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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
Brandon LaFell, Shane Vereen limited for Patriots
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:23 pm ET) Patriots wideout Brandon LaFell and running back Shane Vereen were limited in practice on Wednesday.

LaFell is dealing with a shoulder injury. Vereen was listed with an ankle issue. Both players have been active for every game this season. Their statuses will be determined by how much work they can put in on Thursday and Friday.


Seahawks C Max Unger not practicing Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:15 pm ET) Seahawks starting center Max Unger, who's missed four straight games with knee and ankle injuries, was unable to practice Wednesday, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Lemuel Jeanpierre will start Sunday night at Arizona if Unger can't go.

Coach Pete Carroll said Unger had a "tough recovery" after participating in last Friday's practice.


Chiefs' Jamaal Charles puts in limited work on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:03 pm ET) Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was able to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday. 

Charles was listed with both an ankle and knee injury. He's missed one game this season, but has been able to play through bumps and bruises for the most part. Charles' status will likely be determined based on how much work he can put in on Thursday and Friday.


DeMarco Murray to wear protective padding, not cast, if he plays
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) If Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray plays less than a week after undergoing surgery, it will be with protective padding on his left hand, not a cast, reports the Dallas Morning News. Murray went through individual drills Wednesday wearing a glove enforced with a hard plastic shell.

"I think we need to see something where there’s a comfort level we all have and certainly a comfort level that he has," coach Jason Garrett told the paper. "Carrying the football is an important responsibility. You have to be able to do it."

Dallas is a 3-point home favorite over the Colts on Sunday. If Murray can't play, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar will share backfield duties.

Randle is averaging 7.0 yards per carry and would be the favorite to start, but he hasn't gotten more than two carries in a game since Week 10. Dunbar is a better receiver than Randle and would handle most of the passing downs.

Murray underwent surgery Monday, one day after breaking a bone in his left hand. He leads the NFL with 351 carries for 1,687 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.


Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe unable to practice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:56 pm ET) Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe was unable to practice on Wednesday, according to the Kansas City Star.

Bowe is dealing with an illness. He's yet to miss a game this season, and his status will likely be determined by how much work he can put in on Thursday and Friday.


Vikings RB Matt Asiata limited with foot injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) Vikings running back Matt Asiata was limited in Wednesday's practice due to a foot injury, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Asiata has received at least 12 touches in four of the past five games entering Week 16 at Miami.

Ravens WR Torrey Smith not on injury report
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:40 pm ET) Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, who had been dealing with a sprained knee, is no longer on the team's injury report, ESPN.com. Smith played 51 snaps Week 15 against the Jaguars and caught two passes for 16 yards.

He'll visit the Texans on Sunday.


49ers RB Carlos Hyde does not expect to play Week 16
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:29 pm ET) 49ers rookie running back Carlos Hyde said that "barring a miracle," he does not expect to play Saturday against the Chargers, reports CSNBayArea.com. Hyde did say the MRI on his injured ankle came back with good news, though he wasn't specific.

Veteran running back Frank Gore could be in for a big workload if he gets cleared from his concussion. 


Bills' C.J. Spiller able to practice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:24 pm ET) Bills running back C.J. Spiller was able to put in limited practice on Wednesday.

Spiller has been medically cleared for contact, but has yet to be added to the team's 53-man roster. Spiller is attempting to come back from a broken collarbone, and said the team will likely make a decision on his status later in the week. "We’ll see how I feel [Thursday] when I come in," Spiller said. "If it is we’ll keep plugging away and I’m pretty sure they’ll consult with me and see how I feel and we’ll make a decision."

For what it's worth, the team has already cleared a roster spot for Spiller, releasing fullback Frank Summers. Head coach Doug Marrone admitted Spiller looked pretty good in practice as well. "I’m not going to sit up here and see he didn’t look good," Marrone said "He looked good."


Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph dealing with knee, ankle injuries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:23 pm ET) Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph did not practice Wednesday due to knee and ankle injuries, reports 1500ESPN.com. Rudolph, who had sports hernia surgery earlier this season, is coming off his best game of the year, catching seven passes for 69 yards against Detroit.

If Rudolph can't play Sunday at Miami, Chase Ford would start. Ford has 22 catches for 236 yards and a touchdown in nine games played.


 
 
 
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