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Player Challenge strategies for Week 7

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: Tony Romo, Cowboys

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The Philadelphia Eagles -- Romo's Week 7 opponent -- have been extremely kind to opposing quarterbacks this season, allowing 25 Fantasy points per game, the third-worst average in the NFL. Four quarterbacks have thrown for 300 or more yards against the Eagles this season, and five have thrown multiple touchdowns. Only one has attempted 35 or fewer passes. Romo scored just 10 Fantasy points in Week 6, but had 50 the week before and has three additional weeks of 20 or more points. His 14 passing touchdowns this season are second only to Peyton Manning.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Nick Foles, Eagles

On the other side of this Cowboys/Eagles game is Foles, who hasn't officially been named the starter (as of Tuesday), but will likely take the reins once again for the Eagles. Foles -- who was in contention for the starting quarterback job until late in the preseason -- threw for 296 yards and three touchdowns against the Bucs, a team that had allowed just one multiple-TD game from a quarterback heading into Week 6. This came a week after Foles subbed in for an injured Michael Vick and threw for 197 yards and two touchdowns against the Giants in a little over a half of play. Foles is a good fit for Chip Kelly's system and is a smart start against a Cowboys team that has allowed 25 or more points to opposing quarterbacks four times (with three quarterbacks scoring 30 or more and one scoring 40 or more).

Running Back

My picks for the Player Challenge: DeAngelo Williams, Panthers; Matt Forte, Bears

Now's a good time to remind everyone that this is my actual lineup in the Player Challenge. I'm not throwing names at a wall and hoping they stick. So if you don't like this Williams call, feel free to plug in one of the top right RBs and run with him (I kept writing and then deleting his name, but finally just decided to go with him). I'm taking a leap of faith here and plugging in a running back I've liked all season long. He's already had his bye, yet is 12th in rushing attempts, 10th in rushing yards and averages 4.3 yards per carry. He's just not scoring touchdowns. In Week 7, he faces the Rams, who have allowed the second-most Fantasy points to opposing running backs. St. Louis has given up seven touchdowns to running backs this season, and all three running backs who have gotten 20 carries against the Rams (DeMarco Murray, Frank Gore and Arian Foster) have run for more than 150 yards. And while it isn't necessary to pull from outside of the top eight running backs for the Player Challenge, there is plenty of hope here that Williams gets a lot of carries and scores his first touchdown(s) of the season with this stellar matchup.

Forte, meanwhile, gets to play against a Washington defense that has allowed 21 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, including five touchdowns over five games and an average of 47.8 receiving yards (eighth in the NFL). Forte has the sixth-most Fantasy points and receiving yards among running backs. This Week 7 matchup should give him a nice boost in stats.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Mike Tolbert, Panthers

With all that said about DeAngelo Williams above, I'm not going to ignore Tolbert's production this season -- two rushing touchdowns and one receiving score. Additionally, look at the rushing touchdowns the Rams have allowed this year:

Jason Snelling, Week 2 (one touchdown, two carries)
Kendall Hunter, Week 4 (one touchdown, 11 carries)
Anthony Dixon, Week 4 (one touchdown, three carries)
Ben Tate, Week 6 (one touchdown, 10 carries)

So, of the six rushing touchdowns the Rams have given up, four have come from secondary (and even tertiary) backs.

Wide Receiver

My picks for the Player Challenge: Victor Cruz, Giants; Dez Bryant, Cowboys

Victor Cruz is in a bit of a rut, having scored 10 total Fantasy points over the last two games. But he's still seen eight or more targets in all but one of his games (Thursday night against Chicago) and has gone over 100 receiving yards three times. A Monday night matchup with the Vikings -- who have given up 308 net passing yards per game and the seventh-most Fantasy points to wide receivers -- could be the fix. Minnesota has allowed three touchdowns to wide receivers in the last two games, and four wide receivers have gone over 100 yards against the Vikings over their five games this season.

Bryant, meanwhile, should be in line for a big performance against the Eagles, who have given up 13 touchdowns to opposing wideouts this season, as well as a league-worst 35 Fantasy points per game. Six wide receivers have multiple-touchdown games(!) against the Eagles, and nine wide receivers have scored double-digit Fantasy points. While Bryant caught just five catches for 36 yards against Washington in Week 6, he's also scored 20 or more points three times this season, and has six touchdowns through six games, despite battling back problems. Putting the player who has the third-most receiving touchdowns against the defense that has given up the second-most could be a Fantasy boon for Bryant owners.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Keenan Allen, Chargers

I'm not sure if he's moved into the upper echelon just yet in daily formats, but Allen may be worth that middle-ground amount in most formats. The Jaguars have allowed nine touchdowns to opposing wide receivers this season, and have given up 20 or more points to the opposing team's cadre of receivers in five of their six games. Allen has 27 targets and two touchdowns in his last three games, averaging 101 yards per game in that span.

Tight End

My pick for the Player Challenge: Antonio Gates, Chargers

Gates has been a little erratic this season, with two games of 120-plus yards and two of 50 or fewer. He has two touchdowns, though, and five straight games with at least seven targets. So it's safe to say he's at least scraping the upper echelon of tight ends. His Week 7 opponent, the Jaguars, have given up an average of 10 Fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season, the seventh-worst rate in the NFL. And this is with games against Anthony Fasano (zero points, Week 1) and Mychal Rivera (three points, Week 2) factored in. The Jags have since allowed five touchdowns to opposing tight ends, with Julius Thomas being the only one in the top 10 of Fantasy points scored.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Kyle Rudolph, Vikings

The Giants -- Minnesota's Week 7 opponent -- have been pretty miserable against tight ends this season, giving up 11.7 Fantasy points per game. And Kyle Rudolph is coming off his best game of the season, scoring his second touchdown of the year and catching nine passes for 97 yards in Week 6. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave told SiriusXM earlier last week that the team wanted to get Rudolph more involved in the offense, and the switch to Matt Cassel at quarterback, along with a bye in Week 5, may have helped that along. Sean McGrath and Brent Celek have two of the five touchdowns scored against the Giants this season; if Rudolph can carry the momentum forward, he could have a nice game with this great matchup.

DST

My pick for the Player Challenge: Chiefs

Best DST in the game going against a Houston team without a quarterback. Arian Foster may run wild against the Chiefs, but the upside here may allow for that and still have Kansas City putting up the best point total of the week. I wish I had more to write about this, but you're going to use the Chiefs once in this four-week period, and a matchup against the Texans suddenly seems a little better than one against the Bills in Week 9.

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: Cardinals' Daryl Washington unsure of NFL standing
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:32 pm ET) Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington is approaching the one-year mark for his suspension though his NFL status is still in limbo. 

But according to a report from FOX Sports 910 in Phoenix, Washington is unsure about his status with the league. He was suspended a year ago on May 30, 2014 for being a multiple offender of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

However, he was expected to apply for reinstatement a month ago but did not do so. 

Assuming Washington is reinstated to the NFL at some point he will likely be subjected to punishment under the NFL's domestic violence policy. On March 24, 2014, he pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend. 


Titans' Massaquoi rehabbing shoulder, to miss OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:34 pm ET) Outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi will not participate in the Titans' first organized team activities, per ESPN.com.

Massaquoi, who was claimed off waivers from the Falcons earlier this year, is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had a bone spur removed from the area, but the procedure was categorized as a minor cleanup.

Massaquoi recorded 22 tackles in 15 games with Atlanta last season.


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Okoye, a former British Olympics discus thrower and rugby player, is feeling confident about his improvements and feels like his potential is worth a roster spot.

“It’s very different from the first time I came here. I’m feeling very good about things,” Okoye said Thursday while sitting at his locker. “I’m just happy I was given the opportunity to stay here so long, so I could catch up. I have a good opportunity to show what I can do.”

Okoye has worked under new head coach Jim Tomsula for two years and with Justin Smith's retirement, his emergence might be rewarded.

“You’re going to get lots of people telling you things. But the main thing is to just keep yourself motivated, despite what people say about you," Okoye said. "People will write you off. People will say this or that. Just keep yourself motivated, keep going every day and you’ll be good.”

 


Bengals' Terrelle Pryor still dreams about winning it all
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Pryor -- in his fourth year in the league -- dreams about winning the Super Bowl with quite some frequency, he just isn't sure what team he's doing it with.

“I don’t know the team. It’s always in black uniforms,” Pryor said. “I didn’t see any orange. No, it’s not the Raiders. But I believe it can happen because I can visualize it like that. I’m into visualization.”

Pryor hasn't played a down since the 2013 regular season, when he passed for 1,798 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 11 games.


Flowers' college position coach thinks he can fill in for injured Beatty
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(3:18 pm ET) Things are moving really fast for Giants offensive lineman Ereck Flowers. The eighth overall pick in the draft, because of an injury to Will Beatty, might have inherited a huge workload this season, per nj.com.

Art Kehoe, Flowers' offensive line coach at the University of Miami, thinks Flowers will be up to the task of protecting quarterback Eli Manning.

"I'm sure he raised his level up a notch or two, but I think he plays every week, I think he plays hard in practice," Kehoe said. "He's an unproven commodity at the next level, and he's a high draft pick, [the Giants] drafted him to be a fixer, so I'm sure he's going in there to do what he did in Miami — scrap his ass off every day in practice, and if you're supposed to be a badass the next weekend [against] your opponent, he's gonna be there and he's gonna bring everything he's got. That's what he does. He wants to know that there's a dude, and he has to take care of him, and he'll be up to the challenge.

Giants' 2013 first-round pick, Justin Pugh is also a top candidate to fill in for the injured Beatty.


Union: Goodell must back off hearing of Patriots QB Tom Brady
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith is growing impatient awaiting word from Roger Goodell on the request of the NFL commissioner to recuse himself as arbitrator of the appeal hearings ofPatriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The league suspended Brady for the first four games next season for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal, claiming that he likely knew that game balls were being deflated for his benefit before the 2014 AFC title game.

Smith is claiming that neither Goodell nor the Wells Report, which investigated the incident, could legitimately claim impartiality. He added that the NFLPA will "advance the volume" of the request if they don't hear from Goodell by next week. Part of the union's press release reads as follows:

Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the Commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as arbitrator in this matter. The players also believe that the Commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.

As for the Wells Report, Smith stated that "you can't really have credibility just because you slap the word independent on a piece of paper." He offered into evidence the findings in regard to NFL official Walt Anderson, who was a key figure in the investigation, citing one part of the report questions his memory and another credits it.


Zimmer happy with progress of Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:32 pm ET) Mike Zimmer has expressed optimism that underachieving Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson is gaining a better understanding of route-running and the nuances of playing the position in the NFL, which would allow his talent to result in greater productivity.

Patterson took a step back in 2014 after a mediocre rookie year. He played in every game, but managed just 33 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown. He has since stated that 2015 is his make-or-break year and is apparently acting like it in the offseason.

"He's done real well," Zimmer told Fox Sports North. "He's running routes good. He's working hard. So we just need him to continue to do those things and continue to keep getting consistent and keep improving. I've been impressed."


GM: Dolphins LT Branden Albert should be fine for Week 1
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(1:22 pm ET) Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has expressed optimism that left tackle Branden Albert will be ready to roll by the regular season opener.

Albert has been rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL sustained last November against Detroit. He had signed a five-year, $46 million contract the previous March and had been performing particularly well before going down.

"It's been a long rehab and he's really attacked it every day," Hickey told SiriusXM NFL Radio, adding that there was a "reasonable explanation" that he would be ready for Week 1. "We really like his progress. He's out there with his team working out. We're really encouraged by what we're seeing with him."

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(1:15 pm ET) The Bills still want to extend the contract of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, according to a report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

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2015 is scheduled to be the last season of Dareus' current contract. He'll make $8.06 million.


Shanahan: Struggles of Robert Griffin III unrelated to injury
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan does not believe injuries have prevented quarterback Robert Griffin III from maximizing his potential in the NFL. Rather, he feels it was the team not creating an offensive system that best fits his talents and his own belief that he could play a traditional role at that position.

Griffin sustained a serious knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. He then struggled in 2013 in an offense designed to transform him into a drop-back quarterback rather than one that took advantage of his mobility. He suffered another knee injury last year and did not perform well in the offense of new coach Jay Gruden.

"I don't think getting hurt has anything to do with it," Shanahan told 106.7 The Fan. "In college he didn't have a route tree, didn't have a playbook. That does take some time. ... If you take a quarterback like that you must run the kind of system that allows him to be successful. ... I really believe Robert thought he was more of a drop-back quarterback. He hasn't done things the NFL asks you to do. It does take some growing pains. You better really work on it inside and out."

Some have wondered why the Redskins went so hard after Griffin if they weren't willing to create an offense that maximizes his skill set.


 
 
 
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