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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
Raiders bring back Kaelin Burnett
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Raiders have inked exclusive-rights free agent Kaelin Burnett to a one-year deal. He's expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Dekoda Watson moving to strong-side LB
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) In the wake of the release of veteran linebacker Russell Allen, the Jaguars are expected to make Dekoda Watson their new starting strong-side linebacker, ESPN reports. He'll also play as a pass rusher and potentially line up as a defensive end on third downs. 

Watson had 42 total tackles, two sacks, an interception, a pass defensed, a forced fumble and a blocked punt with the Bucs last year. 


Brandon Gibson begins light jobbing
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Brandon Gibson has begun light jogging as he works his way back from a torn patellar tendon, the Miami Herald reports. The Dolphins are expected to keep him on the roster, if only because of the cap hit he'll cost, per the report. He said recently he expects to be ready for Week 1. 

'Humbled' Richardson explains 2013, promises a better 2014
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Colts running back Trent Richardson spoke openly about his disappointing 2013 season, saying that it took him too long to learn a new playbook and get over leaving Cleveland after Week 2. Richardson also told the official team website that he's planning to do everything within his power to be as prepared as possible for 2014. 

"Y'all will see a big significant difference in the way I play, the speed. I won't have to think about a lot of stuff," Richardson said earlier this offseason. "It's going to be big -- timing with the offensive line, timing with Andrew (Luck), just knowing a lot more with the program, the whole system.

"They haven't seen everything they're going to get out of me yet. A lot of it is going to come next year. A lot of it is going to come in the offseason. I'm going to put in a lot of work, as I've been doing this whole season. This season humbled me. ... This season was a lesson to me."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano has had Richardson's back, says the running back, and the coach stressed back in March that his running back's involvement in the offseason program will be key. 

"It's going to be very, very important for (Richardson) to be here for the offseason program and to dive into this thing full steam ahead, which he will," Pagano said. "He wants to be great. He's got all the talent. He's got all the ability. We would have never done what we did if we didn't believe that deep down in our core. So we look for him to have a great offseason and to have a great 2014 campaign."


Saints bring back Robert Meachem
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Saints announced Friday that the club has re-signed veteran free agent wide receiver Robert Meachem to a one-year contract.

Meachem is a seven-year NFL veteran who was originally the club's first round draft pick (27th overall) in 2007. He re-signed with the Saints prior to the start of the 2013 regular season and appeared in 15 games with five starts. He finished with 16 receptions for 324 yards with two touchdowns.

Meachem said signing with the Saints now should help with his preparations as he will be able to take part in the team's offseason conditioning program, OTAs and mini-camp. Plus, "this is home," he said.


Can Chris Johnson turn into Tomlinson?
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Jets are hoping running back Chris Johnson can do for them what LaDainian Tomlinson did in 2010, reports ESPN.

That season, Tomlinson came from San Diego to New York after he was released. He responded with a team-high 914 yards with six touchdowns on 219 carries and caught 52 passes. He was supposed to be Shonn Greene's backup, but Tomlinson was so impressive that he won the starting job and became an integral part of a team that came within one game of the Super Bowl.

Maybe Johnson, who was let go by the Titans, can do the same thing.

"I can turn the bad things people are saying into a good thing for me, to give me motivation, to keep me hungry and to keep a chip on my shoulder and prove the naysayers wrong," he said Thursday.

Johnson had a disappointing year in 2013 when he averaged just 3.9 yards per carry, but he played 13 games on a torn meniscus and was running behind a suspect offensive line for a team that didn't have its starting quarterback for half the season. The situation in New York should be improved, and hopefully being teamed with Chris Ivory will allow him to play like Tomlinson did in 2010.


Aikman worried about Tony Romo
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Former Cowboys quarterback and Hall of Famer Troy Aikman is worried about current Dallas quarterback Tony Romo coming off back surgery, reports the team's official website.

Romo, 34, is coming off back surgery in December, which was the second procedure on his back in a year.

"I came back in a relatively short period of time because of when I had my surgery, so he's at least afforded more time to get ready," Aikman said. "But having said that, two back surgeries in less than a year at his age, I would be a bit concerned.

"I'm hopeful that he's able to come back -- everybody is. This team won't be the same if he's not able to. I anticipate that he will come back. But to say that, 'Hey, he's ahead of schedule and everything's going fine,' I'm not sure how you can really measure that here in April."


Bengals, A.J. Green not talking extension - yet
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The Bengals are expected to exercise the fifth-year option on receiver A.J. Green's contract by May 3, reports Pro Football Talk. But the sides have yet to discuss a long-term contract extension, according to the report.

The Bengals hold the rights to Green through the 2015 season. And in 2016, if a long-term deal hasn't been signed yet, the Bengals can use the franchise tag on Green for that season.

The report says Green can force the issue by trying to boycott offseason workouts or hold out from training camp. But Bengals coach Marvin Lewis is confident Green will be there.


Chris Snee will give it a shot this spring
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) Giants guard Chris Snee will attempt to go through the Giants offseason program once he's healthy, the New York Daily News reports. Snee had hip surgery last season and an elbow surgery earlier this year. There is no timeline for him to be at 100 percent but he is expected to be on the field for the "bulk" of offseason activities. 

Report: Niners won't release Aldon Smith
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/18/2014) The 49ers might expect a suspension for pass rushing linebacker Aldon Smith, but they are not planning to release him, NFL Network reported on Friday.

Smith was arrested recently for making false bomb reports at a Los Angeles airport, the latest of a string of troubles for the highly talented linebacker. He was also arrested for suspicion of DUI in January, 2012 and again September, 2013. He also had marijuana on him during that September arrest. In October, 2013 he was charged with three felony counts of illegal possession of an assault weapon. 


 
 
 
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