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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
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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