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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)
Pittsburgh at Cleveland Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S3

Roethlisberger threw for 280 and 2 on one leg against the Browns three weeks ago, and with a possible bye (and a week of rest) on the line he'll give it a go this week. Officially he's listed as probable, and we've seen him play through worse; the question will be how much of the Steelers offense will be kept on the ground and how much will Big Ben actually throw. He's usable, but he's not a great fantasy option this week.

RB Rashard Mendenhall


The Browns held Mendenhall to 76 yards on 18 carries in the previous meeting, but Mendy looked better last week gouging the Rams for 116 and 1 and should be the hammer the Steelers use to put away the Browns this week. The only concern is that, like last week, he’ll cede a goal line look or two to Isaac Redman and/or John Clay.

RB Isaac Redman U

Mendenhall should see the bulk of the workload, but if Pittsburgh gets up early (or the scoreboard shows the Ravens aren’t folding in Cincinnati) Redman might take over. He’s bound to get a goal line look and has upside for those with Week 17 championships and lineup holes at running back.

WR Mike Wallace

The Browns haven’t given up a touchdown to a WR1 since Week 10, and in all likelihood this will be a run-heavy attack for the Steelers. But Wallace is too talented to be benched, especially if Big Ben is going to be on the field.

WR Antonio Brown S3

Antonio killed the Browns in Week 14 to the tune of 5-151-1, and if Joe Haden is locked up on Mike Wallace it could be déjà vu all over again.

DT Steelers S2 The Browns haven’t topped 20 points since Week 2; the Steelers have held four of their last five opponents to single digits, including the Browns’ 3-point showing in Week 14. With a possible playoff bye on the line, expect the Steel Curtain to drop hard on Seneca Wallace and the Browns.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Seneca Wallace B

Wallace hasn’t had a fantasy helper since taking over for the concussed Colt McCoy; the Steelers have allowed two QB TDs toal in the last five games. Move along, nothing to see here.

RB Peyton Hillis

Yes, he’s coming off a 100-yard game against the Ravens. You wanna start Hillis this week based on that strong showing, you’re on your own. In his last three against the Steelers Hillis has a total of 79 yards on 28 carries. That’s less than three yards a tote. He’ll get all the looks again this week but there’s no reason to think it will amount to anything that belongs in your fantasy lineup.

WR Greg Little

Since Pittsburgh’s Week 11 bye they’ve allowed one WR TD and one wide receiver to top 70 yards—both those stats belonging to A.J. Green. Little is also a rookie, but that’s about as close as he’ll get to matching Green’s feats. Little posted 2-25 in the earlier meeting with the Steelers, and while he’s been Seneca Wallace’s favorite target each of the past two games he’s an extreme long shot to get over on Ike Taylor and the Pittsburgh secondary.

TE Evan Moore S3

Moore’s 5-35-1 last week in Baltimore make him an intriguing option here, especially since the Steelers just gave up 6-72-1 to Vernon Davis and Moore himself had 4-55 in the previous meeting with Pittsburgh. At least there’s cause for optimism.

DT Browns B Joe Cribbs finally returned a punt for a touchdown last week, the Browns’ first return TD this season. No reason to think there’s another one in the hopper any time soon.
Seattle at Arizona Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tarvaris Jackson B T-Jax has now gone a month without a multiple touchdown game and two months without topping 250 yards. He threw for 171 and zero when the Cards visited Seattle back in Week 3 and there’s little reason to think his numbers will jump to the point that he’s a fantasy factor this time around.
RB Marshawn Lynch S3

The last team to keep Lynch out of the end zone? The Cards, who held him to 19-73 back in Week 3. Lynch has scored in 10 straight since then, with 100-yard efforts in four of his last five and six of eight. After scoring and topping the century mark against the previously unblemished 49ers last week, Skittles has officially punched his every-week starter card.


Doug Baldwin

B Arizona has given up just five WR scores in the past nine games. They shut out Seattle wideouts in the earlier meeting, though Sidney Rice did catch eight balls for 109 yards. Neither Baldwin nor any of his running mates are consistent enough producers to warrant consideration in such a tough matchup.
DT Seahawks S3 Seattle has held four straight and six of seven under 20 points and scored three defensive touchdowns in the past four games—plus, Red Bryant is always good for a blocked field goal or two. The Cards haven’t been susceptible to defensive scores but they have given up multiple sacks in every game this season and turned the ball over seven times in the last three games so the Hawks could make some hay for you on the defensive side of the ball.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB John Skelton S3

Seattle has held six of their last seven opponents to one touchdown pass or fewer and only one has topped 255 yards. Skelton has picked up his game of late with at least 282 yards in three straight and six touchdowns in that span, but he’s at best a fringe fantasy contributor this week.

RB Chris Wells
S3 Beanie has topped 67 yards just once in the past two months, but he’s managed to find the end zone in three of the last five. Seattle has allowed six RB TDs in the past five games, presenting the kind of favorable matchup that usually means a modicum of fantasy success for Wells.
WR Larry Fitzgerald

The typical Fitz game against Seattle over the past four seasons has been 75 yards and a touchdown. He went for 64 and 1 in the earlier meeting this season and has scored in two of his last three. The Seahawks haven’t given up a WR TD since Week 12, but if you don’t believe Fitz is matchup proof at this point you never will.

WR Andre Roberts B

Roberts has emerged as a viable second receiver in Arizona over the past month, with two touchdowns and one 100-yard game. However, he’s not matchup proof and given the Seahawks’ recent success in shutting down opposing receivers isn’t a fantasy option this week.

DT Cardinals B It’s a 50-50 shot if Patrick Peterson plays this week, giving him a shot at the NFL single-season punt return touchdown record as well as the rookie punt return yardage mark. If he plays, the Cards are a viable DST option; if he sits, look elsewhere. Peterson didn’t practice on Wednesday, so for now we’ll tag the Cards DST as a bench.
Kansas City at Denver Back to top
Kansas City
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Kyle Orton S3

Talk about your revenge games. Orton opened the season as a Bronco but was flushed when Tebowmania ran wild. He landed in Kansas City, where he’s thrown for 599 yards and a touchdown the past two games. You have to think he’s familiar with the Denver defense, though they’re also familiar with him. Two starts at 300 yards per outing plus the tangy zip of a revenge game makes Orton at least worthy of fantasy consideration this week.

RB Thomas Jones
Dexter McCluster
S3 McCluster totaled 93 yards from scrimmage in the earlier matchup and had 104 combo yards last week against the Raiders. He’ll handle third down and change of pace work for the Chiefs while Jones has to pick up the slack left by Jackie Battle, who’s unlikely to play this week due to a foot injury. Jones has actually run well of late, and after seeing the Broncos surrender 528 combo yards and four RB TDs the past three weeks both are viable fantasy options.

Dwayne Bowe


Bowe has had his share of difficulty with Champ Bailey, including a 2-17 showing earlier this season. But Orton targeted him 11 times (for 6-80-1) last week and looked extremely comfortable with him at crunch time. If Orton is to extract a modicum of revenge he’ll need to test Bailey via Bowe to do so. And if Stevie Johnson can carve out 92 yards against Bailey, Bowe can get some of his own.


Steve Breaston


Breaston has been Orton’s backup plan to Bowe, but that has yet to translate into fantasy-worthy numbers—and championship week is no time to go out on a limb with such little upside.

DT Chiefs S3 The Broncos have multiple turnovers in four straight games and gave Buffalo two defensive touchdowns and a punt return score last week. KC has enough playmakers on the defensive side of the ball and in the return game to exploit the same weaknesses the Bills did, making the Chiefs worthy of fantasy consideration here.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tim Tebow S3 The Chiefs have a solid secondary, but that’s not where Tebow makes his fantasy hay. KC allowed Tebow to score via ground and air in the earlier meeting and has surrendered three QB rushing scores in the past three games. That’s just opening the door for Tebow success.
RB Willis McGahee S3

McGahee was banged up in the earlier meeting with KC, but his replacement Lance Ball rushed for 96 yards. The Chiefs have allowed only one RB rushing score the past five games, but they’ve consistently given up decent yardage and you know the Broncos are going to run plenty—like, say the 43 RB rushing attempts in the previous meeting. Even if Willis only gets half those carries he should carve out decent fantasy production.

WR DeMaryius Thomas B

Thomas has been Tebow’s target of choice over the past four games, but he’ll most likely draw killer cornerback Brandon Flowers this week. Flowers shut down right side receivers Thomas and Eddie Royal in the earlier meeting, holding both without a catch. With Thomas wearing Flowers most of the afternoon, expect Tebow to turn his attention elsewhere.

WR Eric Decker S3

That elsewhere will likely be Decker, who caught a 56-yard touchdown in the earlier meeting with KC. Brandon Carr is no slouch opposite Flowers, but opponents have had more success throwing to that side and that’s where Decker is usually lined up. Not that any Bronco receiver needs to be a fantasy factor, but if there is one the matchups suggest it will be Decker.

DT Broncos S3 The Chiefs haven’t topped 20 points since Week 8, a run that includes a 10-point showing at home against the Broncos in Week 10. While they haven’t been turning the ball over, having the built-in safety net of a low point total makes the Denver defense fantasy-worthy this week.
San Diego at Oakland Back to top
San Diego
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Philip Rivers S2

Rivers has just two TD tosses the past two weeks, but he threw for 274 and 2 against Oakland earlier this season and catches a reeling Raiders secondary that has surrendered 972 yards and seven touchdowns over the past three games. How about a big send-off for Norv now that the game has no playoff implications?

RB Ryan Mathews B Mathews’ mini-run of success was stymied last week when the Bolts were forced to play from behind, but he still averaged better than five yards a carry. You'd like him to see more than the six carries he had in the earlier matchup with Oakland; get him to 20 and a big day is in store, as the last four teams to run the ball at least 20 times have produced at least 122 rushing yards and scored three times. However, Mathews was limited during the practice week by a calf injury and is officially a game-time decision. No real reason to risk a donut here, so slide Mathews down and bump Tolbert up.
RB Mike Tolbert S2 Tolbert has scored in three of the last four and still gets the call when San Diego gets to the stripe. They’ve been doing that often enough that Tolbert warrants fantasy consideration in TD-heavy scoring systems despite averaging just eight touches a game over the past month. And with Mathews potentially sitting this one out, Tolbert's touches and fantasy potential increase exponentially.
WR Vincent Jackson S3 You’d think Jackson would be playing for a payday with free agency looming, but maybe his groin injury is more significant than we’ve been led to believe. He didn’t practice last week and turned in a 2-41 effort against the Lions, though he did return to the practice field on Friday and is listed as probable. His 1-22 outing in the earlier meeting with Oakland was nothing special, and at this point you can’t bank on him for much of anything. Hey, you've been getting hosed by VJax all season; why should Week 17 be any different?
WR Malcom Floyd S2 Floyd continues to audition for the WR1 job should Jackson leave after the season, with 191 yards and two TDs the past two games. He didn’t play in the earlier meeting with Oakland, but Vincent Brown filled his role with 5-97-1. It’s not a stretch to pencil Floyd in for those numbers this time around against a secondary that’s surrendered five WR TDs the past two games.
TE Antonio Gates S3

The Raiders have allowed three TE TDs the past six games, so there’s an opportunity for Gates here. He was held to 5-54 in the earlier meeting—a solid showing for most mortal tight ends but not the Gates we used to know and love. But you’d better get used to it, as that’s exactly what Gates has been averaging over the past two months, mixing in a touchdown every other game or so. He’s a must-start in TE-mandatory leagues, but the elite tight end mantle has been passed.

DT Chargers S3

The Raiders have served up nine turnovers and two defensive touchdowns over the past month. San Diego hasn’t done a ton with the opportunities they’ve been given, but with Oakland giving the ball away a couple times a game they’re at least worthy of fantasy consideration this week.

Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Carson Palmer S3

Palmer is still churning out copious yardage, but it’s been a month since his last multiple touchdown game. The Bolts have surrendered multiple TD tosses in three of four and six of eight, including 299 and 2 to Palmer in the Week 10 meeting between these clubs. A healthier Denarius Moore and the possible return of Jacoby Ford give Carson more to work with, and with a shot at a playoff spot still out there expect Oakland to come out firing.

RB Michael Bush

Bush blew up the Bolts with 157 rushing yards and another 85 receiving in the Week 10 win over San Diego. He’s slowed a bit since then, running more in the 75 yard range over the past month with just one touchdown, but the Chargers have been surrendering plenty of combo yardage to opposing backs; three of the last five feature backs they’ve faced have reached triple digits. No Darren McFadden means another full load for Bush, and while another 242 yard effort is overly optimistic he’ll provide plenty of fantasy help as the Raiders fight for a playoff berth.

WR Denarius Moore S2

Moore abused San Diego’s secondary to the tune of 5-123-2 in the earlier meeting but suffered a foot injury the following week and has been subdued since then… at least until last week, when he took the Chiefs for 4-94-1. Clearly the foot issues are behind him, and he’s a good bet against a Chargers’ secondary that’s allowed four receivers to top 75 yards the past three games.

WR Darrius Heyward-Bey S3

DHB tends to take a back seat to a healthy Moore, but last week that still meant a solid 4-70 showing. The Chargers let both Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson put up good numbers against them last week, so just because Moore is healthy don’t overlook Heyward-Bey’s potential contributions this week.

DT Raiders S3 The Chargers have served up two defensive scores in the past three weeks, and with Oakland playing for its playoff life you can expect them to ratchet up the pressure on Philip Rivers. You could do worse than a potential playoff team at home against a quarterback not exactly known for delivering in the clutch.
Dallas at NY Giants Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Tony Romo S2

It was just a month ago that Romo fired four touchdowns and 321 yards worth of offense in a 37-34 loss to the Giants. But now he’s nursing a swollen hand and will be on the road. Matchups with Rex Grossman and Mark Sanchez have made the New York secondary look better, but banged up or no this is still a favorable matchup for Romo. Hey, the season is on the line and the Cowboys aren’t going to put the offensive burden on Felix Jones.

RB Felix Jones S3

Speaking of Jones, he replaced an injured DeMarco Murray in the earlier meeting with the Giants and produced 137 combo yards. He’s a bit nicked up himself but should go against a New York defense that has allowed 267 yards from scrimmage and two RB TDs in the two games since they last saw Felix.

WR Dez Bryant

The legal issues awaiting Bryant in New York—he will reportedly be served at the team hotel in regards to a loan he’s refused to repay—shouldn’t prevent him from being a fantasy factor again this week. Bryant is a matchup problem for any secondary, and while the Giants focused on taking him out of the earlier matchup he eventually managed to shake free for a 50-yard touchdown. He’ll likely be the focus of coverage once again, but you saw how well that worked before.

WR Laurent Robinson

The Week 14 meeting with the Giants marked the first time Austin, Bryant, and Robinson had all been healthy and active, and it was Robinson with 4-137-1 who was the most productive receiver. Backup quarterback Stephen McGee couldn’t find Robinson last week, but with Tony Romo back at the helm Robinson’s fantasy value returns.

WR Miles Austin


Austin has scored in all three games since returning to the lineup, including 4-63-1 in the Week 14 loss to the Giants. He was the most targeted wideout in both games with Tony Romo at the helm and was the only wideout to score in the game Stephen McGee finished so he’s the safest play among the Dallas wideouts.

TE Jason Witten S3

With all three wideouts back in the mix Witten’s looks take a hit; worse, in the earlier meeting with the Giants John Phillips swiped his touchdown. If the Giants devote too much attention to the outside Witten will kill them over the middle, but his declining targets and productivity indicate he’s at best a fringe fantasy start in TE-mandatory leagues.

DT Cowboys S3 The Cowboys weren’t able to get to Eli Manning in the earlier meeting, their only game in the last six where they didn’t record multiple sacks. Expect the pass rush to be the focal point of the Dallas D this time around, and when Eli gets pressured balls get deflected and interceptions get made.
New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S2

Manning has multiple touchdowns in five straight against Dallas and 300-plus yards in four of the five, including 400 and 2 in the earlier meeting this season. He’s been off his game the past couple of weeks and could struggle if his banged-up receivers don’t return to practice, but his track record against the Cowboys suggests that at minimum he’ll be a solid fantasy play with the season on the line on Sunday night.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw

In the two games since an ineffective 8-12 against the Cowboys in Week 14 Bradshaw has three touchdowns and 141 yards from scrimmage. He averaged triple-digit combo yardage in last season’s series with Dallas, and now that he’s healthy he’s a good bet to turn his majority share of the Giants’ backfield touches into useful fantasy numbers.

RB Brandon Jacobs

Jacobs gouged the Cowboys for 101 yards and two touchdowns in the earlier meeting, but in the two games since he’s had just 15 carries and failed to find the end zone. He could see some goal line work, but Bradshaw has regained the upper hand in this backfield at the expense of Jacobs’ fantasy productivity.

WR Hakeem Nicks

Nicks killed the Cowboys with 8-163 on 11 targets in the earlier meeting, but he’s battling a hamstring issue and only returned to practice on a limited basis Friday. He's listed as probable and will definitely play in this win-or-go-home battle, but he'll draw top coverage and may be at least somewhat limited physically.

WR Victor Cruz


Cruz is no longer the only bullet in Eli's gun, with Nicks and Manningham both returning to a limited practice session on Friday. He's still a very good play, but his volume will take a hit now that he's one of three options instead of one of one.

WR Mario Manningham


Manningham scored in the earlier meeting with Dallas but missed last week’s win over the Jets with a knee injury and was limited in practice all week. He's listed as probable and expects to go in this must-win tilt, but he may not be at 100 percent and will be behind Nicks and Cruz in the passing game pecking order.

TE Jake Ballard B

Ballard tallied 4-52-1 in the Week 14 win over Dallas but suffered a partially torn PCL the following week and has been ruled out for this tilt. Bear Pascoe and Travis Beckum are his backups; neither inspires enough confidence to warrant a fantasy start.

DT Giants S3 There’s no question the Giants can get after the passer; they got to Tony Romo three times in the earlier meeting and are fifth in the league in sacks. Romo is already banged up, so expect the G-Men to ratchet up the pressure in hopes of creating turnovers—which, in turn, often lead to defensive fantasy points.

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