Welcome to another year of the Start/Bench List. This list will include a handful of players at each skill position that has either a very favorable matchup or a matchup to avoid. Not every player at every skill position will be listed every week. Instead of a watered-down version of predicting each player’s performance, this list will focus on a select group of players whose chances to succeed or fail are increased based on their opponent of the week.
When using this list, try and remember a couple basic rules:
1) Studs – Always play your studs. Each position will include a list of players that are considered studs and should not be benched. If you have the luxury of needing to decide between studs, check out the matchups or feel free to let the shark tank assist you in your decisions. I will try to answer as many inquires as possible.
2) Depth – Every fantasy team is different and some have more depth than others. Only follow the recommended moves if your team depth allows you to make such a move.
Enough of the chit-chat, onto the list!!
Dante Culpepper, Minnesota vs. Tampa Bay
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis vs. Baltimore
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia vs. Atlanta
Tom Brady, New England (vs. Oakland): Look for Brady to spread the ball around the field and pick apart the Raiders defense who ranked 30th in the NFL in passing yards allowed last season. With a healthy Ben Watson, Brady has yet another weapon in his already loaded arsenal.
Jake Delhomme, Carolina (vs. New Orleans): Despite playing without top WR Steve Smith, Delhomme posted solid numbers as a fantasy QB last season. With Smith back in the mix against a below average Saints defense, Delhomme will start off the ’05 season with big numbers.
David Carr, Houston (vs. Buffalo): Carr has struggled mightily in the pre-season. With a shaky offensive line heading into Buffalo, Carr is not an advisable starter this week as Houston will try and control the ball and the clock with a heavy dose of Dom Davis.
Michael Vick, Atlanta (vs. Philadelphia): The Falcons established themselves as one of the top rushing offenses in the NFL last season. Don’t expect that to change this year as Vick will continue to rely heavily on his scrambling abilities to keep the chains moving. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the ground is not where your QBs rack up the big points. Against the Eagles this week, even the rushing yards will be a stretch.
LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego vs. Dallas
Shaun Alexander, Seattle vs. Jacksonville
Edgerrin James, Indianapolis vs. Baltimore
Priest Holmes, Kansas City vs. N.Y. Jets
Ahman Green, Green Bay vs. Detroit
Deuce McAllister, New Orleans vs. Carolina
Willis McGahee, Buffalo vs. Houston
Domanick Davis, Houston vs. Buffalo
Corey Dillon, New England vs. Oakland
Tiki Barber, N.Y. Giants (vs. Arizona): Expect the NFL’s total yards leader in ’04 to pick up where he left off against the Cardinals this week. Barber will get 20+ carries, but his receiving skills separate him from the pack. Make sure he’s in your starting lineup.
Mike Anderson, Denver (vs. Miami): Thanks to a 159-yard, two-TD performance in the pre-season, Anderson will get the starting nod for Denver in week one. Anderson will not relinquish his #1 spot on the depth chart without a battle so look for big things from the former Marine this week.
Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati (vs. Cleveland): Johnson was a RB that probably wasn’t drafted very high in your league, but he’ll perform like a first-rounder this week against the Brownies. Romeo Crenell will bring some much needed toughness to Cleveland’s defense, but that doesn’t change the fact that they ranked dead last in rushing yards allowed in ’04.
Chris Brown, Tennessee (vs. Pittsburgh): Once Travis Henry arrived in Tennessee, the dreaded RBBC label was placed on the Titans running backs which might as well have been a skull and crossbones for fantasy owners. Brown is still the #1 man in town, but wait and see how Henry impacts Brown’s numbers before starting him.
Thomas Jones, Chicago (vs. Washington): With the signing of Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones’ stock fell through the floor. Jones will get the starting nod in week one, but he’ll have his hands full against a stingy Redskins defense who held opponent’s to a league-low 3.1 yards per carry in ’04.
Ronnie Brown, Miami (vs. Denver): Starting a rookie RB is always a difficult decision. With Ricky Williams suspended for the first four games of the season, Brown has his opportunity to make his mark and stake claim to the #1 RB spot. But facing the Broncos run defense is not an ideal first matchup.
Randy Moss, Oakland vs. New England
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis vs. Baltimore
Torry Holt, St. Louis vs. San Francisco
Terrell Owens, Philadelphia vs. Atlanta
Chad Johnson, Cincinnati vs. Cleveland
Joe Horn, New Orleans vs. Carolina
Michael Clayton, Tampa Bay (vs. Minnesota): Clayton had a very impressive rookie season last year surpassing expectations and the 1,000-yard mark along the way. In week one, Clayton gets a taste of the Vikings defense which, while improved, still has some holes. Expect Brian Griese to look Clayton’s way early and often with success.
Issac Bruce, St. Louis (vs. San Francisco): Bruce posted his best stats in four years last season with six 100-yard games helping him to surpass 1,200 yards receiving. With Mike Martz still at the helm, you can expect a heavy aerial attack in the Rams offense and Bruce will continue to be on the receiving end of some big plays. Look for Bruce to start the ’05 season off right against the Niners with a big day.
Keyshawn Johnson, Dallas (vs. San Diego): Will Drew Bledsoe be the answer to Keyshawn’s dreams? Probably not, but in week one the Bledsoe/Keyshawn combo should post solid numbers against a Chargers defense more suited to stop the run than the pass.
Donald Driver, Green Bay (vs. Detroit): Driver bounced back from a sub-par ’03 season last year to reclaim his title as one of the best #2 WRs in the NFL (no offense to Reggie Wayne). Driver is primed to put that theory to the test this week in Detroit as Favre will find plenty of openings in the Lions secondary and Driver will be open for some big plays.
Muhsin Muhammad, Chicago (vs. Washington): Muhammad cashed in on a big ’04 season with the Bears in February and then Rex Grossman when down for the season. With the Bears passing attack drawing comparisons to, well, last year’s Bears passing attack which averaged less than 140 yards per game passing, Muhammad is a #3 WR at best. Against the Redskins this week, that #3 turns into a ‘B’.
Amani Toomer, N.Y. Giants (vs. Arizona): Not only did Toomer have an awful season in ’04, the Giants brass sent him a wonderful confidence booster in signing Plaxico Burress in the off-season. With young Eli still figuring things out, you can expect Toomer’s numbers to be average at best. The Cardinals defense will turn some heads and they’ll have success shutting down the Giants passing attack this week.
Marty Booker, Miami (vs. Denver): Booker’s ankle injury in ’04 turned a below average season into an awful one. With the Dolphins still forming their new look under Nick Saban, which apparently consists of a three-headed QB, Booker’s projections for ’05 aren’t very enticing. Keep him reserved if you must keep him at all.
Santana Moss, Washington (vs. Chicago): Moss was acquired by Washington in the off-season in exchange with Laveranues Coles. Moss has yet to prove he is worthy of a #1 WR and he’ll have a tough time finding openings against Lovie Smith’s defensive schemes this week.
Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City vs. N.Y. Jets
Antonio Gates, San Diego vs. Dallas *Suspended in week 1*
Jeremy Shockey, N.Y. Giants vs. Arizona
Jason Witten, Dallas vs. San Diego
Alge Crumpler, Atlanta vs. Philadelphia
L.J. Smith, Philadelphia (vs. Atlanta): Smith had some back problems last season which have since been corrected. If healthy, Smith could post huge numbers as McNabb loves his TE as he scrambles out of the pocket. Look for Smith to start off the year with authority on Monday night.
Chris Baker, N.Y. Jets (vs. Kansas City): Baker could see more action than he’s used to with new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger in New York. While Pennington gets used to his new offense, expect Baker to receive more than his share of action.
Eric Edwards, Arizona (vs. N.Y. Giants): Despite given the starting nod, Edwards isn’t likely to see many passes thrown his way in week one. QB Kurt Warner has plenty of options at WR and with a rookie at RB (Arrington), getting the TE involved in the offense will be at the bottom of the list of priorities.
Reggie Kelly, Cincinnati (vs. Cleveland): Not a real far stretch here. R-Kelly won’t get much attention on Sunday (unlike his musical counterpart) as the Bengals will use Kelly mostly as a blocker opening up the outside for Rudi Johnson.