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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
Bishop Sankey to get more playing time
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:01 am ET) Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said rookie running back Bishop Sankey will get more playing time, starting Sunday against the Browns, reports The Tennessean. Sankey was on the field for 29 snaps Week 4, compared to 22 in Week 3.

In those two games he ran for 95 yards on 16 carries and caught three passes for 32 yards.

"You will see [more reps for Sankey]," Whisenhunt told the paper. "That's coming. And I think you'll see more of that earlier in the game this week.

"I think one of the things that does get lost is that he had more snaps in the game last week than any of our running backs. That game got a little one-sided quickly, so maybe it wasn't as evident, but he was in there earlier."


Eagles FS Malcolm Jenkins earns kudos from coach
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:01 am ET) Eagles free safety Malcolm Jenkins, whose thievery has resulted in one interception in each of the last three games, has earned the praise of Chip Kelly.

"We've said since day one, (he) can play anywhere," Kelly told Eagles Insider. "He's been unbelievable since he arrived here."

Jenkins has shown off his range this season. Each of his picks have been snagged on a different part of the field. The veteran has more interceptions in four games this year than he has in any of his five previous full seasons.


So you added Eli Manning. Now what?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:59 am ET) Understandably, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was a popular pickup on the waiver wire this week after throwing four touchdown passes at Washington. He has multiple touchdown passes in three of four games and was considered a Fantasy mainstay just a couple short years ago.

But I'm not sure I buy him as more than a backup in Fantasy. The inconsistency, both from week to week and year to year, is too well established. Honestly, apart from the 2011 season, when he threw for a career-high 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns, I never thought he was hot stuff anyway. His bad games tend to be really bad and not always so predictable.

Of course, I'd put his chances of having a bad game this week at pretty close to nil. He's home against the Falcons, who just allowed 558 yards of offense to the Vikings, of all teams, and rank 30th against the pass, allowing 276.3 yards per game. If I was a betting man, I'd bet on Manning keeping his multi-touchdown streak alive.

But I'd bet even more on Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, etc. I don't see how you start Eli Manning over any of that group, so I think Jamey Eisenberg's and Dave Richard's ranking of him, even with the favorable matchup, is more or less appropriate.


Bears face solid matchup for Week 5
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:57 am ET) The Bears DST unit has had an up-and-down season so far, with the lowlight coming with a miserable 1-point effort against the Packers in Week 4. They are looking to bounce back in Week 5 with the Panthers on the schedule.

The Panthers have lacked a big-play element to their offense, and opposing defenses have taken advantage of that recently. Over the last two weeks, the Steelers and Ravens have combined for 27 Fantasy points against the Panthers, who will likely be without their top two running backs this Sunday as well. That should work out well for a Bears defense that has struggled against the run.

The Bears aren't a great team to rely on defensively, though their greatest weakness might not be exploited this week. They have some appeal as a low-end Fantasy sleeper for Week 5. 


Jay Cutler has a chance to bounce back
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:55 am ET) Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will look to bounce back from his worst game of the season when he takes on the Panthers in Week 5.

Cutler tossed six touchdowns without an interception in Weeks 2 and 3, before his two-pick performance against the Packers last Sunday. Still, he came out of the game with 18 Fantasy points, and has tossed at least two touchdowns in each game so far, so it isn't all bad.

He gets to take on a Panthers defense that was badly victimized by the pass last week, as Joe Flacco tossed three touchdowns and racked up 31 Fantasy points against them. The Panthers have yet to hold a quarterback below 15 Fantasy points this season, while allowing multiple touchdowns in three of four games.

As hard as it can be to trust Cutler at times, this is not the time to turn away from him. Both Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard consider him a top-12 quarterback for Week 5, so consider him a solid No. 1 option.

 


Titans add Lache Seastrunk
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) The Titans signed rookie running back Lache Seastrunk to their practice squad. The sixth-round pick out of Baylor was cut by the Redskins, then the Panthers.

Eagles QB Nick Foles: Bruises no big deal
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:45 am ET) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has denied that a bruised left (non-throwing) shoulder has affected his mechanics or weakened his performance recently.

"Just a couple bruises, it's as simple as that," he told Delaware Online. "You get hit a couple times, there's definitely some soreness in the body. ... That's football. You're going to get hit. You're going to have bruises. You're going to have soreness. But I feel good."

Foles performed well the first three games before a clunker Sunday in San Francisco in which he completed just 21 of 43 for 195 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.


No elixir for Tom Brady's woes
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:38 am ET) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady realizes there's no quick fix to the team's offensive problems. New England's offensive line is in disarray, the team lacks explosive receivers, and Brady is making a surprising number of poor decisions.

"There’s no magic play, there’s no magic scheme," he told WEEI. "It’s us as players playing a lot better than we’re playing. This hasn’t been an isolated incident. I don’t think offensively we’ve played well all year. I don’t think we’ve played well for a long time. We’ve got to figure out the reasons why we’re not playing as well as we’re capable and try to improve them."

Brady is averaging under 200 passing yards per game and has accounted for more turnovers (5) than touchdowns (4).


LB Jon Beason a no-go for Giants on Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:37 am ET) A nagging foot/toe injury has Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason on the pre-practice injury report for Wednesday, the New York Daily News has reported.

Beason has been inactive for the last two games. He was scratched after being deemed doubtful for the Week 4 game at Washington.


Ready to trust in Rueben Randle?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:28 am ET) Coming off what was far and away his best game of the season, Giants wide receiver Rueben Randle may seem like a sneaky play Week 5 against Atlanta. The Falcons are terrible on defense, having just allowed 558 yards to the Vikings, of all teams, and rank 30th against the pass, allowing 276.3 yards per game.

But the matchup might almost be too good for a player in Randle's situation. He's not the Giants' top weapon -- not even close. I'd bet on running back Rashad Jennings, wide receiver Victor Cruz and tight end Larry Donnell having big games before I bet on Randle. And after the way rookie running back Andre Williams performed in relief of Jennings last week, the Giants might involve him more, too.

Favorable matchup or not, not all of those players can have big games, and because the Falcons aren't strong enough anywhere on defense to neutralize one of those threats, Randle may take a back seat.

I'm not saying he can't have a big game. I'm just saying I'd have to be convinced he has a better spot in the pecking order to put any money on it. I probably wouldn't resort to him except in leagues that require the use of three wide receivers.


 
 
 
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