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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List: Week 17
John Tuvey
Updated: December 30, 2011
 
SFO at STL IND at JAC CAR at NOS SEA at ARI Start/Bench List by Position
WAS at PHI NYJ at MIA TBB at ATL KCC at DEN
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DET at GBP CHI at MIN BAL at CIN SDC at OAK
TEN at HOU BUF at NEP PIT at CLE DAL at NYG
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)
 
 
San Francisco at St. Louis Back to top
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith S3

Smith had one of his better games of the season in the Week 13 matchup with St. Louis, throwing for 274 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-0 win. Colin Kaepernick mopped up in that game and, if things proceed in a similar fashion, will be called upon even earlier as the Niners gear up for the postseason. Smith hasn’t been much of a fantasy option, but at least he’ll be playing for something—as long as he’s in the game.

RB Frank Gore S3

Gore saw his largest workload in a month as the Niners kept their playoff bye hopes alive with a win in Seattle. He went 21-73 in the earlier meeting with the Rams, but it would be surprising to see him get 20 touches this week. If you’re playing him, hope for an early score before he gives way to Kendall Hunter and Anthony Dixon.

RB Kendall Hunter S2

Hunter carried a dozen times last week and could very well be the Niners’ primary ball-carrier by halftime. Against a Rams’ defense that’s allowed the second-most RB TDs and second-most RB rushing yards, that’s a gig bound to make a fantasy helper out of him.

WR Michael Crabtree B It’s an uphill battle for Crabtree to have fantasy relevance this week. He hasn’t scored since the last time he saw the Rams (Week 13), the San Francisco game plan is bound to be run-heavy (again), and he could very well give way to backups as the Niners rest regulars for the postseason. Mix in a Rams defense that has shut out A.J. Green and Mike Wallace the past two weeks and Crabtree is a long shot for fantasy help this week.
TE Vernon Davis S3

While Davis is no longer ceding as many looks to his understudies as he was earlier in the season, that may change if the Niners get up early and look to rest regulars for the playoff run. He hasn’t been nearly as dominant at his position as in past seasons, so he’s barely worth the risk for a possible touchdown and a handful of yards before hitting the sidelines.

DT 49ers S2 They may be resting regulars, but the Rams’ offense has been so bad—shut out twice in the past month, one game with more than 20 points all season long—that even the reserves could generate some defensive fantasy points here.
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kellen Clemens B

No reason to risk Sam Bradford and his high ankle sprain here, and there’s talk in St. Louis that the team may want to get a look at Tom Brandstater to see if he’s worth a 2012 roster spot. Factor in a San Francisco D that’s allowed one multiple passing touchdown game in the past six—and held A.J. Feeley to 156 and zero when these teams met previously—and you’ve got a prime bench candidate.

RB Steven Jackson S3

Jackson has already reached 1,000 yards, and there’s no reason to overwork him here against a pretty good Niners run D that just last week allowed its first RB rushing score of the season. Hopefully you have a better option at your disposal because while it’s unlikely to be as bad as the 10-19 S-Jax posted in the earlier meeting with San Francico, it’s not going to be pretty.

WR

Brandon Lloyd

S3

Lloyd continues to be the most thrown at Ram, but that hasn’t amounted to much fantasy-wise: no touchdowns since Week 12 and a high-water mark of 82 yards back in Week 14. He’s the most productive member of the Rams’ passing game, which is akin to being the center on the all-jockey basketball team.

DT Rams B Six straight foes have scored 20 points or better on the Rams, including the Niners’ 26 in the earlier meeting this year. Sure, they might be facing backups but there are more talented, more motivated defenses you could trot out this week instead.
 
Washington at Philadelphia Back to top
Washington
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Rex Grossman
S3

The last time Rexy saw the Eagles, he threw four picks and was benched. He gets a fringe starting grade this week only because of the potential for a disinterested Philly D and multiple touchdowns in four of his last six games. That’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

RB

Roy Helu
Evan Royster

B

As if you needed a Shanahan backfield situation to be further muddied. Helu says he’ll be healthy, fellow rook Royster just posted 132 yards in his first NFL start, and both are auditioning to be on the Redskins’ 2012 backfield merry-go-round. Mix in a Philly D that hasn’t allowed a running back touchdown since Week 13 and you’ve got even more of a mess than usual.

WR Santana Moss

B Moss drew Nnamdi Asomugha in the earlier matchup and produced 2-38. He’s been outproduced by Jabar Gaffney each of the past two weeks, and the presence of Asomugha this week strongly suggests his numbers will be subdued again this week.
WR Jabar Gaffney

S2 Gaffney has already hit career benchmarks in yardage and touchdowns in his 10th NFL season, and he’s 81 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard campaign. Look for Rexy, who has already been tilting Gaffney’s way and would be well advised to avoid throwing at Nnamdi Asomugha anyway, to help his fellow Gator reach 1K this week. What else do the Skins have to play for?
DT Redskins B The Redskins haven’t scored a defensive touchdown since Week 1 and have given up 33 points or more in three of their last four games. That’s not a fantasy defense you want to trot out in any sort of situation.
Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Michael Vick S3

Expect Vick to stick around at least long enough to record a second straight 3,000-yard campaign—though he’s only 32 yards shy, so that’s not saying much. He threw for 237 and 1 in the earlier matchup but has posted two of his better games the last two weeks (567 yards, 3 TDs) and is expected to play most if not all of this tilt.

RB LeSean McCoy
S1

Shady returned to practice later in the week and while listed as questionable is expected to play--and not just play, but make a run at Maurice Jones-Drew and the league rushing title (128 yards out but obviously a moving target) as well as Wilbert Montgomery's single-season franchise rushing record (208 yards out). He'll have all offseason to rest, so it sounds like Philly will turn him loose.

WR Jeremy Maclin
S2 Maclin was Philly’s top wideout the last time these clubs met; in fact, he’s outperformed Desean Jackson fantasy-wise each of the last five times both have been in the lineup. He’s definitely more trustworthy with a fantasy start than any of his running mates.
WR DeSean Jackson
S3 You could make a case that Jackson is playing for a contract and should be motivated to leave a lasting impression with both the Eagles and other GMs around the league… but you could have made that case all year, and we haven’t seen that sort of motivation from D-Jax. In fact, it’s been quite the opposite; if there’s a ball across the middle, don’t you get the impression he’ll let it sail rather than put himself in jeopardy?
TE Brent Celek
S2 Celek has 208 yards and two TDs the past two weeks and scored against the Redskins in the previous meeting as well. Vick seems much more comfortable throwing to his tight end now than in previous seasons or even earlier this year, which bodes well for a solid showing from Celek in the season finale.
DT Eagles S2 Redskins QBs have thrown at least one pick in every game since Week 1, including a season-high four against Philly in Week 6. Heck, Rexy even threw one against the Vikings last week, a team that had gone almost 300 passing attempts without recording an INT. You have to like Philly’s chances this week.
 
Detroit at Green Bay Back to top
Detroit
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford B

A motivated Stafford threw for just 276 and 1 at home against these same Packers five weeks ago; with Detroit securely in the postseason and Stafford having made it this far without suffering a significant injury, why expose him to any more risk than necessary? There are no milestones to play for, his 764 and 7 the past two weeks indicate he’s on a roll… look for the Lions to get him some work and get him in a baseball cap, turning the reins over to Shaun Hill.

RB Kevin Smith
B

Tough to see the Lions risking Smith and his balky ankle in a meaningless game. The signing of Joique Bell to the active roster earlier this week further supports this theory, as Detroit appears ready to battle the Packers with a rotating backfield of Maurice Morris, Keiland Williams, and the newly-signed Bell.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

Megatron tallied a late TD in the earlier meeting with Green Bay and could be on the field longer than the Packer regulars; after all, the Lions need to win to avoid a rematch with the Saints or Falcons, both of whom bested them this season. With 316 and 3 the past two weeks Johnson is ready for the postseason spotlight, and whether it’s Stafford or Hill under center Detroit quarterbacks know where to find their go-to guy.

WR Nate Burleson

S3

The Lions won’t be as quick to rest Burleson so he may enjoy some run as the Lions’ WR1 later in this game. With Detroit needing the win more than the Packers, they’ll be looking to put up early points in hopes of driving Green Bay regulars to the bench, and if too much coverage drifts Megatron’s way Burleson is poised to capitalize.

TE Brandon Pettigrew
S2

The Packers have given up TE TDs in three of four since holding Detroit TEs to 6-40 in Week 12. Pettigrew has been targeted 21 times the past two weeks, catching 14 balls for 129 yards and a score. He’ll get plenty of looks this week as well, and while Tony Scheffler lurks at the stripe Pettigrew remains a solid fantasy option as the Lions need this win to duck the Saints or Falcons.

DT Lions S3 The distinct possibility of facing Matt Flynn for three quarters, in a game that actually means something to the Lions, makes the Detroit D a viable fantasy play this week.
Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers B

It’s possible the Packers get greedy and leave Rodgers out there to riddle the Lions for five TDs to get him to 50—possible, but highly unlikely. Look for plenty of Matt Flynn this week as the Pack gives Rodgers just enough work to keep him from getting too rusty given next week’s bye.

QB Matt Flynn S3

The likelihood of three quarters worth of action in a high-powered offense with nothing to lose makes Flynn at least worthy of fantasy consideration this week.

RB

Ryan Grant

B

Four backs saw multiple carries the last time these clubs tangled. With no real RB1 it’s tough to say who sits; then again, with no go-to back it’s tough to see any one of this crew getting enough work to register on the fantasy radar.

WR Jordy Nelson

S3

It’s a home game, which means Nelson will leap. He’ll likely do so early so he can join Rodgers on the sidelines, so his catches and yardage won’t be gaudy. But the touchdown seems like a lock.

WR James Jones S3

Jones scored in the earlier meeting with Detroit and is seeing increased snaps with Greg Jennings out. The Packers have to put 11 guys on the field so with Jenningsand Randall Cobb out and Nelson resting look for Jones to be Matt Flynn’s primary target.

WR Randall Cobb B

Cobb has been ruled out due to a groin injury, scuttling his opportunity for some garbage-time action this week.

TE D.J. Williams

U

Jermichael Finley is banged up, so expect the Packers to take advantage of the opportunity to rest him. Finley is also a potential free agent, which means this is an opportunity to look at rookie D.J. Williams as a possible successor—or at least an injury replacement for the next time the oft-nicked Finley has to sit.

DT Packers S3 They’re at home and there’s no reason not to take some chances. Plus, they could be facing Detroit backups at some point as well.
 

Tennessee at Houston

Back to top
Tennessee
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck B

Yes, the Titans have something to play for and the Texans don’t. But aside from that there’s absolutely nothing to like about this matchup. Only once in the past 10 games has Houston allowed multiple passing touchdowns; that string includes holding Hasselbeck to a paltry 104 and 1 in Week 7. It’s been two months since Hass had a multi-TD game of his own; tough to trust him to come up with one at this critical juncture.

RB Chris Johnson S3

The good news is that if CJ matches his output from the front end of this series he’ll at least make it to 1K this season. The bad news is, in the earlier meeting Johnson carried 10 times for 18 yards. Houston hasn’t been quite as lights out against the run of late, but Johnson hasn’t been reliable all year; why would he start now? He missed practice earlier in the week with a sore ankle but returned to action Friday and has been cleared to play. Honestly, though, would anyone be shocked if he tapped out after picking up just enough yardage to add the 1K to his moniker?

WR Nate Washington

S2 The Texans have given up touchdowns to WR1s in back-to-back weeks and Nate’s 17-263-2 (on 33 targets) over the past three weeks position him as the most reliable of Tennessee’s wideouts.
WR Damian Williams
Lavelle Hawkins
B Williams and Hawkins have produced the occasional solid outing of late, but they’re nowhere near as reliable as Washington. And Houston’s secondary is too tough to be looking for help outside of a team’s top target.
TE Jared Cook S3 There’s definitely some upside to Cook, who has back-to-back 100-yard games and 17-272-1 over the past two games. The Texans have allowed only one TE TD the past two months, and only one tight end has topped 50 yards in that span, but with their level of interest significantly lower than that of the Titans Cook may find more room to roam.
DT Titans S2 The Texans haven’t topped 20 points since T.J. Yates took over at quarterback, and with the Texans likely to treat this as a preseason tilt with regards to starter playing time Tennessee could feast on a rusty Jake Delhomme or Jeff Garcia as well.
Houston
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB T.J. Yates B Yates has one fantasy helper in five career outings, and there’s a very good chance he’ll either play much of this tilt without benefit of his top players—or even sit himself. No reason to reach for him here.
RB Arian Foster

S3 Foster gouged the Titans for 234 combo yards and three TDs in the earlier meeting, but he’s unlikely to be around for 30 touches in this meeting. Assume a quarter-plus of work, which should be enough for Arian to find the end zone once.
RB Ben Tate S3 Tate already has one 100-yard outing against the Titans, picking up 15-104 in relief of Foster in the Texans’ 41-7 blowout win back in Week 7. The risk with Tate is that he’ll lose carries on the front end to Foster and on the back end to Derrick Ward. In between, however, there’s a good chance he’ll give you helpful fantasy stats.
WR Andre Johnson B

The hope is that Houston can test-drive AJ for 15-20 snaps. They’ll throw the ball his way a couple times, maybe take a deep shot to see what his hamstring can do, then encase Andre in bubble wrap and save him for the playoffs well before he’s able to give you much in the way of fantasy assistance.

WR Kevin Walter
Jacoby Jones
B

Secondary targets have done little in games that matter with Andre Johnson out of the lineup. Now, the Texans have nothing to play for and will want to shake some of AJ’s rust before resting most of their regulars. Tough to see either Walter or Jones making any fantasy hay out of those circumstances.

TE Joel Dressen B

With Owen Daniels still nursing nagging injuries Dreessen should see plenty of action this week. However, he’ll be facing a motivated Titans defense that hasn’t allowed a TE TD since Week 11, which doesn’t bode well for his fantasy prospects.

DT Texans B Houston is likely to rest defensive regulars as well, and with the Titans in must-win mode there’s no reason to throw the Texans’ second team into your fantasy lineup.
 
Indianapolis at Jacksonville Back to top
Indianapolis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Dan Orlovsky B

Orlovsky has exactly one meaningful fantasy game, his 353 & 2 nugget against a disinterested Patriots secondary. The Jags have had plenty of injuries in their secondary, but not enough to make Orlovsky fantasy relevant this week.

RB Donald Brown
Joseph Addai
B Jacksonville has allowed at least one RB TD in every game since… well, since the last time they faced the Colts. And with Addai and Brown splitting the workload you can’t even bank on one of them to turn volume into fantasy production.
WR Reggie Wayne
Pierre Garçon
S3

You have to think last week was Wayne’s Indy swan song, as he put up only his third fantasy-relevant game of the season with 8-106-1. Maybe it’s Garçon’s turn, or maybe there’s just enough to go around against a banged-up secondary that’s allowed multiple wideouts to either score or top 70 yards or both in three of their last four games.

DT Colts S3 Why not roll the dice against an offense that’s busted out of the teens just once in the past 10 games and only twice all year?
Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Blaine Gabbert B

Gabbert’s mini-run of pseudo-fantasy help ended a couple weeks back. Since he’s still working with an anonymous cast of receivers, no reason to expect a sudden change here.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S1

MoJo has been rock solid all season long despite getting zero help from his teammates. He’s not one to mail it in—especially after getting a text from Fred Taylor earlier this week challenging him to come up with the 136 yards MoJo needs to break Taylor’s franchise single-season rushing record. The Jags haven’t had much to play for all season long; now that Jones-Drew does, tough to see him being denied by an Indy D that served up 114 and 1 to him in Week 10 and has allowed six 100-yard rushers already this season.

WR

Chastin West
Jarret Dillard

B “You may not recognize us, but we’re wide receivers for the Jacksonville Jaguars. The pro team here in town. We got uniforms and everything!”
TE

Marcedes Lewis

B When you’re getting paid like an elite tight end and getting outperformed by Colin Cloherty and Zach Potter, something’s not right.
DT Jaguars S3

The Jags have three defensive touchdowns in their last three home games, but don’t get too excited: in perhaps the most shocking stat of the season, the Colts have not surrendered a defensive touchdown since Dan Orlovsky took over.

 
NY Jets at Miami Back to top
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Mark Sanchez S3

The Jets’ playoff hopes, while on life support, aren’t dead yet. And a Dolphins defense that’s allowed back-to-back 300-yard games to Ryan Fitzpatrck and Tom Brady and multiple QB TDs in four of their last five presents a favorable matchup for Sanchez, who has produced multiple scores of his own in four of his last five.

RB Shonn Greene S3

Greene’s 21-74 in the earlier meeting with Miami is typical of his season. His two-game run of fantasy success—in which he scored four of his six TDs—one month back feels more like an aberration than the start of something big; same goes for the four RB TDs the Jets served up in Weeks 14 and 15, as aside from that they haven’t allowed a running back score since Week 4. Enjoy the mediocrity; in Week 17, it might just pass for fantasy help.

WR Santonio Holmes
Plaxico Burress

S3

Holmes had his four-game scoring streak snapped last week, and neither Jet receiver has managed a 100-yard game this season. The Dolphins’ MO of late has been to allow the WR1 decent yardage but a secondary target to find the end zone. That puts both Holmes and Burress in play; at least they’re playing for something this week, which gives them a leg up on most of the other WR options.

TE Dustin Keller S3

Keller’s insane 18 targets last week yielded 77 yards but no score, and that’s been par for the course for Keller this season as he’s scored in just one of his last 13 games. The Dolphins haven’t surrendered a TE TD since Week 7 but can be had for yardage—like Keller’s 51 in the earlier meeting. In TE-mandatory leagues with yardage-heavy scoring systems Keller is an option; otherwise, take your cuts elsewhere.

DT Jets S3 The Jets’ last defense touchdown came against Miami in Matt Moore’s first start of the season. Miami’s line has surrendered 16 sacks the last three games and lost Jake Long for the season to a torn pec, while the Jets have multiple sacks in five straight and will be motivated in a must-win situation. So we’re sayin’ there’s a chance.
Miami
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Moore S3

Moore has multiple touchdown tosses in back-to-back games and should easily improve on his 204-yard, zero-TD showing in the earlier matchup with Gang Green. However, even his ceiling is in the S3 range against a solid Jets’ secondary.

RB

Reggie Bush

B

Bush's best pro season has ended prematurely due to a knee injury. That's gonna put a dent in his "durable" tag.

RB

Daniel Thomas

S3

With Bush out of the mix Thomas should get the carries by default. The Jets have allowed five RB TDs in just the last two games so you could make a case for him as a viable fantasy play this week, but he's a fringe option at best.

WR

Brandon Marshall

S2

Marshall made Revis Island look like Fantasy Island the last time these clubs met, catching eight balls for 106 yards and a touchdown. It’s been a month since a WR1 found the end zone against the Jets, but it’s clear the Dolphins won’t back away from Revis; besides, Marshall has a three-game scoring streak he’s looking to extend.

TE

Anthony Fasano

S3

Fasano’s back from his concussion, and the last four teams to throw more than two passes at their tight ends have averaged 7-120-1 from the position. Don’t expect numbers quite that gaudy, but the Dolphins do have TE TDs in each of their last two games and Fasano has either scored or topped 50 yards in six of his last seven games.

DT Dolphins S3 No team has served up more defensive touchdowns than the Jets; even if you take away the hat trick the Ravens dropped on them the Jets would still be tied for third in that category. On the road, under pressure… you could do worse than a Dolphins’ D that has 11 sacks in the past three games.

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