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 (Available late Friday)
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!
Oakland at San Diego
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 45, 2009: 45, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 53, 2009: 53, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: I said that I had a love/hate feeling about the Raiders matchup against the Broncos last week. That was because I couldn't figure out who should have been the 4 or 5-star play. As it played out only Lamarr Houston was worthy of a start, posting 13 fantasy points, his best output of the season. I can understand Desmond Bryant and Jarvis Moss not meeting expectations, but with the Broncos running the ball 38 times, it is hard to stomach the bad week that both Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour had. Unfortunately, sometimes things just don't play out like they seem they will. This week against a Chargers team that ranks 21st in points to DL I think it is best to leave each and every Raiders DL on the bench this week. That is, unless you are in a DT mandatory league. In those leagues I am willing to give Kelly and Seymour a reprieve, especially considering the Chargers are 2nd in the NFL with 106 rushes right up the middle.
Linebacker: Rolando McClain is still dealing with an ankle injury, last week he was active, but evidently was only available for emergency duty. He never got in the game. I guess a team running for almost 300 yards on your defense doesn't constitute an emergency. Darryl Blackstock started in place of McClain, and he had a pretty productive day, posting 10 fantasy points, and logging one of the Raiders two sacks. Aaron Curry also netted 10 fantasy points, but with those 38 rushing attempts you would have expected better production, much better production, actually. Kamerion Wimbley was the lone Raider that I rated above a 3-Star play last week. I said that was because I thought he could get to the QB, and he did. Wimbley logged the only other Raiders sack, while adding in 6 solo tackles for the day too. His 15 point outburst was his second double digit effort, and best of the season. This week I am bearish on Wimbley because he doesn't present near the upside as he did last week.
Secondary: Last week it wasn't easy to give Tyvon Branch just a 3-star rating but at the end of the day it was the correct rating. Of course I was only lukewarm on Branch last week because of the poor matchup the Broncos were. This week, things look much better for Branch. His 5-star rating might be a bit high, but against a Chargers team that ranks 3rd in points allowed to opposing DBs I see plenty of upside and little downside. Michael Huff didn't have a great game last week but that was expected, this week the matchup dictates to get Huff into your starting lineup.
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 Chargers 3-4 isn't very fantasy friendly so you would be best served by looking for DL help elsewhere. However, if you are in a DT mandatory league you will want to get Antonio Garay in your lineup this week. He faces a Raiders team that ranks 4th in the NFL with 81 rushes up the middle. Darren McFadden might not be playing on Thursday night but that doesn't mean the Raiders won't feed Michael Bush the ball in an effort to keep Phillip Rivers on the sidelines. Then again, with how Rivers is giving the ball away lately, maybe they would be better off having Rivers on the field.
Linebacker: I warned last week that Donald Butler was a risky play last week. In case you forget why, it is because Butler isn't a 3-down LB. He played in just 48 of 62 snaps against the Packers, and was only able to turn those snaps into 9 fantasy points - his second single digit performance of the year. This week against a Raiders team that should be in run, run and run some more mode I think Butler is a slightly less risky play this week. Takeo Spikes has scored in double digits in three consecutive weeks, extending that streak to four straight shouldn't be an issue. On the injury front, Shaun Phillip will miss his 3rd straight game.
Secondary: This might be hard to believe, but the Raiders are a top 5 matchup for opposing DBs. Then again, when you factor in that Carson Palmer has thrown 394 interceptions in his last two games it does make some sense. Eric Weddle presents the best matchup this week, he isn't afraid to stick his nose in for run support, and he also has a good nose for the ball. Don't be surprised to see Weddle increase his league leading total of 5 interceptions on Thursday. In week 8, rookie Marcus Gilchrist replaced veteran Antoine Cason in the starting lineup. This week the veteran gets his job back. Why? Because Gilchrist is still being treated for 3rd degree burns and mental anguish after facing Aaron Rodgers & the Packers last week.
New Orleans at Atlanta
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: Will Smith has been wildly erratic this season, and with no bye weeks to cover this week he is probably a player you will be reluctant to put into your starting lineup. Trust me, I completely understand that line of reasoning, but if you really want or need to play matchups, this looks like a pretty nice week for Smith. The Falcons rank 10th in points to DL, and for the season they are on average allowing 2 sacks/game. However, it isn't like Matt Ryan has ended up on his back, week after week. From week 2 thru 4 he actually didn't get sacked at all, but over his past four games he has been sacked an average of 2.75 times/game. Facing a big back like Michael Turner you might think that Sedrick Ellis will be a solid play, but the Falcons don't run the ball between the tackles all that much, ranking in the bottom half of the NFL.
Linebacker: Frustrating has to be the best way to describe what Jonathan Vilma owners are feeling. Two weeks ago he is having issues with his knee and doesn't practice all week, but then come Sunday he plays and puts up his best game of the season (18 pts). Then this past week he misses practice all week again, you figure he will play again, but nope, not this time. This week against a Falcons team that ranks just 28th in points to LBs I have no problem saying to keep Vilma on the bench. Currently, I have Jo-Lonn Dunbar as a 3-star play, but the more I think about it and look at the matchup I will be lowering him to 2-stars.
Secondary: Over the past two weeks, Roman Harper is back to being Roman Harper. After sandwiching a 3 and 5 point effort around an 11 pointer in week 6, Harper has put up 13 and 23 points the last two weeks. This week he faces a Falcons team that ranks 17th in points to opposing DBs, but with Julio Jones back in their offense, the Falcons should present an above average opportunity for Harper and the Saints DBs this week. No DB in the league has been thrown at more than the 67 times that Jabari Greer has been. Facing that many throws you would expect Greer to be more productive, but for the season he is averaging under 10 PPG. Even with that in mind I think Greer is a safe bet as 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: The Saints rank 20th in points to opposing DL, and with how little Drew Brees is usually sacked I was shocked they ranked that high. However, much of that ranking is due to the shellacking the Saints got at the hands of the Rams in week 8, and also the Bears back in week 2. Take out those two games (10 sacks), and the Saints will have only given up 10 sacks in the other 7 games, or just 1.43/game. Not exactly the week that i expect to see Ray Edwards get his first double digit game of the year in. As for his running mate, John Abraham, I don't foresee him breaking his 6 game streak of single digit fantasy performances.
Linebacker: The Saints rank just 18th in points to LBs, but don't let that scare you away from starting Sean Weatherspoon or Curtis Lofton this week. I could help you understand why by telling you that Desmond Bishop racked up 12 tackles against the Saints, or that Paul Posluszny had 13 total tackles and sack, and that James Anderson also recorded 10 total tackles. I could even point out that James Laurinaitis had 10 solos and a sack against the Saints, or that Phillip Wheeler posted 10 total tackles too, but that isn't going to be my selling point. My selling point is that in week 2, DeMeco Ryans notched 6 solo tackles, and if Ryans, with how he has played this season can have the type of success then so can Weatherspoon and Lofton.
Secondary: The Saints still rank #1 in points to opposing DBs, so this week should be a good week for William Moore owners. Oops, wait, nix that, Moore suffered a thigh injury in last week's game, and his availability for this week is a bit up in the air. Moore was replaced by James Sanders, who then posted a whole 2 fantasy points. Yikes, just writing that makes me realize that even giving Sanders a 3-star rating against the Saints is pretty risky business. DeCoud, Grimes and Robinson, sounds like a law firm, should be solid plays this week. DeCoud andd Grimes have posted nice numbers earlier in the season, so they are the safer 3-star plays. Since week 4, Robinson has been rather bad, posting single digits for five straight games, but this week, I do think the risk of putting him in starting lineups is worth it.
Houston at Tampa Bay
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: The Texans 3-4 defense severely limits the fantasy viability of their DL. If you are going to roll with a Texans DL then it needs to be rookie JJ Watt. Watt currently ranks 13th among DL in scoring. This week, facing a Buccaneers team that ranks near the bottom for DL matchups I think that Watt would be best left on the bench. Another thing to keep in mind with Watt is that over his last 6 games he has just one double digit effort - he also has two 2 point games.
Linebacker: Brian Cushing posted his second consecutive 14 point game, doing so on the strength of 7 total tackles and a sack. In a below average matchup I have Cushing as a 3-star play. However, Cushing didn't practice on Wednesday and is on the injury report, not for this injury, but for what is listed as a knee & hamstring. Depending on how Cushing progresses and practices this week will dictate if I end up downgrading his rating. DeMeco Ryans is still playing limited snaps, and isn't anywhere near worthy of being in fantasy lineups. Rush OLBs are usually very risky plays, but Brooks Reed has strung together four straight double digit games. He probably deserves more than the 2-star rating that I gave him, but against a Buccaneers team that ranks 16th in points to opposing LBs, and that has only surrendered 2 sacks to an OLB this season. Of course both of those sacks came at the hands of rookie Aldon Smith, so if you do run Reed out in your lineup there is a glimmer of a chance that he could come through for you.
Secondary: The Buccaneers rank 7th in average points allowed to opposing DBs, and just about in every game this year they have given up a nice fantasy day to a team's safety and cornerback. My money is on Glover Quinn and Jonathan Joseph to be the best plays in the Texans secondary this week.
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: There were two major moves with regards to the Buccaneers DL this week. One is that Gerald McCoy suffered a torn biceps muscle and has been placed on injured reserve. The other move is that the Buccaneers claimed Albert Haynesworth off of waivers. If, and that is a big if, Haynesworth can play up to his potential then this will be a very nice move. However, I think we all know the odds of this working out favorably is probably less than 10%. On the fantasy end of things, the Buccaneers do face a Texans team that ranks 4th in average points to DL, and that presents enough upside to warrant starting Michael Bennett this week. Adrian Clayborn could be a nice sleeper, but I think you need to have some injury issues to be considering putting Clayborn into your starting lineup.
Linebacker: The Texans are the 12th ranked team in average points to opposing LBs, and in three of their last four games have allowed at least 8 solo tackles to an opposing LB. Mason Foster far exceeded my expectations last week, but that won't happen this week, because I have pretty high expectations for the rookie. I look for him to record double digit tackles this weekend. Quincy Black should also be productive enough to rely on as a LB3. If you are wondering why Geno Hayes ended up last week with a donut, it is because he didn't play a single snap, and was replaced in the starting lineup by Adam Heyward. Presently Hayward doesn't look like he will be a viable fantasy option, but this move does make Black a better weekly option.
Secondary: With the way that the Texans running game is clicking it is no wonder that they aren't giving up a ton of points to opposing DBs. I have Tanard Jackson and Ronde Barber both as 3-star plays this week, but a hamstring injury kept Jackson out of practice on Wednesday. I will continue to monitor the situation and adjust Jackson's rating as need be. I warned that Sean Jones might not be a great play last week, and he wasn't . However, this week I think Jones makes for a solid DB3 option.
Arizona at Philadelphia
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: Calais Campbell has been fantastic fantasy option this year. Want to know how fantastic? Try this, Campbell has scored just 2.5 points less than Terrell Suggs has, yep, that is pretty fantastic. This week I have Campbell as a 3-star play, but understand that rating is very strong. Unfortunately, Campbell faces an Eagles team that ranks dead last in points allowed to opposing DLs. Outside of Campbell and a few other DLs, this is easily a 1 or 2-star matchup for most DLs. I am a Campbell owner and more than likely he will be in my lineup this weekend, but like me, you should temper your expectations.
Linebacker: Darryl Washington is coming off of a season best 20 point effort, his 5th consecutive double digit game. After being slowed early in the year by injury, Washington looks to be hitting his stride. Against an Eagles offense that ranks 6th in average points to LBs, I think we could see Washington hit the 20 point mark again. Paris Lenon is currently a 3-star play this week, but he missed practice on Wednesday due to a groin injury. If Lenon ends up looking like he won't be able to go I will more than likely bump up Stewart Bradley to a 3-star play against his former team.
Secondary: Patrick Peterson fielded a punt in OT on the one yard line, 99 yards later the Cardinals had an OT win, and Peterson had an 18 point fantasy day. Fantasy wise, Peterson got out of the gates fast with two double digit scoring games to start the season. However, since then he has alternated single and double digit games. This week against the Eagles I think Peterson could finally put up back to back double digits again. Richard Marshall took over as a starting CB last week and he posted his 3rd consecutive double digit score. AJ Jefferson may have been benched as a starter but he still played in 69% of the teams defensive snaps, and that allowed him to post a productive 12 fantasy points. I suspect that Jefferson will still post the occasional double digit game, but relying on him to do so from the bench is probably not the most prudent thing to do.
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: Make no mistake about it, the Eagles were just plain awful in creating any sort of pressure on Jay Cutler last week. Trent Cole who I was expecting to feast on Jay Cutler, but instead he only posted 7 fantasy points. At least the 7 points, while not great is better than nothing, or should i say better than one point from a pass defended, like Jason Babin scored. Even after that putrid one point effort, Babin still ranks 8th in points scored among DLs. Seeing Cole rated as a 5-star play and Babin as a 4-star play probably has you scratching your head, but I can't look past the fact that the Cardinals rank 3rd in points allowed to opposing DL. Yes, last week's matchup looked plum too, but do you really want to be that guy that gets to say that you left Cole or Babin on your bench after they go off, I know I don't want to be that guy. If there was a positive last week, it was that Brandon Graham got back on the field, and in doing so he posted a respectable 8 fantasy points. A performance that gives dynasty league owners some hope.
Linebacker: Outside of a disastrous 2 point week 6, Jamar Chaney has scored either 14 or 17 points in each of his past 5 games. This week against a Cardinals team that ranks just 14th in points to LBs, I don't expect a big week from Chaney, but I do think he should be able to put up LB3 type numbers at the worst. Brian Rolle had a huge 23 point performance, of course much of that was on the strength of his defensive TD. If you were wondering, if not for that one play, you know, the one where Rollie forced the fumble, recovered the fumble and then ran it in for a TD, Rolle would have scored just 9 fantasy points. Crazy how one play can be so productive, but just do the math, 3 points for the forced fumble, 3 for the recovery, 6 for the TD and 2 for the tackle, yes, if you create a fumble you get credit for a solo tackle too. So when you add that all up you get 14 fantasy points. My reason for pointing all that out is to temper expectations for Rolle.
Secondary: To keep this short and sweet, the Cardinals are a horrid matchup for opposing DBs. So bench all of your Eagles DBs, and don't even think twice about it. On the injury front, Nate Allen suffered a concussion in Monday night's game, and rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett took his place. With Allen not practicing due to the concussion we will probably see the rookie get his first start of his career this week.
Washington at Miami
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: Get this, over the past four weeks London Fletcher ranks as the #1 overall LB. In that span of time he has scored 90.50 points, and is averaging 22.625 PPG. Yes, over those four games he has a huge 37.50 point game, but even without that game he is averaging 17.67 PPG. Fletcher is white hot, and against a Dolphins team that ranks top 10 in points to opposing LBs you would have to be crazy not to have Fletcher in your lineup this week. Prior to the Redskins bye in week 5, Rocky McIntosh had overshadowed Fletcher, but my how that has changed. McIntosh is back to playing second fiddle, but that doesn't mean he isn't a viable fantasy option. He is coming off his worst fantasy production of the season, but he shouldn't have any problem bouncing back this week. Like Fletcher, McIntosh should be in starting lineups this week. Both Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo have strung together some decent fantasy games, but with no bye weeks this week I think you can find safer plays, rather than relying on those rush OLBs.
Secondary: If you are a Laron Landry owner I want you to make sure you are sitting down when you read the next sentence. Landry missed practice on Monday due to a sore Achilles, yes that same Achilles. As of this writing there isn't any more information available but if and when more info is made available I will update this write-up. OJ Atogwe missed his 2nd game in three weeks, he too missed practice on Wednesday, and at this point is a wait and see. Reed Doughty filled in for Atogwe last week, and he posted a fine 17 fantasy point day. If Atogwe or Landry can't go this week then Doughty will get bumped up from his current 2-star rating.
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: In week 9, there were only four LBs in the NFL that scored 25 or more points, and two of them were Dolphins. Karlos Dansby (25 pts) & Kevin Burnett (26.5 pts) each recorded double digit solo tackles. Dansby logged 11 solos, with Burnett logging 10, plus adding in 2 assists and 1.5 sacks. You don't need me to tell you that is a ton of tackles, but man, that is a ton of tackles. It didn't hurt that the Chiefs gave up 59 tackle opportunities. This week, you of course can't expect that type of production again, but the Redskins are a top 5 matchup for LBs, so both should still be very good plays this week.
Secondary: Yeremiah Bell's 10 points last week, matched his season low that he scored back in week 3. With Bell you get a very consistent DB, and knowing that 10 points is basically his floor is a good thing. This week I have Bell as a 4-star play, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him top 20+ points this week, The more I think about it the more I may end up bumping Bell up to a 5-star play.
Tennessee at Carolina
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: All work and playing the Titans DLs makes Jack a dull boy. All work and playing the Titans DLs makes Jack a dull boy. All work and playing the Titans DLs makes Jack a dull boy. All work and playing the Titans DLs makes Jack a dull boy. All work and playing the Titans DLs makes Jack a dull boy. All work and playing the Titans DLs makes Jack a dull boy. All work and playing the Titans DLs makes Jack a dull boy. All work and playing the Titans DLs makes Jack a dull boy. All work and playing the Titans DLs makes Jack a dull boy.
Seriously, you would be better off starting Jack Nicholson at DL, rather than any Titans DL. For those of you who have no clue what movie I am referring to, "Here's Johnny". Absolutely one of the best horror movies of all time! Almost as horrific as the Titans DL is for fantasy purposes.
Linebacker: After four weeks of double digit performances Barrett Ruud was only able to put up 7 fantasy points last week. It would be easy to dismiss his poor production on a poor number of tackle opportunities, but that wouldn't be true. Ruud and his teammates faced 53 tackle opportunities, with 30 being from rushing attempts. Hard to believe that not just Ruud but every Titans LB was unable to crack double digits, especially considering they faced 30 rushes. Just don't let last week's performance make you gun shy of this week's matchup. The Panthers are a strong matchup for opposing LBs, having given up at least 15 points to an opposing LB in 5 of their 8 games.
Secondary: While the LBs didn't take advantage of last week's tackle opportunities, the secondary did. Jordan Babineaux (24), Jason McCourty (14 pts), and Alterraun Verner (14 pts) all scored in double digits. Babineaux has been super productive since taking over for Chris Hope in week 5. From week 5 thru 9 Babineaux actually ranks 4th among all DBs in fantasy scoring, with 70 points scored, and a 17.50 PPG average. I have Babineaux as a 4-star play, but that might be far to optimistic, not because this is a bad matchup but because Chris Hope has been medically cleared and practiced fully on Wednesday. I do think Hope will get back on the field this week but I doubt he sees a full compliment of snaps. Not saying he won't just hat I would be shocked if he did. Because of the added risk I am mulling over if I shouldn't just make Babineaux a 2-star play and Hope a 1-star play.
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: This isn't a very good matchup for the Panthers DLs this week. However, I don't see how you can't give the #9 (Charles Johnson) and #12 (Greg Hardy) DLs a 3-star rating. Yes, there is some risk with Johnson's and Hardy's ratings but worst case you should see each put up 5-7 points and best case they go for 10-14.
Linebacker: Honestly, the Titans are just a bad matchup across the board, even though I only gave James Anderson a 3-star rating I think there is some upside in this matchup for him. After all, 8 different LBs scored 14 or more points against the Titans this week. The Panthers also should have Omar Gaither back in the fold this week. Gaither should return to the starting lineup, but I would have a hard time relying on him this week.
Secondary: The Titans rank 25th in average points allowed to opposing DBs, but that doesn't mean they haven't given up some decent fantasy production. The problem is that they have been very unpredictable with regards to what week they end up being good plays in. So much of this week's production will depend on if the Panthers get the Titans good or bad passing attack. Since I can't put a finger on which it will be, I cautiously rated Charles Godfrey a 3-star play.
PIttsburgh at Cincinnati
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. Brett Keisel has had a few nice games of late but relying on a 3-4 DE like Keisel isn't the best of things to do. However, the Bengals love to run the ball to the left side of their line, running it 51 times over left tackle, and 39 times to the left end. Those numbers respectively rank 2nd and 5th in the entire NFL. So if you are in a bind, Keisel could be worth a look.
Linebacker: James Harrison looks to really have recharged his batteries while recovering from his broken orbital bone. Ouch, that hurts just typing that. Anyway, Harrison was back to doing what Harrison does, creating havoc for opposing offenses and scoring a bunch of fantasy points. This week in what should be a tight defensive battle I see Harrison once again having a good day, and for the same reason that Keisel makes a good play is why Harrison has some upside in his 3-star rating. Lawrence Timmons moved back inside, but he did move around some too, but still the same old underwhelming result. Larry Foote on the other hand, as expected did well, actually he did better than well, posting 17 fantasy points. Figuring this week out is a bit of a mess. James Farrior (calf) practiced fully on Monday and baring any setbacks should be back on the field this week. If that happens then Foote should see fewer snaps, that is unless Timmons gets bounced back outside to fill in for LaMarr Woodley. Jason Worilds replaced Woodley last week, but if Woodley can't go this week the Steelers would probably bump Timmons back outside and use Worilds as depth. So, with all that said, there is a ton of risk for each and every Steelers LB except for Harrison. Start him with confidence, but understand starting anyone else is a risky proposition. Oh and Woodley was expected to miss two weeks but he is lobbying hard to play, so that just really clouds things a bit more.
Secondary: Troy Polamalu is nursing a rib injury that kept him from practicing on Wednesday. Polamalu is a gamer so I doubt it keeps him out of this big showdown, but until I can see more practice reports I am not going to give him a rating for this week. For the most part I think this is going to be a defensive battle, which will lead to fewer tackle opportunities. So at best, I can't see me giving Polamalu more than a 3-star rating, even if there is good news about his ribs. Ryan Clark is one of my favorite under-the-radar DBs, all he does is produce solid numbers, but he doesn't receive much fanfare. He reminds me a lot of how Antoine Bethea would always be a huge value in drafts, and all he did was put up solid fantasy numbers. This week, I have Clark as a 3-star play, I don't think it will be a huge game, more like 10-12 points but still solid production for a guy you can most likely plug-in as a DB3.
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: I just hate seeing such great matchups wasted on teams that just haven't shown the propensity to take advantage of said great matchup. See, the no team in the NFL is giving up more average points/week to opposing DLs than the Steelers are. The problem is that with how the Bengals DLs have performed fantasy wise this year, they are all risky options. Carlos Dunlap has put together three consecutive decent games, so I think he is worthy of the risk to put into starting lineups this week. The same goes for Michael Johnson, the risk is there, but so is the upside. The only reason they are each 3-star plays is because of their inconsistent and underwhelming play for much of the year, otherwise they would be 4 to 5-star plays this week.
UPDATE: Carlos Dunlap is dealing with a hamstring injury causing him to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Linebacker: Rey Maualuga is back practicing and is expected to return to the field this week. Dan Skuta filled in for Maualuga while he was out with his ankle injury, but Skuta didn't do much fantasy wise. Normally, I would recommend to leave a player coming off an injury like Maualuga is, on the bench for a week, but this week I am going against the grain and saying to get him into your lineup. Not only does it go against my normal stance, but it also goes against what the numbers say. Believe it or not the Steelers rank just 26th in points to LBs, so there is some risk in Maualuga's rating, as well as the 4-stars that I gave to Thomas Howard. I might have a bad read on the game, but I just see them both as good plays this week. I even have Manny Lawson as a 3-star play, which I am sure has you scratching your head. The reason I see Lawson as a 3-star play has more to do with how susceptible the Steelers are to the rush, than anything else.
Secondary: The Steelers aren't as bad a matchup for DBs, ranking 14th in average points allowed, as they are for the Bengals LBs, so the ratings shouldn't look so bad for Chris Crocker, Reggie Nelson, or Leon Hall. Nelson is by far the safest play of that bunch, but just like with the Bengals LBs, I have a gut feeling that they will live up to their ratings. I know Nate Clements had a huge 20 point game last week, and no, it wouldn't surprise me to see him have another good game this week, but I just can't put my finger on it but I see him as a slightly riskier play is all.
St. Louis at Cleveland
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 47, 2009: 48, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 53, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: Chris Long owners must be saying, "FINALLY", and that is understandable after Long has posted 16 and 12 points in each of the past two weeks. But, don't get to overzealous, since Long entered the league in 2008, only twice in his career has he strung together back to back double digit performances, and he has NEVER put up double digits in three consecutive weeks. Sorry but that is a trend that I am not going to ignore. Initially, I hadn't dug that deep and thought that Long was going to be an OK 3-star play, but I have since lowered his rating. James Hall is coming off of his best performance to date this year, he hasn't been nearly as productive as he was last year, but this week I think he deserves a ride in starting lineups.
Linebacker: James Laurinaitis is coming off of his worst fantasy performance of the year, a 7 point effort against the Cardinals. It was just his second single digit performance of the season. I am sure many are worried about him facing a Browns offense that has had their challenges. I mean, I am not going out on a huge limb to say that Laurinaitis should be in starting lineups, but his 3-star rating does show that there is some risk in this matchup for him. Outside of Laurinaitis, you steer clear of all other Rams LBs this week.
Secondary: A couple of weeks ago I was looking at some QB stats, and I saw one thing that just completely caught me off guard. What caught me off guard was that Colt McCoy was 2nd in the league in pass attempts. He now sits at 5th, attempting almost 40 passes a game. You would think that would equate to lots of fantasy points for opposing DBs, but it hasn't. Mainly because McCoy is completing just 57.5% of his passes. A big reason why the Browns only rank 12th in points to opposing DBs and not much higher. Even though based on the numbers this isn't a bad matchup, I just can't bring myself to rate any Rams DB other than Quintin Mikell above a 2-star play. Darian Stewart has played well and probably also deserves a 3-star rating, but an ankle injury limited him in practice on Wednesday, which is the reason why I have yet to rate him.
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 DL have a pretty good matchup this week, facing a Rams team that ranks 7th in average points to opposing DLs. The main issue is that with how inconsistent the entire Browns DLs have been, including rookie Jabaal Sheard and Ahtyba Rubin, it really is a bit risky to pencil either in your lineups. But this week, I am going out on a limb and saying to start both. Rubin makes a much better play in DT mandatory leagues, but I think he is even a safe bet in combined leagues this week. I really liked Jayme Mitchell as a possible sleeper, but for the most part, he has been a dud.
Linebacker: D'Qwell Jackson owners have a smile on their face, and it is for many reasons. A couple being that he ranks 3rd overall in fantasy points, and another because he gets to face a Rams team that has seen only the Chargers surrender more points to LBs this year. If you are in a bind due to injuries you very well could give both Chris Gocong and Scott Fujita a look this week.
Secondary: TJ Ward left last weeks game with an injury and has yet to practice this week. Of course it is hard to practice while wearing a protective boot. At this point you have to leave Ward on the bench until more information surfaces surrounding his injury. Usama Young replaced Ward last week, he posted 8 points in relief duty, but unless you are really in deep stuff I would avoid Young. Mainly because the Rams aren't that great of a matchup for DBs, and secondly there is no telling how much he will play of what sort of rotation if any the Browns will employ if Ward can't go. Same Bradford and the Rams would be best served to not test Joe Haden, but for some reason I think that OC Josh McDaniels will do just that. Should equal good enough numbers to have Haden in as a DB3, but probably won't equal good thing for the Rams.
Buffalo at Dallas
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: For my thoughts on the Bills DLs this week go HERE. However, before you leave I will say that with Spencer Johnson playing some OLB that I feel very good about his 4-star rating this week. Well maybe not that good, in all actuality he probably should be a 3-star play, but hey, sometimes you have to take a risk.
Linebacker: Nick Barnett should be in for a very good week, like he has had most times this year. The Cowboys will be best served to lean on their running game, so that is a big plus for Barnett. The other thing that benefits Barnett is that Tony Romo has a penchant for bone headed throws, and Barnett has shown he can take advantage of things like that.
Secondary: The George Wilson express lost a bit of steam last week, but this week I do expect to see Wilson rebound. When a player like Wilson is producing the way he has this year, you don't let bad week factor in very much. Sure it would be easy to start second guessing and all, but trust me, keep Wilson in your lineup. Also, I like, don't love, but really like the matchup for both Jairus Byrd and Terrence McGee this week. Byrd has a very good nose for the ball, as stated above, we all know that Tony Romo can be sloppy with it at times.
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 and it would be best to seek out fantasy help elsewhere.
Linebacker: I have good news and bad news with regards to Sean Lee this week. The good news is that Lee isn't going to have season ending surgery, and that he will play this weekend. The bad news is that he will be playing with a cast on his hand. His presence on the field will certainly be a plus for the Cowboys defense, but how he will perform for fantasy owners with a club on his hand is up in the air. One thing is for sure, he should get plenty of opportunities to make some tackles - the Bills have run the ball up the middle 80 times this year, 5th most in the NFL. Jay Ratliff might siphon a few tackle opportunities away, but I still see a good enough matchup that I will be updating Lee's rating from injured to 3-star. Of course without the cast he would be a 4 to 5-star play. DeMarcus Ware has been a beast at times this year, but against a Bills team that has given up the fewest amount of sacks on the year, he should be on fantasy benches this week.
Secondary: The Bills don't present quite the matchup that you might have figured they would for opposing DBs. They rank 21st in average points allowed, so it isn't like they are horrible but they clearly aren't a good matchup. I pointed out previously that I just can't get a good feel for the Cowboys DBs, and unfortunately that hasn't changed. This week I don't have anyone rated above a 2-star play, but if you were to twist my arm and ask who I would start if I had to pick one Cowboys DB, well my answer would be Gerald Sensabaugh.
Jacksonville at Indianapolis
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: We are in week 10, fantasy races are shaping up and owners are making their moves to secure a playoff birth. After reading that, do you really want to even consider using a Jaguars DL? I mean seriously, do you want to say you cost yourself a win and a possible shot at the playoffs because you were relying on Jeremy Mincey, Matt Roth or Aaron Kampman as a starting DL? Speaking of Kampman, the next fantasy point he scores, will be the first he has scored this year. OUCH! Not like it really matters, but Kampman missed practice on Wednesday due to a hamstring injury.
Linebacker: Tough matchup for the Jaguars LBs this week. No team in the league has given up fewer points to opposing LBs than the Colts have. So far this season, only 3 LBs have recorded more than 4 solos against the Colts, D'Qwell Jackson, James Harrison and Curtis Lofton are the three. Ranking both Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith as 3-star plays is probably not the wisest thing to do, both should probably be 2-star plays, but I have a feeling the Colts are going to run the ball a bit more at home this week.
Secondary: The Colts present matchup for the Jaguars DBs that is almost as bad as the one the Jaguars did for the Colts DBs. The Colts are allowing just 2.89 more fantasy points/were to DBs than the Jaguars are. Those points don't separate each other much, as the Colts rank 28th to the Jaguars 32nd. The difference for Dawan Landry and crew is that they aren't playing nearly the way that Antoine Bethea is. Hence no ratings over 2-stars for the Jaguars secondary 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: If you are a Robert Mathis owner, there is a glimmer of hope for you if you need to start him this week. Mathis hasn't done much of anything since posting back to back 11 point efforts in week 3 and 4, but this week he gets to face a Jaguars team that ranks 6th in points to DL. I understand the concern, trust me I do, but this just has 4-star game written all over it for Mathis. Even Dwight Freeney makes for a nice 3-star play this week, can't believe I just typed that, but it is what it is. Freeney is probably more of a swing for the fences or strikeout trying type play, so keep that in mind if you are contemplating putting him in your starting lineup this week.
Linebacker: Pat Angerer is having a really great season for his fantasy owners, and that should continue this week. The Jaguars rank first in the NFL in rushes up the middle with 121 attempts. Since the Colts DL doesn't like to stop the run, Angerer should see his fare share of Maurice Jones-Drew this weekend. While Angerer does continue to put up nice numbers, I should point out that he hasn't recorded more than 5 solos in a game since week 4. One thing that has helped is that for the season he has 50 assists, which is actually two more assists than he has solos. Of those 50 assists, 31 have come in his 4 home games. Kavell Conner is still losing sub-package snaps, but this week is a week that I think he is safe as a 3-star play. For starters the Jaguars passing attack isn't exactly stellar, and their offensive game plan should focus on their rushing attack. All that adds up to not just more snaps for Conner, but more productive snaps.
Secondary: Antoine Bethea currently sits as the #3 overall scoring DB. The trials and tribulations of the Colts offense has paid off for fantasy owners of Bethea and Angerer. This week Bethea doesn't have a very good matchup, but it isn't as dire looking as you might think either. Yes, the Jaguars rank dead last in points allowed to DBs, but they have given up enough decent games for me to rate Bethea a 4-star play. Of course a 3-star rating probably would have made more sense, but I feel there is enough upside to warrant the 4-star tag. Outside of Bethea, you would be playing with fire if you decided to start any other Colts DB.
Denver at Kansas City
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: Good and bad with regards to Elvis Dumervil's performance last week. The good is that he not only hit double digits in fantasy points, his first of the season, but also he finally got to the QB and notched 1.5 sacks too. The bad is that he was only able to net two tackles last week. Don't get me wrong, double digit points are double digit points, but you just have to realize that Dumervil's 10.5 points very easily could have ended up being a 3 point stinker. I have Dumervil as a 2-star rating, mainly because I just don't trust him to string anything together yet.
Linebacker: For fantasy purposes, DJ Williams is the only safe LB on the Broncos. However, even he has had a couple of poor weeks in a row now. The only thing I can see as a possible culprit is a below average number of tackle opportunities the last two weeks. As a DJ owner I can safely say that I am going to keep plugging him in my starting lineup, especially against Chiefs team that ranks 4th in the NFL with 30.6 rushing attempts/game. Also, considering that the Chiefs run the ball so much I think this sets up to be a good week to have Joe Mays in your lineup. Yes, the same Joe Mays that has scored just two total points the last two weeks. I know a 3-star rating sounds crazy, but Mays plays in base downs and against the Chiefs rushing attack he should see the field much more and that will hopefully equate to solid fantasy production. Wesley Woodyard is the yin to Mays yang, meaning he sees the field in sub-packages. This week I think that Woodyard could see a significant decrease in the snaps he plays, versus what he has played in recently. I should also point out that a knee injury has kept Woodyard out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Secondary: It has been an odd past few weeks for rookies Quintin Carter and Rahim Moore. First Moore lost his job to Carter, then Carter suffered a concussion allowing Moore to get back into the starting lineup, and now Moore has a concussion and Carter is starting again. Carter showed that he can be a productive fantasy player, and because of that I am willing to give him a shot this week. I know that the Chiefs don't seem like they would be a good matchup for DBs, only 3 teams are averaging fewer pass attempts than the Chiefs this year. However, they do rank 6th in points allowed to DBs, so with that in mind Carter, as well as Brian Dawkins garnered 3-star ratings this week.
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 Chiefs 3-4 defense renders their DL inconsistent and risky fantasy options.
Linebacker: I am going completely against the grain with my rating of Derrick Johnson this week. I have him as a 5-star play, and honestly I think that I might have been a bit overzealous with that rating. For starters the Broncos rank 27th in average points allowed to opposing LBs, but when guys like Darryl Blackstock, Aaron Curry and Kamerion Wimbley all score between 10-15 points against the Broncos I find it hard not to rate a much better LB like Derrick Johnson so highly. To be honest, I am starting to get cold feet, and most likely will lower him to a 4-star play. I also rated Tamba Hali high, giving him a 4-star rating. I know that the Raiders weren't able to get to Tebow last week, but I can't ignore the 14 sacks that Tebow took the prior two weeks.
Secondary: After missing last week due to a shoulder injury it looks like Jon McGraw will get back on the field this week. Wednesday, McGraw was a limited participant in practice but Thursday he progressed to a full practice. I know you will probably be tempted to get him back in your starting lineup this week, but against a Broncos team that ranks 31st in points to opposing DBs that probably wouldn't be a very wise thing to do. The same goes for Brandon Flowers and the rest of the Chiefs DBs. Giving 1-star ratings across the board to them is probably a bit harsh, but it should drive home just how poor this matchup is.
Baltimore at Seattle
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: The Seahawks don't run the ball much, actually they rank dead last in rushing attempts/game, but when they do run the ball they like to run it over LT. For the season they have run the ball 49 times over LT, and that ranks 3rd in the NFL. So if the Seahawks hold suit and continue to run way then Terrell Suggs should be the beneficiary. Seeing Suggs rated with just 3-stars probably looks a bit odd, and to be honest I was going to raise him to a 4-star play but a knee injury held him out of practice on Thursday, so I am just going to stand pat with him for now. Haloti Ngata hasn't put up Ngata type numbers the past two weeks, it probably has something to do with the thigh injury he was dealing with, but he said that it hasn't hindered him, so who knows. If you own him I know you normally just plug and play him but this week in combined leagues I think he might need to be on fantasy benches.
Linebacker: The Seahawks aren't a very good matchup, ranking just 20th in points allowed to LBs, but when it comes to Ray Lewis, if he is breathing you keep him in your lineup. I know that his past two single digit performance make that statement look foolish, but I mean seriously, I just don't see how you can bench Lewis. FWIW, enough big name LBs were able to hit in the 12-16 point range for me to feel comfortable about giving Lewis a 3-star rating this week.
Secondary: Bernard Pollard has settled nicely into the Ravens starting SS position. Since their week 5 bye he has put up four straight double digit games, scoring no fewer than 12 points in any game. Against a Seahawks team that hasn't been the best matchup for DBs he could be a bit challenged to keep that streak alive, but it is all said and done I think he is able to do enough to warrant a 3-star rating this week. Lardarius Webb bounced back with a decent game last week, and after two very poor games I am sure his owners were very happy to see the increased production. This week I am keeping Webb in my lineup, and think you should do the same.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 45, 2009: 51, 2010: 46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 54, 2009: 52, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: Chris Clemons has been erratic this year, but most DL that rank in his vicinity usually are. He has scored just 2 total points in the last two weeks combined, so it is understandable to be a bit gun shy with him. The major reason I have him as a 3-star play is because of the sheer number of tackle opportunities I see him having this week. I will be very surprised if he doesn't put up at a minimum 7 points.
Linebacker: With the Ravens ranking 3rd in points to opposing LBs, I feel very good about giving David Hawthorne a 5-star rating. For the season 9 times LBs have recorded at least 6 total tackles against the Ravens, and some like Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison put up over 20 points. I think with how Hawthorne has played since week 3 that owners are over their frustration with him, and if they aren't, they should be. Leroy Hill has also been a solid fantasy option since week 3, and because he has been more consistent than KJ Wright, he is the safer of the two, even if both are rated 3-star plays.
Secondary: Kam Chancellor and Earl Bennett, just put each in your lineup and forget about them. The duo for the most part have been very productive this year. Of course Chancellor has been more productive but that was to be expected. Outside of those two I would steer clear of Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman.
Detroit at Chicago
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: A few weeks ago if you owned any of the Lions DLs you had to be licking your chops as you circled the Bears as an upcoming opponent. However, after the Bears kept Jay Cutler clean against the Eagles last week you have to have at least a little bit of concern that this matchup might not live up to the expectations that you had. So that thing to discern is if last week was an aberration or if the Bears finally are getting things figured out. As they say, things are never as good or bad as they seem. That tells me that you probably still have to keep guys like Ndamukong Suh and Cliff Avril in your lineups. I know Suh was huge last year but this year his fantasy play has been inconsistent, and even with everything I already wrote I think he needs to be on fantasy benches this week.
Linebacker: The Bears offense seems to go as Matt Forte goes, and with how Matt Forte has been going that is a very good thing. The thing that is a bit shocking is that the Bears rank just 25th in points to LBs. That is why Stephen Tulloch is just a 2-star play this week. However, DeAndre Levy I have as a 3-star play, and that is because I think he will be the most active LB that is able to take advantage of the opportunities that Forte running and taking swing passes will afford him.
Secondary: I hate to sound like a broken record, but this game like many others doesn't seem like a very good matchup for the opposition. The Bears rank 25th in points to opposing DBs, and outside of Chris Houston the Lions DBs really haven't played that consistently to make me feel good about any of them. Rolling the dice I think Houston and Louis Delmas end up as the best plays. What pushed me over the edge with Delmas is how Cutler can try to force things at times, and in what should be an intense game, I can see Cutler making a mistake or two.
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 is once again dealing with a knee injury and because of it he wasn't able to practice on Wednesday or Thursday. I already didn't like this matchup for Peppers and it took a bunch for me to finally cave in and give him a 3-star rating. At this point, practice or not on Friday I think that Peppers presents enough risk that this is a week where I actually think you should sit him down. Israel Idonije looked good last week against the Eagles, but this matchup doesn't make me want to see him anywhere other than on the bench. I mean even as good as Idonije looked last week he still only put up four points, and add to it that his next double digit score will be just his second this season. Plus the Lions rank 24th in points to DL.
Linebacker: Both Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher have been very nice solid consistent fantasy options this year. Each has scored in double digits in all but two games, so you know when you start either of them that you are more than likely you are going to get quality fantasy production. I have both as 3-star plays, and I do think that each should be in starting lineups this week, even if one of Urlacher's single point games occurred in week 5 against the Lions. Briggs had a more successful game, posting 14 points, and this week I really think he is in that 12-14 range again.
Secondary: The Lions sure seem like they have been successful passing the ball this year, but fantasy wise it doesn't look that way at all. The Lions rank just 26th in points to opposing DBs, and that probably makes the 3-star ratings that I gave Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Major Wright and Chris Conte look a bit suspect. And the more I let this matchup sink in I had no choice but to down grade everyone but Tillman. Tillman is coming off a season worst 5 point effort, but I highly doubt we see Tillman that ineffective again this year. Since 2009, Tillman has scored fewer than 5 points just two other times and that wasn't in back to back games. Therefore I think the trend shows that Tillman should be a pretty safe play.
NY Giants at San Francisco
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: There were concerns that Jason Pierre-Paul wasn't going to be able to play last week, but play he did. He just didn't put up fantasy numbers like his owners had gotten accustomed to. Facing a 49ers team that ranks 8th in points to opposing DL, I expect that Pierre-Paul will bounce back and put up another double digit game. In his second game back after his injury Justin Tuck played in over twice as many snaps in week 9 (58), than he did in week 8 (28). Only Osi Umenyiora played in more snaps (61) than the 58 that Tuck played in, and not to leave Pierre-Paul out, he too played in 58 snaps. I have both Tuck and Pierre-Paul as 4-star plays, and Umenyiora as a 3-star play. Probably a bit risky to have all three ranked like that, but I also see the Giants going into San Francisco and putting it to the 49ers, so the defense should get to pin their ears back and just get after Alex Smith, that is if I am correct and the game plays out like I think it will.
Linebacker: I am sure that people realize that Michael Boley is having a good year, but I doubt they realize just how good. Try that he ranks 11th in points scored and is just 3 1/2 points away from being a top 10 LB. For the season he has scored 122 fantasy points and in the process of racking up those points he has posted a double digit game every week. The 49ers aren't a very good matchup but Boley should still be in lineups this week. Mathias Kiwanuka really turned things up a notch last week, scoring 22 fantasy points. Over his last three games he is averaging 19.17 PPG, and much of that is because the Giants are moving him all over the place and putting him in a place to make plays. I also have no problem pointing out that I swung and missed on Jacquian Williams last week. I really expected that he would play in a ton of sub-package snaps against the Patriots normally potent offense. Instead, Williams played in just 23 snaps.
Secondary: Both Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle have been solid fantasy producers this season, they both bounced back after having single digit performances in week 8. This week just like the LBs the 49ers don't really present as a very good matchup. I own Kenny Phillips in one league and I have started him every week, overall I have been happy with his production, but that doesn't mean he has lived up to what I thought he could do this year. I don't own Antrel Rolle in any league, but I can say that if I owned both he and Phillips, I would probably opt for Rolle this week. The main and really only reason is because Rolle has just been a bit more consistent and has done just a bit more than Phillips has this year.
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: The Patriots generally keep Tom Brady very clean, and with their 30h ranking in points to opposing DL that helps to support that generalization. So while this would normally be a "sit 'em" kind of week, I think giving a high motor guy like Justin Smith a 3-star rating makes good sense. Outside of Smith, you can safely leave the rest of the 49ers defensive line on the bench this week.
Linebacker: The Patriots rank 7th in points to opposing LBs, but it wouldn't matter if they ranked 700th, because you would still have to have Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman in your starting lineup. Now that we have that out of the way we should take some time to speak about rookie
DE rush OLB Aldon Smith. I had a reader ask when I was going to add Smith to the ratings, I told him he would be added this week and he has been. If you are curious I gave him a 3-star rating too. WIth the Giants ranking #5 in points to DL, I figured he was worth a shot. Yes, I said DL, and that is because Smith is a "get after the QB" type guy, therefore I think the points allowed to a DL is a more representative tool to use for Smith. Just realize that Smith isn't like James Harrison, and expecting huge production from him on a consistent basis isn't prudent. Smith is a talent, that much is for sure, but he isn't starting and outside of two games (Eagles/Lions) he hasn't played in more than 50% of the teams defensive snaps. Not starting, playing in limited rotational snaps and manning a very inconsistent scoring position for fantasy purposes is why I didn't have Smith listed before, and it is also why I will more than likely not have him ranked above a 2-star play very often this year.
Secondary: The Giants aren't really a good or bad matchup for DBs, actually they are pretty much just a "meh" type matchup. Last week, Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner were the only two 49ers DBs to score in double digits. Once again, Goldson outpointed Whitner, but not by much, posting 15 points to Whitner's 13 points. Goldson has outpointed Whitner in each week that both were on the field together, and at this point in time I see no reason to to expect any different this week.
New England at NY Jets
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 56, 2009: 55, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 46, 2010: 52
Defensive Line: The Patriots DL is pretty easy to write-up this week. Andre Carter continues to be the only Patriots DL that really deserves any consideration for fantasy lineups. Last week he had a lowly 4 points, but the last time these two teams met this year he had a decent 11 point effort and I think at worst he is in the 7-8 point range and very well could approach double digits again. The Jets run the ball just enough up the middle that Vince Wilfork should make for a decent play in DT mandatory leagues. One stat that makes me chuckle every time I see it is that Vince Wilfork has more interceptions than he does sacks this year. Crazy funny on so many levels.
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo may not have put up many fantasy points last week, but what was important is that he played in 100% of the Patriots 74 defensive snaps. Yes, you would expect a player of Mayo's calibre to put up more than 6 points on that many snaps, but again, what is important, is that he was able to play an entire game without any setbacks. Mayo has played in just 6 games so far this year, and believe it or not he has only scored in double digits just two times. This week, against what should be a heavy dose of the Jets running attack I see Mayo having a very big game. On the injury side of things, Brandon Spikes has evidently sprained his MCL and it has kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
Secondary: I have Patrick Chung as a 4-star play, but it looks like i am going to have to lower that rating. Chung has a foot injury that has kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday. I am pretty sure that Chung will play, mainly because they can't really afford not to have him on the field against the Jets in a HUGE divisional game. Kyle Arrington has quietly put up top 30 numbers and has for the most part been a solid DB3, but this week against the Jets, I see him as a risky play, which is why I only gave him a 2-star rating.
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: Rex Ryan does seem like he can always find a way to get pressure on Tom Brady, but I feel pretty confident in saying that Ryan won't be getting that pressure from his DL this week.
Linebacker: David Harris had a really nice 19 point game against the Patriots earlier this year. That isn't the only reason he is a 4-star play this week, but it is a part of the equation. In that week 5 tilt, Harris recorded 7 solos, 2 assists and a sack. Those 7 solos are the most he has recorded in any game this year. Bart Scott is in a bit of a fantasy funk, scoring 5 or fewer points in 3 of his last 4 games. I am sure that Scott will be amped up for this contest, but I can't bring myself to rate him above a 2-star play. I only gave Aaron Maybin a 1-star rating, but I have a funny feeling that he is going to be the x-factor in this matchup. But I have to say that feeling isn't strong enough to get me to move off that 1-star rating.
Secondary: Only the Saints are giving up more points to opposing DBs than the Patriots are. In week 5 the only players to score in double digits were the Jets safeties; Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith and Brodney Pool. I have both Leonhard and Smith as 4-star plays, but a knee injury has kept Pool out of practice this week, so I didn't see any reason to add him to the star ratings. Darrell Revis had 8 points in the last meeting but i would be shocked if Brady tests Revis in NY this week.
Minnesota at Green Bay
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 owners have been absolutely spoiled this year, and at this point it wouldn't matter if Allen was playing against the secret service and trying to sack the President, I would confidently have him in my starting lineup. Just in case you forgot, when the Vikings and Packers faced off earlier this year, Allen was good for 15 points, and he got to Aaron Rodgers for two sacks too. I don't expect Allen to record two sacks again, which is why I only have him as a 3-star play this week. No matter what you do, don't go and over think anything, just keep Allen in your lineup. Brian Robison on the other hand, leave his only-scoring-in-double-digits-twice-this-year-week-9-donut-having-ass on the bench this week.
Linebacker: The Packers rank just 23r in points allowed to opposing LBs, so that might have you thinking this isn't a good matchup for Chad Greenway, but you guessed it, you would be wrong. Greenway put up 16 points back in week 7, and I expect he will approach that number again. Initially, when rating Greenway I assumed this wasn't a very good matchup and that his last game against the Packers was more "fluke" than normal. However, after looking at things a bit deeper I found that enough LBs scored in the 15 point range for me to rate Greenway a 4-star play. EJ Henderson played just 33 snaps against the Packers in week 7, and with the Packers passing attack I suspect he won't play in all that many snaps this week. I can safely say that I my initial 2-star rating for EJ was to high, which is why I downgraded him to a 1-star play. EJ's little brother Erin Henderson should see much more time on the field, like he was in week 7, where he played in 100% of the Vikings defensive snaps. Of course all those snaps didn't equal fantasy success, as all he could muster was 7 fantasy points. This week I have Erin as a 3-star play, yes, there is some risk in that rating but I think that he should be able to cobble together enough tackles to hit double digits.
Secondary: If you are an Antoine Winfield owner that has held onto him while he recovered from his neck injury, you should be happy because Winfield practiced fully on Thursday. Baring a setback it looks like he will be back on the field this week. Normally, I suggest waiting to get a player back into your lineup and that really resonates this week, especially with Winfield playing on Monday night. But you know what, I am a Winfield owner and he is in my lineup, and I am starting him with confidence this week. No way after waiting for so long am I keeping his 17.75 PPG average on my bench. The other thing of interest in the Vikings secondary is that there are reports that Asher Allen is going to take over Cedric Griffin's starting CB spot. I think where there is smoke there is fire, and my 3-star rating for Allen shows that.
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 currently resides at the top of the IDP mountain. He has scored more points than EVERYONE, and it is doubtful that he slows down any time soon. The Vikings aren't exactly a great matchups for LBs, but Bishop shouldn't have any problem putting up viable fantasy numbers this week. Back in week 8 when these two teams met up, Bishop logged 14 points, and this week that should be his floor. So far for the season Bishop has only scored fewer than 14 points once, and that was a 10 point effort in week 3 against the Bears. I am sure that many have noticed that solo tackles are down this year, but if you are Bishop owner you probably haven't noticed, and that would be because he is on pace for 122 solos and 32 assists.
Secondary: Morgan Burnett might be the fantasy football equivalent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Dr. Morgan Jekyll averaged 20.00 PPG thru his first four games, but then Mr. Morgan Hyde showed up in week 5. Since week 5, Mr. Morgan Hyde is averaging just 8.75 PPG, and that includes an 18 point effort in week 6. I have Burnett rated as a 2-star play, which means I think that Mr. Morgan Hyde is still with us. Mr. Hyde had to drink a drug to turn into Dr. Jekyll, Burnett just had to be moved from SS to FS. Charlie Peprah is also a party to this nightmare for Burnett owners. It was Peprah, that because of a season ending injury to Nick Collins took over the starting SS position, which is why Burnett had to change positions. Of course it also doesn't help that Burnett is wearing a cast on his hand too. Over the same four game span that Burnett is averaging 8.75 PPG, Peprah is averaging 16.5 PPG. I am sure that Burnett will show flashes going forward, but expecting his early season production to be resurected doesn't seem likely. Peprah on the other hand most likely won't maintain his current pace, but he should at least remain a viable fantasy option the rest of the way. And against a Vikings team that ranks just 24th in points allowed to DBs, I see Peprah as the only safe Packers DB to run out in starting lineups this week.