This is part 3 in the weekly IDP Game Breakdown series. The final part of this weekly series is a narrative that will explain what to expect in the upcoming game for each team's DL's, LB's and DB's. It also acts as a supplement to the star rankings (Part 2 of the weekly series) so that owners can see the reasoning and thought process that generated those star rankings. Also, Part 1 of this series is used as a major resource in writing the narrative for each positional breakdown. In addition, each teams breakdown will be preceded by that team's average tackle opportunities given up for the past three years.
Team Tackles Allowed | Player Star Ratings | Injury & Practice Report NEW
The IDP Game Breakdowns are based on a 12-team league with 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)).
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).
Tackle opportunity stats as well as other stats utilized in the breakdowns are derived from data provided by NFLData.com.
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!
Carolina at Chicago
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 47, 2009: 51, 2010: 46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 49, 2010: 54
Defensive Line: At the end of last season and thru the pre-season the Bears were actually running one of the more balanced offenses in the league. However, since week 1 that isn't exactly the case. For the season they are only running the ball 26% of the time. That means that Jay Cutler is dropping back on basically 3 out of 4 plays. When you factor that in with how many times Cutler finds himself on his back and you can see that this is a very good matchup for Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy. I leave you with one last juicy little tidbit, the Bears are giving up almost 5 sacks/game.
Linebacker: Jason Williams did in fact replace Thomas Davis in the starting lineup. Even with him not playing in the nickel he was able to have a productive week 3. This week against a Bears team that seems to have forgotten how to run the ball he will be a risky play. If the Bears keep their passing game as a focal point then nickle backer Thomas Williams could be a sneaky play for fantasy owners. As expected with Davis and Beason out, James Anderson is the one that has benefited the most. In week 3, he led the team in total tackles with 9 and for good measure he added a pass defended too. Anderson makes for a solid LB2 with upside and if you own him he should be in your lineup on a weekly basis. I am sure that dynasty owners were expecting more from Dan Connor, unfortunately, he is what he is, a 2-down thumper. As the starting MLB he only logged 1 more solo and assist than nickle linebacker Thomas Williams did. Connor is at best a matchup LB that you can plug in when the Panthers are facing a team that will run the ball a ton. That means you leave Connor on the bench this week.
Secondary: Charles Godfrey missed week 3 due to a concussion and as of this writing it is unclear if it will jeopardize his status for week 4 or not. Due to Godfrey's injury Jordan Pugh got the start at SS. Against a "challenged" Jaguars offense Pugh was only able to record 3 solo tackles. This week the matchup is better but until we know more about Godfrey both he and Pugh are to risky to plug into starting lineups. CB Captain Munnerlyn is a player I liked as a sleeper for this year and last week he showed some signs that he might just wake up for me. Munnerlyn led the Panthers secondary in tackles last week with 7, but like many players this year, his assists outnumbered his solos. What might surprise you is that even with the Bears throwing the ball so much they are in the bottom half of the league when it comes to giving up fantasy points to opposing DBs.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 48, 2009: 47, 2010: 47
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 53, 2009: 53, 2010: 49
Defensive Line: Julius Peppers didn't have a very good matchup last week but he still rewarded his owners with a 10 point fantasy performance. This week, Mr. Peppers get to chase rookie Cam Newton around. I think Mr. Newton is going to be surprised at the speed of Mr. Peppers. I expect the two to be formally introduced a couple of times this weekend. Last week the Panthers didn't give up a single sack, but consider the source, it was a challenged Jaguars DL at work. However, in the previous two weeks the Panthers gave up 4 sacks in each game, this week should be much more like those 1st two weeks. Israel Idonije isn't a guy you should be starting in 12 team leagues but in leagues 16 or larger he warrants starting consideration and this week I think you can run him out there. If the Panthers were running the ball like we expected they would then DT Henry Melton would have been a good play, but that isn't the case, so leave Melton on the bench this week.
Linebacker: I think this week is a risky week for Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs owners. Reason being, is that I think the Panthers offense will be severely limited this week and that means very few tackle opportunities for Urlacher and Briggs. I am not saying to sit either but don't be surprised if their tackles are limited this week. Urlacher does present more upside due to his nose for the football and the big play.
Secondary: This is going to be one of the few weeks that I suggest sitting Charles Tillman. Not to sound like a broken record but I think the Carolina offense will be severely limited this week in Chicago. Couple that with the injuries to both Chris Harris and Major Wright and it all adds up to a benching across the board. Tim Jennings, who by the way, has outscored Charles Tillman this year, also should be on your benches this week.
Buffalo at Cincinnati
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 45, 2010: 46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 49, 2009: 54, 2010: 56
Defensive Line: It is official, after 3 weeks the Bills defensive line is stinking up the joint. Kyle Williams has scored all of just 10 points on the season. Not what his owners were hoping for. That must mean that rookie Marcel Dareus has stepped up, nope, Dareus has just 14 points season to date. The leading scorer on the Bills DL is Dwan Edwards with an average of 5 PPG. Yeah, that is how bad it is. This week against a Bengals team that could be without RB Cedric Benson the Bills DL don't look to have a plush matchup. At this point in time, you have to bench Williams and the rest of the Bills DL.
Linebacker: I didn't think that Nick Barnett has much upside last week and even said that I saw a stat line that looked like a 5-2. Well, Barnett did much better than I expected, recording 7 solos and 7 assists. The 7 assists probably look shockingly high but don't forget that the Bills home scorer has historically given out an above average number of assists to Bills players. For the season only two teams, Indianapolis-32 and Washington-24, are recording more assists per game than the 20 the Bills are. However, this game is being played in Cincinnati and only two teams are giving up fewer solo tackles than the Bengals. To make matters even worse the Bengals could be without RB Cedric Benson so their offense could be even more challenged than it normally is. I have Barnett as a 3-star rated play this week but he just barely eked out 3-stars over a 2-star rating. Andra Davis is even a bigger risk this week and he should be on your bench - no matter how big your league is. A sneaky play could be Shawne Merriman in big play leagues, but I am not sure that I would even have the stomach for that.
Secondary: We already know that tackles will be at a premium this week so that limits the value of all the Bills DBs. Both George Wilson and Bryan Scott are playing in the majority of the Bills defensive snaps and their production is indicative of it. Surprisingly, Jarius Byrd has scored more points than Wilson and Scott. Of course with all the points that the Bills are putting up on the score board that means that teams have to throw the rock and that is benefiting the FS. This week Byrd is someone I would sit, I just have a feeling this is going to be a low scoring knock-down affair and that won't bode well for his fantasy production. Terrence McGee is still dealing with a hamstring injury and according to Joe Buscaglia of WGR550.com, won't play against the Bengals.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 48, 2009: 51, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 47, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? The answer to that paradox could possiblly be answered this weekend. OK, I admit that referring to the Bengals DL as unstoppable might be a bit much. However, the fact is that they have 3 DL ranked in the top 15 of DL in fantasy scoring. Michael Johnson ranks 9th and is the player that most would probably have guessed to be a top 15 DL for the Bengals. The other two players are Jonathan Fanene, 12th, and Domata Peko, 15th. Not exactly a murders row but they are getting it done. As far as this discussion goes, they compromise the unstoppable force. So what is the immovable object? Let's consider the Bills offense the immovable object. Why? Try this on for size, the Bills are attempting over 37 passes per game, but have only given up 1 sack so far this year. One other thing, they have attempted 92 consecutive passes without allowing a sack. Like I said, only time will tell what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, but my guess is that the immovable object wins this battle. Tough as it might be I think that you should bench the Bengals DLs this week.
Linebacker: The Bills might not be as stingy when it comes to giving up fantasy points to opposing LBs like they are to opposing DL, but that doesn't mean they aren't stingy. The Bills rank in the bottom 10 for points allowed to opposing LBs, that isn't as bad for Rey Maualuga as it is for his counterparts at DL, but that isn't saying much. If you want something to hang your hat on just look no further than the 7 solo, 3 assist game that Rolando McClain had against the Bills - Derrick Johnson didn't fare as well, posting just 5 solos. At least that shows that Maualuga should be able to be minimally productive with a small bit of upside this week. Thomas Howard will probably be pretty busy against the Bills passing attack and I could see him putting up a 4-2 or 5-0 line this weekend.
Secondary: The Bills might not be giving up many fantasy points to DL and LBs but that isn't the case at DB. At DB they are giving up the 7th most points to opposing DBs. In each game they have given up at least 8 total tackles to one DB. I am less than thrilled to give him a 4-star rating, but I think Reggie Nelson looks to be a strong play this week. Leon Hall's fantasy production started to tail off last year but this week I think that he too makes for a solid start. After all, someone is going to need to make tackles against the Bills.
Washington at St. loius
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 52, 2009: 49, 2010: 47
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 44, 2009: 50, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: Washington plays a 3-4 defense that basically renders their DL useless in the realm of fantasy football.
Linebacker: This weekend looks to be a lesson in, "how to make a situation worse". London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh aren't exactly lighting up the score board for fantasy owners. McIntosh has at least put up top 30 fantasy stats but Fletcher, after three straight 11 point performances, ranks 41st. One thing that can be attributed to the struggles of Fletcher is that the Redskins are averaging just 28 solo tackles/game, the fewest in the NFL. The put it in a bit of perspective, the Steelers are averaging the next fewest solos/game and they are still averaging over 21% more solos/game than the Redskins are. To make matters worse they are playing in St. Louis this week and only four teams are giving up fewer total tackles/game that the Rams are. So it is easy to see that the matchup isn't very good but I see the Rams really turning things up a notch this week. Plus the Redskins will be coming off of a short week. I have Fletcher and McIntosh as 3-star rated players and feel pretty comfortable with them putting up the stats to support those rankings.
Secondary: LaRon Landry' finally got back on the field, and he played 61 snaps to Reed Doughty's 8 snaps. That shows that he is healthy and the Redskins aren't slowly working him back into the mix. He didn't have a big game statistically but he looked good, quick and was hitting like a truck. This is what fantasy owners were waiting for, a healthy Landry to plug into their lineups. Do it this week and keep doing it all season long. The Rams are giving up the 3rd fewest points to opposing DBs so with that in mind it would make sense to keep DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and OJ Atogwe on the bench this week. However, I am bucking the numbers and rating all three of them 3-stars this week. I just have a gut feeling we see Sam Bradford throw for 300+ yards this week.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 47, 2009: 48, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 53, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: Chris Long is being Chris Long, inconsistent and unreliable as a fantasy starter. Long ranks 35th among DL, and that makes him nothing more than depth in 12 team leagues that start 2 DL. At best you are looking at a 10 point week from Long this week but with the down side he presents due to his inconsistency I have no problem giving him a 2-star play. James Hall had a great year last year but this year he doesn't even rank inside the top 50 of DL. Rookie Robert Quinn is a guy I really like but his value is in dynasty leagues only. Quinn has scored in just one game this season.
Linebacker: This week is an odd matchup for James Laurinaitis against the Redskins. First, he has to deal with his own home scorer who gives out very few assists. Second, only the Chargers are giving up more solo tackles to opposing teams than the Redskins are. So that is one plus and one minus for Laurinaitis' matchup. The lack of assists will limit his upside but the solos will make him a safe start.
Secondary: The Rams have two DBs that rank in the top 15 of their position. One is Quintin Mikell, who ranks 15th, and the other is CB Justin King, who ranks 5th. Yep, 5th. Now that is surprising. I think the Redskins are going to need to throw the ball to keep up in this game so both Mikell and King should continue their early season success.
San Francisco at Philadelphia
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 48, 2009: 45, 2010: 45
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 51, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: Facing an Eagles team that is in the top 10 in points surrendered to opposing DL could be just what Justin Smith owners were waiting for. Smith has been pedestrian at best since his week one 14 point game, and that is being nice considering he scored just 2 points last week. Ray McDonald had a 15 point week one performance that had many clamoring to pick him up off the waiver wire. I warned people that McDonald was basically a flash in the pan. Actually, this is what I wrote, "
I know people are just going gaga (not Lady Gaga) over what Ray McDonald did in week 1 but trust me, do not fall for it. McDonald will be lucky if he accumulates 15 fantasy points over his next 3 games.". After a 5 point game in week 2 and a goose egg last week, McDonald will need at least 11 points this week to make me wrong. I have been wrong on many things, many times in my past, but this one I feel good about. Some drank the Kool-Aide but McDonald is more like Fool-Aide if you ask me.
Linebacker: There is a bit of a paradox going on with the matchup for Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman this week. On one hand you see that the Eagles have run the ball over 30 times in each game so far this year, unbelievable, I know. Then on the other hand you see they are in the bottom 12 with regards to allowing points to opposing LBs. Those two things don't seem to jive but when you have a Patrick Willis and a guy playing as hot as NaVorro Bowman, the only thing you do is plug them into your lineup and forget about them. I know I have said I wasn't a 100% believer yet in Bowman, and I am not, but i am warming up to him some. Just still have a hard time seeing him keeping up what he is doing, especially with Willis next to him, but hey, ride the train while you can.
Secondary: The pass happy Eagles offense does make for a good matchup against the 49ers. The Eagles are giving up the 5th most points to opposing DBs so look for Donte Whitner and Tarell Brown to have nice days. Whitner is the one that possess the most upside. I would like to peg either Dashon Goldson or Madieu Williams as 3-star play but with then sharing snaps it makes each a risky proposition. If you have to roll with one, make it Goldson because he played twice as many snaps as Williams did last week.
UPDATE: After the 49ers secondary write-up was completed additional info came to light - Vic Fangio, defensive coordinator for the 49ers has said that due to a hip injury, Donte Whitner is "highly questionable" to play against the Eagles.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 47, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 47, 2009: 51, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: Trent Cole should be licking their chops this week. Look for Cole to have the type of game that makes you say, "that is why I drafted Cole when I did!". Jason Babin had a very strong week 1 and his production has slacked off some since. However, if you were expecting DL1 numbers you were expecting to much. Babin makes a nice DL2, this week and beyond.
Linebacker: More big news regarding the Eagles LBs this week, and it surrounds Casey Matthews again. Last week, Matthews lost the starting MLB job and was moved to WLB. This week he lost the WLB job and was moved to the bench. Rookie Brian Rolle will be replacing Matthews in the starting lineup. There could be some decent value here but it is probably best to wait the situation out to see if Matthews has the ability to win his job back or not.
Secondary: Matthews wasn't the only Eagles defender getting kicked to the bench this week. Safety, Kurt Coleman is being benched in favor of Nate Allen. Hopefully the benching and new blood will help the Eagles defense start to play up to expectations. As far as fantasy expectations for this week, I have none. Jarrad Page is a 3-star play, but just barely. His upside as well as everyone else's is limited by the 49ers who are giving up the 5th fewest points to opposing DBs.
Minnesota at Kansas City
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 52, 2009: 55, 2010: 49
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 47, 2010: 49
Defensive Line: Looks like it is official, no slow start for Jared Allen this year. Dating back to last season, Allen has recorded at least a 1/2 sack in 11 of his last 12 games. Like always, put Allen in your lineup and forget about him. Brian Robison took over for the departed Ray Allen at DE opposite Allen and last week he had a coming out party or sorts, logging his first multi sack game as a starter. Robison isn't what I would call a solid DL2/3 but he does have some value, especially with how often the Vikings defense could end up being on the field this season. However, this week with a sputtering Chiefs offense on deck I would leave Robison on the bench this week.
Linebacker: The Viking LBs are pretty cut and dry this week. Chad Greenway hasn't been as productive this year as he was in 2010 but he is still a plug and play LB. The Chiefs are a middle of the road matchup so I don't see much upside for him this week. EJ Henderson is dealing with a knee injury that kept him from practicing on Wednesday. Leave him on the bench. Brother Erin flashed some game in week one but since has put up consecutive 2 point stinkers. Put Erin on the bench so he can keep his brother company.
Secondary: Antoine Winfield after consecutive 20+ point weeks came back to earth a bit and put up just 12 points. The Chiefs offense just doesn't make see a big week for Winfield. Do I think he should be in starting lineups this week? Absolutely I do, but just expect his numbers to mirror last week, and not what he did the 1st two weeks of the season. Cedric Griffin has been up and down so far this year but at least he looks healthy and fully recovered from his ACL injury. I am sure that Griffin will start seeing more 3-star ratings in the future but for this week a 2-star is all I could give him against the Chiefs.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 45, 2009: 49, 2010: 53
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 54, 2009: 54, 2010: 54
Defensive Line: One would think that with an Adrian Peterson at RB that the Vikings would be ranked higher than 24th in points to opposing DL, but they are not. Add to it that the Chiefs DL aren't very productive fantasy wise and you can see there is no value here.
Linebacker: Tamba Hali is one heck of an NFL player, but his fantasy value isn't anywhere near what his real NFL value is. What might surprise you is that that he is actually tied with Derrick Johnson as the highest scoring Chiefs LB. That isn't a really a knock on Hali as much as it shows how much Johnson is struggling this year. That is if you call, 10, 11 & 14 points struggling. Maybe with most LBs that wouldn't be the case but with Johnson, expectations were much higher. I wouldn't go pushing the panic button because I do think Johnson will still have his share of big games this year. If the Vikings can establish their running game with Adrian Peterson this could easily be one of those big games. The one thing that could put a kink in that is that Peterson missed practice on Wednesday with what is listed as a calf injury.
Secondary: Just like that, Jon McGraw went from waiver wire hero to waiver wire zero. After putting up big numbers in the 1st two weeks McGraw played in just 19 snaps and scored just 1 point last week against the Chargers. The Chiefs were utilizing McGraw as a LB in sub-packages and he was feasting on the opportunities but that all changed in week 3. The Chiefs decided to finally use a LB at that LB spot. At this point that makes McGraw a very risky play and if the trend continues you will be able to cut ties. Brandon Flowers suffered an ankle injury and at this point the Chiefs have been tight lipped about it. The only good sign is that Flowers was able to at least practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday. Even with that I would recommend keeping him on the bench this week.
New Orleans at jacksonville
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 50, 2010: 53
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 47, 2009: 51, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: You know that there isn't much fantasy value on a team's DL when their leading scorers are their DTs and combined they have scored only 34 points thru three weeks. Yes, that is how bad it is fantasy wise in Jacksonville. In DT mandatory leagues both Tyson Alualu and Terrance Knighton are going to provide fantasy value at times. I was and still am pretty high on Alualu but he has yet to put it all together and to make matters worse, this week he is dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday.
Linebacker: Paul Posluszny wasn't able to build on a decent week 2, which he followed up with a disappointing 8 point effort. The part that stings is that "Poz" is pretty much playing every snap, he just flat out isn't producing. I know many will want to drop him but i think we still need to hold him for a couple of more weeks. The Jaguars actually revamped their LB corps this offseason but incumbent Daryl Smith is actually out-scoring Poz and Clint Session. Session played in just over 30 snaps so it is easy to see why his value is depressed. Versus the Saints I should probably have given Poz a 2-star rating but I think he is on the field enough to at least score 10-12 points this week. I also have Smith as a 3-star play but think he has a bit more upside.
Secondary: Only the Patriots are giving up more points to DBs than the Saints. Normally, with that type of matchup I would recommend getting just about every DB into starting lineups. However, with the poor/inconsistent play by the Jaguars DBs they only two that I can say with certainty that should be in lineups this weekend are Rashean Mathis and Dawan Landry.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 52, 2009: 54, 2010: 54
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 48, 2009: 50, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: Outside of Saints homers, I doubt many would be able to guess that Junior Galette is the leading fantasy scorer on their DL. However, with Will Smith back on the field it should remain that way very long. In his first game back from suspension Smith put up a respectable 10 point effort. This week facing a Jaguars team that has given up 5 solos to Dave Ball and Mike DeVito - and last week Greg Hardy racked up 5 solos, 1 assist, 1 sack and a safety. If ever I would be running to get Smith in my lineup it would be this week. Galette on the other hand is far to risky to start so leave him and the rest of the Saints DL on the bench. If you are in a DT mandatory league and think that the Jaguars will be able to run the ball between 25-30 times then you could consider starting Sedrick Ellis. After all the Jaguars have run 51% of their running plays up the middle, and over 70% between their guards.
Linebacker: Jonathan Vilma's knee kept him out of the Saints week 3 game and it also kept him from practicing on Wednesday. Jo-Lonn Dunbar stepped in and put up a big 18 points. I think the Jaguars are really going to struggle this week so it wouldn't matter to me if it was Vilma, Dunbar or Ricky Jackson starting for the Saints, I would suggest you bench them. Jonathan Casillas (foot, knee) was limited in practice. A tidbit for dynasty owners, Martez Wilson is dealing with a neck/shoulder injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday.
Secondary: This matchup screams to bench your Saints DBs but Roman Harper just finds a way to be productive, hence his 3-star rating. The only worry with Harper is that he was listed on the injury report with a "(neck, shoulder)" injury, but the injury at least didn't keep him from practicing fully on Wednesday. In CB mandatory leagues there is some good news on the injury front, Tracy Porter (calf) was able to practice fully on Wednesday. I wouldn't play him this week but practicing again is certainly a good sign.
PIttsburgh at Houston
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 51, 2009: 52, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 46, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: The Steelers run a 3-4 scheme that basically renders their DL useless for fantasy purposes.
Linebacker: I warned last week that Lawrence Timmons had a pretty poor matchup against the Colts, but of course I also said he is the type of LB that is hard to bench. I thought his upside was 10-12 points, he fell short of that by posting just 5 points. However, James Harrison I loved last week and he sure did come through - to the tune of 19 points. Harrison doesn't look to be suffering any back issues and after three weeks that is a good sign. This week against the Texans I like the matchup for both TImmons and Harrison but unlike last week when I loved Harrison, this week I love Timmons. I have both as 4-star plays but I think Timmons has more upside this week.
Secondary: Troy Polamalu doesn't have what I would call a great matchup but it is solid enough. The Texans surprisingly are pretty middle of the road when it comes to giving up points to opposing DBs, but they have given up between 11-14 points to the likes of, Antoine Bethea, Jacob Lacey, Reshad Jones, Yeremiah Bell, Sean Smith, Vontae Davis, and Roman Harper. I suspect we will see Polamalu add himself to that list after this week's game is over. I also wouldn't be surprised to see Ryan Clark sneak into the lower end of that range.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 52, 2009: 53, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 47, 2009: 48, 2010: 51
Defensive Line: Last week I wrote the following, "I know you think that there is value on the Texans defensive line but I beg to differ. If you want to try and chase JJ Watt's points then have at it but I don't think it will take long for you to realize that wasn't a very wise move.", and I still stand by it. Watt has a non-stop motor and I know many either are jumping on his bandwagon or getting ready to do so, at best I recommend a hold but before it is all said and done, Watt will be putting up numbers no better than many low level DL3. However, facing a Steelers team that has given up 44 PPG (2nd most) to opposing DLs I think it is safe to run Watt out there for one more week.
Linebacker: Just when everyone was ready to jump ship on DeMeco Ryans he steps up to the plate, takes off his "elbow armor" (elbow brace) and puts up a solid 13 point effort. With Ryans recovering from an Achilles and elbow injury the Texans are bringing him along slowly. He has yet to play more than 46 snaps in any game this year, but you can bet your bottom dollar that is going to change. My guess is that this is the week that we see Ryans on the field much more than he has been the past three weeks. That is how I feel but I think it would be risky to rank him above a 3-star play but I do see plenty of upside and little downside in his matchup this week. Even with Ryans playing limited snaps, Brian Cushing has scored just an average of 4 PPG more, and that is with Ryans having a 2 point effort in week 2. Snap wise, Cushing has played in 176 snaps, and Ryans has played in 128. I see plenty of upside for Ryans once he starts playing the number of snaps he has in past years.
Secondary: I am not sure if this will shock you or not, but it shouldn't. The Texans have ZERO DBs ranked inside the top 40. It is easy to see that the Texans pass defense is improved over last year, but that improvement doesn't always equate to fantasy value, especially in the 3-4 scheme that Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is employing. Jonathan Joseph and Glover Quin have each had a couple of productive weeks but expecting DB2/3 type production weekly is something I wouldn't advise. However, using them when the matchup is good, nothing wrong with that. This week against a Steelers team that seems to be throwing the ball more and more they each look like solid DB3 plays to me. I would also add Daniel Manning as a solid play this week too.
Detroit at Dallas
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 43, 2009: 48, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 54, 2009: 53, 2010: 51
Defensive Line: On paper this doesn't really look like a very good matchup for the Lions defensive line. The Cowboys rank 27th in points allowed to opposing DL and only two DL have scored in double digits against them this year. The thing is, the Cowboys have faced three straight 3-4 defenses that don't get much fantasy production from their DL. This week is a different story all together, Ndamukong Suh will terrorize the interior of the Cowboys OL and Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril will be harassing Tony Romo plenty from their DE positions. Both Bosch and Suh got 4-star ratings from, but I only gave Cliff Avril a 2-star rating but in retrospect I actually think he deserves to be a 3-star play. Lawrence Jackson is a talented DE but he is only playing in about 24 snaps/game. It isn't easy to put up viable fantasy numbers on so few snaps, and to top it off, Jackson is dealing with a hamstring injury that limited him in practice on Wednesday.
Linebacker: The Lions LBs have a super matchup this week - the Cowboys are giving up over 50 PPG to opposing LBs, 3rd most in the NFL. Unfortunately, it might be a bit risky trying to take advantage of the matchup. Justin Durant is received post-concussion testing and hasn't been cleared for practice yet this week (as of Thursday), I am not holding out hope for Durant to play this week. If Durant does indeed miss week 4 it would be Cowboy castoff Bobby Carpenter taking his place in the lineup. Am I the only one that sees Carpenter coming up with big play to hurt his ex-team? Yeah, probably. Durant isn't the only one dealing with an injury, fellow OLB DeAndre Levy is dealing with a knee injury that limited him in practice on Wednesday. Odds are that Levy will end up being questionable on the injury report - even with a super matchup the risk is to high to rate Levy more than a 2-star play. The real winner here is Stephen Tulloch, of course Tulloch hasn't been bad this year but he hasn't been close to what he was last year either. This week, Tulloch could remind his owners of last year's production. One other thing, the Cowboys have run the ball "up the middle" on 26.7% of their carries this year, that might not seem like much, but it is almost double the percentage of all other rushing play directions.
Secondary: The Cowboys present a pretty neutral matchup for the Lions DBs this week. Louis Delmas dealt with a hip injury last week but he was able to play and but only ended up scoring 9 points - he is still looking for his first double digit performance of 2011. Normally, safety is where you find the most productive fantasy players, but thru three games that isn't the case with the Lions. CB Eric Wright and CB Chris Houston are both top 30 DBs. Wright has been the better play with 13, 16 & 13 point efforts to start the season, while Houston started hotter with a 19 point effort in week 1 but has since put up consecutive 9 point games. This week, Delmas and Wright are listed as 2-star plays, both are dealing with injuries. Delmas is now dealing with and abdomen injury that kept him out of Wednesday's practice, and Wright has an issue with his groin that limited his participation in practice on Wedneday.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 48, 2009: 51, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 48, 2009: 47, 2010: 49
Defensive Line: So far, what you have seen is what you are going to get with the Cowboys DL - inconsistent fantasy production. More often than not the production will be subpar so it is best to look for help elsewhere. As I have written before, Jay Ratliff has value in DT mandatory leagues, but even then his inconsistent play could give you headaches. On the injury front a calf strain will keep Jason Hatcher from playing against the Lions.
Linebacker: Sean Lee is putting up mad numbers so far, especially for a LB that wasn't all that highly rated at the start of the season. Currently, Lee is the 3rd highest scoring LB in fantasy football, and he has done that by being consistent, consistently good that is. He is the only LB in the league to have scored 20+ points in each game this year. This week he has a sort of blasé matchup but that doesn't matter because you just can't sit this kid. Enjoy the production while it lasts, just realize that could be for a very long time. With all the attention that Lee is getting in the fantasy community I am sure that many didn't even realize that DeMarcus Ware already has 5 sacks for the season. On the strength of those sacks he has actually put up pretty consistent numbers too. However, look a little deeper and you see that Ware has logged 8 solo tackles this season, 5 of those tackles came on sacks - makes it easy to see how and why Ware is a risky fantasy player.
Secondary: The best fantasy matchup for the Cowboys defense this week is for their secondary. Unfortunately, the secondary is full of injured and inconsistent fantasy scorers. All I have to say is your fantasy team is probably in bad shape if you are hoping for one of the Cowboys DBs to lead you to victory. Not one of their DBs ranks in the top 50. I have Abram Elam a 3-star play but if I had to do my star ratings like a confidence pool, Elam's rating would probably be a zero. On the injury front Orlando Scandrick's ankle kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Tennessee at Cleveland
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 49, 2010: 44
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 49, 2009: 52, 2010: 58
Defensive Line: For the season the Titans DLs have combined to score in double digits just three times, THREE times - that's it. Derrick Morgan is a promising talent but he hasn't even broken double digits in the two games that he played in. Against a Browns team that is giving up fewer solo tackles than anyone in the league and ranks 29th in sacks allowed, I think it is easy to see why you should just wave and keep walking when it comes to the Titans DL.
Linebacker: Talk about a tough matchup to figure out. On paper the matchup looks absolutely horrible for Barrett Ruud this week. The Browns rank 32nd in points to opposing LBs, and only three LBs have scored in double digits against them this year. The three, Thomas Howard, Kavell Connor and Pat Angerer. It is the performance of both Connor and Angerer that gives me hope for Ruud this week. That and the fact that Peyton Hillis is practicing fully - after missing last week due to strep throat he should be back toting the rock against Rudd and his fellow LBs. If you are a gambling man you run Ruud out in your lineup, if you are risk adverse and have heart issues you would be best served to leave him on your bench. On the injury front, Gerald McGrath has a knee injury and wasn't able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday.
Secondary: Chris Hope missed the last two games and this week he Gerald McGrath are the only two Titans defenders on the injury report. However, Hope being on the report is actually a good thing - it shows he practiced fully on both Wednesday and Thursday. As long as he doesn't suffer a setback on Friday he should be good to go this week against the Browns. For fantasy purposes I think it is best to leave him on the bench and if you are looking to start a Titan then it should be Michael Griffin or Cortland Finnegan.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 42, 2009: 47, 2010: 47
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 53, 2009: 54, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: Last week was an overall good week for most of the Browns DL. Rookie Jabaal Sheard wasn't one of the ones that did well but that is to be expected from a rookie DL. While Sheard was having a tough day fantasy wise, Ahtyba Rubin, rookie Phil Taylor and Jayme Mitchell all had big days against the Dolphins. Those thee combined for 20 total tackles, 4 sacks, 1 forced fumble and a pass defended. This week against the Titans their production will compare in comparison. For starters, the Titans have done a good job of keeping Matt Hasselbeck off his back - only four other teams have allowed fewer sacks than the Titans. Add to it that Chris Johnson has yet to get things going and you can see that this week looks to be a trying one for the Browns DLs. Of course I am an ebb and flow kinda guy, which is why I have Sheard as a 4-star play. Probably a bit overzealous but I have a gut feeling on this one that I can't back up with any stats.
Linebacker: D'Qwell Jackson owners don't need me to tell them how good he is doing this year, but if for some reason you are living under a rock, allow me to point out that Jackson is currently the 2nd best fantasy LB to own this year. Jackson is just 5 1/2 points behind Pat Angerer who ranks 1st with the most points scored by a LB. I know that there is no way that I am going to talk anyone into benching Jackson this week but I am going to do my best to make sure your expectations are tempered. For starters only two teams have given up fewer points to opposing LBs than the Titans have. Prior to last week only one LB, Ray Lewis scored in double digits against the Titans. Last week, the three starting Broncos LBs did all hit double digits so maybe the situation isn't as bad as I first thought it would be. Of course none of that matters because Jackson is going to be in everyone's starting lineups. Right? RIGHT!
Secondary: The Browns DBs, fantasy wise have been pretty inconsistent this season. I wouldn't call TJ Ward a bust but I am sure his owners would say otherwise, and with a 9 PPG average, who could blame them. Sheldon Brown is one of seven Browns that had an injury keeping them from practicing on Wednesday and Thursday.
Atlanta at Seattle
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 53, 2009: 57, 2010: 54
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 48, 2009: 50, 2010: 49
Defensive Line: The Seahawks rank in the bottom 10 in points given up to opposing DL, but that ranking doesn't tell the entire story. The main reason for the Seahawks ranking so low is because of the 3 fantasy points scored by the Steelers DL against them in week 2. Take out that game and you are looking at a team that ranks in the top 10 in points allowed to opposing DL. Calais Campbell had a huge game last week against the Seahawks and the Falcons would love to see John Abraham and Ray Edwards do the same. Abraham might be getting up in age but he can still get after the QB. If I had to bet on him or Edwards to get to the QB multiple times this weekend, my money would be on Abraham.
Linebacker: Both Sean Weatherspoon and Curtis Lofton are putting up top 10 fantasy numbers. Weatherspoon has been slightly more productive but both are must starts. I know that the stats show this as a good matchup for both but I just have a feeling the Seahawks are going to struggle mightily on offense this week and that could limit the upside for both. In case you noticed the Mike Peterson sighting last week it was because Stephen Nicholas was inactive last week. Nicholas doesn't look good for this week either but you better be in a super deep league if you are considering starting Peterson.
Secondary: Thru three weeks only 5 DBs have scored in double digits against the Seahawks. That might not seem too bad but when you realize how much the league throws the ball it really isn't all that great. With how William Moore has played this year, along with the matchup I had no choice to rank Moore as just a 2-star play. As a matter a fact, I didn't rate anyone in the Falcons secondary above a 2-star play. That's right, Thomas Decoud, Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson all got 2-star ratings. That doesn't mean I don't think someone in the Falcons secondary won't be productive, just that I think they are all to risky to use as fantasy starters.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 45, 2009: 51, 2010: 46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 54, 2009: 52, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: Chris Clemons has improved his fantasy score every week this season. This week against a Falcons Clemons very well could keep that trend going. It might be hard to believe but only the Bears (14) and Seahawks (14) have given up more sacks than the Falcons have. Outside of Clemons I wouldn't want to risk any other Seahawks DL in a starting lineup.
Linebacker: Things are starting to look up for David Hawthorne owners. Last week he had a more Hawthorne like week with 16 points. He also saw an increase in snaps in week 3 but that was probably due to the fact that Matt McCoy ended up leaving last week's game with an injury. It should be noted that Seahawks started the game in the nickle and McCoy and Leroy Hill were the starters, not David Hawthorne. That means we could still see some "growing pains" regarding Hawthorne. If McCoy doesn't practice on Friday then I think that solidifies Hawthorne as a good play, if McCoy practices and it looks like he will play, then Hawthorne becomes a risky play.
Secondary: Kam Chancellor turned in his third consecutive very nice game last week. Chancellor does indeed look like the real deal and he should have no problems remaining a top 10 DB the rest of the way. That is unless an injury derails him, and speaking of injury, Chancellor missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday due to a quadriceps injury. If Chancellor doesn't practice on Friday he will most likely be a GTD and at that point his owners would be best suited to look for a replacement. If Chancellor does indeed sit this week out I think that Earl Thomas owners will be happy with the bump they see in his production.
NY Giants at Arizona
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 51, 2009: 51, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 48, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: This just in, Justin Tuck is human. Tuck is dealing with an injury and last week he put up a very uncharacteristic 2 points for his owners. Not very Tuck like, but it does happen. In 2009, Tuck finished as the 4th best DL and he had four games of 4 points or less, in 2010 he was the #1 DL and he scored 2 points twice. The thing that is more concerning is the neck injury. From what I can gather is that the injury is something that Tuck can play with, if there was a big risk to his career there is no way the Giants would have him on the field. However, if they get up big on an opponent they very well could sit Tuck down to get him some rest and put him less at risk. That is the issue I have this week. I initially had Tuck a 5-star play but lowered him to a 4-star play and honestly I am a bit worried that the Giants could build a big league and Tuck will end up watching from the sidelines. I am not sure if this will make owners feel any better but if I owned Tuck, which I don't, I would have him in my starting lineup this weekend, but only if he practices in some capacity on Friday since he missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday. Jason Pierre-Paul currently ranks as the #1 DL and I see no reason to take him out of starting lineups this week. Osi Umenyiora is finally practicing again, albeit in a limited fashion, but at this point he should be a hold for owners.
Linebacker: The Giants are thinner at LB than [insert your own joke here]. Michael Boley is the veteran of the bunch and he has actually top 25 fantasy numbers. Boley has played in everyone of the Giants defensive snaps this year so that surely is helping his value. Boley is getting it done but he isn't the one that fantasy owners are interested in. They want to know who Jacquian Williams is. Williams is the LB that the Giants are using sub-packages with Boley. Williams isn't starting but he did see over 40 snaps last week and he made the most of them as he logged 10 tackles against the Eagles. Greg Jones is the rookie MLB that many were expecting big numbers from but against the pass happy Eagles he played in only 9 snaps. Going forward I think both Jones and Williams are risky plays. However, if you have a deep bench each has matchup play viability - Jones against run heavy teams and Williams against the pass happy ones.
Secondary: Not only are the Giants thin at LB but they are also thin in the secondary. Hell, the Giants have been hit so hard by injuries that their entire defense is actually pretty thin. With that said, it hasn't stopped Kenny Phillips from putting up top 10 DB numbers, or Antrel Rolle from putting up top 20 numbers. Both should continue to be productive fantasy starters. Phillips has more value in tackle heavy or tackle neutral leagues and Rolle has a bit more value in big play leagues. I think both are no brainer starts each and every week.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 49, 2010: 41
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 49, 2009: 49, 2010: 55
Defensive Line: Last week I didn't think that Calais Campbell or Darnell Dockett had a good matchup against the Seahawks. Boy was I wrong, but for what it is worth, I own Campbell and actually benched him too. Who did I bench him for? Greg Hardy, initially I felt like a genius seeing Hardy's points in my lineup and then at the end of the day I saw an extra 5 points on my bench with Campbell. I felt like one of those baseball managers that over-manages a situation. Don't expect Campbell to do anything near what he did last week but I to think he and Dockett should both be in starting lineups this week.
Linebacker: With the Giants running game you would expect to see them surrendering more points to LBs than they have so far this season, but that just hasn't been the case. So with what should look like a juicy matchup is more of a ho-hum one. Daryl Washington got back on the field last week, he didn't do much box score wise but he did come out of the game healthy. So healthy that he isn't even on the injury report this week. I think getting Washington back into starting lineups this week would be a prudent move. I only have him as a 3-star play but I see plenty of upside to him this week. I also have Stewart Bradley as a 3-star play, just understand I don't see much upside for Bradley. Paris Lenon's groin injury has kept him a limited participant in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Secondary: I have Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson as 3-star plays this week but with the depleted Giants WR corps I don't see much upside in either. I have AJ Jefferson as a 3-star play but that is only because I can see the Giants trying to target him this week.
Miami at San Diego
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 55, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 48, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: The Dolphins play a 3-4 scheme that basically renders their DL fantasy irrelevant. You should look elsewhere for DL help.
Linebacker: The Chargers are very banged up on offense, Ryan Matthews hasn't been practicing, Gates is doubtful and both Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd could miss this week's game. In fantasy football math that adds up to one of two things, one, a very challenged offense that offers few tackle opportunities, or two, an offense that needs to lean heavily on RB Mike Tolbert and that will lead to good things for Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett. I know that Dansby hasn't done much so far this year but he is the only one I would consider starting this week. If you start Dansby or think that Cameron Wake deserves a 3-star rating you can feel a bit better knowing that the Chargers have given up the most points to opposing LBs this year.
Secondary: Yeremiah Bell isn't putting up huge numbers this year but his 12.33 PPG average is still respectable. I know there are risks that the Chargers offense might be depleted and if that is the case then they will probably not live up to their #3 ranking with regards to allowing points to opposing DBs. I did initially have Bell and Reshad Jones each rated on level higher but due to the Chargers injuries I bumped them down.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 47, 2009: 49, 2010: 53
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 53, 2009: 49, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: The Dolphins have given up the 5th most points to opposing DL but unfortunately the Chargers don't really have the horses to take advantage of that. In DT mandatory leagues it would probably be a good week to get Antonio Garay into your lineups.
Linebacker: So far Donald Butler has been a solid top 20 fantasy LB but this week Butler could struggle to fill the box score against a Dolphins team that has given up the 5th fewest points to LBs. Takeo Spike got off to a good start in week 1 but has since just missed cracking double digits the last two weeks. I have both Butler and Spikes as 3-star plays this week but Butler is the one with more upside and Spikes is the one with more risk. In retrospect, I probably should have rated Spikes a 2-star play.
Secondary: You knew it was only a matter of time and that was why earlier this year I said to get him into your starting lineups while you could. In case you couldn't figure it out I am talking about Bob Sanders who has been put on IR, ending his season, again. So much talent but he is truly a real life Mr. Glass. Steve Gregory replaced Sanders in the starting lineup. I wouldn't expect to see Gregory do much from a fantasy perspective. If anything Eric Weddle should end up with a bump in value.
New England at Oakland
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 56, 2009: 55, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 46, 2010: 52
Defensive Line: The most points that any Patriots DL has scored this year is eight, yes EIGHT, that is it! As for this week facing a Raiders team that has given up the 3rd fewest points to DLs and it is easy to see that the Patriots DL should be avoided at all costs this week.
Linebacker: The Raiders may not give up many points to the opposition's DL but that isn't the case with LBs. The Raiders rushing attack is largely the reason why they are in the top 10 for points allowed to LBs. Jerod Mayo of course is a must start no matter what but knowing he has a good matchup can't hurt. The only thing that could slow Mayo down is injury, and he is dealing with a thigh injury but at this point there is no expectation for him to miss this week's game.
Secondary: Patrick Chung is still dealing with his thumb injury but at least he is practicing, even if it is in a limited fashion. Even so, at this point it sounds like most people expect Chung to miss at least the next couple of weeks. Kyle Arrington has put up some big numbers but this week against an anemic Raiders passing game he should fall way back down to Earth. The only Patriots DB I would consider starting this week is Devin McCourty and he with him I have some pause.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 45, 2009: 45, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 53, 2009: 53, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: I know earlier in the season I said I was high on the Raiders DL and to some extent that is still true. However, coupled with some poor play, injuries and a horrible matchup I see no reason to put Matt Shaughnessy, Lamar Houston or Richard Seymour into starting lineups this week. For why this is a bad matchup look no further than the Patriots ranking 31st in points to opposing DL and the fact that only the Raiders (2) and Bills (2) have allowed fewer sacks than the 3 the Patriots have allowed.
Linebacker: Rolando McClain has put up very good numbers in each of the past two weeks but this week he faces a Patriots team that likes to chuck the ball and due to that they rank in the bottom 10 for points given up to LBs. I am not saying to sit McClain, I probably should be, but instead I am just saying to temper your expectations. Outside of McClain the rest of the Raiders LBs are nothing more than waiver wire fodder.
Secondary: The Raiders secondary is where the value is this weekend. The Patriots are one of only three teams that have given up more than 200 points to opposing DBs. Tyvon Branch is normally a studly start every week and this week I almost rated him a 6-star play, remember 5-star is the highest ranking. Michael Huff is dealing with concussion but he was actually able to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday, but come Thursday he didn't practice at all. Huff isn't the only one dealing with injury, starting CB Chris Johnson suffered a hamstring injury that pulled him from the game last week and has kept him from practicing at all this week. His replacement was Chimdi Chekwa and he too is on the injury report with a hamstring injury, but unlike Johnson he is at least practicing in a limited fashion.
Denver at Green Bay
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 51, 2010: 48
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 52, 2009: 50, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: Combined the Broncos DL has posted just one double digit fantasy score this year. That is scary bad. Of course it doesn't help that Elvis Dumervil has missed the last two games and has only played in 18 snaps this year. Dumervil is still dealing with his shoulder injury and until we see him on the field again he should be a mainstay on your fantasy bench. If you are looking for a silver lining, Dumervil is at least practicing in a limited fashion.
Linebacker: After the lockout, if I told you I would give you a $1,000,000.00, if you told me which Broncos LB would rank in the top 10 at his position in fantasy points scored, you would have blurted out DJ Williams and then started figuring out how to spend your money. Well, of course you would have been wrong because Williams got injured and Wesley Woodyard had to replace him in the starting lineup. Even then you probably wouldn't have guessed Woodyard but that is what he did. Unfortunately, the ride is about to end as Williams is expected back on the field this week. I own both in one league and I am leaving both on my bench. To much risk that the Broncos could limit the snaps that Williams plays so that he can get his legs back under him. The one Bronco I would recommend starting this week is MLB Joe Mays. He won't put up huge numbers but he should be a LB3 in most league formats this week.
Secondary: Brian Dawkins got out of the gate fast and hard this year and it looked like he had once again avoided "old age" but the last two weeks, Dawkins has put up pedestrian numbers at best. This week against the potent Packers offense we should see if old age is catching up with Dawkins. I think he ends up putting up decent numbers as he tries to help keep the Packers rushing attack in check. I know I have Dawkins as a 3-star play, as I do FS Rahim Moore, but i think Moore has the higher upside this week. Champ Bailey is still dealing with his hamstring injury, he should be on benches this week and if you aren't in a CB mandatory league he should actually be on your waiver wire.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 51, 2009: 53, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 48, 2009: 44, 2010: 46
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: Desmond Bishop didn't have a great week last week and sort of let his owners down. What is funny is that Bishop owners look at 10 points as a bad week, to me that is actually a good thing. Bishop might be a bit challenged to find tackle opportunities this week when you consider that the Broncos are giving up the 2nd fewest fantasy points to LBs, but like last week I see 10-12 points as his floor. Clay Matthews is a hit or miss which makes him a risky play. It doesn't really help matters that a quad injury kept Matthews out of practice on Wednesday and limited him in practice on Thursday.
Secondary: Burnett has done his best to make himself a must start each and every week. Ride the wave while you can, some think it will keep going and some think it will come to an end, but at this point it doesn't matter, he is white hot, so keep him in your lineups. Tramon Williams shoulder injury limited him in practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Charles Woodson is also dealing with injuries, he is listed on the injury report with foot and knee issues, and he didn't practice at all on Wednesday or Thursday.
NY Jets at Baltimore
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 53, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 45, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: Just when it looked safe to recommend putting Devito into starting lineups he goes and throws up a 2 point stinker. I said last week that Devito would come back down to Earth, I just didn't think it would be last week. This week I will go out on a limb and say he toys with the fantasy community and puts up 10 points.
Linebacker: Last week I said I thought the Jets would be in a slug fest with the Raiders and this week I see the same thing with the Ravens. The Ravens are going to feed Ray Rice the ball, that much we know, and that is exactly the reason why I have both David Harris and Bart Scott as 4-star plays. I know the Ravens passing attack was hot last week but this week against the Jets they would be better served to rely on their running game.
Secondary: Eric Smith continues to be the only viable fantasy DB the Jets have to offer. Last week marked the 3rd consecutive week he has scored in excess of 14 fantasy points. This week I expect we will see more of the same from Smith but I have a sneaky suspicion that he could top 20 points this week. Antonio Cromartie's rib injury kept him out of practice on Wednesday but he did return to a full practice on Thursday.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 53, 2009: 52, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 44, 2009: 48, 2010: 47
Defensive Line: Terrell Suggs is a beast and the only thing you do with him is you put him in your lineup each and every week. Some weeks you just have to temper expectations but you don't bench Suggs. This is one of the weeks where you might want to temper expectations. The Jets have only allowed one DL all season to score in double digits against them. That one player was Jarvis Moss, who last week had 2 solos, 2 assists, 2 sacks and a pass defended. You know you are saying, well if Moss can do that then Suggs can do even better. You know what? I have no problem with that line of thinking either. The numbers don't really support me giving Haloti Ngata a 3-star rating but Ngata is playing well right now and I think he can hit the 8-10 range in points this week.
Linebacker: Ray Lewis is alive and breathing, that means you start him. Big games usually have Lewis coming up big, and I have no reason to believe otherwise in this tilt with the Jets. Outside of Lewis, up until last week no other Ravens LB had scored in double digits this year, but last week Jameel McClain finally broke through and posted 13 fantasy points.
Secondary: Thru three weeks the Jets have only seen 4 opposing DBs score in double digits against them. That doesn't make this a horrible matchup but with Ed Reed being an inconsistent fantasy scorer and the Ravens having Tom Zbikowski and Bernard Pollard that they could split snaps with it makes each a risky play against the Raiders. If you were going to play anyone in the Ravens secondary I would recommend it be Ladarius Webb. Webb has been hot to start the season and if there is a weakness on the Baltimore defense it would be their pass defense. With Rex Ryan calling the shots I could very well see him try to attack that part of the Ravens defense and that could bode will for Webb's numbers.
Indianapolis at Tampa Bay
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 49, 2010: 53
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 52, 2009: 55, 2010: 52
Defensive Line: The Buccaneers aren't a very good matchup this week for the Colts DL. Robert Mathis has just one double digit performance so far this year so it shouldn't be hard to talk you into leaving him on your bench this week. Dwight Freeney on the other hand has put up two consecutive double digit performances and that has some people going bonkers and wondering if they should be dropping players like Justin Tuck for Freeney. To steal a line from the ESPN crew, "Come on Man". Care to guess when the last time Dwight Freeney had back to back double digit scoring games was? Let me help you out, try going back to the 2004 season and in week 13 and 14 he scored 17 and 14 points. Yes, I say PASS on Freeney.
Linebacker: The big fantasy news regarding the Colts LBs is that MLB Gary Brackett was put on IR this week. That means that Pat Angerer will stay and the very productive MLB spot that he had been filling in at. I don't think Angerer will be able to hold onto the top spot among all LBs but I do see him as a LB1 the rest of the season. In deeper leagues Kavell Connor is a good option. This week against the Buccaneers I have both as just 3-star plays but that is because the Buccaneers have given up so little to opposing LBs. Of course Angerer has a decent amount of upside.
Secondary: Bob Sanders has been put on IR again and will miss the rest of the season. Sorry, it just wouldn't be right to not put that in the Colts write-up. OK, now with all jokes aside, I don't really like this matchup for the Colts secondary this week but at a minimum I think that Antoine Bethea should be able to do enough to warrant being in starting lineups.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 52, 2009: 45, 2010: 48
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 47, 2009: 54, 2010: 49
Defensive Line: Three weeks into his NFL career and Adrian Clayborn notched his first double digit fantasy score. However, for the most part the Buccaneers DL is still a very poor fantasy option, Clayborn included, so it would be best to look elsewhere for DL help. WAIT STOP! The Buccaneers DL look like they get to pin their ears back and go after Curtis Painter. Get Adrian Clayborn and Michael Bennett in your starting lineups this week. That isn't saying that they are slam dunk plays but if you are looking for some upside they have it.
Linebacker: The Colts offense has a chance to be very very very poor this weekend. The only saving grace is that the Colts could just decide to try and hand the ball off about two-thirds of the time. I don't know if they will hand it off that much but I do think they will run the ball enough to make Mason Foster and Geno Hayes fringe 3-star plays. Quincy Black missed last weeks game due to an ankle injury but the Buccaneers do expect him back on the field this week.
Secondary: I am probably being a bit optimistic thinking that Sean Jones, Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber can all put up 3-star numbers this week. Here is my thinking, Jones is going to get a sack and a forced fumble on a blitz and Talib will pick off at least one pass. Barber, he will be active in run support since the Colts passing attack won't scare anyone.