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Start/Bench List - Week 1
John Tuvey
Updated: September 10, 2010
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Start/Bench Codes (SBC)
S1: Start 'em Tier One (Stud / Great matchup) U: Upside player (Possible sleeper)
S2: Start 'em Tier Two (Solid matchup) X: Unclear situation / Could go either way
S3: Start 'em Tier Three (Borderline / Barely) B: Bench 'em (Bad Matchup / Too much risk)
Atlanta at Pittsburgh Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan S3

Ryan goes on the road against a Steelers defense that sorely missed Troy Polamalu last season. With Head & Shoulders back in the mix, Pittsburgh’s secondary is a tougher nut to crack and the Falcons’ preferred method of travel is via the ground anyway. Dial back your expectations this week.

RB Michael Turner S3

The Steelers have allowed only one 100-yard rusher over the past 34 games, and last season only one team surrendered fewer RB rushing scores. Doesn’t mean the Falcons won’t give Turner 20-plus carries, but it does mean the likelihood of those carries being overly productive is minimal.

WR Roddy White S2

There’s a reason White ranked among the elite fantasy wideouts on draft day: maybe it was his hot start to last season (six TDs in the first seven games); perhaps it was his strong finish (five TDs in the last six). The Steelers’ secondary should be better with Troy Polamalu back, but they did allow six 100-yard receivers over the final 10 games and it’s not as if Polamalu will be locked in man-to-man coverage on White.

WR Michael Jenkins
Harry Douglas

Secondary targets also had success against the Steelers last season, but with Jenkins and Douglas well down on Atlanta’s offensive pecking order and Troy Polamalu back in the mix, there’s no reason to dig that deep this week.


Tony Gonzalez


The Steelers are solid against tight ends, but if you want it bad enough you can have success against them: the two TEs who were targeted double-digit times against them produced a combined 18 catches for 198 yards and three touchdowns. Gonzo was targeted 10 or more times in six games and six or more times in another eight, so the Falcons clearly want to get him the ball; that, in turn, should make you want to get him into your fantasy lineup.

DT Falcons S3 After an amazing streak in which the Steelers gave up a defensive or special teams touchdown in eight straight games, Pittsburgh settled down and didn’t allow either over the final six games of 2009. However, they’ll be forced to start the relatively untested Dennis Dixon at quarterback; that, along with offseason upgrades to the Atlanta defense, makes the Falcons a sneaky play here.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Dennis Dixon B

The Falcons were among the more QB-friendly defenses last season, but they addressed needs at cornerback and linebacker in the offseason and will present Dixon with a more formidable opposition in his second NFL start. Dixon ran for one TD and thew for another in Baltimore in Week 12 of last season, so you know he won’t scare easily. However, expect the Steelers to give him a game plan low on risk—as well as fantasy potential.

RB Rashard Mendenhall


After giving up a 100-yard game to Fred Taylor in Week 3 the Falcons run defense tightened considerably; not only did they not surrender another triple-digit effort, they didn’t allow a RB rushing score over the final month and a half of the season. And with Mendenhall sharing short-yardage looks with Isaac Redman and third-down duties with Mewelde Moore, his upside here is relatively limited.

RB Isaac Redman


You wanna start a second-year guy with zero NFL touches who’s purported to be the short-yardage guy behind a shaky offensive line against a defense that hasn’t allowed a running back rushing score since Week 11 of last year? You’re doing it without our blessing.

WR Hines Ward

Dixon didn’t fixate on Ward in his one start last season; in fact, Ward’s six targets that game ranked among his least-busy Sundays of the season. But if Dixon intends to hold onto the job for the length of Ben Roethlisberger’s absence he’ll want to locate Hines early and often. The numbers won’t be gaudy, but Ward should still be a helper in PPR and yardage leagues this week.

WR Mike Wallace

Will Wallace be the deep threat Dixon targeted four times against Baltimore last year without a connection? Or will he replace Santonio Holmes in the role that produced 6-74-1 in that very same game? There’s upside, to be sure, but enough uncertainty—about Dixon, about Wallace’s role, about Atlanta’s upgraded defense—to dampen Wallace’s fantasy prospects in Week 1.

TE Heath Miller

Opposing teams had success using the tight end against Atlanta, and while Dixon didn’t necessarily lean on his talented TE in his start last year (four targets, one catch for two yards) this match-up presents a better opportunity for him to do so.

DT Steelers S3 The Falcons aren’t particularly susceptible to defensive and special teams scores, and the Steelers didn’t produce a bunch of them last season. However, any time Troy Polamalu is on the field the propensity for big plays increases significantly.
Oakland at Tennessee Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jason Campbell B

It’s easy to look at last season’s final numbers and label the Titans an easy mark for any passing game—even the Raiders. But it was a tale of two seasons for Tennessee, who gave up five 300-yard efforts and 19 passing touchdowns in the first six weeks—then two 300-yard outings and 11 TD tosses over the final 10 games. So it may not be as easy a tilt for Campbell as the numbers suggest; factor in the uncertainty surrounding his wrist injury and new surroundings and you’ll be best served getting your fantasy help elsewhere this week.

RB Michael Bush

Bush was limited on Wednesday and Friday and sat out Thursday's practice completely. He'll be a game-time decision, and the limited upside he might offer doesn't outweigh the hassle of tracking his availability on Sunday. Keep him on your fantasy bench until that thumb has healed enough to get him off the injury report.

RB Darren McFadden

RunDMc was losing his tenuous grasp on the starting job to Michael Bush before Bush’s finger injury; now he’ll stumble into a slight uptick in carries until Bush returns to full duty. The Titans haven’t been as much of a lockdown run defense since Albert Haynesworth left, but they’ve been more than just alright; no back reached the 100-yard mark against them over the final nine weeks of last season. Given the fluidity of this situation, not to mention McFadden’s own injury problems and lack of success when he does play, you’re sure to have a better fantasy option on your roster.


Louis Murphy

S3 Let’s operate under the assumption that the Raiders have a No. 1 receiver, and that Murphy’s 6-154-1 this preseason makes him it. Again, last year’s numbers suggest you should be pulling wideouts off the street to start against Tennessee, but again all those numbers came in the first half of the season; only one wideout reached triple-digit yardage against them after their Week 7 bye. Murphy is an intriguing sleeper but hardly a must-start.

Darius Heyward-Bey
Chaz Schilens

B The rest of Oakland’s wideouts are virtually indistinguishable from one another, except Heyward-Bey is the one who drops everything.
TE Zach Miller S2

A quarterback who knows where to find his tight ends. A tight end who is essentially his team’s best pass catcher. And a defense that ranked fifth in tight end fantasy points allowed and closed the season giving up a TE TD in each of the past four games. It all adds up to a very nice fantasy play this week.

DT Raiders B The Raiders’ return game was a huge disappointment last year; in fact, they didn’t muster a single return score all year long—kick, punt, fumble, INT, you name it. The Titans aren’t prone to making the kinds of mistakes that turn into fantasy points the other way, so no reason to look to the Raiders for help this week.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Vince Young B

Looking for a nugget? Only one team gave up more QB rushing scores last year than the Raiders. Still, that’s a pretty slender nail to hang your fantasy hopes on. Young isn’t going to give you much in the passing game, and that’s the strength of the Raiders’ defense anyway. You could cross your fingers and hope for a VY rushing score, or you could go out and find a more reliable fantasy QB option elsewhere.

RB Chris Johnson S1

No team gave up more rushing yardage last year than the Raiders; no back rushed for more yards than Johnson. Even with Oakland’s modest upgrades defensively, this is still a target-rich environment for Johnson as he begins his quest for 2,500.

WR Kenny Britt
B The good news is that Britt had both of Tennessee’s 100-yard receiving games last year; the bad news is, that likely means he draws Nnamdi Asomugha. Counting on a Titans wideout for fantasy help is tough enough; banking on one being blanketed by one of the best cover corners in the league is downright foolish.
WR Nate Washington
Justin Gage
B The Raiders’ secondary isn’t just a one-man show; while Asomugha was shutting down one half of the field, the rest of the team was limiting secondary targets to just one game above 70 yards and four TDs all season long. If there isn’t even enough here for Britt to be a fantasy helper, you don’t want to drill down to the rest of Tennessee’s receivers.
TE Bo Scaife B Oakland’s pass defense prowess extended to their coverage of tight ends: only one managed to find the end zone against them and only Jason Witten and Antonio Gates topped 50 yards. Scaife hasn’t done enough to be mentioned in the same breath as those stalwarts.
DT Titans S3 Jason Campbell was prone to the pick six in Washington (he tossed three, plus had a fumble brought back for a score), so you could do worse than turning to the Titans for fantasy help here.

Carolina at NY Giants

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Moore B Moore took a listless Giants defense for three touchdowns in a Week 16 matchup last season. We’d be more inclined to predict some semblance of a repeat had the Carolina offense generated even a single touchdown this preseason. Moore wasn’t the only QB to blow up the Giants last year, plus he gets Steve Smith back. However, the Giants have had plenty of time to think about how badly he embarrassed them—not to mention add some defensive personnel. Something tells us they’ll show a little more fire as they open their new stadium and take at least some of their frustrations out on Moore.

DeAngelo Williams

S2 Williams sat out last year’s meeting with the Giants, but there was more than enough to go around had he been healthy enough to participate. The Panthers are still built to run, and with Williams healthy he should see the majority of the carries.

Jonathan Stewart

S3 Stew rolled the Giants for 206 and a touch last year, but he wasn’t sharing carries with DeAngelo Williams. That total suggests there might just be enough for both backs to provide some fantasy help this week, and unless you’re sporting tremendous backfield depth you likely drafted Stewart at a spot where you’re looking to him for contributions this week. While it won’t likely be another 206, you should get some help from him this week.
WR Steve Smith S1

No worries about Matt Moore knowing where to find his bread and butter; in four games together last year Smith posted 19-378-3. Smith has had all preseason for his broken arm to heal, so expect him to hit the ground running as Carolina’s only passing game target.

WR Dwayne Jarrett B

You mean the Panthers have secondary receivers?

DT Panthers B Carolina used to have a defense full of playmakers, but even with Julius Peppers applying pressure last season they only produced one defensive score. No Peppers, no optimism.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S3

The Panthers held Eli to one TD last season as he piled up 296 yards playing catch-up in that embarrassing 41-9 loss. That was typical of the Panthers, giving yardage but limiting scores, and a similar day should be in store for Eli in the season opener.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw

For the moment Bradshaw is the Giants’ starter; now he just needs to stay healthy and continue to be productive. He was the more valuable fantasy player last year despite a minority share of the workload, and he’s the safer play (especially in yardage leagues) until the Giants provide a better indication of exactly how touches will be split in 2010.

RB Brandon Jacobs

Jacobs wasn’t happy about losing his starting job to Bradshaw; now fantasy owners need to take a wait-and-see approach to determine if he’ll even get enough touches to retain any fantasy value, or perhaps take on a goal line role. Until there’s more clarity here, Jacobs is bench fodder.

WR Steve Smith

Consistently seeing double-digit targets, Smith remains Manning’s go-to guy. There is some concern Nicks horns in on his action this year, especially in the red zone, but nothing in the 7-70-1 he posted against Carolina last year suggests expectations should be lowered in the opener.

WR Hakeem Nicks

Plenty of hype surrounding Nicks this season and his potential to emerge as the big target the Giants once had in Plaxico Burress. With the running game in a bit of disarray, Nicks could also find himself as a most favored red zone target. There’s enough upside here for Nicks to warrant a spot in fantasy lineups.

WR Mario Manningham

Mario is at present the third option in Big Blue’s passing attack, and while Eli & Co. should put up good numbers against the Panthers it’s not the sort of matchup where you should go three-deep into the receiving corps for fantasy help.

TE Kevin Boss B

Boss is a mediocre fantasy option with an average match-up; odds are you can do better without too much effort.

DT Giants B You could play the combination “revenge game/new stadium” card for the Giants as they welcome the Panthers back to the Big Apple, and if it were still Jake Delhomme at the helm we’d concur; instead, the suggestion is to look elsewhere for fantasy help.
Detroit at Chicago Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford S2

Lions (and former Vikings) offensive coordinator Scott Linehan knows his way around the Bears’ defense; not only did Stafford put up 296 and 1 against Chicago in just his fourth NFL game, Daunte Culpepper dropped 262 and 2 on them in the season finale. Now Stafford has a couple new weapons at his disposal, along with a few more NFL games under his belt, and you have to like his chances of holding his own in what projects to be a shootout with Jay Cutler and the Bears.

RB Jahvid Best S2

That 8.6 yards per carry preseason average is impressive, but historically it’s bigger, grind it out backs who have the most success against Chicago. It’s also a bit unclear just how extensively the Lions intend to use their new toy, and whether they’ll spell him with Kevin Smith and/or Maurice Morris to keep him fresh and healthy. Still, the Bears allowed nearly 150 combo yards per game to opposing backs, and with Best slated to account for most of that total for the Lions he’s a good play in his NFL debut.

RB Kevin Smith B

It’s debatable whether Smith will even get regular touches following the emergence of Best, so a repeat of his two-TD effort against the Bears in the front end of last season’s series is highly unlikely.

WR Calvin Johnson S1

In three games against the Bears since Roy Williams was sent packing, Megatron has been targeted 40 times, producing 22 catches for 313 yards and two touchdowns. And now the Bears have to worry about Best and Burleson? Sounds like another monster afternoon is in store for Calvin.

WR Nate Burleson S3

The Bears tended to leave scraps for secondary receivers; Bryant Johnson’s tally against them in the season finale was the fifth time Chicago allowed multiple receivers to score. Burleson is an upgrade over what Detroit has been trotting out at WR2, and while Megatron is still far and away the best play Burleson could certainly be considered in larger leagues.

WR Tony Scheffler
Brandon Pettigrew

Only one team allowed more TE TDs last year than the Bears (we’ll talk about them in just a second), and Scott Linehan loves using his big fellas. Unfortunately, he has multiple options at his disposal so until there’s a clear pecking order among Detroit tight ends you’d best keep both on your fantasy bench.

DT Lions S3 How is it possible the Bears didn’t allow a defensive TD last season despite 27 picks from Jay Cutler? With Cutler already intimating that there may be even more INTs in the Mike Martz system, it wouldn’t be the strangest call to start the improved Lions defense this week.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S1

Cutler mustered 141 and two in the front end of this series, then nearly doubled those totals to 276 and four in the 2009 finale. Could we expect 560 and eight here? Hey, in a Mike Martz offense anything is possible. And while there were still plenty of kinks to be worked out during the preseason, there’s no way you’re sitting Cutler against a Detroit defense that allowed more passing yards and TDs than any other last year.

RB Matt Forte S2

Forte had two 100-yard games last season, making it three straight in triple digits against Detroit and career numbers of 456 yards from scrimmage, three TDs, and a gaudy 5.9 yards per carry. Hey, at least you can start him twice a year; don’t miss out on this opportunity.

RB Chester Taylor B

The way Forte has beat up on the Lions, there shouldn’t be much need to work Taylor in other than to give Matt the occasional breather between touchdown runs. In two of Forte’s four big games against Detroit the Bears have given double-digit touches to another back, but none of them did anything of fantasy note; that looks to be Taylor’s lot here.


Devin Aromashodu
Johnny Knox
Devin Hester

S2 It’s unlikely this matchup provides much clarity as to the Bears’ WR pecking order, because all three make good plays against a Detroit defense that gave up more WR TDs than all but two teams and more WR yards than all but one. Further, there should be even more touchdowns to go around as the Bears scored four TE TDs against Detroit last season but no longer use that position in the same manner. Aromashodu scored twice in the 2009 finale and as the biggest target physically he could be in line for those TE scores; so too could Hester if he’s operating out of the slot and working the same areas of the field the tight ends exploited. Suffice it to say that if you have a Bear wideout on your roster, this is a good week to use them.
TE Greg Olsen


Barring a complete change of philosophy from Mike Martz, Olsen’s run as a fantasy entity in Chicago is done—yes, even in a matchup against the softest tight end D in the league, a team that surrendered four TE TDs to the Bears in 2009 alone. He shouldn’t be so adamantly opposed to a trade.

DT Bears S3 The Bears aren’t nearly the stud fantasy D/ST they used to be, but they still have plenty of talent in the return game and a plethora of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball—including new acquisition Julius Peppers. At home against the Lions, they’re at minimum a solid fantasy play.
Arizona at St. Louis Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Derek Anderson B

Expect the Cardinals to take advantage of a trip to St. Louis to unveil their new-look, run-oriented offensive attack, in part to feature former first-round pick Beanie Wells and in part to limit the number of opportunities Anderson has to throw interceptions. He'll chuck a few in Larry Fitzgerald's direction, hand off a bunch, and generally try not to muck things up; that's hardly the description of a helpful fantasy quarterback.

RB Chris "Beanie" Wells
B Wells did not practice all week because of a knee injury and is officially listed as questionable; he'll be at best a game-time decision. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has indicated they don't want to rush Wells back, which suggests he'll be limited or worse this week. That dampens the hope of him replicating the 17-68-1 he posted on the Rams in the back end of last season's series. Put him on your bench and keep him there unless you hear some dramatically good news Sunday morning.
RB Tim Hightower S2 Hightower is still technically the starter, but the plan to get more work to Wells appears to be put on the back burner pending Beanie's injury. Hightower dropped 110 yards on the Rams in the first meeting, so he's certainly capable. Even if Wells plays you can expect Hightower to get a minimum of 10-15 touches, which should be enough to give him fringe starter value in PPR leagues. And since early indications are that Wells won't be available, we've bumped Hightower up to S2 status.
WR Larry Fitzgerald

Fitz scored in both ends of the season series last year, and now he'll have to make up for the 180 yards Anquan Boldin accumulated as well. Sadly, he'll have Derek Anderson throwing near him rather than Kurt Warner throwing to him; seriously, it's enough to knock Larry from S1 status, even against the Lambs.

WR Steve Breaston
Early Doucet

With Arizona transitioning to a run-oriented attack, secondary targets like Breaston and Doucet are less likely to chip in much fantasy help—especially given the downgrade the Cards have suffered at quarterback.

DT Cardinals S3 The Cards' defense took some significant personnel hits this offseason, but there's still enough talent left on that side of the ball to make them a viable start against a rookie QB making his NFL debut.
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Sam Bradford B

Bradford can't fare any worse than Marc Bulger or Keith Null did against the Cards last season; unfortunately, that's a range of 215 and 0 to 171 and 1. With a rag-tag band of receivers at his disposal, best let Bradford get his feet wet before throwing him into the fantasy fray.

RB Steven Jackson S2

Jackson is just about all the Rams have going for themselves offensively. Last year he was able to turn 24 carries against the Cardinals into 116 yards and a touchdown, and he'll have every opportunity to replicate those numbers here. The yardage shouldn't be that difficult to match, but TDs will be hard to come by in St. Louis this season.

WR Laurent Robinson
Danny Amendola

There's no real go-to option here, no one worth going out of your way to start given the reams of uncertainty associated with a rookie quarterback

DT Rams B Derek Anderson can be a turnover machine, but we have yet to see the Rams indicate they're capable of taking advantage.

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