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Player Challenge strategies for Week 9

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: Cam Newton, Panthers (vs. ATL)

Newton's on a weird little streak lately, with two games of 30 or more Fantasy points and two of 16 or fewer in his last four games. He's essentially been a matchup play -- his two big games came against the Vikings and Bucs -- who have given up the seventh- and eighth-most Fantasy points per game to quarterbacks this season. Newton's two down games came against the Cardinals and Rams, who have both given up fewer than 20 Fantasy points per game to quarterbacks. Week 9 brings the Falcons, who have given up 20 or more points to opposing quarterbacks in all but two games. Every quarterback they've faced has thrown at least two touchdowns, and they have just four interceptions on the season.With a few of the top quarterback options on a bye this week, Newton makes for a decent Player Challenge risk.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Jason Campbell, Browns (vs. BAL)

I watched Campbell very closely this past week, and I saw a player who was throwing the ball deep often, and doing so almost effortlessly. With Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon on the other end of those passes, Campbell could turn into a decent Fantasy option no matter who he's playing -- he scored 24 Fantasy points in Week 8 against a Chiefs defense that had allowed just one 20-plus point game all season, and had held five quarterbacks to 15 or fewer Fantasy points.

Running Back

My picks for the Player Challenge: Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (@ BUF); Adrian Peterson, Vikings (vs. DAL)

Keep a close eye on Charles' knee injury as the week progresses; he bruised it in Week 8 and had to be taken out of the game to test it on the stationary bike. If he plays (which is very likely), he gets to face off against a Buffalo defense that hasn't allowed a lot of Fantasy points to opposing running backs (an average of 13.3 per game), but has allowed the fifth-most rushing yards. Those yards are eventually going to beget touchdowns, and it's only a matter of time until the Bills break. The only running backs who have scored touchdowns against the Bills this season are Willis McGahee and Giovani Bernard. Charles could add his name to the list by Sunday night.

Peterson, meanwhile, is coming off his third straight game with 13 or fewer carries. Over a career that reaches back to 2007, those three games rank among his 15 lowest for rushing attempts. He's averaged 8.7 Fantasy points per game since his Week 5 bye. After scoring five rushing touchdowns in his first five games, Peterson has scored one over his last three. Maybe the Vikings, having been out of those last three games, decided to take it easy on Peterson's hamstring, which has been bothering him for over a month. But with a favorable matchup against Dallas in Week 9 -- the Cowboys have given up six touchdowns in the last four games to opposing running backs, and have given up the most receiving yards in the league to running backs -- Peterson looks primed for a return to dominance.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Giovani Bernard, Bengals (vs. MIA)

The Dolphins have given up the third-most receiving yards per game to opposing running backs (53.3 yards). Bernard has established himself as a pass-catching specialist, with four games of four or more receptions this season. He ranks ninth among all running backs with 242 receiving yards, having caught 26 receptions on 33 targets. While he may not get enough rushing attempts to be worth a start in most standard leagues, Bernard has a great matchup for his skill-set in Week 9, and could be used as a cheap buy in daily leagues, or even as a starter in deeper formats.

Wide Receiver

My picks for the Player Challenge: Dez Bryant, Cowboys (vs. MIN); A.J. Green, Bengals (A MIA)

The Vikings haven't been great against the pass this season -- the 24.3 Fantasy points per game given up to opposing wide receivers is 10th in the NFL, and they've allowed 288 receiving yards per game (fourth-most in the NFL). Their 16 receiving touchdowns allowed are the second-most, as well. Bryant, meanwhile, has scored the second-most Fantasy points among wide receivers this season, helped along by his eight touchdowns (second-most) and 641 yards (eighth-most). He's scored two touchdowns in three of his last five games and has failed to reach double-digits in Fantasy points just three times.

Green, meanwhile, has three straight games with 100 or more receiving yards, with two touchdowns in each. While he has to face the challenge of a Thursday night game this week, Green will also benefit from Marvin Jones going nutty in Week 8 -- with the hope that defenses will have to focus a little bit more on Jones, leaving Green free to do his damage. Matchup-wise, the Dolphins are a tough team to go up against, having allowed just two 100-yard games to opposing wide receivers all season and giving up their first receiving touchdown in Week 8, to Aaron Dobson. So while this is far from a sure thing, it's worth taking a risk on Green benefiting from Jones' emergence.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Rod Streater, Raiders (@ PHI)

The Eagles have been bad against opposing wide receivers, giving up 14 touchdowns in eight weeks to the position, and allowing an average of 31.5 Fantasy points per game. While Streater has just one touchdown and two games with 50 or more receiving yards this season, this is a week where he could do some damage. Supplemental players like Leonard Hankerson (two touchdowns), Eddie Royal (three touchdowns), Donnie Avery (141 yards), Rueben Randle (two touchdowns), and Terrance Williams (one touchdown) have torched the Eagles (while the lead receiver tends to gather a lot of the yardage). Streater hasn't seen the same success as Denarius Moore this year, but he's actually pretty close (23 receptions to Moore's 27) and fits nicely into the archetype of receivers who have been successful against the Eagles this season.

Tight End

My pick for the Player Challenge: Jordan Cameron, Browns (vs. BAL)

The Ravens have given up the eighth-most Fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season. And although most of it came against the Broncos in Week 1, they've actually been pretty decent lately against tight ends. But Cameron already faced off against the Ravens once this season, catching five passes for 95 yards. And that was without Josh Gordon pulling away some defensive attention.He's a top-level talent at the position who should get close to -- or even eclipse -- those Week 2 numbers.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Coby Fleener, Colts (@ HOU)

The Colts are coming off their bye week, giving them ample time to prepare for life without Reggie Wayne and Dwayne Allen. Fleener has a chance to make some waves in this offense, having seen five or more targets in three of his last four games, a span in which he also has two touchdowns. Fleener's Week 9 opponent, the Texans, have given up three touchdowns to tight ends over the last three games.

DST

My pick for the Player Challenge: Saints

This is all based on matchups. The Jets rank among the top three teams -- in a bad way -- in sacks and interceptions. The Saints are top 10 in forcing both. While Geno Smith could still have a good game, I like the idea of getting a couple points here and couple more there for all the sacks and interceptions that New Orleans could rack up. It's an iffy play for a shallower format like the Player Challenge, but the upside here is tremendous.

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
Giants' Antrel Rolle says he's hitting free-agent market
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(6:13 pm ET) During an interview with ESPN Radio, Giants safety Antrel Rolle said he is heading toward free agency, reports the New York Daily News.

Negotiations between Rolle and the Giants have not gone well, but Rolle did not rule out re-signing with the Giants. If no deal can be worked out, Rolle will become a free agent March 10.

"This is strictly a business move," Rolle said. "If there's 32 teams interested, I'm going to listen to all 32 teams."


Panthers give TE Greg Olsen a three-year extension
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:29 pm ET) The Panthers announced they signed tight end Greg Olsen to a three-year contract extension on Thursday that will keep him in Carolina through the 2018 season, per the team's official website. The extension is worth $22.5 million, with a $12 million signing bonus, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.

Olsen, 29, is fresh off a career year after setting franchise records for receptions (84) and receiving yards (1,008) by a tight end in a season. He cracked the 1,000-yard threshold for the first time in eight seasons in the NFL. He has 5,188 yards and 52 touchdowns in his career, and is the only tight end to catch at least five touchdown passes every year since 2008.


Broncos re-sign long snapper Aaron Brewer
(5:27 pm ET) The Broncos have re-signed long snapper Aaron Brewer to a four-yeal deal Thursday, according to the team's official website. The deal will keep him with the team through 2018.

The former undrafted free agent has been with the Broncos for three years.  Since being signed, he's played on every punt, field goal and extra point snap.


49ers sign receiver Jerome Simpson to two-year contract
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) The 49ers announced they've signed veteran receiver Jerome Simpson to a two-year deal on Thursday. 

Simpson, 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, was a former second-round draft selection by the Bengals in 2008. He was last with the Vikings and totaled a single-season best 726 receiving yards in 2013. 

He didn't play in 2014 after the Vikings cut him following a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 


Colts extend qualifying offer to RFA Jerrell Freeman
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:21 pm ET) The Colts gave linebacker Jerrell Freeman, a restricted free agent, a qualifying offer, the organization announced on Thursday. 

The Colts also placed tenders on exclusive-rights free agents OLB Daniel Adongo, RB Dan Herron and OLB Cam Johnson.


Raiders part ways with LaMarr Woodley after one season
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:18 pm ET) As expected, the Raiders have released defensive end LaMarr Woodley on Thursday, per the team's official website.

Woodley, 30, spent his first seven seasons in Pittsburgh before he signed a two-year contract with the Raiders last offseason. He had just five tackles last season with the Raiders, and 304 tackles (57 sacks) through eight seasons in the league. He was scheduled to make $3.85 million with a salary cap hit of $5.1875 million.  


Chiefs release linebacker Joe Mays
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5:06 pm ET) The Chiefs have decided to part ways with veteran linebacker Joe Mays, the organization announced on Thursday. 

The move, according to the Kansas City Star, will save the club $2.7 million in cap space. He was slated to earn a base salary of $2.35 million, with a roster bonus of $300,000 and a workout bonus of $50,000. 

Mays appeared in eight games in 2014 and totaled 20 tackles and one fumble recovery. 


Maurice Jones-Drew calls it a career after nine seasons
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:00 pm ET) After nine seasons in the league, Maurice Jones-Drew announced his retirement from professional football via Twitter on Thursday. The 29-year-old running back released the following statement:

"After much discussion with my family and business team during the offseason, I've decided to retire from the National Football League. The past nine years were absolutely amazing! I'll be forever grateful to the countless people who have assisted me throughout my NFL journey. To my fans, and NFL fans worldwide, you are the absolute greatest! But for you, our league would not exist. Football has been a central part of my life over the past 24 years. But, now I'm excited and looking forward to the next chapter of my life."

Jones-Drew was drafted 60th overall by the Jaguars in 2006, and spent his first eight seasons in Jacksonville before an injury-riddled 2014 campaign with the Raiders.

The three-time Pro Bowler and one-time first team All Pro selection won the rushing titles in 2011 with 1,606 rushing yards. Jones-Drew was never able to play a full season due to several injuries. He combined for 1,313 rushing yards the next three seasons after he was the league's top rusher.


Report: Eagles, Giants to pursue S Devin McCourty
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:59 pm ET) The Eagles and Giants will both pursue soon-to-be free agent safety Devin McCourty when the new league year begins next week, according to a report from NBC Washington. 

McCourty was not franchised by the Patriots on Monday and will therefore hit the market. He acknowledged earlier this week that he may not be back in New England next season. 

The Eagles are reportedly very interested in McCourty and have him high on their free agent board.

After recent roster moves, which included trading running back LeSean McCoy for linebacker Kiko Alonso, the Eagles are expected to have an estimated $50 million in cap space when free agency begins. 


Report: Giants giving tender to cornerback Chandler Fenner
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4:47 pm ET) Cornerback Chandler Fenner will be with the Giants in 2015. 

According to the New York Daily News, the Giants are placing a tender on Fenner, who is an exclusive-rights free agent. The tender will be worth $510,000 for the 2015 season.

Fenner appeared in 11 games during the 2014 season.  


 
 
 
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