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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 9
John Tuvey
Updated: November 6, 2009
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Sunday Early
Sunday Early
Sunday Early
Sunday Late
Sunday Night
Bye Week
BUF, CLE,
Monday Night
MIN, NYJ,
OAK, STL
         
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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 (1-7) at San Francisco (3-4)

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Tennessee
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Vince Young B

Young isn't a fantasy helper. He's not going to throw for big yardage, multiple touchdown tosses are unlikely, and quarterback rushing touchdowns are unpredictable at best. He's not going to take advantage of a San Francisco secondary that has allowed multiple touchdown passes in three of four and three 300-yard games already this season. He's the worst possible fantasy combination of a game manager and a potential touchdown vulture. And that's all the nice things we can think of to say about Young.

RB Chris Johnson S2

The Niners haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher this season, and they've faced Adrian Peterson, Steven Jackson, and Michael Turner. They have, however, allowed five running back touchdowns in the last three games. Johnson doesn't have a road score yet, but he's averaging better than five yards a carry on the road and put up 128 on the Patriots in New England. With Young at quarterback there's little doubt Johnson will get plenty of carries; at five a pop you have to like his chances at helpful yardage, and given the Niners' recent stretch that first road score isn't out of the question, either.

RB LenDale White B

Having Young at quarterback implies a commitment to the run, which we saw last week in a season-high 13 carries for White. With a softer match-up that might be enough to warrant fantasy consideration; this, however, isn't that match-up. Worse, the presence of Young as a goal line vulture looms over White's last remaining fantasy trump card.

WR Nate Washington
S3 The Niners are one of the more fantasy-friendly defenses against wideouts, so after much debate Washington gets a tepid recommendation. Under VY last week Tennessee wideouts were targeted just eight times, catching six balls for 69 yards and a touchdown. That Washington caught the score and now owns four of the five Titan WR TDs—every score since Justin Gage's touchdown in the season opener—gives him the slightest of nods here.
WR Kenny Britt
Justin Gage
B Titan wideouts were barely playable with Kerry Collins at the helm; Young is an even less adept passer, torpedoing what little fantasy value was left in the Tennessee passing game. In fact, Washington's domination of the touchdowns pushes Britt and Gage to the brink of fantasy irrelevance.
TE Bo Scaife
B In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king, and so it is that Scaife appears to be the best of Tennessee's multiple tight end options. That's faint praise, however, and neither Scaife nor any of his co-horts make a sound fantasy play against a San Francisco defense that has allowed just one TE TD this year and shut out both Tony Gonzalez and Dallas Clark.
DT Titans B The Titans are getting healthier on defense, but not so healthy as to warrant a road start for fantasy purposes.
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith S3

Smith makes his first home start since Week 8 of 2007, facing a Titans defense that's allowed three 300-yard games and three multiple touchdown outings in four road trips this season. Tennessee is getting some key personnel back, but this is still a secondary that can be had. Do you trust Smith to, um, have it? His 200-yard, three-TD second half in Houston suggests that, if you're up against it on the bye week, there's some upside here.

RB Frank Gore S2

Back-to-back 100-yard games and six running back touchdowns in the past four games suggest that the Titans are no longer a shut-down run defense. That bodes well for Gore, who scored last week in Indy and rolled for 207 yards and two scores in his only previous home game this season.

WR Michael Crabtree

S2 Last week was the first time a No. 1 wideout—or any wideout, for that matter—failed to score against the Titans this season. Still intact, however, is a streak of four straight monster fantasy outings by No. 1 wideouts when the Titans come to visit. That bodes well for Crabtree, who has quickly moved to the fore of the Niners' receiver pecking order and could be in line for his first NFL touchdown this week.
WR Isaac Bruce
B Secondary targets have had success against the Titans as well, but let's not get greedy here; after all, we're dealing with a quarterback who's trying to rebuild his career and a coach who would prefer to run the ball. Give Crabtree his, if you're desperate consider Bruce as a last resort, but otherwise move directly to the tight end section of the program.
WR Josh Morgan
B Morgan has become the forgotten man, with just six targets and five catches since Crabtree showed up. His fantasy value is limited until Bruce retires.
TE Vernon Davis S3

Only one of Davis' seven touchdowns has come at home, and the Titans have shut out tight ends in three straight games. However, they remain one of the more fantasy-friendly options against the position and Davis is far too hot to consider benching at this juncture. After all, he broke Indy's tight end maiden last week; if that doesn't punch his every-week starter pass, what does?

DT 49ers S3 The Niners are playing some pretty good defense, and it remains to be seen how much rust remains on Young when he makes his first road start since the Wild Card loss in San Diego following the 2007 season.
 

San Diego (4-3) at New York Giants (5-3)

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San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

The Giants' home pass defense numbers are skewed by visits from Jason Campbell and JaMarcus Russell. Rivers, the proud owner of three touchdown passes in each of his two previous road games, is much more likely to put up something like the 231 and one Kurt Warner posted a couple weeks back. Actually, that seems low for a guy who hasn't been below 249 yards all season and is averaging 258 and two on the road.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
S2 The Giants have allowed eight RB TDs in the last three weeks alone, and while LT has been a mere shell of his former self he's still capable of following in the footsteps of luminaries such as Leonard Weaver, Jason Wright, Tim Hightower, Heath Evans, and Mike Bell. C'mon, even Michael Bush has a touchdown against the Giants. Tomlinson is still getting his touches, and the Chargers have demonstrated they'll give him every opportunity to convert at the stripe. So what if it's another meh 65-yard day? LT will get you a score, and at this juncture that's about all we can ask for.
RB Darren Sproles
B Sproles' touches continue to be limited, but one look at that above list of backs who have scored against the Giants this season and Sproles at least warrants consideration in larger leagues, especially with six teams on the bye.
WR Vincent Jackson
S1

Jackson has scored in three straight and has posted back-to-back 100-yard efforts, so he's money to take advantage of a secondary that's allowed five WR TDs and six different 70-yard receivers in its past three games.

WR Malcolm Floyd
S3 With Chris Chambers out of the picture, Floyd is left to take advantage of whatever scraps Jackson leaves for him. Considering that over the past three games wingmen have three touchdowns and three 70-yard efforts against a banged-up Giants secondary, that should be more than enough for a decent fantasy play.
TE Antonio Gates S1

Only one team has allowed more TE TDs than the Giants. While Gates has scored in just one game thus far he's had at least 49 yards in every outing and should have ample opportunity to go where Brent Celek, Jeremy Shockey, Sean Ryan, Jason Witten, and Chris Cooley have gone before him—namely, the end zone.

DT Chargers S3 The Giants have multiple turnovers in three straight and a banged-up quarterback, while the Chargers seem to have remembered how to pressure the quarterback. That combination could present a pick-six opportunity for a play-making defense that's been dormant for far too long.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S2

San Diego's numbers against the pass are fraudulent, buoyed by two dates with JaMarcus Russell and Chad Henne's 2009 debut. Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, and Kyle Orton have all thrown for multiple touchdowns against the Chargers, providing hope that Eli might return to that level after three straight outings with just one TD. He's put up decent yardage, especially at home; his season-low 173 doesn't include more than a quarter of David Carr's stats after Manning hit the showers early. About the only thing that would prevent Eli from a 250 and 2 kind of day would be bigger-than-usual numbers from the ground game.

RB Brandon Jacobs
Ahmad Bradshaw

S3

The Giants' vaunted ground game hasn't exactly lived up to the billing this season. However, touchdowns in four straight and five of six along with 100-plus yards in five of six suggest it's starting to come together. Bradshaw continues to play through a foot injury, yet despite getting fewer carries he has four of the last five RB TDs the Giants have scored. That alone makes him a viable option against a Chargers defense that has given up RB scores in two of three on the road and five of seven overall. Jacobs consistently puts up 60, 70, 80 yards but can't seem to get to triple-digits; worse, Bradshaw is stealing his goal line thunder. While the Chargers have held three straight opponents under 100 rushing yards, those opponents have included the moribund offenses of Kansas City and Oakland. There should be enough here for both Jacobs and Bradshaw to provide fantasy value, with Jacobs having slightly more upside based on a larger share of the carries. Note that while Bradshaw did not practice all week he's still listed as probable on the official injury report.

WR Steve Smith

S2

The Chargers haven't allowed much of late to wide receivers, but they've also faced the Raiders and Chiefs so opportunities have been limited. Smith seems to have settled in as Eli's reliable target; he may not make the splash plays that Nicks or Manningham do but he'll be consistently targeted and can be banked on for steady fantasy production. If that sounds a bit like Hines Ward, who owns the only 100-yard game by a wideout against the Chargers this season, or Dwayne Bowe, who scored against San Diego in Week 7, then our point has been made.

WR Hakeem Nicks

S3

Nicks saw his four-game scoring streak snapped last week, but he's still seeing a steady dose of targets—a dose that would only increase if Manningham remains sidelined. At minimum Nicks is a threat in TD-heavy scoring systems given his nose for the stripe, and if Manningham is out Nicks could be considered in all types of leagues.

WR Mario Manningham

B

Manningham continues to be limited by a shoulder injury. He was limited all week in practice, but Tom Coughlin said he is "on track" to play. With Eli struggling and other healthier options available, best keep Manningham on your fantasy bench this week.

TE Kevin Boss S3

Boss scored his first touchdown of the season while posting a season-high 70 yards last week against Philly. His return to Eli's radar makes him an intriguing play against a San Diego defense that has struggled to cover tight ends this season and has already given up four TE TDs and an equal number of 50-yard outings.

DT Giants B If the Giants remember how to pressure the passer, they can be reinserted as a fantasy defense. But with just four sacks in the past three games, facing a quarterback who's thrown just one pick in the past five, such jogging of the memory appears unlikely.
 

Dallas (5-2) at Philadelphia (5-2)

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Dallas
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S3

Romo's last trip to Philly didn't go all that well as he managed 186 yards and no scores in what was essentially a playoff game the Cowboys dropped 44-6. He's padded his road stats by blowing up bottom-feeding defenses like the Chiefs and Bucs; the Broncos held him without a touchdown, and last season he managed multiple scores in just one road game. Philly is fresh off putting the clamps on Eli Manning and would love nothing more than an encore of the 2008 finale. You shouldn't bench Romo—after all, Philly has also allowed multiple TD tosses to the likes of Jason Campbell, Josh Johnson, and Matt Cassel—but the streak of three consecutive outings with multiple touchdowns likely comes to an end... and the run of five straight with 250-plus yards isn't looking so good, either.

RB Marion Barber
S3

Barber scored via both run and pass in the front end of last season's series, and he remains the lead dog in the Dallas backfield committee. While the Eagles have been stout against the run of late, they've allowed at least 85 yards to three of the four backs with at least 15 carries against them. That's the share Barber will get, so he's the most likely to post any sort of helpful fantasy numbers.

RB Felix Jones
Tashard Choice
B

Jones is getting more touches than Choice, but these guys are clearly playing second and third banana to Barber. And with Philly allowing 83 rushing yards per game for the season and only one RB TD in the last five games, there isn't enough to go around.

WR Miles Austin
S3

Is the joyride over? After feasting on three cream puffs to the tune of 485 yards and five touchdowns, Austin runs into his first legit defense. Marques Colston is the only wideout to top 75 yards against them this season, and since the Week 4 bye they've allowed only one WR TD. Bench the impossibly hot Austin? No, because he and Romo have a chemistry going that might just be enough to overcome even a tough match-up like this. But you do need to dial back those expectations. In other words, please remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop.

WR Roy Williams
Patrick Crayton
B

If the forecast is partly cloudy for Austin, you have to know it's rain for the fantasy prospects of Williams and Crayton. The latter is adding value as a return man but hasn't topped 50 receiving yards since Week 1, while the former has three catches for 35 yards since returning from a rib injury and has been clearly pushed to the outer fringe of Romo's radar by Austin's success.

TE Jason Witten S2

Maybe this is the week Witten gets back in the saddle. Not that he's been bad; just that our expectations were significantly higher than one touchdown and an average of 49 yards a game. No team is more fantasy friendly to the tight end position than Philly; they've given up the second-most yards and the second-most touchdowns to the position. Witten has at least 50 yards in each of his last six matchups with the Eagles, including two 100-yard games in the past three match-ups. C'mon, Tony; remember your ol' pal Jay?

DT Cowboys S3 Hey, they've returned punts for touchdowns in back-to-back games and have 17 sacks in the past five games; they're worth a shot regardless of opponent or venue.
Philadelphia
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb
S2

McNabb's worst yardage outing in the past four meetings with Dallas was also his only multi-touchdown effort as he threw for 175 and two in last season's finale. He sports a pair of three-touchdown games at home this year and gets a Dallas D that's allowed four straight quarterbacks to throw multiple touchdowns against them.

RB Brian Westbrook
S2

Westbrook has been cleared to return to action and should be good to go for the Sunday night tilt against Dallas; while he was held out of practice he's officially listed as questionsable. Hey, for Westy that's about as positive an update as you can hope for. Westy's return is good news for both Eagles fans and his fantasy owners, as he traditionally blows up the Cowboys. His 13-50 in last season's finale was his first non-fantasy helper in three years; he'd either scored or topped 125 yards from scrimmage or both in each of the previous five match-ups. While LeSean McCoy has been taking some looks off his plate, this is still Westbrook's show; he should take the 15-20 touches he'll get and approach triple-digit combo yardage with a score to boot. Of course, this being the Sunday night game there's some risk associated with plugging Westbrook into your lineup; that said, when isn't there risk associated with Westy?

RB LeSean McCoy B

McCoy has yet to post meaningful fantasy numbers in any game Westbrook starts, so if Westy is in the Eagles lineup LeSean shouldn't be in yours.

WR DeSean Jackson
Jeremy Maclin
S3 Jackson had 110 yards in the first match-up with Dallas last year, and he's scored in three of the past four home games (and four of six overall), with two 100-yard games in that span. And that's not counting his returns. Maclin, meanwhile, has three touchdowns in his last two home games and has been Philly's leading receiver each of the previous two games. Both are good fantasy plays against a secondary that ranks seventh in fantasy points allowed to wideouts.
WR Jason Avant
B Avent saved his listing here with two catches last week, but he's still a fantasy afterthought.
TE Brent Celek

S3 The Cowboys haven't allowed a TE TD since Week 3, but Celek warrants attention despite the tough match-up. He scored in the season finale against Dallas last year and has three TDs and two 100-yard games already this season. That's rarified air and makes him a must-play in TE-mandatory leagues.
DT Eagles S2 Philly housed two takeaways in the Week 17 blowout of Dallas last year, and they're as aggressive as ever with 12 takeaways in the last four games alone. And then there's their return game...
 

Pittsburgh (5-2) at Denver (6-1)

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Pittsburgh
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S2

Roethlisberger put up his first fantasy dud of the year last week against Minnesota, primarily because his defense scored twice and he barely saw the ball in the second half. The Broncos have allowed plenty of yardage, but only Tom Brady has thrown multiple touchdowns against them. Not saying Big Ben can't do it, but single scoring strikes in Chicago and Cincinnati suggest expectations would be best set at one TD toss with enough yardage to make him a viable fantasy play.

RB Rashard Mendenhall


S3

Since his 29-carry outing against the Chargers Mendenhall has stayed under the 20-touch mark. That's put a damper on his productivity, limiting his yardage and forcing him to score in order to achieve fantasy viability. Against a Broncos D that's allowed just three RB TDs—only one at home—that's a tall order. It's one thing to reach the end zone against Cleveland and Detroit; Mendenhall didn't score against Minnesota and a touchdown in Denver is unlikely as well.

RB Willie Parker

B

With nine touches for 37 yards since Mendenhall took over the starting gig, Parker has lost all fantasy relevancy.

WR Hines Ward
S3

After blanking their first four foes, Denver has allowed WR TDs in three straight, to Derrick Mason, Wes Welker, and Vincent Jackson. Note that No. 1s are scoring, which means you don't have to take Ward or Holmes off the market just because Champ Bailey looms. In fact, the last time these two teams met Ward had seven catches for 78 yards while Holmes had six for 54 and a score. Certainly, the defense is better now, but Ward gets the narrow nod for a score based on his high target rate and consistent contributions.

WR Santonio Holmes
Mike Wallace
B

Holmes hasn't scored or topped 100 yards since the season opener, so it's tough to bank on him here. Wallace is coming on as Pittsburgh's No. 3 with scores in two of the last three, but secondary targets are doing little against Denver so best leave him on your fantasy bench as well.

TE Heath Miller
S2

The Broncos have been tough on tight ends; Antonio Gates has the only meaningful yardage game against them and Ben Watson the lone touchdown. But Miller has been such an important part of Big Ben's game plan—at least six targets in each of the last five games, with four touchdowns and three 50-yard efforts over that span—that he can't be benched just because guys like Jason Witten and Zach Miller failed to put up big numbers against the Broncos.

DT Steelers S3 Defensive scores are a tougher proposition on the road, but after watching their linebacking corps single-handedly bring down the formerly undefeated Vikings you can't bet against the Steel Curtain.
Denver
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton S2

Orton certainly seems comfortable in Denver; he' had at least 243 yards in each of his three home games and multiple scores in two of them. Pittsburgh presents a formidable foe, but no more so than the New England defense Orton took for 330 and 2. The high altitude may also come into play if it forces Steelers safety Ryan Clark to sit this one out, leaving Pittsburgh to play without a key defender.

RB

Knowshon Moreno


B Cedric Benson and Adrian Peterson are the only running backs to have dented the Steel Curtain for a rushing touchdown this season, and Benson's 76-yard effort is the most Pittsburgh has allowed to a single back this season. With Moreno giving up at least a share of the carries, it will be extremely difficult for him to carve out fantasy value. The upside is if he remains on the field in enough passing situations to take advantage of a flaw in the Steel Curtain; however, his three catches in the past two games suggest that's unlikely.
RB

Correll Buckhalter

U A sneaky play in PPR leagues. The General seems to still be involved in third-down action, with six catches last week and 15 in his last three games. Pittsburgh has allowed 191 RB receiving yards and a touchdown over the past four games, making the air as likely a venue for a running back score as the ground.
WR Brandon Marshall
S3

Justin Gage is the last No. 1 receiver to score on the Steelers, and that was back in the season opener. There should be yardage available—Sidney Rice and Mohamed Massaquoi turned the double-digit targets Marshall regularly receives into 136 and 83 yards, respectively—but a touchdown seems iffy at best.

WR Eddie Royal

S3

With four of the five WR TDs Pittsburgh has allowed going to secondary targets, the question then becomes... which Denver No. 2 has the best shot at a score? Brandon Stokley is out, having failed to record a catch in three of the last four games. Jabar Gaffney has 11 catches for 139 yards the past four games, but Royal has been targeted as frequently or more so in each of those contests. Volume gives Royal the nod, narrowly.

TE Tony Scheffler


B

Antonio Gates has accounted for two-thirds of the TE TDs the Steelers have allowed thus far this year; he's also accounted for almost 40% of the yardage they've surrendered to the position. In other words, Pittsburgh is doing a pretty good job of shutting down tight ends. Scheffler has one good game to his credit—against a San Diego defense that consistently struggles to cover tight ends—but has done little besides that. Daniel Graham is stealing looks as well, making it unlikely Scheffler gets the opportunity to provide much if any fantasy value this week.

DT Broncos S2 The Steelers have allowed defense or special teams touchdowns in five straight games, including kick return scores in each of the last two games. Hmmm, maybe that S3 on Eddie Royal needs to be revisited...

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