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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: Buccaneers bringing in Dan Connolly for a visit
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(9:11 pm ET) Former Patriots offensive guard Dan Connolly will visit the Buccaneers on Tuesday, per a report by Fox's Ross Jones, citing a source. 

Connolly has played in 87 games for the Patriots in the last seven years and hasn't played in fewer than 13 games in a season since 2008. 


Steelers RB DeAngelo WIlliams says signing was easy decision
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(9:03 pm ET) After playing his first nine seasons with the Panthers, running back DeAngelo Williams signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Steelers this offseason. Among his many thoughts on the signing, he called it an easy decision, according to the Sporting News.

“I didn’t know they wanted me. I had never been on a visit before,” Williams said. “I was with the same organization for nine years. When I got the call and they said, 'hey we want to bring you in for a visit' I took it as that. Had they said we wanted to bring you in for a signing I would have had a different mindset. I had no idea what was going to transpire when I got here.”

Williams added that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get the team to the next level.

“It’s the opportunity to take maybe one or two reps or whatever it takes to make this team better,” Williams said. “That is what I will do. I want to make it to a Super Bowl and win it. I know this team has that potential and they can do it.

“Coming here was an easy decision. This is a Super Bowl contending team. Every veteran out there, veteran or rookie, they want to go to the Super Bowl and win it and get the best opportunity. I think the best opportunity is here in Pittsburgh.”

Williams has rushed for 6,846 yards on 1,432 carries with 46 rushing touchdowns in his career.


Lions WR Golden Tate doesn't feel pressure due to loss of Suh
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(8:49 pm ET) Although Lions wide receiver Golden Tate feels the loss of Ndamukong Suh is a blow to the team, he doesn't believe it puts more pressure on the offense, reports ESPN. 

When asked specifically about the subject, Tate was clear about his thoughts.

"No, I don't think it adds any pressure," Tate said by phone Monday. "We just need to be who we are. We know that we have a lot of weapons all over the field. We just need to reach our potential each and every week.

"We just need to go out there and play fundamentally sound football and I have no doubt our defense is going to be really good again this year and we just got to do our jobs. There's no pressure on anyone but to be ourselves and to play good football."

Additionally, Tate recognizes that Suh was a game-changing player for the Lions, but he likes the addition of Haloti Ngata.

"Obviously, losing Suh is a big hit," Tate said. "I don't care what team you are, he's the guy that can change the game. Change an opposing offense's game plan. He affects the game so much. But with that being said, I'm thankful to have [had] the opportunity to play with him for a year and be a part of something special. But the show must go on.

"The guy we got, [Haloti] Ngata, is a heck of a player. I think it's a good pickup for us. I know he has a past with coach Caldwell so he knows the ins and outs of the system, probably. But we're ready to move forward. We can't live in the past and football season must still go on. We're preparing to have a great year and build from last year."

The 26-year-old stated that he plans on focusing on the intricacies of the offensive playbook heading into this season.

"One thing I really want to focus on is learning the playbook a little bit better," Tate said. "I felt like I knew it for the most part, but details, running the plays exactly how Joe Lombardi draws them up, could help us win more games and create more opportunities for myself and our team."

Tate finished his first season with the Lions catching 99 passes for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns.


Report: LB Rolando McClain ends Patriots' visit without contract
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(7:52 pm ET) After visiting the Patriots on Monday, linebacker Rolando McClain and the team did not agree to terms on a contract, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. The same report states that the visit was a positive one.

McClain played in 13 games last season for the Cowboys, collecting 81 total tackles and one sack. Over his four-year career, the 25-year-old has accumulated 327 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, 23 passes defensed, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.


Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu looks forward to being healthy
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:56 pm ET) Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu believes that he is regaining his health and he's ready to make an impact this season, according to the team's website.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been healthy,” Mathieu said Monday. “Last year I felt like I took a back seat. I played well my rookie year and then last year it was kind of, eh, I was there but I wasn’t there. This (year) is more important for me because I really want to let everyone know I’m back and I can still make some plays.”

Mathieu tore his ACL and LCL toward the end of the 2013 season. He recently said that the comeback was "way harder than I thought."

Head coach Bruce Arians talked about how Mathieu was not himself last season.

“You saw him fight through it last year,” Arians said. “He was not the player he was used to (being) and it was very frustrating for him.”

Mathieu was aware of the chatter from the outside world and he is using that as motivation going forward.

“You hear people talk and I had time to listen to them talk, so it’s like … I hear it,” Mathieu said. “Like I said, I didn’t feel like I made enough plays last year to help our team. I am looking forward to this year because I know I can do it.”

The 22-year-old has registered 106 total tackles, one sack, three interceptions and one forced fumble in 26 games played during his two-year career.


Saints plan to rework Jahri Evans, Cameron Jordan contracts
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:27 pm ET) Saints coach Sean Payton said that the team has a plan in place to rework guard Jahri Evans' contract to help create salary cap space, per ESPN's Mike Triplett

Evans is scheduled to make $6.8 million salary in 2015 and cost $11 million against the cap. 

The team might also extend defensive end Cameron Jordan's contract. Jordan is entering the last year of his contract and is scheduled to make $6.969 million this year.


Rams have agreed to terms with OL Tim Barnes
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:16 pm ET) The Rams have agreed to terms with offensive lineman Tim Barnes, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The one-year deal has a maximum value of $1 million. 

Barnes recently visited had a visit with the Chiefs before signing with the Rams. The 26-year-old spent all three of his previous seasons with the Rams, starting four of the 45 games he appeared in.


Report: Brandon Tate visits Chiefs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:14 pm ET) Free agent wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Tate visited the Chiefs on Monday, according to a report from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, citing a source.

Tate had 17 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown for the Bengals last year. He also had a combined 571 yards in kick and punt returns. 


Lions' Riley Reiff open to playing right tackle
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(6:10 pm ET) Lions coach Jim Caldwell said that Riley Reiff might start at right tackle next season. 

Reiff has started 32 games at left tackle over the last two seasons. The Lions aren't sure that last year's right tackle LaAdrian Waddle will be fully recovered from knee surgery, and backup tackle Cornelius Lucas is better on the left side. 

Reiff told the Daily Republic he doesn't care where he plays. 

 "I like playing, and wherever they want to put me, that's fine. I'll play," he said.


Broncos OL Michael Schofield looking to compete for starting job
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(6:05 pm ET) Broncos offensive lineman Michael Schofield is ready to come in and compete for a starting job this season, reports the Denver Post.

After not dressing for a single game as a rookie, Schofield added weight and he looks forward to fighting for a starting job.

"I am going in there with that mentality. In the NFL everybody is competing," Schofield said during a road trip to see family in Illinois. "They are looking for someone to step up and take over. I want to make that jump."

The third-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2014 struggled with weight issues, but he is now up to 305 pounds. He also recognized that his pass protection needs improvement.

"Personally, I felt there were reasons I wasn't out there (for games). I wasn't consistent enough in pass pro (protection). And my weight was really fluctuating," Schofield said.

Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak believes that the team's zone-blocking scheme can help Schofield elevate his game, and Schofield agrees.

"We like the Schofield kid, so we'll see. We think he's got some flexibility (in where he can play)," Kubiak said. "It will be very competitive."

"I feel like I am better suited for this," Schofield said. "You have to be able to reach block, and I feel the steps required fit me better."


 
 
 
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