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Player Challenge strategies for Week 5

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: Drew Brees, Saints

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You're always in a good spot when you paint yourself into a corner by having to use the second-best Fantasy quarterback as a starter, but there it is. Brees doesn't have the best of matchups in Week 5 -- the Bears have allowed an opposing quarterback to score 20 points just once this season (Ben Roethlisberger, Week 3) -- but there are a few things working in his favor:
1. He's Drew Brees.
2. The Bears have faced relatively weak competition (Andy Dalton and Christian Ponder).
3. The Bears defense -- with the loss of Henry Melton and minor injury to Charles Tillman -- isn't as strong as it was two weeks ago.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Terrelle Pryor, Raiders

Let's try this again. Pryor was a solid pick for Week 4 against Washington, but ended up sitting out with concussion-related issues. He gets the Chargers in Week 5 and it's actually a better matchup for him. The Chargers have allowed the most Fantasy points and the fourth-most rushing yards to opposing quarterbacks this season. Tony Romo's 22 points in Week 4 were the fewest the Chargers have allowed -- Jake Locker and Matt Schaub scored 29 each against San Diego, while Michael Vick -- whose dual-threat style most closely resembles Pryor's of the four quarterbacks -- scored 38 points in Week 2. Locker and Vick both ran for a touchdown, as well.

Running Back

My picks for the Player Challenge: Matt Forte, Bears; Arian Foster, Texans

This is an exceptionally tough week for running backs, as the teams with the best matchups (Jacksonville, St. Louis) don't have the best running back situation, and some of the easiest teams to run on (Washington, Pittsburgh) have byes.

I'm going with Matt Forte as my first back against a Saints defense that has given up 5.5 yards per carry this season. The Saints have actually been decent against opposing running backs, yielding just 16 Fantasy points per game, but just one opposing back has seen more than 11 carries. It was Doug Martin in Week 2, when he ran for 144 yards on 29 carries. Two running backs have put up 35 or more receiving yards against the Saints (while Marcus Thigpen is technically a running back, he's more of a wide receiver, so I'm not counting him) and Forte has been great this year, with three rushing touchdowns in four games. He's fourth among running backs in Fantasy points and has the fourth-most targets at the position.

Foster is going up against a San Francisco defense that has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, but has been ravaged by touchdowns, giving up six to running backs over the season's first four games. Foster has shown a skill for getting in the end zone, leading the league in rushing touchdowns twice (in 2010 and 2012). Despite losing carries to Ben Tate this season, Foster is still a top 10 running back, and the 49ers should be weakened by the loss of Aldon Smith for the next few weeks. So even though he may not get that 100-yard game, I'm banking on Foster to find the end zone against a team that has been permissive in that regard so far this year.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Rashad Jennings, Raiders

This all depends on Darren McFadden playing, but if he doesn't, Jennings has a great matchup against a Chargers team that has given up 5.2 yards per carry to running backs. The Chargers have actually held opposing running backs to the fourth-fewest Fantasy points, but they've gotten somewhat lucky -- allowing zero touchdowns to the nine running backs who have carried once. With McFadden -- and, possibly, Marcel Reece -- out, Jennings could have a shot at being the first opposing running back to carry the ball 20 times against San Diego this season. And if the Chargers continue to give up that lofty YPC average, Jennings could put up some nice Week 5 numbers.

Wide Receiver

My picks for the Player Challenge: Demaryius Thomas, Broncos; Victor Cruz, Giants

I almost backed off the Thomas pick because while the Cowboys have given up the fifth-most receiving yards this season (1,314) and the most touchdowns (10), they saw a lot of that damage come against the Giants in Week 1, when they gave up 100-plus yards to Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Rueben Randle. In the ensuing three games, the Cowboys held opposing teams' wideouts to 17 or fewer Fantasy points (as a totality of the receivers in each game). However, those teams didn't really have a stud wide receiver -- Dwayne Bowe (Week 2) has struggled all season, while the Rams and Chargers lack a true star. The Broncos have two studs (Thomas and Wes Welker), with solid supplemental options in Eric Decker and Julius Thomas. They look more like the Giants than the other three teams the Cowboys have faced this season, and this could lead to a nice game for Demaryius Thomas.

Cruz leads all wide receivers in Fantasy points, is sixth in targets, third in yards and sixth in touchdowns. And he gets to face off against an Eagles defense that has allowed the most Fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers this season. The Giants have been a mess, but Cruz has been a solid contributor. And the list of receivers who have gone for double-digit points against the Eagles (Leonard Hankerson, Eddie Royal, Malcom Floyd, Donnie Avery, Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker) make the top Fantasy receiver's prospects look even better for Week 5.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Terrance Williams, Cowboys

Williams made some waves in Week 4 with a seven-catch, 71-yard performance against the Chargers, having it marred only by a fumble as he was falling into the end zone in the fourth quarter. But he was targeted eight times and has a chance to make an impact with Miles Austin nursing a hamstring injury. Additionally, the Cowboys play Denver in Week 5, and the Broncos -- while only giving up three touchdowns to wide receivers this year -- have allowed the third-most receiving yards in the league. With attention on Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, Williams should be able to find plenty more passes thrown his way against a relatively permissive pass defense.

Tight End

My pick for the Player Challenge: Vernon Davis, 49ers

Davis returned from a hamstring injury to catch two passes for 18 yards and a touchdown in Week 4 against the Rams. Because that was a Thursday night game, Davis is getting extended rest heading into Week 5. The Texans have been exceptionally tough against opposing tight ends (allowing them to score 3.5 Fantasy points per game), but the best offensive-minded tight end they've faced this season has been Antonio Gates. Davis should be close to healthy this week and could get back into the end zone against the Texans.

I will add this note: if Rob Gronkowski plays, I'll probably start him over Davis, especially after seeing what Jordan Cameron was able to do against the Bengals in Week 4.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Dallas Clark, Ravens

Clark hasn't exactly wowed with his Fantasy numbers this season -- a total of 15 points, including a Week 2 goose egg -- but he's quietly racked up a bunch of targets, with 29 in four games. That's good enough for ninth among tight ends, ahead of Charles Clay, Julius Thomas and Vernon Davis. Additionally, the Ravens play the Dolphins in Week 5 -- Miami has given up 17 Fantasy points per game to tight ends. That number was boosted by Jimmy Graham's Week 4 performance, but Jordan Cameron, Coby Fleener and Tony Gonzalez also scored a touchdown against the Dolphins in the three previous games.

DST

My pick for the Player Challenge: Browns

I realize everyone is rushing to grab the Rams because of their matchup against the hapless Jaguars, but we've seen what can happen when one potential top receiver (Josh Gordon) is added to the mix of an apparently hapless team. So I'm shying away from St. Louis this week, thinking that Justin Blackmon's presence could click something for Jacksonville. Instead, I'm going with the Browns, who get a Thursday night matchup against the Bills. The Browns are one of six teams to have scored double-digit Fantasy points every week this season. Add in the fact that Thursday night games have generally been terrible for offenses and that three of Buffalo's main offensive weapons (C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson and Steve Johnson) are dealing with injures, and this could be a solid high-teens effort from the Browns.

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
Matt Bryant misses only field goal, still puts up points
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:28 am ET) Falcons kicker Matt Bryant managed points despite missing his only field goal attempt.

With time running out in the second quarter, Bryant lined up for a 59 yard attempt. He missed wide left. While that was the only field goal attempt he received, Bryant actually got a ton of work. He hit all eight of his extra point attempts, finding a way to put points on the board.

Bryant will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


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(1:24 am ET) The Falcons DST had a big game Thursday against the Buccaneers. 

Atlanta held the Bucs without a score until 8:46 was left in the game. The team was already ahead 56-0 at that point. Some of those points came as a result of strong defensive play. Atlanta managed one defensive touchdown after picking off Josh McCown. Devin Hester also returned a punt, putting Atlanta on the board for a second time. Overall, the team forced five fumbles, four of which were recovered. 

Atlanta will look for more Week 4 against the Vikings. 


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With the team up by a ton, Atlanta started using their subs in the third quarter. Jacquizz Rodgers received five carries for 6 yards. Rodgers also caught a pass for 3 yards.

Eric Weems seemed to be the biggest beneficiary, hauling in four passes for 69 yards. Fullback Patrick DiMarco gained 35 yards on three catches. Levine Toilolo also contributed, catching two passes for 25 yards. Courtney Roby picked up 11 yards on one reception. 

They'll take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Harry Douglas picks up a score before leaving
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) Falcons receiver Harry Douglas manages to catch a touchdown before exiting Thursday's game.

Douglas caught two balls for 14 yards. He hauled in a 3 yard score on the team's first drive of the game. He injured himself with four minutes left in the second quarter, and did not return to the game. 

If Douglas can play, he'll take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Devin Hester makes big impact Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester made a big impact Thursday against the Buccaneers.

Hester caught just one ball for 25 yards, but found a way to make an impact in other places. He managed to score on his only carry, running in a 20 yard touchdown. Hester then managed to score on a punt return, breaking the NFL record for return touchdowns. He did so with former record holder Deion Sanders watching the game. Hester would leave the game twice due to cramping.

He'll take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Julio Jones dominates Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones turned in a fantastic performance Thursday against the Buccaneers. 

Jones hauled in nine passes for 161 yards and two scores. The Bucs had no answer for Jones on defense, even though Jones was Atlanta's only healthy weapon. After making a ridiculous catch on a 40-yard touchdown, Jones left the game. At that point, the team was up 42-0. Jones received a team-high 11 targets. 

Jones will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Devonta Freeman gets 11 carries Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:59 am ET) Falcons running back Devonta Freeman got 11 carries Thursday against the Buccaneers. 

Freeman got most of his work after Steven Jackson was taken out of the game. Freeman did little to distinguish himself, though the Bucs defense was basically selling out against the run. Freeman gained just 12 yards on his 11 carries. He caught one pass for 7 yards. 

Freeman will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Antone Smith breaks off a big run Thursday
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(12:55 am ET) Falcons running back Antone Smith managed to rip off a score Thursday against the Buccaneers.

Smith received two carries when the game was still in reach, but made his big play with the game already in hand. After Steven Jackson left the game, Smith got two carries on the next drive. The first went for -2 yards, but the second was much more exciting. Smith broke a 38 yard score. He managed to beat the defense to the outside, and out-ran everyone to the end zone. Smith finished with four carries for 50 yards. 

Smith will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Steven Jackson runs one in Thursday
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(12:42 am ET) Falcons running back Steven Jackson managed to run in a score Thursday against the Falcons.

Jackson didn't get a ton of work, as the Falcons took a commanding lead early. He ran the ball 14 times for 54 yards. He scored his only touchdown in the third quarter. With the team already up 49-0, Jackson managed to pick up a 2 yard score. The run was impressive, as Jackson broke two or three tackles on the play. The team then went to other backs, opting to keep Jackson fresh.

Jackson will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


T.J. Yates gets some time Thursday
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(12:37 am ET) Falcons quarterback T.J. Yates saw some time Thursday against the Falcons.

Yates completed 3 of 4 passes for 64 yards. His only incompletion was a big one, as the Buccaneers managed to intercept and run back the pass for a score. 

Yates will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


 
 
 
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