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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)
San Diego at Detroit Back to top
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

Now this is the Chargers offense we’ve been waiting for. Rivers has 240 yards or better in three straight and seven TD tosses over the last three games. A Detroit secondary that’s served up 300-plus yards in three of the last four and a total of nine touchdowns over that span looks poised to help Rivers keep on rollin’.

RB Ryan Mathews S2 Mathews’ run of four straight games with at least 90 yards coincides with him getting 20-plus carries in three of those four games. He’s taken over the bulk of the backfield touches, and aside from ceding an occasional goal line look he’s Norv Turner’s go-to back. Against a Detroit defense that’s surrendered 768 yards from scrimmage to running backs over the past five games, those touches translate into fantasy points.
RB Mike Tolbert S3 Tolbert has averaged seven touches per game over the past three, but he’s also punched across a touchdown in each of those tilts. He’s usable in TD-heavy scoring formats, but the bulk of the touches are going to Ryan Mathews.
WR Vincent Jackson S3 V-Jax has been okay, averaging a shade under 60 yards per game in the month since his monster 7-165-1 blow-up. You’d think a guy making a contract push would… you know, push a little harder. The Lions just allowed 155 yards to Darius Heyward-Bey so it’s not like they can put the clamps on Jackson, and of course there’s the possibility of another blowup. But best set your expectations low, otherwise you’ll be disappointed. It doesn't help matters that Jackson didn't practice all week; he's officially listed as questionable and expected to play, but you can't just set your lineup with V-Jax in it and then not pay attention to the game day inactives list. And you may have other things going on this Saturday. Just sayin'.
WR Malcom Floyd S2 While Jackson has disappointed, Floyd has surprised. He has touchdowns in two of his last three and at least 96 yards in four of his last six. He can’t be counted ou against a defense that’s allowed six WR TDs and 815 receiver yards in the past four games.
TE Antonio Gates S2

Before Baltimore put the clamps on him last week Gates had a touchdown or at least 70 yards in seven of eight games since returning from injury. The Lions have given up just one TE TD in the past two months, but they’ve allowed more than adequate yardage to stud TEs like Jimmy Graham (89) and Tony Gonzalez (62), so this is a good opportunity for Gates to get back in the saddle.

DT Chargers B

The Chargers are coming off a seven-sack game against Baltimore, but going on the road to face a potent Detroit offense doesn’t lend itself to an ordinary defense generating fantasy points.

Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matthew Stafford S2

Stafford has four 300-yard efforts in his past six games and has thrown six touchdowns in the past two weeks. The Chargers have allowed multiple TD tosses in five of seven, and after holding the likes of Joe Flacco, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Blaine Gabbert and Tim Tebow to 226 yards or less they’re about to get a taste of a big-time passing quarterback—like they saw in Jay Cutler (286 and 2), Carson Palmer (299 and 4), Aaron Rodgers (247 and 4) and Tom Brady (423 and 3).

RB Kevin Smith

Smith appears to be past the ankle injury that’s slowed him over the past month, which means he’ll get the bulk of the touches against a defense that’s been giving up solid combo-yardage games to opposing backs—like the 188 they allowed to Maurice Jones-Drew on their last road trip. Smiths’ numbers may not be that big, but he should be a solid yardage contributor this week.

WR Calvin Johnson S1

And you were worried about Megatron. Did the 214 and 2 last week ease your concern? The Chargers haven’t given up a ton of fantasy points to wideouts, but when they do they’re consolidated with the alpha of the group—116 to Steve Johnson, 123 and 2 to Denarius Moore—so there’s no reason to be concerned about Calvin this week, either.

WR Nate Burleson
Titus Young


It’s been a month since the Chargers gave up more than 51 yards to a secondary receiver. However, both Burleson and Young scored last week—in fact, Young has TDs in two straight—and are at minimum flex plays in larger leagues based on the Lions’ expected volume of passing yardage.

TE Brandon Pettigrew

The good news is, Pettigrew’s 23 targets the past three games suggest he’s distanced himself from Tony Scheffler in that regard. However, the Chargers have allowed just one TE TD in the past month and only three in the past three months. Consider Pettigrew useable in TE-mandatory leagues, but he’s not much of a flex option in combo WR/TE leagues.

DT Lions B The Bolts have just one turnover in the past three games and have put up 34 or more in each of those tilts; neither of those situations lends itself to helping Detroit produce defensive fantasy points.
San Francisco at Seattle Back to top
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith B

Jim Harbaugh may think Smith is a Pro Bowler, but nobody thinks Smith is a fantasy helper. The last time he saw the Seahawks he threw for a lusty 124 yards and zero scores, barely salvaging fantasy self-respect with a rushing touchdown. There’s no reason to expect much more this time around, so you can leave Smith in the free agent pool where he most likely resides.

RB Frank Gore S3

It’s been a month and a half since Gore’s last 100-yard game and while his 22-59 in the earlier meeting with Seattle was hardly impressive he does have touchdowns in each of the past two games. The Niners haven’t indicated they’re going to rest Gore and give Kendall Hunter carries (yet), so you should be safe squeezing one more decent fantasy game out of Gore.

WR Michael Crabtree S3 He may be the Niners’ WR1, but that doesn’t mean he has to be fantasy starter. Only five teams have surrendered fewer fantasy points to wide receivers than the Seahawks, and Crabtree has just one real fantasy helper in his last four games. At best he’s a fringe play or WR3 in larger performance leagues, though he does come with a tinge of upside.
TE Vernon Davis S3

Don’t get too excited about Davis’ 6-72-1 last week against the Steelers; it was his first fantasy helper in a month. His targets have been inconsistent and he managed just 5-47 in the earlier meeting with Seattle, but he’s targeted enough and has enough upside to warrant a start in most TE-mandatory leagues.

DT 49ers S3 The Niners haven’t been as good on the road as they have at home, and they’ve only recorded one defensive touchdown this season. But Ted Ginn brought two kicks back in the opener against Seattle and this defense has forced multiple turnovers in three straight and seven of eight, as well as three in that Week 1 win over Seattle.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tarvaris Jackson B Jackson has just one multiple touchdown game since Week 4, though he did throw two in the Week 1 loss in San Francisco. There’s little upside to his game; even a repeat of the mild Week 1 success is unlikely against a Niners defense that’s allowed just one multiple TD game in the last five.
RB Marshawn Lynch S3

Here’s the million dollar question: can Skittles snap the 49ers’ year-long streak of not allowing a running back rushing score—in the process extending his own eight-game scoring streak? He’ll need that score for fantasy value since the 64 San Fran allowed to Rashard Mendenhall last week was the most a feature back has posted on them this season. Can we compromise and give Lynch a receiving score, which he used to extend his own streak against Washington—and which the Niners have already allowed to LeSean McCoy this season? You’d have to be relatively deep at running back to have a more favorable option, but it’s not out of the question to sit Lynch in this brutal matchup.


Doug Baldwin

B The Stanford rookie went undrafted—even by his former college coach, who now happens to helm the 49ers. Unfortunately for him, the 4-83-1 he dropped on San Fran in the season opener will have to do for revenge, at least for now; Baldin didn't practice Thursday or Friday and is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. The Seahawks’ passing game has been sketchy at best, failing to produce a consistent fantasy contributor--especially one on a bum wheel.
DT Seahawks S3 This will be a true test of the 12th man, as the Niners haven’t turned the ball over since Week 12 and haven’t had multiple giveaways in a game since Week 6. They played extremely clean in the opener against Seattle with no sacks or turnovers; what can the crowd noise bring to the table to change those numbers? Don’t bank on much; look elsewhere for defensive fantasy help.
Philadelphia at Dallas Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Michael Vick S2

Vick has been relatively ordinary of late, under 280 yards in five straight and no multiple touchdown games since Week 8. He did, however, break his rushing touchdown maiden last week and had a solid 279 and 2 in the Eagles’ Week 8 blowout of the Cowboys. Best case Philly will be playing to keep the Dream Team dream alive; worst case, they can take out their frustrations on Dallas by denying the Cowboys a postseason berth. Either way, Vick should be a solid fantasy contributor this week.

RB LeSean McCoy

Shady’s 185 and 2 in the earlier meeting with Dallas launched a run of four 100-yard rushing efforts allowed by the Cowboys. And if Dallas finds a way to shut down McCoy’s rushing lanes, he can contribute as a receiver; Dallas has allowed two 50-yard receiving games to RBs in the past three weeks. Plus, there are record books for Shady to rewrite.

WR DeSean Jackson
Jeremy Maclin
S3 Dallas has allowed four 100-yard wide receivers in the past five games, so there are opportunities here. Maclin is the safer of the two options, but Jackson has bigger upside. Either are good plays, but neither is a great fantasy play this week.
TE Brent Celek
S2 Celek destroyed the Cowboys back in Week 8 with 7-94-1. Since that time, Dallas has allowed only one TE TD and no tight end to top 52 yards against them. Celek, on the other hand, is coming off a 5-156-1 pasting of the Jets and has at least 53 yards in five of the seven games since taking it to the Cowboys. Unless there’s a dramatic overcorrection in the Dallas defensive game plan Celek should at least be solid—with the potential for being spectacular again.
DT Eagles S3 With 13 sacks, seven turnovers, a defensive touchdown and a safety in the past two games the Philly D is starting to live up to the Dream Team moniker. It’ll be tougher to put up similar numbers in Dallas, but the Eagles have the playmakers to put up some defensive fantasy points regardless of venue or opponent.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

Romo has thrown multiple touchdowns in six of seven since the Eagles limited him to 203 and 1 back in Week 8; he’s also topped 225 yards in all seven games and put up at least 249 in six of the seven. The Eagles have seen some lousy quarterbacking of late; Romo may catch them off guard. Plus, he’s on too good a roll to consider benching during championship week, especially with all the weapons at his disposal.

RB Felix Jones B

In a shocking development, Jones celebrated his return to feature-back status by tweaking his hamstring during his 22-108 effort against the Buccaneers. Dr. Jerry Jones says he'd be surprised if Felix doesn't play, but we're not sure he's medically qualified to make that assessment. There's upside agaisnt the Philly D, but you'll have to step away from the figgy pudding to get pregame updates as to whether or not Jones is active--and have a late-game Plan B if he's not.

RB Sammy Morris B

Morris is Jones' caddy and should see touches even if Felix decides to give it a go. Sammy produced 12-53 in his Cowboys debut last week, but you just don't know how many touches he'll get here. If Jones is a surprise deactivation on game day, consider Morris against a defense that’s allowed 73, 103, and 148 yards to the last three feature backs they’ve faced; otherwise, he's bench fodder.

WR Dez Bryant

Dez is most likely to draw Nnamdi Asomugha; that coverage led to 3-28 in the earlier meeting. Despite scoring in back-to-back weeks Bryant has been lightly targeted since Miles Austin returned to the lineup. It’s difficult to bench the über-talented Bryant, but his prognosis this week isn’t particularly favorable.

WR Laurent Robinson

If Philly handles the Cowboys like they did in the earlier meeting Robinson should be in for a big day. With the secondary focused on Austin and Bryant Robinson cut lose with 103 yards and a touchdown. He’s scored in both games with all three receivers in action and will likely draw the lesser of Philly’s cover corners--a group further lessened by the absence of Asante Samuel this week. You’ve seen what he can do against that matchup, so he’s likely the best play of the Dallas receivers this week.

WR Miles Austin


Austin picked up where he left off prior to his hamstring injury, scoring in each game since his return. However, the Philly secondary kept him in check in the earlier meeting to the tune of 3-27 so there has to be at least some concern heading into the rematch. Perhaps this will make you feel better: last week both Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes scored on Philly, while four weeks back both New England wideouts topped 100 yards. So we’re sayin’ there’s a chance.

TE Jason Witten S3

With all three wideouts healthy it’s Witten who’s getting squeezed; he hasn’t scored since Week 11 and the double-digit targets are a thing of the past. Witten did see a dozen targets in the earlier matchup with Philly but wound up with just 4-28 to show for it. The Eagles have allowed just two TE TDs in the past 10 games, making this an all-around tough matchup for Witten. He’s still useable in TE-mandatory leagues, but expectations should be set low.

DT Cowboys S3 The Cowboys haven’t had much going on in the way of defensive fantasy scoring, maybe because they’ve produced just three turnovers in the past four games. Vick is certainly capable of giveaways so the Cowboys aren’t unuseable, but they’re not a great fantasy play either.
Chicago at Green Bay Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh McCown B

The Packers’ pass defense has been tightening up, holding three of the last four quarterbacks they’ve faced to one or zero touchdowns. And McCown has done nothing in his career to indicate he’s the guy to buck that trend.

RB Kahlil Bell S2

Bell took over for a nicked up and ineffective Marion Barber in last week’s loss to Seattle and played like a poor man’s Matt Forte with 108 combo yards and a receiving touchdown. With Marion Barber ruled out due to his calf injury Bell wiill be on the field plenty, taking the bulk of the touches and producing another solid fantasy effort.

RB Marion Barber B

Barber has been ruled out of this tilt due to a calf injury.


Devin Hester

B Hester takes the hit for the entire Bears’ receiving corps, which will be without Johnny Knox for the rest of the season. There’s just nobody left who can be trusted with a fantasy start. Must drive Mike Martz absolutely bonkers.
DT Bears S3 Anything’s possible in a Black & Blue Division slugfest, but the Packers haven’t had multiple turnovers in a game since Week 4 and haven’t allowed a defensive or return touchdown since Kickoff Weekend. That said, the Bears defense knows they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel across the board offensively and may respond with an effort similar to what we saw from Kansas City last week.
Green Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Aaron Rodgers S1

The Bears have held four straight and six of the last seven quarterbacks they’ve faced to one or zero touchdown tosses and… aw, who are we kidding; the Bears held Rodgers in check last season but back in Week three he lit them up for 297 and three TDs. Even last weeks’ 235 & 1 “dud” was salvaged by a rushing score. You rode Rodgers this far; don’t hop off before the ride has finished.


Ryan Grant


Grant’s recent resurgence may come as a surprise, but he had 17-92 in Chicago back in Week 3. Now that he’s handling the bulk of the touches he’s putting up decent fantasy numbers; both his recent history and his track record against the Bears suggest he’s usable in championship week.

WR Jordy Nelson


Nelson was a major disappointment in his first outing as the Packers’ WR1, but now he’s back in Lambeau where he’s scored in every game. Tough to bet against him at this juncture.

WR James Jones S3

You know the drill: any Packer pass-catcher with a pulse could score at any time. Jones was the second-most targeted wideout in the earlier meeting with Chicago; add to that his share of Greg Jennings’ looks and he has the most upside of the remaining receivers.

TE Jermichael Finley


The Bears didn’t have an answer for Finley in the earlier meeting as he racked up 7-85-3; most impressively, he did so on just eight targets, which means he had at most one drop—rare for him. The Bears haven’t added anyone who can match up with Finley, and with all of Jennings’ looks up for grabs this could be another monster for Finley--tempered, of course, by his buttery fingers.

DT Packers S1 Let’s see: at home, playing for home field advantage, against their arch rivals who are without their top receiver, top running back, and are on to their third quarterback. Yeah, sounds like a favorable matchup.
Atlanta at New Orleans Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan S2

Ryan carved up the Saints to the tune of 351 and 2 in the earlier meeting, but he always plays better at home. That said, he’s been on fire regardless of venue since coming back from the Week 8 bye, averaging 287 yards and better than two TDs per game. The Saints’ secondary has been susceptible, giving up 1,260 yards over the past four games. So it’s all there if Ryan wants it.

RB Michael Turner S2

Since Turner’s 96 yard effort against them in Week 10, the Saints have put the clamps down on opposing ground games; Adrian Peterson’s 60 yards last week was the high-water mark over the past month. Turner’s numbers have been a bit subdued of late; his touchdown last week was his first in a month, and he hasn’t hit triple digits in a similar time frame. You know the Falcons will use him to keep Drew Brees off the field, so his baseline is a decent game with just a twinge of upside.

WR Roddy White S2

Harry Douglas stole White’s targets (14 to White’s 7) and production (8-133 to Roddy’s 4-62) in the previous meeting with New Orleans, but Julio Jones was somewhat limited. With both of Atlanta’s big targets ready to go White should find more room—and see more targets, as he did last week in turning 16 targets into 10-135-2. The Saints have allowed three 100-yard receivers in their last five outings, and Roddy’s the top candidate to extend that string this week.

WR Julio Jones

The two-catch, nine-yard Jones the Saints saw back in Week 10 was a mere shell of the real weapon—the one that’s scored three touchdowns and compiled 189 yards the past two games. At minimum he’ll open the field for Roddy White, but fantasy owners would prefer if he got behind the Saints secondary himself for one of his big plays. Don’t bet against him.


Tony Gonzalez


Gonzo got back in the saddle with 6-71-1 in the earlier meeting with Atlanta, his fourth solid game in five meetings. Gonzo’s Week 10 score was the last TE TD the Saints allowed, and no tight end has topped 50 yards since then, either. Tony lost targets to Roddy White last week, but in the three previous weeks he’d seen 30 balls, turning them into 23 catches for 251 yards. The Saints will be spread thin in the secondary covering White and Jones; once again, that should leave Gonzo with plenty of opportunities.

DT Falcons B Yes, the Falcons got a defensive touchdown last week but that came against the hapless Jaguars. The Saints, on the other hand, have turned the ball over just twice in the last five games and are averaging 32 points per game. No reason to throw the Falcons D in front of the Saints juggernaut this week.
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S1

Since giving up 322 and 2 to Brees in Week 10 the Falcons have held all five opponents to 276 passing yards or less, though two of five have thrown multiple touchdowns. Regardless of foe you’re not sitting the red-hot Brees, who has six straight multiple touchdown games and five consecutive outings with at least 300 passing yards. With Dan Marino’s single-season mark within reach, expect the Superdome air to be filled with flying pigskins on Monday night.


Darren Sproles


Sproles is a bit of a homeboy; six of his seven touchdowns from scrimmage have come in the Superdome. The Falcons wrapped him up in the earlier meeting, limiting him to three yards on six touches; since then he’s averaged 11 touches and 90 combo yards. Tough to see Atlanta dedicating their resources to another stop of Sproles, which leaves his upside intact.


Chris Ivory
Pierre Thomas


Only two teams have allowed fewer fantasy points to running backs than the Falcons, and here you have potentially four guys dipping out of a very shallow cup. Sproles can get his in the passing game, but unless one or more of the Saints’ regular running back rotation is ruled out due to injury it’s almost impossible to trust any one of them to give you a fantasy contribution.


Mark Ingram


Ingram is still battling a toe injury, and his availability for this week's game remains in question. Combine the Monday game with a solid Atlanta defense and Ingram can't be trusted with a fantasy start.

WR Marques Colston S2

Colston is the most consistently targeted Saints wideout, and with Brent Grimes’ availability in question he’s a solid bet to following the footsteps of other WR1s who have had success against Atlanta, from Steve Smith’s 125 yards to Andre Johnson’s 97 before exiting with an injury to Percy Harvin’s 95 & 1 to Nate Washington’s 95 and 1 to… well, Colston’s 8-113 in the earlier meeting.

WR Lance Moore

Moore is the most reliable wingman in the Saints’ receiver arsenal; he also has five touchdowns in his last four games. He was limited to one catch in the earlier meeting with Atlanta but is a larger part of the game plan now and the best fantasy play of the rest of the Saints’ cast of wideouts.

TE Jimmy Graham S1 Graham owned the Falcons in the earlier meeting, turning 12 targets into 7-82-1. He also scored last week and has three TDs and 298 yards in the four games since last facing the Falcons. It doesn’t appear Atlanta hasn’t improved in defending the position, have allowed three TE TDs in the past three games. You know Brees looks almost exclusively for Graham at the stripe, so he’s a quality play regardless of matchup; the fact he’s already had success against Atlanta makes him that much more attractive.
DT Saints B The New Orleans defense hasn’t been nearly as opportunistic as during its Super Bowl run, but they’ve held three straight foes to 20 points or less. However, this Atlanta team has played two straight turnover free games and doesn’t lend itself to giving up big fantasy defensive points. You won’t be hard-pressed to find a better fantasy option.

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