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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
Derek Carr fires three touchdown passes in preseason finale
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:23 am ET) Raiders rookie quarterback Derek Carr made a pretty strong case for himself to win the starting job during Thursday's preseason finale against the Seahawks.

Carr led the team to four touchdown drives, most of which came against Seattle's first unit. He hooked up with Denarius Moore for scores of 36 and 11 yards. He also fired a 20-yard touchdown pass to Mychal Rivera.

Carr completed 11 of 14 passes for 143 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, finishing with a 152.1 passer rating. This preseason, the rookie signal-caller compiled 326 yards through the air while completing 30 of 45 passes. He added four touchdowns and one interception.

Andrew Hawkins, Miles Austin to start Week 1
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:07 am ET) As expected, Browns head coach Mike Pettine told reporters after the final preseason game that wide receivers Andrew Hawkins and Miles Austin will start Week 1 at Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. Both wideouts moved up a spot on the depth chart after the league suspended Josh Gordon for the entire 2014 season.

X-rays come back negative for Blaine Gabbert
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:04 am ET) 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told reporters that quarterback Blaine Gabbert had X-rays on his right shoulder, which came back negative.

Gabbert worked five drives in the first half before leaving the game. He is competing with Josh Johnson for the No. 2 job behind Colin Kaepernick. Harbaugh indicated that he would like three quarterbacks on the 53-man active roster.


Buster Skrine ditches hard cast for soft cast Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:00 am ET) Browns cornerback Buster Skrine is no longer wearing a hard cast on his right arm and hand, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. Skrine is just 10 days removed from thumb surgery and is wearing a soft cast. He is listed as week to week, leaving his status up in the air for Week 1 against Pittsburgh.

Kelvin Benjamin suffers jammed finger in preseason finale
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/28/2014) Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin jammed his middle finger during Thursday's preseason finale against the Steelers in Pittsburgh, the Charlotte Observer reports. Benjamin told the paper that the injury is not considered to be serious.

He was targeted seven times and had four catches for 56 yards. He finished the preseason with 12 receptions for 173 yards and a touchdown. Benjamin should be ready for the season opener at Tampa Bay on Sept. 7.

Jay Gruden: Akeem Jordan may have a sprained ACL or MCL
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/28/2014) Redskins head coach Jay Gruden told reporters that linebacker Akeem Jordan may have a sprained ACL or MCL, according to the Washington Post. Jordan suffered the injury in the first half and was unable to return. His status remains uncertain for Week 1 against the Texans.

Zach Line suffers ankle injury Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/28/2014) Vikings fullback Zach Line suffered an ankle injury during Thursday's preseason finale against the Titans. He was ruled out for the remainder of the game, per the team's official website.

Bills still awaiting results of X-rays for Sammy Watkins
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/28/2014) According to a Bills spokesman, the team is not aware of the results of the X-rays on rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins' injured ribs, according to ESPN. Head coach Doug Marrone declined to comment after Thursday's preseason finale against Detroit.

Watkins got drilled in the chest by Ashlee Palmer after an incompletion in the opening quarter. He tried to remain on the field for the next play, but was forced back to the bench and eventually taken to the locker room and ruled out for the remainder of the game.

Starting quarterback EJ Manuel did not seem worried over Watkins' injury when he spoke to the media after the game.

"He probably just got a little banged up. He'll be fine," Manuel said, via ESPN.

The Bills will play the Bears in Chicago on Sept. 7 to open the season.

Aaron Dobson makes preseason debut Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/28/2014) Patriots wide receiver Aaron Dobson made his preseason debut Thursday night against the Giants. Dobson worked with backup Jimmy Garoppolo and caught a 33-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. He was targeted nine times and finished with three receptions for a team-high 57 yards and a touchdown.


Tyrann Mathieu won't play final exhibition game
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(8/28/2014) Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu will not play Thursday night against San Diego, the team's final preseason game, per the team's official website. Mathieu is working his way back from two torn knee ligaments which he suffered in December. His status remains uncertain for Week 1 against the Chargers.

 
 
 
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