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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 14
John Tuvey
Updated: December 5, 2008
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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)
 
 
Philadelphia (6-5-1) at New York Giants (11-1) Back to top
Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb S2

We're barely a month removed from McNabb throwing three TDs against the Giants, one of only two multiple touchdown efforts the defending Super Bowl champions have allowed this season. Best set your expectations a bit lower than what The Don delivered in the last meeting; maybe a TD or two less, but based on the Giants giving up 232 and 351 yards over the past couple of games maybe an uptick over the 194 yards from Week 10.

RB Brian Westbrook S2

Big Blue brought a stout defense into the previous matchup and held Westbrook to 59 yards from scrimmage—easily his worst effort against them in recent memory. The outlook isn't much brighter this time around: in the three games since that meeting the Giants have held opposing running backs to 243 combo yards, though they have allowed three RB TDs. Westy posted his best game in more than a month on Thanksgiving Day with 110 rushing yards and four total touchdowns, and the extra rest can only help his bruised and battered body; in fact, the Eagles held him out of practice Thursday and Friday to give him even more rest. Is he far enough back to be start-worthy even in this matchup? Given that he's put up at least 120 combo yards in each of his last four against the Giants and has four touchdowns in that span, he's at least worth a shot.

WR Kevin Curtis
DeSean Jackson


B In a typical Eagles game between four and six wideouts have balls thrown their way, so no matter whom you pick you're only getting a share of the pie. Jackson and Curtis are consistently getting the larger shares of the pie, but for the epitome of frustration look no further than Philly's last matchup with the Giants: five wideouts caught passes, with Jackson's 4-61 leading the way, but the touchdowns went to Curtis (3-25-1), Jason Avant (2-25-1), and Hank Basket (1-7-1). Seeing as the G-Men haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver since Week 6 and have given up just one WR TD in the three games since facing Philly, it hardly seems as if the potential payoff is worth the risk of having one of the other five wideouts usurping your guy's looks.
TE Brent Celek
L.J. Smith
B

The Giants haven't allowed a TE TD since Week 6. And with two tight ends getting looks, you don't want any part of the half a chance either has to help your fantasy squad.

DT Eagles B The last meeting shaped up as a defensive battle and resulted in 67 points being scored. So this doesn't seem to be a good place to take a chance.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S2

Rarely does Manning disappoint; unfortunately, rarely does his stat line surprise, either. The good news is with multiple touchdown tosses in three of his last five and back-to-back efforts north of 240 yards, trends actually point towards a decent fantasy contribution. Further, Philly has given up multiple touchdown passes in three of its last four and 235 or better in two of three. Wow, Eli owners should be downright giddy.

RB Brandon Jacobs S1

Jake has scored in eight of nine, including two along with 126 yards when these teams met a month ago. He's healthy, he's rolling, and there's no reason to think Philly will offer up any more resistance this time around.

RB Derrick Ward


B

Ward received 20 touches and produced 90 yards from scrimmage in the earlier matchup; both those figures are on the high end of what you can expect from Ward when Jacobs is healthy. If the Eagles overcorrect to stop Jacobs and the run it will have negative ramifications for Ward as well; either way, unless you're in a PPR league (as Ward has multiple catches in every game this year except the Week 2 blowout win over St. Louis) he probably won't put up enough to help your fantasy squad.

WR Plaxico Burress B

Is it too soon to say Burress has no shot of returning to the Giants next season? It is? Okay.

WR Amani Toomer
Domenik Hixon
S3

Of the four non-Plax WR TDs the Giants have over the past two months, Toomer has three and Steve Smith has one. And with Hixon stepping into Burress' role, they're the two members of the Giants' WRBC approach with the most upside. And seeing as the Eagles have allowed at least one WR TD in each of the past six games—plus the optimistic outlook for Eli and Philly's anticipated adjustment to slow Jacobs this time around—both are decent starting plays.

TE Kevin Boss S2

Boss scored in the earlier matchup and has reached the end zone in four of his last six; I like his chances against a Philly defense that has allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than all but three other teams.

DT Giants S3 The Giants defense consistently helps you in the sacks department, but this one devolved into a shootout in the earlier meeting.
 
Cleveland (4-8) at Tennessee (11-1) Back to top
Cleveland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ken Dorsey B

In his first start since 2005, Dorsey goes on the road to face a Titans defense that has allowed fewer passing touchdowns than all but one other NFL team.

RB Jamal Lewis S2

Jamal hasn't been able to exploit softer defenses, so his prognosis against the Titans is hardly promising. If something between 60-80 yards and an outside shot at a touchdown helps your fantasy squad, then you'll like Lewis this week. Hopefully you have alternatives.

RB Jerome Harrison B

Tough to get worked up over a guy whose season high is eight touches, who has just one score to his credit this season, and who faces the Titans on the road with a journeyman quarterback at the helm.

WR Braylon Edwards
B

Last week Edwards went against an AFC South secondary that had allowed two WR TDs all year and caught two balls for 36 yards. This week he faces another AFC South secondary that has allowed only two WR TDs on the season. Not biting this week, either.

TE Steve Heiden B

I'm probably spending more time than it's worth on this particular section of the matchup, but it's worth noting that the Lions' lone score last week came via the tight end; that inexperienced quarterbacks tend to check down to the tight end rather than get sacked, and Dorsey certainly fits the "inexperienced" bill; and that Heiden has consistently proved to be a competent fill-in when Kellen Winslow is out, like he is this week. While you'd have to be pretty desperate to reach for Heiden this week, at least there's a twinge of upside here.

DT Browns B After holding the vaunted Colts without an offensive touchdown, who's to say they can't slow the Titans? Do you really want to risk the fate of your fantasy squad on that, though?
Tennessee
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kerry Collins B

Since being carved up by Jay Cutler the Browns have stymied Trent Edwards, Sage Rosenfels, and some guy named Manning. Not that you're likely looking to start Collins this week anyway; while the Bears, Jets, and Jaguars have a defense capable of forcing the Titans to beat them through the air, the Browns aren't similarly equipped. Collins will let the running game do the heavy lifting, self-regulating his numbers to something shy of 200 yards with maybe a touchdown.

RB Chris Johnson S1

A pathetic 28-yard effort from the Bengals and the 53-yard offering from a Jaguars ground game that was down three starting offensive linemen skew the numbers; the Browns are a whole lot more like the unit that gave up 153 rushing yards and three RB TDs  to the Ravens... or 183 and one to the Redskins... or 179 on the ground and another 58 and one receiving to the Bills. There's little question Johnson will get his this week.

RB LenDale White S2

There's a little more question whether there will be enough left over for White to get his. I say yes, though maybe not to the same extent he wolfed down seconds on Thanksgiving Day. That said, with Ken Dorsey unlikely to threaten offensively Jeff Fisher will have no problem taking the air out of the ball and giving each of his backs 20 carries.

WR Justin Gage
Brandon Jones
B The Titans rarely have occasion to throw, and when they do it's usually to the tight end or running back. Tennessee wideouts have maybe four helpful fantasy games this year, and that's as a conglomerate. No need to stretch for one here.
TE Bo Scaife
B

I've already mentioned the Titans' aversion to throwing; factor in Scaife's one touchdown in the past two months and a Browns defense that's allowed one TE TD all season and Bo isn't even a viable option in deeper TE-mandatory leagues.

DT Titans S1 As if the Dorsey-led Browns offense didn't have enough worries of its own, ten of the Titans' 12 opponents failed to reach 20 points.
 
Miami (7-5) vs. Buffalo (6-6) in Toronto Back to top
Miami
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Chad Pennington S3

Chad dropped 314 yards on the Bills in the earlier meeting—by 60-plus yards the most they've allowed this season. Were this being played outside in Buffalo I'd reference the fact that the Bills haven't allowed a visiting quarterback to top 208 yards this year; however, to make a buck this game has been moved to Toronto's roofed Rogers Center. So throw out Miami's 2-7 record in Buffalo after December 1, and you can probably move Pennington from bench fodder to a narrow start. Fast track, Ted Ginn, and a climate controlled environment? Thanks, Ralph Wilson and NFL schedule makers!

RB

Ronnie Brown
Ricky Williams

S3

In the last meeting Pennington was too busy throwing to hand off to Brown and Williams, who combined for 59 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Since then the Bills have struggled against running backs, allowing 735 combo yards and four scores. Brown usually gets more work than Williams, so he's the more reliable start here—but over the past month Ricky has seen just two fewer touches per game than Brown, so he could be used at a flex spot in larger leagues as well.

WR Ted Ginn Jr.
S2 Ginn put up 175 yards on the Bills earlier this year—and now you're putting him indoors on a fast track? Gotta like his chances against a secondary that's allowed three WR TDs to noted juggernaut offenses from San Francisco and Kansas City the past two weeks.
WR Davone Bess
S3 Bess has 80-plus yards in each of the past two games and has a shot to make it three straight against a Bills defense that has allowed wingmen to top 50 yards each of the past two weeks.
TE Anthony Fasano
B

Fasano scored in the earlier matchup but has done nothing since that would suggest you plug him into the lineup and expect a repeat.

DT Dolphins S2 The Bills scored 51 fewer points last week than they did the week before, and they may be without Trent Edwards.
Buffalo
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB J.P. Losman B

Trent Edwards couldn't finish last week's game due to a groin injury, didn’t practice this week, and has been ruled out as the starter (though emergency quarterback is still on the table). Thus we'll be treated to the quarterback stylings of Losman. Can he maintain Edwards' frenetic one-touchdown-a-week pace? The Fins didn't allow a TD pass in the earlier meeting, so Losman will have his work cut out for him. I wouldn't recommend you let him figure it out on your fantasy team's dime.

RB Marshawn Lynch S2

After a mostly disappointing first couple of months Lynch has started to his his stride of late. Over the past three games he's recorded his first two 100-yard rushing games of the season and posted triple-digit combo yardage in the other; he's also scored in two of three. Lynch's track record against the Dolphins is solid—two touchdowns and 229 rushing yards in three games, including 61 and one on the ground and another 34 receiving earlier this year—and with seven of Miami's last eight opponents producing triple-digit running back yards from scrimmage Lynch should be able to stay hot.

WR Lee Evans S3

Evans has 327 yards and three touchdowns in his last four meetings with the Dolphins, including 116 yards earlier this season. The move to Losman shouldn't dramatically impact Evans; you may recall that when Losman came off the bench earlier this year his first move was to go long to Lee. Evans' inconsistency and Losman's general rust conspire to keep expectations down, but he's still worthy of a start.

WR James Hardy
Josh Reed
B If the lead dog is barely startable and the quarterback is bench fodder, it would stand to reason that reach this deep into the receiving corps is not the smartest move.
TE Robert Royal B Royal is questionable, and the Dolphins haven't allowed a tight end touchdown this year.
DT Bills S3 You can never rule out Bobby April's special teams, especially now that they're unleashing Leodis McKelvin.
 

Kansas City (2-10) at Denver (7-5)

Back to top
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tyler Thigpen B

Philip Rivers beat up the Broncos in their home opener, but since then no visiting quarterback—not even Drew Brees—has recorded multiple touchdown tosses. Thiggy's first visit to Mile High (Invesco, whatever) might allow for decent yardage, but if he's not recording a second score he has to stay on the sad side of Start/Bench.

RB Larry Johnson
S1

LJ missed both meetings with Denver last year, but after gouging the Broncos for 423 and three in the previous three matchups he picked up where he left off with 28-128-2 earlier this season. Expect the Broncos to be more than accommodating once again: over the past three games they've let Thomas Jones and Justin Fargas reach triple digits and Jones, Darren McFadden, and Michael Turner all score two touchdowns each. Now aren't you glad you didn't kick Larry to the curb a couple months ago?

WR Dwayne Bowe S3

Denver has allowed two 100-yard receivers but only one WR TD over the past five weeks. Bowe is still Thigpen's favorite wideout, but Gonzo is his favorite target; the combination of reduced looks and Denver's D should encourage you to lower expectations here.

WR Mark Bradley
B

The combination of a solid Oakland secondary and Bradley's calf injury led to last week's goose-egg. Bradley has already been ruled out of this contest, so you can keep him on the bench until his calf is healthy... and his matchup is better.

TE Tony Gonzalez S1

Not only is Gonzo sporting a three-game streak of 100-yard efforts, he's also scored in two straight against the Broncos. And only two teams have allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than Denver. Everything's coming up Millhouse!

DT Chiefs B The risk of Jay Culter blowing up all over the Chiefs is just too great.
Denver
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S1

Jay's 361 and one in the earlier meeting this year was disappointing—not just because it came in a losing effort, but because he dropped an Abe Lincoln on the Chiefs in the previous matchup. Cutler has multiples scores in three of five and 300-plus yards in same; meanwhile, the Chiefs have allowed 266 or better to the last five legitimate passing games they've faced (Oakland doesn't count). Haven't heard a thing in all of the above that would discourage me from starting Cutler.

RB Peyton Hillis


S1 Hillis has scored in four of the last five games (five total TDs) and last week posted the first 100-yard game of his career against one of the league's tougher run defenses. This week he'll face a Chiefs defense that has surrendered more fantasy points to running backs than any other. So why is some voice in the back of my mind screaming that this is exactly what Mike Shanahan wants us to think? I know I shouldn't, but... aw, what the hell, I'm drinking the orange Kool-Aid. Give that man an S1! Say, anyone else feeling a little sleepy?
WR Brandon Marshall S2

Marshall through Week 4: three touchdowns, two 100-yard games. Marshall since: one touchdown, zero 100-yard games. If he's going to get back on the horse this season it has to be this week, against a KC secondary that's allowed seven 100-yard receivers and nine WR TDs—including one in each of the past five (last week's meeting with Oakland excluded). I think I used up all my optimism backing the Bronco running game, so Marshall will have to settle for an S2 until he proves he's back in the saddle.

WR Eddie Royal S3

Four of the past six WR TDs the Chiefs have allowed have gone to secondary targets, and Royal put up 104 against KC earlier in the year. He's been just as productive a fantasy wideout as Marshall, and there's no reason to expect anything different this week.

TE Tony Scheffler
Daniel Graham
B

Scheffler hasn't scored since Week 2, but his yardage has been solid. That said, he's put up 26, 31, and 31 in his last three against the Chiefs. Graham has the last four TE TDs the Broncos have produced, but the Chiefs have allowed only two TE TDs all year and held Graham to 3-29 earlier this year. It's not a favorable matchup, and with two ladles dipping in the well it's tough to see either drawing enough to whet fantasy thirsts.

DT Broncos B "Defense" and "Denver" aren't being mentioned in the same sentence all that often this season.
 

New York Jets (8-4) at San Francisco (4-8)

Back to top
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S2

Plenty of trends point towards Favre having a solid effort this weekend. The Niners have allowed at least 200 passing yards in eight of the last nine and multiple touchdown tosses in five of those nine; Favre, meanwhile, has topped 200 yards in five of six and thrown multiple scoring strikes in two of the last three. If he's held down this weekend it will likely be the Jets' ground game and not the 49er defense turning the trick.

RB Thomas Jones S1

As if Jones weren't hot enough for you—nine touchdowns in his last six, a dozen in his last eight, four 100-yard games in last seven—get a load of what's been churning up the Niners of late: Marshawn Lynch (134), Marion Barber (109 combo), and Antonio Pittman (95 on 14 carries). Yeah, Jones looks like a good play this week.

RB Leon Washington S3

Washington's a risky play given his lack of touches, but consider that the Niners have allowed five backs to post at least 50 receiving yards against them over the past seven weeks. That certainly plays into Leon's game, so if you're willing to ride a long shot...

WR Laveranues Coles
Jerricho Cotchery

S3

Since the Jets' Week 5 bye Coles has two touchdowns while Cotchery has one TD and one 100-yard game. Can you say, "emphasis on the running game"? I knew you could. Formerly every-week starters, Coles and Cotch are now borderline starters at best, and even then primarily because the Niners have given up 907 wide receiver yards and six WR TDs over their last four games.

TE Dustin Keller

S2

Tight ends have done little against the Niners, probably because teams are too busy running the ball and throwing to their wideouts. Favre has fallen in love with Keller, though, as evidenced by his 27-313-1 over the past month. So despite the appearance of a tough matchup, don't let those skewed stats prevent you from plugging Brett's buddy into your fantasy lineup.

DT Jets S2 Gang Green has been one of the better fantasy defenses this season, and a date with Shaun Hill hardly seems daunting.
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Shaun Hill S3

Shaun's numbers dipped in Buffalo last week, but a bounceback can be expected against a Jets secondary that has allowed 1,000 passing yards and six TDs over the past three games.

RB Frank Gore S3

Gore has had one good fantasy game over the past month and a half, and that came against the Rams. Despite what Denver did to them last week the Jets have a good run defense, so it's tough to see Gore bouncing all the way back this week. On the plus side, the Jets have allowed four backs to post at least 40 receiving yards over the past seven games. Gore is still startable, but just barely.

WR Isaac Bruce

S3 The Jets offer a middle-of-the-pack pass defense, but the fact that they're shutting down the run suggests San Francisco will be forced to throw more (can't you just hear Mike Martz snickering a little inside?). Bruce has been the closest thing the Niners have to a go-to receiver so he gets the lukewarm endorsement; the rest of the group is a crapshoot at best.
TE Vernon Davis B

The good news is that Davis has two touchdowns in the past month; the bad news is that he has three catches in the past month. Against a Jets defense that's allowed more tight end yards and TE TDs than any team other than the Chargers, that might just be enough to earn him a start—if you're in a large TE-mandatory league. Most of us aren't.

DT 49ers B I think Singletary suited up last week when the Niners held Buffalo to three points.

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