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Start/Bench List - Week 4
John Tuvey
Updated: October 2, 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)
Detroit (1-2) at Chicago (2-1) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford

The Bears are ceding a little more yardage each week, but they still haven't surrendered a multiple-passing touchdown game. Stafford is getting a little better each week, but he's still looking for his first multiple-passing touchdown game. At least he didn't toss a pick last week. With four fantasy regulars on the bye, the 230 and 1 you'll get from Stafford this week narrowly puts him on the start side of the ledger.

RB Kevin Smith

Jim Schwartz certainly has already mastered the NFL coaches guide for injury misinformation, as he's indicated Smith's availability for this week's game spans the spectrum from being inactive on Sunday to playing without restrictions. Smith was limited in practice all week and didn't partake of any contact; he'll be a game-time decision, so plug him into your fantasy lineup at your own peril.

RB Maurice Morris
Aaron Brown

Morris and Brown would be in line for touches if Smith can't go. And while Smith could be trusted with a start against a Bears defense that just let Julius Jones amass 136 yards from scrimmage and a TD, nothing in the matching 2.5 yards per carry compiled by Morris and Brown suggest they're capable of the same.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

The Bears have struggled with receivers capable of getting deep; Greg Jennings, Santonio Holmes, and Nate Burleson have combined for 20 catches, 298 yards, and the lone WR TD Chicago has allowed. It's not as if you were going to bench Calvin, and here's a little optimism that he'll get his this weekend.

WR Bryant Johnson B

Bryant was targeted more frequently than Calvin last week. However, the Bears have been susceptible to the long ball while clamping down on the underneath stuff (Donald Driver, Hines Ward, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh have 14-131-0, in contrast to the deep ball numbers above), suggesting that you stick with the more talented Johnson rather than chase last week's touchdown.

TE Brandon Pettigrew B

Pettigrew has done nothing of note thus far in his NFL career, and it's unlikely he'll start to turn that around against a Bears defense that has allowed a total of 88 yards to tight ends through the first three games.

DT Lions B Detroit has gone nine games without a defensive touchdown, and while Jay Cutler is certainly capable of throwing a pick six it's an unlikelihood this week.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S2

Cutler has at least 236 passing yards in each of his three games as a Bear, with increasing touchdown totals every step of the way. No reason that run ends against a defense that's allowed multiple touchdown tosses in five straight and 300-plus passing yards in five of the last six.

RB Matt Forte

The 2.5 yards per carry average is disheartening, but the Lions are happy to throw a bone to suffering Forte owners. Detroit is giving up an average of 165 combo yards and one touchdown per game to opposing backs, and with Forte accounting for roughly 80 percent of the Bears' backfield touches this should be a "kiss and make up" weekend with all those frustrated fantasy owners.


Devin Hester
Johnny Knox

S2 Any opposing receiver is a good bet against a secondary that's ceded 562 yards and five WR TDs through three games, but Hester and Knox in particular pose a serious threat. The Lions have struggled mightily against speed receivers; Devery Henderson, Percy Harvin, and Santana Moss all have touchdowns against Detroit, and both Henderson and Moss topped 100 yards. It's not difficult seeing both Hester and Knox tallying long TDs this week.

Earl Bennett


Since being targeted 13 times in the opener, Bennett has been thrown to a total of six times. Meanwhile, Cutler has recalibrated his radar to include Forte and Greg Olsen—both of whom have been targeted six times each of the past two games. That makes Bennett the fifth option in the Chicago passing game, and while a matchup with the Lions could provide the opportunity for good numbers he's queued up behind too many others to bank on.

TE Greg Olsen


Tight ends haven't been piling up gaudy yardage against the Lions—Chris Cooley's 38 last week was the most this year—but Detroit has served up three TE TDs. And with Olsen back on Cutler's radar, he's worth a start in TE-mandatory leagues.

DT Bears S3 Chicago's defense has been more than adequate sans Brian Urlacher, and they will be hosting a rookie quarterback...
Seattle (1-2) at Indianapolis (3-0) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Seneca Wallace B A backup quarterback on the road against a banged-up Colts defense that continues to defy logic by posting shutdown numbers—the latest against Kurt Warner, holding the vaunted Cardinals to one passing touchdown—does not a good fantasy matchup make.
QB Matt Hasselbeck B While Hass hasn't officially been ruled out of this one, he's considered very doubtful and was limited to light throwing on the side during the week.
RB Julius Jones

Teams that have tried to run the ball against the Colts have had success doing so. And Jones has found the end zone in three straight games as well as rushed for 117 and 98 yards when given 19 carries. The only fly in this ointment would be the Colts racing to a big lead and putting Seattle in pass mode. But Jones is still involved enough in the passing game that he offsets that risk and makes a decent fantasy play this week.

RB Justin Forsett

The same fly mentioned above could garner Forsett some additional playing time. However, Forsett wasn't targeted at all last week. And Indy hasn't allowed a RB receiving touchdown in eight straight games, and given up just one in their last 27 tilts.


T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Nate Burleson


Burleson has been targeted double-digit times in each of the team's three games; while that hasn't necessarily translated to scoring against the Colts—four receivers have been targeted at least 10 times against Indy, and while each has produced at least 76 yards only one has scored. Housh has underwhelmed to this point, but he's been targeted nine times in each game and will also have his chances. It's worth noting that Houshmandzadeh hasn't scored on 18 catches in four career meetings with the Colts.

TE John Carlson
S3 Carlson will get his looks (26 through the first three games), but expectations should be subdued. You have to go back to Week 7 of 2008 to find the last time the Colts gave up a TE TD (none this year and one in the past 23 games) and Week 8 of 2007 for the last time a tight end topped 55 yards against them. He's still a starter in TE-mandatory leagues given the bye-week thinned talent pool, but don't reach for him in WR/TE combo leagues.
DT Seahawks B Peyton Manning and the Colts don't offer the opportunities for defensive scores.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Peyton Manning S1

Manning has doubled his TD totals each week this year, so eight shouldn't surprise you—especially against a banged-up Seattle defense that just gave up three to Jay Cutler. Oh, and Peyton has thrown for 300 yards in every game this year.

RB Joseph Addai
Donald Brown
S3 Addai is still narrowly out-touching (15-11 per game) and outscoring (two to one) Brown, but the rookie is averaging 70 combo yards (to Addai's 62). So there's the potential for numbers here—Seattle held Steven Jackson and Matt Forte in check at home but was lit up on the road by Frank Gore—but they'll be split down the middle. It's not a bad matchup, but it's certainly not an ideal situation.
WR Reggie Wayne

Wayne already has two 120-yard games this year, and a secondary that gave up 80-plus yards to Earl Bennett and Laurent Robinson and touchdowns to Devin Hester and Johnny Knox doesn't seem up to the challenge of preventing a third.

WR Pierre Garcon
S3 Manning has hooked up with Garcon for touchdowns in consecutive games. There was more than enough to go around in the passing game last week against Chicago, and there should be at least enough this week for Garcon to be startable on a bye week.
TE Dallas Clark S1

Clark has 14 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the last two games and is essentially the Colts' No. 2 receiver. You're not benching him, especially against a defense that just surrendered 5-44-1 to Greg Olson last week.

DT Colts B The Indy D hasn't done anything to warrant fantasy attention, and there's less chance that will change with Dwight Freeney out of the lineup.

Tennessee (0-3) at Jacksonville (1-2)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kerry Collins S3

The Jags have been beat up through the air, but they've also faced some pretty good quarterbacks: Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Matt Schaub. Collins threw for three touchdowns against Jacksonville last year and has been adequate this year so he doesn't need to be benched. But even in the first bye week of the year, it's likely you'll have a better option at your disposal.

RB Chris Johnson S2

Johnson rolled up 215 combo yards and a TD in last season's series despite getting slightly less than 60 percent of the touches. Now he's getting closer to 75 percent of the workload and is averaging a touchdown and better than 150 yards from scrimmage per game, and a matchup with a defense that's allowing 138 yards and a touchdown to opposing backs doesn't appear poised to slowing him down.

RB LenDale White S3

There's no question White is the lesser half of the Titans' backfield, and it's unlikely he'll get the 14 or 15 carries he got in the two games against Jacksonville last year. So he'll need to get his numbers in 10 or fewer touches. He looked like the finisher of old on his TD run against the Jets last week, and since he's still the goal line guy he should get at least a chance or two to close a drive this week, making him a fringe fantasy starter. While LenDale was sidelined by an illness earlier in the week, he returned Friday for a full practice and is expected to play Sunday.

WR Justin Gage
Nate Washington
S3 Gage ruined the Jaguars to the tune of 4-147-2 in the second meeting last year (the one not quarterbacked by Vince Young). You'd think the Jags would learn, but the fact that Reggie Wayne took them for 10-162-1 in the opener and Kevin Walter had 7-96-1 last week suggests maybe they don't learn so well. Washington has scored in back-to-back games and may be grappling with Gage for No. 1 receiver stats. There's no compelling reason to leave either on your fantasy bench this week.
TE Alge Crumpler
B Tennessee tight ends are consistently producing in the neighborhood of four catches for 40 yards, so a repeat of Bo Scaife's 6-105 from last season's first meeting is unlikely.
DT Titans B The Titans beat Jacksonville 24-17 back in Week 15 of 2006 using three defensive touchdowns; in the 37 games since then the Jags have served up a total of three defensive scores, none of them against Tennessee. The Titans have done nothing thus far this year to live up to their rep as a playmaking D, so you should look for alternatives this week.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard S3

Garrard's game and role in the offense is closer to that of Mark Sanchez (171 and two against the Titans) than that of either Matt Schaub (357 and four) or Ben Roethlisberger (363 and one). Garrard tends to put up better numbers at home, but he hasn't posted a solid fantasy game against the Titans since a three-TD affair back in 2006. He gets an S3 because the Tennessee secondary is reeling this year, but it's a tepid recommendation.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew

You're not sitting MoJo, but you should have some trepidations rolling him out against a Titans' D that's allowing 77 yards from scrimmage per game to opposing backs. Jones-Drew has had his dogs against Tennessee (50 yards, 60 yards, 85 yards), but he's also had his successes (93 and two, 129 and one, 145 and 1). The good news is, he has one of each each year; the bad news is, this being the first meeting between the teams you don't know which it will be. At least if he lays an egg you'll know you can ride him in Week 8.


Torry Holt
Mike Sims-Walker

S3 Right now receivers with pulses are good starts against the Titans; through three games Tennessee has allowed five WR TDs, and four different wideouts have posted 100-yard games. Sims-Walker and Holt would be fighting history, as "big games" for Jag receivers in this series have been of the 6-80 (Matt Jones, 2008), 2-55-1 (John Broussard, 2007) and 3-45-2 (Ernest Wilford, 2006) ilk. But there's no compelling reason to keep either Jag receiver on your bench against the early 2009 version of Tennessee's secondary.

Marcedes Lewis

U If you're purely playing the matchup, Lewis is usable against the Titans; only two teams have allowed more TE TDs, and only four have surrendered more yardage to the big fellas. But Lewis is averaging just over two catches on just over four targets per game, so there's some significant risk involved.
DT Jaguars B

The Titans play a relatively conservative brand of football, and the Jags aren't making much happen on defense. You can do better for a fantasy helper.


New York Giants (3-0) at Kansas City (0-3)

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New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S2

The only compelling argument for sitting Eli this week is that the running game will do so much of the heavy lifting there won't be enough left over. The only two non-JaMarcus Russell quarterbacks KC has faced have thrown for 300-plus yards and multiple touchdowns.

RB Brandon Jacobs

It might not be quite as out of hand as Week 7 of last year, when Chris Johnson rushed for 168 and one and LenDale White kicked in 149 and three. But the Chiefs have already been two-times by the Ravens (McGahee two TDs, Rice 108 rushing yards), and the Giants just turned that trick on the Bucs last week with Bradshaw rushing for 104 yards and Jacobs scoring (along with 92 yards of his own). So it very well could be as out of hand.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw S3

Bradshaw is a great fantasy play, assuming he actually plays. He spent Wednesday and Thursday in a protective boot, then returned to limited action on Friday. Tom Coughlin indicated "there's a good chance" he'll play, but that's still a little too much risk for an S2. If, however, he's active on Sunday you can assume he'll get his usual workload—which, against a defense like KC's, makes for a very nice fantasy start.

WR Steve Smith


Smith and Manningham continue to be consistently targeted; Smith also continues to be consistently productive and is the safest fantasy play in the Giants' passing game.

WR Mario Manningham


Meanwhile Manningham is a bit more of a big-play kind of guy—you know, like DeSean Jackson's 64-yard touchdown last week. There's a little more risk to using him this week, but there's also plenty of upside. Also keep in mind that Hakeem Nicks is expected to return to action this week as well, bringing another cook into the kitchen.

TE Kevin Boss U

Both opponents with competent quarterbacks scored TE TDs against KC. But this is a classic case of "It's not you, it's me"; Boss has been targeted just nine times in three games and ranks behind the running game and the wideouts in the Giants' offensive pecking order.

DT Giants S1 The Giants couldn't extend their string of games with a defensive TD to three last week, but they did pitch a shutout against Tampa Bay. They'll provide plenty of problems for a Chiefs' offense that has line issues and a banged-up passing game.
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel

Tough to like the chances of a quarterback with a bum knee behind a sieve-like offensive line against a team with a defensive line like the Giants. Doesn't help that New York has allowed only two passing touchdowns this season and an average of 132 passing yards per game.

RB Larry Johnson


Dallas had success running the ball against the Giants, but the Redskins struggled and the Buccaneers gave up entirely. A rushing touchdown is unlikely, at at LJ's current 2.5 yards per carry it will take close to 30 before he reaches fantasy relevancy; at present he's averaging 18 per game.

WR Dwayne Bowe X

Bowe practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday, even taking snaps with the first team. Todd Haley's rule is that you have to practice Friday to play Sunday, and Bowe's met that criteria; it's also worth noting that during the brief Haley regime no player who's missed a Wednesday practice (like Bowe did) has played that Sunday. If Bowe goes he's an okay start, but the decision on if he plays or not likely won't be made until game time.

WR Mark Bradley
Bobby Wade


Bradley and Wade scratched out a couple touchdowns in Bowe's absence last week, but the Giants haven't given up a WR TD yet this season. In fact, only one wide receiver has even topped 25 yards against them. Desperate owners in larger PPR leagues could look to Wade, who has eight catches in two games.

DT Chiefs B KC gave up 34 points to Philly's backups last week; don't expect them to fare any better against the Giants' regulars.

Tampa Bay (0-3) at Washington (1-2)

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Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh Johnson B

Tampa Bay's woes can't all be heaped on the shoulders of Byron Leftwich, but quarterbacks and coaches tend to be the fall guys so Leftwich got the hook last week and Johnson will make his first NFL start here. The Redskins held Eli Manning, Marc Bulger, and Matthew Stafford to one TD toss each and Manning's 256 yards was the high water mark, so there doesn't project to be much upside for Johnson and the Bucs' passing game here.

RB Carnell Williams


The Bucs ran all over Dallas in the opener, but since then they've been awful. They may get a boost from a Redskins run defense that let Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combine for 106 yards before ceding 100-yard individual efforts to Steven Jackson and Kevin Smith and may be without Albert Haynesworth. While Derrick Ward received more touches last week he's not expected to play here, leaving Caddy to share some touches with Earnest Graham but most likely take the lion's share himself.

RB Derrick Ward


Ward did not practice all week, and while he's officially listed as questionable he is not expected to play against the Redskins.

WR Antonio Bryant
Michael Clayton
Sammie Stroughter

The Skins have allowed a WR TD in each game this season, but there may not be a Buc willing to claim it. Bryant remains hobbled by a knee injury—officially he's listed as questionable—and Clayton has been largely unproductive; Stroughter was the most productive Tampa wideout last week and may have a bond with Johnson formed from working with the scout team.

TE Kellen Winslow

Winslow has been the most targeted Buccaneer receiver, and if you subscribe to the theory that young quarterbacks tend to lean on their tight ends he could see even more action now that Johnson is at the helm. He'll be battling a Redskins defense that hasn't allowed a tight end touchdown yet this season, but of all the members of the Buccaneer offense he seems to have the most upside.

DT Buccaneers B The Bucs' defense has been so bad the Tampa-2 changed its name.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jason Campbell S3

Campbell found last week's matchup with the Lions to his favor; he should be equally pleased with a home date against a Buccaneers defense that's given up multiple touchdown tosses in every game this season.

RB Clinton Portis X Portis took no reps in practice this week and is listed as questionable, which Jim Zorn clarified to mean "50-50" for Sunday's game. Zorn also indicated he's "leaning towards playing him" but he also has to think about Portis' availability for the long haul. Shouldn't Zorn be worried about winning now in case there is no long haul? If Portis is active he's a good play against a bad Bucs defense—but he's also a risk, capable of laying an egg against a soft opponent like he did last week against the Lions.
RB Ladell Betts


Keep Betts on speed dial; if Portis is inactive, Ladell is your friend with benefits for the weekend.

WR Santana Moss


Tampa Bay has already allowed seven wide receiver touchdowns this season. Moss was targeted more than all the other Redskin WRs combined last week, so don't reach any further down the depth chart.

TE Chris Cooley S3

Either the Bucs have done a great job blanketing tight ends this year... or teams have had so much success running the ball and throwing deep they haven't had to turn to their tight ends. Cooley's still a solid start in TE-mandatory leagues but iffy in WR/TE combo leagues.

DT Redskins B Another start against an inexperienced quarterback; you'd like to think the Redskins could do more defensively, but thus far they've been devoid of playmakers.

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