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Start/Bench List - Week 15
John Tuvey
Updated: December 17, 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)
San Francisco at San Diego Back to top
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith S3

Smith’s three multiple-TD games this year have come against defenses that rank in the top 10 in fantasy points allowed to the quarterback position. The Chargers are the polar opposite in that they have allowed the fewest fantasy points to QBs, so lower your expectations dramatically.

RB Brian Westbrook S3

Mild optimism for Westbrook here as in the past five games the Chargers have allowed four backs to amass 40-plus receiving yards. With Westy coming off a 6-87-1 receiving performance last week and the Niners likely to struggle on the ground, he brings value to the fantasy table in PPR and performance leagues.

RB Anthony Dixon B

The only road TDs produced by 49er running backs came in Arizona, home of the worst run defense in the league. Dixon may wind up with more carries, but there’s little reason to anticipate he’ll do anything fantasy-worthy with them.

WR Michael Crabtree
Josh Morgan
B No team allows fewer fantasy points to the wide receiver position than the Chargers, and the Niners are ill equipped to buck that trend. Crabtree had one catch in Alex Smith’s return last week, while Josh Morgan had only three but turned one into a long touchdown. Between them they have seven TDs, one more than the Bolts have given up to wideouts this year. Pretty slim pickings here.
TE Vernon Davis S2

No one enjoyed the changing of the Smiths more than Davis, who quickly got back on the same page with Alex to the tune of 70 yards and a touchdown. The Chargers don’t defend the tight end as well as they do other positions, and with Smith leaning so heavily on Davis he’s the most likely Niner to put in a good day’s fantasy work Thursday night.

DT 49ers B The Chargers haven’t surrendered a return TD since Week 5, so it appears their special teams issues are behind them. And San Francisco’s D/ST isn’t doing enough that they warrant starting against anything but a bad offense—which San Diego most assuredly is not.
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S1

The 49ers have allowed multiple passing touchdowns in three of the last four and at least 285 yards in two straight, so while Rivers’ record pace may have slowed somewhat this is still a very favorable matchup. In six games against softer pass defenses (the Niners rank 11th in fantasy points allowed to QBs), Rivers has averaged 338 yards and better than two TD tosses per contest. Dan Marino isn’t out of the woods just yet.

RB Mike Tolbert S3 This isn’t a great matchup—the Niners have allowed only six RB TDs all season—and Mathews split the carries with Tolbert last week. But there are still too many ways for Mathews to wind up on the sidelines while Tolbert takes the touches to trust the rookie with a fantasy start over Tolbert.
RB Ryan Mathews B As noted above, this is developing into a job share situation. But Mathews can’t pass protect, which takes him off the field in third down situations, and Tolbert should still see the bulk of the work at the goal line. Too many ways this can go south for Mathews to bank on him for fantasy production this week.
WR Vincent Jackson
Malcom Floyd
S2 San Diego’s targets were all over the place last week, but that’s understandable because they’re cobbling together a receiving corps on a week-by-week basis. This week both Floyd and Jackson should be available, and with no Antonio Gates in the mix the two big receivers should be Philip Rivers’ favorite targets against a secondary that’s allowed multiple WRs to score each of the past two weeks.
TE Randy McMichael B

With Gates not expected to play the temptation is to turn directly to McMichael; after all, it worked in Week 9 when McMike delivered a pair of TDs in place of Gates. But even with Gates extremely limited McMichael has seen a total of five targets since San Diego’s Week 10 bye. Still not scared off? San Francisco hasn’t allowed a tight end touchdown since Week 5 or a TE to top 50 yards all season long.

DT Chargers S3

After pick-sixing Peyton Manning twice the San Diego defense has been relatively quiet, but at least their special teams play has been better. A home date with Alex Smith provides at least a modicum of fantasy opportunity.

Buffalo at Miami Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick B

The slump continues: one multiple touchdown game in his past seven, two straight under 160 yards. A date with a Miami defense that’s held five straight quarterbacks to one or fewer scores and only one passer to top 220 yards in that span isn’t the cure-all for Fitz’s woes, either.

RB Fred Jackson B

Jackson was sharing carries with Marshawn Lynch and C.J. Spiller when he mustered all of 19 yards on four carries in his earlier meeting with the Dolphins. Now he’s got most of the touches to himself, but it’s still unlikely to matter against a Miami defense that’s allowed a total of three RB TDs since their Week 5 bye.

WR Steve Johnson B

With Lee Evans out for the year Johnson is the Bills receiver most likely on a roster. However, it’s been David Nelson who scored the last two Buffalo WR TDs; in fact, Johnson has scored in just one of the last six games—mirroring his quarterback’s slump. Tough to see him snapping out of it here against a Miami secondary that’s allowed only one WR TD in the past month.

DT Bills S3 The Bills have defensive scores in two of their last four games, and eight of their nine interceptions have come in the last five. Chad Henne has thrown four picks since returning to the lineup following his benching, so you at least have a chip and a chair in this matchup.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Chad Henne B

Buffalo has allowed multiple passing touchdowns in five of their last six road games, but with just one multi-TD effort of his own over his last seven outings Henne’s not exactly poised to take advantage. Coming off a 5-18-55-1 showing against the Jets last week, best keep this Chad hanging out on your bench.


Ronnie Brown
Ricky Williams


It’s a very favorable matchup against a Buffalo defense that’s surrendered the fourth-most fantasy points to running backs. The baseline is something like what you saw back in Week 1, when Brown rushed for 65 yards and a touchdown and Williams added 52 yards and a score; the upside akin to Brown’s 115 and two and Williams’ 85 and one last year. Buffalo has allowed a 100-yard rusher in four straight games; the only question is, which Miami back will get theirs first.


Brandon Marshall


Marshall isn’t a bad play after getting his first touchdown in nearly three months last week, but he’s no longer the double-digit targeted PPR machine he once was; he hasn’t topped nine targets or five catches since Week 6. Buffalo held him to 8-53 back in Week 1, and for the year they’ve actually been the seventh-toughest defense against wideouts. Maybe it’s because everybody is running on them.


Anthony Fasano


Buffalo hasn’t allowed a tight end TD since Week 5, and Fasano’s role in the Miami offense is too hit-or-miss to be trusted with a fantasy start here.

DT Dolphins S3 The Dolphins haven’t scored a return TD since Week 2, but if you’re judged on points allowed they’ve held five straight to 17 or less and make a sneaky play against a Buffalo offense that’s been held under 20 points in six of their last seven games.

Detroit at Tampa Bay

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Stanton B

The Bucs have allowed multiple touchdown passes in three straights, and if Shaun Hill gets the starting nod here we’d give him some fantasy consideration. But Hill, who is listed as questionable, was limited in practice all week while Stanton took all the first team reps on Friday. All indications are that Stanton will make his third straight start; after accumulating a total of 295 yards and two TDs in his first two it would be foolhardy to trust him with a fantasy start at this juncture.

RB Jahvid Best
Maurice Morris

The banged-up Bucs run D has already allowed seven 100-yard rushers this season, but with Best and Morris sharing touches it’s unlikely neither gets the requisite workload to reach triple digits. Howevah, if you combine that with the seven RB TDs the Bucs have allowed over the last seven games, then you might have enough to warrant a fantasy start here.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

Tampa Bay lost top cover corner Aqib Talib to injured reserve a couple weeks back, leaving them a bit exposed in the secondary. Essentially, if you throw enough at a receiver against the Bucs you’ll have success: only seven receivers have been targeted double-digit times against Tampa, but on average they’ve delivered seven catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Those are about as good of numbers as you can hope for from Megatron with Stanton at the helm.

WR Nate Burleson B

Burly has received less than half the looks from Stanton that Johnson has, and there’s unlikely to be enough for two fantasy wideouts to get fed in this offense so don’t dig this deep in the well.

TE Brandon Pettigrew S3

The ebbing tide of the Stanton-led passing game has taken a bite out of Pettigrew’s numbers, but he’s still on the radar. Against a Buccaneers defense that’s allowed three TE TDs in the last six games, that’s enough to get him consideration in TE-mandatory leagues.

DT Lions S3 Sure, holding the Packers to a field goal is impressive. But that was at home and mostly against a backup quarterback.
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh Freeman S3

Over the Lions’ past five road games no quarterback hast topped 201 yards. Of course, it’s not that Detroit has a shutdown secondary; it’s that those teams have rushed for an average of 130 yards and a touchdown so they haven’t needed to throw. Despite the low yardage, however, three of the five threw for multiple touchdowns. We’re still waiting for Freeman to deliver that “here I am” outing, but with the ground game likely to carpe this diem his numbers will tend towards good rather than great.

RB LeGarrette Blount


Detroit has allowed five 100-yard rushers this season and four RB TDs in the last three games alone, and Blount treats bad run defenses like a Boise State braggart: in three starts against bottom-10 run Ds Blount has averaged 93 yards and one TD a game at nearly five yards per carry. Only his struggles at the stripe, and the potential for Cadillac or Earnest Graham to swipe a shorty, prevent Blount from S1 status.

RB Carnell Williams


In addition to the possibility of that goal line vulture Caddy also sports a solid set of receiving skills—and a role in which to use them. Seeing as only two teams have allowed more RB receiving TDs than the Lions, Caddy has multiple ways to help your fantasy squad this week.

WR Mike Williams

Throw out last week’s Matt Flynn debacle and over the past three games the Lions have allowed two 100-yard receivers, three wideouts with multiple scores, and a total of seven WR TDs in that span. Williams has been seeing some extra attention of late, but it’s unlikely Detroit has enough attention to prevent Williams from being a fantasy factor.

WR Arrelious Benn

It’s certainly a favorable matchup, and Benn produced 122 yards last week. But he’s still a secondary option behind Williams and usually finishes behind Kellen Winslow and even Sammie Stroughter in targets so there’s plenty of risk involved.

TE Kellen Winslow S3

After going a year without scoring, K2 now has TDs in two of his last three. Detroit has allowed a touchdown or at least 48 yards to each of the last seven opponents who targeted their tight end (excludes Buffalo), and with Winslow heavily involved in the flight pattern he’ll at minimum be a helper in TE-mandatory leagues.

DT Buccaneers B The Bucs defense is missing several key members, to the point that they aren’t bringing anything special to the table—even against a Drew Stanton offense.

Arizona at Carolina

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB John Skelton B

Even if this were a good matchup we’ve seen nothing from Skelton to suggest he belongs anywhere near a fantasy lineup. But it's not a good matchup, and Derek Anderson is doubtful after not practicing all week due to lingering concussion issues. So stay away.

RB Tim Hightower
S2 How does Hightower celebrate his gashing of the 31st-ranked Denver run defense last week? By repeating the performance against the 30th-ranked Carolina run defense. Fresh off 18-148-2, Hightower faces a Panther D that’s allowed three consecutive hat tricks: 112 and 3 to Michael Turner, 83 and 3 to Marshawn Lynch, and 131 and 3 to Peyton Hillis. Is Hightower this year’s Jerome Harrison?
RB Chris "Beanie" Wells
B Maybe you spent a high draft pick on Wells back in September, expecting Arizona’s transition to a running club with Beanie at the helm to be complete by now. Hey, you were half right. Over the past six weeks Wells has 90 yards on 23 carries and more DNPs (one) than TDs (zero). The way Hightower is running (and Wells is fumbling), Beanie will be lucky to see the field. He exited last week's game with a tummy ache, then was limited in practice this week with the same illness, so it's tough to see an uptick in touches and especially production coming this week.
WR Larry Fitzgerald

Courtesy start on pretty much reputation alone—that and his 11 targets from last week, indicating Skelton knows where to find him. Only three teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to wideouts than the Panthers, so even if he still had Kurt Warner at quarterback this would be a tough row to hoe. He’s got John Skelton, so he’s using one of those little plastic hoes from the dollar section. Roddy White could only muster 8-79, and he has a legitimate quarterback so if you have other options this would be the week to use them.

WR Steve Breaston
Early Doucet

If Fitz is barely useable, seems silly to dig any deeper.

DT Cardinals S1 The league leader in return touchdowns against a Jimmy Clausen offense is about as favorable a matchup as you can get.
Pos Player SBC Comments

Jimmy Clausen

B As if it weren’t bad enough that it’s Jimmy Clausen, who has one NFL touchdown in 224 attempts, the Cards have allowed multiple touchdowns in just one of the last five and two of the last eight games; they’ve also held opponents under 200 passing yards in four straight contests.

Jonathan Stewart
Mike Goodson

S2 The one thing the Panthers have going for them is a running game, and against the worst run defense in the league that’ll sure come in handy. Stewart has 323 yards and one TD over the past three games, while Goodson has scored in three straight. Any handoff to one of these backs is one less passing attempt for Clausen, so expect both to get loaded up this week.
WR Steve Smith B

Smith hasn’t been fantasy relevant since Week 2, and no matter how small or angry or talented he is... Jimmy Clausen is still his quarterback.

DT Panthers S3 A reasonably competent defense playing against a guy who’s clearly not yet ready to be an NFL quarterback... not a bad matchup either.

New Orleans at Baltimore

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New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S1

Brees has been nothing but fantasy helpers since Week 1, with multiple touchdowns in eight of his last nine and 300-plus yards in three of four and five of seven. After watching Matt Schaub drop 393 and three on the Ravens in prime time, Brees (and his fantasy owners) have to be licking their chops.


Chris Ivory


The hamstring injury that knocked Ivory out of last week’s tilt limited him in practice on Wednesday, then knocked him out completely on Thursday and Friday. While limited as questionable, he doesn’t project to be much help even if he plays due to the presence of both Thomas and Bush in the Saints' backfield rotation.


Pierre Thomas
Reggie Bush


They’ll split touches, maybe even with a third party. And since Peyton Hillis shocked the Ravens with 144 and one in their house no visiting back has topped 73 yards in Baltimore and they’ve allowed one RB rushing TD in five home games. A portion of very little is not fantasy worthy.

WR Marques Colston S1

Colston is hot: three TDs in his last two, five in his last four, seven in his last seven along with three 100-yard efforts. And as Andre Johnson proved on Monday night, the Ravens’ secondary has some holes. Moreover, it’s the WR1s—AJ, Roddy White, Brandon Lloyd—getting it done against Baltimore, and by now Colston has reclaimed his status as New Orleans’ WR1.

WR Lance Moore

If you’re going to trust a secondary target against the Ravens—a little risky, since only twice all year have two different wideouts scored against them in the same game—Moore is the most reliable option ahead of the enigmatic Robert Meachem.

TE Jeremy Shockey S3 Shockey is back to being the Saints’ primary tight end, and while Jimmy Graham and Dave Thomas are still taking bites out of his productivity they’re getting smaller: the duo split two targets last week. Owen Daniels put up 91 yards on the Ravens Monday night, and Kellen Winslow scored against them a couple weeks back so there’s cause for optimism for Shockey.
DT Saints B We’ve seen glimpses of the Saints’ fantasy-friendly takeaway machine from a year ago, but not enough to trust them with a road start against a playoff-caliber team.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco S3

Only one of 13 quarterbacks has thrown for multiple touchdowns against the Saints. In fact, they’ve only allowed eight QB passing touchdowns all year; the next closest has given up a dozen. Flacco has multiple TD tosses in two of three and six of eight, but so far this season the Saints’ secondary has trumped all trends. At least he’ll get his yardage; Flacco has topped 250 in six of his last eight, and over the past month the Saints are surrendering an average of 289 passing yards per game.

RB Ray Rice S2

Rice is a combo-yardage machine, reaching triple-digit yardage from scrimmage in five of his last six and seven of his last nine. However, he has just one touchdown in his past eight games. Trust him in a performance league, but you can probably do better in a TD-heavy scoring system.

RB Willis McGahee B

Sure, McGahee scored last week, but it was his first TD in five weeks. And at an average of less than eight touches per game over the past month and a half, he’s not getting enough work to help you without reaching the end zone.

WR Anquan Boldin
Derrick Mason

There seems to be some confusion as to just who is Baltimore’s go-to receiver. You’d think it would be Boldin, but Mason has outscored him 5-2 over the past six games and matched him in catches and targets. If a 60-yard game will help you then both are in play this week as the Saints have surrendered seven of them over the past month. Just don’t expect a touchdown.


Ed Dickson

B The Saints haven’t allowed a tight end touchdown since Week 3, and Todd Heap has been ruled out. Dickson did nothing with a cushy matchup last week, so he doesn't belong anywhere near your fantasy lineup here.
DT Ravens S3 They’re not the defense they used to be—giving up 28 to the Ravens on Monday night should tell you as much—but they’ve held three straight visitors to one TD, and they can still take a turnover the other way with the best of them.

Jacksonville at Indianapolis

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard S3

Garrard has five passing TDs and one rushing score in his last two against the Colts, but both of those games were in Jacksonville. Garrard’s last two trips to Indy produced zero touchdowns and just 286 total passing yards. He’s ironed out the home/road splits this season and enters this game with multiple TDs in four of six and three rushing TDs in that span as well, but Indy has held an impressive collection of visiting QBs—Eli, Cassel, Schaub, Palmer, Rivers and Kitna—to a combined six touchdowns, with only one of them topping 201 yards. With the division on the line, which Garrard will show up? The good news is, while he was limited in practice both Thursday and Friday and is listed as questionable, Garrard is expected to show up in the starting lineup Sunday.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S1

MoJo has scored in six of his last seven against Indy, including three straight and multiple TDs in each of the last two. He’s also scored in three straight in Indianapolis, topped 100 rushing yards in two straight and three of five, bested 90 rushing yards in five straight, and posted at least 120 combo yards in five consecutive meetings with the Colts as well. And nothing in Indy’s current defensive run—they’ve allowed a 100-yard rusher in three straight and 87 rushing yards or better to 11 of the 13 feature backs they’ve faced—suggests they’re any closer to shutting him down. Jones-Drew will be listed as questionable after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday and being limited on Friday, but all indications are that he'll play on Sunday.


Rashard Jennings

S3 MoJo’s understudy has scored in three straight despite seeing just 22 carries in those three contests. The Jags will use him to keep Jones-Drew fresh, and against the sixth-most fantasy-friendly defense against running backs that should provide enough opportunity to help your fantasy squad.

Mike Sims-Walker
Mike Thomas

B It’s been a month since a Jacksonville wideout had a legitimate fantasy helper, and it’s been almost that long since the Colts surrendered a wide receiver touchdown. Both MSW and Thomas scored in Indy last year, but the Jags’ current recipe is very run-heavy and doesn’t leave much room for challenging down the field. The possibility exists that the Jaguars will be playing catchup and forced to throw, but most scenarios of how this one plays out result in limited fantasy play for the wideouts.

Marcedes Lewis

S2 Lewis continues to find the end zone, just like he did in the earlier matchup between these clubs. Seeing as the Colts have allowed six TE TDs in the last five weeks—including three last week to the Titans—Marcedes’ hot streak seems likely to continue.
DT Jaguars B

Manning seems to be out of his pick-six phase, and the Jaguars aren’t a defense who’s generating a lot of its own fantasy opportunities anyway.

Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Peyton Manning S1

Peyton put up 352 and two in the earlier loss in Jacksonville, and he rolls into this one smoking hot with 10 touchdowns and 1,365 yards over the past four games; that’s an average of 341 and 2.5, if you’re wondering. With the division on the line and no running game to speak of, Manning should feast on the third-most fantasy friendly defense against quarterbacks.

RB Jarvarris James S3 Joseph Addai scored twice in the earlier meeting, but he’s listed as questionable and was limited all week; more importantly, he's not expected back for this game. James could find the end zone against a defense that’s allowed 13 RB rushing scores this season, and while he was largely ineffective averaging 2.8 yards per carry last week the fact that he saw more touches than Donald Brown at least gives you a shot at yardage if he doesn’t get a goal line carry—though six short TDs in the last six games is a confidence boost in and of itself.
WR Reggie Wayne S1

Only four teams give up more fantasy points to wideouts than Jacksonville, and Wayne has leased the Jags with an option to buy over the past few seasons with four straight 100-yard games (and six in his last seven against them) as well as TDs in three of four and four of six. He dropped 196 yards on them earlier in the year; no reason he can’t do it again.

WR Pierre Garçon S3

Only once in the past eight games have the Jaguars allowed a second wideout to score; usually, the team’s top receiver has had his way to the point that there aren’t any leftovers to speak of. However, Garçon has three TDs in the last two games and Peyton loves to spread the ball around; tough to count him out given a matchup against such a shaky secondary.

WR Austin Collie S2

Collie practiced in full all week and is expected to return to the lineup after missing a couple games with a concussion. It would be a great matchup, and he’s a trusted target, so barring a tweet from Bill Poulian or a surprising deactivation Sunday morning you should be able to plug Collie back into your lineup and get some nice results.

TE Jacob Tamme S2

Only five teams give up more points to the tight end position than the Jaguars; only five teams get more fantasy production out of their tight ends than Indy. Dallas Clark had 7-68-1 in the previous meeting; we’ll see just how good Tamme’s Clark impersonation is by comparison, but don’t be surprised if he’s not too far off.

DT Colts B Defense hasn’t exactly been the buzzword for Indy this year, so you shouldn’t be turning to their DST for fantasy help.

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