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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
Seahawks without three offensive lineman on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:31 pm ET) The Seahawks did not have three of their offensive linemen at practice on Wednesday, according to ESPN.

Max Unger, Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy were all held out. Unger has missed the past four games due to an ankle and knee issue. He was able to practice last Friday, but did not play on Sunday. Okung is dealing with a bruised lung, but there's a chance he'll recover in time for Sunday's game. "[Okung is] going to have some stuff done [Thursday] that will let us know where he sits and all that," head coach Pete Carrol said. "He’s not out of the plan yet."

Sweezy is dealing with an ankle injury. His appearance on the injury report comes as somewhat of a surprise. 


Lions pick up CB Josh Thomas
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:21 pm ET) The Lions have claimed cornerback Josh Thomas on waivers, according to the New York Post

Thomas was cut by the Jets on Tuesday, but found a new job quickly. He's played in three games this season, registering two tackles. 


Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch sits out on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(7:49 pm ET) Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch did not practice on Wednesday.

Lynch has been using Wednesday as a veteran's day all season, so the move isn't a big surprise. He's been battling a back injury throughout most of the season, but has been able to play through it. Lynch has 1133 rushing yards, with 10 touchdowns, this year. 


Texans' DeAndre Hopkins unable to practice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins did not practice on Wednesday.

Hopkins is dealing with an ankle injury, and was unable to go. Hopkins has played in all 14 games this season. He has 1167 yards on 69 receptions. Hopkins has caught six touchdowns. His status will likely be determined based on how much he is able to practice on Thursday and Friday. 


49ers WR Michael Crabtree misses practice Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:57 pm ET) 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree did not practice Wednesday due to a knee injury, reports CSNBayArea.com. Crabtree, who has not cleared 60 receiving yards since Week 11, isn't believed to be seriously hurt.

He's scheduled to play the Chargers on Saturday night. If Crabtree can't go, it could mean increased targets for fellow starter Anquan Boldin.


Raiders QB Derek Carr limited by thumb injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:49 pm ET) Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was limited in Wednesday's practice with a thumb injury, but coach Tony Sparano isn't too concerned, reports CSNBayArea.com. Carr has thrown one or zero touchdown passes in four of his past five games entering Sunday's contest against Buffalo.

Report: Jay Cutler to be benched Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:47 pm ET) The Bears will bench starting quarterback Jay Cutler Week 16 against the Lions, according to ESPN.

The move comes as a big surprise given the seven-year, $126 million contract Cutler signed in January. Cutler has had a big problem with turnovers this season, throwing 18 interceptions and fumbling 12 times. The move could mark the end of Cutler's season as the starter, and puts his future in Chicago in jeopardy. 

The team will turn to Jimmy Clausen to replace Cutler.


Texans RB Arian Foster held out Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:40 pm ET) Texans running back Arian Foster did not practice Wednesday with what the team called a hip injury. Foster was listed on the injury report last week with a groin injury, then racked up 117 yards from scrimmage on 29 touches at Indy.

Foster, who might just be getting a veteran's rest day, is expected to start Sunday against the Ravens. Houston is a 5.5-point underdog at Caesars Palace Race and Sports Book.


Report: Bears to start Jimmy Clausen Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:39 pm ET) The Bears will start Jimmy Clausen Week 16 against the Lions, according to ESPN.

The move comes as a major surprise. While Jay Cutler has faced scrutiny for his body language and demeanor, the team handed him a seven-year, $126 million contract last season. The move seems to indicate that Cutler is done for the season, and puts his career with the Bears in jeopardy.

Clausen has seen time in three games this season, completing three passes in nine attempts. His last start came back in 2010, his rookie season. That year, Clausen threw for 1,558 yards, with three touchdowns against nine interceptions. 

The Lions are currently 7-point favorites, according to VegasInsider.com.


Brandon LaFell, Shane Vereen limited for Patriots
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:23 pm ET) Patriots wideout Brandon LaFell and running back Shane Vereen were limited in practice on Wednesday.

LaFell is dealing with a shoulder injury. Vereen was listed with an ankle issue. Both players have been active for every game this season. Their statuses will be determined by how much work they can put in on Thursday and Friday.


 
 
 
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