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Start/Bench List - Week 17
John Tuvey
Updated: December 26, 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)
St. Louis (2-13) at Atlanta (10-5) Back to top
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Marc Bulger

The moon has orbited the earth twice since Bulger last threw multiple touchdowns. A date with a Falcons defense that not only has a shot at the No. 2 seed but also has held four of the last six quarterbacks it has faced to one or fewer touchdown passes doesn't bode well for Bulger turning over a new leaf.

RB Steven Jackson

The Bucs are the only club to visit Atlanta this season and not score a running back touchdown, but their committee produced 149 combo yards despite the goose egg. Jackson should be good for one of the other; he has at least 110 yards from scrimmage in three of four games since returning from injury and scored his lone TD over that span in the one game he was held under triple digits. So long as you're not expecting both, you should be fine.

WR Torry Holt

Oh how the mighty have fallen: Holt's last road score came in Week 11 of 2007; 15 of his last 16 touchdowns have come at home. Torry has been reduced to a matchup play at best, and seeing as only two teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to wide receivers over the past five games than the Falcons this isn't the place for a matchup play.

WR Donnie Avery

Avery has certainly had his chances, with 20 targets over the past two games alone. However, he's turned those looks into just 11 catches, 107 yards, and zero touchdowns. Don't expect him to do much more against a Falcons secondary that has allowed only one WR TD in the past month and just three since Atlanta's Week 8 bye.

DT Rams B The Lambs have yielded 34 or more points on five of their seven road trips, and they'll be overpowered by an Atlanta team with something to play for. It won't be pretty.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan B

Ryan continues to lead the Rookie of the Year chase and even get mentions in the MVP race—all well-deserved, but also highlight the chasm between real and fantasy football. Ryan hasn't been much of a fantasy helper of late, with one multiple TD game in the past six and only two outings with more than 250 yards in that span. And you may be surprised to learn that only four quarterbacks have thrown for multiple touchdowns against the Rams this season—probably because everybody runs all over the Rams. Expect the Falcons to adopt a similar posture, with Ryan donning a baseball cap well before putting up anything to help you in an ill-advised Week 17 title game.

RB Michael Turner

Turner is a no-brainer against a run defense that's allowed 26 RB TDs and 2,500 yards from scrimmage to running backs this season. All that's keeping him from S1 status is an early lead and a quick hook. Expect MTO to be a large enough part of the early lead-getting that he'll give you helpful numbers before Norwood and Jason Snelling take over.

RB Jerious Norwood
S3 A favorable matchup, combined with the prospect of a few more touches once Turner hits the sidelines, make Norwood a decent plug-in play if you're battling the lineup landmines associated with Week 17.
WR Roddy White S3

It's not a shutdown matchup—the Niners got two wideouts into the end zone against St. Louis just last week, and there's a reason the Rams are 2-13—but the best you can really expect from White is a touchdown and some adequate yardage before Atlanta retires to the sidelines to scoreboard-watch and see if Carolina falters against the Saints.


Michael Jenkins


The Falcons won't need to throw, the starters are expected to hit the sidelines early, and Jenkins is clearly the second banana to White. That's not a trio of positive trends.

DT Falcons S3 At least Atlanta will be motivated early on, and on average they've outscored visiting foes 30-20 this season.
New England (10-5) at Buffalo (7-8) Back to top
New England
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel S2

Worried that the Bills shut Cassel out earlier this year? The Jets and Dolphins held Cassel to a combined one score in their first meetings; Matt bounced back to take each for three scores and 400 yards in the rematch. Cassel has seven scores in the past two games, plus the Pats have plenty of motivation to buck the Bills' trend of holding quarterbacks without multiple touchdowns—something they've done in eight of the past nine contests.

RB Sammy Morris S2

BenJarvus Green-Ellis rolled the Bills for 105 yards and a touchdown in the earlier meeting. Morris should be earmarked for those stats, unless Bill Belichick opts to mess with the heads of Morris' fantasy owners and bring LaMont Jordan out of mothballs once again.

RB Kevin Faulk S3

Faulk continues to be a silent but deadly force in PPR leagues and is worthy of a Week 17 start in such leagues.

WR Randy Moss
S2 All it takes is one play; witness last week's long touchdown against the Cardinals for proof of that. The Buffalo secondary is better than most of the units Cassel and Moss have hooked up on, but after watching the Bills give up 10 catches and 129 yards to Brandon Marshall last week you have to be confident Moss can find the end zone for a third consecutive game.
WR Wes Welker S2 Welker was the go-to guy in the last meeting, with 10 catches for 107 yards, and he's been targeted 36 times in the past three contests, catching 25. He's also scored in each of the previous two games and makes a solid play here.
DT Patriots S2 The Bills haven't scored more than 10 points on New England since the first meeting in 2006, and the Patriots have reason to be motivated.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Trent Edwards B

Edwards returned from a groin injury to throw for 193 and one against Denver last week, hardly inspiring one to think he'll upgrade dramatically from the 120 and one he posted in his earlier meeting with the Patriots. After all, when you think "upgrade" you think Beyoncé, not Trent Edwards. And now that song is stuck in your head. It's not so bad as long as the video is in there with it.

RB Marshawn Lynch
Fred Jackson

Best-case for Lynch, his shoulder is healthy enough for him to reprise his earlier 14-carry, 46-yard effort against the Patriots. Worst case, a confluence of trends— Jackson getting carries, the Bills having nothing to play for, and Lynch's bum shoulder—conspire to limit both player's outputs this week. And if the questionable Lynch doesn't go, Jackson is at best a desperation option given the matchup with a Patriots defense that ranks near the bottom of the league in fantasy friendliness.

WR Lee Evans B

Evans hasn't even been the most targeted Bills receiver over the past month and it's been more than two months since he last saw the end zone. Maybe we should be thankful he's not sprinkling in the occasional big game to goad us into starting him; at least now he's being consistently bad.

WR Steve Johnson B Here's your sleeper/reach du jour. New England has allowed at least one wide receiver touchdown in nine straight games, a string that includes Buffalo rookie James Hardy finding the end zone against them in Week 10. Johnson has replaced Hardy as the biggest Buffalo target and has scored in back-to-back games. Josh Reed may be the yardage guy, but in the red zone Johnson appears to be the Bills' first read.
DT Bills B Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Only slightly less well-known: never start a defense for a team with nothing to play for against a team that needs to win to get into the playoffs.

Kansas City (2-13) at Cincinnati (3-11-1)

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Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tyler Thigpen S3

It's hard to tell if the Bengals are mailing it in defensively, because while their stats over the past two games look good they've faced a pair of inept offenses in Washington and Cleveland. Thigpen got back in the saddle last week with 320 and two against the Dolphins so it would be reasonable to expect decent yardage against a defense that allowed seven straight games with 229 or more passing yards prior to encountering the Redskins and Browns.

RB Larry Johnson

Surprisingly, the Bengals run defense is not a pushover; they've allowed just one RB TD the past month and haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in the past two months. LJ saw limited touches last week because the Dolphins kept scoring and forced the Chiefs to throw to keep pace; Cincy won't offer nearly the same offensive pyrotechnics, which should allow Johnson to increase his workload and put in a solid day's work.

WR Dwayne Bowe S3

Defenses are catching on to the fact that Bowe is KC's primary downfield target, forcing Thigpen to look for secondary targets. The Bengals may not be capable of such feats; both primary and secondary targets have had success against them, last week's shutout of the inept Browns notwithstanding. Bowe has just one touchdown in the past month and hasn't reached triple digits since Week 8, but in this battle of who could care less he's a decent start.

WR Mark Bradley

As noted above, secondary receivers have put up decent numbers against the Bengals: over the past six weeks eight receivers have topped 60 yards (five of them non-No. 1s) and five have scored (three of them wingmen). Nonetheless, if you're really playing your championship game in Week 17 you should have a better option at your disposal. It's a borderline call, but with no strong trends overwhelmingly favoring the KC passing game it's tough to expect much from their third target.

TE Tony Gonzalez S1

Not only has Gonzo scored in three straight and four of five, the Bengals have surrendered four TE TDs in the past six games and are allowing an average of five catches and 50 yards per game to mortal tight ends. Gonzo is decidedly not mortal and would qualify as a good play this week even in leagues that lump wides and tights together.

DT Chiefs S3 Why not? The Bengals haven't topped 20 points since Week 9, when they exploded for 21, and have a high-water mark of 23 set back in Week 3.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick B

The Chiefs have allowed multiple touchdowns in three straight and four of five and... aw, who am I kidding? Fitz threw nine passes last week and has one multiple-TD effort in 11 starts. It's a favorable matchup, but if you're seeing Fitzy as a worthwhile starter here you're working with a different crystal ball than I.

RB Cedric Benson

Benson's audtion the last three weeks—in which he's averaged 25 carries and 100 rushing yards per game—has likely earned him a shot at being someone's RB1 in 2009. The Chiefs seem ill-equipped to stop him, having allowed at least one RB rushing score in six straight games and an average of 105 rushing yards per game during that span.

WR Chris Henry

KC has given up five wide receiver touchdowns and 611 wide receiver yards over the past five games; with touchdowns in back-to-back games and a shot at being a Bengals starter next year Henry is the Cincy wideout best situated to take advantage of the Chiefs' coverage shortcomings.

WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
B Housh was shut out last week, and as the Bengals try to get a handle on what they'll have at their disposal in 2009 you can expect the soon-to-be-free agent to remain on the back burner. Not that you'd be using him at this point in the Bengals' lost season anyway.
WR Chad Johnson
B Chad was scratched last week. Maybe he's hurt, maybe he's not, but he's nowhere near startable at this juncture.
DT Bengals B Don't let last week's shutout lure you into something you wouldn't otherwise consider; at this point the Browns couldn't score on Paris Hilton.

Detroit (0-15) at Green Bay (5-10)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Dan Orlovsky

The Pack let Jon Kitna throw all over them in the earlier meeting; of course, they also won that game by 23. Orlovsky has shown no indication he's capable of throwing all over anyone, and his best bet here is a jump ball or two to Calvin Johnson... or the Packers get a lead before gagging in the fourth quarter and letting him have his way with them. Neither scenario is particularly promising from a fantasy perspective.

RB Kevin Smith

It took the Lions a little while to figure out what they had, but once they started giving Smith 20 carries a game he responded: 470 rushing yards and three TDs in his five 20-tote outings over the past two months. Considering that over that same span the Pack have allowed an average of 127 combo yards to opposing feature backs and 13 RB TDs, Smith should continue his success and serve notice that running back is one position the Lions don't need to worry about in the offseason.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

Megatron droped 129 yards and two scores on the Pack in the earlier meeting—and that was when Roy Williams was still around stealing looks. Seeing as Green Bay has given up 100-yard games to Lance Moore, Steve Smith, Kevin Walter, and Dennis Northcutt over the past five weeks you have to like Calvin's chances of catching a long ball or three in this one.

DT Lions B The 48 points Green Bay pasted on Detroit in the earlier meeting is one of three 40-point outings the Lions have allowed and still stands as the season's high water mark. Or maybe it's low-water mark.
Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S2

Rodgers' 328 and three from the earlier meeting with Detroit still stands as his career bests. He's been just fine of late as well, with multiple touchdowns in five of the last six and will want to give Green Bay fans something to help them forget Brett Favre might make the playoffs. A Lion defense that's surrendered 669 passing yards the past two games should help make that possible.


Ryan Grant


Brandon Jackson had the better game in the first meeting as Grant produced just 20 yards on 15 carries (to Jackon's 61 and a touch), and more recently Ryan has regressed to the pedestrian numbers that marred the first half of his season. That said, over the past seven games Detroit is giving up an average of 167 RB rushing yards per tilt and has allowed 18 RB TDs in that span. With that kind of a matchup, you have to give Grant a second chance.

WR Greg Jennings
Donald Driver

The negative flip side of such a soft run defense is the lack of a need to pass; as such, Detroit has given up just three WR TDs over the past six games—two of them to Marques Colston last week. Jennings had 167 yards in the earlier matchup, but it was Driver (and Jordy Nelson and James Jones) who scored. Aside from the issue of too many irons in the fire and the possibility that Grant and the ground game take the air out of the ball, there's no compelling reason not to start any member of the Green Bay passing game.

TE Donald Lee B The Lions couldn't find the tight end with a map and a flashlight, having allowed 368 yards and four touchdowns to the position over the past six weeks alone. Trouble is, Rodgers isn't leaning on his tight ends like the old Green Bay regime used to; Lee wasn't even targeted in the first meeting with Detroit, nor was he thrown to last week. It's a favorable matchup, but the possibility of Tory Humphrey or Jermichael Finley stealing Lee's thunder is just too great to trust him in a title game.
DT Packers S1 Green Bay produced two defensive touchdowns in the earlier meeting—and that was in Detroit and pre-Orlovsky.

Chicago (9-6) at Houston (7-8)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton B

Orton was good prior to his injury; while he hasn't been bad since returning he hasn't been anything special. The Texans' secondary isn't anything special, either—they just gave up two touchdown passes to the Raiders, for cryin' out loud—but that's just not enough to go on to allow anyone to start Orton with confidence in Week 17.

RB Matt Forte

While Houston's run defense has been better of late, they're still giving up better than four and a half yards per carry and have allowed 19 RB TDs on the year. Forte has 100 combo yards in seven of his last eight, has scored in four of his last five, and is unquestionably the horse the Bears need to ride into the playoffs. Maybe it was his toe, but for whatever reason the Bears resisted giving him the workload on Monday night... until it mattered, at which point he carried them to the win. Don't expect Chicago to delay in getting him the ball this time around.


Devin Hester

B The Texans allowed two wide receiver scores to the Raiders last week, suggesting that any wideout with a pulse is a threat against them. Unfortunately, it's tough to find a pulse in the Chicago receiving corps, which has but one WR TD in the past seven games. Hester would be the most likely candidate, but he's simply too much of a risk.
TE Greg Olsen


Tight ends have been popular of late in Chicago: Bear TEs have produced eight games of 35 or more yards over the past two months and three TE TDs in as many weeks. Olsen has been the largest part of that success, with 16 catches for 146 yards and two scores over the past three games. He's a must-start in tight end mandatory leagues and might even warrant consideration as a flex play here.

DT Bears S2 Defense and special teams is what kept the Bears in the game on Monday night, and the hot catch phrase amongst NFL talking heads is "defense travels".
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Schaub S2 Schaub has 953 yards in the three games since returning from his latest injury, and he should be able to follow the lead of Drew Brees (232 and two) and Aaron Rodgers (260 and two) in taking the Bears for decent fantasy numbers.
RB Steve Slaton
S2 Slaton has triple-digit combo yardage in five of his last six and is a good bet to extend that string against a defense that let Ryan Grant amass 81 on Monday night after surrendering 146 to Pierre Thomas and 102 to Maurice Jones-Drew.
WR Andre Johnson S2 You'll forgive Andre if he stops every once in a while and looks over his shoulder to see if Nnamdi Asomugha is still following him. There's no such cover corner on the Bears' roster; if there were, guys like Greg Jennings and Marques Colston and Bernard Berrian wouldn't have all scored over the past month. Johnson should get back to his dominating ways.
WR Kevin Walter B

Walter's every-other week trend snapped last week, and it broke the wrong way as he should have performed much better than he did. The Bears haven't given up much to wingmen and with Slaton and Johnson already lined up ahead of him in the queue for fantasy points there doesn't project to be enough to go around to make Walter a viable fantasy option.

TE Owen Daniels B

Daniels is coming off his second 100-yard game in the past two months, but the Bears haven't allowed a TE TD in five weeks or even a 50-yard game to a tight end in six so he'll be fighting an uphill battle. Doesn't help that he's found the end zone in just one of the Texans' 15 games.

DT Texans S3 The Texans haven't been sacking the quarterback, haven't been forcing turnovers, and haven't been scoring defensive touchdowns. That's a bad trifecta for a fantasy defense.
Tennessee (13-2) at Indianapolis (11-4) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kerry Collins B

Collins is barely startable with a good matchup; this isn't, and Jeff Fisher has already indicated that Vince Young will see time as well.

RB Chris Johnson S3

Fisher says the Titans will play to win, but he also says everyone will play. Indy's run defense is bad enough that Johnson might sneak in an early touchdown before giving way to Quinton Ganther

RB LenDale White S2

White recently complained about not getting enough carries. This might be the week Fisher subtly gets back at LenDale, by keeping him around longer than the rookie in a game with no bearing on the playoff seedings. However, it's no lock he'll get even a dozen carries as the Titans may go to the bullpen early.

RB Quinton Ganther B Made with bits of real Ganther, so you know he's good. Also has 34 yards on five carries and could be the guy shouldering the load in the second half of a meaningless game against a run defense that even at full strength is easier to score on than Elisha Cuthbert at the NHL All-Star game.
WR Justin Gage
B Both teams want this to be over as quickly as possible, and having Collins and Young fire incompletes does nothing to expedite the process.
DT Titans S2 Two teams just looking to run clock, backup quarterbacks... it's not exactly a haven for pick-sixes but neither will this one turn into a shootout.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Peyton Manning B

Manning has been held under 100 passing yards in two of the past three Week 17 games—and it ain't because he's facing shut-down defenses. Expect Peyton to make like Sean Avery sooner rather than later, leaving this game's leftovers in the hands of Jim Sorgi and making it nearly impossible to trust Peyton with a fantasy start here.

RB Joseph Addai B Addai is expected to sit this meaningless tilt out. If he does go, he'll be limited and he'll be facing a stout Titans defense—neither of which is appealing.
RB Dominic Rhodes B Rhodes has already indicated he'd like to be rested this week, and while he isn't likely to join Addai in street clothes he is likely to surrender a good share of his workload to Chad Simpson.
RB Chad Simpson B Don't have a cow, man; Simpson's 75 yards on 18 touches don't exactly set him up for a big half (or however long he's in the game) against a Titans defense that's pretty good and pretty deep.
WR Reggie Wayne

Wayne had to work hard just to come up with 29 yards in the first meeting; it's highly unlikely he'll be around long enough in the rematch to significantly better that number. This is why you play your championship game in Week 16, people!

WR Anthony Gonzalez B We were already seeing Roy Hall and Pierre Garcon last week, and with Harrison's hamstring an issue don't expect the Colts to keep Gonzo on the field any longer than necessary. Using Hall and Garcon in a meaningless Week 17 tilt is one thing; asking them to play significant minutes in the playoffs is another animal entirely.
WR Marvin Harrison B Sounds like Marv will rest his hamstring this week with the Colts having already locked up the fifth seed in the AFC.
TE Dallas Clark B

Clark scored twice against the Titans in the earlier meeting, has touchdowns in three straight and 100-plus yards in back-to-back games... and because he'll likely be wearing a baseball cap before halftime he's virtually unstartable. If you think any Indy tight end makes a good play here, allow me to introduce you to Gijon Robinson and Jacob Tamme.

DT Colts S3 While facing Vince Young and Tennessee's junior varsity might seem appealing, keep in mind that Indy is just as likely to rest Dwight Freeney and their own defensive regulars.

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