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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 4
John Tuvey
Updated: October 2, 2009
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Sunday Early
Sunday Early
Sunday Early
Sunday Late
Sunday Night
Bye Week
ARI, ATL,
Monday Night
CAR, PHI
 
   
 
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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)
 
 

Dallas (2-1) at Denver (3-0)

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Dallas
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S3

Denver hasn't allowed a touchdown pass this season, but before you get too impressed, consider that they ceded 247 yards to Carson Palmer in the opener and then shackled Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell. Romo should get his yardage, but whether he snaps that shutout string depends on the success of the ground game—and the red zone play calling.

RB Marion Barber
S2

Full practices on Thursday and Friday give MB3 the rare injury upgrade, as he's expected to start against the Broncos. And while Denver has held held Cedric Benson, Jamal Lewis, and the McFadden/Bush tandem to 3.1 yards per carry and one total touchdown, you have to believe this line can clear at least as much room as the Bengals did for Benson. There's a little risk involved, as Barber could aggravate the injury, but with options limited due to the bye week a little MB3 is as good a play as a lot of many other backs.

RB Tashard Choice S3

Choice should see plenty of work as a pass catcher and change of pace to Barber. Currently the Cowboys' backfield is producing enough numbers for two fantasy helpers, and there's also the possibility that Choice takes a larger share of the workload if MB3 aggravates his quad injury.

RB Felix Jones B

Dr. Jerry Jones ruled Felix out for this week's tilt with a knee injury.

WR Roy Williams
Patrick Crayton
Miles Austin
B

All three Cowboy wideouts scored in the opener against Tampa; since then, they've combined for 11 catches, 168 yards, and no scores in two games. Denver hasn't let a wideout score on them yet this season, though both Chad Ochocinco (5-89) and Braylon Edwards (6-92) posted decent yardage numbers. That provides mild optimism for Roy Williams, who is of similar physical stature and has accounted for more than half of Dallas' wideout yardage the past two games—though not enough optimism to warrant a start.

TE Jason Witten S2

The list of tight ends the Broncos have held in check thus far is far from impressive and doesn't include anyone of Witten's ilk. He's a solid start in TE-mandatory leagues but only borderline in WR/TE combo leagues given the overall prowess of Denver's pass defense.

DT Cowboys B Dallas pick-sixed Jake Delhomme last week, which is about as impressive as dunking on Verne Troyer. If the Cowboys were generating a pass rush we'd be more inclined to nudge them into starter status, but we haven't seen much as of yet.
Denver
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton B

Orton is unlikely to give you multiple touchdowns, and while the Cowboys have been yardage-friendly they're unlikely to cede more than one scoring strike as well. That puts Orton in that 240-and-one limbo that might be enough for a start in larger leagues but most likely lands him on the fantasy pine.

RB

Knowshon Moreno
Correll Buckhalter
Peyton Hillis


B There were enough carries for everybody last week; don't expect a similar luxury against the Cowboys, who held two of the NFC's more vaunted ground games—Carolina and the Giants—to 14-63-0 and 25-95-0 the past two weeks. And even if there is an abundance of stats, it's still being split at least two ways with Hillis taking goal line touches off the top.
WR Brandon Marshall
S3

Extremely mild upside here, as Marshall has been the Broncos' most targeted receiver in two of the three games and holds the overall team lead in both targets and catches. He presents the same sort of physical challenges that let Michael Clayton and Muhsin Muhammad lead their team in receiving against the Cowboys. It's faint praise, but with the talent pool depleted by the bye week you have to assume a little risk.

WR Eddie Royal
Brandon Stokley
Jabar Gaffney
B

That Royal is being lumped in with fantasy rabble like Stokley and Gaffney should tell you all you need to know. Dallas isn't leaving enough for secondary targets to produce numbers of note, and this trio is being targeted so inconsistently as to render all of them unusable.

TE Tony Scheffler


B

The Cowboys have surrendered tight end touchdowns in two of three games this season. If Bronco tight ends were being targeted more than four times a game—and if Scheffler wasn't sharing looks with Daniel Graham—we might be able to muster an S3.

DT Broncos B Aside from Romo's propensity to make the occasional dumb play, there's no compelling reason to insert the Broncos defense here.
 

St. Louis (0-3) at San Francisco (2-1)

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St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Boller
B

This is a different offense and a different quarterback than the one the Rams used to produce 522 passing yards and two TD tosses in last year's season series. And neither is an upgrade anyway. Boller will make his first start as a Ram, while Bulger will at best be the third quarterback.

RB Steven Jackson
S3

Jackson missed the first meeting with San Francisco last year, but he made up for it in the rematch with 108 yards on 32 carries. He's posted back-to-back hundos against the Redskins and Packers, but he's still looking for his first score of the season. It won't be easy to come by against a defense that held Adrian Peterson to 85 yards and no score last week and has allowed just 198 rushing yards through three games.

WR Donnie Avery

B

This isn't the same vertical offense that produced 149 yards in Avery's two games against San Francisco last season. Worse, the Niners have already faced Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, and Nate Burleson—and held them to a combined 198 yards and one total touchdown. This passing game needs to prove itself sans Laurent Robinson (and even Marc Bulger) before any of its members get a start recommendation.

TE Daniel Fells
B

Had to put Fells in here because it's possible you saw his two-TD outburst and thought, what the heck. At a minimum the Niners now know who he is and won't attempt to cover (or not cover, as it were) him in the same manner the Packers did. And seeing as tight ends have a total of eight catches for 68 yards against the 49ers this season, we've already wasted too much of your time talking about a guy who won't do squat this week.

DT Rams B Talk about wasting too much of your time; move along already.
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Shaun Hill S3

Every quarterback the Rams have faced has thrown for at least 242 yards, and two of the three have tossed multiple touchdowns. Hill hasn't had to work that hard yet this season, settling in at the 200-yard, 1-2 TD level, but this matchup at least provides the upside for more—like, say, the 216 and two Hill posted against the Rams in Week 16 of last year.

RB Glen Coffee S2

Coffee was extremely underwhelming in relief of Frank Gore last week, averaging just over two yards per carry and being stopped for no gain or worse on 40 percent of his touches. That was against the Vikings; this week he'll be the bread-and-butter guy against a defense that's giving up 120 rushing yards per game.

WR Isaac Bruce
Josh Morgan
B No Niners wideout has caught more than four balls in a game. Or scored. So despite the friendly matchup there's no fantasy help here.
TE Vernon Davis S2

Green Bay largely ignored its tight ends last week, but prior to that the Rams surrendered 95 yards and two scores to John Carlson and 83 yards to Chris Cooley. That makes San Fran's most targeted receiver a solid fantasy option—especially coming off a two-touchdown effort.

DT 49ers S3 They block kicks, they're coached by Mike Singletary, and they face Kyle Boller. That at least adds up to a spot start if your regular defense is on the bye.
 

San Diego (2-1) at Pittsburgh (1-2)

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San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

The Chargers didn't have LT in the playoffs last season, and Rivers threw for 308 yards. There's a chance Tomlinson will be back for this prime time showdown, but against a stout Steeler run defense this should once again be Rivers' show. He has 991 yards in three games already and should find success against a Pittsburgh secondary that will most likely be without Troy Polamalu for a third straight game.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
S3 Tomlinson practiced fully all week and is expected to start this week against the Steelers. The possibility of a Sunday night no-show appears slim, but it's tough to see this iteration of LT doing a whole lot against a defense that's already held some pretty good backs to a total of 208 yards and one touchdown through three games.
RB Darren Sproles
S3 Sproles simply isn't a feature back; his 2.4 yards per carry this season support that theory—and that's an upgrade from his 1.4 ypc against the Steelers in last year's playoffs. No, where Sproles makes his hay is as a pass catcher. He housed a 62-yard reception against Pittsburgh last year and has twice the yardage in less than half the touches as a receiver. So he's usable in PPR leagues but most likely bench fodder in any other format.
WR Vincent Jackson
S2

Jackson scored against Pittsburgh in the playoff game last year and has tallies in two of the first three tilts this year—and an equal number of 100-yard outings as well. No. 1 receivers haven't blown up the Steelers, but Justin Gage scored and Chad Ochocinco had 55 yards. And with Rivers operating at the level he's currently at, Jackson is as good a bet as any to be on the business end of one of his strikes.

WR Chris Chambers
Legedu Naanee
Malcolm Floyd
B We keep adding names to the Chargers' No. 2 receiver column because every week a different guy steps up. But none of them seem to follow up with a second worthwhile set of numbers. And against the Steelers, it's unlikely any secondary option will post stats that warrant fantasy attention.
TE Antonio Gates S2

Gates remains San Diego's most consistent option in the passing game. He put up 5-59 in the playoff game and has at least that in every game thus far this year, so plug him into your lineup with confidence.

DT Chargers B Were Shawne Merriman healthy enough to apply pressure to Ben Roethlisberger the Bolts might be worthy of consideration. As it stands, however, you can find better options.
Pittsburgh
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S3

With the Steelers struggling to run the ball this year, Big Ben has had to take on more of the offensive workload; he's only thrown one TD in each of the three games this season, but he's averaging 285 yards per contest. The Chargers' secondary won't be as forgiving, limiting Roethlisberger's fantasy upside

RB Willie Parker
B

Parker didn't practice all week and is not expected to play; this being a Sunday night game, unless you have the luxury of deciding between Parker and Mendenhall or Moore, it's far too risky to plug him into your fantasy lineup.

RB Rashard Mendenhall
Mewelde Moore
S3

With Parker out, Mendenhall is expected to get the start. There's risk using a guy who has demonstrated little in limited action, but the Chargers have given up at least 123 rushing yards and a running back touchdown to every team they've faced this season. Additionally, West Coast teams tend to struggle when jumping time zones. Moore would stand to be the beneficiary of about 60 or so running back receiving yards per game, so he's usable in larger PPR leagues as well.

WR Santonio Holmes
Hines Ward
S2

The touchdowns San Diego has allowed to Louis Murphy and Kelley Washington suggest they're susceptible to speed—and yet they held Holmes to two catches for 25 yards in last year's playoff game while Ward caught four balls for 70 yards. With the running game in disarray this game may hinge on Pittsburgh's passing, so both Holmes and Ward should remain in fantasy lineups.

WR Mike Wallace
B

Tough to go so deep as to include rookie Mike Wallace in that mix, despite his 102-yard effort last week, as the Chargers are allowing less than 90 yards per game to wideouts.

TE Heath Miller
S3

Miller scored in last year's playoff game and has upside against a Chargers defense that has already allowed 96 yards to Zach Miller and a TD grab to Todd Heap.

DT Steelers S3 You can't bench the Steel Curtain at home, especially when they're facing a team that's 2-14 against them lifetime.
 

Green Bay (2-1) at Minnesota (3-0)

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Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S3

Rodgers is rounding into the form he flashed in the preseason, but this matchup doesn't look all that promising for him. He mustered just 320 yards and one touchdown in last season's series, and his offensive line looks overmatched against the Vikings' front four. The only upside is that Green Bay might struggle to run against the Vikings, leaving Rodgers to carry the water for the Packers offense.

RB

Ryan Grant

S3

Grant has had success against the Vikings, compiling 167 yards (at almost six yards a pop) and a touchdown in last season's series. He's looked good thus far, with 206 yards and two scores in three games, and has the track record to ward off the "don't start" fears generally associated with backs facing the Williams Wall.

WR Greg Jennings
Donald Driver

S3

Both Jennings and Driver are having success this season, but the Vikings have thus far held every receiver they've faced to 51 yards or less and a total of one touchdown; then again, they've faced the Browns, Lions, and 49ers. Jennings had a nice 5-91 in last year's opener against the Vikings but followed up with a 3-37 in the rematch; Driver was more consistent with 4-38 and 5-46. Both have earned a spot in most fantasy lineups, and while Minnesota's defense is formidable it shouldn't force you to bench either.

TE Jermichael Finley
Donald Lee
U If the Pack had a primary pass-catching tight end, they'd be a great play against a Vikings defense that just let Vernon Davis beat them up and already ceded 4-60-1 to Robert Royal. As it stands, either Finley or Lee would make a serviceable plug-in play if the bye week has left you strapped for a tight end.
DT Packers S3 C'mon, you think the Pack doesn't want to pick six Brett Favre in the worst way?
Minnesota
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S3

Well, isn't this interesting. Favre demonstrated last week why the Vikings brought him in, picking up the offense when the Niners stymied the ground game and then producing the miracle finish he's made routine but Vikings fans haven't seen since the days of Two-Minute Tommy Kramer 20 years ago. You'd expect the Vikings to revert to the original recipe of asking Favre for 200 yards and a touchdown or two—but this is Monday night, prime time, and Favre against his former employer of 16 years. Everybody's expecting something spectacular—and the Gunslinger showed last week he can still deliver.

RB Adrian Peterson S1

There is nothing in the 141 yards the Packers surrendered to Cedric Benson or the 117 Steven Jackson rushed for last week to suggest Peterson is anything less than his usual outstanding start this week. Come to think of it, AP's 103 and 1 in the first meeting with Green Bay and his 192 and 1 in the rematch pretty much drive that point home.

RB Chester Taylor B

Taylor is averaging five catches a game and scored on a reception in last season's series with the Pack. He's usable in larger PPR leagues, but this should be the AP and Favre show with little left over for the supporting cast.

WR Percy Harvin
S2

Harvin is part Cris Carter (all he does is score touchdowns), part Devin Hester (witness last week's 101-yard kickoff return), and quickly developing into Favre's favorite red zone target. If any supporting actor will be stealing scenes from Favre and Peterson on Monday night football, it's bound to be the rookie.

WR Bernard Berrian
Sidney Rice
B

With Harvin as the go-to guy in the red zone, the rest of the Minnesota receiving corps is battling for leftovers. Last week it was Rice on a crisp skinny post for a touchdown; one day, maybe this week, it will be Berrian on a deep fly. Rice scored in both matchups with the Packers last season, but that was with Tarvaris Jackson and Gus Frerotte at quarterback. With limited touches trickling to this portion of the offense, there's no consistent fantasy play to be found.

TE Vishante Shiancoe B

Harvin is stealing Shiancoe's short-game looks, and it's cutting significantly into his fantasy value. Shank has just 11 targets this season, and assuming the Packers have corrected the coverage flaws that left Daniel Fells running unattended through the secondary last week there's no compelling reason to reach for Shiancoe this week.

DT Vikings S2

Between the Harvin-led return game and the Jared Allen-led pass rush, the Vikings have ways to score even when Favre's wearing a baseball cap.

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