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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List: Week 1
John Tuvey
Updated: September 9, 2011
 
NOS at GBP BUF at KCC ATL at CHI CAR at ARI Start/Bench List by Position
PIT at BAL TEN at JAC NYG at WAS DAL at NYJ
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DET at TBB IND at HOU SEA at SFO NEP at MIA
PHI at STL CIN at CLE MIN at SDC OAK at DEN
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)
 
 
Indianapolis at Houston Back to top
Indianapolis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kerry Collins S3

Collins becomes fhe first non-Peyton Manning quarterback to start for Indy since Jim Harbaugh, and on paper it's a favorable matchup against 2010's most QB-friendly defense. But the additions of Jonathan Joseph in the secondary, J.J. Watt up front, and Wade Phillips on the headset change things completely. Collins has never beaten a Wade Phillips defense, and given all the changes you can't expect him to approach the 701 and 5 Peyton posted on the Texans in last season's series. Replicating the 237 and 2 Collins himself hung on Houston as the Titans' QB last season also seems optimistic, but he's likely going to have to throw to keep Indy in the game, and from that volume produce serviceable numbers.

RB Joseph Addai S3 We don't know for sure what the Manningless Colts will look like, but odds are they'll need to run a bit more than they're used to. That will involve more running, something Indy hasn't done much--or well. But again, sheer volume suggests Addai will be usable this week.
RB Delone Carter B The role of goal line back, which Carter was expected to fill in Indy, may no longer be as lucrative as we had thought.
WR Reggie Wayne S2

Wayne has scored in three staight and five of the last seven against Houston... but so much has changed. Wayne's track record against Cincy, while not necessarily straight up against Jonathan Joseph, is far less flowery. And Kerry Collins is a step back from Manning. But Wayne is still Indy's WR1, and Collins didn't land between Johnny Unitas and Joe Montana on the all-time passing yardage list by accident.

WR Pierre Garçon S3

Garçon remains Wayne's wingman, but with the rest of the receiving corps banged up there should be enough looks for him to maintain some fantasy value.

WR Austin Collie
Anthony Gonzalez
Blair White
B

All of Indy's tertiary targets are banged up to varying degrees, all show up on the injury report as questionable, and all will most definitely not have Peyton Manning throwing the ball their way. Collie at least practiced fully, while Gonzo and White were limited. Tough to expect Collins to go this deep into the receiving corps with barely a fortnight of work with them under his belt.

TE Dallas Clark S2

Clark has killed the Texans the past two seasons, with 34 catches for 262 yards and two touchdowns in the past three games. Even when you discount those numbers for Kerry Collins and factor in Houston's defensive improvements, he's still a must start.

DT Colts B Indy's defense will need to work a lot harder than it's had to in the past, and a date with a red hot Houston offense doesn't project to get them off on a good foot.
Houston
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Schaub S2 Schaub's numbers against Indy were down last season primarily because Arian Foster's numbers were so big. A gimpy Foster might actually benefit Schaub and the passing game, and with Foster yet to practice this week be ready for Schaub to pick up some slack.
RB Arian Foster
X Foster did not practice all week and is listed as questionable, with Gary Kubiak likely taking this one all the way up to kickoff. If you have the flexibility, keep him in your lineup until the inactives are announced Sunday morning and react accordingly. If the lineup has to be in sooner, petition your league to join the 21st century... and then plug another option into the mix.
RB Ben Tate
Derrick Ward
X Indy's run defense has been such that should Foster not be available this week, both Tate and Ward could be viable fantasy plays. We've seen what Tate can do, and Ward remains second on the team's "official" depth chart. Even a split of the 334 and 4 (plus 72 receiving) Foster produced in the two-game set with Indy last season would prove fantasy-worthy. Foster owners should be prepared to swap a handcuff in on Sunday morning.
WR Andre Johnson S2 Johnson has had a 100-yard game against Indy each of the past three seasons, averaging 6-82 with two TDs during that span. With Foster gimpy, AJ is Houston's healthiest playmaker, so those averages feel like a starting point.
WR Jacoby Jones
Kevin Walter
B

The Texans' secondary options are just that: secondary. With Owen Daniels returning to action, they aren't to be relied upon for consistent fantasy contributions.

TE Owen Daniels S2

Daniels has exactly one catch in each of his last three meetings with the Colts, he was running at less than 100 percent in each of those games. He demonstrated a return to health with 22-271-2 in the final four games of 2010, and as only two teams allowed more TE TDs than Indy last season he'll have an excellent opportunity to continue said demonstration.

DT Texans S2 An aggressive Wade Phillips defense, a shaky Indy line, and Kerry Collins at the wheel instead of Peyton Manning adds up to a pretty solid fantasy start.
 
Cincinnati at Cleveland Back to top
Cincinnati
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Andy Dalton B

The best-case scenario for Dalton and the Bengals has the rookie dinking and dunking just enough to keep Cleveland from stacking too many men in the box to stop the run. Let's see Big Red in a game that counts before trusting him with a fantasy start.

RB Cedric Benson S2

With a rookie at quarterback, the Bengals' intent is to lean heavily on Benson and the ground game. Fortunately for them, he's averaged 25-114 in his four Cincy starts against the Browns--and twice handled more than 30 carries. Cleveland is no longer a walkover run defense, but they did allow the fifth-most rushing yards to RBs last season and surrendered three 100-yard rushers (including Benson in Week 15) and two more 90-yard rushers in the final seven weeks of the season. Hope Ced got plenty of rest in jail, because he'll be worked hard here.

WR A.J. Green
B

It's a leap of faith starting a rookie who's catching passes from a rookie in the first regular season game, and Joe Haden is a solid corner who'll likely be locked onto Green. Best let Green get his feet wet before trusting him with a fantasy start.

WR Jordan Shipley
Jerome Simpson
Andre Caldwell
B

Tough to see enough passing opportunities to make any of Cincy's secondary targets fantasy-relevant.

TE Jermaine Gresham S3 The Browns aren't particularly strong against tight ends, and in Cincy's WCO Gresham should be a favorite target of the young QB. He's usable in PPR formats but probably best served on the bench in other scoring systems.
DT Bengals B Nothing compelling about the Cincy D that suggests they warrant your fantasy attention here.
Cleveland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Colt McCoy S3

McCoy posted the most productive game of his brief career (243 yards, two TDs) on the Bengals in Week 15. With an additional target in Greg Little, the Bengals swapping Jonathan Joseph for Nate Clement, and McCoy looking extremely comfortable running this offense during the preseason, there's cause for optimism in Cleveland.

RB Peyton Hillis

S2

Hillis rolled the Bengals at home (27-102-1) but was running on fumes when he went for 14-59 in Cincy in Week 15. He'll be fresher this time around and he remains the Browns' primary playmaker.

WR Greg Little S3

Cincy's secondary ranked in the bottom third of the league in fantasy points allowed to wideouts last year, and Nate Clement for Jonathan Joseph isn't exactly an upgrade. Little has asserted himself as Cleveland's go-to wideout, so if you're going to trust a Browns WR he's your best bet.

WR Brian Robiskie B

Robiskie put up a solid 5-82-1 in his last meeting with Cleveland, but with Greg Little and Evan Moore emerging the opportunities aren't likely to be there this time around.

TE Ben Watson B

Watson is nursing a hip injury but is listed as probable after practicing fully on Friday. He had nice numbers against the Bengals last season, but Evan Moore seems to be usurping him in the pecking order so don't look for a repeat--from Watson, at least.

TE Evan Moore S3

Moore is carving out a role in Cleveland's offense, and even though Watson is listed as probable Moore is the better bet to produce the largest portion of something similar to the 16-205-2 Browns tight ends dropped on Cincy in last season's series.

DT Browns S3 A rookie quarterback with a young receiving corps on the road in his NFL debut? Even the Browns might be able to take advantage of this.
 

Atlanta at Chicago

Back to top
Atlanta
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan S2

Only two quarterbacks threw multiple touchdowns against Da Bears last season, but with multiple scoring strikes in four of his last five road games Ryan is up to the task. Atlanta wants a more explosive offense this season, and we saw how they intend to produce said explosions when Ryan threw 42 passes in the first half of the third preseason game. Ryan has a new weapon in Julio Jones, and he's not afraid to use it—or any of his other weapons, for that matter.

RB Michael Turner S2

With Atlanta transitioning away from the grind-it-out approach, Turner will need to score to keep up is fantasy value. He's reached paydirt in three of his last four on the road and eight of his last 11 overall, and you have to like his odds of crossing the stripe against a Chicago defense that gave up multiple RB TDs in three home games last season.

WR Roddy White S2

White brings a four-game scoring streak into this matchup with a Chicago secondary that's allowed WR TDs in five of their last six. Ten games with double-digit targets suggest that White will be at the center of Atlanta's expected offensive explosion, and it's worth noting that the nine WRs with 10 or more targets against Chicago averaged seven catches for 90 yards.

WR Julio Jones S3

Jones moved quickly into the starting lineup in Atlanta, and while rookie receivers are a bit of a risk he portends to be a vital cog in the big-play offense the Falcons look to generate.

WR Harry Douglas B

Douglas is a big-play guy himself, but his fantasy contributions are likely to be less consistent than that of his more targeted brethren.

TE

Tony Gonzalez

S3

Gonzo scored the last time he faced the Bears (Week 6 of 2009), but he's becoming less of a factor in Atlanta's offense and this isn't by any means a cushy matchup. He's startable in TE-mandatory leagues, but just barely.

DT Falcons S3 Jay Cutler is still a bit of a pick machine--16 last year, including six in the last four games. With their revamped pass rush, the Falcons are in good position to take advantage of Jay's miscues.
Chicago
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S3

Cutler's production went up as last season progressed, as he threw 16 TDs following the Bears' Week 8 bye. The Falcons aren't a shutdown secondary by any stretch, and if their offense is as explosive as they hope it will be the Bears and Cutler will need to put points on the board to keep up.

RB Matt Forte S3

The Falcons are pretty good against the run, but Forte's value is more as a pass-catcher than a pure ball-carrier. Doesn't hurt that Marion Barber will sit this one out, leaving Forte on the field for any goal line opportunities.

WR

Johnny Knox
Earl Bennett

S3 Da Bears are going to throw it around enough that there will be fantasy value in their receiving corps; the tricky part will be figuring out where that value will be concentrated. At the moment Bennett seems to be running out of the slot, which is not only a money position in this offense but also a money position against the Falcons; last season slot guys like Lance Moore (6-149-2) and Jordan Shipley (6-131-1) put up big numbers against Atlanta. Knox is more trustworthy than Roy Williams, with the speed Mike Martz loves; that's a combination that should earn him enough looks from Cutler to post reasonable fantasy numbers.
WR Roy Williams
Devin Hester

B

Chicago's receiving corps is a big ol' mess, but if you parse it down the two least trustworthy members are Hester, who topped three catches just four times last season and is still a return guy masquerading as a wideout; and Williams, who has the size to be the red zone guy but is struggling with drops and getting reacclimated to the Mike Martz offense.

DT Bears S3 The Bears have enough playmakers on defense that they're startable every week, especially at home, even though the Falcons aren't the kind of team to give their DST a bunch of scoring opportunities.
 
NY Giants at Washington Back to top
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S3

Only two teams gave up more fantasy points to quarterbacks than the Redskins, but not much of that damage came at the hands of Manning (404 and 1 in the two-game set). In fact, Eli has just one multiple-TD game against the Skins since taking over as the Giants' QB1 in 2004. His numbers have been okay, but this early in the season do you really want to settle for "okay"?

RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Brandon Jacobs
S2

Bradshaw has four TDs in his last three games against the Skins; Jacobs has three scores in the last two meetings. The touches break down about how you'd think, about a 55/45 split in Bradshaw's favor, and with New York planning to distribute the ball in a similar fashion this season both are solid fantasy plays here.

WR Hakeem Nicks
S2

Nicks missed both games against the Skins last season, but when healthy he was consistently Eli's top target (eight or more looks in 11 of his 13 games, including the last seven straight).

WR Mario Manningham
S3

With Nicks out, Manningham stepped up against the Skins in Week 17 last season and caught four balls for 101 yards and a TD. He's the clear-cut WR2 in New York, with a proven track record against Washington.

WR Victor Cruz
B

Cruz could eventually carve out some fantasy value as the third receiver in New York, but until he does something--like, you know, catch a pass in the regular season--he's too risky to warrant a fantasy start.

DT Giants S2 Any defense that's facing Rex Grossman is a viable fantasy play; when it's one that gets after the passer like the Giants do, that takes them up a notch.
Washington
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Rex Grossman S3

Grossman threw for 336 and 2 against the Giants in the 2010 regular season finale, so don't bench him just because, you know, he's Rex Grossman. New York allowed 982 passing yards and 9 passing scores in the final three games of last season and the back end of their defense has been ravaged by injuries this preseason. It'll be tough pulling the trigger on Grossman as a fantasy starter, but if you're sans Peyton Manning this week Rexy might be the sexiest option available to you.

RB

Tim Hightower

S3 Would you believe Hightower has three touchdowns in two career games against the Giants? The Skins cobbled together 100-plus RB yards from scrimmage in each of the two meetings last season; the hope is that Hightower can consolidate those performances into one viable fantasy entity.
RB Roy Helu
Ryan Torain
B You never know when Mike Shanahan will get a hankering for the next back in line. Doesn't help you plan your fantasy lineup, of course, and until Hightower falters or Shanny changes his mind, Helu and Torain are fantasy bench fodder.
WR Santana Moss
S3 Moss has been held out of the end zone in five straight meetings with the Giants, though his nine-catch showing in the 2010 regular season finale demonstrates his worth in PPR leagues. Who else is Rex going to throw to?
WR Jabar Gaffney
B Moss is the primary target, and we're not really sure what Gaffney is yet. Let he and the Skins figure that out before you look to plug him into your fantasy lineup.
TE Chris Cooley X

Cooley has been bothered by a knee injury all preseason long; he was limited in practice all week and is listed as questionablel. More clarity would be nice, since Cooley has had at least five catches for at least 53 yards in each of his last four against the Giants. Odds are he's not rostered, so if you're fishing for tight end help your best bet would be to wait until the inactives are announced, then pick up Cooley if he plays or Fred Davis if Cooley is out.

DT Redskins S3 Eli's been known to throw the ball to the other team, and with Washington's improved pass rush there could be some plays to be made.
 
Seattle at San Francisco Back to top
Seattle
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tarvaris Jackson B Nothing about Jackson's preseason showing--or his track record in Minnesota, for that matter--suggest he's anything more than a placeholder for Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley. And there's no place for placeholders in fantasy football.
RB Marshawn Lynch B

Lynch's scintillating 10-carry, 29-yard performance in his last meeting with the 49ers hardly inspires one to plug him into a fantasy lineup.

RB Leon Washington
Justin Forsett
B

Washington was the most effective of Seattle's backs during the preseason, but it's shaping up to be a committee approach under Pete Carroll. And when there's not even enough for one back to be a fantasy factor, dividing it three ways doesn't help.

WR

Sidney Rice

B Rice did not practice all week due to a sore shoulder, caused no doubt by reaching for all those errant T-Jax practices. He's listed as doubtful, so now you have another reason to avoid using him in your fantasy lineup.
WR

Mike Williams

S3 Only three teams gave up more fantasy points to wide receivers last season than the 49ers, and they lost cornerback Nate Clement in the offseason. With Rice out Jackson will need someone to throw the ball near, and Williams is the biggest target the Seahawks have.
TE

Zach Miller

B Miller faced the Niners last season as a Raider and caught two balls for 48 yards. He may have actually taken a step back quarterbacking-wise, and no team allowed fewer fantasy points to tight ends than San Francisco so Miller's a bench play this week.
DT Seahawks S3 Any defense facing Alex Smith is worthy of fantasy consideration.
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith S3

Only four teams allowed more fantasy points to quarterbacks last year than the Seahawks, with Smith contributing 480 yards and three TDs to the cause. It's not as if Seattle's secondary magically improved over the offseason, so Smith is an option to consider if you're in a QB scramble this week.

RB Frank Gore S2

Gore blew up for 207 yards and two TDs against the Seahawks back in Week 2 of 2009; in two meetings with Seattle since he's mustered just 63 rushing yards, though he's added 82 receiving yards. Freshly paid, look for Gore to prove worthy of the money by beating up a Seattle defense that allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to RBs a year ago.

WR Michael Crabtree B The opposing secondary says "start him", but the foot injury and lack of reps in this offense suggest you hold off for now.
WR Josh Morgan
Braylon Edwards
S3 Morgan posted a solid 3-82-1 against Seattle in Week 14 of last year, and with Smith showing he knows how to exploit this defense and the Seahawks giving up the third-most fantasy points to WRs a year ago, you wouldn't be out of line stretching to get either Morgan or Edwards into your fantasy lineup.
TE Vernon Davis S2

Davis' last three against the Seahawks have produced 19 catches for 254 yards and a pair of scores. In other words, he's the Niners' go-to pass catcher and a solid fantasy start.

DT 49ers S3 Any defense facing Tarvaris Jackson is worthy of fantasy consideration.

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