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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
49ers K Phil Dawson scores five points vs. Chargers Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:14 am ET) 49ers kicker Phil Dawson made five extra points but missed his only field-goal attempt in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Dawson didn't have much of a shot at converting his lone field-goal try, as his team tasked him with attempting to avoid overtime by nailing a 60-yard field goal at the end of regulation. He didn't come close, and the 49ers went on to lose in overtime.

Dawson has made 23 of his 29 attempts this season and is now 5 for 8 from 50 yards or more. He'll square off with the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Michael Crabtree plays sparingly vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:11 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree managed just one catch for five yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Crabtree, who was questionable to play Saturday due to a knee injury, remained on the sidelines for large portions of the game, even donning a baseball cap at one point. It appeared he was set to play only in an emergency situation. However, the receiving corps was struck by multiple injuries, leaving the team to turn to Crabtree late, and he recorded his only catch in overtime.

Crabtree will try and heal up in time to serve a larger role in his team's season finale against the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers WR Anquan Boldin catches seven passes vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:08 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin recorded a team-high seven receptions on nine targets for 61 yards in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Boldin managed more than half of the team's receiving production Saturday, as the other San Francisco players combined for only 53 yards on eight receptions, though rookie Bruce Ellington did managed to catch a touchdown.

Boldin had his best performance since a nine-catch, 137-yard breakout in Week 12. He's racked up 81 receptions for 981 yards with four touchdowns going into a Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals, a team for which he played from 2003 to 2009. He'll be looking to secure his seventh career 1,000-yard performance in the season finale.


49ers WR Bruce Ellington scores twice in Week 16 loss
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1:03 am ET) 49ers wide receiver Bruce Ellington tallied three rushing attempts for 12 yards and a touchdown and added an eight-yard touchdown reception in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Ellington scored both of his touchdowns in the second quarter, first hauling in the eight-yard touchdown on a play-action pass for which he was wide open. He then added the rushing touchdown on a jet play on third-and-goal where he took the ball on the move immediately after the snap and found a crease on the right side for the score.

It wasn't all positive for the rookie, as he was ruled out in the second half with a hamstring injury. If he can heal sufficiently during the upcoming week, he'll be in line to face the Cardinals in Week 17.


49ers RB Frank Gore rumbles for 158 yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:58 am ET) 49ers running back Frank Gore racked up 26 carries for 158 rushing yards with one touchdown in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Both numbers represent season highs for Gore, who hasn't had a better rushing day since the 2009 season. He set the tone early, shaking off would-be tacklers en route to a 52-yard score less than two minutes into the game. Gore continually proved difficult to tackle, as he would have managed his third 100-yard game of the season even without the long touchdown.

Gore is now up to 962 rushing yards and four rushing scores on 230 carries. He has a reasonable shot at cracking the 1,000-yard mark in his team's Week 17 matchup with the Cardinals.


49ers QB Colin Kaepernick tallies 151 rushing yards vs. Chargers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:54 am ET) 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick completed 15 of his 24 pass attempts for jsut 114 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions but added 151 rushing yards on seven carries in his team's 38-35 overtime loss to the Chargers in Week 16.

Kaepernick had little trouble picking up chunks of yards against a defense that seemed adverse to tackling -- the 49ers set a new team record with 355 rushing yards in the game -- but his highlight came on a 90-yard scamper where he went untouched after crossing the line of scrimmage, with the Chargers committing a penalty on the play for good measure.

The rushing touchdown was the first of the season for Kaepernick, and his 151 rushing yards marked a new regular-season high. However, he's also failed to top 175 passing yards in any of his last four games. The 49ers will look to close out the season in strong fashion when they face the Cardinals in Week 17.


Chargers K Nick Novak nails game-winner in Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:49 am ET) Chargers kicker Nick Novak made his only field-goal attempt Saturday, hitting the game-winning kick from 40 yards out in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Novak had all week to think about missing two of his three attempts against the Broncos in Week 15 but drilled the key attempt early in the overtime period to send the Chargers home with a win. He also added five extra points, giving him his best point total in three December contests. Novak has a matchup with the Chiefs on the calendar for Week 17.


Chargers WR Malcom Floyd scores key TD in Week 16 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:46 am ET) Chargers wide receiver Malcom Floyd caught just four of his season-high 10 targets for 50 yards Saturday but also scored a crucial touchdown in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Floyd hadn't been on the same page as quarterback Philip Rivers for much of the night but came through when it mattered, hauling in the game-tying touchdown on an 11-yard post play with just 29 seconds left in regulation. He's up to 49 receptions, 827 yards and six touchdowns going into a Week 17 matchup with the Chiefs.


Chargers WR Dontrelle Inman catches seven passes Week 16
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:43 am ET) Chargers wide receiver Dontrelle Inman racked up seven receptions on nine targets for 79 yards in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

The coaches opened the second half with Inman in the lineup and the team down 28-7, and the little-used receiver was able to reward the gamble with an excellent half of football, picking up all his receptions in the second half. It was the first time this season Inman had even seen a target in a game, but he was able to pick up three first downs, including one on a crucial fourth-and-10 with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter and his team down seven points. The Chargers tied the game two plays later before winning in overtime.

Inman may have earned himself a significant role in his team's Week 17 matchup with the Chiefs, especially if Keenan Allen is unable to return to action.


Chargers TE Antonio Gates scores twice in Week 16 win
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:37 am ET) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates caught seven of his nine targets for 92 yards with two touchdowns in his team's 38-35 overtime win over the 49ers in Week 16.

Gates had a quiet first half but helped lead the charge to come back from a three-touchdown deficit. His first score was on a one-yard catch on third-and-goal that he juggled a bit, but he was able to hang on while taking a hit at the goal line. His second score was on a wide-open 21-yard reception in the fourth quarter to bring his team to within one touchdown.

It was the fourth multiscore game of the season for Gates, who is now up to 65 receptions, 754 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. He'll match up with the Chiefs in Week 17.


 
 
 
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