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IDP Game Breakdowns - Week 6
Steve Gallo
October 15, 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 this years stats.  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. For specific lineup questions please be sure to visit our IDP Forum.  Good luck & enjoy!

Team Avg TOs
Given Up
Year To Date
Avg TOs
Faced
Year To Date
Defensive
Scheme
Defensive
Coordinator
Fantasy Relevant IDPs
ARZ 40 56 3-4 Bill Davis Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington, Greg Toler, Paris Lenon
ATL 60 45 4-3 Brian VanGorder Kroy Biermann, John Abraham, Curtis Lofton,
Sean Weatherspoon
BAL 52 42 3-4 & 4-3
Greg Mattison Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain, Dwan Landry
BUF 41 58 3-4 George Edwards Paul Posluszny, Andra Davis, Donte Whitner,
Dwan Edwards, Kyle Williams
CAR 43 55 4-3 Ron Meeks Charles Johnson, Jon Beason, James Anderson,
Dan Connor, Charles Godfrey
CHI 46 48 Tampa 2 Rod Marinelli Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije, Brian Urlacher,
Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings
CIN 52 46 4-3 Mike Zimmer Dhani Jones, Nedu Ndukwe, Leon Hall (CB mandatory leagues)
CLE 48 50 3-4 Rob Ryan TJ Ward, Scott Fujita, Kenyon Coleman
DAL 55 43 3-4 Wade Phillips Jay Ratliff, Bradie James
DEN 53 49 3-4 Don Martindale DJ Williams, Mario Haggan, Brian Dawkins
DET 50 51 4-3 Gunther Cunningham Kyle Vanden Bosch, Louis Delmas
GB 47 48 3-4 Dom Capers BJ Raji (DT mandatory leagues), Desmond Bishop,
Clay Mathews (injured), Charles Woodson, AJ Hawk
HOU 51 52 4-3 Frank Bush Mario Williams, DeMeco Ryans, Bryan Cushing,
Bernard Pollard
IND 55 49 Tampa 2 Larry Coyer Gary Brackett, Clint Session, Antoine Bethea,
Robert Mathis
JAX 53 48 4-3 Mel Tucker Aaron Kampman, Kirk Morrison, Justin Durant (injured), Daryl Smith
KC 48 49 3-4 Romeo Crennel Derrick Johnson, Eric Berry
MIA 51 49 3-4 Mike Nolan Karlos Dansby, Yeremiah Bell
MIN 49 49 4-3 & Tampa 2 Leslie Frazier Jared Allen, EJ Henderson, Chad Greenway,
Antoine Winfield
NE 51 54 3-4 Bill Belichick &
D-Staff
Jerod Mayo, Patrick Chung
NO 53 48 4-3 Gregg Williams Will Smith, Roman Harper, Jonathan Vilma,
Sedrick Ellis (DT mandatory leagues)
NYG 53 47 4-3 Perry Fewell Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka (injured), Antrel Rolle, Kenny Phillips, Terrell Thomas
NYJ 51 44 3-4 Mike Pettine Sione Pouha (DT mandatory leagues), Shaun Ellis,
David Harris, Jim Leonhard
OAK 53 48 4-3 John Marshall Trevor Scott, Richard Seymour (DT mandatory leagues), Rolando McClain, Tyvon Branch, Matt Shaughnessy, Michael Huff
PHL 50 51 4-3 Sean McDermott Trent Cole, Stewart Bradley, Ernie Sims, Quintin Mikell,
Elis Hobbs (CB mandatory leagues with return points), Nate Allen
PIT 46 52 3-4 Dick LeBeau James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, Lawrence Timmons,
Troy Polamalu,
SD 54 43 3-4 Ron Rivera Stephen Cooper, Kevin Burnett, Paul Oliver,
Antoine Cason
SEA 44 55 4-3 Gus Bradley Earl Thomas, Lawyer Milloy, Lofa Tatupu, Chris Clemons
SF 47 52 3-4 Greg Manusky Justin Smith, Patrick Willis, Dashon Goldson, Taylor Mays,
Nate Clements
STL 53 48 4-3 Ken Flajole James Laurinaitis, Oshiomogho Atogwe, James Hall,
Bradley Fletcher
TB 49 47 Tampa 2 Raheem Morris Gerald McCoy (DT mandatory leagues) Stylez White Barrett Ruud, Geno Hayes,
Aqib Talib (CB mandatory leagues)
TEN 48 55 4-3 Chuck Cecil Jason Babin, Stephen Tulloch, Alterraun Verner
Chris Hope, Michael Griffin
WAS 44 57 3-4 Jim Haslett London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh, LaRon Landry, DeAngelo Hall

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

BYE WEEK TEAMS: ARIZONA, BUFFALO, CAROLINA & CINCINNATI

Miami at Green Bay

5 STAR
Yeremiah Bell
Karlos Dansby
4 STAR
Jason Allen
3 STAR
Cameron Wake
2 STAR

Channing Crowder
Vontae Davis
Chris Clemons

1 STAR
Sean Smith
Kendall Langford
Quentin Moses
Randy Starks
Jared Odrick (injured)
Bobby Carpenter
Tim Dobbins

DolphinsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2000-2009 Versus week 4 opponent: 53

Notes: Star ranking boxes are now color coded based on tackle opportunities given up by opponent for the 2010 season.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Channing Crowder (groin) was able to practice fully all week and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: I still support my earlier statements that the Dolphins DL are just not fantasy relevant but figured I would back that up with some additional stats for this week.  The Dolphins have only had 2 DL (Kendall Langford & Quentin Moses) that have posted more than 2 combined tackles all year long. Langford posted 2 solos, 3 assists and a sack in week 2 and then in week four logged 6 solo tackles.  Moses also did his damage in week 2 where he posted 4 solos and 1 assist.  To make matters worse the Packers have only given up more than 3 solo tackles twice (Trent Cole 6-0-1 & Dwan Edwards 4-1-0, for those that aren't aware the 1st number is solos, 2nd is assists and 3rd is sacks) to opposing DL.  As far as sacks go, the Packers have given up 5 sacks to opposing DL but 5 of those 3 were in week one to Trent Cole (1) and Juqua Parker (2).

Linebacker: When it comes to the Dolphins LBs basically all you are talking about is Karlos Dansby.  Outside of a freakish game versus New England Dansby has posted at least 8 combined tackle in every game.  Considering that they are facing below average tackle numbers that is even more impressive.  As far as the Packers go they have been a very good matchup for opposing LBs. Some of you might be scratching your head considering that Rocky McIntosh and London Fletcher were each only able to log 2 solos but don't forget to notice that they also logged 5 assists each.  I would chalk that up to the Washington scorekeeper and not let that jade my view of the Packers for opposing LBs.  Channing Crowder has a chance to actually play in this week's game but color me skeptical and even if he does I need to see him on the field performing before he gets rated better than a 2 star play.  Cameron Wake is pretty much always going to be a slightly risky play due to his need for sacks so always keep that in the back of your mind when you see his rankings.  This week he faces a Packers team that has only given up 2.5 sacks (last week) to opposing LBs) but considering that he has recorded a sack in all but one game this year I felt compelled to make him a 3 star play.

Secondary:  The only thing that I can see hurting Yeremiah Bell's numbers this week is if Aaron Rodgers were to actually miss the game due to the concussion he suffered versus the Redskins.  My money is on Rodgers playing which is why I have Bell ranked as a 5 star play.  Jason Allen should also get plenty of action as long as Rodgers is under center too.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Desmond Bishop
3 STAR

Charles Woodson
AJ Hawk

2 STAR

Clay Matthews
Nick Collins
Frank Zombo
Tramon Williams

1 STAR
Ryan Pickett
Cullen Jenkins
Brandon Chillar
Brad Jones
BJ Raji
Nick Barnett (injured reserve)

Packers Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 47

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Nick Barnett (wrist) has been placed on season ending IR by the Packers.

Clay Matthews (hamstring) missed practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.

Defensive Line:  The Packers DL play a vital role in the success of their 3-4 scheme but offers little to no fantasy value.

Linebacker: Nick Barnett is still slightly in limbo with regards to his wrist injury.  He had surgery on Wednesday but the team hasn't ruled him out for the rest of the season yet.  At this point a best case scenario would probably be 8 weeks which would get Barnett back in time for the fantasy playoffs, but honestly I don't think we see Barnett play again this year.  If and when any confirmation comes out it will be posted in the Friday Injury Updates.  Until then look for Desmond Bishop to hold the most fantasy value.  Sure AJ Hawk has strung a couple of nice games together but I still stand by my fools gold statement from last week.  If and that is a big IF in my opinion, Hawk continues to put up numbers like he has the last two weeks I will be sure to recant and give an updated outlook. Between penalties and injury Clay Mathews owners were left saying, what could have been against the Redskins.  Mathews suffered a hamstring injury in the 2nd half last week and so far hasn't been ruled out for week 6 but it sounds like the odds are long that he will be able to play. Rookie Frank Zombo could see a slight bump in value with Matthews out but not enough to make him fantasy relevant.  Especially when you have to think the Dolphins will want to reign in their passing attack and get back to doing what they do best, run the football.

Secondary: Charles Woodson was a difficult player to rank this week.  Should the Dolphins continue their pass happy ways then he is ranked to low but if they do indeed commit to running the ball more then I think he is a slightly risky 3 star play.  But Woodson has a way to make things happen so that is why you have to keep him in your lineups.  Outside of Woodson I would take a pass on the rest of the Packers secondary.


San Diego at St. Louis

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Paul Oliver
3 STAR

Kevin Burnett
Shaun Phillips
Stephen Cooper
Antoine Cason

2 STAR
Eric Weddle
Quentin Jammer
1 STAR

Luis Castillo
Shawne Merriman
Brandon Siler
Darrell Stuckey
Steve Gregory (suspended)

ChargersAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 46

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Larry English (foot) has been ruled OUT for this week. 

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

Linebacker: While not much in the way of fantasy news I would be remiss if I didn't point out that the Chargers put Shawn Merriman on reserve-injured list and due to the type of injury they designated him with he will have to be released once healthy.  Of course the Chargers could re-sign him but I wouldn't bet on it.  Merriman hasn't really been the same in some time and has played his final game as a Charger.  Now onto the Chargers LBs that have fantasy relevance, Kevin Burnett, Stephen Cooper & Shaun Phillips (matchup dependant).  Burnett  believe it or not now ranks as a top 10 LB.  He is averaging just over 5 solos/game and in the past two weeks has recorded 4 sacks to help bolster his numbers.  The sacks can be looked at two ways, one being that without them he would have 16 fewer fantasy points and rank just outside the top 25 and the other was is that adding some sacks to his box scores will just be added icing on top of the cake (tackles).  Stephen Cooper was hindered earlier this year by injury but appears to be healthy again but at this point it doesn't look like he will be the best LB option as that goes to Burnett. When there is a perceived good matchup to get to the QB that is when you can look at getting Shaun Phillips into your lineups.  This week facing rookie QB Sam Bradford it looks like Phillips should be in for a solid week.  Looking at the first 5 weeks shows that 4 rush OLBs had very nice games against the Rams.  Kamerion Wimbley (4-1-1), Brian Orakpo (5-1-1) & Julian Peterson (7-4-1) all were able to get to Bradford while still posting decent to great tackle numbers.  Peterson might be getting up there in age but he can still bring it but I would highly doubt that we will see Phillips log 11 combined tackles this week.

Secondary: Last week in his debut as the starting SS Paul Oliver didn't disappoint those that grabbed him off the waiver wire.  All Oliver did was post a very solid 14 fantasy points on a 6-2-0 stat line.  As for fellow safety Eric Weddle it was another subpar outing where he didn't break double digits in fantasy points scored.  With how much the Rams will most likely need to put the ball in the air this weekend I would also look for Antoine Cason to have a solid game too.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

James Laurinaitis
Oshiomongo Atogwe

3 STAR

James Butler
Bradley Fletcher

2 STAR
Craig Dahl
James Hall
Chris Long
Ronald Bartell
1 STAR
Na'il Diggs
Larry Grant

RamsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  48
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 53

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

Defensive Line:  Just when it looked as if James Hall and Chris Long were getting ready to turn up the dial for fantasy owners after posting a combined 27.5 fantasy points in week 4 all they did was combine for a putrid 5 total fantasy points between them.  When you add in that opposing DL versus the Chargers have been very hit or miss it is easy to see with how miss or miss (yes that is what I meant to type) Long can be that he should be left on fantasy benches this week.  As for Hall at least has gets the occasional hit but to be safe make him keep Long company on the bench.

Linebacker:  Considering the Lions put up 44 points on the Rams last week you would probably have expected more from MLB James Laurinaitis then the 11 fantasy points on a 4-3-0 day than you got.  Well what that scored doesn't show is that the Rams defense actually saw a below average number of tackle opportunities last week.   This week he should be a pretty good 4 star play as his floor is probably 5-6 solos and his upside could approach double digit tackles.  The only thing I wouldn't bank on is many assists this week as the Rams official scorer doesn't give out many assists at all.  On the year he has only awarded a total of 30 assists in 3 home games and that is for the Rams and their opponents combined.  No player has logged more than 2 assists in a game either.

Secondary:  Vincent Jackson might be missing from the Chargers passing attack but it sure isn't slowing Phillip Rivers down any.  Look for the Chargers passing attack to make Oshiomongo Atogwe a very good play this week and believe it or not I actually see some upside in his 4 star ranking too.  Bradley Fletcher should also continue to build the solid season he is putting together. Only once has Fletcher failed to score in double digits this year.  James Butler has battled the injury bug and has been up and down.  This week he should see the up instead of the down.


Baltimore at New England

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Ray Lewis
3 STAR
Dawan Landry
Terrell Suggs
Haloti Ngata
Fabian Washington
2 STAR

Chris Carr
Jameel McClain
Jarrett Johnson
Kelly Gregg

1 STAR
Tavares Gooden
Tom Zibikowski
Cory Redding

Ravens Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  52
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 46

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Tavares Gooden (shoulder) has been ruled OUT for this week. 

Haloti Ngata (knee) was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: I am sure that there are many fantasy owners that aren't exactly ecstatic with the performance of many of the Ravens studs, including Haloti Ngata and Terrell Suggs.  But what you have to realize is that the Ravens have faced the least tackle opportunities/game in the NFL this season.  That makes Ngata's 3rd ranking and Sugg's 9th ranking among DLs all the more impressive.  This week they face a Randy Moss-less Patriots team but that shouldn't stop the Patriots from giving the Ravens defenders an above average amount of tackle opportunities this week.  However the tough part of the matchup is that Tom Brady is one of the harder to sack QBs in the game.  Also, Ngata is fighting a knee injury and missed practice on Wednesday because of it.

Linebacker:  While the limited tackle opportunities haven't really affected the DL much it has had a bigger impact on the LBs.  Ray Lewis is currently sitting as the 21st ranked LB and when considering the circumstances that isn't so bad. And to look at it a bit differently with as bad as the tackle opportunities have been for Lewis all he would have needed to do was record just one more solo and assist per game and he would be a top 5 LB. This week look for Ray to have one of if not his best game of the year.  And if you are hurting at LB you might be able to pry Lewis away from an owner that is frustrated that he isn't completely living up to expectations. Jameel McClain is just the opposite of Lewis in that his numbers are horrible and until he can see an increase in tackle opportunities his production will remain limited.  As much as I wanted to rank McClain a 3 star play this week I just couldn't do it.  I think it was much more prudent to rank him a 2 star play which gives him some upside and also point out that he could be used as a bye week filler if you are really in a bind.

Secondary:  Dwan Landry doesn't get the press that Ed Reed did in the Ravens secondary but that is understandable because Reed really was one  of the best safeties of all time.  But that doesn't mean that Landry hasn't been productive because he has.  This week I see him as a very nice 3 star play with some upside. Of course talk is starting about Reed returning to the lineup in week 7 after he comes off the PuP and that should be expected with a star like Reed. What shouldn't be expected is for Reed to be much of a fantasy play at all.  Over the past two years (29 games played) only 41% of the time has Reed scored double digit fantasy points.  In tackle heavy leagues he is an even riskier play since he has only posted 5 solos or more in just 5 games over that same time frame which equates to just 11.1% of his games.  If you expand out to his past 4 years it doesn't get much better as he only posts 5 or more solos in 16% of his games which is equal to 10 times in his last 69 games.  So basically I am saying don't bother trying to nab Reed off your wavier wire.  I am sure his leadership will be a boon for the Ravens but banking on fantasy production wouldn't be a wise proposition. 

5 STAR
Patrick Chung
Jerod Mayo
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Devin McCourty
2 STAR

Tully Banta-Cain
Brandon Meriweather
Darius Butler
Vince Wilfork

1 STAR
Gary Guyton
Kyle Arrington
Brandon Spikes
James Sanders
Rob Ninkovich
Jermaine Cunningham
Gerard Warren
Mike Wright

PatriotsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  55
2000-2009 Versus week 4 opponent: 52

Notes: Star ranking boxes are now color coded based on tackle opportunities given up by opponent for the 2010 season.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

James Sanders (hamstring) was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: The Patriots 3-4 scheme limits the fantasy value of their DL and therefore none of their DL are safe starts.

Linebacker:  Quick easy and to the point, if you are a Jerod Mayo owner get him in your lineup this week.  Over the past two games the Ravens have given up 15 total tackles to each opposing teams top LB (Timmons & Williams) and in the previous 3 games each opposing teams top scoring LB (Barton, Jones & Scott) logged 9 combined tackles.  Look for Mayo to be closer to the 15 than 9 total tackles this week.  Outside of Mayo you should pass on each and every other Patriots LB.

Secondary:  Patrick Chung put on a show in the teams last game which just happened to be on MNF. Chung has been a pure stud this year and that is how he should continue to be looked at.  However, it is worth pointing out that due to a blown assignment that Chung was benched for a portion of that MNF game.  So there is some risk that if Chung makes any mistakes that he could find his way to the bench again but the thing I found encouraging was how he bounced back from being benched in that game to make some very big plays. 


Cleveland at Pittsburgh

5 STAR
TJ Ward
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Eric Barton
Scott Fujita
Joe Haden
Kenyon Coleman

2 STAR

Ahtyba Rubin
Eric Wright
Sheldon Brown
Matt Roth
Abram Elam
David Bowens
Chris Gocong

1 STAR

Robaire Smith
Shaun Rogers

BrownsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  45
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 42

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Robaire Smith (back) missed practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.

Kenyon Coleman (knee) after missing practice on Wednesday was able to return in a limited fashion to practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Shaun Rogers (elbow) missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday but practiced in a limited fashion on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: Short, sweet and to the point, there really is no consistent fantasy value on the Browns DL that is unless you are in a DT mandatory league.  If that is the case then this week you can look at Ahtyba Rubin and bump him up one level.  And because Ben Roethlisberger is returning from a league imposed suspension for his first action of the year I am going to go out on a limb and project Kenyon Coleman as a 3 star play since I think that Ben could struggle a bit with the "clock" that QBs have in their head.

Linebacker: With D'Qwell Jackson on IR fantasy owners were looking for someone to step up to pick up the slack with Jackson out.  Unfortunately that has really not happened.  Eric Barton only posted double digit fantasy points in weeks 2 and 3 and has been very disappointing the last two weeks.  Conversely, Scott Fujita has been a bit of a pleasant surprise as he has posted double digit fantasy points the last four weeks. Neither really makes for a safe solid plays except in deeper leagues but this week I think that both should fare very well against the Steelers rushing attack.

Secondary: Rookie TJ Wards looks like he is the one making the most of D'Qwell Jackson not being in the starting lineup.  Ward currently ranks 8th among DBs and has scored double digit fantasy points in every game so far.  That shouldn't change this week either.  The scary part is that there is still some upside for Ward as the Browns have only faced an average of 50 tackle opportunities/game.  I know that most would have probably expected the Browns had faced many more TOs but there are those times where reality doesn't match perception.

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

SteelersAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  52
2000-2009 Versus week 4 opponent: 54

Notes: Star ranking boxes are now color coded based on tackle opportunities given up by opponent for the 2010 season.  Over their past 7 games on twice have the Steelers defenders faced more than 39 tackle opportunities against the Browns.  In their last 21 matchups they have only faced 51+ tackle opportunities versus the Browns just 4 times.

Defensive Line: Not only does the Steelers scheme limit their DL fantasy value but the Browns OL has been nothing short of great this season.  Don't expect any of the Steelers DL to make any worthwhile noise in the box score this week.

Linebacker:  As noted above the Browns OL has been playing lights-out this year and that could make things difficult for the Steelers LBs.  Well at least for James Harrison and Lamar Woodley who are their rush OLBs. For the year the Browns have given up just 1 sack to a LB (Keith Rivers).  The other thing is that if history has anything to do with this matchup the lack of tackle opportunities will make things that much more tough going and not just for Harrison and Woodley but also for Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior.  I see this matchup being so bad when you factor in the historical averages that I came very close to making Lawrence Timmons a 2 star play.  I know in the end that there is no way that fantasy owners will be able to bench him but just understand that he has a very low ceiling this week and an even lower floor.

Secondary: I also went back and forth on my ranking of Troy Polamalu this week.  If the Browns indeed need to start Colt McCoy that could be good and bad for Polamalu.  With McCoy starting the offense could see many 3 and outs but the one saving grace is that Polamalu knows how to take advantage of a QBs mistakes and with McCoy under center he could very well pick off multiple passes.  But in the end I just think there is to much risk to start Polamalu this week. The same goes for the rest of the secondary too.


Kansas City at Houston

5 STAR
Derrick Johnson
4 STAR

Eric Berry

3 STAR
Brandon Flowers
Brandon Carr
2 STAR

Tamba Hali
Mike Vrabel
Jovan Belcher
Javier Arenas
Glenn Dorsey

1 STAR
Tyson Jackson
John McGraw
Kendrick Lewis
Demorrio Williams
Corey Mays

ChiefsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 54

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Tyson Jackson (knee) practiced fully all week but is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: Well it looked like Tyson Jackson was going to get back on the field last week but that changed when inactives were announced.  This week Jackson practiced fully so unless there is a setback he should be able to actually make it on the field this weekend against the Texans.  That doesn't mean that he will have any real fantasy value but that doesn't mean that the Chiefs don't miss him.

Linebacker: Derrick Johnson currently ranks 10th in PPG among LBs and has only scored less than double digit fantasy points once (9 pts) this year.  The Texans have given up some very big games to opposing LBs so I look for Johnson to have a fantastic game this week.  A 20+ point outburst is what I am expecting.

Secondary: The Texans have also given up some major points to opposing secondaries this year.  I know that rookie Eric Berry hasn't lived up to expectations yet but this week look for him to make a big bang in the box score.  Not only Berry but both Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr should put up very nice numbers.

5 STAR
Bernard Pollard
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
DeMeco Ryans
Brian Cushing
2 STAR
Mario Williams
Zac Diles
Glover Quinn
Eugene Wilson
Kareem Jackson
Troy Nolan
Mark Anderson
1 STAR
Antonio Smith
Darryl Sharpton
Xavier Adibi
Amobi Okoye

TexansAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2002*-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 45
*1st year in the NFL .

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Mario Williams (shoulder) missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday but practiced in a limited fashion on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Brian Cushing (knee), Demeco Ryans (groin) & Bernard Pollard (neck) are all listed as PROBABLE on the injury report. They are all expected to play on Sunday.

Defensive Line: Mario Williams has been very up and down so far this year but if you own him you can't really sit him.  This matchup looks to be a 3 star matchup at best but Williams has a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday and those two reasons are why I have him currently as a 2 star play.

Linebacker: Brian Cushing made his season debut last week and it was a fine debut as he posted a very respectable 14 fantasy points as he logged 4-5-0 with 1 pass defended in the box score.  DeMeco Ryans wasn't adversely affected by Cushing's return to the lineup as he posted 19 fantasy points and now sits as the #6 overall LB.  Zac Diles value got hammered by Cushing's return as he posted a season low 8 fantasy points.  I wouldn't go cutting Diles just yet as a knee injury kept Cushing from practicing on Wednesday.  Of course you will need to check back for the Friday Injury Update about this situation. As far as this week's matchup I have both Cushing and Ryans as 3 star plays because only two LBs (Willis & Session) have logged more than 5 solos versus the Chiefs this year.

Secondary:  While the Chiefs have been stingy for the most part to opposing LBs the same can't be said for opposing DBs.  Starting strong safeties are averaging just under 8 combined tackles versus the Chiefs this year.  Factor in that Bernard Pollard is averaging over 10 combined tackles/game and 18.2 fantasy PPG it is easy to see why he is a 5 star play this week. Don't forget that Pollard once played for and was cut by the Chiefs, yeah I think he will have a little bit extra to prove this week.


Detroit at NY Giants

5 STAR
Louis Delmas
4 STAR
Julian Peterson
3 STAR

Ndamukong Suh
Jonathan Wade
Chris Houston
CC Brown

2 STAR
Kyle Vanden Bosch
Alphonso Smith
Zack Follett
1 STAR
Cliff Avril
DeAndre Levy (injured)

LionsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  46
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 49

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

DeAndre Levy (ankle, groin) has been ruled OUT for this week.

Landon Johnson (concussion) was only able to practice on Friday this week and even that was in a limited fashion, he is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Louis Delmas (groin) was limited in practice all week but is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: The Giants have been a mixed bag for opposing DLs this year.  In two games they gave up multiple sacks to the starting DEs but in the other 3 games they haven't given up any sacks to any DL and have given up limited tackles too.  With Kyle Vanden Bosch having cooled off lately it makes for an easy recipe to rank him as a 2 star play.  The only DL on the Lions that I think is a safe start is rookie Ndamukong Suh.  He may not get to Eli Manning but he should be able to log 4-5 solos this week.

Linebacker: Julian Peterson is one heck of a talent but normally he isn't much of a fantasy factor since he is far to inconsistent when it comes to tackles.  Well this past week he had a huge week and when a player like Peterson is hot it is best to try and ride out that wave.  Understand that there is plenty of risk associated with Peterson's 4 star ranking this week.

Secondary: As long as the poor play at LB continues I look for Louis Delmas to continue putting up top 10-15 numbers.  This week he should be in for a very strong week against the Giants strong passing attack.  CC Brown has tailed up horribly the past two weeks but I am looking for a bounce back week versus the Giants.

5 STAR
Justin Tuck
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Osi Umenyiora
Terrell Thomas
Kenny Phillips
Antrel Rolle

2 STAR

Aaron Ross
Corey Webster
Jonathan Goff
Michael Boley

1 STAR
Jason Pierre-Paul
Keith Bulluck
Mathias Kiwanuka (injured)

GiantsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 53

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Mathias Kiwanuka (neck) has been ruled OUT for this week.

Osi Umenyiora (knee) missed some practice this week but he was able to practice fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Kenny Phillips (knee) was limited in practice all week and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line:  As of this writing it is unknown if the Giants will be facing Shaun Hill or Matthew Stafford.  But I don't think it really matters because Justin Tuck is going to continue doing what Justin Tuck does and that is rack up fantasy stats and make life miserable for opposing QBs.  If I were coach Scwartz I think I would hold Stafford out this week and throw Hill into the fire.  While Mathias Kiwanuka has been out due to injury Osi Umenyiora has been on fire.  All that Umenyiora has done this year is to log 5 sacks which in turn four have been "strip sacks" where Umenyiora has forced fumbles.  Four of those 5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles have occurred the past two weeks while Kiwanuka has been out.

Linebacker:  As hot as the Giants DEs have been is how erratic their LBs have been for fantasy purposes.  Michael Boley has shown flashes but his value week to week is dictated by the many different looks the Giants are running.  As it stands now if you aren't in an extremely deep league you shouldn't be starting any of the Giants LBs.  On the injury front Keith Bulluck who is fighting a toe injury made his way back to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday.

Secondary: For the most part the Lions haven't been the best of matchups for opposing DBs this year. Believe it or not it isn't Antrel Rolle or Kenny Phillips that has been the best fantasy DB for the Giants but Terrell Thomas. Considering that opposing safeties have had moderate success against the Lions I can only see ranking Rolle and Phillips as 3 star plays this week but neither has much upside beyond that ranking.  Thomas however is a 3 star play too but I do see some upside with him this week.


Atlanta at Philadelphia

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Curtis Lofton
Brent Grimes
Kroy Biermann
John Abraham
Thomas Decoud

2 STAR

Sean Weatherspoon
Stephen Nicholas
Dunta Robinson
Mike Peterson
Eric Coleman
William Moore
Jonathan Babineaux

1 STAR
Jamaal Anderson

FalconsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  50
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 49

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Sean Weatherspoon (knee) missed practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

John Abraham (back) was limited in practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Curtis Lofton (knee) practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

 

Defensive Line: Kroy Biermann saved his fantasy week in high fashion last week when he tipped a pass, then fell to the ground to intercept it and was able to then get up and rumble into the end zone for a score. That one play accounted for 10 of his 14 fantasy points last week.  Don't get me wrong I am not knocking how Biermann scored because as fantasy owners all we care about is the bottom line but with that said I wouldn't put as much into it and say that he is out of his early season funk either. For those keeping score at home those 14 points were just 5 points shy of his season total entering week 5. John Abraham may not have made ESPN's top 10 plays but he surely put together a nice box score this past week too.  His 4-1-2 stat line was good for 15 fantasy points and he was also the first DL to post multiple sacks in a game against the Browns this year.  Going against a Philly team that has issues on their OL both players look like good bets to have nice games again.  If it weren't for their early season trials and tribulations I would probably rank one of both of Biermann and Abraham as 4 star plays but I decided that a 3 star ranking with a very good amount of upside was the more prudent ranking to give them.  In DT mandatory leagues Jonathan Babineaux has proved to be a solid play if you start at least two DTs.  This past week his 7 fantasy points put him right on the cusp of what a top 12 DT averages.  Babineaux has the talent to make the most of this matchup versus a banged up Philly OL but in combined DT/DE leagues I just see to much risk in ranking him above a 2 star play.

Linebacker: ILBs have been hit or miss versus the Eagles so far this year but when you have a player the caliber of Curtis Lofton you plug him into your lineup and hope that he is more hit than miss on a week like this.  I am also sure that many Lofton owners were hoping for a slightly better season than you have gotten so far.  When you look at the rankings you see that Lofton ranks 13th in fantasy scoring with a 15.20 PPG average but what you don't see is that he has done that while facing the 5th fewest tackle opportunities in the NFL this year.  So look for Lofton to turn it on as his tackle opportunities are sure to increase a the season progresses.  That also gives hope that if Sean Weatherspoon can avoid being hindered by his sprained knee for an extended amount of time that he should be able to improve on his 30th overall ranking among LBs.  This week that sprained knee has kept him out of practice on Wednesday and his 2 star ranking is a hedge due to the injury.  If it is announced that he will be able to play I would bump him up to a 3 star play and if he can't go then I recommend bumping Stephen Nicholas up to a 3 star play instead.  Make sure that you realize that if you do start Weatherspoon that there is some added risk as he could very easily end up re-aggravating his knee and not be able to finish the game. 

Secondary:  For the season no Falcons DB ranks higher than 64th (Thomas Decoud) and with the low tackle opportunities they have faced it isn't very surprising to see them rank so low.  With that said at least second year strong safety William Moore has been able to string together three solid performances of 12, 13 and 12 fantasy points.  Against the Eagles look for Moore to continue his 12+ point trend.  With how poorly the rest of the Falcons have scored it is easy to see why Brent Grimes, Thomas Decoud and the rest of the secondary don't warrant anything better than a 2 star ranking.  It also doesn't help that as much as the Eagles throw the ball that they haven't really given up much to opposing DBs.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Trent Cole
Stewart Bradley
3 STAR
Quintin Mikell
Nate Allen
Ernie Sims
Asante Samuel
2 STAR

Brandon Graham
Ellis Hobbs
Moise Fokou

1 STAR
Akeem Jordan
Omar Gaither
Darryl Tapp
Broderick Bunkley (injured)

EaglesAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  50
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 48

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Broderick Bunkley (elbow) has been ruled OUT for this week.

Defensive Line: On Trent Cole's worst days he is still better than most DEs in the game today. Cole currently ranks 2nd among DEs in fantasy scoring and that is after 2 semi subpar games the past two weeks.  But even in those 2 weeks he was still just 1 solo from being a top 24 DL.  This week Cole should be able to put up in the neighborhood of 15 points with some upside.  While most DEs haven't fared very well, outside of Will Smith that is who posted 5-1-1 against the Falcons in week 3.  The other thing that helps Cole is that he plays the run well and the Falcons are giving up a league leading in rushing attempts per game with 36.  To put that into a bit of perspective, the Cardinals are giving up just 36.6 tackle opportunities/game when you combine their rushing attempts and pass completions. 

Linebacker: In case you weren't paying attention in the above DL section the Eagles LBs will be facing a Falcons team that is giving up a league leading 36 rushing attempts/game.  That is the main reason why Stewart Bradley has a 4 star ranking.  Ernie Sims should even find enough scraps to be a solid starter/bye week filler this week.  While not exactly much of a sample size the Falcons did give up 11 combined tackles to the only WLB in a 4-3 defense that they faced this year. That should make Sims owners a bit more warm and fuzzy about his 3 star ranking.

Secondary: It looks as if the Falcons should be a good matchup for the Eagles safeties this week as well as one of the CBs.  Since Asante Samuel should draw Roddy White I am giving him the nod as a 3 star player. As for the safeties, Quintin Mikell looks to be the safest value in the secondary and comes with a bit of upside to his 3 star ranking, while Nate Allen is the riskier play.  This week the matchup for Mikell should be good enough to keep solidly ranked in the top 10 of DBs.  Now when it comes to Nate Allen, at first blush you would think he is a very good 3 star play considering that he is averaging over 11 PPG and has scored double digit points in 4 of 5 games thus far.  However, if you dig a bit deeper into the numbers you will see that he hasn't been able to match or exceed his 5 solo tackle effort from week 1.  That means that Allen is sort of doing it with smoke and mirrors and by that I mean he is really relying on the big plays (3 interceptions & 1 sack) as well as passes defended (6) and that is why he is a riskier 3 star play this week.


Seattle at Chicago

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Chris Clemons
3 STAR

Earl Thomas
Lawyer Milloy
Lofa Tatupu
Red Bryant

2 STAR

Kelly Jennings
Aaron Curry
David Hawthorne
Walter Thurmond
Jordan Babineaux
Brandon Mebane

1 STAR
Colin Cole
Marcus Trufant

SeahawksAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2000-2009 Versus week 4 opponent: 51

Notes: Star ranking boxes are now color coded based on tackle opportunities given up by opponent for the 2010 season.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Brandon Mebane (calf) practiced in a limited fashion on Thursday but then missed practice on Friday, he is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Marcus Trufant (ankle) practiced fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: If ever DLs were going to lick their chops about a matchup this very well could be the one to do it for.  The Bears have given up a whopping 21 sacks (4.2/game) thru 5 games.  Yes the Giants got to them for 10 in one game but you can't overlook the fact that the Mike Martz offensive system puts his QBs at risk of being sacked in bunches.  With Cutler coming off a week where he didn't play due to a concussion he could be a bit rusty and tentative and that all adds up to good things for the Seahawks DL.  I am looking for Chris Clemons to be the best play among the Hawks DL and was very close to ranking him as a 5 star play but in the end figured that a 4 star ranking was a safer bet and also gives him some built in upside.  If you are in deeper leagues and have Red Bryant sitting on your bench I would look to get him into the lineup this week too and in DT mandatory leagues I would even bump Brandon Mebane up to a 3 star play.

Linebacker:  For the most part the Seahawks LB crew hasn't done much to crow about this year.  Of the bunch, Lofa Tatupu has been the most consistent, yet unspectacular and as it stands now is the only LB I can recommend starting.  We all know that Aaron Curry and David Hawthorne are very talented LBs but until we start seeing them consistently rack up fantasy points they should remain firmly entrenched on your bench.

Secondary:  We all know that Jay Cutler has a penchant for forcing the ball into spots that he shouldn't and if he does that this week look for rookie playmaker Earl Thomas to make him pay.  Thomas has been extremely active in his short stint as a starter and this week the probability of a big play is definitely up there.  There have been some rumblings that Lawyer Milloy could see a decrease in his snaps played to help keep him fresh and healthy so he comes with a bit of risk but as it stands now Milloy is playing well and racking up plenty of fantasy points.  Believe it or not but Milloy is on pace for 88 solos and 22 assists.  I highly doubt he keeps up that pace but ride him while you can.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Brian Urlacher
3 STAR

Israel Idonije
Julius Peppers
Charles Tillman

2 STAR
Chris Harris
Danieal Manning
Tim Jennings
1 STAR
Nick Roach
Zackary Bowman
DJ Moore
Charles Grant
Lance Briggs (injured)

BearsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  48
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 53

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Lance Briggs (ankle) missed practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report. Bump Briggs down to a 1 star play because it doesn't look good for him this week due to his injury.

Charles Tillman (calf) practiced fully on Friday but is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line:  Well last week didn't quite pan out like I expected it but the end result was basically the same.  The only difference was who was getting to the QB, not that he wasn't being gotten to.  I really expected Julius Peppers to be the one hammering rookie Jimmy Clausen but instead it was Israel Idonije that did the hammering.  Peppers did have a spectacular interception of his own batted ball and still posted good fantasy points. But it was Idonije who made himself comfortable getting to know Clausen up close and personal as he sacked him 3 times.  Well that is until the Elias Sports Bureau published their scoring changes for the week and bumped Idonije down to 2.5 sacks as they awarded Brian Urlacher a half sack instead.  Both Peppers and Idonije should be in line for a solid week but an increased focus on the running game by the Seahawks could limit their sack opportunities.  And for those wondering what to make of Idonije, I say he has very nice upside and should be a solid DL2 at worst the rest of the way. Much of the added value comes from the fact that the Bears released Mark Anderson and that he won't be sharing many snaps now.  Get him off your waiver wire if he is still there.

Linebacker: Throw out all the trends for the LBs that have faced the Seahawks to date because they now have a shiny new toy (RB) in Marshawn Lynch.  Look for Pete Carroll to get Lynch heavily involved with running the football this week.  Especially if he wants to keep his QB out of a body bag.  So with all that in mind look for Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher to have very nice weeks.

Secondary: The Bears secondary has been pretty meh so far this year.  Charles Tillman changed to what was supposed to be the less productive fantasy side at CB, yet he is the highest ranking Bears DB and the only one to score in double digits each week so far.  Next in line is Danieal Manning but he has been inconsistent at best and makes for a risky start unless you are in much deeper leagues.  I am sure that there were fantasy owners that were thrilled that Chris Harris ended up with the Bears this season but now I think the only owners that are excited about that are the ones that weren't able to acquire him.  Harris has been nothing short of a major disappointment and at such a deep position shouldn't even be considered for a starting spot in fantasy lineups.


New Orleans at Tampa Bay

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Jonathan Vilma
Jabari Greer
2 STAR

Roman Harper (injured)
Malcolm Jenkins
Patrick Robinson
Sedrick Ellis
Jo-Lonn Dunbar
Scott Shanle
Remi Ayodele
Alex Brown
Jeff Charleston

1 STAR
Junior Galette
Danny Clark
Leigh Torrence
Tracy Porter (injured)
Will Smith (injured)

SaintsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:53
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 49

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Will Smith (groin) practiced in a limited fashion all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Roman Harper (hamstring) missed practice on Wednesday and then was limited on Thursday and Friday, he is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line:  Will Smith owners have to be wondering what has happened considering the year that Smith had in 2009.  So far he has only one double digit fantasy output and is now also suffering thru a groin injury that limited him in practice on Thursday. He hasn't been ruled out for this week yet but he also couldn't commit to playing when asked about this weeks game.  But Smith isn't the only DL in New Orleans that has disappointed.  Alex Brown is someone that many (including myself) had pegged as a DL2 or better for this year.  Yet Brown has been even worse than Smith and is averaging under 5 PPG.  I would leave both on the bench this week.  When coupled with their poor play, health and the fact that over the past two games no opposing DL has logged more than 1 solo against the Buccaneers it is easy to see why I have such a view.  Actually over the past two games the best performance by a DL against the Bucs belongs to Robert Geathers who posted just one solo and one assist in week 5.

Linebacker: Jonathan Vilma fits the bill of a LB that isn't living up to expectations but is still holding his own as he ranks 17th among LBs in fantasy scoring. It should also be pointed out that thru 5 weeks the Saints are also seeing below average (48/game) tackle opportunities.  Vilma could struggle a bit this week since the Buccaneers haven't given up much in the way of tackles to opposing LBs.  Even Lawrence Timmons struggled a bit as he posted a 5-1-1 stat line against the Buccaneers. Vilma has been up and down with his tackle totals so far this year so there is some risk associated with his 3 star ranking.  In full disclosure I am sitting him for Desmond Bishop in one league but playing him over Stephen Cooper in another.

Secondary:   Roman Harper has been the best Saints DB for fantasy purposes this year and that even includes him not playing in week 4.  The problem this week is that he could possibly not play again due to a hamstring injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday.  He was able to practice on a limited basis on Thursday so we will get a better idea of his status for this week after the Friday Injury Report is released.  My best guess is that he will be listed as QUESTIONABLE and therefore will make for a risky start.  After Harper the next best DB is CB Jabari Greer who has scored in double digits in every game this year.  If you are in a CB mandatory league he makes for an even better play.  With Tracy Porter and Darren Woodson out of the lineup both Malcolm Jenkins and Patrick Robinson will see plenty of action but looking for a safe fantasy starter between the two is a bit of a risky proposition.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Ronde Barber
Geno Hayes
3 STAR

Barrett Ruud
Cody Grimm
Aqib Talib

2 STAR

Sean Jones
Gerald McCoy
Kyle Moore
Stylez White

1 STAR

Quincy Black

Buccaneers Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 48

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Kyle Moore (shoulder) missed practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: The Buccaneers DL have struggled big time this year and that is putting it mildly.  Let's just end this breakdown by saying to leave both on your benches.  Even in the deepest of leagues.

Linebacker: Owners are starting to show their frustration with Barrett Ruud as he hasn't come close to the top 5 type numbers that many were expecting from him. I expected that Ruud could see his production drop some with the Buccaneers changing their scheme back to the Tampa 2 but I didn't see the drop being this bad.  Even Geno Hayes is failing to live up to my lofty expectations of top 10 numbers for him.  One thing to point to is that the Buccaneers have faced below average tackle numbers.  The Saints offense has shown that it misses both Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush but they need to kick it up a notch and their passing attack could help to give the faster Hayes a shot at much better numbers this week. 

Secondary: Believe it or not but old man Ronde Barber is the leading fantasy scorer among the Buccaneers DBs.  He is coming off his worst performance of the year but against the Saints passing attack he should approach 15+ fantasy points this week. After Barber the rest of the DBs haven't done much but Cody Grimm and Aqib Talib have both put up double digits games in each of the past two weeks.  Both should continue that trend this week and each has a bit of upside with their 3 star ranking too.


NY Jets at Denver

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Jim Leonhard
Antonio Cromartie
3 STAR
David Harris
Shaun Ellis
Kyle Wilson
Calvin Pace
2 STAR
Sione Pouha
Bart Scott
Jason Taylor
Bryan Thomas
Darrelle Revis
1 STAR

Eric Smith
Brodney Pool
Mike Devito
Vernon Gholston

JetsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 39

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Darrelle Revis (hamstring) missed practice on Wednesday and practiced in a limited fashion on Thursday and Friday, he is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Calvin Pace (foot) missed practice on Wednesday and practiced in a limited fashion the rest of the week and he is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Jim Leonhard (biceps) practiced fully all week and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: When you combine the fact that the Broncos are averaging the 3rd most passing attempts/game and the 8th fewest rushing attempts/game it is easy to see that DT Sione Pouha is in for a tough week matchup wise.  Shaun Ellis isn't the best 3 star play this week but on the sheer amount of chances he will see  he should be able to put up 10 or more fantasy points.

Linebacker: It looks like David Harris owners are in for another not so great matchup.  On the one hand all key opposing LBs have recorded at least 5 combined tackles but only Stephen Tulloch has eclipsed 5 solos when he posted a 6-6-0 stat line in week 4.  While I think that Calvin Pace, Jason Taylor and even Bryan Thomas could make a ton of noise this week as they rush the QB I just can't look past the fact that the Broncos have only given up one sack to a LB (Daryl Smith) this year.

Secondary:  Jim Leonhard is one of those hard working kind of guys that are easy to root for and this week if you own him you should find it extra easy as he looks to be in line for a big week.  So far to date the only secondary to really struggle fantasy wise versus the Broncos was the Ravens.  With Darrell Revis still hindered by his hammy the Jets will need to rely much more on Antonio Cromartie like they did on Monday night and that should add up to a fair amount of opportunities for him to make plays and we all know what he can do if he gets the ball in his hands.

5 STAR
DJ Williams
4 STAR
Mario Haggan
David Bruton
3 STAR
Perrish Cox
2 STAR

Champ Bailey
Jason Hunter
Renaldo Hill

1 STAR
Ryan McBean
Justin Bannan
Jarvis Moss
Jamal Williams
Andre Goodman (IR)
Robert Ayers (injured)
Brian Dawkins (injured)

BroncosAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  50
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 60

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

The following have all been rule OUT for this week: Brian Dawkins (knee) , Robert Ayers (foot), Andre Goodman (injured reserve), Darcel McBath (ankle) and Wesley Woodyard (hamstring).

Mario Haggan (neck) was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday but practiced fully on Friday, he is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: The Broncos play the fantasy unfriendly 3-4 defense thus rendering their DL for the most part useless. 

Linebacker: Not only are the Jets rushing the ball an average of 32.6 times/game but they have given up some very nice games versus opposing LBs this year.  DJ Williams is back on track to meeting the expectations that owners had when they drafted him.  After posting consecutive single digit performances in weeks 2 and 3 Williams has bounced back to post consecutive 20+ point fantasy efforts.  Actually outside of weeks 2 and 3 all of his other games have gone for 20 or more fantasy points.  His 5 star ranking might be a bit of a reach but one that I think Williams should ultimately achieve.  Mario Haggan is a buy I like this week too and not just as a bye week filler but as a solid LB2 start this week.  Outside of Williams and Haggan there aren't any other consistent fantasy LBs. Last week Robert Ayers broke his foot and that allowed Jason Hunter to get into the game and post his fantastic week but I wouldn't look for a repeat of that performance anytime in the near future. Initially Ayers was expected to be done for the season but now reports are that he could be back in as soon as 6 weeks.

Secondary:  Big news in the Broncos secondary is that Brian Dawkins is out not for just this week but probably at least next week too.  His backup Darcel McBath will also miss this weeks game and that opens the door for David Bruton to take advantage of what should be a ton of playing time against the Jets.  Andre Goodman is also another injured DB for the Broncos but his injury has landed him on the IR.  Look for Perrish Cox to replace him in the starting lineup and playing opposite of Champ Bailey should also get him his fare share of passes thrown his way.


Oakland at San Francisco

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Tyvon Branch
Michael Huff
Rolando McClain
Richard Seymour
Matt Shaughnessy

2 STAR
Trevor Scott
Lamarr Houston
Quentin Groves
Kamerion Wimbley
Stanford Routt
1 STAR
Nnamdi Asomugha
Mike Mitchell
John Henderson (injured)

Raiders Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009: 47
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 46

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

John Henderson (foot) and Thomas Howard (knee) have both been ruled OUT for this week.

Quentin Groves (hamstring) practiced in a limited fashion all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line: Matt Shaughnessy is making the most of his time as a starting DE for the Raiders.  Prior to preseason Shaughnessy was looked at as a sleeper at the DE position but then the Raiders went and moved Trevor Scott back to DE and that looked to bump Shaughnessy back to the bench but injuries along the DL have changed that and so far so good.  That just means that Richard Seymour isn't currently the only Raiders DL to have fantasy value.  Seymour should be a very strong play in DT mandatory leagues this week.

Linebacker: Not much to get excited about with regards to the Raiders linebacking crew this year. Sure expectations were high for rookie MLB Rolando McClain but he has yet to seriously impress fantasy owners.  Still versus Frank Gore and the Niners rushing attack he should be good to go as a 3 star play.  Just hope you don't have to rely on him as a LB1 because at this point he only makes for a decent LB3.  That is until he can turn it up a notch and yes I do think that will eventually happen.

Secondary:  Tyvon Branch has uncharacteristically struggled to post tackles the past two weeks as he has only been able to log 5 solos over the past 2 games combined.  If it weren't for his defensive TD he would have suffered his second consecutive single digit fantasy week. Something that didn't happen at all last year.  But he did have 4 single digit performances last year and still ranked as the #2 overall DB.  So with him sitting at 18th overall among DBs there is still hope that he could get back to posting the types of big games that fantasy owners are used to seeing.  This week I think we need to see him break out of his two game tackle struggles before I can rank him above a 3 star play.  Of course that means that he does have some upside in his ranking too.  Michael Huff is right there with Branch when it comes to fantasy points but this difference is that no one really had those types of expectations of Huff coming into the season and that he has also seen his production increase for 3 consecutive weeks. 

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Patrick Willis

3 STAR
Dashon Goldson
Taylor Mays
Justin Smith
Nate Clements
2 STAR
Takeo Spikes
Navorro Bowman
Shawntae Spencer
1 STAR
Manny Lawson
Parys Haralson
Travis Laboy

49ersAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  45
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 64

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

Defensive Line:  Justin Smith not only had his best game of the year last week in a loss to the Eagles but he also logged his first 2 sacks of the season.  Smith is a player that has a motor that never stops running and I see him adding to his sack total this week.  That makes even more sense when you see that the only week the Raiders haven't surrendered a sack to opposing DLs was last week versus the Chargers.

Linebacker:  I know that Patrick Willis owners are probably a bit dismayed with his production to date but really there is nothing wrong with the 16 PPG he is averaging.  Sure it doesn't stand up to the 20 PPG but it isn't like he isn't within striking distance of the top ranking.  Keep plugging Willis into your lineup and don't even think twice about it.  Outside of Willis I think you have to pass on Takeo Spikes and well as Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson.  Sure Spikes posted a huge 17 point performance last week but I wouldn't read to much into that as Spikes best scoring fantasy days are well behind him.  Lawson and Haralson are just to inconsistent as OLBs to put any additional thought into them.

Secondary: While Taylor Mays is getting all the attention it really has been Dashon Goldson who has been the best Niners DB to date. Goldson has scored in double digits in 4 of 5 weeks and over his last 2 games he is averaging the same 15.5 PPG as Mays.  And remember that Mays had that huge game in week 4.  Both should be solid starts this week but if you are in a big play league I would probably then bump Mays up another level.  Nate Clements has also been pretty solid over the last few weeks but he does carry some risk as a 3 star play this week, especially if Jason Campbell is under center for the Raiders.


Dallas at Minnesota

5 STAR

None

4 STAR
Bradie James
3 STAR
Jay Ratliff
Keith Brooking
Gerald Sensabaugh
2 STAR

DeMarcus Ware
Anthony Spencer
Allan Ball
Mike Jenkins
Terance Newman

1 STAR

Sean Lee

CowboysAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  49
2002-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 56

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

Defensive Line:  If Brett Favre's elbow is a sore as he would like everyone to think then I would expect the Vikings to lean even more on Adrian Peterson this week and that should translate into a very good week for DT Jay Ratliff.  As for the rest of the Cowboys DL, take a pass and don't even think twice about them.

Linebacker: If you are trying to figure out how and why I have Bradie James ranked as a 4 star play it is a two fold reason.  First and foremost is that I do expect Adrian Peterson to carry a much heavier load this week and lastly the fact that James plays ILB in a 3-4 scheme bodes well when you realize that both David Harris and Karlos Dansby each put up a combined 9 tackles versus the Vikings.  James may not be the talent that Dansby and Harris are but he is far from chopped liver too.

Secondary:  A limited Favre will lead to a limited amount of opportunities for the Cowboys secondary.  If the Vikings hadn't added Randy Moss I would look for better numbers from Gerald Sensabaugh and his secondary mates.  Mainly because they would have been able to really stack the box but Moss being added to the mix will make the Cowboys have to play a more honest defense and limit the opportunities for the rest of the secondary..

5 STAR
Jared Allen
4 STAR
Asher Allen
Chad Greenway
3 STAR
EJ Henderson
Antoine Winfield
Madieu Williams
Ray Edwards
2 STAR
Ben Leber
Husain Abdullah
1 STAR
Tyrell Johnson
Jamarca Sanford
Pat Williams
Kevin Williams

VikingsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009: 52
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 43

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Chris Cook (knee) practiced in a limited fashion all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line:  This might be hard to believe but up until last week the Cowboys had yet to surrender a sack to an opposing DL.  But Jason Babin (2), Jason Jones (2) and Tony Brown (1) did their part in stopping that streak in a big way.  Jared Allen hasn't lived up to Jared Allen status but you just know that he is due for a big, big game and this week looks like it very well could be that game. And that big game better come soon because seeing Allen ranked as the 44th best DL isn't  a pleasant experience. Ray Edwards put up 16.5 fantasy points last week but for him to start putting up consistent numbers he is also going to need Allen to start producing.

Linebacker:  Will the Cowboys actually start to run the ball more with Felix Jones like has been hinted at?  Well, I can't say for sure but the one thing that I can say is that their coaching staff probably doesn't have that answer either. Yes that is a stab at the Cowboys coaching staff.  No matter if the Cowboys commit to their running game or not look for Chad Greenway to continue to build on his last four performances where he is averaging 14 PPG.  EJ Henderson looks like he is all the way back from the gruesome broken leg he suffered last year.  Henderson is currently the 14th ranked LB in fantasy points scored with 79 (15.8 PPG).

Secondary:  Last week when I saw Cedric Griffin get hurt his face said it all and sadly I expected that he tore his ACL. Losing Griffin will hurt as he has been a pretty underrated DB for the the Vikings. With that said, I was very disappointed to see Antoine Winfield only log 2 solo tackles.  A large part of that was due to the Jets picking on CB Asher Allen.  I would expect the Cowboys to do the same and thusly have ranked Allen what I consider a strong 4 star play.  Madieu Williams has also been pretty active over his last 3 games and I see him also having a nice game against the Cowboys.


Indianapolis at Washington

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Robert Mathis
Clint Session

3 STAR
Antoine Bethea
2 STAR
Gary Brackett
Kelvin Hayden
Jerraud Powers
Dwight Freeney
1 STAR
Phillip Wheeler

Colts Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  50
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 47

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Gary Brackett (groin) & Jacob Lacy (foot) were both limited in practice all week and are listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Antoine Bethea (hamstring) is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line:  About the only chance the Redskins have to not only win this game but to keep Donovan McNabb safe is if they can pound the rock and control the clock.  And while I think that will be the Redskins motive I doubt that they will be as successful as they would need to be.  So in short that means I expect Robert Mathis to still have enough chances to put up the necessary stats to make him a 4 star play.  If this were in Indy I would probably have ranked Dwight Freeney as a 3 star play but in Washington he won't have thousands of fans making it hard for the offense to hear the snap count.

Linebacker: Clint Session looks like his hamstring injury is finally behind him.  Last week he posted a combined 10 total tackles and this week he isn't even listed on the injury report.  He should be a very good play this week and has some upside if the Redskins are able to run the ball 30+ times.  But now that Session is healthy it is Gary Brackett that we will need to be monitoring the injury report about.  Brackett has missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday due to a groin injury.  Look for a Friday Injury Report Update on Brackett.  If he is able to practice fully and ends up probably I might consider bumping him up to a 3 star ranking but more than likely he will at best be limited on Friday and end up being QUESTIONABLE and a dreaded game time decision.

Secondary:  Antoine Bethea has been a pretty productive DB this year, that is outside of week 4.  This week Bethea will have an uphill battle to put up good numbers since for the most part opposing DBs have struggled to score well against the Redskins.  Outside of Bethea I would ignore the rest of the Colts DBs.

5 STAR
LaRon Landry
4 STAR
London Fletcher
DeAngelo Hall
3 STAR

Carlos Rogers
Kareem Moore

2 STAR

Rocky McIntosh (concussion)
HB Blades
Brian Orakpo
Lorenzo Alexander
Andre Carter

1 STAR
Albert Haynesworth
Phillip Daniels
Reed Doughty

RedskinsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 54

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Rocky McIntosh (concussion) missed practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

LaRon Landry (wrist) & Kareem Moore (knee) both practiced fully all week but are listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Defensive Line:  Washington plays a 3-4 defense that basically renders their DL useless in the realm of fantasy football.

Linebacker:  The big news surrounding the Redskins LBs this week is that evidently Rocky McIntosh suffered what is being called a mild concussion versus the Packers in week 5.  Mild or not the concussion is concerning not just for fantasy owners but for McIntosh too. As of this writing he has missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday and very well could end up not playing this week.  If you are a McIntosh owner I would definitely have an alternative plan to replace him on Sunday versus the Colts. Of course if McIntosh can't go that should mean good things for London Fletcher and I actually think I would look at bumping Fletcher up to a 5 star play if McIntosh can't go.

Secondary:  LaRon Landry has been lights out for much of the early season and at this point has cemented himself as a clear cut plug and play don't even think about DB. In addition to Landry being a super play I think that both DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers will have good week versus the Peyton Manning led passing attack of the Colts.


Tennessee at Jacksonville

5 STAR
Stephen Tulloch
4 STAR

Chris Hope
Jason  Babin

3 STAR

Alterraun Verner
Michael Griffin
Cortland Finnegan
Gerald McGrath

2 STAR

Will Witherspoon
Vincent Fuller
Colin Allred
Dave Ball

1 STAR
Jacob Ford
Jason McCourty
William Hayes

TitansAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009:  51
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 47

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Tony Brown (knee) missed practice on Thursday but was able to practice fully on Friday.

Jason McCourty (forearm) practiced fully on Thursday and Friday..

Defensive Line: Jason Babin might only be starting due to injuries but no matter the reason he is producing and while that is happening you should keep plugging him into your lineups. This week the Jaguars do present a pretty good matchup too.  The Jaguars have given up a sack to opposing DL in 3 of 5 games this year and Babin has had a sack in all but one week.  That all adds up to what should be a strong 4 star ranking.  Jason Jones made his presence felt last week as he logged his first 2 sacks of the season  Fantasy GMs that rushed out to put Dave Ball in their lineups surely weren't happy with his 2-1-0 stat line. With William Hayes working his way back into the lineup I wouldn't put much value on Ball. 

Linebacker:  Stephen Tulloch is a guy that I pegged prior to the season as someone that I thought could ascend into the top 10 of LBs.  Well currently he ranks 4th so he looks like he is going to give not just the top 10 a run but the top 5 as well.  Maurice Jones-Drew is dealing with some issues and if for some reason he can't play this week I would then drop Tulloch down to a 3 star play but if Jones-Drew can go the Jaguars will look to feed him early and often and that should lead to many Tulloch tackles.  What surprised me most last week was the performance of Gerald McGrath.  This week I don't think he has the best matchup but he has fresh legs and that should be good enough for him to log 5 solos and live up to his 3 star ranking.

Secondary: Last week I tackled the question of "who is Alterraun Verner" and why he would be a good fantasy play.  Well he sure didn't disappoint as he posted 20 fantasy points.  This week I am a bit bearish on him only due to the inconsistent Jaguars passing game.  For the most part this year opposing CBs haven't fared very well against the Jaguars but there are a few that have done just well enough for me to warrant ranking Verner a 3 star play this week.  Chris Hope should also be in line for a strong week as he should have no problem cheating up to  help play the run since the Jaguars passing game (note that I didn't say passing ATTACK) doesn't really scare anyone.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Daryl Smith
3 STAR
Gerald Alexander
Kirk Morrison
2 STAR

Aaron Kampman
Anthony Smith
David Jones
Rashean Mathis
Derrick Harvey
Justin Durant

1 STAR
Courtney Greene
Russell Allen
Sean Considine
Tyson Alualu
Terrance Knighton

JaguarsAverage Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up
2007-2009: 51
2000-2009 Versus week 3 opponent: 47

Notes: Star rankings are based off of average tackle opportunities given up by current week's opponent.

FRIDAY INJURY REPORT UPDATE:

Justin Durant (ankle) practiced in a limited fashion on Thursday but was participated fully on Friday. 

Sean Considine (hamstring) missed practice on Thursday but practiced in a limited fashion on Friday.

Aaron Kampman (ankle) was limited in practice on Thursday but returned to a full practice on Friday.

Defensive Line:  Aaron Kampman was able to help break the Jaguars DL out of their funk last week by posting 3-3-1.5 and a pass defended. As much as I would like to rank him a 3 star or better play this week the matchup just doesn't warrant it.

Linebacker:  On the injury front it looks like Justin Durant is getting past his ankle injury as he was at least able to practice on a limited basis on Thursday for the Jaguars.  Even if Durant starts this week I would be overly cautious and leave him on the bench for a week.  If you are looking for the best play among the Jaguars LBs take a look at Daryl Smith.  Smith has led the Jaguars in tackles in 3 of the their 5 games and the Titans have given up some very big games to opposing LBs this year.  Kirk Morrison has had some, let's call them "growing pains" since coming on board with the Jaguars.  He has shown some glimmers of hope but by not playing all 3 downs has made him a bit of a risk and severely limited his upside.  After saying all that I am sure it sounds like Morrison is a 2 star or worse play but I think that he should be a solid 3 star play this week.

Secondary: Sean Considine is once again not practicing due to his hamstring injury.  That means that Gerald Alexander should once again get a shot to put up decent fantasy numbers.  Since rejoining the Jaguars Alexander has put up back to back double digit fantasy efforts.  Outside of Alexander I doubt I would look for much out of the rest of the Jaguars DBs. Yes, David Jones has had some nice games this year but I think his opportunities will be limited against the Titans.


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