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
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 Atlanta
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: Talk about a guy heading in the wrong direction. Charles Johnson ranks as the 14th best DL in points scored but he hasn't scored in double digits since week 2, and to make matters worse, each week has seen his points scored decrease. I know it is frustrating but you need to keep plugging him into your lineup. While Johnson is struggling his teammate Greg Hardy is tearing it up. Hardy currently sits tied for 4th with 55 points scored. Hardy isn't without his flaws too, he has yet to put up back to back double digit games. Rating these two isn't the easy thing in the world to do. In short, both should be in lineups this weekend. Johnson got the higher star rating because I really think we see him break out of his funk this week.
Linebacker: The Panthers need to rename their LBs, M.A.S.H. or the walking wounded. Add Omar Gaither to the list of casualties. Gaither sprained his left MCL during week 5, he is expected to miss 2-4 games. Gaither isn't really a fantasy factor but he does influence what is going on with the rest of the Panthers LBs. James Anderson remains the best and most consistent fantasy producer for the Panthers. Dan Connor, Jason Williams and Thomas Williams are options for fantasy owners but only in the right matchups. Connor needs to face a run heavy team, Jason Williams value comes as a 2-down LB so like Connor he has better value against run first teams. Thomas Williams is the nickle backer and is a good play against teams that throw the ball around a ton. Last week, Thomas Williams was inactive due to injury and when Gaither went out that forced the Panthers to use Jason Williams in scenarios that they normally wouldn't have had him on the field for. Even seeing the added snaps after Gaither went down he was only able to muster up 8 fantasy points. This week I expect that we see Thomas Williams back on the field so that means you leave Jason Williams on the bench. As far as Thomas goes, he should only be in starting lineups for very deep leagues. James Anderson, as normal should be in lineups this week.
Secondary: With the Panthers LBs being stretched thin it should continue to mean good things for Charles Godfrey and Sherrod Martin. Godfrey is the safer play going forward but this week both should be in starting lineups against a Falcons team that is giving up top 12 numbers to opposing DBs. At CB I am liking Captain Munnerlyn again as a starter this week.
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: Ray Edwards finally recorded his first sack of the year in week 5, against the Packers. Unfortunately, Edwards has still yet to eclipse double digits for his fantasy owners. Edwards went on record saying that he has been slowed by knee surgery he had during the lockout. Edwards was also quoted saying,
“It’s getting better and better each week, and it’s starting to show in my play,” , good news for what had to be frustrated owners. Edwards isn't the only one being slowed by not being 100%, John Abraham missed last week's game and this week his groin kept him out of practice on Wednesday. Kroy Biermann filled in for Abraham last week but he didn't do anything with the opportunity. Against a Panthers team that isn't giving up very many points to opposing DLs I think that you should bench Edwards as well as all the other Falcons DLs.
Linebacker: While the Falcons DLs have struggled fantasy wise that isn't the case for the LBs, lead by Sean Weatherspoon and Curtis Lofton. Both are plug and play LBs, Weatherspoon currently ranks 3rd in LB scoring and Lofton isn't far behind at #7. The Panthers are giving up 41.40 points to opposing LBs, and honestly I wouldn't be surprised to see Weatherspoon and Lofton move that average higher.
Secondary: William Moore suffered a neck injury that forced him from the Falcons week 5 game. He was replaced by James Sanders. As of Wednesday, Moore (neck) didn't practice and Sanders (hamstring) was limited. Sanders put up 7 points in limited time on Sunday and if Moore can't go you might be thinking about plugging him into your starting lineup, but I wouldn't. Thomas Decoud has quietly been the Falcons best fantasy DB, currently ranking 33rd. Decoud didn't play in week two and his 14.25 PPG average actually would make him a top 15 DB. He too should be in starting lineups this week.
Indianapolis at Cincinnati
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 Colts DL doesn't have a very good matchup this week. However, with that said I would still have a hard time not starting DL Robert Mathis. After posting two 11 point efforts, Mathis tripped up some and only put up 6.5 points for his owners last week. Mathis might not have the upside that he used to have but his floor is going to be around that 6-7 point range. If you are starting Mathis as a DL2 then that should be something you can live with. Dwight Freeney posted another double digit game but with Freeney it is usually all or nothing. The complete opposite of Mathis, so if you can live with that then plug Freeney into your lineup.
Linebacker: The Colts run defense continues to be one of the worst in the league. They have given up a league leading 726 yards thru 5 games. That adds up to plenty of opportunities for the LBs, and MLB Pat Angerer has made the most of those opportunities. Angerer currently ranks as the #1 LB in total scoring as well as in PPG average. He is a must start plug and play LB. Up until last week WLB Kavell Conner was the #5 overall LB but an 8 point week dropped him down to #10. Conner should continue to put up viable fantasy numbers but expecting LB1 numbers might be a stretch. The reason, Ernie Sims, Sims got back on the field and his 21 snaps came at the expense of Conner. In weeks 2-4 Conner played in 100% of the Colts defensive snaps but last week with Sims back on the field he played in 71% of the teams snaps. Sims has trouble staying healthy so who knows, Conner could be back to seeing 100% of the defensive snaps sooner than anyone thinks.
Secondary: Antoine Bethea continues to be the best fantasy option on the Colts. This week he faces a Bengals team that is surrendering below average points to opposing DBs so I would temper expectations some this week. Outside of Bethea you could consider plugging Jacob Lacey into your starting lineup but if it were me I think I would pass on him this week.
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 DLs pretty much s#@t the bed last week, not what was expected against a rookie QB with one of the worst OLs in the league. Carlos Dunlap is highly thought of in fantasy circles but playing in just 21 snaps makes for rough sledding to put up fantasy points. Michael Johnson put up the big goose egg last week, and hasn't done much since week 2, but my money is on him being the best fantasy option for the Bengals this week. Geno Atkins is turning into a decent enough option for DT mandatory leagues and the late TD he added last week was a fine way to end his day.
Linebacker: Rey Maualuga isn't living up to pre-season expectations and this week isn't exactly the week to bet on him turning things around. The only team giving up fewer points to LBs than the Colts are the Browns. That is the main reason why I have Maualuga, and teammate Thomas Howard both as 2-star plays. I don't think owners should cut bait with Maualuga because after his bye in week 7 he does have some attractive matchups.
Secondary: The Bengals secondary gets their second straight horrible matchup. Last week they faced a Jaguars team that was in the bottom 5 in points allowed to DBs. This week they get to face the Colts who rank dead last in points to DBs. So, just like last week, keep Reggie Nelson, Chris Crocker and all their teammates on the bench this week. Additionally, Crocker is dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday.
San Francisco at Detroit
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 surely hasn't lived up to his owners expectations but he is what he is, a limited upside, inconsistent fantasy scoring DL. All that adds up to him ranking #13 among DLs. That sort of sounds crazy, especially when you realize that week 5 was only his 2nd double digit performance of the year. Hard to believe that scores of 14, 6, 2, 9 & 11 adds up to a #13 ranking, just 1 point from being a DL1. What that speaks to me is that going DL, DL early in drafts so that you can land two tier-1 DLs has plenty of merit. I have Smith as a 3-star play this week but with the Lions ranking 29th in points to DL he barely eeked out that rating. This week I suspect we see Smith top out at around 7-8 points, solid enough for a DL2.
Linebacker: Might seem odd to have the #4 (Patrick Willis) and #6 (NaVorro Bowman) LBs rated as just 3-star plays this weekend. Both Willis and Bowman are must starts in my mind, but facing a Lions team that is giving up the 5th fewest points to LBs is the reason for their lower rating. Most other LBs would have rated no better than 2-star plays. Also, there is some upside as Sean Lee was able to put up 20 points against the Lions, so it isn't like it is a horrible matchup. Just one to temper your expectations on.
Secondary: While the Lions aren't the best matchup for the 49ers DL or LBs, that isn't the case for their secondary. The Lions are giving up the 11th most points to DBs so that bodes well for Dashon Goldson. Goldson since getting back on the field in week 3 is the 9th ranked DB in PPG with a 16.0 average. With the Lions passing attack he should be plenty busy. Donte Whitner on the other hand hasn't had a solid fantasy game since week 2 and I see him as a risky play against the Lions pass 1st offense. Honestly, I am not sure what I was thinking when I gave Whitner a 4-star rating but I have since corrected that error and lowered his rating to a 2-star play. Carlos Rogers seems to have found new life out on the West coast and I think he and fellow CB Tarell Brown are starting worthy this week.
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: How the Lions starting DL of Ndamukong Suh (8 pts), Kyle Vanden Bosch (2 pts), Cliff Avril (10 pts) & Corey Williams (4 pts), scored just 24 points against the Bears on Monday night is just unexplainable. Those fantasy points and even the NFL stats, showing the Lions had just 3 sacks just doesn't tell the full story. The Lions pressured, pressured and pressured Jay Cutler to the tune of 22 QB pressures (according to Pro Football Focus). So it is easy to see why I had Vanden Bosch and Suh as 5-star plays. Unfortunately, Cutler was just slippery enough to keep them from putting it all together fantasy wise.
Linebacker: With Justin Durant missing Monday Night's game due to a concussion, allowing DeAndre Levy to stay on the field for almost 100% of the Lions defensive snaps. Levy rewarded his owners, scoring 20 points, and with Durant out the past two weeks his PPG average sits at 19.0. This week Durant could return to the field and if he does, he should be on it more than the 20ish plays that Bobby Carpenter was and that very well could be a hit to Levy's value. However, Durant supposedly had a setback and he is set to see a doctor on Thursday so we won't really know much more til the end of the week. The 49ers rank near the bottom of the league in points allowed to LBs, which is why I have MLB Stephen Tulloch as just a 3-star play.
Secondary: The Lions secondary, or should I say Eric Wright makes me see red. Not because I had Wright in my lineup and he flopped with just a solo and 2 assists against the Bears. No, because I was facing a team that had Wright as his only MNF player, ,he had an almost 50 point lead on me, but I had Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best going for me. It took all night but on the Lions final drive I took a 0.45 lead. Only to see Eric Wright notch his second assist on the 4th to last play of the game. Add to it, that I am the leading scorer in this 16 team league, and that the loss, dropped my record to 3-2 and third place in my division, then you surely understand why Wright makes me see red! As for fantasy purposes Chris Houston has been putting up consistent DB2 numbers and in CB mandatory leagues he sits as a top 5 option. This week against a 49ers team that is putting the ball in the air just 30.4 times/game I think he is a slightly risky play but still think he belongs in starting lineups. On the injury front the Lions placed safety Erik Coleman on injured reserve.
St. Louis at Green Bay
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: Don't make the mistake of allowing the bye week to make you forget just how poorly fantasy wise Chris Long and James Hall have been this year. To date each has just one double digit performance to their name and to make matters worse they face a Packers team that doesn't surrender many points to opposing DLs. Both are rated as 2-star plays and wouldn't be anywhere near my starting lineup if I owned either. I gave Robert Quinn just 1-star but if there is a player to watch it would be him at some point he should start to show he is getting it and at that point could turn into a weekly or at the very least matchup fantasy play. This week, however, isn't that week.
Linebacker: This week James Laurinaitis has two things working in his favor. First he is facing a Packers team that has given up big games to Lance Briggs (27 pts), Sean Weatherspoon (20 pts), Brian Urlacher (17 pts) and James Anderson (16 pts). Second he isn't playing at home, where the Rams scorer hates to give out assists. Laurinaitis should be in lineups this week and I like his upside this week too.
Secondary: The Rams have lost CB Bradley Fletcher for the season, he was placed on IR by the team, and Al Harris is expected to replace Fletcher in the starting lineup. Fantasy wise, Quintin Mikell was supposed to be the Rams top producer but he is coming off of his worst performance of the season, when he posted just 7 points back in week 4. The concern is that Mikell is the Rams best cover safety and that will limit his value going forward. It surely merits monitoring his situation. If that does indeed happen then both Craig Dahl and/or Darian Stewart have the most to gain. This week against the high flying Packers offense I think that everyone in the Rams secondary is a 3-star play.
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: At this point, after what he has done fantasy wise, thru 5 weeks, do you need me to tell you that Desmond Bishop needs to be in your starting lineup? Well, if so, PUT BISHOP IN YOUR STARTING LINEUPS. Bishop is the type of IDP horse that if you own him you ride him and you ride him all season long. Clay Matthews quadricep kept him from practicing last week, yet he still played, but fantasy wise he was pretty much non-existent, logging just 2 points. This week that quad has kept him from practicing on Wednesday. Once again he will probably play. In most leagues I would leave him on the bench but if you are in a big play league then he is worth a gander, as no team is giving up more points to opposing DL than the Rams. I know Matthews isn't a DL but he will rush the passer like one, which is why he is worth a shot in big play leagues. Just make sure to monitor inactives to ensure that he will indeed play this week.
Secondary: I finally admit to being wrong about Morgan Burnett, call him a must start and rank him as a 5-star play, and what does he do? He stinks up the joint and posts just 6 points. I won't flip flop on him, but his matchup against the Rams coupled with last weeks performance leads me to give him just a 3-star rating. With Burnett playing FS we could see Charlie Peprah start to put up starters type numbers but I am not willing to bet on that just yet. Take the safer pessimistic side and sit him this week. It s hard to ever sit Charles Woodson, especially in CB mandatory leagues, and I am not about to say to sit him this week. Woodson has been up and down every other week so far, luckily this is supposed to be the up week. Keep him in your lineups but it wouldn't hurt to keep your fingers crossed too.
Buffalo at NY Giants
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: If ever there was going to be a week for the Bills DL to step up and show their fantasy worth, this would be the week. Kyle Williams, Dwan Edwards, Marcel Dareus and crew face a Giants team that has given up the 2nd most points to opposing DL.
Linebacker: Nick Barnett has gotten off to a wonderful start, he currently ranks as the #5 fantasy LB. Pre-season he was one of my favorite sleepers and I wrote the following about him in the Pre-Season IDP Breakdowns,
"Many have Barnett ranked outside the top 20 but I really feel like a top 10 finish is in the cards for the former Packers stud.". Last week Barnett's 19 point effort was his second best of the season, but how he did it was slightly different than in weeks past. In the prior four weeks, Barnett was averaging 9.75 total tackles/game, but last week he managed just 3 total tackles, good thing for his owners he logged 2 interceptions and returned one for a TD. Look at the end of the day it doesn't really matter how a player puts up fantasy numbers, so long as he is putting them up, but still it is hard to rely on guys that need TDs, INTs or sacks to put up their numbers, luckily Barnett isn't a player like that. This was an aberration and we should see Barnett return to his tackle heavy ways this week. The Giants are giving up below average fantasy points to LBs so his upside might be limited a bit this week. Especially if Brandon Jacobs isn't able to play for the Giants.
Secondary: The Giants haven't been the best matchup for opposing DBs and that is why I initially only had George Wilson and Bryan Scott rated above a 2-star play. However, after looking at things a bit more, I don't see how you can keep Jairus Byrd out of your lineups this week. Eli Manning's head might say he is on par with Tom Brady, but his arm, you know the one that threw 3 interceptions against the Seahawks, says otherwise. Terrence McGee was finally active last week but the Bills didn't play him. This week he is expected to see the field but until we see him actually step on the field I think you need to keep him on your bench.
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 isn't going to be easy to write, or for fantasy owners to take for that matter, but, you have to leave Justin Tuck on your bench, at least until we see him back on the field. Don't put him in your lineups just because he is expected to play, WAIT until he actually gets on the field and shows that he isn't being limited by his injuries. Once again, he missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday and Tuck said, if he does play on Sunday that he will be on a snap count. Continue to run Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora out in your starting lineups. JPP still ranks as the #1 overall DL but Umenyiora is averaging 13.75 PPG, just 1.6 PPG less than JPP, far from chopped liver. The Bills are however giving up the 5th fewest points to DLs so you might want to temper expectations some for this week.
Linebacker: Michael Boley has played in every Giants defensive snap this year, a very big reason he is averaging 14.2 PPG and rates as a top 15 LB. Boley is dealing with a knee issue that limited him in practice on Wednesday, otherwise I might have made him a 4-star play. The Bills seem to throw the ball around enough to make nickle LB Jacquian Williams nice matchup play this week. I know that Williams has scored in double digits in his last four games but that doesn't negate the fact that prior to last week he was playing in around just 50% of the teams defensive snaps and that makes for a risky play. However, last week he did play in all but 6 defensive snaps. He is a player dynasty owners should be stashing for next year, because if he can work his way into a 3-down job he has very nice upside.
Secondary: All of the Giants starting secondary has the ability to put up viable fantasy points but outside of Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips they have been pretty inconsistent. The Bills present a good enough matchup but those inconsistencies are why Rolle and Phillips are the only two rated with better than 2-stars.
Jacksonville at Pittsburgh
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: In what should be another good matchup for fantasy DL I just can't bring myself to recommend playing any of the Jaguars DLs. Last week Jeremy Mincey did have a nice 13 point game, unfortunately, that total was just two points less than he had logged in the 1st four weeks of the season. Not exactly the type of player you want to be plugging into your lineups. No other DL scored more than 6 points for the Jaguars. This week, Aaron Kampman is expected to be back in the fold but relying on him his first week out of the box is a pretty risky proposition. Well at times I am a risk taker and that is why I am giving Kampman a 3-star rating. It will take someone with little at DL and a strong stomach to put Kampman in their lineups but if you are that person I don't think you will regret it.
Linebacker: It might be hard to believe that the Steelers are near the bottom of the league when it comes to giving up points to LBs, but they are. The main reason is that the Steelers are no longer that pound you in the mouth with their running attack team that they were in year's past. They are running the ball just 40.5% of the time. That lends itself to why the Steelers aren't a great matchup for LBs, and why Paul Posluszny is only a 3-star play and not higher like many probably anticipated. Daryl Smith is listed on the injury report with a head injury and he didn't practice on Wednesday. His availability for this week is uncertain but if I had to guess, I would say he won't play this week. If Smith can't go then I think it is safe to bump Clint Session up from a 2-star to a 3-star play.
Secondary: With the Steelers throwing the ball more than running it you would think that they are a better matchup for DBs but that isn't really the case. The Steelers are giving up just 4 points more than the NFL average to opposing DBs. Dawan Landry should be a solid 3-star option for owners but outside of him I have a hard time giving any other Jaguars DB a rating better than 2-stars.
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: Last week I pointed out that there would be big changes for the Steelers LBs, and how those changes were likely to impact the value of Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior and Larry Foote. Timmons did struggle fantasy wise, posting just 9 points, in re-draft leagues with small starting lineup requirements it might be time to toss Timmons out on the waiver wire. Larry Foote and James Farrior were expected to see an increase in snaps and hence value due to the James Harrison injury. However, Foote only put up 1 fantasy point, he also played in just 25 snaps. Farrior, on the other hand, played 100% of the teams defensive snaps and put up a monster 23 point game too. Farrior won't keep up that type of pace but he should put up low level LB1 to high level LB2 numbers as long as he is on the field more than he was prior to Harrison's injury. This week against a Jaguars team that will continue to feed Maurice Jones-Drew the ball, Farrior makes for a rock solid 3-star play that has some upside. The only thing keeping him from a 4-star or better rating is my worry with the Jaguars offense. I also have Timmons and Woodley as 3-star plays but their value is dependant on them getting to Blaine Gabbert. So that means they are a riskier play.
Secondary: As much as I like Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark last week, due to the shake up at LB, this week I am not quite as optimistic. The Jaguars are an abysmal passing offense, which is why they rank 29th in points to opposing DBs. I have Polamalu as the only 3-star play in the Steelers secondary this week, and to be honest I think that is even a risky rating. However, Polamalu tends to have a good nose for the ball so I think he should be able to log an interception or fumble recovery this week.
Philadelphia at Washington
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 missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday, but Cole is supposedly hinting at and telling people that he is going to play this weekend. I, like many others, am not buying it. I find it admirable that he wants to get back on the field but with a bye looming in week 7, I don't see the Eagles letting him back on the field this week. It is a shame too because the Eagles defense surely could use him. Jason Babin only put up 8 points last week and it was his first week without a sack this season. Not really all that surprising considering the added attention the Bills could give Babin with Cole out of the lineup. This week could also prove to be tough sledding for Babin, but I think he has shown enough that he needs to still be in starting lineups, Cole or no Cole for the Eagles.
Linebacker: I am not sure if the rumors will have come to fruition by the time you read this or not, but word is that the Eagles and Broncos are in negotiations that would send LB DJ Williams to Philadelphia. Since they are currently just rumors the ratings for all the Eagles LBs assume a status quo for this week. With every team having had a 100 yard rusher against the Eagles so far this year, you can bet the Redskins are also going to look to pound the rock. That makes Jamar Chaney a very solid play. The one thing that has me a bit concerned is that if the Eagles offense can grab a big lead that they could force the Redskins away from the run and that would be a negative for the Eagles LBs. If you were able to roster rookie WLB Brian Rolle you might want to get him into your lineups this week, because if the Eagles do indeed acquire Williams then Rolle's value is sure to plummet. For those still holding Casey Matthews, are you aware he played all of 1 snap in week 5? Dynasty owners can still keep him stashed but if he is still on your redraft roster, it is time to come to grips and cut him loose.
Secondary: Big shake-up in the Eagles secondary this week. Jarrad Page has been benched, doesn't help that he also suffered a stinger in last week's game. Nate Allen is still starting but Kurt Coleman and rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett are said to be splitting 1st team reps in practice. Great, just want fantasy owners want, a time share at a productive safety position. If you wait to see how this plays out you will end up on the outside looking in. Jarrett is the guy with the upside and who you should grab off the waiver wire and sit on to see how things play out.
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: The Eagles are a "meh" type matchup for the Redskins LBs this week. There was a time in the not so distant past that London Fletcher was a no brainer plug and play LB, but not everything lasts forever. Fletcher wasn't putting up Fletcher like numbers but prior to week 4 he had at least put up 3 straight respectable 11 point games, but week 4 was a different story, posting just a paltry 2 points. Fletcher should still be in lineups this week but expecting the top 10 type numbers he used to put up is going to set you up for disappointment. Rocky McIntosh hasn't lit up the scored board either but he is averaging 12.0 PPG and has scored in double digits each week. Getting solid consistent production like that from a LB3 isn't a bad thing. Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are both normally going to be risky plays but with how often Michael Vick is sacked each could prove to be solid plays in big play leagues.
Secondary: The only team giving up more points to opposing DBs than the Eagles are the Saints. That might make LaRon Landry look like a great option this week, but after giving him a 4-star rating earlier in the week, I am starting to think he isn't as good a play as one would think. Landry is known as a big hitter and not for his coverage skills. The Eagles should run the ball enough to warrant keeping Landry in starting lineups but I don't see a huge week for him, like the initial matchup seemed to indicate. Look no further than last year's week 4 matchup against the Eagles, where Landry logged just 4 solos and 1 assist, and you can see my trepidation. However, in all fairness, I should also point out that in week 10 last year, he logged 6 solos and 3 assists. If you are an OJ Atogwe owner I think you should have him in your lineups as he could very well have his best game of the season against Michael
Turnover Vick. Both Redskins CBs, DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson look to be solid plays as well.
Houston at Baltimore
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 harped early on about how the Texans DL wouldn't have much if any value this year. The of course rookie JJ Watt decided to start the season in beast mode and make me look like I didn't know what I was talking about. Well after 5 weeks I think we are seeing that Watt is a nice player and one that could explode in any week but he isn't going to be near consistent enough to be relied on for fantasy purposes.
Linebacker: The Raiders were supposed to be great matchup for DeMeco Ryans and Brian Cushing. Unfortunately, for Ryans, it was anything but, as he scored just 6 fantasy points. Cushing, he got the memo, to the tune of 19 points. As it stands, right now, Cushing is the only fantasy viable LB the Texans have. Yes, I said it, without actually saying it, DeMeco Ryans is not a fantasy viable LB at this present time. First, there was concern with how Ryans would come back after his Achilles injury last year, then he sustained an elbow injury prior to the start of the season and last week saw a hamstring injury listed on the injury report. Add all those things up and you get a Ryans that isn't being used in an every down roll. This week, he is once again on the injury report and the injuries that had him limited in practice on Wednesday are his elbow, hamstring and now a knee too. The last two weeks he has played in just over 51% of the teams defensive snaps. No wonder his numbers aren't where people expect them to be. Also on the injury front, the Texans lost Mario Williams for the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. Rookie 2nd round pick Brooks Reed will replace Williams in the starting lineup. I know many are hoping to see Reed gain fantasy viability, but I don't see it. He may have moments that he shines but consistency won't be his friend. Players like Mario Williams are not a dime a dozen and Williams, as good as he is was only averaging 8.0 PPG, and that was while recording 5 sacks in the first 5 weeks. You don't really expect Reed to come close to that type of production, do you? I know I don't.
Secondary: I know that Jason Allen has put up two big games the last two weeks, in place of injured Kareem Jackson but that doesn't sell me on Allen or any other Texans DB this week. The Ravens rank as the 5th worst team in points allowed to DBs so that is a major concern. Plus you just have to look at the overall lack of production and inconsistency of guys like Glover Quin, Jonathan Joseph and Danieal Manning.
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 must start at DL, so there is no reason to delve into the numbers to see how good or bad his matchup is. You just plug him in and forget about it. What I will point out is that Haloti Ngata should be a very good matchup this week. For starters, no team has run the ball more than the Texans have this year and that lends to why they rank in the top 7 in points allowed to opposing DLs. Not to mention that Ngata has done something that Suggs hasn't, scored in double digits every week. Plus he is only scoring 1.75 PPG less than Suggs too. Get them both in your lineups and reap the rewards.
Linebacker: Ray Lewis, facing the top rushing team in the league, C'mon man, are you serious. Wipe that grin off your face and just realize how fortunate you are to have Lewis in your lineup this weekend. Outside of Lewis you aren't going to find any other Ravens LB worthy of fantasy consideration.
Secondary: The Ravens DBs look like they will be facing an Andre Johnsonless passing attack this week and that should add up to the Texans just leaning on their running game that much more. Tom Zbikowski is dealing what is being listed as a head injury, he was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday, so his availability for this week is in question. A run heavy team, leaning even more on its running game sounds like a perfect scenario for Bernard Pollard to shine this week, especially with Zbikowski being limited, but with how little the Ravens have used Pollard I just can't in good faith rate him higher than a 2-star play. Just don't be surprised if you see him light up the box score this week.
Cleveland at Oakland
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: The Browns are coming off of a bye week so hopefully the extra time they had to game plan against the Raiders proves fruitful. Only the 4 sacks the Bills have allowed of their QB is less than the 5 the Raiders have surrendered to opposing TEAMS. With Jayme Mitchell and rookie Jabaal Sheard cracking double digits just once each so far this year I can't see playing them against the Raiders this week. That doesn't mean there isn't value on the Browns DL, just that it isn't at the DE spot, instead it is at the DT spot this week. Both Ahtyba Rubin and rookie Phil Taylor have hit double digits twice this season. Against a Raiders team that is one of just five teams running the ball 30 or more times per game, I see both as very good plays in DT mandatory leagues, and solid plays in combined leagues. Another stat that supports getting Rubin and Taylor into your lineup is that the Raiders rank 4th in the NFL, in rushing attempts up the middle. The Raiders have run the ball 150 times this year and and almost 40% of those runs have been up the middle. Seems like a perfect storm for the formidable DTs. On the injury front, Marcus Benard was involved in a motorcycle accident and broke his hand. The injury could land Benard on injured reserve.
Linebacker: As much as I like the Browns DTs because of the Raiders rushing attack I like D'Qwell Jackson about a thousand times more. Jackson should have no problem being, if not the top, one of the top scoring LBs this week. Scott Fujita is averaging 11 PPG over his last three weeks and is worth a look as a bye week filler this week.
Secondary: Fantasy wise the Browns secondary has turned into a wasteland of sorts. In their past two games only Sheldon Brown has posted a double digit score. TJ Ward owners haven't seen a double digit score since week 1, and even then his 11 points were far from what his owners were expecting. I am betting on Ward to step it up in run support this week and that is why I have him as a 3-star play. Should he falter, well, you know what, let's see how things pan out this week and then if need be we will address Ward's prospects going forward. Injury wise, Joe Haden's knee has kept him from practicing on Wednesday and Thursday.
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's shoulder continues to be an issue, keeping him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Odds aren't very good that we see Shaughnessy on the field this week. Jarvis Moss was expected to start in place of Shaughnessy but instead it was Desmond Bryant that started at RDE. Both players were used in the Raiders DL rotation as each played a tick more than 40 snaps. Fantasy wise I wouldn't want to rely on either this week. If you are going to plug in any of the Raiders DL into you lineup then it should be Richard Seymour, but even then I only feel comfortable starting him this week in DT mandatory leagues. The Browns are running the ball over 58% of the time between the guards, so Seymour has that going for him.
Linebacker: Rolando McClain injured his ankle in last week's game against the Texans. The Raiders have been mum with regards to the severity of the injury, but my best guess is that it is an injury that could keep McClain out for multiple weeks. Between the Raiders acquiring Seattle LB, Aaron Curry, working out multiple free agent LBs, McClain not practicing and the Raiders not saying anything is why I feel like McClain could be out for multiple weeks. With regards to Curry, he isn't expected to play for the Raiders this week.
Secondary: With the likelihood that McClain won't play I see Tyvon Branch in line for a very big game. I initially had Branch as a 4-star play but looking at the matchup more I decided to increase him to a 5-star play. Michael Huff had a game saving interception for the Raiders last week, capping a successful 12 point fantasy day. This week I see Huff as a solid 3-star play with a bit of upside. Outside of Branch and Huff, I wouldn't have any other Raiders DB in my starting lineup.
Dallas at New England
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: The Cowboys 3-4 defense severely limits the value of their DL. Normally, Jay Ratliff will provide value in DT mandatory leagues, but against the pass happy Patriots he won't have much if any value this week.
Linebacker: Not much to say about the Cowboys LBs, that is other than Sean Lee is really their only viable LB. Lee is athletic enough to still but up numbers against the Patriots pass heavy attack. The same can't and won't be said about Bradie James or Keith Brooking. Jamaal Westerman in his first start of the season logged 2 sacks against the Patriots last week so if you are in a big play league DeMarcus Ware is definitely worth a look, and if the Cowboys are going to upset the Patriots they are going to need Ware to run roughshod.
Secondary: Facing the Patriots passing attack had me wanting to make everyone in the Cowboys secondary 3-star plays but due to injuries and such I just couldn't bring myself to do it. Instead I gave both starting safeties Abram Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh, along with CB Mike Jenkins the 3-star ratings.
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: I sure did swing and miss with my Shaun Ellis 4-star rating last week. I really thought Ellis would step up his game against his former team, but playing in just 27 snaps, fewest among the Patriots starting DL, helps explain why he only recorded one lousy fantasy point. Andre Carter posted his first double digit game of the year, and while it would be nice to think he is turning things around he doesn't exactly have the best matchup this week. The Cowboys rank in the bottom 10 in points given up to DLs. So with that in mind, keep Carter as well as Vince Wilfork, Ellis and every other Patriot DL on your bench this week.
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo's injured knee is keeping him from practicing and he isn't expected to play this week. Need to get that out of the way because the Patriots didn't list Mayo as OUT on the injury report last week and they probably won't again this week. Gary Guyton saw the most snaps he has seen all year long, and he was also able to post a respectable 13 fantasy points. Guyton not only played in his most snaps of the season but he played in every one of the Patriots defensive snaps. Guyton wasn't alone as Brandon Spikes also played in the most snaps he has all season, he posted 11 fantasy points and played in all but one of the Patriots defensive snaps. Both should hold LB3 value as long as Mayo is out with his injury.
Secondary: I still think that Patrick Chung is the one that is going to benefit the most with Mayo out of the lineup. Last week he didn't really come thru but putting up 13 points while facing just 43 tackle opportunities. This week I might be a bit ambitious with my 5-star rating, but I have a feeling we see Chung start to go crazy. Devin McCourty is the type of player that will drive you absolutely crazy, on the season he has 3 games with 15+ points and 2 games with just 4 points. That is the type of inconsistency that is just tough to swallow. Against a Cowboys team that should put the ball in the air quite a bit I would like to say he is a solid 3-star play but to be honest I have little faith in that ranking. Not saying he couldn't have a big game, he could, just saying I wouldn't be surprised to see him put up another 4 point type stinker. Kyle Arrington was having a pretty nice season, prior to week 5 that is. In week 5, Arrington posted just 2 fantasy points, all while playing in every defensive snap. Tough to take but it happens, and last week due to injuries and bye weeks I picked up Arrington and plugged him into my lineup, that same lineup that lost by .45 points. Damn, now I am seeing red again.
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
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: The Buccaneers aren't the best matchup in the world for the Saints DL, but in an important divisional game I still see Will Smith doing enough to be a solid 3-star play for his owners. Smith's two game run of 10 point fantasy efforts ended last week when he was only able to log 4 fantasy points. Aubrayo Franklin was the top scorer for the Saints, posting 15 points on the strength of 4 solos, 1 assist, 1 sack and a forced fumble. Just don't go getting to giddy about Franklin's performance, because he did all that damage on just 19 snaps. Sure it is good to see a player produce in limited snaps but I feel very safe in saying that Franklin won't put up viable fantasy numbers seeing so few snaps each week. With the Buccaneers running just shy of 65% of their rushing attempts between the guards I would normally rate Sedrick Ellis as a 2#-star play or better but considering that Legarrette Blount isn't expected to play I am not willing to step out on that limb.
Linebacker: Jonathan Vilma's 4-star rating came before it was pretty much a given that Legarrette Blount wouldn't be playing this week. With Vilma struggling to barely put up double digits most weeks I think he makes for a risky 3-star play at this point. If you own him you probably drafted him pretty early and sitting him probably isn't much of an option, just realize that his 3-star play is pretty weak this week. Outside of Vilma starting any other Saints LB is really a risky proposition and one I would avoid at all costs if possible.
Secondary: Roman Harper comes off of a very odd dud of a fantasy week. No reason to read anything more into it other than it was an aberration. I like Harper to have a very big this week and with the Buccaneers giving up top 8 numbers to opposing DBs it is easy to see why. Outside of Harper I don't feel safe recommending any other Saints DBs.
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 reverted to their old ways in week 5, nary a one Buccaneers DL posted a double digit score. To make matters worse this week they face a Saints team that for the season has given up just 4 double digit games to opposing DL. If you must start a Buccaneers DL then Michael Bennett is probably the best option, but I would recommend looking elsewhere for help if at all possible.
Linebacker: Mason Foster is coming off of two sub-par fantasy performances so I won't blame anyone that scratches their head when they see Foster with a 4-star rating. The Saints are a pass first team but they still run the ball a respectable 26.8 times/game, and when they run it they do so between the guards 60% of the time. That should give Foster plenty of chances to fill some gaps and log the tackles needed to be a 4-star play. Geno Hayes has also posted back to back sub-par games but like Foster I think he bounces back this week, I just don't see the upside with Hayes that I do with Foster.
Secondary: After a disappointing 3 point effort in week 4, Sean Jones bounced back in a big way, posting 19 fantasy points. The only other Buccaneers DB to post more than 4 points was fellow safety Corey Lynch. Pretty low production considering how badly the Buccaneers got their collective tails kicked last week. I would expect that to change this week, as the Saints are giving up the most points to opposing DBs. I think that Jones along with Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib should all be in starting lineups this week. It is also worth pointing out that Tanard Jackson was reinstated. I doubt he sees the field much this week but he very well could and should work his way into the starting lineup at some point soon.
Minnesota at Chicago
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: Giddy like a kid on Christmas morning, or should I be more politically correct and say like a kid in a candy shop? In any event, Jared Allen owners are smiling ear to ear about this week's matchup. I mean, you did see how the Lions DL abused Jay Cutler last week. Well this week it is Allen's turn and I will be very surprised if he comes away with less than 2 sacks. Brian Robison turned it up a notch last week and this week he too is a very strong play.
Linebacker: Chad Greenway rewarded his owners with a 19 point effort in week 5, the type of week they were expecting to see more often than not. With the Bears being next up on the docket I wouldn't expect to see Greenway repeat his week 5 performance. Something in the 12-15 point range will most likely be his upside this week. Reason being is that the Bears have given up the 9th fewest points to opposing LBs. With injuries taking their toll on EJ Henderson, his fantasy production and snaps played have both taken a hit. EJ posted 7 disappointing points last week but you should realize that he was on the field for just 23 of the Vikings defensive plays. Brother Erin played in 40 more snaps than his older brother but he only recorded 1 additional fantasy point. Consider both Henderson's risky fantasy plays, but if you are intent on playing one then it should be Erin this week. EJ's balky knee limited him in practice both on Wednesday and Thursday.
Secondary: Antoine Winfield's neck injury did indeed end up keeping him off the field last week and this week that same neck injury has kept him from practicing on Wednesday or Thursday. With Winfield not playing until Sunday night it is best to not risk him not playing again and just keep him on your bench. Unfortunate, since this would have been a very nice matchup for him. I won't bounce all of Winfield's value to Cedric Griffin, but I do see Griffin still putting up solid numbers and I can see a bit of upside in his 3-star rating too. With as little as the Bears throw the ball deep, just 24 times, compared to 145 times they throw short, safeties Husain Abdullah and Jamarca Sanford look to be solid plays too, since they should be able to cheat up to help with the Bears short passing attack..
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 injured his knee in last week's game, it was feared that he would miss this week's contest but coach Lovie Smith has said the sprain is minor and he hopes that Peppers will be able to return to practice on Friday. I know Peppers is a stud but with a sprain that very well could limit his effectiveness I think you should leave him on your bench this week. The player I like the most on the Bears DL this week is DT Henry Melton. Why, you ask? Well mainly because the Vikings have run the ball up the middle 61 times this year, 3rd most in the league. If you are curious what percentage of running plays that accounts for, try just a hair under 40% of the time. Add in the number of plays they run between the guards and that percentage becomes 59%. To date the Bears defense has seen just six, yes six rushing plays run up the middle on them, that ranks as the least in the NFL. Even though I like Melton more than any other Bear DL this week I didn't like him enough to give him a 3-star rating.
Linebacker: The Viking have given up a decent amount of nice games to opposing LBs, with Mason Foster's 23 point effort being the best. This week look for Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs to each put up a minimum of 12-15 points, Urlacher like most weeks looks to have the most upside.
Secondary: The Vikings passing offense has been for the most part, offensive this year, and I don't mean in a good way. With that in mind that is why Charles Tillman was the only DB rated above a 2-star play. My expectation was that Tillman should at the very least be active in run support, but now seeing as his hip took him from a limited practice on Wednesday to not practicing on Thursday, I had no choice but to change his rating from 3-star to "Injured". Chris Harris, Major Wright and the rest of the Bears DBs present to much risk to be in starting lineups this weekend.
Miami at NY Jets
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: Karlos Dansby is supposed to be the Dolphins most viable fantasy LB, but for the most part he has under-performed expectations and been inconsistent too. Against a Jets team that wants to get back to a smash mouth running game should make Dansby a solid play this week. Call me a fool but i am buying into the Jets run the ball hype and have rated Dansby a 3-star play because of it. In past years a matchup like this would have easily seen Dansby as a 4, maybe even a 5-star play. The only other Dolphins LB I like a little this week is rush OLB, Cameron Wake. Wake only has 1 double digit game to his credit so far this year so that 3-star rating comes with some risk, but I think that Wake is able to get to Sanchez this week and he should at the very least eek out his second double digit game of the year.
Secondary: Yeremiah Bell has been one of the more consistent DBs in the NFL this year and he is coming off of a season best 28 point effort in week 4. This week against the Jets, Bell should be in for a solid game, I only have him rated a 3-star play but I was very close to rating him a 4-star play. Outside of Bell, CB Sean Smith would be the next best fantasy option but against a Jets team that is looking to limit their passing game I think it is best to leave Smith on the bench this week.
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 Dolphins are a middle of the road matchup for opposing DLs, but the Jets DL has been in a fantasy funk for much of the season. Over their last 3 games only Sione Pouha has posted a double digit score. Not exactly the sort of trending you want to see if you are looking to plug a DL into your lineup. As it stands now, treat the Jets DL like the plague and stay away from them.
Linebacker: David Harris has quietly had a pretty good year, currently ranking #20 in points scored among LBs. Over his last two games he has scored 21 and 19 points, and that 20 point average ties him for the 3rd most productive LB over the last two weeks. This week against a Dolphins team that is giving up below average points to opposing LBs, I would temper expectations for Harris. Bart Scott was having a solid season, at least thru 4 weeks he was, but in week five a 3 point performance knocked his PPG average down to 11.2 for the season. I think giving Scott a 3-star rating might look a bit risky but I think he should be able to hit the 10-12 point range this weekend. Good numbers for a LB3 or bye week filler. I know that Jamaal Westerman had two sacks in his first game as a starter but I don't see him keeping up that type of production and if you look to add him off the waiver wire, I see that as just chasing points. Something that everyone should avoid doing.
Secondary: While the Dolphins haven't been all that great a matchup for opposing front 7 players the same can't be said for secondary players. The Dolphins are surprisingly giving up the 5th most points in the league to opposing DBs. That fact alone was reason enough for me to add Eric Smith to a roster where injuries and byes have me thin at the DB position. Smith isn't the only Jets DB that I see being productive this week either, I think that Jim Leonhard should also be able to put up his second consecutive double digit performance of the year.