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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
Bobby Rainey takes out the garbage Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:00 am ET) Buccaneers running back Bobby Rainey managed to get some action in garbage time after an awful start.

Rainey was terrible early on, fumbling on his fourth touch of the contest. He was benched for two series before returning to the game. On the first drive of the third quarter, Rainey fumbled again. With the team trailing 56-0, Rainey actually managed to pick up some yardage in the final quarter. He was primarily used in the passing game, but also picked up a few rushing yards.

Rainey finished with 41 rushing yards on 11 attempts, and 64 receiving yards on six catches. He actually led all Bucs receivers in yardage and catches. 

Rainey will take on the Steelers Week 4. 


Josh McCown awful before leaving with injury
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/18/2014) Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown turned in a poor performance before leaving with an injury.

McCown completed five passes in 12 attempts. He gained 58 yards. McCown did not throw any touchdowns during the game, but did toss an interception. McCown left the game about half way through the second quarter after hitting his hand on a helmet during a throw. It was revealed he was dealing with a thumb injury, and would not return.

It's unclear whether McCown will be ready for the Steelers Week 4.


Mike Glennon gets some action in relief
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/18/2014) Buccaneers quarterback Mike Glennon got some action Thursday against the Falcons.

With Josh McCown going down in the second quarter, Glennon got a chance to show what he could do. Glennon entered down 35 points, however, so it was basically a lost performance. He completed 17 of 24 attempts, picking up 121 yards and a score. Glennon managed to pick up his only touchdown in the final quarter. With the Bucs trailing 56-0, he found Vincent Jackson on a 3 yard strike. 

McCown was awful before being pulled from the game. It's unclear if the team will consider starting Glennon even if McCown proves to be healthy enough to play.

Tampa will take on the Steelers Week 4.


Devin Hester leaves again Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/18/2014) Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester left Thursday's game for a second time.

Hester was able to return from a cramping issue in the third quarter. After returning a punt, he was taken back to the locker room again. It's unclear whether he's dealing with cramping again, or if this is a more serious issue. Considering the Falcons lead, it's unlikely Hester gets back in even if he's healthy. 


Devin Hester able to return Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/18/2014) Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester was able to return Thursday against the Buccaneers.

Hester left in the second quarter while dealing with cramps. He returned to action to field a punt in the third quarter. 


Josh McCown downgraded to out Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/18/2014) Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown has been downgraded to out Thursday against the Falcons.

McCown injured his thumb while hitting his hand on a helmet as he threw the ball. He was initially ruled questionable, but was downgraded to out following halftime. 


Devin Hester heads to locker room early
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/18/2014) Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester went to the locker room before half time Thursday.

Hester appeared to have trouble getting off the line while running a route. He was taken back to the locker room before the end of the second quarter. He's considered questionable due to cramping. 


Harry Douglas questionable to return
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/18/2014) Falcons wide receiver Harry Douglas is questionable to return Thursday against the Buccaneers. 

Douglas injured his foot in the second quarter. He was taken to the locker room by trainers shortly after the injury. He is considered questionable to return. 


Josh McCown questionable to return Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/18/2014) Buccaneers quarterback Josh McCown is questionable to return Thursday against the Falcons.

McCown injured his thumb on a throw in the second quarter. He was taken back to the locker room before half time where it was determined he was questionable to return. 


Devin Hester breaks record for most returns
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9/18/2014) Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester broke Deion Sanders' record for most return touchdowns Thursday against the Buccaneers.

With a little over seven minutes left in the second quarter, Hester ran back a 62 yard punt for the 20th return touchdown of his career. Hester also scored earlier in the game on a rushing attempt. 


 
 
 
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