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Start/Bench List: Week 16
John Tuvey
Updated: December 23, 2011
HOU at IND STL at PIT ARI at CIN SFO 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)
Houston at Indianapolis Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB T.J. Yates B Indy has been a mostly positive matchup for opposing quarterbacks over the past month, but after Yates’ clunker last week it’s extremely difficult to trust him with a fantasy start. Mix in the ground game’s expected success and he’s bench fodder.
RB Arian Foster

S1 Arian missed the season opener against Indy, when his backups combined for 167 yards and two TDs. Now, with T.J. Yates at the helm and a playoff bye on the line, the ground game will become more of a focal point than ever. And since the ground game runs through Foster, he’s a money play this week.
RB Ben Tate S3 And while Foster is a money play Tate’s not just chopped liver. The aforementioned 116 and 1 against Indy in the season opener proves his mettle, and over the past eight games he’s averaged 10 carries and 60 yards as Foster’s wingman. There’s upside for Tate in a Houston blowout, but even in a regular game he’s still involved enough to warrant consideration.
WR Kevin Walter
Jacoby Jones

Each of Houston’s secondary targets has exactly one productive fantasy game since Andre Johnson initially went down with a hamstring injury. Moreover, Walter has 3-43-1 in his last three against Indy while Jones has 10-105-1 in his last four versus the Colts. Despite the favorable matchup, there’s just no reliable fantasy play here.

TE Owen Daniels B

Daniels is a game-time decision and would be a solid start if he were expected to play. That looks unlikely as of right now, so he gets the qualified B. If things change and Daniels gets clearance Thursday night, he’s worth a look.

TE Joel Dressen S2

Dreessen’s S2 is based on Indy’s struggles of late to shut down tight ends—a 100-yard game to Jared Cook last week, a touchdown to Dennis Pitta the week before, 107 yards and two scores to New England’s dynamic tight end duo the week before that—as well as Dreessen’s three TDs in the last four games and his likely uptick in targets if Owen Daniels can’t play.

DT Texans S3 The Colts haven’t been turning the ball over of late, but they coughed it up twice in the season-opening loss to Houston; they also allowed three sacks, only scored seven points, and surrendered a kick return touchdown. The Texans haven’t been nearly as formidable a fantasy defense since, but they have to step it up a notch to protect their rookie quarterback. They're not a compelling start, but they're facing a one-win team and a backup quarterback--both of which are good things from a defensive fantasy points perspective.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Dan Orlovsky B

Orlovsky’s one solid fantasy game was either a product of the Patriots’ pathetic pass defense or proof that a blind squirrel does in fact occasionally find a nut. Rolling him out in Championship Week against a defense that has allowed multiple QB TDs just once since Week 5—even if that once was last week to Cam Newton—seems ill advised.

RB Donald Brown S3 Lightning struck twice last week: Brown rushed for 161 yards—that’s 27 percent of his yardage for the season—and a touchdown, while the Texans gave up their first two RB TDs in nearly two months. You could make a tepid case for Brown given that he’s been handling the majority of the Colts’ carries, but he’s at best a fringe option.
WR Reggie Wayne
Pierre Garçon

The Texans have allowed a WR TD in three straight and six of the last seven, so there might be something available for one of these guys. Garcon has been slightly more targeted but has been shut out in eight of the last nine games while Wayne has scored in two of the last three. You’d be stretching to start either.

TE Jacob Tamme B

With Dallas Clark likely out again, at least you know Tamme will get the looks. However, those looks haven’t produced nearly enough to justify starting him in a tougher matchup against a Houston defense that’s allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to tight ends.

DT Colts S3 When the Indy defense does show up it tends to be at home, and the Texans aren’t exactly the offensive juggernaut they once were with T.J. Yates under center.
Cleveland at Baltimore Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Seneca Wallace B

The Ravens still haven’t allowed a multiple touchdown game this season, and Wallace doesn’t project to be the guy who snaps that trend.

RB Peyton Hillis

Hillis carried 12 times for 45 yards against these same Ravens just three weeks ago in Cleveland. If he were to match those numbers this week it would approximate the 14-44 the Ravens are allowing on average to feature backs in Baltimore. Five of the seven previous visiting feature backs have failed to find the end zone, including Arian Foster, Rashard Mendenhall, Frank Gore, and Shonn Greene. If you’re still not convinced, think about the Madden curse.

WR Greg Little

You can count the number of WR TDs the Ravens have allowed over the past three months on one hand, and the few big-yardage games they’ve allowed have gone to WR2s. You can argue that Little isn’t a legit WR1 (and you’d probably be right), but he’ll receive WR1 attention from the Ravens and as such find it difficult to repeat the 5-131-1 he dropped on the Cardinals last week. Or even come close to those numbers.

TE Evan Moore B

Cleveland has three tight ends jockeying for looks against a Baltimore defense that’s giving up 39 yards per game to the position. Moore scored in the Week 13 meeting with Baltimore, the first TE TD the Ravens allowed this year; just because lightning struck once doesn’t mean you should run outside with a kite and a key and expect it to happen again.

DT Browns B The Browns don’t have a defensive or special teams touchdown this season; a Baltimore club with just 10 turnovers in seven home games doesn’t appear to be an opportunity to snap that skid.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco S3

The former top-ranked pass defense has given up 593 yards and three TDs the past two weeks, and Joe Haden is nicked up. Moreover, Flacco has back-to-back multiple touchdown games for the first time this season. So we’re sayin’ there’s a chance.

RB Ray Rice S1

It was less than a month ago that Rice ran roughshod over the Browns in Cleveland to the tune of 204 yards and a touchdown. Considering his worst fantasy game against Cleveland since taking over as the starter was a TD-free 92-yard effort, even the floor is pretty high for Rice this week. As for the ceiling…

RB Ricky Williams S3

The Ravens offloaded 16 carries on Williams in the earlier meeting, which he turned into 76 yards and a touchdown. If you’re stuck for a back you could do worse than the second man in on what looks to be a very productive rushing afternoon for the Ravens.


Torrey Smith

S3 There wasn’t much throwing in the last meeting, with Smith and Anquan Boldin combining for three catches on the day. Joe Haden is nicked up, however, and after watching the former top-ranked pass defense give up 416 WR yards and three WR TDs the past two weeks there’s enough upside here to warrant a fantasy start--especially with Smith clearly the top dog as Boldin sits this one out.

Anquan Boldin

B Boldin was a surprise midweek scratch; turns out he underwent minor knee surgery and will miss the rest of the regular season.

Ed Dickson

B Dickson found the end zone last week against San Diego, and Boldin's absence opens up some looks in the passing game, but Ed is still sharing looks with Dennis Pitta. And with this game likely to be very run-heavy for the Ravens, there won’t be many opportunities to begin with. Worse, the Browns have allowed only one TE TD in the past nine games and only one TE has topped 70 yards all year.
DT Ravens S1 This offense still hasn’t topped 20 points since Week 2, and they mustered just 10 at home in the earlier meeting with Baltimore. That brings the total points Cleveland has scored against the Ravens in their last four meetings to a whopping 40. And the Browns are countering with their backup quarterback. Nice!
Minnesota at Washington Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Christian Ponder S3

Ponder has multiple touchdowns in three straight and four of five, but his yardage the last two weeks has been downright brutal. Washington held Eli Manning in check last week but they’re personal kryptonite to him; prior to that they allowed nine TD tosses in four games. He’s not a great play, but he’s at least put fantasy points on the board with or without Adrian Peterson at his disposal.

RB Adrian Peterson S2

AP was limited to 10 carries last week, but you have to believe he’ll be healthier and more involved this week. Against a defense that’s allowed the last three backs with double-digit carries against them to either score or rush for 100-plus yards, he’s a solid start—just not quite back on the S1 plane.

WR Percy Harvin


The Saints took Harvin away last week, but a Washington secondary that has allowed seven different wideouts to either score or top 50 yards against them over the past five games doesn’t feel like a shutdown kind of D.

WR Devin Aromashodu


He’s been heavily targeted of late, but until we see bigger yardage from Ponder and the passing game it’s tough to trust secondary targets with anything more than a desperation play.

TE Vishante Shiancoe


The UFA-to-be is losing looks to rookie Kyle Rudolph and not a strong play against a Redskins defense that’s shut out the last five tight ends they’ve faced not named Gronkowski or Witten.

DT Vikings B

The Vikings have given up 111 points in three games and can’t even get Jared Allen a sack. You could hope Harvin gets you a kickoff return, but significantly better fantasy options abound.

Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Rex Grossman

Nine straight quarterbacks have tallied multiple touchdowns against the Vikings, a total of 27 in that span. And if you’re worried about Bad Rexy rearing his ugly head, this secondary hasn’t picked a pass since they swiped Richard Bartel in Week 5. Enjoy.


Roy Helu


As if you needed more reason to distrust Mike Shanahan, Helu is officially listed as questionable for this week's tilt. The club estimated that had they held a full practice on Friday he would have been limited by his knee and toe injuries, and while he's expected to play this situation has all the makings of a Shanahan coal-in-the-stocking event. Teams that want to run the ball on the Vikings and have a competent running back have had plenty of success. Helu is also a good receiver and the Vikings struggle with pass-catching backs, so in theory he's a good play this week. But by now you know the disclaimer: playing any Mike Shanahan back at any time brings with it inherent risk. Carries may be given to backs other than the original feature back at any time and without any reason other than Mike Shanahan says so. And Helu's injury status gives Shanny an open door. Ugh.


Evan Royster

U Royster’s carries have climbed from 0 to 6 to 10 over the past three weeks, and now Helu is listed as questionable. Sniff, sniff... yep, that's Shanahanigans we smell. If Helu is inactive for this game Royster would be worth a shot; otherwise there's not enough known upside to offset the risk. Thanks, Shanny; Merry Christmas to you, too!
WR Santana Moss
Jabar Gaffney

S2 The Saints had two 90-yard receivers last week against Minnesota, and over the past month six different wideouts have either topped 85 yards or scored—or both. Gaffney was more targeted than Moss last week, but Santana has scored in two straight. Both are solid plays against a Vikings secondary that was bad even before it started losing regulars to injury and the criminal justice system.
WR Donte' Stallworth U

It’s a bit of a reach, but Stallworth has six catches for 131 yards over the past two games and could very easily carve out his own niche against a struggling Vikings secondary.

DT Redskins S2 The Vikings have surrendered 10 turnovers and three defensive touchdowns in the past three games, plus they’ve allowed at least three sacks in seven straight games. Plenty of opportunities for the Washington D to put up fantasy points here.

Jacksonville at Tennessee

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Blaine Gabbert B

Tough to like Gabbert for a fantasy play when a) he hasn’t done a thing this year, b) he has no receivers, and c) the Titans have held each of the last four non-Brees quarterbacks to one or zero touchdown tosses—and Brees only mustered two himself.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S2

MoJo took the Titans for 97 and a touch back in Week 1, and the Titans roll in fresh off allowing Donald Brown to run for 161 and 1 against them. Jones-Drew is the only bright spot in this offense, and he continues to get it done fantasy-wise despite the utter lack of assistance. No reason to jump off the bandwagon now.


Chastin West

B Hey, the Titans have allowed at least one WR TD in each of the last four games—though the odds are pretty good you’ve heard of Reggie Wayne, Marques Colston, Steve Johnson, and Mike Williams. Odds are not so good you’ve heard of anyone on Jacksonville’s generic receiving corps, which produced a whopping 89 yards and a TD last week in Atlanta. You wanna start any member of the Jaguars passing game, you’re on your own.

Marcedes Lewis

B Lewis is still battling the bad hands that have cost him catches—and his quarterback’s confidence. He’ll also be battling a Titans defense that hasn’t allowed a TE TD in more than a month.
DT Jaguars B

The Titans have given up two defensive touchdowns in the past four games so it’s not impossible the Jags get one here. Just quite improbable.

Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Hasselbeck B

This should be Jake Locker, and maybe it will be by Friday. But as it stands it’s Hass, who hasn’t thrown a touchdown since Week 12 and couldn’t get over on the Colts for a score despite 40 attempts last week. The Jags have been decimated by injuries in the secondary and surrendered three-TD games to Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan but aside from that hasn’t allowed a multiple TD game since Week 5. A gimpy Hass, a better Jax D than you might think… it’s not adding up to big fantasy numbers.

RB Chris Johnson S3

CJ needs 70 yards to add a 1K to his moniker, but his ankle injury might keep him off the field this week and require him to get all the yards in Week 17. He practiced on a limited basis later in the week and is expected to play, and if he goes he's a decent play against the Jaguars. Were this the CJ2K of previous years we'd urge you to go out of your way to get him into the lineup--but it's not, so proceed with caution.

RB Jaime Harper B

Doesn't sound as if CJ1K will need his caddy this week, or at least to the point you could depend on Harper for some fantasy assistance.

WR Nate Washington

S2 Nate’s 6-67 against the Jags in the season opener was overshadowed by Kenny Britt’s 5-136-2 on a couple of busted plays. With Washington having slid over to the WR1 chair he’s a safe bet for at minimum numbers similar to Week 1’s, though Hasselbeck’s ceiling also limits Nate’s.
WR Damian Williams
Lavelle Hawkins
B Williams teased us with a couple of big-target, potentially productive games; his problem comes when Jake Locker enters the game and essentially ignores him. A full game from Hass has its drawbacks but might be a boon for Williams, though after being leapfrogged in targets and catches by Hawkins last week neither makes a particularly strong fantasy play.
TE Jared Cook B Tough to buy into Cook’s 9-103 last week when it’s light-years more than anything he’s done since Week 4. Worse, a tough matchup with a Jacksonville D that since Week 5 has kept all tight ends not named Joel Dreessen out of the end zone won’t make things any easier for Cook. Don’t chase last week’s stats.
DT Titans S3 Not that the Titans are much of a fantasy defensive juggernaut, but they do catch the Jags fresh off a five-sack, four-turnover effort against the Falcons in which they also allowed a defensive touchdown. Jacksonville also has topped 20 points just once all season, so there could be bonus points in the offing as well.
St. Louis at Pittsburgh Back to top
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Sam Bradford B

Bradford is trying to avoid IR, but at this juncture there’s no need for him to return to this mess.

QB Kellen Clemens B

Dare we say Clemens wasn’t awful at home against the Bengals last week with 229 yards and a touchdown; Bradford hasn’t had a better fantasy day since Week 2. However, now he’s off to Pittsburgh to face a Steelers defense that’s allowed a total of 728 passing yards and two passing TDs in the past month.

RB Steven Jackson B

The Steelers have given up just two RB TDs in Pittsburgh all year, and Maurice Jones-Drew is the only feature back to top 52 yards. It’s shaping up to be a down fantasy day for Jackson, so start looking for an alternative.


Brandon Lloyd


Formerly the most reliable Rams receiver, Lloyd has now failed to score in three straight and the yardage just isn’t enough to justify plugging him into your lineup—not against a defense that hasn’t allowed as much as a 90-yard receiver all season and has given up just one WR TD in the past month.

DT Rams B They’ll likely be facing a backup QB behind a bad offensive line, but expecting that to translate into defensive fantasy points is a bit of a stretch.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger B

Big Ben has been ruled out of this one as the Steelers figure they can handle the Rams with a backup QB and rest Roethlisberger for the playoffs.

QB Charlie Batch B

Batch gets the call against a defense that, in part because everybody is running on them, has allowed multiple passing scores just once in the past eight games, with only two QBs topping 225 yards during that span. It’s hardly a favorable matchup, which Batch would desperately need to flash onto the fantasy radar.

RB Rashard Mendenhall


Mendy’s been utterly ordinary since his last game with as much as 80 yards (Week 6), but the Rams have given up the fifth-most fantasy points to running backs and present an opportunity. He’s as solid a start as he’ll be this season; then again, that’s not saying too much.

RB Isaac Redman U

Secondary backs have found the end zone in two of the last five against St. Louis, and Mendenhall is nursing some banged up ribs—plus Mewelde Moore is out, freeing up some touches in the passing game. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and if you’re throwing darts at least Redman appears to be looking at a good-sized target.

WR Mike Wallace
Antonio Brown

The Rams have allowed at least one 90-yard receiver each of the last three games, and with Wallace and Brown roughly equal in targets of late both are decent options—tempered, of course, by the fact that it’s Charlie Batch throwing the ball at or near them.

TE Heath Miller B

No team has given up fewer fantasy points to the tight end position than the Rams, so there’s no compelling reason to dust off Miller and plug him into your fantasy lineup.

DT Steelers S1 The Steel Curtain has held four straight foes and 12 of the last 13 to 20 points or less, with three of the last four failing to make it out of single digits. The Rams have topped 20 points once all year, back in Week 8, and will throw a backup quarterback at a defense that gets James Harrison back in the mix. Lots to like here.
NY Giants at NY Jets Back to top
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S2

Eli’s kryptonite has been the Redskins; in 10 of his 12 games against non-Washington foes he’s thrown multiple touchdown passes. The Jets secondary has been better after a brief hiccup in which they allowed multiple TD tosses in two of three, so this won’t be an easy row for Eli to hoe. However, he’ll have so many weapons at his disposal the Jets may not have an answer for all of them. Facing a similarly talented Philly secondary Eli threw for 518 and 5 in two games; no reason to hit the panic button against the Jets this week.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw

The Jets have allowed 100-yard rushers in two of their last three games, and while it’s unlikely Bradshaw gets enough touches to do similar damage he’s not a bad play here.

RB Brandon Jacobs

Jacobs had a three-game scoring streak snapped last week and appears headed back to wingman/caddy duty. Tough to trust a guy who’s looking at maybe getting to double-digit carries with a fantasy start at this juncture.

WR Hakeem Nicks

Can you really bench Nicks this week, the assumption being he’ll be squared off with Darrelle Revis most of the game? If you have another compelling option on your roster it certainly warrants consideration. Eli has other options, and while the Giants say they won’t shy away from throwing at Revis… why throw into coverage if the other guys are open?

WR Victor Cruz


With Nicks on Revis Island and Manningham on the sidelines, it's salsa time!. Not that the Jets’ other corners are chopped liver, but seven of the nine WR TDs the Jets have allowed this year have gone to non-WR1s. Consider that the last two times Manningham sat out, against the Saints and Packers, Cruz went for 9-157-2 and 7-119. C'mon, vamanose!

WR Mario Manningham


Manningham is listed as doubtful and unlikely to play due to a nagging knee injury.

TE Jake Ballard B

Ballard has been ruled out due to a knee injury.

TE Bear Pascoe
Travis Beckum

With talented corners shutting down the outside receivers, teams have not been hesitant to work the middle of the field against the Jets: Brent Celek (5-156-1), Fred Davis (6-99), Rob Gronkowski (8-113-2), even Scott Chandler (6-50). Ballard is out, leaving Pascoe (who is saw more targets than Ballard last week) and Beckum (who has matched Ballard in TDs over the past six games) as intriguing plays.

DT Giants S3 The Giants haven’t had a defensive touchdown since Week 2, but they get after the passer and face a Jets offense that has produced three defensive scores in the past six weeks.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Mark Sanchez S3

Sanchez hasn’t done much for yardage over the past month but he does have three multiple touchdown games in his last four outings. The Giants emerged from a three-game stretch in which they saw Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Tony Romo—and gave up four TDs to each—without too much shell-shock, recovering to limit Rex Grossman to 185 and one last week. Expectations should not be high here, but a couple scores aren’t out of the question.

RB Shonn Greene S3

Greene continues his transformation into Cedric Benson, turning copious carries into adequate yardage and the occasional touchdown. The Giants have allowed just one RB TD the last three weeks, in part because they were too busy getting thrown on; they’ve allowed six 100-yard rushers and RB TDs in nine of 14 games this season, tilting the matchup ever so slightly in Greene’s favor.

WR Santonio Holmes


Holmes hasn’t topped 58 yards in more than a month, but he’s scored in four straight and faces a Giants secondary that’s allowed 11 WR TDs in the last five games; that’s more than a quarter of the league has allowed all year. He won’t be as valuable in yardage-heavy leagues, but a touchdown seems imminent.

WR Plaxico Burress


Plax is a bit longer shot to help, what with one catch the last two weeks. But you can bet he’ll be motivated against his former club, and it’s not as if the Giants have a shutdown corner like Brandon Flowers or Nnamdi Asomugha to take Burress out of the game. So long as he doesn’t shoot himself in the foot he’s a decent play. What? Too soon?

TE Dustin Keller S3

The last six teams to face the Giants who have thrown at least two passes at the tight end position have produced a touchdown or at least 60 yards of offense. Keller has been hit or miss (mostly miss) this season, but with at least five targets in five straight games he has a legitimate shot at being a fantasy helper here.

DT Jets S3 Eli has thrown a pick in seven straight games, and if as the Giants are yapping they don’t intend to back away from throwing at Revis Island there’s a strong possibility that streak stretches to eight—plus, any time Revis has the ball he’s a threat to go the distance the other way.

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