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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List: Week 1
John Tuvey
Updated: September 9, 2011
 
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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)
 
 
New Orleans at Green Bay Back to top
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S2

Sure, the Packers were a top-10 defense against quarterbacks last season. But Brees played seven games against defenses that ranked in the top 10 against QBs last year and averaged 267 yards and two TDs. In other words, don’t overthink this one.

RB

Pierre Thomas

B

The Saints didn’t draft Ingram to sip Gatorade and watch Thomas do the heavy lifting. While there may still be a share of the workload with Pierre’s name on it, against a stout run D like Green Bay that share isn’t likely to add up to fantasy help.

RB

Mark Ingram

S3

Ingram was only slightly more effective than Pierre Thomas during the preseason, though he did appear to be the Saints’ primary goal line guy. Against a defense that allowed only five RB TDs all of last season, however, if you have another option your most prudent course of action would be to see just how the workload will be divided before trusting the rookie with a lineup spot.

WR Marques Colston
S3

The knock on Colston is that he’s had five knee surgeries, but he’ll never be fresher than he in heading into Week 1. With Lance Moore iffy, Colston’s looks should only increase. It’s not a great matchup against a solid Green Bay secondary, but if you’re not going to use him when he’s healthy why is he even on your roster?

WR Robert Meachem
Lance Moore
B

With a more favorable matchup, just about any member of the Saints passing game would be worthy of a fantasy start—especially with Lance Moore out. But unless you really went overboard on running backs, odds are you have a better wide receiver play on your fantasy roster.

TE Jimmy Graham S2 Green Bay surrendered five TE TDs over the final seven weeks of the regular season; meanwhile, Graham was scoring four touchdowns in the last three weeks. Look for both trends to pick up where they left off.
DT Saints B The Saints D took a big step back fantasy-wise last season, and as this one projects to be a shootout you should be able to come up with a better option this week.
Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S2

Dial back those expectations ever so slightly against the stingiest defense against QBs from last season. Rodgers played five games against top-10 defenses last year and while he topped 300 yards three times he also was held to one or zero TD tosses in four of the five games. Note that three of Rodgers’ six rushing scores came against these Ds, so one way or another he’ll get the job done.

RB

Ryan Grant
James Starks

B

The Saints are a middle-of-the-road run defense and will be without Will Smith up front. But the Packers’ stated goal is to divide the workload equally, which means neither Grant nor Starks can be started with any degree of confidence

WR Greg Jennings

S2

No team allowed fewer fantasy points to wideouts last season than the Saints, but legit WR1s like Roddy White (two TDs in two games), Larry Fitzgerald (93 yards), TO (6-47-1), Chad Ochocinco (5-96), and Mike Williams (4-40-1) found the end zone or put up decent yardage against them. Jennings is a legit WR1, so don’t overthink his starting spot due to the matchup.

WR Donald Driver
Jordy Nelson
James Jones

B

No team was tougher for wideouts to score fantasy points on last season than the Saints, and largely the same crew is back in 2011. With no clarity as to which of Green Bay’s secondary targets will step to the fore—and their underwhelming numbers likely to decline further due to the return of Jermichael Finley—it’s tough to trust any of them with a fantasy start until the situation holds more clarity.

TE Jermichael Finley

S2

He’s been limited in practice thus far this week, but all indications are he’ll be on the field for the opener. And if Finley’s on the field, he’s a force to be reckoned with.

DT Packers S3 They’re a playmaking group and were quite possibly the first defense off your draft board so you may not have much of a choice. But turnovers are usually hard to come by against Drew Brees—and points aren’t—so if you have an alternative with a better matchup…
 
Pittsburgh at Baltimore Back to top
Pittsburgh
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S3

No question this is a tough matchup for Big Ben, and if you have another option it wouldn’t hurt to consider it. But Roethlisberger won’t leave you totally hanging; he’s faced the Ravens five times over the past three seasons and thrown at least one TD in each game (but multiple scores just once). He’s averaged 235 passing yards per game against Baltimore, topping out at 259. You’ll get placeholder numbers here; don’t be afraid to swing for the fences if your backup has a soft matchup.

RB Rashard Mendenhall

S2

Yardage leaguers have to worry, as Mendenhall has just 301 yards in five career games against the Ravens, at a paltry 2.9 yards per carry. TD leaguers have to like the fact that Rashard has five scores in his last four against the Ravens, but all five of those touchdowns have come in Pittsburgh. Tough to sit your first-round pick, but expectations definitely need to be lowered for this matchup.

WR Mike Wallace
S3

The Ravens have held Wallace out of the end zone in all five career meetings; in fact, Wallace has totaled just 13 catches and never topped 83 yards against Baltimore. You know going in this is going to be a defensive tussle; set your expectations accordingly.

WR Hines Ward
B

Ward scored in the postseason meeting with Baltimore but that’s the only fantasy contribution of note he’s made against the Ravens since going 8-107 in Week 15 of 2008; in six games since, he has just 16 catches for 191 yards. No reason to reach for him this week.

WR Emmanuel Sanders
Antonio Brown
B

Is Sanders’ foot completely healthy? Is Brown going to carve into Sanders’ playing time? Despite Brown’s 3-75 in last year’s playoff win over Baltimore, there are just too many questions to be digging down the depth chart for fantasy help.

TE Heath Miller B

Heath’s TD in the playoff win over Baltimore snapped an eight-game scoring drought against the Ravens, but he’s still never scored in Baltimore; in fact, since his 5-37 in 2005 his numbers at M&T have steadily declined to 1-2 and 1-9 his last two visits.

DT Steelers S3 While this game pits two top defenses against each other, unless you get points for low yardage and low scoring you won’t find much help here: the Steelers have one DST TD in their last eight regular season tilts against the Ravens.
Baltimore
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco B

A borderline fantasy starter anyway, Flacco’s history against Pittsburgh—one or fewer TD tosses in three straight matchups and seven of eight career meetings—more than tilts the scales in favor of a week off from fantasy duty.

RB Ray Rice S3

Rice produced 143 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown against the Steelers last season; sadly, however, that’s a three-game total. He’s the focal point of the offense now, and he’s had success against Pittsburgh in the past (30-141 and 19-88 in 2009); plus, you’re not going to sit your first-round draft pick. You do, however, need to brace yourself for the possibility of a very rough Week 1.

WR Anquan Boldin

S2

Boldin is a matchup problem for Pittsburgh’s corners, as his 12-186-1 in the two regular season meetings attests. His one catch for negative two yards in the playoff meeting isn’t as confidence-inspiring, but he should be a serviceable fantasy WR2 this week.

WR

Lee Evans

S3 Evans is a fixture on Dirty Harry’s fantasy team; every week he has to ask himself, “So, do you feel lucky?” Evans is going to get behind some defenses this season, and an aggressive one like Pittsburgh’s would seem to be a prime candidate. But be advised that even more so than usual with Evans, you’re swinging for the fences.
TE

Ed Dickson

B Only four teams gave up fewer fantasy points to the tight end position last season than Pittsburgh. Best wait a week before unleashing Dickson in your fantasy lineup.
DT Ravens S3 Points are usually at a premium in Pittsburgh/Baltimore clashes, which is good if your defensive scoring system takes into account yards gained and points allowed. However, you have to go back to Week 12 of 2006 to find the last time the Ravens D housed a turnover against the Steelers. Plan accordingly.
 

Detroit at Tampa Bay

Back to top
Detroit
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford S3

Sure, Stafford had a great preseason. But before we start prepping the bust in Canton, let’s remember that he has a total of four multi-touchdown games and has topped 300 yards just once. Tampa Bay’s secondary is pretty good (assuming Aqib Talib can avoid trouble between now and kickoff) and gave up the seventh-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season, so this won’t be a cakewalk. If you drafted Stafford as a mix-and-match QB candidate, take a good look at what your other option is dealing with this week.

RB Jahvid Best S3

It’s always good to check tine injury report with Best, because odds are he’s on there somewhere. But for Week 1 at least he should be good to go; he’s certainly healthier now than when he laid a six-carry, 12-yard egg in Tampa in Week 15.

RB Jerome Harrison
Keiland Williams
B

A first date is too soon to be reaching for the handcuffs, but keep an eye on who’s getting the touches in relief of Best; at some point this season, this will be critical information.

WR Calvin Johnson S1

Megatron went 10 for 152 against the Bucs in Week 15 of last year, so this secondary doesn’t scare him. Unless, of course, Aqib Talib is packing.

WR Nate Burleson S3

Burleson scored in last season’s meeting, but he’s clearly the Goose to Calvin’s Maverick. He’s not unusable, but you should have a better option on your roster.

TE Brandon Pettigrew S3

The Bucs allowed only one TE TD in Tampa last season and held Pettigrew to 2-25 in Week 15—the Lions’ only road game after Week 1 in which he was targeted fewer than eight times. If Pettigrew is part of your matchup play mix at tight end, this would be a good week to go with the other guy.

DT Lions B Josh Freeman was picked off just once in his last eight games, and the Bucs turned the ball over just four times in their final six home tilts. That doesn’t shape up to provide Detroit’s defense with many opportunities for fantasy production.
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh Freeman S2

Freeman carries over a 13-game streak with at least one TD toss, including 251 and one against the Lions in Week 15. Detroit’s secondary was better at the end of the season, but not to the point Freeman belongs on your bench this week.

RB LeGarrette Blount

S1

Blount was the last of six backs to top the century mark against Detroit when he took them for 110 and 1 (on just 15 carries) in Week 15. That’s been par for the course for the Lions on the road, where they surrendered 124 or more rushing yards five times (including four 100-yard rushers) and allowed multiple RB TDs four times. And Blount loves the home cooking—three straight 100-yard games in Tampa, TDs in three of his last four at home. Unless the schedule is wrong, this one’s in Tampa; you do the math.

WR Mike Williams
S2

Williams’ late-season surge included 6-96-1 against the Lions, one of the eight TDs he scored in Tampa’s last 10 games (and four in their last three, and three straight at home). He’s still Josh Freeman’s go-to guy, and a slightly improved Detroit defense is no reason to shy away from using him at home in Week 1.

WR Arrelious Benn
Dezmond Briscoe
Sammie Stroughter
B

There’s too much uncertainty as to who Mike Williams’ wingman will be—and as long as Kellen Winslow is healthy and LeGarrette Blount is pounding the rock, the Bucs may not have enough touches to float these boats anyway.

TE Kellen Winslow S3

After years of being a TE doormat, the Lions allowed the fewest tight end touchdowns in the league last season; in fact, they didn’t allow a double-digit fantasy game to a tight end all season long. A healthy Winslow should get his looks, but he’ll only be a significant fantasy contributor in PPR leagues.

DT Buccaneers S3 The Bucs’ DST didn’t score a touchdown over the final half of last season, and with Detroit’s offense firing on all cylinders in the preseason you shouldn’t expect much help in the yardage and scoring departments either.
 

Philadelphia at St. Louis

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Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Michael Vick S1

The Rams haven’t given up a QB rushing score in 25 straight games; wanna bet that streak comes to an end? Vick put up 22 fantasy points or better in every game in which he wasn’t knocked out due to injury, including a rushing score in each of his last five and eight of his last nine and multiple passing scores in four of his last six. Yes, he’s in your lineup this week.

RB LeSean McCoy
S2

Only five teams allowed more RB receptions than the Rams, so even if he doesn’t do much on the ground he’ll help your PPR team; he averaged 4.4 catches per game after Michael Vick returned from his injury.

WR DeSean Jackson
S2 Vick-to-Jackson is like a power hitter with a mediocre batting average: if you can hang through the whiffs, the home run payout is incredible. With DeSean playing for a contract, a matchup with one of the 10 most fantasy-friendly secondaries has his agent seeing dollar signs.
WR Jeremy Maclin
S3 After the offseason health scare, all indications are Maclin will be back to his playing weight and at full speed for Week 1. That’s good news for Michael Vick and the Philly passing game, bad news for secondaries forced to contain them.
TE Brent Celek
B Vick gave more attention to Celek during the preseason—certainly more than the 2.3 targets per game he averaged over the final 10 games of last year. But against a Rams’ defense that gave up the second-fewest fantasy points to tight ends last season, expect the Eagles to use their other weapons to the point that Celek belongs on your fantasy bench.
DT Eagles S2 Maclin and Jackson returning punts. Asomugha and Rodgers-Cromartie ballhawking. Yeah, this could get interesting.
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Sam Bradford S3

Bradford saw both of Philly's new elite corners last year, throwing for 167 and 2 against Nnamdi Asomugha’s Raiders and 440 yards and a score (with four picks) in two games against Domonique Rodgers-Cromartie’s Cardinals. Josh McDaniels saw both last year as well, with similar mixed results. It’s certainly not a creampuff matchup for Bradford, but the potential of a Bradford/McDaniels combo outweighs the risks of facing an Asomugha/DRC combo.

RB Steven Jackson S2

There isn’t much potential for an explosion in this matchup, but with Jackson you’re safe to expect 20 carries, 75-plus yards, four catches, and a reasonable shot at a touchdown. As your RB2, those are upsides you can live with.

WR

Danny Amendola

S3

With Philly sporting some serious upgrades at corner, Amendola will be an even more popular target for Bradford—though he may find himself locked up with nickel corner Asante Samuel. He’ll still get his PPR hay—Amendola was targeted at least five times in 14 of 16 games—but there’s little upside to his yardage and TD prospects.

WR

Mike Sims-Walker
Brandon Gibson

B

One guy gets blanketed by Asomugha; the other hopes to take advantage of DRC’s aggressive tendencies… or maybe gets Pro Bowler Asante Samuel. It might be a mix-and-match, and neither Ram is established enough at this point to risk plugging in to your fantasy lineup only to be whitewashed by Nnamdi.

TE

Lance Kendricks

S2

No team gave up more fantasy points to tight ends last season than the Eagles. Unless they opt to cover the rookie with one of their three elite corners, Kendricks projects to be the member of Sam Bradford’s receiving corps with the best shot at getting open. Three preseason touchdowns put Code Red on the radar; go ahead and order him into your fantasy lineup this week.

DT Rams S3 The Eagles gave up defensive scores in each of their final two games last season; if only the Rams weren’t working on a streak of 26 consecutive games without a return score of their own, we’d be more giddy.
 

Buffalo at Kansas City

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Buffalo
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick B

Fitz threw for 223 and 1 in KC last season, and the only things that have changed from that game—losing Lee Evans (5-56 in that game), the Chiefs secondary improving (third-fewest fantasy points allowed to QBs over the final five games of last year)—don’t play in his favor. Fitz will have his moments as a solid plug-in fantasy quarterback; this doesn’t look to be one of them.

RB Fred Jackson S3

The Chiefs held Jackson to 20-64 and 3-11 receiving in Week 8 of last season, but that game came just before his second-half hot streak with six TDs and three 100-yard games. C.J. Spiller might siphon off a few more touches, but Jackson will handle the ball 20-plus times and should churn out at least enough yardage to make a serviceable flex or RB2 in larger leagues.

RB C.J. Spiller B

Let’s let Spiller have a game in which he touches the ball more than 11 times from scrimmage before we start considering him for a fantasy start.

WR Steve Johnson S3

Johnson caught the Chiefs for 5-37-1 at the tail end of his breakout five-game scoring streak. He’s really the only legit target left for Fitzpatrick, so he’ll keep getting looks—looks that generally lead to fantasy productivity.

WR Donald Jones B

The Bills have to start another wideout; well, actually, they don’t have to but they don’t use tight ends and don’t have enough offensive line depth to line up extra tackles. Jones will be on the field, but expect most of Fitzpatrick’s attention to be directed towards Steve Johnson.

DT Bills S3 There’s talent in the Buffao secondary, and if Shawne Merriman can spark a pass rush against a dinged-up Matt Cassel or maybe his backup, Tyler Palko, the Bills’ D could be a sneaky fantasy play this week.
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel B

Cassel practiced fully all week, but you wouldn't expect anything less from a guy who was back on the field 11 days after an appendectomy. That said, the risk of reinjuring a cracked rib combined with the likelihood that the Chiefs will run all day makes Cassel a fantasy bench candidate.

RB Jamaal Charles
S1 Buffalo allowed nine 100-yard rushers last season, including Charles’ 22-177 (and 238 combo yards) against them in Week 8. Also, the Bills gave up a 100-yard rusher or a running back touchdown in every road game last year. Even if Thomas Jones gets more touches than he deserves, Charles is staring down the barrel of a monster outing.
RB Thomas Jones
S3

Last year Jones rushed for 77 yards on 19 carries against the Bills, and that was even with Jamaal Charles putting up his impressive totals. With KC banged up at the quarterback position, expect a similar one-two punch from the Chiefs with enough spillover for Jones to be a low-end fantasy contributor.

WR

Dwayne Bowe

S3

Bowe snuck a 3-16-1 against Buffalo into the middle of his torrid streak last season, and while it would be tough to bench him in the opener you need to temper your expectations: the Bills gave up the sixth-fewest fantasy points to wideouts last season, the KC game plan projects to be extremely run-heavy, and there’s a good chance Tyler Palko will be chucking the football for the Chiefs.

WR

Steve Breaston

B

A secondary target on a run-first team in a game where the starting quarterback may be limited or out entirely and the opposing defense throws down a welcome mat for running backs… nothing in that sentence suggests Breaston makes a good fantasy play this week.

TE

Jake O'Connell
Leonard Pope

B

In case you were wondering who KC’s tight ends were with Tony Moeaki out for the season, we thought we’d tell you.

DT Chiefs S3 Fitz isn’t particularly mistake-prone, but Arrowhead has been known to do strange things to visiting quarterbacks. You could do worse for a fantasy defense.
 

Tennessee at Jacksonville

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Tennessee
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck S3

You can count on one hand the number of teams who gave up more fantasy points to quarterbacks last season; okay, Antonio Alfonseca can but the rest of us would need to borrow a digit. Suffice it to say that this is a favorable matchup for Hasselbeck, who after facing the Cardinals and Niners on a regular basis is used to seeing shaky secondaries. Don’t go out of your way to start Hass, who quietly threw seven TD passes in two playoff games, but if Peyton Manning’s injury has you in a bind he’s quality filler.

RB Chris Johnson S1

CJ should throw a little of his new wealth at the Jags; after all, the 392 rushing yards and three TDs he posted on them in their last three meetings certainly helped nail down his recent big contract. He doesn’t even necessarily need to be overworked in Week 1; just get him to 20 touches, which he handled 12 times last season, and he’ll get you a touchdown (eight times) or triple-digit combo yardage (seven times).

WR Kenny Britt
S3 Just keep Britt away from… well, name your vice: booze, guns, drugs… just get him on the field and you’ll be just fine. In three career games against the Jags Britt has a touchdown and a 100-yard effort. He comes into this tilt with a two-game scoring streak, and Matt Hasselbeck is experienced enough to know where to find his playmakers.
WR Nate Washington
B It’s not a bad matchup for Washington, as the Jags surrendered the seventh-most fantasy points to wideouts last year. But after CJ gets his and Britt gets his and Hasselbeck flexes his fondness for tight ends, there just doesn’t project to be enough for Washington to help a fantasy brother out.
TE Jared Cook
S2 Only two teams gave up more fantasy points to tight ends last season than the Jaguars, though with 47 yards in two games Cook did little to contribute to those numbers. However, with 12-154-1 in the Titans’ final two games of 2010 he gave a taste of what’s to come, and with TE-friendly Matt Hasselbeck running the offense he’ll get every opportunity to exploit the Jags in Week 1.
DT Titans S3 Tennssee’s defense is changing, but there are still plenty of playmakers on board—certainly enough to take advantage of Luke McCown under center for the Jaguars.
Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Luke McCown B

Yes, McCown was the best quarterback in Jacksonville’s camp this preseason; that’s a bit like having the best abs at sumo school. On paper it’s not a bat matchup; the Titans allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks a year ago. But the Jags mustered just 315 passing yards and no TDs in the two-game set with Tennessee last season; do you really expect McCown to offer a significant upgrade over that pitiful performance?

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S2

There are definitely caution flags waving: MoJo’s knee, the limited preseason, two Week 1 eggs against the Titans (7-32 in 2007 and 5-13 in 2008). But with Luke McCown at quarterback you have to think the Jags’ intention is to load Jones-Drew up, like the last meeting between these clubs in which he ripped off 186 yards on 36 carries.

RB

Deji Karim

B We didn’t get to see enough of Maurice Jones-Drew in the preseason to know if his handcuff is required or merely recommended; we certainly don’t condone giving Karim a fantasy start while Jones-Drew is on the active roster.
WR

Mike Thomas

S3 Thomas has averaged 5-60 in three previous meetings with the Titans, with those numbers coming as a wingman. Now he’s the main guy, though with Luke McCown at the helm expectations should be tempered. He’ll be a PPR helper and a viable fantasy wideout in three-receiver and flex leagues.
WR

Jason Hill
Cecil Shorts

B Tough to trust a team’s WR1 when they’re switching QB1s five days before the start of the season; even tougher to bank on a team’s secondary targets in such a situation.
TE

Marcedes Lewis

S3 Consider Lewis a bulkier version of Mike Thomas: he’ll be targeted, but with Luke McCown under center expectations must be kept in check.
DT Jaguars B

The Jags have gone 40 games without a defensive touchdown and have one kick return TD in the past three seasons. You can find better options elsewhere.

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