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. This list will change from week to week. The first week, the studs will consist of the preseason top “tier” at each position.
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!!
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis vs. N.Y.Giants
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati vs. Kansas City
Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle vs. Detroit
Tom Brady, New England vs. Buffalo
Marc Bulger, St. Louis vs. Denver
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia vs. Houston
Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants vs. Indianapolis
Kurt Warner, Arizona (vs. San Francisco): The best show in the desert? The addition of Edgerrin James has Warner smiling and for good reason. Not only does Warner have the luxury of two stud WRs, but now he’s got a power RB to loosen up the middle of the field. Warner is dangerous when healthy so expect 300+ passing yards against the Niners this week.
Trent Green, Kansas City (vs. Cincinnati): The loss of Willie Roaf and John Welbourn on the offensive line will be felt in both the rushing and passing game. But, you can expect the Chiefs to be playing from behind this week which should translate into plenty of chances for Green to post some solid fantasy numbers. Johnson will get his share of touches, but Green will be fading back often enough to warrant a start this week.
Steve McNair, Baltimore (vs. Tampa Bay): I really like the McNair signing for Baltimore. I think he’ll become best friends with Todd heap very early in the season, but starting out on the road in Tampa is a tall order for an offense that needed more than just an upgrade at QB. McNair will be a decent play from time to time this season, but not this week.
Rex Grossman, Chicago (vs. Green Bay): Grossman is healthy and has a hold on the starting QB spot, but it won’t take much for Lovie Smith to pull the switch and get Brian Griese involved in the offense who looked much better this preseason. Look for the Bears to run Thomas Jones all day which is great news for Jones’ owners, but it won’t mean much for those unfortunate owners who were looking to start Grossman.
LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego vs. Oakland
Shaun Alexander, Seattle vs. Detroit
Larry Johnson, Kansas City vs. Cincinnati
Edgerrin James, Arizona vs. San Francisco
Tiki Barber, N.Y. Giants vs. Indianapolis
Ronnie Brown, Miami vs. Pittsburgh
Lamont Jordan, Oakland vs. San Diego
Steven Jackson, St. Louis vs. Denver
Mike Bell, Denver (vs. St. Louis): Let the Denver guessing games begin! I think Mike Shanahan is trying to copyright the RBBC terminology in his effort to destroy fantasy football and all it’s glory. Ride the hot hand while you can because the Denver RB situation could change on a weekly basis. Start Mike Bell this week and then get his name on the trading blocks as quickly as possible.
Thomas Jones, Chicago (vs. Green Bay): Jones was named the starter this past week and he’ll prove why against the Pack in Green Bay. The Bears defense will dominate the Packers offense, which will put Chicago in the very comfortable position of managing the clock and running as often as possible. Enjoy the ride you T-Jones owners.
T.J.Duckett, Washington (vs. Minnesota): Use him while you can! With the status of Clinton Portis still very murky, it’s looking more and more like Duckett will get plenty of touches this week against the Vikings. The O-line for Washington is very solid and with a bruising runner like Duckett, they’ll cause some headaches for the Vikings front four. Look for a score and 80-90 rushing yards for Duckett in his Redskins debut.
Kevin Jones, Detroit (vs. Seattle): The addition of Mike Martz as the offensive coordinator will certainly help the Lions offense, but don’t think that adding Martz will translate into bigger numbers for Jones. Jones will need to earn his stats by way of receptions as everyone knows Martz loves the aerial attack. Jones faces a tough Seahawks team that has their eyes set on returning to the big game. Jones won’t serve as much resistance this week.
Jamal Lewis, Baltimore (vs. Tampa Bay): With Lewis already nursing a hip injury, he doesn’t make a strong play this week against the Bucs in what will likely turn into a defensive battle with low fantasy numbers all around.
Ahman Green, Green Bay (vs. Chicago): How the mighty have fallen. Ahman Green went from over 1,800 yards rushing two years ago to potentially splitting carries with Samkon Gado. Yuck. Their won’t be many teams that will have success running the ball against the Bears and with the shaky offensive line, the Packers and Green certainly won’t be one of them.
Torry Holt, St. Louis vs. Denver
Chad Johnson, Cincinnati vs. Kansas City
Steve Smith, Carolina vs. Atlanta
Terrell Owens, Dallas vs. Jacksonville
Anquan Boldin, Arizona vs. San Francisco
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona vs. San Francisco
Randy Moss, Oakland vs. San Diego
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis vs. N.Y. Giants
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis vs. N.Y. Giants
Chris Chambers, Miami vs. Pittsburgh
Eddie Kennison, Kansas City (vs. Cincinnati): Kennison remains one of the best value picks on draft day. He’ll slide past the first and second tier WRs, someone will grab him in a late round, and he’ll start in week one for an offense that could throw the ball 40+ times. Look for Kennison to carry the receiving load as Tony Gonzalez will be used to block more often than he wants.
Reggie Brown, Philadelphia (vs. Houston): I’m a HUGE fan of Reggie Brown this season. McNabb is looking to start fresh (post-TO), and he could turn Brown into a stud. The addition of Donte Stallworth will draw some of the coverage away from Brown giving him enough room to find the openings early in the season. Defenses will adjust to Brown, but until then be sure to reap the benefits of this sleeper WR.
Keenan McCardell, San Diego (vs. Oakland): The first test for Philip Rivers this season is an easy one as heading into Raider Nation isn’t as scary as it used to be. He’ll use all of his weapons, but look for McCardell to dominate the young Raiders secondary posting big numbers in week one.
Rod Smith, Denver (vs. St. Louis): As much as the Denver running game changes on a weekly basis, the passing game remains a constant thanks to Rod Smith. The ageless one returns again, but this time with Javon Walker by his side. Walker will fill the role that Ashley Lelie could not, and Smith will once again serve as Plummer’s primary target and will see plenty of action as the Rams will miss Adam Archuleta.
Antonio Bryant, San Francisco (vs. Arizona): Bryant makes for a nice sleeper pick, but let him find a groove with Alex Smith before you take a chance and stick him in your starting lineup.
Michael Clayton, Tampa Bay (vs. Baltimore): I like Clayton to have a nice bounce-back season, but not this week against the Ravens. Simms will struggle which will translate into low numbers for all Bucs receivers.
Roddy White, Atlanta (vs. Carolina): Roddy White was one of the top sleeper picks in the early drafts and then the Falcons traded for Ashley Lelie. White’s value certainly took a hit and he won’t see enough action against the Panthers this week to prove himself worthy of a start.
Laveranues Coles, N.Y. Jets (vs. Tennessee): I’ll wait and see which Chad Pennington emerges this season before I hang my hopes on Coles at a starting WR spot. With the Jets running game suspect, hold off on bringing Coles off your bench until the J-E-T-S prove they have an offense.
Antonio Gates, San Diego vs. Oakland
Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City vs. Cincinnati
Jeremy Shockey, N.Y. Giants vs. Indianapolis
Todd Heap, Baltimore vs. Tampa Bay
Ben Watson, New England (vs. Buffalo): No Deion Branch, no problem! Tom Brady likes to spread the ball around regardless of who is on the field, but Watson has been his primary target this preseason. With Watson’s ability to line up at the WR slot as well as TE, look for plenty of chances in the passing game for the big man to post solid numbers this week at home.
Chris Cooley, Washington (vs. Minnesota): There’s a lot of hype surrounding Cooley this season. He’s expected to join the studs list sooner rather than later. He’ll get off to a solid start against the Vikings as the Redskins passing numbers won’t be gaudy, but a TD and 5-6 catches for over 50 yards is not out of the question.
Jermaine Wiggins, Minnesota (vs. Washington): The Vikings offense won’t be as bad as some people think with Brad Johnson at the helm. But this week, Johnson will face lots of pressure from the blitzing Redskins limiting the success of the passing offense which will force Minnesota to keep Wiggins in to block. Splitting his time with Kleinsasser won’t help either.
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville (vs. Dallas): The big rookie is nursing an ankle injury and is questionable for week one. Lewis will be a nice sleeper TE pick this season, but look elsewhere against the Cowboys this week.