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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
Report: Titans plan to start QB Zach Mettenberger vs. Texans
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:00 pm ET) The Titans are planning to start rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger against the Texans Sunday, The Tennessean reports.

Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Monday that the plan was to have Jake Locker (thumb) regain the starting job when healthy, and the former first-round pick was limited in practice Wednesday. If Mettenberger has already been notified that he'll start, as the report suggests, it could mean Whisenhunt has changed his mind on Locker, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Locker has completed 58 percent of his passes while averaging 6.8 yards per attempt and throwing four touchdowns and four interceptions in four starts. Backup Charlie Whitehurst has also played four games while starting three times, completing 60.2 percent of his passes while averaging 7.8 yards per attempt and throwing five touchdowns and two interceptions.


Cardinals QB Carson Palmer over nerve problem
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:42 pm ET) Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer said Wednesday that he is no longer dealing with a nerve problem in his right shoulder, the Arizona Republic reports.

"Yeah, I'm there right now," Palmer said. "I'm actually able to lift with my upper body, which I wasn't able to lift for five weeks or whatever it was. I definitely had a lot of atrophy, so I'm starting to get some strength back and put a little extra weight up top, which is good. You get sick of going into the weight room and not being able to do things. There was a month of that and it's good to be able to get back in there and do something."

Palmer missed three games earlier in the season but has performed well in the two games since returning, completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 503 yards with four touchdowns and one interception.


Report: Broncos practice squad S John Boyett arrested
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:42 pm ET) Broncos practice squad safety John Boyett was arrested early Wednesday on a charge of third degree assault, the Denver Post reports.

"We are disappointed to learn of the matter involving John Boyett and are in the process of gathering more information," the Broncos told the Post.

Boyett was arrested on charges of disorderly public intoxication on Sept. 2 of last year and waived by the Colts the next day. He signed with the Broncos last November.


Report: Texans' Brian Cushing (knee) out at least one week
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:39 pm ET) Texans linebacker Brian Cushing will miss at least one week of action due to a knee injury, Pro Football Talk reports.

The knee has reportedly been bothering Cushing for the last two weeks, and he has had the troublesome knee drained a few times recently. The Texans have just two games left before the bye, so it's possible Cushing is held out through the team's Week 11 bye before returning in Week 12.


Report: Titans WR Nate Washington could be on trade block
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:03 pm ET) Titans wide receiver Nate Washington has drawn some trade interest recently and could be on the trade block, NFL.com reports.

Washington recently lost his starting job to Justin Hunter and is making $4.8 million in the final year of a six-year contract signed in March 2009. He has tallied 13 receptions for 169 yards in seven games.


Report: Judge forces Roger Goodell to testify at Ray Rice hearing
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:43 pm ET) NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is being forced to testify at the hearing for former Ravens running back Ray Rice by a judge's ruling, ESPN.com reports.

Rice's hearing is set for the first week of November. He is appealing the decision to suspend him indefinitely for the domestic violence incident that initially earned him a two-game suspension during the league's inital investigation.


Report: Torn bicep could end Raiders LB LaMarr Woodley's season
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:32 pm ET) Raiders linebacker LaMarr Woodley suffered a torn bicep in Sunday's game, NFL.com reports.

The injury is expected to cost Woodley the remainder of the season, according to the report. Head coach Tony Sparano said Wednesday that the injury "could be serious," and a tear is a worst-case scenario for the linebacker.


Report: Raiders TE David Ausberry dealing with foot injury
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:29 pm ET) Raiders tight end David Ausberry has a foot injury that could cost him significant time, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Ausberry played just one snap on offense in Week 7, but he was spotted heading to the locker room with a trainer during the game. He has caught two passes for 14 yards this season.


Sparano: Raiders' LaMarr Woodley's bicep injury 'could be serious'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:11 pm ET) Raiders linebacker LaMarr Woodley missed practice Wednesday with a bicep injury, and head coach Tony Sparano said it "could be serious," CSN Bay Area reports.

The injury is a new one for Woodley, who has yet to record a sack in five games. He played less than 50 percent of the defense's snaps for the first time this season in Week 7.


Raiders T Khalif Barnes practices Wednesday, may not start
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:03 pm ET) Raiders tackle Khalif Barnes (quad) returned to practice Wednesday, but he may not regain his starting role from Menelik Watson, CSNBayArea.com reports.

Watson has allowed just two pressures in two starts, but coach Tony Sparano was noncommittal earlier in the week when asked about the situation. "We’re going to have some decisions to make," Sparano said Monday. "Menelik did a great job in there again (on Sunday). Khalif has been a real staple for me at a bunch of positions, as you know. I really feel like he’s one of the leaders of that group and he hasn’t been out there, but Menelik has done a really good job. We’ll find ways to keep them all involved and to keep them all going. The good news is that Menelik is a young player right now that is getting better."

Watson ran with the first team during the portion of Wednesday's practice open to the media.


 
 
 
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