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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 1
John Tuvey
September 10, 2009
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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)
 
 
Tennessee (0-0) at Pittsburgh (0-0) Back to top
Tennessee
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kerry Collins B

Collins is at best a fringe fantasy starter; on the road against the defense that surrendered the fewest fantasy points to quarterbacks a year ago puts him well off the fringe this week.

RB Chris Johnson S3

You don't sit your first-round pick because you don't like his matchup. Don't expect a 100-yard effort from Johnson—the Steelers didn't allow one last season—but something similar to the 70 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown Johnson posted in last season's Week 16 meeting wouldn't surprise

RB LenDale White B

The Titans accounted for one-third of the RB rushing TDs the Steelers allowed last season, including LenDale's one-yard plunge in Week 16 last year. But that was 30 pounds ago, in Tennessee—and even then, White averaged a mere 3.2 yards per carry. Tough to see him finding similar success amidst a flurry of Terrible Towels on Thursday night.

WR Justin Gage U Gage's strong finish last season included a 5-104-1 effort against the Steelers, so he can't be ignored here. But you needn't go out of your way to start receivers on run-first teams against a defense that allowed fewer fantasy points to wide receivers than any other club last season.
WR Kenny Britt
B The rookie has impressed this preseason... but there's a major difference between a strong exhibition showing and facing the defending Super Bowl champs on their home turf.
WR Nate Washington
X It's unclear whether Washington's hamstring will be healed in time for him to face his former mates. Revenge is always a good motivator, but it can't replace a healthy hammy.
TE Bo Scaife
B Scaife and Alge Crumpler combined for seven catches and 56 yards in last season's meeting. Not only is it tough to expect more than that, now rookie Jared Cook might factor into the mix as well.
DT Titans S3 Yes, the Titans are a solid defense, but keep this stat in mind: the Steelers have rolled up at least 324 yards of total offense in each of the past seven meetings dating back to November of 2000. Most of that damage has come via the pass, including Ben Roethlisberger's 329 yards and two touchdowns last year—actually, three if you count Michael Griffin's pick six.. Also worth noting: the winning team in this series has scored at least 30 points in each of the previous seven matchups.
Pittsburgh
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S3

Yes, Big Ben threw for 329 and two against the Titans last year. But aside from history, the only other factor that suggests any sort of repeat is the unlikelihood that the Steelers will be able to run the ball successfully against the Titans. Otherwise, expect a typical Roethlisberger home game of 200 yards and a touchdown. Odds are your fantasy team can do better.

RB Willie Parker B

Parker averaged a paltry 1.6 yards per carry against the Titans in last year's matchup—and they didn't even have Albert Haynesworth. That means even if Mike Tomlin gives Parker his 30 carries you're still looking at only 48 yards. And with Rashard Mendenhall poised to steal carries, there's little to like about this matchup. If visions of Fast Willie's three touchdown opener a year ago are still haunting your dreams, keep in mind that this time the opponent is Tennessee, not Houston.

RB Rashard Mendenhall B Last we saw Mendenhall he was having his shoulder busted by Ray Lewis. With a role yet to be determined (or at least revealed to those outside the Steeler brain trust) and only two games (at 3.1 yards per carry) of NFL experience to draw from, best err on the side of caution and keep Mendenhall on the bench—at least until the matchup is more favorable.
WR Santonio Holmes
Hines Ward
S3

Holmes and Ward accounted for 40 percent of the wide receiver touchdowns the Titans allowed last season, and both posted solid yardage numbers as well in last season's loss in Tennessee. It's tough to see Pittsburgh's ground game having a great deal of success against the Titans, which would put the offensive onus on the passing game. Neither Holmes nor Ward are great plays, but both should contribute solid stats and there's likely a touchdown to be had here as well.

TE Heath Miller
B

Miller had a solid eight-catch, 69-yard outing against the Titans a year ago. But Tennessee has given up tight end scores in just five of its last 38 games, and just two of its last 18 road games. So maybe you'll get some yardage, but a score seems far-fetched.

DT Steelers S2 The Steelers' defense always brings its A-game, and you'd expect no less at home in prime time against a team that disparaged the Terrible Towel when last they met.
 
Jacksonville (0-0) at Indianapolis (0-0) Back to top
Jacksonville
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard U

Garrard was the only quarterback to throw for 300 yards on the Colts last year... but that came at home, in a losing effort, and took 41 attempts. However, Indy's secondary is all kinds of banged up and barely resembles the unit that allowed just one touchdown pass at home all of last season. With new targets and no Bob Sanders, there's at least some cause for optimism.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew
S2

MoJo may not own the Colts, but at minimum he rents them—a lease with an option to buy, averaging 123 yards from scrimmage and one TD per tilt over the past six meetings. And that was when he had to cede some touches to Fred Taylor. If that shin gets a clean bill of health by Friday, upgrade Jones-Drew to an S1.

WR

Torry Holt

S3 Aside from a 100-yard game and a pair of touchdowns from the immortal Dennis Northcutt, over the past three seasons Jacksonville receivers have done virtually nothing against the Colts. Holt has the best opportunity to snap that string, though he's at best a fringe start at WR3 or flex in deeper leagues.
WR

Troy Williamson

B Maybe Williamson is over the drops that plagued him in Minnesota. Maybe it will all click for him and THIS WEEK—on the road against a defense that allowed one TD pass on their home turf last year, for a run-first team—he'll live up to the mantle of potential placed on him when the Vikings called his name with the seventh overall pick in the draft. But probably not.
TE

Marcedes Lewis

B Would it shock you to learn that Lewis' 6-55 outing in Week 16 was the biggest game by a tight end against Indy last year? Is that more amazing than the one TE TD the Colts have surrendered in their last 20 games? If either compels you to plug Lewis into your lineup, you're a braver man than I
DT Jaguars B

Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Only slightly lesser known: don't start a fantasy defense on the road against a Peyton Manning-led offense.

Indianapolis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Peyton Manning S2

You're not benching Manning... ever. And a home date against the Jags usually means subdued yardage totals (241 per game in his last three in Indy vs. 312 per game on his last three trips to Jacksonville) but a couple touchdowns. Nothin' wrong with that.

RB Joseph Addai B Addai is still the starter, but against the Jags that doesn't mean all that much. Only twice in the past seven meetings have the Colts rushed for triple-digit yardage against Jacksonville, and if Addai has to share even a portion of that amount with Donald Brown his fantasy value takes a significant hit. There's the potential for some receiving yards, and Addai did score twice against Jacksonville last year, but his upside here is extremely limited.
RB Donald Brown B Until we see just how Indy's latest committee will shake down, Brown is bench material in all but the deepest of leagues.
WR Reggie Wayne
S1

Wayne has at least seven catches for at least 108 yards in four of his last five against the Jags. He hasn't scored quite as often, though he does have touchdowns in two of the last three meetings. You're starting Wayne regardless, and in this matchup you can start him with confidence.

WR Anthony Gonzalez S3 Gonzo had six catches and 75 yards in the season series last year, and Marvin Harrison was only around for one of the games. With a more expanded role should come a larger share of the pie offered up by a defense that ranked just off the fringe of the 10 most fantasy-friendly defenses against wideouts last season.
WR Pierre Garcon
Austin Collie
B You have to go back to the Slot Machine, Brandon Stokley, back in 2004 to find an Indy WR3 who put up any sort of meaningful numbers against the Jaguars. With Garcon and Collie splitting the role for now, there's little fantasy value to be had.
TE Dallas Clark S1

Only six teams allowed more fantasy points to tight ends last year than the Jaguars, and Clark had plenty to do with that. Dallas has scored in four of the past five meetings, five touchdowns in all, and went for 105 and a touch in the most recent meeting. The Jags haven't had an answer for Clark, and it doesn't appear as if they found one in the offseason.

DT Colts B No Bob Sanders and a banged-up secondary make the Indy defense light on playmakers. Jacksonville has rolled up at least 400 yards of offense in three straight and four of five against the Colts, so unless the Jags are without Maurice Jones-Drew for this one you're bound to find a better defensive option elsewhere.
 

Detroit (0-0) at New Orleans (0-0)

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Detroit
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford
U

Rookie Matt Ryan threw for 563 yards and three scores in two games against the Saints last season, so they can most certainly be had. New Orleans did make some upgrades to their defense in the offseason, but it's likely the Lions will be playing from behind and forced to throw in this one so there should be garbage-time points to be had.

RB Kevin Smith
S2

Smith carried 24 times for 111 yards and a touchdown in the Week 16 meeting between these clubs. He's still the bell cow for the Lions, and if the plan is to slow New Orleans by keeping Drew Brees and company off the field expect Smith to get ample carries to post another solid fantasy line against the Saints.

WR Calvin Johnson S1

Only two wideouts scored more fantasy points than Johnson last season. Thankfully, only three defenses surrendered more fantasy points to wideouts than the Saints. The technical term for such a confluence is "Yahtzee!"

WR Bryant Johnson B

The Saints have upgraded the depth of their secondary, primarily by kicking Jason David to the curb. Mix in a passing game that will revolve around Calvin Johnson (last year only twice did another Detroit receiver score double-digit fantasy points) and you'd have to be pretty desperate to be reaching for Bryant this early in the season.

TE Brandon Pettigrew B

You can count the number of teams who gave up fewer tight end touchdowns than the Saints last year on one hand. In other words, no need to be reaching for the rookie just yet.

DT Lions B Detroit allowed 31 points or more in seven of its final eight games last season, including 42 points at home to the Saints. The Lions defense has a long way to go before reaching fantasy relevancy. A loooooooooooooooooooong way.
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S1

Brees rolled the Lions for 351 yards and a pair of scores in last year's tilt, numbers that came above and beyond the 180 yards and four scores the Saints' ground game produced. Expect Brees' chase for Marino's record to get out of the gates quickly against Detroit.

RB Pierre Thomas B

Thomas didn't practice Friday and has been ruled out of Sunday's game because of his knee injury. That means he won't be available to reprise the 103 yards from scrimmage he posted on 16 touches against the Lions in last season's matchup.

RB Reggie Bush S2

Bush was the only N'awlins back who didn't get in on the scoring against Detroit last season, but that's because he didn't play. Assuming he's healthy this time around he should get his against a Lions defense that gave up more fantasy points to running backs than any other club last season.

RB Mike Bell S2

Bell dropped 40 yards and a touchdown on the Lions last season—and that was after both Pierre Thomas and Deuce McAllister took their shares. With Pierre Thomas out, the Saints' running game pie only splits two ways—and Bell will be the between-the-tackles, chew-up-clock-and-get-us-out-of-here carries.

WR Marques Colston
S1

Colston caught nine balls for 99 yards and two touchdowns when these clubs met in Week 16 of last season. Tough to come up with a compelling reason why anything should be different this time around.

WR Lance Moore
Devery Henderson
Robert Meachem
S3

Secondary targets had plenty of success against the Lions last year—including Henderson, who complemented Colston's performance against Detroit with 96 yards of his own. Moore added 4-36 in that contest and would be the most likely of the trio to emerge with a fantasy helper this week. But really, if you have a Saints' receiver on your roster and you're not playing him against the Lions... when are you going to play him?

TE Jeremy Shockey S2 Just like everything else last season, the Lions defended the tight end poorly; only two teams allowed more tight end yardage and only one gave up more tight end touchdowns. Assuming Shockey doesn't head to the stadium via Vegas, he should be
DT Saints S3 Matthew Stafford wouldn't be the first rookie who coughed up a turnover or three in his first road start. If for some reason you find yourself scraping the bottom of the barrel for a defense to start this week, the Saints offer plenty of upside.
 

Philadelphia (0-0) at Carolina (0-0)

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Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb S2

McNabb loves getting outside the division; in his last 11 road games vs. NFC teams not from the East he's averaging 290 and two. In fact, he's put up at least 262 yards in seven straight vs. non-East NFC foes, topped 300 yards four times in that span and tossed multiple scores with similar frequency. And if he doesn't have Brian Westbrook to hand off to, those numbers might just be starting points.

RB Brian Westbrook S2

You haven't seen him all preseason; how much do you trust him? Carolina's defense against the run is unremarkable, though no team allowed fewer touchdown receptions by running backs than the Panthers. So the song remains the same: Westy practiced, but that doesn't mean anything until you see him on the field. If the Sunday morning talking heads confirm that Westbrook is in the lineup, you start him; if he's a game-time deactivation, you turn to handcuff LeSean McCoy. You do have McCoy, don't you?

RB LeSean McCoy B

McCoy looked okay in an extended look this preseason while Westbrook recovered from offseason ankle and knee surgeries, and if Westy can't go McCoy becomes a solid fantasy starter almost by default. But as it stands, McCoy is merely an understudy. And until the star falls, the understudy remains a bit player.

WR DeSean Jackson
S2 If Jackson starts as quickly this year as last, you're in business: he topped 100 receiving yards in each of his first two games. More telling, perhaps, is Jackson's strong postseason run last year (11-207-1). He'll be McNabb's top option against a talented yet inconsistent Carolina secondary that faded to the tune of 998 yards and eight touchdowns surrendered to wideouts over the final five games.
WR Jeremy Maclin
Jason Avent
Kevin Curtis
Hank Baskett
B The remainder of the Philly receiving corps is a mess; cumulatively they'll provide numbers that make McNabb's bottom line look good, but individually you're left with a bunch of three- and four-catch guys. At least Baskett gets to go home to a Playmate.
DT Eagles S2 The last time we saw Jake Delhomme in a meaningful game, he was throwing five picks. You have to like the opportunities that kind of carelessness will provide to an aggressive defense like Philly's.
Carolina
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jake Delhomme B Jake has gone nine straight games without throwing multiple touchdown passes, though he's had three multiple-INT games in that span. Oh, and his last two 300-yard passing games came in Week 2 of 2007 and Week 6 of 2006. So, yeah, the Panthers are a run-first team. And a date with a Philly D that surrendered fewer fantasy points to quarterbacks than all but two other squads doesn't seem like a likely time for Delhomme to get back on track.
RB

DeAngelo Williams

S2 Williams came on strong over the second half of last season, and he was particularly dominant at home in averaging better than six yards per carry in Carolina. And to think he received 20 carries just once in nine home dates last season (including the playoffs). The Eagles offer a stout run defense, but the Panthers are built for the ground game and Williams' track record speaks for itself.
RB

Jonathan Stewart

B Stewart says he'll be ready, but it sure would have been nice to see him at some point during the preseason. It's not as if the Panthers don't have other options at running back. Stew's primary value, especially for a back sharing carries against a Philly D that ranked 30th in fantasy points allowed to running backs, is as a goal line threat. Considering the Eagles allowed just two RB TDs to non-NFC East opponents last year, you might want to wait on rushing Stewart back into your fantasy lineup.
WR Steve Smith S2

Smith has 100 yards or a touchdown (or both) in six of his last seven games; he's essentially the entirety of the Carolina passing game. No matter; it's been that way for years and Smith always manages to get his.

WR Muhsin Muhammad
B

Only two teams gave up fewer wide receiver yards than the Eagles last year, so it'll be tough enough for Smith to get his; don't expect significant table scraps to fall to the rest of the Carolina receiving corps.

TE Jeff King
U

You shouldn't be reduced to playing tight end matchups already, but in case you are it's worth noting that the Eagles ranked eighth in fantasy points surrendered to tight ends.

DT Panthers B In the last three games that mattered, Carolina gave up 33, 31, and 34 points. There are plenty of playmakers on that side of the ball for the Panthers, but it would be nice to see them actually making some plays before slotting them into your fantasy lineup.
 

Dallas (0-0) at Tampa Bay (0-0)

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Dallas
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

Used to be the Bucs' defense was to be feared. But the last three quarterbacks to visit Tampa have tossed multiple touchdowns, including JaMarcus Russell. That bodes well for Romo, who has multiple scoring strikes in just one of his last eight road games. This edition of the Cowboys may run a bit more than its predecessors, but Romo-to-Witten is still money in the bank.

RB Marion Barber S2

The Bucs surrendered four 100-yard rushing efforts in their last four games, including to DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart in the same game. Could Barber and Jones offer a similar one-two punch? The plan is to work Jones more into the mix, but until that plan plays out on the field Barber is still the better fantasy play.

RB Felix Jones S3

Jones turned 32 touches into three touchdowns in his abbreviated rookie season, which explains why the Cowboys want to get the ball into his hands. Because that's still theory, Jones still comes with a bit of risk. But he also comes with the upside that any touch could go the distance.

WR Roy Williams S3

Williams scored his first touchdown as a Cowboy in last year's 13-9 win over the Bucs, and he could find paydirt again against an unsettled secondary. However, with just one 100-yard effort in his last 24 games it's going to take a touchdown for Williams to have fantasy relevancy this week.

WR Patrick Crayton
Miles Austin
B

With Witten as the first option and a renewed focus on the running game, it's tough to see either Crayton or Austin posting a helpful fantasy game.

TE Jason Witten S2

Witten's one-catch outing against Tampa Bay last year can be summed up in two words: Brad Johnson. That aberration aside, good tight ends have good games against the Bucs. Jeremy Shockey topped 50 yards twice, Tony Scheffler rolled up 64, John Carlson scored and Antonio Gates scored twice. Don't bet against Witten joining that list this week.

DT Cowboys S2 The Cowboys can get pressure on the quarterback, and the Bucs have plenty of quarterbacks who don't necessarily hold up well under pressure. That's a combo which could easily add up to a defensive score.
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Byron Leftwich B

Leftwich hasn't had a multiple-TD game since early 2006, and it's been longer since he threw for 300 yards. He also has a notoriously slow release, which might mean DeMarcus Ware will be jumping to an early lead in the 2009 sack race.

RB Carnell Williams
Derrick Ward
Earnest Graham
B

Seriously, Raheem Morris? Two-two-one? You're not even going to try to salvage a little dignity with something like "I'll ride the hot hand"? Cadillac will get the start, and he actually looked good in the preseason. But if he's ceding 60 percent of the carries to his backfield mates, odds are neither he nor either of the other two will get enough work to put up fantasy-relevant digits.

WR Antonio Bryant
S2

All indications are that Bryant, who missed the entire preseason following knee surgery, will be ready to go for the opener. Of course, he'll still have Byron Leftwich as his quarterback.

WR Michael Clayton
B

Like his running mate, Clayton looks to be back at full speed after missing much of the preseason with a hamstring ailment. Optimists will point to the three games in which Dallas allowed touchdown passes to two wideouts from the same team, while pessimists will point to just about everything else: Clayton's knee, the Bucs' quarterback situation, etc. With no compelling reason to insert Clayton into your starting lineup, you very likely have better options you can use this week.

TE Kellen Winslow
S2

K2 scored against Dallas in last year's season opener as a member of the Browns, and he'll have an opportunity to do the same this year as one of Leftwich's favorite targets. Jeff Jagodzinski's offense would have favored Winslow, and we're uncertain what tweaks new OC Greg Olsen might have added. But the Bucs didn't trade for Winslow to be a blocker, so you have to anticipate he'll be part of the game plan—especially if Leftwich is struggling with the Cowboys pass rush.

DT Buccaneers B The Bucs gave up 72 points in their last two home games; clearly, this is not the same Tampa Bay defense fantasy owners used to rely on for points.
 
New York Jets (0-0) at Houston (0-0) Back to top
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Mark Sanchez B

You could do worse than trotting out a QB against a Houston defense that allowed multiple touchdown tosses in three of its final four games last season. And if the role model Rex Ryan is using for Sanchez is the rookie QB he saw firsthand last season, it's worth noting that Joe Flacco threw for 185 and two in Houston in Week 10 of last year. But that feels like a top-end prediction for Sanchez; you should be able to find both a safer and better play.

RB Thomas Jones S2

Last year Willie Parker was all but written off prior to the season, so his 138-yard, three-TD opening day performance against the Texans largely came on fantasy benches. This year Jones has been all but written off; can he follow in the footsteps of Peterson, McGahee, Addai, and Grant—all of whom hit triple digits against the Texans last year? With a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start on the road, a heavy dose of the ground game would hardly come as a surprise.

RB Leon Washington S2

The contract situation may be unsettled, but Leon is letting his play do the talking. A date with a Houston defense that ranked in the top 10 in both RB receiving yards and RB receiving TDs bodes well for a quality fantasy contribution from Washington in Week 1.

WR Jerricho Cotchery

B

Last year, with a future Hall of Famer at the helm, Cotchery produced but one 100-yard game and one multiple touchdown outing. So you'd have to think that things won't be getting significantly better with a rookie at quarterback, right? Also, while there's no Laveranues Coles to swipe production, there's no Coles to draw coverage, either. The Texans did a decent job of squelching wideouts last year, so unless you botched your draft you'll likely have a better fantasy option on your roster.

WR Chansi Stuckey
David Clowney

B

All the indicators—Rex Ryan's mentality, a rookie quarterback on the road, a stout line and three quality backs—suggest Gang Green will go heavy on the running game this week. That means bit players in the passing game will get little, if any, opportunity to contribute something meaningful to your fantasy bottom line.

TE Dustin Keller
U

You might not have drafted Keller as your regular starter, but a matchup with a tight end friendly fantasy defense and the old adage about young quarterbacks leaning on their tight ends might be enough to push Keller into spot starter status this week.

DT Jets S3 The Jets will be down a couple defensive starters for the opener, so you may have to wait a bit before getting that first real taste of what a Rex Ryan defense can do. But there are still enough moving parts on the Gang Green defense to give cause for optimism.
Houston
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Schaub S1 The Texans were quietly a top-five offense last season. And the last seven times Schaub has started and finished a game, he's thrown for at least 250 yards. He gets to open at home against a Jets defense that ranked fourth in fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks a year ago and will be down a couple starters. Do you smell what the Schaub is cooking?
RB Steve Slaton
S2 The Jets were a formidable run defense for most of last season; then they closed by giving up 100-yard games to Peyton Hillis, Marshawn Lynch, and Maurice Morris. Gang Green will also be down a couple starters to open the season; that's even more reason to like Slaton to extend his streak of consecutive games with at least 100 yards from scrimmage to six.
RB Chris Brown
B The oft-injured Brown is probably as healthy as he'll be all season, but if the goal line is his gig he may find himself short on opportunity this week. After giving up six RB rushing scores in the first month of the season, the Jets surrendered just two the rest of the way. And with Slaton handling most (if not all) of the heavy lifting outside the red zone, no scores means no fantasy value for Brown.
WR Andre Johnson S1 Johnson has scored or topped 100 yards in five of his last six and 10 of his last 13; he's also a fast starter, with triple-digit yardage in each of his past three season openers. There's a reason he was atop many fantasy receiver draft boards.
WR Kevin Walter B

Walter has a hamstring injury, didn't practice Friday, and will be a game-time decision The Texans have already announced Andre' Davis will get the start, relegating Walter to at best third-receiver duties. And even if he plays he's no sure thing against a pass defense that allowed three 100-yard receivers in the Arizona game in Week 4—and then just two the rest of the season. Stay away from damaged goods this week.

TE Owen Daniels S2

Take a defense that's extremely fantasy-friendly when it comes to tight ends—only one team allowed more fantasy points to the position than the Jets—and mix in an offense that might be down its No. 2 receiver and already leans on its tight end to the tune of 70 catches last season. That's the recipe for what should be a solid fantasy outing from Daniels.

DT Texans S3 Any time you're hosting a rookie quarterback in his first NFL start, you have to like your defense's chances of creating a turnover you can take the other way. That goes double if you have Mario Williams on your side.

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