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!
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
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: Rookie Jabaal Sheard is creeping closer and closer to the top 5 in DL scoring. After scoring 36 combined points the past two weeks he now sits at #6 with 113.50 points and a PPG average of 9.458. This week, Sheard has a prime matchup, facing the Steelers who rank #1 in fantasy points allowed to DLs. Look for Sheard to help add to Ben Roethlisberger's all time Steelers record for being sacked. I only have Sheard as a 4-star play, but the numbers and matchup scream 5-stars. I know Sheard has been hot, and he should most definitely be in lineups this week, but I just couldn't give him the big 5-star rating. After Sheard, I think Ahtyba Rubin is the next best play on the Browns DL this week. Rubin doesn't have the big numbers like Sheard has the past two weeks, but on the season he ranks 8th in DL scoring, so it isn't like he is a slouch. In DT mandatory leagues, I think that Phil Taylor is also a pretty good play.
Linebacker: It took 13 weeks, but D'Qwell Jackson is now the #1 ranked LB, averaging 17.958 PPG, on 215.50 points scored. The Steelers aren't a particularly good matchup for opposing LBs, but there is no way you sit Jackson. Plug him into your lineup and let him do what he does, rack up fantasy points. I just wouldn't expect him to approach 20 points, he could but I wouldn't bet on it. Outside of Jackson, take a pass on both Kaluka Maiava and Chris Gocong.
Secondary: The only way I would bump up Usama Young is if I thought that he would be used to blitz a ton, and I don't foresee that happening. So instead, Young garners a 3-star rating. The Steelers sling the ball around, but it hasn't equated to a bunch of fantasy points. For the season the Steelers rank in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed to DBs, 17th to be exact. Since week 9 it is even worse, as they rank 25th. Thus making Joe Haden and crew risky fantasy options this week.
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: Good news/bad news regarding Steelers LB, LaMarr Woodley. Good news is that he got back on the field last week. Bad news is that he tweaked his hamstring, and it has been reported that he will now split time at OLB for the rest of the year. But the bad news doesn't end there, at least not for this week it doesn't, Woodley was limited in practice on Monday but then wasn't able to practice on Tuesday and he is being called highly doubtful for this week's game against the Browns. James Harrison looks like he is pretty much boom or meh this year. In the 8 games he has played in he has scored 6 points twice, 9 points twice,, 16 points 19 points, 20 points and 28 points. That makes his floor somewhat palatable. This week against the Browns who rank 21st in fantasy points allowed to LBs I have Harrison as a 3-star play, but his past performance indicates he will be a 2-star or a 4-5 star play. No matter, get him into your lineup for the Thursday night game. Lawrence Timmons has been beyond frustrating this season, but don't look now, as Timmons has scored in double digits (13, 14 & 15 points) in his last three games. Timmons may be putting up better numbers of late, but the Browns just don't line up as a solid matchup, and I think that makes him a risky option this week.
Secondary: The Browns rank 14th in fantasy points allowed to opposing DBs, but don't let that full you into thinking this is a decent to meh type matchup, because it isn't. Since week 5, the Browns actually rank 29th in fantasy point allowed to DBs. Doesn't make for good prospects for Troy Polamalu or Ryan Clark this week. Same goes for CB Ike Taylor, who put up a season high 19 fantasy points last week.
Indianapolis at Baltimore
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: In what should be a playoff week for many fantasy owners, Robert Mathis could provide some spark if you are in need of a decent DL option. It isn't like Mathis has done much this season, because he hasn't, scoring in double digits just 3 times, but this week against a Ravens team that ranks 4th in fantasy points allowed to DL I think he makes for a decent play. Dwight Freeney can get after the QB, but fantasy wise he has always been very inconsistent. This week I can't rank Freeney above a 2-star play, but I will say that if you look to be an underdog that needs to hit a homer this week then Freeney is the type of play to make. Lots of risk, but big upside. On the injury front the Colts put rookie DT Drake Nevis on injured reserve.
Linebacker: Pat Angerer played in just 7 snaps last week because he suffered a knee injury that knocked him out of the game. As it stands now his availability for this week is up in the air. Coach Caldwell has said that he is progressing, but that didn't keep him from not practicing on Wednesday. Caldwell also said that if Angerer or AJ Edds (foot), who replaced Angerer can't play this week that Kavell Conner would move to the starting MLB position. I already like Conner as a solid 3-star play against the Ravens rushing attack, so if Angerer can't go there is a very good amount of upside for Conner. Phillip Wheeler would also see a slight uptick in value too. As an Angerer owner, who needs him for a 1st round playoff game, I sure how that he progresses enough to get back on the field this week, and I am sure that many others have the same feeling.
Secondary: The Colts have been ravaged by injuries this year. Of course none bigger than Peyton Manning's, but in the secondary the loss of their starting SS Melvin Bullitt earlier this year was a blow, but now a bigger blow has hit them, Jerraud Powers, their top CB hurt his elbow and has been placed on injured reserve. To make matters worse for a thin secondary, Terrence Johnson was also placed on injured reserve. Antoine Bethea has been and remains the only viable fantasy option among the Colts DBs. This week against a Ravens team that ranks 17th in fantasy points allowed, he should be able to continue putting up viable fantasy numbers, I just wouldn't expect him to put up a huge number.
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 didn't have a great game last week but he still put up 10 fantasy points. This week Suggs gets a Colts team that isn't a super matchup for DLs but their #11 ranking isn't exactly anything to sneeze at either. Like I said last week, you don't over think it with players like Suggs or Haloti Ngata, you keep them in your starting lineups. And this week, just like last, it is no different.
Linebacker: Ray Lewis like last week, is still dealing with his foot/toe injury. Word is that Lewis is expected to be back for week 15 when the Ravens visit San Diego to face the Chargers. The Ravens haven't ruled Lewis out yet, and I am sure he will make his case heard to play, but until we see what happens in practice this week, Lewis is a guy that you should just plan on benching this week. The reason that I have Dannell Ellerbe a 2-star rating is two-fold, 1 being the uncertainty that surrounds Lewis, and the other being the Colts rank 29th in fantasy points allowed to LBs.
Secondary: I won't say that Bernard Pollard crashed and burned last week, but his 8 point effort was his first time not scoring in double digits in 8 weeks. This week Pollard is in for a tough matchup, as the Colts rank 29th in fantasy points allowed to DBs. However, if there is one thing that is a positive it is that last week with Dan Orlovsky under center they ranked 18th in points allowed to DBs in week 13. So there is some upside to the contest for Pollard, but not much, he makes for a very risky play during the playoffs for his owners. If you have been riding Lardarius Webb in your league, the same thing applies, against the Colts he really should be on the bench.
New England at Washington
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: Back in week 5 Andre Carter hit double digits for the first time in a Patriots uniform, he then did that in five of his next six games. Over that span of time he had a PPG average of 14.00 ranking second to Jared Allen's 14.167 PPG average. Surely, Carter helped to carry many a fantasy team towards the playoffs. However, over the past two week's he scored just 5 total points. If you made the playoffs you need to see the week 5-11 Carter and not the week 12-13 Carter. Against a Redskins team that ranks 23rd in fantasy points allowed to DL he will have his work cut out for him. So while the matchup is slightly poor, I still think you need to have Carter in your lineup this weekend. If for no other reason, for the upside he can present, that and you would expect he would like to make some noise against his former team. Mark Anderson has 6.5 sacks on the season, but fantasy wise that hasn't turned into viable production. For the season, Anderson has scored in double digits just once.
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo hasn't been very consistent since returning from his injury, and in part has been a pretty big disappointment for the most part this season. Well, if you were lucky enough to make the playoffs and you are a Mayo owner you just might get paid off this week. He faces a Redskins team that ranks 2nd in fantasy points allowed to LBs, and since week 7 the Redskins actually rank 1st in fantasy points allowed to LBs. That my friends, is why I have Mayo as a 5-star play this week.
Secondary: The Redskins are a pretty neutral matchup for DBs, but the health of the Patriots secondary is what makes them risky options this week. Patrick Chung hasn't played since week 9, and his foot injury is still as of Wednesday limiting him at practice. One thing Chung presents is plenty of risk this week, and one thing that fantasy owners need to mitigate during the playoffs is risk. I don't see how you can do anything other than leave Chung on the bench this week. Kyle Arrington has been a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners, especially in CB mandatory leagues, but like Chung he was limited in practice on Wednesday by a foot injury. As it stands now I have Arrington as a 3-star play, depending on how practice goes on Thursday and Friday will help me determine if he needs to be downgraded.
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: London Fletcher is being well, London Fletcher. Fletcher now ranks 2nd in scoring among LBs, and he is just 3 points shy of D'Qwell Jackson who ranks 1st. Fletcher doesn't have a great matchup this week, but there is no way you sit him. Perry Riley is another player that has some good news/bad news this week. Good news is that against the Patriots the Redskins shouldn't be in their dime package much if at all, that is good news because last week Riley say in the dime package against the Jets. The bad news is that the Patriots don't present as a strong matchup for LBs, but still with how Riley has been playing of late, at worst I see LB3 value with some upside. As far as the Redskins rush OLBs, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, against the Patriots I think both should be on the bench, even in sack heavy scoring leagues. On the season the Patriots have only surrendered 21 sacks, and only four teams have given up fewer.
Secondary: LaRon Landry owners are not going to find much solace in dealing with him during the playoffs. At best it looks like Landry is going to be a question mark this week and beyond. Unfortunate, because the only teams giving up more points to DBs are the Eagles and Saints. DeJon Gomes started for Landry back in week 11, but last week it was Reed Doughty as the starter. There hasn't been much out of the Redskins camp about this predicament but the best guess is that Gomes knee injury is limiting him. I have both Gomes and Doughty as 2-star plays, but both are risky since there is no telling how the Redskins will handle this situation. Plus, at this point we don't even know if Landry will be a go or not. That is a mess that is probably worth staying away from. That leaves both DeAngelo Hall and OJ Atogwe as the best plays in the Redskins secondary.
New Orleans at Tennessee
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: I have Will Smith as a 2-star play, but truth be told I think he probably should be a 1-star play. The reason is all about the risk/reward that he presents. Or should I just say the risk that he presents? You be the judge. Over the course of Smith's last 7 games he has scored in double digits just twice, in the other 5 games he has a grand total of 6 points. Yes, SIX points (1,1,2,1 & 1). Consider yourself warned, that really is all I can and should say about Smith this week.
Linebacker: After missing three weeks due to injury/surgery Jonathan Vilma made it back on the field last week. And he made an impact in the box score too. As a Vilma owner in multiple dynasty leagues, I can safely say that I was NOT expecting much if anything else from Vilma this year, but I was wrong. Early in the season he wasn't performing up to expectations, but he was still putting up fantasy viable numbers. Maybe, just maybe, those three weeks off and rehab will help Vilma to be an impact IDP during the fantasy playoffs. Unfortunately, this week he will most likely find things tough going as he faces off against a Titans team that ranks 31st in fantasy points allowed to LBs. Jo-Lonn Dunbar was a solid fill in while Vilma was out, but last week he played in just 21 snaps, killing his fantasy value. Vilma on the other hand wasn't limited at all in his return, playing in all 76 of the Saints defensive snaps.
Secondary: Roman Harper ranks as the #4 overall fantasy DB this year, but his last two weeks haven't been all that stellar (10 & 8 pts). Unfortunately, this week against a Titans team that ranks just 20th in fantasy points allowed expecting a big bounce back might be a bit much. Jabari Greer has been thrown at 90 times this season, only Charles Tillman (95) has been thrown at more. Greer isn't a great, nor is he a bad CB, much of the reason he has been thrown at so much is largely due to the lead the Saints offense puts up. Unfortunately, for fantasy purposes, Greer isn't much of a fantasy option, as can be seen by his 9.833 PPG average. He has put up double digits in each of the last two weeks, but this week that steak very well may end.
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: Dave Ball (19 pts) and Jason Jones (11 pts) followed up very nice games in week 12 with a combined 2 points scored between them last week. Jurrell Casey has scored in double digits in each of the past two weeks, and in DT mandatory leagues he is about the only Titans DL worth a look. Against a Saints team that ranks 25th in fantasy points allowed you couldn't pay me to start any of the Titans DEs this week.
Linebacker: Barrett Ruud has missed the past two games due to a groin injury, and this week it looks like he will be hard pressed to get back on the field. For one, the groin injury kept him from practicing on Wednesday, and two, rookie Colin McCarthy has filled in very nicely. Since taking over 3 games ago when Ruud was forced from the game due to his groin injury McCarthy has posted 23, 21 and 28 point games. The 72 points he has scored over that time span ties him with London Fletcher for the most points scored from weeks 11-13. Against a Saints team that ranks 29th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, I think McCarthy will be hard pressed to hit the 20 point plateau again, but that doesn't mean you take him out of your lineup this week. Just temper your expectations is all.
Secondary: I have been saying for weeks that I thought Jordan Babineaux is a risky play, because I figured that at some point the Titans would turn the starting SS job back over to Chris Hope. Well that hasn't happened but the two are now playing in a rotation, and that zaps the fantasy value for both players. The other news that is important with regards to the Titans DBs is that Jason McCourty suffered a concussion last week, and it will be surprising if he is able to play this week. As it stands now, McCourty wasn't able to practice on Wednesday and his status for week 14 is tenuous at best.
Kansas City at NY Jets
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.
Linebacker: A perfect storm is brewing for Derrick Johnson owners this week. For starters, since week 10, Johnson ranks 5th in fantasy points scored by a LB, and over that same time, the Jets rank 1st in fantasy points allowed to LBs. I don't own Johnson in any leagues, but I sure wish I did. Justin Houston is coming off a huge week last week, basically, Houston did the damage i expected Tamba Hali to do. But instead, Hali broke his hand and didn't make all that much noise in the box score. Hali isn't listed on the Chiefs injury report so the hand injury doesn't look like it will keep him from playing. I have Jovan Belcher as a 2-star play and think he makes for a decent sleeper option this week. He has scored in double digits in 3 of his last 4 games, so against the Jets he should be able to put up 10-12 points minimally. I just have a hard time rating him a 3-star play in the first week of playoff games.
Secondary: There isn't much value for the Chiefs DBs this week, but there is a ton of risk if you decide to try and start one of them. Only the Jaguars and Broncos have given up fewer points to opposing DBs this year. At best, Jon McGraw is an option only in the deepest of leagues, or if you are just completely decimated by injuries. Otherwise, it is best to run fast and far from this matchup.
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. Injury wise, Mike Devito is said to be extremely doubtful for week 14.
Linebacker: David Harris, since coming out of his week 8 bye has put up 5 consecutive double digits games and ranks as the 23rd ranked LB over that span of time. This week Harris gets to face a Chiefs team that surprisingly ranks 8th in fantasy points allowed to LBs. So I fully expect to see Harris keep his streak of double digit scoring going strong. Jamaal Westerman and Aaron Maybin are two of my favorite sleeper/swing for the fence type plays this week. Both have a ton of risk, and I already said that you need to minimize risk in the fantasy playoffs, but in this case, if you are at a severe disadvantage against your opponent then that is where I think you take a shot with either Westerman or Maybin.
Secondary: I wish I could get more excited about the Chiefs as a matchup for Eric Smith & Jim Leonhard this week but for some unknown reason I just can't. I think Smith is startable, but just barely, and it has nothing to do with the matchup, because the Chiefs rank in the top 10 in fantasy points allowed to DBs. So Smith should be a decent play, but I am not sold on it.
Philadelphia at Miami
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 47, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 47, 2009: 51, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: Trent Cole was easily one of the first DL taken at his position earlier this summer. That puts expectations high for Cole, expectations that thru three weeks looked like he would live up to. However, a calf injury derailed that train, and since returning in week 8, Cole has been less than stellar, scoring in double digits just once. I know Cole owners can't have much faith in him at this point in time, but unless you are in a very thin league, then you probably don't have many better options. It won't help that the Dolphins are one of the poorer matchups for DLs, but I think that Cole still needs to be in starting lineups this week. Jason Babin currently ranks as the #10 overall DL in fantasy scoring. Babin got off to a pretty nice start but since the bye week he has been a inconsistent. Inconsistent or not, my guess is that if you own Babin it isn't likely that you will have a better option that presents the upside that he does. Like Cole, you just have to plug these two in and hope you get the hit week with them.
Linebacker: While the Eagles main DEs have struggled since the bye week, the same can't be said about MLB Jamar Chaney. Since coming off the bye in week 7, Chaney has scored in double digits in all but one week, and over that span of time he has the 12th most fantasy points scored by a LB. The Dolphins present as a pretty good matchup for opposing LBs, so I expect we see Chaney keep up with his productive ways. In deeper leagues I also like Brian Rolle as a sneaky play, just realize that relying on him does present some risk.
Secondary: OK, I am sure you are not going to believe this, but it is 100% true, surprising, but true. Since week 9, the top scoring fantasy DB is Kurt Coleman. Yep, Kurt Coleman. It is a good thing that being a "good" player isn't what it takes to be a "good" fantasy option, because Coleman isn't all that good. More like currently serviceable is how I would put it. But in fantasy football it doesn't matter how good or bad a player is, all that matter is that they score points. And scoring points is something Coleman has done well since week 9, racking up 87 fantasy points, 12 more than DeAngelo Hall who is second in DB scoring over that span of time. For the most part the Dolphins are a middle of the road matchup, but Coleman is scoring in bunches, so keep him in your lineup. Outside of Coleman you are playing with fire if you are entertaining starting any of his secondary teammates.
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: Kevin Burnett's good play keeps rolling along. Burnett posted 21 fantasy points last week, which is his second consecutive 20+ point effort. It also marks the third straight week he has outscored Karlos Dansby, but at least this week Dansby put up a respectable 14 points. The 14 point effort by Dansby was his first in double digits since he scored 27 in week 10. The Eagles on paper do not look like a very good matchup for Dansby or Burnett, but they have given up some big games to opposing LBs. Having both as 4-star plays might seem like a stretch but, at a minimum both should be busy helping to keep LeSean McCoy in check. If you are in a big play sack heavy league and you own Cameron Wake, this is the week to sit him on the bench. The Eagles have given up fewer points to opposing DLs than any other team in the NFL this year. Granted, Wake isn't a DL but his main attribute is getting after the passer, and those players haven't done very well against the Eagles this year.
Secondary: You are going to need to do a bit of juggling of issues if you are a Yeremiah Bell owner this week. Here are the issues that you will be juggling, Bell's foot injury that limited him in practice on Wednesday, and that the Eagles rank #2 in fantasy points allowed to DBs. Bell played thru his injury last week, so by his 4-star rating you can see that I am expecting him to do the same this week. The other play in the Dolphins secondary that I like is Vontae Davis. Davis isn't a stud or anything like that, but he is putting up solid fantasy numbers. Since week 10, Davis has scored the 21st most fantasy points by a DB, hitting double digits in all but one contest. Davis makes for a solid DB3 this week, and if you have injury or matchup issues he might even be available on waivers for you to pick up.
Tampa Bay at Jacksonville
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's groin injury has now kept him out of the Buccaneers last two games, and that opened the door for rookie Da'Quan Bowers to see more playing time. In week 12, Bowers played in 76% of the Buccaneers defensive snaps, but all he had to show for that was a measly 2 points. However, in week 13 he played in 100% of the teams defensive snaps, and this time, unlike the previous week, Bower made a huge impact in the box score. Bowers logged 20.5 fantasy points on the day. I don't think you can or should expect production close to that this week. Especially since Bennett practiced fully on Wednesday and will most likely return to the field this week. At the very least, dynasty owners got a glimpse of the type of upside that Bowers very well could have. Adrian Clayborn is the other Buccaneers rookie, and he has been solid yet unspectacular over the past month. He has scored between 7 and 9 points in his last four games. That isn't going to make anyone jump up and down for joy but getting solid production like that from a DL2 is far from a bad thing.
Linebacker: The Mason Foster Express lost a ton of steam as the season has progressed. The last time he has scored in double digits in back to back games was in weeks 2 & 3. Hopefully you haven't been relying on Foster as an every week starter, and instead are using him based on matchups. No matter what you have been doing, this is a week that the matchup points to keeping Foster in fantasy lineups. Over the course of the last three weeks the Jaguars rank 8th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, so yeah, Foster makes a solid 4-star play in my eyes. And I am even putting my money where my mouth is, because I plucked Foster off waivers in the SOFA IDP league and will be starting him this week.
Secondary: If you have Sean Jones on your team, or any other Buccaneers DB for that matter, this week you have to just sit them down. Seriously, the Jaguars passing attack is pathetic and only the Broncos have given up fewer points to opposing DBs. So save yourself some aggravation and find another option 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: I am not sure who took Jeremy Mincey's Wheaties away from him, but they better give them back. Thru 10 weeks of the season Mincey surprisingly ranked as the 13th best scoring DL. Maybe it is the number 13 that did him in, maybe not, but over the past three weeks he has scored just 13 points (9, 0 & 4 pts). Mincey was a sleeper that woke up, but now seems to be back asleep. Risk, remember that word, that is why Mincey is a 2-star play this week. If you think that he can bounce back to his earlier season ways, then far be it from me to say you shouldn't give him a whirl, I just know that if I owned him I would probably be looking for a better option this week.
Linebacker: Both Daryl Smith and Paul Posluszny rank in the top 20 in LB scoring this year. Posluszny hasn't been able to hit the production levels that he did in previous years when he played for the Bills, but he still has been a viable fantasy option. Over the past month, Smith has faltered some, scoring in single digits in each of the past two weeks. However, Posluszny has been double digits in all four weeks, and last week's 18 point effort was the best of them all. This week I would probably temper expectations but I do think both deserve starts against the Buccaneers. Russell Allen is filling in for Clint Session, and he had a nice 10 point fantasy effort last week, but unless you are in a deep league, Allen isn't an option I would explore.
Secondary: Looking at the matchup for the Jaguars secondary this week, one could be fooled into thinking this is a good matchup when you see that they rank 8th in fantasy points allowed to DBs this year. However, If you look at their ranking from week 3-13 you find that they are an average matchup, ranking 15th in fantasy points allowed. Initially I had Dawan Landry as a 4-star play, but after looking at things a bit closer I think he is a slightly risky play, and have lowered his rating to 2-stars due to the risk. It also doesn't help that Landry has scored just 6 and 2 points in each of the last two weeks.
Atlanta at Carolina
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: Some numbers to chew on, 1, 7, 9, 3 & 6. Once you are finished chewing on those, chew on these, 4, 5, 3, 2 & 4. Any idea why those numbers are relevant? How about if I say their relevance lies in their irrelevance? Or i can just cut to the chase and say that the 1st set are the points that John Abraham has scored since the Falcons bye week, and the next set is what Ray Edwards has scored. That my friends is how you get a 1-star rating.
Linebacker: Good, bad and ugly is how I am looking at the Falcons LBs this week. Good that both Curtis Lofton and Sean Weatherspoon are the types of LBs you can pretty much plug in and forget about. Bad is that the Panthers rank 30th in fantasy points allowed to LBs. Ugly is the face you probably just made reading that last sentence. I gave both a 3-star rating, but I don't feel very good about the matchup, and as a Weatherspoon owner, I can safely say that I keep looking at my options to see if I should sit him, but so far I still have him in my lineup. Last week Mike Peterson was pressed into starting duty because of an injury to Stephen Nicholas, and he put up a very nice 18 point effort. This week, against the Panthers even if he starts again for Nicholas I think he makes for a risky fantasy option.
Secondary: For the season the Panthers have surrendered the 8th most fantasy points to opposing DBs, making them a very nice matchup for the Falcons secondary this week. However, since week 6 they actually rank 4th, making James Sanders and Thomas DeCoud even nicer fantasy options for week 14. Sanders started the season as a reserve, but has been starting at SS since week 10, when he took over for the injured William Moore. Moore has been active in each of the past two weeks, but he hasn't played a single snap. Word out of the Falcons camp is that Moore's groin injury is still a concern, but if you ask me this smell like a benching. Coach Mike Smith had the following to say about the situation, "Sanders has done a very good job, in terms of what he's done while he's in there." he also added, "So we'll have a decision to make as Williams gets healthier in terms of who's going to play at that position." In any event, Sanders makes for a very nice fantasy option against the Panthers.
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: Greg Hardy currently ranks 17th in DL fantasy points scored. He started off hot to start the season, scoring in double digits in 3 of the first 5 weeks and ranking 5th in points scored by DL up to that point in time. However, since week 5 he hasn't scored in double digits even once and from week 6-13 he ranks as the 50th best DL. Initially, I had Hardy as a 3-star play but upon further review I fell like I had no choice but to lower him to a 2-star play. Charles Johnson didn't get quite get off to the hot start like Hardy did, but he was still productive enough earlier this year, but like Hardy, he has been fading, and like Hardy I think it was prudent to downgrade Johnson too. It also doesn't help that the duo faces a Falcons team that ranks in the bottom half of the league in fantasy points allowed to DLs.
Linebacker: At first blush the Falcons look like a bad matchup, that is when you note that they rank 25th in fantasy points allowed to LBs. However, if you look at the fantasy points the have allowed since week 10 you will find they are a much better matchup, ranking 10th for the past month. That is why James Anderson and Dan Connor are both 3-star plays. Connor is the riskier of the two, but with or without Michael Turner the Falcons should be able to run the ball enough for Connor to at least hit double digits, which would be his first since an 18 point effort in week 7.
Secondary: Since the Panthers week 9 bye, Charles Godfrey has scored in double digits each, he has also increased his score in each subsequent week, and all told he ranks 2nd in DB fantasy scoring over that span of time. My 3-star rating might be a tad low for Godfrey, but he is dealing with a shoulder injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday, but he did at least practice in a limited fashion on Thursday. Outside of the shoulder the only other concern for me is that the Falcons rank just 18th for the year in fantasy points allowed, but for the last four weeks they have been a bit friendlier, ranking 8th in fantasy points allowed over that span of time. Outside of Godfrey it would be best to avoid the rest of the Panthers secondary. Since their bye week outside of Godfrey only Chris Gamble has scored in double digits.
Houson at Cincinnati
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. JJ Watt has shown he doesn't fit the mold of the normal 3-4 DE that doesn't have any fantasy value, but this week against the Bengals I think it would be best to leave him on the bench. Why? Basically because the Bengals rank 30th in fantasy points to DLs.
Linebacker: According to Nick Scurfield of HoustonTexans.com tweeted, "Kubiak said ILB Brian Cushing (knee) is "just beat up" * expects him to play on Sunday at Cincinnati". However, that tweet was from Monday, and so far as of Thursday, Cushing has yet to practice this week. My rating was based on Kubiak's statement, but depending on what Cushing does in practice on Friday will determine if I downgrade him or not. Just realize that no matter what, due to him being "beat up" he probably is a bit riskier play even if he does practice fully on Friday. As far as Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed being 2-star plays, look no farther than the 27th ranking of the Bengals with regards to fantasy points allowed to LBs.
Secondary: The Bengals might be a poor matchup for the Texans front seven, but that isn't the case for the Texans secondary. For the season the Bengals have given up more points to opposing DBs than 27 other teams. Unfortunately, for fantasy purposes the Texans secondary hasn't been a very reliable fantasy option. Glover Quin leads the Texans secondary in fantasy scoring, but only ranks 53rd overall in DB scoring. He has scored in double digits in each of the last two weeks, so if you really needed to dig for a starter, he does have some value as a sleeper 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: Last week I wrote the following about the Bengals matchup against the Steelers, "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.", and then I finished up with this, "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." Well, I was more on point than I could have imagined, that is with regards to Johnson having the best week of those three mentioned. This week I feel pretty much the same, the Bengals have a great matchup, but there is no way I can safely suggest putting any of their DLs into your starting lineups. However, with one exception, I am going to once again say that Geno Atkins should be a good play in DT mandatory leagues, hopefully he does better than the 3 points he scored last week.
Linebacker: Granted the Texans just had their bye in week 11, but since then only six teams are allowing more points to LBs than they are. My 3-star ratings for Rey Maualuga and Thomas Howard are probably a bit on the low side, but I still think both should be in lineups this week. Maualuga got off to a fast start last week, logging 5 solo tackles in the 1st quarter, unfortunately his finish wasn't very strong at all, logging just 1 more solo tackle in the final 3 quarters. Maualuga evidently sat in some dime packages last week, but this week against a Texans offense starting rookie TJ Yates at QB and most likely missing all-pro WR Andre Johnson this week, I doubt we see many sets that would likely take Maualuga off the field. I own him and can say I am starting him without hesitation, well, maybe just a bit of hesitation.
Secondary: Over the past two weeks the Texans are giving up the 6th most points to opposing DBs, but like the Bengals DL, their secondary doesn't have much to take advantage of this matchup. Reggie Nelson is really the only Bengal that I think is safe to look at as a starter, he has been inconsistent, but he does have enough plus scoring games that I think he is safe as a 3-star rated play.
Minnesota at Detroit
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 is having a fantastic season, he did have a little speed bump in week 11 when he scored just 2 points, but in the past two weeks he has gotten things ramped up and looks to be ready to roll in the playoffs. I don't love the matchup this week, which is why I have Allen as just a 3-star play, but look no further than the 2 solos, 3 assists and 1 sack (10 pts) logged by Junior Galette of the Saints last week. Oh, and Galette did that damage while playing in just 40 of the Saints 76 defensive snaps. Brian Robison suffered a concussion last week, it kept him from practicing on Wednesday, but Thursday he was able to practice in a limited fashion. Initially, I suspected that Robison wouldn't be able to play this week due to the concussion, but now it looks like he could. Just make sure that if he does indeed play that you don't play him, leave him on your bench this week. Even if your other option is a Falcons or Titans DL.
Linebacker: The Lions rank 9th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, so that is pretty good news if you own Chad Greenway. However, over the past two weeks no team has given up more points to LBs than the Lions have. When I initially rated Greenway a 4-star play I hadn't dug that deep, so with this added information I am upgrading Greenway to a 5-star play. Outside of Greenway the next best play is Erin Henderson. The reason I like Erin better than his brother EJ this week is simply because I think that EJ won't be on the field very much against the Lions passing attack. Surely there is some risk in relying on Erin as a starter, especially when you look at his poor fantasy play since the Vikings bye week.
Secondary: It isn't any secret to how decimated the Vikings secondary is due to injury, and against Calvin Johnson and company they look to be in for a very long Sunday. Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin normally anchor the corners for the Vikings, but Winfield has long since been put on IR, and Griffin was being benched and only playing in certain packages. Griffin's play isn't up to snuff but Coach Frazier feels it is because he hasn't gotten back to where he should be after coming off of ACL tears in each of the past two years. Fantasy wise, there should be some value against the Lions this week, unfortunately, I am not willing to go out on any limbs to say that you should start any of the Vikings DBs.
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: Not much for me to like about he Lions DLs this week. I know that Cliff Avril has had one heck of a season, but last week he came up empty posting a big doughnut for his owners. This week I don't see him being shut out again, but against a Vikings team that ranks just 23rd in fantasy points allowed to DLs I think you need to temper expectations. Of course I should also tell you that I am somewhat cursed and I am facing a team that has Avril this week, so that means I won't be shocked at all to see Avril rack up multiple sacks. So, decide on if you trust my breakdown or my bad luck and then proceed accordingly with Avril. In case you have been living under a rock, Ndamukong Suh will miss this week's game, the second and final game of his suspension.
Linebacker: I see the Lions starting LBs as a sit, start and gamble. Justin Durant is the sit, he has not been a viable fantasy option. Since returning in week 7 after missing 3 games due to injury, he has posted just 1 double digit game. Stephen Tulloch is the start, ranking inside the top 20 in LB scoring and scoring in double digits in all but three games this year. The gamble is DeAndre Levy, who has been rather inconsistent at times this year. He has at times strung together some very nice games, but he has littered his scoring with 5 single digit efforts, all 7 points or fewer, and that includes consecutive 4 point efforts the last two weeks. I did initially have Levy as a 3-star play, but after thinking a bit more about it, I saw fit to lower him to 2-stars.
Secondary: My initial 3-star ratings for Amari Spievey and Chris Harris was when I thought that Christian Ponder would be starting this week. However, as it stands now it looks like Ponder very well could miss week 14. That would put Joe Webb under center for the Vikings and in turn, makes me say to avoid the Spievey and Harris as well as the rest of the Lions secondary.
Chicago at Denver
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: The Broncos and Tim Tebow seem to be throwing the ball a bit better the past two weeks. The more the Broncos throw the ball the more at risk Tebow will be to getting sacked by Julius Peppers and company. For the season the Broncos rank 2nd only to the Steelers in fantasy points allowed to DLs. Even looking at just the past four weeks the Broncos still would rank 7th in fantasy points allowed to DLs, so Peppers looks to be a safe option with plenty of upside for his owners this week. Israel Idonije is coming off a season best 14 point effort, and garnered a 3-star rating due to last week's play and this week's matchup.
Linebacker: This is probably my easiest write-up this week. Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs get to face the Tebow led rushing attack of the Broncos this week. Just do me a favor and wipe that smirk off your face as you put them into your starting lineup.
Secondary: I have been pretty clear on my disapproval of starting any DB against the Broncos with the type of offense they are currently running. Charles Tillman has no problem sticking his nose in to help with run support, and initially that was why I rated him a 3-star play, but then I came to my senses and downgraded him to a 2-star play, and even that rating is risky.
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: If you are an Elvis Dumervil owner this is the type of matchup you dream of. Yes the Bears have improved in their QB protection as the season has progressed, but look no further than last week to see what Justin Houston did against the Bears to see why you need to have Dumervil in your lineups this weekend.
Linebacker: Von Miller had surgery on his thumb last week, yet he still wanted to play, but the team was worried about infection so they held him out. This week Miller practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday and Thursday, and at this point I think we will see Miller on the field this weekend. How effective he will be with a cast on his thumb is another question. If you own him and he plays you probably won't have much choice and will want to play him, and honestly against Caleb Hanie, I couldn't blame you. With the Bears loss of Matt Forte they will have no choice but to turn to Marion Barber, and with how poor Caleb Hanie played last week, it wouldn't surprise me to see Barber carry the ball in excess of 25 times this week. If that happens then DJ Williams should have no problem putting up 4-star numbers, but the risk with the Bears offense flopping is why I only have him as a 3-star play. The Barber angle is also why I have Joe Mays as a 3-star play.
Secondary: If you play in a league that rewards big points for INTs then you probably should do whatever you can to get anyone from the Broncos secondary in your lineup. But with the scoring we use, I see Brian Dawkins, Champ Bailey and the rest of the Broncos secondary all as risky fantasy options this week. Bailey I have as a 1-star play because if Lovie Smith is smart the one thing he has pounded into Hanie's head this week is to NOT throw at Bailey, at all.
San Francisco at Arizona
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 isn't flashy, he isn't fast, but he has a motor that won't quit, and he more often than not puts up good fantasy numbers. This week he gets a nice matchup against the Cardinals that rank 8th in fantasy points to DLs. Since his goose egg in week 11 he hasn't put up huge numbers, but there is nothing wrong with getting 6 and 7 points from a DL2. This week, I see his upside around 12-14 points. Outside of Smith I know that Ray McDonald has had some nice games, but you really don't want to have to rely on him in a playoff week.
Linebacker: Last week we found out that Superman isn't actually Superman at all. By Superman I am referring to Patrick Willis, and last week he suffered a hamstring early in last week's game that has his availability for week 14 in doubt. The hamstring strain is reported to be a grade 2 strain that will heal without surgery. That is the good news, but i wouldn't get my hopes up about seeing Willis on the field for the next couple of weeks. Larry Grant took over for Willis and he posted a respectable 14 points on the strength of 5 solos, 1 assist and a sack. Against a Cardinals team that will be hard pressed to create much if any offense against the 49ers, I would recommend you not think about picking up Grant to play this week. I dislike this matchup so much that I almost rated NaVorro Bowman a 2-star play. With how Bowman has played this year that says a bunch. Last week I said I liked Aldon Smith as a swing for the fences type 3-star play, and Smith pretty much hit one out of the park, posting 15 fantasy points by logging 3 solos, 2 sacks and a fumble recovery. This week I see Smith as the same type of swing for the fences type play. Risky, sure, but the upside is there too.
Secondary:With Patrick Willis missing from the 49ers front seven we very well could see an uptick in the tackle numbers for Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner. However, facing a Cardinals team that ranks 24th in points allowed to DBs, I am not thrilled in the least with this matchup. For my money, I am avoiding both Goldson and Whitner and looking for help elsewhere.
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: The fantasy playoffs are upon us, and when you have a top 5 DL like Calais Campbell (4th) you put him in your starting lineup and don't think twice about it. What makes this week sweet is that Campbell actually does have a good matchup. For the season the 49ers rank 6th in points allowed to DLs but since week 10 they rank 3rd. That even makes Darnell Dockett a viable option this week.
Linebacker: For the season the 49ers rank in the bottom 28th in fantasy points allowed to LBs, but over the past 3 weeks they rank 6th. Based on those last three weeks is why I have Daryl Washington (4-star) and Paris Lenon (3-star) rated the way that I do. Washington has scored in double digits in 9 straight games so there is very little risk in relying on him as a 4-star play. Lenon, while not as productive as Washington, has performed well since the Cardinals bye week and has scored in double digits in 6 of those 7 games.
Secondary: Kerry Rhodes has been out for some time due to a broken foot, but he was able to start practicing again last week. While he practiced he wasn't ready for game action and was inactive in week 13. He practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday and Thursday but is said to be very close to returning to the field. With the uncertainty surrounding Rhodes I had no choice but to rate Rashad Johnson a 2-star play. If Rhodes is unable to play this week I would have no issue looking at Johnson as a 3-star play, but at this point rating him that high is to much of a risk. Fantasy wise for the rest of the Cardinals secondary it would be best to leave them all, including Patrick Peterson on the bench this week. The 49ers aren't a very good matchup, with only 6 teams giving up fewer points to DBs than they do.
Oakland at Green Bay
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: The Raiders have a pretty good pass rush, but not close to the pass rush that the Giants can generate. Last week the Giants were only able to get to Aaron Rodgers twice, once by Dave Tolleson and the other time by Justin Tuck (12 pts). Tuck had a productive game, but fellow DE Jason Pierre-Paul (8 pts) wasn't as productive as Tuck or DT Linval Joseph who led all Giants DLs with 18 fantasy points. If the Giants DEs weren't able to do much fantasy wise I have a hard time thinking that LaMarr Houston and the the rest of the Raiders DL will be better options this week.
Linebacker: Last week Rolando McClain's status for week 13 was in question due to a questionable incident that he was involved in while away from the team so he could attend the funeral of his grandfather. Evidently the Raiders stance is that they are going to wait and see what happens with the incident before they act on it. McClain has scored 14 and 15 points the past two weeks, but this week I have him rated as a 2-star play. All it takes is looking at the fact that only the Titans and Colts are worse matchups for LBs. The LB play that I do like this week is Kamerion Wimbley, I only have him as a 3-star play, and like always I see plenty of risk with his ranking, but if you are looking for that home run type play, Wimbley fits the bill.
Secondary: The Raiders, namely CB Chris Johnson got some very sad news this week. Johnson found out that his mother and sister were shot, with his sister being mortally wounded. Johnson left the team due to the issue but coach Jackson said he expects Johnson to rejoin the team for their week 14 game. All I can say is that I wish Chris and his family condolences in what must be an extremely trying situation. Fantasy wise, both Tyvon Branch and Michael Huff should be in starting lineups this week. The Packers rank 22nd in points allowed to DBs, which would lead you to believe that this week's matchup isn't very good for Branch and Huff. But upon looking deeper at past Packers games there were a number of DBs that performed well fantasy wise, so I think it is pretty safe to have both in lineups this week. Branch of course is the safest of the two.
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 both missed week 13 due to injuries they sustained in their Thanksgiving Day game. Hawk is evidently closer to returning to the lineup than Bishop is. However, as of Thursday neither has practiced so I call me skeptical but I think both end up sitting out week 14. If that does happen then DJ Smith and Robert Francois will be in the starting lineup again. Currently I have Smith and Francois as 2-star plays, but that is only because the status of Bishop and Hawk isn't known yet. If Hawk or Bishop are ruled out then I will upgrade Smith and Francois based on that information.
Secondary: The Packers injuries aren't just limited to their LBs, as Charles Woodson (concussion) was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday, but good news for the Packers is that he was able to practice fully on Thursday. Baring a setback I fully expect Woodson on the field this weekend. Fantasy wise, the Raiders don't make me warm and fuzzy this week. The only DB I really like and feel is a safe start this week is Morgan Burnett. Burnett isn't putting up numbers like he was at the start of the season but he does have a three game double digit scoring streak going, so that should give you some confidence in him if you decide to plug him into your starting lineup.
Buffalo at San Diego
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 45, 2010: 46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 49, 2009: 54, 2010: 56
Defensive Line: The Bills DL have been frustrating for fantasy purposes this year, but against a beat up Chargers OL they look like they could present some decent fantasy value this week. However, over the past few weeks only Elvis Dumervil and Israel Idonije have had any real fantasy success against the Chargers. So due to that fact, I am going to suggest passing on Dwan Edwards, Marcell Dareus and Spencer Johnson this week. It isn't like any of those three are a home run knock it out of the park DEs like Dumervil so their upside is limited and that makes their risk not worth taking.
Linebacker: The Chargers have been a terrific matchup for LBs this season. Since week 8 they have given up 6 performances of 18 points or more, and 5 of those were all over 20 points. That makes Nick Barnett a no brainer plug and play for his owners this week. Initially I rated Barnett a 4-star play but as you can see, what I dug up has made me change my mind and Barnett's rating to 5-stars. I also initially thought that rookie Kelvin Sheppard would be a good 3-star play, but recently I read that Bryan Scott is seeing time at practice with the ILBs. That puts Sheppard's value in question and is 100% the reason why I am lowering his rating to 2-stars. As much as I would like to rate Scott, I think you have to just be in a hold/watch mode with him.
Secondary: Good news for George Wilson owners, he was cleared for practice this week. Not only that, but on Thursday he practiced fully, and barring a setback I suspect we will see Wilson on the field this weekend against the Chargers. I upgraded him from "injured" to a 2-star play, I wanted to rate him a 3-star play but until I see him actually on the field playing as he did before the injury I think he makes for a risky fantasy option. So in a way it is a good news/bad news situation. Wilson is the Bills DB that everyone wanted to hear about, but Jairus Byrd is the one that ranks 3rd in fantasy points among DBs. Byrd should get plenty of opportunities against the Chargers passing attack for him to make a run at the top spot among DBs.
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. Antonio Garay has value in DT mandatory leagues but this week I think Garay is best left on the bench, even in those leagues.
Linebacker: In the seven games since the Chargers bye week both Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler have both scored in double digits in all but two weeks each. The Bills offense isn't nearly as productive as it was earlier in the season, and much of the reason is because of the loss of Fred Jackson. Statistically the Bills aren't a great matchup for Spikes and Butler this week, but with how solid their play has been over the last seven games I don't see how you can't have them in starting lineups this week. To make you feel slightly better about their 3-star ratings just look at what Colin McCarthy (28 pts) and David Harris (18 pts) have done the past two weeks against the Bills.
Secondary: To find the last time that the Bills gave up more than 5 solo tackles to an opposing safety you have to go all the way back to week six when Antrel Rolle recorded 6 solos. That makes Eric Weddle's 3-star rating a bit risky, but in my mind the risk isn't a concern, I just see this as a very limited upside matchup for Weddle and the rest of the Chargers secondary. While safeties have been tackle challenged against the Bills, CBs have done a bit better. Actually, Darrell Revis logged 8 solo tackles, and Cortland Finnegan logged 6 solos, but outside of them, for the most part CBs have struggled against the Bills too.
NY Giants at Dallas
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 had a petty productive game against the Packers last week. Actually, the 12 points he scored were the 2nd most he scored this year and only the second time he scored in double digits. That isn't the type of production that Tuck owners have become accustomed to over the past few years, but hopefully Tuck can build on last week's production and be a key player for fantasy owners during their playoffs. A game against division rival Cowboys will no doubt be knock down drag out affair. The Giants after a tough loss to the Packers last week will need to come out of Texas with a win if they want to have any chance of winning the NFC East this year. The Giants do play well on the road so I wouldn't count them out this week, but for them to pull out a win they are going to need big games from Tuck as well as Jason Pierre-Paul. I only have the duo each rated a 3-star play, but I have no reservations saying each needs to be in starting lineups this week.
Linebacker: Michael Boley finally got back on the field for Giants last week. He only logged 4 solo tackles but the Giants only played him in 51 of their 81 defensive snaps. This week I feel safe saying that i think the Giants will use Boley much more against the Cowboys, and his fantasy value gets a bump because of that. Rookie Jacquian Williams played in one fewer snaps than Boley, but he was able to hit double digits, scoring 14 points. Williams has been very up and down and makes a far to risky fantasy option to even think about using during the playofs. Mathias Kiwanuka had a nice string of performances earlier this year, but in his last four games he has hit double digits just once. I think it is safe to say that Kiwanuka should be on fantasy benches this weekend. One last player I want to highlight is Chase Blackburn who the Giants brought back because of their injuries at the LB position. Blackburn's 18 fantasy points are pretty impressive, just realize that he only played in 32 of 81 defensive snaps. If Blackburn can't get on the field for more snaps than that he makes for a very risky fantasy option, so don't chase Chase's points.
Secondary: The Giants secondary has been ravaged by injuries this year, and the latest casualty is SS Kenny Phillips. Phillips suffered what is being called an MCL sprain. He hasn't been ruled out for the season, but he is expected to miss "some" time. How much some equals is anyone's guess. Deon Grant should take over Phillips starting spot, and I like him and Antrel Rolle to both log around 10-14 points this weekend. For the year only 4 CBs have recorded more than 5 solo tackles against the Cowboys, making Corey Webster and Aaron Ross risky fantasy options this week.
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: Word is that Sean Lee has shed his club and got a new cast. Losing the club for a more tackle friendly cast should help Lee to put up better numbers than he has over the past four weeks, and that is saying something because he has scored between 13-16 points in the last three weeks. The Giants look to be a poor matchup due to their 23rd ranking with regards to points allowed to LBs. However, since week 10 they actually rank 6th in points allowed, and that makes Lee a very strong play this weekend. Initially, I had Lee as a 3-star play, but with news of the new cast and the fact that the Giants have been so fantasy friendly to LBs the past month makes me feel good about bumping him up to a 4-star play. Other than Lee I don't see any other Cowboys LB worth starting for fantasy owners this week. That even includes DeMarcus Ware. Ware suffered a stinger in Sunday's loss to the Arizona Cardinals and on Wednesday that stinger kept him out of practice, but Thursday he was able to practice in a limited fashion. My best guess is that Ware will indeed play in this very important NFC East matchup, but fantasy wise I think the injury makes him a bit to risky to rate.
Secondary: Early this season I pointed out that I have a hard time gauging the fantasy value of the Cowboys secondary, and this week is no different. As it stands now I have the entire secondary rated as a 2-star play. Gerald Sensabaugh hasn't scored in double digits for two consecutive weeks. Terrence Newman was the only Cowboy to score in double digits (10 pts) last week, but that was after putting up a goose egg in week 12. Abram Elam hasn't put up a double digit game since week 8, and Orlando Scandrick hasn't posted back to back double digit games all year. If you see value in one of the Cowboys DBs then you are going to have to make the call on your own, because I just can't bring myself to recommend any of them as fantasy starters.
St. Louis at Seattle
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: Since week 8 Chris Long is averaging 10.667 PPG, which ties him with Calais Campbell as the 3rd best Dl over that time span. What is nice about Long's production from week 8 on is that he has been pretty consistent. He has scored 16, 12, 7, 7, 10 & 12 points, so that shows me a pretty high floor and a decent enough ceiling. Long isn't a swing for the fences type play, but he is going to get you solid points and in a playoff game, getting solid production from your DL can be a big help. James Hall ranks 15th over that same span of time and he too has been rather consistent, scoring 9 fantasy points in his last three contests. His only blemish in the past six weeks is a 2 point effort in week 10 against the Browns. Those two points might seem like a concern, but I taken his overall play into account and feel that he makes a safe 3-star play this week.
Linebacker: James Laurinaitis is as hot as any player in the league over the past four weeks. During that span he ranks second only to London Fletcher who has scored just 2 more fantasy points than Lil' Animal. The Seahawks don't rate as a very good matchup if you look at their season long numbers, but if you pare them down to the last three weeks you see a team that ranks in the top 10 in points allowed to LBs. Not that it would matter one way or another because there is no situation where you would bench Laurinaitis at this point in time.
Secondary: Frustrating would be the best way to describe Quintin Mikell's season thus far, and as an owner I speak from experience. I have Mikell rated as 2-star play based on two key factors, one being his inconsistency, and two being that the Seahawks just aren't an attractive matchup for opposing DBs. Darian Stewart has been a very nice surprise this season, but last week a concussion landed him on the inactive list. As it stands now Stewart has been cleared for practice and wasn't listed on the Rams Thursday injury report. I am going to upgrade Stewart, and as much as I would like to give him a 3-star rating, I think 2-stars is a much more prudent way to handle him this week. I own Stewart in one league and as much as I really would like to start him, I think I am going to have to sit him for another option.
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: If you are a Chris Clemons owner you have to be foaming at the mouth with the matchup he has this week. I am not expecting him to replicate his week 11, 3 tackle, 2 assist, 3 sack, 2 forced fumble and 1 pass defended 28 point day against the Rams again. I mean it was like Clemons went into a fast food joint and said give me 3 of those, 3 of those 2 of those and 1 of everything else on the menu. Start him and hope he does just a fraction of the damage he did in the last meeting with the Rams and you will be happy.
Linebacker: Twisted is the way to describe my thought process for how I ranked David Hawthorne a 5-star play this week. With Hawthorne it was all about risk/reward and upside vs downside. If you look at what LBs have scored against the Rams this year, who by the way rank #1 in fantasy points allowed to LBs this year, you will find a plethora of big games. Since they say the proof is in the pudding, I give unto you: Jamar Chaney (12 pts), Michael Boley (19 pts), Ray Lewis (26 pts), Ryan Kerrigan (17 pts), Brian Orakpo (16.5 pts), Desmond Bishop (23 pts), AJ Hawk (19 pts), DeMarcus Ware (13 pts), Jonathan Vilma (18 pts), Daryl Washington (20 & 11 pts), Paris Lenon (15 & 14 pts), D'Qwell Jackson (13 pts), Scott Fujita (14 pts), Chris Gocong (17 pts), David Hawthorne (10 pts), Sam Acho (18 pts), Larry Grant (14 pts) & NaVorro Bowman (12 pts). Go ahead, take a moment to look at and absorb those numbers. Now that you have done that I am willing to bet that the numbers that stand out aren't the 26 points by Ray Lewis or the 23 by Desmond Bishop, but rather the 10 that Hawthorne scored when he faced the Rams earlier this year, as well as the 12 by Chaney, 11 by Washington and maybe even the 12 by Bowman. So here is where it gets twisted, and the reason that I see Hawthorne as a 5-star play. Reason one, is that there is huge upside as evidenced by the number of times LBs scored 18 or more points against the Rams. My second reason and this is important is the fact that Hawthorne scored 10 points in their last meeting. Confused yet? Well here, let me try and help you out, also it is the 11 points scored by Daryl Washington that really helped me to rate Hawthorne a 5-star play. Do you see where I am going yet? It all comes down to risk/reward, there is very little risk of Hawthorne scoring fewer than 10 points, the reward very well could be a 20+ point game. Then there is the upside vs downside, which is basically the same thing, I see a floor of 10-12 points(downside) and an upside of 20 or more points. Add that to the fact that Hawthorne is averaging over 15 PPG in his last 7 games, which inlcudes two 10 point efforts and I think it should be clear as day why I have Hawthorne as a 5-star play this week. I know I devoted about 99.99% of this write-up to Hawthorne but the same principles apply for Leroy Hill too.
Secondary: The Rams rank 28th in fantasy points allowed to opposing DBs. Not exactly a juicy matchup for the fantasy playoffs. I have been a big fan of Chancellor's and own him in every one of my leagues, but his performances the past four weeks haven't been all that inspiring. However, even though three of those games have been in single digits none have been lower than the 7 points he scored in week 12, that gives him a pretty high floor, and knowing what his upside is I think he is the perfect risk/reward type play this week. You don't garner much risk with him but he very well could put up a monster game. Earl Thomas has been very consistent this year, scoring in double digits in every week except for one, but this week against the anemic Rams passing attack, I think that he would be best left on the bench. Both Seahawks starting CBs, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman have had some nice games, but again, facing what has turned into a pretty bad passing offense I think that they too belong on the bench this week. Sure they all could put up decent games, I just see little upside and much more downside, so do yourself a favor and limit your risk by looking for a better option elsewhere.