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Start/Bench List - Week 16
John Tuvey
Updated: December 26, 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)

Detroit (2-12) at San Francisco (6-8)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Stanton

Drew Stanton, come on down! Your 15-30-129-0-3 in spot duty this season qualifies you to replace Daunte Culpepper as the Lions' starting quarterback this week. As an added bonus, we'd like to throw you into the lineup on the road against a defense that has shut out the last four quarterbacks to visit Candlestick—a group that includes Kurt Warner, David Garrard, Jay Cutler and Vince Young. Good luck!

RB Maurice Morris

Bust a 64-yard touchdown and suddenly everything's coming up Millhouse. Expecting Morris to follow that run with something just as impressive, however, feels like chasing last week's points; MoMo hasn't made a meaningful fantasy contribution in a road game since Week 17 of the 2007 season. The Niners have given up big games at the Stick to Chris Johnson (135 and 2) and Michael Turner (97 and 3)—neither of whom Morris compares favorably to. Other visiting backs—Beanie Wells, Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Maurice Jones-Drew—have all been held under 80 yards, with Wells the only one to score. Odds are you can find something more helpful elsewhere on your roster.

WR Calvin Johnson S3

It's not impossible for a visiting wide receiver to score in San Francisco; after all, Roddy White went for 210 and 2 in Week 5. In six other home games, however, the 49ers have shut out all comers and allowed only one to top 65 yards. Johnson gets a very tepid green light here only because the Detroit playbook from which Stanton will be working clearly states the importance of throwing to Megatron on the road. He's been targeted double-digit times in five of six away games and thrown to nine times in the other. Through sheer volume he should amass enough yardage and maybe even a garbage-time touchdown to give your fantasy team a little help.

WR Bryant Johnson
Dennis Northcutt

Johnson hasn't scored since Week 9, Northcutt since Week 5; neither has topped 75 yards all year. The switch to Stanton isn't likely to help either snap those dismal trends.

DT Lions B Okay, so maybe Louis Delmas gives this defense a little hope. Tough to see that happening on the road, though.
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith S2

Last week's tough match-up in Philly snapped Smith's streak of four straight with multiple touchdowns. No worries; he has two TD tosses in three of four at home and faces a Detroit defense that's allowed at least one touchdown pass in every road game this year—a total of 14 in seven dates—as well as four 300-yard efforts away from Motown.

RB Frank Gore S1

As noted last week, Gore is more productive at home than on the road. Since Smith took over at quarterback he's averaging 20 carries per game in San Francisco and has a touchdown in every home game; on the road he's scored twice in five games and is averaging less than 12 carries per game. So a home date with a defense that's allowed every feature back it's faced on the road to go for triple-digit combo yardage—including five 100-yard rushers and a total of nine RB TDs in seven games—is just what the doctor orderd come fantasy championship time.

WR Michael Crabtree S2 Even though Vernon Davis is Smith's favorite target, even though Josh Morgan is horning in on Crabtree's action and scored last week, you have to like the rookie against a Detroit D that's allowed nine touchdowns and three 100-yard receivers in the past five games.
WR Josh Morgan S3 There should even be enough left over for Morgan this week against a Lions secondary that has allowed 14 different wide receivers to score or top 50 yards—or both—in just the past seven games.
TE Vernon Davis S1

The Lions have allowed more TE TDs than any other team in the NFL, which works out extremely well for Davis because he's scored more touchdowns than any other tight end in the NFL.

DT 49ers S2 Back home and against Drew Stanton in his first pro start; sounds like a recipe for fantasy success for the Niners' D/ST.

Denver (8-6) at Philadelphia (10-4)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton S3

Orton is definitely usable here, with multiple touchdowns in three straight road games and four of five away from Denver. His yardage has been nothing special, however, and he'll find the going tougher in Philly—and not just because of the batteries packed in the snowballs. The Eagles have held three of the last four visiting quarterbacks to one TD toss, while picking off eight passes in that span. So while usable, with a fantasy championship on the line you may want to look for an upgrade to "preferable".


Knowshon Moreno

S3 Frank Gore's 107-yard effort was the first triple-digit effort against Philly this year—all the more surprising given the venue because they've been particularly stout at home. The Eagles have allowed a back to top 50 yards just once in five dates at the Linc leading up to last week. Moreno filled his Christmas stocking with something other than toys last week in posting a meager 42 yards in 19 carries at home against the Raiders last week, so we're not exactly filled with optimism here. He's still the lead horse in Denver's RBBC, but the upside here is limited.

Correll Buckhalter

B Buck is notable here for two reasons. The first is that four of the five RB TDs Philly has surrendered at home have gone to backs other than the primary ball-carrier; the second is that he's a former Eagle perhaps looking for a dose of revenge against his ex-mates. That's a pretty thin pair of legs to prop up a fantasy start in Championship, but if you're desperate he's at least worthy of a look-see.
WR Brandon Marshall

Philly has allowed WR TDs in three straight at home and four straight overall; Marshall can trump that, with 428 yards and five touchdowns in his last three on the road as well as scores in three straight overall. Temper your yardage expectations a bit, as no wideout has topped 75 yards in Philly since their home opener, but there's nothing here to suggest a move as radical as sitting Marshall entirely.

WR Eddie Royal
Brandon Stokley
Jabar Gaffney


This trio combined for one fewer catch than Marshall had on his own, so there's no reason to go beyond the lead dog in looking for fantasy help here. Royal has already been ruled out with neck and head injuries; you can do the same to the other two.

TE Tony Scheffler
Daniel Graham


Despite giving up the second-most fantasy points to tight ends the Eagles scored a moral victory last week by holding Vernon Davis to 43 yards and no scores. That, combined with the fact that neither Bronco tight end is consistently involved in the offense, makes neither usable for fantasy purposes this week.

DT Broncos B This team faced Charlie Frye, J.P. Losman, and JaMarcus Russell at home last week—and lost. You do the math whether or not you want to use them in Philly; we'll stick with "no".
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb

McNabb has but one TD toss in three straight at home; the Broncos have given up one or zero scoring strikes in six of seven on the road this year. Denver has also done a good job of capping the yardage, with Peyton Manning's 220 the high mark in their last four on the road. Donovan will fight them on the yardage; he's thrown for at least 227 in each of his full games this season. With Champ Bailey hawking DeSean Jackson and Brian Westbrook returning to the backfield, this one might sport a non-Eagles-like tilt towards the running game—not enough to take McNabb off the fantasy market, but enough to make him a borderline play this week.

RB LeSean McCoy
Brian Westbrook
Leonard Weaver

The Broncos have given up plenty of yardage to backs—about 145 per game—but only eight RB TDs on the year. And with Westbrook returning to split that yardage three ways it's tough to see one emerging as a back you could play with any degree of confidence this week.

WR DeSean Jackson

S3 Expect Jackson to see plenty of Champ Bailey in this one, putting his four-game scoring streak in jeopardy. Don't think that D-Jax is match-up proof; despite scoring in five of seven home games this year he's been taken almost completely out of the other two (2-29 against the Cowboys and 1-1 against Aqib Talib and the Bucs). So if you plan to use Jackson in Championship Week, you'd better hope he and the Eagles have a plan for shaking him free from Champ—and then avoiding the knockout blow sure to be coming from Brian Dawkins.
WR Jeremy Maclin
Jason Avant
Reggie Brown
B There's a reason that only two teams have allowed fewer WR yards and only four have given up fewer WR TDs, and it's not just Champ Bailey alone. Even if Maclin returns from his foot injury here there's no reliable fantasy play to be had.
TE Brent Celek

S2 Celek has scored in five of eight and has a touchdown or 58 yards or both in six of seven at the Linc this season. The Broncos just gave up a three-TD game to Dallas Clark, and while another triple is unlikely Celek is certainly among the better fantasy plays at his position.
DT Eagles S3 Philly has been known to blitz its way into some fantasy points; give this unit an upgrade if you get credit for Jackson's returns, as with Champ throwing the blanket on him it may be his only way of making an impact this week.

New York Jets (7-7) at Indianapolis (14-0)

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New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Mark Sanchez B

The Colts have allowed four straight and five of six opposing quarterbacks to throw for multiple touchdowns against them. Don't look for Sanchez to extend the string; he hasn't thrown for multiple scores since prior to the Jets' Week 9 bye. Put another way: the Jets' game plan does not call for Sanchez to throw enough to provide fantasy help this week—and neither do Plan B or Plan C, either.

RB Thomas Jones S2

Expect the Jets to follow the standard blueprint for beating Indy: run the ball, control the clock, and keep Peyton Manning off the field. Obviously, that blueprint is zero-for-fourteen this year, but it's the best shot the Jets have of extending their playoff hopes. Jones will be instrumental to that plan; he's carried 21 or more times in each of the past four road games and produced at least 99 rushing yards in each. Indy has allowed three backs to top 90 yards at Lucas Field, so that portion of the plan should work; where the Jets may run into trouble is scoring a touchdown. After giving up RB TDs in each of their first five home dates—two on receptions, and only two on the ground to feature backs—they've shut out Knowshon Moreno and Chris Johnson. Jones has been held out of the end zone in two of his last three road tilts, so you may have to settle for a solid yardage outing this week.

RB Shonn Greene B

Greene continues to get a handful of carries, but he hasn't done anything with them against softer opponents—at least not since the Oakland game in Week 7—so it would be folly to expect that to change against the undefeated Colts.

WR Braylon Edwards


After shutting out wide receivers in their first four home dates the Colts have given up six over the last three games. They've also allowed four 100-yard receivers in seven at home, providing at least a glimmer of hope for Edwards, who is coming off 105 and 1 last week and more in the mold of the elite wideouts (Marshall, Moss, Andre Johnson) who have had success in Indy. Don't expect the same production, but a healthy fraction of their numbers would make Braylon a viable fantasy play this week.

WR Jerricho Cotchery


Cotch hasn't done anything of fantasy note since a Week 11 touchdown, making him too risky to trust with a fantasy start here.

TE Dustin Keller

Keller has flirted with fantasy relevancy this year, but he hasn't had a noteworthy road game since Kickoff Weekend and would be a wasted play against an Indy defense that has allowed just two tight end touchdowns all year.

DT Jets S3 The operating assumption is that Peyton Manning will play as much as necessary here, but if Rex Ryan blitzes him on every play it won't be long before we're being treated to the quarterback stylings of Curtis Painter. It's a risky fantasy ploy to be sure, but one that makes sense from multiple angles.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Peyton Manning S2

Do you dare? Do you play Peyton in your title game knowing full well he could be wearing a baseball cap by halftime? That's a risk only you can assess; we'll break this down as if you're getting a full 60 minutes from Manning on Sunday.  For starters, this is about as tough a match-up as a quarterback can get. The Jets haven't allowed multiple touchdowns to a quarterback since Week 5, and only one QB has topped 221 yards during that same span. Manning comes into this one hot, with back-to-back four TD games; he also has multiple touchdowns in nine of 14 this year and 300-plus yards in a similar number. If this were Week 10, with nothing clinched, the rhetoric would be that Manning is Manning and he'll get his regardless of opponent and while he may be an S2 you'd have to come up with a compelling alternative to even consider benching him. Now factor in the risk that he may sit, and it's a little easier to find that alternative.

RB Joseph Addai S3 The Jets have given up just four RB TDs in the last nine games and only one 100-yard rusher all year. Addai is already ceding carries to Mike Hart and Chad Simpson, and if Donald Brown is healthy he'll work himself back into the mix as well. Again, based solely on the matchup and Addai's production thus far he's a borderline fantasy play this week; factor in the risk of an early exit and odds are you have a more compelling option.
WR Reggie Wayne

Wayne may be the toughest call of Indy's regulars this week; even if he plays, all that means is a date with shutdown corner Darrelle Revis. In fact, it may be easier for Wayne owners to use the risk of an early exit as a crutch; you wouldn't bench Wayne otherwise even given the tough match-up, but if he's going to sit in lieu of Hank Baskett then you'd better do so as well. At best you're looking at an extremely light day of productivity from Wayne; at worst, a light day of activity. Plan accordingly.

WR Pierre Garçon
Austin Collie
Hank Baskett
B The Jets have allowed the fewest yards to wideouts and the second-fewest touchdowns. It's why even if they were playing the whole game the prospects for Manning and Wayne would be limited at best. Going any further down the depth chart, other than knowing they'll be forced to keep playing while the stars sit, makes little sense. Garçon has been ruled out with a hand injury, leaving the Colts extremely short-handed at wideout. You may be treated to a hefty dose of Hank Baskett.
TE Dallas Clark S3

Okay, so somebody has to score for Indy; might as well be the red-hot Clark, who has five touchdowns in two games. Maybe the Jets learned after giving up the game-winning score to Tony Gonzalez last week that playing zone at the goal line is a bad idea, but either way Clark is the most likely cold to have a match-up Manning will exploit. He'll get his early, then likely give way to Jacob Tamme and Gijon Robinson.

DT Colts B Last week Indy rested more regulars on defense than on offense, so aside from the interception-prone rookie at quarterback for the Jets this doesn't project to be a particularly favorable match-up for the Colts.

Dallas (9-5) at Washington (4-10)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

So much for a December swoon for Romo; he has 953 yards and six touchdowns this month, rolling into a rematch with a Redskins defense that's allowed multiple touchdowns in three straight home games. Romo was held to 158 and one in the earlier match-up, but the way the Cowboys are playing right now, combined with the way the Redskins are playing right now, he'll give both those numbers a substantial boost.

RB Marion Barber

Possible clue the Redskins have checked out for the 2009 campaign: after not allowing a running back touchdown at home all year, they gave up two to Ahmad Bradshaw on Monday night. Add to that a Cowboys squad that discovered the joys of running the ball on the road last week in New Orleans and a repeat of MB3's 99-yard outing against the Skins in Dallas seems more than likely—with a possible touchdown as well.

RB Felix Jones B

Jones was moderately effective last week with a handful fewer carries than Barber, but that 58 yard effort in New Orleans was 14 yards more than he had in four previous road games combined so we're not quite ready to trust him with a fantasy start on the road just yet.

WR Miles Austin

Austin has scored in four straight since the Redskins held him to 4-47 in Week 11, topping the 100-yard mark in three of those four. A Washington secondary that's allowed eight WR TDs in the past four home games doesn't feel like the kind of defense that's going to keep Austin from making that mid-season waiver wire pickup look like sheer genius.

WR Roy Williams


Apparently the Redskins secondary got the "call it quits" memo early; in the last two home games they've let five different wideouts score and two more top 60 yards. So even after Austin gets his there should be enough for Williams to make himself some fantasy hay as well.

TE Jason Witten S3

The Skins haven't given up a TE TD since Tony Gonzalez got them in Week 9... but then Witten hasn't scored since Week 2, so it's a wash. Washington has given up a steady stream of decent yardage outings, including 86 to the Cowboys in the earlier meeting though Witten had to split it with Martellus Bennett. Witten is still usable in TE-mandatory and PPR formats, so long as a good yardage day with no touchdown fills your stat sheet.

DT Cowboys S2 The Redskins have coughed up a defensive score in three of their last four at home, and the way the Cowboys brought the heat to the Saints last week suggests they're ready, willing, and able to extend that run here.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jason Campbell S3

If you enjoyed Campbell's 256 and zero in the earlier meeting with Dallas then you'll like where this one is headed. The Cowboys have ceded multiple touchdown tosses to just one of the last seven quarterbacks they've faced, though all but one have thrown for at least 200 yards. Campbell's numbers have been trending downward since his 367 and 3 against the Saints, so expecting anything more than adequate yardage and one TD at most would be like wishing for world peace at Christmas: a nice thought, just extremely unlikely.

RB Quinton Ganther
S3 After a midseason stretch in which the Cowboys went four games without allowing a single RB TD they've allowed at least one in each of the last three games. Ganther, with three TDs in two games since wresting the starting gig from Rock Cartwright, isn't going to get you big yardage. However, another touchdown wouldn't surprise.
RB Rock Cartwright
U Desperate for running back help in a PPR league? Rock had seven catches for 73 yards against the Cowboys in the earlier meeting and had 51 receiving yards last week; meanwhile, since Cartwright's big game against them the Cowboys have allowed RBs to put up 43, 50, and 74-yard receiving games. It's a dart throw to be sure, but in bigger leagues sometimes it's that last dart that puts you over the top.
WR Devin Thomas
Santana Moss

B The Cowboys have allowed just three WR TDs in the past seven games and held each member of the Redskins' WR corps under 50 yards and without a touchdown in the earlier meeting. With a combined three TDs since Washington's Week 8 bye Thomas and Moss are little threat to put up fantasy points here. Thomas is listed as doubtful with an ankle injury, making him even less likely to be a fantasy helper this week.
TE Fred Davis S2

Davis has scored in each of the four games since Dallas held him to two catches for 24 yards; he's a solid bet to improve on that performance, as much for the Cowboys' largesse to the position—they've allowed TE TDs or 70-plus yards to the position in three of the last four and five of the last seven—as for Davis' acumen. Doesn't hurt that Washington's wideouts are nothing special, either.

DT Redskins B Washington had played solid D all year up until last week, and they weren't providing anything in the way of fantasy help before; why would that change now?

Minnesota (11-3) at Chicago (5-9)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S3

Favre ripped the Bears for 392 and three in Minnesota just a month ago, but there are multiple reasons to expect less this time around. It's not that the Chicago defense is playing any better, though more than two-thirds of the passing scores they've allowed have come on the road. The Vikings have been trying to dial back Favre and get their running game kick-started, and an outdoor game might be just the opportunity for Minnesota to lean heavily on their ground game. Favre isn't benchable by any stretch—he wouldn't let you even if you tried—but don't expect a redux of the 392 and three.

RB Adrian Peterson S1

The Bears haven't had the answer to Peterson yet; he's rolled up 739 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in five career outings against them, scoring at least once in each one. And while he's struggled of late and hasn't had a 100-yard game in more than a month, AP does have touchdowns in two of his last three and a date with a Bears defense that has allowed 348 rushing yards and three TDs to the last three feature backs to visit Soldier Field.

WR Sidney Rice


With Favre's passing numbers declining of late Rice has been the only Viking wideout to hold his fantasy value with games of 69, 39 & 1, and 72 over the past three weeks. There's no compelling match-up reason to bench him, not after seeing two Ravens receivers score and top 70 yards against Chicago last week. What's nice about Rice is that he doesn't need a touchdown to give you fantasy value; he's capable of doing it with yardage alone.

WR Percy Harvin


All systems appear to be go after Harvin's visit to the Mayo Clinic regarding bulging discs in his neck and their potential connection to the migraines that have plagued him this season. After posting 101 and 1 against the Bears in the earlier meeting, if he's available it might be Lovie Smith in need of something stronger than just a couple of aspirin.

WR Bernard Berrian


Berrian hasn't given his fantasy owners anything to shout about since a Week 11 touchdown, despite being targeted nine times in the previous meeting with his former team. As Favre ramps down and the ground game ramps up, tertiary targets like Berrian will take the biggest fantasy hit.

TE Vishante Shiancoe S2

Big Shank had 51 yards and a score in the earlier meeting; while he's done little since then the Bears have allowed 70 yards to Jermichael Finley and two touchdowns to Todd Heap. Chances of a similar successful outing for Shiancoe certainly seem good.

DT Vikings S3

After being picked apart by Matt Moore last week the Vikings have to be salivating at another shot at Jay Cutler. Minnesota picked him twice in the last meeting and with Antoine Winfield back in the lineup has an even better shot at pilfering him this time around.

Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S3

Cutler has been marginally better at home, so an upgrade over his 147 and 1 in the earlier meeting with Minnesota seems a given. That the Vikings have allowed three TD passes and at least 285 passing yards in three straight games certainly plays to Jay's favor as well. Don't set your sites that high—Cutler hasn't seen numbers like that since Week 9—but he should give you enough to warrant a fantasy play this week. Unless, of course, you lose points for INTs; then he should have been dropped long ago.

RB Matt Forte

Forte's fantasy days of note have come against the second-, fifth-, and sixth-most fantasy friendly running back defenses; in those same rankings, Minnesota clocks in at No. 30. The Vikings held Forte to 27 yards on the ground and 61 total yards in the previous meeting and while the home venue might tweak projections upwards slightly, all it does in Forte's case is moves him a little further from the end of the bench.


Devin Hester
Johnny Knox
Earl Bennett
Devin Aromashodu

B The Vikings haven't been able to stop the opposing team's go-to receiver; the problem with the Bears is, they don't really have a go-to receiver. Hester is back at practice but still limited by his calf injury; Knox scored in the earlier meeting but is more of a slot guy; and Bennett and Aromashodu are filler at best. There's nothing here that can be trusted with a fantasy start in a week of this magnitude.
TE Greg Olsen


Olsen has disappeared since putting up 7-45 against Minnesota in the earlier meeting, with just five catches for 23 yards in three games. A date with the Vikings, giving up the fourth-most fantasy points to tight ends, is the cure for what ails.

DT Bears B Favre has been more Favre-like of late, but the Bears' defense hasn't shown anything that would earn them a fantasy start this week.

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