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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
Reggie Wayne, Erik Walden sit out practice Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:48 pm ET) Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (elbow) and linebacker Erik Walden (hip) were absent from practice Thursday, according to The Indianapolis Star. The Colts will face the Giants Monday.

Report: Chargers CB Verrett sidelined at least two weeks
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:48 pm ET) A shoulder injury will keep Chargers cornerback Jason Verrett sidelined 2-3 weeks, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, who is also reporting that he could opt for surgery after the season.

Verrett has already missed two games this season with the issue.


Vikings' Cordarrelle Patterson expects no issues with foot injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:32 pm ET) Vikings wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who suffered a bruised left foot Week 8, said Thursday he is 100 percent and expects no issues with the injury Week 9 against the Redskins, per the Pioneer Press. Patterson is coming off arguably his best game since the opener, totaling six catches for 86 yards in a 19-13 overtime win at Tampa Bay.

Dolphins TE Sims down again Thursday with toe ailment
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:29 pm ET) A toe injury has again prevented Dolphins tight end Dion Sims from practicing Thursday.

Sims has come on a bit of late with six catches in the last four games combined after snagging one in his first three. His 51-yard performance in Week 8 was a career-high.


Report: Packers guard T.J. Lang avoids serious ankle injury
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(12:25 pm ET) Packers guard T.J. Lang avoided major structural damage to his injured left ankle and will not need surgery, a source told ESPN. However, the Packers won't know if Lang will be ready for the team's next game Nov. 9 against the Bears until after their Week 9 bye.

"Not sure about a timetable yet," the source said.

Lang's injury has been diagnosed as a sprain. He was injured early in Sunday's 44-23 loss against the Saints.


Colts CB Vontae Davis ready to roll for Thursday session
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:17 pm ET) Colts cornerback Vontae Davis has recovered quickly enough from a knee injury sustained Sunday in Pittsburgh to return to practice Thursday, the team has announced.

Davis, who had been considered day-to-day, should be OK for the Monday night game against the Giants. He has not missed a game since 2012.


Colts RB Trent Richardson participates in Thursday practice
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:12 pm ET) Colts running back Trent Richardson has returned to practice Thursday after missing time with a hamstring injury. He was active for the Week 8 game in Pittsburgh, but did not play.

His participation Thursday was expected. Richardson should be ready to roll for the Monday night game against the Giants.


Jets WR Jeremy Kerley back on field Thursday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:02 pm ET) Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley returned to practice Thursday after missing the Wednesday session with an illness. He appears likely to play Sunday at Kansas City.

Kerley has been a disappointment this season with just 24 catches for 226 yards and one touchdown through eight games. He has just nine receptions for 85 yards in the last five games combined.


Broncos WR Wes Welker feels 'strange' as third wheel
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:57 am ET) Broncos veteran wide receiver Wes Welker told the Denver Post that it feels "kind of strange" being the third option in the offense.

The 33-year-old Welker has just 19 catches for 181 yards and one touchdown in five games played this season. "I feel like I am the weak link of our offense," he said. "But if I am the weak link, we're going to be OK."

Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has shown faith in Welker, to whom he's thrown nine times on third down this season for six receptions and four first downs.

Welker owns the NFL record for most receptions by an undrafted player. He has racked up 860 career catches.


Cowboys QB Tony Romo absent from walkthrough Thursday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:51 am ET) Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said quarterback Tony Romo (back) did not participate during the walkthrough Thursday morning. Garrett added he doesn't anticipate Romo will "do much" at practice Thursday, but hopes he will attend and "do something," according to the team's official website.

Garrett said he is "certainly" optimistic Romo will play Week 9 vs. Arizona. Owner Jerry Jones indicated Wednesday Romo will likely be a game-time decision Sunday.


 
 
 
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