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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)
 
 

San Francisco (0-0) at Arizona (0-0)

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San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Shaun Hill S2

Hill threw for 217 and two against the Cards last year, but that should come as no surprise: 11 quarterbacks threw for multiple scores against Arizona and no team gave up more fantasy points to QBs. That late pick spent on Hill could start paying dividends immediately.

RB Frank Gore S1

Gore's goose-egg in Week 10 ended a five-game scoring streak for Gore against the Cardinals. And while Gore's 99 rushing yards may have landed those in milestone leagues in the stinkhole, his yardage in this series—roughly 100 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards per game over the past three seasons—has been stellar. And it's not as if the Cardinals upgraded their defensive personnel over the offseason.

RB Glen Coffee B

The plan is for Coffee to spell Gore as the Niners transition to a run-heavy attack. Nice theory, and Coffee certainly looked good in the preseason (42-249 rushing, 6-41 receiving), but the last time a 49ers back not named Gore put up double-digit fantasy points in a game in which Gore also played was in Week 17 of 2006 when Moran Norris housed a 32-yard reception. In other words, before Coffee gets a fantasy recommendation we'll need to see a little something in a game that matters.

WR Josh Morgan
S2 No team came close to giving up as many wide receiver touchdowns as the Cardinals last season, though Morgan was the only Niner to reach paydirt in the season series. With Michael Crabtree still following the Mike Williams guide to killing your NFL career, Morgan should be Hill's favorite target. Here's a great opportunity for him to demonstrate.
WR Isaac Bruce

S3 You shouldn't be this desperate this early, but if you're in a larger league that starts three wideouts and a flex maybe you need to dig this deep. And given that six times last year a secondary receiver scored against Arizona in a game in which the No. 1 wideout also scored, there should be enough to go around.
TE Vernon Davis U

The Cards ranked in the bottom third of the league in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, though Davis did score one of the four TE TDs Arizona allowed. Mike Singletary loves him, so maybe he'll get a token toss in the red zone.

DT 49ers B Until Singletary starts suiting up again, it's unlikely the 49ers defense will be a fantasy factor.
Arizona
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kurt Warner S1

Warner has averaged 336 yards and two touchdowns in his last three against the 49ers, though it's worth noting that last year's 197 and one in the season opener brought down the average significantly.

RB Tim Hightower U It's only a matter of time until Beanie Wells takes over most if not all of the touches. Best-case for Hightower, he gets one last hurrah like Edgerrin James had in putting up 100 yards on the 49ers in last year's opener. Worst-case for Hightower's fantasy owners, you plug him in only to watch Wells rip the torch from his grasp and run with it.
RB Chris Wells S3 Arizona didn't draft Wells to sit on the bench. And what better place to work him into the mix than in a division game against a defense that finished in the top third of the league in fantasy points allowed to running backs?
WR Larry Fitzgerald
S1

This marks the fourth straight season the Cards have opened against the 49ers. Fitz doesn't mind, though his bigger numbers have tended to come in game two of the season series. He's scored in three straight and four of five against San Francisco and has 51 catches, 713 yards, and six touchdowns over the past four years of home-and-homes.

WR Anquan Boldin
X Boldin's still an X, because if he plays you use him and if he's deactivated then obviously you don't. Boldin's tender hammy limited him in Friday's practice, and he'll be the dreaded game-time decision on Sunday. If you can wait until that decision is made, and Boldin does play, you'll want him in your lineup; if Anquan only played against the 49ers his typical season would be 104 catches for 1,340 yards and 12 touchdowns. Those are S1 numbers, but the risk that he might be a late scratch has to be taken into account—especially if your lineup needs to be in before all the information is in. So... still the X.
WR Steve Breaston
S3

You can't exclude Breaston, who amassed 175 yards in the two-game series last season. He's a heckuva Plan C, and if Boldin is ruled out prior to kickoff you can upgrade Breaston to at least an S2.

DT Cardinals B In Arizona, defense is what kills time between Warner-to-Fitzgerald touchdowns.
 

St. Louis (0-0) at Seattle (0-0)

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St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Marc Bulger
S3

Did you make the mistake of drafting early and banking on Sage Rosenfels or Derek Anderson to be your quarterback? If so, you're in luck; odds are Bulger went undrafted (a busted pinky and a new offense will do that), but he gets to open the season against the second-most quarterback friendly defense in the NFL—who, by the way, will be without Pro Bowl corner Marcus Trufant as well. It doesn't get any more favorable than this matchup... at least until the Rams face the Cardinals in Week 11.

RB Steven Jackson
S1

Jackson has scored in five of his last six against the Seahawks and produced an average of 120 combo yards per game—failing to reach triple digits only once since 2005. PPR fiends take note: he's also averaged five catches per matchup, and in the Rams' new offense he might actually see more looks as a receiver.

WR Donnie Avery
S2

No team allowed more fantasy points to wideouts last year than the Seahawks, but the Rams didn't take advantage with just a pair of touchdowns (by Dane Looker and Torry Holt) to show for their efforts. Avery amassed 61 yards in the second meeting and should be Bulger's primary target against a secondary that will be down a Pro Bowler.

WR Laurent Robinson
U

With Seattle's secondary dinged up this would be a prime opportunity to use Robinson. He's not without his risks—Bulger hasn't had much of a chance to acclimate to the new offense—but the situation also presents plenty of upside.

WR Randy McMichael
B

Remember when McMike was supposed to be the next big thing? Still waiting, and it's unlikely this uninspiring matchup launches the Year of McMichael.

DT Rams B Seattle has outpointed the Rams in eight straight meetings, topping 30 in five of those outings. Steve Spagnuolo was hired to turn things around, but it's unlikely he works that fast.
Seattle
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck S2 The Rams were actually middle of the pack when it came to shutting down QBs last year, but Hasselbeck has at least one TD in each of his last six against St. Louis and a total of 10 touchdowns in that span. He's also averaged 240 yards per outing and should start down the road towards Comeback Player of the Year with a strong showing here.
RB Julius Jones
S2

Juice rolled up 140 and one in the first meeting last year, but by the time the teams reconvened Maurice Morris had taken his carries. Now Jones looks to be Seattle's workhorse, at least until Edgerrin James gets acclimated, so you may as well use him now against a defense that ranked third in fantasy points surrendered to running backs last season.

RB Edgerrin James
U

Edge had just two preseason carries for his new team, so it's still too early to determine how much he has left in the tank and how he might best help both the Seahawks and your fantasy squad. However, a date with a Rams defense that allowed more running back touchdowns than any other might warrant taking a blind flier in case James' role is that of goal line back.

WR

T.J. Houshmandzadeh

S1

If Billy McMullen can get 76 yards and Mike "Natty" Bumpus can score against the Rams, Housh should have little difficulty making a splash in his Seattle debut.

WR

Nate Burleson
Deion Butler

U

There's definitely upside in this matchup with a defense that ranked among the 10 most fantasy-friendly against wide receivers—assuming Housh doesn't take all the looks.

TE John Carlson
S2 The Rams did a pretty good job of shutting down tight ends last season, allowing just four scores on the season. Carlson's 5-76 effort in the second meeting was the second-best yardage game by a tight end against St. Louis, and he should once again factor heavily into the offensive game plan.
DT Seahawks U The Seahawks secondary is banged up, but they still sport one of the better linebacking corps in the league. And they've held the Rams to 20 points or less in four straight meetings, not to mention 265 total yards or less in three of the last four. It's not a glamorous play, but there is some upside.
 

Chicago (0-0) at Green Bay (0-0)

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Chicago
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S2

The two worst QB games against the Packers, stat-wise, were both authored by Kyle Orton. You think the Bears are looking forward to an improvement on 133 and 0 and 142 and 1? Cutler had 16 games better than that last year alone. With the Pack still tweaking their new 3-4 look, expect the Bears to unveil their new toy for the Sunday Night viewing audience.

RB Matt Forte
S2

Green Bay ranked sixth in fantasy points surrendered to running backs last season, though Forte's numbers in the season series (205 yards from scrimmage and one touchdown) weren't anything special. An actual threat at quarterback might help Forte improve on the 3.9 yards per carry he averaged last season (3.5 against the pack), but my optimism is cautious at best.

WR

Devin Hester

S3 Are you sitting down? Here's the cumulative total from Bears wideouts in the season series against Green Bay last year: seven catches for 88 yards. That's two games, figure at least two and as many as four wide receivers on each play. Seven. For. Eighty-eight. But wait, it gets worse: add in the even more pathetic 5-66 Bears wideouts amassed in the 2007 series with Green Bay and you have a two-year, four-game total of 12 catches for 154 yards. So while there's bound to be improvement with Cutler at the helm, there's a loooong way to go before Bears receivers reach fantasy relevancy. Hester has the most upside, but how quickly can he turn his three catches for nineteen yards into something you'd want to plug into your fantasy lineup?
WR

Earl Bennett

B Bennett's next NFL catch will be his first. Like to see him get that milestone under his belt before recommending him for anyone's fantasy squad.
TE Greg Olsen

S2

Olsen single-handedly salvaged a modicum of respectability for the Bears' passing game against Green Bay last season, posting a 4-45 and 5-49-1 to outpace Chicago's entire wide receiver corps. He's bound to be Cutler's favorite target, so those numbers feel like a baseline with all signs pointing towards an upwards trend.

DT Bears S2 The Bears' D is a trendy fantasy pick, but it looks as though they may be without playmaker Charles Tillman. Also, if you lose points for an opponent rolling up yards and points on your defense you need to be wary of what looks to be an extremely potent Packer offense.
Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S2

Rodgers had little difficulty solving the riddles of the Chicago defense, throwing for 227 and two in his first game against them before improving to 260 and two in the rematch. As sharp as Rodgers has looked this preseason, there's zero reason to expect he'll step back from those statlines in the home opener.

RB

Ryan Grant

S2

Grant scored in both ends of the season series last year and in three games against the Bears has produced 341 yards from scrimmage and scored twice while posting a pair of 100-yard rushing games. Adrian Peterson and Pierre Thomas are the only other backs to reach triple-digits against the Bears in that same span, so obviously the Packers are doing something right.

WR Greg Jennings

S2

Jennings has scored in three of his last four against Chicago, but his catches and yardage have been relatively pedestrian (in the five-for-50 range). He's the better play among Packer targets against a Bears defense that finished third in fantasy points allowed to wideouts, and he's unquestionably Rodgers' No. 1 target.

WR Donald Driver
S3

Driver has provided a steady diet of roughly five catches and 50 yards (sound familiar?) over the past six matchups with Chicago, but it's been five games since he scored on Da Bears. In other words, he's a PPR helper in three-WR, flex, and deeper two-WR leagues—but don't ask him for much more.

TE Jermichael Finley U Donald Lee scored in the first game between these two longtime foes, and in the second Finley notched his longest catch of the season. Finley is by far the more fantasy relevant of the duo, but that doesn't mean he'll bogart all the playing time. Until we see just how much Finley will be on the field, there's a great deal of risk involved in plugging him into your fantasy lineup.
DT Packers S2 Jay Cutler threw 18 picks last season, including at least one interception in each of his final six games; the Packers returned six INTs for touchdowns. Do you smell what the Pack is cookin'?
 

Buffalo (0-0) at New England (0-0)

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Buffalo
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Trent Edwards B

Quick, name the last Bills quarterback to throw for at least 200 yards against the Patriots. Did you say Kelly Holcomb in 2005? Congratulations! How about the last Buffalo QB to toss multiple scoring strikes against New England? You have to go all the way back to Drew Bledsoe in Week 14 of 2002. Thus far Edwards has rolled out games of 97-0, 120-1, and 128-0 against the Patriots; at this rate, it'll be another two and a half years before he even reaches 200 yards.

RB Fred Jackson B

Jackson closed out the 2008 campaign with a 136-yard effort against New England—easily the most yardage they ceded to one back all year long. Can lightning strike twice? The guess here is no, not behind a completely retooled offensive line that includes two rookies and a second-year player who has never been active for an NFL game.

WR Terrell Owens S3

If the Bills are to score this week, and there's no guarantee they will, but if they are it will likely come via their marquee offseason addition. Owens scored and posted 66 yards against the Patriots as a Cowboy back in 2007, making him a rarity: a Bill with a solid track record against New England. He's sure to let Edwards know if he's not getting enough opportunities, and it's likely the Bills will find themselves behind and throwing in this one so opportunity shouldn't be a problem.

WR Lee Evans B Simply put, Evans has never scored against New England. Never. Not in 10 games, over which he's averaged a pedestrian 2.5 catches for 37 yards. And that was as both the No. 1 receiver and as a wingman to Eric Moulds, so it's unlikely the addition of T.O. will help get Lee off the schneid.
DT Bills B Buffalo is known for having some of the best special teams play in the league, but even that's not enough to make this D/ST unit a viable fantasy play this week..
New England
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tom Brady S1

Brady threw four picks against the Bills in a Week 1 loss back in 2003; in the nine meetings since he's thrown multiple TDs eight times (24 in all) and topped 300 yards thrice. The Bills ranked near the bottom third in the league in fantasy points ceded to quarterbacks in no small part due to the fact that they didn't face Brady all season. That is about to change.

RB Laurence Maroney
Fred Taylor
Sammy Morris
Kevin Faulk
BenJarvis Green-Ellis
U

The Pats' RB results against Buffalo offer a microcosm of the frustration fantasy owners feel when dealing with New England backs. In the past six meetings, Patriot RBs have tallied eight touchdowns—scored by seven different backs. Both Maroney and Green-Ellis have 100-yard efforts against Buffalo to their credit, and Fred Taylor hit the century mark twice in three games against the Bills over the past three seasons. So somebody is going to put up some numbers here; trouble is, you'll need a crystal ball, a ouija board, and a visit from the spirit of touchdowns to come just to have an inkling of which Pats back should be in your fantasy lineup.

WR Randy Moss
S1 The last two times Moss has faced the Bills with Brady as his quarterback he's dropped insane 5-115-2 and 10-128-4 games on them. And guess who's back at the helm.
WR Wes Welker X In his last four games against the Bills, two with Brady and two with Matt Cassel, Welker has given you exactly what PPR leaguers drafted him for: 12-133 with Cassel last season and 13-147 with Brady in 2007. Here's the problem: Welker has been limited in practice by a knee injury, but this being a Monday night game his official status has not yet been revealed—and don't hold your breath waiting for Bill Belichick to tip his hand. Maybe the best move would be for you to have Welker and Galloway on your roster, then start Welker if he goes and Galloway if Wes is held out. And if you have to make a lineup decision before Monday night, you probably have to bench Welker or risk taking a zero.
WR Joey Galloway U With Brady at the helm there was usually enough to go this deep into the receivers; against Buffalo, non-Moss and Welker wideouts accounged for 115 yards and a touchdown in the 2007 season series. So even if Welker does play, Galloway has upside. If Welker is ruled out, that upside becomes a heaping dose of potential just waiting to be tapped.
TE Chris Baker U Under Cassel, Patriot tight ends accounted for but one catch in the season series with Buffalo; under Brady in the 2007 home-and-home, Ben Watson scored in each game. Baker caught a pair of TDs from Brady in the preseason, and especially if Welker is out could factor prominently in the Patriots' red zone attack.
DT Patriots S1 The Bills haven't scored more than 10 points on New England since the first meeting in 2006 and haven't made it to 20 since they shutout the Pats 31-0 back in Week 1 of 2003. Talk about getting your revenge.
 

San Diego (0-0) at Oakland (0-0)

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San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

With LT doing all the heavy lifting, Rivers hasn't had to do much against Oakland. Last year's 214 and three marked his first trip above the 200-yard mark and just his second multiple-TD outing. So while you're not going to sit Rivers here (if you're afraid, buy a dog), you do need to steel yourself for a run-heavy Chargers game plan.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
S1 LT now has a full season (16 games) worth of stats against the Raiders. His numbers? 1,906 rushing yards and 22 total touchdowns. Only twice in 16 meetings has Tomlinson failed to reach the end zone, and he's posted triple-digit rushing yardage nine times. What better venue for LT to announce to all the doubters that he's back?
RB Darren Sproles U In the past, the Raiders game has been almost entirely LT's show. Last year, however, Sproles notched a pair of receiving touchdowns and could find himself in the mix again as the Chargers look to keep Tomlinson fresh for a potential playoff run.
WR Vincent Jackson
S2

The first question is, is shutdown corner Nnamdi Asomugha playing through a chipped bone in his wrist? The second question is, will he be following Jackson wherever he goes? Clearly he wasn't on Jackson last year when VJ caught five balls for 148 yards and a score—one of only two 100-yard WR efforts the Raiders allowed all year. The combination of what will likely be an LT showcase of a game plan and the blanketing presence of Asomugha conspire to keep Jackson at an S2 level—and to be honest, given Asomugha's ability that's being optimistic.

WR Chris Chambers B Chambers would most certainly benefit if the Raiders put their top guy on Jackson, though "other" corner Chris Johnson is no slouch himself. And CC has done little to distinguish himself, with one touchdown and no better than 49 yards in three Charger/Raider meetings.
TE Antonio Gates S1

Gates was shut out in his last matchup with the Raiders, though he was only thrown to twice as the Bolts rolled to a 34-7 win. Prior to that Gates had scored in six of the previous nine meetings and topped 50 yards in four straight, five of six, and and seven of nine. So if LT owns the Raiders, Gates at least has a minority share.

DT Chargers S1 The Raiders haven't made it to 20 points against San Diego since September of 2003, a span of 11 consecutive displays of offensive futility. Even if Shawne Merriman's off-the-field issues keep him off the, er, field, the Bolts can bank on JaMarcus Russell sending a mistake or two their way.
Oakland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB JaMarcus Russell B

On the surface, Russell should be a strong start: he closed last year with three straight multiple-TD games and he'll face a Chargers' secondary that ranked third in fantasy friendliness to quarterbacks. But JaMarcus will have a pair of rookie receivers to throw to and Shawne Merriman in his face for most of the evening. There's admittedly upside in this matchup, but I just don't feel comfortable suggesting you wait until Russell takes the field in the late Monday game to get those critical fantasy points from your quarterback.

RB Darren McFadden
Michael Bush
S3

There is definite upside in both backs, though we're still not quite sure how the touches will be divvied up. Bush had 132 yards from scrimmage against the Chargers last season, most of it receiving, but he projects to be the short-yardage and between-the-tackles guy. McFadden was the least productive of Oakland's trio of backs, but he's also the most likely to take any given touch the distance. San Diego allowed just 10 RB TDs last year, which suggests that the yardage guy is the smarter play. And that's McFadden... probably.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
Louis Murphy
B The Raiders finished 31st in wide receiver scoring last season, which is one big reason why they'll start two rookies in the season opener. Given the state of their passing game, we'd best see what DHB and Murphy can do before banking on them for any fantasy digits.
WR Chaz Schilens
B Since this is a Monday night game the Raiders don't need to release their official injury list with the rest of the Sunday-playing league. However, the last two estimates on Schilens' return put him back on the field next week or the week after. In other words, sit him here.
TE Zack Miller S2

Miller's lone touchdown last season came against the Chargers, and in fact he's scored against them twice in his two NFL seasons. But what PPR players like about Miller is his steady supply of catches (at least four grabs in five of his last seven last year) and yardage (50-plus yards in four of his last five and eight of his last 13). With so much uncertainty on the outside, Miller remains Russell's security blanket.

DT Raiders U Oakland posted kick return touchdowns in five of its last seven games, including a 92-yard kickoff return against the Chargers in Week 14. So if your league counts special teams scores, the Raiders have to be factored into the equation.

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