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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)

Miami (0-2) at San Diego (1-1)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Chad Pennington B

San Diego's 2008 numbers against the pass aren't that impressive, but they finished strong; in fact, Joe Flacco's two touchdowns last week marked the first time they'd allowed multiple scoring strikes in the past six games. Since Pennington's upside is limited anyway— he has but one touchdown toss this season and hasn't even sniffed 200 yards—he remains fantasy bench fodder.


Ronnie Brown


The Bolts were one of the tougher defenses for running backs to get fantasy points on last year; despite that, Brown posted 24-125-1 against them in Week 5. With San Diego having already surrendered 29-123-1 to Oakland and 27-127-2 to Baltimore, it stands to reason that Brown is in position to post numbers similar to last year—especially after watching him roll the Colts for 24-136-2 on Monday night.


Ricky Williams


Last year against San Diego there were 13 carries left over for Williams, which he turned into 39 yards. Last week against the Colts there were 19 totes for Ricky, and he rolled up 69 yards. With this year's edition of the Chargers' run D closer to cupcake than shutdown, expect Ricky's numbers to fall on the side of fringe fantasy helper.

WR Ted Ginn Jr.

S3 Thus far the Chargers have proven more susceptible to home run hitters (Louis Murphy, Kelley Washington) than possession types. And while the Bolts are having much more success against the pass than last year, there should still be room for Ginn—coming off an 11-108 performance against Indy—to carve out some fantasy help. Especially if he can hang on to a touchdown pass or two.
WR Davone Bess

B With Pennington's upside limited, Ginn and Fasano ahead of him in the projected pecking order, and the running game expected to do the heavy lifting anyway, there simply isn't enough fantasy productivity to go around.
TE Anthony Fasano


The Chargers were one of the more fantasy-friendly defenses against tight ends last season, and already this year they've allowed 96 yards to Zach Miller and a touchdown to Todd Heap. Like Ginn, Fasano dropped a potential touchdown last week; like Ginn, San Diego offers a shot at redemption.

DT Dolphins B The Fins' defense was on the field for less than one quarter and they still couldn't prevent Peyton Manning from beating them. Tough to expect more on the road against Philip Rivers.
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

The Dolphins have allowed multiple touchdown tosses in both of their games this year, while Rivers is coming off 436 and two against the Ravens. It's the same drill as last year: if San Diego can't run, Rivers is a dynamite fallback plan. And with Miami looking stout on the ground, it's another week for Plan B.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
B LT has been ruled out for a second straight week.
RB Darren Sproles
B A 2.5 yards per carry average suggests Sproles can't carry the running game load by himself. And while Sproles brings something to the table as a receiver, no team allowed fewer RB receiving TDs last year than Miami; the RB receiving score they allowed this year was to Ovie Mughelli, who fills an entirely different role than Sproles. This one is likely to be decided down the field, without significant contribution from Sproles.
WR Vincent Jackson

Miami gave up just two wide receiver TDs over the final five games of last year, then improved their secondary and has allowed just one WR TD through two games this year—shutting out Roddy White and Reggie Wayne in the process. That doesn't bode well for Jackson, but with limited contributions expected from the ground game someone needs to help Rivers put points on the board. Jackson has scored in both games this season and has elevated his game to near unbenchability.

WR Chris Chambers
Legedu Naanee
B There won't be enough leftovers for a second wideout this week—not that any second wideout in San Diego has stepped up were there any leftovers to be had.
TE Antonio Gates S2

Last year the Dolphins held Gates to one catch for 12 yards. Something about Dallas Clark's 7-183-1 effort on Monday night—or even Tony Gonzalez's 5-73-1 in the opener—suggest that Gates should find more room to operate this time around.

DT Chargers S3 Miami doesn't take many chances, limiting the Chargers' opportunities for big defensive plays. On the other hand, Miami doesn't score many points, giving the Bolts a boost in leagues where points against helps the fantasy bottom line.

Pittsburgh (1-1) at Cincinnati (1-1)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S2

The way Roethlisberger is throwing the ball around this year suggests solid yardage is in store, and a Bengals secondary that's given up 243 and 261 appears poised to help. However, Big Ben hasn't had a multiple-touchdown game this season—nor have the Bengals allowed one. Roethlisberger's track record against Cincy all but guarantees a score—he's tossed a TD in all but one of 10 career meetings with the Bengals—and two isn't out of the question given that he's thrown multiples in three of his last four against Cincinnati. Mix in the Bengals' suddenly stout run defense and a Steelers O that has proven unable to get it done on the ground, and once again this one's riding on Roethlisberger.

RB Willie Parker
Rashard Mendenhall
Mewelde Moore

Don't let Mewelde Moore's 120-yard outing against Cincy last season steer you wrong. The 2009 edition of the Bengals' run defense has actually given up fewer rushing yards than the Steelers—and it's not as if they've faced cupcakes in Denver and Green Bay. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh backs have done nothing to warrant a fantasy start against the Bengals' surprising shutdown run D.

WR Santonio Holmes
Hines Ward

It's not as if the Bengals' pass defense is a pushover; it took a flukey tip for any Bronco receiver to produce meaningful stats, and while Donald Driver had a good day Cincy held Greg Jennings catchless. But the Steelers are a passing team, and Holmes is fast approaching unbenchable status (if he hasn't reached it already). Ward has been only slightly less productive, but he scored against the Bengals in last season's series while Holmes had to settle for 5-89 and 5-84 outings. Deciding between the two is splitting hairs; both are safe bets for any fantasy lineup.

TE Heath Miller

Used to be the Bengals couldn't find the tight end with a map and a flashlight, but perhaps that worm has turned; this year, neither the Broncos nor Packers—both traditionally tight end friendly offenses—reached the end zone against Cincinnati. Sure, the Bengals still gave up 69 and 84 yards to the position, and Miller is still a decent yardage play in TE-mandatory leagues. But the fact that Miller scored in his last meeting with Cincy smells more like mirage—it was his first TD in his last seven games against the Bengals—than trend.

DT Steelers S3 The Steel Curtain is limiting points, but they're also not doing the kinds of things—sacks, picks, defensive scores—that make a good fantasy defense. Add in the fact that Pittsburgh hasn't scored a defensive touchdown against the Bengals since 2004 and this matchup isn't the no-brainer it used to be.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S2

Palmer may not yet be on pace to match his 2007 numbers, but after a rough start his 247 yards against the Broncos and three touchdowns against Green Bay leave little question he's well on his way back to pre-injury form. Better still, the 240 yards per game the Steelers allowed to Kerry Collins and Jay Cutler suggest the Steel Curtain sans Troy Polamalu is slipping just a little bit. Don't expect gaudy numbers, but something in the 225 and two neighborhood that Carson used to regularly drop on Pittsburgh wouldn't be at all surprising.

RB Cedric Benson

It's tough to fault Benson for beating up on lesser run defenses; all he can do is face the schedule the NFL gives him. This week, however, the league serves up a Pittsburgh defense that held Ced to less than three yards per carry in last season's series and has already shut down Chris Johnson and Matt Forte. You'd think Benson's 29-141 against a Green Bay 3-4 that's similar to the Steelers' scheme would provide hope; you'd be wrong.

WR Chad Ochocinco


Ochocinco scored against the Steelers last season, but that was with Ryan FItzpatrick at the helm; the last time Palmer hooked up with Ocho for a score he was still Chad Johnson—and the year was 2004. After watching Pittsburgh give up touchdowns to Justin Gage and Johnny Knox already this season there's cause for optimism for the Bengals' top target. Not giddiness, mind you, but the kind of optimism associated with 80 yards and a possible score.

WR Laveranues Coles
Chris Henry
Andre Caldwell
B We're still waiting for a consistent second target to emerge in Cincinnati. Coles and Henry scored last week, while Caldwell was the team's top target in the opener. No need to worry about who's No. 2 this week, as the Steelers don't leave enough leftovers for a second viable fantasy starter.
DT Bengals S3 All of a sudden Antwaan Odom is a sack machine, and you know how the Steelers tend to surrender sacks. That would mark a dramatic departure from how this series has gone before; the Bengals have been sackless in three straight matchups with the Steelers, have just two in the past five meetings, and haven't scored a defensive or special teams touchdown against Pittsburgh since 2001.

Denver (2-0) at Oakland (1-1)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton S3

The Raiders shut out Jay Cutler the last time they faced Denver, limiting him to 204 yards in the process. Orton and the new-look Denver offense isn't nearly as vertical—or explosive. Oakland has allowed an average of 246 and 1 to Philip Rivers and Matt Cassel; Orton has averaged 253 and one in his first two games as a Bronco. There's nothing here to suggest anything sexier than 250 and one TD toss—which, in a non-bye week, is fringe fantasy starter material at best.


Knowshon Moreno
Correll Buckhalter
Peyton Hillis

U Last year the Broncos had five different backs carry at least six times in a game against the Raiders. Three of them scored, two of them topped 60 yards, and only one of them remains on the roster. The situation is only slightly more clear now, with three backs vying for touches. With Richard Seymour up front the Raiders are no longer a pushover in the ground game—though they haven't reached "shutdown D" levels just yet, not after allowing two touchdowns to the Chargers' backfield and an average of 172 yards from scrimmage to opposing backs. While Buckhalter and Hillis have been more productive—not to mention in the end zone at some point this season—it's Moreno who's received the most touches and sports the most upside. Of course, he also missed Friday's practice and is listed as questionable on this week's injury report. Ideally you can avoid this situation until roles are more defined, but if that's not an option there's a case to be made for any of these backs against Oakland.
WR Brandon Marshall
Eddie Royal

And you thought the Broncos backfield under Mike Shanahan was a mess. Erstwhile starters Royal and Marshall have the most targets (13 each)—but Royal has fewer catches than both Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney, both Royal and Marshall have less yardage combined than either Stokley or Gaffney, and the lone WR TD in Denver came on a flukey tip. In other words, don't expect anything remotely resembling Royal's 9-146-1 debut against Oakland in last year's opener. And until we see significantly more from either Marshall or Royal, neither can be started with any degree of confidence.

TE Tony Scheffler


It's been 14 games since the Raiders gave up a tight end touchdown—and that includes multiple matchups with Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez. You wanna bet Scheffler can go one catch for one touchdown like he did last week against the Browns, you're doing it on your own dime.

DT Broncos S3 It's not like JaMarcus Russell takes good care of the football, and with Elvis Dumervil on a role a sack/strip/score is a distinct possibility.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB JaMarcus Russell B

The Broncos haven't allowed a touchdown pass yet this season; Russell has one, but he's completing less than 40 percent of his passes. He threw three touchdowns in two matchups with Denver last year but didn't top 180 yards. None of this provides a compelling argument to throw Russell into your fantasy lineup.

RB Darren McFadden


Justin Fargas posted a pair of good games on the Broncos last year, but he's fallen behind McFadden and Bush in the pecking order. McFadden scored twice in the back half of the season series, gets a few more carries than Bush, and his work as a receiver gives him an additional advantage. But he's still barely usable given the split in carries and a Denver defense that held Cedric Benson to 71 yards and a score and Jamal Lewis to just 38 yards on 14 carries.

RB Michael Bush

Bush has upside, but the factors at play here—a minority share of the carries, a Denver defense that's not a walkover, McFadden's past success against the Broncos—conspire to keep him on fantasy benches.


Louis Murphy
Darrius Heyward-Bey
Todd Watkins

B Oakland wide receivers have a grand total of eight catches in two games. Murphy owns the lone touchdown as well as six of the eight grabs. Assuming he gets to know Champ Bailey up close and personal this week, that leaves the rest of the lot to go where Chad Ochocinco and Braylon Edwards couldn't. Don't like those odds one bit.
TE Zack Miller S3

Miller is without question the best pass catcher on the Raiders roster; he was also held without a reception last week by the Chiefs, who were one of the most tight end friendly defenses in the league in 2008. That's the kind of consistency you get with Russell at quarterback. The Broncos' "success" at shutting down tight ends this year (just three catches for 32 yards) is exaggerated given that the Bengals barely use a tight end and the Browns employ Robert Royal. Miller posted 4-34 and 5-79 games against Denver last year and should match or better those numbers this time around. Then again, it's still Russell throwing the ball in his general vicinity.

DT Raiders B There's upside in a Raiders special teams unit that has scores in two of their last four against Denver. But that's a reach, especially against a Denver team that ranks second in the NFL in turnover differential.

Indianapolis (2-0) at Arizona (1-1)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Peyton Manning S1

Manning has thrown for at least 300 yards in each of the last four games he's played the entire way. As if you needed fodder to play Peyton this week.

RB Joseph Addai
Donald Brown
B Addai starts, but it seems to be Brown who has the team's trust to handle the ball at the end of games. No matter; it's still a job share, and until one or the other emerges as a more consistent majority holder of the carries—and Indy's ground game proves productive enough to support even one fantasy starter—it's a situation you'd do best to avoid.
WR Reggie Wayne

Mike Sims-Walker (6-106-1) and what's left of Torry Holt (6-65) and Isaac Bruce (4-74) represent the best wideouts the Cardinals have seen thus far this year. Wait until they get a load of Wayne.

WR Pierre Garcon
B It's not that Garcon's game-winning TD catch Monday night wasn't impressive. It's just that Wayne is No. 1 and Clark is essentially No. 2 and there isn't always enough left over.
TE Dallas Clark S1

With Anthony Gonzalez out Clark is pretty much Indy's WR2. The Dolphins couldn't find a way to cover him, and he'll present similar matchup woes to an Arizona defense that let both a tight end (Marcedes Lewis) and a wide receiver (Mike Sims-Walker) score on them last week.

DT Colts B Indy's defense is still tired from playing more than 45 minutes against Miami. Arizona won't keep them on the field quite as long, but unless you get points for sacks there's no reason to give the Colts defense a second thought.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kurt Warner S2

Indy's pass defense has been airtight, allowing multiple passing touchdowns just once in the past 19 games. Warner hasn't been quite as sharp this season as he was last year, so dial your expectations back into the 250 and one or two range.

RB Tim Hightower
S3 This is still Hightower's gig, and if he gets the same 18 touches he's been receiving he should produce triple-digit yardage from scrimmage. While the expectation is that Wells' touches are trending upwards—perhaps sharply, as soon as this week given the opponent—Hightower won't be cut off completely. And against the Colts there should be plenty of running back stats for even a job share.
RB Chris Wells U With the standard game plan against Indy being to run the ball and control the clock, expect the seven carries per game Wells has been seeing to climb—maybe even double. And since the Colts are fresh off surrendering 235 rushing yards to the Dolphins, the increase in touches would provide Wells with the opportunity for his first big fantasy outing. However, there's risk associated with Wells' upside; if Arizona has to throw to play catch-up it will be Hightower on the field and not Wells. So he's an upside play, but hardly a sure thing.
WR Larry Fitzgerald

You're not benching Fitzy—not after watching Ted Ginn catch 11 balls for 108 yards and drop two touchdown passes against Indy on Monday night.

WR Anquan Boldin
S3 Even given Indy's passing game prowess, there should be something left for Boldin this week. The Colts' 2009 opponents—Jacksonville and Miami—don't go all that deep in their receiver rotation, but going back to last season Indy allowed fantasy helpers (touchdowns or at least 59 yards) to secondary receivers in five straight games. And since Boldin is more of a 1A than a pure 2, he belongs in the lineup.
WR Steve Breaston

To this point there's been enough to go around, but it's tough to go three deep against an Indy pass defense that's giving up just 116 wide receiver yards per game and has allowed only four WR TDs in the past 18 games. Especially after Breaston sat out Wednesday's practice, was limited on Thursday and Friday, and is listed as questionable.

DT Cardinals B If the Cardinals can keep Peyton Manning off the field for 45 minutes like the Dolphins did... nah, even that didn't work.

Carolina (0-2) at Dallas (1-1)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jake Delhomme S3 Delhomme topped 300 yards last week; more importantly, his only INT came late in the game on a fourth down where he had little choice but to force a throw. With the Cowboys having already given up 276 and 1 to Byron Leftwich and 330 and two to Eli Manning—and failing to pick either—it stands to reason that Delhomme should have similar success. It's tough to get too excited given that Carolina would rather run the ball, but both the Bucs and Giants employed plenty of runs with enough left over to pad their passing stats.

DeAngelo Williams

S2 Given their druthers, the Panthers would prefer to run the ball. The Bucs had significant success doing so against Dallas; the Giants weren't quite as productive, but they still matched Tampa Bay's 25 attempts. That's similar to the attempts afforded Carolina thus far this year, with Williams taking roughly 60% of the workload and putting it to good use with 190 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns. No reason to sit him here.

Jonathan Stewart

B Each of the Cowboys' past two opponents has used a two-headed backfield approach much like Carolina employs. The Bucs got two fantasy-worthy backs out of their matchup, while the Giants barely got one. And with Stewart still looking for his first score—his primary fantasy value—and getting the minority share of the touches, he's stuck in limbo. Given the uncertainty—not to mention that he sat out Thursday's practice and was limited on Friday, putting his availability for this Monday night tilt in question—best let him relocate the end zone before banking on him in your lineup.
WR Steve Smith S2

The Cowboys just allowed two receivers to top 100 yards and score, so Smith should have little difficulty putting up good fantasy numbers—just as long as Delhomme remembers which blue is the Carolina kind.

WR Muhsin Muhammad

Yes, it was just noted how the Giants had two wideouts go off last week. But Muhammy seems to settle in at four catches and 40-some yards. You'd have to be in a pretty big league for those numbers to help your fantasy squad, especially in a non-bye week.

DT Panthers B Conflicting trends at play: the Cowboys have served up three defensive touchdowns in their last three games, and four in their last six; the Panthers have but one defensive score in their past 17 games. Tony Romo can be mistake-prone, but it takes two to tango and right now Carolina is producing either the pressure or the play-making you want out of your fantasy defense.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

The Panthers have given up multiple touchdowns to both quarterbacks they've faced; Romo has multiple touchdowns in three of his last four outside the NFC East. So even if the Cowboys go heavy on the run there should still be a TD or two for Tony.

RB Marion Barber X

WIth this game slated for Monday night, unless you have the luxury of deciding between MB3 and one of his backfield mates it's unlikely you'll get the injury info you need in time to make your lineup decision. Obviously if Barber can play he'd make a good start against a Panther defense that's already allowed 290 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns to running backs. But the Cowboys have the depth at the position to cover for Barber, and even if he's deemed ready to play odds are he'll be limited anyway. Barber practice on a limited basis both Thursday and Friday, but it's extremely difficult to plan on him for Monday's action without all the necessary information.

RB Felix Jones
Tashard Choice

Even if MB3 were 100 percent, Jones would make a good play this week given the Panthers' struggles to stop the run. And Choice appears to be the Cowboys' pass-catching back, so he's a smart start against a Carolina defense that's already surrendered two RB receiving scores. Basically, if you have a Cowboy back you'll want to use him this week. And if you can wait it out until an official announcement on Barber's status, so much the better.

WR Roy Williams
Patrick Crayton

It's still unclear just who the Cowboys WR1 is. Crayton has the most yardage, Williams has seen the most balls, and all three (including Miles Austin) have scored. What is clear is that Jason Witten is Tony Romo's favorite target, so between his numbers and the ground game there isn't enough to make it worth your while trying to peg a WR1 this week.

TE Jason Witten S1

The Panthers have given up tight end touchdowns in each game this season—as if you needed a reason to plug Tony Romo's BFF into your fantasy lineup.

DT Cowboys S3 It's still Jake Delhomme, so there's still a good shot at a pick going the other way.

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