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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
Bears sign linebacker Sam Acho to one-year contract
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:11 pm ET) The Bears have signed linebacker Sam Acho to a one-year contract, the team announced Wednesday. 

Acho spent the last  four seasons with the Cardinals, totaling 124 tackles with 13 sacks and three interceptions in 51 games. Acho played every game for Arizona in three of the four seasons.


Report: Stevan Ridley meeting with the Jets on Wednesday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:19 pm ET) Former Patriots running back Stevan Ridley visited another AFC East team on Wednesday -- the Jets, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Ridley, a free agent, visited the Dolphins a day before his visit with the Jets.

Ridely tore his ACL in the sixth game last season and finished with 340 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He has rushed for 2,817 yards and 22 touchdowns in his four-year career with the Patriots.

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


Report: Romo restructures deal, saves Cowboys $13M in cap space
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:07 pm ET) Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has restructured his contract, according to Yahoo Sports. He will save the Cowboys $13 million in salary cap space.

Romo indicated in a radio interview Tuesday he was going to restructure his contract and also said he was willing to take a pay cut so the team could re-sign running back DeMarco Murray, who eventually signed with the Eagles.

"DeMarco ended up asking me, 'Why don't you take a pay cut?' I said, 'I will. I would take a pay cut to go do this,'" Romo said. "I was like, 'They're going to restructure me.' That's the same thing in some ways, just for the salary cap purposes. He was like, 'OK, now we're back to being friends again.' I would take $5 million less if it meant getting him back.

"He knew that. It was just funny how he was literally worried about that part of it for a week. I'm like, 'That's not the reason.' I'm like, 'Obviously I'll restructure. I would even take a pay cut.' He was like, 'OK, we can be friends again.' It's amazing what you think about in those moments."

Romo's restructuring does clear up enough cap space for the Cowboys to potentially make a run at trading for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who is slated to make $12.75 million in base salary in 2015, per ProFootballTalk.com.

Peterson's name has been linked to the Cowboys in the past, including Peterson's dad -- Nelson Peterson -- mentioning in late February he's heard rumors of Peterson being potentially traded to the Cowboys, Cardinals or Colts.


Dan Herron signs exclusive rights tender with Colts
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:42 pm ET) Colts running back Dan Herron signed his exclusive rights tender on Wednesday, according to the Herald Bulletin. Herron started three of 16 games for the Colts in the regular season, and all three postseason games. The 26-year-old rushed for 351 yards and one touchdown on 78 carries. He rushed for 170 yards on the ground in the postseason.

Saints sign cornerback Kyle Wilson
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:55 am ET) The Saints agreed to terms with cornerback Kyle Wilson on Wednesday, the team announced.

Details of the contract were not disclosed. Wilson spent the last five seasons playing for the Jets. In 2014, he totaled 26 tackles and one sack. He has three career interceptions.


Saints extend contract of guard Jahri Evans
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(11:51 am ET)  The Saints announced Wednesday they extended the contract of offensive guard Jahri Evans by one year.

The Saints were hoping to rework his contract to create more cap space. Evans has started all but two games for the Saints over the last nine seasons.


Malcolm Jenkins: Eagles players not surprised by McCoy trade
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:12 am ET) While most folks were shocked when the news broke in early March the Eagles were trading running back LeSean McCoy to the Bills, apparently McCoy's Philadelphia teammates were not

Safety Malcolm Jenkins told NFL Network on Wednesday it was not surprising when it was announced McCoy was being traded for linebacker Kiko Alonso.

"In the locker room a lot of guys weren't surprised by the trade, what we were more surprised of was that it was just a player-for-player trade," Jenkins said. "I think everybody thought we would have gotten more -- Kiko, plus a couple draft picks, you know, somebody else...

"You look at the style of runner that Chip wants in his offense and even though Shady is one of the best backs in the league, he's not necessarily what Chip is looking for all the time. Chip thinks he's a great running back, he knows his talent is there, but our (system) is really predicated on downhill, somebody who is going to hit the hole every time. It's about getting up in the defenders face as fast as you can and that's not necessarily Shady's running style."

The Eagles replaced McCoy's absence in the backfield by signing former Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 1,845 yards in 2014, and former Chargers running back Ryan Mathews.

"When you talk about what you can get for -- if you are looking to acquire more talent -- I just think Shady's cap number and what we were able to get in return for Shady, I think made sense," Jenkins said. "And some guys in the locker room who kind of know what's going on weren't surprised by it."


Joe Lombardi: Lions excited to see what Broyles does in offseason
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:57 am ET) The Lions are not yet giving up on wide receiver Ryan Broyles, who has been hampered in his career by knee and Achilles injuries. 

“I think he’s a guy you have a lot of respect for because he’s had three major injuries and fought his way back,’’ Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said Tuesday, per The Oakland Press. “When he’s been in there he’s been productive. We’re excited to see where he is now after a full season of not coming back from an injury. He’s had a full year to be healthy we’re excited to see what he does in the offseasaon.’’


Michael Thomas signs tender with Dolphins
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:54 am ET) Michael Thomas, an exclusive rights free agent, formally signed his one-year tender with the Dolphins on Wednesday morning, reports Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. The 24-year-old played in eight games last season, making 18 tackles, until landing on IR with a chest injury.

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


Report: Rolando McClain agrees to one-year, $3M deal with Cowboys
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) The Cowboys have reached an agreement with linebacker Rolando McClain on a one-year deal, a source told The Dallas Morning News. McClain's deal will pay him $3 million in base salary and potentially another $1 million in incentives.

McClain made his return to the NFL in 2014 after twice retiring. The former first-round pick thrived in his first season with Dallas, totaling 81 tackles (65 solo), one sack and two interceptions in 13 games. 

Although, he did have some injury issues last season. Knee and groin injuries, as well as an illness forced McClain to miss three regular season games. He was then limited in the playoffs due to a concussion.

McClain remained a sought-after free agent this offseason despite reports he is facing a four-game fine for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Also, an arson investigation into a fire that destroyed his Alabama home in December remains open but inactive.


 
 
 
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