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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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Pittsburgh (2-0) at Philadelphia (1-1)

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Pittsburgh
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S2

My only concern for Big Ben is this: he's on pace to be sacked 40 times for the third straight season, he's already nursing a sore shoulder, and you know the Eagles are going to bring everyone and the kitchen sink. That could be why the Steelers limited Roethlisberger's throws in the opener (the weather held that number down last week); they're afraid of him taking too many shots. He may not pile up yardage like Tony Romo did last week, but a touchdown or three isn't out of the question.

RB Willie Parker S2 So much for lightening Willie's workload, eh? Philly has been solid against the run thus far this season, but Parker will get 20-plus touches and that should be enough for him to notch his fourth straight 100-yard game (tossing out the one where he broke his leg on his first carry, of course). It's not a great matchup, but Parker is running too well to be benched.
RB Rashard Mendenhall B Still an afterthought, though the Steelers claim they meant to work him into last week's win over Cleveland. I'm sure it wasn't because they didn't trust Slippery Mitts in the wind and rain.
WR Hines Ward S2

He's on pace for another 1,000-yard season (barely), but he's primarily a possession guy at this stage of his career. He's targeted more frequently than Holmes and has all three of the Steelers' receiving scores, so there's nothing wrong with his role from a fantasy perspective.

WR Santonio Holmes S2

T.O. got behind the Philly secondary a couple times on Monday night, and that's definitely more Holmes' game than it is Ward's. Vegas expects this one to play to the over, which likely means the Steelers will need to throw a little more to keep pace. Again, that bodes well for Holmes, who has but one touchdown since Week 11 of last year.

TE Heath Miller S3

Will it finally be Miller time this week? The Eagles have allowed 15 completions to tight ends, as opposed to 13 to wide receivers, so there certainly appears to be room for Heath to improve upon the two- and three-catch performances he's foisted upon us thus far this year. That said, he's burned us twice with favorable matchups so if you're tired of Heath letting you down you have a right to look elsewhere.

DT Steelers S3 This year's version of the Steel Curtain has allowed just 23 points, but the Texans, Browns, and Mother Nature have had as much of a say in that as Troy Polamalu and friends. Philly's 75 points in two games might be another reason to look for a different fantasy D/ST this week.
Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb S2

The Don is capable of lighting up any team at any time. It's tough to look at what the Steelers did to a one-dimensional Houston team and a Browns' offense stymied by unfamiliarity and the elements and project that success against McNabb this week. He's topped 260 passing yards in four straight and while he may fall slightly shy of that benchmark he should be good for at least one score—making it 11 of 12 with a touchdown toss, the only dissenter being the game against Miami last season in which he was injured.

RB Brian Westbrook S2

The Steelers haven't seen a back like Westbrook this season; the last time they did was when Steven Jackson produced 106 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in Week 16 of 2007. year. Westy, meanwhile, has 195 combo yards and five scores in two games—extending his string of games with at least 90 yards from scrimmage to 18. Yeah, like you're going to let a little in-state rivalry scare you.

WR DeSean Jackson
S3 The receivers who have had success against Pittsburgh the past couple of seasons have been of the larger variety: Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, Randy Moss. Of course, there aren't many guys as fast as Jackson he can be compared to. Factor in the lack of any other targets, McNabb's obvious comfort level with the rookie, and Jackson's production through the first two games of his NFL career and you're hard-pressed to find a legitimate reason to bench him.
WR Hank Baskett
Reggie Brown
Greg Lewis
Jason Avant
B Brown is expected to return this week, but let's give him a week or so to get reacclimated to McNabb—not to mention a more favorable matchup—before plugging him into your fantasy lineup. The rest of Philly's wideouts are too inconsistent to warrant consideration here.
TE L.J. Smith B

The Steelers have now gone eight games—half a season—without allowing a tight end touchdown. Smith was targeted heavily in the opener but will lose looks to the returning Brown. Besides, if Kellen Winslow can't produce against the Steelers are you really looking to Smith for better numbers?

DT Eagles S3 All that blitzing, with a little DeSean Jackson in the return game thrown in for good measure, and the Eagles D/ST is a borderline fantasy play regardless of matchup. This isn't a particularly good matchup, so keep the "borderline" in there and check other options.
 
Cleveland (0-2) at Baltimore (1-0) Back to top
Cleveland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Derek Anderson S3

The Ravens throttled an imploding Bengals offense in the opener but were rained out last week; Anderson scuffled through a pair of tough matchups and some inclement weather of his own. Right now there are still more questions than answers: is the big bad Baltimore defense back? Was Anderson a one-year wonder? Deke posted a pair of 200-yard games on the Ravens last season with 2 TDs in one and none in the other, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt one more week. It would help tremendously if this were the week Braylon Edwards' hands show up.

RB Jamal Lewis B

Romeo Crennel wasn't afraid to use Jamal against his former team; he garnered 45 carries, producing 156 yards (an unimpressive 3.4 per) and a touchdown in each tilt. Tough to bank on Jamal getting close enough to punch another one in, and with 80 yards and a touch as his upside—not to mention the Browns being down guard Eric Steinbach this week and Jamal's ankle limiting his practice time (though he's listed as probable)—best wait yet another week for Jamal to deliver any assistance to your fantasy scoresheet.

WR Braylon Edwards B

Edwards has been quite possibly the most disappointing player in fantasy football, with five catches and nearly as many drops through the first fortnight of the season. There is mild cause for optimism, as he's scored in three of his last four against the Ravens and produced an average of 91 yards per game over that span. But he and Anderson need to get into the same book, let alone on the same page... and it needs to happen pronto. A difficult matchup combined with Edwards being questionable due to a shoulder injury means you should be hitting the bricks looking for a better option this week.

WR Donte Stallworth
Joshua Cribbs
Syndric Steptoe
B

No... and I don't think it requires further explanation.

TE Kellen Winslow S2

Like Edwards, Winslow has had some success against Baltimore: his average game over the past four matchups is a rock-solid five catches for 80 yards. Unlike Edwards, however, K2 has yet to score against the Ravens. Also unlike Edwards, Winslow has been productive this season and can be banked on to deliver something close to that average production; a touchdown would be a welcome but unexpected surprise.

DT Browns B When the lone straws to grasp at are a nicked up kick returner and a matchup with a rookie quarterback, there's almost certainly a better alternative elsewhere.
Baltimore
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco B

Ideally the Ravens will let Flacco "manage the game" again. For a secondary gutted by injury the Browns haven't been all that bad, though they received a major assist from Mother Nature against the Steelers and did surrender 310 to Tony Romo in the opener. I'd still like to see more from Joe than a jaunt down the sidelines before turning over the keys to my fantasy team to him.

RB Willis McGahee
B

Despite a couple big-ticket acquisitions along the defensive front there's room to run against the Browns. Unfortunately, though McGahee is expected to make his 2008 debut this week he's not expected to start or even be the featured ball-carrier; all signs point towards the dreaded RBBC. Worse, it's not just Ray Rice who's taking carries; now Le'Ron McClain is in the mix. The Ravens ran the ball 41 times in Flacco's first pro game so there will be opportunities—just not enough to start McGahee without knowing what his role in this committee will be.

RB Ray Rice
Le'Ron McClain
B

McClain and Rice split the aforementioned 41 totes in the opener, but with McGahee off the injury report both will see their playing time decline. McClain is more of a fullback, which could mean he'll steal short-yardage and goal line duties, while Rice was less than impressive in his pro debut. Best keep this portion of the Raven rotation under wraps until there's more evidence as to just how the workload will be divvied up.

WR Derrick Mason
Mark Clayton
B

What drastic steps with the Ravens take this week to get the ball into Clayton's (and maybe even Mason's) hands? Another end around? Add him to the backfield committee? Returning kicks? With Flacco keeping it close to the vest there simply won't be enough balls heading downfield to make either Raven wideout a fantasy entity.

TE

Todd Heap

B If I had a quarter for every week that started with the words "Heap practiced fully today..." and ended with the talented-yet-brittle tight end frustrating his fantasy owner, I'd have enough to rip out my lawn and install Field Turf. No more mowing for me! Alas, that's as big a pipe dream as Heap ever living up to his once promising potential.
DT Ravens S2 As mentioned previously, there is at least some evidence that the Ravens defense is back in black. With Cleveland's offense still looking out of sync you could do worse than hoping for a Yamon Figurs return and a Chris McAlister pick six.
 

Jacksonville (0-2) at Indianapolis (1-1)

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Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard B

The rock-solid Garrard of a year ago—the one some considered a top-10 fantasy quarterback—has yet to show up this season. In his place is a guy under pressure behind a patchwork offensive line, unable to rely on a solid running game, and forced to throw to a ragtag band of receivers. With Indy susceptible to the run it would be surprising to see Garrard recreate the 257-yard, two-touchdown effort he posted on the Colts last season; something closer to his Week 1 game against the Titans (215 and 1) is far more likely. Of course, it's also far less helpful to your fantasy squad.

RB Fred Taylor S3

The remainder of Jacksonville's schedule is chock full of tough run matchups, so if you're ever going to take advantage of Taylor this is the time. Indy's run defense is regressing to 2006 levels, having allowed 351 rushing yards and a couple running back touchdowns to the Bears and Vikings—both of whom have issues of their own along the offensive line. The Jags in general and Taylor in particular have had success running on Indy the past two seasons, with Freddy averaging 91 yards per outing. A TD might be too much to ask, but Taylor will provide help in performance leagues and has significant upside if the Jags take the lead and attempt to run clock.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S2

In the battle of attrition, I'll take what's left of the Jaguars' offensive line over what's left of Indy's run defense. Sans Bob Sanders it wouldn't be surprising to see MoJo approach his 2006 numbers in this series (28-269-2, plus another 5-47-1 receiving), though after a couple rough weeks I'd settle for the 24-104-2 he produced in last year's series. Jones-Drew has scored in four straight against the Colts and is still this backfield's best bet for a money carry.

WR

Matt Jones
Reggie Williams
Dennis Northcutt
Troy Williamson

B Jones has been targeted 20 times this season—and I don't mean by the police—while the rest of Jacksonville's wideouts have seen a total of 22 balls headed their way. If you're forced to start a Jaguar receiver Jones is your guy, but you'd be best served avoiding this situation entirely as Indy has given up just 129 yards to wideouts this season and shut out Jaguar WRs in three of the past four meetings.
TE Marcedes Lewis B

Lewis scored in the second meeting between these clubs last year, which brings to mind the old adage about the blind squirrel and the nut...

DT Jaguars S3 The focus of Jacksonville's draft was to find players who could put Peyton Manning on his backside, and Indy's banged-up offensive line plays right into the Jags' plans. Indy has yet to reach the 20-point plateau this season, so it's only a little bit of a stretch to roll the Jaguars out there and see if their offseason pays off in sacks and violence.
Indianapolis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Peyton Manning S2

Only once in the past five meetings have the Jaguars held Manning under 250 yards; hence the offseason acquisition of pass rushers. Of course, the Bears are flush with pressure guys and the Vikings traded for sacks leader Jared Allen... and Manning still put 257 and 311 up on those squads, respectively. So expect more of the same ol' same ol' this week.

RB Joseph Addai S3

Indy's offensive line woes have contributed mightily to Addai's slow start—and slow is an understatement, as he's averaging less than two and a half yards a carry and needed a near-sighted official to get a touchdown. His track record against the Jaguars is equally painful: he's never scored in four outings and is averaging 47 yards per game at an underwhelming 3.7 yards a pop. This Jacksonville D is a little less stout without Marcus Stroud in the middle, but they still held the Titans and Bills to a combined 3.8 yards per carry. Addai's upside is in the 80-90 yard range and his first score isn't out of the question as Chris Johnson, LenDale White, and Marshawn Lynch have all reached paydirt against Jacksonville. But this matchup isn't the slumpbuster Addai owners are itching for.

WR Reggie Wayne S2 Wayne has at least eight catches and at least 110 yards in each of his last three against the Jaguars—and it's not like he's sneaking up on their schedule. He's Manning's favorite target and without question an every-week fantasy play
WR Marvin Harrison
Anthony Gonzalez
S3 Marv had a run like Wayne's current stretch, but that torch has been passed. In fact, Gonzo is at present Indy's No. 2 target. Past history suggests one wideout will get the bulk of the stats, and that's most likely to be Wayne; however, Dallas Clark's numbers—including four touchdowns in his last three against the Jags—suggest the slot receiver will find room as well. And with Gonzo running out of the slot, a case could be made for him to be in your fantasy lineup as well. Neither Marv nor Gonzo are sure things but they're likely better than your alternatives and with Manning expected to be in the 250-plus range there should be enough to go around.
TE Dallas Clark S2

As mentioned above, Clark has an Abe Lincoln (four scores) in his last three against Jacksonville. He's not even listed on the injury report this week, so feel free to plug him into a tight end-mandatory league lineup; his track record also suggests he warrants consideration in a combined WR/TE league as well.

DT Colts B The best fantasy news we've seen from Indy's defense thus far this season is that they'll likely require Peyton & Co. to put up a bunch of points.
 

Dallas (2-0) at Green Bay (2-0)

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Dallas
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S1

320 and 1; 312 and 3. 309 and 4 against the Pack last year. You've already spent too much time thinking about a no-brainer of a decision.

RB Marion Barber S1

Triple-digit combo yards and multiple touchdowns in each of his first two games. If Romo to T.O. is the punch, MB3 is one helluva counterpunch.

RB Felix Jones B

Down the road—when bye weeks start sapping the talent pool and the 'Boys have a more fantasy-friendly ground-game matchup—Felix feels like a sneaky flex position play, especially if his special teams scores count for you. This week, however, his touches from scrimmage are too volatile to warrant a fantasy start.

WR Terrell Owens S1

Not that you'd consider benching T.O. but think about this: Calvin Johnson just went for 129 and two on the Pack, Atari Bigby is iffy for this tilt, and Charles Woodson is playing hurt. Oh, and Tony Romo is better than Jon Kitna. Now, can I get you a bucket for that drool?

WR Patrick Crayton
B

Crayton scored twice in last year's meeting with the Pack—one of only two games where Green Bay allowed two different wideouts to reach the end zone. Right now he's clearly no better than Option No. 3 in the passing game, and despite back-to-back 300-yard efforts from Romo Crayton has 105 yards and no scores to show for it. Plugging him in here based on last year's game alone feels like a reach.

TE Jason Witten S1

Don't let two weeks of shutting down Visanthe Shiancoe and Michael Gaines dissuade you. Last year the Pack was among the top four most fantasy friendly defenses for tight ends, and with Whitten having posted 6-96 and 7-110 games already he's every bit the fantasy stud you need him to be this week.

DT Cowboys S3 On the return game tandem of Felix and Pacman Jones alone, the Cowboys D/ST warrants your attention.
Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S2

It was in last year's showdown between these clubs where we received our first glimpse of Brett Favre's heir. Now with a couple of starts under his belt—albeit against the 31st and 32nd ranked pass defense from a year ago—he rolls into the rematch with confidence. A solid yardage outing is to be expected, but the Cowboys haven't allowed multiple touchdown tosses but once in their past dozen games. Rodgers should put up decent fantasy numbers, but let's not start on that bust for Canton just yet.

RB Ryan Grant S3

The diametric opposite of their passing defense, Dallas' run D has held Jamal Lewis and Brian Westbrook to a combined 120 on the ground—but Westy scored thrice. Grant himself posted 97 and two on Dallas in last year's meeting, but his struggles against a shaky Detroit D suggested his hamstring wasn't yet 100 percent. He practiced fully on Friday, and if there was a rest stop between S3 and S2 (S2.5?) I'd plug him in there; that hammy still concerns me a little, as does the Dallas D and the possibility of Jackson stealing a dozen touches. Still, S3 is a whole lot better than "Questionable" or "Game-Time Decision".

RB Brandon Jackson B

With Grant good to go Jackson is looking at maybe a dozen touches tops—not nearly enough to be a fantasy factor.

WR Greg Jennings S2

Jennings is the more targeted receiver as well as the deep threat; on the heels of DeSean Jackson's 111-yard, one-TD perfor... oops, make that 110-yard peformance, Jennings is the best play amongst Packer pass catchers.

WR Donald Driver
S3

Driver actually has as many catches at Jennings, plus he's scored a touchdown; he's also collected roughly a third of the yardage Jennings has. While both Packer wideouts had a solid showing against Dallas last year, over the past year it's been the speed guys—like DeSean Jackson—who have given the 'Boys the most trouble. Driver being a possession guy is still an okay play, but takes a back seat to Jennings this week.

TE Donald Lee B Kellen Winslow scored on the Cowboys in the 2008 opener, but he's really more of a WR2 than a TE. With Jennings and Driver dominating Rodgers' view, Lee feels like a reach if the matchup isn't overwhelmingly favorable... and this one isn't.
DT Packers S3 Last week the Pack took two interceptions all the way back for touchdowns. Jon Kitna is far more prone to mistakes than Tony Romo, but stranger things have happened.
 

New York Jets (1-1) at San Diego (0-2)

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New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S2

The ol' gunslinger is still looking for his first 200-yard effort in this particular shade of green. Against a defense that's already given up 597 passing yards and five touchdowns, and with the Monday night crew bowing down before him with every underhanded toss... this could very well be the night. Maybe not 363 and three big, like his performance against the Chargers last year as a Packer. Then again, it's Favre, it's Monday night... it's magic.

RB Thomas Jones S3

No one back has put up big numbers on the Bolts, but between the Carolina and Denver committees San Diego is surrendering 140 rushing yards per game at 5.5 yards a pop. Gang Green seems willing to give Jones 20 carries a game, which if my math is correct means he's looking at his second 100-yard outing of the year. A touchdown is unlikely—the Chargers gave up one RB rushing score at home all last year and shut out Panther backs in Week 1—but the yardage is a fantasy helper.

WR Laveranues Coles S3

The good news is that Coles has been targeted more than any other Jet during the Favre regime. The bad news is, despite the attention he has fewer yards and touchdowns than either Cotchery or Stuckey. There promises to be plenty of yardage up for grabs this week, and based on the Bolts' inability to find Eddie Royal at crunch time last week Coles should find space in the San Diego secondary to put that attention to good fantasy use.

WR Jerricho Cotchery S2

Donald Driver has one of the six 100-yard games the Chargers have allowed over the past season-plus, and Cotchery is the most Driver-like of Favre's current batch of wideouts. He's also the biggest, which fits the profile of the other receivers (Moss, Marshall, Bowe, Wayne, Calvin Johnson) who have had success against San Diego. Last week's one-catch effort was troublesome but likely had more to do with Cotch's previous successes against the Patriots and their game plan to reverse the trend.

WR Chansi Stuckey S3 Why not? Favre has made a living out of padding the stat sheets of auxiliary targets, and Stuckey not only has more catches than either Coles or Cotch but also leads the team with two touchdown grabs. It's not a sure thing, but there's definite upside here.
TE Chris Baker
Dustin Keller
Bubba Franks
U

San Diego has surrendered three tight end touchdowns already this season, and we all know Favre's fondness for the big fellas. However, this trio has split looks to the point that it's impossible to pick one with any degree of confidence. If you're stuck at the position and desperately want a TE on Monday night, take Franks for old time's sake—and because he's the most targeted of the trio.

DT Jets B It appears as if Gang Green is getting the hang of Mangini's defense. That said, there's no compelling trend or angle that suggests the Jets D/ST is worth waiting around until Monday night for.
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

Phil has hit the trifecta twice already this season, and the last time he went toe-to-toe with Favre he matched the old man's effort with 306 and three of his own. To this point the Jets have been nickel-and-dimed by Chad Pennington and Matt Cassel and still allowed 416 and two. This is a solid matchup for Rivers with the potential for even bigger and better if LT's toe injury puts the offensive onus on the San Diego passing game.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson S3 On the one hand, the Chargers' beat writer told the NFL Network that LT looked good and was running and cutting in practice on Friday; on the other hand, his guesstimate put LT's workload at something similar to what he finished the Denver game with—roughly half of what you'd expect from Tomlinson on a typical weekend. During the week LT indicated that the toe hadn't gotten worse and that the swelling had decreased; that bit of positive news, combined with the extra day of rest leading up to this Monday night tilt, keeps LT on the fringe of startability. In a best-case scenario you have both LT and Sproles and get early word from the pregame show as to which back is the safer play.
RB Darren Sproles S3 The worst-case situation for Sproles this week is a handful of carries and plenty of looks in the passing game; last week he turned that workload into a very productive fantasy afternoon. Obviously, the best-case scenario for Sproles is the bulk of the workload as LT chills on the sidelines. If you have both Bolts backs and a league with flexible rules you can ride this one out until the Monday night countdown; if you have Sproles but not LT this might be the perfect sell-high opportunity. And if you have LT but not Sproles, your State Farm agent will be very disappointed.
WR Chris Chambers
Vincent Jackson
S2

Neither offense the Jets have faced took many shots down the field; the Chargers will change that. Chambers has been Mr. Touchdown with three in two games, while Jackson has more catches and roughly the same yardage. After two weeks of little ball the Jets' secondary may not be ready for Chambers and Jackson streaking down the field, so don't be afraid to plug either into your fantasy lineup.

TE Antonio Gates S2

Dolphin tight ends ate up the Jets, and neither Fasano nor Martin could hold Gates' jockstrap. You'd never bench him in a tight end-mandatory league anyway, and his back-to-back 61-yard efforts—and the promise of more against a defense that has ceded 151 and two to the TE position—make him a good play in WR/TE mixed leagues as well.

DT Chargers S3 There are still plenty of playmakers on the San Diego defense, plus there's Sproles in the return game. And Favre has been known to make an ill-advised throw from time to time.

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