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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: Cordy Glenn expected to be ready for opener
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) Bills left tackle Cordy Glenn, who's missed the first week of camp with an undisclosed illness, should return in time for the season opener, reports the Buffalo News. Glenn is on the non-football illness list and can be activated at any time.

Dan Williams getting MRI
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:19 pm ET) Cardinals nose tackle Dan Williams is getting an MRI on his swollen left knee. He left practice Sunday due to the injury.

Michael Crabtree doing it all in training camp
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:11 pm ET) The 49ers' official website says receiver Michael Crabtree is "bursting off the ball and showing no signs of his Achilles tear in 2013," adding Crabtree "looks better than ever."

Crabtree is making one-handed catches 30 yards downfield, beating press coverage at the line of scrimmage and developing chemistry with the quarterbacks, the report said.


Patriots foil Panthers' plan, claim Tyler Gaffney
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:05 pm ET) The Patriots claimed rookie running back Tyler Gaffney off waivers from the Panthers after Carolina "tried to sneak him through waivers and into IR," reports ESPN's Adam Schefter. Gaffney tore his lateral meniscus Friday and is out for the season.

Dolphins make roster moves
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:56 pm ET) The Dolphins signed offensive tackles Tony Hills and Steven Baker and cut wideout Gerald Ford, reports the National Football Post.

Trent Richardson bothered by sore hamstring
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:45 pm ET) The Colts are counting on a big year from 2013 bust Trent Richardson. But the running back was unable to practice Monday as he continues to deal with a sore hamstring, reports the Indianapolis Star.

Richardson has not practiced since Thursday.


Jeremy Maclin getting his timing back
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:28 pm ET) Eagles coach Chip Kelly said receiver Jeremy Maclin is getting his timing back after missing last year with a torn ACL. "He's been good. I don't know if he surprised us," Kelly said.

"I think because of how he rehabbed in the offseason, we were confident with him going into the offseason program. He was out there every day in the offseason program and it's just a matter of him getting his timing back.

"From a physical standpoint, the strength and flexibility and conditioning is there. Now it's just him getting his timing back. He was better in these first two practices, made some improvements from what he had last spring. So we're excited to move forward with him."


Coach compares Terrance West to all-time greats
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:21 pm ET) Browns running backs coach Wilbert Montgomery said rookie Terrance West's running style reminds him of former Eagles star Brian Westbrook. Then Montgomery went further.

"It’s funny because Terrence West has some shades of Brian Westbrook," Montgomery said. "He can break you down with his right leg; he can break you down with his left. He has that Ricky Watters or Walter Payton lure-you-to-sleep-on-the-sidelines move that I can accelerate or I can play like I’m going to accelerate and cut back inside. Those are some of the traits that I haven’t seen in a while by Walter Payton and Ricky Watters."


Mike Tolbert is 'crunch-time guy' for Carolina
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn't want running back Mike Tolbert to lose too much weight, reports the Charlotte Observer. Tolbert has dropped 13 pounds to 250.

"The biggest thing that we want for him is to continue to maintain that weight and he maintains an effective play," Rivera said. "We don’t want him to lose that nose for the goal line that he has. A lot of times he’s our fourth-down, go-to guy. He’s our crunch-time guy. That’s why it’s important for him to be in shape and be ready to go."

Tolbert has run for 12 touchdowns in two seasons with Carolina and figures to get a slew of goal-line carries again this year.


Odell Beckham getting tests on hamstring
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:07 pm ET) Giants rookie receiver Odell Beckham was sent to get tests on his strained hamstring, reports ESPN.com. He has not practiced since last Tuesday.

 
 
 
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