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Start/Bench List - Week 4
John Tuvey
Updated: September 26, 2008
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Sunday Early
Sunday Early
Sunday Early
Sunday Early
Sunday Late
Sunday Night
Monday Night
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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San Francisco (2-1) at New Orleans (1-2) Back to top
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB J.T. O'Sullivan S2

While JTO's numbers haven't been quite as gaudy as one might expect from a Mike Martz offense, there's nothing wrong with 235 yards and a touchdown, O'Sullivan's average performance this season. The Saints feature a fantasy-friendly secondary sure to extend JTO's run as a fantasy helper.

RB Frank Gore S1

The Saints haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher yet this season, but Earnest Graham and Clinton Portis both came close and New Orleans is still allowing better than five yards per carry. Gore is averaging better than five yards per touch, has scored in each game this season, and is once again one of the better fantasy plays of the week.

WR Isaac Bruce

S3 Only four teams have allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers than the Saints; the key will be identifying which Niner will see more of Jason David, as it hasn't taken New Orleans opponents long to figure out he's the weak link. With Johnson a game-time decision due to a hamstring injury, give the nod to Bruce as you're reaching for bye-week help.
WR Bryant Johnson
B If you're still looking for receiver help when they announce Johnson's status just prior to game time, I guess you could take a shot. Hardly seems worth it, though, and this being the same hammy that plagued him in the preseason there's a high probability he'll re-tweak it.
TE Vernon Davis B

Neither Chris Cooley nor Tony Scheffler could score on the Saints (though Nate Jackson did), and seeing as the Niners have completed a total of seven passes to their tight ends—three of them to Delanie Walker—it would be a reach to project anything notable from Davis this week.

DT 49ers S3 This defense is better than many give it credit for, and with the Saints down an offensive linemen and likely to put the ball in the air 35-40 times... you never know what could happen.
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S2

No team has thrown for more yardage than the Saints, but San Francisco's secondary has held Kurt Warner, Matt Hasselbeck, and Jon Kitna under 200 yards apiece and just a pair of touchdowns between them. Don't bench Brees because of those numbers, but you should dial your expectations back from last week's 421-yard outing.

RB Reggie Bush S2

All three feature backs the Niners have faced have posted triple-digit combo yardage, and two have scored. The Saints seem to have found the way to use Bush—he has 42 carries and 32 catches through three games—and as a result he's one of the better fantasy plays in PPR and performance heavy leagues. No reason to expect anything different this week.

RB Pierre Thomas S3

Despite a couple of critical stops last week, it's clear Thomas is the Saints' go-to guy in short yardage and goal line situations. Seeing as the Niners have already surrendered shorties to goal line guys Tim Hightower and T.J. Duckett this year, and Thomas has three punch-ins in the past two games—and this being a bye week and all—you could certainly do worse in a TD-heavy league than trotting Pierre out and hoping to get lucky.

WR Devery Henderson
Lance Moore
David Patten
Robert Meachem

Not much to like here. For starters there are simply too many cooks, and Brees has had a different favorite target in each of the first three games. The Saints' top four yardage games by wideouts belong to four different receivers, so you're entering lottery territory if you're trying to pick which one will be the most productive this weekend. Mix in a Nate Clement-led secondary that allowed Larry Fitzgerald to score in Week One and has held all opposing wideouts other than Anquan Boldin under 55 yards and you're highly likely to find better options elsewhere. Patten is a game-time decision; if he can't go, Moore is the starter opposite Henderson. And Meachem is the most talented of the bunch. If you must reach, Meachem is the guy as the Niners just lost their nickel corner and Meachem would likely draw his replacement.

TE Billy Miller B Seattle's John Carlson has accounted for six of the eight tight end catches the Niners have allowed this season, and he hardly counts as the Seahawks had no options at wide receiver. With Jeremy Shockey sidelined there's no reason to reach for Miller here.
DT Saints B The Niners surrender sacks and put the ball on the ground, but I'm not sure the Saints can capitalize. If you're starting New Orleans here, you're doing so because Bush might run back a punt.
Denver (3-0) at Kansas City (0-3) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S1

Don't sweat the Chiefs' misleading pass defense statistics: they knocked Tom Brady out of week one and only saw 35 passes the past two games because they were busy giving up 476 rushing yards. Cutler tossed an Abe Lincoln the last time he saw KC red and has multiple scores in every game this season.

RB Selvin Young
Andre Hall
U The Chiefs are giving up 196 rushing yards and two running back touchdowns per game this season and... wait a minute. Nice try. Can't sucker me in that easily. It's Mike Shanahan's backfield, which means the carries are shared; if you think this is the week that one of Denver's backs gets more than 11 carries, if the bye week drives you into the arms of Young (average game this year: 9 for 60; most carries in a game: 11; most yards in a game: 78) or Hall (average: 8 for 39; highs of 10 carries and 61 yards)... you'll do it sans my blessing.
RB Michael Pittman U Pittman has scored in every game this season and faces a defense that has allowed one, two, and three running back touchdowns thus far this year. Would a four touchdown game really surprise you? Of course not. But neither would a goose egg; such is the nature of Shanahan. The trends are so strong I can't recommend you sit Pittman, but I'm not going back on my vow to never offer up a Bronco back for a start, either; settle for the U and proceed at your own risk.
WR Brandon Marshall S1

Oakland completed one pass to a wideout in Week 2, so toss that game out; in the other two tilts the Chiefs let Randy Moss and Roddy White go for 116 and 1 and 119 and 1, respectively. That would actually be a disappointment for Marshall owners—though a repeat of last year's 115 and 2 against the Chiefs would be acceptable.

WR Eddie Royal
Brandon Stokley

Since Marshall returned he's caught 24 balls for 321 yards and two scores; the rest of Denver's wideouts have combined for 15 catches, 124 yards, and one TD. That's the definition of "afterthoughts", and after Marshall and the ground game take their bites there isn't likely to be enough left over to warrant fantasy consideration.

TE Tony Scheffler S3

The trends aren't positive—Scheff caught four balls for 31 yards in each of last year's meetings and no team has allowed fewer fantasy points to tight ends thus far this season than the Chiefs—but the fifth-most targeted tight end has earned every-week starter status in TE-mandatory leagues.

DT Broncos S3 The Broncos have given up 32 or more points to each of their past two foes; the Chiefs have scored 32 points thus far this season. Given KC's struggles and their questions at quarterback the Denver D might actually help fantasy squads this week.
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Damon Huard B

You'd like to think any quarterback with a pulse could take advantage of a defense giving up 326 passing yards and two passing touchdowns per game. The Chiefs will test that theory this week, most likely with Huard over Tyler Thigpen. As if it mattered.

RB Larry Johnson S3

The only reason Denver hasn't allowed more rushing yards is because they're scoring so many points teams are forced to play catch-up; as it stands they're still surrendering 104 and a touch. The Chiefs' foibles have relegated LJ to matchup-play status, and while this isn't exactly a deal-buster and the bye weeks have thinned the talent pool at this stage I can't grant him anything better than borderline starter status.

RB Jamaal Charles U

Bye weeks have you reaching? Try Charles, whose three grabs last week give him a slight edge over Kolby Smith as the team's third-down back. The Broncos have allowed almost as many receiving yards to running backs as they have rushing yards—which has a lot to do with having faced Reggie Bush and Darren Sproles, but still might provide a glimmer of an opportunity if'n the bye weeks have backed your backfield into a corner.

WR Dwayne Bowe S2

Thirty-four of the 52 passes directed at Chiefs wideouts have gone Bowe's way. The fact that he's scored twice given how bad KC's offense has been only solidifies his spot as an every-week fantasy starter.

WR Jeff Webb
Devard Darling
Will Franklin
B See above. And below. Just don't look to the left, especially if you've recently eaten.
TE Tony Gonzalez S2

With 30 targets through three games there's little question that in the KC passing game there's Bowe and Gonzo and then there's everybody else. Only two teams have allowed more TE yardage than the Broncos... as if you needed justification to start Gonzo here.

DT Chiefs B The Broncos have yet to score below 34 points, and the Chiefs gave up 38 last week. Really, you need more than that?
Arizona (2-1) at New York Jets (1-2) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kurt Warner S2

The Jets' secondary has talent, but Philip Rivers just carved them up on Monday night and Warner has had plenty of success this season himself. There's no reason to sit Kurt this week, but your expectations should be more in the 200 and two range than the 300 and three strata.

RB Edgerrin James B

He'll get his 18-20 carries, but expecting Edge to turn that into something really fantasy-friendly against a defense that held LT to 67 on Monday night is highly illogical. There's no question Edge is killing owners in TD-heavy scoring formats.

RB Tim Hightower S3 Hightower, on the other hand, is Arizona's goal line guy and makes a smart play against a defense that has surrendered three short TD runs already this season. As an added bonus, only two teams have allowed more running back receptions or receiving yards than the Jets, and that's a role the rookie is filling as well.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
Anquan Boldin

Only four teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to wide receivers than the Jets. That said, you can't seriously think about benching Boldin (four scores in the past two games) or Fitzy (back to back 100-yard efforts).

TE Leonard Pope
Ben Petrick
B With the Jets being the second-most fantasy-friendly defense to tight ends, you might be toying with the idea of reaching for Petrick or Pope here. Take a quick glance inside the numbers: one of the three TE TDs against Gang Green came from Gates, and the other two came from Dolphin tight ends because a) they have no wideouts and b) Chad Pennington can't throw downfield. The Cards don't have those issues, which means that once again Pope and Petrick will be afterthoughts.
DT Cardinals B Brett Favre threw his pick six last week; while a repeat isn't out of the question, it's not worth tagging your fantasy team's fate to.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S3

The Cardinals have yet to allow a 200-yard passer this season, and the two touchdown tosses they surrendered last week were their first of the season. It's not a tremendous matchup for Favre, especially with him being a little nicked up, but yet another 200-yard game with a touchdown or two might be just what the doctor ordered with six other quarterbacks taking the week off.

RB Thomas Jones S3

Here's hoping Jones didn't shoot his load in Week 1 with 101 yards and a touch. He's done little since, but the Cards' run D has been suspect on the road and allowed a running back score in every game this season. It's not a strong play, but if Jones has been a regular in your fantasy lineup you can leave him in there and not feel cheap and dirty.

WR Laveranues Coles
Jerricho Cotchery

Arizona's secondary hasn't exactly been tested, what with matchups against the Niners and Dolphins to open the season. Santana Moss put up the biggest day a Cardinals opponent has posted with his 7-75-1 effort last week; you'd think Coles and Cotchery could both match those numbers without breaking a sweat.

WR Chansi Stuckey B Moss's score was the first WR TD the Cards have allowed this year, so this might be the end of Stuckey's streak. There are certainly no compelling trends suggesting he'll score for a fourth straight game... aside, of course, from those touchdowns in the three previous games.
TE Chris Baker
Dustin Keller
Bubba Franks

Quality tight ends have put up good-not-great numbers on the Cards this season. If the Jets had just one big fella seeing the bulk of the love I could see recommending him here; however, the Gang Green trio has essentially split 14 TE completions, making it mighty difficult to recommend one over the others. Keller was targeted eight times in the most recent game, but some of that was in the final garbage-time drive so it may be misleading.

DT Jets B The Jets had been bringing some pass rush pressure prior to Monday night's sackless effort; they could turn up the heat on Warner and force some errors that a talented secondary could capitalize on... but that's a lot of "coulds". You should be able to find better options.

Atlanta (2-1) at Carolina (2-1)

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan B

Ryan's first 200-yard effort or multiple touchdown outing as a pro is unlikely to come against a defense that held the vastly more experienced Gus Frerotte—in a similar "run first and take a few shots down the field" kind of offense—to 204 and one on the road. It's not a deal-breaker of a matchup; we just haven't seen enough from Ryan to warrant fantasy consideration just yet.

RB Michael Turner

324 of Turner's 366 rushing yards and all five of his touchdowns have come at home against teams that are a combined 0-3. Carolina more closely resembles the Tampa Bay squad that held MTO to 42 yards on 14 carries in Week 2; after all, they've kept LT, Matt Forte, and Adrian Peterson all under triple digits and out of the end zone. Tough to make a flat-out bench call on MTO on the heels of a three-TD game, but he's at best an S3 this week.

RB Jerious Norwood B

Norwood is a classic wingman, and this week the overflow just isn't talented enough to provide an enjoyable fantasy weekend. And he won't get many opportunities to carry the football, either.

WR Roddy White S3

White is far and away the Falcons' most targeted receiver, accounting for almost half of the team's wide receiver catches and 56 percent of the yardage. Carolina has allowed a few big plays and roughly 60-70 yards to the opposing No. 1, roughly what White produced in the teams' second meeting last year. Your upside is 7-127-1, White's line from the first matchup.


Michael Jenkins


Secondary wideouts are averaging less than 40 yards per game combined against Carolina, making this a good week to leave any and all Falcon pass-catchers other than White on your bench. The only upside is that with Laurent Robinson ruled out with a knee injury, Jenkins won't have to share his meager table scraps.

DT Falcons U John Abraham is bringing the heat, but after what happened to the Panthers last week (Antoine Winfield's sack/strip/recovery/return) they'll be better prepared to not let such a gaffe happen again.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jake Delhomme S2 Delhomme is overdue, and he should have a leg up on an Atlanta secondary that has allowed touchdown tosses in every game despite Jon Kitna being the best quarterback they've faced this year. Jake was pressured into a bad game last week, but if the Panthers can locate—and block—John Abraham Delhomme should get back in the fantasy saddle he sat tall in prior to last year's elbow injury.
RB Jonathan Stewart
DeAngelo Williams
S2 The carries—and yardage—have been basically split, but Stewart has all the money shots and is averaging a yard per carry more than Williams. Both are good plays this week, as the Falcons have allowed four RB TDs and surrendered back-to-back 100-yard games. If you have to pick a Panther Stewart has been more effective, is getting the goal line looks, and more fits the mold of the backs who have already burned Atlanta (Larry Johnson, Earnest Graham)... but don't overlook the fact that Jamaal Charles and Warrick Dunn have 132 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown over the past two weeks as well.
WR Steve Smith S2

10 catches, 106 yards, one touchdown. Smith's last game against the Falcons? Try his total against Atlanta the past three seasons. Okay, so he took a couple DNPs in 2006 and was without Delhomme for a game-plus last year, but still... that's it? DeAngelo Hall is gone, and he had plenty to do with Smith's struggles, plus you have to think Smith is still plenty angry after being largely held in check by the Vikings last week. And you wouldn't like him when he's angry.

WR Muhsin Muhammad
D.J. Hackett
Dwayne Jarrett

Atlanta's much-maligned secondary has actually performed quite well this season, though see the above Delhomme discussion to highlight the fact that they haven't been facing the highest caliber of talent. That said, only Calvin Johnson has topped 50 yards and only Roy Williams and Dwayne Bowe have found the end zone, so this isn't a prime place to be looking for secondary receiver help.

TE Dante Rosario
Jeff King

After Rosario's heroics in Week 1 King has outperformed him the past two weeks—with five catches for 51 yards. The Falcons largely limited Tony Gonzalez last week, and neither Rosario nor King are of that ilk, so it's tough to find a fantasy recommendation here.

DT Panthers S3 The Falcons are still looking for their first road touchdown of the year, and there are too many playmakers on the Carolina defense not to like their chances against a rookie quarterback.

Minnesota (1-2) at Tennessee (3-0)

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Gus Frerotte B

The Titans have held three pretty decent quarterbacks—David Garrard, Carson Palmer, Matt Schaub—to a total of 537 yards and one touchdown this season. While Frerotte upgraded the level of quarterback play in Minnesota last week, this isn't a situation where he's likely to do the same for your fantasy squad.

RB Adrian Peterson S2

After quashing the Jags' ground game in Week 1 the Titans have been merely good against the Bengals and Texans—giving up an average of 109 yards and a touchdown to two teams not exactly know for their ground games. Peterson was merely good last week on a bum wheel, and Albert Haynesworth or no Albert Haynesworth you know the Purple will run the ball. The matchup suggests you not get your hopes up for All Day... but isn't that what you thought last year against the Bears or the Chargers? Peterson was limited in practice Friday and is listed as questionable again this week; last week that meant 17 carries, so plan accordingly.

RB Chester Taylor B

Taylor's 11 totes last week were a season high, suggesting it will take Peterson being ruled out completely before Chester brings any real fantasy value to the table. Against a stout D like Tennessee's there doesn't look to be much spillover, relegating Chester once again to his primary duties as AP insurance.

WR Bernard Berrian
Sidney Rice

No Vikings wideout has more than three catches in any one game this year, and only one has topped 50 yards. That limits your prospects right there, and when you look at the matchup with a Tennessee defense that has held Andre Johnson, Chad Johnson, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh to a combined nine catches and 92 yards the past two weeks... well, it just isn't a pretty picture. Rice was limited during Friday's practice and is expected to be a game time decision. He's not worth waiting on this week.

TE Vishante Shiancoe B

The Titans are allowing tight ends rougly three catches for 40 yards per game; Viking tight ends are averaging four for 50. That's not a big tight end fondue to dip in, and given that Shiancoe is a 50/50 proposition to catch any pass heading his way you can most certainly do better for your fantasy squad this week.

DT Vikings S2 Next to All Day the Vikings defense has been the most productive entity in fantasy football. They're an every-week start, and a very good play any time they're facing Kerry Collins.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kerry Collins U

If the Vikings' vaunted run defense forces the Titans to the air... well, let's just say Collins has some history with the Purple. Sure, he hasn't seen them in five years but you don't forget five games with an average of 334 yards and two touchdowns. You read that right, 334. His worst outing was 297 yards. Of course, he had some better receivers so you might want to ratchet the expectations down a little, and the Vikings are allowing 225 yards and less than a touchdown per game—not bad for a defense that finished 31st in the league in pass defense last year. But still... if you're in a bye week bind there's definitely some upside here.

RB Chris Johnson S3

This is a very, very good run defense, allowing less than 60 rushing yards per game and another 20 to backs through the air. Going back further, the Vikings have allowed two 100-yard rushers in the past 47 games. So... this is a good week to dial down your expectations for the rookie, and if you have another favorable option you couldn't be blamed for going in that direction.

RB LenDale White B See above for stats on the Vikings' run defense, along with this pertinent addition for the Titans' goal line back: over the past 42 games Minnesota has allowed a grand total of 18 running back rushing scores. The Vikes have allowed two (well, one actually, and one referee's gift to Joseph Addai) the past two weeks, and neither came easily; very tough to bank on LenDale to come up with a third straight RB TD here. And since he's doing little of note yardage-wise, he's just not a reliable fantasy play this week.

Justin Gage
Brandon Jones
Justin McCareins


The air is definitely the preferred route against Minnesota, but the Vikings aren't pushovers; after allowing three 90-yard receivers the first two games they held Steve Smith to 70 last week. Gage is not even listed on the injury report after missing last week's game with a groin injury; he is without question the best play here, though Titan WRs have just two 100-yard outings over the past 20 games.

TE Bo Scaife
Alge Crumpler

No team allowed more tight end yards last year than the Vikings, but they've turned things around thus far this season; it didn't hurt that Dallas Clark sat out Week 2, but Donald Lee and Donte Rosario aren't chopped liver. Scaife has had a 100-yard game and scored a touchdown already this seaosn, but he's no longer the top target in the passing game and most of his stats came when Vince Young was driving the bus. It's a tougher matchup than you might think, and Crump is starting to siphon off touches from Scaife, making this a situation to avoid in all but the most dire of bye-week situation.

DT Titans S2 Courtland Finnegan alone makes the Titans defense a good fantasy play; add a matchup with Gus Frerotte to the mix and you can upgrade that to "very good".

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