It’s the final week of the NFL season. Thanks to everyone for reading the Start/Bench list for another successful season. It’s been a pleasure. Look for those teams with something to play for or those teams that have been eliminated and are looking to make their mark in the final week. It’s always tough relying on your studs in week 17, but benching them is too dangerous even this late in the season.
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.
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.
Peyton Manning, Indianapolis vs. Tennessee
Tom Brady, New England vs. Miami
Philip Rivers, San Diego at Denver
Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay vs.Chicago
Drew Brees, New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay
Michael Vick, Philadelphia vs. Dallas
Matt Schaub, Houston vs. Jacksonville
Eli Manning, N.Y. Giants at Washington
Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Chad Henne, Miami at New England: Despite throwing three INTs the last time he faced the Patriots back in week four, Henne also threw two TDs and surpassed the 300-yard mark at home. This week in New England, Henne faces a Patriots team that has already clinched home field throughout the playoffs. While Belichick isn’t one to sit players, don’t expect the Patriots’ defense that has struggled against the pass this season to go all out this week. They’ll rest players at certain positions which will be enough to give Henne one last chance to prove to the Dolphins that he should be their starter next season. It’s now or never for Henne and he’ll deliver on Sunday.
Sam Bradford, St. Louis at Seattle: Bradford had his highest yardage total in a month against the 49ers last week when he threw for 292 yards. While Bradford has just one TD to five INTs over the past four games, he’ll perform well against a Seattle pass defense that has allowed the third most TDs (31) and the fourth most passing yards (257.1 per game) this season.
Matt Cassel, Kansas City vs. Oakland: Cassel had a great game last week throwing for 314 yards with three TDs and no INTs against the Titans. While the Chiefs have locked up the AFC West, they are still playing for the #3 seed which means Cassel should play most of the game on Sunday. Cassel threw for 216 yards, two TDs and one INT the last time he faced the Raiders back in week nine. While Cassel and the Chiefs have their sights set on the #3 seed, the Raiders have nothing to play for and they’ll be going all out this week because of it. After suffering a tough loss to the Colts last week, the Raiders playing at home will do whatever a takes to get in a few last licks before the season is over and Cassel will be the primary target. Sit Cassel if you can as Oakland will lock him down this week.
Jay Cutler, Chicago at Green Bay: While Cutler’s yardage totals have been less than impressive the last two weeks (194, 215), he’s made up for it by throwing three TDs in each of the last two games. The last time he faced the Packers, Cutler threw for 221 yards with one TD and one INT back in week three. Playing in Green Bay will be a different story this week as Cutler will struggle against a defense that intercepted Eli Manning four times last week.
Arian Foster, Houston vs. Jacksonville
Peyton Hillis, Cleveland vs. Pittsburgh
LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia vs. Dallas
Darren McFadden, Oakland at Kansas City
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City vs. Oakland
Chris Johnson, Tennessee at Indianapolis
Ray Rice, Baltimore vs. Cincinnati
Adrian Peterson, Minnesota at Detroit
Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville at Houston *Questionable: knee*
Matt Forte, Chicago at Green Bay
Ahmad Bradshaw, N.Y. Giants at Washington
Steven Jackson, St. Louis at Seattle
Michael Turner, Atlanta vs. Carolina
Shonn Greene, N.Y. Jets vs. Buffalo: Even though Greene split carries with LT2 last week, he was easily the better back rushing for 70 yards on just 12 carries with a TD. Greene had his only 100-yard game of the season the last time he faced the Bills and with the Jets looking ahead to the playoffs, you can bet Greene will receive the majority of the carries this week giving Tomlinson some much needed rest. Look for another game out of Greene as the Bills have allowed the most rushing yards in the NFL this season.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh at Cleveland: Pittsburgh is still battling for the AFC North title which is exactly what you want from a fantasy perspective heading into week 17. The Steelers need to win this week which means they’ll ride Mendenhall all day long in Cleveland. Mendenhall ran for 84 yards and a score the last time he faced the Browns but that was without Ben Roethlisberger. With Big Ben, the Pittsburgh offense is much more dangerous. Look for simply the presence of Roethlisberger to open up the middle of the field for Mendenhall to have a big day on the ground. Start Mendenhall with confidence this week.
Ryan Mathews, San Diego at Denver: The injury to Mike Tolbert opens the door for Mathews to step into the starting role and make a name for himself now that the Chargers are eliminated from postseason play this year. The Broncos have allowed the most rushing TDs (23) and the second most rushing yards (153.9) this season which bodes well for Mathews. With Malcom Floyd‘s status still in doubt, look for San Diego to give Mathews plenty of chances, which will not fall by the waist side.
Knowshon Moreno, Denver vs. San Diego: Knowshon was a no-show the last two weeks combining for 24 yards rushing. This week he faces the Chargers who have allowed the second fewest rushing yards this season including only 58 yards against Moreno back in week 11. Look elsewhere for your starter this week as Moreno disappoints for the third straight week.
Jahvid Best, Detroit vs. Minnesota: RBBC in Detroit these days as Best is splitting time with Maurice Morris. Before Morris was even in the picture, Best could only muster 26 yards rushing on seven carries against the Vikings in week three. Keep your expectations low on Best this week or run the risk of being letdown big time.
Brandon Jackson, Green Bay vs. Chicago: The Packers running game has been Awful this year with a capital A. Take away the New England game, and Jackson has totaled 125 yards in his past FIVE games with no TDs. This week, he faces a Bears defense that held him to 12 yards on seven carries back in week two. Thanks, but no thanks.
Roddy White, Atlanta vs. Carolina
Brandon Lloyd, Denver vs. San Diego
Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City vs. Oakland
Calvin Johnson, Detroit vs. Minnesota *Questionable: ankle*
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis vs. Tennessee
Andre Johnson, Houston vs. Jacksonville *Questionable: ankle*
Greg Jennings, Green Bay vs. Chicago
Hakeem Nicks, N.Y. Giants at Washington
Miles Austin, Dallas at Philadelphia
Marques Colston, New Orleans vs. Tampa Bay
Wes Welker, New England vs. Miami
Vincent Jackson, San Diego at Denver: The Broncos’ defense have the second fewest interceptions (9) and have allowed the fourth highest yards per catch (7.8) this season. If Patrick Crayton can surpass 100 yards receiving against Denver as he did back in week 11, what will Jackson do? 150 yards receiving? 200 yards receiving? It’s worth starting Jackson to find out as a big day is on tap.
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia vs. Dallas: Forget about Vincent, DeSean is the biggest Jackson play maker in the NFL right now. Jackson has not only caught passes and returned punts this season, he’s also run the ball in all but three games this season because Andy Reid knows that Jackson is his best play maker and you have a better chance of winning when the ball is in your play maker’s hands. The combo of Jackson and Vick has been brutal on opponents and that won’t stop this week. Jackson had four catches for 210 yards and a score the last time he faced Dallas. While I won’t predict that Jackson surpasses 200 yards receiving this week, I will say it’s a lock that the 100-yards receiving mark will be passed with ease.
Brandon Marshall, Miami at New England: Don’t look now but Marshall has back-to-back 100-yard games in which he caught at least ten passes in each game. That was the production the Dolphins were expecting all season long. With a trip to New England coming up, you can bet Marshall wants to end the season on a high note and with his QB’s job at stake, Marshall will perform very well in the season finale. Look for Marshall to end the season strong as he posts big numbers against the #1 seed in the AFC, who just happens to have the third worst pass defense in the entire league.
Mike Thomas, Jacksonville at Houston: With Mike Sims-Walker suffering an ankle injury, Thomas stepped right into the #1 receiver spot last week and caught six passes for 96 yards and a score against the Redskins. This week, Thomas faces a Texans’ defense that he torched back in week 10 for eight catches, 149 receiving yards, and a TD. The Texans’ defense hasn’t gotten any better and with Sims-Walker limited again this week, look for Thomas to explode once again.
Percy Harvin, Minnesota at Detroit: Harvin has been removed from kickoff duties for Minnesota which is a good thing for Harvin owners despite losing out on a chance for a kickoff TD every once in a great while. Harvin’s role in the Vikings’ offense has diminished with the return of Sidney Rice and the injuries to Brett Favre. Anytime you have a team with Joe Webb at QB facing a formidable front four like the Lions, you’ve got to temper expectations in the passing game as Ndamukong Suh and the Detroit front four will apply enough pressure without blitzing that Webb will struggle and Harvin will suffer the consequences.
Steve Johnson, Buffalo at N.Y. Jets: Johnson was held to three catches for 31 yards and a TD the last time he faced the Jets who were without the services of Darrelle Revis. With the Jets coming off a tough loss against the Bears, they are looking to set the tone for the playoffs starting this week against Buffalo. Johnson won’t find much room to roam against Revis and the Jets’ secondary as they shut down the Bills’ passing game in a big way.
Braylon Edwards, N.Y. Jets vs. Buffalo: Edwards caught four passes for 86 yards and a score the last time the Jets faced the Bills back in week four but that was before Santonio Holmes was playing. With Holmes, the number of opportunities will be limited against a Bills’ defense that has allowed the fourth fewest passing yards per game this season including only three passes for more than 40 yards, which is a league best. Edwards may catch 5-6 passes, but his yardage total will be below 70 yards which isn’t a starter in my book.
Michael Crabtree, San Francisco vs. Arizona: Crabtree had a huge game last week catching six passes for 122 yards and a TD against the Rams and I’m telling you to forget that it ever happened. The 49ers fired head coach Mike Singletary this week which is never a good thing for a team heading into the final week of the season. With the QB position still up in the air, you can’t rely on Crabtree to post numbers on a consistent basis. If you like to gamble, then place Crabtree in your lineup and hope for the best. I’m much more inclined to play the numbers and Crabtree’s numbers don’t add up to a start this week.
Jason Witten, Dallas at Philadelphia
Antonio Gates, San Diego at Denver *Questionable: foot*
Vernon Davis, San Francisco vs. Arizona
Marcedes Lewis, Jacksonville at Houston
Chris Cooley, Washington vs. N.Y. Giants
Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit vs. Minnesota
Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta vs. Carolina
Dustin Keller, N.Y. Jets vs. Buffalo
Jacob Tamme, Indianapolis vs. Tennessee
Brent Celek, Philadelphia vs. Dallas: Celek has been hit or miss this season which is the main reason why he’s stayed off the studs list in 2010. With a plethora of weapons in Philly, Michael Vick has done just fine without using his tight end on a regular basis. As the playoffs begin, things will change and Andy Reid knows that. Look for Reid to emphasize the tight end against Dallas in the final week of the season in preparation for the playoffs where everybody moves a step faster and relying on a tight end is definitely a good option to have. Celek will post decent yardage and a score against the Cowboys making him a worthy start in the final week of the season.
Zach Miller, Oakland at Kansas City: Miller had a big week 16 catching nine passes for 66 yards a TD against the Colts. This week he faces the Chiefs who held him without a catch back in week nine. Look for Miller and the Raiders to get their revenge against the Chiefs who will have turned their focus to the playoffs this week. Miller finds the end zone and then some in Kansas City as the men in black do some damage too little too late.
Tony Moeaki, Kansas City vs. Oakland: Moeaki caught five passes for 63 yards in week 16 against the Titans which was his biggest output since week nine which was coincidentally against the Raiders. With Dwayne Bowe coming into his own, the chances just haven’t been there for Moeaki late in the season. With Matt Cassel likely to struggle this week, Moeaki won’t do much against a Raiders’ defense playing their final game of the season.
Greg Olsen, Chicago at Green Bay: Olsen has caught only one pass in four of the past five games for Chicago. With Jay Cutler likely to struggle on the road in Green Bay, there is no reason to believe that Greg Olsen is suddenly going to channel Mike Ditka and dominate at the tight end position. Unless you receive points for blocking, you want no part of Olsen this week.