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Start/Bench List - Week 4
John Tuvey
Updated: September 26, 2008
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Sunday Early
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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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Green Bay (2-1) at Tampa Bay (2-1) Back to top
Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S2

Rodgers tore through the bottom two pass defenses from a year ago, then fared well against a decent Cowboys defense last week and now gets a Buccaneers' secondary that's struggled to contain Drew Brees (343 and 3) and Kyle Orton (262 and 2). So, you have to like his chances.

RB

Ryan Grant

S3

Whether it's the hamstring or the game plan or what, Grant hasn't topped 15 carries yet this season. Grant is absent from the injury report this week, but it's still tough to see the Packers opting to load him up this week against a defense that has held Reggie Bush and Matt Forte in check and hasn't ceded a RB rushing score this year. So if 15 carries at four yards a pop is your ball of wax, Grant's your guy. Note that Grant doesn't have a reception this year, which is important because...

RB Brandon Jackson
Kregg Lumpkin
U

...while the Bucs have been stout on the ground, Bush and Forte combined for 15 catches, 178 yards, and two touchdowns via the air. Jackson and Lumpkin have eight catches and 58 yards between them, but if this is where Tampa's defense is best attacked Jackson might make a sneaky plug-in play in PPR leagues.

WR Greg Jennings S2

The yardage half of Green Bay's tandem is still looking for that first touchdown; in the interim, 373 yards in three games should cover you in all but the most TD-heavy of leagues. If Brandon Lloyd can take the Bucs for 124 yards, Jennings should be licking his chops heading to Tampa this weekend.

WR Donald Driver
S3

There's no compelling trend or matchup angle suggesting you sit Driver this week; just don't expect a big yardage day, as he's reached triple digits once in his past 15 games. There's little downside, but a limited upside as well.

WR Jordy Nelson
S3

Fifteen different wideouts have caught passes against the Bucs; Nelson and fellow secondary target James Jones have combined for nine catches and two touchdowns the past two games. With six teams on the bye and Jones doubtful for this game due to a knee injury, Nelson is a sneaky plug-in play for a team desperate at the WR position.

TE Donald Lee B Brett Favre used to love his tight ends, but Rodgers must have missed that day of mentoring because he's directed just nine of his 99 passes towards the big fellas. The Bucs haven't allowed a tight end touchdown yet this season, so there's little room for optimism here.
DT Packers S3 Brian Griese throws picks, and the Packers love to return them. If their secondary isn't decimated by injuries—they're already down Al Harris, with Charles Woodson and Atari Bigby both hobbled—they could turn a Griese mistake into six the other way.
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brian Griese S3

Green Bay's secondary has surrendered 536 passing yards the past two weeks, but they're doing it via volume as opposing QBs have completed just 53 percent of their passes. If there's anyone who knows volume it's Griese, fresh off throwing 57 passes against the Bears. The matchup suggests Griese will be a fantasy helper this week, so while it might not be particularly appetizing on the surface you don't have a bunch of other options.

RB Earnest Graham S3

Graham isn't quite the equal of Adrian Peterson or Marion Barber, the two backs who have taken the Pack for 100-yard rushing games this season. And he's still splitting carries with Dunn, which further crimps his value. But aside from the Bears stonewalling him last week Graham has turned his limited touches into helpful fantasy stats; with the Packers allowing 5.5 yards per carry and Graham averaging better than 6, his 12-15 carries this week should be good for something in the 80-yard neighborhood. In this market, that's not a bad neighborhood.

RB Warrick Dunn B

Dunn continues to be worked into the Bucs' backfield mix, but his 60 or so combo yards probably isn't quite enough to qualify him for a fantasy lineup, even in a six-team bye week.

WR Antonio Bryant
S3

Joey Galloway has been ruled out for this tilt, and Griese clearly feels a relationship with Bryant after throwing his way 18 times in last week's win. Bryant may not be a deep threat in the vein of Calvin Johnson or Miles Austin—the two receivers who topped the century mark against Green Bay this year—but he can get down the field and is a decent fantasy play sans Galloway.

WR Ike Hilliard
S3

Hilliard has been the steadiest of Tampa's wideouts, and since it's unlikely he'll receive the T.O. treatment from Green Bay's secondary he's a solid bet for a fourth straight game in the 4-6 catch, 40-60 yard range. He may also be the Bucs' best bet for a receiving touchdown, having scored two already this year. A couple mildly positive trends put Ike narrowly on the start side in a week where six teams are off.

WR Michael Clayton

B

There's no reason to think Clayton comes ahead of Bryant or Hilliard in the pecking order, so unless Griese throws another 57 passes he isn't much of a fantasy play this week.

TE Jerramy Stevens S3

The Pack haven't allowed a tight end touchdown yet this season but gave up 70 yards to Vikings tight ends and 110 to the Cowboys last week. Stevens returned from suspension to catch a touchdown pass and was targeted 10 times—and Jon Gruden indicated he likes the mismatches Stevens presents and will continue to go to him. Sounds like a nice play, especially with guys like John Carlson, Dallas Clark, and Anthony Fasano on the bye.

DT Buccaneers S3 Aaron Rodgers hasn't thrown a pick yet, but if he does the Bucs know what to do with it. A defense with two return scores in three weeks has to be in your fantasy lineup in a week with six teams off the board.
 
Houston (0-2) at Jacksonville (1-2) Back to top
Houston
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Schaub B

Another unfavorable matchup for Schaub and the Houston passing game, this week against a Jacksonville secondary that has yet to allow multiple passing scores after doing so just thrice all of last season. Schaub posted good yardage on the Jags in the first meeting last season but wasn't available for the rematch. It's tough to envision Schaub topping the 216 and 1 Jacksonville held Peyton Manning to last week, so don't set your expectations too high.

RB Steve Slaton
S3 I'm always looking for the upside, and there actually is some for Slaton in Jacksonville this week. Let's start with the rookie, who took a very tough Titans defense for 116 yards last week—though 50 of it came on one carry and only nine yards came in the second half. Mix in a Jacksonville defense that's allowed five running back scores already this season and is giving up more than 150 combo yards per game to opposing backs and there's a distinct possibility Slaton helps your squad this week. Consider that Ron Dayne (twice), Wali Lundy (twice) and Jonathan Wells have all scored on the Jags over the past three seasons and is it really that silly to expect a little something from Slaton this week?
WR Andre Johnson S3 Few receivers can match Andre's 12 targets a game, but with Jacksonville corners allowing just over half of the passes intended for opposing wideouts to be caught—and Johnson limited to just two catches on 12 targets last week by the Titans—this can hardly be considered an easy matchup. Johnson dropped 10-112 on the Steelers in Week 1, but if he reaches triple digits against Jacksonville he'll be the first wideout to do so since Reggie Wayne in Week 13 of last year. You can't not start Andre, but you also have to brace yourself for something of the six-catch, 80-yard ilk—and hopefully nothing like last week's two-catch disaster.
WR Kevin Walter B

If you're set on using Walter this week it's likely because you see Houston needing to play catch-up. Well, they've been in that position twice already this season and all Kevin has to show for it is seven catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Are you really this desperate?

TE Owen Daniels S3

Bo Scaife and Dallas Clark totaled 10 catches and 152 yards against the Jags this year, so maybe this is the week Daniels finally lives up to expectations. With all those other tight ends on the bye, this sure would be a great time for it. You listening, Owen? Owen?

DT Texans B The biggest fantasy contribution from this defense will be padding the tackle totals of DeMeco Ryans and Zach Diles.
Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard S3

The Jags' preferred method of travel is the ground; that's also the path of least resistance the Texans offer up. Houston's other opponents have taken that route this season, with three passing touchdowns despite just 27 completions and 326 passing yards in the first two games. As such, Garrard will be more efficient than productive, with something along the lines of the 221 and 2 he posted against the Texans in last year's first meeting the high end of his upside.

RB Fred Taylor
Maurice Jones-Drew
S1

Did I mention the Jags' preferred method of travel is the ground? Last week Taylor and MoJo combined for 45 carries and 228 yards against Indy, and the last time the Jacksonville duo faced Houston they rolled up 215 yards and two scores between them. So it's a great week to start both backs, with MoJo the better play in a TD-heavy environment.

WR

Matt Jones

S3 Jones had a big day against the Texans in last year's season finale, and he's been the intended target on 15 of Garrard's 30 throws at wide receivers. So he's unquestionably the best play of the bunch—which is a little like being the prettiest pig in the pen. In a week like this, that's enough to qualify for a spot in most starting lineups.
WR

Jerry Porter
Reggie Williams
Troy Williamson

B Williams scored in both matchups with the Texans last year, so he's got that going for him... which is nice. Neither of Houston's first two opponents bothered throwing downfield much, though both the Titans and Steelers were successful when doing so. However, Jones is the primary target, and there simply won't be enough table scraps to feed the rest of these hungry mouths—especially with Porter expected to make his Jags debut and further muddy the mix.
TE Marcedes Lewis B

Three different tight ends have posted exactly 26 yards against the Texans this season; Lewis, meanwhile, is averaging three catches for 21 yards thus far this year. Could I come up with a more underwhelming stat for a player who doesn't even belong on a fantasy roster?

DT Jaguars S3 Houston's offense has yet to click this season, while the Jaguars have held three foes to an average of less than 20 points per game. Works for me.
 
Cleveland (0-3) at Cincinnati (0-3) Back to top
Cleveland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Derek Anderson S3

You suffered through the Cowboys, Steelers, and Ravens; dropped balls, wind and rain, and the threat of Brady Quinn taking over. Finally, it's Bengals week. You may remember the Bengals from such efforts as Anderson's 328 and five coming out party in Week 2 or his 251 and two in Week 16. So far this season they held Joe Flacco and Kerry Collins in check before Eli Manning took them 289 yards, but they've allowed just two touchdown tosses this season so they're not exactly pushovers. Trot Anderson out there with a modicum of confidence and hope he gives you a redux of Week 2... from 2007, not 2008.

RB Jamal Lewis S3

Same refrain as above: Jamal did little against a tough trio of opponents, but the future looks bright with Cincinnati on the schedule. Last year Jamal totaled 350 yards from scrimmage and scored twice in the season series, and through three games this year the Bengals look every bit as accommodating, surrendering 184 combo yards per game to opposing backs. With Eric Steinbach still sidelined by a shoulder injury you may have to settle for 90 yards and a touchdown.

WR Braylon Edwards S3

Edwards has been targeted 25 times this year but has just eight catches to show for it (no, the other 17 weren't all drops), and fantasy owners are getting frustrated. Unfortunately, after surviving Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore this isn't as much of a creampuff matchup as you were hoping for, as the Bengals haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver since Week 10 of last year. But hey, there's upside. Edwards was targeted 30 times in the season series last year, producing 198 yards and four touchdowns. At this stage Edwards owners would settle for a quarter of that production, but obviously they're holding out hope for more. He played through his shoulder injury last week and practiced fully on Friday; tempting to move him up to an S2 here, but since he hasn't done a thing yet in 2008 I'll let him prove himself first.

WR Donte Stallworth
Joshua Cribbs
Syndric Steptoe
B

With the Bengals actually playing decent pass defense of late, Anderson still looking to get on track, and none of this crew doing anything to distinguish themselves, none are worthy of even a plug-in play on a six-team bye week. Stallworth is listed as doubtful.

TE Kellen Winslow S2

K2 caught 13 balls for 173 yards and a score in last season's series, and with 14 catches on 30 targets he's been the Browns' most reliable receiver this season. Sure, that's faint praise, but he's still a must-start in TE-mandatory leagues. And if you believe in the principle of due, Winslow might just crack lineups in combined WR/TE leagues as well.

DT Browns B Nothing the Browns have done to date suggests their defense warrants fantasy attention.
Cincinnati
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S3

The Browns have actually posted decent numbers against the pass, thanks in no small part to a) having faced rookie caretaker Joe Flacco last week and b) having played the Steelers in 50 mph winds the week before. But it's essentially the same secondary—possibly worse, given the spate of injuries—that ceded 516 yards and seven touchdowns to Palmer a year ago. Unfortunately the Bengals' offense has also taken some steps backwards, but Carson showed signs of life with 286 and one against the defending Super Bowl champs last week. Palmer won't see matchups better than this, so if you're not using him this week odds are you won't use him at all this year. His surprise inclusion on the injury report might scare some off, though Palmer claims it's just shoulder soreness and he's still expected to play on Sunday. The alternative is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ugh.

RB Chris Perry
S2

Five different backs have taken the Browns for at least 60 yards on the ground this season, and four different backs have scored a total of six rushing touchdowns against Cleveland. Perry not only makes it to Week 4 intact, he's scored in back to back weeks; more surprisingly, he's withstood 20 or more carries in back-to-back weeks against the Titans and Giants. Reward him, won't you, with start in as favorable a matchup as he'll see all season.

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Chad Johnson
S3

You know those once-in-a-blue-moon games where Ocho Cinco goes off? The memory is a bit fuzzy, since Chad has reached the end zone in just two of his last 17 games. But in the game prior to the start of that streak CJ blasted the Brownies for 11 catches, 209 yards, and two scores. Ever the more consistent of the pair, Housh has scored in his last four against the Browns and showed signs of coming around last week with 12 catches for 146 yards and a score. He's been the more targeted receiver in every Bengals game thus far, and he's the better fantasy play here. That said, this secondary has allowed almost 75 percent of the pass attempts to wide receivers to be completed and three different pass catchers to top 80 yards. So if you're ever going to get something out of Housh and CJ, it's Browns Week.

DT Bengals U Let's say you're in a larger league and your defense is on the bye, and there's nothing left in the free agent pool... you could make a case for a defense playing at home against a struggling offense that's scored just two offensive touchdowns this year. Not an overly compelling case, but a case nonetheless.
 

San Diego (1-2) at Oakland (1-2)

Back to top
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

Three touchdowns. Three touchdowns. Three touchdowns. All Rivers does is throw three touchdowns in a game. The talented yet underachieving Raiders secondary has let a couple teams throw all over them, and of the signal callers they've seen the one Rivers most resembles this year is Jay Cutler—he of the 299 and two in the season opener. Maybe you drafted Rivers as a backup, but three trifectas in he should be your starter—this week and from here on out.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson S1 Don't let the subdued numbers, skewed by Herm Edwards' decision not to let Larry Johnson run the ball against Oakland, fool you: the Raiders are still a very fantasy-friendly defense for opposing running backs. LT knows this very well, having rushed for 720 yards and eight touchdowns against Oakland the past three seasons (plus 109 and two through the air). He maybe looked a little slowed by the toe on Monday, but he still scored twice. He practiced fully on Friday, and even if he loses a handful of touches to Sproles he's still as solid a fantasy play as you'll find.
RB Darren Sproles B He was supposed to get a larger share of the carries last week with LT "hampered" by his injury; that didn't quite develop. Now Sproles is playing the same role Michael Turner did in that he'll have a game or two where he'll contribute enough in limited touches that you'll feel compelled to plug him into your fantasy lineup—at which point he'll get between zero and four touches and shoot your team in the foot. Unless LT is duct-taped to the inside of his locker, Sproles won't get the bulk of the touches. Use him only in desperation, and at your own risk.
WR Chris Chambers
Vincent Jackson
S2

What's your threshhold for fantasy help? The Raiders have allowed four different wideouts to to 60 yards and three different wideouts have scored touchdowns; with the overlap (Eddie Royal scored and topped 60) six wides have posted helpful digits in three games against the Raiders. And both CC and V-Jax have hit each of those benchmarks in each of their three games. With four touchdowns Chambers is the better play, but either could be plugged into your fantasy lineup with confidence.

TE Antonio Gates S2

He's still a top-tier tight end, and the fact that he failed to score on the Raiders in last year's season series only suggests that he'll get his this time around. If Tony Gonzalez is good for 39 yards and a score given the state of that offense, you have to love Gates' chances here.

DT Chargers S2 Not only have the Bolts held Oakland to 17 points or fewer in each of the past nine matchups, San Diego has Sproles returning kicks and Antonio Cromartie bringing back picks. Game on!
Oakland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB JaMarcus Russell B

The Chargers haven't held a quarterback below 247 yards yet this year; Russell has never thrown for more than 224 in his NFL career. He hasn't even reached double-digit completions the past two weeks. Until I start seeing Russell's big arm more than in warm ups and predraft highlight footage, he's fantasy bench fodder.

RB Darren McFadden


B

There's no questioning the Raiders' commitment to the ground game; they've run the ball at almost a 2:1 ratio over throwing it. In most weeks that means there's enough yardage to go around, but last week the Bills held them in check and the Chargers have given up just one running back score this year and an average of 105 yards per game on the ground. McFadden was limited in practice and is considered a game-time decision; last week you sweated out the GTD for very little production, and a similar scenario is developing here. The Raiders best course of action might be to sit him here, rest him over the bye, then hopefully bring him back healthy in Week 6. Might be your best course of action, too.

RB Michael Bush

S3

Bush has turned 30 carries into 145 yards and a touchdown the past two weeks, and with Fargas expected to miss another game due to his groin injury and McFadden still limited by his bum toe there could be carries to be had. That said, the Chargers' defense is closer to the Bills (who held Bush to 55 yards and no score) than they are to the Chiefs (who allowed Bush 90 yards and a touchdown). McFadden's role looks to be reduced once again, leaving Bush as the primary ballcarrier in an offense that hasn't proven capable of throwing.

RB Justin Fargas
B

Fargas has been ruled out for this week because of his groin injury.

WR Javon Walker
Ronald Curry
Johnnie Lee Higgins
Ashley Lelie
B This quartet combined has 10 catches on the year; throw in something called Chaz Schilens' two grabs and that's a dozen catches for Oakland wide receivers in three games. You don't want any part of this mess.
TE Zack Miller B

Miller is an afterthought in a passing game that's an afterthought to the Raiders' game plan. Until I see signs of life from Oakland's aerial attack, Miller is off my Christmas card list.

DT Raiders B The Bolts have scored 110 points in three games, and it's unlikely the Silver & Black will do much if anything to slow them. The Raiders haven't even held San Diego under 20 points in the past 10 meetings, they aren't about to start now.

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