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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: Jets coaches surprised incentive lacking for Michael Vick
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:36 pm ET) Jets coaches have reportedly been taken aback at the resignation of quarterback Michael Vick to a backup role.

Coaches have "privately expressed disappointment that Vick didn't show more hell-bent on winning the starting job," according to Monday Morning Quarterback. Vick has stated his belief that the job has belonged to Geno Smith from the start. He has also not talked like a guy pushing for playing time.

"The last five years I spent in Philly, I had some great years and played in some great games and went through a lot," Vick said. "Now it's an opportunity for me to refresh myself and take a step back away from the game. I'm kind of relishing the moment I'm in right now. I am not required to have to do a lot. Preserving my body right now is very important to me."

Vick has completed 8 of 15 passes for 87 yards in the preseason. He has been outplayed by both Smith and Matt Simms, though he has the team's only touchdown pass.


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by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:13 pm ET) The mystery surrounding the contract extension of Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict has been addressed by Marvin Lewis. Bottom line: Nobody has signed on the bottom line.

"As you know, we believe it here [when] the club and the player have signed off," Lewis said after Friday practice. "It's not signed off."

ESPN had reported Wednesday that the two sides had agreed to a four-year deal worth $20 million and that Burfict would receive $7.6 million in his first year.


Report: Neck injury will not end career of Delano Howell
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:04 pm ET) The neck injury to Colts safety Delano Howell is serious, but not career-threatening, per ESPN.

Howell met with doctors this week to discuss his future. He is set to meet with the team Friday to talk about a timetable for returning to action.

The injury does have the Colts considering veteran Mike Adams to play alongside LaRon Landry as a starting safety.


Jason Campbell all but set for Sunday game
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:20 pm ET) Bengals veteran backup quarterback Jason Campbell said Friday he can probably play in the Sunday preseason game at Arizona, per the team website. He has been dealing with a bruised throwing elbow sustained in the exhibition opener.

Campbell declared himself fine after throwing freely in practice Wednesday.


Doug Martin needed to shoulder the burden again
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:05 pm ET) The plan of the Buccaneers to use multiple backs to keep featured back Doug Martin strong and healthy after a shoulder injury ended his 2013 season has gone by the wayside.

The loss of rookie Charles Sims (ankle) and Mike James (shoulder) has destroyed the depth at that position. Only Bobby Rainey remains as a viable backup, but Lovie Smith has expressed confidence that Martin can carry the load.

"Doug is our bell cow," he told Pro Football Talk. "He likes that role, He's had a good camp, hasn't missed a beat."

Martin struggled last year to maintain his production from 2012. His per-carry average dropped from 4.6 to 3.6.


Sean Spence believed to be OK despite PCL issue
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:58 pm ET) A PCL injury to Steelers linebacker Sean Spence is considered mild, per Steelers Depot. Spence sustained the injury in the Thursday night preseason game against Philadelphia.

The third-round pick in the 2012 draft has yet to play a down for Pittsburgh.


Isaac Redman calls it quits
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:24 am ET) A spinal cord injury has ended the career of former Steelers running back Isaac Redman .

Redman tweeted his decision Friday. He added that he turned down offers from teams to potentially play after his release from Pittsburgh in October.

The 29-year-old Redman finishes his career with 1,148 yards rushing on 282 carries and 4.1 YPC.


Speculation: Contract issue keeping Vontaze Burfict out
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(10:51 am ET) Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict remains sidelined from practice Friday. The team has also not confirmed a multi-year contract extension with the second-year player.

It is unknown if there is a connection to the two facts. Speculation is that the deal has been held up by one side or the other.

The team listed a stomach ailment as the reason for his absence from practice Thursday.


Jets not ready to give up on unproductive Stephen Hill
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Despite the fact that Stephen Hill has just one reception in the first two preseason games, Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has not given up on the 2012 second-round pick.

"I was pleased with his progress [last year] up until he got nicked and that he got nicked again," Mornhinweg told the New York Post. "This year he was even more impressive in the offseason and through training camp, with a few exceptions. There were a couple days there. So he's coming along. And in many cases, this is what happens, at all positions, but especially at the receiver position, that third year they make a pretty good jump. That's what we're looking for there."

The Jets are seeking a receiver to start opposite Eric Decker. David Nelson is another possibility, but his potential is not considered as strong as that of Hill, whose production fell off the table after a strong start in 2013.


 
 
 
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