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Start/Bench List - Week 17
John Tuvey
Updated: January 2, 2010
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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 Francisco (7-8) at St. Louis (1-14) Back to top
San Francisco
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Alex Smith S2

This game might give us an inkling as to what the Niners' plan is for next season. Since Smith took over at quarterback they've increased the passing portion of their mix, especially on the road. With nothing to play for, will that hold true against a division opponent that's allowed 966 passing yards and five touchdowns over the past three games? It's a reasonable bet that Smith will also view this game as one final audition for his job before the offseason, so good numbers should be in order.

RB Frank Gore S2

As noted above, this game could provide us with a look at San Fran's 2010 blueprint. The match-up says Gore is a great play; if you count Arizona's two-headed backfield as one entity, the Rams have allowed six of the last seven feature backs to face them to score and top 80 yards on the ground. But while Gore has touched the ball at least 21 times in every home game he hasn't seen that large of a road workload since Week 1. If the Niners give Gore the opportunity to reprise his 16-107 from the Philly game a couple weeks back it would certainly bode well for his status entering 2010.

WR Michael Crabtree
Josh Morgan
S3 No San Francisco wideout has topped 81 yards in a game this year, but the Rams have allowed two 100-yard wideouts and three WR TDs in just the last two weeks. Morgan has actually been slightly more targeted than Crabtree the past two weeks, plus he scored against the Rams earlier this year and is the last Niner wideout to reach the end zone. That said, both are behind Vernon Davis in the pecking order.
TE Vernon Davis S2

The Rams are surprisingly tough against tight ends, but Davis is the most productive player at his position and will get his regardless of opponent.

DT 49ers S3 Could be Keith Null, could be Kyle Boller... could be fun for Mike Singletary.
St. Louis
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Keith Null
Kyle Boller

Null, Kyle Boller... does it really matter? Null hasn't broken 175 yards or thrown more than one TD in three starts; Boller's best two games have been a 282 and 1 (in Week 12) and 164 and 2 (in Week 3), neither of which is all that compelling. And whomever it is faces a Niners secondary that has shut out six of the last nine QBs it has faced, allowing a total of five touchdown passes during that span.

RB Steven Jackson S3

The Niners held a healthier Jackson to 79 yards on 23 carries back in Week 4, and after being a late scratch last week there's no guarantee Jackson returns for this meaningless tilt. Use whatever backup plan you had in place last week, and if Jackson is active you can plug him in and hope for the best.

WR Donnie Avery
Danny Amendola
Brandon Gibson

San Francisco has surrendered just two WR TDs in the last five games; despite Gibsons's score last week this isn't a group you should rely on to snap that trend.

DT Rams B The Niners are no offensive juggernaut, but the Rams are no defensive force, either.
Indianapolis (14-1) at Buffalo (5-10) Back to top
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Peyton Manning B

The Bills went three months between allowing multiple passing touchdowns in a game; sadly, Manning won't be around long enough to test that trend. He sat with perfection on the line; you think he's playing more than a quarter in the cold in this meaningless tilt? And as we saw last week, Curtis Painter is not an option.

RB Joseph Addai B Rushing yardage has been plentiful against the Bills, but touchdowns a little harder to come by. Addai hasn't exactly been a yardage hound, and his early exit takes that opportunity away from him here. If he doesn't score on the first drive, he's not giving you a thing for the day.
RB Donald Brown S2 The rookie needs to get his game legs back under him in time for the playoffs; unfortunately he's battling an illness which could limit his workload here. That said, unless the flu or Mike Hart or Chad Simpson reduce his touches, Brown is looking at a significant workload against a defense that's given up an average of 150 rushing yards per game over the past five weeks.
WR Reggie Wayne
Pierre Garçon

Garçon islisted as questionable for this tilt, giving Indy plenty of excuse to rest him; Wayne will need to score on the first series to have any fantasy value whatsoever, because after that he'll be a spectator. Could happen, of course, but it's a pretty big risk.

WR Austin Collie
Hank Baskett
S3 On the one hand, the Colts have to play somebody at wide receiver and unless they activate Taj Smith and/or Samuel Giguere from the practice squad Collie and Baskett are all they have. On the other hand, only the Jets have allowed fewer WR yards than the Bills this year and you saw how Indy's second team fared against Gang Green last week.
TE Dallas Clark S3

It's unlikely that the Pro Bowler will see enough playing time to make a fantasy impact this week. You'd be better served using Jacob Tamme, but either way they're facing a defense that hasn't allowed a TE TD since Week 2.

DT Colts B There won't be enough regulars on the field to appropriately feast on the Bills' backup QBs.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick B

Mark Sanchez threw for 106 yards and no scores against Indy's second team last week; why should we expect more from Fitzpatrick?

RB Fred Jackson S2

The Colts aren't all that adept at stopping the run to begin with; last week they fielded their backups and it showed as Jets RBs rolled to 200 yards and a score. Jackson is in line to get the majority of Buffalo's carries and as such should be in position to exploit a disinterested defense with nothing to play for.

RB Marshawn Lynch U

While there's upside to a guy who should be getting carries against a defense that's licking the stamp and mailing it in this week, the mere three carries Lynch garnered last week gives pause. He could give you a day like Shonn Greene provided against Indy last week (95 yards), or he could give you a fleeting glimpse before donning a parka to watch Jackson run.

WR Terrell Owens
Lee Evans

It's been a month since TO topped 40 yards, and Evans has been only marginally more productive. This being Week 17, and the Bills having already professed their desire to get an extended look at James Hardy, you can't trust either Bills wideout to step up and give you fantasy production here.

DT Bills S3 Last week the Colts only halfway mailed it in and the Jets scored on both a kickoff return and a fumble recovery. The more Curtis Painter plays, the better the Bills' odds get.

Chicago (6-9) at Detroit (2-13)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Jay Cutler S2

Cutler rolls in off a four-score game that a) justifies the trade that cost Chicago two first-round picks and b) has Bears fans wondering why Cutler hasn't played like that all year. Detroit hasn't been the pushover you might think, holding three of the last four QBs they've faced to just one TD toss, with none exceeding 233 passing yards. That said, this is one final shot for Cutler and the Bears to head into the offseason—one with no first- or second-round picks—feeling good about the future; expect him to gouge the Lions accordingly.

RB Matt Forte S2

One of Forte's few fantasy helpers this year—a three-toed sloth could count them on one foot—came against Detroit, and the Lions haven't exactly improved: in the past three games alone they've given up 678 yards and seven touchdowns to opposing running backs. Assuming he doesn't lose too many touches to Khalil Bell, Forte is finally usable here.


Devin Aromashodu

S2 Johnny Knox is out, Devin Hester is questionable at best, and the Bears are already expecting Joaquin Iglesias to see action. Cutler has been lobbying for Aromashodu to see more action, and here's a chance for him to bolster his case—and his numbers. Another big game from Aromashodu could position him for a Sidney Rice type emergence in 2010.

Earl Bennett

U The Lions have allowed multiple WR TDs just once in the last month, and it appears Cutler has left his old Vanderbilt buddy at the altar for new flame Aromashodu. Bennett scored last week but is not nearly the sexy target Aromashodu is; he falls behind Cutler's new love and longtime steady Greg Olsen in the pecking order, and even against the Lionts there might not be enough to go around.
TE Greg Olsen


Olsen scored last week, and he scored in the earlier meeting with Detroit. As one of Cutler's primary targets he's a solid bet against a Lions' defense that has allowed more TE TDs than any other club.

DT Bears B Despite the atrocities the Lions are committing at the quarterback position, Chicago's depleted defense has shown no inkling of being a fantasy factor; why start now?
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Daunte Culpepper B

C-Pepp replaced the ineffective Drew Stanton last week and was taking first-team reps in practice, so he's the early favorite to start for a Detroit passing game that hasn't produced a touchdown toss since Matthew Stafford's final action of the season back in Week 13. The optimist would see upside against a banged up Chicago secondary that's allowed multiple passing scores in four of its last five road games; the realist just sees the Lions.

RB Maurice Morris S3

Chicago's road run defense has been subpar; five of seven feature backs have scored, and a similar number have racked up at least 87 rushing yards. Morris is no Kevin Smith, who tallied two TDs against the Bears in the earlier meeting, but he should get enough touches to have a little bit of fantasy value this week.

WR Calvin Johnson S3

Megatron went for 8-133 in the earlier meeting and has been targeted double-digit times in six of his last seven games so at minimum he'll have the opportunity to replicate those numbers. However, targets and catches are different animals and what passes for quarterbacks in Detroit hasn't had much luck finding Johnson of late; he hasn't scored or topped 100 yards since Week 13. He's the only show in town, but through sheer volume of attempts he's likely to build another helpful fantasy stat line against the Bears this week.

WR Bryant Johnson
Dennis Northcutt

Detroit's search for a receiver to complement Megatron and draw at least a little bit of coverage away from him will continue into the offseason, as this group offers nothing.

DT Lions S3 Cutler's 20 road picks would tie him for the overall INT lead for all venues, and since he has at least one interception in every road game the Lions have at least a fighting chance for a defensive score.

New York Giants (8-7) at Minnesota (11-4)

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New York
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Eli Manning S3

There is plenty of uncertainty here. How's Eli's foot? He stuck it out through last week's debacle against the Panthers, so there's no reason to think he won't go here as well, but we've seen David Carr five times already this year. And how about the Vikings? Will the defense that's allowed a combined 705 passing yards and three passing touchdowns in the past four home games show up? Or will we be treated to the same unit that let Matt Moore go for 299 and three and Jay Cutler carve them up for 273 and four in consecutive road losses? With nothing for the Giants to play for, expectations should be at least somewhat diminished here.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Gartrell Johnson
Danny Ware

Minnesota's run defense has been stout regardless of venue—just one RB rushing TD allowed in the last five games—but they've been particularly formidable at home in giving up a total of 210 RB rushing yards in the last four Metrodome tilts. With Brandon Jacobs nursing a knee injury the pleasure will be all Bradshaw's, but there just doesn't project to be enough to make it worthwhile. Don't forget, he's nicked up as well—broken bones in both feet, according to some sources—and the New York media doesn't expect him to play. Thus, we could very easily be left with Ware and Johnson—backups against a formidable run defense at home with something to play for. Doesn't sound like a risk worth taking.

WR Steve Smith

Smith remains the most targeted Giant receiver, and against a Vikings' secondary that's allowed three wideouts to top 140 yards in the past four games it certainly puts him in play. Yardage has been tougher to come by for visiting receivers in Metrodome, but the Vikes have allowed a WR TD in each of the last two so fantasy help is certainly possible.

WR Mario Manningham
Hakeem Nicks

The Vikings have allowed a total of five WR TDs and five wideouts to top 50 yards in Metrodome—and only once did it happen in the same game. With New York's passing game unpredictable after Smith, you can't bank on Nicks or Manningham—who is officially listed as questionable—for help here.

TE Kevin Boss S3

Only two teams have allowed more fantasy points to tight ends this year than the Vikings, who are fresh off allowing two TE TDs last week alone. Boss hasn't scored in a couple weeks, but he does have 15 catches for 176 yards and a score over his last three and would have to be considered the second option in the Giants' passing game.

DT Giants B The Vikings have at least 27 points in every home game this year, and they're actually playing for something here.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Brett Favre S2

The last time the Vikings played in front of the home crowd they went heavy on the ground game; as a result Favre had his least-productive home game of the season. Now, however, the Purple are at a point in their season where they need Favre to take the reins of the offense. A Giants' secondary that's allowed multiple TD tosses in three of four and five of seven would seem to be the perfect foil.

RB Adrian Peterson S2

The Giants have allowed at least one running back touchdown in five of their last six, including 208 yards and a TD to Jonathan Stewart last week. Certainly they know that the first order of business is stopping Peterson (the second, of course, is tackling the football when facing AP), but they had to know that last week against Stewart and were unable to follow through. Peterson hasn't had a 100-yard rushing game since Week 10, but he's had 100 combo yards in three straight and eight of 10 and has five touchdowns in his last four at home. Ideally the Vikings will race out to a big lead and rest their regulars, but to do so they'll need a significant contribution from Peterson.

WR Sidney Rice


There is no doubt Rice is Favre's go-to guy, and over the past month go-to guys like Miles Austin (104-1), DeSean Jackson (178-1) and Steve Smith (60-1 before breaking his arm) have all put up nice numbers. Rice have five TDs in seven games at Metrodome and is averaging over 100 yards per home game; he'll get his here.

WR Percy Harvin


The Vikings still try to find ways to get the ball into Harvin's hands, but defenses are more ready for the reverses and bubble screens. He's electric, but his opportunities are limited.

WR Bernard Berrian

Between the emergence of Rice, the open-field skills of Harvin, the over-the-middle reliability of Shiancoe, the running of Peterson, and the fact that Berrian has had some key drops of late, he's fallen so far in the Vikings pecking order that he can no longer be trusted with a fantasy start.

TE Vishante Shiancoe S2

Assuming Shiancoe plays—he was limited in practice this week after leaving the Monday night loss with an injury—he has a great match-up with the softest tight end defense in the league. How soft? They allowed one catch by a TE last week—and it went for a touchdown. If Shank can't go, however, reaching for Jeff Dugans or Jim Kliensasser isn't a wise alternative.

DT Vikings S3

The Metrodome will be loud on Sunday, and it won't just be disgruntled fans saluting the coach or their team's three losses in the last month. The last four Minnesota visitors have failed to top 10 points; with Minny motivated (and the Giants not) expect more of the same.


Jacksonville (7-8) at Cleveland (4-11)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB David Garrard B

Jacksonville comes first in the listing, meaning this game is on the road, meaning Garrard is unusable. He has one touchdown pass in seven road games, and while Charlie Frye threw for 333 yards in Cleveland last week the Browns haven't allowed a passing touchdown in either of their last two home games.

RB Maurice Jones-Drew S1

Here's a puzzler: Garrard hasn't done squat on the road, and yet the Jags don't let MoJo help; he's averaging five fewer carries per game away from Jacksonville. Worse, he's actually more productive on the road, averaging 5.6 yards per carry in white and 3.2 ypc in teal. So why wouldn't you give MoJo the ball more on the road? Let's hope Jack Del Rio figures out the answer to that one prior to kickoff, as Jones-Drew should eat up a Cleveland defense that ranks second in most fantasy points allowed to running backs.


Mike Sims-Walker
Mike Thomas

B Thomas is emerging and MSW posted some nice numbers early, but in addition to the Jags' road woes they'll also be battling a Cleveland defense that has allowed just four visiting wideouts to top 60 yards—and none to reach triple digits. With no touchdowns and no yardage to go around, it's tough to generate any enthusiasm for a fantasy play here.

Marcedes Lewis

B Cheek and hand injuries have knocked Lewis out of this tilt.
DT Jaguars B

There's some mild interest in pitting a defense against Derek Anderson, but not enough to warrant fantasy attention.

Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Derek Anderson B

The Jags have allowed back-to-back four-TD games; they've also faced Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in that span. Anderson hasn't made a meaningful fantasy contribution since Week 9 of last year, and despite Jacksonville's recent largesse he's unlikely to start now.

RB Jerome Harrison


The Jaguars haven't been bad against the run, but they certainly haven't been shut-down good. Sammy Morris had 95 and a TD against them last week, while the remainder of New England's RBBC combined for another 98 yards. Jacksonville has given up a running back score in four straight road games and at least 110 rushing yards to the position in four out of five away from home. The Browns have given Harrison 73 carries the past two weeks; there is nothing to suggest he won't get another 30-plus here to churn out some helpful fantasy numbers.

WR Mohamed Massaquoi S3

Being the most prolific Browns' receiver is a little like being the fastest turtle in the pond. This week, however, against a Jacksonville defense that's allowed three straight 100-yard receivers (and had Andre Johnson squeezed out another three feet, in five of six) and five WR TDs in the past two games, that makes him a viable fantasy play.

WR Joshua Cribbs U

Cribbs has lost carries to Harrison and isn't targeted in the passing game, meaning the team's best offensive weapon only touches the ball when the defense forces a punt (rare) or gives up a touchdown (far more frequent). Doesn't look as if you can expect him to get any work from scrimmage, which makes him a longshot for fantasy production.

DT Browns B Cribbs makes the return game valuable; the rest of the defense has no fantasy use at all.

Pittsburgh (8-7) at Miami (7-8)

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Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Ben Roethlisberger S2

The Steelers like to throw it around, the Dolphins have given up multiple passing scores in two straight and three of four, and Pittsburgh actually has something to play for here. That combination might make Big Ben the best option in a week of slim pickings at the quarterback position.

RB Rashard Mendenhall


Your initial thought is likely that Miami is tough defensively. Perhaps, but they've also given up a running back rushing score in five straight at home, as well as an RB TD or 100-yard rushing game in 11 consecutive contests. Mendenhall has scored in three of four and should find a way to extend Miami's string with a bit of fantasy help himself.

WR Hines Ward

Ward is tough, so he'll play through hamstring injuries in this must-win game. He practiced fully on Friday, so he shouldn't be significantly limited in this contest.

WR Santonio Holmes

After allowing one or zero WR TDs in each of the first 11 games Miami has surrendered multiple scores in three of the last four. That bodes well for Holmes, who has scored in four of six and has at least 77 yards in eight straight games.

WR Mike Wallace

With Ward looking as if he'll play, Wallace gets a slight downgrade from S3 to U. There might be enough to go around, but WR3s are always risky fantasy alternatives.

TE Heath Miller

Miller has just two significant fantasy contributions in the past nine games, and that's unlikely to change against a Miami defense that's allowed one TE TD in the past 13 games.

DT Steelers S3 The Steel Curtain always seems to come up big in big games, and this is certainly a big game. It would help if Troy Polamalu can make it to the field, but that's unlikely.
Pos Player SBC Comments
QB Chad Henne S3

Henne now has three 300-yard games in his last four, and he'll face a Steelers secondary that has allowed multiple TD tosses in three of four with two 300-yard games in that span. With Ricky Williams nicked, even more of the offensive burden might fall on Henne this week, and surprisingly he's been up to the task thus far.


Ricky Williams


Williams left last week's loss to the Texans with a shoulder injury. After treating it with tree sap, dung beetles, and some aromatic smoke culled from the bark of dogwood trees, he was able to practice fully by Friday and is expected to play here. Lex Hilliard may take some carries, but the Dolphins don't have many other options at running back and may need to squeeze as much out of Ricky as possible.


Lex Hilliard


Hilliard scored twice in relief of Williams last week, with most of his damage coming via nine receptions. The Steel Curtain has been a bit ragged of late, allowing RB TDs in each of its last three on the road, but with Williams back at practice and expected to play Hilliard returns to his role as a back-up.


Davonne Bess
Greg Camarillo
Brian Hartline
Ted Ginn, Jr.

B Again, there's likely to be something of fantasy use here; over the past five games the Steelers have allowed six WR TDs and eight wideouts to top 60 yards. But with no rhyme or reason to which Miami wideout steps up—each of the quartet at left has led the team in receiving once over the past month—you can't trust any of them with a fantasy start.
TE Anthony Fasano
Joey Haynos

And yet again there's an opportunity here... and yet again the Dolphins have multiple options to exploit it—none of them consistent enough to trust with a fantasy start unless you're truly swinging for the fences in a TE-mandatory league.

DT Dolphins B Miami's defense hasn't been a fantasy helper since midseason.

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