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Start/Bench List - Week 12
John Tuvey
Updated: November 21, 2008
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Thur Night
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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Cincinnati (1-8-1) at Pittsburgh (7-3) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick B

Peyton Manning is the only quarterback who has topped 206 yards or thrown more than one touchdown against the Steelers. And we're a long way off from making Manning comparisons with Fitzpatrick, who threw for 261 yards against the Eagles last week in his most prolific outing of the season—but still managed just one touchdown.

RB Cedric Benson

It's difficult to see Benson improving dramatically on the 52 yards he posted against Pittsburgh just over a month ago. He's getting more carries, but no back has reached the 65-yard mark against the Steelers and they've allowed just five RB TDs in 10 games.

WR Chad Johnson
T.J. Houshmandzadeh

Housh showed signs of life in last weekend's tie with Philly, but the Steelers have allowed one receiver to top 60 yards over the past five games and surrendered only three WR TDs the entire season. Again, the upside to either appears to be something slightly better than the 8-52-1 (Johnson) and 8-58-0 (Housh) they put up against the Steelers back in Week 7. They're startable based on that slight upside, but you needn't be giddy.

DT Bengals S3 They're on a two-game unbeaten streak and Big Ben has thrown a pick or two this season.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S2

Big Ben hasn't thrown multiple touchdowns since... well, since Week 7 against these very Bengals. He has thrown for 592 yards the past two weeks and should be set up for at minimum a solid 200-yard, two-TD affair this week.

RB Willie Parker S2 Mewelde Moore abused the Bengals for 134 combo yards and three touchdowns while Parker nursed a bum knee. Now Fast Willie is back and looking to build on a track record against Cincinnati that includes four 100-yard games and six touchdowns over the last three season series with the Bengals. Cincy's defense had success shutting down Brian Westbrook last week and Maurice Jones-Drew prior to the bye, so this isn't an S1 matchup for Parker. But it's an S2 with some serious upside.
WR Hines Ward
Santonio Holmes


All three Pittsburgh wideouts had success in the earlier meeting: Ward and Nate Washington scored, while Holmes totaled 89 yards. That game was among the five straight in which the Bengals have allowed at least 146 yards to wideouts, averaging 197 per game over that span. So there should be plenty for at least the top two options in Pittsburgh's passing game to put up helpful fanasy numbers.

WR Nate Washington


Washington scored against the Bengals back in Week 7, but he's seen his looks diminish over the past month to the point he's not nearly as good a fantasy play as Ward or Holmes.

TE Heath Miller
Matt Spaeth

Miller could return to action after missing the last two games with an ankle injury, which would likely mean he and Spaeth would split whatever opportunities come their way. The Bengals have plenty of other paths of least resistance, so aside from Jason Witten and Kellen Winslow tight ends have been relatively quiet against Cincy. There are other better options, both in the Pittsburgh game plan and at the tight end position.

DT Steelers S1 They'll have to make up for the score they should have had last week, plus maybe they'll get another one as a measure of revenge.
Philadelphia (5-4-1) at Baltimore (6-4) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb S2

What did we learn last week? Well, Donovan learned that NFL games can end in a tie, the Ravens learned they can have the ball run down their throats, and we learned that Philly loves to throw on the road. One of those tidbits of knowledge will come in handy this week; here's a hint, it's the one about McNabb throwing an average of eight more times for 50 more yards per road game. If the Iggles couldn't get the ground game rolling against Cincy they have no shot of doing so against the Ravens, so The Don will go airborne. Through sheer volume his numbers should be solid; a banged-up Baltimore secondary that has allowed the last five opponents who needed to throw (Eli attempted just 23 passes last week) an average of 261 yards per game doesn't hurt, either.

RB Brian Westbrook B

Few come tougher than Westbrook, but the combination of a bum wheel—which may knock him out of the lineup completely or at minimum have him operating at less than full capacity—and a tough matchup should relegate him to your bench.

RB Correll Buckhalter B

You could look for the little victories—such as three of the top four running back performances against the Ravens came last week, or that Baltimore has given up two running back receiving scores in the past four games—but you’d be wasting your time. You’d barely consider starting Philly’s varsity back against the Ravens; don’t bother reaching for their JV option even if Westy is out.

WR Kevin Curtis
DeSean Jackson

B The last time a Philly receiver combined a touchdown with more than 40 yards in the same game was Week 4. And since despite the injuries in their secondary the Ravens aren't handing over much in the way of helpful fantasy games to wideouts—a couple 85-and-a-touch efforts over the past month, but that's it—you'll be best served looking for help somewhere else.
TE L.J. Smith B

Smith scored last week, and the Ravens allowed the immortal Darcy Johnson to score against them. Sounds like both squads have already exceeded this month's quota of fantasy points at the tight end position.

DT Eagles S3 This one projects to be a low-scoring affair, so you could do worse for a fantasy D.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco B

This is neither a favorable matchup (the Iggles rank 23rd in fantasy friendliness to opposing quarterbacks) nor is Flacco a fantasy regular. No need to reach here.

RB Willis McGahee
Ray Rice
Le'Ron McClain


Fellow NFC East backs have accounted for five of the six running back touchdowns and two of the three 100-yard games they've allowed—and Frank Gore accounted for what's left. McGahee seems to be back at the head of the committee, but that's hardly a certainty. Even if he accounts for the bulk of the 62 rushing yards non-divisional foes have averaged against Philly that's not enough to pimp him for a fantasy start. And even if McClain has the inside track at the one-in-seven shot at a touchdown, those are long odds. I can't even find a remotely favorable trend for Rice.

WR Derrick Mason


Philly has given up a wide receiver touchdown in every game since their Week 7 bye and three 100-yard games in that span. Since PPR monster and über-tough guy Mason is the only consistent pass catcher in Baltimore's offense, if there's hay to be made he's the guy wielding the pitchfork. I'm not even sure what that means.

WR Mark Clayton
Yamon Figurs


The only meaningful non-Mason fantasy efforts posted by Ravens receivers have come on one-catch wonders from Figurs and the IR'd Demetrius Williams. So if you're into lottery tickets, you go right ahead and use a secondary Baltimore wideout this week.


Todd Heap

B Every five weeks the Eagles allow a big game to a tight end; that's great news for Kellen Winslow in Week 15, but not so good for Heap here. Todd, by the way, returned to his pedestrian ways after that two-TD aberration in Week 10, recording three catches for 16 yards against the Giants. That still ranks as his sixth-best fantasy game this year.
DT Ravens S2 If McNabb throws three picks and can muster just 13 points against the Bengals, one shudders to think what the Ravens might do to him. Or, instead of shuddering, one puts the Ravens defense into their fantasy lineup.
Houston (3-7) at Cleveland (4-6) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Sage Rosenfels S3

Much like last week, expect the Texans to lean more heavily on their ground game than on Sage. Not that the Browns can't be had through the air; it's just that, like Indy, they can be exploited on the ground—and with Rosenfels at the helm, that's the safer option. Prior to holding Trent Edwards in check last week the Browns secondary had been showing signs of breaking, so it's not a shutdown matchup. But with Sage's upside this season clocking around 250 and two—and the option to run oh-so-inviting—expect the Texans to follow that route instead.

RB Steve Slaton
S2 In two of the past three weeks the Browns have allowed an opposing back to go off for more than 175 yards from scrimmage. In two of the past three weeks Slaton has produced triple-digit combo yardage. Clearly he has a great opportunity, but the fact that Ahman Green lurks to steal carries, particularly at the goal line, and the fact that Slaton couldn’t practice fully on Friday because of a chest injury lend twin causes for concern. He’s listed as probable, but it’s at least worth checking into on Sunday morning just to be certain.
RB Ahman Green
B Ahman is getting roughly 10 touches per game; last week a couple of those came at the stripe. Hard to say if this is going to be a trend, but it would be extraordinarily difficult to plug a guy with limited opportunities and a questionable role into any self-respecting fantasy lineup.
WR Andre Johnson S1 Just once in the past month have the Browns held an opposing No. 1 receiver without 100 yards or a touchdown... and the fact that the lone dud came from the enigmatic Lee Evans last week should do little to scare you off from Andre capitalizing on this trend.
WR Kevin Walter S3

Prior to last week wingmen were having success against the Browns as well: multiple wideouts had scored in three straight and No. 2 targets had recorded at least 49 yards in five consecutive outings. If Andre is getting back in the saddle against Cleveland, it would make sense for Walter to do the same.

TE Owen Daniels S3

Owen has just one catch each of the past two weeks, though it's somewhat reassuring to note he's been targeted a total of nine times in that span. Cleveland has been solid against opposing tight ends, allowing just one TE TD for the season, so this isn't a matchup to expect gaudy numbers. But Daniels is a large enough part of the game plan to warrant a start in most TE-mandatory leagues.

DT Texans S3 Houston has some exciting return men, and if last week is any indication the Browns aren't exactly excelling in coverage.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brady Quinn S3

The Texans have given up eight touchdown passes in the past three games, so there's a glimmer of hope for Quinn. Don't bank on big yardage, though; prior to Peyton Manning's 320 last week Houston had held three straight passing games under 200 yards. This matchup is slightly less favorable than the one which produced 239 and two against the Broncos, so lower your expectations similarly. Quinn practiced fully all week despite a broken finger on his throwing hand, so if you were preparing to use him prior to the revelation of his injury don’t let it prevent you from doing so.

RB Jamal Lewis S2

The Texans have given up three straight 100-yard games; better still, each 100-yard rusher has also scored in their matchup against Houston. Jamal has yet to produce a triple-digit game this season, but this would be a great opportunity for him to break that maiden.

RB Jerome Harrison B

When Harrison scored earlier in the season there was talk about getting him more touches. The following game, he received a whopping five and since then has averaged a shade under four per game. While there's little question he brings a burst to the offense that Lewis lacks, I can't tell you to start a guy who has yet to see more than six touches in a game this season just because he broke a long run last week.

WR Braylon Edwards

If you throw the ball at someone 16 times you're all but forcing them to have a solid fantasy game. Even Edwards managed to catch half of those balls, producing his second worthwhile fantasy game of the year—both on Monday night, in case you hadn't noticed. This one is slated for Sunday afternoon, giving plenty of cause for apprehension. But a Houston secondary that has allowed 454 wide receiver yards and four WR TDs over the past three games alleviates enough of those concerns to make Edwards a solid fantasy start.

WR Donte' Stallworth B

Non-Edwards receivers in the Quinn era have seen a total of half the looks as Braylon, producing fewer than half the yardage. In other words, if it ain't Braylon it ain't worth startin'.

TE Kellen Winslow S2

You can count the number of teams who have allowed more fantasy points to tight ends on one hand, though it might be a more difficult proposition for Ronnie Lott. Winslow returned to practice on a limited basis Friday, and he’s played through pain in the past so I’m confident he can do so again. It’s an early game, so you should know in plenty of time to make the appropriate lineup call.

DT Browns B The Browns have given up 98 points over the past three games and aren't creating enough other havoc (sacks, picks, etc.) to warrant fantasy consideration.

San Francisco (3-7) at Dallas (6-4)

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San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Shaun Hill S3

Hill has thrown for 200 yards and two touchdowns in each of his two starts for the Niners this year, but he has a couple factors working against him. First, opponents now have two games of tape on Hill and can prep for him like they did for J.T. O'Sullivan. Second, he faces a Dallas secondary that, while somewhat ravaged by injury and suspension, has held three of its past four foes under 175 passing yards and just five passing scores in that same span. Hill's 215 and two average from the past fortnight feels like his upside this week.

RB Frank Gore S2

Gore has reached triple-digit yardage from scrimmage in seven of 10 games this season, including his last three—and at least 94 yards in each of those three have come on the ground. Dallas isn't a walkover defense but neither are they clamping down on opposing backs. With the Cowboys representing a neutral matchup, one should anticipate Gore doing what he does—and what he does makes him one of the better fantasy backs on the board.

WR Isaac Bruce
Jason Hill

B It's been more than a month since an opposing receiver topped as much as 70 yards against the Cowboys, and it's not as if the Niners have a roster full of must-start candidates. Worse, it's been a different wideout scoring in each game for San Francisco. Unless you're playing "Team WR" this is a tough start... and if you are playing "Team WR", you can do better than the 49ers Team WR.
TE Vernon Davis B

Tough love proponents will note that after being sent to the locker room Davis has responded with touchdowns in each of the past two games. Those who play the percentages will note that Davis' two touchdowns have come on exactly two catches—a rate he's unlikely to maintain. And those who study the opposition see that Dallas has allowed just two TE TDs on the season and figure Davis' luck is about to run out.

DT 49ers B Seriously, Singletary puts on the uniform and this defense gets markedly better.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

Okay, so Romo's return failed to live up to the hype or the hopes of fantasy owners who had suffered without his services. One week later his pinky gets better and he faces a significantly softer matchup.

RB Marion Barber S1

MB3 rolled up some impressive numbers against a pretty solid Redskins run defense, so he should have a field day against a 49ers squad that just let Rams running backs put up 208 combo yards against them—and it wasn't even Steven Jackson!

WR Terrell Owens S2

You go four straight without so much as topping 40 yards and you forfeit your shot at S1 status until you get back on the horse. That said, there's still plenty to like about TO's opportunity here: the return of Romo, the matchup with his former squad, even a 49ers secondary that's giving up 171 wide receiver yards per game.

WR Roy Williams


Tough to tell if Roy has fully digested the Dallas playbook yet, though he did put up numbers almost identical to Owens. It's a favorable matchup, Williams is talented, and the Cowboys' offense is looking to get back on track so Roy is worth a look-see this week.

TE Jason Witten S3

Martellus Bennett has outperformed Witten in each of the past four games, though in Jason's defense he's down a couple ribs. This matchup doesn't have "return to prominence" written all over it, as the Niners have allowed just 18 catches to tight ends and one TE TD this year. It's tough to bench Witten in a tight end mandatory league, but if you're looking to him in a combo league you should expect to find more of the disappointment you've been getting for the past month.

DT Cowboys S1 Only two teams have surrendered more sacks than the Niners, only one team has thrown more picks, and no team has lost more fumbles—and the Dallas D is top-seven in two of those three categories. I smell opportunity... and mini-donuts.

Tampa Bay (7-3) at Detroit (0-10)

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Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jeff Garcia S3

The dink-and-dunk lives! Garcia now has 1,132 yards over the past four games, but just two touchdown tosses in that span. And he may be a victim of his running game's success, as Lion opponents are averaging just 27 passing attempts per game. Detroit has allowed 16 passing scores, so this matchup is favorable enough for Garcia to warrant at least some fantasy love. But odds are it will be a different facet of the offense to put the hurtin' on Detroit.

RB Warrick Dunn


Twice this season the Bucs have given Dunn 20-plus touches; twice this season Dunn has posted triple-digit yardage from scrimmage. With Earnest Graham on IR and Carnell Williams not quite all the way back yet the Bucs will require Dunn to do the heavy lifting—and against a Detroit defense that's giving up almost 180 combo yards per game to opposing running backs, it's a huge opportunity for Dunn to put up big fantasy digits.

WR Antonio Bryant


The Lions haven't allowed a big game to a wideout in almost a month, primarily because they're being beat up on the ground instead of in the air. With Garcia dinking and dunking it takes volume to build up a solid fantasy outing, and the good news is that Bryant has been the target of choice in each of the past four games. If any Buc wideout is to have a good day it will most likely be Bryant, but that's not exactly a ringing endorsement.

WR Michael Clayton
Ike Hilliard
Joey Galloway

No Buc wideout outside of Bryant has scored or topped 60 yards in the past five games. While the Lions aren't exactly the '85 Bears defensively, even this favorable matchup offers little help for secondary receivers.

TE Jerramy Stevens

Only three teams have allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than the Motown Growlers, and with Alex Smith nicked up Stevens has emerged as the go-to guy at the position; witness last week's six catches and 84 yards, both season highs for Buc TEs.

DT Buccaneers S1 You have to love any defense's chances against the Lions; the fact that it's a legitimate defense like the Bucs only helps.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Daunte Culpepper


The Bucs haven't allowed a 200-yard passer since Week 6 or multiple touchdown tosses from the opposing quarterback since Week 4. Not much has happened in the intervening time frame, outside of our nation electing its first minority president, CBS debuted and cancelled "The Ex List", and Daunte retired, then unretired and signed with the Lions. So it's been a while, and Daunte doesn't feel like the guy to buck that trend.

RB Kevin Smith

Finally given the gig over Rudi Johnson, the rookie has produced 96 yards against the Jaguars and 112 against the Panthers. The Bucs haven't been world-beaters of late, surrendering 106 to Jamaal Charles and 85 to Adrian Peterson over the past fortnight. Smith isn't sexy, but he's fast approaching every-week starter status as a solid second back.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

Calvin will be thrown to, near, and at. Tampa offers a formidable defense, but through sheer volume—plus the possibility he'll catch a red-zone jump ball or take one of his grabs to the house—he'll put up decent fantasy numbers. Yeah the Lions blow, but Cal has scored in five of his last six and put up 92 yards in the game he didn't find the end zone.


Shaun McDonald
Mike Furrey


In Daunte's two games Johnson has been targeted more than the rest of Detroit's wideouts combined. Tough to put up fantasy points when you're an afterthought.

DT Lions B Nine of the Lions' ten opponents have scored at least 25 points.

Minnesota (5-5) at Jacksonville (4-6)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Gus Frerotte B

Teams are starting to get a book on Frerotte, or at least this year's Vikings version of Frerotte; after opening with five 200-plus yard efforts he's been held under 185 each of the past three games. His run of three straight multiple-touchdown efforts ended last week in Tampa, but so did his run of four straight outings with a pick. The Jags can be had via the air, having allowed five of the last seven QBs they've faced to throw multiple touchdowns, and if they start creeping safeties into the box to stop the run Gus could make them pay. However, it's difficult to count on a guy who's clearly not his team's top offensive option. You shouldn't be so desperate so as to lean on Frerotte at this critical juncture of the fantasy season.

RB Adrian Peterson S2

Funny how this week's schedule leads the Vikings into Jacksonville and pits Brad Childress against former Vikings coach Mike Tice, now a Jaguar assistant. Tice's reputation was hardly that of a brain wizard, but it's difficult to imagine him not finding a way to get Peterson so much as one touch in the fourth quarter of a one-possession ballgame. Yet that's exactly what Chilly managed to do, making it more difficult to trust the Vikings to do what they should do here and give All Day the ball... all day. Jacksonville hasn't shut down ground games like they used to:  seven of 10 foes have rushed for at least 100 yards, including each of the last three, and every team has managed at least 112 yards from scrimmage from its backs. It'll take patience to give Peterson his touches to ensure a solid fantasy day; AP may just be good enough to outperform his coach's incompetence.

RB Chester Taylor B

While Chester may be as good a pass-catching back as you'll find, there just doesn't seem to be enough touches here to make him a viable fantasy entity.

WR Bernard Berrian

Berrian would certainly seem capable of playing the role of Justin Gage here; last week when the Jags focused too intently on the run, Gage got behind their secondary for 147 yards and two scores. And that's not the only time the Jags' secondary has been exposed: Chad Johnson scored twice on them and five different receivers have topped 90 yards over the past six weeks. So there's some upside here, with little chance of Berrian being shut out like he was by the Packers two weeks back.

WR Sidney Rice

Rice has seven catches on the year, and while he's hitting an impressive .428 with three touchdowns on those seven catches there just aren't enough opportunties there for him to be entrusted with a fantasy start.

TE Vishante Shiancoe B

It's been a month since the Jags allowed an opposing tight end to put up any sort of meaningful numbers against them, and almost as long since Shiancoe's mini-run of success came to a screeching halt. You should be able to find a more favorable matchup even in tight end mandatory leagues.

DT Vikings S3 The Vikes can get after it with the best of them, but David Garrard & Co. don't make enough mistakes for the Purple to be anything other than a borderline fantasy start.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard S3

Better known for their run-stopping prowess, the Vikings have shut out quarterbacks in consecutive games and held eight of 10 opposing signal-callers to one or zero touchdown tosses. Sounds like a perfect fit for Garrard, who has multiple scoring strikes in two of his 10 outings this season. There isn't much in the way of upside here.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew


MoJo has six scores in the past three games, so don't let this supposed tough matchup scare you off. Sure, the Vikings haven't allowed a back other than Ryan Grant to top 62 yards against them this season; however, they have surrendered RB TDs in two straight, three of four, and six of the last nine games. Jones-Drew might not get you a bunch of yardage, but he's a decent bet to score and could get you bonus points as a receiver out of the backfield.

RB Fred Taylor

Freddy is averaging just over 40 yards per game and hasn't scored yet this season. Those are at best borderline starting stats against a bad run defense; against a good run defense like the Vikings have been, Freddy belongs nowhere near your starting lineup.


Matt Jones
Reggie Williams
Mike Walker

B Jones is healthy and continues to dodge suspension. Walker’s big Week 5 may have been merely a fluke. Williams has followed last year’s 10-touchdown season with a flat-out dud. None of the above has me excited about starting any of the above against a better-than-you-might-think Vikings secondary.
TE Marcedes Lewis S3

The Vikes have allowed solid TE games to three of their last four opponents, and with the receiving corps in flux he may wind up being a popular target. He's an okay start in TE-mandatory leagues but shouldn't be reached for beyond that.

DT Jaguars B

There may not be a happier special teams unit in the NFL, if only because the Vikings' opponns tend to have their way with the Purple in that all-important third facet.

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