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Start/Bench List: Week 17
John Tuvey
Updated: December 30, 2011
SFO at STL IND at JAC CAR at NOS SEA at ARI 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)
Chicago at Minnesota Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh McCown S3

The Vikings just gave up 284 and 2 to Rex Grossman; you have to think McCown can’t be that far behind Rexy, can he? Jay Cutler took a healthier version of this secondary for 267 and 2 in Week 6, and after McCown shook off the rust with 242 and 1 last week he’s at least a viable option based on the ultra-friendly matchup he’s facing.

RB Kahlil Bell S2

Bell is auditioning for a job—maybe in Chicago replacing free agent-to-be Matt Forte, maybe elsewhere. Either way, 267 combo yards in two games will get you noticed. And adding to that total against a defense that just surrendered 147 yards from scrimmage to Evan Royster in his first NFL start makes Bell that much more appealing this offseason.


Roy Williams
Dane Sanzenbacher

S3 Yes, with 6-81 on a team-high nine targets last week, Roy Williams has fantasy relevance. Pretty much any receiver lining up against the Vikings has fantasy relevance these days, and right now Williams and Sanzenbacher are the most targeted options in Chicago. Sanzenbacher scored on the Vikings in the previous meeting, just one of the many slot receivers to kill Minnesota this season. Either should be in position to put up decent fantasy numbers this week.
DT Bears S3 What leads to defensive fantasy points? Pressure on the quarterback (the Vikings have given up multiple sacks in 10 straight games and 14 of 15 this season) and turnovers (Minnesota has 10 giveaways in the last four games). And if Devin Hester always kills the Vikes; if he’s active, bump up the Bears to S2 status.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Christian Ponder S3

Vikings QBs have multiple touchdowns in four straight; not coincidentally, Adrian Peterson has been limited or absent due to injury in each of those tilts. With AP done for the year the offensive onus will again fall on the passing game, and Ponder is expected to return from the concussion that knocked him out of last week’s game to take the reins against a shell-shocked Chicago secondary that just gave up five TDs to Aaron Rodgers.

RB Toby Gerhart S3

Gerhart has been solid in place of Peterson, and as he may very well be Minnesota’s starter in Week 1 of 2012 (depending on how quickly AP recovers) the Vikes will try a bunch of different things with him here. He won’t find a ton of room against a Chicago defense that hasn’t allowed a back to top 71 yards against them since Week 5, but every time Gerhart has been given double-digit touches he’s either scored or topped 90 yards. And he’ll get double-digit touches this week.

WR Percy Harvin


Harvin led the Vikings with 7-78 in the earlier meeting with Chicago, and he’s stepped up his game when Peterson has been hurt: 40-566-6 in the six games where Peterson has been limited or out. A Bears defense that let James Jones score twice and Matt Willis go for 75 yards against them isn’t about to shut down a talent like Harvin.

TE Kyle Rudolph S3

The rookie has three touchdowns in the last six games and will be a larger part of the Vikings’ offense going forward. Minnesota is expected to provide a glimpse of that future in the regular season finale, meaning more looks for Rudolph. The Bears surrendered 7-65 to the TE position the last time they faced the Vikings and also gave up a touchdown to Jermichael Finley last week; both bode well for Rudolph’s chances this week.

TE Jim Kleinsasser U

Here’s your sneaky touchdown play of the week. The veteran TE/H-back is set to retire at the end of the season, and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier indicated he wanted to send Kleinsasser off with a bang. If there’s a goal line situation for the Vikings, expect Kleinsasser to get at least a crack at one more touchdown—his first since 2007.

DT Vikings S3

With little else to play for look for Minnesota’s defense to do some funky things to give Jared Allen more shots at the quarterback—and the franchise and league single-season sacks record. McCown has done a better job taking care of the ball (and avoiding sacks) than Caleb Hanie, but the Vikings still have a shot at getting to him since they’re not exactly worried about covering anybody on the back end anyway.

Buffalo at New England Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick S2

Fitz carved up the Pats for 369 and 2 back in Week 3, before we realized just how truly bad the New England secondary was. They’ve allowed multiple QB TDs in four straight and seven of nine, with at least 250 passing yards in four of the last five. Even if New England plays the regulars all it means is more points for Fitz and the Bills to keep up with; fantasy-wise, it’s a no-lose situation for Buffalo.

RB C.J. Spiller S1

Spiller’s audition for free agent-to-be Fred Jackson’s job—or at least a larger share of his touches—has gone quite well of late with four touchdowns in the last four games and a robust 305 yards from scrimmage (on 39 touches) over the past two. The same defense that allowed 113 rushing/26 receiving to Reggie Bush last week and 126 rushing to Roy Helu three weeks ago should provide another fertile environment for Spiller’s growth as an NFL back.

WR Steve Johnson S2

Johnson caught eight balls for 94 yards and a TD in the earlier meeting, and after a midseason slump he’s finishing strong with a touchdown or 80-plus receiving yards in five straight. No reason not to like him against a New England secondary that’s given up the most yards to wide receivers by a whopping 538 yards.

WR David Nelson S3

Only once this season have the Patriots allowed only one opposing wideout to either score or tally at least 59 receiving yards. Usually it’s more than two—a total of 37 receivers have turned that trick this season—but there’s no secondary option besides Nelson consistent enough to warrant fantasy attention.

DT Bills S3 The Bills picked Tom Brady four times in the earlier meeting, including a pick six, and have three defensive scores and a punt return TD in just the past three games. The Pats haven’t surrendered a return score since that Week 3 gaffe against Buffalo—in fact, they’ve been turnover free in four of their last five games and have just two giveaways in their last seven—but maybe Buffalo has Brady’s number.
New England
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tom Brady S1

Brady had a nine-game string of multiple passing touchdown games snapped last week—in part because he called his own number twice at the stripe, giving him three rushing scores in the past two games. He’s thrown for at least 293 yards in five straight and seven of eight, and the last time he saw the Buffalo secondary he offset four INTs with 387 yards and four touchdowns. The AFC’s top seed is on the line, so Brady will be on the field long enough to give the Pats home field advantage throughout the playoffs and your fantasy club a healthy shot in the arm.


Stevan Ridley


The Bills have allowed four straight feature backs to either score or top 100 yards, assuming you consider Tim Tebow the Broncos’ feature back. It’s a crapshoot guessing which Patriot will get the most carries this week, but Ridley has been the top ball-carrier each of the last two and produced 65 and 64 yards; if he gets double-digit touches again here triple-digit yardage is likely.

WR Wes Welker S1 Welker was targeted 19 times (for 12-138) last week, his busiest week since seeing 20 balls (for 16-217-2) against the Bills in Week 3. Yep, he's in.
WR Deion Branch U The Bills have by and large limited the damage to just one wideout per game, and Branch oftentimes gets lost in the shuffle behind Welker and the tight ends. Any pass catcher in a Tom Brady offense has upside, but use Branch with caution.
TE Rob Gronkowski S1 In the past six games the Bills have given up eight TE TDs; only one team has given up more all season. Gronk scorched Buffalo for 7-109-2 in the earlier meeting; though he’s been quieter of late, no reason he should be on your bench with home field advantage on the line this week.
TE Aaron Hernandez S2 Hernandez missed the earlier meeting with Buffalo, but as noted above the Bills have struggled to find tight ends in coverage. Even if he and Gronk are splitting stats, in this matchup there’s enough to go around.
DT Patriots S3 For all their struggles the Patriots defense has produced multiple takeaways in four straight and seven of the last eight, producing two defensive touchdowns in that span. If you aren’t penalized by the 20-plus points they’re likely to give up they’re a viable fantasy option.

Carolina at New Orleans

Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments

Cam Newton

S2 What will Superman do for an encore? He threw for two TDs and ran for another in his earlier meeting with the Saints, and every score and yard he produces add to one record or another. The Saints have given up 300-plus passing yards in five of their last six—400 or more in three of those games—and with a possible first-round bye on the line will keep putting up points, forcing Newton to do the same. No, that’s not a bad thing.

Jonathan Stewart
DeAngelo Williams

S3 Williams has scored in four of the last five; Stewart has outgained him in three of those five. Neither need a bunch of carries to get their numbers, which is good because they aren’t getting a bunch of carries. Newton lurks as a goal line vulture, but the blueprint against New Orleans is always to run the ball and keep Drew Brees off the field; few teams have the personnel to do that like Carolina can.
WR Steve Smith S2

The Saints have allowed five 100-yard receivers in just the past six games, and Smith is the most likely Panther to capitalize on that trend. He caught three balls for 79 yards and a touchdown in the earlier meeting with New Orleans and has a positive trend of his own going with 100 yards or a score in two of his last three.

WR Brandon LaFell B

LaFell had the big game last week, and since Legadnu Naanee was a factor in the earlier meeting with New Orleans maybe there's a chance that... nah, you can't bank on LaFell for fantasy production.

WR Legadu Naanee B

Naanee has been ruled out of this tilt with a foot injury. Hopefully your fantasy team can recover from this devastating blow.

TE Jeremy Shockey
Greg Olsen

Shockey has usurped Olsen as the Panthers’ go-to tight end, with touchdowns in three straight. Olsen has one score in that span and found the end zone in the earlier meeting, but the Saints haven’t allowed a tight end touchdown since their Week 11 bye. With two guys splitting what projects to be limited opportunities, you can’t trust either with a fantasy start.

DT Panthers B You don’t want to toss a defense under the Saints’ steamroller of an offense; even though they’ve turned the ball over four times in the past two games (after four straight without a single giveaway), they’ve also put up 42 and 45 points.
New Orleans
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Drew Brees S1

Maybe now that he has the record Brees will slow from the pace that has produced six straight 300-yard games and seven consecutive multiple-touchdown tilts. Then again, with a shot at a first-round bye on the line and a Carolina defense that served up 359 and 2 in the earlier meeting offering little resistance, why not steal a few more MVP votes from Aaron Rodgers and put that yardage record a little further out of reach?


Darren Sproles
Pierre Thomas


Thomas has scored a rushing touchdown in each of the past two games, while Sproles has tallied a receiving TD in each of the last two as well. The return of Mark Ingram for a few touches could further muddy things, but as it stands you can expect a little fantasy help from Thomas and Sproles—especially against a Carolina defense that’s allowed the second-most fantasy points to running backs including a league-high six RB receiving TDs.

WR Marques Colston S2

The most targeted Saints wideout in four straight, Colston is the closest thing to a safe play among the New Orleans wide receivers. He was the most productive in the earlier meeting with Carolina, scored last week, and has 81 yards or more in each of the last three.

WR Devery Henderson
Robert Meachem

You know the drill: any Saints wideout could blow up at any time. And with Lance Moore ruled out due to a hamstring injury it's tempting to bump the rest of the New Orleans receiving corps to S3 status. However, against a Carolina secondary that’s allowed only one wideout to find the end zone in 12 of 15 games this season going beyond the WR1 is a significant risk.

WR Lance Moore


Moore has been ruled out due to his problematic hamstring.

TE Jimmy Graham S1 Graham killed the Panthers to the tune of 8-129 in the earlier meeting and has touchdowns in two straight and four of the last six. He’s Brees’ favorite red zone option and with the Saints still in the hunt for home field advantage will be on the field and productive.
DT Saints S3 The Saints have held four straight to 20 points or less, but they’ve only generated six turnovers in the last seven games. Carolina has been turnover-free in two straight and three of four and isn’t doing much to present New Orleans with opportunities for defensive fantasy points.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta Back to top
Tampa Bay
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Josh Freeman B

Freeman has failed to throw for 200 yards in each of his last four against the Falcons, and he has but one multiple touchdown outing to his credit in his last eight games. With Atlanta still in the running for the fifth seed—avoiding the Niners or Saints in the wildcard round—they won’t be easing up here. And that’s just more bad news for the Bucs.

RB LeGarrette Blount B

Blount continues to disappear in games, touching the ball less than both Kregg Lumpkin and Mossis Madu last week. Since it’s unlikely the Bucs will be up early in this tilt, it’ll be another reduced workload in what has become a lost season for last year’s rookie sensation.

WR Mike Williams

Fantasy owners still haven’t forgiven Williams for the Week 15 donut; doesn’t help that he hasn’t found the end zone since Week 12, either. There’s no Buc wideout consistent enough to warrant a fantasy play this week.

TE Kellen Winslow B

The Falcons have allowed four TE TDs in the last four games so if you’re forced at gunpoint to start a Buc Winslow is your best bet. However, he hasn’t scored since Week 9 and in that span has more games below 45 yards than above it so he’s not exactly reliable.

DT Buccaneers B The Bucs have two defensive touchdowns in their last five games; they’ve also given up 30 or more points in six of their last seven, cancelling out any potential benefit their fantasy defense might offer.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Matt Ryan S2

Matty Ice threw for 330 yards in the earlier meeting with Tampa Bay and has 300 yards or multiple touchdowns (or both) in three straight and seven of his last eight. The only thing preventing him from another big day is the success Atlanta’s ground game will have against the league’s most fantasy-friendly run defense.

RB Michael Turner S3

Turner should have blown up this defense back in Week 3; instead, he mustered just 20 yards on 11 carries. He’s been struggling of late as well, in part because of a lingering groin injury. The Falcons will use as little of him as possible this week, but Tampa’s run D is so bad even a handful of carries would be enough for Turner to make a fantasy impact.

RB Jason Snelling
Jacquizz Rodgers

With Turner likely to be somewhat limited, the opportunity to gash a Bucs D that’s allowed seven RB TDs and 570 yards from scrimmage in just the past three games falls to Snelling and Rodgers. The rookie is a better play in PPR leagues, while Snelling could swipe Turner’s between-the-tackle carries and end zone looks as well.

WR Roddy White S1

White has seen double-digit targets in six straight games, producing four 100-yard efforts and 49-664-5 during that span. He turned 17 targets into 9-140 in the earlier meeting with Tampa Bay and there’s no reason to expect less this time around.

WR Julio Jones

Jones is almost as great a play as White; he went for 115 yards on six catches in the front end of this season series and brings a three-game scoring streak into this tilt with 317 yards in that span. And the Bucs don’t have Aqib Talib to throw a blanket over either dynamic Atlanta receiver.


Tony Gonzalez


Gonzo scored in the earlier matchup with Tampa Bay, and while he hasn’t scored since Week 11 he could very easily get back in the saddle against a Buccaneer defense that’s allowed at least 75 yards or a touchdown to the last three tight ends they’ve faced.

DT Falcons S3 The Bucs have topped 20 points just once in the last nine games and scored just 16 at home against the Falcons, so even if Atlanta doesn’t create turnovers they’ll pick up bonus points on the scoreboard.
Baltimore at Cincinnati Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Joe Flacco S3

The Bengals have allowed multiple TD tosses in five of their last six, including 270 and 2 to Flacco in Week 11. Flacco himself has two touchdown passes in each of the last three games and should find himself in a dogfight against a Cincy team vying for a playoff spot. Baltimore needs to win to clinch the AFC North title so they’ll be throwing punches as well, making Flacco at least a viable fantasy option amid the Week 17 chaos.

RB Ray Rice S1

Rice rushed for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the earlier meeting, but the Bengals have shut out backs in four of five since with no back topping 71 yards. Rice, meanwhile, has scored in four of his last five and topped 100 yards from scrimmage in four consecutive games. He’s the crux of this offense and will be given every opportunity to deliver a division title to the Ravens.


Torrey Smith

S2 Smith blew up the Bengals for 6-165-1 in Week 11, and that was with Anquan Boldin siphoning looks. Cincy has allowed at least one WR TD in each of the last eight games, and no Boldin means Smith is the odds-on favorite to collect the Ravens’ score this week.

Ed Dickson

S3 Cincy has given up two TE TDs in the last three games, and with Boldin out Dickson is seeing more looks. He’s scored in two straight and has an excellent shot of extending that string to three here.
DT Ravens S2 Baltimore has held four of their last five foes to 14 points or less, with multiple sacks in five of six as well. This is still the cornerstone of the franchise, and with the division title on the line it would be unwise to bet against Ray Lewis & Co.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Andy Dalton S3

The Ravens haven’t allowed multiple passing scores in a game yet this season, and only one of the last five quarterbacks they’ve faced has topped 200 yards. Dalton threw for 373 and 1 in the earlier meeting and tossed multiple scores last week for the first time in six games. Asking for a fantasy helper against the Ravens is a daunting task, especially for a rookie; he gets a fringe nod because at least he’s playing for something this week.

RB Cedric Benson S3

Benson’s two touchdowns in the earlier meeting with Baltimore were not only surprising but also somewhat fluky as he averaged less than three yards per carry on the day and finished with just 41 yards. Tough to expect a repeat, but the Ravens have allowed three RB TDs and a 100-yard game in the past fortnight so you can’t count Benson out. You know he’ll get 15-plus attempts, which if nothing else in Week 17 makes him one of the better quantity plays.

WR A.J. Green


The Ravens missed Green in the earlier meeting; they’re in for a treat. While Baltimore has allowed just one WR TD in the last five games you can’t bet against the rookie, especially since with a playoff berth on the line you know Andy Dalton will give him every opportunity to make plays down the field.

WR Jerome Simpson S3

Simpson has scored in two of the last three and had a monster day (8-132) in the earlier meeting with Baltimore, in part because Green was sidelined with an injury. However, Andre Caldwell chipped in 63 and 1 in that game and he won’t be around to siphon looks, so there should be enough for Green and Simpson to be fantasy factors.

TE Jermaine Gresham S3 After going three months without allowing a tight end touchdown the Ravens have given up three in the last four games. Gresham is a large enough part of the Cincy offense that he’s a viable fantasy play in TE-mandatory leagues even with the tougher matchup.
DT Bengals S3 The Bengals have multiple sacks in each of the last five games and have forced seven turnovers in the past three. They also get a Ravens team that’s struggled on the road this season, and with a playoff spot on the line this defense at least has something to play for.

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