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Start/Bench List - Week 13
John Tuvey
Updated: December 4, 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)

San Diego (8-3) at Cleveland (1-10)

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San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

It's not the match-up, it's how the Chargers decide to play it. The Browns have allowed two 400-yard passers and four multiple TD efforts in the past eight games, but they're also so bad against the run Norv Turner may go back to basics and feed the ground game. That said, the Chiefs are no great shakes against the run and that didn't stop the Bolts from compiling 585 and five via the pass. You're in little danger of a dog from Rivers, just numbers that might not be as gaudy as you'd hope.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
S1 Tomlinson now has five touchdowns in his past two games, and a date with a Browns defense that has allowed at least 123 RB rushing yards in each of its four home games—a total of 635 yards and five touchdowns over that span—is cause enough to return LT to his rightful place among the S1s. Don't let us down.
RB Darren Sproles
S3 Cleveland just allowed two RB receiving touchdowns to Detroit, for crying out loud; between what he'll get as a receiver and what he might see as the featured ball carrier in garbage time, if you're not starting Sproles this week you probably never will.
WR Vincent Jackson

The Browns have allowed only one WR TD over the past month; meanwhile, Jackson is mired in a three-game scoring drought. Nothing to snap him out of it than a date with the same defense that allowed 161 and one to Calvin Johnson

WR Malcolm Floyd
Legedu Naanee
B It's less the match-up that lowers expectations than it is wondering what will be left over after LT, V-Jax, and Gates all take their share. Answer: probably not enough to warrant giving either of these guys a fantasy start this week.
TE Antonio Gates S2

You gotta love Gates, coming off a 118-yard, two-TD throwback performance, squaring off against a Browns defense that's allowed three TE TDs in the past two games alone.

DT Chargers S2 Not only do you reap the benefits of facing a Cleveland offense that's scored in single digits seven times this season, you also get a Chargers D coming off their first defensive score of the season against an offense that's given up two D/ST TDs in the past month.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brady Quinn

We've established that Quinn's big day in Detroit was an aberration. And it doesn't look to get much better against a San Diego defense that's held four of the last six quarterbacks it has faced to one or zero touchdowns and allowed just one of the six to top 215 yards.

RB Jerome Harrison
Chris Jennings


With Jamal Lewis on IR, the Browns will divide carries between Harrison and Jennings. Oh, joy. Given that there's unlikely to be enough production for one back against a San Diego defense that's allowed just two RB TDs and zero 100-yard games since its Week Five bye, having that workload split doubles the likelihood you'll get nothing from one of these guys.

WR Mohamed Massaquoi
Chansi Stuckey

The entirety of Cleveland's passing game fantasy value—save for Massaquoi's 148-yard aberration against the Bengals—came against the Lions. The Chargers are not the Lions; in fact, they've allowed only seven WR TDs all year.

TE MIchael Gaines


The Bolts are better at stopping tight ends—they've shut out two in a row—so there's no need to dust off a Browns' tight end who is an afterthought on a passing game that's substandard to begin with.

DT Browns B We used to look forward to the occasional Joshua Cribbs return touchdown, but it's been almost two months now and we've run out of patience.

Dallas (8-3) at New York Giants (6-5)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

The Giants held Romo to 127 and one in the earlier meeting; since then they've allowed multiple TD tosses five times, including thrice in the last month. Romo snapped out of a month-long funk of his own on Thanksgiving Day with his first multi-TD outing in a month. December has not been kind to Romo, however; his QB rating is 20 points lower in December (71.9) than in any other month and almost 25 points lower than his career mark. Tony's track record against the G-Men—three multiple touchdown games prior to his downer earlier this year—suggest that maybe, just maybe, this is the December Romo turns things around. Don't go overboard with your expectations, but Romo should be a quality fantasy play this week.

RB Marion Barber
Felix Jones

Barber and Jones gashed the Giants for a combined 218 and two back in Week 2, and both are solid bets for fantasy productivity against a Big Blue defense that's given up 11 RB TDs in the last six games alone. The only wrinkle, as per usual, is how many touches each one gets—and how many Tashard Choice might take off their plate.

RB Tashard Choice B

Choice has just 17 touches over the past six games; with that limited number of opportunities it's tough to provide any fantasy bang regardless of how productive you are.

WR Miles Austin

Austin was a one-catch non-factor in the earlier meeting; since then he's, uh, taken on a larger role in the Cowboys passing game. While he's struggled a bit with the defensive attention afforded opposing No. 1s, he took a very good Oakland secondary for 145 yards and a touchdown last week. Moreover, if the Giants were capable of taking away a No. 1 how do you explain Brandon Marshall (6-86), Vincent Jackson (5-58-2), DeSean Jackson (3-78-1), Larry Fitzgerald (6-83), and/or Marques Colston (8-166-1)?

WR Roy Williams
Patrick Crayton


On the bright side, secondary targets have scored six of the 10 WR TDs the Giants have allowed; on the downside, neither Williams nor Crayton is a reliable enough target to be trusted with a fantasy start.

TE Jason Witten S2

Witten's last touchdown came in Week 2 against these very Giants, and given that they've allowed TE TDs in four of the last six—and Witten's 100-yard game on Thanksgiving Day proves he's still alive, fantasy-wise—he just might do at again.

DT Cowboys B If your league's fantasy scoring system is big on sacks the Cowboys aren't a bad play; they have at least three sacks in eight of the past nine games. Outside of that, however, this defense is doing very little of fantasy import.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S3

While Eli's 330 and two in the earlier meeting marked the third time in the past three seasons he'd thrown for multiple scores against the Cowboys, it feels like a bit of an aberration. Dallas has held four straight opposing QBs to one or zero TDs, while Eli has tossed multiple scoring strikes just twice in his past six games. There should be yardage to be had, especially since the New York ground game may be reduced to just Brandon Jacobs, but scores project to be difficult to come by.

RB Brandon Jacobs


The good news for Jacobs and his fantasy owners is that he should get the vast majority of the carries—unless Tom Coughlin decides Gartrell Johnson and/or Madison Hedgecock need an uptick in workload. The bad news is, Jacobs hasn't been doing enough with the carries he's been given to suggest optimism over the increase. The worse news is that the Cowboys have allowed only one RB rushing TD since the opener and no back has topped 72 yards. If there's ground game production it will go to Jacobs, but there doesn't project to be much.

RB Danny Ware
Ahmad Bradshaw


Ware has a concussion and has been ruled out; Bradshaw practiced only once this week, and that was on a limited basis, but he says he's going to play. Banged up and facing a tough match-up as at best the junior share of the backfield committee, Bradshaw doesn't warrant fantasy consideration this week.

WR Steve Smith
Mario Manningham
Hakeem Nicks


Since Manningham (10-150-1) and Smith (10-134-1) went off on the Cowboys in Week 2, the Giants' wideouts and Cowboys' secondary have gone in opposite directions. The Giants have consistently produced three receivers with at least 40 yardsor a touchdown; only twice in the nine games since the previous meeting have the Giants failed to do so, and in both of those they had two receivers post such numbers. The Cowboys, meanwhile, haven't allowed a 100-yard receiver since and have given up just one WR TD in the past four games. Smith is the safest bet for helpful yardage, but he's seen the end zone just once since Week 4. Manningham hasn't scored since Week 5, but he did have a 100-yard outing just a fortnight ago. Nicks, who didn't play in the earlier meeting with Dallas due to injury, hasn't had a TD since his four-game scoring streak ended in Week 7. So if yardage helps your fantasy bottom line, all the Giants' receivers are in play; if you're looking for a touchdown, it's a bit more problematic.

TE Kevin Boss S3

Where have all the wideouts' touchdowns gone? Boss took 'em; he has four in the past four games. Given that the Cowboys have allowed two TE TDs and a 73-yard effort to Zach Miller over the past four outings, Boss is at minimum in line for an uptick over his one-catch, 13-yard showing in the earlier meeting.

DT Giants B The Giants' defense entered the season with so much promise, and they delivered defensive scores in the first two games. Since then, they've done nothing—certainly nothing that suggests you give them any fantasy attention this week.

San Francisco (5-6) at Seattle (4-7)

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San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith S2

Since holding Shaun Hill to 144 and zero back in Week 2, the Seahawks have surrendered multiple TD tosses to seven of nine opponents and at least 247 yards to a similar number. Smith's yardage is a little below that standared—he's topped 247 only once this year—but he has multiple scores in three of his last four and makes a solid play here.

RB Frank Gore S2

Gore exploited holes in the Seattle defense for 207 rushing yards and two long touchdowns back in Week 2. After a brief hiatus with an ankle injury Gore has bounced back to score in each of the past five games, with triple-digit combo yardage in three of the five. A score certainly isn't a given, as only one of the nine RB TDs Seattle has surrendered has come at home, but as Crash Davis said: you don't mess with a streak. Only he used a word that's a little stronger than "mess". Like, "when I wore my first dress."

WR Michael Crabtree

S2 In the first meeting between these clubs, Niner wideouts totaled five catches for 36 yards; since then, they signed Crabtree and turned the offense over to Smith. Thus, they're much better equipped to take advantage of a Seattle secondary that's given up WR TDs in six straight games, a total of 13 in that span. Crabtree has been the most targeted wideout in every game in which he's suited up, so if there's a wide receiver touchdown to be had—and Seattle's track record suggests there is—then he's the guy to get it.
WR Josh Morgan
B There's some mild upside here, as Morgan has moved in front of Jason Hill and Isaac Bruce in the passing game pecking order. But he's still down on the list behind Crabtree, Gore, and Vernon Davis; no need to reach that far.
TE Vernon Davis S2

The Seahawks held Davis to 2-32 back in the Week 2 meeting; since then Davis has exploded, scoring in six of nine games. Seattle has allowed only three TE TDs all year, but two of them have come in the last month. Davis is being targeted too frequently to be ignored, and Seattle's recent slips suggest he may find his way into the end zone again this week.

DT 49ers B The Seahawks haven't surrendered a defensive score this year, and aside from one monster game in which they scored three the Niners haven't scored one. That adds up to a B in my book.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck S2 Hass was knocked out of the front end of this series back in Week 2; here's his shot at redemption. The Niners have balked at paying extra to bring their pass defense along on road trips, giving up at least 264 yards in every away game. They've also allowed three 300-yard games and three multiple-TD outings in five away from the Bay, setting Hass up nicely for another quality home outing. Hasselbeck has been a fantasy helper in three of four in Seattle and should run that string to four of five here.
RB Julius Jones

When Jones returns from his bruised lung he'll return as the starter; however, that doesn't mean he'll get all the touches. However, while Jones practiced all week Forsett was limited on Friday with a quad injury and is actually less likely to play (questionable) than Jones (probable). The Niners haven't been all that great against the run of late, and Seattle has definitely run the ball better at home, so if you're stuck for a back you could do worse than reaching for Jones this week.

RB Justin Forsett

Forsett has two 100-yard games and four touchdowns since Jones went down, and while Jim Mora has indicated Jones will be the starter when he returns he also noted that Forsett's play has earned him playing time. So worst-case Forsett would be in line to share carries against a defense that's allowed two 100-yard rushers in the past month, plus handle third-down duties against a San Francisco D that's given up 261 receiving yards to backs in just the past three games. However, tempering the optimism is a quad injury that limited Forsett in practice Friday and has him listed as questionable. Unfortunately, this is shaping up to be a jobshare that siphons fantasy value from both backs.


T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Nate Burleson


The 49ers gave up big games to studs like Roddy White, Reggie Wayne, and Greg Jennings; that trio has accounted for all three 100-yard games and half of the eight WR TDs San Francisco has allowed. Both Housh and Burly have a 100-yard game to their credit over the past three weeks, but neither has scored since Week 9. Since neither is a legit stud like White, Wayne, or Jennings you can't project a monster game from either; instead, look for decent yardage and maybe a touchdown for the duo to fight over.

TE John Carlson
S3 Carlson has scored against the Seahawks' other two NFC West foes, and his 6-46 in the earlier meeting with the Niners—plus the five 50-plus yard games the Niners have allowed to the position, suggest that he's at least worth a shot in TE-mandatory leagues.
DT Seahawks S3 Seattle has three defensive touchdowns, including return scores in two of their last three in front of the fabled "12th Man" home crowd. At minimum, whenever they're home they're worthy of fantasy consideration.

Minnesota (10-1) at Arizona (7-4)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S2

Arizona has allowed multiple touchdown passes in just one of their last seven games. But turn the clock back to last year, when Favre threw six touchdowns against the Cards as a Jet and Tarvaris Jackson tossed an Abe Lincoln (four scores) at the Cards as the Vikings' starter. If you combine the two, and factor in that Favre has multiple scores in three of the last four, could this be the NFL's first 10-TD game?

RB Adrian Peterson S1

Peterson had 165 yards when these teams met last year at about this time. One year later, the Cards have allowed 100-yard rushers in four of their last five games. It's been a couple weeks since AP has reached triple digits, so it's about time he gets back in that saddle.

WR Sidney Rice


Favre thinks Rice is uncoverable, and who are we to argue? Sid has at least 89 yards or a touchdown—or both—in five of the last six games, including three tilts with at least 136 yards. Arizona has allowed two 100-yard receivers in the past three weeks, and if the Vikings are to make it three of four Rice is the most likely candidate.

WR Percy Harvin


The Cards have allowed only one WR TD in the past month, so secondary targets will need to make their hay on yardage. However, seeing as Arizona has allowed nine different wideouts to amass at least 50 yards in the past month alone, odds are pretty good that Harvin—fresh off his first 100-yard game and owner of four straight with at least 50 yards—will get his.

WR Bernard Berrian


Berrian has tended to be the third wheel among Viking wideouts, though Favre has targeted him 19 times over the past three games in an effort to get him more involved. You're not benching any Viking due to the match-up, but with so many players ahead of him in the pecking order Berrian is the least likely fantasy helper in purple this week.

TE Vishante Shiancoe S3

Greg Olsen's three-touchdown game makes the Arizona defense look a little softer against tight ends than they truly are, but even if the Cards didn't rank in the top 10 in yards, touchdowns, and fantasy points allowed to tight ends it would be tough to sit Big Shank. Pick your trend; he's scored in two straight, three of four, six of eight, three of his last four on the road and two of three against NFC West foes. However, note that Shiancoe was limited in practice all week by an ankle injury and is listed as questionable. This being a Sunday night game, you may not want to risk the zero you'd take if he doesn't play.

DT Vikings S2

The Cards allowed a kickoff return TD in last year's loss to the Vikings, and that was before Minnesota drafted Percy Harvin. Gotta like their chances for a repeat.

Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kurt Warner S2

Warner practiced fully all week, but he's still listed as questionable; worse, you won't have the luxury of swapping him out if we find out just prior to game time that he woke up with a headache or something. Kurt had multiple touchdown tosses in four straight prior to sitting out last week's loss to the Titans with post-concussion symptoms. While all signs point to a return, the outlook isn't quite as rosy that his streak remains intact; the Vikings have held four of the last five quarterbacks they've faced to one or zero scoring strikes, and even though the Cards played from behind in much of last year's loss to the Vikings Warner could only muster 270 and one. On the bright side, at least for Warner owners, is the fact that it's unlikely  the Cards will have much success running on Minnesota.

RB Chris "Beanie" Wells
B Wells' mini-run of success ended in Tennessee last week, and it's tough to see him kick-starting it against a Vikings defense that's allowed only three RB TDs on the year—none of them on the road—and zero 100-yard rushers.
RB Tim Hightower
U There's some mild upside to Hightower, who could emulate the receiving efforts of Ray Rice (10-117) and Justin Forsett (8-80) against the Vikes. But that's about it, and it has to be tempered by the fact that he was limited in practice all week and is listed as questionable.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
Anquan Boldin


The Vikings have allowed just one WR TD in the past three games, and only once this year has a team managed to score two wide receiver touchdowns in the same game. That said, with no running game to speak of both Fitzy and Boldin can expect to put up good fantasy numbers, with the upside of great certainly there as well.

WR Steve Breaston

In last year's Vikings/Cardinals tilt it was Jerheme Urban who posted the best numbers among Arizona receivers with 82 yards and a touchdown. Since three of the eight WR TDs the Vikings have allowed have gone to tertiary targets, don't be surprised if Warner spreads the wealth to Breaston. If, however, Kurt sits another game because of his concussion you can cross off all of Arizona's passing game after Fitz and Boldin.

TE Ben Patrick

After a brief surge Patrick—and Arizona tight ends in general—have returned to the back burner. While there may be some temptation to trot Patrick out against a Vikings defense that has struggled against the position, back to back shutouts of Greg Olsen and John Carlson suggest that Minnesota may have closed this loophole.

DT Cardinals B Brett Favre isn't throwing the picks he used to, making it difficult for opposing defenses to find ways to produce fantasy points.

Baltimore (6-5) at Green Bay (7-4)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco S3

Flacco has posted a couple decent yardage games—against formidable foes Pittsburgh and Indy, no less—but has now gone five games without throwing multiple touchdowns. The Pack might be more inclined to help him with the latter, having surrendered three or more scoring strikes in three of the last five games, but they haven't allowed a 300-yard game all year or even anything above 251 since Brett Favre's 271 in Week 4. So you're looking at yet another good-not-great outing from Flacco, who has settled into a rut that borders on "game manager".

RB Ray Rice

The Pack has tightened up its run D since a sluggish start, and they've given up just four RB TDs on the year. Look on the bright side: you don't need to worry about Willis McGahee stealing a score. Rice's value comes via his yardage, and in addition to what he'll supply on the ground you can look for quality production as a receiver as well against a Green Bay defense that's allowed two RB receiving touchdowns and three 40-plus yard receiving games to backs over the past five games alone.

WR Derrick Mason


Green Bay isn't giving up much to wideouts—at least, not to those who don't have Brett Favre as their quarterback. They've allowed one (and only one) WR TD in each of the past four games; with those kind of odds, you'd best not dig any deeper than Baltimore's most consistent wideout if you're looking for any sort of fantasy help this week.

WR Mark Clayton
Kelley Washington


Over the past nine games the Vikings have scored multiple WR TDs on the Pack twice, but no other team has managed that feat. While the Ravens also wear purple, that's where the similarities end. Don't dig this deep for a fantasy starter.


Todd Heap

B The Packers have allowed four TE TDs in the past five games; if Heap had any fantasy relevancy remaining, we'd be excited for him. But he doesn't, so we aren't.
DT Ravens S3 Never count out Ed Reed, especially when Aaron Rodgers will likely spend much of the afternoon ducking and chucking behind a line that's given up 44 sacks already this year.
Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S2

Rodgers is as hot as any quarterback in the league, with multiple touchdown tosses in eight of nine and at least 250 yards in four of five and eight of 10. Don't expect the Ravens to be overly accommodating, however; since giving up 436 and two to Philip Rivers in Week 2 they've allowed multiple touchdowns only once and no quarterback has topped 300 yards against them. Something's gotta give, and since the Pack are unlikely to mount much of a threat on the ground it's likely the Ravens' pass D under the sheer volume of attempts.


Ryan Grant


You know the drill on Grant: he beats up the creampuffs and lays down against the tougher Ds. Grant bucked that trend by doing little against the Lions on Thanksgiving, but don't expect a contrary performance against a Ravens' run defense that, while not as formidable as in past years, is hardly a pushover. It certainly doesn't help that Brandon Jackson is cutting into his touches, or that Grant was limited in practice this week by a shoulder injury.

WR Greg Jennings


The Ravens have allowed just seven WR TDs on the year, never more than one in a game. That means you have to split hairs and pick a Packer. This being a home game, Jennings gets the nod due to his three Lambeau Leaps (vs. zero road scores).

WR Donald Driver


You can't count out Driver, who has been the more consistent Packer wideout, but he tends to do his scoring on the road; four of his five touchdowns have come away from Green Bay, and he hasn't jumped into the front row since Week 2.

WR James Jones
Jordy Nelson


While any member of the Packers passing game is usually worthy of fantasy consideration, the Baltimore secondary  suggests that this week you avoid the tertiary targets and stick to the big guns.

TE JerMichael Finley

B Finley is back in the mix, but so is Donald Lee—who took his touchdown last week. The Ravens have allowed just one TE TD since their Week 7 bye, and that was to Dallas Clark so it barely counts. Finley has upside, but between the shared workload and the tough match-up it doesn't translate to a good fantasy start.
DT Packers S3 The Packers are always a threat to bring a turnover back all the way—like Charles Woodson did on Thanksgiving. The Ravens aren't nearly as likely to serve one up as the Lions were, but there's still that chance.

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