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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
Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


Cowboys' Greg Hardy called 'woman beater' by teammate
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy got into an altercation with teammate Davon Coleman during a voluntary offseason workout, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports

Hardy reportedly questioned Coleman's work ethic during a conditioning drill, which led Coleman to call Hardy a "woman beater."

Hardy was accused of domestic abuse and was found guilty by a North Carolina judge. On the subsequent appeal, prosecutors dropped charges against Hardy and the case was never presented in front of a jury. 

Hardy has been suspended by the NFL for 10 games due to what transpired in that case. According to FOX Sports, the confrontation between Hardy and Coleman remained verbal


Lions and Rob Sims' representation haven't spoken in 3 weeks
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Lions need a left guard and Rob Sims would be a solid option if the two sides can strike a deal for the veteran to return. 

However, talks have stalled between the Lions' front office and Sims' representation. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said it's been nearly a month since he's spoken to Sims' camp. 

"We've had some discussion with Rob," Mayhew said, via MLive.com. "I spoke to his agent probably about three weeks ago and we had an offer out to him. That's kind of where we are right now. We'll have to kind of wait and see what happens."

The Lions could still opt to draft a lineman early to fill the position, too. 

Sims, who entered the NFL in 2006, has been with the Lions for the past five seasons. 


Andre Ellington OK with Cardinals drafting another running back
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) If the Cardinals decide to draft a running back in one of the higher rounds, running back Andre Ellington would be OK with it. 

Ellington was a three-down back for Arizona last year that got plenty of touches in the running and passing games. But if the Cardinals use a high pick on a running back, that could cut into Ellington's touches. 

That's something that wouldn't bother Ellington. 

“It’s whatever will better our team,” Ellington told the team's website. “That’s most important. No one is going to hate any decisions. I’m sure those guys will make the best decisions to help the team. We’ll accept any guy who comes in.”

Another quality runner could help Ellington, who dealt with numerous injuries a year ago, in the long run. His season ended last December after undergoing hernia surgery. 


Dolphins haven't decided if they'll extend Ryan Tannehill's contract
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said the club has yet to decide if it will extend quarterback Ryan Tannehill, according to the Palm Beach Post

The Dolphins could decide to pick up Tannehill's fifth-year option and wait on an extension. The deadline for doing so is May 3. Doing that would cost the Dolphins $15 million for the 2016 season. 

Previously, NFL.com reported that the Dolphins were hopeful that they could strike a long-term deal with Tannehill before Week 1 of the 2015 season. 

In 2014, Tannehill threw for 4,045 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.


 
 
 
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