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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
Patriots running back Stevan Ridley: 'I have something to prove'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Patriots running back Stevan Ridley is expected to become a free agent in the coming weeks and he is ready for the experience.

"I'm excited about it," Ridley told Sirius XM Radio Friday. "As a player coming into the league, you get there and your first contract you kind of have to establish yourself and see what you can do. Everybody is a good player if you get to make it to the NFL, but there is something to be said if you get to that second contract."

Ridley has rushed for 2,817 yards and 22 touchdowns in his first four seasons in the league with the Patriots.

"Where I'll be playing, and who I'll be playing for, is still unknown, but I know I've come in and done my job up to this point and now I have to put it in my agent's hands to get me on another team, or stay where I'm at, and make sure I’m in pads playing ball somewhere next year. I know if you think about it too much it will worry you sick."

Ridley has played in 20 of a possible 32 games the last two seasons, starting in just 11 of them.

"I take it personal to any team or anybody that says I can't be a very productive player on whatever team I land on," he said. "I've been playing ball my whole life, I'm going to come in and be a leader, and I'm going to be a guy that comes in and busts his butt in the weight room and busts his butt on the field. I'm a good teammate, I have fun with my guys, but when the lights come on Sundays, it's all business and I plan on going out there and making plays."


Patriots' Aaron Dobson doing well in rehab of hamstring injury
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson is still recovering from a hamstring injury that ended his season in 2014. Trainer Brett Fischer said Friday he thinks Dobson is going to turn heads when he heads back to Foxboro for training camp, according to the Boston Herald.

"He was talking about, 'When I go up there (to Foxboro) and they see me again, I want to make sure they know I'm in the best shape of my life.' He is really determined," Fischer said. "That is the underlying theme every day: 'Hey, I've got to be ready when April comes, be ready as far as the best shape of my life.' It's frustrating with two years of freaky-type stuff."

Dobson finished a disappointing 2014 season with three catches for 38 yards.

"He is doing great," Fischer said. "I'm really excited for him. He has put the time and effort into it, comes in early, gets all his work in and he is hungry. There are a few specific things we found, minor little things we're working on, that make his program a little bit unique to everybody else's. Nothing major."


Report: Should be a 'very active market' for Broncos' Julius Thomas
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Broncos tight end Julius Thomas turned down a five-year, $40 million contract for a reason. That's because it's believed he will have a "very active market" when the new league year begins on March 10, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. 

Two teams that are expected to target Thomas in free agency are the Raiders and Jaguars, both of which need to upgrade considerably at their skill positions to help out their young quarterbacks. The expectation is for Broncos general manager John Elway to let Thomas test the waters in free agency to see what he's offered. 

The Falcons have also reportedly been interested, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter. 

Injuries slowed what was an otherwise fast start to his 2014 season. Thomas' season ended with 489 yards and 12 touchdowns. 


Report: Browns QB Brian Hoyer could be on the way out of Cleveland
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) With the signing of Josh McCown Friday, Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer could be looking elsewhere for employment. Coach Mike Pettine called Hoyer to inform him the team was signing McCown and Hoyer appears ready to move on, according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network.

Hoyer played in 14 games for the Browns in 2014, throwing for 3,326 yards with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He lost his starting position to Johnny Manziel in Week 15, but was forced back into action after Manziel suffered a season-ending injury.


Quarterback Josh McCown agrees to terms with Browns
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Free agent quarterback Josh McCown has agreed to terms with the Browns on a contract, according to his agent Mike McCartney. The team later confirmed the report. The deal is reportedly set to have McCown on the Browns for three seasons, according to ESPN.

McCown, who will turn 36 before the season begins, previously visited with the Bills before signing with the Browns. McCown threw for 2,206 yards with 11 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2014 with the Buccaneers.


Jets WR Percy Harvin will not accept pay cut
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Jets receiver Percy Harvin will not agree to a reduction in his 2015 salary, reports CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora. 

Harvin is slated to earn $10.5 million this season, something the Jets cannot afford. Teams around the league are interested signing Harvin to a short-term deal. With his expensive contract, though, the Jets will be hard-pressed to find a suitor interested in trading Harvin. 

The Seahawks traded Harvin to the Jets for a conditional pick during the 2014 season. 


Report: Colts' Wayne undergoes triceps surgery, mulling retirement
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne underwent surgery Friday to repair his injured triceps, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Wayne, 36, is beginning rehab for the injury and is reportedly considering retirement, according to Rapoport.

Wayne played in 15 regular season games for the Colts in 2014, totaling 779 yards on 64 catches with two touchdowns.


Dolphins WR Mike Wallace interested in return to Steelers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Though the Dolphins are shopping Mike Wallace to prospective suitors, there is one team that is of interest to the speedy receiver. 

According to CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, Wallace has interest in potentially returning to the Steelers. Of course, the Steelers would have to decide if they'd be willing to take on a contract that's going to have a $12.1 million cap figure for 2015. 

Wallace has underperformed in relation to the five-year, $60 million contract he signed before the 2013 season. He's failed to reach 1,000 yards with the Dolphins in either season after recording that mark twice with the Steelers in his first four NFL seasons. 


Buccaneers' Vincent Jackson not accepting pay cut for 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson is likely to remain with Tampa Bay this offseason, but he is not willing to accept a pay cut, according to CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora.

Jackson, who was shopped by the team before the trade deadline, is set to make $10 million in base salary and has a $12.2 million cap hit. He totaled 70 catches for 1,002 yards and two touchdowns in 2014.


Falcons' Dan Quinn wants to re-sign Sean Weatherspoon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(2/27/2015) Though Sean Weatherspoon missed most of the past two seasons due to injuries, Falcons coach Dan Quinn is hopeful the franchise can re-sign the standout inside linebacker to a new contract before he hits the free agent market on March 10. 

"With him, it's that toughness and the speed that he can play with so, yes, definitely someone that we're talking to," Quinn said via ESPN.com. "I know he's got that kind of attitude. And you know me, just from watching our style of defense, it's fast and physical. And that's what Sean is. So, we're certainly hoping that he can be a big part of it moving forward."

Weatherspoon played in only seven games during the 2013 season due to a Lisfranc sprain in his foot. He missed all of 2014 due to an Achilles tear. 

Weatherspoon was the Falcons' first-round pick in the 2010 draft. He's totaled 290 tackles, eight sacks and two interceptions during his career. 


 
 
 
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