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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

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)
 
 
New York Giants (12-3) at Minnesota (9-6) Back to top
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning B

Over the past two months only one quarterback has thrown for multiple touchdowns against the Vikings; over the past six games Eli has managed that feat just once himself. The Giants won't expose Manning to the Minnesota pass rush any more than necessary; between copious handoffs and an early exit, a helpful fantasy game is extremely unlikely.

RB Brandon Jacobs B

You saw what the Giants' offense looked like without Jacobs in the lineup; with nothing to play for, the odds that Tom Couglin risks his feature back on Sunday are somewhere between a white Christmas at the equator and the Arby's drive thru crew getting your order right.

RB Derrick Ward
B

Ward may get some of the load usually earmarked for Jacobs, and after watching him tear up the Panthers last week you might be tempted to use him against the Pat Williams-less Vikings. However, Williams or no Williams the Vikings haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher all year and have given up just one running back rushing score over the past month.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw S3 If you must start a Big Blue running back, Bradshaw is your guy. He's a shade more expendable and should see the bulk of the workload, plus he's a good receiver out of the backfield and could exploit a Minnesota defense that's allowed two RB receiving TDs over the past month.
WR Amani Toomer
Domenik Hixon
Steve Smith
B

It's a bad combination: the Vikings have allowed four WR TDs over the past two months, while Giants wideouts have combined for just three in that same span—one of them by Plaxico Burress. Mix in a Giants offense that will have every opportunity to mail this one in and you can't start any member of the New York receiving corps.

TE Darcy Johnson B

Giant tight ends have scored seven touchdowns since Week 8, but Johnson his hardly the threat injured starter Kevin Boss is. The Vikings have allowed all of one TE TD this season, so the combination of a tough matchup and a shared workload conspire to keep Johnson on the bench.

DT Giants S2 The Giants second-string D could give Jackson fits.
Minnesota
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tarvaris Jackson B

Jackson proved again last week that he's a solid quarterback when his team is ahead and running the ball, but ineffective when asked to convert mid-range third downs. He may have 500 yards and seven touchdowns since stepping in for the injured Gus Frerotte, and the Giants may have little left to play for, but that's still not enough for me to trust T-Jack with the keys to my fantasy squad.

RB Adrian Peterson S2

The Giants have shown some susceptibility to the run over the past three weeks, allowing Brian Westbrook, Tashard Choice, and DeAngelo Williams to combine for 330 yards and six touchdowns. Peterson is as good as any of the above and should find similar success—just as long as he's not putting the ball on the carpet or hanging out on the sidelines while Jackson tries to pass the Vikes back into the game. It's the slippery fingers that drop All Day from S1 to S2 status.

RB Chester Taylor S3

Peterson's fumbleitis and a Giants defense that's allowed two RB receiving scores in the last three weeks bring Taylor into play. Minnesota needs to win to assure themselves of a postseason berth, so expect Taylor to stay in the mix as long as necessary.

WR Bernard Berrian
B

Over the past six weeks the Giants have seen some of the best pass-catchers in the NFL—Fitzgerald, Boldin, Owens, Smith—and allowed a total of two WR TDs. You can't expect Berrian to thrive in that environment, especially with Jackson at the helm. Doesn't help that he's bee limited in practice all week, either.

TE Vishante Shiancoe B

The Equipment Manager is an easy middle-of-the-field read for Jackson; hence his big numbers last week. However, the Giants have allowed fewer fantasy points to tight ends than any other team, rendering their former mate a borderline fantasy play at best. And if it comes down to the defending Super Bowl champions' defense against T-Jack making smart reads... um, no contest.

DT Vikings S2

The last time the Vikings saw Eli Manning they pick-sixed him thrice. And it'll likely be the defense needing to step up and boost Minnesota into the playoffs, so they'll be bring their A game... and maybe even their INT game.

 
Carolina (11-4) vs. New Orleans (8-7) Back to top
Carolina
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jake Delhomme B It's been more than two months since Delhomme threw for 195 and two TDs against the Saints; he's thrown multiple touchdowns just once since then. Jake has just three passing scores in seven road games, and this one's being played in New Orleans.
RB

DeAngelo Williams

S2 Williams has scored in nine straight; the Saints have allowed at least one running back rushing TD in five consecutive games themselves. If Carolina gets up early you'll see more Jonathan Stewart than you've been used to seeing, but Williams should stick around long enough to extend his scoring streak and help your fantasy squad.
RB

Jonathan Stewart

B The last time Stewart outproduced Williams was back in Week 7 when he rushed for 68 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. If the Panthers get up early the rookie may see a few more carries, but he's still playing second fiddle to Williams and the Panthers need to win to secure the No. 2 seed. Remember, just one of his nine touchdowns has come on the road, and home teams are 11-0 in the NFC South this season.
WR Steve Smith S2

Smith has scored and produced at least 85 yards in his last five matchups against the Saints with Delhomme at the helm; that string includes his 6-122-1 performance from earlier this season. It's unlikely Smith knows how to throttle down, so you know he'll play hard as long as the outcome of this one is in doubt.

WR Muhsin Muhammad
B

The much-maligned Saints secondary has allowed multiple wideouts to score in the same game just once this season. Since Smith is far more likely to get looks than Muhammy, he's bench fodder again this week.

DT Panthers B Tough to like the Panthers on the road against the Saints' explosive offense.
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S2

Brees has thrown at least one touchdown in every game except one this season—the Week 7 loss in Carolina. But home is where his stats are, as he's thrown multiple touchdowns in five of six and topped 300 yards in every home tilt but one. All Brees has to play for is a spoiler role and Dan Marino's yardage record, but that should be plenty to make him fantasy-relevant this weekend.

RB Pierre Thomas B

The king of Week 17 a year ago might not make it to the field this time around after missing practice all week. He's listed as questionable, and if he goes he should be just fine against a defense that allowed 302 running back rushing yards last week alone. However, the risk is that he won't go.

RB Deuce McAllister B

Deuce demonstrated there may be a little left in the tank, but not enough to shoulder the full load should Thomas sit. Whether or not Pierre plays, the best McAllister can do is add a touchdown to his pedestrian yardage totals.

WR Marques Colston
S2

If Brees is going to make a run at the record he'll need his top receiver to help him out. Colston comes in hot, with 183 yards and three scores over the past two games. This isn't a particularly favorable matchup, but with Brees averaging almost 320 yards per home game... well, somebody's gotta do the catching.

WR Lance Moore
B

Moore has faded to the background of late; last week Devery Henderson outperformed him. As noted above there should be a ton of yardage here as Brees goes after Marino, but nothing Moore has done of late suggests he'll see anything more than a mild share of that pie.

TE Billy Miller S3 With Shockey ruled out and the running game looking like it will be severly limited come Sunday, Miller makes a very intriguing play here. Carolina has allowed two TE TDs in the past month, and if Brees is throwing all the time you have to like Miller's chances for fantasy relevancy.
DT Saints B It's highly unlikely the Panthers take enough chances in this tilt to make the Saints worthy of consideration.
 

Cleveland (4-11) at Pittsburgh (11-4)

Back to top
Cleveland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Bruce Gradkowski B

Why punch Brady Quinn? He was the last Brown to throw a touchdown pass. The Steelers may be mailing it in, but in its current state the Cleveland offense won't be able to get past the packing tape. The move from Ken Dorsey to Gradkowski is a bit like moving from sleep deprivation to water torture, and just as fulfilling fantasy-wise.

RB Jamal Lewis
B

Jamal couldn't score or even get to 80 yards against a disinterested Bengals defense; clinched or no, the Steelers aren't about to give him anything more.

WR Braylon Edwards
B

No quarterback = no touchdowns for any Browns receivers in the second half of the season. And even if Cleveland gets a watered-down version of the secondary that's surrendered just six WR TDs on the year it should be more than enough to keep Edwards firmly planted on your fantasy bench.

TE Kellen Winslow B

K2 isn't expected back from his high ankle sprain, Steve Heiden is done for the year, and neither Darnell Dinkins nor Martin Rucker did anything against the Bengals to believe they should warrant consideration against the Steelers.

DT Browns B The good news is, the Browns will primarily be facing Pittsburgh's backups. The bad news is, it just won't matter.
Pittsburgh
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger B

Big Ben is banged up and the Steelers have nothing to play for here. Expect to see enough Byron Leftwich to make Roethlisberger a bad fantasy play even against a bad fantasy defense.

RB Willie Parker S3

Mike Tomlin vowed that the Steelers are playing to win, despite the fact the outcome won't change their playoff seed. Pittsburgh was already spreading carries around its backfield, though Parker has clearly been the lead dog, and if Tomlin seeks to set a tone you can expect Fast Willie to get enough carries to turn his momentum in a positive direction heading into the preseason. That might mean one big drive he caps with a score, it might mean a full half of battering the Browns; at best he's a borderline fantasy start who takes an early seat after putting up big numbers, and that's a pretty big risk to absorb in Week 17.

RB Mewelde Moore
Gary Russell
S3 Moore and Russell should see plenty of carries against the Browns, and you saw what Cedric Benson did to them last week. Unfortunately, those totes and the subsequent production will be split three ways in a fashion yet to be determined. If you're forced to start a Steeler, though, you can be quite certain they'll run the ball and run it effectively. And after Parker gets his, there should be more than enough for Moore and maybe even Russell to get theirs.
WR Santonio Holmes
Hines Ward
B

Ward should stick around long enough to get the 23 yards he needs for 1,000; Holmes probably won't stick around long enough to get the 210. You can expect to see plenty of Nate Washington and Limas Sweed, and probably not enough Ward and Holmes to make them worthy of a fantasy start this week.

TE Heath Miller
B

The Browns have allowed just one TE TD this season, so it's not as if there's a burning need for you to get Miller into your lineup.

DT Steelers S1 No matter who the Steelers throw out there, there's one thing for certain: they'll be able to play defense. And against the hapless Browns, that's more than enough.
 
Oakland (4-11) at Tampa Bay (9-6) Back to top
Oakland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB JaMarcus Russell B

We've seen glimpses of Russell's talent over the past two weeks as he's posted back-to-back multiple touchdown games. You might be thinking that's a hot hand to carry into a date with a Bucs defense that just surrendered four TD tosses to Philip Rivers. Think again. Russell hasn't thrown more than one touchdown in a road game this season, West Coast teams are struggling mightily with the trip east this season, and the Bucs actually have something to play for—none of which adds up to a good opportunity for Russell this week.

RB Justin Fargas
Darren McFadden
B

The Bucs have yet to allow 100 running back rushing yards to a team at home this season, and they've hosted some pretty good backs: Adrian Peterson, DeAngelo Williams, Michael Turner. Worse, that stunted production will be split between Fargas—who's still getting the larger share of the carries—and McFadden, who is starting to look more like the top pick he was but simply not seeing enough touches to turn that into fantasy production.

WR Johnnie Lee Higgins
S3 Higgins has scored in consecutive games and is a threat in the return game as well. Tampa Bay has allowed three 100-yard receivers in the past four games, and it wouldn't be all that surprising if Higgins' speed led to a couple deep completions and a reasonably productive fantasy game.
WR Chaz Schilens
B It's hard enough recommending one Oakland wide receiver with a straight face; it's downright impossible to recommend two.
TE Zack Miller S3

Miller has at least 60 yards in five of the last six and is a consistent five-catch per game guy. He also gets to face a Bucs D that allowed three tight end touchdowns last week alone.

DT Raiders B Unless you're getting Higgins' return potential, there's nothing to see here.
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jeff Garcia S3

Garcia's ability to considently deliver the 220-and-one is well documented. This week that fence-sitting projection is pushed to the bench side with Oakland shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha taking Garcia's favorite target Antonio Bryant out of the mix.

RB Carnell Williams
Warrick Dunn
S2

Oakland has been quite gracious on the road, allowing 11 RB TDs and 173 combo yards to backs over their past six away games. Williams and Dunn are splitting the workload, but those numbers suggest there will be plenty to go around this week.

WR Antonio Bryant
B

You saw what Nnamdi Asomugha did to Andre Johnson last week; if that doesn't scare you away from using Bryant this week, nothing I could say will.

WR Michael Clayton
B

You'd think with Asomugha occupied that wingmen would have better success against the Raiders, but the Oakland secondary as a whole has allowed just four WR TDs over the past seven games. Clayton's nine catches over the past five games hardly inspires the confidence to buck that trend.

TE Jerramy Stevens
S3

The Raiders have allowed two 100-yard tight ends in the past month, and with Bryant blanketed Stevens might be the matchup Garcia turns to. It's not a strong trend, but if you're playing in Week 17 and forced to scramble for a tight end it's about as decent a dart shot as you'll find.

DT Buccaneers S2 San Diego blew up the Bucs' home defense stats last week, but the Raiders don't present nearly the firepower the Bolts did.
 
Jacksonville (5-10) at Baltimore (10-5) Back to top
Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard B

Garrard has three multiple touchdown games this season, while the Ravens have allowed a similar number against them. If this were Week 4 that would be a positive trend—but it's Week 17, the Ravens still have something to play for, and Garrard's only multiple-TD road effort came in Detroit.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew
S3

It's hardly a favorable matchup, but teams have found some success throwing the ball to their backs against the Ravens and Tashard Choice's triple-digit combo yardage effort last week gives MoJo owners hope.

WR

Dennis Northcutt

B You can't stop Dennis Northcutt, and his back-to-back games with triple-digit yardage and a touchdown suggest you may not even be able to contain him. Actually, a Baltimore secondary that's allowed just one 100-yard receiver in the past 10 games and three WR TDs over the past six would seem more than capable of containing him, as they've done in limiting him to 42 yards per game in 13 previous meetings.
DT Jaguars B

Jacksonville's defense, traditionally a fantasy stalwart, has done little this season to carry on that reputation.

Baltimore
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco B

Flacco has been a good NFL quarterback but not a particularly productive fantasy one. He has two touchdowns in three games and hasn't topped 150 yards in a month, so don't expect that to change this week.

RB Le'Ron McClain
S2

The Ravens would prefer to bludgeon you with McClain, who has 20 or more carries in four straight. The Jaguars have proven they can be bludgeoned: the seven backs to receive 20 or more carries against them have produced 645 yards and five touchdowns. With a playoff berth on the line, you know Baltimore will lean on its bread and butter—and that means a good day for McClain.

RB Willis McGahee
B After the Ravens have battered Jacksonville with McClain they may try to stab them with McGahee. That worked last week against the Cowboys when Willis broke off a long run, but it was his first fantasy-relevant effort since he was the lead back a couple months ago. Tough to expect lightning to strike twice.
WR Derrick Mason
B

If the Patriots win, then Mason likely plays as the Ravens will be in a must-win situation. In that case Mason would be a decent play against a Jaguars defense that has allowed opposing No. 1 receivers to score in three of the past four against them. If the Pats lose the Ravens have the spot clinched and Deke sits. Not that I don't think New England will win, but if your lineup needs to be in prior to the early games you can't afford a big zero from one WR spot.

WR Mark Clayton
B Clayton's numbers have tailed off as the Ravens have limited their pass attempts of late. That's the MO they'll use to get to the postseason, which means Clayton remains a fantasy afterthought.
TE

Todd Heap

B Heap enjoyed a miniresurgence but has since regressed to the tune of just five catches over the past three games. The Jags have allowed three TE TDs in the past three weeks so if you're desperate for a plug-in tight end this week Heap is worthy of consideration. Just don't get your hopes up.
DT Ravens S2 The Ravens are in this position because of their defense, and it wouldn't be at all surprising if it's the defense making plays in Week 17 to extend their season.

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