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Start/Bench List: Week 3
John Tuvey
Updated: September 23, 2011
NE at BUF HOU at NOS NYJ at OAK ARI at SEA Start/Bench List by Position
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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)
New England at Buffalo Back to top
New England
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tom Brady S1

Brady had six touchdown passes in last season’s Buffalo series and has seven in two games thus far this year. If Jason Campbell can throw for 323 and 2, you have to love Brady’s chances.


BenJarvus Green-Ellis


The Bills continue to be a very fantasy-friendly defense for opposing backs. BJGE went for 16-98-1 and 19-104 in last season’s series and has scored in each of New England’s first two tilts this season. He’s a safe bet for a score, with yardage upside as well.


Danny Woodhead


Woodhead’s touches have been hit (15 in Week 1) or miss (six last week) this season, but he scored in both matchups with Buffalo last season and is a viable option given such a soft matchup.

WR Wes Welker S2 Welker hasn’t scored in six straight against Buffalo and has just 11-104 combined over the past three meetings. But he’s been targeted double-digit times in both games thus far and seems the most logical candidate to pick up the slack created by the absence of Aaron Hernandez.
WR Deion Branch S3 There’s a case to be made for Branch being Tom Brady’s WR1: 19 targets, 15 catches, 222 yards in two games. And the way Brady is throwing, you want his primary targets in your lineup regardless of matchup.
WR Chad Ochocinco B There are certainly theories that suggest Ochocinco could finally make some fantasy noise this week: he scored in his last game against the Bills (as a Bengal last season), he’s another week into the playbook, and the Pats have to compensate for losing Aaron Hernandez. But five targets in two games doesn’t exactly scream “fantasy breakout on the horizon”.
TE Rob Gronkowski S2 Gronk’s two career efforts against the Bills have resulted in seven catches, 97 yards, and three touchdowns. Oh, and he’ll have to pick up the slack of the injured Aaron Hernandez, too.
DT Patriots B This feels more like a shootout than something that will provide fantasy defensive help.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick S2

Only one team has given up more fantasy points to QBs than the Pats; no QB has thrown more TD passes thus far this year than Fitz. The 247 and 2 Fitzpatrick posted in the front end of last season’s series with the Pats seems a reasonable starting point for expectations.

RB Fred Jackson S2

Two factors in Jackson’s favor: he’s rushed for 100 yards in each of the Bills’ first two games (at a sterling 6.5 yards a pop); and this game is in Buffalo, where he’s rushed for at least 80 yards in all three meetings with the Patriots.

RB C.J. Spiller B

Last year’s top pick has touched the ball just 11 times in two games, and now the team is talking about giving him snaps at wideout. Until he settles into a role with regular touches he’s too risky to warrant fantasy attention.

WR Steve Johnson S2

So long as Johnson’s groin holds up (would Beavis and Butthead have a field day with that line!), he’s a borderline elite fantasy wideout. Against a New England secondary that’s allowed more yards to wideouts than any other team thus far—and specifically 7-139 and 10-172-2 to opposing WR1s—he doesn’t even need to be 100 percent.

WR David Nelson S3

Nelson has matched Johnson almost target-for-target as the Bills’ second option and deserves some fantasy love against a defense that’s already allowed one WR2 to score and another to top 90 yards.

TE Scott Chandler B

Yes, Chandler has three TDs already this season. But using him here feels like chasing points, especially against a defense that blanked Antonio Gates last week and hasn’t surrendered a TE TD since Week 11 of last year.

DT Bills S3 This one doesn’t feel like it’s going to produce much on the defensive side of the ball except frustration.
Jacksonville at Carolina Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Blaine Gabbert B

The rookie has a soft matchup—the Panthers have allowed both quarterbacks they’ve faced this season to top 300 yards and throw for two touchdowns—but you get the feeling the game plan will be run-heavy as Gabbert gets acclimated to the NFL. Strictly based on matchup you can use Gabbert, but there’s risk involved in a first NFL start.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S1

As if the Jags needed another reason to lean on Jones-Drew, they’ll be starting a rookie quarterback on the road. With something north of 20 touches MoJo should easily surpass the numbers Carolina’s previous opponents, Beanie Wells (102 yards from scrimmage and a score) and James Starks (115 total yards, though John Kuhn stole his touchdown), have posted on them.


Mike Thomas

S3 Thomas has seen double-digit targets in both games, but a) completions on barely half those targets; b) no touchdowns yet; and c) a changing of the guard at quarterback. Moreover, secondary receivers are putting up better numbers against Carolina than WR1s.

Jason Hill

B There’s an opportunity for a secondary target in this game, but Hill—who missed last week’s game with a hip injury—needs to demonstrate he’s healthy first. He practiced on a limited basis this week, but with Marcedes Lewis back at full go the expectation is Hill will be a third option at best.

Marcedes Lewis

S3 Lewis missed last week’s loss to the Jets with a strained calf, but he was back practicing fully this week. So it's about time he start earning some of that fat contract against a defense that’s already given up 169 yards and a TD to the tight end position this season.
DT Jaguars B

Conventional wisdom suggests starting a fantasy defense against a rookie quarterback, but Cam Newton has proven to be anything but conventional.

Pos Player SBC Comments

Cam Newton

S1 The Jaguars have allowed multiple passing scores in each game this season. Newton has a rushing score and at least one passing score in both of his NFL starts and is averaging 427 passing yards per outing. What’s not to like?

DeAngelo Williams

S3 It’s not exactly a stiff matchup, but Williams has just 22 touches and 72 yards on the season. He’s at best a fringe fantasy play.

Jonathan Stewart

S3 Stewart actually has more touches than Williams, but like the purported starter he’s just along for the ride on the Cam Newton bandwagon.
WR Steve Smith S1

Both WR1s to face the Jags this season have found the end zone, and the dozen targets, 150-plus yards, and score in each game that Smith is seeing point to him being the next in line.

WR Brandon LaFell S3

Still tough trusting a secondary target in Carolina to bring anything to the fantasy table, but it’s not like the Jags are shutting down WR2s (Nate Washington went for 6-67 against them in the opener). Plus, LaFell has seen five targets in each game this year, turning them into 70 yards in Week 1 and a TD last week.

TE Greg Olsen
Jeremy Shockey

There’s production to be had here against a defense that let Dustin Keller take them for 101 and a TD last week, but with the tandem splitting looks and productivity it’s tough banking on either for anything more than fringe fantasy help.

DT Panthers B They’re banged up, but a home date against a rookie QB making his first NFL start certainly has fantasy upside.

Denver at Tennessee

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton S3 Shutting down Luke McCown isn’t all that impressive, but holding Joe Flacco to 197 and one ain’t chopped liver. Orton’s numbers against mediocre secondaries are nothing special, though if the Titans get up top early he’ll post decent numbers through sheer volume. A fringe fantasy starter at best.
RB Willis McGahee B The Titans held Maurice Jones-Drew and Ray Rice in check yardage-wise, though both managed to find the end zone. McGahee is a notch below that duo and is likely not the best fantasy RB option on your roster.
RB Knowshon Moreno B Even if No Show gets healthy this week, he's the junior partner in a committee where we've already benched the lead dog.
WR Brandon Lloyd


The expectation is that Lloyd was close enough to going last week that he’s almost certain of playing against Tennessee, and he was praticing fully this week. However, the Titans haven’t allowed a WR to top 55 yards or reach the end zone this season, so even if he goes he’s got a tough matchup.

WR Eric Decker


One of the week’s hot pickups, Decker would get an upgrade if Brandon Lloyd can’t go. But if Lloyd’s in the lineup then Decker becomes WR2, and the Titans don’t allow enough wide receiver production to feed more than one.

TE Daniel Fells


The dreaded combo of a tight end who’s not an integral part of the offense and a defense that hasn’t allowed squat to the position.

DT Broncos B It’s tough to see the Broncos doing anything in Tennessee that would generate defensive fantasy points.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck S2

Hass threw for 223 and 1 with three picks in Denver a year ago, but he’ll be behind a much better offensive line and has the threat of Chris Johnson at his disposal as well. Look for a third quality straight quality fantasy start from Hass.

RB Chris Johnson S2

CJ2K is a lot closer to Darren McFadden (22-150 vs. Denver in Week 1) than Cedric Benson (16-59 vs. Denver in Week 2). And it’s high time for him to start earning that contract.

WR Kenny Britt
S1 The Broncos held A.J. Green to 124 and 1 and Jerome Simpson to 136 last week,and it looks like they'll be without Champ Bailey once again. Meanwhile Britt rolls into town with 271 yards and three TDs to his credit. Gotta like where this is headed.
WR Nate Washington
S3 Nothing wrong with getting 13-166 from your wingman. And as noted above, the Broncos had trouble shutting down both sides of the Cincy passing game so another solid week is in store for Nate.
TE Jared Cook
B Cook has done nothing to live up to the preseason hype, and he’ll face a defense that’s surrendered 18 tight end receiving yards in two games. Probably because teams are too busy working down the field, but why should the Titans be any different?
DT Titans S3 Tennessee handled a more potent offense last week, so you have to like their prospects against the Broncos.

NY Giants at Philadelphia

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New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S3

Eli has not exactly been elite this season, which doesn’t bode well for a trip to Philly to face a revamped Eagles secondary. Manning’s last two trips to the City of Brotherly Love produced just 369 yards, 3 TDs, and 5 picks—and that was pre-Asomugha. Perhaps Eli can take something from Matt Ryan’s four-TD effort against the Eagles last week, assuming he has enough healthy receivers to play with.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw

Ahmad doesn’t have a tremendous track record against Philly, but he has been getting touches—35 for 114 yards from scrimmage in last season’s series, 27-122-2 the previous year. And while the Eagles have shored up the pass defense, already this season they’ve allowed 196 combo yards and a TD to the Steven Jackson/Cadillac Williams entry and 146 and 1 to Michael Turner.

RB Brandon Jacobs

Jacobs is the junior partner in this backfield tandem, but he’s still getting enough work—especially at the stripe—to warrant fantasy attention, especially against a softer run defense.

WR Hakeem Nicks

Nicks has seen Nnamdi Asomugha before, going 4-49-1 against the Raiders back in 2009. He’s also scored in two of the last three against Philly, though both TDs came at home. He’s too talented to sit, even with the tough individual matchup, because he has the physical skills to beat any corner.

WR Mario Manningham


Manningham has not yet been cleared to return to action after suffering a concussion last week. He's listed as doubtful, and you should look for fantasy help elsewhere.

WR Victor Cruz


Philly’s secondary is too deep to warrant trotting out untested receiver depth.

TE Jake Ballard B

On the heels of Tony Gonzalez taking the Eagles for a pair of TDs, and with the Giants gutted at wideout, you could make a tepid case for Ballard getting some fantasy love. But there are too many other better options to stretch that case into a start designation.

DT Giants S3 This defensive line against that offensive line projects to plenty of defensive fantasy opportunities.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Michael Vick S1

Vick has been cleared for takeoff after suffering a concussion last week. He has the wheels to evade the Giants' pass rush (a rushing TD in each of his last three against the G-Men) and the arm to shred their injury-riddled secondary (242 and three in the last meeting, 258 yards in the previous get-together). If the melon's fine, everything else is good to go.

RB LeSean McCoy

Plenty of trends favor LeSean this week: he comes in with back-to-back multiple touchdown games; he’s racked up triple-digit combo yardage in each contest this year; and he’s significantly more successful against the Giants in Philly (116 combo yards per game, a TD in each) than in Gotham (no scores and an average of 65 yards per game). He’s even Vick-proof: if Mike Kafka is at the helm, you know the offense will flow through McCoy even more than usual.

WR DeSean Jackson
S1 The Giants limited Jackson to 50 and 52 receiving yards in last season’s series, though we all know what happened in the return game. D-Jax scored in both of the 2009 meetings between these clubs, and a secondary that has thus far allowed touchdowns to Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong, and Danario Alexander doesn’t appear to be in any shape to slow Jackson.
WR Jeremy Maclin
S1 Maclin has either scored or topped 100 receiving yards in each of his three games against the Giants (Maclin tore his plantar fascia against them in Week 14 of 2009 and recorded no catches. He’s coming off a monster 13-171-2 showing in Atlanta and will be facing a Giants defense that a) has been shredded by the no-name receiving corps from Washington and St. Louis; and b) will be focused on DeSean Jackson after what he did to them last year. If Vick and/or Kafka have time to throw, Philly’s receivers will be feasting all afternoon.
TE Brent Celek
S3 Celek has scored in four of his last five matchups against the Giants. He’s definitely down in the offensive pecking order, but if you’re reaching for a tight end this week history suggests he gets it done against the Giants.
DT Eagles S2 Will they kick it to DeSean Jackson this time?

Houston at New Orleans

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Schaub S3 In directing the Texans to their fast start, Schaub has been merely okay fantasy-wise as the running game is doing much of the heavy lifting. Looks like a similar situation developing here; no reason to sit Schaub if he’s your regular starter, but no reason to expect anything gaudy, either.
RB Ben Tate
S2 It’ll take some work for Tate to get the job done here, but with both Arian Foster and Derrick Ward expected to be sidelined he should have ample opportunity. And seeing as he’s rushed for at least 100 yards in each of his first two NFL games, we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on keeping the roll going.
RB Arian Foster

B Foster returned to practice on a limited basis this week, but while Gary Kubiak has labeled him a game-time decision you shouldn't expect the Texans to rush him back into the lineup. You can sweat this one out of you so desire, but do so with Tate in the lineup and Foster on the bench as that's the most likely outcome.
RB Derrick Ward
B Ward is the least battle-ready of Houston's four backs, so there's zero fantasy value to be found here.
WR Andre Johnson S1 Johnson has been money for 90 and a touch this season, and a Saints secondary that let Greg Jennings put up similar numbers isn’t likely to keep AJ under wraps for long.
WR Jacoby Jones B

Secondary receivers have scored in each of the Saints’ first two games, suggesting that the back end of that defense has some pressure points. However, Jones has hovered around 50 yards each of the first two games, which isn’t enough to generate much fantasy buzz for him here. Worse, he's still dealing with the knee injury he suffered celebrating an Andre Johnson touchdown last week. Kevin Walter appears close to returning, making any Texan wideout other than Andre Johnson a risky fantasy play.

TE Owen Daniels B

The Saints have surrendered just one TE TD in the last 15 games and just 57 yards to the position thus far this season. Daniels scored last week but isn’t the offensive focal point he once was; this matchup is enough to send you looking for another option.

DT Texans S3 The Saints are not an offense that lends itself to giving up defensive fantasy points, Wade Phillips or no Wade Phillips.
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S2

Houston’s pass defense appears to have undergone a dramatic transformation, from last in the league last season to atop the defensive rankings after two weeks of 2011. Of course, they’ve faced Kerry Collins and Chad Henne; suffice it to say that Brees will provide a stiffer test. He’s thrown three TDs in each of the first two games, why bet against him doing it again?


Mark Ingram


The rookie is getting the majority of the carries; to this point that hasn’t turned into much in the way of fantasy points, but against a defense that just let Daniel Thomas take them for 107 yards and is giving up 4.7 yards per carry on the season it’s time for a coming out party.


Pierre Thomas


The minority share of the Saints’ carries isn’t a recipe for fantasy success.


Darren Sproles


The third-most targeted pass catcher in the league is becoming a PPR lineup fixture.

WR Robert Meachem


The Saints don’t have a true WR1, but Meachem is the closest in terms of size and position. And since that’s who opponents tend to target against the Texans (Reggie Wayne 7-106-1 on 11 targets in the opener, Brandon Marshall 6-79-1 on 11 targets last week), he’s the safest play among Brees’ many receivers.

WR Devery Henderson
Lance Moore

Any Brees receiver has a chance to be a fantasy factor, but there’s also the risk they’ll get caught in a numbers game. It’s not a dramatically favorable matchup for either, so it all comes down to what your other lineup options are.

TE Jimmy Graham S2 Graham is targeted more like a WR2 than a TE, especially in the red zone. Even though Houston hasn’t surrendered much to tight ends thus far this season, it’s no reason to sit a guy targeted more than all but five other TEs in the league.
DT Saints S3 Sproles in the return game tilts this unit to the start side.

Detroit at Minnesota

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford S2

With seven TD tosses and 627 yards, Stafford has been pretty doggone good thus far. The Vikings haven’t exactly stopped anyone, especially in the second half, so no reason to jump off the Lions’ bandwagon here.

RB Jahvid Best S2

The return of Kevin Williams should help slap a bandage on a Vikings run defense that’s allowed more fantasy points to running backs than any other. But running up the middle isn’t Best’s strong suit; he excels outside and as a receiver. And seeing as the Vikings have allowed the third-most RB receiving yards and the most RB receiving TDs, it’s a golden opportunity for Best to do what he does… um, best.

WR Calvin Johnson S2

The Vikings have been playing a deep Tampa 2 and taking the long ball away from opponents. But they also can’t stop the short game, and their best cover corner barely comes up to Megatron’s chest. Johnson will get his, most likely in the 80-and-a-touch range that seems to be where he falls against the Vikings. And there’s always the upside.

WR Nate Burleson S2

In his last two meetings with his former team, Burleson has 6-83-1 and 6-100. He’s been a Goose-like wingman thus far, and with defenses focused on Calvin Johnson he should post helpful fantasy numbers once again.

TE Brandon Pettigrew
Tony Scheffler

The Vikings have traditionally been awful at defending the TE, and while they’ve been better this season there are still fantasy points to be had here. Pettigrew is the play in PPR leagues, but Scheffler has scored in each game this year and tallied one against the Vikes last season as well. Pettigrew very nearly clarified this situation by missing practice Wednesday and Thursday, but he was back at work Friday so it's still a logjam. Both can be considered in TE-mandatory leagues, with Scheffler an upgrade if Pettigrew winds up not playing.

DT Lions S3 Whatever issues remain in the secondary are well hidden by the pressure up front.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Donovan McNabb B

The Lions have allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to the quarterback position, and McNabb hasn’t done enough yet to warrant bucking that trend. He threw for 210 and 1 against Detroit as a Redskin last year before giving way to Rex Grossman; similar numbers are likely in store.

RB Adrian Peterson S1

Three home dates with the Lions, three 100-yard games and four touchdowns. The offense will run through him, Ndamukong Suh be damned, and thus far he’s more than answered the call.

WR Percy Harvin


Harvin was on the field for less than half of Minnesota’s snaps last week, which is a real puzzler, yet he was the most targeted and most productive receiver. Last year he carved out 14-134-1 in two games against Detroit, and he’ll have every opportunity to build on those numbers here. Don't sweat the mid-week missed practice; Harvin was back to work on Friday and is good to go for Sunday.

WR Michael Jenkins
Bernard Berrian


This passing game isn’t productive enough yet to warrant going any deeper than WR1.

TE Vishante Shiancoe B

See above. Though the Vikings’ offense heavily involves the TE and McNabb certainly knows where to find the position, until we see the theory turned into action there are too many other TE options to warrant a flier on Shiancoe.

DT Vikings S3

The return of Kevin Williams, the crowd noise of Metrodome, Percy Harvin in the return game… yeah, there’s enough here to cobble together a fantasy start.

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