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!
Philadelphia at Seattle
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: I said that Trent Cole was a risky play last week, but never did I think he would put up a big fat zero. Cole's performance was one of close but no cigar, he logged two QB pressures and two QB hits. So close yet so far away from a good game. This week Cole gets a Seahawks team that ranks just outside the top 10 in fantasy points allowed to DLs, so while that zero stung last week, I think you have to look past it and start Cole this week. Last week I had Jason Babin as a 2-star play, so hopefully his 6 points didn't hurt anyone thinking he was a solid start. This week, like Cole I think that Babin too should be in starting lineups on Thursday.
Linebacker: I said to temper expectations for Jamar Chaney last week, but i didn't think he would score just 5 points. I pointed out that the Patriots weren't a very good matchup, but to add salt in the wound I have to point out that the Patriots ran the ball a season high 36 times. That fact alone makes it hard to believe that not a single player in the front seven recorded more than 4 total tackles in this game. Like Cole, put last week's performance behind you, and start Chaney this week. In the last three weeks the Seahawks have given up the following double digit games to opposing LBs: Ray Lewis (12 pts), Jameel McClain (12 pts), James Laurinaitis (26 pts), London Fletcher (15 pts) & Perry Riley (20 pts), so from where I sit, Chaney looks like he should be starting for fantasy teams this week. A contributing factor in those performances is that over that three week span of time the Seahawks are averaging 37 rushing attempts/game. Considering the Eagles run defense is far from stout, I would expect the Seahawks to focus their offensive game plan around the running game this week.
Secondary: The only Eagles to rack up more than 4 total tackles last week against the Patriots were all secondary players. Kurt Coleman and his 12 total tackles by far led the team. It also marked the 4th time in his last six games that he has scored 19 or more fantasy points. The Seahawks rank just 19th in fantasy points allowed to DBs, which is understandable considering that they haven't given up many big games to their opposition. But the Seahawks have given up enough "decent" performances for me to give Coleman a 3-star rating this week. Nate Allen logged 6 solos, good for 12 fantasy points last week, but it was the first time he has scored in double digits since the Eagles bye week. This week, I think it would be best to leave Allen on the bench.
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: Thinking about starting Chris Clemons against the Eagles this week? Well don't! Over the last three weeks the Eagles have given up just 1 sack to an opposing DL. That was to Jason Pierre-Paul in week 11, when he posted a 10 point game, the most any DL has posted over that span against the Eagles. Andre Carter who was red hot coming into last week's contest was only able to muster up 1 solo tackle for a 2 point week. Clemons can be very hit or miss, and this week lines up to be more miss than hit.
Linebacker: The Eagles rank 11th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, but the points they have allowed haven't been consistent. They have been a hit or miss matchup so far this season, making rating opposing LBs a very difficult proposition. David Hawthorne has scored in double digits for 9 straight weeks, and that is a major reason why I am giving him a 3-star rating. Since week 3, Hawthorne is averaging 14.33 PPG, good for 16th in points scored among LBs. Not what many were expecting from Hawthorne but a far cry from the scare he gave owners early in the season. Leroy Hill hasn't been as productive as Hawthorne has since week 3, but his production is far off. Hill ranks 20th in points since week 3, and his PPG average is 13.78. Even though Hill has been a solid LB2 for most of the season, he is a bit riskier as a starter this week.
Secondary: Yes, Kam Chancellor had his 3rd consecutive poor game, but I did warn that he had far from a good matchup. I did however, say I expected him to hit 10-12 points, so his 7 points fell a bit short. This week Chancellor and Earl Thomas both have a much more favorable matchup, facing an Eagles team that ranks 2nd in fantasy points allowed to DBs. If it weren't for Chancellor having three consecutive single digit games I very well may have rated him a 5-star play this week. Poor play of late withstanding, when you get a matchup like this you have to plug your players in and hope the trend holds true.
Tennessee at Buffalo
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 49, 2010: 44
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 49, 2009: 52, 2010: 58
Defensive Line: The Titans DL are pretty much useless in most fantasy weeks. This week against the Bills who rank 31st in fantasy points allowed to DL, they could actually end up scoring negative numbers. Of course they won't score negative points, that was just to help illustrate how poor this matchup is. And yes, I know that Dave Ball went nuts last week, but prior to that he wasn't all that special. From week 3 thru 12 he recorded a grand total of 5 solos and 4 assists. Have at it if you want to tempt fate.
Linebacker: It looks more and more like Barrett Ruud, who missed week 12 due to a groin injury, will most likely miss week 13 too. If Ruud can't go then rookie Colin McCarthy, who started for Ruud in week 12 and scored 21 points, will once again replace him in the starting lineup. McCarthy has been money the past two weeks, racking up 17 solos, 3 assists, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception and a pass defended, all good for 44 fantasy points, the 4th most scored over the past two weeks. The Bills aren't nearly the same team that they were at the start of the season, but for what it is worth, they haven't been a very good matchup for opposing LBs all year. If Ruud starts I would probably only give him a 2-star rating, but if McCarthy starts like it looks like he will, I have no problem giving him a 3-star rating. Honestly, with the vim and vigor the rook is playing with I probably should upgrade him to a 4-star play.
Secondary: With the Bills ranking 9th in fantasy points allowed to DBs I think it is safe to assume we should see. Jason McCourty and Jordan Babineaux continue their strong play. Babineaux of course still holds some risk in my mind, but at this point it looks as if Hope isn't going to get his starting gig back. If Hope were going to take back the starting job, I think he would have played in far more than the 9 snaps he did last week.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 45, 2010: 46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 49, 2009: 54, 2010: 56
Defensive Line: The Titans aren't the best matchup in the world for opposing DL, ranking 19th in fantasy points allowed. For the season they have allowed 9.5 sacks (0.86/game)to DLs, and currently they are on a 3 game streak of allowing a sack to the opposing DL. The Bills DLs haven't been very fantasy friendly and with this being a make or break week for many to make their fantasy playoffs I think it would be best if you left Marcell Dareus, Spencer Johnson and crew on the bench.
Linebacker: Since the Bills bye week, Nick Barnett is averaging 5.4 solos/game, and that includes a 3 solo effort against the Cowboys. Earlier in the season, Barnett was putting up solid fantasy numbers but he wasn't logging a bunch of solos and that was concerning, now it looks like he has laid that concern to bed. However, this week he has an abysmal matchup against a Titans team that ranks 31st in fantasy points allowed to LBs. As hard as it may be I think you have to sit Barnett down this week. I know that I am, but that doesn't mean I am happy about it. All though it does help that he is playing in Buffalo so he should be able to rack up a fair amount of assists at a minimum.
Secondary: Much to the dismay of his owners, George Wilson missed his second straight game. Da'Norris Searcy got his second start in his stead, but his production wasn't nearly as impressive in week 12. Supposedly, Wilson has made progress, but he wasn't able to practice on Wednesday, so at this point it is anyone's guess as to his status for this week. Between the Titans not being a very good matchup and the unknown status of Wilson is why Searcy is a 2-star play this week. If Wilson can progress and get back on the field this week he will likely be a GTD. Your best bet would be to find another option this week. To much risk to run him out if he does indeed get back on the field.
Indianapolis at New England
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: Between how inconsistent Robert Mathis has been fantasy wise this year, and the fact that the Patriots rank 27th in fantasy points allowed to DLs I think he is a slam dunk 1-star play this week. Last week was the first time since week 5 that Dwight Freeney has scored more than 2 points in a game. When you are producing like that then a 6 point effort looks huge, it isn't so leave Freeney as company for Mathis on the bench.
Linebacker: Pat Angerer hasn't put up huge numbers like he was early in the season but he racks up a ton of assists when he plays at home. Well he isn't playing at home but the Patriots scorekeeper is almost as friendly as the Colts scorekeeper when it comes to dishing out assisted tackles. The Patriots aren't a very good matchup for LBs, just look at Jamar Chaney's 5 point effort last week for some evidence, so rating Angerer as a 3-star play is actually a bit risky. So at best temper your expectations for him. If you are a Kavell Conner owner you will most certainly want to sit him against the Patriots passing attack. I probably should have rated Ernie Sims a 2-star play, but in the end, would you really want to rely on Sims as a sleeper? I didn't think so.
Secondary: The DB matchup is MUCH better than the matchup for the Colts DLs and LBs. The Patriots rank 4th in fantasy points allowed to DBs. So if you own Antoine Bethea don't think twice about having him in your starting lineup this week. I even like David Caldwell and the Colts starting CBs this week. I for one think the Patriots are going to put their foot on the Colts "neck" this weekend, I just don't see them throttling down in this contest.
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: Some times numbers really don't lie, just look at last week's matchup for Andre Carter. Carter had racked up 84 fantasy points from week 5 thru 11, good for 2nd most among DLs and his PPG average was 14.00. So wisdom says to ride the hot hand, I know that is pretty much what I said about Carter last week, but against an Eagles team that ranked 30th in fantasy points allowed to DL, that statement ending up being very, very wrong. Carter was only able to record 1 measly solo tackle, good for 2 fantasy points. Sorry that I was wrong last week, should have stayed with my initial 2-star rating. This week, things look up a bit for Carter as he faces a Colts team that is in the top 10 in fantasy points allowed to DL. I know that you are probably still hurting from last week's poor performance, but put it behind you and put Carter in your lineup this week. If you are in a deep league then Mark Anderson could be a sneaky play, I just see enough in the tackle department to rate Anderson. For the season he is among the league leaders with 6.5 sacks, yet he has just one double digit performance to his name.
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo had a poor week against an Eagles team that abandoned the run game like it was the plague last week. This week things don't get much better at all. Unfortunately, for Mayo owners he has to face a Colts team that ranks dead last in fantasy points allowed to LBs. With Dan Orlovsky getting the start at QB I see things being even worse. As hard as this is to believe, in what is the final week of the regular season for many fantasy owners, you have to sit Mayo this week.
Secondary: The Colts aren't much better for DBs to face than they are for LBs, ranking 29th in points allowed to opposing DBs. Patrick Chung's injury has come at in inopportune time for his owners, but at least this week with a bad matchup and Chung dealing with an injury it will be a little easier to sit him down. Kyle Arrington had a huge week against the Eagles, logging 10 solo tackles and 2 passes defended, for a grand total of 22 fantasy points. I have Arrington rated as a 3-star play, but that is a VERY risky rating. Basically, I am expecting Arrington to pick off a Dan Orlovsky pass or two, not exactly the type of risk you need to be taking in a crucial week like week 13, but if you need to swing for the fences, I think Arrington makes a good play.
NY Jets at Washington
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 present much if any fantasy value. In DT mandatory leagues, Sione Pouha has been very productive and in those leagues I would have no issues starting him this week. Mike Devito once again is not practicing due to his knee, he shouldn't be in fantasy lineups this week.
Linebacker: Every time I look and see that the Redskins rank #4 in fantasy points allowed to LBs I can't help but to scratch my head. Believe it or not the stats say that this is a good matchup, so if you are a David Harris owner take advantage of it and get him in your lineup this week. Bart "Can't Wait!!" Scott started the year off pretty nicely, but his last 7 games have been wildly inconsistent, culminating in a doughnut last week. Well Bart, all I can say is,"Can't Wait!!" for you take advantage of this matchup this week, and to put up viable fantasy points again. "Won't Lie!!!", Scott makes a risky 3-star play this week.
Secondary: The Jets DBs have either been bad or up and down, no true studly fantasy DB on the Jets this season. Eric Smith hasn't been bad, his owners know he has been like a roller coaster. In his last five games he has scored in double digits three times, but never in back to back games. His lows haven't been horrible, 8 and 9 point efforts, so depending on the dynamic of your team you either love or hate Smith. If you have a team that needs big points weekly and you are rolling with Smith then you have to be frustrated. However, if you have two strong DBs, and you just need safe solid production from your DB3 spot then you can be pretty happy with what Smith gives you. This week against the Redskins, I see him as a slightly risky play, but floor wise you are probably looking at around 8 points again.
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 Jets present as a great matchup for the Redskins LBs this week, namely London Fletcher and Perry Riley. Riley is a good example of what happens when you give a guy with a hungry belly a shot to play. Over the last three weeks, Riley has racked up a total of 34 tackles, good for 52 fantasy points, the 10th most over that period of time among LBs. His teammate London Fletcher ranks 3rd in points over that same span of time but over half of his 61 points are attributed to his 31 point effort in week 11. In my mind both are about as solid a play as you will find this week. The only thing to keep an eye on is that Fletcher's ankle kept him out of practice on Wednesday. If you were thinking about starting either of the Redskins rush OLBs, Brian Orakpo or Ryan Kerrigan you might want to consider that DeMarcus Ware only logged 3 solos and a sack in week 3 against the Redskins, and then in week 11, just one solo, an assist and one sack was it. Ware is easily one of, if not he best rush OLB in the game. His production proves to me that this isn't a good week to start Orakpo or Kerrigan.
Secondary: LaRon Landry's achilles has been a cause for concern recently, but on Wednesday he missed practice with what is being listed as a groin injury. I have Landry as a 3-star play, but depending on how practice progresses this week I very well could downgrade him if he looks like a risky GTD for Sunday. As it is, the Jets are a bad enough matchup for DBs that I almost rated him a 2-star play, so I would say odds are better than 50/50 that I will be downgrading him. Over his last nine games, DeAngelo Hall has scored in double digits in every week except week 10, and he barely missed double digits, posting 8 fantasy points. Hall, like Landry is a slightly risky play this week, but not due to health but because of the matchup. I think he should still be in starting lineups, but you should temper expectations some.
Carolina at Tampa Bay
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 47, 2009: 51, 2010: 46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 49, 2010: 54
Defensive Line: I gave both Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy 3-star ratings this week, but guess what, they don't really deserve them. Or do they? Probably not, that is if you look at the fact that each player has scored more than 5 points just once in their last five games. Johnson scored 11 points in week 8, and Hardy scored 9 points in week 10. However, when you consider just how inconsistent the DL position is, I think that each should garner consideration as a starter. Sure they make a risky 3-star play, but so do about 98% of all DLs. For me it does indeed come down to risk/reward, sure neither is putting up solid consistent numbers but they aren't getting blanked either, for me that makes the risk a bit more palatable.
Linebacker: After putting up 19 and 22 points the past two weeks, James Anderson's 13 point effort last week was a bit of a let down. However, Anderson in my mind still remains a solid low level LB1 with upside. If I owned, which I don't, I can safely say he would be in my lineup this week. Especially, against a Buccaneers team that is in the top 10 in fantasy points allowed to LBs. Omar Gaither missed last week's game, but he returned to practice in a limited fashion on Wednesday. At the point of this writing I think he is still to risky to rate. Dan Connor got back on the field last week, but like most weeks, he is risky play due to the fact that he is 2-down plugger. Well, against a LeGarrette Blount rushing attack, I think the Panthers could use a run plugging LB, hence Connor's 3-star rating..
Secondary: The passing attack led by Josh "I F'd my thumb up at a shooting range" Johnson, ranks 8th in fantasy points allowed to DBs. Outside of two poor weeks (6 and 7 points), Charles Godfrey has put up low level DB1 type numbers, and over the past three weeks he ranks as the #4 scoring DB. Because it looks like a duck (good matchup), quacks like a duck (Godfrey putting up good numbers), it must be a duck (makes for a good start). Actually, Godfrey is a candidate to have his rating bumped up from 3 to 4-stars. I have Sherrod Martin as a 3-star play too, but unlike Godfrey, I will probably be downgrading him. I let the matchup cloud my judgement some, but considering he hasn't scored in double digits since week 5 makes me think he is a bit to risky to rate as a 3-star play.
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: I wouldn't say that the Panthers have been a horrible matchup for opposing DLs, but they haven't been all that good either. Outside of Jared Allen's 20 point performance in week 8 against the Panthers there really hasn't been any other big games given up to any other DL. Last week not a single Buccaneer DL scored in double digits, Adrian Clayborn's 9 points actually led the way. Michael Bennett missed last week due to injury and that groin injury also kept him out of practice on Wednesday. Add that all up and, it is pretty easy to see why I don't like any of the Buccaneers DLs this week.
Linebacker: The Panthers a middle of the road matchup for opposing LBs, and over the past 3 weeks they haven't really given up a ton of solos either. That makes me a bit lukewarm on Mason Foster this week, I currently have him as a 2-star play, but his rating is one I have gone back and forth on quite a bit this week. Foster was cut loose in the IDP Sofa League and I picked him up. I am not 100% sold on starting him yet, but I do think he might make a better option than Nick Barnett this week. So that is pretty much how I think you need to look at Foster this week, not at how good of a play he is, but how much less of a poor play is he than one of your other LBs.
Secondary: Tanard Jackson got back on the field last week and his 13 points performance was his first time in double digits since week 6. Jackson wasn't the only Buccaneers DB to do well by scoring in double digits last week. Fellow starters Ronde Barber (16 pts), Aqib Talib (17 pts), & Sean Jones (13 pts) all showed that they can be productive fantasy players down the stretch. This week, I think gambling on all four to score in double digits again might seem like a stretch, but I actually feel pretty good about them pulling the feat off, especially when you consider that the Panthers rank 7th in fantasy points allowed to DBs.
Cincinnati at Pittsburgh
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 hate to see wasted matchups, but that might be what we are looking at this week. No team in the NFL is giving up more points to opposing DLs than the Steelers are, but figuring out if the Bengals have anyone that can take advantage of this situation is the hard part. Carlos Dunlap would be a no brainer, get him in your lineup type play this week, but because of a hamstring injury he hasn't scored a fantasy point since week 9. This week the hamstring has kept him out of practice on Wednesday, so as it stands now his status for this week is unclear. Outside of Dunlap, you have the likes of Michael Johnson, Robert Geathers and Geno Atkins to decide on. From where I am standing I think that Geathers makes for the best play this week. Atkins I like in DT mandatory leagues. Of course that just means that Johnson is going to have the best week of the three.
Linebacker: I have Rey Maualuga rated as a 3-star play this week, but i have to be honest and say that there really aren't any numbers that support that rating. What supports that rating is my gut feel that Maualuga will have a good game against a Steelers offense that I expect to run the ball more than normal this week. My reasoning is Ben's thumb for one, and the other is that I just see this playing out as an old fashioned smash mouth type game. I am not a fan of the Steelers, and I even own Mike Wallace in the IDP Sofa league, but I do miss their smash mouth running style. If you think I am off my rocker, with regards to my expectations for this game then you should look at Maualuga as a 2-star play. On the injury front, Keith Rivers, remember him, well the Bengals are going to leave him on the Reserve/Non-Football Injury list, his season is done. In dynasty leagues, it is probably safe to say you can cut bait, that is if you haven't already.
Secondary: The Steelers might be chucking the ball around with the best of them but that hasn't equated into them being much more than an average matchup for opposing DBs. Reggie Nelson has surely been inconsistent this year, but outside of a putrid 1 point performance in week 11, he has scored between 8-21 points since week 6. So just barely, do I see Nelson as a 3-star play. Chris Crocker is dealing with a biceps injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday. If you really want to swing for the fences, then take a look at Adam Jones as a sleeper this week, just realize if you roll with him he is probably going to need to do something special on special teams or to intercept a pass to put up viable fantasy numbers.
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: This is a good news/ bad news type week with regards to the Steelers LBs. On the good news side, LaMarr Woodley practiced fully on Wednesday and he is expected to be back manning his starting rush OLB position against the Bengals this week. That then lends itself to good news for Lawrence Timmons, as he will now be able to move back to his starting ILB spot and not have to worry about playing OLB and ILB. On the bad news side of things, the Bengals rank 29th in fantasy points allowed to LBs. That isn't exactly the type of matchup that Timmons owners were hoping to get for Timmons once he was able to move back inside. About the only Steelers LB I am willing to gamble on is James Harrison, and that is strictly because he seems to come up big in big time games, and make no mistake about it, this is a big game against the Bengals.
Secondary: Troy Polamalu is supposed to be ready to play this weekend, but with him suffering concussion symptoms, color me concerned. My best guess is that Polamalu will be listed as Questionable, and probably a GTD. So if you are interested in starting him you are going to need to monitor the inactive report on Sunday. Normally, I would say to just sit him, but the Bengals are ranked 8th in fantasy points allowed to DBs, so if he does indeed play, I think he warrants starting consideration by his owners. With or without Polamalu in the lineup I still like Ryan Clark as a 3-star play this week. I know Clark is coming off a season low 6 point effort last week, but it was the first time he scored in double digits since week 2. I fully expect we see Clark bounce back this week.
Kansas City at Chicago
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. After missing week 11, Glenn Dorsey got back on the field last week, posting 6 fantasy points. Dorsey isn't someone I would want to rely on, he is just far to risky a play.
Linebacker: This is another one of those matchups where I am ignoring what the numbers "say". The Bears rank 27th in fantasy points allowed, so conventional wisdom is that you sit your linebackers in matchups like this one. However, when you have Derrick Johnson, who ranks #10 in LB scoring on the year, and that since week 7 ranks 2nd in points scored by a LB, you don't sit him, just temper expectations some. Yes the Bears have Caleb Hanie starting at QB, but I think that will lead to the Bears looking to run the ball more this week. Actually, I expect the Bears to rather easily handle the Chiefs this week, and expect we see Marion Barber toting the rock quite a bit in the 4th quarter. Outside of Johnson, you have to say no to all other Chiefs LBs. That is outside of Tamba Hali, who I expect to wreak some havoc on Jay Cutler's replacement.
Secondary: "Steaky" and inconsistent pretty much sums up the performance of the Chiefs secondary this year. When Eric Berry went down for the season Jon McGraw stepped up and put up strong numbers for two weeks, then he got hurt and scored 5 points over the next three weeks, then he came out of the bye with two consecutive double digit games, but since he has missed two games and hasn't scored in double digits. That type of production screams risk to me, and in what is probably a very big week 13 for most owners, I wouldn't be able to have him in my starting lineup. Brandon Carr and Brandon Flowers also make for poor plays this week. Flowers has been the better player this year but he is the one that has been "streaky", scoring 21, 13 & 12 points after the Chiefs bye, followed then by a steak of 7, 2 & 7 points. Do you want to bank on Flowers starting a new good streak against the Bears that rank 27th in points allowed to DBs, I know I wouldn't. As for Carr he hasn't been all that inconsistent, mainly because he has been pretty bad, scoring more than 7 points just three times this year, and never in back to back games. He is coming off of a 10 point effort in week 12, are you willing to bet on him putting together back to back double digit games for the first time this year? I know I am not.
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: On the surface this week looks like another tough matchup for Julius Peppers and the Bears DL. The Chiefs rank 21st in fantasy points allowed, and last week with Tyler Palko under center for the Chiefs they still weren't a good play for the opposing DL. Just realize, that opposing DL was the Steelers, and with their 3-4 their DLs main responsibility is to eat up blockers, as for Brett Keisel, it is to hide them in his beard. Wait, does Keisel still have his beard or did Ryan Fitzpatrick steal it? The point is that I actually think this matchup isn't all bad for Peppers. Jared Allen had a productive 2 solo, 2 sack game against the Chiefs, and I do think that Palko's inexperience will come into play and that Peppers will be there to take advantage of it. Oh and fwiw, Peppers 16 point outburst last week was his best game since scoring 17 points in week 1.
Linebacker: The stars are aligning if you are a Brian Urlacher or Lance Briggs owner this week. That is because they face off against a Chiefs team that has given up the 5th most fantasy points to LBs this year. A key factor is surely that they have run the ball between 32-39 times in 5 of their last 7 games. Since week 9, just take a look at what LBs have produced when facing the Chiefs; Karlos Dansby (25 pts), Kevin Burnett (26.5 pts), DJ Williams (22 pts), Joe Mays (17 pts), Jerod Mayo (18 pts), Rob Ninkovich (15 pts), Lawrence Timmons (15.50 pts), & Jason Worilds (13 pts). After seeing what those LBs have done against the Chiefs I feel safe in saying that I will be upgrading both Briggs and Urlacher to 5-star plays this week.
Secondary: The Chiefs, even with their hapless passing attack rank 10th in fantasy points allowed to DBs. Should be a no-brainer plug and play week for Charles Tillman, but no, it just couldn't be that easy. Tillman suffered his second single digit performance in 4 weeks against the Raiders in week 12. Not the type of consistency Tillman was having prior to the Bears bye week, and surely not what his owners need to happen down the stretch. To make matters worse, Tillman's dealing with a knee injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday, Lovie Smith said that he expects Tillman to practice on Thursday and for him to play this week, but until we see how practice on Thursday and Friday goes he makes for a risky play. If all signs point to him being good to go on Friday then I think he is a safe 3-star play, but if he ends up as a GTD, then I think you have to sit him. Major Wright scored 14 points last week, and has been in double digits three of the past four weeks. As it stands now he looks like a solid DB3 option with some upside for down the stretch.
Atlanta at Houston
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 Texans will be starting rookie TJ Yates at QB this week. In the past that would have had me licking my chops to have a player like John Abraham going against the rookie, but not this year. I don't want to say that Abraham is a shell of his former self, because he can still get after the passer, so let's just say that he isn't the fantasy force that he once was. Actually, if you own Abraham or even Ray Edwards you had better be in a very deep league, because both have been huge liabilities fantasy wise this year. I have said this before but it bears repeating, combined the duo has just one, ONE, double digit performance and that was by Abraham back in week 1. I know that the Texans rank 5th in fantasy points allowed to DL, but that doesn't mean you should put either player in your starting lineup. However, it is why I have them as 2-star and not 1-star plays.
Linebacker: Hopefully you took my advice and didn't sit Curtis Lofton or Sean Weatherspoon last week. I know that I should have taken my own advice but I got cute and started Jamar Chaney (5 pts) over Weatherspoon (20 pts), and it cost me because I lost by less than five points. Good thing I have a playoff spot locked up, but it did cost me a chance to get a 1st round bye this week. Lofton's 12 points weren't nearly as impactful as 'Spoons 20 but in a poor matchup it was still a solid performance. This week against what should be a run heavy attack for the Texans you again need to have the duo in your starting lineups. I know that over their past two games the Texans haven't really given up any big games to opposing LBs, but I look at week 9 against Cleveland and see that D'Qwell Jackson and Scott Fujita combined for 17 total tackles, 1 interception and 2 passes defended, and yes, that does it for me. On the injury front, a quadricep injury kept Stephen Nicholas from practicing on Wednesday.
Secondary: Big news regarding the Falcons secondary is that CB Brent Grimes had "minor" surgery on his knee and is expected to be out for at least two weeks. Just like that, as the Falcons get one starter back, they lose another. I am making the assumption that William Moore will be returning to the lineup this week because he wasn't on the Falcons Wednesday injury report. Moore has missed the Falcons last three games with a quadriceps injury. James Sanders replaced Moore while he was on the mend, and those three games Sanders wasn't all that impressive, he did produce his double digit game of the season last week, but now it looks like he will be headed back to the bench or a timeshare at best. For fantasy purposes, I would steer clear of the entire Falcons secondary this week.
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. And to make matters worse they face a Texans team that hasn't been a very fantasy friendly matchup for much of the season. Outside of Jared Allen's 5 solo, 10 point game last week, to find another top performance you have to go back to week 6 when Charles Johnson logged 4 solos, 1 assist, 1 sack and a pass defended, good for 13 points. After Johnson, you have to go back to week 2, when Trent Cole (15 pts) and Cullen Jenkins (13 pts) had big weeks. So, as you can see starting rookie JJ Watt looks to be a risky proposition this week. Still, I believe in the kids skills/motor, and think he should be in starting lineups this week.
Linebacker: Nice looking matchup for Brian Cushing against the Falcons this week. Over the Falcons last 6 games they have been giving up tackles in bunches to LBs. Seven LBs have racked up 9 or more total tackles over that time span against the Falcons. Chad Greenway leads the way with 16, but there was also James Anderson (12), DeAndre Levy (11), Phillip Wheeler (12), Scott Shanle (9), Colin McCarthy (10), and EJ Hendersono (12) racking up plenty of tackles too. Cushing shouldn't have a problem putting up solid numbers, but one thing is concerning and that is the fact that Michael Turner is hobbled and his status for this week's game is up in the air. If it weren't then Cushing would have been a 4-star play, easily. I like that Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed have stepped up since Mario Williams went down for the season, but this week I think they are better as a sleeper or deep league play rather then a 3-star play in 12 team leagues. I would be remiss if I didn't at least acknowledge the huge 10 tackle, 4 sack, 29 point game that Barwin had last week. No doubt, he was a one man wrecking crew.
Secondary: There are two main reasons why no Texans DB is rated above a 2-star play this week. One reason is that the Falcons are a fantasy unfriendly 20th in fantasy points allowed to DBs. The second reason is that the Texans DBs have been fantasy liabilities for the most part. Glover Quin is easily the Texans best DB, yet he has only scored back to back double digits points once this season, and that was back in weeks 2 and 3. Jonathan Joseph has been one of the best free agent signing of the year, but that hasn't equated to much fantasy success. The last time he scored in double digits was back in week 6. So yeah, I would look for DB help some place other than the Texans secondary.
Oakland at Miami
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: Here are some numbers to look at, 4, 6 & 15. Any idea what those are? Let's call them "harassment" numbers. Four is the number of times the Raiders sacked Caleb Hanie last week, six is the number of times he was hit, and the 15 equals the number of QB Pressures the Raiders were credited with. Last week I wrote the following, "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.", I think that those numbers support the fact that Hanie got harassed a "good amount". I pegged LaMarr Houston as a 3-star play, and much of that had to do with the expectation that he would get to Hanie for a sack. Well, he didn't, but he did log 5 solo tackles, good for 10 fantasy points. Easily upholding his 3-star rating, oh, and he did have 2 of those QB pressures, so he was even closer to having a huge day. This week against a Miami team that ranks in the bottom 7 for fantasy points allowed to DLs, things don't look so rosy for Houston or the rest of the Raiders DL. You have to go back to week 8, where Jason Pierre Paul had 3 solos, 2 assists and 1 sack, good for 11 points, to find a DL that has had a good game against the Dolphins. Also, since week 9, only three DLs have racked up more than 2 solo tackles against the Dolphins, and all three of those players have been DTs. That means that Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour could be sneaky plays, but then again of those 3 players only Kelly Gregg (4 solos) had more than 3 solos. So with a good amount of downside and very little upside, I think it is even best to leave Kelly and Seymour on the bench this week.
Linebacker: This week the Raiders have what looks to be a pretty good matchup against a Dolphins team that ranks 8th in fantasy points allowed to LBs. However, as I look at what LBs have done in the past few weeks against the Dolphins I see this as a solid yet unspectacular matchup. Rolando McClain had a 14 point effort last week, his best performance since missing week 9 due to injury. McClain has been up and down, and as of the Wednesday practice/injury report, his ankle kept him from practicing. To make matters worse as of this writing it is being reported that the Decatur Police Department is investigating a domestic disturbance that involves McClain. Keep an eye on the Friday Injury and Practice Report to see what the prospects for McClain look like this week. For now I am downgrading him to injured, until there is more information available about his ankle and this Police investigation. With how Kamerion Wimbley has been playing for the last month I don't see how you can keep him out of starting lineups. Yes, he does present some risk, but I think the upside justifies it at this point. If you can't afford a swing and a miss then Wimbley isn't your type of LB. Instead take a look at someone like Aaron Curry who has scored 10,11, 9 & 9 points over the last four games. That isn't anything special, but as far as a LB3 goes, it isn't all that bad. If McClain can't go this week, for whatever reason, I won't raise Curry's rating, but it will make me feel a bit better about it.
Secondary: Tyvon Branch has scored in double digits each and every week this year. Against a Dolphins team that ranks #11 in fantasy points allowed to DBs I see him as a pretty strong play. On the injury front it looks like Chris Johnson should get back on the field for the Raiders this week. That could limit Lito Sheppard's value.
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: "Suck for Luck", yeah right, don't tell that to the Dolphins defense, namely Kevin Burnett , who have been playing rather inspired football of late. For the season Karlos Dansby has still outperformed Burnett, ranking 19th overall in LB scoring, while Burnett comes in at #32. However, since week 7, that gap has narrowed. Since week 7, Dansby ranks 6th in fantasy scoring by a LB, with 99 points, but Burnett is right on his heels, ranking 7th with 97.5 points. With the what have you done for me lately attitude of many fantasy football owners I am sure it is Burnett that is getting most of the love, and understandably so with him coming off a 23 point effort last week, compared to Dansby's 4 point effort. Against the Raiders I see both as must starts but Dansby does have two straight single digit performances, and that is why I only have him as a 3-star play. But again, I see both as must start plug and play LBs this week.
Secondary: For the season Yeremiah Bell only has two single digit games to his name, unfortunately for his owners, both of those games have come in the past three weeks. This week a Raiders team could be just what the doctor ordered to get Bell back to the type of production his owners have come to know and expect. The Raiders rank 5th in fantasy points allowed to DBs, and they have given up some very nice games to DBs. As can be evidenced by the production of Major Wright (14 pts), Eric Weddle (17 pts), Quinton Carter (16 pts) & Jason Allen (24 pts). Outside of Bell the Dolphins are rotating the FS positon between Reshad Jones, Tyrone Culver and Chris Clemons, thus pretty much killing each players fantasy value. In CB mandatory leagues, keep an eye on Vontae Davis, as he has put up nice numbers in 2 of the past three weeks.
Denver at Minnesota
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: Just when it looks like Elvis Dumervil is starting to get warmed up, and looks like he might be a good DL to ride during the playoffs, I am here to bring you back to reality, sort of. Don't get me wrong, I love Dumervil and he has the talent and ability to go ape sh*t on any given Sunday, but if you look at his schedule what you will see are some unappealing matchups. And with how inconsistent Dumervil and DL scoring in general have been I think you have to keep Dumervil as a matchup dependant DL. This week he faces a Vikings team that ranks just 25th in fantasy points allowed to DL, but there have been enough decent games surrendered by the Vikings for me to see Dumervil as a 3-star play this week. Since I brought up matchups, I might as well point out that in the coming weeks he faces a Bears team that ranks 10th in fantasy points allowed, which is a good matchup, but after that he'll be looking at a Patriots team that ranks 27th and a Bills team that is 31st in fantasy points allowed. Not exactly prime grade a matchups to close the year out.
Linebacker: I might get labeled a Tebow hater for this, but I don't think that the defense is getting near enough credit for the play of the Broncos of late. Saying they are winning in spite of Tebow might be a bit harsh, but if rookie Von Miller, DJ Williams and crew don't play the way they have been, then Tebow wouldn't have had the chances he has to "win" games. Now after all that I get to deliver some bad news, Von Miller broke his thumb in last week's contest and he had surgery on it this week. Miller says he will play this week, but the Broncos aren't going to risk his future, which is very bright. If you own Miller I think it will probably be best to bench him this week, but if you can't do that then you will need to monitor practice reports and the Sunday inactives before you plug him into your lineup. DJ Williams has been a bit inconsistent of late but if you own him I am sure you can look past his 9 point game in week 11 and his 8 point effort in week 9, when he scored 22 points in both week 10 and 12. This week i see Williams as a solid play, but this time I think he falls in the 12-15 point range, but as an owner, I am of course hoping for 22 again. Wesley Woodyard and Joe Mays continue to be matchup dependant, both put up good numbers last week, but this week I think that both should probably be on the bench. Also, let me point out that if Miller does indeed miss this week that it wouldn't mean that Mays and Woodyard would be the starters, it would be very likely that Mario Haggan could see time in Miller's place.
Secondary: This week the Broncos secondary gets to face a Vikings team that ranks just 25th in fantasy points allowed to DBs. However, that ranking doesn't really tell the entire story, because for much of the season the Vikings have surrendered good games to the oppositions key fantasy DBs. Unfortunately, the Broncos don't really have reliable fantasy options that I would want in my starting lineup this week. Quinton Carter is showing some glimpses, but his inconsistency isn't worth the little upside he presents. Nickle CB Chris Harris had a nice three game run from week 8 thru 10, but his last two weeks have been in the single digits and against a Vikings team that seems like it has just one WR, I don't see how you can safely plug him into lineups this week. So, sorry to say but I am passing on the entire Broncos secondary this week.
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 recorded at least a partial sack in each of his first 9 games this year, but he has been held without a sack for two weeks now. At least this past week he was able to record 5 solo tackles, and hit double digits for his owners. I have no worries with Allen, so just keep plugging him into your lineups, I know that I will. In DT mandatory leagues you might be thinking about starting Kevin Williams, and you should. Over the past two weeks the Broncos have given up 7 combined tackles to DTs Vaughn Martin and Sione Pouha.
Linebacker: The Broncos rank 9th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, but since Tim Tebow took over as the starter in week 7 they rank #2. With the production that Karlos Dansby (22 pts), Kevin Burnett (12 pts), Stephen Tulloch (17 pts), Kamerion Wimbley (15 pts), Jovan Belcher (18 pts), Derrick Johnson (16 pts), Donald Butler (12 pts) & Takeo Spikes (22 pts) it is no wonder they moved up to #2. Of course Chad Greenway is a no brainer must start this week. EJ Henderson has been on fire the past two weeks (19 & 21 pts), and in what continue to be a run heavy attack by the Broncos he makes for a very solid play, that is if the shoulder injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday doesn't keep him from playing this week. A bit more risk comes with the fact that his little brother Erin, who has been dealing with a balky hamstring was a full participant in practice on Wednesday. If EJ can't go then I think it will be safe to bump Erin up to a 3-star play.
Secondary: The Vikings secondary has been obliterated by injuries this year. Antoine Winfield has been on injured reserve, and this week joining him will be Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson. That more than likely means that Mistral Raymond will be starting at safety for the Vikings this week. Add to it that Asher Allen also is dealing with a shoulder injury and it is easy to see that the Vikings secondary is up a creek without a paddle. But wait, the Vikings are playing a Broncos team that well, let's just say they don't throw the ball all that much with Tim Tebow as their QB. As for fantasy purposes, not a starter in the entire Vikings secondary this week, if you ask me.
Baltimore at Cleveland
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 "T-Sizzle" Suggs was like a man among boys last week when the Ravens faced off against the 49ers. Suggs busted out of his mini funk by sacking QB Alex Smith three times, and also forcing a fumble, good for a big 18 fantasy points. Games like that are exactly the reason why you keep guys like Suggs in your lineup ALL THE TIME!. Haloti Ngata rebounded from his 1 point game in week 11 to put up 14 points, all on the strength of 4 solos and 2 sacks. All told the Ravens recorded 9 sacks, tieing a franchise record. This week, you know the drill, keep Suggs and Ngata in your lineups, no questions asked.
Linebacker: Ray Lewis is still dealing with his foot/toe injury, it kept him out of practice on Wednesday, and as of this writing it supposedly kept him out of the Thursday portion of practice that was open to the media. If Lewis can't go this week it will be his 3rd missed game in a row due to the injury. As much as fantasy owners would like to have Lewis back, I would be shocked if the Ravens rushed him back to play against the Browns this week. I for one would rather have him healthy and back on the field running roughshod during the fantasy playoffs. But hey, with Ray Ray you never know, so keep an eye on the Friday Injury and Practice Report to get a final evaluation on Lewis for this week. If Lewis can't go then Dannell Ellerbe will start in his place again. Ellerbe is dealing with a thigh injury, but he was able to practice fully on Wednesday so I will be upgrading him to a 3-star play this week. Of course if Lewis ends up being able to go then Ellerbe shouldn't be in any fantasy lineups.
Secondary: Bernard Pollard continues his strong play, scoring 14 points in last week's "Harbaugh Bowl". I thought that Pollard had more upside to his matchup, but 14 points isn't anything to shake a stick at. It was also the 7th consecutive week he has scored in double digits. This week the matchup is pretty so-so, but I don't see how you can bench Pollard with how he is playing right now. Lardarius Webb got off to a very wicked hot start, but then he cooled off some with 2 and 5 point efforts in week 7 and 8. Since then he has ramped things back up, scoring no fewer than 8 points, and hitting double digits three times in that four game stretch. This week I see Webb as a bit of a risky play, especially when you consider that over the past 5 games no CB has racked up more than 4 solos against the Browns, and then it was only Eric Wright (4 solos) and Chris Houston (4 solos, 2 assists) that were able to hit the 4 solo plateau.
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 just recently replaced starting DE Jayme Mitchell with Emmanuel Stephens, but Mitchell looks like he will be getting his starting spot back. Reason being, not because Mitchell improved his play, but because Stephens strained is left pectoral muscle and has been put on injured reserve. The Ravens haven't been a great matchup for opposing DL this year but the past two weeks they have given up a fair amount of tackles, especially to the DT position. Look for Ahtyba Rubin and rookie Phil Taylor to be the leaders, fantasy wise for the Browns DL this week. I still like rookie DE Jabaal Sheard, I just think he is a bit risky to play this week.
Linebacker: For the season the Ravens rank #7 in fantasy points allowed to LBs, that probably makes it sound like D'Qwell Jackson should be a slam dunk 5-star play this week. However, that wouldn't be the case, at least not in my eyes, now don't get me wrong, Jackson most certainly belongs in starting lineups this week, but over the past few weeks the Ravens haven't been a very good matchup for opposing LBs. Yes, Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman each logged 4 solos and 4 assists last week against the Ravens, but those aren't 5-star numbers. I still think Jackson is a strong 4-star play, and I wouldn't be shocked to see him net 10 tackles this weekend, all I did was built some tempered expectations into his rating. On the injury front the Browns have lost veteran LB Scott Fujita for the season. Fujita suffered a broken hand in last week's game and reports are that he has already had surgery and it was successful. Still the Browns put him on injured reserve, look for Kaluka Maiava to replace him in the starting lineup.
Secondary: Usama Young will get another start for the injured TJ Ward, and he will be looking to put up his third straight double digit game. I don't see Young as a strong 3-star play, but I do expect him to at the very least hit the 10-12 point range again. In CB mandatory leagues you can give Joe Haden a look, but in combined leagues I think he is a bit risky as a starter. After all the Ravens rank just 23rd in fantasy points allowed to DBs, so this isn't exactly a stellar matchup.
St. Louis at San Francisco
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: Make no mistake about it, the Rams DL isn't nearly what the Ravens DL is. I only point that out because I am sure that there are some owners that will look for the Rams to replicate what the Ravens did to the 49ers last week. With all that said, I am willing to give both James Hall and Chris Long 3-star ratings, just realize there is plenty of risk, because if they don't get into the sack column they probably won't warrant the 3-stars that I am giving them. After facing the Ravens last week the 49ers jumped from 11th to 7th in fantasy points allowed t o DL. That is a huge one week jump, especially this late in the season.
Linebacker: The 49ers aren't a very good matchup on paper for the Rams LBs this week, ranking just 28th in fantasy points allowed. However, upon digging a bit, you will see that, while inconsistent, the 49ers have given up some big games to LBs. Paris Lenon (18 pts), Daryl Washington (14 pts), London Fletcher (18 pts), D'Qwell Jackson (20 pts) & DeAndre Levy (19 pts) show that the 49ers aren't a wasted matchup for LBs. James Laurinaitis has scored 20 or more points in three of the last 5 weeks, his upside this week would give him five of those games in six weeks. Chris Chamberlin has put up double digit scores in each of the past four weeks, but I still see him as a slightly risky start, but if you are looking for a sleeper or need a play in a deeper league starting him could prove fruitful.
Secondary: The matchup for the Rams DBs is pretty horrid this week, facing a 49ers team that ranks 28th in fantasy points allowed pretty much says it all. Quintin Mikell hasn't lived up to expectations this year but he has been serviceable. This week against the 49ers I think it would be prudent to look for another DB option. As for Darian Stewart, he is dealing with concussion symptoms, and he didn't practice on Wednesday. At this point in time Stewart's status for week 13 is unknown, but what you should know is that it is best to just bench him too this week, head injury or not.
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: While not great, Justin Smith's 7 points were a far cry from his doughnut in week 12. This week, Smith gets to tee it up against a Rams team that ranks 6th in fantasy points allowed to DLs. Making the matchup even a bit sweeter is that there have been some pretty big games against the Rams in recent weeks, plus the fact that Sam Bradford tweaked his ankle last week. I don't think we see Smith throw up a 20 point game, but 10-12 points shouldn't be out of the question this week. As for the production of Isaac Sopoaga and Ray McDonald, fools gold, only in the deepest of deep leagues should you be looking at those two players.
Linebacker: Short, quick and to the point with regards to Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman this week, SMILE. Really that is all that needs to be said if you own them. However, if that isn't enough for you then just look at the production these LBs have had against the Rams this year; Ray Lewis (26 pts), AJ Hawk (19 pts), Desmond Bishop (23 pts), Daryl Washington (20 pts) & Paris Lenon (15 pts). With the way that Willis and Bowman have played much of this year, coupled with the big games the Rams have given up, I think they each make a pretty good 5-star play. This week with the ills the Rams have had against the rush, I think if you want to really swing for the fences that you should trot rookie Aldon Smith out into your lineups. Seeing a line of 3 solos with 2 sacks won't surprise me in the least.
Secondary: This week I want no part of the 49ers secondary. For starters the Rams rank a lowly 26th in fantasy points allowed to DBs, and to add some salt to that wound, over their past three games they have allowed more than 4 total tackles to just three DBs, Patrick Peterson (5 solos), Richard Sherman (5 solos) & Usama Young (3 solos, 2 assists). You want to run Dashon Goldson, or Donte Whitner out there, then go ahead, but you have been warned.
Green Bay at NY Giants
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 and AJ Hawk were both injured in last week's Thanksgiving Day game. Bishops injury looks to be a bit more of a concern, both NFL wise and fantasy wise. The Packers showed last year that they can sustain key injuries and still win, but losing Bishop won't be easy to deal with, fantasy wise Bishops injury is more concerning, simply because he was putting up top 5 fantasy numbers, and now his owners will have to scramble to find a late season replacement. Well they should look the same place the Packers did, to rookie DJ Smith. In relief of Bishop, Smith scored 11 fantasy points, the team seemed pretty pleased with his substitute performance. The Giants don't rank very high in fantasy points allowed but over the past 5 weeks they have surrendered some very nice games to the likes of Jo-Lonn Dunbar (20 pts), Jamar Chaney (15 pts), Patrick Willis (23 pts), NaVorro Bowman (26 pts), & Kevin Burnett (18 pts). Makes me really yearn to be able to have Bishop in my lineup in the three leagues that I own him in, but what can you do, injuries happen and are a part of the game. If you can, and don't have a better option I see no reason not to have DJ Smith as a starter this week if Bishop does indeed get ruled out.
Secondary: The Packers secondary has been very opportunistic this year, and that has contributed to much of their success. Not as much as Aaron Rodgers, but still it helps. As for fantasy purposes this week, facing a Giants team that has been pretty fantasy friendly, I see no reason to not give the entire Packers starting secondary 3-star ratings this week. Charles Woodson is the safest start of the bunch, having scored in double digits for five straight weeks now. Then you have Tramon Williams and Morgan Burnett who have been in double digits each of the past two weeks. That only leaves Charlie Peprah, who is actually in a three game single digit swoon right now, but this week, helping to keep Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks in check should break him out of his funk.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 51, 2009: 51, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 48, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: The Giants just seem to be snake bit on defense this year. First Justin Tuck gets dinged up and was basically useless for them during the early part of their season. Tuck then finally works his way back and finally looks like he is healthy and going to be able to team up with Jason Pierre- Paul and Osi Umenyiora to wreak havoc on opposing QBs. That was until Umenyiora suffered what is being called a significant ankle injury against the Saints on Monday night. Added to the ass-kickin' they got from the Saints that is like pouring salt on an open and festering wound. Fantasy wise it should lead to more snaps for JPP and hopefully more points too. JPP has cooled off quite a bit since the Giants bye week, but he still remains a must play DL1. As for Tuck, if he scores in double digits this week it will be the first time since 2, when he scored 13.5 points against the Rams. I know that Tuck hasn't done much of late, but I don't see how you can sit him if you own him, I know I couldn't. As for upside, just look at what Jared Allen did against the Packers in week 10.
Linebacker: The Giants LBs are so beat up, that even Panthers fans look at them in dismay. I mean you know it is bad when the Giants had to go out and re-sign Chase Blackburn, yep that Chase Blackburn, the one that played for them from 2005-2010. Blackburn knows the system so his signing was something of a no brainer, but he surely won't be a saviour of any kind. Fantasy wise, until Michael Boley can get back on the field I think you are pretty much looking at a unit that has next to no fantasy value. Sure, Mathias Kiwanuka will have some matchup value, but that really is about it.
Secondary: I know that this will probably come off a bit like a cop out, but the Giants secondary and LBs are almost in hands off territory for me. With the injuries to the Giants LBs you would like to see better production out of their secondary, especially the safeties. Antrel Rolle and Kenny Phillips, for the most part have been OK, but neither has really had the upside that you would expect. That and they each have been a bit inconsistent at times. This week against a Packers team that ranks 22nd in fantasy points allowed I am taking a pass on the entire secondary this week.
Dallas at Arizona
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 am not 100% worried about the matchup that Sean Lee has this week, but I don't see much upside in it at all. Just look at what Patrick Willis (6 solos, 1assist), NaVorro Bowman (3 solos), James Laurinaitis ((4 solos, 2 assists)(3 solos, 1 assist)) & Jamar Chaney (6 solos) weren't exactly world beaters against the Cardinals. But it is also easy to see that most of those LBs did at least score respectably. After Lee the only other Cowboys LB that I want any part of is Demarcus Ware. Ware currently leads the NFL in sacks, and his 4-star rating is 100% because I think he gets to the Cardinals QB for multiple sacks this week. A risky play for sure, but one that if you need to swing for the fences could really pay off.
Secondary: There have been a spattering of decent games by opposing DBs against the Cardinals, but not nearly enough that I would feel even the least bit comfortable starting Gerald Sensabaugh, Terence Newman, or Orlando Scandrick. Heck, I might feel better about starting a DB against the Broncos than I do the Cardinals, nah, it isn't quite that bad, but it is close. Lastly, on the injury front Mike Jenkins and his hamstring were able to perform in a limited fashion in practice on Wednesday and Thursday.
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 is no question that Calais Campbell has been huge this year, ranking 4th in scoring among DL, and sporting a 10.864 PPG average. For the most part he has been a very consistent performer, and at a position that doesn't offer a lot of consistency that makes him golden. This week however, he faces a Cowboys team that ranks 30th in fantasy points allowed to DL, so things just might be a bit more trying for Campbell, and his owners this week. That might be putting it mildly too because the last DL to record more than 2 solo tackles in a game is Brandon Mebane, when he recorded 3 solos in week 9. Sounds like a slam dunk benching, but I don't think it is that easy. For starters in week 8, Jason Babin put up 12 fantasy points, on the strength of 3 solos and 2 sacks. Then the prior to weeks to Babin's performance there was Andre Carter that posted a 15 point performance, and even James Hall posted a respectable 9 fantasy points. So now with that all out there, I can safely say, that as a Campbell owner I will be starting him this weekend, and unless you have another top option to start over him, you should be starting him too.
Linebacker: While the Cowboys are a horrible matchup for the Cardinals DL, they aren't for their LBs, ranking 5th in fantasy points allowed to LBs. Daryl Washington hasn't had as many big games as I am sure many expected from him, but he has been very solid, and he did post back to back 20+ point games in week 9& 10, so the upside is there. Not to mention the season is littler with big time performances against the Cowboys this year. Just recently there has been Kevin Burnett logging 11 solos and 1 assist for 23 fantasy points, and also London Fletcher (31 pts) and Perry Riley (16 pts) also having huge weeks against the Cowboys. This week, I think we see that upside show itself again. Paris Lenon is no world beater but he has been a pretty productive option since the Cardinals bye week. Actually, he is a 1/2 point from stringing 6 straight double digit performances together, while 6 in a row would be nice, 4 in a row isn't chopped liver. One thing that you probably didn't realize is that over the past 6 weeks, Lenon has actually scored the 15th most fantasy points among LBs.
Secondary: The Cowboys have been hit or miss this year, but a bit more hit than miss, of course seeing how they rank 12th in fantasy points allowed that does indeed make sense. My main issue with this week's matchup for the Cardinals DBs is that they have been rather inconsistent. Patrick Peterson has scored in double digits six times this year, and in three of those contests it took him returning a punt for a TD to move those performances from just so-so double digits to strong games. Richard Marshall hasn't scored in double digits since week 10, but his back to back 8 point performances shows that his floor isn't all that low. So in a week where the matchup is so-so, and with DBs that have been so-so, what do I do but go and give Peterson, Marshall and safety Reshad Johnson all 3-star ratings. This is one of those weeks matchups where it is more about my gut than the actual numbers.
Detroit at New Orleans
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: So the Lions will be without a Suh-spended Ndamukong Suh this week. Hopefully he uses his time away from the team and the game to figure out what he has to do to play intense, CLEAN football. Herm Edwards was going off on ESPN radio the other day about Suh having 8 personal foul penalties. Herm then went on to say after 3 the issue would have been handled internally, and quite honestly I believe that is how he would have handled it, and also how it should have been handled. Fantasy wise his suh-spension might be a blessing in disguise because he has been very inconsistent in the box score this year. Suh may get all the press, be it good or bad, but fantasy wise this year, it is Cliff Avril that is getting it done. It may be hard to believe but Avril actually ranks #9 in DL scoring, and that is with scoring in double digits in just two of his last six games. Much of that ranking is due to his 27 point game he had in week 8, but hey, even if you were to shave off half of that performance, Avril would still rank 22nd overall. While I don't see the #9 ranked DL as a DL1 I do think he makes a solid DL2, but this week against the Saints, I would have to have him firmly planted on the bench. Same goes for Kyle Vanden Bosch who currently ranks 26th in DL scoring. Vanden Bosch, if not for Avril's big game in week 8 would pretty much be right there with him step for step in fantasy scoring. If you are in a DT mandatory league you can look at rookie Nick Fairley as a decent enough sleeper option.
Linebacker: For the most part the Saints haven't been a very good matchup for LBs this season, ranking 26th in fantasy points allowed to them. However, in weeks 8, 9, and 10 they gave up some very nice games to the opposing teams starting MLB. James Laurinaitis (25 pts), Mason Foster (16 pts), and Curtis Lofton (15 pts) are the three LBs that had those nice games. So that does make Stephen Tulloch an interesting play this week, but deep down I think he is a risky play, and instead think that DeAndre Levy is the better play of the two.
Secondary: The Saints present as a very nice matchup for the Lions secondary this week, as they rank 2nd in fantasy points allowed to DBs. Louis Delmas is going to be out after suffering a knee injury, Chris Harris, who was cut by the Bears earlier this year will get the start in place of the injured Delmas. Harris along with Amari Spievey and Eric Wright should all be solid 3-star plays this week. Chris Houston is dealing with a knee injury that has kept him out of practice on Wednesday and Thursday, and at this point his status for week 13 is in doubt.
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 is coming off of a great game against the Giants on Monday night, where he logged 4 solos, 1 assist, a sack and a forced fumble, good for 15 fantasy points. Those 15 points were the second most Smith has scored all year, with only the 16 he scored in week 8 being better. Unfortunately, against a Lions team that ranks 20th in fantasy points allowed to DLs, I think it would be best to leave Smith on the bench this week. Outside of Smith, there really isn't any other fantasy viable DL on the Saints this year.
Linebacker: Jo-Lonn Dunbar has been filling in for Jonathan Vilma, and while in Vilma's stead he has performed very well. Since taking over starting duties in week 9, Dunbar ranks 13th with a 16.00 PPG average among LBs. Against a Lions team that rank 12th in fantasy points allowed, Dunbar should be a solid LB3 with some upside this week. Jonathan Casillas had back to back double digit games in weeks 9 & 10 but last week against the Giants was only able to log 9 points. Casillas offers very little upside and with a poor matchup he is a 2-star play at the very best.
Secondary: Considering that the Lions haven't given up much in the way to safeties of late, Roman Harper's 4-star rating might seem a bit odd. However, Harper has been money for much of the season, and in what should be the final week of the fantasy season for most owners, I don't see how you can leave out of your starting lineups. In looking at the star ratings that I gave to the rest of the Saints secondary I think it is safe to say that I might be overrating their value a bit this week, but I just have a feeling that we see the Lions stay with the Saints pass for pass this week, and that should equate to plenty of opportunities for Tracy Porter, Jabari Greer and Malcolm Jenkins.
San Diego at Jacksonville
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 pretty much renders their DL useless for fantasy purposes, but Antonio Garay should be a good play against a Jaguars team that has given up some decent games to opposing DTs.
Linebacker: Donald Butler did it again last week, he put up a solid 12 fantasy points, even though he only played in 32 of 73 defensive snaps. I know I have been harping on this just about all season, but Butler is a risky weekly play in my eyes. In a dynasty league I see him as a sell high, but more than likely the trading deadline has come and gone for most leagues, so to deal him you are going to need to wait til the offseason. This week I think that Butler should easily see the most snaps that he has seen in quite a while, but then again I thought the same thing with him facing a run heavy Broncos team last week. I have him as a 4-star play, but there is plenty of risk associated with it due to him not being a full time LB. Takeo Spikes has been a bit inconsistent at times this year, but last week he blew up for 22 fantasy points. This week I don't think we see Spikes put up a repeat performance, but I do think he belongs in starting lineups this week, and even though I don't expect him to hit the 20 point plateau, he does have some upside.
Secondary: Last week I wrote the following about the Chargers DBs as they were going to face the Broncos, "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." well this week against the anemic passing game of the Jaguars, it is 1-star ratings for the lot of the Chargers secondary again.
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: Jeremy Mincey had been putting up very good fantasy numbers, but last week he played in 54 of the teams 61 defensive snaps, but he didn't put a single fantasy point on the board. This week you need to wipe last week's performance from your memory. The numbers don't really support this as a strong matchup but with the shape of the Chargers OL, and based on how Mincey has played overall this year, I think he warrants a 3-star rating. Outside of Mincey you aren't going to find any other fantasy options on the Jaguars DL. Both Terrance Knighton and Matt Roth missed last week due to injury, and this week their injuries kept them from practicing on Thursday.
Linebacker: The Chargers are an absolutely fantastic matchup for the Jaguars LBs this week. Why? Try because they have given up more points to opposing LBs this year than any other team in the NFL. That means that if you own Paul Posluszny or Darryl Smith you should have them in your lineups this week. Since week 8 the Chargers have given up double digit tackles to Derrick Johnson, Desmond Bishop & DJ Williams, with all three LBs scoring above 20 points, with Johnson and his 30 points leading the way. Kamerion Wimbley didn't hit double digit tackles against the Chargers but he did tally 7 solos, a pass defended, and 4 sacks, which in turn were good for 27 points. Also, I should point out that Russell Allen has taken the place of Clint Session in the starting lineup. In deep leagues, even Allen makes for a decent sleeper play this week.
Secondary: The Chargers not only rank #1 in points allowed to LBs, but they also rank 1st in fantasy points allowed to DBs too. I have Dawan Landry as a 3-star play, but upon putting more thought into it, I will be bumping him up to a 4-star play this week. The Jaguars defense has been pretty stout this year, but at some point you would think that losing both of your starting CBs is going to cost you. Well this week, I think the Chargers will really challenge both Ashton Youboty and William Middleton, helping to make them both solid 3-star plays.
UPDATE: The Jaguars have placed William Middleton on Injured Reserve