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Player Challenge strategies for Week 10

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: Drew Brees, Saints (vs. DAL)

You don't really need a case for Drew Brees, but in a game like the Player Challenge, where you only pick four quarterbacks over the span of the four weeks, it's important to pick the best week for Brees to succeed. Week 10 may be it. Brees faces the Cowboys, who have given up the third-most Fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. Four quarterbacks have thrown for 400 or more yards against the Cowboys, while three have thrown for three or more touchdowns. Only three quarterbacks have attempted fewer than 40 passes against Dallas and none have thrown fewer than 35. Brees fits the mold of Eli Manning (450 yards, four TDs), Philip Rivers (401 yards, three TDs), Peyton Manning (414 yards, four TDs) and Matthew Stafford (488 yards, two TDs) and is in line for a nice performance in Week 10.

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A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Ryan Tannehill, Dolphins (@TB)

While Tannehill doesn't have the greatest numbers, he has an improving running game, a dangerous weapon in Mike Wallace and several 300-plus yard passing games under his belt over the past two seasons (including two this year). His Week 10 opponent, the Bucs, have been bad against quarterbacks lately, giving up 25 or more Fantasy points to their four most recent opponents, allowing three or more touchdowns in each game. The Dolphins may see some complications from essentially losing two offensive lineman in the last two weeks, but the matchup is good enough -- and Tannehill has enough mobility -- to take the risk in deeper leagues.

Running Back

My picks for the Player Challenge: Chris Johnson, Titans (vs. JAC); Reggie Bush, Lions (@CHI)

Johnson has scored an average of 22.5 Fantasy points over his last two games, with three touchdowns, seven receptions and his first 100-yard game of the season. Week 10 brings a dream matchup against the Jaguars, who have allowed 94 points to opposing running backs over their last three games -- spurred on by eight touchdowns.

Bush, meanwhile, has a date with the Bears, who have given up 25 or more points to opposing running backs in their last five games. Over their last three, running backs have scored seven touchdowns on the Bears, with Brandon Jacobs and Eddie Lacy running for 100 yards each. Bush has run for 100 yards just once this season, but he set a season-high in receptions against Dallas in Week 8 (with eight) and has four weeks of double-digit Fantasy points. He'd also carried the ball 20 or more times in two consecutive games heading into the team's Week 9 bye.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Mike James, Buccaneers (vs. MIA)

The Dolphins have given up two touchdowns in a game to opposing running backs in three of the last four. And while they have yet to give up a 100-yard game, the 21.8 Fantasy points per game given up to running backs essentially makes up for it. Over the last five games, the Dolphins have given up 25 or more Fantasy points to opposing backs three times, including 54 total points over the last two games. James had a huge game against the Seahawks in Week 9 -- he could carry that momentum forward in a decent Monday night matchup.

Wide Receiver

My picks for the Player Challenge: Victor Cruz, Giants (vs. OAK); Brandon Marshall, Bears (vs. DET)

Cruz has been selectively disappointing this season -- scoring a total of 17 points across three would-be stellar matchups against the Eagles (twice) and Vikings. But coming off a bye, with two wins in a row, there's some hope for Cruz to turn things around and recapture the early season magic (20 or more Fantasy points in two of his first four games). It helps that he's playing the Raiders, who have given up 28 or more Fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers in three of their last four games -- including a 55-point bonanza from the Eagles wideouts in Week 9. If Cruz fools us for a fourth time, then it might be a good idea to stop chasing matchups. But the Raiders are too tempting to pass up this weekend.

Marshall is like Brees -- you're going to use him over the course of the four-week challenge, you just want the right week to do it. Week 10 brings the Lions, who have given up five touchdowns in the last two games to opposing wide receivers (and nine in the last five). Marshall was targeted 14 times in his Week 4 matchup against the Lions, catching seven passes for 79 yards, and while he may still be playing with Josh McCown as his quarterback in Week 10, that shouldn't be reason to worry -- McCown targeted Marshall 13 times Monday night, resulting in Marshall's third 100-yard game of the season and fourth touchdown in four games.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Jarrett Boykin, Packers (vs. PHI)

Boykin doesn't seem like a great alternative, coming off a one-target performance in a game marred by Aaron Rodgers' collarbone injury. Add in the return of James Jones, and it's an even less-tempting play. Still, Randall Cobb is out for another two months, and Boykin should see some significant action in the right situations. Week 10 -- when the Packers host the Eagles -- could be one of those games. The Eagles have given up 31.3 Fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season, including three games of 40 or more points. They've allowed four wide receivers to post 80 or more yards in the last three games and give up an average of 221 yards per game to opposing wide receivers. Boykin may have laid a virtual egg in Week 9, but this matchup makes him an intriguing deep/bargain play in Week 10.

Tight End

My pick for the Player Challenge: Jimmy Graham, Saints (vs. DAL)

This is arguably the league's best tight end facing off against a defense that has allowed the fourth-most Fantasy points per game to tight ends. And the Cowboys haven't faced too many elite tight ends this season -- having given up 136 yards and a touchdown to Antonio Gates and 122 yards and two touchdowns to Julius Thomas. Graham has been stellar lately, pushing through a foot injury to score four touchdowns in his last two games, and is set up to have a great game in Week 10.

DST

My pick for the Player Challenge: Seahawks

I know it's a total cop-out to pick the Seahawks against the Falcons, so let's just throw a low-end bonus sleeper option out there: the Texans. Houston had four sacks in Week 9, its second-highest total of the season. They face the Cardinals in Week 10, and Arizona has been sacked 23 times this year, while throwing the second-most interceptions in the NFL. Houston has a lot of talent on defense and could take advantage of a decent matchup to put up some nice numbers.

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
Coach: Stephen Hill 'healthy and confident' unlike last year
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2014) Jets receivers coach Sanjay Lal notices a major difference with Stephen Hill as he enters his third year in the NFL.

"Healthy and confident," Lal told The Star-Ledger. "That’s the biggest thing. I think he’s believing, and believing in himself – and it’s starting to show."

Hill struggled with knee injuries, inconsistency and dropped passes his first two seasons.

"It’s been the injuries that have hindered it and kind of somewhat made it harder than it could have been," Lal said. "He’s taken the coaching the whole time. Now, he’s able to do it physically, so it’s just kind of coming together right now."

Hill has a chance to be the No. 2 receiver behind Eric Decker.


Steven Jackson misses practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2014) Falcons running back Steven Jackson missed Tuesday's practice, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The team has not said whether Jackson is hurt or just getting a day off.

Colin Kaepernick: Michael Crabtree 'a step or two quicker'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2014) 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick said top receiver Michael Crabtree was not fully over his Achilles injury late last season. "He’s a step or two quicker now," Kaepernick told CSNBayArea.com. "He has a burst out of his routes. He has burst when he catches the ball. (He) looks really good out there."

Crabtree missed the first 11 games last year due to a torn Achilles he suffered in May 2013. "Even at the end of last season, he wasn’t 100 percent," Kaepernick said. "And he was making plays for us. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do, now that he’s 100 percent."


Matt Johnson's injury woes continue
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2014) Cowboys safety Matt Johnson will miss at least a week with a hamstring injury, reports ESPN.com. He missed most of his 2012 rookie season with hamstring injuries and was out all of last year due to foot surgery.

Pete Carroll hopes Marshawn Lynch 'will figure it out'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2014) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on Tuesday addressed the contract holdout by running back Marshawn Lynch. "I love this kid," Carroll said, per the Seattle Times. "I hope he will figure it out and it will all make sense and it will come to a resolution somewhere."

Lynch can be fined $30,000 for every day he misses, and the team could try to go after a portion of his signing bonus.


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(7/29/2014) The Lions claimed receiver Quintin Payton off waivers from the Buccaneers, reports ESPN's Adam Caplan.

Report: Cardinals, Patrick Peterson nearing deal
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2014) The Cardinals are close to signing cornerback Patrick Peterson to a contract extension, reports Yahoo Sports. Peterson will get a huge raise from the $2.9 million he's scheduled to earn this season, the final year of his rookie deal.

David Wilson taken to hospital for tests on his neck
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2014) Giants running back David Wilson will undergo a battery of tests on his neck at the Hospital for Special Surgery after suffering what coach Tom Coughlin called a "burner," reports NFL Network. The Giants will be extra careful with Wilson, who had neck surgery in January.

Montee Ball thinks he'll get 250 carries
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(7/29/2014) No Broncos running back has gotten 250 carries in a season since Reuben Droughns got 275 in 2004. Montee Ball, who has never started a game, told the Denver Post he "definitely" thinks he can reach 250.

Last year Knowshon Moreno led the team with 241 carries while the rookie Ball got 119. Moreno is in Miami now.

"It's an ideal situation for me, but I am taking nothing for granted," Ball said. "This is a great offense to play in because the defense always has to respect the pass, and Peyton [Manning] creates opportunities for the running backs. It's up to me to make it work to my advantage."


Report: Josh Gordon arguing second-hand smoke as defense
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/29/2014) In his appeal hearing Friday, Browns receiver Josh Gordon will argue that his failed drug test resulted from second-hand smoke, reports ESPN.com. As it is, Gordon's failed test came out at 16 nanograms per milliliter, just one nanogram above the NFL threshold of 15 nanograms per milliliter, according to Pro Football Talk.

Gordon has hired the same attorney, Maurice Suh, who got Seahawks corner Richard Sherman's four-game suspension reduced to nothing. Gordon is facing a potential one-year suspension if he's not successful Friday.


 
 
 
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