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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
Aaron Dobson indicates Thursday he's on right path
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:55 am ET) Patriots second-year wideout Aaron Dobson felt encouraged by his 2014 preseason debut Thursday night against the Giants.

Dobson caught three passes for 57 yards and a 33-yard touchdown in the second quarter that provided his team's first score. Not bad considering he's coming off March surgery on his left foot.

"I feel like everything is coming," Dobson told the Boston Herald. "I can't say everything is back. It's my first game back, so I've still got to feel everything out. I'm still getting my confidence, just building my confidence and growing as much as I can."

Dobson missed all of the offseason workouts and didn't begin his training camp until Aug. 11.


Charles Clay seeking to run with momentum in 2014
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:43 am ET) Dolphins tight end Charles Clay emerged as one of the premier pass-catchers at his position in the NFL a year ago. He caught 69 passes for 759 yards and six touchdowns. He snagged at least five passes in seven of 16 games.

But Clay is far from satisfied. He yearns to improve his blocking, reading of coverages and reliability.

"I had drops last year that were unacceptable," Clay told the Miami Sun-Sentinel. "My standard is higher than anybody could ever have for me.

"After last year people came to me and said, 'Hey, you had this good year.' I don't look at it that way. I look at all the things I could have done better. I think about all the plays I left on the field."

Clay caught just one pass for 18 yards in the preseason after missing time with a knee injury. He has proclaimed himself ready for the regular season.


Denarius Moore scores twice in preseason finale
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:31 am ET) Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore pretty much maximized his four targets Thursday night against Seattle.

Moore caught a 36-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and added an 11-yard score in the second. He finished with three catches for 58 yards. Moore has snagged nine passes for 140 yards in the preseason.


Johnny Manziel runs better than he throws Thursday night
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:24 am ET) Browns ballyhooed rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel struggled with his arm, but made up for it with his legs Thursday night in the preseason finale against Chicago.

Manziel completed just 6 of 17 for 83 yards and a 1-yard touchdown to tight end Jim Dray off a bootleg. Several of his passes, particularly the deeper ones, fluttered or were wildly inaccurate.

But Manziel also rushed for 55 yards on four attempts for a 13.8 average. He eluded several Chicago defenders on one scramble before firing a game-long 27-yard completion to Nate Burleson.


Santonio Holmes scores touchdown in loss to Browns
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:19 am ET) Bears veteran wide receiver Santonio Holmes snagged just one pass Thursday night in Cleveland, but he certainly made the most of it.

Holmes took a 32-yarder to the house two minutes into the second quarter. He was also utilized as a punt returner and ran 30 yards with his only opportunity.


Blake Bortles continues to impress with strong effort Thursday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:15 am ET) Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles didn't chuck the ball often enough to make too many judgments, but he didn't do anything Thursday night against Atlanta to alter the impression that he's had a strong preseason.

Bortles completed 4 of 6 for 86 yards and a 57-yard touchdowns strike eight seconds into the second quarter to Marqise Lee. He has hit on 14 of 22 for 244 yards in exhibition play.


Derek Carr fires three touchdown passes in preseason finale
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:23 am ET) Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr made a pretty strong case for himself to win the starting job during Thursday's preseason finale against the Seahawks.

Carr led the team to four touchdown drives, most of which came against Seattle's first unit. He hooked up with Denarius Moore for scores of 36 and 11 yards. He also fired a 20-yard touchdown pass to Mychal Rivera.

Carr completed 11 of 14 passes for 143 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, finishing with a 152.1 passer rating. This preseason, the rookie signal-caller compiled 326 yards through the air while completing 30 of 45 passes. He added four touchdowns and one interception.

Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin to start Week 1
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:07 am ET) As expected, Browns head coach Mike Pettine told reporters after the final preseason game that wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin will start Week 1 at Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Both wideouts moved up a spot on the depth chart after the league suspended Josh Gordon for the entire 2014 season.

X-rays come back negative for Blaine Gabbert
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(12:04 am ET) 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters that quarterback Blaine Gabbert had X-rays on his right shoulder, which came back negative.

Gabbert worked five drives in the first half before leaving the game. He is competing with Josh Johnson for the No. 2 job behind Colin Kaepernick. Harbaugh indicated that he would like three quarterbacks on the 53-man active roster.


Buster Skrine ditches hard cast for soft cast Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:00 am ET) Browns cornerback Buster Skrine is no longer wearing a hard cast on his right arm and hand, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. Skrine is just 10 days removed from thumb surgery and is wearing a soft cast. He is listed as week to week, leaving his status up in the air for Week 1 against Pittsburgh.

 
 
 
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