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Start/Bench List - Week 3
John Tuvey
Updated: September 24, 2010
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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 Francisco at Kansas City Back to top
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith B

Smith hasn’t had a multiple touchdown game since Week 14 of last year, and through the first two games San Fran’s passing game has looked out of sync. KC’s secondary isn’t anything special, but thus far neither is Smith. He’s a fringe guy who belongs on fantasy benches in a non-bye week like this.

RB Frank Gore S2

KC’s run defense has at least been better than last year’s sieve, though they still allowed 101 rushing yards to San Diego in a rainstorm and gave up a TD to Peyton Hillis. Gore battered the Saints on Monday night and should have similar success in Arrowhead. Even if the Niners fall behind and Gore doesn’t get the carries, he’s still such a factor in the passing game—13 catches already this year—that he’ll hold his fantasy value.

RB Anthony Dixon B

The rookie stole a goal line look from Gore last week, but it was his lone touch of the game. Until he’s a more regular member of the rotation, he can’t be trusted with a fantasy start.

WR Michael Crabtree B This should be a quality match-up for Crabtree. However, through two games he’s produced just three catches and 44 yards on 11 targets and is clearly not yet on the same page with Alex Smith so it’s tough to trust him with a fantasy start. His upside makes him useable if you lack other options on your roster, but ideally you can wait until he shows you something before plugging him into your lineup.
WR Josh Morgan S3 Somebody’s going to get behind the Chiefs’ secondary at some point, just like in KC’s two previous games this season. And the way the 49ers offense is going right now, that somebody is likely Morgan.
TE Vernon Davis S2

Will KC show Davis the same respect they did to Antonio Gates, double- and triple-teaming him much of the game? Maybe not quite to that degree, and it’s worth noting that Gates did produce 5-76-1 against the Chiefs despite the additional attention. Davis is a must-start in TE mandatory leagues and will at minimum get you solid yardage.

DT 49ers B San Francisco has created just one turnover and allowed an average of 28 points per game thus far, so it seems silly to ask them to go on the road into a tough venue like Arrowhead and produce defensive fantasy points.
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Cassel B

The Niners have given up a pair of passing TDs in each of the first two games; sadly, Cassel has not demonstrated enough in his first two outings (244 yards, 1 TD—and yes, that’s a two-game total) to warrant consideration even given a home game with a favorable match-up.

RB Jamaal Charles

Thus far only Todd Haley has been able to keep Charles in check; sadly, he’s the one calling the plays. San Fran has been stout against the run thus far but against the Saints showed a weakness for backs who can catch the ball. Charles’ explosive ability keeps him on the starter side of the ledger, as any touch could be turned into six, but battling both the 49ers and the head coach increases the degree of difficulty.

RB Thomas Jones

Jones has been less productive with more touches than his running mate and was unable to turn 22 carries into anything of fantasy note against the Browns. Thus, his fantasy prospects against a better run defense are severely limited.


Dwayne Bowe
Chris Chambers


The 49ers have allowed a couple of 60-yard receivers and surrendered a couple WR TDs in Seattle in Week 1. That’s not enough to get us excited about starting either member of a KC wide receiver tandem that’s combined for nine catches in two games.


Tony Moeaki


Even in a non-bye week, in larger TE-mandatory leagues there’s fantasy value to be found in the Chiefs’ rookie. He was targeted 10 times last week, has KC’s only receiving TD this year, and faces a San Francisco D that let Dave Thomas get in the end zone against them last week.

DT Chiefs S3 San Francisco has surrendered defensive points in each of the first two games this season; mix in a hostile Arrowhead environment and the Chiefs’ dynamic return game and there’s sneaky upside here.
Tennessee at NY Giants Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Vince Young B

A week after Young was benched at home against the Steelers, it would be silly to plug him back into your fantasy lineup for a road trip to New York. You know the Titans’ game plan is going to be heavy on Chris Johnson and extremely light on anything that involves Young doing more than turning and handing off.

RB Chris Johnson S1

New York held Carolina’s ground game in check at home but showed vulnerability last week in Indy—plus, we’ve learned that the Panthers aren’t nearly as good a running offense as they were last season. Johnson’s stat line against Pittsburgh last week wasn’t pretty, but it was just one holding penalty from being yet another 100-yard effort. A new streak starts here.

WR Nate Washington
S3 If the Titans have a No. 1 receiver it’s Washington, who has scored in each of the first two games. And seeing as the Giants have allowed opposing WR1s to score in each of their first two games, if there’s an element of the Tennessee passing game worthy of your fantasy attention it’s Washington.
WR Kenny Britt
Justin Gage
B Gage and Britt showed up on the radar last week, primarily because Kerry Collins took over for Vince Young and the Titans had to throw. Collins goes back to the bench this week; Britt and Gage can remain on your fantasy pine.
TE Bo Scaife B The Titans have three tight ends in the rotation, and while Scaife is still the lead dog there’s not nearly enough here for a guy sharing looks to have fantasy value.
DT Titans S3 There are certainly worse defensive plays than a Tennessee unit that’s allowing 16 points per game and has eight sacks in two games against Eli Manning and the Giants.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S2

The Titans’ secondary is light years better than the first half of last season, but they haven’t seen a quality quarterback yet this season. Eli has multiple TD tosses in both games this season and a deep and dynamic receiving corps to throw to; he should easily eclipse the 223 and 1 (yes, those are two-game totals) Tennessee has allowed thus far this year.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw

Tennessee’s run defense has been okay this season, but now they take their show on the road where they’ve given up at least 113 combo yards to running backs in six straight, with RB TDs in five of those six. Bradshaw will be seeing the majority of those touches, and after averaging 91 yards from scrimmage the first fortnight look for him to reach triple-digits here.

RB Brandon Jacobs

Complaining, pouting, and throwing your helmet are no way to get more carries.

WR Steve Smith
Hakeem Nicks
Mario Manningham

Smith is the most targeted, Manningham the most productive, and Nicks the most prolific scorer. Tennessee’s secondary hasn’t given up much of anything this year, but they also haven’t seen a legitimate passing game. All three of Eli’s targets are good fantasy starts, with Nicks holding the edge in a TD-heavy scoring system.

DT Giants S3 Big Blue struggled to slow Peyton Manning last week, but forcing Vince Young (or maybe Kerry Collins) into turnovers is another matter entirely.

Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Charlie Batch B

Whether it's Batch or Byron Leftwich—and right now it looks like Batch will get the start—it doesn’t bode well for the Steelers’ passing game. The Bucs have limited similarly bad quarterbacking (Delhomme, Moore, Clausen) to 422 yards and two TDs in two games, so if 200 and a touch floats your boat go ahead and latch on to whatever Pittsburgh runs out there at quarterback this week. In most cases, however, we have to believe you can do better.

RB Rashard Mendenhall


The Bucs have been good-not-great against the run, but no one—not even the Panthers last week—has attempted to pound them like the Steelers will this week sans quarterbacking. Mendenhall should see a third straight 20-carry game; the last nine backs to hit that mark against Tampa Bay have produced at least 92 yards, with five topping triple digits and a similar number reaching the end zone.

WR Hines Ward

The Bucs have allowed their opponents’ WR1 to score in each of the first two games this year, but there’s been little yardage to speak of. Given the dearth of quality quarterbacking on the Steelers’ roster we wouldn’t blame you for sitting Ward this week, though he does possess what limited upside can be scraped together in Pittsburgh’s passing game.

WR Mike Wallace

Wallace has two catches in each of the first two games, and with Leftwich or Batch at the helm it’s unlikely the game plan calls for more passing. Best let him cool on your bench until Ben Roethlisberger returns.

TE Heath Miller

Miller has held on to a little of his value despite the quarterbacking, as lesser QBs often lean on the TE for completions. But you don’t want to hang your fantasy hopes on his four or five looks.

DT Steelers S1 As long as Troy Polamalu stays healthy, this is an elite fantasy unit; mix in an improving return game (that housed a kickoff last week) and a date with an inexperienced quarterback who’s thrown 19 picks in 12 NFL games and you have a recipe for fantasy success.
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh Freeman B

Freeman has four TDs in two games, but the yardage has been lacking. With the running game likely to be stymied his yardage should increase, but with more throws come more chances for INTs—especially against a secondary that’s already picked off four passes. Best save Freeman for a more favorable fantasy match-up.

RB Carnell Williams


Caddy is averaging just 2.5 yards per carry, and that came against the Browns and Panthers. Now he faces a Steel Curtain defense that held Michael Turner to 42 yards and Chris Johnson to 34? You don’t want him anywhere near your starting lineup.

WR Mike Williams

The rookie is off to a nice start, with scores in his first two games. Tough to see that string extended against a Steelers’ D that’s given up just one WR TD this year.

TE Kellen Winslow B

K2 is familiar with the Steelers from his days in Cleveland, but he scored just once in five meetings. While he has four catches in each of the two games thus far, it’s tough to envision him turning that into anything of fantasy note against a Pittsburgh defense that’s allowed just one TE to top 50 yards in the last 14 games.

DT Buccaneers S3 This one doesn’t project to be a shootout, and it’s always a shrewd fantasy move to take the home defense against a backup QB.

Detroit at Minnesota

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Shaun Hill B

There’s the revenge factor, as it was Minnesota that kicked Hill to the curb after four seasons. There’s the 335 and two Hill put up on the Eagles last week. There’s the Vikings’ banged-up secondary. It all sounds pretty good, maybe enough to make Hill a fringe fantasy starter. But despite the injuries Minnesota held Drew Brees to 237 and 1 in the opener and Chad Henne to 114 and 1 last week. Tough call, but odds are you can do better for a fantasy starter this week than Hill.

RB Jahvid Best S2

Brad Childress told the Detroit media this week he doesn’t regret trading Minnesota’s first round pick to the Lions so they could select Best. Of course, he hasn’t admitted drafting Tarvaris Jackson was a mistake so what would you expect him to say? Don’t fear plugging Best in against the vaunted Vikings defense; they’re allowing 4.2 yards per carry this season, more than 130 combo yards per game to opposing backs, and Best will get enough touches—and do enough with them—that even a stubborn blockhead like Childress might just acknowledge his faux pas.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

Again this week, Minnesota is likely to be without either of the physical corners who would match up well with Megatron. While he hasn’t had a monster game against Minnesota, Johnson has scored in three of his last four against them and went 8-84 the last time he saw purple.

TE Tony Scheffler
Brandon Pettigrew

With the Lions lacking a viable WR2 last week, Philly opted to cover Scheffler—the “receiving” TE—with a defensive back. And while that shut down Scheffler it left Pettigrew with favorable coverage, to which he responded with seven catches for 108 yards. It remains to be seen how Minnesota will opt to defend this duo, but while historically the Vikings have been soft against the tight end they’ve surrendered just 26 yards and zero TDs to the position this year. Expect the vast majority of Hill’s passing yards to go through Megatron and Best; with Pettigrew and Scheffler splitting what’s left over, neither makes a palatable fantasy play.

DT Lions B Sure, Favre’s been bad, but not so bad that you’d start a defense against him at home expecting fantasy points... would you?
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S2

How sad is it that in a home game against the Lions, who have allowed the third-most fantasy points to quarterbacks of any team in the league after giving up the most to the position last year, Favre is only an S2. All that stands between him and a game that will get him right back in the saddle is too many carries from Adrian Peterson.

RB Adrian Peterson S1

AP against Detroit has been a mismatch, with four 100-yard efforts and five TDs in six games. AP at home has been more than visitors can handle, as he’s scored in four straight at the Metrodome and has 13 of his 20 career 100-yard efforts under the teflon roof. So it only makes sense that AP at home against the Lions has been fantasy gold: 133 and 2, 111, 116 and 2. The Lions come into this one having surrendered the most fantasy points to RBs, and Minnesota’s passing game is in such disarray that they’ll have to feed Peterson. Even if AP isn’t on your fantasy roster you should be starting him this week.

WR Percy Harvin


Speed kills the Lions, as evidenced by DeSean Jackson’s 4-135-1 last week and a combined 8-123 from Devin Aromashodu and Johnny Knox in the opener. Harvin has the wheels to match those numbers, though his injury history makes him a guy you have to watch right up until kickoff to ensure he’ll deliver on his fantasy potential. He was limited in both Thursday's and Friday's practice sessions, so there is some risk involved; that said, at the moment he's the closest thing to a playmaking wideout on the Vikings' roster.

WR Bernard Berrian

Favre doesn’t trust Berrian, so even with a favorable match-up against the Lions it will be extremely difficult for fantasy owners to insert him into their lineup with any degree of confidence. Doesn't help that he was limited in practice all week with a troublesome knee.

WR Greg Camarillo

There’s obviously the revenge angle, and Camarillo appears to be the kind of receiver the Vikings need: namely, one Favre can trust to catch the football when it’s thrown his way. But if Week 1 was any indication he has yet to carve out a role in Minnesota’s receiver rotation, and it may take a while before he does so; no one has accused the Vikings brain trust of being particularly quick on the uptake..

TE Vishante Shiancoe S1

The softest fantasy TE mark a year ago, Detroit turned Greg Olsen and Brent Celek into non-factors the first two games of the year. However, Shiancoe is the only guy on the field Favre feels comfortable throwing to—well, the only one wearing purple— and as such makes one of the best fantasy plays at his position on a weekly basis.

DT Vikings S2

For all of Minnesota’s problems, their defense is giving up just 14 points a game; hosting a backup QB—one they’re familiar with as well—should lead to opportunities.


Atlanta at New Orleans

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan S3

Ryan had some degree of success against the Saints last year, throwing for 289 and 1 in the first meeting; however, the Saints also picked him three times. In fact, the New Orleans secondary has allowed multiple TD tosses just once in their last nine regular season games. So while Ryan should be able to put up decent yardage, expect a subdued TD total that makes him a fringe fantasy helper this week.

RB Michael Turner S2

Turner practiced fully both Thursday and Friday and is expected to be ready for this one; now he can finally follow up to the 151 and 1 he laid on the Saints in the first meeting a year ago, as he missed the rematch with an injury. Thus far New Orleans has surrendered 19-87 to Adrian Peterson and 20-112-1 to Frank Gore, so if Turner is anywhere close to 100 percent he’ll put up solid fantasy numbers.

RB Jason Snelling B

Turner’s understudy was a hot fantasy pickup last week, and last season when Turner was out he scored and added 102 combo yards against the Saints. With Turner back at practice and expected to play, Snelling's role will be small enough that he shouldn't be trusted with a fantasy start.

WR Roddy White S2

Clearly the Saints know where White is; after he turned 13 targets into 4-108-1 in the first meeting New Orleans limited him to 2-41 in the rematch. The Saints haven’t faced a legitimate WR1 this year, though Josh Morgan (6-70) seemed to find plenty of room on Monday night. You can’t bench the most targeted receiver in football, but since New Orleans will be as focused on him as Matt Ryan you do need to temper your expectations.

WR Michael Jenkins
Brian Finneran
Harry Douglas

With White blanketed last year, Atlanta’s secondary WRs combined for 133 yards and a score in the back end of the season series. Jenkins led the way with 3-82-1 (after 4-66 in the first meeting), but no one has stepped up to claim his role thus far. While Jenkins returned to practice this week after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason, it remains to be seen if he’s healthy enough to contribute. All this uncertainty makes it a tough week to look to any auxiliary member of the Atlanta receivers corps for fantasy help.


Tony Gonzalez


There are a couple trends to suggest Gonzo will bust out of his 2010 doldrums. For starters, last year the future Hall of Famer had six catches in each end of the season series, accounting for 89 yards in the first game and 50 yards in the rematch. Then there’s the success tight ends have had against the Saints thus far this year (Visanthe Shiancoe 4-76-1, Vernon Davis 4-78) despite the lack of a wideout to draw attention away from them. With New Orleans likely rolling its coverage towards White, Gonzo should be in prime position to make those who prematurely kicked him to the curb regret the decision.

DT Falcons B Atlanta scored a defensive TD on the Saints last year, but that came at the Georgia Dome and this one’s in New Orleans. Moreover, the Saints have yet to turn the ball over this season; it’s extremely difficult to generate defensive fantasy points if you’re not getting turnovers.
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S2

The Falcons haven’t allowed a passing touchdown this season, but facing Brees in the Superdome is a significant step up from blanking Dennis Dixon and Derek Anderson. Actually, after Drew dissected Atlanta for 308 and 2 in the first meeting and 296 and 3 in the rematch, facing Brees anywhere is a different ballgame entirely. No reason to consider benching your stud this week..

RB Pierre Thomas S2

With Reggie Bush out for a month or more and no other Saints back primed to step in and contribute, this is Thomas’ gig to run with. He posted exactly 100 combo yards in both ends of last season’s series, scoring twice in the front end—and that was with Bush still around to siphon touches (and touchdowns. Both Rashard Mendenhall and Tim Hightower broke off long runs en route to productive outings against Atlanta; given the expected size of his workload, there’s no reason Thomas can’t do the same.

WR Marques Colston S2

The one constant in this receiving corps, Colston scored in both ends of last season’s series with the Falcons (6-85-1 in the front end, 6-54-1 in the rematch). He’s getting about half of the Saints’ WR targets thus far, and after seeing Atlanta surrender 6-108 to Hines Ward and 7-83 to Larry Fitzgerald (both with vastly inferior quarterbacking) there’s little question New Orleans’ WR1 will find fantasy success this week.

WR Robert Meachem
Devery Henderson

Not that someone among this group won’t step up and score, it’s just that you can’t consistently bank on any one of them to do so. Thus far this season Henderson has been on the field almost twice as much as Meachem but has just 5-66 and a TD to show for it. Meachem, who has been on the field for just 23 passing plays this year, either catches a long pass or doesn’t; this year it’s been way too much “doesn’t”.

TE Jeremy Shockey B Shockey has just six catches on the season, and last week Dave Thomas stole his TD. To make matters worse, he sat out Friday's practice with a quad injury, and while he's listed as probable missing a Friday practice is never a good sign. While Shockey had moderate success in last season’s series against Atlanta (5-72, 4-46), odds are you can find a more reliable contributor at the position in a non-bye week.
DT Saints S2 New Orleans’ defense is all about creating turnovers, so they’re always a good fantasy play regardless of opponent.

Cleveland at Balitmore

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Seneca Wallace
Jake Delhomme

Last year Cleveland’s QBs mustered a grand total of 225 yards, zero touchdowns, and six INTs in two games against the Ravens. Thus far this season Cleveland’s new QBs have been better (Delhomme 227-1-2 at Tampa Bay, Wallace 229-1-1 against KC), but so has Baltimore’s secondary (a total of 241 passing yards and zero TDs through two games). Cleveland’s QB numbers weren’t fantasy-worthy against lesser competition; tough to expect an upgrade against Baltimore this week.

RB Jerome Harrison
Peyton Hillis


Better backs taking larger shares of their team’s carries couldn’t do anything of note against the Ravens, who have yet to surrender a touchdown this season. Banking on either Harrison or Hillis to do so while splitting touches is folly, and even the mild boost Hillis might get with Harrison questionable for this game after missing practice all week still isn't enough to encourage rational fantasy owners to plug him into their lineup.

WR Mohamed Massaquoi B

Being the Browns’ best receiver is faint praise indeed, and it rarely offers fantasy value. Against a Baltimore defense that just held TO (3-57) and Ochocinco (4-44) in check, this is not one of those weeks.

TE Evan Moore
Ben Watson

If Moore plays after missing practice Wednesday and Thursday and returning for a limited session on Friday, he and Watson split paltry stats; if Moore sits, Watson has those paltry numbers all to himself. What’s the opposite of a win-win situation?

DT Browns B Seriously, the Browns’ best bet to score this week will come on a Josh Cribbs kickoff return, if only because there’s bound to be several of those opportunities.rt
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco S3

Not that Joe can’t roll the Browns if he wants to; he threw for 342 and 1 against them in Week 3 of last year. Trouble is, you’re just as likely to get something similar to the rematch: just 18 pass attempts for 155 yards as the Ravens steamrolled Cleveland 16-0. In other words, it’s almost too favorable a matchup for Flacco to give you much fantasy assistance..

RB Ray Rice S1

Rice should blow up a defense that surrendered 144 combo yards per game to the mediocre Buccaneer and Chiefs backfields. He scored in both ends of last season’s series but was limited to 15 touches (for 75 yards) in the front end and 23 (for 104 yards) in the rematch. Willis McGahee probably won’t siphon off 102 yards like he did last year, but he’s still a TD vulture. In other words, if Rice is to be contained here it will be by John Harbaugh and not the Browns’ defense.

RB Willis McGahee S3

This is exactly the kind of opportunity where starting McGahee makes sense. He scored twice in the front end of last season’s series and is likely to get a couple goal line shots here as well as some garbage time work.

WR Anquan Boldin

You could get a 5-118-1 game like Derrick Mason had against Cleveland in the front end of last season’s series; you could also get a 3-78 game, which is what the entire Baltimore WR corps combined for in the rematch. Seeing as Boldin has been targeted 18 times (versus 21 for the rest of the wideouts combined) and has three times as many catches as the rest of Baltimore’s WRs combined, he’s the safest bet if there’s anything to be had in between the Ravens’ copious running.

WR Derrick Mason
T.J. Houshmandzadeh

Not that this isn’t a favorable matchup, but the killer combo of just four catches between them this season and the likelihood that Baltimore’s ground assault will take over this game makes both a risky start with minimal fantasy upside.


Todd Heap

B Again, not that Heap makes a horrible play. But he posted 4-41 and 4-43 in last seasons’’s series and passes to the tight end rank down on the Ravens’ offensive priority—especially if the ground game works as well as we expect it to.
DT Ravens S1 Last year Baltimore’s D/ST recorded six interceptions and a defensive touchdown while allowing a total of three points in the season series with Cleveland. And this time around they’re facing Seneca Wallace.

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