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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
Cardinals' Larry Foote '50-50' on playing in 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/26/2015) Though Larry Foote is on the Cardinals' coaching staff at the moment, he hasn't ruled out a potential return to the team

Speaking to the team's website, Foote said he's "50-50" about playing in 2015. He talked about the factors that could play into whether or not he returns to playing. 

“Draft, what happens with (suspended linebacker) Darryl Washington, stuff like that, how my knee feels (after offseason surgery),” Foote said. “I’ll sit down with (Bruce Arians) and the next couple of months are really going to be the deciding factor.”

If Foote doesn't play, he'll be the linebackers coach for Arizona's upcoming season. He's been adjusting to the role of being a coach this offseason. 

“I am starting to like coaching,” Foote said. “It’s a little tough in the office, eating M&Ms, snacking all day, drinking coffee. I started my diet a couple days ago.”


Panthers pick up option on Luke Kuechly contract
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) What was promised by general manager Dave Gettleman is now official - the Panthers have picked up the fifth-year option on the rookie contract of standout linebacker Luke Kuechly, per the team website.

The two-time Pro Bowler has led the NFL in tackles in two of his three seasons and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. He has racked up 473 tackles since 2012, the most in the NFL.


Ravens TE Dennis Pitta hopeful for 2015 return
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta hopes to take the field in time for the 2015 season, but admits it's too early to determine if that goal can become a reality.

Pitta has undergone surgeries to repair a fractured and dislocated hip in each of the last two years.

"We still have some time to be able to assess where I'm at," Pitta told the Baltimore Sun. "I sure hope that I'll be on the field next year. That's my hope; that's my goal. We'll just see if I can get there."

Pitta has played in just seven games in the last two seasons combined.


Mark Sanchez: Eagles said Tim Tebow was just a camp arm
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(4/25/2015) Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez said he wasn't concerned that the team signed Tim Tebow, because the Eagles told him Tebow was just there to throw in camp.

"We needed another guy to throw while Sam's (Bradford) still recovering. So that's the reason (for the signing), at least as explained to me," Sanchez said, per CSN Philadelphia

The Eagles signed Tebow on Monday. He hasn't played in the NFL since getting cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp prior to the 2013 season. He spent last year as a television analyst for the SEC Network. 

Tebow and Sanchez were teammates on the Jets in 2012. Tebow's presence as a back-up created a quarterback controversy among fans and media that last ed throughout the season. 


Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


 
 
 
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