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Start/Bench List - Week 3
John Tuvey
Updated: September 25, 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 (0-2) at New York Jets (2-0) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kerry Collins B

Rex Ryan's defense hasn't allowed a touchdown pass yet this season; heck, they haven't allowed a touchdown this season period, but at the moment we're talking about quarterbacks. Collins has been solid but not spectacular, and while he may be asked to do more this week if Gang Green shuts down the Tennessee ground game it's tough to see him going where Tom Brady and Matt Schaub haven't—namely, the end zone.

RB Chris Johnson S3

Coming off last week's monster game it'll be tough to put Johnson in mothballs for the week. Here's one reason you shouldn't: about the only success that's been had against the Jets defense thus far this season has been via the short passing game. Steve Slaton caught three balls for 35 yards, while Julian Edelman worked the underneath for New England for 98 yards. If Tennessee's ground game can't get going against Gang Green—a distinct possibility, though shutting down Houston and New England and shutting down the Titans are two different challenges—they'll try to get the ball to Johnson in space and let his speed create playmaking opportunities.

RB LenDale White B

White has done nothing thus far this year, clearly playing second fiddle to Johnson. Against a Jets defense that's allowed a total of 113 RB rushing yards in two games, there won't be enough leftovers for LenDale to gain back the weight he lost. And if it's touchdowns you're looking for, Gang Green hasn't allowed one yet this year.

WR Justin Gage
Nate Washington
Kenny Britt
B Who draws shutdown corner Darelle Revis? It may not matter, as even non-Revis-blanketed receivers have been goose-egged this season. The only wideouts to top 50 yards were targeted 16 and 12 times; only once in the past 49 games has the Tennessee offense produced that many looks for one receiver in one game.
TE Alge Crumpler
B With Bo Scaife banged up and Jared Cook hobbled, Crumpler has been seeing the bulk of the action for Tennessee. That bulk hasn't added up to much—and adds up to even less against a Jets defense that's already put the clamps on Owen Daniels and Ben Watson.
DT Titans B You'd think Tennessee against a rookie quarterback would add up to fantasy points. But Sanchez isn't playing like a rookie, and truth be told after giving up 34 at home to the Texans the Titans aren't playing like the Titans, either.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Mark Sanchez S3

You're going to be extremely tempted to plug Sanchez into your starting fantasy lineup. After all, the Titans are fresh off of giving up 363 passing yards to Ben Roethlisberger and 357 and four to Matt Schaub. However, those numbers were borne of necessity as both the Steelers and Texans abandon the run. Nothing against Sanchez, but having him throw 40 times is not in Rex Ryan's recipe for success. Another solid 250 and a touch or two is possible, but expecting more smacks of a trap.

RB Thomas Jones B

Yes, be impressed by the Titans' 1.9 yards per carry allowed in Year One A.H. (After Haynesworth). But neither the Steelers nor Texans sport the offensive line, backfield tandem, or perseverance with the running game the Jets have. So the good news is, Jones will get his 15-20 carries; the bad news is, it won't produce the 4.7 yards per carry he's averaging—probably closer to half that. He's startable in desperate straits, but you should be able to find a better fantasy option on your bench.

RB Leon Washington B

The touches are being split right down the middle, though more of Leon's are coming in the passing game. That's notable because last season only two defenses allowed more receiving touchdowns to running backs than the Titans. Washington still looks like bench fodder except perhaps in PPR leagues, but if you're forced to choose between the Jets RBs Leon is the slightly less distasteful option.

WR Jerricho Cotchery


Look at the big picture and it suggests the Titans secondary is soft. Look a little closer and you'll see the damage has been done primarily by receivers targeted 10 or more times a game. Obvious, right? Yeah, but the Jets haven't thrown that many passes at anyone this year. Of the two Gang Green wideouts with catches this season Cotchery seems the more likely to follow the path made by Santonio Holmes, Hines Ward, and Andre Johnson.

WR Chansi Stuckey


Again, the temptation is to glance at Tennessee's apparent futility against the pass and assume the Jets will throw all over them. That's not what they want to do, though, so don't think Sanchez-to-Stuckey will have the same success as Schaub-to-Johnson or Roethlisberger-to-Holmes.

TE Dustin Keller

Rather than expect Sanchez to work down the field, expect him to make his hay here. Keller has put up a couple solid games thus far, scoring in the opener and posting 94 yards against the Patriots. The Titans haven't fared that well covering tight ends, ceding 8-64 to Heath Miller and 6-72-1 to Owen Daniels (plus another 3-31 to Joel Dreessen). That's a killer combo for a young quarterback and a pass-catching tight end.

DT Jets S2 You have to keep starting them, at least until they give up an offensive touchdown.
Atlanta (2-0) at New England (1-1) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan S3

Teams haven't been throwing for quantity on the Patriots, but they have posted some quality. That same description can be applied to Ryan, who has topped 220 yards and thrown multiple TDs in both of his first two games. It's unlikely to be gaudy, but with so many options

RB Michael Turner

Since the end of last season, the interior of the Patriots defense has been gutted. Gone are linebackers Tedy Bruschi (retired), Mike Vrabel (traded), and Jerod Mayo (injured) as well as DE Richard Seymour. The Jets feared New England so little they ran 28 times into the teeth of that unit, for 112 clock-controlling, keep-Brady-and-Moss-off-the-field yards. The Falcons exploited a diminished Carolina defense with 28 carries from Turner last week, and there's little doubt they'll attempt a similar strategy here—with similar success.

RB Jerious Norwood
Jason Snelling
Ovie Mughelli
B Snelling has the same number of touches this year as Norwood; both Snelling and Mughelli have scored, while Norwood hasn't seen the end zone since Week 16 of last year. The Bills had luck against New England throwing underneath to Fred Jackson, so in a best-case scenario Norwood could reprise the 5-49 receiving numbers he posted in the opener. Problem is, he hasn't practiced all week after suffering a concussion last week so he may not even suit up. In any event, with multiple other options all clamoring for what's left over after Turner, Gonzo, and White take their share, it just feels like you're grasping at straws.
WR Roddy White S3

The Falcons are trying to get him the ball; White has been targeted 10 times in each of Atlanta's first two games. Four of the last six wideouts thrown to with that frequency against New England found the end zone; the exceptions were Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall in the same 41-7 Denver loss. So there should be plenty of opportunity for White to get his.


Michael Jenkins


Yes, the Falcons have a WR2; no, he doesn't warrant fantasy attention.


Tony Gonzalez


Gonzo has now scored in six straight, and this week he'll face a New England defense that has already allowed tight end touchdowns to Derek Schouman and Dustin Keller. Let the good times roll!

DT Falcons B Atlanta's defense is improved, but they haven't done anything to warrant attention as a fantasy entity. And you can bet the Patriots will be motivated after having failed to score a touchdown last week.
New England
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tom Brady S2

The Jets threw Brady off his game with a fierce pass rush. If you think the Falcons can bring a similar heat, go ahead and bench Brady. But keep in mind that Brady has thrown for multiple TDs in his last five games (and 14 of his last 15) against teams other than the Jets and has 300 yards in nine of those contests. Oh, and Jake Delhomme just topped 300 yards against Atlanta.

RB Fred Taylor
Laurence Maroney

You might want to try your hand at guessing which back Bill Belichick will use against an Atlanta defense that allowed five 100-yard rushers last year and has given up 306 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns to RBs already this year. But there's a word for the Patriots backfield; it starts with "cluster", and it's not suitable for a family-friendly site like this one. It ends with something that rhymes with "luck", which is what you'll need plenty of to get fantasy helpful numbers from your Patriots back of choice.

WR Randy Moss
S2 There's no shutdown corner in Atlanta, so you shouldn't have to worry about Moss getting back in the saddle this week. Steve Smith racked up eight catches for 131 yards against Atlanta, and Moss is significantly taller. Moss popped up on the injury report Friday and was a no-show for practice, but don't hit the panic button just yet. You'll find more truth in a politician's promise than you will in a Bill Belichick injury report.
WR Wes Welker
Julian Edelman
X Welker is the dreaded game-time decision. If he plays, obviously, he's a good start. If he's inactive... well, we saw last week that Edelman can do a pretty decent Welker impersonation. Of course, Edelman is also listed as questionable. Can anyone do a pretty decent Edelman impersonation?
WR Joey Galloway B Even with Welker out and Moss shut down, the best Galloway could muster was five for 53. Now if Welker, Moss, and Edelman are out, Brady may have no other choice than to throw at Joey. Then he'd probably get bumped up to S3.
TE Ben Watson S3 Watson wasn't quite as productive in Week 2 as he was in Week 1, but the same could be said of the entire Patriots' offense. The Falcons presented one of the more fantasy-friendly tight end defenses last year, and they've already allowed Dante Rosario to score on them this season. Watson is still a third option at best, but with no running game he's a viable red zone target.
DT Patriots S3 We have yet to see anything compelling from the Patriots defense this season, and Atlanta isn't a risk-taking offense prone to turnovers. You don't need to go out of your way to bench them, but neither should you bend over backwards to use them this week.

Washington (1-1) at Detroit (0-2)

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jason Campbell S3

Drew Brees carved up the Lions; Brett Favre barely broke a sweat tossing a couple scores in Detroit. Campbell threw for 328 and one the last time he visited Motown, but that marked his fourth straight game without multiple touchdowns. He's since added 10 games to that string, making him at best a fringe fantasy play in larger leagues.

RB Clinton Portis S2 This is the portion of the schedule Portis should be tearing things up, jacking up his trade value so you can unload him at a premium before his annual late-season swoon. His 19-79 against the Rams last week was disappointing, particularly his lack of a touchdown. Detroit has already allowed 392 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns to opposing running backs, so the 24-126 Clinton laid on the Lions last year should be a baseline. The first touchdown of Portis' 2009 campaign would be nice, too. Portis was limited during practice Wednesday and Thursday and sat out Friday with sore ankles; he's officially listed as questionable, but Jim Zorn indicated he would play. Still, that's red flag enough to downgrade Portis to S2 status and bring Ladell Betts into the conversation.
RB Ladell Betts


If Portis can't go against the Lions, Betts would be in line for the majority of the carries. And because it's against the Lions, he'd be in line for a fantasy start as well.

WR Santana Moss


Moss blew up the Lions with nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown last year, but thus far in 2009 the Washington passing game has been all about the tight end. Thankfully, this is the Lions so there should be some leftovers, but you're reaching too far if you go beyond the guy who's supposed to be Washington's No. 1 receiver.

TE Chris Cooley S1

Cooley has 15 catches for 151 yards, almost as much as Washington's top two wideouts combined. And this week he gets a Lions defense that has already allowed three tight end touchdowns this season.

DT Redskins S3 The Redskins have allowed just one offensive touchdown per game this season, and you could certainly do worse than a fantasy defense facing a rookie QB with a 1:5 INT to TD ratio.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford

Stafford has one NFL TD, and the Redskins have allowed one or fewer TD tosses in seven straight games. That adds up to another week of the rookie riding some fantasy pine.

RB Kevin Smith

The anointing of Washington as a shutdown run defense feels premature, especially after Steven Jackson hit the century mark against them and they're allowing 4.7 yards per carry. Smith carved out 83 yards against a legitimate shutdown D, Minnesota, so cautious optimism abounds here. Smith's 24 carries against the Vikings suggest Jim Schwartz won't abandon the run, so while a touchdown may not be likely Smith should have the opportunity to put up helpful yardage.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

The operating theory was that Johnson couldn't be any worse off with a rookie QB than he was with Detroit's QB rotation from a year ago. Thus far that theory is being tested, though the fact that Mario Manningham and draft classmate Laurent Robinson have already scored on the Skins suggest that Calvin should be more than okay this week.

WR Bryant Johnson B

Right now there's barely enough for Johnson to get his, let alone spillover for other Lions receivers. Detroit got 68 yards out of Shaun McDonald in this matchup Week 8 of last year, but that was the last time any team other than the Giants had two receivers top 50 yards in the same game against the Skins.

TE Brandon Pettigrew U

Pettigrew got in the stat sheet last week against Minnesota, but until we see more out of Stafford it's too risky to look for fantasy starters outside of Calvin Johnson in the Detroit passing game. Doesn't help matters that the Skins have shut out seven straight tight ends.

DT Lions B The Skins aren't explosive, but they also aren't likely to give Detroit many opportunities to make some fantasy hay on defense.
Chicago (1-1) at Seattle (1-1) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S3

Seattle offered up one of the most porous secondaries in the league last year, and they rolled into 2009 without Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant. So of course they've held the Rams and 49ers under 200 passing yards and without passing touchdowns. That says more about the passing games of St. Louis and San Francisco, but Seattle is one hostile environment. The last five visiting quarterbacks—a group that includes Brett Favre, Matt Cassel and Kurt Warner—have combined for a total of three touchdowns. Cutler appeared to make some adjustments last week, such as including Matt Forte in the passing game, and he should put up decent yardage. But the Seahawks are no longer a walkover secondary, especially at home, so don't expect anything more than a serviceable day.

RB Matt Forte

Frank Gore exploited the gaping hole in Seattle's defense where Brandon Mebane and Lofa Tatupu should have been. Tatupu won't be back this week, while Mebane is listed as questionable; that bodes well for Forte. The reintroduction of Forte into the Bears' passing game last week was certainly welcome, and Steven Jackson produced 67 yards in Seattle against a Seahawks defense at full strength, so you don't need to bench Forte this week. And the banged-up Seahawk front seven adds a little optimism as well.


Devin Hester
Johnny Knox

S3 The Seahawks haven't exactly faced a dazzling array of wide receiver talent thus far this year, so the fact that they have yet to allow a WR TD is faint praise. Earl Bennett has the most targets, the most catches... and the least yardage and touchdowns. Knox was the receiver du jour last week and has been the most consistent yardage producer, while Hester is the erstwhile No. 1. There's fantasy value to be had, but few discernible trends to help locate it. Let's rule Bennett out since Cutler seems to prefer working further down the field; that leaves decent yardage and a score for Hester and Knox to fight over.
TE Greg Olsen


Olsen was supposed to play Jason Witten to Cutler's Tony Romo; hasn't quite worked out that way. Worse, Kellen Davis outperformed him last week—including stealing a touchdown. It's been six games since the Seahawks allowed a TE TD or more than 44 yards to the position, so even if Olsen were living up to preseason billing this wouldn't be an easy row to hoe. You certainly wouldn't be faulted for looking elsewhere for help, as Olsen certainly isn't providing much.

DT Bears S3 These aren't the same big-play Bears as before—not without Brian Urlacher—but they could be facing either a banged-up Matt Hasselbeck or a backup QB. And there's always Hester and Danieal Manning in the return game...
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Seneca Wallace B Matt Hasselbeck is doubtful for this tilt due to a fractured rib, leaving Wallace to run the show. The Bears' secondary has been tight thus far this year, holding Aaron Rodgers under 200 yards and both Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger to single touchdowns. Tough to expect much more from Wallace in a spot start... so we won't.
RB Julius Jones

Despite the absence of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, the Bears' run defense hasn't fallen apart. Not that holsing Steeler running backs to 99 yards is as impressive as it used to be, but least Chicago hasn't given up on that side of the ball. Jones used one big run to hit triple digits against the Rams, but the Niners shut him down and it took a TD reception to redeem his fantasy day. It's tough to see him besting Ryan Grant's numbers (16-61 with a score) even at home.

RB Justin Forsett

Forsett's 57 receiving yards—and 92 combo yards on 11 touches—raised some eyebrows in the fantasy community. But the Bears' defense isn't susceptible to pass-catching RBs—they allowed just two RB receiving TDs last year and haven't allowed any thus far thus year. Moreover, Forsett's role is too undetermined at this juncture to warrant a fantasy start.


T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Nate Burleson


The Bears have faced two good sets of receivers, with this breakdown: the downfield guys (Greg Jennings and Santonio Holmes) have combined for 11-189-1; the possession guys (Donald Driver and Hines Ward) have almost as may catches (10) but barely half the yardage (96) and no scores. If you apply those trends to the Seattle attack, Burleson would be in line for the score while Housh is looking at a day that helps a little in PPR leagues but does little else. T.J. is also still nursing a back injury which, if it's still bugging him by the time the final injury report is released, could downgrade him to bench fodder.

TE John Carlson
S3 Matt Spaeth's score last week was the first tight end touchdown allowed by the Bears in their last eight games. While that doesn't paint a rosy picture for Carlson, his numbers to date (12-141-2) and rapport developed with Wallace last season (more than half of Carlson's catches and touchdowns were thrown by Seneca in just eight games) make him a must-play in TE-mandatory leagues.
DT Seahawks S3 Jay Cutler has been know to throw a pick or four, and Seattle's crowd will let him know it if and when he does.
New Orleans (2-0) at Buffalo (1-1) Back to top
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S1

Multiple touchdowns in eight straight. 300-plus yards in four straight. A secondary that gave up 378 and two to Tom Brady in the opener and 296 and three to Byron Freaking Leftwich last week. Let the joyride continue!

RB Mike Bell B

Bell has been ruled out of this contest with a knee injury.

RB Pierre Thomas
Lynell Hamilton

Thomas isn't even listed on the injury report and participated fully in practice all week. However, Hamilton saw significant work with the first team during the week, bringing another cook into the kitchen. If they're sharing the workload, then despite the recent succes of the Saints on the ground the New Orleans back you'll want in your fantasy lineup is...

RB Reggie Bush S3

...Bush against a Buffalo defense that's allowed more RB receiving yards thus far this year (125 and a TD on 18 catches) than it has RB rushing yards (40-121-1). Bush could see a few more carries (and move up to an S2) if both Bell and Thomas are limited, but at minimum he's still the top receiving option out of the New Orleans backfield. Now if Heath Evans would stop stealing his touchdowns...

WR Marques Colston

Expect Colston to get his, though a touchdown might be a trickier proposition against a Buffalo defense that managed to keep both Randy Moss and Wes Welker out of the end despite a dozen catches each. Still, it'll take more than the Bills to warrant a "bench" recommendation for Brees' top target.

WR Lance Moore
Robert Meachem


Moore has been removed from the mix this week, as he's listed as out on the official injury report due to a hamstring injury. Meachem is healthy, but he's a lesser bet to put up fantasy numbers than Colston, Henderson, Bush, or Shockey this week and that's just too far down on the pecking order for any sort of start designation.

WR Devery Henderson


Henderson has been the most consistent of the secondary receivers in New Orleans, and with Moore out of the mix there should be enough leftovers for Devery to carve out some fantasy value—even against a Buffalo secondary that's been playing extremely well.

TE Jeremy Shockey S1 Here's one of your "elsewheres". The Bills have already surrendered four tight end touchdowns and almost 200 yards to the position; with Shockey seeing a consistent four balls a game, another score and 50-plus yards is the baseline from which your expectations should begin.
DT Saints S3 Putting up 40-plus points tends to force an opposing offense to take chances it might otherwise not take. That's how Darren Sharper notched a pick-six last week, and it wouldn't be shocking if the Saints goaded Trent Edwards into something similar.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Trent Edwards S3

Edwards has multiple touchdowns in both games this season; that's one more than he had all of last year. He'll need to keep scoring to keep up, and if Kevin Kolb can throw multiples against the Saints then Edwards should be able to make it three straight with two TDs.

RB Fred Jackson S2

New Orleans' high-octane offense has forced both of its 2009 opponents to abandon the run after 18 carries apiece, but a back who's a factor in the passing game can put up good numbers. That makes Jackson, in his final start before Marshawn Lynch returns, and his 11 catches thus far this season a viable option.

WR Terrell Owens S2

Not only are No. 1 receivers averaging 95 yards per game against the Saints, they're averaging a robust 27 yards per catch. Buffalo playing catch-up, a Saints secondary susceptible to the long ball... sounds like we'll be treated to another T.O. posedown.

WR Lee Evans S3 Secondary receivers are having some success against the Saints because of the need to throw to stay in the game against New Orleans' fast break offense. And while Tracy Porter is healthy and Darren Sharper is a nice addition, this is essentially the same secondary that ranked fifth in fantasy points allowed to wideouts last year.
TE Shawn Nelson B With Derek Schouman out for the year the rookie Nelson will have increased opportunity. After the numbers Brent Celek put up last week that might seem like a fantasy green light, but the Bills don't use their tight end in the same manner. It'll take a score for Nelson to have fantasy value, and right now there are several more compelling options ahead of him.
DT Bills S3 The Bills have defensive touchdowns in both games this season... so as long as the 40 or so points they're bound to give up to the Saints won't hurt you, they're worthy of fantasy consideration.

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