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Start/Bench List - Week 4
John Tuvey
Updated: October 1, 2010
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NYJ at BUF BAL at PIT HOU at OAK CHI at NYG Start/Bench List by Position
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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)
NY Jets at Buffalo Back to top
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Mark Sanchez S2

Sanchez put up a total of 223 and 1 with five INTs in last season’s series, but there are a couple of key differences. First, Buffalo’s secondary, which was dominant last season, is giving up 33 more passing yards per game and twice as many passing TDs as they did last year; worse, after finishing second in the league in INTs the Bills are still looking for their first pick of 2010. And, obviously, coming off the first two three-TD games of his career in the past two weeks, Sanchez has stepped up his performance. Put him down for a solid outing, with expectations tempered only by the fact that Buffalo is struggling to stop the run as well and the Jets have a fondness for running the football.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson S2

Last year’s Jets backfield split 72 carries and 477 yards in the two-game series with Buffalo, and the Bills have been just as forgiving on the ground this season in allowing four RB TDs through three games. Since the split has slightly favored Tomlinson thus far, he has the narrow edge here for fantasy expectations.

RB Shonn Greene S2

The Jets’ second back put up 158 yards in two games against the Bills, and Greene is seeing enough work (25 carries in two games against tougher divisional opponents) to have similar success. In a bye week where the pickings might be slim, that’s enough to move Greene from fringe to solid start.

WR Jerricho Cotchery


Thus far the Jets’ passing game has consisted of deep shots to Edwards and a whole bunch of throws to the tight end; until there’s a new recipe, Cotchery is fantasy bench fodder.

WR Braylon Edwards


Edwards is the Jets’ downfield target of choice; against previous Bills’ secondaries that might not have been enough to get him off the fantasy pine. But Edwards found the end zone against Buffalo last year and brings a two-game scoring streak into this game as well. He won’t be a hugh PPR helper, but he has a good enough shot at a TD—probably a long one—that so long as he stays out of bars and off the road between now and Sunday he’s a decent fantasy start.

TE Dustin Keller S2

Targeted on roughly one-third of Sanchez’s attempts, Keller brings back-to-back big games into this tilt against a defense that just allowed 9-108-1 to the Jets’ rookie TE tandem and 4-103 to Jermichael Finley the week before. Keller did little (2-16, 1-5) against the Bills last year, but he’s obviously the go-to guy and has elevated himself to every-week starter status in TE mandatory leagues.

DT Jets S2 Gang Green hasn’t done a whole lot to get fantasy owners excited, but they’re still among the more aggressive defenses in the league—and aggressiveness has a way of turning itself into fantasy points, especially against low-end QBs like Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick S3

There’s a modicum of hope for Fitzpatrick, who you may recall came off the bench to direct the Bills to a win against the Jets in Week 6 of last season. He put up 247 and 2 against a young New England secondary last week; he also threw two picks. In most weeks Fitz would be headed for the fantasy pine, but with bye weeks upon us he at least warrants consideration if for no other reason than the Jets’ run D will likely put the Harvard alum in a position where he has to throw.

RB Marshawn Lynch B

The Jets are giving up about 71 yards from scrimmage to opposing backs and have allowed just one RB TD this year. Lynch managed 60 yards in each end of last season’s series with Gang Green, but even if he’s getting the bulk of the touches, the majority share of such limited production isn’t worthy of a fantasy play this week.

RB C.J. Spiller B

Another kick return TD is possible, sure, but can you really put your fantasy faith in a guy who’s received 11, 5, and 7 touches from scrimmage in his first three NFL games? Worse, you want to plug him in against a defense that’s already shut down Ray Rice and Ronnie Brown? Even worse, Spiller’s greatest strength (from scrimmage, at least) is as a receiver and only one team has given up fewer RB receptions or RB receiving yards than the Jets this season.

WR Lee Evans B

Fitzpatrick’s strong showing last week has made the Buffalo passing game at least somewhat fantasy relevant... but that doesn’t mean there’s a receiver ready to join him in that arena. The two wideouts who have had success against the Jets—Anquan Boldin (7-110) and Brandon Marshall (10-166-1)—are much larger targets physically than anything the Bills bring to the table. Evans scored in the front end of last season’s series but was held to one catch in the rematch; you know he lacks the consistency to be trusted with a fantasy start. Johnson has some size but isn’t in the same class as Boldin and Marshall, and Parish is nothing special.

DT Bills B Spiller’s presence in the return game makes Buffalo a consideration if your league includes special teams scores; otherwise it’s tough to like a defense that hasn’t generated a single interception yet this season.
Denver at Tennessee Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton S2

The formerly much-maligned Tennessee secondary has allowed but one TD pass through three games, but last week Eli Manning threw for 386 yards against them so they’re not impenetrable. And really, 386 is chump change for Orton coming off 476 and 1 against the Colts and averaging 359 a game thus far this year. Even if he falls a little shy of that number, Orton will put enough pigskin in the air to help any fantasy team in a yardage-based scoring system.


Knowshon Moreno

B To the surprise of absolutely no one, Mr. Fragile Hammys was ruled out of this one well in advance of Sunday.

Laurence Maroney
Correll Buckhalter

B The Titans haven’t been their typical shutdown selves against the run thus far this year; sadly, the Broncos are ill-equipped to take advantage. Maroney appears to be the lead dog in a Moreno-less committee, but his two-yards-per-carry is something less than scintillating; Buckhalter did manage a TD in week two but otherwise has been unable to turn table scraps into a fantasy feast and can’t be trusted either.
WR Jabar Gaffney
Eddie Royal
Brandon Lloyd
Demaryius Thomas

We have all this information at our disposal: the four Bronco wideouts are averaging between 7.0 and 8.7 targets and between 4.7 and 5.7 catches per game, and all four have one TD. Denver’s leading fantasy producer in each of their three games has been on the left side (Lloyd in Weeks 1 and 3; Thomas in Week 2), but they’re essentially splitting that spot assuming Thomas returns from the arm injury that limited him in Week 3 (and helped Lloyd go off for 6-169-1). We also know that the Titans are allowing a higher completion percentage against right-side receivers, but the left side has the most targets and slot receivers have the most yardage—and Tennessee hasn’t allowed a WR TD yet this season. The safe bets are Gaffney on the right side and Royal out of the slot; both should contribute adequate performance-league numbers; the swing for the fence guys are Lloyd and Thomas. In a bye week all at least warrant consideration, though moreso in yardage leagues than TD-heavy scoring formats.

DT Broncos B Haven’t seen much from the Broncos D/ST (four turnovers, three sacks) to warrant fantasy consideration, especially on the road against a conservative offense.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Vince Young B

David Garrard took the Broncos for three TDs at home, and Matt Hasselbeck scored a rushing touchdown against them. Still, Young hasn’t topped 160 passing yards yet this year and he can’t be relied upon for touchdowns either throwing or running. You’d have to be in a pretty significant bye-week bind to consider VY this week.

RB Chris Johnson S1

Denver did a reasonably good job containing Maurice Jones-Drew (23-98) in Week 1, but you could write that off as his knee, his line, or David Garrard’s uncharacteristic passing success. The Steelers held Johnson in check; the Broncos are not the Steelers.

WR Nate Washington
Kenny Britt
Justin Gage
B Washington is the Titans’ closest thing to a No. 1 receiver; this week that means he’ll be wearing Champ Bailey all afternoon. A touchdown for either Britt or Gage is certainly possible—all five WR TDs the Broncos have allowed have gone to secondary targets—but their yardage numbers won’t be strong enough to offset the risk that the TD toss will go to someone else.
TE Bo Scaife B Scaife has done nothing of fantasy note since his Week 1 TD and is sharing looks with Jared Cook and Craig Stevens.
DT Titans S3 In a bye week the Titans’ penchant for sacks—10 thus far, tied for fourth in the NFL—and turning over the opposition (six in two games) make them a reasonable fantasy play.

Cincinnati at Cleveland

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S3

Palmer hasn’t left Cleveland without multiple TDs since his first start there back in 2004; he’s also been money in the first meeting of the season series, with multiple TDs and at least 230 yards in each of the last four front ends he’s played in. Aside from some garbage time-padded stats in the opener Palmer has been pretty ordinary this season, but against the Browns he at least warrants fantasy consideration in a bye-thinned talent pool.

RB Cedric Benson S3

Ced had the third-best showing against the Browns last year... among Cleveland backs, as both Larry Johnson and Bernard Scott took advantage of his injury in Week 12 to top Benson’s 18-74 showing in the front end of the series. He’s been similarly ordinary thus far this season, though he has scored twice. The Browns have already shut out three of 2009’s top dozen fantasy backs from a year ago so a TD might be a tall proposition, and Ced’s yardage to date makes him little more than an okay start this week.

WR Chad Ochocinco

Chad has a solid track record against the Browns with 11 touchdowns in 17 career meetings, including six in 10 games with Palmer at the helm. His yardage since his Week 1 blow up has been mediocre, and with Palmer and the Bengals no longer an aerial circus it’ll take a TD for Chad to be anything more than an okay fantasy play.

WR Terrell Owens

Utterly ordinary through his first three starts, Owens is remaining in starting fantasy lineups through name recognition—and the fact that he’s the fifth-most targeted wideout in the league; stats have to follow, right? Also, this week he may find himself matched up in coverage with Eric Wright; that worked out quite well for Anquan Boldin last week.

WR Jordan Shipley

Shipley actually has more fantasy points than TO, but there just isn’t enough to the Cincy passing game to float another boat after Ocho and Owens—two of the five most-targeted wideouts in the league—get theirs.

TE Jermaine Gresham B The Browns haven’t been anything special against tight ends, but aside from a Week 1 touchdown Gresham hasn’t contributed anything of note to fantasy ledgers. Even in the first bye week there should still be enough in the free agent pool to cover you at tight end without digging down to Gresham.
DT Bengals S3 Any defense against Seneca Wallace projects to be a positive matchup.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jake Delhomme B

Eric Mangini indicated that Delhomme will reclaim his starting job when healthy, but after limping through Friday's practice that's unlikely to happen this week. Still, you can wait on the edge of your seat for the crafty Mangini to reveal his QB Sunday morning... or not.

QB Seneca Wallace B

Tom Brady lit up a solid Cincy secondary in Week 1, something Joe Flacco (154 and 1) and Jimmy Clausen (188 and 0) couldn’t do. Wallace is much closer to the latter than the former, averaging 185 and 1 in his two Cleveland starts thus far. There’s no reason to think he’ll be substantially better against a Bengals defense that has surrendered just 10 passing scores in its last nine games, six of them to Tom Brady and Philip Rivers.

RB Peyton Hillis


It takes patience—and 20 or more carries—for a back to have a good day against the Bengals. Last year only five RBs were afforded that opportunity; all five either scored or topped 100 yards. After watching Hillis turn 22 carries against the vaunted Ravens into 144 yards and a touchdown, you’d like to think Eric Mangini will continue to feed him the rock. However, it’s Mangini so it’s no guarantee.

RB Jerome Harrison


After missing last week's game with an injury, Harrison is expected to return here; maybe he saw Peyton Hillis stealing his job and suddenly felt a whole lot better. Though you never know just what Mangini has up his sleeve, it's unlikely Harrison returns to a large enough share of the workload to have any fantasy value this week... maybe ever.

WR Mohamed Massaquoi B

Didn’t Massaquoi used to be the Browns’ go-to receiver? With Seneca Wallace at the helm, Mass has one catch in two games and was targeted just once last week. He’s unusable until Jake Delhomme returns from his ankle injury.

WR Joshua Cribbs B

Massaquoi’s loss has been Cribbs’ gain; in two games with Wallace under center Cribbs has 132 yards and a TD, nearly matching his career season of 135 and 1 last year. If your league counts return yardage Cribbs is an every week starter; if not, he’s bench fodder again this week.

TE Ben Watson S3

Without Evan Moore to steal looks Watson has been borderline usable the past fortnight. Cincy isn’t particularly permissive to tight ends, but Wallace obviously isn’t throwing to his wideouts so if you’re in a bye week bind and Moore remains sidelined with post-concussion symptoms you could do worse than Watson.

DT Browns B Unless you’re getting Cribbs’ return potential, there’s nothing here to get excited about.

Carolina at New Orleans

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jimmy Clausen B Neither Jake Delhomme (201 and 0) nor Matt Moore (162 and 1) did much against the Saints last season; now it looks like Claussen will get the next shot. Nothing about his 50 percent career percentage, 0:2 TD-to-INT ratio, or inability to locate Steve Smith suggests he warrants a fantasy play this week.

DeAngelo Williams

S2 The Panthers have used a pretty simple recipe against the Saints the past two years: run, run, and run some more. Williams missed the back end of last season’s series after posting 21-149-2 in the first meeting; in 2008 he rushed for 244 yards in the two-game set. The Saints have allowed back-to-back 100-yard games to Frank Gore and Michael Turner; with no passing game and the offense in need of a spark, expect Williams to get at least 20 carries and a chance to notch his first real fantasy helper of the season.

Jonathan Stewart

S3 Stewart’s touches have been limited thus far this season, but historically that hasn’t been the case against New Orleans: he has at least 13 carries in each of his four career dates with the Saints, with TDs in three of the four and a 125-yard effort when Williams was out with an injury. Stewart won’t get the bulk of the carries, but the Panthers’ blueprint has to be a heavy dose of the ground game. Worst-case, Stewart should see a goal line opportunity or two; best-case he’ll see double-digit carries again and chip in as a yardage helper as well.
WR Steve Smith S3

Smith blew up the Saints in 2008 but was limited to just 4-64 in his only date with them last season. With no other target in the passing game and Jimmy Clausen thus far unwilling to throw into double- and triple-coverage so Smith can make a play, it’s tough to trust him with a fantasy start. Heck, Roddy White had a vastly superior quarterback and help down the field in Tony Gonzalez and he still had to battle double coverage to produce 5-69-1. Smith would be lucky to see those numbers this week. In a bye week you may not have another option, but if you do this would be a good week to employ it.

DT Panthers B Sans Julius Peppers, Carolina’s defense is nothing special.
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S1

Brees has been building with each game, from 237 to 254 to 365 yards and 1 to 2 to 3 TDs; where do you think this is going? He threw for 330 and 1 in the first meeting with Carolina before sitting out the rematch, and the Panthers’ defense has taken steps back this year so that may be a baseline for Brees. If Josh Freeman can throw two TDs and Eli Manning three, you have to love Drew’s chances this week.

RB Pierre Thomas S3

It's a favorable matchup, to be sure: last season the Saints used multiple backs to amass more than 150 yards from scrimmage and a TD in each end of the series. If Thomas goes he should consolidate the bulk of the workload and makes a solid start against a Panthers’ defense that has given up an RB TD in each of the first three games this year. However, after missing practice both Wednesday and Thursday Thomas was limited on Friday and is a game-time decision. If your lineup decision needs to be in before the inactives are announced on Sunday morning, using Thomas this week carries a high degree of risk.

RB Ladell Betts
Christopher Ivory

If Thomas can't go, Betts and Ivory would pick up the slack. Ivory is still a little nicked up himself, plus he put the ball on the ground last week which doesn't exactly instill a ton of confidence that he'll get even more carries this week. Even sans Thomas, using Betts or Ivory this week smacks of desperation.

WR Marques Colston
Devery Henderson
Lance Moore

Brees has to throw to someone, right? Problem is, it’s a different someone every week. Colston is the closest thing to a steady contributor but even he’s a hit-or-miss fantasy helper. Robert Meachem had the best game of any Saint against the Panthers last year, but see below for our thoughts on him. Henderson had 93 yards in the first meeting (nobody did anything of note in the Mark Brunell-helmed finale), while Colston had one catch for 45 yards and Moore was nowhere to be found. All could have fine afternoons; all could leave you holding a bag of doggy doo. With Brees projected to have a big outing, odds are you’ll at least get a bag with a pleasant odor.

WR Robert Meachem B

Meachem is the biggest risk/reward fantasy play of the bunch. Here’s the problem: he’s only been on the field for 32 passing plays in three games this year. That’s 11 snaps a game where Brees might look his way. If you’re feeling lucky, plug Meachem into your fantasy lineup; if he hits, hop the next flight to Vegas and put the mortgage on green 00.

TE Jeremy Shockey B In New Orleans, tight end is as big a mess as the receiver position; Shockey saw eight targets over the first two games, then had eight catches last week. Carolina hasn’t allowed a TE TD in six straight games, so there’s no compelling match-up reason to risk a fantasy starting spot on Shockey.
DT Saints S2 You have to think Gregg Williams is salivating over what his defense could do to Jimmy Clausen.

Baltimore at Pittsburgh

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco S3

In four starts against the Steelers Flacco has topped 200 yards just once and thrown multiple TDs only once as well. Even with the new weapons, there just isn’t a big upside here.

RB Ray Rice S3

Rice sat out Wednesday's practice and was limited both Thursday and Friday by the bruised knee he suffered in last week’s win over Cleveland. He says he's going to play, and he's had success against the Steelers in the past—155 yards from scrimmage in each end of the season series with Pittsburgh last year—but concerns that the knee may limit him in either performance or workload (or both) make him a fringe fantasy start at best.

RB Willis McGahee B

McGahee scored in the front end of last season’s series and could be in line for Rice’s workload if the Baltimore starter is sidelined with a knee injury. However, it sounds as if Rice will play, leaving McGahee with a smallish workload against a defense that’s limited some elite backs (Michael Turner, Chris Johnson) to an average of well under 50 yards per game. Unless Rice is deactivated prior to kickoff, there's not enough upside here to warrant fantasy consideration.

WR Anquan Boldin

Boldin remains in your lineup in most formats—especially PPR, as only two teams have surrendered more WR receptions this year than the Steelers. But only two teams have allowed fewer WR TDs than Pittsburgh, so settle for the catches and decent yardage.

WR Derrick Mason

Though he’s been usurped by Boldin as the go-to guy, Mason is still seeing some looks. After catching seven balls in each end of last season’s series, and with the Steelers giving up an average of 15 WR receptions a game, there should be enough left over to make Mason a viable option in performance leagues.

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh

A lightly-used third receiver on a running team in a game projected to play to the under? Nothing in that statement suggests Housh is a good fantasy play this week.


Todd Heap

B The enigmatic Heap had one catch in the first meeting between these teams last year... and scored twice in the rematch. Pittsburgh hasn’t allowed much to TEs—Tony Gonzalez’s 35 yards in the opener marks the season high—and Heap is too infrequent a contributor to be trusted with a fantasy start against a defense that good.
DT Ravens S2 LBatch got away with some mistakes against Tampa Bay last week; he won’t be as fortunate against the Ravens, who have been point towards this game for a long time.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Charlie Batch B

Sure, Batch had three TDs last week; somebody has to have lottery luck. Against a defense that’s allowing an average of 127 passing yards per game and has surrendered one passing TD this year, plugging Batch into your fantasy lineup would be like expecting to hit the Powerball using the same numbers that won it last week.

RB Rashard Mendenhall


Peyton Hillis’ 144 and 1 took a big chunk of that mystique out of Baltimore’s run defense. That Mendenhall has already put up a pair of 100-yard efforts works in his favor as well; so does the fact that he posted 95 yards on the Ravens in the front end of last season’s series and scored in the rematch.

WR Hines Ward

In last season’s series Ward had better numbers in the game quarterbacked by Dennis Dixon than the one helmed by Ben Roethlisberger, though neither 3-47 or 4-37 were the cure for fantasy ills. At least last week’s 3-34-1 included a touchdown to bail out Ward’s fantasy owners, but that’s less likely this week against a Baltimore defense that has yet to cede a WR TD this season. Odds are you have a better fantasy play on your roster.

WR Mike Wallace

If you’re looking for some mild upside in the Pittsburgh passing game, consider this: Batch went deep to Wallace to the tune of 3-100-2 last week, and the Pittsburgh wideout who had the most success against the Ravens last year was deep threat Santonio Holmes (6-71-1 and 5-86-1).

TE Heath Miller

Miller couldn’t break 40 yards combined in the season match-up with Baltimore, and despite Ben Watson’s 5-47-1 against the Ravens last week we don’t foresee similar success for Miller this week

DT Steelers S2 Pittsburgh’s D/ST has generated 10 sacks, 10 turnovers, and two return TDs. Really, you can’t ask for much more.

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