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Start/Bench List: Week 15
John Tuvey
Updated: December 16, 2011
JAC at ATL GBP at KCC CIN at STL NEP at DEN 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)
Jacksonville at Atlanta Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Blaine Gabbert B

Despite two viable fantasy games the past two weeks—the first two multi-touchdown games of Gabbert’s career—it’s tough to trust Gabbert with a start here. One, he’s on the road; and two, he’s likely meeting his wide receivers for the first time as you are reading this. He’s closer to startable, but in Week 15 there’s just not enough upside to risk him here

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S1

Not only has Jones-Drew been money all season long, he’s been sleeping in a hyperbaric chamber so he’s borderline superhuman. He’s also catching the Falcons’ normally stout run defense at the right time, as they’ve served up RB rushing touchdowns in three straight games and 268 RB rushing yards in just the past two.


Jarrett Dillard

B Mike Thomas has a concussion; Cecil Shorts has a bum hamstring. This already wafer-thin group just got anorexic. No need to reach for anything here.

Marcedes Lewis

S2 Finally? Maybe? The Falcons have given up three TE TDs the past two games, and Lewis has seen 34 targets the past four weeks; only Jimmy Graham and Tony Gonzalez have seen more throws coming their way over the past month. If he actually holds on to them for a change, he makes a great plug-in play this week.
DT Jaguars B

Jacksonville’s blowup of the Bucs last week netted them fully one-third of their DST fantasy points for the entire season. Don’t expect a repeat against an Atlanta squad that hasn’t allowed double-digit defensive fantasy points since giving up a defensive score and five sacks to the Bears back in Week 1.

Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan S2

Ryan has been a fantasy helper of late, with multiple touchdowns in two of last three and four of last six. But this projects to be a much tougher matchup than you might think; despite myriad injuries to their secondary, over the past eight games the Jaguars have allowed only Philip Rivers to throw multiple touchdowns against them.

RB Michael Turner S2

Four straight feature backs have found the end zone against Jacksonville, averaging 91 yards per game with two 100-yard efforts. That’s good news for Turner, who hasn’t scored or topped 100 yards since Week 11.

WR Roddy White S1

Double-digit targets in four consecutive games; touchdowns in three straight. Would you believe only two wideouts have seen double-digit targets against the Jags? Between the two they scored three times and compiled 176 yards, so White is sitting pretty this week.

WR Julio Jones

He’s a bit hit-or-miss, with touchdowns in only two games—but they’re two of his last three healthy games. The upside, even against a reasonably sound secondary, is too good to let Jones sit on your bench.


Tony Gonzalez


Jacksonville has surrendered just one TE TD over the past five games, but the heavily targeted (30 the last three games) Gonzo has 60-plus yards or a TD in all but one game this season, including the last seven.

DT Falcons B The 41 points Jacksonville posted last week was double their previous high output and came thanks to two defensive touchdowns, so you could position the Falcons as a viable fantasy defensive play based on the Jags’ 11 points per road game. However, Atlanta has forced just four takeaways in the last five games so they’re not likely to help you in other ways.
Dallas at Tampa Bay Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

Romo continues to roll, with multiple scores in five of his last six and 270 yards in five of six as well. Despit their seven-game losing streak the Bucs haven’t been giving up a ton of fantasy points to quarterbacks, but they’ve been giving up enough that an elite QB such as Romo needn’t worry about a dip in his numbers.

RB Felix Jones S2

Break it down however you want, the Bucs are the most fantasy-friendly defense for running backs to face. With DeMarco Murray done for the season and Sammy Morris unlikely to contribute more than token touches in his first week with the team, Jones walks into a fantastic situation. Start him if you got him!

WR Dez Bryant

Bryant was the guy the Giants tried to take away from Dallas last week, and for the most part they were successful—right up until they forgot to cover him on his 50-yard touchdown. He’s such a red zone mismatch and so freakishly athletic that all it takes is one play for him to become a fantasy factor.

WR Laurent Robinson

While Robinson saw fewer snaps with Austin back in the mix, he ran almost as many pass patterns and should benefit from the Cowboys’ intent to use more three-receiver sets this week. Don’t overlook the fact that despite being on the field less L-Rob outproduced both Austin and Bryant; the guy is becoming a Tony Romo favorite.

WR Miles Austin


It took a little while for Romo to remember where to find him, but once he did Austin was the most targeted of the Cowboys’ wide receiver trio last week. The plan is for Dallas to run more three-WR sets this week, which can only help Austin’s upside.

TE Jason Witten S3

Witten still gets the nod in TE-mandatory leagues, but he’s not the stellar flex option he’s been. The Bucs have allowed only one TE TD in their past eight games and as if Witten wasn’t already taking a hit with John Phillips horning in on his action last week now the Cowboys plan to use more three receiver sets. That means Witten could find himself on the sidelines or in pass protection more than he’s been used to, and neither of those situations bode well for his fantasy prospects.

DT Cowboys S3 The Cowboys’ DST hasn’t been a factor in more than a month, but against a Tampa Bay offense that’s turned the ball over 19 times in the last five games you have to think they at least have a shot.
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh Freeman S3

Freeman’s only fantasy game of note since the Bucs’ Week 8 bye came while playing catch-up in Green Bay, and there’s a good chance he’ll find himself in that position again against a secondary that’s allowed at least 247 yards in each of the last four games.

RB LeGarrette Blount S3

Similar power (read: big and slow) backs Beanie Wells (67 & 1) and Brandon Jacobs (101 & 2) have had success against the Cowboys, and Blount regained a little street cred with 74 yards and a touchdown last week in Jacksonville. He’s at least usable here, though his 19-yard egg two weeks ago at home against Carolina has stripped most of whatever confidence owners were starting him with.

WR Mike Williams

Mike’s mini-run of success ended abruptly last week, but the entire Tampa Bay passing game was stagnant so it wasn’t just him. He’s still the most-targeted Buc, and against a secondary that just gave up 16-299-1 to Giants wide receivers last week he should get back on track to salvaging his season.

WR Dezmon Briscoe

If there’s another play to be found among the Tampa Bay wideouts—and there doesn’t have to be among a group still looking for its first 100-yard game of the season—Briscoe makes the most sense. He was just as targeted as Williams last week and has the Bucs’ only two non-Williams WR TDs in the last month.

TE Kellen Winslow B

Since that throwback 132-yard game in Green Bay in Week 11 Winslow’s numbers have dropped each week—and the prospects of something less than last week’s 2-38 don’t exactly light a fire under fantasy owners. Jake Ballard’s score last week was the first TE TD the Cowboys have allowed since Week 8, and they haven’t allowed a tight end to top 52 yards since then either. Winslow hasn’t been reliable enough this season to play through those kinds of trends, so look elsewhere for help.

DT Buccaneers B The bobble/safety notwithstanding, Tony Romo’s brain farts have been kept to a minimum recently. The Cowboys have just three turnovers in the past five games, making it tough for the Bucs’ D to get any fantasy traction against them.
Carolina at Houston Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments

Cam Newton

S3 It’ll have to happen with his feet, because the Texans haven’t given up multiple touchdown passes since Week 5. Newton definitely has that upside, however, and is the rare rookie quarterback who has played his way into match-up-proof-dom. He’ll also carve out some yardage, as only the Week 3 monsoon has kept him under 200 yards.

Jonathan Stewart
DeAngelo Williams

B Maurice Jones-Drew has the lone RB TD the Texans have given up in the past two months; for the remaining feature backs facing Houston, it’s been right around 50 yards of ho-hum. Neither Williams nor Stewart is getting enough carries to buck this trend, and while either is capable of a big play they’re extreme long shots for fantasy help this week.
WR Steve Smith S3

Cam Newton isn’t afraid to take his downfield shots at Smith; between that and the volume of targets Smith has to be in play even against a defense that hasn’t allowed a wideout to top 70 yards in the past two months.

TE Greg Olsen

Jimmy Graham took the Texans for 100 yards and a score back in Week 3; since then, Jared Cook is the only tight end to score on Houston and Tony Gonzalez is the only tight end to top 50 yards against them. With Olsen still sharing looks with Jeremy Shockey, he can’t be counted on for fantasy help here.

DT Panthers B Granted, this offense isn’t nearly as explosive with T.J. Yates at the helm and Andre Johnson on the bench. But they’ve also turned the ball over one time or less in four of their last five games, so they’re not giving opposing DSTs much help.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB T.J. Yates B Kudos to Yates for pulling out the win last week, throwing 44 times for 300 yards and two touchdowns. If the Texans have their way, that won’t happen again; even Matt Schaub averaged barely 30 passing attempts a game. Yates can be a threat, but against a Carolina secondary that’s held six of its last eight foes to only one TD toss expect the game plan to be far more ground-heavy.
RB Arian Foster

S1 Foster has reached triple-digits in every home game—five times rushing and once receiving. He’s also scored in five of the six and will be given every opportunity to sledgehammer the Panthers into submission.
RB Ben Tate S3 In the Texans’ last three home games Tate has received a total of 28 carries for 198 yards—this, obviously, after Foster has taken big chunks off the top. The game plan will be run-heavy, and with a playoff spot clinched don’t be surprised if Houston goes to the bullpen for Tate a little earlier—for a little more productivity.
WR Kevin Walter S3

When Yates needed a play made last week Walter was the guy stepping up, and Carolina’s secondary demonstrated last week it’s not opposed to giving up yardage. But much of Walter’s Week 14 success can be attributed to the volume of throws, something that’s unlikely to be repeated this week. Don’t raise the expectations bar too high here.

WR Jacoby Jones B

Jones dropped what would have likely been a long touchdown on the first play last week; after that play, Walter was targeted twice as frequently. When your third-team QB loses confidence in your hands, you’re in trouble.

TE Owen Daniels
Joel Dressen

Daniels topped 100 yards last week, while Dreessen scored for the third consecutive game. Both have fantasy upside, with Dreessen the TD-league play and Daniels the better option for PPR and performance leagues.

DT Texans S3 Without Wade Phillips calling the shots, will the Houston defense play things more close to the vest? Carolina hasn’t been a team offering up defensive fantasy opportunities for opponents, so the Texans aren’t a great matchup play, either. They’re serviceable, but you may have better options at your disposal.

Tennessee at Indianapolis

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck S3

After practicing fully on Friday Hasselbeck is on track to start this Sunday. It's a favorable matchup against an Indy secondary that's allowed multiple TDs each of the past two weeks, but quite frankly we'd rather see the athletic Jake Locker get the work.

QB Jake Locker B

With Hasselbeck expected to start, Locker goes back to the bench. But we've seen enough to be enamored with his keeper league potential.

RB Chris Johnson S3

CJ’s fooled us before, posting a 14-34 at home against the Colts in Week 8. He’s had three 130-plus yard efforts since then, but limps into this tilt dragging an 11-23 clunker against the Saints behind him. Indy has given up six RB TDs in the five games since CJ’s egg, giving up a pair of 100-yard efforts to boot. If you’ve made it this deep into the season with CJ on your roster, odds are he hasn’t burned you enough to shy away from using him this week.

WR Nate Washington

S3 Playing on a bum ankle didn’t seem to bother Washington, who caught six balls for 130 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. The Colts have been more susceptible to the deep ball, which on a bad wheel isn’t necessarily Nate’s forte, but that sort of productivity earns Nate a spot in playoff rosters.
WR Damian Williams S2 Williams was targeted more frequently than Washington last week but only hauled in two of 10 targets for 62 yards. He’s the kind of deep threat that’s given Indy problems, and if Locker keeps throwing at him eventually they’ll hook up.
TE Jared Cook B Would love to offer you Cook as a sleeper TE this week against an Indy defense that’s allowed three touchdowns and 155 yards to the position over the past two weeks. But Cook doesn’t even have a catch since Week 12 and has been targeted twice in two games. Can we interest you in a Marcedes Lewis?
DT Titans S2 Mark Mariani’s returns warrant at least an S3, and this matchup with an Indy offense that’s topped 20 points just once in the past two months while turning the ball over 18 times and allowing 19 sacks in that span bumps it up another notch.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Dan Orlovsky B

Sure, Orlovsky produced viable fantasy numbers against the league’s most permissive secondary. The Titans are significantly stouter, holding four of the last five quarterbacks to face them to one or fewer touchdown tosses. They shut out Curtis Painter in Week 8; Orlovsky’s prospects aren’t much better.

RB Donald Brown S3 Brown scored in the earlier meeting, splitting carries with Delone Carter, and he’s received the majority of carries in every game since with limited success. The Titans have allowed a couple 100-yard games, but they were to big backs Michael Turner and LeGarrette Blount. You could compare Brown to C.J. Spiller, whose 14-83 against Tennessee included a touchdown, so there’s some upside here.
WR Reggie Wayne
Pierre Garçon

The duo split 29 targets and 127 yards almost down the middle in the earlier meeting, and with the Titans having surrendered a WR TD in three straight you could try to muster some optimism. But Wayne has one fantasy helper in the past three months and Garçon, after a couple big games early on, has just the 9-150-2 against New England to show for his last two months of work. There’s no compelling reason to reach for either Indy wideout here.

TE Jacob Tamme B

Tony Gonzalez is the only tight end to score or top 55 yards against the Titans over the past month, and they’ve faced Jimmy Graham, Kellen Winslow, and Greg Olsen as well. Neither Tamme nor a healthy Dallas Clark cracks your fantasy lineup this week.

DT Colts B Anybody think Indy goes defense with the first overall pick?
Green Bay at Kansas City Back to top
Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S1

Hey, let’s take away his WR1 and see what he can do! Next week, he’ll play with one hand tied behind his back… and still throw for 275 and 2.


Ryan Grant


Who was the guy wearing Grant’s jersey last week against Oakland? Surely not the same slug who entered last week averaging 3.4 yards per carry and had yet to find the end zone. This new guy is pretty good, and while there’s a risk of a) him reverting to previous form or b) losing touches to a healthy James Starks, a matchup with a KC defense that just let Shonn Greene gouge them for 129 yards (at better than five yards a pop) has to be viewed in a favorable light.

WR Jordy Nelson


Jennings goes down, and Nelson—who already ranks third among wide receivers in receiving touchdowns—now gets more looks. KC has an underrated secondary, but the zone Rodgers is in knows no limits.

WR James Jones S3

Beyond the WR1—which, for the moment is Nelson—it’s all a bit dicey in Green Bay anyway. But while Donald Driver and Randall Cobb should also see an uptick in looks, Jones has the biggest upside.

TE Jermichael Finley


Since last year when Finley went down it was Jennings’ numbers that went up, seems only fair that the reverse should be true as well. And it doesn’t hurt that only one team has given up more TE TDs than the Chiefs. Sure, he’s slippery-handed and frustrating; the only thing more frustrating would be watching him blow up on your bench in the fantasy playoffs.

DT Packers S1 It’s going to be Kyle Orton. Or Ricky Stanzi. With a new coach at the helm. Against a team that’s going to put up a hundred points and play aggressive defense. What could go wrong?
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton S3

Hey, why not? The Packers are giving up a ton of yards as teams are forced to the air to play catch-up, and Orton threw multiple TDs in his last four complete games in Denver before becoming the first victim of Tebowmania 2011. He's competent, has decent receivers, and will definitely be given the opportunity to throw. So again, why not?

RB Jackie Battle
Thomas Jones
B A couple of mediocre backs splitting limited yardage. No, thank you.
RB Dexter McCluster
U With KC playing from behind, he’ll be on the field more and could prove to be a pass-catching presence. But it’s a pretty big stretch to plug him into your lineup during the fantasy playoffs.

Dwayne Bowe


He’ll likely draw Charles Woodson, but for every pick-six Woodson jumps maybe he’ll give up a big play to Bowe. Plenty of risk here, but eventually the Green Bay defense will become disinterested (see the late scores for the Raiders last week) and Bowe will get his.


Steve Breaston
Jonathan Baldwin


A little more certainty at quarterback might put secondary targets in play in what is expected to be a pass-heavy play-from-behind offense. But a rusty Orton or an untested Stanzi takes those options off the board.

DT Chiefs B KC’s defense can hang with some teams, but you don’t want to toss them out there against the Packers.
Seattle at Chicago Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tarvaris Jackson B One instance where fantasy is exactly like reality: TJax shows you flashes where you think, this guy just might have it. Then you look at the bottom line—like one multi-TD game in his last eight—and it’s obvious he doesn’t.
RB Marshawn Lynch S2

Are you ready for some Beast Mode? The Bears have been, holding a bevy of talented backs in check; no one from among Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, Ryan Mathews, and Michael Bush has topped 71 rushing yards in the past two months. The TD streak could extend, but the 100-yard string is in serious jeopardy.


Doug Baldwin

S3 While the Bears have allowed a bunch of 70-yard receivers in the past two months only one has topped 85 and only three have found the end zone during that span. Since those benchmarks are at the top end of Baldwin’s upside, he’s at best a fringe option this week.
DT Seahawks S3 It hasn’t exactly rained points during the Caleb Hanie era, so even with the Seahawks on the road they’re a viable fantasy start against the Bears’ backup QB.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Caleb Hanie B

Hanie has done nothing since a decent 254 and 2 debut against Oakland, totaling 248 yards in two games without benefit of a touchdown. The Seahawks have held four of the last five QBs they’ve faced to a single touchdown, so this is nowhere near a soft enough match to bring Hanie into the conversation.

RB Matt Forte B

Yep, the Bears were just teasing you. Forte isn't playing this week.

RB Marion Barber S2

Barber played about 58 minutes of really good football (140 yards from scrimmage) last week; it’s what happened after that, however, that sticks in the craw. Assuming Forte is a no-go Barber is a pretty good play against a Seattle defense that’s allowed three straight feature backs to find the end zone against them.


Johnny Knox

B You can count the number of WR TDs the Seahawks—a surprising top-10 pass defense—have allowed on one hand. Since the Bears don’t really have a go-to guy to stake a claim to the majority of what little passing production there will be this week, all are fantasy benchwarmers.
DT Bears S2 Tarvaris Jackson has turned the ball over five times in four career meetings with the Bears, so while he’s taken care of it quite well thus far in Seattle the Bears have his number. Mix in a Devin Hester return and you’ve got a decent fantasy defensive start.

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