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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)
 
 
Kansas City (0-0) at Baltimore (0-0) Back to top
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel B

Cassel returned to practice earlier in the week, but he was limited in Friday's practice and is officially listed as "questionable" for the season opener in Baltimore. Does it really matter? Only three quarterbacks threw for more than one TD against the Ravens last year, none of them in Baltimore; the best game by a visiting quarterback was Ben Roethlisberger's 246 and one. If that's the upside, might as well sit this one out and get ready for Week 2.

RB Larry Johnson
Jamaal Charles
B

Care to know how many opposing running backs visited Baltimore and scored a rushing touchdown? That would be a big fat zero. If you're desperately seeking a silver lining, three visiting backs scored receiving touchdowns against the Ravens last year. But that's a pretty thin silver lining; best look elsewhere.

WR Dwayne Bowe S3

If you follow the path of least resistance, the Ravens only ranked 29th in fantasy points allowed to wideouts (as opposed to 32nd against running backs). And despite his spat with head coach Todd Haley, Bowe is unquestionably the best offensive player on the Chiefs' roster. Factor in that KC will likely be playing from behind in this tilt, and it all adds up to the potential for a serviceable set of stats from Bowe this week.

WR Mark Bradley
Terrance Copper
B

Here's hoping you didn't have to dig this deep.

DT Chiefs B It's possible the Chiefs will keep the passing totals down, like they did against the Titans last year. You know, when the Titans rushed for 332 yards against them.
Baltimore
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco B

Baltimore's pass-to-run ratio during the preseason was 1.4-1 in favor of the aerials—wildly different from the 1.2-1 run-to-pass ratio they exhibited last season. Are the Ravens changing feathers? Hardly; astute observers will note that last preseason's pass-to-run ratio was almost 1.7-1. Now that the games count, expect Flacco to fall back in line. Last year he didn't even attempt 30 passes in a single home game, and just four of his 15 TD passes came in front of a friendly crowd. Not that the Chiefs will provide much resistance, but when the upside is 183 and two (Flacco's best home game a year ago) and the likelihood is more like 160 and a half a TD (his home-game average), your fantasy squad can do better.

RB Ray Rice
S2

You can count the teams who played the run worse than the Chiefs on one hand, as they ranked among the most fantasy-friendly foes for running backs in nearly every measurable category. Rice led the Ravens in both rushing and receiving during the preseason, so he seems perfectly positioned to exploit the visitors to the tune of big fantasy numbers. All that's keeping him from S1 status is the threat of Willis McGahee vulturing goal line carries.

RB Willis McGahee
S3 Four different backfields put multiple players in double-digit fantasy points against the Chiefs last year, and if McGahee does get the short-yardage work he could kickstart that trend here in 2009.
RB Le'Ron McClain
B Right now it looks like McGahee will be the goal line guy and McClain will be the lead blocker. Doesn't mean he won't get three or four touchdowns; it just means it will be more of a guessing game trying to figure out which games they'll come in. Against the Chiefs isn't a bad guess, but this early in the season you shouldn't be forced to be playing guessing games.
WR Derrick Mason
B

Ravens receivers posted one 100-yard game and scored three touchdowns in eight home games last season. Mason led Baltimore wideouts in catches in each of those tilts, ending up with a whopping 29 home grabs for 327 yards and a score. So if you're into a four-catch, 40-yard afternoon—and there may be some of you in larger PPR leagues who are—then Mason is still your guy.

WR Mark Clayton
B Simply put, the Ravens just don't throw enough—especially at home—to provide fantasy stats for any secondary receivers.
TE

Todd Heap

B Maybe you think Heap is back to the form he exhibited early in 2006 when he scored five times in the first seven games. And it's not as if the Chiefs offer much resistance at the position, ranking sixth in fantasy points ceded to tight ends a year ago. That's the upside; the downside is that Heap hasn't scored in 25 of his last 28 games and doesn't offer enough yardage to make his non-scoring games fantasy relevant. You feeling lucky?
DT Ravens S1 The Ravens forced 22 turnovers and scored three defensive touchdowns in eight home games last season. Welcome to Baltimore!
 
Denver (0-0) at Cincinnati (0-0) Back to top
Denver
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton S3

New offense, petulant wideout, dislocated finger... it's not exactly a fantasy-friendly debut for Orton with his new squad. And don't overlook a Bengals defense that's not nearly the pushover you might expect; they held all but five of the quarterbacks they faced last year to one or zero TD tosses. Ideally, we'd get to see what Josh McDaniels has in store for the Broncos before banking on them for fantasy help. However, what we know is that Denver's defense (or lack thereof) will likely put them in a position of needing to throw

RB Knowshon Moreno B There's little doubt Moreno is the most talented back in the Broncos' stable. But whether his knee injury allows him to demonstrate that talent this week remains to be seen; he was limited in Friday's practice and is officially listed as "questionable". And even if Moreno does play, McDaniels' MO has been to use multiple rushers. Let's focus on just how healthy Moreno is first before racking our brains to figure out how many touches he'll get; if that means you sit him this week and risk not getting his numbers, that's at least better than starting him and watching him sit—or worse, cede touches to Correll Buckhalter, LaMont Jordan, and Peyton Hillis.
RB Peyton Hillis U Again, you might be somewhat surprised to learn that the Bengals actually weren't that bad of a defense last season; 19 teams gave up more fantasy points to running backs than Marvin Lewis' gang. That said, until Moreno makes this job his own Hillis appears to be the one Bronco back who'll get enough touches—in the passing game, at the goal line—to be a fantasy factor. If a draft-day debacle left you short-handed in the backfield, there is definitely some upside to Hillis.
RB Correll Buckhalter
LaMont Jordan
B Wait, wasn't the frustrating backfield-by-committee approach supposed to leave town with the former coach? Somewhere Mike Shanahan is having yet another laugh at fantasy owners' expense.
WR Brandon Marshall
Eddie Royal
S2

Marshall is back practicing with the regulars and the spat with McDaniels appears to be behind them. With both Marshall and Royal on the field the Broncos have one of the best young receiving tandems in the league. And with the Denver defense having allowed 112 points in its last three regular-season games, they'll need both Marshall and Royal just to keep up.

TE Tony Scheffler

U

Each NFL team has its own trademark. The Steelers play defense, the Titans run the ball, the Colts throw at will... and the Bengals can't cover the tight end. In each of the past five seasons Cincy has ranked among the 10 most fantasy-friendly defenses against the position, which means Scheffler should be in for a solid game. Assuming, of course, he gets on the field at least as often as blocking TE Daniel Graham.

DT Broncos B This iteration of the Orange Crush is a lot more like the Orange Lightly Brush Up Against Your Shoulder and shouldn't be used for fantasy purposes.
Cincinnati
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S2

The last time we saw Palmer he was throwing for 217 and two back in Week 4. A bum elbow and a high ankle sprain later, Palmer is back at the helm against a Broncos defense that is mediocre at best. With an array of weapons to throw to, it won't be difficult for Palmer to avoid Champ Bailey and find an open Bengal receiver.

RB Cedric Benson
S2

Only Detroit allowed more fantasy points to running backs last season than the Broncos. And since Benson finished last season beating up bad defenses (171 against Cleveland, 111 and a TD against the Chiefs), it's not unreasonable to anticipate he'll do the same against what should be a shaky run defense.

WR Chad Ochocinco
Laveranues Coles
S2

Housh is gone, but Palmer certainly won't be lacking for other targets. That said, when he brings his A-game Ochocinco is still the leader of this pack and Palmer's preferred option. Doesn't mean there won't be enough to go around for Coles; Champ Bailey can't cover both of them.

WR Chris Henry
U Henry owned the preseason with 14 catches for 224 yards and four touchdowns, rekindling memories of his big 2006 campaign. Plus, he's keeping his nose clean. There's plenty of upside here, though in a game where the Bengals should be able to run Henry's opportunities might be more limited.
DT Bengals B Cincy gave up 19 points over the final three games of last season... and 69 points in the two games before that. There's some potential in a home game against a team still searching for its offensive identity, but you'll likely find better options elsewhere.
 

Minnesota (0-0) at Cleveland (0-0)

Back to top
Minnesota
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S3

Browns coach Eric Mangini is pretty familiar with Favre from their season together with the Jets. Doesn't mean he has the defensive personnel to apply enough pressure to throw Favre off his game, though.

RB Adrian Peterson S1

Only three teams allowed more running back rushing yards last season than the Browns, and no back rushed for more yards than Peterson. Cleveland allowed eight 100-yard rushers last season, while AP produced 10 triple-digit efforts. Would it be overkill to note that Peterson has topped the century mark and scored in each of his two previous season openers?

RB Chester Taylor S3

Four different backfield tandems double-dipped in the Browns' end zone last year. Sounds a little dirty, doesn't it? What it means for Taylor owners is that in addition to being a vital handcuff to Peterson, Chester's pass-catching prowess and propensity to steal a look or three at the stripe make him a viable fantasy play given the cupcake matchup.

WR Bernard Berrian
S3

The next pass Berrian catches from Favre will be his first in game action. That's a bit disconcerting. Bernard still warrants a fantasy start, given that the Browns' secondary was subpar at best in slowing opposing wideouts last season and Berrian had great success getting behind opposing defenses, averaging more than 50 yards per touchdown grab.

WR Sidney Rice
U

The twin concerns with Rice are just how much passing the Vikings will do (assuming Peterson has his way with the Browns' run defense) and then where in the pecking order he ranks among Brett Favre's targets. If you can clear those hurdles, Rice has definite upside.

WR Percy Harvin
U

Not only did the Vikings go all in with their pursuit of Favre, they doubled the stakes by spending a first-round pick on Harvin. Now they just need to figure out how to use him. The Vikings say they have a plan, though they purposely didn't unveil it during the preseason. Creativity hasn't exactly oozed from Minnesota game plans under Brad Childress and Darrell Bevell, but there's still that tangy zip of upside attached to Harvin.

TE Vishante Shiancoe S2

This is by no means a great matchup for Big Shank, as the Browns have allowed one TE TD in their past 20 games. But you don't bench a top-five fantasy tight end, and that's exactly what Shiancoe was last season. Add in the TE-friendly Favre and even in what appears to be a tough matchup you shouldn't shy away from Vishante.

DT Vikings S1

A top-10 defense against an offense that hasn't scored since Week 11 of last year; advantage, Vikings.

Cleveland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brady Quinn
Derek Anderson
B

Ooh, that crafty Eric Mangini! The Vikings won't know which Browns quarterback to prepare for! It's sheer genius! Clearly preparation was the reason Minnesota allowed only two quarterbacks to throw for multiple touchdowns against them last season. Here's the problem: you'll need Mangini to tell you who the starter is so you can insert him into your fantasy lineup. May as well avoid the situation entirely.

RB Jamal Lewis
Jerome Harrison
James Davis
B

The Williams Wall will be in place for Week 1; so will middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, who missed much of last year—and yet the Vikings still ranked 29th in fantasy points allowed to running backs. So whether you like a high-mileage veteran (who hasn't reached the century mark since Week 17 of 2007), a flashy change-of-pace guy (who's never touched the ball more than nine times in a game), or an under-the-radar rookie (who was so highly thought of he lasted until the sixth round on draft day), you can't go wrong leaving your Browns back of choice on the bench this week.

WR Braylon Edwards
S3

The Vikings allowed just two 100-yard receivers last season, and none in the final 11 games; that stat alone should drop Edwards in your rankings. Get it? Drop? Edwards? You'd think somebody would have to score for the Browns, but they've defied that logic for the past six regular season games.

WR Joshua Cribbs U

Cribbs is the most exciting offensive player on the Browns' roster, which is a little like being the tallest jockey at Churchill Downs. That said, the Vikings' special teams coverage has been anything but special, so between the return game and wildcat formations and whatever work in the passing game Cribbs gets there's a distinct possibility he'll take a touch to the house.

DT Browns B Aside from Favre's propensity for throwing picks, there's very little to like on the Cleveland side of this matchup. If you get return points, though, Cribbs makes the Browns at least worth considering.
 
Miami (0-0) at Atlanta (0-0) Back to top
Miami
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Chad Pennington S3

Pennington is a fast starter, with multiple touchdowns in each of his last three opening day appearances. Atlanta was fantasy-friendly for opposing quarterbacks last season, even to quarterbacks you might otherwise not expect to put up good numbers: Jon Kitna, Jake Delhomme, and Tarvaris Jackson all threw multiple touchdowns against the Falcons. You could certainly do worse this week then tossing Pennington into the fray.

RB

Ronnie Brown

S2

Brown shared some of the load with Ricky Williams last season; another year further removed from knee surgery and with Williams much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, the balance of the load should shift more towards Ronnie than Ricky (and for all you New Edition fans, Bobby and Mike are out of the picture all together). This will be a good matchup to test that theory, as the Falcons were among the ten most fantasy friendly defenses for running backs last year.

WR Ted Ginn Jr.

S3 The expectation is for Ginn to take the next step this year, building on last year's 56-790. He's clearly Miami's No. 1, and while the Falcons matchup isn't a soft one there should still be an opportunity for Ginn to get you helpful fantasy numbers.
WR Greg Camarillo
Davone Bess
Brian Hartline
B Miami has three viable candidates for the No. 2 receiver role on a run-first (and wildcat second) offense. You'll have better luck looking for fantasy help elsewhere.
TE Anthony Fasano

S2

Say you slept on tight ends during your draft, and now you find out you drafted Kellen Winslow Sr. What to do? Start playing matchup poker at the position, and lead with Fasano against the Falcons. Not only was Atlanta one of the five most fantasy-friendly defenses against tight ends, Fasano was quietly a top 10 producer at the position; among his TE brethren only Gates and Gonzo scored more touchdowns. Get elite-level production at a bargain-basement price—then move on to next week's matchup play.

DT Dolphins S3 Atlanta offers plenty of offensive weapons, but the Miami defense should be up to the task. There's no compelling reason to expect a big defensive day from the Dolphins, but if they're the only D on your roster it's not as if you need to chuck 'em and pick up something else.
Atlanta
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan S3

Despite being Rookie of the Year, Ryan was really nothing special last year fantasy-wise. However, a stout Miami run defense could put more of the offensive onus on Ryan this week, and a couple of upper-echelon targets should help him be up to the task.

RB Michael Turner
S2

Yes, much of Turner's damage last season came against the six softest run defenses in the league. But he also scored against Minnesota (29th) and topped 100 yards against the Chargers (25th), so a date with a Dolphins D that ranked 27th against the run last year shouldn't be viewed as a stopper.

RB Jerious Norwood
B Every year the plan seems to be to give Norwood a larger workload, and every year Norwood seems to wind up with seven to 10 touches a game. Against a pretty good Miami defense, that's not enough to earn a fantasy vote of confidence.
WR Roddy White S2

Miami has upgraded its secondary significantly from the unit that allowed more wide receiver touchdowns than all but three teams last year. But White has the ability to get it done against good defenses (three TDs and three 100-yard games against top-10 pass defenses last year) and would require an Nnamdi Asomugha level blanketing to earn "bench" status.

TE

Tony Gonzalez

S2

The Dolphins allowed only one tight end touchdown last season—to Gonzo as a member of the Chiefs. So you have to like his chances of a repeat given his new supporting cast.

DT Falcons B Meh. There's no compelling reason to plug in Atlanta's defense against an offense that's not going to turn the ball over.
 
Washington (0-0) at New York Giants (0-0) Back to top
Washington
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jason Campbell B

Campbell hasn't thrown multiple touchdowns since Week 4 of last year and has topped 240 yards just once in that span. Worse, in four career starts against the Giants he's averaged 193 yards and a touchdown. Certainly you have a better fantasy option at your disposal.

RB Clinton Portis S3 The Giants limited Portis to 106 yards on 34 carries in the season series last year. Prior to that, Portis had posted two 100-yard efforts and three touchdowns in the previous five meetings, so it's not as if the G-Men own him. They do, however, seem to have a pretty airtight lease and you wouldn't be faulted for looking for a more viable fantasy option.
WR Santana Moss
S3

Moss is the only reasonably compelling option from among the Redskins receivers, in part because he's had his share of success against the Giants in the past. Over the past four seasons he's averaging 75 yards per game, though he's scored just twice in the past six meetings.

TE Chris Cooley B

No team allowed fewer fantasy points to tight ends last year than the Giants, as evidenced by the one-catch blanket they threw on Cooley in last year's opener. Unless you double-dipped in the tight end pool, you'll likely just have to bite the bullet and hope that Cooley continues his trend of scoring against the Giants in odd-numbered years, like he did in 2007 and 2005.

DT Redskins S3 Albert Haynesworth is healthy, the Giants' passing game is as yet unproven, and the last four meetings in this series have played to the Vegas under. It's not a dominant trend, but it does suggest the Washington D could be a fantasy helper this week.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning B

The highest paid player in the history of the game has one touchdown pass in his last four games (including the playoffs) and has never—never—thrown more than one TD in nine career games against the Redskins.

RB Brandon Jacobs S2

Jacobs has 317 yards and a touchdown in his last three against the Redskins. Oh, but they added Albert Haynesworth, you say? Jacobs scored twice in a 2006 meeting with the Titans—and yes, Haynesworth was in the lineup. With no compelling option in the passing game yet to emerge, expect the Giants to lean heavily on Jacobs in the season opener.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw S3 Bradshaw will be filling the role vacated by Derrick Ward; last year that role produced 165 yards from scrimmage in the season series with the Skins. With the New York passing game yet to be defined, it wouldn't be at all surprising to see Bradshaw's workload increase from the 26 touches Ward saw against Washington last year.
WR Hakeem Nicks
Domenik Hixon
Steve Smith
B

The Redskins were the fifth-toughest fantasy defense for wideouts to score upon, and with no clearcut go-to guy it would be folly to chase this matchup looking for fantasy help.

TE Kevin Boss S3

Maybe reports of the Giants' lack of a go-to receiver are premature: Boss quietly filled that bill by scoring five times in the final 10 games of last year. He didn't score against the Skins in either contest, however; in fact, the Redskins ranked 29th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends a year ago. It's by no means a favorable matchup, but someone has to catch Eli's lone touchdown toss.

DT Giants S2 The Skins scored a grand total of 14 points in this season series last year, so if you don't get points off of turnovers you might at least get partial credit for a shutdown defensive performance.

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