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Start/Bench List - Week 15
John Tuvey
Updated: December 12, 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)

Pittsburgh (10-3) at Baltimore (9-4)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger B

The Ravens have allowed multiple touchdowns twice this season; Big Ben has thrown multiple scores just once in the past two months. Yardage won't be any easier to come by, as Baltimore is giving up less than 200 per contest while Roethlisberger is averaging a shade more. That 191 and one Big Ben posted in the earlier meeting is looking spot on.

RB Willie Parker
Mewelde Moore

Parker and his 2.8 career yards per carry average against the Ravens missed the earlier meeting—the one in which Ray Lewis ended Rashard Mendenhall's season and the Steelers managed all of 58 running back rushing yards. In fact, four backs all year have topped 50 yards against Baltimore, and two of them were Giants. Parker had 59 and 63 against the Ravens back in 2005, and when you're going that far back to find something that wouldn't otherwise pass as success you know it's shaping up to be a long afternoon for the Pittsburgh ground game.

WR Santonio Holmes
Hines Ward


Holmes has scored in three straight against the Ravens, but with Baltimore having allowed one WR TD in the past month it's difficult to see him extending that string—a difficulty compounded by the fact that Holmes has just one score in the past five games himself. Ward has one touchdown in the past seven games and hasn't scored against the Ravens since Week 2 of 2004. You'd be fighting uphill odds using either of these guys this week.

TE Heath Miller

The good news is that Miller has scored in two of the past three and is the proud owner of one of the five TE TDs the Ravens have surrendered over the past 27 games. The bad news is, do you really want to mess with a defense like that at a critical juncture such as this?

DT Steelers S3 As good as Baltimore's defense is, the Steelers' defense is just as good. That may not make for good fantasy fodder, but it should make for one heckuva slugfest on Sunday.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco B

Peyton Manning is the only quarterback to have thrown more than one touchdown or topped 210 yards against the Steelers this year. That makes Flacco's 192 and one against Pittsburgh earlier this season that much more impressive—but no more helpful fantasy-wise.

RB Le'Ron McClain
Ray Rice
Willis McGahee


It's not advisable to use any back against the Steelers, but McClain's 63 and a touch earlier this season suggest that, while difficult, it's not impossible to run on Pittsburgh. Baltimore has managed a running back score against the Steelers in five straight meetings, so history is on their side as well. That said, the Ravens could easily give touches to either of their other two backs, especially since the way some teams have had success against the Steel Curtain is by throwing to their backs and both Rice and McGahee are better pass-catchers. You're bound to find more compelling fantasy starts elsewhere on your roster.

WR Derrick Mason
Mark Clayton


Mason has scored in two straight and Clayton in two of the last three... but the Steelers have allowed a total of five WR TDs all year long. At least Clayton has scored against Pittsburgh, back in 2006; Mason's next touchdown grab against the Steelers will be his first ever, and that includes his days as a Titan.


Todd Heap

B Daniel Wilcox, Heap's backup, has scored in two of the past four meetings between these clubs—including earlier this season, one of the four TE TDs the Steelers have surrendered this season; Heap has gone scoreless against the Steelers in those four contests. Heap has three TDs in the past five games, but—like everything else about this matchup—you're playing with fire if you're using any offensive entity in this tilt.
DT Ravens S2 The Ravens are allowing an average of 10 points per home game, and only one team (the Titans) has had as many as 13 in Baltimore.
Denver (8-5) at Carolina (10-3) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S1

With Bronco running backs dropping like flies they don't have much choice but to keep turning Cutler loose. The Panthers have given up at least 250 passing yards in three straight and multiple TD tosses in back-to-back tilts, while Cutler has 643 yards and four touchdowns in his last two—and that was when he still had Peyton Hillis. Expect a third straight game with at least 40 passing attempts, which should lead to a third straight game of solid stats.

RB Tatum Bell
Selvin Young
Corey Boyd
P.J. Pope
B Eleven of the Broncos' 12 RB TDs are on Injured Reserve. Young might be able to play this week, but it's tough to see any of this stable bringing much to the fantasy table. Boyd received the most work with the first team early in the week, and the Denver media seems to think that Bell will be the lead dog in a three-headed committee You certainly can't start one with any degree of confidence against a defense that has surrendered five RB TDs in 12 games—and four to Michael Turner a few weeks back.
WR Brandon Marshall S1

Marshall did indeed get back in the saddle with a two-score game against the Chiefs last week, and he fits the profile of wideouts who have success against Carolina; quite simply, he gets targeted. The last eight receivers thrown to at least 10 times against the Panthers have averaged 97 yards and a touchdown, capped by Antonio Bryant's 200-yard, two-score game on Monday night. Marshall is thrown to an average of 12 times per game; 'nuff said.

WR Eddie Royal S3

The Panthers generally don't leave leftovers; only two of the nine WR TDs they've allowed have gone to secondary targets. Royal gets the narrow nod here because Denver doesn't have anybody they can trust in their ground game so Cutler will be throwing a ton. And they can't all go to Brandon Marshall, right?

TE Tony Scheffler


Scheffler continues to provide decent yardage, but his scoreless streak has stretched to a dozen weeks and Daniel Graham looms to swipe touchdowns. If you're in a PPR or performance-heavy league and Scheffler's 50 yards will help, you can use him here; otherwise, better look elsewhere for tight end help.

DT Broncos B The Panthers have scored 133 points the past four games, and Denver doesn't seem particularly well-equipped to slow them down.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jake Delhomme B Delhomme has been under 200 yards in four of the past five games and hasn't thrown multiple scores since Week 8. If your league gives fantasy points for turning and handing off then Jake's your guy; otherwise, he's not giving you much this week.

DeAngelo Williams

S1 Only three teams have allowed more fantasy points to running backs than the Broncos. Williams steamrolls into this matchup with five 100-yard efforts and 11 touchdowns in the past six games. If he can gouge the Bucs for 186 and two, you'd better not let your children watch what he does to the Broncos this week.

Jonathan Stewart

S3 Stewart has found enough leftovers for two 100-yard games and three touchdowns in the past month, and there projects to be plenty of rushing yardage to go around this week.
WR Steve Smith S2

At least part of the "success" of the Denver secondary—they've allowed just one WR TD the past six games—is attributable to what they're allowing on the ground. Still, even with Williams running wild Smith has been able to post three straight 100-yard efforts so you can't bench him just because you expect Carolina to run all over the Broncos.

WR Muhsin Muhammad


You can, however, bench Muhammy; his weekly contribution of 50 yards and his infrequent touchdowns don't exactly inspire confidence as you head into your semifinal matchup.

DT Panthers S3 Carolina has allowed at least 20 points in four straight games, and the Broncos are certainly no slouch offensively. Still, the Panthers have an active secondary, and as Woody Hayes used to say only three things can happen when you put the ball in the air and two of them are bad—or, in the case of the defense, good.

New England (8-5) at Oakland (3-10)

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New England
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel S3

Okay, so that whole plan to trade Tom Brady and keep Cassel may have been a bit premature. Cassel has surrounded those two 400-yard, three-TD outings with five games of one or fewer touchdowns and average to decent yardage. That's likely a bit more indicative of what you'll see this week against a pretty solid Oakland secondary. The Raiders have held six of eight opponents to one or fewer touchdown tosses and all eight of those foes under 225 passing yards. This one has all the makings of a 220-yard outing with one or maybe two touchdowns, putting Cassel firmly on the start/bench fence.

RB Sammy Morris
Kevin Faulk


You can count the number of teams who allow more fantasy points to running backs on one hand and still have your thumb left over. Morris is getting the most carries; while that may not lead to triple-digit yardage, he should find the end zone at least once. Faulk is contributing in PPR and performance leagues and should continue to do so with his share of the workload.

WR Randy Moss
S3 Welcome back to the Black Hole, Randy; I'm guessing the Raider faithful will have a few pointed comments regarding your effort (or lack thereof) while you wore the Silver and Black. At least the Raiders will be kind enough to provide you with an escort during your time by the Bay; meet Nnamdi Asomugha. A No. 1 receiver hasn't scored on the Raiders since Week 1, so in this critical week you may be faced with the prospect of benching Moss. Unless the Raiders decide to use Asomugha to take away Wes Welker, Moss is looking at an uphill battle this week—and Cassel has struggled to get him the ball against lesser coverage.
WR Wes Welker S3 Welker made up for time lost to that nasty hit he suffered a couple weeks back by catching a dozen balls. If the Raiders treat him like a No. 2 he'll be in line for a solid afternoon—but I'd hate for you to plan on another dozen only to find Welker shadowed by Asomugha on Sunday. Lower your expectations just in case; better to be pleasantly surprised than bitterly disappointed.
TE Ben Watson


Watson's one good game this year isn't enough to earn him a start against a defense that hasn't allowed a TE TD in two months.

DT Patriots S2 The Raiders have topped 20 points just once in their past 10 games; even the banged-up Patriots defense should bring home some fantasy points for you this week.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB JaMarcus Russell B

Woo-hoo! Russell practiced fully on Friday, so he'll be good to go against New England on Sunday. Unfortunately, he can't be trusted with a fantasy start, even against a Patriots secondary that has allowed multiple touchdown tosses in four straight games.

RB Justin Fargas
Darren McFadden


Oakland running backs have a total of six touchdowns this season, only one of which has come outside of the AFC West. The Patriots have allowed a total of nine RB TDs on the year, only two of which have come from teams outside of their division. Fargas is still getting the bulk of the carries, but this week that's likely to yield something like 15 carries for 50 yards. McFadden has been only the third-best rookie running back from Arkansas this season, and there's nothing in this matchup to suggest he'll make a dramatic turnaround here.

WR Ashley Lelie
Ronald Curry
B Only one team has allowed more WR TDs than the Patriots, but here's the problem: if you took all of Oakland's wide receiver stats and added them up as if they were one player they still couldn't crack the top 14 in catches, yardage, or touchdowns. So to expect any of them individually to give you anything, even in this soft matchup, is folly.
TE Zack Miller S3

If the Raiders are to score a touchdown against the Patriots—and I'm not saying they will, just saying if—odds are it's going to Miller. New England has allowed two TE TDs in the past three games and four straight tight ends to top 60 yards against them. Miller, meanwhile, has topped 40 yards in nine of 10 and exceeded 60 in three of the last four—no small feat considering how putrid the Oakland passing game has been.

DT Raiders B The defense hasn't really been the Raiders' problem, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement.

New York Giants (11-2) at Dallas (8-5)

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New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S3

Eli had three touchdowns but just 147 yards in the earlier meeting as the Giants gouged Dallas on the ground. If Brandon Jacobs sits this one out more of the offensive onus will fall on Manning's shoulders. It won't be easy going against a defense that, aside from Eli, has held five of the past six quarterbacks it has faced to one or zero touchdown tosses; however, the reigning Super Bowl MVP's track record suggests he'll be just fine.

RB Brandon Jacobs B

Jacobs has been ruled out of the Sunday night game, which is either the Giants' way of being cautious with their feature back—or their way of telling the Cowboys "We can bring our 'B' game and still beat you."

RB Derrick Ward

The only RB TDs the Cowboys have allowed in the past month have come via the air. Ward and Jacobs combined to take Dallas for 180 and two on the ground in the earlier meeting, and with Jake sitting this one out Ward is in line for the bulk of the carries. Worst-case he's a decent play in PPR leagues, and best case he'll mix in a decent amount of rushing yards along with his receiving. After all, it's not like it's the Giants' line that's sitting this one out.

WR Amani Toomer
Domenik Hixon

Toomer and Steve Smith scored on Dallas in the earlier meeting, but Santonio Holmes' success last week suggests that Hixon could be a fantasy helper this week as well. Toomer is the possession guy, Hixon the home run threat, and if Jacobs is out of the lineup the Giants will need both.

TE Kevin Boss S2

Giant tight ends have scored in six of the past seven games; unfortunately for Boss, Darcy Johnson has swiped two of those TDs. Tight ends have at least 47 yards or a touchdown in five straight against Dallas, including Boss's score against the Boys in Week 9. Cue the Propellerheads; I see a little bit of history repeating here.

DT Giants S3 Only once in the past five meetings has the total been under 49, so any defensive fantasy points you'll get here will come from sacks, picks, and defensive touchdowns. Tony Romo is certainly familiar with the latter two.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

The Giants have allowed multiple passing touchdowns just twice this season, but last time they faced Dallas they were treated to Brooks Bollinger and Brad Johnson while Romo nursed his busted pinky. Tony's healthy now, and seeing as he tossed four touchdowns in each of his regular season matchups with the Giants last year you have to like his chances.

RB Marion Barber B

After sitting out last week's game—and being called out by his owner—and practicing on a limited basis during the week, MB3 is officially a game-time decision. That's bad news, as this game was flexed to Sunday night. If he goes at all he'll be sharing carries; Barber's "B" (and Choice's "S3") is predicated on my belief that he's a Sunday night deactivation.

RB Tashard Choice S3

The Week 14 performances of both involved parties—the 131 rushing yards the Giants surrendered to Brian Westbrook, Choice's 166 combo yards against the Steelers—feel like aberrations. Still, you can't argue with the results, and if MB3 sits this one out you'll have to look at Choice as a viable option against a Big Blue defense that's allowed four RB TDs in the past three games.

WR Terrell Owens S1

The Giants have allowed just one WR TD the past month; that's enough to take the Cowboys' secondary receivers out of the mix, but Owens has scored in three straight with Romo back under center and scored five times in three games against the Giants last season. You know the old adage, big players make big plays in big games. Owens may talk the talk, but in big games he usually walks the walk—much to the delight of his fantasy owners.

WR Roy Williams


A combination of the Giants' aforementioned defensive prowess and Williams' secondary status in the Dallas passing game conspire to keep him on fantasy benches again this week.

TE Jason Witten S2

Witten killed the Giants in the first meeting last year, was shut down in the rematch, then posted seven catches for 81 yards in the playoffs. He's been targeted 10 times each of the past two games and should improve upon the goose egg he posted in the previous meeting with Bollinger and Johnson throwing near him. The Giants have allowed just one TE TD this season, but they've also given up 15 catches to tight ends in the past two games alone.

DT Cowboys S3 The 35 Dallas gave up in the earlier meeting isn't indicative, as the Cowboys were handicapped by having no quarterback. Still, as noted in the Giants' defense writeup above, these games have tended to play to the over so your defensive fantasy points will need to come from sacks and picks.

Cleveland (4-9) at Philadelphia (7-5-1)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ken Dorsey B

The Browns have gone a month without a touchdown pass. It's time to put Josh Cribbs in the Wildcat and have some fun.

RB Jamal Lewis
Jerome Harrison

Lewis teased us into thinking there was something left in the tank; so far this season he's delivered a top performance of 88 yards. Harrison has shown flashes and may start seeing more carries as the Browns try to figure out what they have to build upon heading into next season. However, neither promises to deliver much against a Philly defense that's allowed one RB TD in the past month.

WR Braylon Edwards

He'll only disappoint you.

WR Josh Cribbs

The Browns' leading rusher last week, Cribbs is expected to see an expanded role in this offense. Yes, the same offense that hasn't found the end zone in three weeks.

TE Steve Heiden B

Kellen Winslow's ankle is still swollen, but at least staph infection hasn't set in... yet. Philly has allowed tight end touchdowns in two of three, so if you're forced at gunpoint to start a Brown Heiden may be your best bet. That ain't saying much.

DT Browns B You want no part of this defense against a Philly team that scored 48 the last time it played at home in prime time.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb S2

McNabb has been inconsistent, to say the least, and the Browns' secondary has played better than expected of late—case in point, the shutout of Peyton Manning. Still, this one feels like The Don's digits will be limited only by how much of Brian Westbrook's production comes on the ground instead of in the air. At worse McNabb should be a participant in a blowout, and at best he'll be responsible for much of the, uh, blowing.

RB Brian Westbrook S1

Against a defense that recently surrendered 177 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown to Marshawn Lynch and 166 combo yards and a score to Chris Johnson, this is pretty much a blank check for Westbrook. The past two weeks he's filled that check with 333 combo yards and six touchdowns in the past two games, so feel free to write "see you in the championship game" in the memo line.

WR Kevin Curtis
DeSean Jackson
B With Westy taking his share off the top, there won't be enough left over—plus, there are just too many mouths to be fed for any one of them to get full.
TE L.J. Smith B

The Brownies have allowed just one TE TD all year, and Smith has one touchdown in the past two months.

DT Eagles S1 As if it weren't enough that the Browns haven't scored a touchdown in three games, Philly will throw so many blitzes at Ken Dorsey he'll see green in his sleep.

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