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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
Tough matchup not a concern for Julius Thomas
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:21 pm ET) Broncos tight end Julius Thomas opens the season with a difficult matchup: Indianapolis allowed the fewest Fantasy points to tight ends (5.33 per game) last year.

It's not a concern for Thomas, one of three tight ends to catch a touchdown against the Colts in 2013. In Week 7 at Indy, Thomas caught five of six targets for 41 yards and the score.

That was one of 12 touchdowns Thomas scored in his breakout season. The 26-year-old showed he's not satisfied by taking a diligent offseason approach, according to the Denver Post.

"He's going to be a very special player," former Broncos tight end Joel Dreessen said. "It was fun to watch him grow up last season. In this offseason, he really impressed me with his attitude and work ethic and how hungry he was."

Thomas drew 17 red-zone targets last year. With Eric Decker's departure, the 6-5, 250-pound Thomas should see a few more this season. He's a top-3 play Sunday night.


Allen Hurns secures No. 3 spot
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:51 pm ET) Jaguars undrafted rookie Allen Hurns, who led the team with 14 preseason catches for 232 yards, enters the season as the No. 3 wideout, reports ESPN.com. Veteran Cecil Shorts and rookie Marqise Lee are the projected starters.

Hurns took advantage of extra reps due to injuries and "worked his way into the top three spots," the report said.


Cowboys make roster moves
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:36 pm ET) The Cowboys waived defensive back Jemea Thomas and signed linebacker Korey Toomer.

Rams claim Case Keenum
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:31 pm ET) The Rams claimed quarterback Case Keenum off waivers from the Texans, reports ESPN's Adam Schefter.


Demaryius Thomas needs better performance vs. Vontae Davis
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:27 pm ET) Broncos No. 1 receiver Demaryius Thomas dominated most cornerbacks last year. That was not the case with Vontae Davis.

The Colts' top corner held up well Week 7 against the 6-3, 229-pound Thomas. While Thomas caught four passes for 82 yards and a touchdown, his 31-yard score came one play after Davis exited briefly with an injury. Thomas ended up catching fewer than half his nine targets.

Davis graded out as Indy's top defensive player that night. In addition to making five tackles, he allowed three completions out of eight throws to his coverage area for 12 yards. Whatever damage Thomas did, he didn't do it against Davis. Thomas figures to see plenty of Davis (5-11, 207 pounds) when Denver hosts Indy in Week 1.

Thomas should get redemption Sunday night. He usually comes out with a bang -- he has five touchdown catches in four season openers -- and the Broncos will scheme to free him up. Consider him a top-5 play as usual, despite the tough individual matchup.

Seahawks activate Bruce Irvin
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:56 pm ET) The Seahawks activated linebacker Bruce Irvin (hip) from the PUP list, and he'll practice Monday, reports the Seattle Times.

Ben Tate figures to play on all three downs
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:31 pm ET) The Browns need Ben Tate to be a three-down running back, reports ESPN.com. And coach Mike Pettine is comfortable Tate can handle that big of a role.

Behind Tate, the Browns have three rookie running backs. Top rookie Terrance West struggled in the preseason.

"He's ahead of those guys, and I think he's been solid in protection," Pettine told the website. "I think he does a nice job catching the ball. I would think that he has the edge over those guys as far as third down. That's not saying they won't be there, but probably the guy you can trust the most right now is Ben."


Manti Te'o returns to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:18 pm ET) Chargers inside linebacker Manti Te'o, who hurt his foot in the second preseason game, returned to practice Monday, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. He's on track to play next Monday against Arizona.

Report: Knowshon Moreno, not Lamar Miller, is lead back
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:05 pm ET) The Miami Herald asserts "it is clear" Knowshon Moreno is the Dolphins' lead running back and that Lamar Miller is the No. 2 back. Miller had a chance to seize the job this preseason but averaged 3.4 yards per carry.

The team will have a package of plays for Miller and use him as a change of pace, the paper said.

"I've seen lots on the practice field that tells me where we're headed with Lamar and I feel very good about his ability to be productive," offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said. "But if you're talking about the preseason games, his production needs to improve."


Allen Robinson says he'll 'definitely' play Week 1
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:53 pm ET) Jaguars rookie receiver Allen Robinson remained limited in practice Monday by a hamstring injury, but says he'll "definitely" play Sunday in Philadelphia, reports the Florida Times-Union. If Robinson plays, he's expected to have a situational role.

 
 
 
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