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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Start/Bench List - Week 15
John Tuvey
Updated: December 18, 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 (9-4) at San Diego (10-3)

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Cincinnati
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S3

Palmer has become a game manager of a quarterback, to the point where on the road he's borderline benchable. He's been shut out in two of his last four road games and thrown just one TD in each of the other two; he's failed to top 207 passing yards in three straight on the road; and since Cincy's Week 8 bye he's finished 19th or lower among quarterbacks in every week except one. In fact, against a defense that's held five of six visiting quarterbacks to 229 yards or less, S3 might be generous.

RB Cedric Benson
S2

The Chargers haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 4, and have given up just two RB rushing scores since then. Benson has gotten it done against tough defenses, averaging 110 yards per game in five full outings against the top four run Ds in the league (Minnesota, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore twice). By contrast, despite their recent success San Diego ranks 22nd, so there's no reason Benson can't keep carrying you towards a fantasy title.

WR Chad Ochocinco

S2

After a month-long slump Ochocinco has scored in back to back games. The Chargers are tough to score on, but it's not impossible; they've allowed at least one WR TD in each of the past three games despite facing the likes of Kansas City and Cleveland, and they've allowed each of Cincy's fellow AFC North clubs to get a wideout in the end zone as well. Put another way: who else is Palmer going to throw it to?

WR Andre Caldwell
Laveranues Coles
B Caldwell hasn't had a fantasy-relevant game since scoring in Week 9; Coles hasn't had one since before the Bengals' Week 8 bye. With Palmer in full-on game manager mode, there's no logic to dipping this far down the Cincy wideout depth chart.
DT Bengals B Cincy's defense has been solid but nothing to get excited about fantasy-wise.
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

Rivers has been good not great at home, with multiple touchdowns in half of his six games and at least 231 yards in every contest in San Diego. He'll be tested by a Cincy secondary that hasn't allowed a 200-yard passing game since prior to their Week 8 bye, with only one opposing quarterback throwing for multiple touchdowns in the last seven games. So lower your expectations a smidge, but there's no need to hit the panic button on Rivers this week.

RB LaDainian Tomlinson
S3 Cincy's run defense has been more than solid, especially on the road where Jerome Harrison is the only back to reach triple digits and the two TDs Adrian Peterson scored last week were the first the Bengals have surrendered on the road since Week 2. They'll test LT's five game scoring streak as well as his string of three straight home games with multiple touchdowns. Tomlinson isn't going to help you with yardage, but the Bolts are committed to getting him in the end zone on a regular basis; why stop now?
RB Darren Sproles
B Each week it's becoming tougher to make a case for Sproles' fantasy value; last week he abandoned his last group of supporters, ardent PPR leaguers, with one meager catch. Last one off the bandwagon, please turn out the lights.
WR Vincent Jackson
S3

Expect Jackson to see the same bracket coverage that has worked so well on other opposing No. 1s. That Sidney Rice scored last week and Calvin Johnson the week before suggests the defense isn't fool-proof, and Jackson's 120-yard outing last week may indicate the end of his five-game scoring streak is nigh. Said slump has already dialed back expectations, so proceed with cautious optimism.

WR Malcolm Floyd
Legedu Naanee
B The Bengals haven't allowed multiple WR TDs in the same game all season, and they're unlikely to start here.
TE Antonio Gates S2

Gates has been on a roll of late, with two 100-yard games and three touchdowns in the past three games. Historically one of the more tight end-friendly defenses, the Bengals have been a little tougher this year. That said, they haven't done nearly enough to make you consider benching Gates, so... business as usual.

DT Chargers B The Bengals have been playing a relatively conservative brand of football this season, while the Chargers haven't provided nearly the anticipated bang for the defensive buck.
 

Tampa Bay (1-12) at Seattle (5-8)

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Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh Freeman S3

This is a real opportunity for Freeman, who has eight picks and zero touchdowns in his last two games, to get back in the saddle. The Seahawks have allowed multiple TD tosses in six of seven games since their Week 7 bye and at least 290 passing yards in four straight. They've also been unusually soft at home, giving up multiple scores in three straight in front of the home crowd. Given that Freeman's two goose eggs have come against top-five pass defenses (Jets and Panthers), while the Seahawks are much farther down the totem pole, if you're in a bind for a quarterback he's certainly got the match-up working in his favor.

RB Carnell Williams



B

The Seahawks have allowed only one RB TD in Seattle this year, and no back has topped 67 yards. If Caddy had scored in the last month he might be worth a look here. But he doesn't, so it's impossible to give him a recommendation here.

WR Antonio Bryant

S2

Six of the last eight WR1s to face the Seahawks have scored; two have scored twice, and two have topped 100 yards. Despite Freeman's recent rough patch he's found Bryant 10 times for 229 yards and a touchdown over the past three games. If the Bucs are to score this week, a Freeman-to-Bryant connection seems the most likely way.

WR Sammie Stroughter
Maurice Stovall

U

There is upside to be had here, as the Seahawks have given up 16 WR TDs over the past eight games, including eight to secondary targets. Moreover, non-No. 1s have produced eight 50-yard games in that span. While it would be extremely difficult to trot out a secondary receiver on the road—with a QB that hasn't throwing a touchdown in two games, no less—at this critical juncture of the season, if you're desperate there's a chance here to be taken.

TE Kellen Winslow
S2

Freeman keeps looking Winslow's way; he's been targeted an average of nine times per game since the rookie took over. K2 has just one TD to show for his efforts, but he's averaging five catches for 60 yards per game over that span. The Seahawks have allowed the last two tight ends—and three of the last five—to visit Seattle to score, dramatically increasing WInslow's odds of being a real fantasy helper this week. However, keep an eye on the pregame show, as Winslow was held out of Friday's session and is listed as questionable.

DT Buccaneers B No Dewey Selmon, no Warren Sapp... this is not your father's Buccaneer defense.
Seattle
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck S3 Can you trust a quarterback with one multiple touchdown effort to his credit in the last six weeks? This being a home game tilts the odds slightly in Hasselbeck's favor, as he's had three multi-TD games at home and posted at least 241 yards in four of six Seattle starts. The Buccaneer defense has been better of late, giving up less than 200 passing yards in two of its last three on the road, but those numbers might be skewed by having faced backup quarterbacks in three straight weeks. Ultimately Hasselbeck has a good-not-great matchup and a good-not-great track record at home, making him a good-not-great start.
RB Julius Jones
Justin Forsett
S2

The Bucs have allowed running back touchdowns in nine straight games (a total of 13 TDs in that span), with nine backs rushing for at least 75 yards in that span. Jones got 20 carries the last time Seattle played at home and has had a couple good games there, and while Forsett has chipped into his playing time—and been extremely productive while doing so—there should be enough for both backs to have fantasy value this week.

WR

T.J. Houshmandzadeh

B

Housh has done nothing of fantasy import for the past month; it would be almost impossible to trust him with a start at this juncture.

WR

Nate Burleson

B

Burleson's high ankle sprain will likely keep him out not only this week but perhaps the rest of the season.

WR

Deion Branch

S3

Hasselbeck has to throw to somebody, right? How about Branch, the last Seattle wideout to score a touchdown. The Bucs have struggled with speedy receivers; the list of wideouts who have scored on them includes Crayton, Austin, Evans, Maclin (twice), James Jones, and both Santana and Sinorice Moss. So with Burleson out and Housh mired in a slump, if you're taking a shot on a Seattle receiver this week why not Branch?

TE John Carlson
B Carlson scored last week, right about the time most fantasy owners had given up on him because of his non-involvement in the offense. The Bucs are nothing special against tight ends, so if you're thinking lighting can strike twice Carlson is worth a shot in TE-mandatory leagues. Otherwise, you'd be best served looking elsewhere for help.
DT Seahawks S3 Seattle is playing host to a quarterback with eight picks and zero touchdowns in his last two games; that's gotta put the odds at least somewhat in their favor for a defensive TD.
 

Green Bay (9-4) at Pittsburgh (6-7)

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Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S2

Rodgers has struggled against the Bears... and pretty much had his way with everybody else. Sans Troy Polamalu, the Steelers have given up multiple touchdown outings to Matt Cassel and Bruce Gradkowski; you gotta believe Rodgers can have at least similar success, right?

RB

Ryan Grant

B

You know the drill by now. It's a tough match-up, which means Grant is virtually unusable. Here's his numbers against other top-five run defenses: 14-46-1, 11-51, 10-30, 18-41. That's not going to cut it in the fantasy playoffs.

WR Donald Driver


S2

The Steelers have given up 100-yard games to two of the last three featured receivers to visit Pittsburgh, and when traveling Driver steps up as Green Bay's go-to guy. He has touchdowns in four of six road games (compared to zero road touchdowns for Greg Jennings) and last week's 11-yard debacle was his first road outing under 55 yards.

WR Greg Jennings


S3

Despite not having scored on the road, Jennings hasn't been useless; he has at least 50 yards in four straight away from Green Bay. However, if you're splitting hairs among the Green Bay wideouts this week—and what Pittsburgh is giving up to wideouts demands that you do—then when the road whites go on he's second fiddle to Driver.

WR James Jones
Jordy Nelson

B

Even without Polamalu, the Steelers haven't given up much to tertiary receivers; the Oakland game was the first in which a third wideout posted more than 50 yards or scored.

TE JerMichael Finley

S3 The Steelers haven't been soft on tight ends, but Finley is targeted too frequently—at least six looks in each of the last four games, an average of almost eight per contest over that span—to be ignored in TE mandatory leagues.
DT Packers S3 Lots of things have gone wrong for Pittsburgh of late, and the Packers have a way of making you pay when they do.
Pittsburgh
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S2

Maybe Big Ben's 278 and two against the Raiders in Pittsburgh's last home game put him back in the saddle; he'd been held to 175 or fewer yards and one total touchdown in his last two at Heinz Field, so he needed some sort of boost. You can no longer expect gaudy, like the three 300-yard, multiple touchdown games Roethlisberger opened the home slate with; besides, the Packers have allowed between 205 and 213 yards in their last three road games. However, they've surrendered multiple touchdowns in two of three so a solid outing from Big Ben seems likely—assuming he gets a little blocking up front.

RB Rashard Mendenhall


S3

The Packers have earned their high ranking against the run; only two backs have scored rushing touchdowns against them, and no back has topped 60 yards against the Pack since Week 8. Mendenhall's 63-yard effort against the Browns last week was a disaster of biblical proportions; if that's all he can muster against a bottom-feeding defense like Cleveland, what can be expected here? Not a touchdown, that's for sure; Mendenhall has just one rushing score in the past two months. So, no score and minimal yardage; at best he's a fringe play where you cross your fingers and hope he gets lucky.

WR Hines Ward
S2

Green Bay has allowed at least one WR TD in each of the last seven games, bookended by multiple scores surrendered to the Vikings and Bears. Six of those nine TDs have gone to secondary receivers, likely because Charles Woodson is locked down on the WR1. Assuming the Packers treat Holmes as the Steelers' No. 1, that should free Ward up for decent numbers.

WR Santonio Holmes
S3

Only twice in the past two months has a WR1 had more than 50 yards against the Packers. That flies in the face of what Holmes has provided this year; he's been below 50 yards only once, and that came back in Week 3. However, Charles Woodson has a way of shutting down receivers, and he's likely to spend much of Sunday in Holmes' hip pocket. While he may not be benchable, you at minimum need to dial back your expectations.

WR Mike Wallace

B

Wallace hasn't been fantasy-relevant for more than a month; tough to trust him now and toss him into the midst of a fantasy playoff game.

TE Heath Miller
S3

After some midseason yips the Packers have been markedly better against tight ends of late, shutting out both Greg Olsen and Jason Witten in the past month. Miller, meanwhile, has largely disappeared from the Steelers' game plan with just one touchdown in his last seven games. His five catches last week against Cleveland might signal a resurgence, and if Green Bay's corners are taking away Pittsburgh's wideouts and the pass rush is closing in Miller might be an awfully attractive alternative to Ben Roethlisberger taking yet another sack.

DT Steelers S3. The Steel Curtain without Troy Polamalu is a mere shell of its former self. However, there does appear to be at least some upside in the match-up between Pittsburgh's pass-rushing linebackers and Green Bay's porous offensive line.
 

Minnesota (11-2) at Carolina (5-8)

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Minnesota
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S3

The Panthers haven't allowed multiple passing touchdowns in a game since Week 8, but that may be just fine with Favre. After padding his stat line at the expense of some Adrian Peterson touchdowns, Favre may be looking to conserve his cannon for the playoffs; last week he posted his lowest fantasy numbers since the season opener—not surprisingly in another game where Peterson scored multiple touchdowns. Favre is always a threat at the stripe, but with Carolina so soft against the run the expectation is another subdued stat line like last week—unless, of course, the Vikings need him to pull their bacon out of the fire.

RB Adrian Peterson S1

Carolina has given up running back touchdowns in every game except one. They've allowed triple-digit rushing yardage in five straight, including three straight on their home field. And they get an angry Peterson, who was embarrassed by the Arizona defense in prime time a couple weeks back and is looking to take it out on someone. One of the more running back friendly fantasy defenses will do just fine.

WR Sidney Rice


S2

The Panthers haven't surrendered a wide receiver touchdown since Week 9 and have given up just three all season. They haven't, however, been immune to giving up big yardage games—they've allowed a 100-yard receiver in back-to-back games—and already this year Rice has three games with 136 or more yards in which he hasn't scored. He's the most trustworthy Vikings receiver, and he doesn't need a TD to have fantasy value. Keep an eye on his availability, however, as he missed practice both Thursday and Friday because of illness. He's listed as questionable, but given that he's purchased 70 tickets for this game, which will be played about 25 minutes from his home town, expect him to find a way to make it to the field.

WR Percy Harvin


S3

After missing five days of practice and last week's game because of migraines, Harvin returned on a limited basis Friday. Looks like things are trending in a positive direction, and if he's back on the field you can expect the Vikings to find a way to get him the ball.

WR Bernard Berrian

B

With so little to go around in the passing game, even if Harvin sits out another game it's tough to bank on a meaningful fantasy contribution from a secondary receiver like Berrian. Now if both Harvin and Rice are out...

TE Vishante Shiancoe S3

Over the past seven games the Panthers have allowed three TE TDs and another three tight ends to top 65 yards against them. Big Shank hasn't been much of a yardage guy on the road, but he does have touchdowns in four of his last in road whites and provides an option for Favre if the wideouts are covered.

DT Vikings S3

Minnesota gets either a backup quarterback or an interception-prone one, protected by an offensive line that has lost both starting tackles. Smells like upside!

Carolina
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Moore B Making a third straight start in place of the injured Jake Delhomme, Moore isn't throwing enough to have much fantasy value. And while the last two quarterbacks the Vikings have faced on the road have put up at least 285 yards and three touchdowns, Moore isn't in the same class as Kurt Warner and Aaron Rodgers. So expect something closer to the 207 and one averaged by the other four quarterbacks who have hosted the Vikings.
RB

DeAngelo Williams

S3 Williams is good, but he's struggled against better run defenses (16-40 against the Jets, 13-82 against New England, 18-40 against Washington) and no team has allowed fewer fantasy points to backs than the Vikings. They haven't allowed a running back touchdown on the road this season—they've only allowed three all year regardless of venue—and no home back has topped 84 yards against them. Your expectations for DeAngelo need to be lowered dramatically, to the point that benching him in the fantasy playoffs is a viable option.
RB

Jonathan Stewart

B In those three dates with tough defenses noted above, Stewart tallied 35 (Jets), 29 (Pats), and 39 (Skins) yards, though he did manage a touchdown against Washington. There simply won't be enough to go around here, rendering Stewart impotent for fantasy purposes.
WR Steve Smith S3

Remember when Smith faced the Vikings in the Metrodome shortly after the Love Boat scandal and Minnesota opted to cover him with Fred Smoot and Smith lit them up like the Christmas tree in the Chevy Chase movie? Yeah, that's not gonna happen this time. Antoine Winfiled is back, and between the blanket coverage and the backup quarterback you're looking at maybe a day similar to the 27-yard, one-TD outing Chad Ochocinco posted last week—maybe a little more yardage, but the touchdown is hardly a given.

WR Muhsin Muhammed
Dwayne Jarrett
B

With Moore throwing so little—and most of what's there directed at Smith—there simply isn't enough passing yardage to make either secondary target a viable fantasy entity.

TE Dante Rosario

B

For the season the numbers suggest tight ends are a good fantasy play against the Vikings. However, over the past month they've allowed no touchdowns and only 84 yards to the position. It would take an incredibly cushy match-up to dig deep enough into the tight end pool to pull out Rosario, and this isn't that match-up.

DT Panthers B Carolina's defense has done little of fantasy note.
 

New York Giants (7-6) at Washington (4-9)

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New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S3

Manning has never thrown for more than one touchdown in 10 career dates with the Redskins. However, he brings a streak of four straight with multiple scores into this meeting with a Washington defense that has surrendered multiple TD tosses only twice all year, so it could get interesting. Manning had 256 yards in the earlier meeting between these squads and should see adequate yardage again, but he's wavering on that one-or-two-TD fence. A road date and a tough D tip him back towards a single score, which makes him a fringe fantasy helper at best.

RB Brandon Jacobs

S3

This won't be easy; the Redskins haven't allowed a running back touchdown in Washington this year, and since Jacobs hasn't had a 100-yard game yet this year he needs to score to have fantasy value. The Skins held him to 46 yards in the earlier meeting, but Brandon was shut out by the other NFC East teams in the front end of those series as well and he's hit paydirt in back-to-back tilts against the Cowboys and Eagles the past two weeks. There isn't a whole lot of upside here, but 60 yards and a score doesn't seem like too much to ask.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw

S3

Bradshaw actually saw more touches than Jacobs last week, plus he's scored in each of his two previous road games and has a 100-yard effort on the road as well. He had 60 yards in the earlier meeting with the Skins and unlike Jacobs doesn't necessarily need a score to have fantasy value. Be aware that he didn't practice either Thursday or Friday, but that's been par for the course for Bradshaw this season.

WR Steve Smith
Hakeem Nicks

S3

Mario Mannningham scored in the earlier meeting with Washington, which isn't surprising since they've proven susceptible to speed receivers. However, since that time Smith and Nicks have emerged as the more consistent options in the Giants' passing game. Smith consistently delivers the catches and yardage to help in performance leagues, while Nicks is the most likely of the group to score. Neither are great plays against the Skins, but Washington has given up six WR TDs and two 100-yard games over the past five weeks so they don't need to be abandoned.

WR Mario Manningham

B

Manningham has lost his starting gig to Nicks, and there isn't enough here for a third wheel to provide fantasy value.

TE Kevin Boss S3

The Skins have allowed only two TE TDs all year, but Boss has five scores in the last six games as well as three games of 70 or more yards over that span. He's usable in leagues that require a tight end but in combo WR/TE leagues you likely have a better option.

DT Giants S3 The Giants scored a defensive touchdown against the Skins back in the season opener; they've done little since, but maybe another date with Washington will jog their memory.
Washington
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jason Campbell S2

Maybe the change in play callers is working. Campbell had 211 and one in the earlier meeting with the Giants but he rolls into this game with multiple touchdown tosses in three straight. A date with a Giants secondary that's allowed multiple TDs in five of the last six doesn't exactly hurt his chances.

RB Quinton Ganther
S3 The Skins have gone through myriad backs since Clinton Portis ran for 62 yards on the Giants in the season opener. Last week Ganther emerged as the go-to guy, and while not quite as favorable as last week's match-up with the Raiders this week's date with Big Blue is not to be shied away from. While the Giants haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 2, the last thre teams to face them have cobbled together 125 or more rushing yards amongst their respective committees, with at least one RB TD in every game and a total of six over the three-game span. If 60 yards and a score are what you're looking for, Ganther might just be the answer to your search.
WR Devin Thomas
Santana Moss

S3 Moss was held to two catches in the season opener, while Thomas was an afterthought. However, over the past six games the Giants' secondary hasn't been stopping anyone. They've allowed 10 WR TDs in that span, including big games to speed guys like DeSean Jackson (256 and two in two games) and Miles Austin (104 and one) as well as touchdowns to Jeremy Maclin and Eric Weems. That bodes well for Moss; Thomas had a 100-yard, two-TD game just two weeks ago and is just as bright a blip on Campbell's radar as Moss.
TE Fred Davis S1

Davis has touchdowns in three straight games, with 146 yards and a total of four scores in that span. The Giants have given up four TE TDs in the past six games and at least 53 yards to the position in each one of those tilts, making Davis one of the most attractive plays at his position this week.

DT Redskins B Washington has played solid D all year, but it simply hasn't translated into fantasy help.

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