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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
Bears waive defensive lineman Cheta Ozougwu
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Bears announced Tuesday that they have waived defensive lineman Cheta Ozougwu. He played nine games over the last two seasons with Chicago. 

Steelers land punter Adam Podlesh
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Steelers have signed punter Adam Podlesh, who previously served with the Jaguars and Bears. He was released from the Bears in March, saving nearly $1.5 million. 

Podlesh ranked 29th last season with an average of 37.9 yards per punt. 


Texans sign Ricardo Mathews
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Texans have signed defensive lineman Ricardo Mathews to a contract. Originally a seventh-round pick of the Colts, Mathews sparingly played last year. He'll compete for a roster spot in training camp. 

Falcons waive two players
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The Falcons waived tight end Adam Nissley and cornerback Saeed Lee on Tuesday. Neither player ever appeared in a regular-season NFL game. 

How Lloyd's signing impacts 49ers' receiving corps
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) The 49ers signed Brandon Lloyd on Tuesday, which should impact Kassim Osgood and Jon Baldwin but not matter much to Quinton Patton, reports ESPN.

The 49ers are locked in with their top two receivers in Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, and Patton is expected to be No. 3 on the depth chart. After that, the 49ers are wide open, and Lloyd could be No. 4 ahead of Baldwin and Osgood.

The report says if Lloyd makes the team Baldwin will likely be out. The team re-signed Osgood this offseason because he is a huge part of the special teams. But the 49ers will likely not keep more than six receivers.

Patton, who finished the season strong in 2013 as a rookie, should have time to develop as the No. 3 option. The 49ers are also expected to take a wide receiver in the draft.


Josh McCown 'impressed' with Vincent Jackson
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) New Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown started throwing with his No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson on Friday. McCown said he came away impressed.

McCown said in an interview with CBSSports.com that he's worked with some top-notch receivers in his career -- Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, Steve Smith, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery -- and Jackson is "right there with those guys."

"I'm very, very impressed with him," McCown said. "You know when you have one of those special guys. You can tell the first time you work with him, you see it and feel it. That was the case throwing with Vincent. You can see why he's been so good for so long because of his work ethic and his attention to detail."


Marshall excited for Josh McCown in Tampa Bay
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) Bears receiver Brandon Marshall played with Josh McCown last season when he started five games for the injured Jay Cutler. McCown signed with the Buccaneers this offseason, and Marshall expects him to play well.

"Josh is going to do some good things," Marshall said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "The way he leads. It's not about what he can do physically. What puts Josh in the position to be successful is the man he is, the character and his leadership skills. I'm sure he'll be the first one in Tampa -- he was the second one behind me to arrive at the facilities -- but he'll be the first one there and the last one to leave. He prepares like he's the coach. That's what makes him special."


Josh McCown likes 'wrinkles' of new offense
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) Tampa Bay quarterback Josh McCown went through installing a new offense last year as the backup for the Bears. This year, he's doing the same thing, only as the projected starter for the Buccaneers.

McCown, who recently started throwing with No. 1 receiver Vincent Jackson, said he's excited for the new offense in Tampa Bay under coordinator Jeff Tedford.

"We went through it last year in Chicago where we were building an offense with coach (Marc) Trestman. it's the same thing all over again with Jeff Tedford, learning his offense," McCown said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "Just trying to help everyone get on the same page and begin to build this thing. ... There's some cool wrinkles (to the offense). There's some new things to it that I have not done yet. I'm excited about running those plays and putting those systems in place and seeing how they go."


Marshall: Marquess Wilson poised for big year
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) Bears receiver Brandon Marshall is expecting a big year out of new No. 3 receiver Marquess Wilson.

Wilson is expected to be Chicago's No. 3 receiver this year behind Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and Marshall said in an interview with CBSSports.com that Wilson has worked hard this offseason. The trio of wide receivers have trained together in South Florida to get ready for this year.

"I really want to talk about Marquess Wilson," Marshall said. "He came down and trained with us the whole offseason. We're really looking for him to do some big things. This guy, he's probably the steal of the draft last year. I'm going to say that. He came in, he put in the work, he looks like a body builder. Fast, strong, explosive. I'm looking forward to seeing him in OTAs."

Wilson, who is 6-foot-4, 184 pounds, was drafted in the seventh round out of Washington State last year. He only had two catches for 13 yards as a rookie, but he will now replace the departed Earl Bennett in three-receiver sets.


Brandon Marshall healthy, ready for contract year
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4/15/2014) Bears receiver Brandon Marshall is expecting a big year in 2014. He's healthy this offseason and looking forward to his contract year.

Last year, Marshall dealt with minor hip surgery in the offseason, but he said thus far he's in great shape and ready to go.

"The offseason is amazing," Marshall said in an interview with CBSSports.com. "It seems like every other year I get a healthy one. Last year I had surgery and really couldn't train. This one, it's a successful one so far because I'm healthy. Next year should be a big year for me. I'm looking forward to it being my best year ever."

Marshall, 30, is coming off a solid year in his first campain for new coach Marc Trestman. He had 100 catches for 1,295 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns.

This is a contract year for Marshall, who is scheduled to make $9.1 million in 2014. He told a Chicago radio station in March he's going to force the Bears "to sign me after next year," and he's not worried about getting paid.

"Everybody wants to get a new check," Marshall said. "That will happen when it happens. ... If you go out and play then everything else is slotted. You have to perform. You have to keep the product on the field good."


 
 
 
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