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Player Challenge strategies for Week 12

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

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My pick for the Player Challenge: Drew Brees, Saints (@ATL)

The Falcons have given up the fourth-most Fantasy points this season to opposing quarterbacks (22.6), as each quarterback faced has scored at least two touchdowns. In Week 1 -- against the Falcons -- Brees completed 26 of 35 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns, kicking off the scoring streak. Since then, Brees has been a passing machine, failing to go over 300 yards in a game just twice this season. In his last four games, Brees has passed for 12 touchdowns. A top option at quarterback, this is his best matchup over the next few weeks.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Scott Tolzien, Packers (vs. MIN)

Scott Tolzien has put together two nice passing yardage games in a row -- 280 yards in Week 10 (against the Eagles) and 339 in Week 11 (against the Giants). The problem? Turnovers. Tolzien has thrown one touchdown against five interceptions in the two games. While the Eagles and Giants aren't the best in the league on pass defense, they do rank sixth and 13th, respectively, in interceptions. In Week 12, Tolzien gets to face the Vikings, who rank 20th in interceptions, have allowed the fourth-most passing yards per game and have given up a league-worst 23 passing touchdowns. Tolzien now has two games under his belt and will get a start this Sunday with something to prove. Against a very bad pass defense, he has a great chance to emerge as a sleeper.

Running Back

My picks for the Player Challenge: Zac Stacy, Rams (vs. CHI); Eddie Lacy, Packers (vs. MIN)

The Bears began the season with a stellar run defense -- allowing an average of 11 Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. Since Week 3, however, the Bears have held opponents to fewer than 22 just once. They've allowed eight rushing touchdowns over the last five games and five running backs in that span have run for 95 or more yards. Stacy has three rushing touchdowns in his last two games and has carried the ball 26 or more times in his last three. He has two 100-yard games on the season, despite seeing significant touches in just six games. Additionally, Stacy has multiple receptions in four of his last five games and is coming off a week of rest thanks to a bye.

The Vikings are only slightly worse on run defense than they are against the pass, allowing the sixth-most Fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. They've allowed backs to score multiple touchdowns in five games this season and have given up either two touchdowns or a 100-yard rusher in three of the last four. While Lacy has just 100 total rushing yards over the last two weeks, he has touchdowns in four of his last five and has run for 80 or more yards in five of his last seven. Scott Tolzien should be able to get things going in the passing game this week, opening up plenty of opportunities for Lacy to bounce back.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Chris Ogbonnaya, Browns (vs. PIT)

Ogbonnaya's Week 11 performance was significant on a few levels. First, his 14 touches were the most for him this season and they came against a stout Bengals defense. Willis McGahee saw his fewest carry total (six) since joining the team. And, maybe most importantly, this all came after the team's bye, when the Browns had time to re-tool and reassess roles. Ogbonnaya's increased role should continue into Week 12, against a Steelers team that has allowed six touchdowns over the last four weeks to opposing running backs.

Wide Receiver

My picks for the Player Challenge: Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers (@DET); Marques Colston, Saints (vs. ATL)

The Lions have allowed 10 touchdowns over their last four games to opposing wide receivers. And of those touchdowns, seven came from No. 1 receivers (A.J. Green had one, Dez Bryant had two, Brandon Marshall had two, Antonio Brown had two). The Lions have given up the fourth-most passing yards per game on top of all the scoring, and Vincent Jackson is coming off a 10-catch, 165-yard game against the Falcons.

Here's a fun fact about Marques Colston -- the Saints wideout has his best yardage production in November, averaging 84.1 yards per game. In September, October and December, Colston averages 66.2, 67.5 and 68.6 yards per game, respectively. Additionally, the Falcons have allowed the fourth-most Fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts this season, giving up seven touchdowns to wide receivers in the last five games, with two 100-yard performances yielded in the last two. Colston has dropped from elite status this season, but he has a great November history, is riding some momentum and is lined up for an excellent Week 12 matchup.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Cordarelle Patterson, Vikings (@GB)

With the Vikings essentially out of it this season, there's no harm in the team trotting Patterson out there with a larger role, to see what the team has. He was targeted a season-high nine times in Week 11 (with Greg Jennings out) and a possible quarterback change to Josh Freeman could give him a fresh set of eyes under center. Patterson has just one game with more than 30 receiving yards this season -- and has scored just one touchdown -- but Green Bay is a great matchup for Patterson. The Packers have allowed an average of 31 Fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts over the last three. If Patterson is due for a breakout, this would be where it happens.

Tight End

My pick for the Player Challenge: Jimmy Graham, Saints (@ATL)

You're going to use Graham once in the four-week period of this game and Week 12 is the best matchup for the foreseeable future. In Week 13, Graham faces the Seahawks and in Week 14 he has the Panthers. But Week 12 brings Atlanta. And while the Falcons have given up the ninth-fewest Fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends, Graham scored a touchdown against them in Week 1 and they've given up occasional big games to the better tight ends. If you consider Graham more of a wide receiver, things get better, as the Falcons (as evidenced above) have not been very good against wideouts this season.

DST

My pick for the Player Challenge: Panthers (@MIA)

The Panthers have established themselves as a tough defensive opponent. They have the fourth-most Fantasy points, the third-most interceptions, 10th-most sacks and fewest points allowed. The Dolphins -- Carolina's Week 12 opponent -- have been intercepted 11 times this season (six times in the last five games), have given up about four sacks over their last four games and have failed to score more than 20 points in three of their last four. Throw in the offensive line issues and this looks like a great week to start the Panthers in the Challenge.

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
Wacky day for Justin Hunter all around
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(8:43 pm ET) To say Titans wide receiver Justin Hunter was just lucky Week 12 at Philadelphia wouldn't be entirely fair. He had 10 targets, most on the team and four more than in his previous two games combined. But then again, of his 64 yards, 40 of them came on his touchdown grab in the second quarter -- a pass that was intended for him, yes, but caught on a deflection.

Perhaps it wouldn't have made a difference -- the deflection didn't dramatically change the flight of the ball, and Hunter made an athletic play on it -- but because it wasn't a clean pitch and catch, I don't know that it's any kind of endorsement of he and rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger's rapport.

After all, he didn't do much with his other nine targets. And when he got 10 targets in Mettenberger's first start Week 8 against Houston, he caught just four of them for 31 yards.

Hunter certainly has big-play potential and may some day develop a good connection with Mettenberger, but this performance, even with all the targets and the touchdown, isn't enough to move the needle in Fantasy.


Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis does not attempt field goal Sunday
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(8:43 pm ET) The Dolphins had little user for kicker Caleb Sturgis during Week 12 loss to Denver.

Sturgis did not attempt a field goal, but connected on all four of his extra point attempts. The Dolphins next play Sunday at the Jets.


Cardinals QB Drew Stanton held in check vs. Seahawks
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:43 pm ET) Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton completed just 14 of his 26 pass attempts for 149 yards with no touchdowns and one interception while adding 23 rushing yards on four carries in his team's 19-3 loss to the Seahawks in Week 12.

Stanton had virtually no chance against a stout Seahawks secondary in Seattle while missing Larry Fitzgerald (knee). He was able to lead his second drive into Seahawks territory mainly on a pass-interference call but watched the Arizona kicker miss a 49-yard field goal. He didn't get the ball into Seattle territory again until his last drive of the first half, but the Cardinals had to settle for a short field goal with seconds left before halftime. The Cardinals were unable to penetrate further than the Seattle 40-yard line in the second half.

Stanton appeared to potentially suffer an ankle injury while failing on a third-down conversion in his final offensive drive but said after the game that it was nothing serious and that he would have come back into the game had the offense gotten the ball back. He may receive a little extra rest this week but should be good to go for his Week 13 matchup with the Falcons.


Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace contributes score in loss
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(8:32 pm ET) Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace continued to be a red zone threat scoring on a 14-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill in a 39-36 loss to Denver Sunday.

The touchdown prevented Wallace from a truly dismal performance with Wallace catching four passes on five targets for 35 yards. It was Wallace’s seventh touchdown catch of the season. In 2013, Wallace accounted for five touchdown receptions. In Week 13, the Dolphins play at the New York Jets.


Jarvis Landry finds the end zone two more times
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(8:29 pm ET) Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry played a huge role in Sunday's loss to the Broncos, as he continues to be a solid red-zone target.

Landry scored from 5 and 1 yards out, giving him four touchdowns in the red zone in the last four games. He was the team's most targeted player overall, with 11 of Ryan Tannehill's 36 passes going his way, and he hauled in seven of them  for 50 yards to lead the team.

Landry has yet to put together a big yardage game, but he has been consistently productive out of the slot recently, totaling between 46 and 53 yards in each of the last four games. Any Fantasy value he might have right now is tied to his ability to get into the end zone, which might not be sustainable, so continue to view him as a low-end Fantasy option overall. 


Colin Kaepernick's rushing game disappearing
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(8:28 pm ET) 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's running game has disappeared and with it, much of his Fantasy value.

Kaepernick put together another pedestrian Fantasy performance in Week 12, as he finished with 15 points in the win over Washington. He has just 15 or fewer points in each of the team's last five games, and that has coincided, expectedly, with a dip hin his production as a rusher.

Through his first six games, Kaepernick was averaging 40.3 rushing yards and 21 Fantasy points per game, numbers that have tumbled to 18.8 and 14.2, respectively over the last five. He has a tough matchup on the way in Week 13, against a Seahawks defense that limited him to just 19 combined Fantasy points last season, so look for other options. 


LeSean McCoy looks as good as ever
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(8:27 pm ET) After he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry Week 11 at Green Bay, questions about whether or not Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has lost a step resurfaced leading up to Week 12. He did his best to invalidate them against the Titans, though, rushing for 130 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.

His defining play was a 53-yard run early in the fourth quarter in which he juked a defender and turned on the jets, breaking away from the secondary before getting run down deep in Titans territory. It was the kind of athletic move you'd expect from a 26-year-old coming off a rushing title but one we haven't seen much from McCoy this season.

Of course, whether or not McCoy has lost a step is kind of a moot point for his Fantasy owners. The window to trade him has most likely passed them by, and while he hasn't lived up to his average draft position, mostly because he hasn't been as involved in the passing game as in years past, he's been good enough to start every week, rushing for 80 or more yards in six of the Eagles' last seven games.

Perhaps the Titans defense, which entered the game ranked 31st against the run, contributed to this performance, but even if that's the case, you wouldn't consider sitting McCoy for Week 13 at Dallas.


Broncos' Emmanuel Sanders nets 125 receiving yards in win
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(8:24 pm ET) Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was targeted a team-high 13 times and hauled in nine receptions for 125 yards during Week 12 win over the Dolphins.

Sanders was listed as probable going into the game after suffering a concussion Week 11 against St. Louis. Sanders appeared fully healthy notching his seventh game of the season with more than 100 receiving yards. Sanders could’ve had an even bigger day, but was overthrown on various attempts.

The Broncos will play at Kansas City Week 13.


Greg Zuerlein has field goal blocked Week 12
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8:20 pm ET) Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein nailed a 22-yard field goal Week 12 at San Diego, but his 46-yard try was blocked. He's 16 of 20 this season.

Zuerlein, who added three PATs for a six-point outing, plays the Raiders in Week 13.


Tavon Austin scores first touchdown this season
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8:17 pm ET) Rams wideout Tavon Austin scored on a 6-yard end-around in the third quarter Sunday at San Diego, his first touchdown this season. Austin's score came two plays after he ripped off a 15-yard run.

He finished with three carries for 27 yards and three catches for 11 yards. Austin plays the Raiders in Week 13.


 
 
 
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