Player Challenge strategies for Week 4
My pick for the Player Challenge: Peyton Manning
The Philadelphia Eagles have given up 969 net passing yards this season, allowing 323 passing yards per game -- the fourth-most in the NFL. They've lucked out, to a degree, by only giving up five touchdowns over the three games -- the lack of touchdowns from the opposition has kept the Fantasy scoring down, making the Eagles only the 10th-best defense for opposing quarterbacks to face off against (allowing 23.67 Fantasy points per game).
Now throw Peyton Manning into the mix. His 114 Fantasy points are 28 more than the next-highest quarterback ( Aaron Rodgers ). He's the only quarterback with double-digit touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception over three games.
A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Terrelle Pryor , Raiders
He's been up and down in three games this season (though mostly up), but Pryor's matchup against Washington is stellar -- the league's second-worst passing defense also gave up 54 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown to Michael Vick in Week 1. Pryor is still a bit unproven, but he should be a nice bargain in deeper daily formats.
My picks for the Player Challenge: DeMarco Murray , Cowboys, Adrian Peterson , Vikings
Murray is coming off a huge week against the Rams, rushing 26 times for 175 yards and a touchdown, while catching three passes for 28 receiving yards. His Week 4 opponent, the Chargers, have not only given up the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL (390 yards), but have also allowed 5.1 yards per carry, the fourth-worst average in the league. If Murray can carry even some of last week's momentum forward, this game could be a boon for him.
I've actually saved Adrian Peterson for this Week 4 game against the Steelers, because it's a surprisingly nice matchup. Pittsburgh has allowed the fifth-most Fantasy points to opposing running backs, giving up five touchdowns. Two running backs have gone over the 20-carry mark against the Steelers, while two have also added 20 receiving yards.
Peterson has 69 rushing attempts this season, the second-most in the NFL. He's averaging 4.1 yards per carry and has four total touchdowns, trailing only LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles in Fantasy points.
A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Lamar Miller , Dolphins
While the Saints defense looks markedly better in 2013 than it did last season, they're still somewhat susceptible to the run. The Saints have given up the 13-th most rushing yards this season -- and just one rushing touchdown -- but their 5.3 yard-per-carry average is the second-worst in the league. Only two running backs have gotten more than three carries against New Orleans over the first three games ( Steven Jackson , 11; Doug Martin , 29). Miller has averaged 10.7 carries per game and has two touchdowns on the season. Even with the limited carries he's going to see, Miller should be able to do some damage against the Saints. If he can break off a few nice runs early, Miller could have a breakout game.
My picks for the Player Challenge: A.J. Green , Bengals; Calvin Johnson , Lions.
I cross-referenced the six teams whose defenses had given up the most receiving yards (San Diego, Washington, Denver, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and Green Bay) with the defenses who have given up the most Fantasy points to wide receivers (Washington, Green Bay, Buffalo, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Atlanta) and went for the crossover picks first. Oakland (playing Washington) doesn't have an elite enough wideout to plug in this week. Green Bay is on a bye. But Philadelphia gets a dangerous Denver offense. And while Demaryius Thomas might be the obvious choice here, I'm going with Wes Welker .
The Eagles seem to have developed a bit of a pattern this season -- allowing the opposing team's secondary receiver to steal the show. In Week 1, Leonard Hankerson scored Fantasy 20 points, while Pierre Garcon had six. In Week 2, Eddie Royal scored 27, while Malcom Floyd had 10. And in Week 3's ugly Thursday night game, Donnie Avery scored 14 points, while Dwayne Bowe was held scoreless. You could always make the case that Eric Decker could be the team's secondary receiver here, but I'm going with a well-researched gut call, and picking Welker.
For the second receiver spot, I'm going with Dez Bryant . The Chargers have given up 130 or more yards to a receiver in each of their first three games, and it's been the opposite of Philadelphia's "second fiddle" approach -- San Diego allows the studs to score. Andre Johnson caught 12 passes for 146 yards in Week 1, DeSean Jackson caught nine passes for 193 yards in Week 2, and Nate Washington caught eight passes for 131 yards in Week 3. Bryant has 201 receiving yards and two touchdowns over three games this season. He profiles nicely as that top-level receiver against whom the Chargers seem to have a weakness.
A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Aaron Dobson , Patriots
Dobson has 10 targets in each of his last two games, and while he only caught three passes in Week 1, he upped that number to seven in Week 2. In the two games he's played this season, Dobson has averaged eight Fantasy points. New England's Week 4 opponent, the Falcons, have allowed the seventh-most receiving yards in the NFL, and given up the sixth-most Fantasy points per game to opposing wideouts (including five touchdowns in three games). Dobson will eventually feel a squeeze with Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski back in the mix, but he looks like a nice option for this Sunday.
My pick for the Player Challenge: Jordan Cameron , Browns
I don't trust Rob Gronkowski to be at full strength for Week 4. Tony Gonzalez is going up against the Patriots, who have allowed one total point to opposing tight ends this season. Vernon Davis is still a little banged up, and I've already used Jimmy Graham and Jason Witten in the challenge. So I'm going with Jordan Cameron . The Bengals have been decent against tight ends this season -- allowing an average of 5.3 points per game -- but Martellus Bennett scored a touchdown against them in Week 1 and the main tight ends in Week 2 ( David Paulson ) and Week 3 ( Andrew Quarless / Ryan Taylor ) weren't nearly the same offensive threats as Cameron.
A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Heath Miller , Steelers
Miller started for Pittsburgh in Week 3 after missing the first two games of the season following knee surgery, catching three passes for 35 yards on four targets. He gets to face the Vikings in Week 4, a team that has allowed the second-most Fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends -- including six total touchdowns. Tight ends have caught 18 passes over three games on 29 targets against the Vikings. Even with rust left to shake off, Miller has a shot at a big game this week.
My pick for the Player Challenge: Chiefs
Eli Manning was sacked seven times in Week 3. The Chiefs enter their Sunday matchup with 15 sacks, the most in the NFL. The Chiefs also have the seventh-most interceptions in the league (four), which matches up nicely with Manning's eight interceptions thrown this season. And don't count out the fun little intangible of the Chiefs having a coach (Andy Reid) who is intimately familiar with the Giants. In 18 career games against the Eagles, Reid's former team, Manning averaged 231 yards, just under two touchdowns, and an interception per game.
A deeper alternative for daily leagues: Cardinals
With a hobbled Vincent Jackson and a locker room full of turmoil, the Bucs are inching toward full-out disaster mode. And while the Cardinals have been disappointing this year (middle of the pack in Fantasy points, just two interceptions and five sacks), they've faced some offensive powerhouses -- Detroit and New Orleans, as well as a fourth-quarter surge from the Rams in Week 1 -- and now have a string of easier games in the horizon. The Bucs are 0-3 and have the second-fewest passing yards in the league. They've scored 34 total points on the season and may be the perfect opponent for Arizona to show what it can do against a lower-end offense.
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