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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)
 
 

Miami (10-5) at New York Jets (9-6)

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Miami
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Chad Pennington S2

Pennington threw for 251 and two way back in Week 1; now, with a playoff spot on the line he rides a mini-hot streak back into the Big Apple with an opportunity to boot the team that kicked him to the curb. The Jets secondary has been nothing special, having already allowed seven multiple touchdown games and eight games of at least 250 yards. Chad has five touchdowns in the past two games and most certainly has motivation this week.

RB

Ronnie Brown

S3

About a month ago the Jets were considered a shut-down run defense. Then Peyton Hillis provided a blueprint for gashing Gang Green; since then they've surrendered three 100-yard outings, including 116 to Maurice Morris last week. Miami's carries are still a bit fractured, and Williams actually received more touches than Brown last week. But when push comes to shove, which one would you trust? Yeah, me too.

RB

Ricky Williams

B

See above. It's still a 51-49 call between these two, and the coin flip bounced off Brian Urlacher's helmet and came up Brown again.

WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Davone Bess
B Chad is working his wideouts into the mix more frequently, but this week the path of least resistence leads right through his beloved tight ends. Ginn will touch the ball a little more than Bess, so if you're forced to pick one he would be the better play. But this week both fall in line behind Fasano and Martin.
TE Anthony Fasano
David Martin
S2

The Phins found a matchup they liked in Week 1, throwing to Fasano and Martin 12 times for 137 yards and two touchdowns. The Jets haven't fared much better against subsequent tight ends; in fact, only the Chargers have allowed more catches, yardage, and touchdowns to the position than Gang Green. Fasano has three touchdowns in the past three weeks, Martin has two in the last two, and either could be plugged in with confidence this week.

DT Dolphins S2 The Jets are limping home, having topped 20 points just once in the past month. And Brett Favre has thrown six picks in the past four games; you might recall that his 2007 season ended on a pick as well.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre B

Can The Gunslinger dig deep into the saddle bag for one last miracle? He's thrown one touchdown in the past month and faces a Dolphins secondary that's shut out three of the past four quartebacks they've faced. Favre has certainly earned the benefit of the doubt over the course of his career, but at this point in your fantasy season it's tough to trust the past over the present.

RB Thomas Jones S3

Jones had 101 and a touch in the opener against Miami, but since then the Dolphins have given up just seven RB TDs and only two more 100-yard games. The Jets have also inexplicably stopped loading up Jones with carries; his eight-game scoring streak was snapped last week and over the past three games he's averaging just 15 carries and 67 yards per contest. The smart move would be to take the ball out of Favre's hands and put it in Jones', but so far the Jets have resisted making the smart move.

RB Leon Washington B

Few players provide the pop-per-touch ratio Washington does. However, can you really trust a guy who's averaging just over five touches per game the past two months with a spot in your Week 17 lineup?

WR Laveranues Coles
Jerricho Cotchery
B

Coles and Cotch combined for four catches in the season opener against Miami, though Cotchery was plenty productive in turning his three grabs into 80 yards and a TD. The duo is a little more involved now, as suggested by the 11 receptions between them last week. However, their production is still mediocre at best: four touchdowns and just six games of 80-plus yards between them since Week 5. Miami has allowed but one WR TD in the past month, and no receiver has topped 71 yards during that span. With Favre struggling, it's tough to turn to either Coles or Cotchery in your time of need and expect much in return.

TE Dustin Keller
B

Favre's infatuation with the tight end appears to have worn off; Keller has just six catches in the three games since his seven-catch outburst against the Broncos. The Dolphins allowed their first TE TD of the year last week to Tony Gonzalez, and while Keller has the potential to be very good, at the moment he's no Gonzo.

DT Jets S3 You'd have to think the Jets coaching staff has a pretty good idea of how to get inside Pennington's head. Same goes for the New York crowd.
 

Dallas (9-6) at Philadelphia (8-6-1)

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Dallas
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

Romo went for 312 and three against Philly back in Week 2, but this game has a little pressure attached to it and we have yet to see Big Game Tony step up in such a crucible. Philly's D has throttled three straight quarterbacks (okay, Eli Manning and a couple of slugs) and is certainly capable of rattling Romo; I'd suggest setting the baseline at 250 and a touch, then adjusting from there based on how much you're feeling the Cowboy love.

RB Marion Barber B

Best-case you'll get a limping Barber for limited touches. That's not the recipe for fantasy happiness.

RB Tashard Choice S2

Choice has 424 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns against three of the best defenses in the NFL. Philly has been playing some pretty decent D itself, but how can you argue against Choice's fresh legs this late in the season?

WR Terrell Owens S2

They booed Mike Schmidt. They booed Santa Claus. You think the Philly fans are going to be nice to T.O.? Owens has touchdowns in four of his last five and scored twice in the previous meeting, plus it would be just like him to stick it to Eagles fans. And that's why you love/hate him.

WR Roy Williams
B

Maybe next year this move and Roy's big contract will make sense. Right now, however, he's barely worth the effort it took to read this sentence. And if your lips were moving while you read the sentence, he definitely isn't worth the effort.

TE Jason Witten S3

Witten has back-to-back 100-yard efforts against the Cowboys, though he failed to score in either contest. He's targeted nine times per game, he's Tony Romo's BFF, and only a handful of teams have allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than the Eagles. If his battered ankle allows him to stay in the game, he's a great play. But concern regarding limited playing time—that the Cowboys activated a tight end from their practice squad isn't exactly a ringing endorsement for Witten's health—drive him to an S3 at best.

DT Cowboys S2 This battle of blitzes could hinge on a defensive score, and Dallas is certainly capable of providing one.
Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb S3

McNabb's 281 and one in the Week 2 meeting is about what he's settling in at against the Cowboys. Of course, all it would take to turn that into a big day is Brian Westbrook turning a five yard dump-off into a 50-yard touchdown.

RB Brian Westbrook S1

Westy scored thrice in the previous meeting and has 734 yards and six scores in his previous six against the Cowboys. They haven't come up with an answer for him yet, and it's not as if they haven't had ample opportunity, so there's no reason he can't continue the success.

WR Kevin Curtis
DeSean Jackson
B The Cowboys have allowed just one WR TD over the past month, and since the Philly receiving corps is a cluster there's no sense throwing darts at this group hoping to get lucky. Jackson had 110 yards and almost scored in the earlier meeting, but he's done nothing over the past month to warrant a spot in your fantasy lineup this week.
DT Eagles S3 You have some mild factors on your side if you're angling to use the Iggles D this week—among them Romo's big-game issues and a trend of first-meeting overs (62 in 2006, 55 in 2007, 78 earlier this year) and rematch unders (26 in 2006, 17 in 2007).
 

Seattle (4-11) at Arizona (8-7)

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Seattle
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Seneca Wallace S3 Matt Hasselbeck threw for just 170 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals earlier this year, but his back is bugging him so Seattle will continue to roll with Wallace. Seneca has been solid, and a matchup with an Arizona secondary that's allowed eight of the past 10 quarterbacks it has faced to throw multiple touchdows is at least worthy of spot-start consideration.
RB Maurice Morris
S2

Julius Jones is persona non grata in Seattle, leaving all the heavy lifting to Morris. The Cards aren't stopping anyone on the ground, and if MoMo remembers how to catch he can exploit Arizona's real weak spot: they've allowed at least one RB receiving score in six straight games.

WR

Deion Branch

S3

Last week's two-catch dog aside, Branch seems the most likely bet amongst Seattle's receiving corps to exploit an Arizona secondary that has allowed seven WR TDs in the past month.

TE John Carlson
S2 Arizona hasn't demonstrated a weakness against tight ends, but Carlson's three touchdowns in the past five games make him a must start in any TE-mandatory league.
DT Seahawks B This offense desperately needs to get back on track, so don't expect them to let up as they work out the kinks against Seattle. And you don't want to be holding the Seahawks defense when that steamroller rumbles through.
Arizona
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kurt Warner S2

Seattle held Warner to 395 yards in the previous meeting, though he did toss just one touchdown. Arizona's offense needs to get back in the groove in the worst way, so I expect Kurt to come out firing. Expect at least one half of gaudy numbers as the Cards regain their swagger heading into the postseason; the S2 comes only because Matt Leinart is likely to see some mop-up work here.

RB Tim Hightower B The Cardinals ran the ball more (20 times) and as effectively (76 yards) in the earlier meeting with the Seahawks than they have in the past two months. Unfortunately, they used all three backs to rack up those prodigious digits and aside from Hightower stealing a shorty at some point this week there's very little reason for enthusiasm regarding the Arizona ground game.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
S2

As mentioned previously, this week is all about Arizona getting its offensive groove back. That means Fitz will get plenty of looks early on before donning baseball caps and heading to the sidelines. And he's talented enough that half a game from him is a better fantasy option than a full game from many other receivers.

WR Anquan Boldin
B Sounds like Boldin is less than 100 percent and will sit this one out as well.
WR Steve Breaston
S3

With Boldin out, Breaston will get some run with the first unit as they try to shake the doldrums, and he'll likely stay on the field for mop-up work as well. Between the two he should carve out some useful fantasy numbers.

DT Cardinals B Defense? If the Cards get their offense working again they won't need defense, right?
 

Washington (8-7) at San Francisco (6-9)

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Washington
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jason Campbell B

Campbell still hasn't topped 250 yards in a month and a half and hasn't thrown multiple touchdowns since Week 4, so he still isn't fantasy relevant against a Niners' secondary that's held four straight quarterbacks under 230 yards and allowed just one multiple-touchdown pass outing in the past month.

RB Clinton Portis S2 Portis is pretty banged up as the season winds down, but he's still capable of a solid game against a defense that's allowed two 100-yard rushers already this month and is giving up roughly one RB TD per game.
WR Santana Moss
Antwaan Randle El
B

This duo has combined for five touchdowns in the past three months. Neither should be anywhere near a starting fantasy lineup, especially against a San Francisco secondary that's allowed just one WR TD the past month.

TE Chris Cooley S3

Three of the four TE TDs the Niners have surrendered have come in the past five weeks. If Cooley had more than one touchdown on the year I'd be excited about him exploiting that trend; instead, Captain Chaos remains a decent play in TE-mandatory PPR leagues but outside of that largely a fantasy disappointment.

DT Redskins B This group has done nothing to distinguish itself as a fantasy helper.
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Shaun Hill B

Hill has staked a valid claim to the 2009 starting job, but this week projects to be one of the bumps in the road. The Redskins have allowed multiple touchdown tosses just once in the past three months and held all but one quarterback under 230 yards during that span. Asking him to carry this offense against a solid defense with at best a limited Frank Gore is a little too much.

RB Frank Gore B

If Gore goes this week it will be on a limited basis—and likely just long enough for him to get the 22 yards he needs for 1,000. That may take a little while against a defense that's allowing less than four yards per carry.

RB DeShaun Foster B

Foster proved last week that his best role is as a backup. Don't expect him to do much with limited carries this week.

WR Isaac Bruce
Bryant Johnson
B You can count on one hand the number of WR TDs the Redskins have allowed over the past two months. With Bruce and Johnson sharing what little passing game production there is with Josh Morgan and Jason Hill, there's no clear-cut fantasy starter here, even in a good matchup. And this ain't that.
TE Vernon Davis B

Davis has done nothing of note for more than a month and cannot be started with any degree of confidence this week.

DT 49ers B The Skins offense is less potent than Abe Vigoda, but they don't turn the ball over much and as such make a pretty boring foil for most opposing defenses.
 

Denver (8-7) at San Diego (7-8)

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Denver
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S1

Cutler threw for 350 and four in the earlier meeting, and he's actually topped that yardage mark four times over the course of the season. The Chargers' secondary has played better of late, but they've been facing JaMarcus Russell, Tyler Thigpen, and Jeff Garcia; when they faced Drew Brees and Peyton Manning they looked every bit as susceptible as they did against Cutler. With no running game to speak of, expect Cutler to load Denver's offense on his back; maybe he can carry your fantasy team as well.

RB Tatum Bell S3 Who's left? Seven Bronco backs have hit the IR this season, leaving Bell and two guys Mike Shanahan met at the grocery store to carry the load for Denver this week. Hard to see Shanny giving carries to others, but you know he will. And Bell's best effort as a Bronco is 11 carries for 52 yards. He could get more as the only show in town, but odds are Denver would prefer to pin their playoff hopes to Cutler.
WR Brandon Marshall S1

If the Denver offense goes through Cutler, by extension it will go through Marshall. Brandon caught 18 balls for 166 yards and a touchdown in the earlier meeting with San Diego, and recent big games by Roddy White (6-112) and Antonio Bryant (6-127-1) suggest they're still having trouble shutting down opposing No. 1 receivers.

WR Eddie Royal S3

Royal is definitely Cutler's Plan B... but it's worth noting that he was targeted on both the touchdown and the game-winning two-point conversion in the earlier matchup with San Diego. And if too much of the Chargers' coverage rolls towards Marshall, Royal is capable of making them pay.

TE Tony Scheffler

S1

No team has given up more fantasy points to tight ends than the Chargers; Scheff himself helped launch those stats with two touchdowns in the earlier meeting. After further review, with all this passing game success in the offing do they even need a running back?

DT Broncos B Defense? In this game?
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S1

Rivers is one of just four quarterbacks to take the Broncos for multiple touchdowns, even though Denver spent much of the season without Champ Bailey. Of course, Rivers does that to everybody; he's had one four-TD game, six three-TD outings (including 377 and three against the Broncos in Week 2), and four more two-TD affairs. You're going to bet against him here?

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
Darren Sproles
S3 Maybe Week 2 should have been a sign: LT used to own the Broncos, but he was held to 40 yards from scrimmage and Darren Sproles scored the Bolts' lone RB TD. Tomlinson has scored in three of the past four, but he's not the lock for 100 and a touch he used to be. You'll have to settle for 75 and maybe a score, along with the very real possibility that Sproles has a better fantasy game.
WR Vincent Jackson
S2

Chris Chambers had two touchdowns in the first meeting, but Jackson has zoomed by him on Rivers' radar and is clearly the Chargers' No. 1 wideout. And No. 1 wideouts have had plenty of success against the Broncos, from Randy Moss (69-2) to Roddy White (102) to Dwayne Bowe (96) to Steve Smith (165 and a touch). You have to like Jackson's chances here.

WR Chris Chambers B On the one hand Chambers scored twice in the previous meeting; on the other, he hasn't found the end zone since Week 8. I'd be more inclined to side with recency over primacy, as between Jackson, Gates, and Sproles Rivers should have plenty of options at his disposal.
TE Antonio Gates S1

Gates rolls into this matchup on the heels of a two-TD game. He was held to 61 yards and no scores in the earlier Bolts/Broncs affair after topping 100 yards twice and scoring thrice in the previous three meetings. Denver ranks sixth in tight end friendliness, so all signs point towards another big outing for Gates.

DT Chargers B These teams combined for 77 points in the earlier meeting, and with a playoff spot on the line there's every reason to expect another wild west shootout.

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