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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 15
John Tuvey
Updated: December 12, 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)
 
 
San Diego (5-8) at Kansas City (2-11) Back to top
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

Rivers posted a strong effort in his first visit to Arrowhead (266 and two) but last year his numbers were subdued thanks to a big game from LT. Guess what's not happening this year? With Tomlinson merely mortal in 2008 the onus will be back on Rivers to carry the San Diego offense—something he's done with aplomb this year, tossing multiple TDs in nine games (including six of the past eight). Don't let KC's numbers fool you; despite allowing just 15 passing touchdowns they're giving up almost 240 passing yards per game—and that includes two mail-it-in efforts from the Raiders that didn't add up to 200 plus a game against Tennessee in which the Titans rushed for 500 yards and didn't bother to throw. Phil will be fine, especially since LT apparently isn't this season.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson S2 Another soft-on-paper matchup, another opportunity for LT to dash your expectations. Here's the solution: we won't set our expectations that high. As the Gin Blossoms famously said, "If you don't expect too much from me, you might not be let down." Tomlinson rushed for 78 yards and added another 39 receiving in the earlier meeting with KC, which hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher since the Titans gouged them in Week 7. Tomlinson has scored in three of the last four, so cap your expectations at 100 yards from scrimmage and a TD.
WR Vincent Jackson
Chris Chambers



S3

Unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of consistency. Jackson is coming off a 148-yard performance against Oakland and has scored in two of the last three; however, those two sandwich a zero-catch effort against the Falcons. Chambers has one catch total over the past two weeks but put up a strong six-for-61 against the Colts. And the last time the Bolts played KC Malcolm Floyd scored the only WR TD. Jackson is the better bet for production but Chambers can't be overlooked. And since neither is a sure thing, both get the S3.

TE Antonio Gates S2

Gates caught eight balls for 66 yards and a TD in the previous meeting. Since then the Chiefs have allowed good days to fellow AFC West TEs Zach Miller and Tony Scheffler but held all TEs they've faced out of the end zone—and Gates hasn't scored or even topped 30 yards. You're not benching Gates in TE-mandatory leagues, but you certainly have to be concerned. His last effort against KC plus their propensity for allowing yardage to the position earn Gates the benefit of the doubt.

DT Chargers S3 The Bolts have seven takeaways and a defensive touchdown over the past two weeks, so they could make a sneaky play here.
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tyler Thigpen S3

Thigpen has come back to earth a little bit over the past couple of weeks, failing to reach the 200-yard mark against either Oakland or Denver and throwing just one touchdown in the two games. You can bet the Bolts will be better prepared for him as well after he dropped 266 and three on them in the earlier meeting. Thigpen has 475 and five in his past two home games, but both were losses in which he had to throw to play catch up. This one feels a little closer to Thiggy's more recent efforts than his larger midseason outings. He's startable, but just barely.

RB Larry Johnson
S3

LJ has had his way with the Chargers in Arrowhead, with 131 and a touch and 132 and two the past two meetings. However, those came in 2005 and 2004, and things have changed significantly since. The Bolts have allowed a pair of 100-yard rushers the past month, but they haven't given up a running back rushing touchdown since Week 8. Johnson isn't the focal point of the offense he once was, so it's tough to see him getting enough carries for another 130-yard outing. And if the Bolts have barred the door to RBs at the stripe, it's tough to see LJ bringing a whole lot to the fantasy table this week.

WR Dwayne Bowe S3

The Bolts have allowed a couple 100-yard receivers and a couple 90-yard receivers over the past couple of months, and Bowe's earlier effort against San Diego (6-72) wasn't all that bad. If Mark Bradley is out of the mix Bowe would be the only show in town—like he was last week when he had 96 yards against the Broncos. So worst-case he's a borderline start.

WR Mark Bradley
B

Bradley sat out last week's game with a calf injury, but seeing as he had a solid 9-81-1 effort against the Chargers earlier this year he'd be worthy of consideration if he's good to go. Unfortunately, that decision won't be made until just prior to game time, and if you can't wait that long to set your lineup he's not worth the risk of taking a zero.

TE Tony Gonzalez S1

Four touchdowns and three 100-yard games is a good season for many tight ends; for Gonzo, it's his stat line from the past month. Against the most tight end-friendly defense in fantasy football—a defense he dropped 113 and two on a month ago—Gonzo is the epitome of a no-brainer.

DT Chiefs B The last four teams to visit Arrowhead have put up 34, 30, 30, and 54. Just sayin'.
 
San Francisco (5-8) at Miami (8-5) Back to top
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Shaun Hill S3

In the two games on either side of Matt Cassell's 415-yard, three-touchdown performance the Dolphins held each quarterback under 200 yards and allowed one TD toss in the four games. They weren't exactly facing future Hall of Famers, though: Seneca Wallace, JaMarcus Russell, Marc Bulger, J.P. Losman. Hill has played well, with multiple touchdowns in four of his last five. The downside would be 185 and a score like his trip to Buffalo a couple weeks back. The similarities—heading east, AFC East opponent—have me concerned, but I still think he'll do enough to help most fantasy squads.

RB Frank Gore B

Officially, Gore is listed as questionable; however, it's the consensus of those who follow the 49ers for a living that he's not going to play. You may not have to wait until Sunday for your next clue to this riddle: if the Niners activate Thomas Clayton from the practice squad, it's a clear indication they don't expect Gore to go. Despite this being a homecoming of sorts for the former Hurricane, a hobbled Gore hardly makes a prudent fantasy play against a pretty good Dolphins defense.

RB DeShaun Foster B

If Gore can't go the carries would fall to Foster, who isn't much of a play either against a Dolphins defense that has allowed just three running back touchdowns in the past month and a half.

WR Isaac Bruce
Bryant Johnson

B Bruce and Johnson have the last four WR TDs for the Niners, but between their inconsistency, the multiple targets offered by a Mike Martz offense, and a Miami defense that has shut out every wide receiver not named Randy Moss over the past month suggests you'll have better luck finding a fantasy helper elsewhere.
TE Vernon Davis B

Davis' miniresurgence isn't enough to convince me he deserves a fantasy start against a defense that hasn't allowed a tight end touchdown this season.

DT 49ers S3 The stat sheet credited Singletary with three tackles last week just from his stare. And the fact that back-to-back AFC East opponents have mustered a total of 17 points against the Niners suggests that maybe, just maybe, Singletary is starting to rub off on his squad.
Miami
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Chad Pennington B

Pennington has been shut out in three of his last six and offered little of fantasy note in two of the other three. Strange as this may sound, the Niners have held Pennington's three AFC East counterparts—Cassel and Favre included—to one TD toss in three outings and an average of barely 200 yards per game. You'd already feel sheepish starting Pennington this week; image how you'll feel if the Niners shut him down.

RB

Ronnie Brown
Ricky Williams

S3

The Bills and Jets averaged better than six yards per carry against the 49ers; in the two games prior to that Marion Barber put up triple-digit combo yardage and Antonio Pittman rushed for 94. There's little question the Dolphins will have success on the ground; trouble is, over the past five games Brown is getting just two or three more carries per game and producing about five more yards per game—and each has scored twice. Between the two you'll get decent production, but the risk is it will be split to the detriment of both backs.

WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Davone Bess
B The Fins have four WR TDs on the year, and two of them were scored by Greg Camarillo, who's out for the season. The Niners shut out the Bills and Jets wideouts the past two weeks, and there's no compelling reason to use Ginn or Bess here thinking they'll break that trend.
TE Anthony Fasano
B

The Niners have allowed just two TE TDs on the year, so there's no strong trend urging you to plug the inconsistent Fasano into your lineup.

DT Dolphins S3 Six of the Dolphins' last seven foes have failed to reach 20 points. Of course, the seventh dropped 48 on them.
 
Buffalo (8-5) vs. New York Jets (8-5) Back to top
Buffalo
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB J.P. Losman B

Trent Edwards will miss another game with his sore groin, leaving Losman to battle the Jets. Gang Green has been soft against the pass of late, allowing 285 or more passing yards and multiple touchdowns in three of the past four. Losman hasn't turned that trick since the middle of 2006, and it's unlikely he'll hop in the wayback machine this week and remind us of that one moment of fleeting glory.

RB Marshawn Lynch B

Lynch ground out 16 yards on nine carries in the earlier meeting with the Jets, and while they've allowed three RB TDs in the past three games they're still too formidable a foe for you to plug Lynch into your lineup and hope he'll remember where the end zone is.

WR Lee Evans S3

While using Evans is still a lot like playing a roulette wheel, at least this week it's like putting your money on "red" instead of "green". In three previous games against the Jets (okay, two and a half, but JP is responsible for the TD half of the game in question), Losman to Evans has resulted in outings of 8-107, 2-91-1, and 5-138-1 against the Jets. That's right, those big games Evans infrequently throws at us tend to happen against Gang Green with Losman at the helm. I still wouldn't trust Evans as more than a WR3 or maybe a WR2 in larger leagues, but there is that possibility he'll have one of those games that lead him to be drafted three rounds earlier than he should. And he's due for one of those, isn't he?

WR James Hardy
Josh Reed
B Reed's been good for five catches a game, but just one of those catches has come in the end zone. And Hardy needs to move off the "jump ball in the end zone" page of the playbook before he can be inserted into fantasy lineups with any degree of confidence.
DT Bills S3 Any time Brett Favre is on the other side of the ball, things can get exciting.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S3

Only one quarterback has thrown multiple touchdowns against the Bills over the past two months—and it wasn't Favre, who failed to toss even one TD to go along with the 201 yards he put up in the Week 9 win. The Gunslinger himself has been shut out in back-to-back tilts, content to hand off to Thomas Jones and let him do the heavy lifting. If it's working, no reason to change things up dramatically—which means Favre is a borderline play this week.

RB Thomas Jones S1

Jones has been lights-out since the bye, with four 100-yard efforts and at least one touchdown in every game except one. And while on the surface the Bills run defense looks decent, they've been facing teams using two backs to do the damage instead of one. So Benjarvus Green-Ellis has the only true 100-yard game against them in the past two-plus months, but since Jones rushed for 69 and a touch against Buffalo they've allowed four of five backfields to reach triple digits against them.

RB Leon Washington B

Yes, Leon is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. But he simply hasn't been touching the ball enough to warrant you placing him in your fantasy lineup—the exception being at a flex spot in PPR leagues, where he still has some value.

WR Laveranues Coles
Jerricho Cotchery

S3

The Bills secondary has been a little better than average, which at the rate the Jets passing game is going is enough to keep both Coles and Cotchery out of fantasy lineups. Cotch has one touchdown in the last nine games; Coles has (take your pick) one TD in the last six, seven yards in the past two games, and ticked off his quarterback by comparing him to a JUGGS gun. I don't see anything in the above paragraph that has me chomping at the bit to start either guy in semifinals week.

TE Dustin Keller

S2

Even Favre's favorite receiver has fallen on hard times at the hands of the running game; Keller hasn't scored in a month. He does, however, have 23 catches over that four-game span and could return to the end zone against a Bills defense that has given up TE TDs in two of the past three games.

DT Jets S2 You have to like the Jets' chances against J.P. Losman.
 

Seattle (2-11) at St. Louis (2-11)

Back to top
Seattle
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck B

There's talk of putting Hasselbeck on IR. Usually it's a big leap from IR to fantasy relevancy, and it's unlikely Matt's back will allow him to do that sort of jumping. At minimum, he's been ruled out of this week's contest.

QB Seneca Wallace B How bad is the New England secondary that Wallace dropped three touchdowns on them last week? Is it possible that the 2-11 Rams have a better pass defense? Could I ask any more rhetorical questions? St. Louis has held three straight quarterbacks to one TD or less; only one of the past five and two of the past 11 QBs to face STL have mustered multiple scores. So as nice a surprise as Wallace was last week, it's tough to see it continuing this week.
RB T.J. Duckett

S3

An opposing running back has scored against the Rams in every game this year. And since the Seattle backfield is a cluster, I'm betting the honor falls on designated fall-into-the-end-zone guy Duckett. Hey, he scored twice against them in the earlier meeting. Your opponent will laugh when they see Duckett in your lineup, but you'll laugh when he scores on them.

RB Maurice Morris
Julius Jones
Leonard Weaver

B

Jones torched the Rams for 140 yards and a TD in the earlier meeting, but he didn't play a down last week because Mike Holmgren was busy riding the hot hands of Morris, Weaver, and Duckett and their combined 3.8 yards per carry. Holmgren said Jones had done nothing wrong and that he might start this week, but do you really want the fate of your fantasy season to hinge on a guy who was essentially a healthy scratch last week? I don't.

WR

Deion Branch

B

Branch is the only member of the Seattle receiving collective worthy of mention, especially after his two touchdown performance last week against his former team. Not only will Branch lack the extra motivation this week, he'll also encounter a secondary that's allowed just two WR TDs in the past five games and no 100-yard efforts in the past six.

TE John Carlson
S3 Carlson has four touchdowns in 13 games; two of those scores have come in the four games with Wallace at the helm, including one as part of his eight-catch outing last week.
DT Seahawks S3 Seattle's defense is absolutely worth a shot against a Rams' offense that has been under 20 points in 12 of 13 games. Seriously.
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Marc Bulger
B

Bulger has mustered one multiple-TD affair this season, and he'll be facing a Seattle secondary that has held four of the past five QBs they've faced to one or fewer TD tosses. Bulger could put up decent yardage against a Seahawk unit that's allowed three 300-yard games in the past six weeks, but that's a thin nail to hang your stocking on this time of year.

RB Steven Jackson
S2

Jackson had 128 yards from scrimmage in the earlier meeting and should be able to add a touchdown to his productivity against a Seahawks defense that's surrendered seven RB TDs in the past five games.

WR Torry Holt
Donnie Avery
S3

It's been more than a month since either Holt or Avery did anything of fantasy note, and last week they failed to do much against the league's most wide receiver-friendly defense. So there's no compelling reason to use them against a Seahawk secondary that's allowed just two WR TDs the past month.

DT Rams B Eight opponents have already hung at least 30 on the Rams, so what passes for their defense is to be avoided.
 

Minnesota (8-5) at Arizona (8-5)

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Minnesota
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tarvaris Jackson B

With Gus Frerotte sitting out Wednesday's practice it's beginning to look a lot like T-Jack will get the start. And while the Arizona M.O. is to allow plenty of production to opposing passing games, that's not Jackson's bit. If you get points for game management maybe Jackson is startable this week; otherwise you're just hoping he gets the ball to Adrian Peterson and gets out of the way.

RB Adrian Peterson S1

AP has six 100-yard efforts in his past eight games, and he'll be facing the same run defense that allowed Brian Westbrook to rush for 110 and two on Thanksgiving Day.

RB Chester Taylor S3

The combination of Peterson's recent spate of fumbles, the Vikings' wish to keep All Day fresh by giving Chester extra carries, and a Cardinals defense that has allowed five RB receiving touchdowns in the past four games make Taylor a very intriguing flex play in larger leagues—especially those with PPR scoring.

WR Bernard Berrian
S3

Berrian would be the guy to use if you're bound and determined to start a wide receiver against the Cards even though they've fallen to sixth in fantasy points allowed to wideouts. But his consistency has been nothing to write home about, and a new quarterback—one, it should be noted, that has never thrown a touchdown to Berrian—isn't likely to help.

WR Sidney Rice

B

Rice is almost as likely to score as Berrian—and Jackson has hit him on multiple touchdowns, including in this year's season opener. But you'd be making a Bob Beamon-like leap of faith to insert a guy averaging two targets and one catch per game at this critical juncture of the season.

TE Vishante Shiancoe S3

Three games with 40 or more yards in the past month have exposed Shiancoe as a reliable play in tight end mandatory leagues. That FOX locker room camera exposed him as well.

DT Vikings S3

Lawyers are keeping the Williams Wall on the field, but Arizona doesn't run much anyway. This week will help the Vikings determine if Jared Allen and Madieu Williams were worth the offseason investments.

Arizona
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kurt Warner S2

Warner has been merely mortal of late: two straight games under 300 yards and multiple TD tosses just once in the past four games. And this isn't a layup of a matchup, either; Minnesota has allowed just two 300-yard games and three multiple-touchdown outings this season. That said, you're not benching Warner; just dial your expectations back towards 275 and two and you'll be just fine.

RB Tim Hightower B Maybe there's something more afoot in the Arizona running game than just Edge getting old. He's had more 50-plus yard outings than Hightower, who has done nothing yardage-wise since his 109-yard debut as a starter against the Rams. He won't find the going any easier against the Vikings, though he's still a threat for a short-yardage TD run. However, that too may be unlikely against a Minnesota defense that hasn't allowed a running back rushing TD in the past three games.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
Anquan Boldin
S2

The Vikings secondary has held its own this year, but that doesn't mean you should worry about Fitzy or Boldin. Minnesota's best cover corner is 5-9 Antoine Winfield, who will have a hard time matching up against either wideout—especially on a jump ball in the red zone.

WR Steve Breaston
S3

Here's the upside for Breaston: back in Week 2, the Vikings played the Colts and used Winfield to shut down Marvin Harrison while leaving their second and third corners to cover Reggie Wayne and third receiver Anthony Gonzalez. Wayne had five catches for 93 and a TD while Gonzalez caught nine for 137. In this scenario, Breaston equals Gonzalez—and Minnesota is down a nickel corner after losing Charles Gordon to injury a few weeks back.

DT Cardinals S3 It certainly wouldn't be folly to start the talented Arizona defense against a rusty Jackson—with an added boost from the Cards return game against Minnesota's shaky special teams coverage.

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