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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 3
John Tuvey
Updated: September 19, 2008
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Sunday Early
Sunday Early
Sunday Early
Sunday Late
Sunday Late
Sunday Night
Monday Night
*Updated
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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Kansas City (0-2) at Atlanta (1-1) Back to top
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tyler Thigpen B

It's a favorable matchup, but nothing I've seen from the Chiefs this season suggests there's anything here making Thigpen worth the risk in his first NFL start.

RB Larry Johnson S2

Matchups don't get any better than LJ's last week, and he laid a steaming pile of dung in all of us who had faith in him. This matchup is equally nice—Atlanta is allowing five yards per carry and has surrendered three running back scores through the first two games—but I understand your trepidation. But would Herm Edwards really ignore his bread and butter two weeks in a row? Look at it this way: If you're not starting LJ this week you may as well cut him, because aside from a rematch with the Raiders this is about as fantasy-friendly as he's gonna get.

WR Dwayne Bowe S2

Again, it's a favorable matchup for Bowe and the Chiefs. The good news is, Thigpen knows where to find Dwayne, who was targeted more last week than the rest of KC's wideouts combined. I understand if quarterback questions make you question this decision, but it's not like you drafted Bowe expecting Joe Montana under center.

WR Jeff Webb
Devard Darling
Will Franklin
B Thigpen only has eyes for Bowe and Gonzo; you should feel likewise.
TE Tony Gonzalez S2

A collection of nameless hacks—and I say that with all due respect; after all, they're playing professional football—has combined for 93 yards and a score against the Falcons this year. Seeing as Gonzo was the target on almost half of Thigpen's tosses last week it stands to reason he could put up 93 and a touch all by himself this week.

DT Chiefs B If it were a home game and this defense hadn't just been rolled by the Raiders I might... nah, even then I probably wouldn't say yes.
Atlanta
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan B

Ryan is at his best when the Atlanta running game is firing on all cylinders and he can burn a crowding defense with the long ball. That may very well be the case this week, but it's tough to pin your fantasy hopes to a guy whose best game to date is 161 and a touch.

RB Michael Turner
S1

Remember what Michael Turner Overdrive did in Week One? The Chiefs are allowing almost six yards per carry and just surrendered 300 rushing yards to the Raiders at home. MTO will most certainly be taking care of business this week.

RB Jerious Norwood S3

When the going's good Norwood should see a dozen touches as the change of pace back. And the going should be very very good against the Chiefs this week.

WR Roddy White S2

Randy Moss had no trouble getting behind the KC secondary, and the Raiders didn't even try. In between Turner poundings expect Atlanta to take at least a couple shots down the field, most likely directed at White

WR

Michael Jenkins
Laurent Robinson
Harry Douglas

B

Not that this isn't a good matchup for Atlanta's passing game, just that after Turner and Norwood get theirs and White does his thing as the primary receiver... well, there might not be enough to go around. Keep in mind this trio has combined for seven catches in three games.

DT Falcons U A sneaky play, what with John Abraham getting in Tyler Thigpen's face and Lawyer Milloy playing centerfield. Don't reach to start them over the Giants or anything, but if you're in a bind this is a matchup worth exploiting.
 
Tampa Bay (1-1) at Chicago (1-1) Back to top
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brian Griese B

Last week reminded us why Griese was never a real big fantasy hero. This week he'll remind the Bears why they kicked him to the curb.

RB Earnest Graham S3

Graham's 25 carries have been enough to get you some fantasy points... against the Saints and Falcons, who rank in the top third of the league when it comes to fantasy-friendly run defenses. The Bears are not so friendly, and with Warrick Dunn splitting touches—to date it's 29 for Graham, 25 for Dunn—you're running the risk of a 15-for-60 kind of game here. With the byes still a week away, you likely have better options.

RB Warrick Dunn B

What I said about Graham above holds true for Dunn—even more so, since he's the secondary back.

WR Joey Galloway B

Galloway's sprained right foot will keep him out of this week's tilt.

WR Michael Clayton
Ike Hilliard
Antonio Bryant
B

Tough to expect any of this mötley crüe to step up against a defense that has shut out receivers in four of its last six games, with only Marques Colston and Reggie Wayne crossing the strip. None of these guys are anywhere near that class.

TE John Gilmore
Alex Smith
B

Right trends last week; wrong tight end. With Gilmore and Smith both in the mix, and the Bears having limited tight ends to just 49 yards thus far this season, stay away.

DT Buccaneers S3 This edition of the Bucs' D/ST isn't the dominant unit of a few years back, but they've already housed one takeaway this year and could harry Kyle Orton into a miscue or two.
Chicago
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton B

The Bucs were picked apart by Drew Brees but made Matt Ryan look like a rookie. Orton is a whole lot closer to Orton than Brees, which means he won't be leaving the comfort zone of his 150-yard, no touchdown neighborhood any time soon.

RB Matt Forte
S3

Tampa Bay has allowed just two running back rushing touchdowns in their last nine games, so don't get your hopes up too high. Deja vu? This isn't a particularly good matchup, but Forte put down a soft Indy run D and mustered 92 against a pretty good Panther unit; with no other real offensive options for the Bears he's playing his way into every-week starter status.

RB Jason McKie B

He's stolen a shorty each of the past two games, but the stat above suggests banking on a TD-only back against the Bucs is setting yourself up for major disappointment.

WR Devin Hester
Brandon Lloyd
Marty Booker
Rashied Davis
B The Bucs can be beaten deep—witness the long scores by Devery Henderson and David Patten in the opener—but Hester didn't practice all week and is not expected to play here. No one else in this passing game warrants fantasty attention.
TE Greg Olsen
Desmond Clark

B

This duo has split eight catches this season, with Clark's going for more yardage. Oh, and Olsen coughed up both of his grabs on fumbles last week. A share of what promises to be meager production doesn't deserve a fantasy start.

DT Bears S2 Downgrade this unit to an S3 if Hester is out or if you don't count special teams scoring. But you have to believe this staff knows a little bit about Griese's tendencies.
 
St. Louis (0-2) at Seattle (0-2) Back to top
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Marc Bulger B

Bulger hasn't thrown a touchdown against the Seahawks in the past three meetings, and his production this season has been downright shoddy. No reason to expect him to get back on the horse here, especially if the Seahawks take advantage of the Rams' perpetually banged-up offensive line to put pressure on Bulger.

RB Steven Jackson S2

Finally, some positive trends for Jackson owners. First, he's always had success against the Seahawks: triple-digit combo yardage in all five meetings and a touchdown in four of them. Second, similar backs (Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore) have posted 94 and 99 yards from scrimmage against Seattle this year, and both have found the end zone. Finally, both Jackson's touches and yardage trended up from Week 1 to Week 2. Sad that you actually have to put some thought into justifying plugging your first-round pick into the lineup, but happy that all indicators point to him giving you some production this week.

WR Torry Holt S3

The good news is the Seattle secondary has served up a 100-yard game to their opponent's No. 1 receiver each of the first two games. The bad news is, Holt is playing like No. 2, with 85 yards and a score through two games. Since torching the Hawks for 154 yards and three scores in the first meeting of 2006 Holt has been held out of the end zone though he's averaging seven catches and 70 yards per meeting. It's not what we're used to getting from Holt, but this week that feels like about all we can ask.

WR

Dane Looker
Dante Hall
Eddie Kennison
Keenan Burton

B If Holt is barely startable, it should go without saying that there's nothing in this group worth plugging into your lineup. But I said it anyway.
TE Randy McMichael B

The Al Saunders TE Pro Bowl express was derailed by McMike's two-catch effort last week, and it will be tough to pick up steam against a defense that shut out Vernon Davis last week and has held tight ends out of the end zone 10 of the past dozen games.

DT Rams B If your league awards a bonus for every point your defense holds its foe below 40, then the Rams would have earned you two bonus points in Week 1... but would have had to give one back last week.
Seattle
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck S3

With no receiving corps to speak of Hass has thrown for 190 yards twice, with one touchdown and three INTS. This is about as good a matchup as he'll see all season—the Lambs have allowed three passing scores in each of their two games this year—but he proved last week that until he has some wideouts his numbers will be stifled. The matchup alone is worth an S3, but your expectations cannot be set higher than 200 yards and a score.

RB Julius Jones
S2

The Rams have given up 347 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns to opposing running backs this season, so if Hass hasn't had time to introduce himself to his new batch of receivers he can just turn and hand the ball to Jones. After producing 141 yards against the Niners it appears that Jones was a wise investment for the Seahawks, and he should pay dividends again this week.

RB T.J. Duckett U

Feeling lucky? Duckett looks to be the short-yardage and goal-line guy in Seattle, and two of the five running back scores the Rams have surrendered came from a yard out. So... are ya?

WR

Koren Robinson
Courtney Taylor
Keary Colbert
Billy McMullen
Mike Bumpus

B

No team has allowed more wide receiver yards or fantasy points than the Rams. But after giving Taylor a couple opportunities and watching him turn 14 targets into four catches for 39 yards, he's off my Christmas list. He's also benched in favor of two guys who weren't even part of the Seattle organization five days ago. KoRo is already being listed as questionable because of his chronically bad knees, and Keary Colbert is... well, Keary Colbert. Despite the great matchup I just can't pick something from this pack that's worth your attention.

TE John Carlson
S2

Hot Carl has 10 catches for 130 yards, very nearly matching the production of the entire Seahawk wide receiver corps. More importantly, Hasselbeck is very comfortable throwing to the rookie (he's caught 10 of the 12 balls tossed his way) and thoroughly unfamiliar with the rest of his receivers. The Rams allowed a TE TD in week one, and another one here would hardly surprise.

DT Seahawks S3 The Rams have one offensive touchdown—and have created one touchdown for their opposing defense. Seattle is fresh off a fumble recovery touchdown against the Niners and could go back-to-back with D/ST scores—especially if they generate eight sacks once again.
 

Detroit (0-2) at San Francisco (1-1)

Back to top
Detroit
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jon Kitna S3

Looks like Kitna's passing numbers owe more to a bad Detroit defense than to Mike Martz, because Mad Mike is gone and Kitna has topped 260 yards twice, with multiple touchdowns in each game. The Niners D has held Kurt Warner and Matt Hasselbeck in check, so here's the question: how much do you trust the Detroit defense? On the road I can't give them a vote of confidence, which means Kitna plays from behind... which means lots of throwing, and through sheer volume helpful fantasy digits.

RB Kevin Smith S3

The 49ers have surrendered back-to-back 100-yard games to start the season, but at barely four yards a carry. This is Lions OC Jim Colletto's opportunity to prove just how committed he is to the run. Will the Lions give Smith the same 26 carries the Cards gave Edge and the Seahawks gave Julius Jones? Actually, Smith has 26 career NFL carries, with 88 yards and a touchdown to show for it. He should get the opportunity to have a productive day, and I'm cautiously optimistic he'll deliver.

RB Rudi Johnson B

What does it say about the Lions' faith in Rudi that they brought in Vernand Morency, Cedric Benson, and Shaun Alexander for a look-see?

WR Calvin Johnson S2

The Niners picked their poison, with Nate Clements holding Larry Fitzgerald to three catches (and a touchdown) in the opener while Anquan Boldin caught eight balls for 82 yards. Unless Mike Nolan is watching different film than the rest of us expect Clements to shadow Calvin this week. Not that it should lead you to a benching, but you will need to dial down those expectations from the back-to-back hundos Johnson has posted to start the season.

WR Roy Williams
S3

Not only has Johnson been targeted more than Williams, Shaun McDonald has been targeted more than Williams. It's like Matt Millen is trying to punch his ticket out of town. Kitna may have no other choice this week with Clements draped on Johnson, and Williams is too talented to bench. But, like his running mate, expectations need to be lowered this week; unlike Johnson, they'll remain subdued until Williams is liberated from Motown at the end of the season.

WR

Shaun McDonald
Mike Furrey

B

Sure, Detroit's tertiary targets have a dozen catches through two games—at less than eight yards per completion. They're not being used like Martz used them, and there's not enough fantasy juice in Motown to give either any value.

DT Lions B The two points from the Lions' safety are offset by the 82 points they've given up this year. So... just no.
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB J.T. O'Sullivan S2

Detroit's Cover-2 is, uh, covering no one. And fresh off a 321-yard effort in Seattle JTO has an opportunity to significantly help your fantasy squad. Interesting to note that O'Sullivan is completing roughly 65% of his passes and averaging almost 15 yards per completion—essentially the same numbers the Lions are allowing. Give O'Sullivan 25 throws this week and you're talking about about something in the neighborhood of 250 yards. If he can mix in a touchdown—and the Lions have allowed at least one passing score in each of the past 16 games, so it's hardly a reach—he'll make some fantasy owners and Bay area fans extremely happy.

RB Frank Gore S1

The Lions have allowed six 100-yard rushers in their past eight games, including 220 to Michael Turner in the opener, and an average of 212 and two on the ground this season. So it almost doesn't matter that no team allowed more running back receptions, receiving yards, or receiving scores last year than the Lions. But I'll mention it anyway.

WR Isaac Bruce
Bryant Johnson
S3 Four different wideouts have scored on the Lions this season, and four different wideouts have each topped 50 yards against them as well. That bodes well for San Fran's secondary targets. Johnson has been the more consistent option but Bruce came up very large last week; either could be used in a pinch given the matchup.
TE Vernon Davis B

Apparently Martz forgot to include the tight end portion of his game plan in last week's attack. Wait; is there a tight end portion in the Mike Martz game plan? Davis has done little to live up to the considerable hype with which he entered the league, and until he shows us something he can't be trusted in your fantasy lineup.

DT 49ers S3 The Niners produced a pick-six last week while the Lions produced two; would that be a pick-twelve? Only the Falcons surrendered more return TDs than the Lions last year, and Detroit is off to an early lead this year as well.
 
New Orleans (1-1) at Denver (2-0) Back to top
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S2

If JaMarcus Russell can throw for two scores, Brees should be able to at least approximate what his former understudy Philip Rivers did to Denver last week—so if 377 and three is your cup of tea, Brees is your guy. Maybe dial those digits down a bit as the Saints' receiving core sans Marques Colston is still a bit discombobulated, but remain confident Brees will find a way to put up helpful fantasy numbers.

RB Reggie Bush S2

Did you see how Darren Sproles took a backfield flair to the house last week? Think Bush is salivating over the prospect of taking one of the half-dozen similar balls he'll see this week and doing the same? Wonder if every sentence about Bush this week will be a question?

RB Pierre Thomas B

Thomas will see between six and 10 touches a week, most of them between the tackles. There will be matchups with a strong possibility of him fulfilling his duties as the Saints' goal line back. This is not one of those matchups, as the Broncos have shut out Tomlinson, McFadden, and Adrian Peterson (yes, that one) their last three games.

WR Devery Henderson
David Patten
Robert Meachem
U

Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson—a tandem more talented than what the Saints are currently fielding—combined for 156 yards and two scores; Ronald Curry and Ashley Lelie—the Saints aren't quite that bad—both scored garbage time TDs against the Broncos. Curious that all three Saints receiving touchdowns have been that player's only grab of the game. Patten is the most consistent play of this group and Meachem the most talented; Henderson has a 2-to-1 chance to give you a goose egg... but that one will be something big. So if you need receiver help you have your choice of poisons to pick from here.

TE Jeremy Shockey S3 Zach Miller and Antonio Gates were held scoreless with eight catches between them. That's a step up from last year's Broncos, who were the second-most fantasy friendly defense against tight ends. It's not a great matchup for Shockey, but with New Orleans missing Colston Shockey should see plenty of balls his way and in tight end-mandatory leagues should remain in your lineup.
DT Saints B If special teams are included you'll likely want to leave the Reggie Bush-led return game in your lineup; if it's defense only, there are better options—especially on the road against a team on pace to break the Patriots' points record from last season.
Denver
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S1

The only starting quarterbacks the past 34 games who haven't taken the Saints for at least one passing score are David Carr (Carolina version) and Michael Vick (twice). Jeff Garcia and Jason Campbell WCO'd their way to 542 and two through the first fortnight; expect Cutler's version to be even more potent.

RB Selvin Young
Andre Hall
Michael Pittman
B Know how many backs have more rushing scores than Pittman? None. Which, oddly enough, matches the faith I have in plugging him into a fantasy lineup. For the record, Hall has the most carries (17), Young has the most yards (114), and Pittman obviously the most touchdowns (3). And the Saints are allowing 133 rushing yards and a touchdown per game, so it's a compelling matchup. And if you want to explore Mike Shanahan's studio space this week, you'll do so at your own peril.
WR Brandon Marshall S1

He leads the NFL in catches... AND HE SAT OUT THE FIRST FREAKING WEEK! As if you needed further motivation, a Saints secondary that gave up 182 yards per game to wideouts last season has demonstrated even more futility in 2008, upping that mark to 187.5.

WR Eddie Royal
Brandon Stokley
S3

See Saints secondary stats above; start salivating. Stokley's looks dropped only slightly with Marshall back in uniform, and while Royal's targets took a hit he was the go-to guy on both the Broncos' last touchdown and the game-winning two-point conversion. Royal is the better play here, but both could be used in a pinch against an extremely fantasy-friendly secondary.

TE Tony Scheffler S2

The Broncos have nine tight end touchdowsn in the last 13 games, seven of them to Scheff—two last week alone. There's nothing on the New Orleans side of the matchup suggesting they'll have a shutdown answer, so start Scheff with confidence.

DT Broncos B Defense? When you're scoring 80 points a game, you don't need no stinkin' defense!

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