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Player Challenge strategies for Week 14

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

My pick for the Player Challenge: Matthew Stafford, Lions (@PHI)

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The Eagles have allowed 21.5 Fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks this season, including two straight weeks of 24 or more points (to Robert Griffin III and Carson Palmer). While the Eagles had a nice six-game run (from Weeks 5-10) in which they allowed 19 or fewer points in four of those games, they seem to have fallen back on early season habits. Stafford has thrown three touchdowns in three of his last four games. He hasn't scored fewer than 21 points since Week 5 and has only dipped below that benchmark twice this season.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: E.J. Manuel, Bills (@TB)

Manuel has two straight games of 20-plus Fantasy points. Steve Johnson and Robert Woods are getting farther away from their injuries. And his Week 14 opponent, the Bucs, have allowed multiple touchdowns from opposing quarterbacks in every game since Week 4. Additionally, Manuel may get himself back into run mode this week -- the Bucs have allowed quarterbacks to run for four touchdowns and have allowed 35 or more rushing yards from a quarterback four times this season.

Running Back

My picks for the Player Challenge: DeMarco Murray, Cowboys (@CHI); Jamaal Charles, Chiefs (@WAS)

The Bears didn't allow a running back to score in Week 13 -- they had given up 12 touchdowns in the previous seven games -- but they did allow Adrian Peterson to run for 211 yards. It was the fourth straight week the team gave up 100 rushing yards to an opposing back. While Murray's Fantasy point total from Week 13 was inflated by three touchdowns, he's still been in a bit of a groove over his last three games, putting up double-digit Fantasy points in standard leagues (and catching 15 passes over his last four for PPR goodness).

Charles, meanwhile, gets to face a team that has allowed an NFL-most 17 rushing touchdowns. And while Washington has held opposing teams to a league average-ish 108.8 rushing yards per game, the defense has allowed 46.5 receiving yards per game to opposing running backs, the seventh-most in the NFL. Charles is third among running backs in receiving yards (452), is fourth in receptions (55) and is first in targets (87).

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Stepfan Taylor, Cardinals (vs. STL)

If Andre Ellington is out again for Week 14, the Cardinals may again look to Taylor to fill his supplemental role. Taylor quietly racked up 60 total yards in Week 13 and had 14 touches in Week 8 against the Falcons. This matchup works to his advantage, as the Rams have allowed the third-most running back receiving yards. In the last four games, the Rams have allowed 70 or more receiving yards to running backs three times and 10 or more receptions to running backs twice.

Wide Receiver

My picks for the Player Challenge: Vincent Jackson, Buccaneers (vs. BUF); Calvin Johnson, Lions (@ PHI)

The Bills have been a bit of an enigma lately. After allowing 15 wide receiver touchdowns in the first eight weeks, they tightened up the pass defense and have given up just one in their last four games. However, those four games were against the Chiefs, Steelers, Jets and Falcons. The only star-ish receivers they faced in that run were Antonio Brown (who had a 100-yard game) and Roddy White (who had a 100-yard game). The Bills, almost predictably, shut everyone else down. Jackson, meanwhile, has cooled considerably since his hot start, with Mike Glennon throwing the ball fewer than 25 times in each of the last five games. Still, Jackson has gone over 60 yards receiving in each of his last two, despite seeing only eight total targets. And he has three games of 130 or more receiving yards this season.

Johnson has three straight 100-yard games and hasn't dipped below single digits in Fantasy points since Week 6, when he was coming off an injury. But this is more about the Eagles, who have allowed three touchdowns to wide receivers in their last two games. And when the Eagles face a stud, they tend to let him do studly things: Larry Fitzgerald scored a touchdown in Week 13, Dez Bryant had 110 yards in Week 7, Vincent Jackson had 114 yards and two touchdowns in Week 6, Demaryius Thomas and Wes Welker combined for 162 yards and four touchdowns in Week 4.

A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Andre Holmes, Raiders (@NYJ)

Andre Holmes has seen his targets increase in each of the last three weeks, from three, to five, to 11 in his Week 13 breakout against the Cowboys. Holmes' role in the Raiders passing game looks a little like Keenan Allen's when he was emerging -- replace a hobbled receiver, show some skill for a week or two, then enter the 100-yard stratosphere. This is not quite the same situation, but it's also not out of the realm of possibility that Holmes continues producing. Matt McGloin likes Holmes, the Raiders have an underrated offense and Holmes could end up being a late-season bloomer.

Tight End

My pick for the Player Challenge: Vernon Davis, 49ers (vs. SEA)

In the Player Challenge, you really don't need to go much deeper than the big four tight ends. Unfortunately, none have a real slam-dunk matchup this week. Rob Gronkowski is facing the Browns, Jimmy Graham has the Panthers and Julius Thomas has missed two straight games, so I want to save him for a later week. Enter Vernon Davis, who faces off against Seattle in Week 14. The Seahawks have been pretty solid against tight ends all season, but have given up three touchdowns to the position over the last four, giving up 40-yard games to three tight ends. Davis was shut down in Week 2 (three receptions for 20 yards) when the teams first met, but the Seahawks have been shaky lately and the other top options are all facing tougher matchups/situations.

DST

My pick for the Player Challenge: Raiders

This is your good, old fashioned "stream against the Jets" strategy. The last three DSTs to face the Jets have put up 24, 21 and 24 Fantasy points. They've picked up seven interceptions, recorded 11 sacks, recovered three fumbles and allowed just 20 total real points. The Raiders haven't been the most solid of options, but they have multiple sacks in eight straight weeks and have recovered four fumbles in the last four games (while forcing 10).

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
Disgruntled Seahawks DE Michael Bennett unlikely to be dealt
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(2:46 pm ET) Defensive end Michael Bennett wants out of Seattle after signing a four-year, $32 million contract last offseason to stay with the Seahawks. But the possibility of a trade appears unlikely, CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora has reported.

"He's kinda sorta tried to say that he didn't really want to be dealt after all, but that's not flying anywhere," La Canfora wrote. "He and his agent have made it clear he'd rather not be back in Seattle and while the Seahawks aren't ones to back down, perhaps something emerges that makes sense for all parties prior to the start of the regular season.

"Kind of odd not to be so happy in a franchise that competes for the Lombardi Trophy, and until or unless the Seahaws put out explicit word that Bennett has permission to speak to other teams, I don't see any clubs nibbling in this era of hyper-sensitivity over tampering regulations. But there's a lot of time between now and September for something to perhaps change."

Bennett contributed to 38 tackles a year ago and added seven sacks.


Jets linebacker Quinton Coples expects to rush passer more this year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:26 pm ET) Jets linebacker Quinton Coples is excited about the changes in New York this season. Coples expects to see a role change in New York's defensive scheme with new coach Todd Bowles at the helm, according to NJ.com.

"Well, I won't be jamming receivers," Coples said, comparing Bowles' defense to former coach Rex Ryan's system. "I won't be guarding the No. 1 receiver. That's a big change. Other than that, a lot more rushing. I'll be going against the quarterback a lot. I will be dropping [into pass coverage] a little bit, as well, but a lot more going forward [with rushing the quarterback]. They don't need me in coverage anymore, as you guys can tell."

Coples totaled 35 tackles in 2014 with 6 1/2 sacks and one forced fumble.


Denzel Perryman to provide depth at inside linebacker for Chagers
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:22 pm ET) New Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman has high expectations on his plate heading into his rookie season, according to ESPN.com.

Perry, a second-round draft pick out of Miami (FL.), will be utilized as an inside linebacker and on special teams early on with the Chargers, according to defensive coordinator John Pagano.

"He's mean," Pagano said. "He's tough. He tackles. He's somebody that's going to hit you. He's not just going to try and tackle you. He's trying to run through you, and that's something that every defense is looking for. He's got great instincts, and that makes up for the so-called lack of speed. He plays faster than he's timed."

Perryman totaled 218 tackles with 3 1/2 sacks in his final two seasons in college.


Browns' Ekpre-Olomu (knee) needs 7-10 months of rehab
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(2:17 pm ET) Browns cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu said on a conference call with media members Wednesday that he suffered a knee dislocation in addition to his torn ACL in December, ESPN reports.

Ekpre-Olomu, who was selected in the seventh round of this year's draft, said he was told he needed seven-to-10 months of rehab on the injured knee. He's been rehabbing five days a week for 3 1/2 hours a day and things are going well, the Akron Beacon-Journal reports.

At one time considered a potential first-round pick, Ekpre-Olomu missed the College Football Playoff due to the injury and figures to open the season on the PUP list.


Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse signs RFA tender
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:14 pm ET) Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse signed his restricted free-agent tender on Tuesday, reportedly worth $2.356 million, according to ESPN.com.

Kearse had his best season as a pro in 2014 with 38 receptions for 537 yards and one touchdown.


Bears sign Kevin White, Eddie Goldman to four-year deals
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(2:04 pm ET) The Bears have agreed to terms with first-round pick Kevin White from West Virginia and second-round pick Eddie Goldman from Florida State, the team announced.

Both players agreed to four-year deals with the team. White was selected with the seventh overall pick. He had 109 catches for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns in his senior season for West Virginia.

"I know I spoke to you about getting impact players in the draft, especially when you're picking in the top 10, and that's exactly what Kevin White is," general manager Ryan Pace said after picking White.

"This guy's dynamic, he's big, he's strong and he's ultra-competitive. If I could stress one word for this player, he's competitive. You see it after the catch. You see it in the way he attacks the ball in the air. This is a dynamic playmaker for our offense."

Goldman recorded 35 tackles with four sacks in 2014 for the Seminoles.


Deflategate report finds Patriots QB Tom Brady 'generally aware'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:27 pm ET) Attorney Ted Wells, who headed the investigation into the Deflategate scandal involving the Patriots, has concluded that "it is more probable than not" that team personnel "deliberately violated playing rules" by deflating game balls for their AFC Championship rout of Indianapolis.

>> Latest on Wells Report: CBS News

Wells went on to express his belief that Patriots locker room attendant Jim McNally and equipment assistant John Jastremski deliberately released air from the balls after they had been examined by the referee.

The 243-page report vindicated the upper echelon of the organization, but not quarterback Tom Brady, who declined to hand over his phone to Wells, according to the report.

"We do not believe there was any wrongdoing or knowledge of wrongdoing by Patriots ownership, (coach) Bill Belichick or other Pats coach," it read. "...It also is our view that it is more probable than not that Tom Brady ... was at least generally aware of the inappropriate activities of McNally and Jastremski involving the release of air from Patriots game balls."

The NFL, which now has the report, is considering discipline against Brady, McNally and Jastremski, a source close to the investigation has told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. Meanwhile, Patriots owner Robert Kraft is sticking with his sentiment that the organization did nothing wrong and that the investigation lacked evidence.

"I was convinced that Ted Wells' investigation would find the same factual evidence supported by both scientific formala and independent research as we did and would ultimately exonerate the Patriots," Kraft wrote. "Based on the explanations I have heard and the studies that have been done, I don't know how the science of atmospheric conditions can be refuted or how conclusions to the contrary can be drawn without some definite evidence."


Eagles QB Mark Sanchez expects to compete for starting job
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(1:10 pm ET) Despite the assumption of many that the Eagles traded for quarterback Sam Bradford to make him the automatic starter, fellow signal-caller Mark Sanchez doesn't perceive the situation the same way.

Sanchez believes there will be an open competition in camp, which is why he signed a two-year deal worth $9 million to return to Philadelphia.

"Absolutely," he told NFL.com. "That's the way I understand it. ... Just talking with coach (Chip) Kelly and knowing I'm comng with the opportunity to compete for the starting job. That was important to me."

Sanchez completed 64 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions for the Eagles a year ago.


Chargers FS Eric Weddle: 'I'm not coming in anytime soon'
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(12:16 pm ET) Chargers free safety Eric Weddle has been absent from team workouts over the last couple weeks. If his recent words are any indication, they should not expect to see him for a while.

Weddle, who is in the final year of his contract, is seeking a new one. General manager Tom Telesco has promised one will be discussed upon the completion of the draft, but Weddle will wait until then. He did, however, claim he will be working out on the side.

"I'm not coming in anytime soon," Weddle told radio station The Mighty 1090. "They know where we're at and they obviously know their stance, so we'll see what happens from there."

Weddle contributed to 114 tackles last season and has averaged 103 over his last seven years. But his interception total has dropped every season since peaking at seven in 2011.


Redskins rookie WR Jamison Crowder could push Andre Roberts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:09 am ET) Redskins fourth-round pick and wideout Jamison Crowder could wind up usurping Andre Roberts as the team's No. 1 slot receiver, according to the Washington Post.

General manager Scot McCloughan praised the diminutive Duke product - and not just for his talents as a kick returner.

"For an undersized guy, he's got a chip on his shoulder," McCloughan said. "He's a really good punt returner. He's a receiver first, punt returner second. And he's going to come in there, you put him in the slot, he's going to be tough to cover. He's a football player."

Roberts performed well in the slot early last year, but struggled down the stretch and finished with just 36 receptions for 453 yards and two scores. He also made little impact as a returner.

Crowder caught 85 passess for 1,044 yards and six touchdowns in 2014 with the Blue Devils.


 
 
 
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