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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
Saints encouraged by progress of Khiry Robinson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:56 am ET) The Saints have become encouraged over the progress made by second-year running back Khiry Robinson this season, the Baton Rouge Advocate is reporting.

Robinson has only managed mediocre numbers with 59 yards on 14 carries this season. But Sean Payton is happy with how he has approached his opportunities.

"Towards the end (of last season) there he had a hot hand with regards to just the idea of measuring or grading his run decisions," Payton said. "Certainly he is further along here in year two with his whole game. ... He understands fronts more, where plays are designed to go more and also the protections."

Robinson has been particularly impressive reading blocks and showing patience waiting for holes to open.

"I think he's becoming a smarter runner," tackle Zach Strief said. "He's very naturally talented. He has a lot of abilities ... but there's a lot that goes into running the ball in this league."


A.J. Green: I'm ready to roll for Sunday game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:13 am ET) Bengals stud wideout A.J. Green has proclaimed himself ready for the Sunday game against visiting Tennesee, per the team website.

Green, who has been dealing with a toe ailment, returned to practice Thursday missing the Week 2 defeat of Atlanta. He exploded for six catches for 131 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening win in Baltimore.


Matt Bryant misses only field goal, still puts up points
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:28 am ET) Falcons kicker Matt Bryant managed points despite missing his only field goal attempt.

With time running out in the second quarter, Bryant lined up for a 59 yard attempt. He missed wide left. While that was the only field goal attempt he received, Bryant actually got a ton of work. He hit all eight of his extra point attempts, finding a way to put points on the board.

Bryant will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Falcons DST wrecks havoc on Bucs Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:24 am ET) The Falcons DST had a big game Thursday against the Buccaneers. 

Atlanta held the Bucs without a score until 8:46 was left in the game. The team was already ahead 56-0 at that point. Some of those points came as a result of strong defensive play. Atlanta managed one defensive touchdown after picking off Josh McCown. Devin Hester also returned a punt, putting Atlanta on the board for a second time. Overall, the team forced five fumbles, four of which were recovered. 

Atlanta will look for more Week 4 against the Vikings. 


Falcons backups get on the board Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:15 am ET) The Falcons backups made an impact Thursday against the Buccaneers.

With the team up by a ton, Atlanta started using their subs in the third quarter. Jacquizz Rodgers received five carries for 6 yards. Rodgers also caught a pass for 3 yards.

Eric Weems seemed to be the biggest beneficiary, hauling in four passes for 69 yards. Fullback Patrick DiMarco gained 35 yards on three catches. Levine Toilolo also contributed, catching two passes for 25 yards. Courtney Roby picked up 11 yards on one reception. 

They'll take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Harry Douglas picks up a score before leaving
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) Falcons receiver Harry Douglas manages to catch a touchdown before exiting Thursday's game.

Douglas caught two balls for 14 yards. He hauled in a 3 yard score on the team's first drive of the game. He injured himself with four minutes left in the second quarter, and did not return to the game. 

If Douglas can play, he'll take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Devin Hester makes big impact Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) Falcons wide receiver Devin Hester made a big impact Thursday against the Buccaneers.

Hester caught just one ball for 25 yards, but found a way to make an impact in other places. He managed to score on his only carry, running in a 20 yard touchdown. Hester then managed to score on a punt return, breaking the NFL record for return touchdowns. He did so with former record holder Deion Sanders watching the game. Hester would leave the game twice due to cramping.

He'll take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Julio Jones dominates Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:04 am ET) Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones turned in a fantastic performance Thursday against the Buccaneers. 

Jones hauled in nine passes for 161 yards and two scores. The Bucs had no answer for Jones on defense, even though Jones was Atlanta's only healthy weapon. After making a ridiculous catch on a 40-yard touchdown, Jones left the game. At that point, the team was up 42-0. Jones received a team-high 11 targets. 

Jones will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Devonta Freeman gets 11 carries Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:59 am ET) Falcons running back Devonta Freeman got 11 carries Thursday against the Buccaneers. 

Freeman got most of his work after Steven Jackson was taken out of the game. Freeman did little to distinguish himself, though the Bucs defense was basically selling out against the run. Freeman gained just 12 yards on his 11 carries. He caught one pass for 7 yards. 

Freeman will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


Antone Smith breaks off a big run Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(12:55 am ET) Falcons running back Antone Smith managed to rip off a score Thursday against the Buccaneers.

Smith received two carries when the game was still in reach, but made his big play with the game already in hand. After Steven Jackson left the game, Smith got two carries on the next drive. The first went for -2 yards, but the second was much more exciting. Smith broke a 38 yard score. He managed to beat the defense to the outside, and out-ran everyone to the end zone. Smith finished with four carries for 50 yards. 

Smith will take on the Vikings Week 4. 


 
 
 
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