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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 1
John Tuvey
Updated: September 5, 2008
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*Updates
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)
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Washington (0-0) at N.Y. Giants (0-0) Back to top
Washington
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jason Campbell B

Campbell did little during the preseason to convince us he's mastered Jim Zorn's WCO; in fact, his decision-making slowed to the point he was being sacked at a rate four times higher than last season. He was drafted as a backup; best keep him that way in Week One.

RB Clinton Portis S2 Portis posted 97 and 126 yards from scrimmage in the two meetings last year and scored in each game. Zorn said when implementing the WCO that the running game would remain unchanged, so Portis should be the Skins' workhorse on opening night.
RB Ladell Betts B We've seen no indication Betts will be anything other than insurance.
WR Santana Moss S3

Moss was the one wideout who had at least a modicum of success against the G-Men last season, and with Randle El dinged up and the rest of the receiving corps still sporting training wheels he'll be Campbell's downfield focus.

WR Antwaan Randle El B

Randle El says he'll play despite his broken hand; doesn't mean he needs to be in your fantasy lineup, though.

TE Chris Cooley S2

Cooley capitalized on the Giants' early-season struggles against tight ends, scoring in the Week Three matchup; Big Blue surrendered just three TE TDs the rest of the way. He's still the best play in the Redskins' passing game, but this isn't the most favorable matchup he'll see this season.

DT Redskins B Eli Manning did lead the league in interceptions, but questions about Jason Taylor's availability sap what little the Redskins D/ST brought to the table.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning B

The perception is that Eli turned the corner during the Giants' Super Bowl run; the reality is, his yards per game climbed by barely 15 feet and his touchdown rate stayed the same. He did little of note against the Skins in last year's series (including a 44% completion rate) and offers little upside here.

RB Brandon Jacobs S2

Big Blue feature backs have rung up triple digit yards from scrimmage in six straight against the Skins, After watching Derrick Ward compile 120 combo yards and Reuben Droughns score twice in the first meeting last year, Jacobs gashed the Skins for 160 yards from scrimmage in Week 15. Even if Ahmad Bradshaw siphons off some touches, Jacobs is a nice play this week.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw B

Averaged 13 touches a game in the postseason, so you'd expect him to be in the Giants' game plan somewhere. However, that doesn't feel like enough to trust him with a non-bye week fantasy start.

WR Plaxico Burress S3

Plax is dinged up; so what's new? His two career scores against the Skins have come in the first meeting between the NFC East rivals each of the past two seasons, but for the most part Washington's secondary has contained him.

WR Amani Toomer B

Toomer hasn't scored against the Skins since 2005, and at this point in his career you'll need a better matchup than this to pull him off the scrap heap and into your fantasy lineup.

TE Kevin Boss B

Boss scored his first NFL touchdown against the Redskins last season, but seeing as it was the Giants' first TE TD against Wasington in five games (and one of just six they surrendered all of last season) there's no reason to reach for the sentiment card here.

DT Giants S3 The G-Men are down a pass rusher, but from what we've seen from the Skins this preseason they may still have enough on hand to force Jason Campbell into more than a couple mistakes.
 
Detroit (0-0) at Atlanta (0-0) Back to top
Detroit
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jon Kitna S2

While the Lions are committed to the run this year, they can’t ignore this opportunity to exploit a bottom-feeding pass defense; only four teams gave up more passing scores in 2007 than the Falcons. Atlanta doesn’t pressure the passer, either, giving Kitna will have plenty of time to find his two stud receivers.

RB Kevin Smith U

The rookie should see the bulk of the workload in a game that could easily devolve into a slugfest of teams trying to establish a ground game. Smith is used to the heavy lifting and should enjoy a date with last season’s 26th-ranked run defense in his NFL opener.

RB Rudi Johnson B

He’s expected to spell Smith, but seeing as he’s been in Honolulu blue less than a week and the Bengals thought he was done anyway it’s tough to see him bringing anything to the fantasy table this week. Just don’t let Tatum Bell handle his bags.

WR Roy Williams S1

There is nothing to the trio of Chris Houston, Dominique Foxworth, or Brent Grimes—Atlanta's cornerback corps—to suggest Williams will have anything short of a monster day. And he’ll share the wealth as well; the Falcons surrendered touchdowns to both their opponents’ No. 1 and No. 2 wideouts in three of their final five games last year, then dealt their best corner in the offseason.

WR Calvin Johnson S1

Johnson’s return to Atlanta should provide plenty of fireworks, as the Falcons don’t have the personnel to shut down the passing game. Johnson’s stats will be limited only by a) how much more (or less) open Roy Williams is and b) at what point the Lions take the air out of the ball and start feeding Kevin Smith.

WR

Shaun McDonald
Mike Furrey

B

Sans Mike Martz, Detroit’s third receivers can return to anonymity as the new offense focuses on the ground game and the two outside receivers.

TE

Michael Gaines
Dan Campbell

B

Here’s hoping your draft didn’t regress to the point that you’re actually looking to one of these guys for fantasy help this week.

DT Lions B A Rod Marinelli defense against a rookie quarterback making his NFL debut is certainly tempting; unfortunately, this isn’t the Bucs, it’s the Lions. This early in the season it’s unlikely you’ll need to reach this far down the list.
Atlanta
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan U

The Future Franchise catches several breaks, opening his career at home against the 31st ranked pass defense from a year ago. However, let’s let him get settled first before handing him the keys to your fantasy club.

RB Michael Turner
S2

After biding his time behind LT, Turner is ready to be The Man—or did you miss his 9.3 yards per carry during the preseason? A date with a Lions’ defense that ranked 23rd against the run last season and no longer employs Shaun Rogers shapes up as a great opportunity to work Turner into your lineup.

RB Jerious Norwood B

Mike Mularkey disputed Turner’s assertion that he’ll get 300 carries this season, which means there will be some touches in the mix for Norwood—though he’s only reached double-digit carries four times in his career. At this point in the season, he can’t be trusted to receive enough touches to be a fantasy starter in a non-bye week situation.

WR Roddy White S2

White finished 2007 strong, with 532 yards and four scores in the final six games. With Matt Ryan looking for a proven security blanket, expect a similar start against a bottom-feeding pass defense.

WR Michael Jenkins B

Jenkins rode a couple strong preseason performances to the Falcons’ No. 2 gig, but keep in mind he had one (and only one) catch in four of his last seven games in 2007. The Falcons use the 6-4, 215-pound Jenkins like a tight end… and you’ve seen how the Falcons use the tight end.

WR Laurent Robinson
Harry Douglas
B

It’s too soon to ask Matt Ryan to make his third and/or fourth receivers fantasy relevant, especially on a team that got its second wideout more than five catches just twice all of last season.

TE Martrez Milner B

Alge Crumpler has left the building, so this cushy matchup is wasted on the Falcons and their amalgamation of mediocrity at the position

DT Falcons B The combination of the Lions’ new conservative offense and an Atlanta secondary that is, to put it kindly, a work in progress, makes it a good week to leave the Falcons D/ST on your bench. Or the waiver wire. Just like every other week, really.
 
Seattle (0-0) at Buffalo (0-0) Back to top
Seattle
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck B

Let's assume Hasselbeck's balky back doesn't flare up on the cross-country flight. He'll then face an underrated secondary that ranked between the Jaguars and Patriots in fantasy points surrendered to quarterbacks last year, and he'll do so with three of his regular receivers on the sidelines. That should be enough to send you scrambling for other options in Week One.

RB Julius Jones
Maurice Morris
B

Jones and Morris are slated to be "co-starters", according to Mike Holmgren, with the Walrus indicating he'll ride the hottest hand. Morris was more effective in the preseason, but you have to worry that T.J. Duckett stole the goal line looks. Morris could be used in a yardage-heavy league, but right now this situation is one big gray area. How gray? Charcoal.

RB T.J. Duckett B

Every year we try to write T.J. off, and every year he finds one more team willing to take a chance on him as a goal-line guy. He didn't look bad in the preseason and could swipe some looks at the stripe, but it's a pretty slim peg to be hanging your fantasy hopes on.

WR

Nate Burleson

S3

Randy Moss was the only opposing receiver to score multiple touchdowns against the Bills last year, and this young secondary will only get better with age. However, with Bobby Engram, Deion Branch, and Ben Obomanu all sidelined Burleson will be the primary target by default, and the Bills did allow 20 wideouts to reach the 60-yard mark against them in 2007.

WR Courtney Taylor U

Taylor steps into the lineup as the receivers ahead of him fall like dominos. He's an intriguing sleeper because 13 of the aforementioned 60-receiving yard tilts were posted by secondary targets.

TE John Carlson
B

The rookie was unremarkable during the exhibition schedule and there's no reason to reach for him here against a defense that allowed 38 yards per game to the tight end position.

DT Seahawks S2 A unit that ranked among the league leaders in sacks, picks, and points allowed gets a quarterback with only a handful of pro starts to his credit? Sounds like the kind of matchup I like to exploit.
Buffalo
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Trent Edwards B

Take a quarterback who's failed to throw a touchdown pass in three of his last five starts. Mix in a defense that allowed just three multiple touchdown games last season and shut out six of the eight quarterbacks they visited on the road. Stir. Shake. Bench.

RB Marshawn Lynch S2

Lynch scored or topped 100 rushing yards in every home game he played in last year, and the Bills won't shy away from giving him plenty of work in the Buffalo opener. Seattle allowed triple-digit yardage from scrimmage in seven of its eight road games a year ago, and after flying cross country their arms are bound to be tired.

RB Fred Jackson B

Jackson was getting about 10 touches per game after Lynch returned from injury last season, but he didn't steal any touchdowns and at the moment is little more than Marshawn insurance.

WR Lee Evans B

Evans' inconsistency has made him the bane of many fantasy owners, and if you're playing the odds this doesn't appear to be a good bet for one of his two monster games. The Seahawks allowed just 10 wide receiver touchdowns all of last season and ranked in the bottom third of the league in fantasy points allowed to wideouts.

WR James Hardy B

Hardy flashed a glimpse of his red zone prowess early in the preseason, then battled injuries the rest of the exhibition slate. He'll get looks in the red zone, but it's a leap of faith to ask him to break his NFL maiden against a solid secondary like Seattles.

WR Roscoe Parrish
Josh Reed
B Sorry, fellas; you must be at least this tall to get a fantasy start against a stout secondary like Seattle's. Oh, and actually offering a little production wouldn't hurt, either.
TE Robert Royal B The Bills are actually threatening to use the tight end position this season, but I'll save this surprise card for a week when byes force my hand.
DT Bills U Buffalo's special teams are always rock solid, and between Seattle's unsettled kicking game and a bevy of receivers who haven't worked extensively with Matt Hassselbeck there's potential for the Bills to put a non-traditional touchdown on the board.
 

Jacksonville (0-0) at Tennessee (0-0)

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Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard S3

Is it possible that Sage Rosenfels was the only AFC South quarterback to throw multiple scoring strikes against the Titans last season? Amazing but true. What's also true is that the Titans saw Garrard early last season, before everything came together and he finished with multiple touchdowns in five of the final six games and 197 or more yards in a similar five of six. Expect him to pick up where he left off and deliver another solid fantasy performance.

RB Fred Taylor B

Taylor took advantage of Albert Haynesworth's absence in Week 10 of last year to score his first touchdown against the Titans since 2004. Haynesworth is back, which means your expectations should be dialed down more towards the six-for-16 Freddy T delivered in the Week One meeting.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S3

Like Taylor, MoJo capitalized on Haynesworth's injury to score his first career TD against the Titans. We're slightly more optimistic regarding Jones-Drew's outlook primarily because if the Jags can't run he'll be involved in the passing game. But again, ratchet those expectations down.

WR

Reggie Williams
Dennis Northcutt
Troy Williamson
Matt Jones

B It defies logic: Garrard is a solid, steady fantasy quarterback without the benefit of anything resembling a quality fantasy wideout. Jerry Porter has already been ruled out of this tilt due to his bum hamstring. That leaves Williams, who somehow managed 10 touchdowns last year despite just four games with more than three catches; the rest of this mötley crüe has broken more hearts than Zach Efron. If your Ouija board tells you this is the game where Williams' one catch goes for a score he might be worth a look; otherwise this bunch is bench fodder until the bye weeks hit.
TE Marcedes Lewis B

The Titans allowed just three tight end touchdowns all of last season—which was actually one more than Lewis scored on the year. 'Nuff said.

DT Jaguars S2 The Jags have picked Vince Young six times in four career meetings, but can they shut down the Titans' running game without Marcus Stroud? This one doesn't have the makings of a shootout, and there is some potential for a big play the other way so the Jags certainly warrant fantasy consideration
Tennessee
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Vince Young B

As if Young needed any more difficulty throwing the ball, he's dealing with a banged-up hand. His passing stats have yet to solidify him as an every-week fantasy starter, and his rushing scores are too inconsistent (three in 15 games last season) to bank on.

RB LenDale White B

Jacksonville's run defense ranks in the top third of the league, and White will lose touches to speedy rookie Chris Johnson. How many touches is a bit unclear, but with a tough matchup staring LenDale in the face this isn't the time to start taking chances.

RB Chris Johnson U If you missed the ubiquitous YouTube video this preseason, don't sweat it: Johnson is a highlight film waiting to unspool each time he touches the ball. He appears to have worked his way into a full-on job share in Tennessee, and his upside makes him worth a little risk.
WR

Justin Gage
Justin McCareins

B

Gage is barely on the fantasy radar, and between Young's bum hand and a Jaguar defense that allowed just two wide receiver touchdowns within the division last year it's not a particularly bright blip. Put another way: if you truly believe Young will throw for 257 against Jacksonville like he did last year, then by all means Gage could reprise his 7-90-1 performance. I'm not buying it. The rest of the Tennessee wide receiving corps will still be available in your free agent pool for next week's game.

TE Alge Crumpler U

The silver lining to Young not being an effective downfield passer is that he'll look more frequently to his tight end. And since the Jags surrendered as many tight end touchdowns as wide receiver scores (eight of each) in 2007, there is a shred of upside to Crump this week.

DT Titans B Garrard doesn't throw picks, but if you include special teams touchdowns the possibility of Johnson and his blazing speed returning kicks at least ignites a little spark. Key word here is "little".
 

N.Y. Jets (0-0) at Miami (0-0)

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New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S2

The Dolphins surrendered multiple passing scores in three of their first four (including to Chad Pennington) and three of their last four in 2007. Funny, Favre tossed multiple touchdowns in three of his first four and three of his last four in 2007. Only the shade of green has changed; Favre still belongs in fantasy lineups.

RB Thomas Jones S1

No team allowed more running back rushing yards last year than the Dolphins; combined with defenses forced to respect the pass and Gang Green's offensive line upgrades and everything's coming up Milhouse for Jones this week.

WR Laveranues Coles S2

Coles found the end zone against Miami last year; in fact, he's scored in four of six meetings since returning to Gotham, including the front end of the annual home-and-home in three years running. If he and Favre are on speaking terms by kickoff expect Lav to extend the string.

WR Jerricho Cotchery S2

Cotch hasn't had much success against the Phins, with a high game of 54 yards and just one score in four seasons of twice-annual meetings. There's a new sheriff in town, however, and if the preseason is any indication Cotchery is ready to put that history in the past.

WR Brad Smith B Favre has made a living of finding second and third receivers, so Smith is at least on the radar. Actually using him in a non-bye week... now that's a different story.
TE Chris Baker
Dustin Keller
U

The Phins ranked near the top of the league in shutting down opposing tight ends last season, but there have been a lot of changes on South Beach. Moreover, Favre has demonstrated a propensity for throwing to the tight end, especially in the red zone. I'll let the Baker/Keller hierarchy shake out before recommending one, but they're definitely worth keeping an eye on.

DT Jets U If any team knows Chad Pennington has a noodle arm it's the Jets. Mix in the improved Gang Green pass rush and some quality return men and the Jets make an intriguing play this week—the perfect pickup if autodraft stuck you alphabetically with Atlanta's D/ST.
Miami
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Chad Pennington B

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and in Pennington's case the dish is likely in a Tupperware container in the basement freezer. Tough to see Chad making a Dolphin splash against his former mates, who allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks last season and upgraded their pass rush over the offseason.

RB

Ricky Williams

S3

The Jets were pushed around on the ground last season and acquired NT Kris Jenkins to stop the bleeding. His presence, combined with the Dolphins' extremely young offensive line and the fact that Williams may cede a significant share of the touches to Ronnie Brown has us downgrading Miami's preseason star to just a borderline fantasy starter.

RB

Ronnie Brown

B

Not only is Brown less than one year removed from a knee surgery that generally requires two years for a full recovery, he's also still nursing a bum thumb and will be sharing carries with Ricky Williams. That combo does not add up to a fantasy start, even against the Jets.

WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Derek Hagan
Greg Camarillo
B Ginn exceeds Pennington's arm about four steps into his pattern, and the rest of the Dolphin receivers are at best unremarkable. Only two teams allowed fewer wide receiver touchdowns than the Jets, while only one club scored fewer wide receiver touchdowns than the Jets. Sounds like a match made in some alternate heaven where fantasy teams don't use wideouts.
TE Anthony Fasano B

Dolphin tight ends come into play primarily because they play at the limit of Pennington's range. Let's let Fasano prove he and Mark Bavaro share more than just Bill Parcel's favor and a vowel at the end of their names before plugging him into a fantasy lineup.

DT Dolphins B Sans Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas the Dolphins team defense is largely devoid of fantasy value. Ted Gin brings a little something to the table in the return game, but that is likely to be offset by whatever point total the Jets throw up on the board.
 

Kansas City (0-0) at New England (0-0)

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Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brodie Croyle B

By sheer volume Croyle might put up something resembling an adequate fantasy line, but you really don't want any part of that action.

RB Larry Johnson B

The good news is, the three teams that stuck with the run long enough to give their feature back more than 20 carries against the Pats last season all produced triple-digit rushers. The bad news is, there's no way the Chiefs hang with New England long enough to let that happen. The worse news is, only one team allowed fewer rushing touchdowns than the Pats last season.

WR Dwayne Bowe B

All of Bowe's rookie accolades will do him not a whit of good in New England. His best bet is to hope the Chiefs fall behind early and Herm Edwards eschews the run while playing catch-up. Even then, it's a long shot he cobbles together something worthy of a fantasy start.

WR Jeff Webb
Devard Darling
Will Franklin
B No. No. Aaaaaand... no.
TE Tony Gonzalez S3

Chris Baker and Antonio Gates were the only tight ends with more than four grabs against the Pats last season. One is superhuman, the other an aberration. Gonzo is less superhero than he used to be, but with KC likely forced to throw he's still start-worthy in tight end-mandatory leagues.

DT Chiefs B Only if you're really into sadomasochism.
New England
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tom Brady S2

Only the Bucs allowed fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks than the Chiefs last season, and Brady could be playing on a broken foot, and... you'd have your fantasy football privileges revoked if you benched Brady in Week 1.

RB Laurence Maroney S2

The one man who can prevent LoMo from having a monster fantasy game isn't wearing red; he'll be the one wearing the grubby hoody, the bad haircut, and the Super Bowl rings. If Bill Belichick turns Maroney loose, he's the fantasy play of the week. But there's always a chance he'll mix in just enough LaMont Jordan and/or Sammy Morris to make LoMo owners irate.

WR Randy Moss S2 Where's his motivation? Moss already has the record, and he won't need to get serious about a playoff push for a couple months. Asking for a long touchdown or two before Randy shuts it down for the day isn't too much, is it?
WR Wes Welker S2

It's a battle of wills: the Chiefs allowed just one wideout to catch more than eight balls against them last year, while Welker turned that trick six times himself.

WR Jabar Gaffney B

Could easily go for three touchdowns. Then again, so could Mike Vrabel. There's obvious upside to anyone associated with New England's offense, but they should be in run-out-the-clock mode early enough that their third receiver won't be piling up big numbers.

TE Ben Watson B

The Chiefs allowed just two tight end touchdowns all of last season, and I'm not yet comfortable predicting Belichick's whims. Watson is listed as doubtful, which on the New England injury report could mean anything from he'll play through the pain to he's being fitted for a body cast.

DT Patriots S1 Welcome to Foxboro, Brody Croyle; we have some lovely parting shots for you.

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