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Start/Bench List - Week 16
John Tuvey
Updated: December 19, 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 Francisco (5-9) at St. Louis (2-12) Back to top
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Shaun Hill S3

The Rams haven't allowed multiple TD tosses in more than a month—the last time they faced Hill, to be precise. It's a borderline call, with St. Louis's secondary playing better and the league having more film on Hill; however, the Rams are 2-12 for a reason—and it isn't because they're doing a great job of figuring out their opponents' offense. Hill falls narrowly on the start side of the fence this week.

RB Frank Gore X

As expected Gore didn't practice at all this week and it will come down to his pre-game warmup and a game-time decision on Sunday. So if you can make that decision at game time, you start Gore (against a Rams defense that has allowed 26 RB TDs this season) if he plays and sit him if he doesn't. And if that decision must be made before the Niners announce their inactives on Sunday... well, can you afford to take a zero if Gore sits?

RB DeShaun Foster X

The corollary to Gore's X factor above: if Gore = out then Foster = start against the Rams. If Gore = active then Foster = bench. Who said you'd never use that junior high algebra?

WR Isaac Bruce
Bryant Johnson

S3 This isn't the layup of a matchup you might expect; the Rams have allowed just one WR TD in the past month and just one WR TD to a non-Arizona Cardinal in their past eight games. That score went to Johnson, however, and it's not as if the Rams are keeping wideouts in check; eight different WRs have topped 50 yards in the past five games. Bruce and Johnson have emerged as Hill's go-to targets, and both should put up decent yardage with a chance at a score as well.
TE Vernon Davis B

Davis scored in the last meeting between these squads; not only was it the last TE TD the Rams allowed, it was the last meaningful effort by Davis as well. Lightning already struck once; look elsewhere for the next strike.

DT 49ers S3 The Rams have topped 20 exactly once this season, while the Niners have held three straight and four of five under that mark. And then there's the Singletary factor...
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Marc Bulger

Bulger couldn't exploit the Niners earlier this year, and he's done nothing in the month since to think that will change. You can expect something slightly north of 200 yards, but that probably isn't enough to make up for the lack of scores on your fantasy stat sheet.

RB Steven Jackson

You might be concerned by a San Francisco defense that has allowed one RB TD since its Week 9 bye. However, note that Antonio Pittman rushed for 95 yards against them earlier this season, while at the same time Kenneth Darby was kicking in 83 receiving yards. Combine those yardage numbers and that's probably in the ballpark of what Jackson should be looking at this week.

WR Torry Holt

Holt had an adequate five catch, 60-yard effort in the earlier meeting, but Dane Looker swiped his touchdown. Torry got back in the scoring column last week and is the best bet of the Rams' receiving corps to find the end zone, though he's hardly a lock against a San Fran secondary that has gone three straight without allowing a WR TD.

WR Donnie Avery

Avery has had one, maybe one-and-a-half meaningful fantasy games since his Week 8 breakout performance. The one was a nine catch, 93-yard outing against the Niners earlier this season, while the half (six for 61) came last week. They're lukewarm trends but just enough to put him on the smiley side of the start/bench fence.

DT Rams B In five previous NFC West games the Rams have allowed an average of 32 points per game.
Pittsburgh (11-3) at Tennessee (12-2) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger B

Big Ben has one multiple touchdown effort in his past eight games, and a date with a Titans secondary that's allowed two such outings all season hardly screams "start". Roethlisberger's yardage has been okay but not enough to overcome the dearth of touchdowns—especially against an opponent that's giving up barely 200 passing yards per game.

RB Willie Parker
Mewelde Moore

This has been a job-share for the past month, and as a result neither back has been particularly effective. Parker is getting the larger share of the carries, but at present that's topping out around 15 while Moore takes seven or so. The only backs to produce any meaningful fantasy stats against Tennessee without the benefit of at least 20 touches are a goal line vulture (Le'Ron McClain, who scored a touchdown in Week 5) and the explosive Leon Washington, who turned his nine touches into 84 yards and two scores. Despite the Titans losing run-stuffer Albert Haynesworth it's tough to see either Parker or Moore having similar success with their limited looks, which relegates both to bench status this week.

WR Santonio Holmes
Hines Ward


The three WR TDs the Titans have allowed this season have come in their two losses and their OT win, so if you like the Steelers you have to like one of these guys getting into the end zone. Holmes has scored three of the past four WR TDs the Steelers have tallied, but that stretches back almost two months—and Ward has three 100-yard games in that span. And oh yeah, over the past month Nate Washington has been the most targeted Steeler wideout. So even if you do like Pittsburgh to win this one there's no clear-cut winner of the WR TD derby. As such, they're all borderline plays—and the unfavorable matchup puts them on the fantasy bench.

TE Heath Miller

Miller has been a larger part of the offense of late, but he's no Tony Gonzalez or Dallas Clark. And since those are the guys whose 90-yard games have skewed the Titans' TE stats away from the shutdown unit they more closely resemble, he's bench fodder this week.

DT Steelers S2 It's not as if the Titans are an offensive juggernaut; they run the ball well, and the Steelers do a pretty good job of shutting that down. Plus, there's always the threat of the Steel Curtain taking a turnover the other way.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kerry Collins B

Peyton Manning is still the only opposing quarterback to throw for multiple touchdowns or top 210 yards against the Steelers this season. And it's not like Collins is even a candidate to land at 209 and one.

RB Chris Johnson S3

It's not impossible to run on the Steelers—just incredibly difficult. Johnson will get the most cracks at it, and as an added bonus he's the best-equipped Titan to take advantage of one of the Steelers' few defensive weaknesses: covering backs out of the backfield. The rookie has 41 of the 60 receptions by Tennessee running backs and could help your stat line with a Tashard Choice-like combo yardage effort.

RB LenDale White B

White's bit is the touchdown, and seeing as the Steelers have allowed a total of six running back scores this season he's a long shot at best to contribute to your fantasy stat sheet.

WR Justin Gage
B Gage has five touchdowns this year, which is precisely how many WR TDs the Steelers have allowed. Neither stat suggests he belongs in the starting lineup of a team with fantasy championship aspirations.
TE Bo Scaife

The Steelers have pitched five consecutive shutouts to tight ends, including Antonio Gates and Jason Witten. Scaife himself brings a five-game TD drought into this contest. Sounds like sixes all around!

DT Titans S2 How much will the Titans miss Albert Haynesworth and Kyle VandenBosh? Plenty. But there's still enough talent on this defense to subdue a Steeler offense that's made it out of the 20s just once in the past month.
San Diego (6-8) vs. Tampa Bay (9-5) Back to top
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

It's not an easy row to hoe, facing a Buccaneer defense that's allowed a quarterback to throw multiple touchdowns just once in the past 10 games. But Rivers has been hot enough, with multiples of his own in 10 of 14 contests, that you can't bet against him.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson S3 Tampa Bay's run defense is a different animal at home, where they haven't allowed a running back rushing score all year and Adrian Peterson's 85-yard performance was the top effort against them. So lest you think you'll see shades of old LT against the defense that got shredded by the Panthers and Falcons... well, LT's subpar performance this season should have already knocked that thought from your head. The lone nugget of optimism here is that the Bucs have allowed three RB receiving scores on the season, and Tomlinson is still a factor in the passing game.
WR Vincent Jackson


Jackson has scored in three of the past four games; however, in the fourth he was shut out completely. Vincent's numbers across the board nearly match that of Chris Chambers and Malcolm Floyd combined, so if there's anything to be found this week against a defense that's allowed just four WR TDs at home it's bound to go to Jackson.

TE Antonio Gates S2

Gates bumped back up on the radar last week with 10 targets and seven grabs for 78 yards. He's still not a great play against a defense that has allowed but one TE TD on the year, but he's better than most anything else you'll have at your disposal in TE-mandatory leagues.

DT Chargers B West Coast teams have struggled heading east, and it's not as if the Chargers' D has been helping you much this season anyway.
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jeff Garcia S3

The Chargers are no longer the most fantasy-friendly opponent on a quarterback's schedule; they've slipped all the way to the fourth most fantasy-friendly opponent on a quarterback's schedule. Whether it's Garcia coming back from his calf injury, Brian Griese making another fill-in start, or even Jon Gruden going off the board for Luke McCown, the matchup suggests it's a play worth making. The Bucs Team QB has averaged around 220 and one this year, and with the favorable matchup Garcia (or Griese or maybe even McCown) gets a bump over the fence into "start" territory.

RB Carnell Williams
Warrick Dunn


While it's nice to see Williams regaining some of the form from his rookie season, the split carries in the Bucs' backfield are nothing but fantasy frustration. Mix in a matchup against a Chargers defense that's allowed but one RB TD in the six games since their Week 9 bye and you're looking at a fantasy bowl benching for both Buc backs

WR Antonio Bryant


Bryant is a great yardage play this week, if for no other reason than sheer volume: over the past three weeks he's been targeted 32 times, compared to 22 for the rest of the Tampa Bay wideouts combined. However, only one of the past six WR TDs the Chargers have allowed have gone to No. 1 receivers—despite big yardage days from the likes of Roddy White (112) and Hines Ward (124). Bryant has four scores in the past three games so a TD isn't impossible, but you may have to settle for him adding a good chunk onto the 371 yards he's compiled in that span instead.

WR Michael Clayton


Sure, the aforementioned stat is tempting, but Buccaneer wingmen have accounted for just one TD in the past nine games—and it was Ike Hilliard, not Clayton. There's a chance Quenton Jammer's blanket coverage negates Bryant and forces Garcia to look elsewhere, but it's not a chance worth taking at this critical juncture of the fantasy season.

TE Jerramy Stevens
Alex Smith

No team has allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than the Chargers, and if a Bucs tight end is to capitalize on that trend it will most likely be Stevens, who has four of the last five outings in which a Tampa tight end has more than two catches. Alex Smith and John Gilmore still loom, but if you've been playing matchup poker with your tight ends all year and are looking for a favorable play for your fantasy bowl Stevens gets the nod.

DT Buccaneers S3 The Bucs are allowing less than 13 points per home game, and you can't ignore West Coast teams going 1-15 traveling to the Eastern time zone.

Buffalo (6-8) at Denver (8-6)

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Trent Edward B

After toying with the idea of rolling with former NFL Europe MVP Gibran Hamdan, it looks like Edwards will be healthy enough to get back in the starting lineup. This matchup on the road isn't as favorable as many would think against a Denver defense that has held five straight quarterbacks (and 10 of the past 12) to one or zero touchdown tosses.

RB Marshawn Lynch S1

Lynch has rushed for triple-digit yardage in three of four contests, and in the fourth he rushed for 79 and a touch while adding 25 receiving yards to the mix. Assuming the Buffalo game plan doesn't lean heavily on Gibran Hamdan's throwing arm, you have to like Lynch's chances against a Denver defense that has allowed at least 140 running back rushing yards and two RB TDs to three of its past four opponents.

WR Lee Evans B

While Denver has allowed a steady stream of No. 1 receivers to put up decent yardage, on page 98 of Fantasy Football: The Next Level it says clearly that under no circumstances should you start a wide receiver in your fantasy title game when his quarterback is Gibran Hamdan. Sorry.

DT Bills B The last two times Buffalo hit the road they gave up 31 points.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S2

It's not exactly a walkover matchup against a defense that has held seven of the last clubs it has faced to one or fewer touchdown passes. But with Denver now on their sixth-string running back you have to believe any and all offense will have to run through Cutler and the passing game. And with 286 yards or better in two of the last three and multiple scoring strikes in same, I'd rather take my chances with Cutler and a tough matchup than a lesser QB with what might appear to be an easier path.

RB P.J. Pope
S3 Ten of the dozen RB TDs the Bills have allowed this season have come on the road, and opponents are averaging 140 combo RB yards when the Bills pay a visit. Based on last week's productivity Pope is the best candidate from amongst the stable that includes Selvin Young and Tatum Bell. But remember, this is Mike Shanahan we're talking about here.
WR Brandon Marshall S2

Marshall should have little difficulty getting his catches and yardage against a secondary that has allowed six different wideouts to top 50 yards in the past month. It's tough to see a huge game given that Royal is still getting his looks, but double digit targets in nine of 13 games this season—and an average of eight (with a low of seven) in the other four—suggests Brandon will have plenty of opportunities of his own.

WR Eddie Royal S3

No reason to think Royal will be excluded from the reindeer games in Denver this weekend, as he's being targeted eight times per game himself.

TE Tony Scheffler


Aside from a couple decent yardage games over the past month Scheffler has been quiet. And aside from a couple touchdowns to Anthony Fasano and a big game to Tony Gonzalez the Bills haven't allowed much of anything to opposing tight ends. Doesn't sound like a confluence of trends that leads one down the path to victory.

DT Broncos S3 The flip side of the Gibran Hamdan card: you have to believe any time you have a defense facing Gibran Hamdan it's a decent fantasy play.

Houston (7-7) at Oakland (3-11)

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Schaub S2 Oakland hasn't allowed more than 220 passing yards to any one quarterback in the past couple of months, but the last two weeks they've given up three and four touchdowns. While Schaub has been more of a yardage guy this year he does have four multi-TD games in his last six full games so he should be able to get his this week even without piling up the yards.
RB Steve Slaton
S1 Making a late push for Rookie of the Year honors, you have to love Slaton's chances against a defense that not only has allowed at least one RB TD in 12 straight games (20 touchdowns in that span) but in the past two weeks alone has surrendered 511 combo yards and six touchdowns to opposing running backs. Oh, and did I mention he rolls in with three straight 100-yard rushing efforts?
WR Andre Johnson S2 Worth the price of admission: Nnamdi Asomugha, the best cover corner in the NFL, against Andre Johnson, arguably the best receiver in the NFL. Randy Moss scored twice last week, but maybe Asomugha was torn between covering Moss and Wes Welker. Put it this way: you'd have to have serious grapefruits or a really, really nice alternative to sit Johnson one week after he dropped 200 yards on the Titans. Myself, I'm happy with pomegranates.
WR Kevin Walter S3

Walter is on an amazing every-other-week trend; starting with his score in Week 1 all of his touchdowns have come in the Texans' odd-numbered games, along with his top four yardage games (and six of his top seven). Maybe this will help: Walter's totals for games 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, and 13 are 37 catches, 609 yards, and eight touchdowns; for games 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 those totals are 20-250-0. This being Houston's 15th game, and last week being a down week for Walter, he would stand to be in store for a solid outing. Sure wouldn't hurt if Asomugha was locked up with Andre, either. And seeing as eight of the 11 WR TDs the Raiders have allowed have gone to wingmen... well, you could certainly do worse.

TE Owen Daniels B

Exactly 110 of the 139 yards the Raiders have allowed to tight ends over the past month and a half went to Tony Gonzalez. Daniels is not nearly that involved in the Texans' offense, so you can expect him to stretch his scoreless streak to nine games.

DT Texans S3 The Raiders have shown brief glimpses of life offensively, but after Houston held the Titans to just field goals they deserve a shot against an Oakland outfit that strikes fear into the heart of only those who venture into the Black Hole wearing the wrong colors.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB JaMarcus Russell B

Russell managed to take advantage of a New England secondary that not only can't cover anyone but probably didn't care seeing as they already had a double-digit lead. Houston's secondary may care a little bit more, and they're not nearly as soft as the Patriots, so don't chase last week's numbers by pulling Russell off mothballs this week.

RB Justin Fargas
Darren McFadden


For the moment Fargas still seems to be the primary ball-carrier, but Run DMC is closing fast. If the best we can expect from Justin is something in the 15-20 touch range, resulting in 80-some yards and the infrequent touchdown... well, that's not much help. And while McFadden is averaging five yards a touch his touches have been too infrequent to rely on. The Texans are giving up 150 combo yards to running backs and have allowed 19 RB TDs on the year, but that yardage will be split between these two and the score is hardly a certainty given the track records of these two backs.

WR Ashley Lelie
Ronald Curry
Johnnie Lee Higgins
B Higgins and Curry both scoring last week—the sixth and seventh WR TDs by the Raiders this year, ranking them as a unit just behind Kevin Walter—is proof that even a blind squirrel can find more than one acorn. To trust any of these guys (Lelie and Curry may not even play due to injuries) in your fantasy title game, especially against an improving Texans secondary that's given up just two WR TDs in the past month, borders on folly.
TE Zack Miller S3

Miller has topped 40 yards in 10 of 11 and exceeded 60 in four of the last five, so he's a solid play against a Texans' defense that ranks among the 10 most fantasy friendly defenses against tight ends and has allowed more TE TDs than all but two teams.

DT Raiders B Oakland has given up 83 points in the past two games, so... no.

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