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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
Denarius Moore can't make most of targets
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(8:05 pm ET) Raiders wide receiver Denarius Moore, who is still looking for his breakout game in 2014, got plenty of balls thrown his way Week 3 at New England, tying for the team lead with seven targets, but he pulled down only three of them for 23 yards. He had three catches for 29 yards against the Texans last week.

One of the misses was the play that decided the game. On first-and-goal from the 12-yard line, immediately after a Darren McFadden touchdown run was reversed by a holding penalty, Moore had a pass knocked out of his hands, off another defender and into the arms of a diving Vince Wilfork for an interception.

Moore will look to make more of an impact Week 4 against Miami.


Steve Johnson steps up for 49ers Week 3
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(8:03 pm ET) With tight end Vernon Davis sidelined Sunday, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick needed to find another option in the passing game to make up for Davis' lost production. He found that option in wide receiver Steve Johnson, who had his best game since signing with San Francisco in the offseason.

Johnson totaled a team-high 103 receiving yards on nine catches during a 23-14 loss Week 3 at Arizona. He caught every target thrown his way and his longest reception was 32 yards.

Sunday was the ninth time in Johnson's career he surpassed 100 receiving yards and first time since Week 2 of last season with Buffalo. The 49ers are back in action Week 4 vs. Philadelphia.


James Jones leads team despite step back
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:59 pm ET) Raiders wide receiver James Jones, who broke out with nine catches for 112 yards and a touchdown Week 2 against Houston, wasn't nearly as productive Week 3 at New England, catching three passes for 43 yards. But with a conservative game plan that yielded just 174 yards for quarterback Derek Carr, he was still the team's leading receiver.

Wide receiver Denarius Moore and running back Marcel Reece both had more targets (seven) than Jones (five), but Jones was clearly still Carr's favorite target once the Raiders opened up the passing game a little more in the second half. He didn't get a single target before then.

The Raiders have a more favorable matchup Week 4 against Miami. Jones will look to get back on track then.


John Brown hauls in two TDs in comeback win
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(7:54 pm ET) Cardinals rookie wide receiver John Brown had his breakout performance Week 3 vs. San Francisco, totaling two touchdowns in a second-half comeback. Brown finished with four catches for 52 yards in the 23-14 win.

Brown had two catches for 7 yards in the first half before breaking out in the third quarter. His 24-yard touchdown catch with 9:20 left in the third quarter put Arizona within one point at 14-13. His 21-yard catch about five minutes later gave Arizona a 20-14 lead.

Brown came close to a third touchdown in the second half, but quarterback Drew Stanton overthrew him after Brown ran past his defender down the left sideline. It would have been a 45-yard touchdown had Stanton hit him in stride.

Brown, who was targeted six times, said after the win the game plan all week was to get him the football since the team was expecting San Francisco to give most of its attention on defense to wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. 

The Cardinals are on a by Week 4 before returning to action Week 5 at Denver.


Marcel Reece gets seven targets
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:47 pm ET) After playing a minimal role on offense the first two weeks, Raiders running back Marcel Reece was plenty visible Week 3 at New England, tying for the team lead with seven targets. Unfortunately, he connected on just three of those targets for 19 yards. He also had a 7-yard run.

Reece, who caught 32 passes in a peripheral role last year, will look to stay involved Week 4 against Miami.


Late interception costs Derek Carr
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:42 pm ET) The Raiders had a conservative game plan on the road against a Patriots defense that proved to be stout through the first two weeks, and rookie quarterback Derek Carr once again completed more than 60 percent (21 for 34) of his passes as a result. Of course, he also threw for just 174 yards and couldn't get the Raiders in the end zone in a 16-9 loss.

The closest he came was on the team's final drive of the game, when running back Darren McFadden had what looked like a game-tying 6-yard touchdown run with about a minute to go, but the play was reversed on a holding call. Carr threw an interception on the very next play.

After throwing two touchdown passes to no interceptions in his first game, he has thrown one touchdown pass to three interceptions in his last two. He'll look to reverse the trend Week 4 against the Dolphins.


Drew Stanton leads second-half comeback Week 3
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(7:41 pm ET) Cardinals quarterback Drew Stanton threw two second-half touchdown passes to rookie receiver John Brown, leading Arizona to a 23-14 comeback win Week 3 vs. San Francisco. Stanton completed 18 of 33 passes for 244 yards, while rushing for 16 yards on six carries.

Stanton didn't have a very productive first half, completing just 8 of 17 passes for 83 yards as Arizona trailed 14-6 by the break. Stanton then threw touchdown passes of 21 and 24 yards to Brown in the third quarter, and the Cardinals never looked back.

Stanton came close to throwing a third touchdown to Brown in the second half, but he overthrew Brown, who had run past his defender down the left sideline. It would have resulted in a 45-yard touchdown had Stanton hit Brown in stride. 

The Cardinals head into a bye Week 4 before returning to play Week 5 at Denver. If Carson Palmer (shoulder) is healthy, he is expected to resume the starting quarterback job.


Antonio Cromartie headed for MRI on knee
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(7:33 pm ET) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said after Sunday's win against the 49ers cornerback Antonio Cromartie injured the same knee he has had surgery on in the past. He will get an MRI.

Darren McFadden denied a touchdown
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(7:32 pm ET) Raiders running back Darren McFadden, getting another start in place of the injured Maurice Jones-Drew, had a modest rushing total Week 3 at New England, picking up 59 yards on 18 carries. He also had four catches for 6 yards. He nearly scored a game-tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter, plunging into the end zone from 6 yards out, but the play was overturned by a holding penalty. Rookie quarterback Derek Carr threw an interception on the very next play.

Jones-Drew's status for Week 4 is at this point unknown. The Raiders have a favorable matchup against the Dolphins, who gave up 132 yards to Chiefs backup running back Knile Davis in Week 3.


Steve McLendon ready to face Panthers
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7:30 pm ET) Steelers nose tackle Steve McLendon, who was probable with a shoulder injury, is active for Sunday night's game in Carolina. He has nine tackles through two games.

 
 
 
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