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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: Cowboys try out RB Daniel Thomas
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) The Cowboys are in the market for another running back with Darren McFadden, Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle as their top three guys at the moment. 

Therefore, Dallas could be looking to add another. According to The Baltimore Sun and National Football Post's Aaron Wilson, the Cowboys worked out running back Daniel Thomas on Thursday. 

Thomas was with the Dolphins the previous four years and totaled 1,480 career yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. The Cowboys also worked out Ben Tate and Felix Jones. 


49ers' Carlos Hyde unable to practice, Mike Davis does
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) 49ers second-year running back Carlos Hyde was forced to watch Thursday's OTA practice from the sidelines, according to the San Jose Mercury News

Hyde is dealing with a leg injury that isn't considered serious. 

Rookie running back Mike Davis did practice despite injuring his thumb on Wednesday after catching a pass from Colin Kaepernick. 

“Kap, man, I didn’t know he could throw a ball that fast,” Davis said. “I still caught it.”


Anquan Boldin, five others absent from 49ers OTA practice
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Six players were absent from the 49ers' OTA practice on Thursday, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Those not present were wide receiver Anquan Boldin, fullback Bruce Miller, offensive linemen Alex Boone and Anthony Davis, punter Andy Lee and kicker Phil Dawson.

OTA practices are voluntary and players are not required to attend.

Linebacker NaVorro Bowman was also not present though he was given the day off by 49ers coach Jim Tomsula. Bowman missed the 2014 season after sustaining an ACL tear during the 2013 playoffs. 


Saints WR Andy Tanner back with club on injured reserve
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Saints receiver Andy Tanner cleared waivers and reverted to injured reserve with the organization, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune

Tanner has been with the Saints since 2010 but has never appeared in a game. 


Report: Chargers expect to reach long-term deal with Philip Rivers
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) A month ago rumors swirled about the Chargers possibly trading Philip Rivers

Now it appears Rivers won't be heading anywhere anytime soon. According to a report from NFL.com, the Chargers are confident in reaching a long-term deal with Rivers. 

Rivers is entering the final year of his contract, in which he is due $15.75 million. 

A year ago, Rivers threw for 4,286 yards, 31 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. 


Report: Jaguars' Dante Fowler to have ACL surgery next week
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) Jaguars rookie defensive lineman Dante Fowler will have surgery next week to repair a torn ACL sustained in rookie minicamp, according to the Florida Times-Union

Fowler was injured during an 11-on-11 drill during his first practice with the Jaguars on May 8. He'll miss the entire 2015 season. Fowler is still with the team participating in strength and conditioning exercises. 

Fowler is expected to remain in Jacksonville to rehab his knee. 


Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin out for next week's OTAs
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) With organized team activities set to begin next week for the Panthers, one notable contributor is likely to be sidelined. 

According to the Charlotte Observer, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin strained his hamstring a week ago and will probably sit during next week's practices as a result. Benjamin, a rookie in 2014, had 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns for the Panthers. 

With Benjamin sidelined, rookie receiver Devin Funchess has a chance to step in and act as Carolina's No. 1 receiver during the upcoming voluntary practices. 


Falcons' Joplo Bartu's suspension rescinded, fined $50,000
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(5/21/2015) Falcons linebacker Joplo Bartu had a two-game suspension for an alcohol related offense rescinded but was fined $50,000, per NFL.com.

Bartu pleaded no contest to driving under the influence last season and received a two-day suspended sentence and 12 months of probation.

According to an NFL and NFLPA agreement, players had until Nov. 1, 2014 to resolve DUIs for them to be accepted under the previous policy and for a suspension not to be issued. Bartu needed to submit his plea agreement before November but he did not go in front of judge before the deadline and was suspended in March.

Bartu provided the league with additional information, showing that his plea agreement was actually reached on Oct. 30, resulting in the $50,000 fine and his suspension as rescinded.

Bartu was third on the Falcons last season with 83 tackles.

 


Colts cut former basketball player Demarco Cox
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) The Colts released offensive tackle Demarco Cox on Friday, per radio station 1070 The Fan

Cox completed his college basketball career at Georgia Tech in March and was trying to convert to an NFL football lineman after not playing the sport at the college level.


Texans release veteran OT Tyson Clabo
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(5/21/2015) The Texans announced on Thursday that they have released veteran offensive tackle Tyson Clabo

Clabo appeared in all 16 games for Houston a year ago but did not start any of them. This was a departure from what he was used to as a longtime starter in the NFL. 

Clabo entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Wake Forest in 2004. After bouncing around with the Broncos, Giants and Chargers, Clabo latched on with the Falcons in 2005. In 2006, Clabo earned a starting role with Atlanta, the team he stayed with through the 2012 season. 

He ended up in Houston a year ago after starting 15 games for the Dolphins in 2013. 

In total, Clabo has started 116 of the 132 games he's appeared in throughout his career. 


 
 
 
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