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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
Colts WR T.Y. Hilton active against Titans
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:34 am ET) Colts No. 1 receiver T.Y. Hilton, who sat out Week 16 with a hamstring injury, is active for Sunday's game at Tennessee after being listed as questionable. Hilton leads the team with 82 catches for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns.

Giants RBs Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams active vs. Eagles
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:29 am ET) Giants running backs Rashad Jennings (ankle) and Andre Williams (shoulder) are active for Sunday's game against the Eagles after being listed on the injury report. Jennings has not been a factor since Week 13, while the rookie Williams has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the past three weeks.

They'll likely share the load against Philly.


Pettine working to alter image of Browns through discipline
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) The four-game losing streak that seems likely to extend to five on Sunday has many exclaiming, "same old Browns." But Mike Pettine has taken steps to change that image, per ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Pettine is not allowing misbehaving players to escape responsibility. He has all but benched cornerback and 2014 top draft pick Justin Gilbert for a woeful lack of dedication to his craft, suspended embattled wideout Josh Gordon for an array of misdeeds and fined ballyhooed quarterback Johnny Manziel for being late to a treatment session Saturday after reportedly throwing a party at his home on Friday night.

It might be too late for Gordon and Manziel to learn their lessons, at least in regard to the Browns. The former could be gone after this season and the latter might have lost any chance at earning a starting spot due to terrible performances on the field and admittedly poor preparation off it. But Gilbert boasts the talent to live up to his billing and has vowed to turn his career around in 2015.

Pettine has proven through his actions regarding Gordon and Manziel that he will provide Gilbert no leeway.


Broncos will play starters in hopes of clinching first-round bye
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:59 am ET) Broncos are still playing for a first-round bye, meaning they'll "play to win" against Oakland on Sunday, a source told CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.

Quarterback Peyton Manning, along with other stars like wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (ankle, hip), tight end Julius Thomas and running back C.J. Anderson are expected to play a significant role in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Raiders. The Broncos can clinch a first-round bye with a win. If they lose to Oakland and Cincinnati defeats Pittsburgh, Denver will be playing in the opening round of the playoffs.

Denver is a 14-point home favorite over the Raiders on Sunday.


Patriots stars not expected to play significant role vs. Buffalo
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is unlikely to play more than a quarter at most in Week 17 against Buffalo, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. Jimmy Garoppolo will likely see the majority of the snaps at quarterback.

The Patriots have clinched home-field advantage and have little to play for on Sunday, which means star players like Darrelle Revis and Rob Gronkowski and other injury-prone players are not expected to play a significant role against Buffalo.

New England opened as an 8 1/2-point favorite at home vs. Buffalo. The line has dropped to only 5 points in favor of the Patriots.


Browns will start Terrance West at RB in season finale
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:09 am ET) Browns running back Terrance West, who was benched in Week 16 against Carolina, will get the start in Sunday's season finale against the Ravens, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.

The Baltimore native's role has fluctuated his rookie season, after splitting snaps with Isaiah Crowell in Weeks 14 and 15. He received single digits in carries in three of five games since the team parted ways with Ben Tate. In 13 games, West has carried the ball 153 times for 579 yards and three touchdowns.


Browns sent security unit to Manziel's house on Saturday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(10:01 am ET) CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reports that the Browns had to send security personnel to rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel's house on Saturday to try to locate him after he was not at the team facility to receive treatment for his injured hamstring. Manziel's tardiness was likely due to a party he threw the night before. The team fined him an undisclosed amount for arriving late to treatment Saturday.

Manziel was placed on injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 16 against Carolina. Although he's on IR and not eligible to play, he will accompany the team to Baltimore for Cleveland's season finale against the Ravens. He finished the turbulent rookie season with 175 passing yards and a 42.0 quarterback rating. He also had two interceptions and one fumble lost.


Josh Gordon's days with Browns may be numbered
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:56 am ET) Josh Gordon will file a grievance with the Browns after being suspended for the final game of the season against Baltimore, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reports on Sunday.

His one-game ban prevents him from being an unrestricted free agent after the 2015 season. He would have needed to be paid six games in order to accrue a season. If the Browns choose to to pay him for Week 17, Gordon would have only been paid for five games this year, making him a restricted free agent after 2015, not unrestricted.

According to La Canfora's report, Gordon's days with the Browns may be numbered, as the organization has grown tired of his behavior off the field. The previous front office regime tried repeatedly to trade him last season, but was vetoed by ownership. It remains to be seen if owner Jimmy Haslam will be willing to take reduced compensation in exchange for Gordon, who finished 2014 with 24 receptions and 303 yards in five games.


Report: Falcons WR Julio Jones will play pivotal game vs. Carolina
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:15 am ET) Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones will play Sunday's pivotal regular season finale against the Panthers, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network.

Last week against the Saints, Jones needed to test hip injury during warmups before he was cleared to play. He turned nine targets into seven catches for 116 yards. According to Breer's report, this week the Falcons feel confident enough about his progress that he won't need to go through any hurdles prior to kickoff. Jones has 100 receptions for 1,535 yards and six scores on the year.

Atlanta opened up as a 2 1/2-point home favorite. The line has now moved to 3 points in favor of the Falcons. The winner takes the NFC South title.


Report: Falcons' Steven Jackson won't play vs. Panthers
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(9:12 am ET) Falcons running back Steven Jackson will not play Sunday's pivotal regular season finale against the Panthers, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network.

Jackson entered this week as questionable after suffering a quadriceps injury against New Orleans in Week 16. He compiled 707 yards and six touchdowns on the ground this season. If Jackson is inactive, Jacquizz Rodgers and rookie Devonta Freeman will share the load. Rodgers received 12 touches and Freeman got eight against the Saints.

Atlanta opened up as a 2 1/2-point home favorite. The line has now moved to 3 points in favor of the Falcons. The winner takes the NFC South title.


 
 
 
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