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Player Challenge strategies for Week 8

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

On paper, the Lions look like a solid defense against the pass -- allowing an average of 17.4 Fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks and giving up multiple passing touchdowns in just three of seven games. But a deeper look reveals some recent fissures: all three of the multi-touchdown games have come in the last four games. And while the Lions have still kept the average quarterback score against them below 20 points, Jay Cutler, Brandon Weeden, Aaron Rodgers and Andy Dalton have put up an average of 22 Fantasy points over the last four games. The Lions have also allowed the fifth-most passing yards per game, giving up 300 yards three times and 290 passing yards or more in four of the last five games. Romo is the second-best quarterback the Lions will face this year (behind Rodgers), which should end up with 300-plus yards, a couple touchdowns and a 20-plus point day.

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A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Carson Palmer, Cardinals

Opposing quarterbacks have scored 20 or more points in five of six games against the Falcons this year, for an average of 24.3 Fantasy points per game -- the worst in the league. All six opposing quarterbacks have thrown at least two touchdowns, and three have passed for more than 300 yards. Additionally, the Falcons have just three interceptions this season, the second-lowest total in the league. Arizona's offense looked predictably bad against a stellar Seahawks pass defense in Week 7. This Week 8 gift could prove to be a fruitful reversal of fortune.

Running Back

My picks for the Player Challenge: Marshawn Lynch, Seahawks; Frank Gore, 49ers

Marshawn Lynch is currently third in Fantasy points among all running backs. His 138 rushing attempts are second-most in the league and his 177 receiving yards have Lynch on pace to shatter his previous career high. In Week 8, Lynch gets a Monday night date with the Rams, who have allowed an average of 22.6 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs -- the most in the NFL. And while Rams apologists can point to the two sub-15 point outputs from opposing RBs in the last three weeks, they're overlooking the fact that those games were against the Jaguars (26th this season in rushing attempts) and Panthers (who gave 13 carries to backup Mike Tolbert). The Rams have given up eight touchdowns to running backs in seven games and have been hurt most by the top-level backs -- Frank Gore scored 19, Arian Foster scored 19 and DeMarco Murray scored 25.

Frank Gore also has a stellar matchup in Week 8, facing the Jaguars, who have given up 153.3 rushing yards per game, including a league-worst nine rushing touchdowns. In the last two weeks, they've given up three touchdowns to Knowshon Moreno and allowed Ryan Mathews to run for a season-high 110 yards (his most since December 2011). Gore currently ranks sixth among running backs with 89 Fantasy points this season and is one of seven backs with 500 or more rushing yards.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Joseph Randle, Cowboys

The Lions have given up 115.1 rushing yards per game, but just five rushing touchdowns, so it's not a given that Randle will have a big Sunday against Detroit. But the Lions are one of two teams giving up more than five yards per carry (New Orleans is the other) and Randle should be available for purchase in daily leagues at a discount, especially considering his somewhat disappointing Week 7. It's definitely a leap of faith, as the Lions haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, but some running back, at some point, will exploit Detroit's surprisingly permissive run defense.

Wide Receiver

My picks for the Player Challenge: Calvin Johnson, Lions; Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

It's a shame Victor Cruz has become such an unreliable option lately, because his matchup against the Eagles would normally make him a must-start. But with just 15 points over his last three games, Cruz can't be counted on. So I'm going with Calvin Johnson. Balky knee and all. He gets to face off against the Cowboys in Week 8. Dallas has given up the third-most receiving yards per game this season (311.9), along with 14 receiving touchdowns -- second-most in the NFL. Johnson has played in three games against the Cowboys in his career and has three touchdowns. While the Cowboys haven't given up a touchdown to a wideout in the last two weeks, they were kind to receivers earlier in the season, allowing Victor Cruz to score three times in Week 1 and giving up a touchdown each to Wes Welker and Eric Decker in Week 5.

The same logic that applied to Palmer (above) applies to Fitzgerald. The Falcons have allowed the third-most points to opposing wide receivers this season and the best wideout they've faced has been Vincent Jackson, who caught 10 passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns in Week 7. Wide receivers have scored nine touchdowns in six games against the Falcons and with Fitzgerald getting farther away from the hamstring issues every week, there's a good chance for a big game here -- better, at least, than any other matchup in the four-week challenge format.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Jarrett Boykin, Packers

The Vikings held the Giants receivers in check Monday night, but that may have been more a failure on the part of the Giants than a great success on the part of the Vikings. Minnesota has allowed opposing wideouts to rack up 20 or more points four times over six games. And Boykin showed he could step up for a decimated Packers receiving corps and handle a large workload, catching eight passes for 103 yards and a touchdown against the Browns in Week 7. As the de facto No. 1 receiver for Green Bay, Boykin should shine against a relatively weak Vikings pass defense.

Tight End

My pick for the Player Challenge: Tony Gonzalez, Falcons

The Cardinals have given up 16.6 Fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends -- the most in the NFL. Tight ends have scored eight touchdowns against the Cardinals over seven games and three opposing tight ends have gone over 100 yards. Enter Tony Gonzalez, who gets to face the Cardinals in Week 8. With Julio Jones out for the season and Roddy White likely missing another game (or at least still being hobbled with the ankle injury), Gonzalez moves up from your average offensive-minded tight end with a great matchup, to integral-part-of-the-offense tight end with a great matchup.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Kyle Rudolph, Vikings

Rudolph was supposed to be a solid play for Week 7 against the Giants, but caught just three of nine targets for 27 yards in a Monday night debacle. The bright side here is that Rudolph has a week to get things right with Josh Freeman and has been targeted 20 times in the last two weeks (which equals his total over the first four games). Rudolph's Week 8 opponent, the Packers, have allowed the third-most Fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (11.7), allowing touchdowns in two straight games. Things can't get much worse than they were on Monday night for Minnesota and Rudolph seems to have come out of the bye with an expanded role in the Vikings offense.

DST

My pick for the Player Challenge: 49ers

The 49ers have the sixth-most interceptions in the NFL. They've recovered six fumbles and scored two defensive touchdowns. And I could throw a hundred more stats your way, but this is all you need to know: the 49ers play the Jaguars in Week 8. Jacksonville has some talent, but has failed to put it all together this season in a manner that nearly guarantees defenses will have success against the team. The 49ers entered the season at near-elite levels, and have four straight weeks of 15 or more points -- seemingly improving once Aldon Smith left the team. Heading into a bye week, San Francisco should put up at least 12-15 points in a solid Week 8 matchup.

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
Bills awarded waiver claim for QB Matt Simms
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) The quarterback situation in Buffalo has gotten a little more complicated on Friday. The Bills were awarded their waiver claim on QB Matt Simms, who was released by the Jets on Thursday, according to the team's official website. 

Simms has played just four games and has completed 19 of 39 passes for 195 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in his career.


Falcons waive LB Prince Shembo due to animal cruelty charges
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) The Falcons have decided to waive linebacker Prince Shembo on Friday after he was charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, per nfl.com.

"We are aware of the charges that have been filed against Prince Shembo," the team said in a statement. "We are extremely disappointed that one of our players is involved in something like this. Accordingly, we have decided to waive Prince Shembo."

Shembo recorded 59 tackles in 16 games for the Falcons last season.


Rams RB Trey Watts suspended four games
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Rams running back Trey Watts has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season for violating the league's substance-abuse policy, according to profootballtalk.com.

Watts, who made the team in 2014 as an undrafted free agent, played in 14 games last season and rushed for 30 yards on seven carries.

Watts is eligible to return for Week 5 against the Packers.


Falcons LB Prince Shembo charged with cruelty to animals
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Falcons linebacker Prince Shembo is being accused of killing his ex-girlfriend's dog and has been charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Police said Denicia Williams, Shembo's ex-girlfriend, reported on April 19 that Shembo had killed her Yorkie.

Williams took the dog to Shembo's residence and left them unattended at some point. When she returned, the dog was unresponsive.

Shembo recorded 59 tackles in 16 games for the Falcons last season.


Seahawks' Kam Chancellor: 'This is the strongest offseason I've had'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor feels good. He should, he's finally healthy.

Chancellor, who has become accustomed to rehabbing nagging injuries during the offseason, is practicing with the team during organized team activities for the first time in a while, per The News Tribune.

“I feel great. Back to football form. Feel fast. Feel strong. I just feel good out there," Chancellor said. "I think this is the strongest offseason I’ve had since I’ve been in the league. I’ve been actually able to train in the offseason instead of having surgeries.”

Chancellor recorded 78 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble in 14 games last season.


Cardinals RB coach: David Johnson 'reminds me a lot of Matt Forte'
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Cardinals rookie runningback David Johnson received a huge compliment from his position coach, per nfl.com.

Running backs coach Stump Mitchell said the third-round pick reminds him of a Pro Bowl running back.

"He reminds me a lot of Matt Forte," Mitchell said. "You can put him outside and use him as a receiver and he's a good runner."

Mitchell sees the comparison between the two when it comes to Johnson's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, something Forte has excelled at throughout his career.

"He has excellent hands and he's a bigger target to throw the ball to," Mitchell said. "He's going to be a big piece of the puzzle before this season is said and done."

Johnson rushed for 1,553 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior at Northern Iowa last year.


Patriots Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler absent at OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Patriots cornerback and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler was noticeably absent from organized team activities on Friday, per nesn.com. It's unclear why Butler was not at practice.

Butler recorded 15 tackles in 11 games last season, but most noticeably came up with a game-clinching interception in the waning moments of Super Bowl XLIX.


Cowboys excited and cautious with return of LB Sean Lee
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee tore his ACL during organized team activities last year. This year, he has been limited to individual drills during non-padded parctices, per The Dallas Morning News.

Cowboys linebackers coach Matt Eberflus said the team is happy to have Lee back but that they will pace him along slowly.

"He's a ball of energy and excitement and that represents who we are," Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli said. "He's moving well. We're just being smart as we get him ready to go. But he's got a lot of good quality work in."


Chiefs' Jeremy Maclin getting work in as a punt returner
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was the Chiefs' prized free-agent pickup this offseason, which makes it that much more intriguing that he lined up to return punts during practice on Thursday, per ESPN.com.

Maclin, who signed a five-year, $55 million deal with the Chiefs, was a premier punt returner in college and played the role sparingly -- with little success -- with the Eagles.

Coach Andy Reid said the team is preparing Maclin just in case he's needed to return punts or kicks because of injuries.

We just want to make sure he is ready,’’ Reid said. “You have limited numbers that you can dress on game day, so you don’t know what rotation you are going to have there with the receivers and returners. So it gives you an opportunity to keep him fresh. We don’t work him every day like the other guys. It’s kind of an every other day deal, so just to make sure that he’s okay and can still do that, but he’s not going to be the primary guy doing it right now.”


Eagles CB Byron Maxwell guarantees trip to Super Bowl 50
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/29/2015) Eagles cornerback Byron Maxwell knows what it takes to make a Super Bowl run, he's appeared in two straight as a key member of the vaunted Seahawks defense.

Now, Maxwell is confident the Eagles will make a run to the big game and he will make his third consecutive appearance, per NFL.com.

"Because I've been there before," Maxwell said. "Knowing what it's like if we go that far. Because we're gonna go that far this year, meaning the playoffs and the Super Bowl. We're gonna go that far. Hopefully that experience I already had, I can help them."

The Eagles haven't made a Super Bowl since their 24-21 loss to the Patriots in 2004, but Maxwell didn't backtrack with his comments.

"You can take that as a guarantee," he said. "That's just me believing in my team and the product we're going to put out there on the field. I really do believe that. I have no choice but to think that way."

Maxwell, who signed a six-year, $60 million deal with the Eagles this offseason, recorded 39 tackles and two interceptions in 13 games last season.


 
 
 
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