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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
Panthers WR Stephen Hill clears waivers, placed on IR
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(10:27 am ET) Panthers wide receiver Stephen Hill , who tore his ACL on Saturday, cleared waivers Tuesday and will be placed on the team's injured reserve, per ESPN. 

Hill, who spent 2014 on Carolina's practice squad, will not count against the team's 90-man roster. 


Patriots adjust TE Rob Gronkowski's $10 million bonus
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(10:14 am ET) Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was due a $10 million option from the team, will instead receive the money in two split payments, per the Boston Globe

The team adjusted the payments on July 30, giving Gronkowski $4 million at the start of training camp and $6 million at the end of the league year. 

Gronkowski, who has 52 career touchdowns, is signed with the Patriots through the 2019 season. 


Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham ready for increased blocking
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(9:51 am ET) New Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham knows that he will have to become more than just a pass-catcher in Seattle's offense in order to succeed, per the Seattle Times

Graham, not known for his blocking while a member of the Saints, will be in a two-TE set with the Hawks, forcing him to block, by his estimation, "75 percent" of the time. 

"Now here I'm blocking quite a bit, and I love it," he said. "It's very important to me to be a part of that here. That's about 75 percent of the offense here. When you have a back like that, you want to be in there on those explosive runs, and you want to be a part of that."


Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson proclaims self 'diabetes-free'
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(9:29 am ET) Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson said he worked hard in the offseason to lose weight and slow the Type 2 diabetes that affected his play last season, per the team website. 

Peterson was diagnosed during the early part of last season, but still managed to make the Pro Bowl after making 50 tackles and grabbing three interceptions. 

"It's a big step, especially after you first find out about something like that, you worry it's life-threatening. But it's definitely something that's controllable," Peterson said. "The team doctors and (head athletic trainer) Tom Reed have done a great job monitoring, and I've been great so far. I'm ready to move forward."


Packers rookie Quinten Rollins practices for first time
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Packers second-round rookie cornerback Quinten Rollins made his training camp debut on Monday.

Rollins missed the first three days of camp with a hamstring injury. He was cleared from the non-football injury list and participated in individual drills. 

"It’s definitely good to get cleared," Rollins said, per the Journal-Sentinel. "It’s hard watching from the sideline, especially when you’re a competitor. But it felt good. Obviously I didn’t get team reps today, but just the fact that I was out there, fully dressed, and got to do individuals and walk through was definitely beneficial. Hopefully I can take small steps forward."


Lovie Smith: Doug Martin will be Buccaneers lead back
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Doug Martin will be the number one running back for the Buccaneers this season, coach Lovie Smith said on Monday. 

"We talked about being able to establish the run," Smith said, per TampaBay.com. "Doug will be the lead guy doing that, so it's very important that we open up some holes and let him do his thing."

Martin had 494 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 11 games last year. 


Ereck Flowers misses Giants' practice with hip flexor injury
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Giants first round draft pick Ereck Flowers missed Monday's practice with a hip flexor injury, per ESPN.

The tackle is listed as day-to-day, but coach Tom Coughlin didn't think the injury was serious. 

"He doesn't seem to be too bad," Coughlin said. "This morning he was sore, but by the time I caught him in the meeting room, he was (stretching his leg). Hopefully it's just a short amount of time."


Bears not sure when Kevin White will be able to practice
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Bears rookie wide receiver Kevin White opened camp on the PUP list, due to a shin injury he suffered during OTAs.

Coach John Fox said he's not sure when White will be cleared to practice, and he may not be ready by the time camp breaks on August 16.

“I’m looking at it day-to-day. I can’t predict,” Fox said, per ESPN. “Sooner rather than later is what I hope, but that’s just a hope.” 


Saints' Terron Armstead leaves practice early on Monday
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Saints tackle Terron Armstead left practice early on Monday morning, per ESPN

The team didn't disclose the reason for Armstead's early departure and wouldn't confirm whether it was injury-related. 

Armstead watched the afternoon walk-through from the sideline but didn't participate. 


Panthers' Star Lotulelei out with stress reaction
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(8/3/2015) Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei suffered a stress reaction in his right foot, per the Charlotte Observer.

Lotulelei had surgery to repair a broken bone in that foot in January. 

He'll be shut down and reevaluated in "a few weeks". 


 
 
 
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