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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 3
John Tuvey
Updated: September 24, 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)
 
 
Buffalo at New England Back to top
Buffalo
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick B

The Bills tried both Trend Edwards and Fitzpatrick against the Patriots last season; Edwards (16-27-211-2) had significantly better luck than Fitz (17-25-178-1-1), so it makes perfect sense that Chan Gailey would make the switch to Fitz. The Pats have surrendered 565 passing yards and five TDs through two games, but it’s extremely unlikely Fitz will live up to Carson Palmer or even Mark Sanchez numbers.

RB Marshawn Lynch
Fred Jackson
C.J. Spiller
B

Is it another showcase week? Lynch received 17 carries last week in Green Bay, perhaps in hopes of drawing trade interest; Jackson scored a touchdown and first-round pick while Spiller barely saw the field or the ball. The Bengals and Jets, two vastly superior running teams, amassed 206 yards and a TD against New England. That suggests that there’s limited upside; split three ways, it’s utterly useless for fantasy purposes.

WR Lee Evans B

Lee’s track record of futility against the Patriots is well-documented: one touchdown in 12 games, an average of just 36 yards per contest. Funny, 35 and 1 is exactly what Evans did in the most recent meeting, and that was with Fitzpatrick at the helm. So if you want to bank on lightning striking twice, you go right ahead.

DT Bills B Buffalo scored a defensive touchdown in the first meeting between these clubs, but this is not the same D/ST; thus far this season they haven’t generated a single turnover and were unable to record a sack against the team that allowed a league high in that category in 2009.
New England
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tom Brady S1

Mr. Bündchen blew up the Bills for 378 and 2 in the front end of last season’s series before posting a more subdued 115 and 1 in the recap. With multiple TDs in each of his first two games, Brady feels like a safer bet for something closer to the former than the later.

RB

Fred Taylor

S2

When is the last time Taylor won a war of attrition? Laurence Maroney (23-81-1 in the back end of last season’s series) is gone, and Kevin Faulk (68 yards from scrimmage in the two games) is done for the year with a knee injury. That leaves Taylor, who scored when these teams met in Week 1 last year, to face a defense that’s allowed a running back touchdown in each of the first two games. Of course, the risk here is that at some point between now and the end of the game Bill Belichick could get a wild hair about Sammy Morris. Or BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Don't sweat the toe injury that limited Taylor in practice on Thursday, though, as he returned for a full session on Friday and is listed as probable.

WR Randy Moss S1 From Revis Island to Fantasy Island: Moss leaves the league’s top cover corner behind and squares off with a secondary that surrendered 17-211-1 to him in last year’s two-game set. Da plane! Da plane!
WR Wes Welker S1 What’s not to like here? Welker rolled up 16-133 in last season’s series and despite being something less than 100 percent has three touchdowns in two games. The only thing that could derail the Patriots’ passing game is too much success from the Patriots’ ground game.
TE Aaron Hernandez S2 Hernandez seems to have pushed fellow rookie Rob Gronkowski aside, and he comes into this game fresh off a 101-yard effort against the Bills—who just gave up 104 yards of their own to Packers tight end Jermichael Finley. Seeing as ex-Patriot Ben Watson scored twice in the first meeting between these teams, there’s no reason to expect tight ends—and specifically Hernandez—to be left out of the fun.
DT Patriots S1 The genius of Bill Belichick at home against a backup quarterback? Gotta like those odds.
 
Cincinnati at Carolina Back to top
Cincinnati
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S2

Carolina has already given up five passing scores, more than a third of what they allowed all of last season. Palmer’s receiving corps is at least as good as the Giants, who tagged three on the Panthers, so Palmer should have ample opportunity to put up solid-to-very good numbers here.

RB Cedric Benson S3

It’s a match made in heaven: the Panthers are giving up right around 2.7 yards per carry, while Benson is grinding out a shade over three per tote. Since Carolina doesn’t have the offense to get up early on Cincy, Benson should be able to slog out a pseudo-productive fantasy game with 20-plus carries. It won’t be pretty, though.

WR Chad Ochocinco
S2

Ocho and Owens are similarly targeted and similar physically, but to date TO has put up a pair of mediocre outings while Ocho has scored and topped 100 yards. Until there’s a changing of the guard, he’s still Palmer’s go-to guy.

WR Terrell Owens
S3

Not that Owens is a bad play; he’s seen double-digit targets in each of his two games as a Bengal, and eventually that volume is going to pay off. It could very well be here, against a secondary that had trouble tracking Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham at the same time.

WR Jordan Shipley
B

The Giants were able to feed three receivers against Carolina, and Shipley has five catches in each of his first two games. However, if something’s gotta give in the passing game it ain’t gonna be Ocho or Owens and this isn’t a gimme matchup. Unless you’re in a very big league, you can do better.

TE Jermaine Gresham B Against Carolina the Giants opted to use three wideouts; the Bucs used backs and tight ends. Cincy won’t throw much to its backs, but Gresham could certainly factor into the mix. However, his role in this passing game is still a work in progress so for now there are better fantasy options.
DT Bengals S2 Even though it’s a road game, you have to like Cincy’s chances of creating havoc against a first-time NFL starter.
Carolina
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jimmy Clausen B Given the Panthers’ emphasis on the running game, Carolina quarterbacks have been largely irrelevant for fantasy purposes. And seeing as it’s Clausen’s first NFL start, against a secondary that’s allowed just four multiple passing TD efforts in the past 21 games... well, he’s even more irrelevant.
RB

DeAngelo Williams

S3 DeAngelo hasn’t really received much of an opportunity to go off, what with just 33 carries in two games. With a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start, you have to anticipate the game plan calls for protecting the kid with a heavy dose of the run. Even against a defense that ranked among the stingiest last year in fantasy points allowed to running backs, a 20-carry day should allow Williams to post serviceable fantasy numbers.
RB

Jonathan Stewart

B What happened to RB1 and RB1A? Stewart is receiving an average of less than 10 touches per game fewer than Williams. Against a soft defense that might still be enough, but the Bengals are anything but soft. Keep Stewart on your fantasy bench until an injury clears his path to more touches or the Carolina offense as a whole increases its productivity to a level where it could yield multiple fantasy helpers.
WR Steve Smith S2

The angry little man gets it done with quarterbacks mediocre and bad, against single and double coverage, whether you’re playing flag or tackle football. The Bengals have a solid secondary and with a new quarterback it might not be pretty, but one way or another Smith will get you some helpful fantasy digits. He was limited in practice all week with a thigh injury but is listed as probable.

DT Panthers B Carolina hasn’t generated a D/ST touchdown since Week 8 of last year, and while Cincy served up both a D and an ST TD to New England in Week 1 this week’s game plan isn’t likely to put them in similarly high-risk situations.
 

Dallas at Houston

Back to top
Dallas
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S1

Why wouldn’t the battle for Texas be a shootout? Houston has given up back-to-back 400-yard games, while Romo has been slow-building with 282 and 374 thus far this season. With the Dallas running game ineffective and the Boys in need of a win, expect Romo to match Schaub pass for pass here—much to the delight of their fantasy owners.

RB Felix Jones
Marion Barber
B

While the Cowboys are running the ball a little bit more than Houston’s previous opponents, who had just 26 RB carries between them, it’s clearly not a priority for their offense. In fact, we haven’t seen a Cowboy back break 40 rushing yards. Either back could do something of note, but the limited opportunities they’ll receive make them a risky fantasy play.

WR Miles Austin S1

Austin has back-to-back games with double-digit catches and at least 140 yards; for his reward, he gets to face a secondary that’s allowed four wideouts to roll up at least 88 yards. There may not be a better WR fantasy play this week.

WR Dez Bryant
S2

While the rookie wasn’t targeted quite as much last week as he was in his debut, he still turned in adequate yardage—and also flashed some athleticism in the return game. As noted above, Houston’s secondary hasn’t shut down anybody yet this season, so Bryant could be looking at career highs; okay, so it’s only his third game, but still...

WR Roy Williams
B

There are at least three better options on his own team.

TE Jason Witten S1

The Texans have allowed a TE TD in both games this season, and no team has given up more yardage to the position. Witten is getting eight targets a week, and if Martellus Bennett doesn’t horn in on his action he’s poised for a monster afternoon.

DT Cowboys B If you get credit for the return game then Bryant’s explosiveness makes the Cowboys useable. Otherwise, they have but two sacks on the year and have yet to generate a turnover—and they’ve faced Jay Cutler and Donovan McNabb. You can do better.
Houston
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Schaub S1 Hope you didn’t hit the panic button after Week 1, because Schaub demonstrated why the Texans were the top-ranked passing offense in 2009 with 497 and three last week against the Redskins. He catches a Cowboys defense still reeling from the 277 and three Jay Cutler dropped on them last week, which sets up a Texas-sized passing game shootout.
RB Arian Foster
S2 Feature backs have put up 64 and 66 total yards on the Cowboys thus far; Foster has 376 combo yards in his two games. He showed a little something in the passing game last week, suggesting that if teams gear up to stop him on the ground he’s still capable of bringing fantasy value to the table.
WR Andre Johnson S1 Andre is already a great fantasy play every week, capable of doing pretty much whatever he wants on the football field (witness his game-tying touchdown last week). And if the Cowboys’ best cover corner, Mike Jenkins, is out or limited in any way, Johnson will have the fantasy equivalent of a blank check to write. Officially he's listed as questionable after missing Wednesday's practice and being limited on Thursday and Friday, but seeing as he was back on the field scoring touchdowns in the same game in which he suffered the injury, you have to believe he'll be available for the battle of Texas.
WR Kevin Walter S2

With TDs in each of the first two games and double-digit targets last week, Walter has proven to be a more consistent fantasy play than Jones. The Cowboys allowed Jay Cutler to feed multiple receivers last week; no reason Schaub can’t do the same to them here.

WR Jacoby Jones S3

Only in certain passing games does a third receiver have any fantasy value; one that comes within a whisper of 500 yards certainly qualifies. Jones has seen 15 targets in two games, more than enough to make him worthy of fantasy consideration in larger leagues, especially those starting three WRs.

TE Owen Daniels B

Daniels is still on a snap count; until Gary Kubiak unleashes him, he should remain tethered to your fantasy bench as well.

DT Texans B The combination of a quality Houston return game and a struggling Redskins offense make the Texans' D/ST an intriguing fantasy play this week.
 
Washington at St. Louis Back to top
Washington
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb S3

McNabb proved capable of holding his own in a shootout, firing for 426 and 1 last week, but this isn’t the walkover you might expect. That one TD is McNabb’s lone score this season, while the Rams have given up only one in each of their two losses. McNabb is a step up in QB from what the Rams have seen thus far from the Cardinals and Raiders, so he should accomplish enough to warrant fantasy starter status.

RB Clinton Portis S2 Portis scored twice last week but still has just 96 yards for the season. The Rams let Darren McFadden pound them for 145 yards but held him out of the end zone; a week earlier the Cards scored while amassing 103 from their backfield committee. With Larry Johnson out of the picture Portis remains the goal line guy and has a shot at a score should the Skins get close; he’s also in line for the bulk of the yardage as well. Though he's officially listed as questionable with a wrist injury, Portis practiced fully all week so you can still plug him into your lineup—and this week you don't even have to swear while doing so.
WR Santana Moss
S2 With more than half the targets and catches and nearly that share of the yardage among Redskins’ WRs, Moss is the only play of the group. And when you consider that already this young season the Rams have surrendered big games to luminaries such as Steve Breaston (7-132), Louis Murphy (6-91-1), and Darrius Heyward-Bey (6-80), you have to like Moss’s chances of fantasy success.
TE Chris Cooley S3

The Rams did an adequate job of keeping Zach Miller in check last week, at the expense of letting a couple wideouts run free. And since Cooley is the Redskins’ No. 2 receiver anyway, he’s a must-start in TE mandatory leagues almost regardless of match-up.

DT Redskins S3 Starting a defense against a rookie quarterback whose team is putting up less than 14 points a game is generally a pretty shrewd maneuver.
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Sam Bradford S3

No team has had more balls thrown at them than the Redskins, who have surrendered four passing scores and 779 yards on 99 attempts through two games. The Rams haven’t been shy about letting Bradford pull the trigger, and if afforded another 50 attempts he should come up with helpful fantasy numbers as well. That’s the upside; the more likely outcome is a lesser number of attempts and a stat line that makes him a fringe fantasy starter.

RB Steven Jackson S3

The Skins have been pretty stout against the run, Haynesworth or no Haynesworth, and Jackson’s aversion to the end zone consistently throws his fantasy value into question. However, he’s still getting 20-plus touches a game and he’s still the focal point of the Rams’ offense... at least until they have to start playing catch-up and throw.Ddespite being limited in practice all week he's listed as probable; the opportunities alone should be enough to make him a fringe fantasy starter, and you know he’s capable of a big yardage game at just about any juncture.

WR Mark Clayton
S2

Bradford’s favorite target should enjoy a date with a Washington secondary that’s already allowed three 140-yard receivers.

WR Danny Amendola
U

You shouldn’t be this desperate for wide receiver help already, but just in case you are you should know that Amendola appears to be second in line behind Clayton on Bradford’s radar, and the Skins have been soft enough against the pass that there just might be enough to go around.

DT Rams S3 The Rams have forced six turnovers and given up just 33 points in two games. They’re not a great fantasy play, but those numbers suggest you could do worse.
 
Philadelphia at Jacksonville Back to top
Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Michael Vick S2

We knew what Vick could do to dogs, but it was the way he kicked the Kitties last week that earned him Philly’s starting gig for the foreseeable future. Another feline-faced team gets in his way this week, so expect similar PETA-baiting results. The Jags have given up 295 & 1 and 334 & 3 already this year, so give Vick a portion of that and add in his rushing yardage for a fantasy day even a pit bull could love.

RB LeSean McCoy
S2

Jacksonville has already served up a touchdown to Knowshon Moreno, two to Mike Tolbert, and a ton of combo yardage to the entire San Diego backfield. McCoy has proven to be more than just a pass-catching back, even holding his gig as a goal line back with potential vulture Vick under center. McCoy’s success against both good and bad defenses suggest he’ll remain in the mix regardless of opponent, and he’s a decent fantasy play again this week.

WR DeSean Jackson
S2 Say what you will about Vick’s quarterbacking, the dude throws a strong deep ball. And who better to go get it than Jackson, who celebrated Vick’s first Philly start with 4-135 1. Considering three opposing wideouts have already put up 90-plus yard efforts against the Jags, you have to like Jackson’s chances of getting behind them as well.
WR Jeremy Maclin S3 Maclin has scored in both games this season, and while he’s slightly less targeted than Jackson he’s still a consistent enough play to warrant fantasy attention—especially when facing a softer secondary like Jacksonville’s.
TE Brent Celek
S3 Celek has yet to mesh with Vick, compiling just five catches for 59 yards through the first two games of the season. The Jags gave up two TDs to Antonio Gates last week, but Celek isn’t at that level. He’s still a viable start in TE-mandatory leagues, especially those with PPR scoring, but who knows if Vick will make him the big-time fantasy helper he was expected to be with Kevin Kolb at the helm.
DT Eagles S2 Between their blitz-happy defense and talented return men, the Eagles bring as much potential for fantasy D/ST points as any team in the league—especially against a quarterback fresh off a four-pick game.
Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard S3

It’s a home game, so Garrard is in play. His yardage thus far this year has been poor, but he threw three TDs the last time he played in Jacksonville to make it three straight at home with multiple scoring strikes. The Eagles have given up multiple TD tosses in both of their games, including 335 and two to Shaun Hill last week, which has to give Garrard’s fantasy owners hope heading into this weekend.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S2

Maybe it’s the knee he may or may not have had surgery on in the preseason, maybe it's the ankle that limited him in practice Wednesday and Thursday; regardless, MoJo has been a fantasy disappointment through the season’s first fortnight. That said, here’s his shot at redemption. MoJo may no longer have the burst that Jahvid Best flashed against the Eagles last week, but he’s entirely capable of a big combo yardage day much like Best’s Week 2 performance. Philly has already given up four RB TDs and 398 yards from scrimmage; time for Jones-Drew to live up to that lofty draft position.

WR

Mike Sims-Walker

S2 MSW was a favored target of Luke McCown last week, who helped him get over his road blues with a big 10-105-1 in San Diego. Unfortunately for Sims-Walker, McCown is no longer the QB; however, he’s back home where he does most of his damage and Champ Bailey isn’t around to harsh his mellow. Philly has allowed each of the WR1s it has faced this season to find the end zone, which certainly bodes well for Sims-Walker’s chances.
WR

Mike Thomas

S3 Thomas was less of a factor last week in part because McCown only had eyes for Sims-Walker. Garrard may lean that way as well, what with no Champ Bailey to eliminate MSW from the game plan. But the Packers put two wideouts into the end zone, so Thomas will have to battle Marcedes Lewis for that second touchdown. A shot at a score and decent yardage makes him a fringe fantasy play in larger leagues.
TE

Marcedes Lewis

S3 Lewis has come charging out of the gate with two TDs in the opener and 70 yards last week, and the hot streak has a very good chance of continuing against a Philly D that surrendered 108 yards to Brandon Pettigrew last week. In TE-mandatory leagues, there’s enough upside here to warrant Lewis getting the start.
DT Jaguars B

The Jags haven’t produced a D/ST TD since Week 9 of 2008, and there’s nothing pointing towards a change in that status this week.

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