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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
Report: Buccaneers bringing in Dan Connolly for a visit
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Former Patriots offensive guard Dan Connolly will visit the Buccaneers on Tuesday, per a report by Fox's Ross Jones, citing a source. 

Connolly has played in 87 games for the Patriots in the last seven years and hasn't played in fewer than 13 games in a season since 2008. 


Steelers RB DeAngelo WIlliams says signing was easy decision
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) After playing his first nine seasons with the Panthers, running back DeAngelo Williams signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Steelers this offseason. Among his many thoughts on the signing, he called it an easy decision, according to the Sporting News.

“I didn’t know they wanted me. I had never been on a visit before,” Williams said. “I was with the same organization for nine years. When I got the call and they said, 'hey we want to bring you in for a visit' I took it as that. Had they said we wanted to bring you in for a signing I would have had a different mindset. I had no idea what was going to transpire when I got here.”

Williams added that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get the team to the next level.

“It’s the opportunity to take maybe one or two reps or whatever it takes to make this team better,” Williams said. “That is what I will do. I want to make it to a Super Bowl and win it. I know this team has that potential and they can do it.

“Coming here was an easy decision. This is a Super Bowl contending team. Every veteran out there, veteran or rookie, they want to go to the Super Bowl and win it and get the best opportunity. I think the best opportunity is here in Pittsburgh.”

Williams has rushed for 6,846 yards on 1,432 carries with 46 rushing touchdowns in his career.


Lions WR Golden Tate doesn't feel pressure due to loss of Suh
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Although Lions wide receiver Golden Tate feels the loss of Ndamukong Suh is a blow to the team, he doesn't believe it puts more pressure on the offense, reports ESPN. 

When asked specifically about the subject, Tate was clear about his thoughts.

"No, I don't think it adds any pressure," Tate said by phone Monday. "We just need to be who we are. We know that we have a lot of weapons all over the field. We just need to reach our potential each and every week.

"We just need to go out there and play fundamentally sound football and I have no doubt our defense is going to be really good again this year and we just got to do our jobs. There's no pressure on anyone but to be ourselves and to play good football."

Additionally, Tate recognizes that Suh was a game-changing player for the Lions, but he likes the addition of Haloti Ngata.

"Obviously, losing Suh is a big hit," Tate said. "I don't care what team you are, he's the guy that can change the game. Change an opposing offense's game plan. He affects the game so much. But with that being said, I'm thankful to have [had] the opportunity to play with him for a year and be a part of something special. But the show must go on.

"The guy we got, [Haloti] Ngata, is a heck of a player. I think it's a good pickup for us. I know he has a past with coach Caldwell so he knows the ins and outs of the system, probably. But we're ready to move forward. We can't live in the past and football season must still go on. We're preparing to have a great year and build from last year."

The 26-year-old stated that he plans on focusing on the intricacies of the offensive playbook heading into this season.

"One thing I really want to focus on is learning the playbook a little bit better," Tate said. "I felt like I knew it for the most part, but details, running the plays exactly how Joe Lombardi draws them up, could help us win more games and create more opportunities for myself and our team."

Tate finished his first season with the Lions catching 99 passes for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns.


Report: LB Rolando McClain ends Patriots' visit without contract
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) After visiting the Patriots on Monday, linebacker Rolando McClain and the team did not agree to terms on a contract, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. The same report states that the visit was a positive one.

McClain played in 13 games last season for the Cowboys, collecting 81 total tackles and one sack. Over his four-year career, the 25-year-old has accumulated 327 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, 23 passes defensed, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.


Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu looks forward to being healthy
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu believes that he is regaining his health and he's ready to make an impact this season, according to the team's website.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been healthy,” Mathieu said Monday. “Last year I felt like I took a back seat. I played well my rookie year and then last year it was kind of, eh, I was there but I wasn’t there. This (year) is more important for me because I really want to let everyone know I’m back and I can still make some plays.”

Mathieu tore his ACL and LCL toward the end of the 2013 season. He recently said that the comeback was "way harder than I thought."

Head coach Bruce Arians talked about how Mathieu was not himself last season.

“You saw him fight through it last year,” Arians said. “He was not the player he was used to (being) and it was very frustrating for him.”

Mathieu was aware of the chatter from the outside world and he is using that as motivation going forward.

“You hear people talk and I had time to listen to them talk, so it’s like … I hear it,” Mathieu said. “Like I said, I didn’t feel like I made enough plays last year to help our team. I am looking forward to this year because I know I can do it.”

The 22-year-old has registered 106 total tackles, one sack, three interceptions and one forced fumble in 26 games played during his two-year career.


Saints plan to rework Jahri Evans, Cameron Jordan contracts
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Saints coach Sean Payton said that the team has a plan in place to rework guard Jahri Evans' contract to help create salary cap space, per ESPN's Mike Triplett

Evans is scheduled to make $6.8 million salary in 2015 and cost $11 million against the cap. 

The team might also extend defensive end Cameron Jordan's contract. Jordan is entering the last year of his contract and is scheduled to make $6.969 million this year.


Rams have agreed to terms with OL Tim Barnes
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) The Rams have agreed to terms with offensive lineman Tim Barnes, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The one-year deal has a maximum value of $1 million. 

Barnes recently visited had a visit with the Chiefs before signing with the Rams. The 26-year-old spent all three of his previous seasons with the Rams, starting four of the 45 games he appeared in.


Report: Brandon Tate visits Chiefs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Free agent wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Tate visited the Chiefs on Monday, according to a report from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, citing a source.

Tate had 17 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown for the Bengals last year. He also had a combined 571 yards in kick and punt returns. 


Lions' Riley Reiff open to playing right tackle
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Lions coach Jim Caldwell said that Riley Reiff might start at right tackle next season. 

Reiff has started 32 games at left tackle over the last two seasons. The Lions aren't sure that last year's right tackle LaAdrian Waddle will be fully recovered from knee surgery, and backup tackle Cornelius Lucas is better on the left side. 

Reiff told the Daily Republic he doesn't care where he plays. 

 "I like playing, and wherever they want to put me, that's fine. I'll play," he said.


Broncos OL Michael Schofield looking to compete for starting job
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Broncos offensive lineman Michael Schofield is ready to come in and compete for a starting job this season, reports the Denver Post.

After not dressing for a single game as a rookie, Schofield added weight and he looks forward to fighting for a starting job.

"I am going in there with that mentality. In the NFL everybody is competing," Schofield said during a road trip to see family in Illinois. "They are looking for someone to step up and take over. I want to make that jump."

The third-round draft pick of the Broncos in 2014 struggled with weight issues, but he is now up to 305 pounds. He also recognized that his pass protection needs improvement.

"Personally, I felt there were reasons I wasn't out there (for games). I wasn't consistent enough in pass pro (protection). And my weight was really fluctuating," Schofield said.

Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak believes that the team's zone-blocking scheme can help Schofield elevate his game, and Schofield agrees.

"We like the Schofield kid, so we'll see. We think he's got some flexibility (in where he can play)," Kubiak said. "It will be very competitive."

"I feel like I am better suited for this," Schofield said. "You have to be able to reach block, and I feel the steps required fit me better."


 
 
 
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