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IDP Game Breakdowns: Week 12
Steve Gallo
November 25, 2011

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

Follow me on twitter @IDPSteve and if you have any questions, criticisms, or suggestions feel free to e-mail me at For specific lineup questions please be sure to visit our IDP Forum.  Good luck & enjoy!


Green Bay at Detroit

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 continues his assault on the top overall LB spot.  The only thing between Bishop and the top spot is 3 points.  That top spot is currently occupied by all-world LB Patrick Willis, and for Willis to claim and hold that top spot he has had to put up 20+ points in three consecutive games.  Bishop has a less than stellar matchup this week, facing a Lions team that ranks 20th in points to LBs. Bad matchup or not, you keep Bishop in your lineups.  On the season, the Lions have given up 20 or more points three times (Lee, Urlacher and Anderson) to opposing LBs, so there is a shot that Bishop could even have a big game.  With the Lions not being a very good matchup I think it would be wise to leave AJ Hawk on the bench.  As for pass rush extraordinaire, Clay Matthews, I think he is very much a risk/reward type play this week.  Back in week 6, Aldon Smith of the 49ers logged 4 solos, 2 sacks and a forced fumble, teammate Ahmad Brooks put up 4 solos, 1 assist and a sack, but in week 8 when the Lions played the Broncos, Von Miller was only able to record 3 solo tackles.  All are good pass rushers, so you can see why Matthews is a risk/reward type play this week.

Secondary: The Lions also aren't the best matchup for DBs, ranking just 19th in fantasy points allowed.  With that said, I probably have all of the Packers DBs rated to high, but in all honesty I do see a shootout in this game, and that should equate to plenty of points to go around.  Morgan Burnett's 11 points in week 11 were the first time he has scored in double digits since week.6, when he scored 18 points against the Rams.  Since that game he ranks just 102nd in fantasy points scored, and he ranks 99th in PPG with an average of 7.750.  A far cry from the #1 overall ranking in fantasy points scored he had thru 4 weeks, and the 20.00 PPG average he had then too.  Charlie Peprah took another one on the chin, scoring in single digits for the 2nd straight week.  I look for that to end 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
: The Packers rank 13th in fantasy points allowed to DLs. It might seem like the should rank higher, especially with how often it seems that Aaron Rodgers has been under duress at times this year. The Lions do bring in a formidable pass rush, ranking 8th in the league with 27 sacks, just 4 sacks off the league lead of 31.  One reason the Packers rank just 13th is because of their 23rd ranking in pass attempts.  Still, see Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril having good games on Thanksgiving Day.  Ndamukong Suh is always a threat to have a monster game, but his inconsistent play is why I have him as just a 2-star play.

Linebacker: Stephen Tulloch isn't putting up near the numbers he did last year in Tennessee, but he ranks 20th in fantasy points and makes for very solid LB2.  On the season,  Tulloch has scored in double digits in all but two weeks, a 9 point effort in week 2, and an 8 point effort in week 7.  Since his last single digit performance he is averaging 15.67 PPG.  I don't think Tulloch has a huge game against the Packers, but I do think he ends up in the 10-12 point range. DeAndre Levy, on the other hand, I expect to have better day than Tulloch.  Levy, since week four has a 15.875 PPG average and if you toss out his 7 point effort in week 8, you would be looking at a PPG average of 17.33.  Justin Durant should see more snaps against the passing attack of the Packers, but his inconsistent play makes him far to risk to rely on this week.

Secondary: Chris Houston and Eric Wright have been very inconsistent, they make for better plays in CB mandatory leagues. Surprisingly the Packers rank just 20th in fantasy points allowed to DBs, so that makes both Houston and Wright risky plays, but I think we see Houston bounce back and he should live up to his 3-star rating.  At safety, I am giving the nod to Louis Delmas as I think he should be the best play in the Lions secondary this week. One thing to keep and eye on and to help explain the 1-star rating is that Amari Spievey was benched in last week's game.  The coaches comments make it sound like Spievey will be back in the starting lineup this week, but for me there is to much risk to rate him above a 1-star play.

Miami at Dallas

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: Don't look now but the Dolphins defense is playing some inspired ball, surrendering just 20 points combined in their last 3 games.  Over that time span, Karlos Dansby is averaging 20.00 PPG, and that includes his 8 point effort last week against the Bills. Fellow ILB, Kevin Burnett, isn't putting up as many points as Dansby, but he is averaging almost 15.00 PPG, and that includes a poor 5 point effort last week.  Against a Cowboys teams with a formidable rushing and passing offense both Dansby and Burnett should be in line for good Thanksgiving Day games,  with Dansby being the one that could approach 20 fantasy points.

Secondary: Yeremiah Bell isn't scoring as well as Dansby and Burnett have over the past three weeks, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been productive.  On the season he ranks 8th in points scored by a DB, and has scored in double digits in all but one game this year.  Against a Cowboys team that ranks 10th in fantasy points allowed to DBs, and that has surrendered 20 or more points to Chris Houston (21), Kyle Arrington (22), Quintin Mikell (21) & DeJon Gomes (20), Bell should be a very good play with some upside.  At CB both Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are strong sleeper candidates as some CBs have put up stellar numbers against the Cowboys.

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: In his second game playing with a cast on his wrist, Sean Lee was able to have a very nice fantasy day on Sunday.  His 16 points, not only was the first time he scored in double digits since week 6, but also had to go a long way in making Lee owners feel better about his value as the fantasy playoffs approach. Speaking more myself, as a Lee owner, I know it made me feel much better.  The Dolphins rank 10th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, so Lee looks like he should be a very nice play this weekend.  Outside of Lee, you wouldn't catch me playing any other Cowboys LB this week. That is other than DeMarcus Ware.  Ware of course can be inconsistent, but against a Dolphins team that has surrendered the 5th most sacks in the league I think he warrants a start this week.

Secondary:  Both Gerald Sensabaugh and Terence Newman have both scored in double digits for four straight games now.  They are easily the best plays in the Cowboys secondary, however, Sensabaugh is said to be in a walking boot.  So with a short week and game on Thanksgiving Day, there is no way I can rate him as anything other than "injured", Newman on the other hand, I think is a safe 3-star play.  If you are in trouble at the DB spot, Orlando Scandrick makes an interesting sleeper play.

San Francisco at Baltimore

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 was held to zero, zip, nada fantasy points last week. It was the first time since entering the league in 2001 that Smith didn't score a single point in a fantasy game.  For those that think he must have left the game injured or something, that wasn't the case.  Smith played in 47 of the 49ers 49 defensive snaps against the Cardinals.  He did have a QB hit and two QB pressures, he just didn't make an impact on the box score.  I think that Smith is a safe enough play to keep him in lineups and not let last week's aberration cloud your judgement.

Linebacker:  Patrick Willis are 1-2 in tackles on the 49ers, but they are no longer ranked 1-2 in fantasy points scored.  Willis ranks 1st, but a 10 point effort in week 11 by Bowman dropped him all the way down to #3.  Drama where drama isn't needed.  Both are top flight options, and should continue to be mainstays in everyone's lineups going forward.  Rookie Aldon Smith, and his 7 points showed again why he is a risky fantasy option.  Sure he recorded another sack, but outside of that he was only able to add in a pass defended and an assist (his solo came from the sack).  Since his 21 point explosion in week 6, Smith is averaging just 4.0 PPG.  If you feel like rolling with Smith, just remember, you were warned.

Secondary: Dashon Goldson went to a football game and a boxing match broke out.  Goldson got into a "tussle" with Cardinals receiver Early Doucet, it won't likely cost Goldson any playing time, but his wallet will be lighter.  Fantasy wise this week I want to like both Goldson and Donte Whitner, but I am having a hard time getting past the Ravens 20th ranking in fantasy points allowed to DBs. 

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 averaging just 7.33 PPG over his last three games, and last week's 8 point effort was his third consecutive in single digits.  Don't forget that I did mention last week that Suggs had a bad matchup, and you would need to temper expectations some.  I am sure if you are a Suggs owner that you are a bit frustrated, and probably even miffed, but the last thing you need to do is think about sitting him.  This week he does have a much more favorable matchup, so he should get back into double digits.  Suggs isn't the only Ravens DL struggling, Haloti Ngata has scored in double digits just twice since the Ravens bye in week 5, and surely his 1 point effort last week stung.  But, like Suggs, you just have to keep Ngata in your starting lineup.  DLs aren't exactly the model of consistency, ,and the last thing you want to do is sit your stud DL, and then have them go off on your bench.

Linebacker:  Ray Lewis is reportedly going to try to play this week.  That means he will be a GTD, and if you have any inkling of starting him you are going to need to monitor the inactive list.  For me, I would leave him on the bench, playing or not.  The last thing you want to do is run him out there, and then he aggravates the injury and you end up on the short end of the stick.  That is why I have Lewis rated as "injured" and Danell Ellerbe, who replaced Lewis in the starting lineup last week, rated as a 2-star play. Just to much risk on how the situation will play out.  Jameel McClain has scored pretty well the past 5 weeks, but against a 49ers team that ranks 28th in fantasy points allowed to LBs I just see giving him more than a 2-star rating a risky proposition. 

Secondary:  Last week, Bernard Pollard put up his first 20 point effort of the 2011 season.  Pollard looked all but washed up thru the first month of the season where he scored a grand total of 12 points in those first four games.  However, since week 6, Pollard has been on a tear, scoring 87 points, tied for the most over that span of time with Charles Tillman. Evidently, it took Pollard a bit of time to learn the Ravens defense, but now he is as entrenched as a safety can be.  Just like he needs to be entrenched in fantasy lineups.  This week isn't the best matchup against a 49ers team that ranks 26th in fantasy points allowed to DBs, But I feel good about his 4-star rating.  Kam Chancellor scored 20 points against the 49ers, and Reggie Nelson (17 pts), Sean Jones (19 pts), DeAngelo Hall (21 pts) & Reed Doughty (17 pts) also all had very good days against the 49ers, so a big day out of Pollard wouldn't shock me. As for Ed Reed, Lardarius Webb and the rest of the secondary, I think they should all be on fantasy benches this week.

Houston at Jacksonville

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. However, rookie JJ Watt has been able to be rather productive from his DE spot.  For the season he ranks 19th in fantasy scoring among DL, averaging 7.55 PPG.  He doesn't have much upside, scoring in double digits just three times, but he does make for a pretty consistent DL2.  Against a Jaguars team that is tied for 9th in sacks allowed with 25, I think you could do much worse that Watt this week.

Linebacker: Brian Cushing scored 14 points the last time these two teams met in week 8.  I see some upside in Cushing's 4-star rating too.  The 14 points should be his floor, but upside wise just look at what Barrett Ruud (22 pts), James Anderson (18 pts), James Farrior (21 pts), and D'Qwell Jackson (17 pts) all did against the Jaguars. The Jaguars rank 31st in pass attempts/game, and 3rd in rushing attempts/game, that all adds up to DeMeco Ryans likely seeing the field for more plays than normal this week.  Back in week 8 he played in 41 snaps, the most he has played in over the Texans last four games.  It also contributed to him scoring the most points he had since week 4.  Unfortunately the 7 points he scored against the Jaguars isn't exactly anything to write home about, which is why he is only rated as a 2-star play. This week I also like Brooks Reed to have a productive day, look for him to add to his sack total, and hope he can supplement it with a few more solos. 

Secondary:  The 1-star ratings across the board for the Texans DBs might seem a bit harsh, but when you consider that only the Broncos are giving up fewer points to opposing DBs, I think that should make them a bit more palatable.  On the injury front it sounds as if Danieal Manning very well could start practicing again this week. 

Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up:
2008:  50,  2009:  50,  2010:  53
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced:      2008:  47,  2009:  51,  2010:  48

Defensive Line: 
There are a couple of key factors that contributed to my 4-star rating for Jeremy Mincey.  First is that the Texans rank 3rd in fantasy points allowed to DLs, and second is that since week 5, Mincey ranks 3rd in fantasy points scored by DL.  The only two DL that have scored more are Jared Allen and Andre Carter.  That is some rarified air for Mincey, it means that he has outscored Terrell Suggs, Jason Pierre-Paul & Calais Campbell over that span of time.  One other factor that I did consider is that he will be facing Matt Leinart who in his first start of the year for the Texans.  Leinart might not have the "clock" in his head synced up that allows QBs to get rid of the ball just in the nick of time.  Outside of Mincey, take a pass on the rest of the Jaguars DL.  Matt Roth suffered an injury in last week's game, and he wasn't able to return.  Assumptions are that he suffered a concussion, but as of now there is no confirmation on a concussion.  Until more information is made available, I have no choice but to list Roth as "injured".

Linebacker:  Both Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith should be in lineups this week.  Even without Matt Schaub I see the Texans having little problem with the Jaguars, and if that is the case then the duo could see a limited number of snaps, which in turn limits their upside, and makes them a 3-star play in my eyes.  On the injury front, Clint Session suffered another concussion, and has been placed on injured reserve.  Session had little fantasy value and whoever fills his role will also have limited fantasy value.  Russell Allen will most likely take Sessions spot.

Secondary: Dawan Landry scored in double digits for the 4th consecutive game.  He also currently ranks 12th in fantasy points scored among DBs.  That makes Landry a low level DB1, something I am sure his owners are very happy about.  This week against the Matt Leinart led Texans passing attack I think that Landry's value takes a small hit, but not enough to sit him down.  However, he is the only Jaguars DB I can safely recommend for starting lineups. If you are in a CB mandatory league it is worth noting that William Middleton took over the starting CB spot opposite of Derek Cox.

Carolina at Indianapolis

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:
Bad news, last week Charles Johnson injured his shoulder.  Good news, Charles Johnson had an MRI done on said shoulder, and everything is just fine.  Johnson's shoulder might be ok, but fantasy wise he continues to frustrate his owners, 5 combined points in the last two weeks can do that. This week Johnson gets to face a Colts team that ranks 7th in fantasy points allowed to DLs, so there is some hope and optimism that he can produce a decent game.  If it weren't for his inconsistent play I would have probably rated him a 4-star play.  On the other end of the line is Greg Hardy, and Hardy has produced more fantasy points than Johnson has so far this season.  Hardy currently ranks 14th in fantasy points scored, but  over his past 5 games he is averaging just 5.40 PPG.  So the same goes for Hardy as it does for Johnson, 3-star rating in a good matchup that would probably be a 4-star rating if he was playing better.

Linebacker: The Panthers LBs have been decimated with injury this year.  At one point Omar Gaither was out due to an MCL injury, but he returned back to the field, well last week, he re-injured himself.  Jordan Senn got a start at LB last week, he was the Panthers 6,382nd starting LB this year.  Dan Connor also missed last week due to injury, but there is a chance he will be back in the lineup this week.  Unfortunately, even if he is this is a putrid matchup that calls for him to be left on the bench.  James Anderson owners should knock on wood that he is still healthy, but this week, healthy or not, he too makes for a risky play.  Why?  Try that the Colts rank 32nd in fantasy points allowed to LBs. Anderson is a good enough LB that he could still hit double digits this week, but I wouldn't want to bet on it.

Secondary:  The matchup isn't much better for the Panthers DBs than it is for their LBs.  For the season, the Colts rank 29th in fantasy points allowed to DBs.  Easy to see why I have Charles Godfrey and company all as 1-star rated plays.

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:  Mathis hasn't been a very reliable DE for fantasy purposes this year, so seeing him with a 3-star rating probably makes you a bit queasy. I think playing at home and coming off of two not so bad games that Mathis is a fringe DL2 this week.  I own him in one league, albeit a 16 team league, and to be honest I am not sure I am going to be able to pull the string and put him into my lineup.  The more I write and think about this, it is safe to say that I will be downgrading Mathis to a 2-star play.

Linebacker: Pat Angerer hasn't been putting up the types of numbers he was earlier in the season, but he is still producing well enough to make him a plug and play LB.  Playing at home this week means he very well could be in line for 5-8 ASSISTS, at home Colts defenders have racked up 314 assisted tackles, by far leading the league in that category. Only two other teams have had their defenders log more than 200 assisted tackles at home, the Patriots (201) and the Redskins (213).  Ernie Sims and Kavell Conner continue to rotate, Sims is by far the one with the least fantasy value.  Conner can put up decent numbers, but due to the sharing there is to much risk for a 3 or 4 point game.

Secondary:  Antoine Bethea is quietly having a very nice season.  Currently ranking 6th in fantasy points scored, just 5 points out from the top 5.  Not only is he having a solid season points wise, but also consistency wise, scoring in double digits in every week except week 3.  The Panthers are a top 10 matchup for DBs, but Bethea is really the only Colts secondary player that I would trust in fantasy lineups.  I am not saying that David Caldwell, Jerraud Powers or anyone else can't or won't put up good numbers, just that they are far to risky to rely on.

Cleveland at Cincinnati

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 Bengals are a horrible matchup for opposing DLs, ranking 31st in fantasy points allowed. Rookie Jabaal Sheard last hit double digits back in week 6, and for the year he has accomplished that feat just twice.  His 2-star rating is probably a bit optimistic, don't be surprised to see him downgraded to a 1-star play.  The fantasy leaders on the Browns DL are their DTs, Ahtyba Rubin and rookie Phil Taylor.  I don't see either as a very good play this week, but in DT mandatory leagues I do think they are worth a start.  Emanuel Stephens played for an injured Jayme Mitchell a couple of weeks ago, but now Stephens has taken over Mitchell's starting gig.  Fantasy wise there is very little value, and that would basically be in only the deepest of leagues. 

Linebacker: D'Qwell Jackson is right there with the best fantasy LBs in the league this year.  He currently ranks 4th, with 181.50 fantasy points, just 8.50 behind leader Patrick Willis.  That puts Jackson within striking distance of the #1 ranking.  I think Jackson does have a good shot to take over Willis at some point, I just don't think it will be this week. Unfortunately, the Bengals aren't a very good matchup for opposing LBs, ranking 26th in points allowed.  That does not mean you think about benching Jackson, even in this poor of  a matchup he could record over 20 points, I don't think he will, but you get the point.  Temper your expectations some this week, and just realize how strong Jackson has been for you this season. 

Secondary: Usama Young put up a fantastic 16 point effort  last week.  Young's 16 point effort is the type of effort that TJ Ward owners got used to last year, but were left wondering what happened to them this year.  Young is no Ward, but that doesn't mean he can't take advantage of a good opportunity, much like the one this week.  The Bengals rank 6th in fantasy points allowed to DBs, so Young shouldn't have much of a problem putting up double digit points this week.  Another matchup I like this week is 2nd year corner Joe Haden against rookie Andy Dalton.  Haden is a much safer play in CB mandatory leagues, but like Young, I think he is able to reach the 10-12 point range 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 DL will be facing a Browns team that ranks #15 in fantasy points allowed to  DLs.  On face value that seems like a middle of the road matchup for the Bengals, but in all actuality if not for the game that the Seahawks DLs had in week 7 against the Browns they would rank as a much worse matchup.  Since that game, they rank 26th - see what I mean, not a very good matchup for Michael Johnson or Carlos Dunlap.

Linebacker: The Browns rank 13th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, but just that doesn't tell the entire story.  What is at play this week against the Browns is that the Browns have been very inconsistent in the points they are giving up to LBs.  There are some week's that LBs are struggling to put up numbers, but then you have the weeks where guys like NaVorro Bowman, Patrick Willis & David Hawthorne have huge games, and they aren't the only ones, just some of the bigger names.  Back in week 1, Maualuga scored 9 fantasy points against the Browns.  I see that as his floor, which is why I have him as a 3-star play. Thomas Howard scored 11 points against the Browns in their first meeting, but he has been much more inconsistent than Maualuga has been.  His 2-star rating does have some upside in it, so if you need a sleeper play this week he is worth a shot.

Secondary: For the season the Browns have given up more than 4 solos 14 times, with three of those coming in their week 4 tilt against the Titans.  For the season the Browns rank 13th in points allowed to DBs, but since that game, the Browns rank 26th in fantasy points allowed. Eerily similar to the DL write-up  Just like the DLs, I see this as being a matchup where you just have to leave Reggie Nelson and company on the bench.  Last week, I wrote that Kelly Jennings was expected to start for the injured Leon Hall, that didn't happen.  It was Adam "PacMan" Jones that got the start, so I suppose he was healthier than what anyone expected.  I did say that if Jones was able to secure the starting role that he could have some fantasy value, and his 14 point effort last week shows he could be a viable fantasy option. 

Minnesota at Atlanta

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: 
BREAKING NEWS:  Jared Allen is not Superman.  Allen owners got to see what it feels like to most owners with regards to their DLs not producing. It was actually the first time all season that Allen didn't record at least a 1/2 sack.  For the season he has 13.5 sacks, and just needs 2.5 more sacks to beat his career best of 15.5 sacks (2007).  This week I fully expect we see Allen bounce back from his 2 assist week, but against a Falcons team that ranks in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed to DLs, you might need to temper expectations some.  Allen struggled last week, but Brian Robison didn't.  Robison scored 12 fantasy points, his first time hitting double digits since week 5.  I wouldn't let Robison's good week fool you into thinking he is a good option this week or going forward. To me Robison is a very risky play, and until he can string a few good weeks together I doubt my mind will be changed.

Linebacker:  For the season the Falcons rank 24th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, but over the last three weeks they rank 6th.  Chad Greenway's 2011 season hasn't gone exactly like his 2010 season did. Remember that last year Greenway ranked #4 in fantasy points scored among LBs, and he also had a PPG average of 16.80.  This year, Greenway got off to a bit of a slower start, and he now currently ranks 11th among LBs.  However, since week 5, Greenway turned things up a notch and he ranks #5 in fantasy points scored by a LB, and he has a PPG average of 18.833.  Last year you wouldn't have thought about benching Greenway, and at this point in the 2011 season, you shouldn't think about it either. While Greenway has ramped it up, the Henderson brothers have been inconsistent.  EJ might seem like a risky play but with the right matchup I think he makes for a safe LB3.  This week probably should be a safer week to start EJ, especially if you think that the Falcons will feed Michael Turner the ball.  I currently have EJ as a 2-star play, but am leaning towards upgrading him to a 3-star play, and also upgrading Greenway to a 4-star play.  Erin missed last week with an injury, and at this point is a risky fantasy option.

Secondary:  The past three weeks have seen the Falcons go from a very poor matchup for DBs to a very good one. Since week 9 they rank 6th in fantasy points allowed to DBs.  In those three weeks, both Antoine Bethea (20 pts) and Roman Harper (27 pts) have had huge weeks against the Flacons.  The Vikings don't have fantasy producers like those two, but it does show the upside in this week's matchup.  Asher Allen and Cedric Griffin will undoubtedly be tested by Matt Ryan, Roddy White, and hopefully for Falcons fans rookie Julio Jones too.

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: John Abraham actually had a pretty productive week 11, scoring 9 points against the Titans. Abraham is a shell of the fantasy player that he used to be, don't let one semi-good game think he is safe to put in starting lineups.  As for his running mate, Ray Edwards, another week another subpar fantasy performance. Edwards, and Abraham for that matter really don't even belong on fantasy rosters at this point.

Linebacker: Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon have been mainstays in fantasy lineups this year, and rightfully so, as both rank in the top 15 among LBs. However, they are each coming off of their worst performances of the season.  Lofton was able to hit double digits with his 10 point effort, but Weatherspoon's 6 points were his first single digit performance of the year.  This week against a Vikings team that ranks 23rd in points to LBs, that will also most likely be without Adrian Peterson, I see both having very little upside. Most other LBs would only warrant a 2-star rating in this game, but Lofton and Weatherspoon aren't LBs that I would be willing to sit. Lofton is also dealing with an ankle injury and depending on how he does in practice this week I may have to downgrade him.

Secondary: A matchup against a Vikings team that is already pretty bad, when coupled with the fact that they could be without their premier offensive weapon, has me very cool on the Falcons secondary.  William Moore is still dealing with a quad injury so that kills the little value he has had this season. Just say no to Brent Grimes, Thomas DeCoud and the rest of the Falcons secondary this week.

Buffalo at NY Jets

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: 
Back in week 9 when these two teams last squared off, Marcel Dareus, Dwan Edwards & Spencer Johnson all had productive fantasy outings.  Dareus led the way with 12 points, next was Johnson with 11 (tied for his best of the year).  Edwards just missed hitting double digits, but his 9 points were still solid fantasy numbers.  This week I  have them all rated as 2-star plays.  It isn't because I am discounting what they did in week 9, but because I can't look past their inconsistent play all year long. 

Linebacker: This week is a great week for owners of Nick Barnett and rookie Kelvin Sheppard.  Only the Rams are giving up more fantasy points to LBs than the Jets are.  Back in week 9 Barnett scored 16 points, and Sheppard's 10 points accounted for his first double digit effort of his young career.  I did go back and forth on making Barnett a 5-star play, and Sheppard a 4-star play, but in the end I decided one level less was a better rating which allows each player a decent amount of upside in their rating too.

Secondary:  George Wilson's neck injury kept him out of last week's contest, and Wednesday that injury kept him from practicing.  According to Joe Buscaglia on twitter, Chan Gailey says that Wilson is healing slowly.  With Wilson out last week the Bills turned the starting SS position over to rookie Da'Norris Searcy, and not veteran Bryan Scott.  Searcy evidently does impressions because his 20 point effort  (9 solos, 2 assists) looked a lot like what Wilson has done this year.  My initial 2-star rating for Searcy was because at that time it was unknown how Wilson was progressing.  As it stands now, if Wilson is going to be out for this week I will be upgrading Searcy to a 3 or possibly even a 4-star play.  The Jets aren't that great of a matchup for DBs, and that is the reason why I have the #5 overall DB, Jairus Byrd, rated as a 3-star play.  Also on the injury front Terrence McGee had surgery on his patella tendon and has been placed on injured reserve

Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up:
2008:  50,  2009:  53,  2010:  52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced:      2008:  51,  2009:  45,  2010:  46

Defensive Line: 
The Jets DL doesn't have much fantasy value as it is, against a Tim Tebow led rushing offense they will have even less value. 

Linebacker: All bets are off this week for David Harris, Bart Scott and the rest of the Jets LBs.  Reason being is that the Bills have put RB Fred Jackson on injured reserve. CJ Spiller is set to replace Jackson, and we all know just how poorly Spiller has done so far in his short career.  Add to it that Donald Jones was also put on injured reserve, and you have a recipe for utter disaster this week.  I should point out that the star ratings were completed prior to the news coming out about Jackson being put on IR, so look for updates to the the Jets LBs star ratings, and I think it is easy to see which way they will be updated.

Secondary:  The Bills rank #2 in fantasy points allowed to DBs, but I just can't see the value in the Jets secondary.  I have Eric Smith as a 3-star play and I wasn't 100% sold on it when I gave it to him, now with the Jackson news I am even less sold on it.  I am 99% sure that I will be downgrading Smith to a 2-star play. Just look at the week 9 production of the Jets secondary to get a feel for why I dislike this matchup so much.

Tampa Bay at Tennessee

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:
 Michael Bennett is the best fantasy option at DL on the Buccaneers, ranking 22nd year to date in fantasy points scored. That makes Bennett a low level DL2, but when you get to DL in that range you really need to play matchups, otherwise you will be left high and dry many weeks. To make matters worse, Bennett is dealing with a groin injury that could possibly keep off the field for a multiple games. If Bennett does indeed miss time then the Buccaneers very well could be starting two rookie DEs, Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers.  Fantasy wise neither has much fantasy value this year, but in dynasty leagues they both are stash and holds.

Linebacker: Good news and bad news surrounding Mason Foster.  Good, Foster has played in 100% of the Buccaneers defensive snaps over the past three weeks.  The bad is that last week he struggled to put up fantasy points against the Packers, posting just 4 points.  Foster's production over the past three games isn't all that impressive, just 12 solos and 4 assists, good for 28 fantasy points, with 16 of those coming in week 9.  This week against a Titans team that ranks in the top 10 in fantasy points allowed to LBs should help Foster to get things going.  However, his inconsistent play over the past 7 weeks is the major reason he isn't rated higher than a 2-star play.  The matchup is strong enough that you should check the Friday updates because he is one of the players that very well could move up to at least a 3-star play.  Quincy Black is coming off of a nice 15 point game, but fantasy wise he is a matchup play at best.  Over the past three weeks he has scored 16, 6 & 15 points. Over those weeks he has played in 73.1%, 86.4%, and 70.1% of the team's defensive snaps. The two games he scored well against were against team that pass the ball very well, the Saints and Packers.  This week against the Titans, a team that doesn't pass the ball as well as the Packers and Saints, I think Black should be on fantasy benches. At WLB, Adam Hayward and Geno Hayes are splitting snaps, but combined they still only played in 28 snaps last week, with Hayes leading the way with 19 of those snaps. Neither has any fantasy value at this point in time.

Secondary: Last week Tanard Jackson missed the game against the Packers due to an injury.  This week he practiced fully on Wednesday and it looks like he should get back on the field this week.  With Jackson missing from the lineup, Sean Jones racked up 15 fantasy points.  Jones has been inconsistent and with how deep the DB position is I would look for help elsewhere.  Ronde Barber scored 12 points against the Packers, marking the 5th straight game he has scored in double digits.  This week against a Titans team that ranks 23rd in fantasy points allowed to DBs I am expecting that we see Barber's production dip down in the single digit range. 

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: 
William Hayes and James Jones each scored 3 fantasy points last week against the Falcons who ranked 16th in points allowed to DLs.  What is significant about Hayes and Jones is that they led the Titans DL in fantasy scoring last week.  This week they face a Buccaneers team that ranks 32nd in points to DL. I was close to giving every Titans DL a NEGATIVE star rating.

Linebacker: After missing week 10 due to a groin injury, Barrett Ruud was able to get back on the field last week.  Unfortunately, Ruud re-aggravated his groin injury, and wasn't able to finish the game.  When he departed he had played in just 27 snaps, logging just 2 solo tackles.  Rookie Colin McCarthy replaced Ruud, scoring 23 fantasy points by racking up 10 solo tackles, and forcing a fumble in the 49 snaps that he played in.  Odds are that Ruud won't be able to play this week, but until he is ruled out rating McCarthy anything higher than 2-stars would be a risky proposition.  If you are in a dynasty league and don't own McCarthy, I would recommend trying to nab him if you can. 

Secondary: Jordan Babineaux (76 snaps) is still starting at SS over Chris Hope (12 snaps), and is seeing many more snaps than Hope is.  The thing that I find hard to deal with in this situation is that the Titans very easily could start giving Hope a majority of snaps at any point in time. I could understand if you wanted to start Babineaux, just realize the amount of risk associated with doing so. I will say this, if Hope were still injured and not playing I would have rated Babineaux a 4-star play this week.  So take that for what it's worth.  The best option in the Titans secondary is Jason McCourty, the #1 ranked DB in fantasy football this year.  I have McCourty as a 4-star play, but the more I look at it the more I think he could be looked at as a fringe 5-star play this week. 

Arizona at St. Louis

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:
There aren't many plug and play DLs, Jared Allen being top dog of course.  However, Calais Campbell isn't chopped liver and for my money he has proven to be as plug and play as it gets at the DL position. Campbell  ranks 4th overall in DL scoring and is one of just five DLs that have scored over 100 points so far this season.  One thing that he is that many DL aren't is consistent, for the season he has scored fewer than 9 points just three times (8, 6 & 4), with two of those weeks coming in weeks 1 and 2.  His 4 point effort came in week 7 against the Steelers - that was tough to take considering it was such a juicy matchup.  However, that one game doesn't and shouldn't tarnish what Campbell has done this year.  This week he gets to feast on a Rams team that gave up 3 sacks to Chris Clemons last week, and let's not forget that just 3 weeks ago that Campbell recorded 1.5 sacks against these same Rams, en route to a 15.5 point day.  Campbell's 5-star rating might be a bit high, but there is no way he shouldn't be in everyone's lineups this week.  Darnell Dockett hasn't been very good for fantasy purposes, and in week 9 he only scored 5 points against the Rams.  His 3-star rating does come with a bit of risk, but I am going to stand by the matchup being a strong one, and say I think Dockett makes a decent DL2 this week.  On the injury front the Cardinals lost Dan Williams for the season.  Williams broke his arm and as been placed on injured reserve. The loss of Williams in the middle of their DL could mean a good day for Steven Jackson.

Linebacker: There are two main factors at play in Daryl Washington being rated as a 5-star play.  One is that the Rams rank #1 in fantasy points allowed to opposing LBs, and second is that the loss of Dan Williams on their DL should allow Steven Jackson to get to the 2nd level a bit more, a place where Washington will be able to rack up tackles. The Rams don't run the ball a ton up the middle, but when they do they are successful at it, ranking 3rd in the NFL in average gain on those runs with a 5.70 YPC.  They also run the ball very well over right guard, ranking 1st in the NFL with a 7.40 YPC average.  One other factor in giving Washington a 5-star rating is that he scored 20 fantasy points against the Rams in their previous game back in week 9.  Paris Lenon has been a bit inconsistent this year, but for the past three weeks he has been very solid.  He put up 15 points against the Rams in week 9, so there is a bit of upside to his 3-star rating.

Secondary: Just about everyone in the Cardinals secondary had a productive fantasy game back in week 9 against the Rams.  But it was rookie Patrick Peterson and his game winning punt return for a TD.  Peterson is the highest ranking Cardinals DB, coming in at #34 among all DBs.  That makes Peterson a low level DB3, but from a consistency standpoint he can be a bit frustrating.  Since week 2 he has scored in double digits just 3 times, and none have been back to back. He is always just one play away from doing something special, but in my eyes there is much risk with him in fantasy lineups.  On the injury front, Kerry Rhodes is still expected to be out this week, so that means Rashad Johnson gets another start.  Johnson had a nice game last week, matching his season high in fantasy points with a 15 point effort. I think Johnson is a bit risky to rely on, hence the 2-star rating, but if you are in a bind I think he is worth a shot.

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: 
James Hall and Chris Long rank 23rd and 24th respectively in points scored among DLs. That puts both in the DL2 range.  The problem with a lower level DL2 is that you cannot just plug them into your lineup, you have to play matchups, and even then they are a somewhat risky play. Long has recorded 6 sacks in his last four weeks, and in the process has logged 10 solo tackles too. If you look closely at that last sentence you will see what the issue with Long is, if he isn't getting sacks he isn't getting solos.  Consider that each sack also counts as a solo and you see that he averaged just 1 solo/game in addition to what he got from sacks. That makes him very much a risky option, but with him needing just one more sack to hit 10 for the season, I think he is a solid 3-star DL2 play this week.  By the way, if and when Long does record that 10th sack, he and his father, Howie, will become just the second father son combo to each record 10 or more sacks in an NFL season.  As for Hall, he doesn't rely on sacks as much as Long does to put up fantasy points.  That makes him a tad less risky as a 3-star play.

Linebacker:  James Laurinaitis had himself a whale of a day against the Seahawks last week, logging a bakers dozen of solo tackles (13). The 26 points he scored represents his best output of the year, and the 3rd time in the last four weeks that he has scored 20 or more fantasy points. However, that one week in that time span that he was held under 20 points, he scored just 7, and it happened to be against the Cardinals team that he will face this week. I looked at it long and hard and almost gave him a 2-star rating, but with how well he has been playing I couldn't not give him 3-stars.  The problem now is that he has a foot injury that kept him from practicing on Wednesday. I have to be honest, with this being a very poor matchup, and now the foot issue, I am very close to lowering Lil' Animal's rating to 2-star or possibly "injured".  I know it is tough to bench a guy like him but this week it might be the prudent thing to do.

Secondary: The Cardinals passing attack has been less than desirable for much of the year.  A large reason why they rank 24th in fantasy points allowed to DBs.  With that said they have improved upon that, since week 9 they actually rank 12th, so there is some hope for the likes of Quintin Mikell and Darian Stewart this week. When they last faced the Cardinals in week 9, it was Stewart that had the nice fantasy day, scoring 14 points.  Mikell's day was less than stellar, racking up a measly 5 fantasy points, his lowest output of the season.  With the Jekyl & Hyde nature of the Cardinals passing attack, each is a bit risky as a 3-star play.  And yes, I do think that Mikell is able to bounce back - I am not expecting another 5 point effort from him.

Chicago at Oakland

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: You can bet that the loss of Jay Cutler isn't just going to effect the Bears offense, it will effect the defense too.  Point being that there is a big difference between playing with a lead and playing from behind.  With Caleb Hanie under center, getting a lead may not be the easiest thing to do.  So what will have to happen is that the defense is going to need to play out of their mind, and for that to happen, Julius Peppers will need to be one of the players leading the way.  Peppers currently ranks 15th in points scored among DL.  Last week he didn't record a single fantasy point, it was his first time getting blanked since week 14 in 2009.  Peppers has been pretty erratic this season, but if you own him you can't sit him.  Well, you could but that isn't why you drafted him.  Even the best DLs have bad weeks, two examples are Jared Allen's 2 point week last week, and the 1 point game Terrell Suggs had in week 6.  The Raiders aren't exactly a great matchup for DLs, so I wouldn't expect Peppers to go nuts this year, but at a minimum he should be in the 7-8 point range.  Fellow DE, Israel Idonije's 10 point game last week was his first double digit effort since putting up 12 points in week 2.  Idonije doesn't have much upside and in a matchup like this he shouldn't be in fantasy lineups.

Linebacker: Another player that will need to step up if the Bears are going to weather the loss of Jay Cutler is Brian Urlacher.  Urlacher of course is one of the key cogs in the Bears defense, but he is going to need to get the most he can from his teammates if they want to make the playoffs.  Against a Raiders team that ranks 11th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, he should make for a good play this weekend.  One reason is the way the Raiders commit to running the ball, the other is that Urlacher has a nose for the big play, and if Carson Palmer gets sloppy with the ball you can look for Urlacher to be right in the thick of things.  Lance Briggs has scored in double digits in four consecutive games, and this week he should extend that streak to five.

Secondary: The Raiders a  great matchup for the Bears secondary this week, ranking 5th in fantasy points allowed to DBs.  I initially had Major Wright a 4-star play, but I just don't feel confident in him being able to get above the 15-16 point level.  A player that should have no problem getting to that level and even has the strong possibility to eclipse the 20 point plateau is Charles Tillman.  Tillman currently ranks #3 in DB scoring, and in his last 5 games he has scored 20 or more times three times, and one of those other games was a 19 point effort.  Over that span of time he is actually tied as the top scoring DB with Bernard Pollard.  No need to really sell you on Tillman, you know the drill, keep him in your lineup. 

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:
  Earlier this season the Bears were lucky they didn't get Jay Cutler's head knocked off with how poor the play of the OL was.  However, from about week 6 on they have done a good job protecting their franchise QB.  One would probably like to think that they will continue to keep Cutler's replacement, Caleb Hanie "clean", but I have a feeling we will see Hanie get harassed a good amount.  Not because the OL is going to regress, but because Cutler was playing very well, and all it takes is to hold the ball for a second longer than you should for a QB pressure to turn into a sack.  So, suffice it to say, my 3-star rating for LaMarr Houston shows that I think Hanie isn't always going to get rid of the ball when he should. Quite honestly, if Houston was playing better from a fantasy perspective I would have easily given him a 4 or 5-star rating this week, so yes, that means I see plenty of upside for Houston.  Outside of Houston I really want to give Richard Seymour a better rating, but he is still nursing a knee injury, and he is just far to risky to rely on as a starter, at least until he shows he is 100% healthy.

Linebacker: With Jay Cutler leading the offense the Bears ranked just 29th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, without him I am very concerned that the Bears could end up being an absolutely abysmal matchup for opposing LBs.  The player's rating that I worry most about is Rolando McClain's.  Since week 5, McClain has alternated single and double digit performances, so that inconsistency is also a concern.  If you have a better option, I honestly would probably go that route because I see no upside and plenty of downside in McClain's 3-star rating.  Kamerion Wimbley on the other hand, I like a lot this week, not because I expect him to rack up a ton of tackles, but rather that I expect him to get to Caleb Hanie multiple times this week.  Just realize that with a rush OLB there is always a fair amount of risk when they are rated above a 3-star play.

Secondary:  Tyvon Branch has been a super steady fantasy performer this year.  He has scored between 11-14 point in every week except for one, and that was in week 3 when he went off for 19 points against the Jets.  This week you have to temper expectations for Branch as he is facing a Bears team that ranks 28th in fantasy points allowed to DBs, and remember that was with Jay Cutler under center. Branch is a risky enough play as it is, so you can imagine the risk associated with Michael Huff and any other Raiders DB. I won't be surprised to see a Raider DB pick off Hanie once or more, or even take a pick to the house, but no way I would be willing to gamble on it with them in my lineup.

Washington at Seattle

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 Seahawks are averaging 37 rushing attempts over their last three games.  Yet over that span of time the Seahawks rank just 18th in fantasy points allowed to opposing LBs.  Outside of the 26 point game the Seahawks gave up to James Laurinaitis last week they haven't given up any big games, but they have given up enough double digit games for me to feel good about giving London Fletcher and Perry Riley 3-star ratings.  Upside for the duo is probably in the neighborhood of 15 points but their floor is probably not much off that, in the 11-12 point range.  I have rookie OLB Ryan Kerrigan rated as a 3-star play based on his non-stop motor and how he has been producing over much of the season.  His low score on the year is a 3 point game in week 7, outside of that he has two 7 point games and then everything else is in double digits.  Not bad production from a rush OLB that you can use as a LB3.

Secondary:  LaRon Landry's achilles kept him out of last week's game, and it looked like he could possibly end up missing multiple games again.  However, once the Wednesday practice report was released it showed Landry as a full participant in practice.  Good news for Landry owners that need him for their playoff push.  With Landry sidelined the Redskins started rookie DeJon Gomes, and not veteran Reed Doughty.  There is no question that Gomes starting over Doughty burned many fantasy owners.  If you have the ability to stash Gomes as a handcuff for Landry it would be a good idea to do so.  What?  Handcuff a DB?  Sure, if Shanahan can pull Shananagans with his RBs and now DBs, you might as well be prepared if and when needed.  OJ Atogwe, finally got back on the field, playing in 75 of 77 defensive snaps, but only turning those opportunities into 9 fantasy points.  Atogwe was pretty inconsistent earlier this year and that was prior to his injury, so there is some risk in his 3-star rating.  Actually, against a Seahawks team that ranks in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points to DBs, I am most likely going to downgrade him to a 2-star rating.

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 was a beast last week, sacking Sam Bradford 3 times.  His 24 fantasy points were the most by any DL in week 11.  His 2-star rating might seem low for a player coming off such a big week, and after putting more thought into it, I can say that I am going to be adjusting that rating up to a 3-star play. Outside of Clemons, pass on the rest of the Seahawks DL.

Linebacker:  If you think that a lack of rushing attempts always limits opposing LBs you would be sadly mistaken.  Somehow the Redskins rank 3rd in fantasy points allowed to LBs, and since week 7 they rank #1.  What makes that hard to believe is the Redskins lack of an effective running game. Since they rank #1 since week 7 let's just take a look at some numbers from that time span. For starters they have run the ball a total of 90 times for 291 yards, and a 3.23 YPC average.  That equates to just an average of 18 rushing attempts/game.  Sometimes, instead of saying, "how the heck can they rank #1 when they run the ball so little", you just have to look at the results and believe in them. These LBs have all had very productive games against the Redskins during this time span, James Anderson (29 pts), Dan Connor (18 pts), Nick Barnett (16.5 pts), NaVorro Bowman (20 pts), Patrick Willis (29 pts), Karlos Dansby (27 pts), and Sean Lee and his club fist (16 pts). Simply put, David Hawthorne is in line to have a very big week this week.  Same goes for Leroy Hill, I don't expect the duo to each put up 20+ point games like the 49ers duo did, but Hill should still be a solid play.

Secondary: Kam Chancellor owners don't get to be as giddy about his matchup this week the way that Hawthorne owners do.  Sadly, the Redskins rank just 14th in fantasy points allowed to DBs.  Now that isn't horrible, but it isn't anywhere close to the matchup for the Seahawks LBs.  Chancellor should at least be able to hit the 10-12 point range this week.  Upside wise only two DBs have put up more than 20 points against the Redskins, George Wilson scored 21 points in week 8, and Gerald Sensabaugh posted 22 in week 11.  Chancellor does have the ability to be the 3rd to hit the 20 point plateau, just don't expect it, and look at it as icing on the cake if he does get there.  Earl Thomas is coming off an 8 point effort last week, his second single digit game of the season, and first since week 3.  I feel pretty confident that both Chancellor and Thomas bounce back for their owners this week.

Denver at San Diego

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: 
On Thursday many feasted for Thanksgiving.  This Sunday, Elvis Dumervil will look to feast on the Chargers OL, and have some Rivers for desert.  The only thing that is left is to figure out if the Charges OL will be like eating at Golden Corral, or a 5-star resteraunt.  Last week the Bears got the Golden Corral buffet, netting no sacks, and just 1 QB hit to go along with 6 QB pressures.  That is a far cry from the 5-star meal the Raiders got a week prior, where they netted 7 sacks, 7 QB hits and a staggering 31 QB pressures.  So here is my dilemma, do I rank Dumervil a 5-star play, and look past last week's Bears game, or rank him a 2-star play and ignore the Raiders game?  I decided that a 3-star play was where he should be, it says that he should be in your lineups, but it leaves room for a ton of upside.

Linebacker: Since the Broncos bye week, DJ Williams has been pretty inconsistent. Two games he hit double digits (17 & 22), and single digits (6,8 & 9) in the other 3 games.  I probably tend to rank Williams a bit higher than I should at times, but that is because I think he truly is one of the best LBs in the game.  However, this week I only have rated as a 4-star play, and that is against a Chargers team that ranks #4 in fantasy points allowed to LBs.  If it weren't for his recent inconsistent play, I would easily have Williams as a 5-star play.  I own him in one league, and he will be in my starting lineup this week.  The sneaky play here is with rookie Von Miller.  Miller of course has shown that he can be a productive fantasy LB from his SLB position.  Last week he racked up 27.50 points, his best performance of the year. Miller needs just another 1/2 sack to get to 10 on the season, this week I think he gets that and more.  Just remember the type of game that Kamerion Wimbley had two weeks ago against the Chargers.  I probably should have Miller as a 4-star play, but 3 or 4-stars, get him in your lineups this week.  If you are looking for a sleeper/matchup play at LB this week, look at Wesley Woodyard. 

Secondary: This just feels like a wasted matchup to me.  The Chargers are a great matchup, ranking 2nd in fantasy points allowed to DBs.  Unfortunately, the Broncos secondary haven't been very reliable for fantasy purposes.  Brian Dawkins is no longer a reliable fantasy option, scoring double digits just three times this year. Veteran Champ Bailey is no cup of tea for fantasy purposes either, also hitting double digits three times.  Highly touted rookie Rahim Moore lost his starting gig, and has scored in just one of the last five games.  His replacement, Quintin Carter hasn't done all that much either, but he did put up a 16 point effort...three weeks ago.  But for some reason, I am going to go out on a limb and give him a 3-star rating.  The other 3-star rating goes to nickle CB, Chris Harris.  Harris should see plenty of action against the Chargers passing attack, so I think he is a decent sleeper option this week.

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: 
If you own Antonio Garay in a DT mandatory league, I wouldn't hesitate to get him into lineups this weekend.  Against the run heavy attack of the Broncos Garay very well could live up to a 3-star rating, but I think that his upside is limited enough to warrant just making him a 2#-star play. 

Linebacker: There is no denying that Donald Butler is putting up some pretty solid fantasy numbers this year, but I have to keep pointing out that he is being limited by the number of snaps he plays weekly.  Over the past five weeks he is playing between 66.7% - 77.4% of the team's defensive snaps.  Over that span of time he has hit double digits three times (27, 13 & 12), and his other two games of course were in single digits (9 & 5).  This week I won't be surprised to see him play close to 100% of the defensive snaps.  Reason being, the Broncos passing attack is near non-existent.  I did initially have Butler rated as a 4-star play, but I downgraded him fearing that might be a bit risky.  However, after further thought, I will be bumping him back up to a 4-star play. 

Secondary: The Chargers DBs could take off this week if they wanted too, but they won't, so I rated them.  I know that Eric Weddle can be active in run support and that there will be fantasy points to go around, but that doesn't matter to me.  If you are a secondary player and aren't known for playing in the box like a LB, then you get a 1-star rating when you play the Tebow led Broncos. 

New England at Philadelphia

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: 
It took about six weeks but that was when Bill Belichick finally found his pass rush, and he found it in the form of Andre Carter.  Carter was one of many defensive players brought in to help recharge the Patriots rush.  Carter recorded a sack in game one but then not again until week 6.  Since week 6 he has recorded 9 sacks in 5 games, with the Giants game in week 9 being the only one he didn't record a sack in.  For the season, Carter now ranks 5th in scoring among DL, but since week 6 he ranks #1, having scored 5 points more than Jared Allen.  If you own Carter, don't think twice just get him in your lineup.  Doesn't matter to me that the Eagles rank 30th in fantasy points allowed to DL.  Initially, that was why I rated Carter a 2-star play, but I saw the error of my way and bumped him up to a 3-star rating. 

Linebacker: Jerod Mayo's MCL injury kept him out of the lineup for multiple games, and then once back on the field it looks like it is impacting his play. But Mayo is a big time player, and it was only a matter of time until he put up a big game again.  His 18 point performance last week against the Chiefs very well could be a sign of things to come.  This week against an Eagles team that ranks #7 in fantasy points allowed to LBs, I like Mayo a lot, and see some upside in his 4-star rating, with very little downside.  Brandon Spikes is knee is still giving him issues, and he didn't practice on Wednesday. Rob Ninkovich has been very productive the past three weeks, but unless you are in a deep league I find it hard to rely on a guy like Ninkovich who can be on the field for as little as 60 some odd percent of the time.

Secondary: Patrick Chung has now missed two consecutive games due to a foot injury. Chung was able to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday, but with how Belichick treats the injury report I hate to say it but I think you have to leave Chung on your bench this week.  That is a shame too because the Eagles rank 3rd in fantasy points allowed to DBs. Like the Broncos secondary that has a good matchup and no one to take advantage of it, I see the Patriots matchup much the same way.  At least the Patriots have Kyle Arrington, the league leader in interceptions, that I was able to safely give a 3-star rating.  If Vince Young starts at QB for the Eagles, I might say that Arrington could be looked at as a 4-star play. 

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: 
Last week I wrote the following, "Fade to black, that is what happens at the end of movies, and unfortunately it looks like that is also what is happening to Jason Babin's season.".  So since I used a movie analogy last week I should keep up that theme this week.   It ends up that Babin is like Jason from Friday the 13th or Michael Meyers in Halloween, just when you think he is dead, he pops back up and does more damage. Last week, Babin did the most damage to the Giants hopes of pulling out a come from behind win when he got to Eli Manning for a sack/fumble that pretty much iced the game. This week, should be when Jason or Meyer's look to be dead and done and the movie does indeed fade to black.  That is because the Patriots rank just 28th in fantasy points allowed to DLs.  Of course next week Babin, like Jason and Meyer's will come back to life in a "new movie".  Even Trent Cole is a risky play this week.  Just how risky?  Try this on for size, I am starting LaMarr Houston over Cole in the IDP Sofa Experts League.  I still think Cole can be in starting lineups this week, but he has very little upside.

Linebacker: Over the past four weeks Eagles MLB Jamar Chaney is averaging 15.50 PPG, and he ranks #11 in fantasy points scored among LBs over that span of time too.  This week, Chaney's production very well could take a bit of a hit has he faces a Patriots team that ranks 15th in points allowed to LBs.  I won't be shocked to see him hit the 15 point level, but that is probably his upside, I am expecting him to be in the 10-12 point range, still worthy of being in starting lineups.  Just temper your expectations this week is all.  Outside of Chaney, "Just say no!" to all other Eagles LBs.

Secondary: Breaking news on Thanksgiving was that Nnamdi Asomugha was carted off the field in practice with a knee injury.  Luckily the Eagles got good news and the injury is said not to be serious, but still his availability for this week is up in the air.  Already without Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie the Eagles pass defense will take a huge hit if Nnamdi can't play.  Fantasy wise, all the Eagles DBs should be pretty busy, but only Nate Allen and Kurt Coleman are reliable enough to plug into starting lineups. 

Pittsburgh at Kansas City

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: James Harrison kind of has a reputation as a dirty player, remember last year when he got fined like 382 times for like a billion dollars?  Well, I wonder what Harrison was thinking when he saw Ndamukong Suh get ejected from his Thanksgiving Day game, did he think, "Oh yeah, Suh's gonna take the target off my back." or "My man".  The biggest difference between Suh and Harrison this year, outside of playing different positions is that Harrison is at least producing viable fantasy numbers.  Harrison is three up and three down this year (3 single digit games/3 double digit ones).  Against a KC team that is coming off of a short week I think that we get the "up" Harrison this week.  LaMarr Woodley is still being limited by his calf injury and his availability for week 12 is currently in doubt. Lawrence Timmons has extremely frustrating for his owners this year, but prior to the Steelers bye last week he did score 13 points in week 10 against the Bengals.  It was his first double digit performance since week 2.  I know Timmons has been a beast in the past but I can't let one week make me forget how he has performed all season.  If you own Timmons what you need to do is make the playoffs, and if you do, hope that Timmons can string together some double digit performances, because that is the only way that I can see starting him again at this point. 

Secondary: Troy Polamalu and crew look like they will be very challenged to see many tackle opportunities this week.  The Chiefs did nab Kyle Orton off waivers, but he isn't expected to start this week.  Tyler Palko who got his 1st NFL start last week in a 34-3 loss to the Patriots, will be under center again.  Kyle Arrington picked off Palko twice last week, and with the nose for the ball that Polamalu has I see him as the only Steelers DB worthy or starting consideration 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 severely limits the fantasy value of their DL, you should look for fantasy help elsewhere.  On the injury front, Glen Dorsey was inactive in week 11, and as of this writing the Chiefs practice report hadn't yet been released.

Linebacker: Derrick Johnson has had a fantastic 2011, currently ranking 11th in fantasy points scored among LBs.  Since the Chiefs bye in week 6, he is averaging 19.80 PPG, and ranks 2nd in points scored by a LB over that span of time.  Johnson is finally living up to the expectations many had when he first came into the league.  At this point in time if we were to do a fantasy draft there aren't many LBs that I would consider taking over Johnson.  If you own him, good luck riding him into your playoffs.  Tamba Hali really harassed Tom Brady on Monday night, against a Steelers team that has given up more points to opposing DL then any other team in the NFL I am looking for big things from Hali this week.  I know Hali isn't a DL, but he is a pure pass rusher, and this is a matchup that suits him well.

Secondary: The Steelers are a decent matchup for DBs, ranking 11th in fantasy points allowed to the position.  Jon McGraw was inactive last week, and currently his status for this week is unknown.  Donald Washington replaced McGraw and had a nice game, scoring 15 fantasy points, but his value is tied to if McGraw plays or not.  So until more is known about that situation, the only DBs in the Chiefs secondary I feel good about are Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr. 

NY Giants at New Orleans

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: 
Justin Tuck's season has really been hammered hard by injury, and to make matters worse, Tuck is back on the injury report with shoulder and ankle issues, causing him to not participate in the teams first MNF practice.  It was bad enough that he, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul were facing a Saints team that ranks 25th in points allowed to DLs, but now he has the injury bug, bugging him again.  I know that players like those three aren't easy to keep on the bench, but this week, I do believe that would be the prudent thing to do.

Linebacker: Michael Boley's hamstring kept him out of last week's game, and this week it kept him out of the teams first practice for Monday night.  Last week, rookie Mark Herzlich got the start for Boley, posting just 6 points in his first NFL start. Fellow rookie Jacquian Williams did a bit better as he hit double digits with a 10 point effort. The leading scorer for the Giants was veteran Mathias Kiwanuka, with 13 points. This week I have "Kiwi" as a 2-star play simply because the Saints are a poor matchup for LBs, and Drew Brees isn't an easy QB to sack. On the football side of things, if you are a Giants fan you have to be worried sick with how your young inexperienced LBs are going to fare against the Saints potent passing attack.

Secondary: The Giants secondary does get a good matchup this week, facing a Saints team that has given up more points to DBs than any other team in the NFL has.  Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips have been by far the best and most consistent scorers in the Giants secondary this year.  Both rank in the top 22 and this week should put up solid DB1 type numbers. 

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 should be nice and refreshed after having a bye last week. But that rest comes to an end this week as Smith gets to face a Giants team that ranks #2 in points to DLs.  For most DLs this would be a 4 or 5-star matchup, but Smith has been horrible for much of his last 6 weeks, scoring 1 point in three of those contests, 2 points in one of them, 4 in another and finally his only good game, a 16 point effort in week 8.  I just can't ignore his lack of production, hence the 3-star rating in such a great matchup.  Cameron Jordan looks like a promising young DE, but fantasy wise he isn't an option - he is still looking for his 1st double digit scoring game. Also, let me point out that for the season, the entire Saints DL have combined to score in double digits just 5 times.  That is straight up putrid.

Linebacker: Jonathan Vilma who is recovering from knee surgery was reportedly a limited participant in the Saints Thursday practice.  No word has come down on if he will or won't play, and that is why I have Jo-Lon Dunbar as a 2-star play.  Well that and the fact that the Giants rank 25th in fantasy points allowed to LBs.  With the Saints playing on Monday night, I suggest you just ignore their LBs completely and focus on finding help elsewhere. 

Secondary:   Do you have any idea how good Roman Harper has been this year?  Try this on for size, he currently ranks 4th in fantasy points scored by a DB, and that includes him scoring 3 points in a game and 5 in another.  Take out those two games and his 15.15 PPG average jumps up to 17.94, which would be the best among all DBs.  This week he doesn't have the best matchup, but there is no way you can consider doing anything other than plugging him into your lineup.  One thing that Harper has done to pad his stats this year is to get to the QB. So far he has accumulated 6.5 sacks, and has 1 sack in each of the past three games.  He is closing in on Adrian Wilson's NFL record of 8 sacks by a defensive back.  Jabari Greer is still being thrown at a lot, actually 78 times, which ranks 3rd in the NFL.  He hasn't really made the most of those opportunities but this week against Giants I think he hits double digits.

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