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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

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
DEN at TEN SFO at ATL IND at JAC NEP at MIA
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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)
 
 
San Francisco at Atlanta Back to top
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith S3

Smith’s yardage has been solid, but touchdowns have been hard to come by. Atlanta may not be much help in that department, as they shut out Dennis Dixon and Derek Anderson before serving up a hat trick to Drew Brees. Smith has been closer to the former than the latter, though perhaps he’ll benefit from a new voice in his headset.

RB Frank Gore S1

Say this for Jimmy Raye: at least he was getting the ball to Gore. The crux of San Fran’s offense has averaged better than 130 yards from scrimmage through the first three games, and a date with an Atlanta defense that has given up an average of 116 combo yards per game to the feature backs it has faced should only extend the fun.

WR Michael Crabtree B There have been few bigger fantasy disappointments thus far this year than Crabtree, who has a meager 6-81 in three games of work. Perhaps the Niners’ new offensive coordinator can solve the problem; however, don’t let Crabtree take up valuable space in your starting fantasy lineup while they’re working on it.
WR Josh Morgan S3 There’s been a fantasy helper amongst the opposing receivers corps in every Falcons game this year, and Morgan is the closest thing the Niners have at the moment to a go-to wideout. In a bye week where the pickings are slim, Morgan gets a narrow nod.
TE Vernon Davis S3

Perhaps a defense that couldn’t contain Jeremy Shockey last week and ranked sixth in fantasy friendliness to the tight end position last year is the penicillin for VD’s woes.

DT 49ers B Three sacks, two turnovers, and no defensive scores. Wasn’t the defense supposed to be a strength of the 49ers?
Atlanta
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan S2

After a tough battle in Pittsburgh that still saw Ryan produce 252 passing yards, the Falcons QB has thrown for at least 225 yards with multiple touchdowns in each of the last two games. Hosting a struggling San Francisco secondary that has ceded multiple touchdowns in every game this season suggests that another round of very nice numbers are in store for Ryan.

RB Michael Turner S1

Turner is always money in the Georgia Dome, averaging well over 100 rushing yards and a touchdown per outing. Considering he dropped a hat trick on the Niners the last time they visited and San Francisco very nearly allowed two 100-yard rushers last week alone, this is yet another week to enjoy Turner’s home cooking.

RB Jason Snelling B

There’s always a chance Snelling could put up some helpful digits in a mop-up role, but unless you’re really strapped in the first bye week that’s too big a risk.

WR Roddy White S1

San Francisco’s secondary still has singe marks from the 8-210-2 White laid on them when they visited Atlanta last season. Seeing as the Niners have given up multiple WR TDs in each of their road games this season and White is the most targeted wideout in football, a repeat is hardly out of the question.

WR Michael Jenkins
Brian Finneran
Harry Douglas
B

The good news is that San Francisco has allowed multiple wideouts to score in each of their two road games this season. The bad news is that Atlanta’s secondary wideouts have combined for 13 catches in three games, though Finneran did turn one into a touchdown in Week 2. There are a couple positive trends here if you’re desperate for wideout help, but it’s hard to believe you can’t find a better option elsewhere.

TE

Tony Gonzalez

S2

Now that Matt Ryan has rediscovered his tight end, you can take your finger off the panic button regarding Gonzo’s slow start. He amassed 55 yards on the Niners in last year’s meeting and should improve upon that showing against a San Francisco defense that has allowed TE TDs in each of the past two games.

DT Falcons S3 Not a great play, but a home dome team against an offense in disarray could lead to some sneaky fantasy help here.
 
Seattle at St. Louis Back to top
Seattle
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck S3 Usually a better play at home, Hass is usable on the road this week against a Rams secondary that has given up at least 236 yards in each of its three games this season. Of course, they’ve also held each opponent to only one TD toss, but they haven’t exactly faced a who’s who of QBs. Hasselbeck dropped 279 and three on them in Seattle last year but was substantially quieter (102 and 0) in St. Louis. With a better receiving corps and an improving line, go ahead and use Hass as your bye week filler.
RB Justin Forsett S2

Seattle’s RBBC is trending towards giving Forsett the bulk of the carries, and just in time too: with a larger share of the touches he can reprise the 130 yards and two scores he posted in St. Louis last season. Other trends suggesting Forsett should have his way with the Rams: Forsett’s big outing was the third time in four games Seattle produced a triple-digit rusher against the Rams; and St. Louis has allowed at least 91 rushing yards and 115 combo yards to opposing backs in every game this season.

WR

Deion Branch

S3 Seattle’s receiving corps is a bigger gray area than its backfield, with five different wideouts participating and no one establishing himself as the go-to guy. Branch comes closest, as his catches and targets are trending in the right direction. There’s some fantasy help to be found against a secondary that’s already allowed five different receivers to score or top 80 yards or both; Branch is the least risky of the Seahawks’ options.
TE John Carlson S3 Like Branch, Carlson’s looks and catches are trending up—and it doesn’t hurt to catch the Rams coming off surrendering back-to-back 50-yard games to Zach Miller and Chris Cooley. There’s enough upside here to make Carlson a viable bye-week option in TE-mandatory leagues.
DT Seahawks S3 Bradford has at least one pick in every game so there’s an opportunity for the Seahawks, even on the road where they’re essentially down a man. If you include kick returns in your defensive scoring, Leon Washington’s hot streak makes the Seahawks a must-start.
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Sam Bradford S3

The first overall pick has been on the cusp of fantasy viability through his first three starts; this week he breaks through thanks to a Seahawk secondary that has given up the third-most passing yards in the league and traditionally fares worse on the road.

RB Steven Jackson B

Jackson suffered a strained groin in last week’s win and didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday before returning for a very limited session on Friday. He's said he'll test the injury Sunday and make his determination then; it's a favorable enough match-up that if Jackson says he can go he should be in your lineup. However, the guess here is that the Rams hold him out for another week and let him get closer to 100 percent, making due with Darby and Keith Toston. We're listing him as a bench here to reflect that pessimism of him even playing on Sunday; if he's active for this game he should be in your lineup.

RB Kenneth Darby S3

In a bye week any back looking at double-digit touches warrants fantasy consideration. And with Jackson looking like he won’t play, Darby will head up the Rams’ RBBC against a Seattle defense that surrendered 116 yards from scrimmage to San Diego’s backup backs last week.

WR Mark Clayton
S2

Who saw the Sooner Connection reaching fantasy relevancy this quickly? Clayton ranks in the top 16 among wideouts in targets, catches, yardage, and touchdowns and now hosts a defense that’s allowed Demaryius Thomas, Eddie Royal, and Malcolm Floyd to post double-digit fantasy games—and that’s just in the last two weeks.

WR Danny Amendola
S3

Heck, with the Seattle secondary serving up fantasy points like cotton candy at the circus there should even be enough for Amendola, who’s been targeted more than Greg Jennings, Randy Moss, and Marques Colston.

DT Rams S3 Don’t look now but only one team has generated more turnovers than the Rams, who now get a notoriously bad road team in their place. If you’re stuck for a bye week defense, you might strike gold—or at least some sort of gold-like synthetic substance—here.
 

Detroit at Green Bay

Back to top
Detroit
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford B

Stafford resumed light throwing this week, but the Lions have already indicated that they'll roll with Shaun Hill this week.

QB Shaun Hill B

Jay Cutler couldn’t muster much of a fantasy day against the Packers and it took a 103-yard rushing day from Mike Vick to generate a fantasy-relevant stat line versus Green Bay. Hill held his own in a shootout at home against the Eagles but was merely ordinary last week in Minnesota; tough to see him doing much more in Lambeau.

RB Jahvid Best S3

Best didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday but returned for a limited workout on Friday and has said he plans to start this week despite his toe injury. It's not a favorable match-up and there's little question Best is at less than 100 percent; however, he's still electric enough that he warrants consideration as a fringe fantasy starter this week.

RB Maurice Morris
Kevin Smith
B

If Best plays, Morris and Smith won’t see more than a handful of touches between them. If Best sits or gets knocked out early... nah, still doesn’t matter; between a pretty good Green Bay defense, the probability that Detroit will need to play catch-up for much of this game, and the sheer mediocrity of both Morris and Smith, there’s no fantasy play to see here.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

Megatron borders on every-week starter status, especially in a bye week, but you couldn’t be blamed for looking elsewhere this week. Green Bay had his number last season; in the one game he faced them, the Packers held Megatron to two catches (one a touchdown) on 12 targets. And thus far this season Johnson hasn’t made the connection with Detroit’s quarterbacks, averaging a meager 50 yards per game with one TD in three outings. If not for his vast potential and ability to make something out of nothing, Johnson would be bench fodder; instead, you plug him in and cross your fingers.

TE Tony Scheffler
Brandon Pettigrew
S3

The Lions’ tight end tandem has become their de facto second receiver; Scheffler’s 20 targets and Pettigrew’s 19 are far more than Detroit’s non-Megatron receivers (six targets combined). In a bye week where the available talent pool might be a bit shallow you could take your chances with one or the other, with Scheffler being a slightly safer bet.

DT Lions B With a dozen sacks and seven forced turnovers this defense is heading in the right direction. However, you don’t want to go to them this week on the road against an offense that put up 60 points on them in last season’s two-game set.
Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S1

Maybe the Lions defense is slightly improved; they still gave up 372 and two to Jay Cutler and surrendered 358 and 2 and 348 and 3 to Rodgers in last year’s season series—and that was when the Packers still pretended to occasionally run the ball.

RB

Brandon Jackson

B

You might see Jackson as a must-start against a Detroit defense that’s served up back-to-back 120-yard, multiple-TD outings. But you probably thought something similar about Ryan Grant last year and were rewarded with 24-90 and 20-61—and Grant’s a better back than Jackson, plus the Lions didn’t have Ndamukong Suh. Green Bay might try a token run here and there to keep defenses honest, but Jackson only saw a dozen touches (for 39 yards and a TD) in the blowout of Buffalo so it’s no sure thing. Limited talent, limited opportunity... you can find a better bye-week plug-in elsewhere.

WR Greg Jennings
Donald Driver

S2

The Lions picked their poison last season and it was clearly Jennings, who was held to 6-64 and 4-53; as a result, Driver produced games of 7-107 and 7-142-1. With the two Packer wideouts essentially splitting the looks and the workload, either—both—make a solid fantasy play against a Detroit secondary that surrendered the second-most WR TDs and WR yardage last season and hasn’t improved much if any since then.

WR James Jones

S3

Assuming Jones’ game-changing fumble on Monday night didn’t drop him behind Nelson in the pecking order, he could make a solid bye-week plug-in this week. Jones scored in both meetings with the Lions last season and would be taking advantage of the nickel corner in a secondary that’s not exactly deep.

TE Jermichael Finley
S2 No tight end has more yardage this season than Finley, who has consolidated most of the team’s looks at the position and comes into this contest with back-to-back 100-yard efforts. Green Bay’s TE tandem produced 8-93 and 7-47-1 against the Lions last year; now that Finley has those numbers to himself—not to mention the full attention of Aaron Rodgers—he’s a must-start every week with significant upside here.
DT Packers S2 An aggressive Packers D at home against Shaun Hill sounds like a recipe for defensive fantasy success.
 
Houston at Oakland Back to top
Houston
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Schaub S2 Oakland hasn’t allowed much yardage, but they haven’t exactly faced A-lister quarterbacks and they’ve given up multiple TD tosses in all three games. A full workload for the Houston running game might hold Schaub’s overall numbers down, but he’s still a must start with big-game potential.
RB Arian Foster
S2 Though he hasn’t scored since Week 1, Foster has produced 138 and 126 yards from scrimmage and has proven himself to be anything but a flash in the pan. A date with an Oakland defense that served up 142 and 2 to Chris Johnson, 125 combo yards to Steven Jackson, and 115 rushing yards to Arizona’s Wells/Hightower combo might not get him back in the end zone but will at minimum extend his string of triple-digit yardage efforts.
WR Andre Johnson B Nursing a high ankle sprain, Johnson missed practice all week and will be at best a game-time decision. Considering that if he does play he'll be wearing Nnamdi Asomugha the entire afternoon, the smart move would be to leave him on your fantasy bench and let that injured ankle heal.
WR Kevin Walter S3

Walters has scored in all three games thus far this year and even hung 144 yards on the Redskins in Week 2. He’s a good fantasy option if Johnson plays and a slightly better one if AJ can’t go—only slightly because with Johnson out he may draw at least some of Nnamdi Asomugha’s attention.

WR Jacoby Jones S3

Jones has quietly amassed 20 looks and posted back-to-back 50-yard games. With Johnson most likely sitting this one out, expect Jones to step in and pick up the slack opposite Walters. After all, Asomugha is good... but he can’t cover both of them.

TE Owen Daniels B

Daniels’ playing time was just starting to creep back up to pre-knee injury levels, but now a hamstring injury has forced him to miss practice both Thursday and Friday. Clearly he's not at 100 percent, so he'll be back on a limited snap count—significantly cutting into his fantasy value.

DT Texans B No team has produced fewer turnovers than the Texans, and while a road date with the Raiders might feel like an opportunity to reverse that trend you’d be better served looking elsewhere for fantasy help.
Oakland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Bruce Gradkowski S2

Much to the delight of Al Davis Gradkowski has reintroduced the vertical game to the Oakland offense—just in time to face off with a Houston secondary that’s allowed more completions and yards than any other and has yet to intercept a pass. Gradkowski hasn’t had a multiple-TD game since Week 13 of last year, but he has 417 yards and two TDs in three halves of work so there’s one coming soon—quite possibly this week.

RB Darren McFadden
S2

Teams have strayed from their RBs against the Texans; no feature back has reached the 20-touch mark against them. McFadden, on the other hand, has handled the rock at least 25 times in every game—and with tremendous success. Even if Michael Bush doubles his touches from last week that still leaves Run DMc with 20 or more touches against a defense that’s allowed three RB TDs in the last two games.

RB Michael Bush
B

Bush saw just three carries last week and needs to remain on your bench until his role in the offense increases significantly.

WR

Louis Murphy


S3

Murphy has been the most productive member of Oakland’s WR corps, but he was limited in practice all week by a bruised collarbone. That injury could limit him during the game as well, so his fantasy value takes a slight hit because of it.

WR

Darrius Heywood-Bey


S3 Only three times all of last season did Raider wide receivers see double-digit targets in a game; with Gradkowski bombing away, that’s already happened three times through three games. DHB has seen 26 of those targets; that he's only managed to haul in 10 catches is a bit disconcerting. But even with a low completion percentage—and especially if primary target Murphy is at all limited (see above)—DHB should still see enough balls to produce helpful fantasy numbers against a defense that’s already allowed five different wideouts to top 85 yards and secondary receivers like Austin Collie (11-163-1) and Roy Williams (5-117-2) to run amok.
TE Zach Miller S2

Miller hasn’t been forgotten amongst the success of the wideouts; he scored last week and has increased his yardage total every week, from 43 to 49 to 64. A match-up with a Houston defense that has allowed four TEs to top 55 yards in just three games indicates Miller is a solid play once again.

DT Raiders B Oakland’s D has had moderate success against some mediocre-at-best offenses; tough to see them stepping up to fantasy relevancy with the Texans’ juggernaut rolling into town.
 
Indianapolis at Jacksonville Back to top
Indianapolis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Peyton Manning S1

No team has allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks than the Jaguars; and now they have to face Manning, who’s posted three consecutive hat tricks and has a string of three straight 300-yard games against the Jags? Doesn’t seem fair, does it?

RB Joseph Addai S3 Addai is involved enough in the passing game—and constitutes the bulk of the running game—so that he's a decent fantasy play even when this should be a Peyton Manning showcase. Doesn't hurt that he's scored in two of his last three against the Jags as well. There's a bit of risk involved here, as Addai was held out of Friday's practice because of a sore knee and is listed as questionable and this is a late game so you may not have all the necessary information at your disposal when it's time to plug in your lineup. However, indications are he'll play so if you have the flexibility to wait on your lineup call or get early enough word on Sunday, Addai is starter-worthy.
WR Reggie Wayne S1

Reggie has been a bit of a ballhog against the Jags, with three straight games of 100-plus yards and a touchdown. By comparison his numbers thus far in 2010 have been a bit subdued, but against a defense that’s already given up 5-153-1 to DeSean Jackson, 3-95-1 to Malcolm Floyd, and 5-117 to Brandon Lloyd expect him to bust out in a big way.

WR Austin Collie S1

How can you argue with what Collie has done thus far, with TDs in every game and two 160-plus yard outings already? The track record against Jacksonville suggests one wide receiver hoards all the productivity, but if the Colts are without both Anthony Gonzalez and Pierre Garçon again this week all those second and third reads have to go somewhere—and that probably won’t be Blair White.

TE Dallas Clark S1

Dallas has TDs in two of his last three against the Jaguars, with at least 95 yards in two of those three as well. He’s already scored twice this season and had two 80-yard games, though Collie’s success may be biting into his numbers just a bit. Still, against a defense that couldn’t handle Antonio Gates (5-57-2) you have to love Clark’s chances.

DT Colts S3 From a fantasy perspective at least the Colts have some upside here; they’ve produced six turnovers and a defensive TD already this year and now take on a Jacksonville offense that’s turned the ball over seven times and just surrendered six sacks to the Eagles last week
Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard B

Even the home cooking wasn’t enough for Garrard last week as he continued to make last year’s Pro Bowl selection look like a sad, sick joke. Garrard has had a couple good showings the last two times Indy has visited (223-3 last year, 329-1 the year before), and he did have that three-TD effort in the home opener, but 105 and zero at home against Philly last week proves the Jacksonville magic doesn’t work every week. Surely you can find a better option even in a bye-week thinned talent pool.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S1

Jones-Drew has positively owned Indy; he’s scored in seven of eight career meetings, posted at least 120 yards from scrimmage in six of eight, and averaged 130 combo yards and a touchdown against the Colts over his four NFL seasons. Indy let Arian Foster gouge them in Week 1, but both the Giants and Broncos backfield combined for triple-digit yardage from scrimmage as well. In short, if MoJo doesn’t get it done this week they you have every right to hit the panic button on him.

WR

Mike Sims-Walker
Mike Thomas

S3 The Jaguars are usually too busy running the ball to throw much... unless, of course, they fall behind and are forced to play catch-up. Obviously with Garrard struggling on the road the potential for big games against Indy have been cut in half, though both MSW (6-64-1) and Thomas (2-20-1) scored in the last meeting. Both could be considered here as well, as Indy’s secondary has already served up at least one WR TD in every game this year..
TE

Marcedes Lewis

B No team has given up fewer catches, yards, or TDs to the tight end position than the Colts. Add to that the fact that Lewis has one TD in seven career meetings with Indy and is averaging right around three catches for 28 yards per contest and you can certainly find a better fantasy play elsewhere.
DT Jaguars B

Tough to see Jacksonville throwing anything at Peyton Manning that will cause him to make the kind of mistakes that lead to defensive fantasy points.

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