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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 1
John Tuvey
Updated: September 5, 2008
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Thursday Night
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Monday Night
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Sunday Night
*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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Tampa Bay (0-0) at New Orleans (0-0) Back to top
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jeff Garcia S2

Four different Buc QBs have thrown multiple touchdowns over the last five meetings with the Saints. We'll see if the money New Orleans spent on defensive upgrades will help, but I'm inclined to believe Jon Gruden's system will deliver again.

RB Earnest Graham S2

Again, the system works: both Graham and Cadillac Williams have exploited the Saints on the ground, much to the delight of their fantasy owners. Again, the Saints took steps to upgrade... and again, I'm trusting in the system until New Orleans proves me wrong.

WR Joey Galloway S2

Joey has torched the Saints to the tune of 614 yards and eight scores over the past six meetings. Party at the Ramada!

WR Michael Clayton
Ike Hilliard
B

Okay, party's over. The Saints defense can be had, but let's not get carried away and start dragging guys in off the street to plug into your fantasy lineup.

TE Alex Smith B

Until I see something resembling consistency—you can't take any two consecutive games and come up with as much as eight catches or 98 yards—he's strictly bench fodder.

DT Buccaneers B If your team defense is penalized for allowing points, you'll find better plays elsewhere
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S2

Caveat: no team allowed fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks last year than the Bucs. Caveat to the caveat: Brees has averaged 231 yards and a shade under two TDs per game against Tampa Bay the past two seasons. This early in the season, play the man over the matchup.

RB Reggie Bush S3

The Bucs have limited Reggie to around 80 yards from scrimmage and zero touchdowns since he entered the NFC South, and I haven't seen anything from him this preseason to suggest he should be counted on for more. He's still a must start in PPR leagues but a borderline call in most other formats.

RB Deuce McAllister
Aaron Stecker
Pierre Thomas
X

Bush proved last year he's not an every-down back, so the Saints need someone to step up between the tackles. Will it be Deuce on two surgically repaired knees? The journeyman Stecker? Or lucky Pierre? Thomas is the only one not listed on the injury report (Stecker and Deuce are both questionable), but I'm not giving any of them a fantasy start here; hopefully by the time a more fantasy-friendly matchup rolls around the heirarchy will be in place.

WR Marques Colston S2

Nobody bested the Bucs when it came to shutting down wideouts last year... but Colston did post one of the nine WR TDs they allowed. It's not a tremendous matchup, but Marques is too good to ride your pine.

WR Devery Henderson
David Patten
Robert Meachem
B

In theory, there should be plenty of yardage to go around to make one of these guys fantasy relevant. The question is, which one? Meachem is the most talented, but inconsistency has him in Sean Payton's doghouse. Henderson is inconsistent as well, but both offer more upside than Patten. Let the dust settle and a victor emerge before using one for fantasy purposes, especially in a matchup this tough.

TE Jeremy Shockey S2 We have yet to see Shockey in a Saints uni, but Payton brought him to New Orleans for a reason. A matchup with a Bucs D that closed 2007 by allowing five tight end touchdowns in the final six games is the ideal place for Shock to show us just what that reason was.
DT Saints B The upside is Bush handling some punt returns. That's not enough to prevent me from looking elsewhere.
 
St. Louis (0-0) at Philadelphia (0-0) Back to top
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Marc Bulger S3

The Philly secondary held Tom Brady to one scoring strike and closed 2007 with three QB shutouts, including Tony Romo and Drew Brees. And then they added Asante Samuel in the offseason. Bulger can be used in larger leagues, but he shouldn't be counted on.

RB Steven Jackson S2

You aren't going to sit Jackson regardless of his matchup, but it's worth noting that the Eagles didn't allow a running back receiving score last season.

WR Torry Holt S2

Same refrain: Holt is a fantasy starter in just about every conceivable situation, but Philly's secondary should keep you from getting your hopes up.

WR Drew Bennett
Donnie Avery
B If the certified studs are borderline cases, Bennett doesn't even get off the fantasy pine. Avery won't even play due to his bum knee.
TE Randy McMichael U

Here's a comparison for you: Al Saunders' tight ends compiled six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown in two games against Philly last season. There's a little sliver of upside here.

DT Rams B Yawn. The Rams haven't played defense worth watching since the days of Jack Youngblood.
Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb S1

A cool dozen quarterbacks posted multi-touchdown games against the Lambs last year, leaving Donovan poised to start this season as strongly as he finished 2007 (816 and five the final three games).

RB Brian Westbrook S1

Westy should have little trouble making Rams fans think they're watching Marshall Faulk in his prime. Enjoy this brief period where you don't have to sweat out Westy being a game-time decision.

WR DeSean Jackson S2 The Eagles are rolling with "receiver by committee" again this season, and with all the injuries Jackson is the closest thing they have to a No. 1; given what I expect McNabb to do here, Jackson has upside, especially in leagues where his production in the return game shows up on your fantasy stat sheet as well.
WR Kevin Curtis
Reggie Brown
Greg Lewis
Hank Baskett
Jason Avant
B Curtis won't play because of the hernia; Brown is doubtful with a bum hammy after missing a couple practices this week and shouldn't be risked here. Lewis, Baskett, and even Avant are capable of a solid performance—especially against the Rams—but are far from reliable. Were this a six-team bye week I'd pick a horse from this stable, but your roster should be deep enough that you don't need to graze here this week.
TE L.J. Smith S3

With Kevin Curtis out and Reggie Brown doubtful, McNabb will be looking for some familiar faces; Smith provides just that. It's not much to go on, but if you left your draft with, say, Todd Heap and don't want to sweat out another gametime decision, Smith is an option.

DT Eagles S3 Between Jim Johnson's blitz packages against a banged-up Rams O-line and the return game stylings of DeSean Jackson the Eagles bring a little somethin'-somethin' to the fantasy table.
 
Houston (0-0) at Pittsburgh (0-0) Back to top
Houston
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Schaub S2

The Steelers' secondary was tough most of last season, but at the very end they allowed three straight QBs to throw at least three touchdowns. Schaub's numbers with a healthy Andre Johnson in the lineup are more than enough for me to give him the benefit of the doubt here.

RB Steve Slaton U No team allowed fewer fantasy points to running backs than the Steelers—but only the Lions allowed more RB receiving touchdowns. If Slaton is getting third-down work, he makes an intriguing play here—especially in PPR and hyper-performance leagues.
RB Ahman Green
Chris Taylor
B

The Vegas line on Green's next injury is at 8:54 of the first quarter... and I'm still taking the under. Taylor will factor into the mix when Green goes down, but Slaton is clearly the dude fantasy folks will want to have.

WR Andre Johnson S2 Four full games with Schaub at the helm: 419 yards, four touchdowns. Want more? The two receivers who did have success against the Steelers last year, Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss, are big; Andre is 6-3, 223. You feelin' me now?
WR Kevin Walter U

A mild trend in Walter's favor: seven receivers tallied at least five catches in the Steelers' final five games of last season, and four of the seven were No. 2s.

TE Owen Daniels S3

Not only did the Steelers allow just three tight end touchdowns all season, they allowed just three tight ends to catch at least five balls in a game—something Daniels did seven times on his own. However, it's worth noting that Daniels had solid games (11-117-1 in two tilts) against both of the 3-4 defenses on his schedule last year

DT Texans U There's at least a little upside in Mario Williams bringing the wood against a line that has surrendered 93 sacks the past two seasons and lost its best player via free agency.
Pittsburgh
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S2

The Texans aren't the pushover they once were, but if Big Ben can stay upright he should pick up where he left off—multiple TD tosses in three of his last four—against a secondary that surrendered multiple scoring strikes in four of its last five.

RB Willie Parker S3 It isn't the Houston defense that concerns me; it's Bruce Arian's fascination with the passing game, the presence of Rashard Mendenhall, and the absence of Alan Faneca. Roll it all into one and Parker is at best a borderline starter—at least until I have some answers to the above issues.
RB Rashard Mendenhall X He could be the goal line guy, but his propensity for putting the ball on the ground in the preseason might convince Mike Tomlin otherwise. At present there simply isn't enough information to support plugging Mendenhall into your fantasy lineup with any degree of confidence.
WR Hines Ward S2

Ward was the forgotten man in most drafts, but he squeezed six TDs and five games with at least 75 yards into his final 10 tilts last year. If the Texans devote too much attention to Santonio Holmes, Ward will pick them apart.

WR Santonio Holmes S2

If Ward is Mary Ann, Holmes is Ginger. Santonio did outperform Hines last year, and there's nothing in the Houston secondary to suggest they're capable of slowing his climb towards the fantasy elite.

TE Heath Miller S2

No team was more fantasy friendly to the tight end position than the Texans, making this Miller time.

DT Steelers S3 The Steelers D/ST still has some name recognition, but they've lost a little of the Blitzburgh luster. They're nothing special this week, a borderline starter in most fantasy leagues but nothing to write home about.
 

Cincinnati (0-0) at Baltimore (0-0)

Back to top
Cincinnati
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S2

Palmer has had success against the Ravens throughout his career (267 ypg, 1.5 TDpg), but there are concerns about how he'll adjust to wearing a visor to protect his broken nose as well as the fact that injuries have limited the work he's gotten in with Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Ultimately this offense needs to flow through Palmer and the passing game, and he consistently delivers—even against the Ravens.

RB Chris Perry B

It's been 20 games since a back has rushed for triple-digit yardage against the Ravens and the über-brittle Perry is not the guy to buck that trend. The Bengals have already said they're limiting his carries and the season hasn't even started yet. Frankly, if he emerges from this game intact I'll be a little surprised; I'm certainly not expecting anything of fantasy note.

RB Kenny Watson B

Watson was solid when replacing Rudi Johnson last season, and once Perry suffers the inevitable injury Kenny will be back in fantasy's good graces. After nursing a hamstring injury in practice this week (what, was Rudi Johnson contageous?), Watson returned to practice fully on Friday. However, let's wait for Perry's injury before calling Kenny in from the bullpen.

WR Chad Johnson S3

Ocho Cinco has averaged 160 yards and a touchdown per year in the season series, and he's still capable of a performance like the 10-161-2 he dropped on the Ravens in 2004. But his inconsistent track record suggests he's more apt to deliver just enough to tease but not enough to warrant consideration among the elite fantasy wideouts.

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh S2

Housh's total numbers against the Ravens are similar to CJ's, with one major difference: consistency. Housh has scored in four of the last five meetings, and while he's less apt to blow up huge or pull Oprah out of the crowd for a touchdown dance he's the safer fantasy play.

TE Ben Utecht B

Bengal tight ends finished dead dog last in the league in fantasy points at their position and have amassed six catches against the Ravens in the last three years, so forgive me if I opt to wait a week before hoping on the Ben Utecht bandwagon.

DT Bengals U A date with a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start is an invitation to start the opposing fantasy defense. If only the Bengals brought a little something to the table themselves I'd feel comfortable giving them the green light.
Baltimore
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco B

He may be the second coming of Johnny Unitas; the Bengals are certainly capable of making him look that way. But it's unlikely the Ravens ask him to unleash the cannon in his first start, so there's no need to rush him into your fantasy lineup.

RB Willis McGahee B

Willis is still working his way back from arthroscopic knee surgery in the preseason, and while he's listed as probable indications are that Ray Rice will start and anything McGahee can give them on Sunday will be viewed as a bonus. My suggestion would be to bench McGahee this week if you have any other decent option, but check in on Sunday morning prior to kickoff to see if the Ravens have tipped their hand at all regarding the backfield rotation.

RB Ray Rice S3

Rice looked good in the preseason, and we've seen what Cam Cameron's offense can do for a multifaceted back. As noted above, it sounds like the Ravens intend to start Rice and use McGahee on a limited basis, if at all. That may be all the opening Rice needs, as the Bengals' defense is still... well, the Bengals' defense. If McGahee is a game-day deactivation, feel free to bump Rice up to S2 status.

WR Derrick Mason
Mark Clayton
B

Both players have had limited success against the Bengals in the past. But with this being Flacco's first NFL start, I expect John Harbaugh's offense to turtle into a conservative little shell—at the expense of whatever mediocre fantasy numbers Baltimore wideouts might have provided.

TE

Todd Heap

B There are still body parts available in the "Pick Todd Heap's 2008 Injury" pool; multiple entries accepted. Heap does have at least four grabs in each of his last six against Cincy, but he's been held under 40 yards in four of those tilts and out of the end zone in five. Of course, if you don't use him this week you run the risk of not being able to use him this year, because that next injury is just around the corner.
DT Ravens S3 The Ravens D/ST may not be as dominant as it once was, but look at it this way: you're just one Ray Lewis elbow to Carson Palmer's face away from seeing Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.
 
Carolina (0-0) at San Diego (0-0) Back to top
Carolina
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jake Delhomme B I'd like to make sure we're getting the same Delhomme who rolled up 623 yards and eight scores in the first three games last year before I start offering him up on the road against a good defense. Having Steve Smith at his disposal would help as well.
RB Jonathan Stewart
DeAngelo Williams
S3 The backs who posted 100-yard games against the Chargers last year—Larry Johnson, LenDale White, Adrian Peterson, and Dominic Rhodes—all bring a little thump to the party so if you force me to pick one Panther back I'll opt for the bigger Stewart. But they're set to share carries, and with Carolina on the road and sans Steve Smith I expect each to get enough touches to post helpful fantasy digits.
WR Steve Smith B

A not so friendly reminder of the importance of playing well with others.

WR Muhsin Muhammad
Dwayne Jarret
B

Perhaps the most important thing Muhammy and Jarrett bring to the table is their downfield blocking ability. If you track that in your fantasy league, I want to know about it.

TE Jeff King B

The Bolts were no great shakes against tight ends last year, but you should be able to find better options than Jeff King or Dante Rosario, who might end up being the better fantasy entity of the two this season.

DT Panthers S3 The Panthers defense is loaded with talent and Julius Peppers looks particularly motivated. However, don't get your hopes up given their matchup on the road with an efficient offense.
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S3

Rivers showed plenty of moxie in the postseason; what fantasy folks would prefer is an extension of the seven-game scoring streak he capped the regular season with.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson S1 Don't overthink this one, kid.
WR Vincent Jackson   B

Jackson has all kinds of talent, but he's the fourth option in this offense—which takes a serious bite out of his fanasy value.

WR Chris Chambers S3

Eleven different wideouts posted at least 80 yards on Carolina last year, and I like Chambers narrowly over Jackson as the Chargers receiver most likely to be used to spread the field for LT and Antonio Gates.

TE Antonio Gates S2

The Panthers kept Jason Witten and Dallas Clark to a combined eight catches for 75 yards, so they have the personnel to clamp down on talented tight ends. But you didn't get Gates in the fourth round just to bench him for Bennie Joppru now, did you? He's been participating fully in practice, so don't let the toe injury force you into a decision you'll regret.

DT Chargers S2 A quarterback coming off an injury, throwing to a mismatched receiving corps... and Antonio Cromartie lurks to bring any miscue back all the way. Can't ask for much more from your fantasy defense.

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