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Start/Bench List: Week 2
John Tuvey
Updated: September 16, 2011
OAK at BUF SEA at PIT CLE at IND SDC at NEP Start/Bench List by Position
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Start/Bench Codes (SBC)
S1: Start 'em Tier One (Stud / Great matchup) U: Upside player (Possible sleeper)
S2: Start 'em Tier Two (Solid matchup) X: Unclear situation / Could go either way
S3: Start 'em Tier Three (Borderline / Barely) B: Bench 'em (Bad Matchup / Too much risk)
Chicago at New Orleans Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S3

Aaron Rodgers made the Saints secondary look signifantly more porous than it truly is; Cutler won’t have quite as much success. He hasn’t had a 300-yard game on the road since midway through the 2009 season, but dial back your expectations from the opener and you should be fine.

RB Matt Forte S2

Forte launched his contract drive with a solid dual-threat outing against the Falcons, and even though the show goes on the road this week a Saints defense that surrendered 102 RB rushing yards and two RB scores isn’t threatening enough to push him to the fantasy bench.


Johnny Knox

S3 The Bears’ receiving corps is still a fantasy mess, but after watching the Saints struggle with the speed of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb last week Knox appears to be the most likely to break from the herd this week. He'll benefit from the likely absence of Roy Williams, who missed two days of practice and was limited on Friday due to a groin injury.
WR Earl Bennett
Devin Hester


Four Chicago wideouts were targeted four or five times in the season opener; three tallied between 55 and 60 yards. With Knox expected to elevate above the pack, that leaves pedestrian numbers for the rest of the crew. If Roy Williams is deactivated the odds become slightly better, but not enough to warrant fantasy starts.

WR Roy Williams


Williams missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday and was limited Friday by a groin injury. Even if he plays, he's stuck in a logjam of guys looking for targets.

TE Kellen Davis


Davis was targeted five times last week and would have scored if Cutler wouldn’t have been pressured into an overthrow in the red zone. He’s worth keeping an eye on, but Mike Martz’s offense doesn’t tend to feature the tight end and this matchup isn’t soft enough to risk bucking that trend.

DT Bears S2 They’re an every-week start, though expecting them to throttle the Saints in New Orleans like they did the Falcons at home might be a tad optimistic.
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S2

Brees took apart a top-five passing defense on the road last week in Green Bay; why would you expect anything less at home, where he averaged 292 yards and two TDs a game last season?


Mark Ingram


Michael Turner exploited some soft spots in the middle of Chicago’s run defense to the tune of 10 yards per carry. Ingram was the go-to guy in the New Orleans backfield in Week 1; expect him to turn that role into some fantasy help this week.


Pierre Thomas


Thomas is the odd man out in New Orleans’ crowded backfield; you can’t trust him to turn single-digit touches into consistent fantasy help.


Darren Sproles


Sproles has value in specific scoring systems—namely, PPR leagues and those where his return yards count. Without those caveats, he’s in the same boat as Thomas.

WR Robert Meachem


Though Atlanta failed to score an offensive touchdown, they didn’t have much difficulty getting the ball to their top two wideouts. And with Marques Colston out, Meachem is Brees’ top outside targets. Last week that meant decent yardage and a touchdown, and that was with Colston still in the mix. So you would think this week would be even better.

WR Devery Henderson

It's a pretty simple equation: if Lance Moore is out, Henderson should be in your fantasy lineup. If Moore is active, Hendu becomes a whole lot more risky of a play.

WR Lance Moore B

Moore’s groin injury forced him to miss the season opener, and he was limited all week in practice. He's a risky fantasy start even if he goes, but if he's inactive that bodes well for Devery Henderson.

TE Jimmy Graham S2 The mismatch tight end has scored in four straight games, five touchdowns over that span. Clearly Drew Brees has found something he likes in the end zone.
DT Saints S3 A decent start at home against Cutler, bump the Saints up to S2 if you get credit for Sproles’ return game exploits.
Kansas City at Detroit Back to top
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel B

Everything about the Chiefs was ugly last week as they were schooled at home by Buffalo. A few things could work in Cassel’s favor here—KC will likely be playing catch-up, Detroit’s secondary is the softest portion of its defense—but that’s not nearly enough to trust him with a fantasy start.

RB Jamaal Charles
S2 Before you look at the Bucs’ pathetic ground output against Detroit last week and anoint Ndamukong Suh the second coming, consider that Tampa Bay gave LeGarrette Blount just five carries. Earnest Graham saw six ineffective totes, but he also eight balls for 58 yards. Even if Charles has to share some looks out of the backfield with Dexter McCluster there’s still going to be plenty of opportunities for him to bust the long runs that jack up his fantasy value.
RB Thomas Jones

Perhaps the only good thing about KC’s play-calling last week was the 10-2 split in carries that favored Charles. Here’s hoping that’s a trend.

RB Dexter McCluster

McCluster saw nine touches (four carries, five catches) for 67 combo yards last week. Any reason to think the Chiefs won’t be playing catch-up here again, putting McCluster on the field a similar amount of time? There’s some PPR value here, especially in deeper leagues.


Dwayne Bowe


The Lions gave up 135 and 1 to Tampa Bay wideouts last week, and Bowe’s eight targets—equal to all the other KC wide receivers combined—suggest that at least the Chiefs are trying to consolidate their passing game through their best receiver.


Leonard Pope


IPope was targeted six times last week, more than any wideout other than Bowe, and he had a potential touchdown grab (correctly) overturned. Plus, the Lions have a track record of being lax in covering the TE position (allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to the position last year and giving up 6-66 to Kellen Winslow last week). It’d be a reach to start Pope, but if you’re in a very large TE-mandatory league he has some upside.

DT Chiefs B There’s a good chance they’ll rack up some kickoff return yardage based on volume alone.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford S1

The Chiefs couldn’t stop Ryan Fitzpatrick at home with a full secondary; now they’re on the road, down a man, and facing the red-hot Stafford

RB Jahvid Best S2

Fred Jackson rolled the Chiefs last week but that was on 20 carries between the tackles; the Lions don’t want to do that to Best if they don’t have to. No matter; C.J. Spiller found the end zone against KC, proving you don’t have to be a thumper to score on them.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

Megatron is a mismatch for any defense but a nightmare for one that’s down a starting safety. Note that he missed two days of practice and was limited on Friday due to an ankle injury. He's listed as questionable, but if he's active he belongs in your fantasy lineup.

WR Nate Burleson S3

Why not? CJ’s wingman caught five balls for 60 yards last week; now he’ll face a defense that let one of Stevie Johnson’s wingmen score and the other go for 66 yards against them last week.

TE Brandon Pettigrew S2

Nobody even knew who the Bills’ tight end is until “Scott Chandler” floated to the top of the waiver wire sort thanks to his two-TD outing against the Chiefs. Pettigrew would have a score of his own if not for the dropsies; as it stands, he posted a solid 4-57 and Tony Scheffler stole his touchdown. Hang on to the ball, Brandon; this could be a big week for you!

DT Lions S2 Ndamukong Suh and friends should overwhelm an offensive line that apparently thought Pro Bowler (and current Patriots starter) Brian Waters was a spare part, leading to the potential for turnovers and TDs.

Cleveland at Indianapolis

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Colt McCoy S3

The Browns won’t have to necessarily play catch-up here, leaving McCoy to dink and dunk and pile up stats with his tight ends. Big numbers are unlikely, but it’s not as if starting McCoy will hurt your team.

RB Peyton Hillis


In seasons past you wanted to run the ball to keep Peyton Manning off the field. Manning’s neck injury has already taken care of that; now the Browns can run the ball without fear of falling behind 28-0, and keep pounding the ball against an undersized Indy defensive front that surrendered 167 and 2 on the ground to Houston last week. And don’t overlook Hillis’ pass-catching, which last week upped his touch count to 23. Ten of the last 11 backs to receive that many touches against Indy have scored , and nine of them have reached triple-digit combo yardage.

WR Mohamed Massaquoi B

Despite the best efforts of Greg Little, Massaquoi was the Browns’ most targeted wideout in Week 1 while the rest of the receiving corps fought for table scraps. However, Massaquoi’s 3-77 paled in comparison to the 13 targets and two touchdowns directed at the tight ends, and Indy is still pretty good at shutting down wideouts.

TE Ben Watson
Evan Moore

More so than most West Coast offenses, Cleveland’s passing game runs through the tight ends. Both are in play, as both were targeted as much as any Browns’ wideout and both found the end zone. Indy struggled defending tight ends last year; no reason to think that portion of their game is improved.

DT Browns B On the bright side, they can’t be any more disorganized than last week. But if they couldn’t produce a defensive score at home against Andy Dalton and Bruce Gradkowski, tough to ask for one on the road against a grizzled vet like Kerry Collins.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kerry Collins S3

Collins should be a little more comfortable in the Indy offense, and so long as he avoids Joe Haden he should be all right. Of course, when it comes to the Colts’ offense we’ve come to expect more than just “all right.”

RB Joseph Addai S3 Giving Addai the benefit of the doubt on the start/bench call assumes that the 50/50 carry split with Delone Carter last week was as much a product of the blowout score as anything else. Don’t look for Addai to get 25 carries (and 121 yards and a score) like Cedric Benson did against Cleveland last week, but with 20 touches Addai should do enough damage to warrant flex consideration.
WR Reggie Wayne S2

Joe Haden might be the next great shutdown corner, but Wayne still has a few tricks up his sleeve. Quick snap, anyone?

WR Pierre Garçon
Austin Collie

Secondary targets did little last week against Cleveland’s non-Haden corners, and Collins is still too busy grasping this offense to be making fantasy helpers of targets much beyond the primary.

TE Dallas Clark S2

Clark’s lack of productivity in Week 1 was somewhat surprising, but maybe he’s the next page in Kerry Collins’ playbook. With the Wayne page mastered, and facing a Browns defense that let Jermaine Gresham post 6-58-1 on them last week, time for Clark to get some fantasy love.

DT Colts S3 Could be some sacks appeal here, and home defenses tend to be more productive fantasy-wise, but this is hardly a unit you should go out of your way to start.
Tampa Bay at Minnesota Back to top
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh Freeman S2

We were expecting that step up from Freeman, but instead we got a typical 257 and 1 from him last week. Those aren’t bad, mind you, just… well, in a week where half the league’s QBs throw for 300-plus yards, those numbers are a bit underwhelming. A road opportunity against a familiar defense (what, you think Freeman hasn’t seen a Tampa-2 in practice?); more of the same would be okay, but let’s shoot for something higher.

RB LeGarrette Blount


Blount was virtually invisible last week when the Bucs went to the hurry up. While there’s an opportunity here against a defense that will be without Kevin Williams for another week, the risk of another five-carry Sunday coupled with Minnesota’s strong showing against a solid San Diego backfield tandem last week (24-80-1 on the ground) and the Vikings’ improved play at home push Blount very close to the bench.

RB Earnest Graham


So much for Blount’s claim that he could be an every-down back. With Graham getting 14 touches (eight receptions) last week and the Vikings surrendering 15-144-2 receiving to San Diego’s backs, there is a real opportunity for Graham to carve out fantasy help in PPR leagues.

WR Mike Williams

Still trying to figure out how the Vikings kept Vincent Jackson in check last week, and it simply makes no sense other than Philip Rivers stopped throwing to him (three targets). Freeman won’t abandon Williams (10 targets last game) like that, and against this secondary that translates into solid fantasy numbers.

WR Arrelious Benn

There’s still a tussle for secondary looks between Benn, Preston Parker, and Dezmon Briscoe. But they’re all behind Williams and Winslow—and maybe even Earnest Graham—anyway, so it’s tough to bank on them for consistent numbers.

TE Kellen Winslow S2

The Vikings allowed 16 targets, 11 catches, and 94 yards to San Diego tight ends last week. Winslow is just as involved in Tampa’s game plan as Antonio Gates is in the Chargers’, so good numbers should be in store.

DT Buccaneers S3 What’s Aqib Talib gonna do, hold the Vikings under 30 passing yards? Tough to make plays when they’re not throwing the ball downfield. Against McNabb the Bucs aren’t an awful start, but there just doesn’t project to be a ton of opportunities.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb B

You have to think it can only go up from a 39-yard Week 1 effort, but with all the new parts to the Minnesota passing game it may take a while. No need for that learning curve to set back your fantasy team.

RB Adrian Peterson S2

Evidently Brad Childress returned to call plays for the Vikings last week, as Peterson barely touched the ball in the second half. AP’s fantasy owners have to hope Chilly gets canned (again) and the Vikings start feeding Peterson the rock, because it’s really that simple: AP had 20-plus carries six times last season, and he scored in all six with four 100-yard games. The return to Metrodome helps as well: nine of his 12 touchdowns and three of his five 100-yard efforts came at home.

WR Percy Harvin


Starting a guy whose quarterback threw for barely a third of what Tom Brady got on one play last week… it’s enough to give a guy migraines. The Vikings will get the ball into Harvin’s hands one way or another, and you saw how that worked out against San Diego with the kickoff return touchdown. He’s the only element of Minnesota’s passing game worth a sniff because the Vikings can be creative in getting him the football.

WR Michael Jenkins


Jenkins is a great downfield blocker and a big red zone target. But this passing game isn’t ready to provide fantasy help just yet.

TE Vishante Shiancoe B

Later this season, assuming he doesn’t lose his starting job to rookie Kyle Rudolph, Shank will be a fantasy helper due to McNabb’s reliance on the tight end position. But to belabor a point, after what we saw last week it’s clear this passing game has work to do before being banked on for fantasy assistance.

DT Vikings S3

Harvin in the return game is a boost, as is the friendly confines of Metrodome and the playmaking ability of Jared Allen. They’re not an out-of-your-way start, but there’s upside here.

Dallas at San Francisco Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

Fresh off 342 and two against the Jets, Romo gets a defense that let Tarvaris Jackson throw two touchdowns against them. After squaring off with Romo, facing the Niners will be like throwing in practice.

RB Felix Jones

The Niners haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since the middle of 2009. However, with Jones housing just about all the backfield touches in Dallas, he’ll get enough work to carve out at least some fantasy value.

WR Miles Austin S1

Austin battled Darrelle Revis for a while, then wound up covered by Antonio Cromartie and had much more success to finish with 90 yards and a touchdown. And now he gets a secondary that couldn’t keep Doug Baldwin out of the end zone. If Bryant is good to go this weekend Austin might get nicked down to an S2, but for now he’s one of the better wide receiver plays of the week.

WR Dez Bryant B

Bryant is still bothered by the quad injury he suffered Sunday night against the Jets. He didn’t practice all week and he's listed as questionable. Tough to trust a guy that hasn't seen the field all week, though if he's active it'll be tough to keep him out of your lineup.

TE Jason Witten S2

The 49ers haven’t allowed a TE TD in 12 straight games, but Witten is more about the quantity of catches than the money balls. And if Bryant sits this one out, there will be more than enough balls to go around, money or no.

DT Cowboys S2 Demarcus Ware against this offensive line is a mismatch, maybe even enough of one to cover the injury-plagued secondary and generate some defensive fantasy points.
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith S3

The resistible force is Smith, who threw for just 124 yards last week and has been held without a touchdown and under 200 yards in three of his last four. The movable object is the injury-ravaged Dallas secondary, who just surrendered 335 and two to Mark Sanchez. Science was never my strong suit, but if you’re in a QB bind the inverse of the old adage suggests Smith should be an okay play this week.

RB Frank Gore S3

Gore should be the focal point of this offense, but the Cowboys are fresh off shutting down Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson in New York. It won’t be easy, but expect Gore to do enough as a receiver to salvage fantasy usability this week.

WR Michael Crabtree B Crabtree’s availability is still in question due to his foot injury. He continues to be limited in practice, so err on the side of caution and keep him on your fantasy bench until you actually see him on the field.
WR Braylon Edwards S3 Had Edwards remained a Jet he likely would have claimed Plaxico Burress’ 4-72-1 against Dallas last week. Here’s his chance to fire a shot across the Jets’ bow for letting him walk. With Michael Crabtree iffy, Edwards is the go-to wideout. Against the Dallas secondary, that’s enough to warrant fantasy consideration.
TE Vernon Davis S2

Davis was lightly used last week, at least for him. Against a defense with issues across the back end—and one that couldn’t run Dustin Keller’s scoreless streak to 16 games—it’s time for Vernon to reassert himself as one of the league’s elite fantasy TEs.

DT 49ers S3 Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Tony Romo is prone to the occasional mistake. And if Ted Ginn’s returns count in your league’s scoring as well, bump the Niners up to an S2.

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