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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

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)
 
 

Green Bay at Philadelphia

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Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S2

Rodgers rolls in on the heels of a blistering preseason, but there's no way the blitz-happy Eagles are going to let him sit back and pick them apart. It'll be an early test for what is believed to be the weakest link in Green Bay's offensive juggernaut; we'll project the line to hold up just enough for Rodgers to post good numbers, but let enough pressure through that those numbers won't be astronomical.

RB

Ryan Grant

S3

There's nothing remarkable about either Grant or this matchup with a good-not-great Philly run defense; you're going to get 75 yards, maybe a touchdown, and that's that. That may be enough in a larger yardage-based league; if you're in a touchdown-heavy 10-teamer, you can probably do better.

WR Greg Jennings

S2

Jennings' 6-133-1 in the preseason suggest that he's ready to make that leap to elite receiver—you know, the one we all expected last year. Philly's overall numbers against the pass were solid, but over the last five weeks of 2009 they surrendered four 90-plus yard receivers and seven WR TDs so Jennings should be at minimum in line for a solid outing.

WR Donald Driver

S3

Even after Jennings gets his, there should be enough left over for Driver to make a fantasy contribution; eight times last season a secondary target chipped in 50 yards or a touchdown (or both) after a No. 1 had done the same.

WR James Jones
Jordy Nelson
B

The Packers have one of the more potent passing games in the league. But, this matchup does not lend itself to going three-deep for fantasy help in the Green Bay receiving corps.

TE Jermichael Finley
S1 No team allowed more yardage to tight ends than the Eagles, and only three teams surrendered more touchdowns to the position. After blowing up for 12-163-2 in the preseason, expect Finley to take his case for joining the elite fantasy tight ends into the preseason with a big opening weekend.
DT Packers S3 Green Bay has so many playmakers on their defense that even in a match-up with no favorable characteristics such as this they're still at minimum a decent fantasy play.
Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kevin Kolb S2

Kolb has made two NFL starts, both at home, and put up 391 and 2 and 327 and 2. Only three teams gave up more passing touchdowns than the Packers last season, and they come into the year already down a couple defensive backs, so Kolb should continue his multiple-TD pace. The yardage might be a bit harder to come by, but it's not like Philly will lean on the ground game; through sheer volume of attempts, Kolb will put up another fine set of fantasy numbers.

RB LeSean McCoy
S3

The Packers are formidable against the run, but Philly generally eschews the ground game to focus on the short pass. McCoy looked good in the preseason, and with Brian Westbrook gone there's no longer a safety net. Don't expect much on the ground, and a touchdown is unlikely, but McCoy should mix in enough as a pass-catcher to help in most scoring systems, particularly those with yardage and/or PPR elements.

WR DeSean Jackson
S2 The group think on Jackson is that it will be difficult for him to replicate the long balls he hit on last year, but his 17-yards per catch average in the preseason would seem to indicate he'll be just fine. The Pack allowed 49 pass plays of 20 yards or more, 11th in the league, and with Green Bay down a couple of regulars in their secondary Jackson should find more than enough room to have another solid outing.
WR Jeremy Maclin S3 Interesting stat about the Packers' secondary last season: when they gave up something to one receiver, they usually let a teammate come along for the ride. Nine times last season multiple wideouts scored and/or topped 50 yards against Green Bay. So even if Jackson hits it big, that doesn't necessarily exclude Maclin from being a fantasy helper as well.
TE Brent Celek
S1 Green Bay was one of the more tight end friendly fantasy defenses last season, giving up two 100-yard games and eight TE TDs—just one 100-yard outing shy of matching the numbers Celek put up on his own. He's a prime target in the Philly offense, with a match-up that certainly favors big numbers
DT Eagles S3 A team that gave up 50 sacks on the road against a team that loves to blitz on every down? Sure, there's the risk of getting burned and giving up the home run, but there's also increased opportunity for sacks, fumbles, and pick sixes.
 

San Francisco at Seattle

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San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith S2

After Shaun Hill worked the front end of the season series with Seattle, Smith torched the Seahawks in the rematch with 310 yards and two scores. There's been plenty of turnover on Pete Carroll's roster, but until their secondary proves they can stop someone it's a well worth going back to. About the only thing that could hold Smith's numbers down is a big day from Frank Gore... like the 207 and two he dropped on Seattle in the first meeting.

RB Frank Gore S2

The Niners went by land at home, with Gore rolling up 207 yards and two touchdowns, and by air in Seattle when Gore touched the ball just 14 times for 62 yards. The Seahawks defense remains a work in progress, so keep Gore in your lineup with that smaller second stat line serving as a low-end estimate for what to expect in the opener.

WR Michael Crabtree S2 Crabtree came on strong after finally signing with the Niners, but he still hasn't had a 100-yard game or multiple-touchdown outing. With a full training camp working with Alex Smith under his belt, that could change given the opening match-up with a Seattle defense that surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers a year ago.
WR Josh Morgan S3 While Crabtree is unquestionably the No. 1, Morgan is seeing enough targets—and this matchup is favorable enough—to make him a viable fantasy play in larger leagues.
TE Vernon Davis S1

Over the second half of last season the Seahawks were almost as inept at covering tight ends as they were wideouts; they allowed five TEs to top 70 yards (including Davis with 111) and gave up three of their four TE TDs (including one to VD) after midseason. Assuming no lingering issues with his knee, Davis is in line for another big game here.

DT 49ers S3 If Mike Singletary suits up it would raise this ranking to an S2; as it stands, Patrick Willis and friends stand ready to make Pete Carroll wish he'd have stayed in school.
Seattle
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck B Only one team allowed fewer passing touchdowns than the Niners, though Hass was one of the few who managed multiple TD tosses against them. More comfortable on the home turf, where he had three of his four multi-TD games last season, Hasselbeck has enough uncertainty surrounding him that you should look elsewhere for fantasy help this week.
RB Justin Forsett
Leon Washington
B

It's worth noting that both Forsett and Julius Jones scored on receptions against San Francisco last season, so there's at least some upside to be found here. However, the Niners are a tough nut to crack on the ground, and with Seattle's backfield rotation still a mystery your best bet is to leave both backs on the bench this week.

RB Julius Jones B

About the only certainty in the Seattle backfield is that Jones brings nothing to the table.

WR

Mike Williams
Deion Branch

B Talk about turnover: 19 of Seattle's 22 WR receptions against the Niners last season and 211 of their 265 WR yards are no longer on the roster. When San Francisco surrendered big fantasy games to wideouts last year it was primarily to elite-level talent like Reggie Wayne, Roddy White, Greg Jennings, and DeSean Jackson. Williams and Branch aren't in that class, so there's no reason to insert them into your fantasy lineup this week.
TE John Carlson B Only two teams gave up fewer fantasy points to tight ends last season than the 49ers, with Carlson mustering just 55 yards in the two-game series. You'll have little difficulty finding a better matchup this week.
DT Seahawks B There are so many new parts in the Seattle defense it may take a while for them to mesh. While Forsett and Washington offer upside in the return game, it's a stretch to look to the Seahawks' D/ST for fantasy contributions.
 

Dallas at Washington

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Dallas
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S3

The Redskins' secondary was sneaky tough last season, allowing just three multiple touchdown games and one 300-yard effort on the year. Romo authored neither of those, though his 286 and one in Week 16 was one of the four biggest fantasy games by a QB against the 'Skins. Gaudy numbers are unlikely, but Romo should throw enough to post something that falls in the "serviceable" fantasy category.

RB Marion Barber S2

The Cowboys employed a two-pronged ground assault against the Redskins with relative success. Barber, getting roughly two-thirds of the touches, produced 200 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the two-game set. While the Dallas running game struggled in the preseason and their offensive line may be missing a couple key components, expect them to take a similar shared approach with similar results as well.

RB Felix Jones S3

Jones handed a third of the Dallas backfield workload in last season's series with the 'Skins, but that meant double-digit touches in both games and a total of 141 yards. He's a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball, so if he's getting a dozen touches you have to like his chances of making some fantasy noise with them.

WR Miles Austin S2

Austin didn't score in the season series with Washington last year, but he did manage to post 9-92 in Week 16. It's not a match-up that demands you sit up and take notice, but there's nothing to suggest you yank Austin from your lineup either.

WR Dez Bryant
B

Roy Williams is still the starter, and he scored on his lone catch against the Skins last season, but Bryant's tremendous upside makes him the more intriguing fantasy entity. However, because he missed the entire preseason, has a yet-to-be-determined role in the offense, and is facing a pretty good secondary, there's no reason to trot him out just yet.

TE Jason Witten S3

Witten's Week 16 showing against the Skins was a microcosm of his season: big yardage (117), but no touchdowns. Washington surrendered just three TE TDs all of last season, so it looks as if Witten is fated to a similar yardage-heavy performance in the 2010 opener.

DT Cowboys S3 The Cowboys know Donovan McNabb pretty well,
Washington
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb S3

McNabb had only slightly more success against the Cowboys than his Redskins predecessor, Jason Campbell—though at least McNabb managed a touchdown toss in the two-game set. Tough to expect much more here, with only adequate yardage as well.

RB Clinton Portis S3 Though he missed both meetings last season due to injury Portis has had a modicum of success against the Cowboys, including 100-yard games in both 2007 and 2008. He should see the bulk of the carries in D.C., but with Mike Shanahan calling the shots that's hardly a sure thing. Portis has upside but makes a lukewarm fantasy play this week.
WR Santana Moss
S3 Moss remains the Redskin WR most likely to provide fantasy help—witness his 8-92 in the back end of last season's series with Dallas—but it's at best a tepid recommendation.
WR Devin Thomas
Anthony Armstrong
B Move along, folks; nothing to see here.
TE Chris Cooley S3

Cooley missed out on both ends of the Cowboys series last year after breaking his leg, and Fred Davis contributed nothing special in his absence. Cooley's new quarterback knows how to work the tight end against the Cowboys, however, hitting Brent Celek for a TD in one matchup and 96 yards in the other as a member of the Eagles. Cooley is a safe bet for enough yardage to make him a viable fantasy play, and as the Redskins' best receiver he's also the most likely candidate to catch McNabb's first touchdown in burgundy.

DT Redskins B The Redskins have put together a pretty solid defense; however, they don't generate much in the way of fantasy points and as such are no use to you here.
 

Baltimore at NY Jets

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Baltimore
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco B

It's easy to get excited about Flacco's development and upside... just not this week, not against a Jets defense that gave up the fewest passing yards and touchdowns in the league last season, then went out and added talent in the secondary.

RB Ray Rice S2

In a battle of strength against strength, Rice will need to be almost the entirety of the Baltimore offense. He's done it before; in four dates with the Vikings, Packers, and Steelers—the teams who gave up even fewer fantasy points to running backs than the Jets—Rice rolled up 575 yards from scrimmage and scored twice. Don't bench him because of the match-up; in fact, because the rest of the Ravens' attack will likely be squelched, expect Rice to step up and post some very nice numbers.

RB Willis McGahee B

With Rice getting the bulk of the touches and this game offering few if any touchdown opportunities, McGahee is superfluous this week.

WR Anquan Boldin
Derrick Mason
T.J. Houshmandzadeh
B

The Ravens upgraded their receiving corps dramatically, but this is a lousy match-up for unveiling the new-look pass catchers. Boldin gets exiled to Revis Island, while Mason and Housh battle Antonio Cromartie and first-round pick Kyle Wilson. Maybe there's a winner in there somewhere, but if so it's likely to come out of the slot; the three biggest WR yardage days the Jets allowed last year went to Julian Edelman, Wes Welker, and Austin Collie—slot receivers all. Boldin has been working some out of the slot, but you can bet the Jets will find a way for Revis to get close to him regardless of where he's lining up.

TE

Todd Heap

B The Jets were almost as stingy against tight ends as they were wide receivers, so despite Heap's resurgent preseason he's fantasy bench fodder this week.
DT Ravens S2 You can bet Ray Lewis & Co. would love to out-defense the Jets, and one of the Ravens' favorite ways to do that is by taking a turnover all the way back the other way.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Mark Sanchez B

Sanchez is a quarterback straight out of central casting; however, his team throws less than any other club in the league, he has but one multiple touchdown game to his credit, and he's still looking for his first 300-yard outing. He may be a handsome dude and a heck of a game manager, but there's almost nothing about his game for fantasy owners to like.

RB Shonn Greene S3

While the Ravens remain stout against the run, Greene is the type of big, bruising back that has had success against them; backs like Adrian Peterson and Cedric Benson posted 100-yard games against Baltimore. The only question about Greene is how many touches he may have to cede to LaDainian Tomlinson, and whether or not those touches come at the stripe. Greene should be a solid yardage guy here, but no team gave up fewer RB TDs than the Ravens and if Greene might have to share those opportunities you'll need to dial back his expectations accordingly.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson B

The Jets are paying LT a ton of money to be a third down back and maybe take some goal line carries off of Greene's plate; neither role promises much fantasy value against a Baltimore defense that gave up just seven RB TDs last season and surrendered the fifth-fewers RB receiving yards.

WR Braylon Edwards
Jerricho Cotchery

B

No team threw the ball less last season than the Jets, and only two teams gave up fewer WR TDs than Baltimore. Since neither Edwards nor Cotchery is likely to see enough balls thrown their way to compile helpful yardage, they'd need a score to provide fantasy relevancy. And that doesn't appear to be forthcoming, either.

TE Dustin Keller B

What little optimism to be found in the Gang Green passing game is at the tight end position. The Ravens gave up almost as many TE TDs (7) last year as they did WR TDs (9), and indications are Keller's role in the Jets offense will continue to increase. However, that's a pretty slim nail to hang your hat on this week.

DT Jets S2 This has all the makings of a defensive slugfest; in fact, the respective defenses might offer the best opportunities for putting points on the board.
 

San Diego at Kansas City

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San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S1

Rivers has four straight multiple TD efforts against the Chiefs, topping 300 yards in three of the four. And while Vincent Jackson had something to do with those outings, Rivers also received plenty of support from guys who'll be in uniform on Monday night. So maybe he stays south of 300 yards; he should still be good for a couple scores and enough yardage to make him one of the better fantasy plays of the week.

RB Ryan Mathews S2 The much-heralded rookie gets to make his debut against a Kansas City defense that ranked second in fantasy points allowed to running backs last year. LaDainian Tomlinson didn't do much against KC the past two seasons, mustering a total of 227 rushing yards in four games at a pedestrian 3.1 yards per carry, but he did manage to find the end zone three times. Fresher legs should perk up those yardage numbers, with a touchdown also a strong possibility.
RB Darren Sproles S3 The Bolts are sold on Mathews, but after watching Sproles account for 182 yards from scrimmage against the Chiefs last season they may be able to find a way to get the ball in his hands a couple times. His biggest fantasy value comes in larger PPR leagues.
WR Malcolm Floyd S2 Floyd has scored in three of his last four against the Chiefs, with games of 67, 76, and 85 yards in that span. Chargers fans and fantasy owners alike are banking on him stepping up in Vincent Jackson's absence, and the Chiefs—who gave up the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers last season—offer the perfect opponent to bust out against.
WR Legedu Naanee S3 In past seasons the Chargers have received contributions from multiple wide receivers; if Floyd moves up to play the V-Jax role, then Naanee can be looked to for adequate yardage and a shot at a score as his wingman.
TE Antonio Gates S1

Gates hasn't necessarily owned the Chiefs, but with 34-395-3 over the past three seasons he's definitely leasing with an option to buy. The lack of Vincent Jackson makes Gates Philip Rivers' top target, so something like the 7-118-2 he posted the last time these teams met would hardly come as a surprise.

DT Chargers S3 If Shawne Merriman is, well, Shawne Merriman, then the Chargers D/ST is to be reckoned with. But he hasn't been that Shawne Merriman for a couple years now, so keep those expectations in check.
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel B

Cassel was one of the few quarterbacks who didn't have much success against the Chargers as he accounted for 275 yards and two touchdowns combined in the two-game series. Even with Charlie Weis back whispering in his ear, no reason to bank on Cassel bucking that trend here.

RB Jamaal Charles
S2

Charles flashed a taste of what was to come with 33 yards on four carries in the front end of the season series with San Diego, then dropped 147 combo yards and a touchdown on the Bolts in the rematch. Maybe he's not technically the starter, but if Todd Haley wants to hang on to his job he'll want to get the ball in the hands of his most dynamic playmaker—and that clearly is Charles. The prospect of Jones vulturing touches takes a bit of the shine off Charles, but he still glistens enough to warrant a fantasy start in yardage leagues.

RB Thomas Jones
B

Jones averaged less than three yards per carry in the Jets' playoff win over San Diego, and that came running behind one of the best offensive lines in football. The Chiefs are a significant step down from that unit, and with Jones at best splitting carries with Charles it's unlikely he cobbles together anything resembling fantasy assistance this week.

WR

Dwayne Bowe
Chris Chambers

S3

The San Diego secondary was particularly stingy last season, and even though they've made some personnel tweaks they're still a formidable foe. Both Bowe and Chambers scored on them last season, though it's worth noting that Chambers wasn't on the team for the first meeting when Bowe went 2-11-1 and Bowe didn't play in the rematch when Chambers posted 7-70-1. Bowe is the slightly better bet for fantasy help, but neither is much more than an average play at best.

WR

Dexter McCluster

U

The Chiefs will find ways to get the ball in McCluster's hands, much like the Vikings do with Percy Harvin. But Matt Cassel is no Brett Favre, so let's see just how many touches the rookie can get and what he does with them before plugging him into the fantasy lineup.

DT Chiefs B Kansas City's defense offers little fantasy excitement, and there's nothing on the San Diego side of the ball to change that torpor.

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