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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)
Denver at Buffalo Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tim Tebow S2 Five of the last six quarterbacks to face the Bills have thrown multiple TDs, and while Tebow is, shall we say, unconventional he’s had success against struggling secondaries. And when he doesn’t, he runs—like last week, when he threw just 22 passes against the league’s worst secondary but made up for subdued throwing numbers with two rushing scores. One way or another, Tebow will win you your fantasy league; that’s just what he does.
RB Willis McGahee S2

Three straight feature backs have scored and reached triple-digit rushing yardage against the Bills. Assuming McGahee is healthy enough to go he’s a solid fantasy play this week. And if he’s nicked, Lance Ball is a more than competent fill-in.

WR DeMaryius Thomas S2

How do I know Thomas is Tebow’s favorite receiver? A whopping 26 targets over the past two games; the next closest Denver wideout has 10. Thomas has 100 yards or a TD (or both) in three straight since usurping Eric Decker for the role of “apple of Tebow’s eye”. The Bills have been allowing enough productivity for one (and only one) receiver to be a fantasy factor, and the evidence overwhelmingly points towards that one receiver being Thomas.

DT Broncos S3 Denver’s defense has the personnel to take advantage of a Bills passing game that’s thrown six interceptions the past two games.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick S3

The last two competent quarterbacks to face the Broncos (removes Caleb Hanie from the equation) have thrown for 300 yards and multiple touchdowns, and Fitz is coming off a 316 & 2 of his own. C.J. Spiller isn’t built to be a workhorse back, so despite his recent success this offense still needs to flow through Fitzpatrick. This week, that flow should be a good one.

RB C.J. Spiller S2

Coming off a shocking 12-91-1 on the ground (and a less surprising 9-76-1 in the air), Spiller gets a Bronco defense that’s allowed 165, 204, and 144 combo yards to opposing backfields. If ever there were an opportunity to make a case for significant carries next year, this is it.

WR Steve Johnson S3

Denver’s secondary hasn’t given up much to wideouts of late, allowing just three WR TDs over the past six games and a total of 153 yards the past two. Johnson remains atop the Bills’ receiver pecking order, with double-digit targets in two straight and three of four. He hasn’t scored in a couple games but has 198 yards in those two tilts to cover for the lack of TDs. He’ll be the majority of Fitzpatrick’s downfield targets and as such has a shot at decent fantasy numbers this week.

DT Bills B This group is generating just a turnover per game over the past six weeks, and prior to last week the Broncos had been extremely stingy with giveaways. No reason to reach for them here.
Tampa Bay at Carolina Back to top
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh Freeman B

Freeman missed the earlier meeting between these clubs with a shoulder injury, and Josh Johnson did little in his stead. Freeman has one multi-TD game since the team’s Week 8 bye, and unless he changes his name to Matt prior to kickoff he’s likely to struggle again; only Ryan and Stafford have multiple TD games against the Panthers over the past two months.

RB LeGarrette Blount S3

Remember the good old days when Blount used to get 20 carries and churn out triple-digit yardage? That hasn’t happened in a month, leaving Blount with a total of 38 carries and 114 yards in those three games—a stretch that includes his horrifyingly bad 11-19 performance at home against these very Panthers. Once again the matchup suggests he’s usable; once again we’re balking at using him because of his propensity to dribble down his leg. Call it a fringe start and look for a better option elsewhere.

WR Mike Williams
Dezmon Briscoe

Williams had 93 yards and Briscoe scored in the previous meeting with Carolina. That makes two scores in three games for Briscoe, so if you must reach for a Tampa Bay wideout he’s your guy. Williams was untargeted last week and simply can’t be trusted with a fantasy start after laying such an egg.

TE Kellen Winslow B

Winslow’s utterly ordinary 4-41 in the front end of this season series is typical of what he’ll give you. In a large TE-mandatory PPR league, maybe that’s enough; in most leagues, however, that’s not championship game material.

DT Buccaneers B No reason to reach for this defense; they aren’t generating turnovers or getting to the quarterback, and the last time they faced Carolina they gave up 38 points without a takeaway.
Pos Player SBC Comments

Cam Newton

S2 After denting the Bucs for three rushing scores back in Week 13, Newton has multiple passing scores each of the past two weeks. Carolina has allowed multiple passing scores each of the past two games and let Tony Romo run in a touchdown last week. Looks like good with the potential for great again.

Jonathan Stewart
DeAngelo Williams

S3 Williams has scored in three of the last four, the only exception being the earlier meeting with Tampa Bay. Stewart has been shut out in six of the last seven—the only exception being the earlier meeting with Tampa Bay. Is it something special about Stew or is Williams the better play? Both are at risk of being usurped at the stripe by Newton, neither is going to get more than 15 carries… it’s a great matchup but there’s no sure thing here so gauge your risk accordingly.
WR Steve Smith S2

Smith did nothing in the earlier meeting with Tampa Bay—and it wasn’t all because of Aqib Talib, who left that game early with an injury. Talib is now on IR, leaving Smith to run free through the secondary. With 206 and 1 the past two weeks Smith is back in the flow of the Carolina passing game; look for him to own the field sans Talib.

TE Jeremy Shockey B

Shockey has actually been the bigger fantasy factor of late, with touchdowns in the last two games and three of the last four TE TDs the Panthers have scored. However, Greg Olsen is still getting looks and this duo will be splitting a pie already lessened by a defense that has allowed just one TE TD in the last nine games.

DT Panthers B The Panthers aren’t a great play defensively, but the Bucs have topped 20 points just once in the past eight games so there’s a reasonable shot at bonus points here.

Arizona at Cincinnati

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB John Skelton S3

This decision is supposedly still up in the air, begging the question: if the Cards hadn’t parted with a first-round pick and a top corner for Kolb would he even be in the conversation? Skelton has played well the last two games, and only a date with a rusty Kellen Clemens has kept the Bengals from running their streak of multiple TD games allowed to five. If Skelton gets the official nod by Friday we may bump him up to S2 as a point of emphasis.

RB Chris Wells
S3 Wells failed to live up to expectations against a pillow-soft Cleveland run defense last week, producing just 51 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. He’s topped 70 just once in the last seven games but he keeps finding the end zone. Expect something similar here: mediocre-at-best yardage with a good shot at a touchdown. Startable, but nothing to get overly excited about.
WR Larry Fitzgerald

The Bengals have allowed at least one WR TD in seven straight, and you know Fitz has the best shot of any Arizona wideout to be on the business end of the money shot—especially if Skelton remains at quarterback.

WR Andre Roberts B

Roberts has the edge over Early Doucet as Arizona’s fantasy WR2, but the Bengals haven’t allowed multiple receivers to score in the same game since Week 12, and they aren’t allowing enough yardage to feed more than one mouth either.

DT Cardinals B The Cards have generated just one turnover the past three games, making it difficult for them to score defensive fantasy points.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Andy Dalton B

Arizona has held seven of the last eight quarterbacks they’ve faced to one touchdown toss or less. Dalton hasn’t had a multiple TD game since Week 10. How does feel like anything other than one TD to A.J. Green and that’s about it?

RB Cedric Benson S2

Lots of trends working in Ced’s favor this week. He’s at home, for starters; plus he scored last week to break a two-game slump. And the Cards have allowed each of the last two feature backs they’ve faced to find the end zone. Big upgrade for Benson, from the usual 65 yards and maybe a score to 80 yards and probably a TD. Woo-hoo!

WR A.J. Green


Green faces an Arizona defense that just let fellow rookie Greg Little roll all over them to the tune of 5-131-1. Green himself battled through a sore knee to put up 6-115 at St. Louis; assuming the knee doesn’t put his availability in question he’s an every-week starter regardless of matchup.

TE Jermaine Gresham B With Dalton tending to throw only one score, and that score usually going to Green, and the Cardinals having allowed just one TE TD in the past two months, and Gresham’s role in the Cincy offense lessening… he’s a reach at best even in larger TE-mandatory leagues.
DT Bengals B Nothing special to see here. Cincy’s not generating turnovers, Skelton’s not making turnovers. Tough to generate defensive fantasy points when everybody’s so dang conservative.
Oakland at Kansas City Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S3

The Chiefs haven’t allowed a 250-yard passer in two months and have held three of the last four they’ve faced to one or zero touchdowns. Palmer himself has struggled, at least with the touchdown portion of the program with just one multiple TD outing in his last five games. He made his Oakland debut in the earlier meeting with KC, throwing for 116 yards with three picks in the second half of a blowout loss. Look for good yardage on 40-plus attempts, most likely with limited touchdowns again.

RB Michael Bush

Bush stepped in for the injured Darren McFadden the last time these clubs met, rushing for 99 yards on 17 carries. He’s been solid in almost every game since, producing 93 or more combo yards in six of seven starts. The Chiefs just gave up 101 combo yards to Ryan Grant and 187 yards from scrimmage to Shonn Greene, so another solid start from Bush seems inevitable.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey S3

DHB had a solid 5-89 showing in the earlier meeting with KC, and after dropping 8-155-1 on the Lions he appears to have regained the WR1 role in Carson Palmer’s passing game. That may mean he draws more attention from killer cornerback Brandon Flowers, but he’s done enough to warrant consideration as a fantasy starter during championship regardless of the tougher matchup.

WR Denarius Moore B

Moore didn’t look quite right in his return to the lineup, turning five targets into just two catches and 13 yards. At this juncture it’s too risky to let him get better in your lineup, even at the risk of missing out on a big game. Given the Chiefs’ solid secondary, that’s not likely this week anyway.

DT Raiders B Oakland scored a defensive touchdown last week but it’s tough to bank on more considering they’ve generated just two turnovers total in the past three games. Kyle Orton hardly looked rusty last week, so this isn’t like facing a typical backup quarterback. Look elsewhere for defensive fantasy help.
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton S2

Oakland saw Orton back in Week 1 when he was a Bronco and he threw for 304 and 1 against them; the last time they saw KC they blanked Matt Cassel in a shutout loss. The Raiders have allowed multiple touchdown tosses in two straight and six of the last seven, as well as 250-plus yards in three of the last four. Orton is still looking for his first TD toss as a Chief but he rolled the Packers for 299 yards last week and seems to have a pretty good grasp of this offense.

RB Jackie Battle
S3 Battle is sharing carries with the utterly pedestrian Thomas Jones, which takes a bite out of his fantasy value. But he turned 16 carries into 76 yards the last time he faced Oakland and found the end zone on 10 carries last week so he’s got a shot at being a contributor in larger leagues.

Dwayne Bowe


Orton actually targeted Steve Breaston more last week, but there’s no reason Bowe shouldn’t emerge as his go-to guy this week. He’s battled Stanford Routt before, putting up 6-76 in the earlier meeting with Oakland, and against a defense that’s allowed at least one WR TD in seven straight and four last week alone those numbers feel like a baseline.


Steve Breaston


Breaston is in play as well against a defense that’s allowed multiple receivers to either score or top 60 yards or both in three straight games. He caught five balls for 64 yards in the earlier meeting and seems a safe bet to at least replicate those numbers.

DT Chiefs S2 The Chiefs picked Oakland quarterbacks six times in the earlier meeting, bringing two back for touchdowns. The Raiders have allowed two defensive TDs in the last three games, so expect another productive fantasy showing for KC at home.
Miami at New England Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Moore S2

Back in Week 1 Chad Henne threw for 416 and 2 against the Patriots. They’ve lost key members of the secondary since then, and the Dolphins have moved on from Henne to Matt Moore. No reason Moore can’t become the 12th quarterback to throw for at least 250 yards on the Pats, or the ninth to throw for multiple touchdowns.


Reggie Bush


Bush scored on a reception in the earlier meeting with New England, but he’s now found his groove as a runner with three straight 100-yard games. Facing a Patriots defense that let Roy Helu take them for 126 two weeks ago and the combo entry of Lance Ball and Willis McGahee carve out 134 and 1 last week should provide Bush yet another opportunity to win back Kim Kardashian.


Daniel Thomas


Thomas has been getting double-digit carries against lesser foes, but the last time these teams met the Dolphins only ran the ball 13 times as a team and Bush has the first shot at those. And even with a decent quantity of touches Thomas hasn’t been particularly productive. Don’t expect that to change here.


Brandon Marshall


Marshall’s 7-139 in the opener against New England was his biggest effort thus far this season; however, the Patriots have actually allowed two bigger games among the seven 100-yard receiving games they’ve ceded this year. All that’s stopping Marshall from a repeat performance is the same secondary that let Demaryius Thomas go for 7-116 last week. Advantage: Marshall.


Brian Hartline
Davonne Bess


Both Miami wingmen are in play against a New England secondary that’s allowed 15 wide receivers to score or top 70 yards in just the last six games. Hartline scored in the earlier meeting while Bess had 92 yards, so both are familiar with the holes in the Patriots secondary. If you’re reaching for receiver help, there’s upside to be had here.


Anthony Fasano


Fasano had 82 yards in the earlier meeting with New England and has a touchdown or at least 50 yards in six of the last seven. However, he's still suffering from a concussion and has been ruled out of this tilt. His replacements, Jeron Mastrud and Will Yeatman, have one career reception between them. Sorry, no help here.

DT Dolphins B The Pats haven’t allowed a defensive touchdown since Week 3 and have just one turnover in the last four games, making it almost impossible for opponents to generate defensive fantasy points.
New England
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tom Brady S1

Not that you need a reason, but Brady threw for 517 and 4 the last time these clubs met and has a streak of nine consecutive games with multiple touchdowns. So, yeah, go ahead and play him.


Danny Woodhead


The Patriots backfield is a gawdawful fantasy mess; there’s productivity, but it could come from any one of four guys at any given time. This week’s pick is Woodhead, as the Dolphins are allowing 65 RB receiving yards per game over the last five and that’s usually a role Woodhead fills.

WR Wes Welker S1 After blowing up his former team for 8-160-2 in the first game of the season Welker is now averaging 7-111 against the Dolphins. No reason for that to change this week.
WR Chad Ochocinco U Ocho’s participation depends on Deion Branch’s availability. To his credit, he turned his only catch into a touchdown last week and was so shocked he didn’t even have a touchdown dance. Plenty of wideouts have had success against the Dolphins this season, but after Welker and the tight ends take theirs the question is just how much will be left?
TE Rob Gronkowski S1 The mismatch nightmare was actually only the Pats’ second-best tight end in the earlier matchup, catching six balls for 86 yards and a TD while Aaron Hernandez went off for 10-103-1. The Patriots’ TE production constitutes 25% of the yardage and half of the TE TDs the Dolphins have allowed this year, but Brady uses his tight ends like wide receivers so a repeat is far more likely than something that you’d be ashamed to put in your championship week lineup.
TE Aaron Hernandez S2 The tide turned a little last week with Hernandez being the more targeted and more productive Patriots tight end, posting 9-129-1 to Gronk’s 4-53. There was more than enough for both in the earlier meeting, and that’s been the case most of the season so don’t look for anything different this time around.
DT Patriots S3 The Pats have generated multiple takeaways in three straight and six of the last seven, producing two defensive scores in that span. Of course, they’ve also allowed at least 20 points in four straight so a pure defense they’re not. But for fantasy purposes, there may be something you can use this week.

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