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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
Report: Free agent DE Chris Canty visiting with Jets this weekend
(5:36 pm ET) Free agent defensive end Chris Canty is scheduled to visit with the Jets on Friday and Saturday, a league source told The Baltimore Sun.

Canty was entering the final year of a three-year, $8 million contract before being released by the Ravens last week.

Canty, who previously played in New York for the Giants from 2009-12, is familiar with Jets coach Todd Bowles and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers, as both coaches were on the Cowboys' coaching staff when Canty played in Dallas from 2005-08.


Giants re-sign TE Larry Donnell
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:22 pm ET) The Giants re-signed tight end Larry Donnell, an exclusive rights free agent, to a one-year, $585,000 deal, reports the New York Daily News. The 26-year-old is coming off a breakout season in which he ranked third on the team with 63 catches and second with six receiving touchdowns.

Donnell, however, was a subpar blocker who lost four fumbles.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Redskins re-sign safety Duke Ihenacho
(4:58 pm ET) Safety Duke Ihenacho was re-signed by the Redskins on Wednesday. Ihenacho missed all but three games last year due to a foot injury.

The fourth-year safety was an exclusive-rights free agent prior to re-signing. He was claimed off of waivers from the Broncos at the beginning of the 2014 season.


Report: Saints willing to trade linebacker Junior Galette
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(4:47 pm ET) Along with Curtis Lofton, the Saints are also reportedly shopping linebacker Junior Galette, according to 95.7 The Game.

Galette played in 16 games during the 2014 season recorded 45 tackles and 10 sacks.


Eagles release outside linebacker Trent Cole
(4:36 pm ET) The Eagles announced Wednesday they released outside linebacker Trent Cole.

“We spoke with Trent and his agent and expressed a desire to have him back,” Chip Kelly said. “We have been talking for a couple of weeks. However, at this point, we think it’s best to let him explore other options.”

The 32-year-old Cole has played his entire 10-year career with the Eagles. He made the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2009.


Report: Saints release RB Pierre Thomas
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:20 pm ET) The Saints released 30-year-old running back Pierre Thomas, reports The New Orleans Advocate. He had two years and $4.3 million left on his contract.

Thomas missed five games last season due to foot and rib injuries. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry in eight years with the Saints, catching 327 passes and scoring 40 total touchdowns.

With Mark Ingram headed to free agency, the Saints' top runners under contract are Khiry Robinson and Travaris Cadet.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


DE Greg Hardy meeting with NFL officials Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:03 pm ET) Defensive end Greg Hardy, who remains on the commissioner's exempt list, was in New York on Wednesday to meet with NFL officials, reports Pro Football Talk. The league is investigating Hardy's arrest last year on domestic violence charges and it's unclear if Hardy will be suspended.

He's scheduled to hit free agency next Tuesday. Hardy, 26, posted 26 sacks in 2012-13 for the Panthers before going on the exempt list after one game last season.

A judge convicted Hardy of assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend, but he asked for a jury trial and the case was dismissed when his accuser could not be located to testify.

PFT suggests Hardy's reps and the NFL "will try to strike a deal." One possibility is Hardy agreeing to a suspension while being given "a free and clear path to free agency," the report said. ESPN.com predicts the Bengals will pursue Hardy in free agency.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Report: Saints are shopping linebacker Curtis Lofton
(3:59 pm ET) The Saints are looking to trade linebacker Curtis Lofton, according to NFL.com National Insider Ian Rapoport.

Lofton hasn't missed a regular season game since entering the league in 2008. He had a team-high 144 total tackles in 2014.


Saints S Jairus Byrd says he's been cleared for season
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:39 pm ET) Saints free safety Jairus Byrd tweeted that he just got officially cleared for the 2015 season. Byrd underwent surgery last October to fix torn meniscus in his knee.

Byrd, 28, has missed 17 games over the past two seasons. He made the Pro Bowl in 2009, 2012 and 2013 with Buffalo before signing a six-year, $54 million deal with New Orleans.

>> Want more NFL offseason? >> Mock drafts | Free agency tracker


Broncos QB Peyton Manning ready to take a pay cut for 2015
(3:32 pm ET) Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is ready to take a pay cut, according to ESPN NFL reporter Chris Mortensen. His salary for 2015 will drop from $19 million to $15 million. 

ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter also reports the two sides are near an agreement. CBSSports.com NFL Insider Jason La Canfora later confirmed the report and added he can make the money back in incentives.


 
 
 
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