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IDP Game Breakdowns - Week 1
Steve Gallo
September 10, 2010
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Weekly, I will break down each team’s matchup and offer ratings on the more important IDPs.  Preceding the game breakdowns is a reference chart that lists each team’s average tackle opportunities (TOs) given up, defensive scheme, defensive coordinator & fantasy relevant IDPs.  In addition the reference chart is color coded to identify teams that are giving up average (highlighted in yellow), below average (highlighted in red) & above average (highlighted in green) TOs based on their last 3 season averages (2007-2009).  Starting in week 4, TOs will be based off of this seasons statistics.  Basically, if your LB is facing a RED team then it isn't a good matchup, conversely a GREEN team would be a GOOD matchup.  The historical average for TOs is 50 (highlighted in yellow) and anything 49 or less will be in red and anything above 51 will be in green.  Tackle opportunities are described as rushing attempts & pass completions faced plus sacks given up.  Average tackle opportunities are derived from data provided by nfldata.com.  Ratings are based on a 12-team league that assumes the following starting requirements: 2 defensive linemen (DL) (defensive ends (DE) & defensive tackles (DT)), 3 linebackers (LB), 3 defensive backs (DB) (cornerbacks (CB) & safeties (S)). 

Star Rating System:
Five-Star Play: Studly performance anticipated
Four-Star Play: Above average solid starter
Three-Star Play: Starter / Sleeper
Two-Star Play: Bench ‘em unless you don't have other options.
One-Star Play: Bench ‘em no matter what

* Star Ratings boxes are now color coded to show the tackle opportunities the team they are facing is giving up:
average (highlighted in yellow), below average (highlighted in red) & above average (highlighted in green)  This will help so
that you don't have to continually scroll up to the reference chart and also if you are stuck between who to start out of say
two 3 Star players then you will probably want to go with the one that has a "Green" matchup versus a "Red" matchup
(remember Scheme Matters). 

Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).

Follow me on twitter @IDPSteve and if you have any questions, criticisms, or suggestions feel free to e-mail me at IDPSteve@gmail.com. Good luck & enjoy!

Team Avg TOs
Given Up/Wk
2007-2009
Defensive
Scheme
Defensive
Coordinator
Fantasy Relevant IDPs
ARZ 49 3-4 Bill Davis Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington, Adrian Wilson
ATL 50 4-3 Brian VanGorder John Abraham, Kroy Biermann, Curtis Lofton, Mike Peterson
BAL 52 3-4 & 4-3
Greg Mattison Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Jarrett Johnson
BUF 47 3-4 George Edwards Paul Posluszny, Donte Whitner
CAR 49 4-3 Ron Meeks Charles Johnson, Jon Beason, Dan Connor, Richard Marshall
CHI 48 Tampa 2 Rod Marinelli Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs, Zachary Bowman, Charles Tillman
CIN 50 4-3 Mike Zimmer Antwan Odom, Dhani Jones, Roy Williams, Leon Hall (CB mandatory leagues)
CLE 45 3-4 Rob Ryan Chris Gocong (while D'Qwell Jackson is out due to injury),
TJ Ward, Joe Haden (CB mandatory leagues)
DAL 49 3-4 Wade Phillips Jay Ratliff, Bradie James
DEN 50 3-4 Don Martindale DJ Williams, Mario Haggan
DET 46 4-3 Gunther Cunningham Kyle Vanden Bosch, Cliff Avril, DeAndre Levy, Zack Follett,
Louis Delmas
GB 51 3-4 Dom Capers BJ Raji (DT mandatory leagues), Nick Barnett, Clay Mathews, Charles Woodson
HOU 51 4-3 Frank Bush Mario Williams, Connor Barwin (dynasty stash), DeMeco Ryans, Bryan Cushing (suspended weeks 1-4)
IND 50 Tampa 2 Larry Coyer Gary Brackett, Clint Session, Antoine Bethea, Bob Sanders (IF he stays healthy and on the field)
JAX 51 4-3 Mel Tucker Aaron Kampman, Derrick Harvey, Kirk Morrison, Justin Durant (limited upside this year)
KC 49 3-4 Romeo Crennel Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, Eric Berry
MIA 51 3-4 Mike Nolan Karlos Dansby, Yeremiah Bell
MIN 52 4-3 & Tampa 2 Leslie Frazier Jared Allen, Ray Edwards, EJ Henderson, Chad Greenway,
Antoine Winfield
NE 55 3-4 Bill Belichick & D-Staff Jerod Mayo, Patrick Chung
NO 53 4-3 Gregg Williams Will Smith, Alex Brown, Sedrick Ellis (DT mandatory leagues) Jonathan Vilma, Roman Harper, Tracy Porter
NYG 51 4-3 Perry Fewell Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Boley, Antrel Rolle
NYJ 51 3-4 Mike Pettine Shaun Ellis, David Harris,
OAK 47 4-3 John Marshall Trevor Scott, Richard Seymour (DT mandatory leagues), Rolando McClain, Quentin Groves, Tyvon Branch,
PHL 50 4-3 Sean McDermott Trent Cole, Brandon Graham (stronger dynasty outlook),
Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Quintin Mikell,
Elis Hobbs (CB mandatory leagues with return points)
PIT 52 3-4 Dick LeBeau James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons,
Troy Polamalu,
SD 49 3-4 Ron Rivera Stephen Cooper, Eric Weddle, Darrell Stuckey
SEA 49 4-3 Gus Bradley Chris Clemons, Lofa Tatupu, Aaron Curry, David Hawthorne,
SF 45 3-4 Greg Manusky Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Dashon Goldson
STL 48 4-3 Ken Flajole Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, Oshiomogho Atogwe
TB 49 Tampa 2 Raheem Morris Kyle Moore, Gerald McCoy (DT mandatory leagues) Stylez White Barrett Ruud, Geno Hayes, Sean Jones,
Aqib Talib (CB mandatory leagues)
TEN 51 4-3 Chuck Cecil William Hayes, Derrick Morgan, Stephen Tulloch, Cortland Finnegan, Chris Hope
WAS 51 3-4 Jim Haslett London Fletcher, LaRon Landry,

REMINDER:  STAR BOXES ARE COLOR CODED BASED ON THE TACKLE OPPORTUNITIES THE TEAM THEY ARE FACING IS GIVING UP ON AVERAGE.  FOR THE FIRST THREE WEEKS THE AVERAGES WILL BE BASED ON THE PREVIOUS THREE YEARS (2007-2009).  Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used. 

QUICK GAME LINKS

Minnesota at New Orleans

5 STAR
Antoine Winfield
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Chad Greenway
EJ Henderson
2 STAR
Jared Allen
Ray Edwards
Madieu Williams
Husain Abdullah
Ben Leber
Asher Allen
1 STAR
Pat Williams
Kevin Williams
Tyrell Johnson
Jamarca Sanford

VikingsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009: 52
2007-2009 Away: 50
2000-2009 Versus Saints: 52

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used. 

Defensive Line:  Jared Allen is still my #1 overall DL in fantasy football this year but this week he faces a Saints team led by Drew Brees who just doesn't take many sacks.  You drafted Allen as your #1 DL and I know you have to run him out there, just don't be to upset if he fails to live up to expectations this week. Ray Edwards is also a 2 star play for the same exact reason.  In DT mandatory leagues I wouldn't consider starting Pat or Kevin Williams.  I just don't see the Saints running the ball all that much between the tackles this week.

Linebacker:  EJ Henderson suffered a gruesome looking injury last year when he broke his leg.  However, Henderson looks like he is good to go this year and I see him putting up LB2 numbers at worst.  Flanking Henderson at one of the OLB spots is Chad Greenway.  Greenway has been solid yet unspectacular since entering the league.  Look for him to put up solid stats this week.  If you are looking for Ben Leber to have a good week this week then you must have real issues at LB or are in a 48 team, start 3 LB league.  Leber will have a few weeks this year where he will post 5 tackles but trying to guess when that will happen will leave you pulling your hair out.

Secondary:  Last year, Antoine Winfield was the CB that was injured and missed multiple games and it was Cedric Griffin that helped to solidify the Vikings secondary.  Well, this year Griffin will be the one that misses multiple games as he recovers from a torn ACL. Or will he?  Coach Childress is evidently actually considering possibly having Griffin suit up sooner rather than later.  FWIW, I would be pretty shocked to see Griffin playing during the early part of the season.  I look for Winfield to make a push to get back into the top 10 of DBs this year and in CB mandatory leagues he very well could be the #1 CB overall. With Winfield facing the pass happy Saints in week 1 I love him about as much as you can love a DB for week 1.   Asher Allen looks like he will be stepping in at CB opposite Winfield in place of the injured Griffin and the Saints could decide to go at the weak link in the Vikings secondary so he could surprise and put up better than a 2 star ranking.  Then again the Vikings could also start Lito Sheppard at CB too.  The safety position looks to be the weakest position on the Vikings defense.  Tyrell Johnson was the starting SS last year but during training camp he was in a battle with rookie Jamarca Sanford to see who would man the starting SS position this year.  Funny thing is that neither could end up starting in week 1.  The Saints run many multi WR sets and Husain Abdullah has the added experience of playing slot WRs so he most likely will be the starter, at least for week 1. 

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Roman Harper
Will Smith
Jonathan Vilma
3 STAR
Tracy Porter
Alex Brown
Scott Shanle
2 STAR

Malcolm Jenkins
Jabari Greer
Sedrick Ellis

1 STAR
Jo-Lonn Dunbar
Danny Clark

SaintsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:53
2007-2009 Home: 51
2000-2009 Versus Vikings: 47

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used. 

Defensive Line:  Look for the defensive line to pick up right where it left off the last time these two teams faced off in the NFC Championship game, hitting Favre hard and often.
The Vikings will probably try to control the game with the running of Adrian Peterson but Favre should still drop back enough on his surgically repaired ankle to make Will Smith a solid 4 star play. Gone are Charles Grant and Bobby McCray but Alex Brown now joins Smith as the other starting DE this year. I look for Brown to actually put up DE2 type numbers this year. In deep dynasty leagues you might want to look at stashing Junior Galette.  The rookie played well enough this preseason to make McCray expendable, again.  Yes, McCray got cut not once but twice this since the Saints won the Super Bowl.  Just don't expect to see Galette making noise in the box score yet.  In DT mandatory leagues I would bump Sedrick Ellis up to a solid 3 star play.

Linebacker: Jonathan Vilma owners got a scare when he injured his groin in a preseason game.  Vilma is listed as probable and should start.  I wouldn't hesitate to have him in my lineup this week but I would make it a point to check his status just prior to the game to make sure he didn't have any setbacks.  Vilma's injury may have seemed like the big news but it pales in comparison to that of the injury suffered by second year LB, Jonathan Casillas.  Casillas had secured the starting job at WLB up until a foot injury landed him on the IR.  Right now it is about as clear as mud as to who will man the WLB slot and SLB slot due to the injury.  The best guess is that Scott Shanle will slide back over to WLB (he was going to start at SLB) and that Jo-Lonn Dunbar or Danny Clark will man the SLB spot.  Clark previously played for the Saints and was just re-signed which is why he could end up starting at SLB.

Secondary:   Roman Harper was just a few tackles shy of finishing last year as a top 5 DB.  This year he should get off to a great start and be right there all season long as a top 5-10 DB. Darren Sharper had one heck of a year last year and was going to be hard pressed to repeat that performance, especially the 9 interceptions that he logged. As it stands now Sharper will miss at least the first 6 weeks as he was placed on the physically-unable-to-perform list by the Saints.  So Sharper won't be coming close to approaching the stats he posted last year.  Converted CB, Malcolm Jenkins is slated to start at FS in Sharper's place.  The Time-Picayune reports that  Brett Favre has watched preseason tape and saw the Saints using Jenkins as a deep center fielder.  If true Jenkins won't have much fantasy value at all.  We all know that Favre has a penchant to toss a pick or two during big games and yes this is a big game even if it is week 1. During the playoffs Tracy Porter showed he has plenty of big play ability and this week I see him picking off at least one Favre pass while racking up enough tackles to make him a 3 star play.


Denver at Jacksonville

5 STAR
DJ Williams
4 STAR
Brian Dawkins
3 STAR
Mario Haggan
2 STAR

Champ Bailey
Andre Goodman

1 STAR
Robert Ayers
Ryan McBean
Justin Bannan
Jarvis Moss

BroncosAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  50
2007-2009 Away:  50
2000-2009 Versus Jaguars: 51

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.  Star OLB Elvis Dumervil is on IR due to a torn pectoral muscle.

Defensive Line: The Broncos play the fantasy unfriendly 3-4 defense thus rendering their DL for the most part useless.  Justin Bannan might be worth a look in very, very deep leagues but otherwise just pass on this entire group.

Linebacker: The Jaguars don't have much going for them outside of Maurice Jones-Drew and even he is rumored to be far from 100%.  With that said either MJD or Rashad Jennings will be running the ball a lot this weekend and that bodes well for DJ Williams owners.  Williams finished last year as the 7th best LB and was one of only 2 LBs in the top 15 to score in double digits ever week.  Patrick Willis was the other player.  Look for Williams to make another run at the top 5 this year.  Inside next to Williams is now Mario Haggan who takes the placed of the departed Andra Davis (Buffalo).  Last year Davis finished the season as a top 40 LB, averaging just under 11 PPG (points/game).  I see no reason that Haggan shouldn't be able to put up very similar numbers this year.  If anything I expect the Broncos to be a bit worse as a team this year so both Williams and Haggans could have some extra upside because of it. A major reason will be the loss of Elvis Dumervil due to a torn pectoral muscle that has resulted in him being placed on IR by the team. Robert Ayers and Jarvis Moss will man the two OLB positions but don't expect either to make up for the loss of Dumervil.

Secondary:  Last year at the age of 35/36 Brian Dawkins finished the season as the overall #1 ranked DB.  This year many expect Dawkins to continue to defy age and again be perched among the top DBs.  While all signs, except for age point to Dawkins being in-line for another monster year I have to recommend proceeding with caution with regards to Dawkins.  Looking back at the previous five years to see how the previous year's #1 DB fared the following year shows why caution is a good word to use. Over the past 5 years only once did the previous years #1 finish in the top 5 again, once they finished 29th and three times they finished outside the top 80(82nd, 126th & 240th).  For a complete look at DB turnover by year make sure to check out my article, IDP Player Turnover.  Now with all that said I still think that Dawkins is a very nice play this week and the only safe play in the Broncos secondary.  In CB mandatory leagues you can bump Champ Bailey up to a 3 star play and understand that comes with some upside versus the David Garrard led Jaguars passing attack.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Kirk Morrison
3 STAR
Aaron Kampman
Derrick Harvey
2 STAR

Justin Durant
Daryl Smith
Derek Cox
Rashean Mathis
Anthony Smith
Austen Lane

1 STAR
Sean Considine

JaguarsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009: 51
2007-2009 Home:  51
2000-2009 Versus Broncos: 48

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line:  Last year the Jaguars ranked dead last in the NFL in sacks with just 14.  So it is no wonder that only 2 (Derrick Harvey & Terrance Knighton) of their 9 DL were on the team last year. If Harvey can find a way to get to the QB he has the chance to finish as a top 15 DL.  Having newly acquired Aaron Kampman anchoring the other DE spot surely could help Harvey but Kampman is starting to get long in the tooth and is also coming back from a torn ACL.  If Kampman gets off to a slow start I would look to buy him for later in the season.  Dynasty leaguers will want to keep an eye on rookie Austen Lane.  Lane is a great stash and hold guy for leagues with Taxi Squads or very deep rosters. 

Linebacker:  The big addition to the Jaguars linebackers is Kirk Morrison.  Morrison should continue to be a tackle machine for the Jaguars just like he was previously in Oakland.  The only difference is that there won't be rumors that he could be replaced in the starting lineup. By adding Morrison that means that both Justin Durant and Daryl Smith will be playing different positions this year.  Smith will now man the SLB spot while Durant will play the more fantasy friendly WLB position.  Last year many had high hopes for Durant when he was slated to be the Jaguars MLB and just as fast it looks like many soured on him.  I would say that they have soured to much.  He won't present the upside he did last year but he is a solid value this year.  The key to any upside is if Durant will play in the nickel over Smith.

Secondary: Not only did the DL get turned over but so did the Jaguars secondary.  Anthony Smith is slated to start at SS and Sean Considine finds himself back in the starting lineup at FS after Gerald Alexander was cut earlier this week.  Neither Smith or Considine look to have much value this year.  Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox are returning as starters at CB and both should be solid NFL producers but I wouldn't look for either to be reliable DB plays on a weekly basis. 


Oakland at Tennessee

5 STAR
Tyvon Branch
Rolando McClain
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

None

2 STAR
Trevor Scott
Lamarr Houston
Quentin Groves
Matt Shaughnessy
Kamerion Wimbley
Richard Seymour
1 STAR
Michael Huff 
Nnamdi Asomugha
Mike Mitchell

Raiders Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009: 47
2007-2009 Away:  45
2000-2009 Versus Titans: 46

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.  Al Davis is still the HCIC (Head Cryptkeeper In Charge) of the Raiders and believe it or not the Raiders just might win more than people expect this year.

Defensive Line: Just when it looked like the Raiders DL was starting to make some sense they went and made another change.  This week, Trevor Scott was moved back to DE from WLB.  That more than likely means that Matt Shaughnessy will head back to the bench.  Lamarr Houston looks to have one of the DE positions locked up but part of me thinks that the Raiders are going to use a serious rotation as well as the great depth they have in rush LBs to really kill the value of all their DEs.  Unfortunately, at this point I would say that it is best to just wait a few weeks and see what it looks like the Raiders are really going to do.  Until then the only safe start on the Raiders DL looks to be Richard Seymour and that would only be in DT mandatory leagues.  And speaking of Seymour, in DT mandatory leagues I would bump him up to a 3 star play.

Linebacker: The Raiders completely overhauled their linebackers and will have three new starters at the position this year.  Rookie Rolando McClain takes over at MLB for the departed Kirk Morrison.  McClain should easily be the top scoring rookie IDP player this year as he challenges to finish as a top 10 LB.  McClain should get off to a fantastic start versus the Titans running game led by Chris Johnson. One of the surprising moves at LB was that the Raiders moved Trevor Scott back to DE and anointed converted DE Quentin Groves the starter at WLB.  Starting at SLB will be Kamerion Wimbley who played for the Browns last year.  Both Wimbley and Groves have the ability to play with their hand down at the DE position so just as the DL position is a question mark so is how the OLBs will be utilized.  And just like the DL it is going to be best to take a wait and see on the Raiders LBs, with the exception of McClain who should be a stud from day 1.

Secondary:  Tyvon Branch was money for his owners last year where he finished 2nd in DB scoring to Brian Dawkins.  Branch looks primed for another big season and the only trepidation I have is from looking at the turnover of the previous years top 5 DBs.  Believe it or not, the previous year's top 5 on average finishes ranked outside the top 100 DBs twice as much as they do ranked in the top 5 again. So don't be shocked if Branch doesn't live up to lofty expectations but at worst I still see him as a top 10-20 DB this year.  Rumor has it that Mike Mitchell was on the cutting block but Al Davis wouldn't allow it.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Stephen Tulloch

3 STAR

Cortland Finnegan
Will Witherspoon
Chris Hope
William Hayes

2 STAR

Michael Griffin
Vincent Fuller
Colin Allred

1 STAR
Jacob Ford
Jason McCourty

TitansAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2007-2009 Home:  50
2000-2009 Versus Raiders: 53

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Will Witherspoon
missed practice all week but it was noted that it wasn't injury related.
 Witherspoon should probably play but missing a week of practice for any reason is never a good thing so make sure you check game day inactives if you plan on starting him this week.

William Hayes (knee) and Tony Brown (knee) both did not practice on Friday. Usually if a player misses the Friday practice they are good bet to miss that week's game. The last thing that the Titans need is to be without half of their starting DL. I would bump Hayes down from a 3 star to a 2 star play due to this information.

Defensive Line: This year the Titans will be without DE Kyle Vanden Bosch who is now starting for the Detroit Lions and instead will be relying on William Hayes and Jacob Ford to anchor their DE spots.  Hayes is a nice sleeper and should provide DL 2/3 value.  But it is rookie Derrick Morgan that has people excited in Tennessee.  Morgan looks like a very good dynasty prospect but will probably be very tough to rely on this year as the DE position is much like the WR position where it usually takes rookies a few years to really make their mark.

Linebacker:  This year Stephen Tulloch looks to have a three down role locked up and with that should easily be able to make a run at a top 10 or better LB ranking by years end.  Last year Tulloch ranked 15th among LBs and that was with both David Thornton and Keith Bullock seeing most of the nickel snaps.  This year Bulluck is long gone and Thornton has been placed on the physically-unable-to-play list with a hip injury. Newly acquired Will Witherspoon looks to have the WLB spot locked up and should be able to put up low level LB3 numbers at worst this year.  Colin Allred will start the season at SLB because Gerlad McGrath will be serving a 4 game suspension due to breaking the NFL performance enhancing drug policy.  Neither Allred or McGrath hold any value in 12 team leagues.

Secondary: With the front 7 a bit of a question mark it could mean a bit of a bump is in order for the secondary.  Chris Hope could end up being a solid DB2 but at worst this week he should be able to fill a DB3 role for most teams.  Cortland Finnegan is a strong tackler from the CB position and is a strong play in CB mandatory leagues and a safe 3 star play in our scoring format.


Cincinnati at New England

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Leon Hall

3 STAR
Antwan Odom
Dhani Jones
Jonathan Joseph
2 STAR
Roy Williams
Rey Maualuga
Keith Rivers
Michael Johnson
1 STAR
Chris Crocker
Robert Geathers

BengalsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  50
2007-2009 Away:  48
2000-2009 Versus Patriots: 49

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: Antwan Odom got off to a torrid start last year and then unfortunately tore his ACL and missed the final 10 games of the season.  Don't expect Odom to get off to the same type of start as last year but he should still be looked at as a DL2 and he does present some upside.  Many dynasty leaguers rostered Michael Johnson last year in hopes that he would get a shot to start at DE for the Bengals. Unfortunately, for dynasty leaguers Johnson was converted to a LB and will see situational time at SLB. Robert Geathers will once again start at one of the DE spots but expecting to get solid consistent production from him is really nothing more than a pipe dream.

Linebacker: Dhani Jones looks like he will hold onto the starting MLB job for this season and presents solid LB3 value.  Dynasty leaguers were surely hoping that Rey Maualuga would be able to overtake Jones for the MLB spot but instead he still be starting at SLB but will also be giving way in certain situations to converted DE Michael Johnson.  Maualuga is still a solid dynasty play and if something were to happen to Jones he could very well end up starting at MLB sooner rather than later.  Keith Rivers has been pretty much disappointing for fantasy owners since he came into the league.  He is going to be the starter at WLB so there is some upside but until he shows he can consistently put up fantasy points he is really nothing more than fantasy depth at best.

Secondary:   Roy Williams is back as the SS but his strong suit is playing in the box and this week versus the Patriots you have to wonder just how many opportunities he will have versus what should be a high flying Patriots passing attack.  I look for Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph to be very busy.  Hall ranked finished as a top 25 DB (23rd) last year and as the 5th best CB.  Look for Hall to have another solid season as a DB2 with some upside and to be one of the top options at CB in CB mandatory leagues.

5 STAR
Patrick Chung
4 STAR
Jerod Mayo
3 STAR
Gary Guyton
2 STAR

Tully Banta-Cain
Devin McCourty
Darius Butler
Brandon Meriweather
Vince Wilfork
Brandon Spikes

1 STAR
Jermaine Cunningham
Gerard Warren
Mike Wright

PatriotsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  55
2007-2009 Home:  56
2000-2009 Versus Bengals: 51

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: The Patriots defense suffered a big loss when Ty Warren was injured and placed on IR.  None of the Patriots DL really present any fantasy value, that is outside of Vince Wilfork in DT mandatory leagues.  I would bump Wilfork up to a 3 star play in those types of leagues this week.

Linebacker:  Many in the fantasy community had high hopes for Jerod Mayo going into last year but then he got injured in week 1 and was lost until week 5.  That seems to have overshadowed just how well Mayo played once he returned.  From week 5 thru 17 Mayo ranked as the #11 LB scoring just under 15 PPG.  Look for Mayo to make a strong push to be a top 10 LB this year. The rest of the Patriots LBs don't look to really provide any fantasy relevance.  Gary Guyton looks to start next to Mayo inside but will also be rotating with rookie Brandon Spikes.  At outside LB Tully Banta-Cain and Jermaine Cunningham will be starting but neither should be relied on in the huddle scoring format.

Secondary:  So far it seems that I have been all doom and gloom about DBs but that is because of the major amount of turnover that occurs at the position.  This year Patrick Chung should be one of the guys that unseats someone in the top 5.  There should be plenty of tackle opportunities for Chung this  year and I seriously see him as someone that could end up as the #1 DB  by the end of the year.  Second year CB Darius Butler and rookie CB Devin McCourty surely will be tested by opposing teams and one or both could end up having DB3 value


Cleveland at Tampa Bay

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Chris Gocong
Matt Roth

2 STAR

Scott Fujita
Eric Wright
Sheldon Brown
Joe Haden
TJ Ward
Abram Elam
David Bowens

1 STAR

Kenyon Coleman
Robaire Smith
Shaun Rogers

BrownsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  45
2007-2009 Away:  44
2000-2009 Versus Buccaneers: 37

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

D'Qwell Jackson (chest)
has been officially ruled out for this week.

Shaun Rogers (ankle)
was limited in practice all week and is listed as Questionable on the injury report.

Defensive Line: The Cleveland DL doesn't really present much fantasy value and I would look elsewhere until we see if someone can defy the odds and be fantasy viable in the Browns 3-4.  Don't let Robaire Smith's 26th ranking at DL last year fool you.  He scored 104.5 fantasy points but 20% of those points came in one game and outside of that one game he averaged just 5.96 PPG. 

Linebacker: Last year thru 6 weeks D'Qwell Jackson ranked 2nd among all LBs and was just one point shy from the #1 ranking.  Unfortunately, Jackson then suffered a shoulder injury that put him on the shelf for the rest of the 2009 season.  Jackson looked to be fully recovered and was being drafted as a top option at LB this year and then, yep you guessed it, Jackson got injured again.  There is a chance that he could return sometime by week 4 but he has been officially ruled out for this week's matchup versus the Bucs.  Look for Chis Gocong who was acquired from the Eagles to get the start inside in Jackson's position. Gocong should be a safe start as a LB3 this week. Another newly acquired LB, Scott Fujita should see plenty of action at both ILB and OLB. In deeper leagues Fujita should provide quality depth. Matt Roth should be very active from one of the OLB positions and something tells me that he could have a big week chasing down the nimble Josh Freeman.  But understand that he does present some risk as a 3 star play.

Secondary: Rookies Joe Haden (CB) and TJ Ward (S) should end up having pretty good value this year but in week 1 versus the Bucs I wouldn't be rushing them into starting lineups just yet.  Abram Elam should be starting at SS but like the Haden and Ward I would be leery of starting him versus the Bucs.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Barrett Ruud
Geno Hayes
Kyle Moore
Stylez White

2 STAR

Tanard Jackson
Sean Jones
Gerald McCoy
Ronde Barber

1 STAR

Quincy Black
EJ Biggers

Buccaneers Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2007-2009 Home:  47
2000-2009 Versus Browns: 58

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: Rookie Gerald McCoy has gotten a ton of notoriety in the press this year and rightfully so as he should be an impact DT immediately for the Bucs but from a fantasy perspective he isn't who should be targeted on the Bucs DL.  McCoy should have some nice value in DT mandatory leagues but Kyle Moore and Stylez White will be the starting DEs and the ones that fantasy owners should be targeting.  Both White and Moore should provide DL3 value but for me I think Moore is the one that could surprise.

Linebacker: Barrett Ruud is looked at as the top LB option on the Bucs and a top 5 LB overall by most and rightfully so as he finished last year ranked as the 4th best LB overall.  However, this year I think he will be unseated as the top LB on his team by Geno Hayes.  I still see Ruud as a top 15-20 LB but just think it is Hayes that will make a push into the top 10 or better at LB.  If you happened to miss the article IDP - Ascension to the Top 10: Linebacker you will have to check it out for why I think Hayes will unseat Ruud this year.  This week both should be safe plays versus the Browns but their upside is limited to how effective the Browns offense will be.

Secondary: Ronde Barber is back for his 14th NFL season.  He isn't the fantasy stud that he used to be and this week I would only consider starting him in very deep leagues.  Aqib Talib will be serving a one game suspension for violating the NFLs personal conduct policy so that opens the door for EJ Biggers to get the week 1 start. Tanard Jackson returns as the starting FS and Sean Jones who played for Philly last year will man the SS position.  Again, due to the probable limited upside of the Browns offense I wouldn't be rushing either player into my starting lineup.


Indianapolis at Houston

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Gary Brackett
Clint Session
Bob Sanders

3 STAR
Antoine Bethea
Robert Mathis
2 STAR
Kelvin Hayden
Jerraud Powers
Dwight Freeney
1 STAR
Phillip Wheeler

Colts Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  50
2007-2009 Away:  48
2000-2009 Versus Texans: 54

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Jacob Lacey (head)
did not practice all week and is listed as Questionable on the injury report. I do not expect to see Lacey on the field this week.

Defensive Line:  The Colts have a superb pair of DEs in Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney.  Freeney is much more of a game changer but isn't the best fantasy option.  Mathis tends to play the run much better and is a more consistent fantasy scorer.  Mathis did hurt his fantasy owners towards the end of the year last year with his inconsistent play but he was playing thru an injury.  He looks healthy and ready to go for the season so don't worry about putting him in your starting lineups.

Linebacker: Gary Brackett is back to anchor the MLB position for the Colts.  Brackett seems to be the Rodney Dangerfield of linebackers but don't sleep on him.  Last year Brackett missed 2 games early in the season but still managed to rank in the top 30 of LBs.  Without missing those games his year end totals would have put him close to the top 15.  Back at WLB next to Brackett will be Clint Session.  Session will look to build on what was a very solid 2009 campaign that saw him finish as the 28th best LB and like Brackett he also missed two games but unfortunately for his owners those games were in weeks 16 & 17.  Look for both Colts LBs to finish the year ranked in the 15-20 range.

Secondary:  Believe it or not Bob Sanders is healthy and looks like he is good to go to start the season.  Sanders was a great value in drafts this year and if you have him on your squad you should start him this week. Not just because I foresee a very good matchup versus the Texans but also because you don't know how long he will actually stay healthy.  The Colts secondary used to be all about Sanders but over the past couple of years Antoine Bethea has shown he is a viable fantasy DB.

5 STAR
none
4 STAR
DeMeco Ryans
Bernard Pollard
3 STAR
Zac Diles
Mario Williams
Kareem Jackson
2 STAR
Glover Quinn
Eugene Wilson
Xavier Adibi
1 STAR
Antonio Smith

TexansAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2007-2009 Home:  50
2002*-2009 Versus Colts: 49
*1st year in the NFL .

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Mario Williams (groin)
was limited in practice all week but is listed as Probable on the injury report. Look for Williams to not only play this week but to also be somewhat of a factor in what should be a Texans upset win.

Defensive Line: The DL position is very thin this year but the Texans have one of the true elite DEs in the NFL in the form of Mario Williams.  Williams is a no brainer plug and play weekly starter.  Just understand that this week he is facing the hard to sack Peyton Manning.  Antonio Smith will still be starting opposite of Williams but isn't really a viable fantasy option unless you are in a very deep league. For dynasty leaguers I recommend that you keep an eye on Connor Barwin.

Linebacker: The big news surrounding the Texans linebackers this year is that Brian Cushing was suspended for the 1st four games of the season for testing positive for a banned substance.  That means that DeMeco Ryans should be the top dog at LB for the 1st month of the season.  Even when Cushing does return Ryans should be looked at as a top 15 type LB.  Zac Diles and Xavier Adibi will flank Ryans on the field.  Keep an eye on Diles to see if he can regain the fantasy form he had a couple of years ago before he broke his leg.

Secondary:  Bernard Pollard is another one of those top DBs from last year that history says is a risky play to repeat.  So like with Dawkins and Branch history shows that there is cause for concern.  The thing that I see that could impact Pollard the most is that I see the Texans having one of the best offenses in the league this year.  Rookie Kareem Jackson is probably a pretty good start this week as Manning will most likely look to take advantage of Jackson's NFL experience.


Detroit at Chicago

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Louis Delmas
3 STAR

Landon Johnson
Zack Follett
Julian Peterson
Kyle Vanden Bosch
Cliff Avril
CC Brown

2 STAR
Ndamukong Suh
1 STAR
Chris Houston
Alphonso Smith
Jonathan Wade
DeAndre Levy

LionsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  46
2007-2009 Away:  45
2000-2009 Versus Bears: 50

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

DeAndre Levy (groin)
did not practice all week long and is listed as Doubtful on the injury report. Doesn't look like Levy will be able to give it a go this week, look for Landon Johnson to get the start in his place.

Louis Delmas (groin)
missed practice on Wednesday but was then able to practice on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday and is listed as Questionable on the injury report. I still expect Delmas to play this week but be sure to check inactives on Sunday before inserting him into your lineup. If Delmas can't go look for rookie Randy Phillips to start in his place. Due to the injury risk I would down grade Delmas to a 3 star play.

CC Brown (forearm)
was able to practice fully all week and is set to start at SS.

Defensive Line: Look for newly acquired Kyle Vanden Bosch to make a positive impact on the Lions defense this year.  Both he and Cliff Avril should actually be startable for fantasy owners this year.  Of course it is Ndamukong Suh that got much of the press and his value will be on an NFL level much more than it will be on a fantasy level.  In DT mandatory leagues Suh should be a solid starter and this week I would bump him up to a 3 star play in those leagues.

Linebacker:  The Lions are really very thin at LB and need DeAndre Levy to play if they want to have any sort of success.  Unfortunately, Levy is suffering thru an injury and didn't practice on Wednesday. Be sure to check back Friday evening for an injury update.  Zack Follett looks like he is going to be the starter at WLB, replacing Ernie Sims who now is playing for the Eagles. Follett should be able to put up LB3/4 type numbers and currently with the lack of depth at the Lions LB position there is little worry that he would lose his starting gig.

Secondary: Last year the Lions run defense was horrible to say the least and while it may not be staunch this year it should be improved.  However, the secondary is just down right scary. Louis Delmas is a player that I think can challenge for a spot in the top 10 at DB this year but outside of him there is CC Brown and/or undrafted Randy Phillips.  And the CB position is even scarier with Chris Houston and Jonathan Wade slated to start.  The only safe play in the Lions secondary is Delmas, that could change but I wouldn't be so quick to bet on it.

5 STAR
Julius Peppers
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Lance Briggs
Brian Urlacher
Zackary Bowman
Charles Tillman
Danieal Manning
Mark Anderson

2 STAR
Chris Harris
Israel Idonije
1 STAR
Nick Roach

BearsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  48
2007-2009 Home:  50
2000-2009 Versus Lions: 51

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Lance Briggs (ankle) was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday but practiced fully on Friday. He listed as Probable on the injury report and expected to play on Sunday.

Defensive Line:  The Bears have a new marquee player in Julius Peppers at DE.  It was a boon for the fantasy community when Peppers signed with Chicago since it meant he would continue to play DE.  Had he landed on a 3-4 team the results would have been such that the DE position would have been thinned out even more.  Look for Peppers to have a great coming out party in Chicago. The sleeper on the Bears DL looks to be Mark Anderson.  I think that Anderson is going to be a solid play this week but easily can also see why it might be prudent to take a wait and see approach with him too.

Linebacker:  Lance Briggs has easily been the best Bears IDP of recent years and this year should be no different.  Well with the exception that Brian Urlacher is back in the starting lineup.  However, even when Urlacher was healthy in the past Briggs still put up very good numbers.  I think Urlacher is good for LB2 type numbers this year but it will all hinge on him staying healthy.

Secondary: The Bears secondary has changed some from last year.   Namely the fact that Charles Tillman will not be playing his normal left CB position.  He will now be starting at right CB and Zackary Bowman will be starting at left CB.  Bowman could be a sneaky play to finish as a top 12 DB due to the switch.  I expect to see Tillman's numbers suffer some but he should still be worthy of a DB3 spot at worst.  The safety position always seems to be an issue for the Bears and this year the starters will be Danieal Manning and Chris Harris. If the Bears continue to use Manning in the return game he could be a nice play for leagues that score return points.


Atlanta at Pittsburgh

5 STAR
Curtis Lofton
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Mike Peterson
Eric Coleman

2 STAR

Brent Grimes
Dunta Robinson
Kroy Biermann
Thomas Decoud
Sean Weatherspoon
John Abraham

1 STAR
Jamaal Anderson

FalconsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  50
2007-2009 Away:  51
2000-2009 Versus Steelers: 58

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: John Abraham will continue to be the elder statesman on the Falcons DL.  But the bigger news is that Kroy Biermann is replacing Jamaal Anderson at the starting DE spot opposite of Abraham.  Look for Biermann to be a surprise DL2 this season.  The only reason that I have both Biermann and Abraham as 2 star plays is because the Steelers starting QB will be Denis Dixon and I can see him getting happy feet in the pocket to avoid the Falcons pass rush.

Linebacker: The Falcons have injected some youth into their linebackers with the addition of rookie Sean Weatherspoon to the starting lineup at SLB.  Mike Peterson will continue to hold down the WLB spot and should be a slightly better fantasy option than Weatherspoon but depending on how the nickle shakes out could change that too.  Curtis Lofton finished the season as a top 10 LB last year but his play over the final month of the season really hurt his owners.  Over the final 4 weeks Lofton had his three worst performances of the season, scoring just 6 points in week 14, 2 points in week 16 and 6 points in week 17.  I wouldn't expect Lofton to falter like that and instead this year look for him to push for a top 5 finish.  Versus what should be a heavy rushing attack from the Steelers I look for Lofton to get out to a very nice start this season.

Secondary:  If you are an Eric Coleman owner you are probably aware of just how good a scoring DB he has been over the past five years.  This year looks like it will be another good year for Coleman too.  As for the rest of the secondary their value will more than likely be very matchup dependant and this week I don't know that the Steelers will throw the ball enough to make Brent Grimes, Dunta Robinson or Thomas Decoud relevant fantasy options.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Lawrence Timmons
Troy Polamalu
3 STAR
James Harrison
Lamar Woodley
Ryan Clark
2 STAR
Ike Taylor
James Farrior
1 STAR
Bryant McFadden
Aaron Smith
Evander Hood

SteelersAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  52
2007-2009 Home:  53
2000-2009 Versus Falcons: 63

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: Aaron Smith is a very important piece to the Steelers defense.  Unfortunately for fantasy owners his value is nil due to the 3-4 scheme the team plays.  In DT mandatory leagues Evander "Ziggy" Hood could be a nice surprise this year.

Linebacker:  Linebacker is by far t he heart and soul of the Steelers defense and with players like James Harrison, Lamar Woodley, Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior that should be expected.  To me Timmons is the best and safest fantasy play among the Steelers linebackers this year.  Woodley has stellar moments but is much more valuable in big play leagues and the same goes for Harrison.  Except that Harrison is starting to creep up there in age.  Age is also something that James Farrior doesn't have on his side.  In the past Farrior has shown to be a pretty solid LB3 but this year I expect we will see that come to an end.

Secondary:  While the Steelers linebackers are the heart and soul of the team it was easy to see that the one player the defense really relies on is Troy Polamalu.  After playing in just 5 games in 2009 Polamalu should be a prime candidate for comeback player of the year.  Look for him to be very active against the Falcons rushing attack that will be led by Michael Turner. The rest of the Steelers starting secondary will be comprised of Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor and Bryant McFadden.  Clark has shown to have value from the DB spot and should be a good bet for DB3 numbers with a bit of upside this week.


Miami at Buffalo

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Cameron Wake
3 STAR
Yeremiah Bell
Karlos Dansby
2 STAR
Tim Dobbins
1 STAR
Channing Crowder
Sean Smith
Vontae Davis
Chris Clemons
Kendall Langford
Jared Odrick

DolphinsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2007-2009 Away:  49
2000-2009 Versus Bills: 52

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Channing Crowder (groin) did not practice all week and is listed as Questionable on the injury report. Crowder is not expected to play this week.

Defensive Line: The Dolphins 3-4 scheme makes it hard to rely on their DLs for solid and consistent fantasy production.  I will easily pass on this bunch especially against what should be an anemic Bills offensive attack.

Linebacker: Karlos Dansby is the new man in town at LB for the Dolphins and he should continue to be as productive as he was when he was in Arizona.  Channing Crowder is slated to man the other ILB spot next to Dansby but he has yet to practice this week due to what is listed as a groin injury.  Even in the deepest of leagues Crowder should be benched this week.  If Crowder isn't able to go it looks like it will be Tim Dobbins taking his place. At one of the OLB spots will be Cameron Wake and while I normally have a hard time recommending a guy like Wake that relies heavily on sacks I see him having a big game versus the Bills.

Secondary:  Outside of Yeremiah Bell there isn't much to get excited about in the Dolphins secondary.  Especially against what should be an offensive offense of the Bills.

5 STAR
Paul Posluszny
4 STAR

None

3 STAR

Donte Whitner
Terrence McGee
Andra Davis

2 STAR

Drayton Florence
Chris Kelsay
Dwan Edwards

1 STAR
Marcus Stroud
Kyle Williams

BillsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  47
2007-2009 Home:  48
2000-2009 Versus Dolphins: 46

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Kawika Mitchell (foot) and Reggie Torbor (chest) have both been ruled OUT for this week.

Defensive Line:  Aaron Schobel was once a no brainer start at DE for the Bills but Schobel is now retired and the Bills have also changed from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme.  That means another team that is basically going to be useless to fantasy players when it comes to their DL.

Linebacker: Last year Paul Posluszny missed four of the first five games due to a broken arm.  Still he was able to finish strong for his owners and ended up ranking 16th among all LBs.  Looking a bit deeper at the numbers and you will see the Posluszny averaged 18.50 PPG which was second only to Patrick Willis and his 18.88 PPG average.  I still expect Posluszny to be just as productive in the Bills new 3-4 as he was in their 4-3 last year.  Starting next to him will be Andra Davis who played in the 3-4 last year for the Broncos.  Look for Davis to be a solid LB3 this year. Second year OLB Aaron Maybin looks like he would be a very good fit as at OLB but has yet to impress and isn't even starting yet.

Secondary:  Initially it looked like second year FS Jarius Byrd was going to miss week 1 due to injury but the injury report shows that he has practiced fully both Wednesday and Thursday.  Byrd makes for a risky play in tackle heavy leagues but in big play leagues his nose for the ball just about makes him a must start.  Donte Whitner will be manning the SS spot and should provide good production against the Dolphins this week.


Carolina at NY Giants

5 STAR
Jon Beason
4 STAR

Richard Marshall

3 STAR
Charles Johnson
Dan Connor
Chris Gamble
2 STAR
Charles Godfrey
Sherrod Martin
James Anderson
1 STAR
Jamar Williams
Everette Brown
Tyler Brayton
Greg Hardy

Panthers Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2007-2009 Away:  48
2000-2009 Versus Giants: 56

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: The Panthers will be looking to replace Julius Peppers at DE but that is far easier said than done. As it stands now look for Charles Johnson to be a solid starter at one of the DE spots.  The other spot looks like it will be manned by a rotation of Everette Brown, Tyler Brayton and rookie Greg Hardy. If one of those three can step forward and take the majority of snaps then the Panthers could have two DEs that are fantasy relevant but until then it looks like the three will zap each others fantasy value.

Linebacker: Last year I started calling Jon Beason, Jon "Beaston", and as far as I am concerned that is how he should always be referred to.  The difference in Beason's game this year is that he will be wreaking havoc from the WLB spot instead of his normal MLB position.  In case you weren't paying attention the reason fo the move is because Thomas Davis again tore his ACL.  The Panthers have yet to put Davis on IR in hopes that he could return later in the season but color me doubtful.  Taking over for Beason at MLB will be Dan Connor.  Connor should be able to provide at least LB3 type numbers with some upside while he is starting at MLB. James Anderson will be the starter at SLB.  The guy to keep an eye on his Jamar Williams.  If Connor falters or gets hurt that could lead to Beason moving back to MLB and Williams taking over at WLB.

Secondary:  Look for Richard Marshall to not only be the leading fantasy play in the Panthers secondary but to also make a push to breakthrough and into the top 10 of all DBs. Last year he finished ranked 13th so it isn't a stretch to expect a top 10 performance.  In CB mandatory leagues he is easily a top 3 CB.  Outside of Marshall I am not sure if there is another player in the Panthers secondary that will provide reliable fantasy production on a week to week basis.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Justin Tuck
Kenny Phillips
3 STAR

Michael Boley
Keith Bulluck
Jonathan Goff
Mathias Kiwanuka

2 STAR

Aaron Ross
Antrel Rolle
Corey Webster

1 STAR
Osi Umenyiora
Jason Pierre-Paul

GiantsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2007-2009 Home:  50
2000-2009 Versus Panthers: 46

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Aaron Ross (foot) was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as Doubtful on the injury report.    Not that it is much of a difference but bump him down from a 2 star play to a 1 star play.

Defensive Line:  While many teams are thin at the DL position that is not the case for the Giants.  The Giants will be led by Justin Tuck who is a top tier DL play again this year.  Last year Tuck finished as the #3 overall DL and that was playing injured for a good stretch of games too. The offseason was sort of tumultuous for Osi Umenyiora and at a point it looked like he might not be a Giant this year.  But a trade never materialized and Umenyiora will help to anchor the Giants DL but it won't be as the starter.  Mathias Kiwanuka will be the starter and should have value as a DL2 this year.  Umenyiora will still see rotational snaps and could post a nice sack total this year but in tackle heavy leagues he will be a risky play.  Rookie Jason Pierre-Paul looks like he will be a special player one day but for now his fantasy value is on taxi squads for dynasty leaguers.

Linebacker:  One of the big questions this offseason was who would play MLB for the Giants and the answer to that question is Jonathan Goff.  Goff is going to be flanked at OLB by Keith Bulluck and Michael Boley so don't expect Goff to post numbers like Antonio Pierce did in his early days with the Giants.  I like Boley as a sleeper to break into the top 10 at LB this year but the addition of Bulluck very well could make that a difficult feat.  This week all three should be solid starts against what should be a heavy running attack by the Panthers.

Secondary: Kenny Phillips looks to be healthy and will resume his starting SS position.  I was hesitant to rank Phillips so high this week but when I saw he isn't even listed on the injury report and that he was told by the coach he was "penciled in" to start I just I can't see how I can't rank him as a 4 star play.  Antrel Rolle will be manning the FS position and with his penchant for the big play is a much safer play in leagues that reward that type of scoring over a tackle heavy system.


Green Bay at Philadelphia

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Clay Mathews
3 STAR

Nick Barnett
Charles Woodson

2 STAR

AJ Hawk
Brandon Chillar
Nick Collins
BJ Raji
Tramon Williams

1 STAR
Morgan Burnett
Ryan Pickett
Cullen Jenkins

Packers Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2007-2009 Away:  50
2000-2009 Versus Eagles: 50

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line:  The Packers DL play a vital role in the success of their 3-4 but that doesn't mean there is any fantasy value to be found.

Linebacker: Nick Barnett will end up being the best fantasy option among the Packers LBs this year and he should be a solid play this week versus the Eagles too.  However, the best play at LB for the Packers this week should be Clay Mathews. Mathews is another of those big play OLBs that relies on sacks to make his bones but the Eagles offensive line looks to be in shambles and that should bode very well for the second year LB.

Secondary: Last year in week 1 I didn't even rank Nick Collins and a subscriber asked how I could not even rank Collins a 1 star play when he was the 2nd ranked DB in his league last year.  My answer was simple, it was all about scheme.  I cited some numbers for former FS under Dom Capers and sure enough when the season ended Collins had a poor year ranking 76th among DBs.  And his season end tackle numbers were close but didn't exceed the best numbers put up by Capers former FS's.  So this year should bring more of the same.  Collins will pull down some INTs but will not be nearly consistent enough to warrant starting at DB. At CB Charles Woodson was nothing short of stupendous last year both NFL and fantasy wise.  I doubt that Woodson will be able to repeat last years performance but he should have no problem putting up consistent starting DB numbers again.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Quintin Mikell
Stewart Bradley
3 STAR
Trent Cole
Ernie Sims
Ellis Hobbs
2 STAR

Nate Allen
Asante Samuel
Brandon Graham

1 STAR
Akeem Jordan

EaglesAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  50
2007-2009 Home:  51
2000-2009 Versus Packers: 49

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: In Trent Cole the Eagles have one of the premier DEs in the NFL and fantasy.  This year the Eagles added rookie Brandon Graham to the mix and if he plays as well as he did in the preseason then that should help Cole to put up even better numbers than he has in the past.  Graham may have nailed down a starting job but I still look for the Eagles to use a fair amount of rotation thus probably killing Graham's fantasy value.

Linebacker: The Eagles sorely missed Stewart Bradley last year.  Bradley looks to be back to form from his torn ACL and ready to lead the Eagles defense again.  Bradley should have no problem providing his owners with LB2 numbers with upside to finish as a LB1.  Newly acquired Ernie Sims will be starting at WLB and if he can stay healthy, a big if for Sims then he could end up as a solid LB3 this year.

Secondary: The leading tackler in the secondary for the Eagles will once again be Quintin Mikell.  Mikell may not be a special elite type safety but he will still have no problem putting up DB2/3 type numbers this year.  In leagues that reward return points Ellis Hobbs should be a very nice play from his starting CB spot.  Rookie Nate Allen will be starting at FS and it will be a wait and see to figure out if he can put up the type of numbers that Brian Dawkins used to put up from the FS position for the Eagles.


Arizona at St. Louis

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Daryl Washington
3 STAR
Adrian Wilson
Calais Campbell
Darnell Dockett
2 STAR
Clark Haggans
Joey Porter
Paris Lenon
1 STAR
Kerry Rhodes
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Greg Toler

Cardinals Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2007-2009 Away:  49
2000-2009 Versus Rams: 50

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: The Cardinals play a 3-4 defense but the difference is that they actually have fantasy relevant DLs.  Yes I said DLs, plural.  Both Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell should be safe plays at DL this year.  This week I like both versus the rookie QB of the Rams.

Linebacker: Last year the Cardinals LBs were led by Karlos Dansby but he is long gone to Miami.  So that mean that this year the Cardinals will have a new sheriff in town at LB and that new sheriff is going to be in the form of rookie Daryl Washington. Rolando McClain looks like he will be the #1 rookie LB this year but Washington will also be a very reliable fantasy option. A 4 star ranking versus the Rams might seem like a stretch and it very well could be but I am on of the few that think the Rams can pull off a win this weekend and that would mean that Washington and the rest of the defense should actually face a fair amount of tackle opportunities.  Outside of Washington I wouldn't want to rely on Paris Lenon or Clark Haggans as a fantasy starter.  Joey Porter will try and cause problems for opposing QBs but don't expect to see him post consistent fantasy numbers.

Secondary: Adrian Wilson is a rare talent and while he won't put up the type of numbers he did a few years ago he should put up DB2 type numbers at the very worst.  Gone is former FS Antrel Rolle but replacing him is former Jet, Kerry Rhodes. If the Cardinals use Rhodes as a true center fielder at FS then don't expect him to put up very good fantasy numbers.  I am airing on the side of caution with Rhodes this week but I will keep an eye on how the situation plays out.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

3 STAR

James Laurinaitis
Oshiomongo Atogwe
Chris Long

2 STAR
Larry Grant
James Butler
Craig Dahl
Ronald Bartell
1 STAR
James Hall
Bradley Fletcher
Na'il Diggs

RamsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  48
2007-2009 Home:  50
2000-2009 Versus Cardinals: 49

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

James Butler (knee)
was limited in practice all week and is listed as Probable on the injury report.

Defensive Line:  Look for Chris Long to take a big step forward to fantasy relevance this year.  During the latter part of last year it looked as if Long was not only finally "getting it" but also getting results too. I look for Long to provide solid DL2 value with some upside this year.  But outside of Long there isn't another DL on the Rams squad that I would put in my starting lineup.

Linebacker:  James Laurinaitis may not be an elite athlete but you don't always have to be to be a viable fantasy producer.  Laurinaitis was able to finish last year as the 12th ranked LB and there is no reason to think he can't at the very least repeat that performance.  He surely won't have much competition for tackles while being flanked by Na'il Diggs at SLB and Larry Grant at WLB.  Grant could be a nice play in deeper leagues but he has very limited upside.

Secondary:  Both safeties for the Rams should provide good value this year but the problem is that the only one we can bank on at the present is Oshiomongo Atogwe. James Butler should be the other starter but he has been limited in practice this week by a knee injury.


San Francisco at Seattle

5 STAR
Patrick Willis
4 STAR

None

3 STAR
Michael Lewis
Dashon Goldson
Justin Smith
2 STAR
Takeo Spikes
Shawntae Spencer
Nate Clements
1 STAR
Manny Lawson
Parys Haralson

49ersAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  45
2007-2009 Away:  43
2000-2009 Versus Seahawks: 46

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Ahmad Brooks (lacerated kidney)
has been ruled OUT for this week.

Defensive Line:  The Niners are another of the many teams that play a 3-4 but unlike many of the other teams they have Justin Smith who is actually a decent play at DL.  Outside of Smith you can easily ignore all other Niners DL.

Linebacker:  All that really needs to be said is that Patrick Willis is a stud.  The Seahawks probably don't provide a very good matchup this week but that doesn't matter as Willis will find a way to get his numbers.  If you are looking help from the rest of the Niners LBs, well I wouldn't. 

Secondary: The Niners secondary was led last year by Dashon Goldson and his top 5 DB ranking.  Just like the other top 5 from last year I would be cautious with Goldson.  Remember he has basically twice the chance to finish ranked in triple digits as he does in the top 5 again.  I would look at him more in the DB2/3 range to be safe.  Expecting more probably isn't wise.  Michael Lewis will once again start at SS as he was able to hold off rookie SS Taylor Mays.  Lewis should be good for DB3 type numbers this week.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Lofa Tatupu
David Hawthorne
Earl Thomas
Lawyer Milloy

2 STAR

Chris Clemons
Aaron Curry
Kelly Jennings
Marcus Trufant
Brandon Mebane

1 STAR
Red Bryant

SeahawksAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2007-2009 Home:  50
2000-2009 Versus Niners: 55

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: Get this, the starters at DE for the Seahawks this year will be Chris Clemons and Red Bryant.  Clemons could surprise but for week 1 I would leave both Clemons and Bryant on the bench.  In DT mandatory leagues you can take a look at Brandon Mebane.

Linebacker:  The Seahawks LBs are easily the strong point of their defense but trying to figure out exactly who will have the most fantasy value isn't going to be easy.  Lofa Tatupu has been a top IDP option in the past but injuries have zapped some of his luster.  Then there is second year LB Aaron Curry who has a ton of talent but could see his fantasy value stymied by playing SLB.  David Hawthorne has made plenty of noise in the past when filling in for Tatupu but will now get the chance to do so at WLB due to the suspension of Leroy Hill.  My money is on Hawthorne keeping his starting gig and ending up as the most valuable Seahawks LB this year too.

Secondary:  Talk about a disparity in age, at one safety spot will be 36 year old Lawyer Milloy (SS) and the other will be manned by 21 year old rookie Earl Thomas.  Thomas should be a nice playmaker for the Seahawks but look for Milloy to have the better fantasy value this year.  Kelly Jennings and Marcus Trufant will be the starters at CB but both are far from reliable consistent fantasy performers.


Dallas at Washington

5 STAR

None

4 STAR
None
3 STAR
DeMarcus Ware
Bradie James
Gerald Sensabaugh
2 STAR

Keith Brooking
Jay Ratliff
Anthony Spencer

1 STAR

Allan Ball
Terance Newman
Sean Lee

CowboysAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2007-2009 Away:  50
2000-2009 Versus Redskins: 49

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Gerald Sensabaugh (shoulder) was able to practice fully all week but is listed as Probable on the injury report. He should be good to go versus the Redskins.

Defensive Line:  The DL for the most part are just an afterthought when it comes to fantasy football.  That is except for Jay Ratliff who is a strong play in DT mandatory leagues.  For those in that type of league you should bump Ratliff up to a 3 star play this week.

Linebacker: DeMarcus Ware is easily the best the Cowboys have at LB, unfortunately he normally makes for a risky start in tackle heavy leagues.  This week versus a divisional opponent I fully expect Ware to have a good fantasy day.  Bradie James will once again man one of the ILB spots for the Cowboys and while he isn't a sexy play he should be a solid starter in most leagues.  Keith Brooking is getting long in the tooth and at some point this season I wouldn't be surprised to see rookie Sean Lee relieving Brooking more often than not.

Secondary:  The Cowboys secondary doesn't present much fantasy value but Gerald Sensabaugh should be a guy that can be spot started in some weeks.  And this week looks like one of those weeks.  Rookie safety Akwasi Owusu-Ansah looks like he will be a primary kick returner and if he can find a way to work his way into the starting lineup could prove to have nice value in return leagues.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
London Fletcher
LaRon Landry
3 STAR

Carlos Rogers
Brian Orakpo

2 STAR

Andre Carter
Rocky McIntosh

1 STAR
Albert Haynesworth
Phillip Daniels
Reed Doughty

RedskinsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2007-2009 Home:  51
2000-2009 Versus Cowboys: 48

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line:  Another one bites the dust, thanks to the 3-4 defense that is.  Last year Andre Carter finished as the #2 ranked DL but this year due to the Redskins move to a 3-4 he is now playing OLB. That means his fantasy value has gone up in flames.  You can't talk about the Redskins DL without mentioning Albert Haynesworth who has been all over the sports news this offseason.  Unfortunately, none of it has been for positive things.  Haynesworth has the type of talent that could have fantasy value in a 3-4 but until we see him show the heart that he needs to you have to leave him on your bench.

Linebacker:  London Fletcher is another one of the elder statesmen in the NFL but his play has yet to show his age.  Some may be worried about his production with the change in scheme but I am not worried.  Look for Fletcher to continue to rack up tackles just like in previous years.  Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo will be the starters at OLB and while both have the ability to get to the QB neither will be consistent enough to be looked at as starters in tackle heavy leagues. 

Secondary:  The big change in the Redskins secondary is that LaRon Landry is going to be used as a true SS.  We already know that Landry is a big hitter and now he should be able to be as big a hitter for fantasy owners too.  I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Landry finish as a top 5 DB this year.  Reed Doughty is starting again this year but only due to injury. Since he will be playing FS don't expect him to put up the type of numbers he did last year.


Baltimore at NY Jets

5 STAR
Ray Lewis
4 STAR
Jameel McClain
3 STAR
Terrell Suggs
2 STAR

Dawan Landry
Jarrett Johnson
Haloti Ngata
Kelly Gregg

1 STAR
Tavares Gooden
Chris Carr
Tom Zibikowski
Cory Redding

Ravens Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  52
2007-2009 Away:  50
2000-2009 Versus Jets: 53

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: Terrell Suggs is another one of those few DLs that are in a tier all alone when compared to other DLs.  Suggs is listed as a LB in some leagues but over the past few season he has played the majority of his snaps with his hand down from the DE position.  If Suggs is a LB in your league than you should always down grade him at least 1 star level if not 2 in most cases.  Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg both have the ability to be very nice plays in DT mandatory leagues.

Linebacker:  Ray Lewis might be losing a step as he ages but the one thing he won't ever lose is his intensity or leadership qualities.  Lewis should once again be one of the top LBs in the league and this week is a very strong play against what should be a very run heavy attack versus the Jets.  While many probably thought that Tavares Gooden would be starting at WLB next to Lewis it is actually Jameel McClain that won the WLB job in training camp.  McClain is a sleeper that has the chance to put up LB2 numbers this year.  In larger leagues he should easily be rostered and looked at as a weekly starter.

Secondary:  Ed Reed is a player like Lewis that brings plenty of intensity and leadership skills but unfortunately for the Ravens he will start the season on the PUP.  That will leave Dawan Landry and Tom Zibikowski to start at the safety positions. In deeper leagues Landry could be looked at as a DB3/4 type player. Due to injuries the Ravens looked to have issues at CB and is one of the reasons they recently traded for CB Josh Wilson from Seattle.  But according to the injury report second year CB Ladarius Webb is practicing fully and my assumption is that he will start at CB this week.  Wilson will see the field but I doubt he will be a full time starter.  If you are in leagues that reward return points then he is a player worth keeping an eye on.

5 STAR
David Harris
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Bart Scott
Shaun Ellis
Jim Leonhard
2 STAR
Kris Jenkins
Darrelle Revis
Jason Taylor
Antonio Cromartie
Kyle Wilson
1 STAR

Eric Smith
Brodney Pool
Bryan Thomas

JetsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2007-2009 Home:  51
2000-2009 Versus Ravens: 49

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Calvin Pace (foot) has been officially ruled OUT this week.


Brodney Pool (ankle) missed practice on Thursday but returned on Friday in a limited fashion.

Defensive Line: The Jets of course play a 3-4 defense and outside of Shaun Ellis their DL has very little fantasy value.  Much of that comes from the fact that the Jets blitz so much to get pressure on opposing QBs.  Kris Jenkins is back and healthy and should be bumped up to a 3 star play in DT mandatory leagues.

Linebacker: Bart Scott is an important part of the Jets defense and that is why Coach Ryan brought Scott with him last year when he took over as the Jets HC.  However, with regards to fantasy it is Davis Harris that is the key IDP.  Harris should once again be very productive in the Jets aggressive attacking style of defense.  And he should be plenty busy this week versus the Ravens improved offensive attack.  With Calvin Pace out due to injury we will get a chance to see if Vernon Gholston can turn into an impact defensive player.  While he might I doubt he will be able to reach a reliable fantasy level.

Secondary:  Jim Leonhard is a heady player that plays with plenty of heart and he should be the most productive DB in the Jets secondary.  Sure Darrelle Revis is back and is by far t he best talent in the secondary but that doesn't equate to big fantasy points.


San Diego at Kansas City

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Stephen Cooper
Eric Weddle

2 STAR
Darrell Stuckey
Quentin Jammer
Antoine Cason
Shawne Merriman
Shaun Phillips
Kevin Burnett
Brandon Siler
1 STAR

Luis Castillo

ChargersAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2007-2009 Away:  47
2000-2009 Versus Chiefs: 49

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Shawne Merriman (achilles) was limited in practice on both Thursday and Friday.

Defensive Line: The Chargers 3-4 scheme doesn't offer fantasy value for it's DL.

Linebacker: Stephen Cooper may not be one of the better known names in fantasy football but he should be able to be a solid LB2 this year.  This week he barely sneaks in as a 3 star play because the Chiefs offense doesn't look like it will provide many tackle opportunities.  Next to Cooper the Chargers will use both Kevin Burnett and Brandon Siler.  If either can nail down the majority of snaps then they will have the ability to be fantasy relevant.  Until then unless you are in a fairly deeper league I would leave both on the bench.

Secondary:  Last year Eric Weddle missed three of the final five games and that was a large reason he ended the season ranked as the 37th overall DB.  However, if you look at his PPG average of 12.69 you would see that he ranked 15th in PPG among DBs.  This year if he can stay healthy he should still be able to put up DB2 type numbers.  One of my sleepers to watch this year at DB is rookie Darrell Stuckey. If Stuckey comes out putting up big numbers he should be a waiver wire target.  In dynasty leagues he should already be rostered.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Eric Berry

3 STAR
Derrick Johnson
Brandon Flowers
2 STAR

Jovan Belcher
Brandon Carr
Tamba Hali
Mike Vrabel

1 STAR
Glenn Dorsey
Tyson Jackson
John McGraw
Kendrick Lewis
Javier Arenas
Demorrio Williams
Corey Mays

ChiefsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2007-2009 Home:  49
2000-2009 Versus Chargers: 51

Notes: Star rankings are currently based of stats from 2007-2009. Starting in week 4, data from this year will be used.

Defensive Line: The Chiefs DL have very little fantasy value.  If you are thinking about starting Glen Dorsey or Tyson Jackson you had better be in a very deep league.

Linebacker: The season hasn't even started yet and the Chiefs merry-go-round has already started at LB.  During the preseason it looked like Demorrio Williams and Corey Mays would be the starting ILBs but that isn't the case now.  After the preseason concluded it was made known that Derrick Johnson and Jovan Belcher would be the starting ILBs.  Johnson surely has a ton of talent and could put up viable fantasy numbers on a week to week basis but there is a ceratin amount of risk associated with him due to the way that Coach Haley likes to play merry-go-round with his LBs.  It is a situation that is definitely worth keeping an eye on just make sure you realize the risk that the situation also carries.

Secondary: With a weak front 7 I fully expect rookie safety Eric Berry to make a big splash at the DB position this year.  The Chiefs should see an above average number of tackle opportunities this year and that could easily vault Berry to a top 5 finish at DB.  Last year Brandon Flowers had a pretty nice fantasy year finishing as the 27th overall DB and that was with missing week 1.  Also it should be pointed out that after the bye last year Flowers scored double digit points each and every week.  In CB mandatory leagues I easily see Flowers as a top 5ish player this year.  Last year he was the #6 overall CB.


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