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Player Challenge strategies for Week 4

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.

Quarterback

My pick for the Player Challenge: Peyton Manning

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The Philadelphia Eagles have given up 969 net passing yards this season, allowing 323 passing yards per game -- the fourth-most in the NFL. They've lucked out, to a degree, by only giving up five touchdowns over the three games -- the lack of touchdowns from the opposition has kept the Fantasy scoring down, making the Eagles only the 10th-best defense for opposing quarterbacks to face off against (allowing 23.67 Fantasy points per game).

Now throw Peyton Manning into the mix. His 114 Fantasy points are 28 more than the next-highest quarterback (Aaron Rodgers). He's the only quarterback with double-digit touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception over three games.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Terrelle Pryor, Raiders

He's been up and down in three games this season (though mostly up), but Pryor's matchup against Washington is stellar -- the league's second-worst passing defense also gave up 54 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to Michael Vick in Week 1. Pryor is still a bit unproven, but he should be a nice bargain in deeper daily formats.

Running Back

My picks for the Player Challenge: DeMarco Murray, Cowboys, Adrian Peterson, Vikings

Murray is coming off a huge week against the Rams, rushing 26 times for 175 yards and a touchdown, while catching three passes for 28 receiving yards. His Week 4 opponent, the Chargers, have not only given up the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL (390 yards), but have also allowed 5.1 yards per carry, the fourth-worst average in the league. If Murray can carry even some of last week's momentum forward, this game could be a boon for him.

I've actually saved Adrian Peterson for this Week 4 game against the Steelers, because it's a surprisingly nice matchup. Pittsburgh has allowed the fifth-most Fantasy points to opposing running backs, giving up five touchdowns. Two running backs have gone over the 20-carry mark against the Steelers, while two have also added 20 receiving yards.

Peterson has 69 rushing attempts this season, the second-most in the NFL. He's averaging 4.1 yards per carry and has four total touchdowns, trailing only LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles in Fantasy points.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Lamar Miller, Dolphins

While the Saints defense looks markedly better in 2013 than it did last season, they're still somewhat susceptible to the run. The Saints have given up the 13-th most rushing yards this season -- and just one rushing touchdown -- but their 5.3 yard-per-carry average is the second-worst in the league. Only two running backs have gotten more than three carries against New Orleans over the first three games (Steven Jackson, 11; Doug Martin, 29). Miller has averaged 10.7 carries per game and has two touchdowns on the season. Even with the limited carries he's going to see, Miller should be able to do some damage against the Saints. If he can break off a few nice runs early, Miller could have a breakout game.

Wide Receiver

My picks for the Player Challenge: A.J. Green, Bengals; Calvin Johnson, Lions.

I cross-referenced the six teams whose defenses had given up the most receiving yards (San Diego, Washington, Denver, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Green Bay) with the defenses who have given up the most Fantasy points to wide receivers (Washington, Green Bay, Buffalo, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Atlanta) and went for the crossover picks first. Oakland (playing Washington) doesn't have an elite enough wideout to plug in this week. Green Bay is on a bye. But Philadelphia gets a dangerous Denver offense. And while Demaryius Thomas might be the obvious choice here, I'm going with Wes Welker.

The Eagles seem to have developed a bit of a pattern this season -- allowing the opposing team's secondary receiver to steal the show. In Week 1, Leonard Hankerson scored Fantasy 20 points, while Pierre Garcon had six. In Week 2, Eddie Royal scored 27, while Malcom Floyd had 10. And in Week 3's ugly Thursday night game, Donnie Avery scored 14 points, while Dwayne Bowe was held scoreless. You could always make the case that Eric Decker could be the team's secondary receiver here, but I'm going with a well-researched gut call, and picking Welker.

For the second receiver spot, I'm going with Dez Bryant. The Chargers have given up 130 or more yards to a receiver in each of their first three games, and it's been the opposite of Philadelphia's "second fiddle" approach -- San Diego allows the studs to score. Andre Johnson caught 12 passes for 146 yards in Week 1, DeSean Jackson caught nine passes for 193 yards in Week 2, and Nate Washington caught eight passes for 131 yards in Week 3. Bryant has 201 receiving yards and two touchdowns over three games this season. He profiles nicely as that top-level receiver against whom the Chargers seem to have a weakness.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Aaron Dobson, Patriots

Dobson has 10 targets in each of his last two games, and while he only caught three passes in Week 1, he upped that number to seven in Week 2. In the two games he's played this season, Dobson has averaged eight Fantasy points. New England's Week 4 opponent, the Falcons, have allowed the seventh-most receiving yards in the NFL, and given up the sixth-most Fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts (including five touchdowns in three games). Dobson will eventually feel a squeeze with Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski back in the mix, but he looks like a nice option for this Sunday.

Tight End

My pick for the Player Challenge: Jordan Cameron, Browns

I don't trust Rob Gronkowski to be at full strength for Week 4. And Tony Gonzalez is going up against the Patriots, who have allowed one total point to opposing tight ends this season. Vernon Davis is still a little banged up, and I've already used Jimmy Graham and Jason Witten in the challenge. So I'm going with Jordan Cameron. The Bengals have been decent against tight ends this season -- allowing an average of 5.3 points per game -- but Martellus Bennett scored a touchdown against them in Week 1 and the main tight ends in Week 2 (David Paulson) and Week 3 (Andrew Quarless/Ryan Taylor) weren't nearly the same offensive threats as Cameron.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Heath Miller, Steelers

Miller started for Pittsburgh in Week 3 after missing the first two games of the season following knee surgery, catching three passes for 35 yards on four targets. He gets to face the Vikings in Week 4, a team that has allowed the second-most Fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends -- including six total touchdowns. Tight ends have caught 18 passes over three games on 29 targets against the Vikings. Even with rust left to shake off, Miller has a shot at a big game this week.

DST

My pick for the Player Challenge: Chiefs

Eli Manning was sacked seven times in Week 3. The Chiefs enter their Sunday matchup with 15 sacks, the most in the NFL. The Chiefs also have the seventh-most interceptions in the league (four), which matches up nicely with Manning's eight interceptions thrown this season. And don't count out the fun little intangible of the Chiefs having a coach (Andy Reid) who is intimately familiar with the Giants. In 18 career games against the Eagles, Reid's former team, Manning averaged 231 yards, just under two touchdowns, and an interception per game.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Cardinals

With a hobbled Vincent Jackson and a locker room full of turmoil, the Bucs are inching toward full-out disaster mode. And while the Cardinals have been disappointing this year (middle of the pack in Fantasy points, just two interceptions and five sacks), they've faced some offensive powerhouses -- Detroit and New Orleans, as well as a fourth-quarter surge from the Rams in Week 1 -- and now have a string of easier games in the horizon. The Bucs are 0-3 and have the second-fewest passing yards in the league. They've scored 34 total points on the season and may be the perfect opponent for Arizona to show what it can do against a lower-end offense.

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
Report: Titans S Bernard Pollard wants to be released
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Titans safety Bernard Pollard has requested a release from his contract, The Tennessean reports. He is scheduled to make $3.1 million in the final season of his two-year deal in 2015.

Pollard submitted his request to general manager Ruston Webster at the end of the regular season, per the report. He is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and wants to play in 2015, but said on The Tennessean's Bernard Pollard Show earlier this month that he was unsure of his future with the Titans.

"I am not getting any younger, so I want to win, I really do. I want to win,'' Pollard said. "Looking at how things took place this year, looking at where (the Titans) need to be for next year, that is a tough, tough question, and I don't even know if they can give me the answer. I have one year on my deal, but it is going to take some time."

Pollard has been out of his walking boot for a month and is making progress in rehab. He suffered his Achilles injury in Week 5 and was placed on injured reserve.


Patriots fairly healthy heading into Super Bowl Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Patriots will be at nearly full strength for Sunday’s Super Bowl as the following players have been listed as probable: Tom Brady (ankle), Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), Chris Jones (elbow), Akeem Ayers (knee), Darrelle Revis (non-injury-related) and Sealver Siliga (foot).

All except Brady were limited participants in practice Friday. The only question mark is center Bryan Stork, who is questionable with a knee injury and was limited in practice Friday.

The Patriots are currently 1-point favorites against Seattle.


Seahawks unveil final injury report in preparation for Super Bowl
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Seahawks have listed the following players as probable for the Super Bowl on Sunday: J.R. Sweezy (ankle), Justin Britt (knee), Marshawn Lynch (back), Earl Thomas (shoulder), Richard Sherman (elbow) and Kam Chancellor (knee).

Chancellor was a late addition to the injury report, when he fell on the next-to-last play of practice and missed the last play. He was not limping on his way off. All other players were full participants in practice Friday.

The Seahawks are currently 1-point underdogs against New England.


Saints tight end Jimmy Graham to avoid surgery on shoulder
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he will avoid surgery on his shoulder after testing it at the Pro Bowl. 

"I’ve been doing rehab and I’m going to start back on my rehab Monday and really there’s going to be no surgery," Graham told SiriusXM radio. "I’m just going to do rehab, strengthen the area. That’s what’s best — not having to take six months off and try to heal up with a surgery, but now have those six months to work on all things I need to to try and hopefully get to a place like (the Super Bowl) next year."

Graham, who had 85 catches for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014, fought off the injury for most of the season. He was still unsure about having surgery before the Pro Bowl last week.

"It was something that really needed some rest and unfortunately it wasn’t able to get that during the season," he said. "It happened early and then you have about 10 straight weeks of trying to make it to the game. Now after having about three or four weeks and last week kind of testing it at the Pro Bowl, it feels great."


Vikings' Greg Jennings: We all want Adrian Peterson back
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Vikings veteran wideout Greg Jennings said during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview on Friday that embattled running back Adrian Peterson is wanted back by everyone in the organization, per ESPN.

"I don't know if he'll be back. I can't answer that question," Jennings said. "But what I do know is that if he does come back, he'd be accepted with open arms. As an organization from the Wilfs on down, we all want him back. So, I mean, it's a touchy subject and he's been the franchise player -- face of that team -- for eight years. So it will be a loss, a huge loss, if we can't get him back, and that's the nature of this business."

In November, Peterson was suspended by the league without pay for the rest of the season, making him ineligible for reinstatement until at least April 15. The move came after Peterson pleaded no contest to recklessly injuring his 4-year-old son last May. He is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million.

It's unclear at this point if Jennings has talked to Zygi and Mark Wilf about the Peterson situation. What is clear is that the team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension.


Eagles' Maclin believes contract will take care of itself
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin believes he will be back in Philadelphia in next season. His representatives and the Eagles are in the process of negotiating a new contract for the 27-year-old, who will become a free agent in March unless he is re-signed.

"I'm excited about what the future holds," Maclin said on Friday. "Once again, both sides have made it known what we want to do. I think it will take care of itself."

He could be franchise tagged if a deal is not signed. The tag number for wide receivers is yet to be determined.

Maclin had 85 catches in 2014 for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns in Philadelphia.


Bears sign LB DeDe Lattimore to two-year contract extension
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) The Bears have signed linebacker DeDe Lattimore to a two-year contract extension. He appeared in 10 games as a rookie in 2014, recording five special teams tackles.

Jaguars' Khan 'very optimistic' about WR Blackmon being reinstated
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said Friday he is "very optimistic" about wide receiver Justin Blackmon, who missed the 2014 season after being suspended indefinitely for a third violation of the league's substance abuse policy, being reinstated to the NFL.

"I think he's paid his dues and I think he's got his life together," Khan said, per The Florida Times-Union.


NFLPA president Eric Winston: New conduct policy 'violates CBA'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) After the union field a grievance last week against the NFL over changes to the NFL personal conduct policy, Players Association president Eric Winston said Thursday the new policy "violates the CBA in several ways and we're going to be grieving this as far as we can."

NFL owners unanimously approved the changes in December.

"We have an agreement with the league and they have an agreement with us," Winston said, per the Associated Press. "We're going to hold them to that agreement. Many aspects of this policy fall outside of the CBA and we're going to continue fighting it going forward."

Following former Ravens running back Ray Rice's domestic violence case and Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's child abuse case, a more extensive list of prohibited conduct was included in the policy, as well as criteria for paid leave for anyone charged with a violent crime. A suspension of six games without pay for violations involving assault, sexual assault, battery, domestic violence, child abuse and other forms of family violence will be in effect.

"The league's revised conduct policy was the product of a tremendous amount of analysis and work and is based on input from a broad and diverse group of experts within and outside of football, including current players, former players, and the NFL Players Association," the league said in a statement last week.

"We and the public firmly believe that all NFL personnel should be held accountable to a stronger, more effective conduct policy. Clearly, the union does not share that belief."


Eric Decker 'pushing' for Demaryius Thomas to sign with Jets
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/30/2015) Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas is set to become a free agent in March, unless he agrees to a contract extension or Denver uses the franchise tag on him. If he does become a free agent, former teammate Eric Decker hopes Thomas would consider joining him on the Jets roster.

Decker spent a few days in Arizona this week with Thomas filming a commercial.

“I’ve been pushing for the entire year now,” Decker said in a telephone interview with The New York Post. “It was just another opportunity to talk to him about it. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think it would be tough for Denver to let him go. So whether they franchise-tag him here in the next month or give him a long-term deal, he’s just one of those premier players in this league.

"If he happens to make it to free agency, I would love to sign him because playing alongside him for four years and especially the last two years made it a lot of fun and made it a lot easier. He’s just one of the great players in this league.”

Thomas recorded a career-best 1,619 receiving yards in 2014. It was his third straight season of 1,000-plus receiving yards. He also had at least 10 touchdowns for a third straight season.


 
 
 
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