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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
Broncos WR Emmanuel Sanders limited by hip injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Broncos wideout Emmanuel Sanders was limited in practice for the second straight day Thursday due to a hip injury, reports the Denver Post. He's fully expected to start Sunday's game against the Raiders.

Denver, which will clinch a first-round bye with a victory, is a two-touchdown favorite.

Playing with Peyton Manning, Sanders has set career highs with 95 catches for 1,331 yards and nine touchdowns. He caught five balls for 67 yards and two scores in the Week 10 win at Oakland.


Jets add RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) to injury report
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) The Jets added running back Chris Ivory to the injury report Thursday, saying he was limited by a hamstring injury, reports ESPN.com. Ivory, who's battled hamstring problems in the past, leads New York with 792 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

The Jets are 6-point underdogs in Sunday's season finale at Miami. Ivory was held to 62 rushing yards on 16 carries in the Week 13 home loss to the Dolphins.


Lions WR Calvin Johnson returns to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Lions wideout Calvin Johnson, held out Wednesday due to an ankle injury, returned to a limited practice Thursday ahead of Sunday's NFC North showdown at Green Bay. Johnson caught six passes for 82 yards in the first meeting with the Packers.

Update: Lions RB Joique Bell 'should be fine' for Sunday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Lions running back Joique Bell (Achilles) practiced fully Thursday after being limited Wednesday and "should be fine" for Sunday's game at Green Bay, reports the team's website. Earlier reports indicated Bell's status was in doubt, especially after coach Jim Caldwell replied, "We'll see," when asked if Bell would be able to play.

Bell leads Detroit with 800 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns, including five in the past four games. The Lions are 7.5-point underdogs in the game for the NFC North crown.


Chiefs RB Jamaal Charles limited Thursday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was limited in Thursday's practice with hamstring and ankle injuries, per the team's website. He'll play Sunday against the Chargers in a game with playoff implications.

Kansas City is a 3-point home favorite.


Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe still sidelined
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe missed his second straight practice Thursday due to a shoulder injury. Bowe sprained his shoulder in the Week 16 loss at Pittsburgh.

His status is uncertain for Sunday's home game against San Diego.


Falcons WRs Roddy White, Harry Douglas back at practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Falcons receivers Roddy White (ankle) and Harry Douglas (foot) returned to practice Thursday ahead of Sunday's division-deciding game against Carolina. While wideout Julio Jones (oblique) remained sidelined, he's expected to start opposite White with Douglas serving as the No. 3 receiver.

Atlanta is a 4-point home favorite to capture the NFC South.


Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph not looking good for Week 17
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph remained unable to practice Thursday due to knee and ankle injuries, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. It appears he'll miss his second straight game Sunday against Chicago, with Chase Ford getting another start.

Minnesota is a 6-point home favorite.


Bengals WR A.J. Green (arm) returns to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Bengals receiver A.J. Green (bruised bicep) returned to a limited practice Thursday, reports the team's website. Green now seems likely to play Sunday at Pittsburgh with the AFC North title at stake.

Even in an injury-plagued year, Green leads Cincy with 61 catches for 959 yards and six touchdowns. How effective he'll be Sunday night remains to be seen. But Green's return to practice is good news for the Bengals, who are 3.5-point underdogs.

In the first meeting with the Steelers, Green exploded for 11 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown.


Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray out sick Thursday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/25/2014) Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray won't practice Thursday. He was sent home because he's sick, reports the Dallas Morning News.

Murray, who underwent surgery Dec. 15 on his broken left hand, is fully expected to play Sunday at Washington after getting 22 carries in the Week 16 blowout of the Colts. Dallas is favored by 5.5 or 6 points at Vegas sportsbooks.


 
 
 
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