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Start/Bench List - Week 3
John Tuvey
Updated: September 19, 2008
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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)
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Arizona (2-0) at Washington (1-1) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kurt Warner S2

The Skins secondary has actually fared quite well this season, holding Eli Manning and Drew Brees to 216 yards apiece and one passing touchdown between them. Mix in a cross-country flight and you'll need to dial those expectations down a bit from last week's 361 and three.

RB Edgerrin James B

In a larger performance league where Edge's 50 yards will help, he's useable; in most leagues, however, you should have a better option. Like, say, Tim Hightower.

RB Tim Hightower S3 Hightower has scored a touchdown in every game of his career thus far, and if the Redskins interfere with Fitz or Boldin in the end zone he's the guy to punch it in. A decent start in TD-heavy leagues even though he's still ceding the majority of the carries to James, plus there's upside in PPR leagues: Hightower appears to be the pass-catching back, and both the Giants (9 targets) and Saints (12 targets) checked down to their backs frequently against the Skins.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
Anquan Boldin

Pick your poison. The Cards move their receivers around, with Fitzy more likely to catch the ball on the left side of the field and Boldin slightly favoring the right. That means you'll primarily see Fitz on Fred Smoot and Boldin on Carlos Rogers, and neither is a matchup to fear. If for some reason you have to pick between the two, note that Fitz has been targeted nine or more times in 10 of his last 12 with Warner at the helm, while Boldin has seen the same attention just four times over that span.

TE Leonard Pope
Ben Petrick
B With wide receivers like the Cards have, and with the Redskins having allowed just three tight end receptions all year, keep the Killer P's on your bench this week.
DT Cardinals B An average fantasy defense with an average matchup. Yawn.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jason Campbell B

Maybe the light clicked on last week for Campbell; more likely his success had something to do with it being the Saints defense instead of the Giants. To date Arizona has shut down J.T. O'Sullivan, Chad Pennington, and Chad Henne. Campbell's a little better than that trio, but not enough to expect a standout fantasy performance here.

RB Clinton Portis S2 Portis is getting his touches (46 in two games) and is coming off a two-touchdown outing. The Cards have already allowed Frank Gore and Ronnie Brown to cross their stripe, so there's no reason for diminished expectations for Portis.
WR Santana Moss S2

The Cardinals have yet to allow a wide receiver touchdown, but when you consider their opponents thus far it's not as impressive as it sounds. Tough to argue with a guy who's scored in four straight regular-season tilts.

WR Antwaan Randle El

Moss is the more targeted wideout and more consistent fantasy play, but Randle El has been thrown to14 times already and has as many catches as his running mate—just not the money shots.

TE Chris Cooley S3

Teams made a living throwing to their tight ends against the Cards late last year, as they surrendered four TE TDs in the final six games. They've limited Vernon Davis and David Martin to three catches each thus far in 2008, but Campbell re-located Cooley in the second half last week and I expect that to carry over here.

DT Redskins B Arizona isn't turning the ball over, which means their opponents aren't getting an opportunity to create defensive fantasy points. There's nothing compelling here.
Carolina (2-0) at Minnesota (0-2) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jake Delhomme S2 Minnesota didn't exactly shut down Aaron Rodgers or Peyton Manning, but Delhomme gets Steve Smith back for this one. And if Carolina has as much difficulty running the ball on the Williams Wall as Indy had last week, it'll mean even more opportunities for Jake to pad his stat line.
RB Jonathan Stewart
DeAngelo Williams
B Split carries—even though Stewart's strong showing last week might earn him a larger share—and a date with the Williams Wall make the Carolina backfield a desperation play at best. The last opposing running back to actually cross the goal line against the Vikings was Clinton Portis in Week 16 of last year.
WR Steve Smith S2

Smith's last two full games with Delhomme at the helm: 15 for 271 and four scores. Smith's last visit to Minnesota: 11 for 201 and one. Antoine Winfield is the only thing standing between Smith and an S1; he blanketed Marvin Harrison last week and will likely shadow Smith here. The good news for Smith owners is, at this stage of their careers Smith is a tougher cover than Marv.

WR Muhsin Muhammad
D.J. Hackett
Dwayne Jarret

Secondary wideouts accounted for just 10 catches (to Smith's 15) in the first two games of last season. In fact, the last time a Carolina wideout not named Steve Smith caught more than four balls in a game Smith played in was Week 14 of 2006. You might look at what Anthony Gonzalez did last week and feel like dipping into this pool, but the Vikings put their top cover guy on Harrison and had the safeties rolling to Wayne, leaving Cedric Griffin alone on Gonzo. Muhammy isn't Gonzo, plus the Vikings need only concern themselves with two quality wideouts instead of three.

TE Dante Rosario B

Lots of little things—Rosario's bum wheel, Jeff King's presence, Steve Smith's return, and a Vikings defense that has allowed just 39 yards to tight ends this year—combine to make this an unfavorable matchup for last week's waiver wire wonder.

DT Panthers S2 With the Vikings counting by threes, Julius Peppers feasting on Bryant McKinnie's replacement, and new quarterback Gus Frerotte having thrown 10 picks in his three-game starting stint last year, you could certainly do worse for a fantasy D.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Gus Frerotte B

Congratulations to those of you who had "2" in the "How many games before Tarvaris Jackson gets the hook?" pool. Frerotte brings at least the threat of a passing game to the Vikings offense, having averaged 260 yards and two touchdowns in his three spot starts last season. Those numbers came largely at the expense of some shaky pass defenses (Atlanta and Arizona), and expectations should be lowered slightly against Carolina. The standards for quarterback play haven't exactly been set high here, and Frerotte's primary duty will still be getting the ball into Adrian Peterson's (or perhaps Chester Taylor's) hands. So keep Gus on your fantasy bench for now.

RB Adrian Peterson S3

It's not a bad matchup, as LT (21 for 97) and Matt Forte (23 for 92) both had success against the Panthers. But Peterson's hamstring, which he said prevented him from returning the kick at the end of last week's loss, limited him in practice all week and has him listed as questionable, with Brad Childress indicating his availability will be a game-time decision. If you forced me to set my lineup today without the ability to change on Sunday morning I'd put Peterson in; the Vikings can ill afford to fall to 0-3, Frerotte will need all the help he can get, and in my opinion the reward of even a typical Peterson game outweights the risk. Speaking to that risk, the Vikings' OC said he wasn't worried about Peterson sitting out Thursday's practice to rest, and Peterson has indicated he wants to play; both those statements move my risk-o-meter away from the "he won't play" end of the dial. That said, Chester Taylor ain't chopped liver as a fallback plan and in a worst-case scenario All Day would get the start, tweak the hammy, and fail to live up to his nickname.

RB Chester Taylor U

Taylor is a more than capable NFL back; he's just not Adrian Peterson. If All Day is given the day off you can plug Chester into your lineup with reasonable expectations. But as I stated above, there's a worst-case scenario where both backs get carries and cannibalize each other's fantasy value.

WR Bernard Berrian
Sidney Rice

Rice has a bum wheel, took very few reps in practice this week and is listed as questionable; Berrian is at least probable, but he had just four passes thrown in his general direction last week, none of them finding their mark. The insertion of Frerotte certainly brightens the fantasy futures of both Rice and Berrian, but there's no need to rush out and insert them into your lineup this week, even against a Carolina secondary battling injuries of its own.

TE Vishante Shiancoe B

Shiancoe is probably a nice guy, but the fact remains: to be an NFL tight end, one really should be able to catch a football from time to time.

DT Vikings B There's very little to hang your hat on here: Carolina has a positive turnover ratio, the Vikings are still banged up defensively, and Minnesota's special teams are anything but.
Houston (0-1) at Tennessee (2-0) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Schaub B

With no ground game to speak of, the onus will be on Schaub to carry Houston's offense. Unforunately, against a defense that has already stymied David Garrard and Carson Palmer, there's very little reason for optimism.

RB Steve Slaton
Ahman Green
Chris Taylor
B Ah, the Albert Haynesworth factor. So long as he's in, this defense borders on the impenetrable. A sliver of upside: opposing backs have 12 catches for 100 yards and a touchdown already this season, and the Texans threw eight passes to their backs in their opener. Barely a sliver, but in a PPR league Slaton might have a modicum of value here. He appears to be the lead dog in this sled, which isn't saying a whole lot.
WR Andre Johnson S3 How is Andre even useable when his quarterback is a bench? Because Johnson will get the majority of whatever stats Schaub accumulates. In his last three against Tennessee, Johnson has 25 catches for 262 yards (40 percent of the team's passing yardage) and two touchdowns (half their scores in that span). So unless you're incredibly deep at wideout you're better off rolling Andre out there.
WR Kevin Walter B

Walter scored in both ends of the season series last year, but Andre missed one game and Sage Rosenfels was the quarterback for both his scores. There is less reason for optimism this time around.

TE Owen Daniels B

Daniels burned the Titans for nine catches, 99 yards, and a score in the first meeting of 2006; since then, Tennessee has held him to seven catches for 87 yards. The Titans haven't seen much in the way of tight ends yet this year, but you can bet they'll be ready for Daniels.

DT Texans B Any defense with Mario Williams that's facing Kerry Collins has a chip and a chair. But they're definately among the shorter stacks at the table.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kerry Collins U

Collins threw for 280 yards making a spot start against the Texans last season, and Vince Young threw for 242 and two in the follow-up. Ben Roethlisberger completed 13 of 14 against them in the opener, throwing for a pair of scores, so while the Titans will do the bulk of their damage on the ground, Collins certainly possesses mild upside.

RB Chris Johnson S1

Fast Willie Parker torched the Texans for 138 and three in the season opener. And Johnson makes FWP look tortoise-like. At six yards a carry he won't need 20 to have a big day.

RB LenDale White S2 The Titans have scored multiple rushing touchdowns in three straight meetings with the Texans, and Willie Parker topped his 2007 season total against them in the opener. So, yeah, Tennessee's goal line back has a good chance of finding the end zone this week.

Justin Gage


Gage didn't practice all week. For the Titans that doesn't necessarily rule him out—think of all those games Steve McNair took an ambulence from the hospital to the field and played—but it's reason enough to strip him of his fantasy upside status for this week's contest.


Brandon Jones


Collins is an upgrade for the Tennessee passing game; in fact, in his first start this season wide receiver production tripled from Vince Young's outing. With Justin Gage having missed the entire week of practice, Jones is your best bet to benefit.


Justin McCareins


The Titans are still going to run the ball 40 times, and Jones is a safer bet than McCareins to step up in Justin Gage's expected absence.

TE Bo Scaife
Alge Crumpler

Kerry figures if he only gets a few chances to throw, he's gonna chuck it downfield. And that's not usually where the tight ends hang out.

DT Titans S2 Houston served up five sacks and two picks in its opener; the Titans are averaging four sacks and two picks per game themselves. Sounds like a plan to me.

Miami (0-2) at New England (2-0)

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Chad Pennington B

Chad has failed to top 200 yards in his last three against New England, and while the Pats defense remains stout Pennington has changed addresses and must now look over his shoulder as Chad Henne looks for playing time.


Ricky Williams
Ronnie Brown


Ronnie and Rickey have combined for 100 yards. Total. In two games. The only modicum of upside to be found against a defense that hasn't allowed a running back rushing score in six straight regular season tilts is that New England has allowed a couple RB receiving scores in that span. There's your straw to grasp.

WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Greg Camarillo
B If you can look at yourself in a mirror and say, "Sure, I believe Greg Camarillo is the guy who'll score the one touchdown Miami might get this week!"—and you can do it with a straight face—well, you're a stronger person than I.
TE Anthony Fasano
David Martin

Martin is the more consistent play, as he has actually posted catches in both games this year. But neither warrants your attention this week.

DT Dolphins B The Brady-less Pats have yet to reach the 20-point mark this season. If you really want to make a play on that stat tidbit, head to Vegas and play the under; in the long run, it's a better move than using the Aquatic Mammals D/ST here.
New England
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel B

Matt was extra-careful in his first trip with the family car. Now it's time for him to test what's under the hood—just a little, nothing too fancy, but a couple more long balls in Randy Moss's direction would get Cassel back on the fantasy radar. Until I see a little more lead foot, though, I can't give him a glowing fantasy recommendation.

RB Sammy Morris

Morris appears to be the goal line guy, and the Dolphins have allowed running back scores in four straight dating back to last year, so he'd be the most prudent (read: least likely to kill you with a six-carry, no-score day) play here.

RB Laurence Maroney
LaMont Jordan
Kevin Faulk

The quartet might be back to a trio, as Jordan hasn't practiced this week while Maroney, after missing portions of last week's game with a shoulder injury, has practiced. It's still too much of a guessing game as to which back Bill Belichick will give the ball to; Maroney has obvious upside, but not enough for me to recommend you plug him into your lineup.

WR Randy Moss
Wes Welker
S2 Welker seems to be the guy right in Cassel's wheelhouse, with 10 catches (to Moss's five) since Tom Brady went down. However, the more comfortable Cassel becomes with this offense the more chances downfield the Patriots will allow him to take. And it would behoove Bill Belichick to keep Randy Moss interested. Both Welker (14-187-2) and Moss (9-172-4) blew up the Dolphins last year; settle for a portion of that success with the understudy at quarterback.
WR Jabar Gaffney
Kelley Washington

If the Pats aren't letting Cassel throw to Moss they dang sure aren't going to let him throw to the tertiary receivers.

TE Ben Watson
Dave Thomas

Once the progression moves beyond "Welker or Moss, then check down to Morris or Faulk", you can start thinking about working Patriot tight ends back into the fray.

DT Patriots S2 The Phins have three touchdowns in two games, the Patriots have allowed 20 points total this season, and Chad Pennington has nine picks in nine career games against New England. 'Nuff said.

Oakland (1-1) at Buffalo (2-0)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB JaMarcus Russell B

The Bills have held Matt Hasselbeck and David Garrard under 200 yards, while JaMarcus has a total of 235 on the season. Yeah, think I'll just wait a while until Russell gets his feet a whole lot wetter with this whole "NFL" thing.

RB Michael Bush


The good news, for Bush at least, is that he appears to be the last man left standing in the Oakland backfield this week. That should mean plenty of carries, with the revelation this week that the Raiders are perfectly happy keeping Russell's cannon arm under wraps and working their ground game. Here's the bad news: the Bills have held Julius Jones, Fred Taylor, and Maurice Jones-Drew to three and a half yards per carry thus far this season, so your expectations—even with Bush's strong showing last week and increased role here—should be kept in check.

RB Darren McFadden


After last week's flash of brilliance I know you desperately want to get Run DMC into your starting lineup. Do so at your own peril, because a) he was very limited in Friday's practice, according to Lane Kiffin; b) he'll be wearing a steel plate in his shoe to protect his injured toe; and c) the plan is for him to come off the bench behind Bush in a "change of pace" role. I'm not sure of the official name for the theorem, but in this case a + b + c should equal bench.

RB Justin Fargas

Fargas has yet to be officially ruled out, but they're talking about his return in weeks... not a good sign. Highly unlikely for him to play this week, and not a favorable matchup even if he does take a couple spins in the rotation.

WR Javon Walker
Ronald Curry
Ashley Lelie
B The entire Oakland wide receiving corps has 95 yards for the season. Back in the AFL glory days, that used to be a typical play for a Raider wideout. Now that the plan is to limit JaMarcus Russell to handoffs and short passes, the downfield game is bench material.
TE Zack Miller B

Being the Raiders' top receiver is like being the prettiest bearded lady in the circus. I'm not even sure what that means, but it certainly isn't good.

DT Raiders B Used to be you could run on this D but not throw on them; the Broncos did both in Week 1 while the Chiefs did neither last week. Buffalo's no juggernaut, but they aren't likely to be auditioning quarterbacks like KC was. Against a legitimate NFL offense—which the Bills are proving they have—there's no compelling reason to reach for the Raiders D/ST.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Trent Edwards S3

Jay Cutler sliced and diced Oakland's vaunted secondary, and even Tyler Freaking Thigpen managed a touchdown toss against them. Edwards has produced two solid outings and should be in line for another 200-plus yard, one-touchdown outing that at least gets him onto the fantasy radar.

RB Marshawn Lynch S2

Lynch has scored in both games this season and should find plenty of room against a Raider defense that may lose Tommy Kelly to suspension and already lost Warren Sapp in the offseason.

RB Fred Jackson B

Still getting his 10 touches, but you'd need to be in a pretty large, pretty heavily performance-baced league for Jackson to deserve any fantasy burn this week.

WR Lee Evans S2

Will he draw DeAngelo Hall? To date the lead receiver has put up 15-236-1 against the Raiders, and Evans is most certainly the Bills' lead receiver.

WR Roscoe Parrish
Josh Reed
James Hardy
B As he demonstrated last week, Hardy is a great red-zone target. However, through two games this trio has combined for 13 catches and 103 yards—not nearly enough to risk plugging into your fantasy lineup on the off chance Edwards sends another jump ball Hardy's way.
TE Robert Royal B Tony Scheffler and Tony Gonzalez have both had success against the Raiders. Tell you what: if Royal changes his name to Tony by Friday I'll upgrade him to S3. But he went without a catch last week, and that lack of consistency keeps him on the fantasy bench.
DT Bills S2 Top-10 in both points allowed and yards allowed, plus they have Bobby April's special teams and a date against JaMarcus Russell on the road. Cat's out of the bag on the Bills as a solid fantasy D/ST.

Cincinnati (0-2) at New York Giants (2-0)

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S3

Through two games Palmer has 228 passing yards—a total he topped 10 times in 2007—three picks, and zero touchdowns. A road date with the defending Super Bowl champs hardly seems like the cure for what ails him. Carson gets the S3 for one more week on reputation, on the talent of his receiving corps, on the probability that the Bengals will be playing catch-up, and on the fact that he's too good not to revert to form... like he did in Seattle Week 3 of last year with 342 and one against a very good secondary.

RB Chris Perry

Raise your hand if you thought Perry would have made it through 39 carries against the Ravens and Titans and still be in one piece, let alone have 101 yards and a touchdown. Yeah, me either. However, 50 yards and a shot at a score hardly warrants a fantasy start, especially against a defense that hasn't allowed a rushing score this year and hasn't allowed a non-NFC East opponent to rush for 100 yards since late in the 2006 season.

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Chad Johnson

This formerly feared tandem has yet to deliver anything that would make their fantasy owners proud for spending an early pick on them, and with the Giants' pass rush expected to be in Palmer's grill all day long it's difficult to see either putting up a big day. Either is capable, of course, but you need to enter this game with lowered expectations. A start for either is based on potential and a desperate Bengals team finding a way to get their stars involved, because thus far this year Cincy's receivers haven't delivered and the Giants have held Torry Holt and Santana Moss to a combined 113 yards—but one touchdown each. If you're picking between the two Queen City Kitties, to date Housh is seeing more balls than CJ (COC?)—but the margin is narrow (13-10) and the quantity down from last season.

DT Bengals B Yes, Eli led the league in picks last year. Yes, Cincy already has a defensive TD this year. No, that doesn't add up to the Bengals being a good start this week.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S2

Cincy's pass defense is better than the Rams, but it's not as good as 128.5 passing yards per game might lead you to believe; mind you, that's based on matchups with Joe Flacco and Kerry Collilns. If Eli's baseline is 215 and one, there is little reason to believe the Bengals' secondary holds him below those numbers.

RB Brandon Jacobs S2

The Bengals have allowed 150 rushing yards in each of their first two games this season, while Jacobs has 209 at almost six yards a pop. Only the dozen or so carries Derrick Ward and/or Ahmad Bradshaw will peel off of Jacobs' workload keep him from S1 status.

RB Derrick Ward
Ahmad Bradshaw

Between the two they're touching the ball a dozen times a game and producing close to 100 yards from scrimmage. Once the byes hit those kind of numbers will put one of these guys in play; hopefully by then the Giants will have settled on one as the primary backup. This week one or both could see extra garbage-time work, but it's not enough to risk a fantasy start on.

WR Plaxico Burress S1

The Bengals haven't seen a receiver like Plax since Braylon Edwards scored twice on them in Week 16 of last season. And the way Plax is playing, there's no reason to expect anything less here.

WR Amani Toomer

The Bengals didn't exactly face Air Coryell and the Rice-Taylor era Niners the first two weeks; Toomer is at least as good as Justin Gage and Derrick Mason, the top two wideouts Cincy has seen thus far this season. There should be enough table scraps for Amani to cobble together a borderline helpful fantasy line, similar to the 67 and one he posted last week.

WR Domenik Hixon
Steve Smith
Sinorice Moss

Simply too many mouths to feed in this offense for any of these receivers to be banked on for fantasy stats.

TE Kevin Boss B

There are too many alternatives in the Big Blue attack to reward Boss with a fantasy start; the issue can be revisited once Boss breaks his 2008 maiden.

DT Giants S2 Between the Giants' pass rush and the fact that Cincy has mustered all of one offensive touchdown this season there is plenty to like in this matchup.

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