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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
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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