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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
Jimmy Smith cited on misdemeanor charge
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/13/2014) Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith was cited by police Saturday night for failing to follow an officer's orders. The misdemeanor charge came after police responded to a report of a woman passed out in a restaurant bathroom in Towson.

The woman was vomiting into a bathroom sink when police arrived. Smith was with the woman and "refused to obey an officer's repeated orders to leave the bathroom," police said.

Smith became the fifth Raven to get in trouble with police this offseason.


Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


 
 
 
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