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!
Philadelphia at Buffalo
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 suffered a grade 2 calf strain last week against the 49ers. It looks like Cole will be out for up to three weeks. Cole's loss hurts an Eagles team that is already reeling after a 1-3 start. On top of the Cole injury the Eagles lost DT Antonio Dixon for the season after he tore his triceps this past Sunday. To replace Dixon the Eagles signed DT Derek Landri. As far as fantasy value goes for the Eagles you have Jason Babin and Cullen Jenkins that are putting up viable fantasy numbers. Babin is coming off his best outing of the season, a 19 point effort, and he currently ranks as the 6th most productive DL. Jenkins ranks 20th and is a much better play in DT mandatory leagues. This week could be a tough week for Babin and Jenkins as the Bills are giving up the fewest points to DLs in the league. Still I think that Babin should be good for double digit points this weekend, Jenkins I think should be benched unless you play in a DT mandatory league.
Linebacker: The Eagles LBs don't have as bad a matchup as the DL does but that doesn't mean it is a good matchup either. Twenty-six teams have given up more points to LBs than the Bills have but enough LBs have been productive for m to give Jamar Chaney a 4-star rating and rookie WLB Brian Rolle a 3-star rating. Chaney's rating might be a bit optimistic, Rolando McClain scored 20 points against the Bills, the most any opposing LB has scored, I don't think Chaney will exceed the 20 point plateau but I do think he gives it a run. One other thing to point out is that there is speculation that the Eagles may be interested in Seattle LB, Aaron Curry.
Secondary: The Bills passing attack has give up some big games to opposing DBs this year. Fantasy wise the best play looks to be Jarrad Page. Page has scored 13 or more points in all but one game this year and this week I think he should be in the 15-20 point range. Nate Allen should also see enough action to warrant being in fantasy lineups this week.
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: The Bills DL has been less than spectacular, that much is for sure. Dwan Edwards isn't who people were banking on being the best DL option on the Bills but he has been. Not only did he put up back to back double digit scores the last two weeks, they are the only double digit scores put up by a Bills DL. Against the Eagles, Edwards should be able to make it 3 straight double digit point weeks. It doesn't look like it will get better for the Bills DL this week either, for the season the Eagles have surrendered double digits to just one opposing DL, a 22 point effort to Jason Pierre-Paul in week 3. Easy to see why Edwards, Marcel Dareus and Kyle Williams all have 2-star ratings or worse.
Linebacker: This might be hard to believe but Bills LBs have only put up 3 double digit scores on the season so far. Luckily for fantasy owners, or should I say Nick Barnett fantasy owners since he is the one that has all 3 of those games. The Eagles have given up double digit games to nine LBs so far, and that is with Laurinaitis being the only Rams LB to hit double digits vs the Eagles. This week I can't find a reason to keep Barnett out of fantasy lineups.
Secondary: Only 4 teams are giving up more points to opposing DBs than the Eagles are. I think that both Bryan Scott and George Wilson are very good plays this week. Terrence McGee is expected to start practicing again this week and that is the reason why I didn't rate any of the Bills DBs higher than a 2-star play. I just don't feel comfortable saying to start Leodis McKelvin or Drayton Florence not knowing how much if at all the Bills will utilize McGee this weekend against the Eagles.
New Orleans at Carolina
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: This game has me a bit perplexed because I just can't come to grips with how the Panthers are playing. Cam Newton has thrown for 400+ in two games and almost broke 400 yards this past week too. That is a big reason why the Panthers are giving up 52 tackle opportunities/game and should be a good matchup for the Saints. Yet, I can't accept it and find it hard to call this a good matchup. At least with the DL I can point to the fact that the Panthers are in the bottom half of the NFL when it comes to surrendering points to opposing DL. That makes it a bit easier to say that you should temper expectations for Will Smith, Sedrick Ellis and gang this week. I still think Smith should be in starting lineups, but I also wouldn't be surprised if he put up his first single digit game of the year. Sedrick Ellis has yet to do much this year and he has even been a liability in DT mandatory leagues, but the Panthers have run the ball almost 40% of the time right up the middle, and between the guards the percentage jumps up to 58%. That all adds up to what looks like a decent week for Ellis in DT mandatory leagues.
Linebacker: The Saints are pretty banged up at LB but getting Jonathan Vilma back last week helps. Jo-Lonn Dunbar who filled in for Vilma while he was out with a knee injury also filled in for SLB Will Herring last week too. Dunbar was productive in Vilma's steed, posting 18 points but for Herring it was a different story as he posted just 4 points. Remember, scheme matters! Vilma didn't have the best game in his return but his 10 points were at least respectable. This week against a Panthers team that is in the top 10 in points to opposing LBs I see no reason to hesitate getting Vilma back into starting lineups. WLB Scott Shanle has only had one double digit game so far this year and that was back in week 1, him I would leave on the bench.
Secondary: With the passing prowess of the Panthers it is no wonder they are in the top 10 in surrendering points to opposing DBs too. Roman Harper is a must start no matter the matchup but this week looks to be a very strong matchup for him. Outside of Harper only Jabari Greer has been consistent enough to rely on for fantasy owners. Greer has scored in double digits in three of four weeks so I would start him with confidence this week too. Tracy Porter was back on the field last week after missing two weeks due to injury, at this point in time Porter is to risky to be in fantasy lineups.
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: I am sure that if I said the Panthers have a top 10 DL that no one would be surprised. However, when I tell you that it is Greg Hardy that ranks 7th and is the Panthers only top 10 DL I bet you might be more than a little bit surprised. While Hardy has been a pleasant surprise, Charles Johnson has been a bit of a disappointment. Not jumping off a bridge type of disappointment but not exactly living up to expectations. It says a lot about a player when they can rank 11th at their position and be viewed as a slight disappointment. I have no issues with Johnson and think he is someone you should still plug and play at DL. With that said against the Saints I would temper expectations for both Johnson and Hardy. Drew Brees has been one of the least sacked QBs in the leagues since coming to the Saints and it is no wonder the Saints are giving up bottom 6 numbers to DLs this year.
Linebacker: Talk about a weird week 4 for the Panthers LBs. Going into the game against a pass happy Bears team it sure looked like Dan Connor would be the last Panthers LB you would want in your starting lineup. Just like that the Bears flipped the script and ran the ball 31 times and to make matters worse for James Anderson & Jason Williams, they only completed 9 passes. This week against the pass happy Saints, Connor should go back to being a risky fantasy start and James Anderson should be in line for a good game. Jason Williams also remains a risky fantasy option if he isn't going to play in passing situations.
Secondary: After missing week 3 due to a concussion, Charles Godfrey got back on the field in week 4. He didn't exactly light up the box score but considering he only faced 40 tackle opportunities his 4 solos, 1 assist and interception wasn't all that bad. This week Godfrey should do much, much better against a Saints team that is giving up more points to opposing DBs than any other team in the NFL. Along with Godfrey I think that CB Captain Munnerlyn should be in lineups this week.
Oakland at Houston
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: Matt Shaughnessy was inactive for last week's game due to his shoulder injury and this week it looks like that shoulder is keeping him from practicing too. Shaughnessy wasn't exactly lighting up the box score but the Raiders DL is much better with him than they are without him. For fantasy purposes Shaughnessy, Lamarr Houston, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly have all been less than stellar for their owners. This week against a Texans team that will probably lean on the running game I think that Seymour is really the only safe play and even he has a bit of risk.
Linebacker: Rolando McClain looks to be cementing him self as a safe weekly must start for his owners. His 13 point performance from week 4 won't remind you of what Patrick Willis has done the past few years but at least McClain is consistently putting up double digit efforts, even when the matchup isn't very good. Last week, McClain put those numbers up against a Patriots team that is in the bottom 5 when it comes to points allowed to LBs. All in all, I would say McClain deserves an A+ for his fantasy output last week. This week he gets to face off against Arian Foster and his healed "anti-awesome" hamstring. With Andre Johnson out of the lineup I expect we will see the Texans run the ball even more than usual this week, that makes McClain a strong play in my eyes.
Secondary: Matt Shaughnessy wasn't the only key Raiders defender that missed the Raiders week four tilt against the Patriots. Michael Huff also was inactive and an already depleted secondary was strained even more. Huff, unlike Shaughnessy was back at practice on Wednesday. I think Huff owners would be best served by sitting him this week, just to be safe but if you are out of options make sure to check out the Friday IDP Injury & Practice Report and keep a close eye on the Raiders inactives for Sunday. Tyvon Branch continues to put up solid consistent fantasy numbers. He currently ranks 12 in DB scoring and if anything he will move higher as the season progresses. CB Chris Johnson missed last week's game and also isn't practicing on Wednesday.
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: I have not been a very good judge of JJ Watt's fantasy value so far this year. So I would completely understand if you decided to ignore what I am about to write. Only the Bills and Patriots are giving up fewer points to opposing DL than the Raiders are so far this season. That means you should sit JJ Watt and the rest of the Texans DL this week.
Linebacker: The Raiders are one of only five teams that are running the ball in excess of 30 times/game, and only the Texans have run it more than the Raiders have. No wonder the Raiders are giving up the 7th most points to LBs, and with that big games like the 24 point week that Nick Barnett had against them. On top of the Barnett score there are a multitude of LBs that have scored in double digits too. No qualms about it, get DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing in your lineups this week.
Secondary: The Raiders rank 27th in pass attempts/game, that would normally make one think that they aren't a very good matchup for opposing secondaries. However, this is one stat that doesn't tell the entire story, while the Raiders do rank poorly in pass attempts they rank in the top half of the league in points allowed to opposing DBs. One thing that probably helps is that the Raiders rank 9th in completion percentage. Considering that the Texans DBs haven't been exactly very consistent this season I think it is probably best to leave Glover Quin, Jonathan Joseph and the rest of the Texans DBs on the bench this week. Yes, even Jason Allen, don't chase points!
Kansas City at Indianapolis
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: The Colts are giving up top 10 numbers to opposing DL but that value won't be realized by the Chiefs this week. Leave Glenn Dorsey and crew on your bench.
Linebacker: The Colts are one of the worst teams for LBs to face. So don't expect much from Derrick Johnson this week. At best he will be lucky to log 5 solo tackles. Tamba Hali on the other hand should be in for a big game. The Colts have given up big games to opposing DL and Hali will be getting after the Colts QB, so this is one of the few times I am going to highly recommend playing rush OLB.
Secondary: Curtis Painter completed all of 13 passes against the Buccaneers in week 4. No wonder that the leading tackler in the Buccaneers secondary was Ronde Barber with just 4 solos. You couldn't pay me to start Brandon Flowers, Kendrick Lewis, Brandon Carr or any other Chiefs DB this week.
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: Across the board the Chiefs are a pretty "meh" matchup so I wouldn't expect any huge weeks from any of the Colts defenders. Of course with that said I think it is also well worth point out that Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney probably have the most upside of any Colts player this week. Freeney may have upside but his lack of tackle production makes him to risky to rank any higher than a 2-star play. Mathis on the other hand is a 3-star play because he is more involved in run support.
Linebacker: For the most part, this season has been the Pat Angerer show for the Colts at LB. However, last week Kavell Connor wrote an episode of his own, recording 14 solo tackles and 4 assists. Angerer wasn't chopped liver, but his 6 solos and 2 assists would have been much more inflated had he not been dropping into deep coverage so much. This week, both LBs should be productive but Angerer has the higher upside. In his two home games, Angerer has logged 15 solos and 14 assists. Connor seems a bit later to the party when playing at home as he only has 6 solos in his two home games but he does have 14 assists, just like Angerer does.
Secondary: Melvin Bullitt was a sleeper that I really like for this year but Bullitt has ended up on IR so his NFL and fantasy seasons are done. Antoine Bethea has been a productive fantasy DB over the past few years and now with Bullitt on IR I think Bethea will have an easier time putting up at least DB3 type numbers. David Caldwell has taken over starting duties for Bullitt and he could end up with some decent value but I think I would rather be in a holding pattern on him at this point. For this week, I only see Bethea as a safe fantasy play in the Colts secondary.
Cincinnati at Jacksonville
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: The Bengals have the #1 rated defense in the NFL and much of that has to do with the play of the Bengals DL. Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap and Jonathan Fanene have all played well. On the fantasy front, Johnson got out of the gate fast and ranks in the top 10 but his last two weeks have been anything but inspiring. The Jaguars have given up a double digit game to an opposing DL in each game this year and Greg Hardy led the charge with a 17 point effort in week 3. I think we see Johnson get back on track this week. Carlos Dunlap played in the most snaps he has all year in week 4 and this week I think he too should be in fantasy lineups.
Linebacker: The Jaguars are doing their best to protect their rookie QB by running the ball, thru 4 weeks only two teams have run the ball more than the Jaguars 30.2 rushes/game. That would go along way to explain why the Jaguars are 8th in the league in points allowed to LBs. Rey Maualuga should be in for a good week this week. Maualuga currently ranks 27th among LBs in fantasy scoring but since week 1 when he scored just 9 points he is averaging a solid 14 PPG. This could be Maualuga's first 20 point performance of the season. Many were surprised when the Bengals signed former Raider Thomas Howard but Howard has been a mainstay in the Bengals starting lineup and fantasy wise he is averaging 10.5 PPG and outside of week 3 he has made for a nice LB3.
Secondary: I am sure that it won't shock anyone if I point out that the Jaguars are one of the 5 worst teams when it comes to giving up points to opposing DBs. Everyone knows that the Jaguars passing game is bad but I don't know if everyone realizes just how bad. Try this on for size, the Jaguars are dead last in completions with 56, that is an average of just 14 completions/game. Yes, that bad. With that in mind I don't think there is anyway that Reggie Nelson or any other Bengals DB should be in fantasy lineups this week.
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: Another week and another useless fantasy performance by the Jaguars DL. Terrance Knighton still is the only Jaguars DL to have recorded a double digit score this year, but that might change shortly. Aaron Kampman is practicing, albeit in a limited fashion but he very well could be back on the field this week. I wouldn't rush Kampman into any starting lineups but he is someone to keep a close eye on this week.
Linebacker: Paul Posluszny did his best to change his owners view of him with his week 4, 27 point outburst. Surely, the 65 tackle opportunities he faced in week 4 was a very big reason for his big week. A lack of tackle opportunities thru week 3 is also a reason why "Poz" has struggled so far. I mean the Jaguars are now facing an average of 50 tackle opportunities/game and that is after facing 65 this past week. Thru 3 weeks the Jaguars were only seeing an average of 43 tackle opportunities/game. This week against a team like the Bengals, that you would expect runs the ball a a lot, would be a good matchup for Poz but believe it or not that isn't the case. For the season the Bengals rank 14th in rushing attempts and rank 16th in points allowed to opposing LBs. Pretty much a middle of the road matchup. I would suspect we see Poz around 12 points this weekend and Daryl Smith should be in that vicinity too. Smith is averaging 14.7 PPG the last three weeks.
Secondary: The Bengals are a middle of the road matchup for DBs but color me skeptical that this matchup will be anything close to a middle of the road type game. For the season only 3 opposing DBs have logged more than 4 solos against the Bengals. Dawan Landry is coming off his biggest game of the year but that aside he has been rather inconsistent and I wouldn't have him in my lineup this week if I could help it. Rashean Mathis has actually been the Jaguars most consistent DB, posting three consecutive double digit games. This week I think Mathis is a risky play against the young Bengals passing attack. On the injury front Derek Cox (groin) didn't practice on Wednesday.
Arizona at Minnesota
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: Don't look now but Calais Campbell is making an assault on the top 5 at DL. Actually, top 3 is where he resides, only Jason Pierre-Paul and Jared Allen have scored more fantasy points at DL. Abnormal for a 3-4 DE but there are always exceptions to every rule. This week against a Vikings team that is giving up just 23.5 PPG to opposing DL could make for a tough week for Campbell but with how he is playing he is a must start. Darnell Dockett isn't performing to the level that Campbell is but he is putting up solid DL2 type numbers, unlike Campbell I think he should be left on fantasy benches this weekend. Reason being is that for the season only 2 DL (Suh, Avril) have but up a double digit game against the Vikings.
Linebacker: Opposing LBs have fared much better against the Vikings than opposing DLs have. Daryl Washington in his second game back after missing week 2 due to injury played in all but two of the teams defensive snaps. His fantasy production saw an uptick because of the added snaps and this week against the Vikings and RB Adrian Peterson I see Washington having his best game of the season. After playing in 63 combined snap in weeks 2 and 3 Stewart Bradley played in only 2 snaps in week 4. It looks like Bradley's playing time was solely based on the injuries to Paris Lenon and Daryl Washington and not based on him picking up the Cardinals defense. Until we hear something positive come out of Arizona about Bradley he should be firmly planted on fantasy benches.
Secondary: With the struggles of Donovan McNabb and the Vikings passing attack, it is no wonder the Vikings are giving up the 3rd fewest points to opposing DBs. Season to date only Sean Jones, Cody Grimm, Amari Spievey, Eric Wright, Kendrick Lewis and Donald Washington have scored in double digits against the Vikings, with Sean Jones (18 pts.) being the only one to top 13 points. That makes both Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes slightly risky plays in my eyes. This week I think that I would leave both of them as well as rookie Patrick Peterson on the bench.
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: Jared Allen currently ranks as the #2 fantasy DL. For a notorious slow starter that is music to Allen's owners ears. Allen is a weekly must start and this week against a Cardinals team giving up the 10th most points to DLs bodes for a good week with some nice upside. Fantasy wise Brian Robison has been very erratic so far this year. Normally, I wouldn't suggest starting a player as inconsistent as Robison but this week I have a gut feeling that Robison should be in starting lineups.
Linebacker: Chad Greenway owners surely aren't getting the type of fantasy production that they had hoped for, but those are the risks when you roster a guy coming off of a career year. Greenway has been inconsistent which makes him an even more frustrating player to deal with. One week he is around 15 points and the next he is around six. This week should be one of the weeks he is closer to 15 points, as he is facing a Cardinals team that has given up the 4th most points to opposing LBs. EJ Henderson has actually scored 2 more points than Greenway this year but like Greenway he too has been inconsistent. To make matters worse he has a knee injury that limited his participation in practice on Wednesday. As much as I think that both Greenway and Henderson could be rated 4-star plays due to their matchup I can't give either more than 3-stars this week.
Secondary: Antoine Winfield has really put up great numbers thru 4 weeks, averaging 17.750 PPG he is the 3rd highest scoring DB this season, only being outscored by Morgan Burnett (20.0 PPG) and George Wilson (18.0 PPG). Unfortunately, due to a neck injury Winfield will not play in week 5, so his owners (me included) will need to find a replacement for him in their lineups this week. Winfield isn't the only player in the Vikings secondary dealing with an injury. Both starting safeties, Jamarca Sanford (knee) and Husain Abdullah (pelvis) were limited participants in practice on Wednesday. Both should probably be 3-star plays but I would need to see them practice fully on Friday before I would be willing to bump them up.
Seattle at NY Giants
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 is coming off of his worst fantasy game of the year, a one point effort. Currently, he ranks just inside the top 32, at 31. At best that makes him a DL3 or depth for most teams. I know this will be hard to stomach but against a Giants team that is giving up the 4th most points to opposing DLs, I think he is a good bye week starter this week. Outside of Clemons I wouldn't look to any other Seahawks DL for help.
Linebacker: There are a couple of things at play with the Seahawks LBs. First, is that David Hawthorne saw the most action he has seen all season, in week 4, he played in 100% of the teams 82 snaps. Prior to week 4 Hawthorne had played in just a grand total of 98 snaps, accounting for 67% of the Seahawks defensive snaps over those two games. One reason that Hawthorne was on the field more was because Matt McCoy was lost for the season due to a knee injury he suffered in week 3. The other reason is that Hawthorne looks to be getting "healthier". His 13 points might not be what owners were expecting with Hawthorne in an every down role but looking deeper at those 13 points and you see he was involved in 10 total tackles. Unfortunately, only 3 were solos, it does seem that solo tackles are harder to come by at times for some players this year. This week against a Giants team that is poised to run the ball more than they have all season I would expect to see Hawthorne put up the type of number that owners were expecting from him when they drafted him. Leroy Hill has saw a resurgence in his fantasy value and against the Giants looks to be a nice LB3 with a bit of upside. Rookie KJ Wright unseated former 1st round pick Aaron Curry for a starting job, but Wright played just under 30 snaps in week 4 and without a major role in sub-packages his value will remain low.
Secondary: Prior to missing week 4 Kam Chancellor was putting up big numbers for his owners. As of Wednesday, Chancellor missed practice again due to his thigh bruise and his status for this week's game is uncertain. If you own him like I do you will want to monitor the final injury report on Friday and then keep a close eye on the inactives on Sunday. For now he has an "injured" tag in the star ratings but if he is determined good to go I have no issue saying he is a 4-star play. Marcus Trufant has strung together three very nice games and if you find yourself in a bye week bind he is more than worth a look as a sub. Earl Thomas is a nice playmaker but he has been a bit up and down this season, if Chancellor is out then I like him a bit more but if Chancellor does indeed play I would probably back off my optimism some for him this week.
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: The biggest and most important news surrounding the Giants DL is that Justin Tuck had a setback last week and ended up missing week 4. A blow to his fantasy owners for sure but for the Giants they at least got Osi Umenyiora back just in time. The Giants should be able to weather the storm if Tuck is out again this week. Tuck says that they are taking it one day at a time and he hopes to be able to play this week but no matter what happens in practice he looks to be a GTD and a very risky option for his owners. A rotation of Tuck, Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul is a lethal combination but it might take another week to get all 3 on the field together. Pierre-Paul has made the most of his opportunity and currently ranks as the #1 overall DL. This week I would temper expectations some, as the Seahawks haven't been the most fantasy friendly matchup for opposing DL but there is no way you sit "JPP". Umenyiora is a bit of a riskier play as he can go dry when it comes to tackles but like JPP I think he too should be in starting lineups this week.
Linebacker: Last year, I was particularly high on Michael Boley, writing that I thought he ceiling could be at the floor of the top 10. Last year, Boley didn't quite live up to those lofty expectations that I had for him. This year, things are a bit different, he hasn't cracked the top 10 but he does rank 18th and is proving his worth as a viable fantasy option. His average of 14 PPG is solid but what is most impressive is that all four of his games have been in double digits. I probably should have Boley rated as a 3-star play but I see the Seahawks struggling to do much offensively this week and that is why I only have Boley rated as a 2-star play. Outside of Boley the rest of the Giants LBs are risky fantasy propositions.
Secondary: The Giants secondary has been hit hard by injuries but fantasy wise they are putting up some nice production. Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips are easily the best producers, Rolle ranks 8th among DBs and off his worst performance of the season, 8 points, Phillips ranks 17th. Both should be in starting lineups this weekend but against what could be a very challenged Seahawks offense I would temper expectations.
Tennessee at Pittsburgh
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: The Titans DL is on a roll, but not a good roll for fantasy purposes. The Titans have now gone 2 consecutive weeks where none of their DL have scored in double digits. That should throw up a big red flag if you are considering starting any of the Titans DL. About the only one I would be willing to give a shot in starting lineups would be Derrick Morgan. However, realizing the Titans are playing the Steelers I think that William Hayes makes for decent enough bye week filler.
Linebacker: The Steelers offense is a bit banged up and that makes this game a bit harder than normal to handicap. As it stands I do think the Steelers will try to protect their QB by running the ball a bit more this week. If that comes to fruition then Barrett Ruud makes a very solid 4-star play, but if they go the opposite direction then he becomes a very risky option. Believing that the Steelers will really commit to the run has led me to giving Will Witherspoon a 3-star rating, I think you could do much worse for a LB3 with the bye weeks upon us.
Secondary: Chris Hope got back on the field but he wasn't there for long because he broke his arm and is now expected to miss between 4-6 weeks. Tough break, no pun intended, for Hope owners. Jordan Babineaux replaced Hope on the field and will start in his absence too. I think Babineaux, as well as, Michael Griffin make for solid starting options this weekend. Both Jason McCourty and Cortland Finnegan have been productive this year but Finnegan has been up and down, while McCourty has been the most consistent and best scoring DB for the Titans. With that said it probably doesn't make much sense to have Finnegan rated higher than McCourty but I think that Finnegan will play a bigger role in run support this week and such is the reason he is one star higher.
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: Big changes at LB for the Steelers this week. James Harrison suffered a fractured orbital bone near his right eye and at this point is out indefinitely. Harrison is a key cog in the Steelers defense and won't easily be replaced, but in an attempt to lessen the impact by his loss the team is moving ILB Lawrence Timmons into Harrison's starting OLB position. Larry Foote will be replacing Timmons at ILB. Fantasy wise this isn't great news for Timmons owners. Timmons should still maintain fantasy value but it is highly unlikely he will be able to live up to pre-season expectations now. Foote gets a slight bump in value but in most 12 team leagues he remains nothing more than a bench player, in deeper leagues he moves into a viable fantasy LB3 position. The biggest bump in value will probably be to James Farrior. Farrior should see more time on the field and he could end up with LB3 or better value.
Secondary: With the injury to Harrison and Timmons move to the outside it could spell a bump in value for Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark too. This week against a Titans team that has given up some big games to opposing DBs I see both as solid starters with Polamalu as the much better option and much more upside.
Tampa Bay at San Francisco
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: The Buccaneers DL is finally showing some life and decent fantasy production too. Michael Bennett and Gerald McCoy led the DL in scoring with 21 and 18 points respectively. Each players total was more than they had scored thru the first three weeks of the season. Hopefully they can keep the momentum going and facing a 49ers team that is giving up the 5th most points to DL should go a long way helping with it. McCoy should be the slightly better play considering the 49ers run 33% of their rushing plays right up the middle, and 57% of the time their rushing attempts are between the guards. Adrian Clayborn didn't have a big game last week but his 7 points were solid and this week he should be a decent bye week filler.
Linebacker: Mason Foster had a tough week lasts week but against a Colts team that has been challenged offensively that had to be expected. This week I expect that we will see Foster bounce back in a big way. I think we will see Foster slot in between the 20 points that Sean Lee scored against the 49ers and the 15 that Maualuga scored against them. WLB Geno Hayes should be in the 10-12 point range.
Secondary: Early on people started to fall in love with Sean Jones and the points he was putting up but last week showed how volatile a play Jones can be. He was regularly playing deep in the Buccaneers Tampa-2 defense. This week against the 49ers could be another challenging week for Jones, even with the bye weeks upon us. Last week, I gave Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib 3-star ratings and neither lived up to my expectations, but I did say that I thought Talib would take an interception to the house and if you saw the game you saw just how close that was to happening. This week, leave both Barber and Talib on the bench.
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: Justin Smith has just one double digit performance this season and that was back in week 1. Smith isn't a tier 1 or even tier 2 DL for that matter but he normally a pretty solid DL2. Against a Buccaneers team that is a slightly below average matchup for DLs, Smith's upside will be very little but I still think he deserves to be a starting 3-star play this week. The Sacramento Bee is reporting that DT Isaac Sopoaga is suffering from a staph infection and will be out this week. The 49ers organization hasn't confirmed the report but Sopoaga did miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday. If Sopoaga is unable to play, rookie, Ricky Jean Francois is expected to get the first start of his young NFL career. Sopoaga might not put up fantasy relevant numbers but he is an important part of the 49ers defense, the rookie has big shoes to fill.
Linebacker: Since we are in the middle of the MLB playoffs let me use some baseball terminology for the 49ers LBs. So far on the season NaVorro Bowman is 4 for 4, but not in hits, in weeks he has tied or put up more fantasy points than Patrick Willis. That might actually be more surprising than Ryan Theriot going 4 for 5 against the Phillies in game 3 of the NLDS. No matter, if you own Bowman or Willis they each should be in starting lineups this week and from the looks of it, every week forward too.
Secondary: If the 49ers hope to contain the Buccaneers rushing attack they are going to need Donte Whitner's help in run support. Whitner is normally a strong play most weeks and this just adds to the value that Whitner owners can expect. Last week, an injury kept Whitner on the sidelines but this week, as of Wednesday he isn't on the injury report. With Whitner out of the lineup last week Dashon Goldson had a big 24 point game. With a healthy Whitner in the lineup I think Goldson's upside is limited but I do think he should still be in starting lineups.
San Diego at Denver
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 Broncos have run more up the middle, 36 times, which accounts for 39% of their rushing attempts. Add in runs between the guards and the percentage jumps up to 65. In DT mandatory leagues I think that means that you should be getting Antonio Garay into your lineup this week.
Linebacker: Donald Butler was a favorite sleeper of many prior to the start of the season and thru three weeks he was holding his own. Last week was his first non-double digit game, but if you remember I warned that the Dolphins weren't a very good matchup. The Broncos are an even worse matchup for Butler but what is more alarming to me is that Butler played in just 32 snaps in week 4, the fewest he has played in all year. However, he has been productive playing limited snaps, he has only played in more than 41 snaps once this year. I would probably hold Butler and if he is able to put up a big game I then would attempt to shop him. To much risk to rely on a LB that is only playing in 40 or fewer snaps most weeks. Takeo Spikes has been inconsistent this year and not nearly as productive as he was in San Francisco last season. He is coming off of his best week of the year and I gave him a 3-star rating but it isn't a strong 3-stars. As for Butler, he too got a 3-star rating but upon digging deeper I will be adjusting his ranking down to a 2-star play.
Secondary: The Broncos haven't been the best matchup for opposing DBs, ranking in the bottom 10 for points surrendered to DBs. While they rank in the bottom of the league they still have given up some nice games and I think that Eric Weddle is by far the best play in the Chargers secondary this week. He should put up in excess of 15 points this week. Steve Gregory has taken over for the injured Bob Sanders, and the last two weeks he has played in 100% of the teams defensive snaps. Unfortunately, he is only averaging 9.5 PPG in those two games. If you are in a bind due to bye weeks then and only then would I give him a look because I really think he belongs on fantasy benches this week.
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: Elvis Dumervil finally got back on the field, he last played in week 1 but this past week he played in 56 of the teams 72 defensive snaps. Those 56 snaps were the most played by any Broncos DL. Dumervil didn't do much in the box score but at least it shows that the Broncos weren't slowly working him back and that he is indeed good to go. Against a Chargers team that is putting the ball in the air almost 40 times/game makes this the week I would get Dumervil back in starting lineups.
Linebacker: DJ Williams is back, DJ Williams is healthy. DJ Williams has picked up where he left off last year, racking up fantasy points. Keep DJ Williams in your starting lineup. With Williams back at his starting WLB spot it was expected that Wesley Woodyard would see his numbers steeply decline. Well, that didn't exactly happen as Woodyard still put up 11 points. Woodyard's production came due to his play in sub-packages and expecting him to continue to produce in limited snaps is a dangerous proposition. Rookie Von Miller has been a pleasant surprise, at least fantasy wise. He is working on four consecutive double digit games but I still think expecting him to keep up that type of production weekly isn't a wise thing to do. Joe Mays might seem like an odd 3-star play but the Chargers are giving up the 2nd most points to opposing LBs and I think that the Chargers running game will do enough to make Mays a worthy 3-star play.
Secondary: I rated both Brian Dawkins and Rahim Moore 3-star plays for this week but in retrospect those ratings might be one level to high. Dawkins is nursing an ankle injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Moore isn't injured but he missed practice on Thursday due to an illness. Add to it that the Chargers are pretty beat up in their passing game and you can see why I am going to downgrade both Dawkins and Moore. An injured hamstring has sidelined Champ Bailey since week 1 but he is expected to get back on the field this week. Fantasy wise I wouldn't touch him with a 10 foot pole in his first start back.
NY Jets at New England
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: The Jets DL scored a combined 41 points in week 4, Sione Pouha accounted for 18 of those points and was also the only Jets DL to score in double digits. Hopefully those in DT mandatory leagues saw his 2#-star rating and had him in their starting lineups. This week, against the pass happy Patriots, you can put Pouha, and the rest of the Jets DL on your fantasy benches. If you need numbers to back that up then chew on this, the Patriots are giving up the 2nd fewest points to opposing DL. To date only Antonio Garay and Dwan Edwards have scored in double digits against the Patriots, so my expectations for the Jets DL aren't very high.
Linebacker: The numbers don't really support a 4-star rating for both David Harris and Bart Scott, but Nick Barnett's 17 point performance and Donald Butler's 16 pointer shows that opposing LBs can put up numbers against the Patriots. Most probably see this game as a Patriot blowout but with the Jets secondary I wouldn't be surprised to see Bill Belichick actually lean heavily on his running game this week. That is why I have both Harris and Scott rated so highly. On the injury front the Jets have lost OLB Bryan Thomas to a torn Achilles. Jamaal Westerman is expected to start in place of Thomas but don't be surprised to see former Bills 1st round draft pick, Aaron Maybin get some playing time.
Secondary: Eric Smith is listed on the injury report with a triceps injury but he practiced fully on Wednesday and Thursday so at this point I don't see rating him a 4-star play much of an issue at all. Since the Patriots are giving up the 3rd most points to DBs I found it hard not to rate both Jim Leonhard and Antonio Cromartie. Darrell Revis gets a 2-star rating because I just can't see Tom Brady challenging him much, if at all.
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: Last week I pointed out that the most points scored by any Patriots DL was 8 in a single game. Well after last week, the 8 is still the best that any of their DL has put up. The Jets sound as if they are going to go back to a ground and pound attack but even with that I would be leery of plugging Vince Wilfork or any of his teammates into a starting fantasy lineup, that is with the exception of Shaun Ellis. Ellis doesn't have a great matchup on paper but after years of wearing a Jets helmet I think he will want to have a big game against his former team. Understand that there is much risk in his 4-star rating.
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo injured his MCL and it looks like he will be watching from the sidelines for up to 6 weeks. Gary Guyton will replace Mayo in the starting lineup, but make no mistake that Guyton is not nearly as talented as Mayo and won't be putting up big numbers. In 12 team leagues I don't see Guyton as much more than a LB3 or bye week filler but in deeper leagues he will be worth a look as a solid LB3. Brandon Spikes should be the LB that sees the biggest bump in value. This week I took the easy way out and rated both just a 3-star play but there is some upside for each as they could be facing upwards of 35 rushing attempts this week.
Secondary: With the Mayo injury I fully expect that Patrick Chung sees the biggest bump in value while Mayo is out. If you go back and read what I wrote in the LB section you will see that I said Spikes would see the biggest bump among the LBs. Just figured that probably needed to be pointed out. Devin McCourty has put up double digits in 3 of 4 games this year but with the Jets sounding like they are going to reel it in this week, with regards to the passing game, it very well should limit McCourty's production.
Green Bay at Atlanta
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 has scored 20+ points in 3 of 4 weeks this season and last week he bounced back after his only sub 20 point effort of the season in week 3 (10 points). In case you haven't noticed Bishop is for real and is a weekly must start. Clay Matthews and AJ Hawk are bigger names than Bishop but when it comes to fantasy production they pale in comparison. Actually, combined the other three starting Packers LBs, Matthews, Hawk and Walden have just two double digit performances to their credit. That is two less than Bishop.
Secondary: I have no problem admitting when I am wrong and I am sure I will say it more than once this year. I was wrong on my initial assessment of Morgan Burnett's fantasy value. Burnett has been almost as productive as Bishop has. For the Year he ranks as the #1 overall DB and at this point is as much of a must start as Bishop is. In a rematch of last year's NFC Championship game I think we will see the Falcons put the ball in the air a ton and that makes Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams good plays this week. It should be noted that Woodson has missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday due to what is being listed as a foot and knee injury. If Woodson can't go then bump up Sam Shields from a 2-star to a 3-star play.
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: As I sit here watching the Tigers and Yankees play a tight hard fought game 5 in their ALDS matchup I can't help but feel the Packers and Falcons game will be similar, with the exception being I don't expect a low scoring contest. John Abraham and company will be looking for some revenge but getting to Aaron Rogers isn't the easiest thing to do. However, if the Falcons want to win this game they are going to need to get pressure on Rogers. From a fantasy perspective I think that Abraham and Ray Edwards are going to be in for a long day and that is why I have both rated as just 2-star plays. One thing that could give the Falcons defense a shot in the arm is that DT Jonathan Babineaux is expected back on the field this week.
Linebacker: I think that both Sean Weatherspoon and Curtis Lofton are good plays this week but I think that Weatherspoon has much more upside and that is why he has a 4-star rating versus the 3-star rating for Lofton. There are reasons for the disparity between the rating. First and foremost is that Weatherspoon is a much more dynamic and athletic LB, the other reason is that the Packers have given up better numbers to starting WLBs than they have MLBs. James Anderson put up 16 points versus the 4 put up by Dan Connor, Lance Briggs put up 27 points, compared to the 17 that Brian Urlacher put up, and last week DJ Williams scored 15 points, while MLB Joe Mays could only muster up 4 points. The only starting MLB that wasn't outscored by the starting WLB was Jonathan Vilma. Vilma scored 12 points back in week 1 but WLB Scott Shanle matched him with 12 points of his own.
Secondary: The Packers don't give up a ton of points to opposing DBs but this week I do think that the entire Falcons secondary should be in line for a productive day. William Moore is coming off of his best performance of the season and this week he should at least be able to put up a solid double digit effort. Both Thomas DeCoud and Dunta Robinson have scored in double digits in 3 of 4 games and like Moore I se them putting up double digits again. Brent Grimes has only put up double digits in two games but in the two games he missed he still put up 7 and 8 points. It might be a bit much expecting the quartet to all put up double digits but if it is going to happen it will be in this shootout against the Packers.
Chicago at Detroit
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 has been pretty erratic so far this year but to be fair he has also had some matchups that weren't very good. Well this week things don't get much easier, the Lions have surrendered the 7th fewest points to opposing DL, and a large reason for that is because they are keeping QB Matthew Stafford "clean". Stafford has been sacked just 5 times, only the Patriots, Bills, Titans and Raiders have had their QBs sacked less. Unfortunately, no matter how bad the matchup, Peppers isn't a player you can bench, you just can't do it. You know what you get when you draft players like Peppers so suck it up, stick him in your starting lineup and hope he can turn this matchup on its ear and make you happy you didn't bench him.
Linebacker: The Lions don't rank very high when it comes to points allowed to LBs but they have given up productive performances. In week one all three of the Buccaneers starting LBs scored 13 points or more and in week 4 Chad Greenway and EJ Henderson followed suit, Henderson led the way that week with 17 points and Greenway put up 13. In a big divisional game I just don't see how you can keep Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs out of fantasy lineups. Urlacher gets the higher ratings simply because of his nose for the big play and the added upside that gets you.
Secondary: The Lions secondary is giving up top 10 numbers to opposing DBs, and with a beastly Calvin Johnson at WR you can bet your bottom dollar the Lions will continue to throw the ball around, a lot. For the season only the Saints, Browns, Falcons, Patriots and Panthers have put the ball in the air more than the Lions have. That is why Charles Tillman, Major Wright and Tim Jennings are all 3-star plays. One of those three will more than likely have a very big day but all three belong in starting lineups. Chris Harris is dealing with a hamstring injury or he too would have been a 3-star play.
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: Highly touted rookie DT Nick Fairley is expected to see his first action of the season this week, but from a fantasy perspective he shouldn't be anywhere other than on benches or waiver wires. Still, it will be good to get a look at the rook. As far as fantasy relevance goes it looks like both Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch are in line for very big games. For one the Bears have given up 15 sacks, only the Rams have given up more (19). Add to it that I think the Lions grab a big lead in this game and that is good for the Lions DL, since they will get to pin their ears back, but bad for Jay Cutler since he will be on his back.
Linebacker: Like the Lions, the Bears don't rank very high when it comes to surrendering points to LBs, but they too can give up productive fantasy performances, as can be seen by the 16 points scored by Curtis Lofton, and the 20 points scored by his teammate Sean Weatherspoon. With Justin Durant still missing practice due to his concussion I think that Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy are safe 3-star plays this week. Bobby Carpenter played in place of the injured Durant and he had a nice game, especially his INT for a TD. If you are really in a tight bind due to byes you could give Carpenter a look but I think you would probably be best served to see if you could find some help elsewhere.
Secondary: The Lions secondary has had some big games this season, including Chris Houston's 21 point effort last week and his 19 point effort in week 1. Unfortunately, Houston, nor any other Lions DB has been a consistent fantasy producer. The odds probably aren't that great but against a QB like Jay Cutler who has shown he can be a bit of a turnover machine I think giving Louis Delmas, Amari Spievey and Houston 3-stars seems to be prudent. The one thing to keep an eye on is that Spievey missed practice on Thursday, with what is listed as a hamstring injury.