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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List: Week 4
John Tuvey
Updated: September 30, 2011
 
CAR at CHI MIN at KCC TEN at CLE NEP at OAK Start/Bench List by Position
BUF at CIN NOS at JAC ATL at SEA DEN at GBP
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WAS at STL PIT at HOU NYG at ARI NYJ at BAL
SFO at PHI DET at DAL MIA at SDC IND at TBB
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)
 
 
Carolina at Chicago Back to top
Carolina
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB

Cam Newton

S2 The showers scheduled to roll through the Windy City later this week are expected to clear by the weekend. And since rain has proven to be Newton’s only kryptonite thus far, you have to like his chances here. Doesn’t hurt that he’s getting no help from his running game and facing a Bears defense that’s allowing 295 passing yards per game this season and surrendered three TD tosses in each of its last two games.
RB

DeAngelo Williams

B The Bears haven’t been all that great against the run, but Williams is averaging nine carries and 20 yards a game in his current job share. Until he starts getting the rock in a manner commensurate with his contract, you can’t trust him in your fantasy lineup.
RB

Jonathan Stewart

B The backup is actually out-touching and out-gaining the starter, but neither has scored and the job share makes it tough to bank on either for fantasy help.
WR Steve Smith S2

Chicago has allowed 100-yard receivers in each of their last two games, and Smith is far and away Newton’s top downfield target with 31 looks in three games. Sunny skies in Chicago mean a sunny day for Smith and his fantasy owners.

WR Brandon LaFell
Legedu Naanee
B

The secondary targets in Carolina are complete and utter afterthoughts.

TE Greg Olsen
S2

Da Bears have given up 72, 79, and 85 yards to opposing tight ends, including Jermichael Finley’s three-TD hat trick last week. While Jeremy Shockey still lurks, Olson is more targeted, more productive, and a solid fantasy play in Chicago--something you couldn't say about him on a consistent basis when he actually played for the Bears.

DT Panthers B Carolina’s defense isn’t doing enough to warrant fantasy attention, even against Jay Cutler.
Chicago
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S2

Rain and a rookie’s first start ended the streak of 300-yard, multiple-TD games the Panthers allowed to start the season. Cutler has a pair of each of those milestones himself and, with no running game to speak of, is poised for another one at home this Sunday.

RB Matt Forte S1

Forte has done little on the ground thus far this season, but he hasn’t really had to with 80 or more receiving yards in all three games. This week he gets a Carolina defense that has already surrendered triple-digit combo yardage outings to Beanie Wells, James Starks, and Maurice Jones-Drew. Game on!

WR

Johnny Knox

S3 Carolina’s not really shutting down wideouts, having surrendered four WR TDs and five 55-plus yard games already this season. But the Bears’ receiver situation is such a mess it’s tough to trust any one of them to give you fantasy results. Knox is the most targeted and most productive, but Dane Sanzenbacher has both of Chicago’s WR TDs so he’s a fringe play at best.
WR Devin Hester
Dane Sanzenbacher

B

As noted above, the Panthers’ secondary is nothing special but Chicago’s WR production is too scattered to bank on for fantasy help.

DT Bears S2 Only weather has stopped Cam Newton, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t prone to turnovers—something the Bears’ defense does a fine job of creating.
 
Buffalo at Cincinnati Back to top
Buffalo
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick S1

The Bengals haven’t allowed much in the way of passing yardage; then again, they’ve faced McCoy, Orton, and Smith and still allowed a pair of multi-TD games. Fitz took a better Cincy secondary for 316 and 4 in Week 11 of last year and is averaging 280 and 3 thus far this year; yeah, prospects look good.

RB Fred Jackson S2

Jackson wouldn’t mind a repeat of last season’s meeting with Cincy, where he rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns. The Bengals already surrendered a 101-yard game to Willis McGahee, so don’t look for them to put up much of a fight.

RB C.J. Spiller B

Just not touching the ball enough to be a factor, fantasy or otherwise.

WR Steve Johnson S1

Another guy looking for 2010 redux, Johnson torched the Bengals for 137 yards and three TDs last year in Cincy. With three touchdowns in as many games and 90-plus yards each of the past two weeks, Johnson should once again make Ryan Fitzpatrick look like Jim Kelly.

WR David Nelson
Donald Jones
S3

Cincy hasn’t exactly seen A-list receivers thus far this season, but Eric Decker took them for 113 and 2 and Mohamed Massaquoi rolled up 77 yards on them as well. Jones, the starter, and Nelson, the slot guy, are both seeing seven-plus targets a game and should carve out fantasy assistance opposite Johnson.

TE Scott Chandler S3

Why not? Chandler has scored in every game thus far this season, and he’ll be squaring off with a defense that allowed two TE TDs in Week 1 and 114 yards to Vernon Davis last week.

DT Bills S3 After picking Tom Brady four times, surely the Bills can pilfer Andy Dalton at least once.
Cincinnati
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Andy Dalton S3

The rookie appeared to be getting it with 332 and 2 in Week 2, but he took a step backwards in last week’s home loss to the 49ers. Buffalo will do Dalton and his fantasy owners two favors this week: first, field a defense that’s given up 710 passing yards and six touchdowns the past two games; and second, score at a rate that forces the Bengals to keep up.

RB Cedric Benson S2

Now that Ced’s suspension has been for the moment delayed, he can go back to shouldering the load for the Cincy ground game. Even in last year’s 49-31 shootout with Buffalo Benson saw 25 carries, which he turned into 124 yards and a touchdown. The key for Ced is getting to 20 carries, something he’s done in 11 of his last 14 home games—and in those games he’s topped triple digits eight times and scored eight touchdowns. The stats say Buffalo held Jamaal Charles (56 yards) and Darren McFadden (72 yards) in check, but both found the end zone and Charles averaged better than five yards per carry. Ced’s a solid play this week.

RB Bernard Scott
B

That speculative pickup will have to wait at least another week, as Scott has just eight carries for 23 yards on the season.

WR A.J. Green
Andre Caldwell
S3

Yes, the Bills secondary picked off Tom Brady four times last week; they also couldn’t find Wes Welker (16-217-2) with a map and a flashlight, and the previous week they couldn’t check Denarius Moore (5-146-1) and barely limited Derek Hagan (5-61). Green will threaten the top of the defense a la Moore, while Caldwell (a team-high 12 targets last week) handles a role similar to that of Welker. Both belong in fantasy lineups this week.

TE Jermaine Gresham S3 Gresham is useable in PPR leagues as he’s targeted a steady eight or so times per game, but the 7-109-2 Buffalo gave up to tight ends last week is a different animal than what Gresham brings to the table in the Cincy offense.
DT Bengals B Buffalo’s line has done a solid job of protecting Fitzpatrick thus far; no pressure leads to no turnovers, and no turnovers leads to no defensive fantasy points.
 

Washington at St. Louis

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Washington
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Rex Grossman S2

Rexy came back to earth a bit on Monday night, posting his lowest yardage total of the season and failing to throw multiple scores for the first time this season. Expect him to right the ship against a Rams secondary that has surrendered multiple passing TDs in every game this season and just served up 389 and 3 to Joe Flacco last week.

RB

Tim Hightower

S2 Hightower is plenty familiar with the Rams from his Arizona days, and that’s a good thing: last year he rolled up 94 and 86 yards from scrimmage in two games against them despite getting just 17 and 16 touches. He also found the end zone, as he has done in two of three games thus far. As the Skins’ feature back he’s seeing north of 20 touches per game, which should be plenty to make fantasy hay against a defense that’s allowing an average of 195 combo yards and a touchdown to opposing backfields.
RB

Roy Helu

B Could the Shanahanigans begin midgame? Absolutely. But right now Helu looks like a change of pace guy good for 8-10 touches per game—not enough to bank on for fantasy assistance.
WR Santana Moss
S2 It’s like punching a clock for Moss: timecard stamped, a half-dozen catches for 75 yards, clock out and go home. Sometimes he puts in a little extra work, like last seasons’ 6-124-1 against the Rams. And with St. Louis surrendering the third-most fantasy points to wideouts thus far this season, he’s a good candidate for overtime here.
WR Jabar Gaffney

S3 Gaffney is a poor man’s Santana Moss, which might just be enough to help you in larger PPR leagues.
TE Fred Davis
Chris Cooley
B

Cooley’s playing some fullback, Davis is on the field for more snaps but targeted less… this is starting to be a major headache. Mix in a Rams defense that’s allowed just seven TE catches and 77 yards this season—that’s a three-game total, folks—and you’d best let this one resolve itself on your fantasy bench.

DT Redskins S2 Sneaky play here, as the struggling Rams have served up three defensive scores already this season.
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Sam Bradford B

Bradford’s a borderline starter right now given his sluggish start, and he’ll get no help from a Washington defense that held him to 235 and 1 a year ago and has shut out both Eli Manning and Tony Romo already this season.

RB Steven Jackson S2

In last year’s meeting with Washington Jackson rolled up 58 yards and a TD before a groin injury knocked him from the game—at which point Kenneth Darby and Keith Toston banged away for another 71 yards and a score. The past two weeks the Redskins have surrendered 93 yards and a touchdown to Beanie Wells and 115 yards to a one-armed Felix Jones. After dipping his toe back in the water last week Jackson is expected to see an increase in touches--not his usual 20-plus, but enough to be a fantasy factor in a favorable matchup.

WR Danny Amendola B

The poster child for PPR leagues was back at practice this week, but indications are the team will wait until after next week's bye before returning him to game action.

WR

Mike Sims-Walker
Brandon Gibson
Danario Alexander

B

It’s a clusterGeorgeForemanGrill at the receiver position in St. Louis; no wideout has led the team in targets, catches, or yardage in consecutive weeks. Given the WRs who have had success against the Skins thus far—Hakeem Nicks and Larry Fitzgerald—you could reach for a larger target like Alexander if you’re desperate. The best bet here, however, is to simply avoid the situation entirely.

TE

Lance Kendricks

B

That red-hot preseason has vanished like Markenson.

DT Rams B Even though we’ve seen glimpses of “Bad Rexy”, there’s not enough here to motivate one to plug the Rams into a fantasy lineup.
 

San Francisco at Philadelphia

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San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith B

Don’t be tempted by the eight TD passes Philly has allowed the past two games; this is still Alex Smith we’re talking about. Fringe fantasy starter numbers wouldn’t surprise, but there’s little upside beyond that.

RB Frank Gore S3

A defense that’s allowed 140 combo yards to Cadillac Williams (after Steven Jackson rolled for 56 and a touch on two carries), 146 and a score to Michael Turner, and 139 and 1 to Ahmad Bradshaw (with another 61 and 1 for Brandon Jacobs) is begging for an S1, but Gore’s struggles and sore ankle have me doubting him. Kendall Hunter stole a TD last week and could be in line for more carries here; hence the hedged bet on Gore. However, Gore's practice participation has increased each day this week and Niners coach Jim Harbaugh said he expects Gore to go on Sunday. If he's in the Niners' lineup, he should be in yours.

RB Kendall Hunter U

With Gore struggling (2.5 yards per carry) and nursing a bad ankle, it might be Hunter who gets the opportunity to gash a Philly D that’s in the middle of switching out linebackers. While Gore has seen an uptick in practice work over the course of the week, it's working keeping tabs on the situation as any increase in workload for Hunter makes him a very intriguing play.

WR Michael Crabtree B Crabtree grabbed nine balls for 105 yards and a touch against Philly last season. He’s not the reason the Eagles went out and got Nnamdi Asomugha, but he’s definitely a benefit. On the bright side, Crabtree did score as part of a 4-57-1 afternoon against Asomugha and the Raiders last year. You wanna trust him to laugh in the face of danger once again, it’s on you.
WR Josh Morgan B While secondary receivers have had some success against the Eagles, in part because quarterbacks don’t want to throw at Asomugha, the Niners have yet to produce a 40-yard receiver this season and their lone WR TD belongs to some guy with one catch named Kyle Williams. Too much risk, not enough reward.
TE Vernon Davis S2

The one pass-catching tight end the Eagles have faced (Tony Gonzalez) rolled for 83 yards and two TDs—not dissimilar from the 5-104-1 Davis posted on Philly last year. There are finite defenders who can match up with Davis, and unless the Eagles opt to use Asomugha on VD there doesn’t appear to be one on the Philly roster.

DT 49ers S3 The San Francisco D has generated some turnovers, and there’s always Ted Ginn in the return game.
Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Michael Vick S2

Vick says there’s a 100 percent chance he plays this week; I’m no mathematician but that sounds pretty good. While we’ve yet to see the monster game those who spent a first-round pick on Vick thought they were paying for, a defense that allowed multiple TD tosses in each of the first two games certainly can be had.

RB LeSean McCoy
S2

McCoy has been money this season, but now he’ll face a San Francisco defense that has allowed just 163 rushing yards in three games. Of course, there’s a significant difference between sled dogs like Marshawn Lynch and Cedric Benson and a greyhound like McCoy, who has triple-digit yards from scrimmage and at least one score in every game this season. Think of the 138 combo yards (plus a touchdown) he rolled up on the Niners in last year’s meeting as an appetizer.

WR DeSean Jackson
S2 Against a defense that let Doug Baldwin and Golden Tate find the end zone and limited Miles Austin to 143 yards and three TDs, there should be enough for both Jackson and Maclin to get theirs.
WR Jeremy Maclin
S2 Maclin wasn't expected to play after suffering a hamstring injury last week, but he's improved over the course of the practice week to the point that Andy Reid called him "probable" for Sunday's tilt. And as noted above, this is a favorable matchup for the Philly passing game.
WR Steve Smith
Jason Avant
B With Maclin back in the lineup, no reason to stretch this deep into the Eagles' receiver rotation.
TE Brent Celek
B Celek scored in last year’s matchup but he’s been so lightly used this season he can’t be trusted with a fantasy start.
DT Eagles S1 Philly ranks second in sacking the QB; only four teams have allowed more sacks than San Fran. That’s a recipe for defensive fantasy points right there.
 

Minnesota at Kansas City

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Minnesota
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb B

The upside for McNabb in this system is likely in the 250 & 2 range, and we’ve seen nothing to suggest that upside is coming along any time soon.

RB Adrian Peterson S1

Fred Jackson rolled the Chiefs for 112 rushing yards; Ryan Mathews took them for 98 yards and a couple touchdowns. We’re reasonably confident that not even the Vikings’ brain trust can screw this one up for AP, who has 296 rushing yards and three TDs despite barely touching the ball in the second half.

WR Percy Harvin

B

If it’s not the migraines it’s some sort of stomach bug, or it’s a game plan that keeps him off the field for half the offensive snaps. There’s definitely reward here, but right now the risks are tilting the scales towards “B”.

WR Michael Jenkins

B

The team’s top targeted receiver last week, Jenkins turned nine catches into 88 yards. Tough to bank on the 11 targets again, as it was double what he had in the first two games combined.

TE Vishante Shiancoe S3

If you’re into fliers, this is one to take. McNabb loves throwing to the tight end, Shank has Minnesota’s only receiving score, and thus far this season the Chiefs have already allowed three TE TDs and a little more than 50 yards per game to the position. So we’re sayin’ there’s a chance.

DT Vikings S3

The way the Vikings—and in particular, former Chief Jared Allen—get after the quarterback, they’re in play fantasy-wise on a regular basis. A matchup against a KC offense that’s turned the ball over 10 times already this season certainly doesn’t hurt.

Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel B

Minnesota isn’t exactly shutting down anyone, especially in the second half, but all Cassel has to show for three games of work is 428 yards and three scores—hardly worth the effort.

RB Dexter McCluster
S3 Here’s why McCluster is in play: only three teams have allowed more RB receiving yards than the Vikings, only one team has given up more RB receiving TDs than Minnesota, and only five backs have more receptions than McCluster—and three of them padded their numbers by facing the Vikings. Bump him to an S2 in PPR leagues.
RB Thomas Jones
B

Here’s why Jones isn’t in play: 2.6 yards per carry, versus a defense allowing just 3.2 yards per carry and against whom most teams simply abandon the ground game against after about a dozen carries for their feature back. Including the playoffs, Jones has one touchdown in his last 10 games.

WR

Dwayne Bowe

S3

Bowe will be thrown at with enough volume to carve out a useful fantasy afternoon—maybe not quite as nice as Megatron’s 7-108-2 last week, but certainly something useful.

WR

Steve Breaston

B

It’s conceivable that Breaston works the soft underbelly of Minnesota’s defense like Preston Parker (6-98) and Titus Young (4-51) have done this season, but there’s really not enough of a reward to warrant the risk.

TE

Leonard Pope

B

Yes, Pope scored last week but the TEs that best Minnesota are the ones targeted a whole lot more frequently than the 3-6 Leonard is accustomed to seeing.

DT Chiefs B A vanilla offense that isn’t turning the ball over (except on downs) doesn’t lend itself to serving up defensive fantasy points.
 

New Orleans at Jacksonville

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New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S1

The Jags have been facing off with the lower end of the QB quality spectrum thus far this season; now they get Drew Brees, who has multiple touchdown tosses in four straight and 13 of his last 16. Doesn’t seem fair.

RB

Mark Ingram

S3

Jacksonville isn’t giving up much on the ground, and Ingram is still sharing carries with Pierre Thomas. The rookie seems to be in line for the money shots, however, so he remains a fringe fantasy starter based on that upside.

RB

Darren Sproles

S3

With 28 targets in three games, Sproles is everything the Saints had hoped Reggie Bush would be. He’s a must-start in PPR leagues and at least worthy of consideration in most other leagues.

WR Robert Meachem

S3

The anticipated return of Marques Colston to the lineup may give Brees more weapons but it muddies the fantasy situation. Meachem has three touchdowns in as many games and is tough to sit, but you have to worry about Colston taking a bite out of his fantasy value.

WR Devery Henderson
Lance Moore
S3

The Jags have struggled with speed guys (Kenny Britt 136 and 2, Santonio Holmes a TD), and that’s how the Saints use Henderson. However, with Moore healthy it may limit the number of snaps each sees. Again, there’s enough fantasy potential to justify giving either a start but there’s also a whole lot of cooks in the New Orleans kitchen.

WR Marques Colston

B

Cleared to return from his broken collarbone, Colston has been practicing on a limited basis this week. Even if he's back in the mix, it's too big a mix to trust him with a fantasy start right out of the gate.

TE Jimmy Graham S1 Graham is seeing a ton of targets, is averaging 5-75 a game with two TDs on the year, and gets to face a Jaguars defense that has allowed TE TDs in back to back games. Good, good, and good.
DT Saints S3 This isn’t the opportunistic, play-making Saints defense of a couple years back, but you know Greg Williams will throw everything and the kitchen sink at a rookie quarterback making his second pro start.
Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Blaine Gabbert B

After facing Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler, and Matt Schaub already this year Gabbert is going to look like a layup to the Saints. Our sample size on Gabbert isn’t particularly big yet, but it’s not particularly impressive, either. No reason to rush him into the lineup this week.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S2

Operation Get MoJo The Ball was ramped up with a rookie under center as Jones-Drew’s touches climbed from 24 and 21 to 27; productivity also increased, into the triple digits. Against a Saints defense that let James Starks score, Matt Forte reel off 166 combo yards, and Ben Tate squeeze 90 yards from scrimmage into a shootout, MoJo should have little difficulty getting his.

WR

Mike Thomas

S3 Mr. Hail Mary has been the Jags’ most targeted and most productive receiver each of their first three games, and he hauled in Blaine Gabbert’s first NFL TD as well. He’s not a great play, but he’ll get a lot of attention and odds are the Jaguars will be in position to throw. A lot.
WR

Jason Hill

B Jacksonville’s secondary receivers are averaging five targets and 28 yards per game. And that’s a group total, so look elsewhere for your fantasy help.
TE

Marcedes Lewis

B There could be a temptation to use Lewis against a Saints defense that just allowed 10-202-2 to the tight end position last week. But Lewis isn’t being targeted like he was last season—not yet, at least—so for the time being keep him on your fantasy bench.
DT Jaguars B

This defense isn’t doing much anyway, let alone against an offense like the Saints.

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