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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List: Week 14
John Tuvey
Updated: December 9, 2011
 
CLE at PIT KCC at NYJ HOU at CIN OAK at GBP Start/Bench List by Position
IND at BAL PHI at MIA MIN at DET BUF at SDC
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NEP at WAS TBB at JAC CHI at DEN NYG at DAL
NOS at TEN ATL at CAR SFO at ARI STL at SEA
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)
 
 
Tampa Bay at Jacksonville Back to top
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh Freeman S2

The Jags are down their top three cornerbacks and just got gutted at home in prime time by Philip Rivers. Freeman returned to practice on a limited basis this week and is listed as questionable, but it sounds like the Bucs expect him to play. That puts him in line to have his way with Jacksonville’s secondary as well.

RB LeGarrette Blount S2

Blount absolutely dribbled a great matchup down his leg last week, to the point that something called Mossis Madu outgained him on fewer carries. Here’s a shot at redemption—if you can trust him. The Jags have allowed a 100-yard rusher in two of three, three of five, and four of seven as well as four RB TDs in the last three games. Matchup says yes; gut says it’s tough to trust Blount after last week.

WR Mike Williams
S2

Over the last three weeks we’ve seen the Williams we thought we’d be getting all year. With Jacksonville down three cornerbacks—and fresh off allowing three different Charger receivers to find the end zone last week—expect Williams to stay hot.

WR Arrelious Benn
U

Obviously, with Jacksonville all kinds of banged up in the secondary there’s opportunity here. Benn has been the most targeted secondary receiver over the past three weeks, so he gets the nod as next man up.

TE Kellen Winslow S2

Winslow’s 18-225 over the past three games, coupled with a Jacksonville defense that’s allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends, makes K2 a viable play this week.

DT Buccaneers S3 The Jags haven’t topped 20 points all season long and haven’t even reached that high-water mark since Week 5. It’s like built-in bonus points for any defense facing the punchless Jaguars.
Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Blaine Gabbert B

It took 10 starts but last week Gabbert finally had his first multiple touchdown game. The first round of the playoffs isn’t the time to be looking for lightning to strike again.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S1

MoJo has been the entirety of the Jacksonville offense. Coming off 188 yards from scrimmage against the Chargers—the eighth time he’s hit triple-digit combo yardage—and facing a Tampa Bay defense that’s given up the second-most fantasy points to running backs, Jones-Drew is primed for another big day.

WR

Cecil Shorts

U There’s very little upside to the Jacksonville passing game, but one bright spot is this rookie. He scored on his lone catch last week and is seeing plenty of action as the Jags search for playmakers to help Gabbert in his development. The Bucs have allowed at least one WR TD in seven straight games; if the Jaguars are to extend that street, Shorts is the man most likely to be responsible.
TE

Marcedes Lewis

B After signing a big contract in the preseason Lewis was expected to give the rookie quarterback a reliable target in the middle of the field. Instead, Lewis has been lightly targeted and prone to drops when Gabbert does look his way. It’s a semi-favorable matchup, but no matter how open Lewis gets it just doesn’t matter if he’s not hanging on to the football.
DT Jaguars B

Jacksonville’s D is losing pieces and just got run for 38 points in prime time last week. They’ve done nothing to warrant a fantasy start here.

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

The Panthers have held six of seven opposing quarterbacks to just one touchdown toss, including Ryan in the earlier meeting. Matty Ice has played better of late, with 10 TD tosses over his last five games and at least 260 yards in each, so he gets the benefit of the doubt here.

RB Michael Turner S1

Turner has hit triple digits in five of his last six against the Panthers, with a total of 11 touchdowns in that span. Those numbers include his 139 and 2 in the earlier meeting this season. Since that game Carolina has allowed 88, 86, 130, 140, and 80 yards to feature backs, with last week’s LeGarrette Blount debacle the only outlier in their favor. Expect Turner to do what he does against a Carolina defense that just put its two starting defensive tackles on injured reserve.

RB Jason Snelling
Jacquizz Rodgers
U

The Falcons gave Turner 27 carries in the last meeting with Carolina, but with their starting back nursing a tender groin and the playoffs fast approaching don’t be surprised if Atlanta offloads some carries to Snelling and Rodgers—maybe even enough to make them usable in larger leagues

WR Roddy White S2

WR1s have at least 89 yards in each of the last four against Carolina, and with White on a bit of a roll—touchdowns in two straight, 100-plus yards in two of the last three—he’s a solid play this week.

WR Julio Jones
S3

The Panthers missed Jones in the earlier meeting as he sat out with an injury. He’s been getting open deep against everybody; the problem has been with the actual catching of the football. Give him a go against a defense that had trouble keeping track of wideouts over the past month and will be focused on keeping Roddy White under wraps.

TE

Tony Gonzalez

S2

Carolina did an uncharacteristically solid job of limiting Gonzo in the earlier meeting, but three of the four TE TDs they’ve allowed this season have come since that Week 6 meeting and Gonzalez has four straight with at least 69 yards including 7-100 last week. Don’t expect the Panthers to have the same success against the future Hall of Famer this time around.

DT Falcons B Atlanta’s defense has been playing better, but don’t bank on them turning Superman over or containing an offense that’s put up 100 points over the past three games.
Carolina
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB

Cam Newton

S2 It’s a third straight rookie quarterback for the Falcons this week; Christian Ponder and T.J. Yates didn’t do much, but Newton had 237 passing yards plus 47-1 on the ground in the earlier meeting and strolls into this matchup with six rushing scores in the past three games. That in and of itself is enough to warrant a fantasy start; mix in adequate passing yardage and maybe a score and Newton is solid fantasy gold.
RB

Jonathan Stewart
DeAngelo Williams

B With Newton taking his cut of the rushing stats off the top, little is left for the backs to split. Stewart (48) and Williams (44) split 92 yards in the earlier meeting, with Stewart scoring a touchdown to salvage fantasy value. The Falcons have allowed just two RB TDs in the six games since, so it’s tough to bank on either for a fantasy contribution this week.
WR Steve Smith S3

The Falcons will be without top corner Brent Grimes again this week, but even before his absence they were slumping, serving up three 100-yard games, two 90-yard games, and five WR TDs since holding Smith to 5-66 back in Week 6. Smith is still Newton’s favorite target; though he hasn’t turned that into a 100-yard game since Week 8 or a touchdown since Week 11, he’s still the Panthers’ best bet for receiving points.

TE Greg Olsen
B

Olsen is back to sharing looks with Jeremy Shockey; moreover, Newton is starting to find other wideouts down the field as well. After splitting 17 targets (for 9 catches and 102 yards) with Shockey in the earlier matchup with Atlanta, set your sights lower; the Falcons have allowed just two TE TDs and one tight end to top 51 yards in the six games since.

DT Panthers B Carolina’s defense isn’t making enough plays to warrant fantasy consideration, nor are they stopping teams to the extent that you’ll pick up bonus points that way.
 

Houston at Cincinnati

Back to top
Houston
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB T.J. Yates B Yates wasn’t half bad in his first NFL start, but he left most of the heavy lifting to the ground game and half his passing yards came thanks to Andre Johnson, who may not be available here. There’s not much upside to using him on the road against a pretty good Cincinnati secondary.
RB Arian Foster

S1 The Texans loaded Foster up with 31 carries to protect their young quarterback, and they’ll likely do so again against a Cincy run defense that’s allowed opposing feature backs to score multiple touchdowns in three of the last four games.
RB Ben Tate S3 Tate saw 11 carries in relief of Foster last week, and with no Andre Johnson in the mix you can expect Houston to go run-heavy again. Tate’s not the great start he was in more favorable matchups, but after watching Isaac Redman carve out 51 yards as Rashard Mendenhall’s understudy last week there’s definitely upside here.
WR Andre Johnson B

Despite the same optimism that made AJ an "almost ready" every week for about two months following his previous injury, Johnson has been ruled out of this tilt with an injury to his other hamstring.

WR Kevin Walter
Jacoby Jones
B

Johnson’s absence means more opportunity for Houston’s secondary targets. They’ve done precious little with them thus far, no reason to expect something different here.

TE Owen Daniels
Joel Dressen
B

Daniels keeps getting the targets; Dreessen keeps stealing the touchdowns. Cincy hasn’t allowed much of either to opposing tight ends, holding them under 50 yards and without a touchdown since Week 6; tough to trust a split of little at this critical point in the season.

DT Texans S3 Houston’s defense hasn’t given up more than 14 points since Week 6, so they could pick up some bonus points that way.
Cincinnati
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Andy Dalton B

Houston hasn’t allowed multiple touchdown passes since Week 5; in fact, they’ve allowed just five in the seven games since. Dalton has posted three straight with single-digit touchdowns, and his yardage has declined in three straight as well. Maybe it’s the tougher opponents, maybe it’s the rookie wall, but whatever the case this doesn’t look like a big opportunity for fantasy points.

RB Cedric Benson S3

It’s been more than a month since the Texans allowed a running back touchdown and almost two since any back took them for triple-digit yardage. It’s a home date, which provides mild optimism for Benson, but most of that is negated by the tougher matchup. Ultimately, you’ll get the typical 60-70 yards and maybe a score from Ced; plan accordingly.

WR A.J. Green

S2

The rookie has 100 yards or a touchdown—or both—in seven of his last eight games so you’re playing him regardless of matchup. And considering most of the few elite receivers the Texans have faced this season have either scored or topped 100 yards themselves, no reason to sit him here.

WR Jerome Simpson

B

This isn’t a matchup where you go looking for help in the receiver depth.

TE Jermaine Gresham S3 Only two teams have given up fewer fantasy points to tight ends, but Gresham has scored in three of his last four at home and is targeted as a WR2 so he’s still playable in TE-mandatory leagues.
DT Bengals B Despite what looks to be a favorable matchup at home with a rookie quarterback, the Bengals aren’t forcing enough turnovers of late to warrant fantasy attention and you know the conservative Houston game plan won’t provide any additional opportunities.
 
Minnesota at Detroit Back to top
Minnesota
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Christian Ponder B

Last week’s 381 and 3 proves Ponder is capable of carrying an offense if need be, with or without Adrian Peterson. Whether the Vikings' stud back will be in the lineup is unclear, as is Ponder's status; he missed Wednesday and Thursday's practices and went on a limited basis Friday due to a hip pointer suffered in Week 13. Joe Webb took most of the first team reps, and Ponder's upside isn't so great that we can issue a blanket "start" statement here. If he plays he's usable, but if you plan on plugging him into your fantasy lineup be prepared to make the move to Webb or another Plan B on Sunday morning.

RB Adrian Peterson S3

AP got in two limited practices this week, and the team estimates him to be at about 80 percent. There's little reason to risk him here, but Peterson is tough and has talked about taking a pain-killer in order to play this weekend. He’s scored six times in his last five against Detroit but been held under 80 yards in each of the last two meetings. No Ndamukong Suh should help boost those numbers back upwards, and if AP is active on game day he should be in your lineup, but given the information available right now we can't give AP anything higher than an S3.

WR Percy Harvin

S2

With AP out Harvin has demonstrated his ability to carry an offense. The return of Peterson might take a few touches off his plate but it also removes a whole lot of defensive attention. Harvin was limited during the practice week by a finger injury, but all indications are he'll play so there's no reason to think he can’t pile up yardage and find the end zone against a Detroit secondary that’s allowed five WR TDs over the past three games alone.

WR Devin Aromashodu

S3

With Michael Jenkins out for the season Aromashodu is getting an extended audition. Last week 15 targets led to 6-90, and if he’s filling the same role that saw Jenkins post 9-88 against Detroit you have to like his upside.

TE Vishante Shiancoe

B

Shiancoe scored in the earlier meeting with Detroit (on his only catch), but now he’s sharing looks and touchdowns with rookie Kyle Rudolph. Worse, the Lions haven’t allowed a TE TD since Week 6. Tough to trust Shiancoe with a fantasy start given those factors.

DT Vikings B

You have Jared Allen, and you have… well, you have Jared Allen. Percy Harvin in the return game almost gives this unit a boost, but the chances of them negating the return by serving up 30-plus points is too great.

Detroit
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford S1

Six of the last seven quarterbacks the Vikings have faced have thrown multiple touchdowns, including a career-high 202 yards and two scores to Tim Tebow last week. Stafford has averaged 337 yards and two TDs a game since the Lions’ Week 9 bye; those should be baseline numbers against one of the weakest secondaries in the league.

RB Kevin Smith
B

Officially Smith is listed as questionable, but he didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday and had to step out of drills on Friday when his ankle started acting up. Don't bank on him playing this week.

RB Maurice Morris S3

MoMo should see at least a share of the carries even if Smith plays; if he’s getting the bulk of the touches he’s a decent combo-yardage play against a Minnesota defense that’s allowed 100-yard rushers in two of the last three games and served up the second-most RB receiving touchdowns. Consider Morris an S3 for now; if and when Smith is officially ruled out, bump him up to an S2.

WR Calvin Johnson S1

The Vikings couldn’t stop Megatron in the earlier meeting, allowing 108 yards and two touchdowns, and they’ve lost multiple members of their secondary since then. Early indications are they took notes as to how the Saints treated Johnson like a punt return gunner and will follow a similar tack; however, Minnesota’s execution of any plan this season has been suspect at best so don’t abandon Megatron at playoff time.

WR Nate Burleson
Titus Young

S3

Devoting too many resources to Johnson will leave the Vikings’ shaky secondary vulnerable in other areas; Burleson’s 93 yards last week and Young’s 60 suggest they know what to do with the extra room.

TE Brandon Pettigrew
Tony Scheffler
S3

Pettigrew slaughtered the Vikings with 11-112 in the earlier meeting, but lately it’s been Scheffler doing the damage as he’s scored three of the Lions’ last four TE TDs. Both are useable in TE-mandatory leagues this week—Pettigrew in performance-based scoring systems, Scheffler in TD-heavy leagues.

DT Lions B Unless you get points for personal foul penalties, this unit minus Suh isn’t much of a fantasy factor.
 
Chicago at Denver Back to top
Chicago
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Caleb Hanie S3

Hanie struggled mightily after losing Matt Forte early in last week’s loss to the Chiefs. But he flashed enough in the previous week against Oakland to warrant fantasy consideration against a defense that just served up 381 and three to rookie Christian Ponder.

RB Marion Barber S3

The Broncos have struggled to contain backup backs of late. Joe McKnight filled in with 121 combo yards in Week 11 and last week Toby Gerhart rolled up 133 yards from scrimmage, so there’s hope Barber can pick up the slack left by Forte’s injury absence.

WR

Johnny Knox

S3 In two Hanie starts Knox has 18 targets, 9 catches, 198 yards, and one touchdown; the rest of Chicago’s wideouts combined have 22-9-90. Maybe that draws extra attention from Champ Bailey, but where was he when Percy Harvin (156 & 2) and Devin Aromashodu (90 yards) were running free through the Denver secondary last week? If you have to trust a Bears receiver, Knox is your guy.
DT Bears S3 Devin Hester is always a threat, and if the Bears can figure out how to defend the Hail Mary they’re pretty stout defensively as well.
Denver
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tim Tebow S3 Coming off 202 and 2 against the Vikings, Tebow has to be eyeing the 374 & 1 plus 35 & 2 rushing stat line Cam Newton slapped on the Bears in Week 4. You know the drill: don’t watch until the very end and you’ll be rewarded with an exciting finish and solid fantasy numbers. But it’s like making sausage: you only want to see the finished product.
RB Willis McGahee S3

The Bears haven’t allowed a 75-yard rusher since Jahvid Best took them for 163 and 1 back in Week 5. But the true comparison here might be the Panthers grinding out 135 yards on 18 carries against Chicago the week before. Denver’s read option isn’t that different from what Cam Newton and the Panthers threw at the Bears that week; it’s the offense that has yielded back-to-back 100-yard games for McGahee and it certainly puts him in play again this week. Be aware that there's risk involved, as McGahee sat out two practices this week and only returned for a limited session on Friday. He's listed as questionable, so make sure he's not among the game day inactives before plugging him into your fantasy lineup.

WR Eric Decker
DeMaryius Thomas
S3

One of these guys is going to have a big day; good luck picking which one. After Decker scored in three straight and four of five it was Thomas left open last week, blowing up for 144 and 2. Chicago’s defense isn’t that much different from what the Vikings play, replete with shaky safety play. Start ‘em at your own risk, but with considerable upside.

DT Broncos S3 This can be a very good defense, especially if Von Miller returns, and the Bears have issues protecting the quarterback. Against an untested quarterback like Hanie there are many ways this could go right for the Broncos.

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