2015 season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady -- and longtime Manning rival -- said Thursday he hopes the five-time NFL MVP will continue his career.

"What a great player he's been for this league," Brady said Thursday, per NFL.com. "He's a great competitor, and I've been fortunate to play against him a bunch of times. I certainly hope he comes back, 'cause the league will miss him if he doesn't. But those decisions are up to him. I'm sure it's up to whether he's mentally and physically -- that's what he wants to do. But I certainly hope he's back."

Archie Manning, Peyton's father, told NFL Network on Thursday that his son hasn't made a decision yet.

"Well, Peyton evaluates things; he's pretty good at that," he said. "I can't tell him what to do, and he hasn't told me what he's going to do. But I do know that he's really giving a lot of things a lot of thought. He's thinking about where he is physically, he wants to see how he can do this some more, trying to get over an injury."

Archie added starting over with new Broncos coach Gary Kubiak will not be an issue for Peyton, if he decides to return next season.

"Yeah, but he loves Gary. He likes Gary," Archie Manning said. "He liked John Fox. He liked Adam Gase. All those things, I think, are considered with. But my deal is he's always made good decisions; he's pretty thorough. He's going to evaluate a lot of things, and I think he'll make a good decision."


RG3: 'I could've sat out the rest of last year' after hurting ankle
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:04 pm ET) During a radio interview Wednesday night, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III indicated the dislocated ankle he suffered in Week 2 against the Jaguars hindered him the rest of the season. He missed six games due to the injury.

“I had never suffered an ankle injury of that severity before, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Griffin said, per The Washington Times. “It just became more and more tough the more games that we lost, because you know how hard your guys work, and you want to get out there and help them win games.

“I could’ve sat out the rest of last year, with how bad the ankle was, but I felt like I could play, and I wanted to get out there and play with my guys and help them win games. And that didn’t happen when I got back out there. Then coach made a decision [to bench me]. That was an unfortunate decision, and something we all had to go with because that was coach’s choice.”

Griffin will be entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2015. The Redskins have until May 3 to decide if they want to exercise the fifth-year option on his contract for 2016. 

Griffin added his focus this offseason will simply be on getting healthy.

“Last year, I wasn’t healthy, and it sucked,” Griffin told ESPN 980. “There’s no other way to say it other than that. When you dislocate your ankle in the second week of the season, when you and your team had big things in mind. So I guess it’s just getting healthy, getting a mental break, getting a chance to spend time with family, and then formulate my plan going forward from this year so we can go out there and win games.”


 
 
 
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