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Start/Bench List - Week 5
John Tuvey
Updated: October 9, 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)
Cincinnati (3-1) at Baltimore (3-1) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S3

The Ravens have given up 694 yards to Philip Rivers and Tom Brady on the road; in Baltimore, they've held Brodie Croyle, Brady Quinn, and Derek Anderson to 303. Palmer's closer to the former than the latter, but his current production (211 yards per game) and track record against the Ravens (198 per game over his last five, with just four TDs in that span) don't provide much cause for optimism. The Bengals aren't likely to run the ball well, so Palmer should put up adequate numbers out of necessity.

RB Cedric Benson

If you're an optimist you'll note that Benson found the end zone against the vaunted Steel Curtain just a fortnight ago. If you're a pessimist, however, you have significantly more hooks on which to hang your hat. The Ravens haven't allowed a running back rushing score in Baltimore since Week 17 of 2007 and haven't surrendered triple-digit rushing yardage to a team's worth of running backs in any of their last 13 home games. Benson mustered just 74 yards against the woeful Browns last week. Need a tie-breaker? Benson rushed 10 times for 17 yards in their last meeting. He was limited during the week by a hip injury but practiced fully on Friday; care to guess where Ray Lewis will be targeting?

WR Chad Ochocinco


Ochocinco has just one score in his last six dates with the Ravens and hasn't reached the century mark in yardage since his monster 10-161-2 outing back in 2004. But he's being targeted nine times a game and has scored in both of Cincy's road games, while Baltimore has let three of four No. 1 receivers they've faced find the end zone.

WR Laveranues Coles
Andre Caldwell
B Baltimore has blanked secondary receivers thus far this year, giving up a total of 24 catches and 316 yards through four games. That's six catches and 80 yards a game for Coles and Caldwell to split—not nearly enough to make either a viable fantasy play this week.
DT Bengals S3 With defensive scores in their last two games—and two of their last four against the Ravens—the surprising Cincy D makes an intriguing plug-in play this week.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco S2

Flacco is averaging 325 and two in front of the home crowd this year, and he threw for 280 and two in his most recent game against the Bengals. But this isn't a rollover D; Cincy hasn't allowed multiple passing TDs in a game since Peyton Manning turned the trick in Week 14 of last year. There's little question there will be enough yardage here, and a strong probability there will be a second TD toss elevate Flacco to solid starter status.

RB Willis McGahee

You're not going to bench the NFL's leading TD producer, but expectations must be tempered against a Bengals defense that's allowed just two RB scores in four games and isn't giving up enough yardage for Rice's spillover to salvage McGahee's stat line.

RB Ray Rice


Rice makes a slightly better fantasy play than McGahee based on him getting five more touches (for 40 more yards) per game than Willis, as well as Cincinnati's propensity to bend but not break in allowing 403 RB yards from scrimmage the past two games but just one TD—and a receiving one at that, a portion of the offense that's as much Rice's milieu as it is McGahee's.

WR Derrick Mason
Mark Clayton


Cincy has had success shutting down opposing No. 1's. Brandon Marshall's 4-27 is the best game by a primary receiver against the Bengals; Santonio Holmes had one catch for 18 yards and both Greg Jennings and Braylon Edwards were shut out. Doesn't mean wideouts haven't put up numbers, though: Donald Driver (6-99-1), Mike Wallace (7-102), Hines Ward (4-82) and Mohamed Massaquoi (8-148) have all fared well. Is Mason a true No. 1? He has the best numbers among Ravens wideouts, but Clayton has had bigger days against the Bengals (5-164-1 last year and 8-107 in 2007). In Baltimore's balanced offense both should get theirs—maybe not to the extent of the second meeting last season, when Mason's 6-91-1 paired with Clayton's aforementioned big day, but both are solid fantasy options nonetheless.

WR Kelley Washington

This is the second straight revenge game for Washington, who scored nine touchdowns in four seasons with Cincinnati. He put up 4-31 against the Patriots after spending two years in New England; can we double those numbers in this revenge matchup based on time of service? Probably not, but he's a serviceable plug-in play given the way the Ravens are throwing the ball around now.


Todd Heap

S2 Heap has at least four catches in seven of his last eight against the Bengals, and though he's only scored in one of the last six that TD came in the most recent meeting. Heap's resurgence has seen him catch at least four balls in three of four games this season, with two scores already, and there's no reason to expect a stumble against a Cincy D that's giving up six catches and 54 yards per game to the position and just let Steve Heiden find the end zone last week.
DT Ravens S3 Baltimore has a defense or special teams touchdown in each of the past three season series with Cincinnati, and their defensive TD last week indicates this is still a group to fear.
Cleveland (0-4) at Buffalo (1-3) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Derek Anderson

Anderson has done little to merit fantasy consideration, and there's no strong trend on the Buffalo side (they shut out Drew Brees one week after giving up three touchdowns to Byron Leftwich) that suggests you risk Plan B from a bad team in a week where his best receiver was just traded away.

RB Jerome Harrison


Fifty-five touches over the past two games; yeah, Eric Mangini is getting Harrison a few more looks than he saw last year. Harrison has been moderately productive, but that should spike against a Buffalo defense that's been gouged by opposing running backs for 214 and 216 rushing yards—as well as three RB TDs each game—the past two weeks.

RB Jamal Lewis


Lewis was limited earlier in the week but practiced fully on Friday. He's listed as questionable, and there's a mild possibility he returns to the lineup to bogart a share of the touches this week. Not mild enough to get him off your fantasy bench, though.

WR Mohamed Massaquoi

Just one of the six passing touchdowns the Bills have surrendered has gone to a wideout. But with Braylon Edwards now a Jet, who else is Anderson going to throw to? Cleveland's second-most productive receiver, Mike Furrey, has 13 catches and 125 for the year; Massaquoi was targeted 13 times and produced 148 yards last week alone. Don't go out of your way to start a Brown, but if you must he's the best option in the passing game.

TE Robert Royal


This isn't merely a matchup play, though the Bills have already allowed four tight end touchdowns this year. Cleveland tight ends have two of their three offensive touchdowns this year and with Edwards out of the picture Royal is just as likely to be targeted as any other Brown. Steve Heiden stole some looks (and a touchdown) last week, so there's some risk involved. But if you're digging for a TE play this week Royal has upside.

DT Browns B Joshua Cribbs is always a threat, but the Bills haven't allowed a kick return touchdown since Week 9 of 2007. Going up against Bobby April's unit is like playing chess against Kasparov.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Trent Edwards S3

Edwards has slowed from the breakneck two-TDs-per-game he established through the season's first fortnight, but the Browns present him with an opportunity to get back in the saddle. Cleveland is giving up almost 280 passing yards per game over the past three weeks, allowing a total of four touchdowns. Edwards threw for just 148 and one against the Browns last season, with three picks, so this is far from a sure thing.

RB Fred Jackson
Marshawn Lynch

The Bills split touches down the middle last week, with Jackson the far more productive of the two. Usually that would make this a situation to avoid, at least until the distribution of carries is more clearly defined. But the Browns have given up 199, 172, 122, and 123 rushing yards to opposing backs, with a total of 8 touchdowns and multiple TDs in three of the four games. So there may just be enough for both backs this week—though slightly more balanced than in last season's Week 11 meeting between these clubs, when Lynch produced 177 yards from scrimmage on 33 touches and scored once while Jackson kicked in 60 yards on 12 carries. It's a situation fraught with risk—but also teeming with upside.

WR Terrell Owens

Primary receivers (Baltimore's Derrick Mason and Cincy's Chad Ochocinco) have scored three touchdowns in the past two games against the Browns. TO scored against the Browns as a Cowboy last year, part of a 5-87-1 season opening effort. We think TO is still the go-to guy in Buffalo, and quite frankly if you're not playing him in this matchup he's not going to crack your lineup this year.

WR Lee Evans B

Evans was held without a catch in last season's meeting, and that was before Owens arrived in town demanding the ball. Nothing in the seven catches and 90 yards secondary receivers are combining for on a weekly basis against the Browns suggests he's worth plugging in here; neither do Evans' 10 catches or 148 yards through four games this year.

TE Derek Fine B The Bengals uncharacteristically threw to their tight end extensively against the Browns last week, so maybe there's something there to be exploited. But Fine hasn't even been targeted in two of the last three games. If you're feeling this lucky, may as well buy a PowerBall ticket.
DT Bills S3 The Browns have thrown seven picks through four games, and the Bills already have two defensive touchdowns this season. Buffalo returned a kickoff for a score in last year's meeting with the Browns; there are worse bets than the Bills making it two in two years.

Pittsburgh (2-2) at Detroit (1-3)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S1

This is a blank check game for Big Ben, who can essentially write in his own fantasy number. He's augmented his two sub-300 yard efforts with rushing touchdowns and faces a defense that has given up multiple TD tosses in every game this year. About the only way Roethlisberger disappoints this week is if he gives the running game too much work or exits early after the Steelers race to a ginormous lead built on defensive TDs.

RB Rashard Mendenhall


With Parker out again, the entirety of the workload will go to Mendenhall. Even if Mewelde Moore takes a handful of looks like last week, Rashard should have his way with the Lions—and, better yet, ample opportunity to pad his stats.

RB Willie Parker

Parker has been ruled out of Sunday's game in Detroit, leaving him on your fantasy bench and the heavy lifting against the Lions to Mendenhall.

RB Mewelde Moore U

Moore is a great complimentary option, and with Parker out of the mix there's a chance Mewelde see enough touches.

WR Santonio Holmes
Hines Ward

It's not as if the Lions are a shutdown D; they've given up five WR TDs and about 160 WR yards per game. Speed receivers have had the most success, so Holmes makes a solid play despite three straight down games. Ward has yet to find the end zone this year, but he's averaging almost 90 yards per game so you don't want to bench him, either.

WR Mike Wallace

Wallace has been horning in on the action as well and certainly fits the speed receiver definition, but he's seeing 3-5 fewer targets and is a bigger risk as a fantasy play.

TE Heath Miller

No team has given up more tight end touchdowns than the Lions, and Miller is coming off a two-TD game and is catching six balls a game so you have to like his chances.

DT Steelers S1 Troy Polamalu might be back, and the Lions might be down to a backup quarterback.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Daunte Culpepper

Daunte knows the offense, and he knows the personnel. But do you really want to pin your hopes on some garbage-time numbers from a backup quarterback against the defending Super Bowl champions?

QB Matthew Stafford

Stafford didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday, then did individual work on Friday while Culpepper and Drew Stanton took snaps with the full offense. A rookie quarterback with a bad knee against the Steel Curtain? Hardly sounds like a recipe for fantasy success.

RB Kevin Smith

Fantasy owners have been willing to forgive the 3.1 yards per carry because of Smith's three touchdowns, but Jim Schwartz indicated he needs more. Does that mean he won't keep going to Smith, mixing in Maurice Morris? Or that he'll abandon the run more quickly once it's apparent it's not working. In either event, it's tough to see a big uptick coming against a Steelers defense that's allowing about 55 rushing yards per game. This would be a good week to actively pursue other options.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

There's a touchdown to be had here, as the Steelers have allowed at least one WR score in every game this year, and Megatron is certainly the best bet to take care of that business. But no wideout has topped 80 yards against Pittsburgh this year so don't bank on big yardage.

WR Bryant Johnson B

This Johnson is barely usable with a good matchup... and this isn't a good matchup.

TE Brandon Pettigrew B

Pettigrew continues to develop, but it would be premature to plug him in against the Steelers expecting fantasy production.

DT Lions B The good news is, Jim Schwartz is familiar with the Steelers from his time with the Titans. The bad news is, he didn't bring the Tennessee defense with him to Detroit.

Washington (2-2) at Carolina (0-3)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jason Campbell S3

If there's a spark to be found in a Washington offense that has yet to reach the 20-point mark this season it's Campbell, who has multiple touchdowns in each of the past two games and is averaging 240 yards per contest. Carolina hasn't really stopped any of the three quarterbacks they've faced, so if you're in a bye week bind Campbell is a viable option.

RB Clinton Portis S2 Portis hasn't exactly shredded the last three creampuff defenses he's faced, so you can't be faulted for jumping off the bandwagon. But despite the injuries he continues to get the vast majority of the touches, and this week's foe is a Carolina defense that's allowing almost 150 rushing yards per game and has surrendered four RB TDs already this season. So with or without you, the bandwagon rolls on.
RB Ladell Betts


Every week we hear how banged up Portis is, yet Betts has yet to receive more than five touches in a game this season. Use him only if Portis is declared inactive for this game.

WR Santana Moss


The Carolina defense isn't giving up much down the field, but what they have surrendered is going to bigger receivers; Moss clearly doesn't fit that mold. Use him if you must, but your expectations shouldn't be great.

TE Chris Cooley S2

In three games the Panthers have given up two TE TDs and a 77-yard outing to Jason Witten. Cooley is a lock in TE-mandatory leagues and perhaps even worthy of consideration in WR/TE combo leagues.

DT Redskins S3 The Skins haven't produced a defensive touchdown as of yet, but Carolina has served one up in two of their three games so it's a risk worth taking.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jake Delhomme B Delhomme has one touchdown toss in each of his last two games; the Redskins have allowed one (and only one) in each of their four this season. The yardage really isn't there, either, and if you lose points because of interceptions it's a no-brainer to keep Delhomme on your bench.

DeAngelo Williams

S2 Despite the addition of Albert Haynesworth, the Redskins have been far from a shutdown run D: Steven Jackson and Kevin Smith both topped 100 yards, the Giants tag-team combined for triple digits, and even Cadillac Williams rolled up 77 on 16 carries despite an offense that had nothing else going for it. So a truly talented running game should find success; now the Panthers just need to give Williams more than the 14 carries per game he's currently receiving. Williams is a solid bet this week, and if the Panthers finally decide to start feeding him he's a great one.

Jonathan Stewart

B Stew continues to be a limited participant in practice due to his Achilles' injury; meanwhile his carries have declined each week and he rushed for negative yardage in his last game. Until he shows us glimpses of the guy who scored 10 touchdowns last season, he should remain on your bench.
WR Steve Smith S2

The Redskins have allowed a wide receiver touchdown in every game thus far this year, so this is a great opportunity for Smith to get off the schneid and garner Carolina's first wide receiver score of the year.

WR Muhsin Muhammad

If Muhammed's consistent 4-5 catches for 40-50 yards is a helper in your league, he's usable. But the Redskins haven't allowed more than one WR TD in a game this season and there's just not enough in the Carolina passing game to generate confidence in a receiver other than Smith.

TE Dante Rosario

The Redskins haven't allowed a tight end touchdown this season; in fact, only one tight end has even caught more than two balls or topped 30 yards. Rosario has touchdowns in each of his last two games, but that seems flukish for a guy who had 10 games without a catch last year and was shut out in the 2009 opener as well. Use him in larger TE-mandatory leagues if you must, but the matchup suggests he's more likely to goose-egg than score.

DT Panthers B On the one hand you have a Washington offense that hasn't made it to 20 points yet this season; on the other, you have a Carolina D that's giving up 29 points per game and has one defensive TD in the past 18 games. Surely you can find a better option.

Dallas (2-2) at Kansas City (0-4)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

Throw out JaMarcus Russell, who's proved he's not an NFL quarterback, and the Chiefs have given up multiple passing scores and at least 292 yards in every game this year. Romo has put up plenty of yardage but hasn't thrown a touchdown in either of the past two games. Here's his opportunity to shine, assuming the running game doesn't steal the spotlight.

RB Marion Barber

Barber ceded carries to Tashard Choice in the second half of last week's loss to Denver, but even one half from MB3 would make him a fantasy starter against a Chiefs defense that's giving up 150 yards per game to running backs and has surrendered five RB TDs already this year. Barber has scored in every game and is averaging 100 yards from scrimmage, so barring injury news during the practice week he may be the best RB play of Week 5.

RB Tashard Choice S3

Despite sharing the workload Choice produced 80 combo yards against a good Denver defense last week. With Jones out, there should be enough spillover against the Chiefs for Choice to make a serviceable bye week plug-in play.

RB Felix Jones B

Jones didn't practice all week and is listed as doubtful for this tilt; odds are he'll take advantage of the Cowboys' Week 6 bye to recover fully from his knee injury. With two other more healthy backs, there's no reason for Jones to see significant, if any, action here.

WR Patrick Crayton

While all Cowboy receivers could be viewed as "in play" against the Chiefs this week, Crayton seems to be the best bet. Thus far KC has given up big games to speedier wideouts like DeSean Jackson (6-149-1) and Steve Smith (11-134-2). Crayton is more of a downfield threat than Roy Williams and more consistently targeted than Miles Austin or Sam Hurd, so if you're picking one Cowboy wideout he's the most attractive play.

WR Miles Austin

Austin's no slouch in the speed department, either, and with Roy WIlliams unlikely to play his looks should climb; so too, then, do his fantasy prospects this week.

WR Sam Hurd S3

Against a defense that's ceding almost 170 wide receiver yards per game and has allowed five WR TDs already this season, everybody's in play. If you have a Cowboy wideout on your roster and they're not in your lineup this week, you probably won't use them this year.

WR Roy Williams

Williams is considered doubtful this week due to some sore ribs; against the Chiefs, odds are he won't be missed.

TE Jason Witten S2

Witten is averaging six catches and 50 yards per game, and a date with a defense that's already allowed Todd Heap and Brent Celek to score makes him all that much more attractive as a fantasy play.

DT Cowboys S3 The Dallas pass rush has shown signs of life the past couple weeks, and quarterback pressure leads to bad throws which lead to interceptions which lead to defensive touchdowns. On a bye week it's not a bad recipe for a plug-in play.
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel

Cassel's yardage has been abysmal, but he's thrown multiple touchdowns in back-to-back games. The Dallas secondary has been giving up some fantasy-friendly yardage totals (276, 330, 220, 243) and multiple scores in two of the last three, so in a week with four regulars on the bye Cassel could help salvage the position in your fantasy lineup.

RB Larry Johnson


Since being gouged by the Bucs in Week 1 the Dallas run D has been solid, holding the Giants, Panthers, and Broncos without a running back rushing TD. Tough to green-light a guy averaging 56 yards per game (at an embarrassing 2.7 yards per carry) against a defense like that.

WR Dwayne Bowe S3

Cassel's passing projections suggest there should be something here, and Bowe is the closest thing the Chiefs have to a go-to receiver. He looks to be healthy after missing one game and being limited in another—in fact, he's not even listed on the injury report—so he's the best bet to capitalize on a secondary that may still be dazed from watching Brandon Marshall weave through them last week.

WR Mark Bradley
Bobby Wade


Yes, Wade has two touchdowns and Bradley owns the most productive yardage game by a Chief thus far this year (73 yards), but both are secondary options on a mediocre-at-best passing offense. Your fantasy club should be able to do better.

DT Chiefs B The Chiefs have surrendered 61 points to NFC foes over the past two weeks and haven't scored a defensive or return touchdown since Week 14 of last year.

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