Welcome to year six of the Start/Bench List. It’s hard to believe it’s been six years. Thanks for coming along for the ride.
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. New Orleans
Carson Palmer, Cincinnati vs. Baltimore
Drew Brees, New Orleans vs. Indianapolis
Tom Brady, New England vs. N.Y. Jets
Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia vs. Green Bay
Marc Bulger, St. Louis vs. Carolina
Vince Young, Tennessee vs. Jacksonville
Steve McNair, Baltimore (vs. Cincinnati): Air McNair should earn his nickname in the first Monday night matchup of the season against a Bengals defense that is susceptible to the pass. Don’t expect much on the ground from McNair, but he’ll find Clayton and Heap open early and often.
Tony Romo, Dallas (vs. N.Y. Giants): Look for Romo to begin erasing the horrific memories of last year’s mishap in the playoffs with a fine day against the Giants. With or without Strahan, the Giants will not be able to contain the Cowboys offense for very long even if Terry Glenn is unable to start.
Jay Cutler, Denver (vs. Buffalo): Everyone knows that Shanahan loves to run the ball, yet no one has figured out a way to stop him. This year’s ball carrier will be Travis Henry who has already predicted a 2,000-yard season. The Bills were a top ten team against the pass last year, but struggled mightily against the run. Cutler’s main responsibility this week will be to hand the ball off and watch Travis run.
Jason Campbell, Washington (vs. Miami): Even though Campbell appears to be fully recovered from the knee injury suffered in the preseason, you know Miami will blitz him all day long. Wait a week to see if Campbell can handle the pressure as he’s unlikely to post big numbers in week one against the Dolphins.
LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego vs. Chicago
Steven Jackson, St. Louis vs. Carolina
Larry Johnson, Kansas City vs. Houston
Frank Gore, San Francisco vs. Arizona
Shaun Alexander, Seattle vs. Tampa Bay
Willie Parker, Pittsburgh vs. Cleveland
Brian Westbrook, Philadelphia vs. Green Bay
Joseph Addai, Indianapolis vs. New Orleans
Willis McGahee, Baltimore vs. Cincinnati
Rudi Johnson, Cincinnati vs. Baltimore
Reggie Bush, New Orleans vs. Indianapolis
Travis Henry, Denver (vs. Buffalo): I doubt Henry will rush for 2,000 yards, but he should post his first of many 100+ rushing yard games this week against a Bills defense that was dreadful against the run a year ago. Moving Mike Bell to fullback only solidifies Henry’s value in the Broncos offense.
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville (vs. Tennessee): Whether Jones-Drew splits time with Fred Taylor or not this season, look for big numbers when Jones-Drew touches the ball. That will certainly hold true against the Titans who allowed the third most rushing yards in the NFL in ’06.
Laurence Maroney, New England (vs. N.Y. Jets): Maroney will not be as good as you think this season. He was drafted high in most leagues, but this is the Patriots. Remember, team comes first which includes stats. Maroney will have a solid week against the Jets in week one, but monitor his matchups each week before adding him to your Studs list.
Jamal Lewis, Cleveland (vs. Pittsburgh): Do you wonder why all the hype in Cleveland has been about Brady Quinn and nary a mention of Jamal Lewis? The Cleveland offense is not one you want to pin your fantasy hopes on and Lewis will prove why this week against the Steelers.
Marshawn Lynch, Buffalo (vs. Denver): Lynch will have a nice rookie season, but he has a tough task in week one against the Broncos. Don’t expect much from the rookie as Losman will air it out to Lee Evans for Buffalo’s best chance at offensive production.
Thomas Jones, N.Y. Jets (vs. New England): Jones has been limited in practice with an injured calf and he gets to face the Patriots on opening day. Look elsewhere for production from your RB as this J-E-T will have his hands F-U-L-L.
Steve Smith, Carolina vs. St. Louis
Chad Johnson, Cincinnati vs. Baltimore
Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis vs. New Orleans
Terrell Owens, Dallas vs. N.Y. Giants
Lee Evans, Buffalo vs. Denver
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis vs. New Orleans
Roy Williams, Detroit vs. Oakland
Torry Holt, St. Louis vs. Carolina
T.J.Houshmanzadeh, Cincinnati vs.Baltimore
Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona vs. San Francisco
Andre Johnson, Houston vs. Kansas City
Marques Colston, New Orleans vs. Indianapolis
Mark Clayton, Baltimore (vs. Cincinnati): As McNair is a player to start this week, so is Clayton. The Bengals secondary is dinged up already and Clayton should take advantage down the field.
Anquan Boldin, Arizona (vs. San Francisco): Fitzgerald may already be on the Studs list, but Boldin is one or two big games from joining his teammate. The Cardinals will utilize Boldin in a variety of sets in the new offense this season which combined with a full year of playing with Leinart should translate to a nice bounce back season starting this week against the 49ers.
Reggie Brown, Philadelphia (vs. Green Bay): A healthy McNabb means a dangerous Reggie Brown. You’re not any healthier than you are in week one, so look for the McNabb-Brown combo to connect on several occasions in Lambeau.
Chris Chambers, Miami (vs. Washington): Miami’s offense will struggle this season, but Trent Green is a decent QB capable of posting a big game now and then. Chambers should find some holes across the middle against the Redskins as Green will rely on the veteran until Ginn Jr. can hold his own.
Joey Galloway, Tampa Bay (vs. Seattle): The way the Bucs are courting Jake Plummer you would think that every QB on the roster is recovering from a ruptured spleen. That is not a good sign for the current status of QBs in Tampa and doesn’t bode well for Galloway and the Bucs receiving corps.
Santana Moss, Washington (vs. Miami): Moss has dealt with a hip injury since early in the offseason (May). Moss claims he’s ready for the season, but this is something to monitor closely. Wait a week as Moss won’t be a huge factor against Miami to see if he truly is fully recovered.
Calvin Johnson, Detroit (vs. Oakland): I really like Johnson this season, but mostly in the second half. Johnson will need to find his groove with Kitna before he’s starting on my fantasy team and the top-ranked pass defense of the Raiders is not the matchup to start the rookie.
Vincent Jackson, San Diego (vs. Chicago): Jackson is a popular choice for a sleeper this season and justifiably so. However, he won’t sneak under the radar screen of the Bears who have their eyes set on returning to the Super Bowl led by their defense.
Antonio Gates, San Diego vs. Chicago
Chris Cooley, Washington vs. Miami
Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City vs. Houston
Todd Heap, Baltimore vs. Cincinnati
Jeremy Shockey, N.Y. Giants vs. Dallas
Jason Witten, Dallas (vs. N.Y. Giants): Look for Witten to play a more prominent role in the Cowboys passing attack this season as Romo raised Witten’s value by leaps and bounds last season. Witten’s big numbers will start this week against the G-Men. Don’t miss out.
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh (vs. Cleveland): Miller is a solid red zone target, but will also receive more attention in the passing game from Big Ben. Look for solid numbers from Miller against the Browns as his value will rise close to the Studs level.
Owen Daniels, Houston (vs. Kansas City): Matt Schaub may be an improvement over David Carr, but he’s still Matt Schaub. I’ll pass on Daniels until Schaub shows me something.
Daniel Graham, Denver (vs. Buffalo): For those of you that thought Graham’s departure from New England and sitting behind Ben Watson means more action, think again. Block, Daniel-san!