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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 2
John Tuvey
Updated: September 18, 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)
 
 

Pittsburgh (1-0) at Chicago (0-1)

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Pittsburgh
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S2

It appears as if the Steelers will struggle to run the ball again this year, which puts the offensive onus back on Big Ben. Since Week 10 of last year he has thrown 40 or more passes five times and at least 30 times in every game except the meaningless Week 17 shutout of Cleveland. For all that effort, Rothlisberger has produced just two 300-yard outings and thrown multiple touchdowns just twice—and those two events never occurred in the same game. So you'll get one or the other, but both is extremely unlikely.

RB Willie Parker B

The reason Roethlisberger has been throwing? Because Parker has been unproductive. Throw out Parker's 23-116-1 against Cleveland in Week 17 and he's averaged 2.8 yards per carry and 40 yards per game since Week 12 of last year; worse, aside from that Week 17 tally he hasn't seen the end zone. Mewelde Moore was more effective in the season opener against Tennessee, and while the Bears will be without Brian Urlacher they still have enough juice to limit Parker to a stat line that will frustrate fantasy owners.

RB Rashard Mendenhall B As bad as Parker has been, Mendenhall showed nothing on his four opening game carries that would suggest he's ready to take over the role.
RB Mewelde Moore B The Steelers were most effective in the no-huddle, and it's Moore who's on the field in that package. While his final numbers (five carries, eight yards and four catches for 28 more) weren't that great, he appears to be the Pittsburgh back with the most upside. Unfortunately, that's not saying much.
WR Santonio Holmes
Hines Ward
S2

If Roethlisberger is the wheelbarrow carrying the offense, Ward and Holmes are the handles. Again ignoring the meaningless Week 17 tilt, Ward has produced three straight 100 yard games with at least seven catches in each while Holmes has touchdowns in three straight and is averaging six catches for 80 yards ove that span. No. 1 receivers have scored in four straight against Da Bears and reached triple-digit yardage in back-to-back tilts; give the score to Santonio and the hundo to Hines as the Steelers continue to air it out.

TE Heath Miller
S3

The Bears haven't allowed a tight end touchdown in seven straight games, but Miller isn't about scoring; he's caught at least three balls in seven straight and at least five in each of the last three, producing three 60-yard games and averaging almost 50 per game over that span. That's not enough to make him viable in WR/TE combo leagues, but in TE-mandatory formats with PPR scoring it's nice to bank on a steady supply of 10-point games.

DT Steelers S2 The Steel Curtain will be without Troy Polamalu for a while, but if Jay Cutler is serving up another four picks this week they won't need him to produce fantasy points.
Chicago
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S3

The Steelers haven't allowed a quarterback to throw multiple scores in eight straight games, and only three QBs in that span have topped 200 yards. Perhaps more important: during that span Pittsburgh has picked off 13 opposing passes. Based on what we've seen from Cutler he should  have little difficult eclipsing the 200-yard mark, but don't bank on more than one TD toss—and expect the Steelers to get their mitts on a pass or two as well.

RB Matt Forte
B

Forte averaged two yards per carry against the Packers' version of the 3-4, and now he gets the Steel Curtain; that's akin to striking out against Jamie Moyer, then digging in against Randy Johnson. Making matters worse, with Cutler virtually ignoring Forte in the passing game his value takes an even bigger hit. It's tough to bench your first-round pick two weeks into the season, but it makes more sense than looking to the Bears' line to suddenly blow open holes for Forte or Cutler to abandon his downfield jones for checkdowns to his backs.

WR

Devin Hester
Earl Bennett

S3 Hester scored and Bennett was targeted extensively in Cutler's Chicago debut, and because it's unlikely the Bears find success running the ball both wideouts warrant consideration in larger leagues this week. But the optimism should be guarded at best, as you can count the number of 100-yard receiving games Pittsburgh has allowed to wideouts on one hand—and tallying the number of WR TDs opponents have scored on the Steelers since Week 1 of last year would only take a couple extra fingers.
TE Greg Olsen

S3

Olsen was supposed to be Cutler's go-to guy, but he only recorded one catch against the Packers. It's been nine games since the Steelers allowed a TE TD, so this may not be the week that Cutler-to-Olsen emerges, either. Pittsburgh wasn't invincible against tight ends last year—Witten and Cooley had decent yardage games, Boss and Clark scored—but there's no compelling reason to go out of your way to work Olsen into your lineup.

DT Bears S3 The luster is off what could have been a matchup of two of the game's marquee defensive players. But the Bears still have playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, and Roethlisberger has been known to throw a pick and/or take a sack.
 

Cleveland (0-1) at Denver (1-0)

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Cleveland
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brady Quinn
B

The Broncos have allowed multiple touchdown tosses in just one of their last eight games—or since Quinn debuted with 239 and two against them back in Week 10 of last year. In fact, those were the last two touchdown passes by a Brown until Quinn hit Robert Royal in garbage time last week. Fresh off a shutout of Carson Palmer, look for the Broncos to have similar success against Ohio's other quarterback.

RB Jamal Lewis

S3

James Davis received insignificant touches in the season opener and is questionable for this tilt with a shoulder injury; Jerome Harrison was barely seen last week and is nicked up himself. Meanwhile, Lewis practiced fully on Friday and actually found a modicum of success against a stout Vikings run D with 57 yards on 15 carries. All of the above bodes well for Lewis this week, as the Broncos are fresh of ceding 76 and a touch to Cedric Benson. The Broncos have allowed at least one RB score in four straight and 11 of their last 12, with multiple RB TDs in six of eight.

WR Braylon Edwards
B

Tough to see Edwards getting off against Denver's revamped secondary; he doesn't have nearly the receiver depth nor the quarterback the Bengals threw at Denver last week, with only limited success. Something south of the 5-89 Chad Ochocinco produced sounds about right, and a repeat of Braylon's 1-for-15 against Denver last year would hardly surprise.

WR Joshua Cribbs U

Cribbs remains the most (only?) dynamic player on the Browns' offense. If his special team work helps your fantasy club he's worth considering, because Cleveland will find ways to get him touches in the regular offense as well..

DT Browns B As noted above, Cribbs does for Cleveland special teams what Devin Hester does for the Bears and Reggie Bush for the Saints. In larger leagues or formats that include return yardage, that may be enough to turn that B into an S3.
Denver
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton S3

If not for a fluke 87-yard tipped pass in the final minute of the game, Orton's debut as a Bronco would have been downright brutal. He has the weapons, and it's not as if the Browns offer a ton of resistance. But there are significant kinks to be worked out in Denver, and that process shouldn't happen on your fantasy dime.

RB Correll Buckhalter S3 Somebody has to take advantage of one of the league's most fantasy-friendly run defenses; based on what we saw last week that somebody is the General, who was far more productive with his eight carries than Moreno was with his.
RB Knowshon Moreno
Peyton Hillis
B Though Moreno practiced fully this week, he hasn't demonstrated enough yet to be trusted with a fantasy start; Hillis touched the ball just twice last week. It's like Mike Shanahan is still there, only worse!
WR Brandon Marshall
Eddie Royal
S3

This is a completely different offense than the one that produced 6-164-1 for Royal and an almost-as-impressive 6-89-1 for Marshall when Denver played Cleveland in Week 10 of last year. Both obviously have the talent to put up those kinds of fantasy-friendly numbers, but no longer does Denver have the quarterback of the scheme that makes them likely. And seeing as the existing Broncos QB/scheme produced a combined 6-45-0 last week, you wouldn't be blamed for erring on the side of caution.

TE Tony Scheffler
Daniel Graham

B

Denver's tight ends split four catches and 69 yards last week, with Graham doing the bulk of the damage. If that's all that can be mustered against what has historically been one of the league's most tight-end friendly defenses, then neither can be trusted in a fantasy lineup.

DT Broncos B It's not as if the Browns are more potent than a Cincy offense that mustered all of one good drive at home against the Broncos last week. That said, there's no compelling reason to plug the Denver D into you fantasy lineup either.
 

Baltimore (1-0) at San Diego (1-0)

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Baltimore
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco S3

Flacco looked like a different quarterback in Week 1, throwing 43 passes—his first foray above 30 in a Baltimore win and first time topping 40 in his NFL career. Is this trend or mirage for the historically run-first Ravens? A date with a Chargers defense that was even more fantasy friendly to quarterbacks than KC last year would suggest "trend", at least for the short term, with another decent week for Flacco in the offing. A Chargers' defense that's allowed just five RB TDs since the middle of last season has also forced 10 of the last 12 opposing QBs to throw at least 30 passes. That number doesn't automatically mean success—prior to last week, Flacco's three previous 30-attempt games yielded just two touchdowns and a yardage high of 241—but it certainly puts him in position to succeed.

RB Ray Rice
Willis McGahee
S3

After one week it appears as if Rice will see a little more than half of the Ravens' backfield touches, but give way to McGahee and/or McClain at the stripe. That's not a bad gig, though it was tough to see McGahee swipe a RB receiving score that had Rice's name written all over it. The Raiders had success using a similar committee approach last week against the Chargers, and with both Rice and McGahee at least partially involved in Baltimore's burgeoning passing game it's tough to sit either this week. Don't expect big numbers, as the Chargers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher in their last five and have given up just four RB TDs over the past eight. But there's no reason Rice can't match Darren McFadden's 19-touch, 93-yard effort, nor for McGahee to fall significantly shy of Michael Bush's 13-touch, 59-yards from scrimmage production.

RB Le'Ron McClain
B Because McClain's touches are limited and his fantasy value comes as a goal line guy, he's bench fodder this week against a defense that's allowed just three RB rushing TDs in its last eight games.
WR Derrick Mason
Mark Clayton
S3

If we're going to embrace this new, more balanced Ravens offense, then we need to accept both Mason and Clayton as potential starters. Over the last seven games this duo has produced six touchdowns and eight games of 60 or more yards; as you might expect, Mason is the more consistent and Clayton the more explosive. A look at the list of wideouts who've scored on the Chargers—starting with Louis Murphy last week and tracing back through the likes of Antonio Bryant, Harry Douglas, Mark Bradley, and Devery Henderson—suggests explosive is what works against the Bolts; thus Clayton makes the slightly better play this week.

TE

Todd Heap

S2 Heap set us up with a 5-74-1 throwback last week, and there's no reason for the Lazarus impression to stop; the Chargers have allowed at least 50 yards to opposing tight ends in seven of their last 10 games and surrendered six TE TDs in that span.
DT Ravens S3 Baltmore couldn't even coax a turnover out of Brodie Croyle at home; while they haven't yet been relegated to the bench, they're certainly on our naughty list. And we're shooting them all kinds of dirty looks.
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

Last year, LT's injury forced Rivers to step up his game—and he responded with career numbers across the board. With Tomlinson nicked again—and the running game matchup with Baltimore less than favorable even with a healthy backfield—look for Rivers to once again pick up the slack. Put another way: if Brodie Croyle can throw for two TDs against the Ravens, you shouldn't expect anything less from Rivers.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
B Deja vu all over again? Tomlinson has been ruled out of this tilt due to his ankle injury, though he would have been a tough start even healthy. The good news is, if he's out for any length of time he'll be missing the toughest portion of the San Diego schedule.
RB Darren Sproles
Michael Bennett
B Sproles averaged less than three yards per carry against the Raiders—and now you want to use him against the toughest run defense in the league? There's little respite to be found in his contributions as a receiver, since only a half-dozen teams allowed fewer RB receptions or RB receiving touchdowns last year than the Ravens. Bennett will likely see some touches with LT out, but not enough to warrant fantasy consideration—especially against the Ravens.
WR Vincent Jackson
S2

Wideouts have found the end zone in three of the last four against Baltimore—and all three scores have gone to No. 1 receivers. Since there's little question that's Jackson's role in San Diego, he'll be the one most likely to step up and help Rivers in LT's absence.

WR Legedu Naanee B Only once last season did the Ravens allow two wide receivers to produce double-digit fantasy points in the same game—and Jackson/Naanee ain't no Wayne/Harrison.
TE Antonio Gates S2

You're not sitting Gates regardless of opponent. And the fact that Sean Ryan scored against the Ravens last week makes you cautiously optimistic regarding Antonio's chances.

DT Chargers S3 If the Ravens are set on throwing the ball around, the Bolts have some defensive players fully capable of taking advantage.
 

New York Giants (1-0) at Dallas (1-0)

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New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning B

Manning has tossed one or fewer touchdowns in six straight games, but over the past two seasons he's had three- and four-score games against Dallas. He's also ranged from 147 yards to 312. The smart play would be to expect a conservative 215 and 1... and look elsewhere for fantasy help.

RB Brandon Jacobs S2

Jacobs must be at least as healthy as Cadillac Williams and his two surgically repaired knees. And since Caddy took the 'Boys for 97 yards and a score last week, Big Jake should approach the 17-117-1 he dropped on Dallas last year—that is, in the game he actually played in.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw S3 The Bucs used a two-pronged backfield attack to post solid numbers against the Cowboys, and a back other than Jacobs has scored in three of the last four against Dallas. Bradshaw's 12-60 (plus 3-11 receiving) suggest he's capable of filling the slot Derrick Ward turned into 127 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Cowboys last season.
WR Steve Smith
Mario Manningham
Domenik Hixon

B

The only clarity Week 1 provided with regards to this mess is that you can take Hakeem Nicks out of the mix while he recovers from his ankle injury. Smith scored in last season's series and would be the Giant wideout to start if you're forced to pick one. Hopefully, nobody's putting you in that corner; nobody puts baby in a corner (RIP, Patrick Swayze).

TE Kevin Boss S3

With the Cowboys having surrendered just two wide receiver touchdowns in their last eight games, expect Manning to look to his tight end for help. Boss scored in the season series last year and the 'Boys have allowed TE TDs in each of their last two games.

DT Giants S2 The Giants will come at Romo & Co. in waves, which—as Osi Umenyiora demonstrated last week—can lead to six the other way.
Dallas
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

The Giants allow one or fewer touchdown passes almost 75 percent of the time. However, Romo is three for three at bucking that trend over the past two seasons, with 836 yards and 10 scoring strikes in three games. After watching Jessica's ex light up the Buccaneers last week, he's a solid bet to stretch that streak of multiple TD games against the G-Men to four.

RB Marion Barber S3

Barber hasn't had a great deal of success against the Giants: 56 yards on 27 carries in last season's series and 99 yards plus a touchdown on 23 carries in 2007. But it's not impossible to produce against the Giants; Tashard Choice had 143 yards from scrimmage and a score in the second meeting last year. It's not a ringing endorsement, but unless your fantasy roster is stacked Barber is a better bet to find the end zone than most of the backups you'd consider turning to.

RB Felix Jones B

Jones' disappointing 22-yard 2009 debut was attributed to a leg injury, but he's not even on the injury report and looks to make his first appearance against the Giants (he missed both ends of the home-and-home last year with an injury). This isn't the kind of defense that is likely to give up enough RB production to warrant two fantasy starters, and until we see differently MB3 is the main guy.

WR Roy Williams
Patrick Crayton
S3

Terrell Owens (17-286-5 against the Cowboys the past two seasons) will be dearly missed. But while Williams didn't do much as a secondary cog last year he lit up the Giants for 106 as the Lions's primary two years ago. And Crayton has been a solid second option the past two seasons, scoring twice in four games and amassing 179 yards in four games.

TE Jason Witten S2

Witten has had six- and five-catch showings against the Giants with Romo at the helm; overall he's had six straight games with at least five catches and that success should continue against a Giants defense that ceded 7-68-1 to Chris Cooley in the opener.

DT Cowboys S3 It'll be a classic NFC East slugfest; defensive touchdowns are frequently part of the fun.
 

Indianapolis (1-0) at Miami (0-1)

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Indianapolis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Peyton Manning S2

The Fins have allowed multiple touchdown tosses in two of three and at least 225 passing yards in four straight. That's your baseline for Manning expectations.

RB Joseph Addai
Donald Brown
B In Week 1 the split was roughly two-thirds Addai, one-third Brown. And two thirds of what Miami allows to opposing running backs—they ranked 27th in RB fantasy points allowed last season and held Michael Turner to 65 yards in the opener—isn't enough to warrant a fantasy start.
WR Reggie Wayne
S2

Two-thirds of the 16 WR TDs the Dolphins allowed last year went to No. 1 receivers. Miami opened the season by holding Roddy White in check; they'll have a tougher time with Wayne, who is working on a string of three straight 10-catch games with 392 yards and two touchdowns in that span.

WR Anthony Gonzalez B Gonzalez will miss the next month or so with a knee injury.
WR Pierre Garcon
Austin Collie
B Somebody needs to step up with Gonzo out; odds are it will be Dallas Clark, at least this week, as the Dolphins do a good job of holding secondary receivers in check.
TE Dallas Clark S2

Tony Gonzalez is the only tight end to score on the Dolphins over the past 17 game—but he's done it twice. He's also more of a slot receiver than an in-line tight end, much like Clark. With Indy down a wideout, expect Clark to pick up the slack.

DT Colts B Indy's ends can get after the passer, but until Bob Sanders returns there's very little fantasy-wise to like about this defense.
Miami
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Chad Pennington B

Over the past 18 games, the Colts have allowed one multiple-TD outing to a quarterback. Pennington turned the trick less than half the time last year, failed to do so in Week 1, and is a lousy bet to scale that mountain against a foe as formidable as Indy.

RB

Ronnie Brown

S3

Brown is only a slightly better bet than Williams to achieve fantasy relevance, but at least he usually sees the larger share of the Miami backfield touches. And against one of the softer run defenses in the league, that might be all it takes.

RB

Ricky Williams

B

Williams gets you something helpful roughly a third of the time. If you hit .333 in the majors, you're in the Hall of Fame; if you hit .333 in the NFL, you're on the bench.

WR Ted Ginn Jr.
Davone Bess
Greg Camarillo

B Dolphins wide receivers have produced a total of six fantasy-worthy (i.e. double-digit points) games over the past 17—three by Ginn, three by Camarillo. Indy has allowed a total of five fantasy-worthy WR games over that same span—only one of them by a receiver not significantly better than either Ginn or Camarillo. There's probably some complicated mathematical formula you could use to figure out the chances of wringing fantasy help out of Miami's receiving corps, but it won't be worth the effort.
TE Anthony Fasano

B

Indy has allowed one tight end touchdown in the past 21 games; Fasano had twice that many fumbles last week alone.

DT Dolphins B You don't tug on Superman's cape; you don't spit into the wind; you don't pull the mask off the ol' Lone Ranger; and you don't get cute and start a fantasy defense against Peyton manning and the Colts.

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