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Player Challenge strategies for Week 6

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, Broncos

I hate being that guy -- "Oh hey everyone! Pick Peyton Manning!" -- but the Jaguars have given up the fifth-most Fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, and Peyton Manning is a man possessed.

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There's a solid counter-argument to using Manning this week: the Broncos could jump out to a huge lead early and then just run all day after getting their cushion. And Tony Romo, coming off a 500-yard game in Week 5, gets to face off against a Washington defense that has allowed the fourth-most Fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. But Washington is also coming off a bye, and we saw last week that a team coming off a bye (Green Bay), facing a division rival (Detroit) could cancel out plenty of stats and numbers and suppositions and well-laid plans. Granted, the Lions were hurt by the loss of Calvin Johnson before the game, but the Packers seemed pretty tuned in to what the Lions were doing, regardless. At the end of the day, we may be splitting hairs here -- it's Peyton Manning against Tony Romo for a starting quarterback spot. There may not be a wrong answer.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Andrew Luck, Colts

The Colts play San Diego Monday night and the Chargers have given up the third-most Fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. T.Y. Hilton emerged in Week 5, Trent Richardson is going to get better every week as he learns the offense and Reggie Wayne was fifth in receptions and second in targets last season. Even though the Colts are just 24th in the NFL in passing yards per game (220), they have an offense that can take off without warning. Luck has the tools and a favorable matchup in Week 6, so he's worth a good-value start in daily formats if the price is right.

Running Back

My picks for the Player Challenge: Arian Foster, Texans; Jamaal Charles, Chiefs

The Rams have been bad against the run this season. They're allowing the second-most Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, having given up six touchdowns (five rushing) and two games of 150-plus rushing yards. Additionally, the Rams are allowing 4.6 yards per carry to opposing backs. Arian Foster, who gets to face the Rams in Week 6, has just two touchdowns so far this season, but has two games in a row with 20-plus carries (averaging 100 rushing yards). And he's led the league in touchdowns twice over the last four seasons.

Charles makes for an interesting play because he'll be the first back to really challenge the Oakland run defense. The Raiders have allowed just 13.8 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs -- the 10th-lowest average in the league. But here's the list of running backs the Raiders have faced:

Vick Ballard, Ahmad Bradshaw, Maurice Jones-Drew, Denard Robinson, Justin Forsett, Jordan Todman, Will Ta'ufo'ou, Ronnie Hillman, Montee Ball, Knowshon Moreno, Alfred Morris (who was injured in that game), Roy Helu, Evan Royster, Darrel Young, Danny Woodhead, Ryan Mathews, Ronnie Brown.

Of that group, only Moreno, Morris and Woodhead are in the top 30 among Fantasy running backs. Morris had seven points in his game when he was hurt, Woodhead had 10 Fantasy points (and 58 receiving yards) in his Week 5 matchup and Moreno ... well, not everyone is going to shine. But Charles is a step above all the running backs the Raiders have faced so far and should shine in his Week 6 matchup.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Willis McGahee, Browns

McGahee faces the Lions in Week 6 and Detroit has already given up seven touchdowns to opposing running backs this season. Granted, the Lions have faced stiff competition -- Adrian Peterson, Alfred Morris and Matt Forte -- but they've run into minor problems with Rashard Mendenhall (14 Fantasy points) and Eddie Lacy (99 rushing yards). McGahee has seen his carries increase each week -- from eight in Week 3 to 15 in Week 4 to 26 in Week 5. And while his yards per carry have been unimpressive, he's going to get better every week as he acclimates himself to the offense. Keep in mind, McGahee has played just three games since last November, is coming off surgery, missed all of the preseason and is learning an entirely new system. This Week 6 matchup against the Lions -- a team allowing 5.3 yards per carry -- should allow McGahee to break out for the first time this season.

Wide Receiver

My picks for the Player Challenge: Vincent Jackson, Bucs; Dez Bryant, Cowboys

Jackson is coming off a bye and gets to face Philadelphia at home. The Eagles have allowed 37.2 Fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers, giving up 11 touchdowns in five games. Nine receivers have finished with 80 or more yards. Five receivers can boast multi-touchdown games. Four have put up 20 or more points. Mike Glennon may be untested at quarterback, but he doesn't have an especially tough challenge ahead of him and Jackson's skill should win out.

A good amount of Washington's ugliness came in Week 2 against the Packers, when Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson combined for three touchdowns and James Jones had 178 receiving yards. Washington has only allowed five touchdowns (over four games), but five wide receivers have gained 100 or more yards. Bryant has a nice history against Washington, with an especially nice recent history against the team -- in his last three games, Bryant has averaged 94.7 receiving yards and has three total touchdowns.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Mohamed Sanu, Bengals

Sanu has yet to really shine this season, with just one game over 50 yards and one touchdown. But he gets a nice matchup against Buffalo in Week 6, a team that has allowed the second-most Fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. The Bills have given up eight total touchdowns over five games, so even if A.J. Green is the player who takes off for the Bengals, there's going to be some leftover yardage and possible touchdowns for Sanu.

Tight End

My pick for the Player Challenge: Jason Witten, Cowboys

Most of the arguments for Dez Bryant can be applied to Witten -- Washington is not good against the pass and hasn't been very successful against tight ends -- allowing four touchdowns over four games -- and an average of 11 Fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Witten has scored about 10 points per game, but it's been hit-or-miss: he has two games of 18 or more points and three games of six or fewer. With a lot of momentum from Week 5, coupled with a great matchup, Witten is a solid tight end start for Week 6.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Martellus Bennett, Bears

I realize it's foolish to pick an offensive player in a Thursday night game, but the Giants have given up 12.6 Fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Now throw that on top of the fact that defenses are going to have to pay attention to both Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, and it leaves Bennett with a bit of an opening. Sprinkle all of that with Bennett having played for the Giants last year and the matchup gets even more enticing. If he's available at the right price, Bennett could be a nice daily league play for Week 6.

DST

My pick for the Player Challenge: 49ers

The Bears are getting a Giants team without David Wilson on a Thursday night. And as enticing as that sounds, it gives me that, "don't go in there," horror movie-style feeling. Like it's just a little too quiet. Instead, I'm going with the 49ers, who have scored 44 Fantasy points in the last two weeks and get a Cardinals team that is not the offensive powerhouse we originally thought it might be. The 49ers do have the Jaguars in a few weeks, so holding onto them for that matchup may not be the worst idea, but the Cardinals have scored 25 points just once this season (their 18.2 point per game average is the fifth-lowest in the league) and they're 30th in yards per game. The 49ers are on a roll right now and could do some damage against a slipping Arizona team.

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
Eagles' Chris Polk gets first-team reps in practice
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Eagles running back Chris Polk received first-team reps in practice on Wednesday, according to CSNPhilly.com.

Polk opened practice with the starters and ran a couple of plays. LeSean McCoy watched the plays from the sideline. Following practice, McCoy stressed that it wasn't a big deal. "We rotate all the time," he said. "[Running back coach Duce Staley] pulled me out. [Darren] Sproles wasn't in either." Polk is coming off a three touchdown performance in Week 15. It's possible he could find his way into more playing time given the practice situation. 


Seahawks without three offensive lineman on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Seahawks did not have three of their offensive linemen at practice on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Max Unger, Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy were all held out. Unger has missed the past four games due to an ankle and knee issue. He was able to practice last Friday, but did not play on Sunday. Okung is dealing with a bruised lung, but there's a chance he'll recover in time for Sunday's game. "[Okung is] going to have some stuff done [Thursday] that will let us know where he sits and all that," head coach Pete Carrol said. "He’s not out of the plan yet."

Sweezy is dealing with an ankle injury. His appearance on the injury report comes as somewhat of a surprise. 


Lions pick up CB Josh Thomas
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Lions have claimed cornerback Josh Thomas on waivers, according to the New York Post

Thomas was cut by the Jets on Tuesday, but found a new job quickly. He's played in three games this season, registering two tackles. 


Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch sits out on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch did not practice on Wednesday.

Lynch has been using Wednesday as a veteran's day all season, so the move isn't a big surprise. He's been battling a back injury throughout most of the season, but has been able to play through it. Lynch has 1133 rushing yards, with 10 touchdowns, this year. 


Texans' DeAndre Hopkins unable to practice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins did not practice on Wednesday.

Hopkins is dealing with an ankle injury, and was unable to go. Hopkins has played in all 14 games this season. He has 1167 yards on 69 receptions. Hopkins has caught six touchdowns. His status will likely be determined based on how much he is able to practice on Thursday and Friday. 


49ers WR Michael Crabtree misses practice Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree did not practice Wednesday due to a knee injury, reports CSNBayArea.com. Crabtree, who has not cleared 60 receiving yards since Week 11, isn't believed to be seriously hurt.

He's scheduled to play the Chargers on Saturday night. If Crabtree can't go, it could mean increased targets for fellow starter Anquan Boldin.


Raiders QB Derek Carr limited by thumb injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was limited in Wednesday's practice with a thumb injury, but coach Tony Sparano isn't too concerned, reports CSNBayArea.com. Carr has thrown one or zero touchdown passes in four of his past five games entering Sunday's contest against Buffalo.

Report: Jay Cutler to be benched Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Bears will bench starting quarterback Jay Cutler Week 16 against the Lions, according to ESPN.

The move comes as a big surprise given the seven-year, $126 million contract Cutler signed in January. Cutler has had a big problem with turnovers this season, throwing 18 interceptions and fumbling 12 times. The move could mark the end of Cutler's season as the starter, and puts his future in Chicago in jeopardy. 

The team will turn to Jimmy Clausen to replace Cutler.


Texans RB Arian Foster held out Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) Texans running back Arian Foster did not practice Wednesday with what the team called a hip injury. Foster was listed on the injury report last week with a groin injury, then racked up 117 yards from scrimmage on 29 touches at Indy.

Foster, who might just be getting a veteran's rest day, is expected to start Sunday against the Ravens. Houston is a 5.5-point underdog at Caesars Palace Race and Sports Book.


Report: Bears to start Jimmy Clausen Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12/17/2014) The Bears will start Jimmy Clausen Week 16 against the Lions, according to ESPN.

The move comes as a major surprise. While Jay Cutler has faced scrutiny for his body language and demeanor, the team handed him a seven-year, $126 million contract last season. The move seems to indicate that Cutler is done for the season, and puts his career with the Bears in jeopardy.

Clausen has seen time in three games this season, completing three passes in nine attempts. His last start came back in 2010, his rookie season. That year, Clausen threw for 1,558 yards, with three touchdowns against nine interceptions. 

The Lions are currently 7-point favorites, according to VegasInsider.com.


 
 
 
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