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IDP Game Breakdowns: Week 15
Steve Gallo
December 16, 2011
 

This is part 3 in the weekly IDP Game Breakdown series.  The final part of this weekly series is a narrative that will explain what to expect in the upcoming game for each team's DL's, LB's and DB's.  It also acts as a supplement to the star rankings (Part 2 of the weekly series) so that owners can see the reasoning and thought process that generated those star rankings. Also, Part 1 of this series is used as a major resource in writing the narrative for each positional breakdown.  In addition, each teams breakdown will be preceded by that team's average tackle opportunities given up for the past three years.

FPA = Fantasy Points Allowed

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!

QUICK GAME LINKS
 
 

Jacksonville at Atlanta

Jaguars
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 bounced back with a not so bad 8 point effort in week 14.  However, he still hasn't scored in double digits since week 10, and that is the only time he has scored in double digits in his last 6 games.  The way I see it is that Mincey is far to risky to rely on as a starter for owners in their playoffs this week.  He could buck the odds and have a nice week, but against the Falcons that rank 23rd in FPA to DLs, so I wouldn't bet on it.  Look at it this way, at least he was productive to help get teams thru the bye weeks.

Linebacker: Daryl Smith and Paul Posluszny each got out of the gates slow to start the season - with both posting single digit scores.  However, after that each has scored in double digits just two more times.  Posluszny currently ranks 14th among LBs and he has scored in double digits in each of the past 5 games since the Jaguars bye week.  Smith isn't far behind, ranking 19th, but the difference is that his two single digit games have come since the bye week.  That makes Smith a bit of a riskier play, but I still think that Smith and Posluszny should be in starting lineups this week.  The Falcons aren't the best matchup for LBs and honestly both probably should be 2-star instead of 3-star plays, but I do think we see the Falcons lean on their running game late and that should be enough to help the duo fantasy wise. Russell Allen has strung together three consecutive double digit games, but I see him as a risky option.

Secondary: If you are called and asked to play in the Jaguars secondary you might want to give it a bit of thought before you say yes.  In recent weeks the following players have all landed on season ending injured reserve; Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox, William Middleton, and Chris Prosinski.  Prosinski, a rookie out of Wyoming got his first NFL start in week 14, and now he is on IR.  If I were Dwan Landry or Ashton Youboty I think I would be taking out some extra insurance for the rest of the season.  Fantasy wise, the Falcons rank 25th in FPA's to safeties and 17th to CBs so I don't see much upside and plenty of risk.  I advise you leave both on the bench this week.

Falcons
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: I think it is safe to say that both John Abraham and Ray Edwards have been absolutely horrid fantasy options this year. Surprisingly, last week the duo combined for 14 pts (Abraham 6, Edwards 8), and Edwards logged a QB sack.  This week they have a sweet matchup against a Jaguars team that ranks 6th in FPAs allowed to DLs, but I don't see how I can even remotely recommend playing either.  The risk of them doing very little is far to high to offset the reward of maybe 10-12 points. Jonathan Babineaux is listed as QUESTIONABLE for the game, but in DT mandatory leagues, he is probably worth a look.  Mainly, because the Jaguars rank #1 in the NFL with 185 rushing attempts "up the middle", which in turn is a large reason why the rank 5th in FPAs to the defensive tackle position.  Just make sure he is active before you put him in your starting lineup.

Linebacker: LBs having really good games against the Jaguars have been few and far between.  That doesn't mean that Sean Weatherspoon or Curtis Lofton shouldn't be in starting lineups, because they should be, it just means to temper expectations.  For the season the two are tied with 201 fantasy points scored, which ranks 8th among LBs.  Each has scored in double digits in all but one week, unfortunately for Lofton owners his came last week, when he logged just 8 points. In what is surely a big playoff game for fantasy owners, you don't have a very plum matchup, but you still need to roll with Lofton and 'Spoon.

Secondary: This week against the Jaguars you would have to be off your rocker to even think about starting any Falcons secondary player.  It is bad enough the are facing the Jaguars but the Falcons secondary has turned into one that is pretty much worth avoiding at all costs.  I say that mostly because of how Mike Smith "Shanahaned" IDP owners last week.  I posted the following quote by Mike Smith in last week's writeup, "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.", also word was that Moore was still dealing with a groin issue.  So what happened?  They split snaps, with Moore playing in 43 to James Sanders 27 snaps.  I feel very confident in saying that I know it burned many fantasy owners last week, me included.  So, do yourself a favor and just take a pass on Moore & Sanders, not for just this week, but the rest of the season.


Dallas at Tampa Bay

Cowboys
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up:
2008:  48,  2009:  51,  2010:  52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced:      2008:  48,  2009:  47,  2010:  49


Defensive Line: 
The Cowboys 3-4 defense severely limits the value of their DL and it would be best to seek out fantasy help elsewhere.

Linebacker: In his last 5 games since returning from his wrist injury, Sean Lee has logged more than 5 solo tackles in a game just once.  His first game back he struggled, scoring just 7 fantasy points, but over his last 4 games he has scored in double digits in each, and has a 15.50 PPG average, nothing really wrong with that.  However, the reason I point this out is because his lack of solos, his upside is somewhat limited.  This week I have him as a 3-star play, and against a Buccaneers team that ranks 11th in FPAs to LBs that might seem a bit low, but what kept me from a 4-star rating is that over the past three weeks the Bucs rank just 25th in FPAs to LBs. DeMarcus Ware seemed to be suffering from the effects of his stinger during the 4th quarter of the Giants game.  To the point that he missed some plays because of it.  Ware also had a couple of big penalties that you wouldn't expect him to commit.  Makes me wonder if his concentration wasn't 100% due to possible pain from the stinger, in any event, this week I see Ware as a very risky option.  I doubt we see him miss this week's game, but i wouldn't be shocked to see him miss or be limited in practice.

Secondary:  The Cowboys secondary was pretty much god awful last week against the Giants, and fantasy wise they are pretty the same way.  Gerald Sensabaugh was the only one to score in double digits (12), his first time in three weeks. From a risk/reward standpoint I just don't see any reason why you would want to lean on Sensabaugh this week.  There just simply isn't much if any upside, but plenty of downside, especially against the reeling Buccaneers, who since week 10 rank 30th in FPAs to the safety position.  If there is any value to be had in the Cowboys secondary, it would be at the CB position, where since week 10 the Buccaneers rank 3rd in FPAs.  But Mike Jenkins is hurt...again, and do you really want to pin your fantasy hopes on Orlando Scandrick or Terrance Newman?  I wouldn't but if you need to roll the dice on one I would go with Newman.

Buccaneers
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 returned to the field last week, after missing weeks 12 & 13 due to injury.  Bennett didn't start, rookie Da'Quan Bowers started for the third consecutive week.  Snap wise he went from playing in 100% of the teams defensive snaps in week 13 to just 71.8% in week 14.  The decreased snaps can partially explain the reason why Bowers didn't score as well as he did in week 13, but the real reason is that you just can't expect to see the rookie put up huge numbers like that routinely. At this point, he makes for a risky fantasy option and it would be best to leave him on the bench. Joining Bowers on the bench should be Bennett and fellow rookie Adrian Clayborn.  Look no farther than the Cowboys ranking of 26 in FPA to DLs as the reason why. 

Linebacker: Mason Foster hasn't exactly been a very reliable fantasy option this year, the last time he scored in double digits in back to back weeks was back in weeks 2 and 3, but that could change this week.  Foster scored 13 points last week, not exactly what I was expecting from him, but still it was a productive game.  This week he faces a Cowboys team that ranks 5th in FPA to LBs, so I am once again rating him as a 4-star play.  At worst I think we see Foster in the 12-13 point range, which means back to back double digit games. Earlier this year Adam Hayward took over as the starting WLB for the Buccaneers, pushing Geno Hayes into a reserve role.  Both players rotated depending on the situation, thusly killing the fantasy value of the Buccaneers WLB position.  Nothing changes this week, even with the fact that Hayward has played in a total of just 25 snaps over the past four weeks. 

Secondary: So far this season the Buccaneers DBs have been productive, but inconsistent.  Sean Jones ranks 19th in DB scoring, and 15 year veteran Ronde Barber ranks 25th. Neither have been consistent enough to be plug and play DBs, but that doesn't mean they don't have value to their owners.  This week, looks to be the week for Barber owners to get him in their starting lineups because the Cowboys rank 8th in FPA to CBs.  As for Sean Jones and Tanard Jackson for that matter, leaving them on the bench would be the prudent thing to do against a Cowboys team that has given up the 5th fewest points to the safety position this year.  On the injury front Aqib Talib missed last week, but he practiced fully on Tuesday and looks to be on pace to return to the lineup this week.  If he does indeed get back on the field then EJ Biggers goes back to non-starter status.


Carolina at Houston

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:
Charles Johnson owners have been a frustrated bunch this year, and rightfully so, considering how inconsistent he was earlier this year. Prospects do look like they could be looking up for Johnson owners in the playoffs as his 10.5 points last week were the most he has scored since week 8 and also the first time he put up back to back double digit scores since doing so in weeks 1 and 2.  While it seems like many IDP "studs" have difficult matchups this week, Johnson gets a sweet matchup against a Texans team that ranks 2nd in FPAs to DLs.  With the Texans being such a strong matchup I also saw fit to rank Greg Hardy as a 3-star play this week.  Hardy  hasn't scored in double digits since week 5, but this matchup is a good one so I have no reservations about saying he is starter material this week. 

Linebacker: The Panthers LBs might be an utter mess, but James Anderson owners couldn't care less.  Anderson, is putting up big fantasy numbers, scoring 19 or more points in 3 of his last 5 games. This week with a Texans team that ranks in the top 10 in FPAs, and over the last 3 weeks that ranks #3, you can safely put Anderson into your starting lineups and look for him to top 20 points.  Outside of Anderson things are less clear between the likes of Dan Conner, Omar Gaither and Jordan Senn.  For me with this being such a good matchup, I think I would roll the dice on Conner, which is why I have him as a 3-star play.

Secondary:  Well, Charles Godfrey completely sh*t the bed last week.  Godfrey's 5 points were the fewest he scored all year and the first time in 6 weeks that he hadn't scored in double digits. He did have a slightly poor matchup last week, but that isn't the case this week, as he faces a Texans team that on the year ranks #6 in FPAs to safeties, but since week 11 ranks #1. That would most likely garner a 5-star rating, but I do still have a bit of concern about his shoulder and the fact that he bombed last week.  Still even with that this is exactly the type of risk/reward situation that is worth taking a shot on, especially in the fantasy playoffs. 

Texans
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.  Yes, JJ Watt has had some big games, but he has also had some duds.  If you need to swing for the fence, Watt is the type of guy you roll the dice on, but this week, facing a Panthers team that is just a so-so matchup, I think it would be best to look for DL help elsewhere.

Linebacker: As reported last week, Brian Cushing was expected to play and play he did.  Unfortunately, what he didn't do was play well fantasy wise.  Cushing's 7 points represent his lowest output of the season.  This week against a Panthers team that is a very poor matchup for LBs, I had the unenviable task of rating Cushing just a 2-star play. Don't look now, but DeMeco Ryans just had his first double digit game since week 3.  OK, now go back to not looking at Ryans, seriously, he isn't a fantasy option you should be relying on in the playoffs. Connor Barwin had another productive week last week, but he and Brooks Reed make for risky fantasy options against the Panthers. Reed, fwiw, hasn't scored in double digits since stringing 4 consecutive double digit games together in weeks 6-9.

Secondary:  The Panthers aren't exactly a great matchup, not horrible either, but not good enough for me to feel confident about rating Glover Quin, Danieal Manning or any other Texans DB better than a 2-star play this week.  I will say that I was close to giving Quin, who has scored in double digits in three straight games a 3-star rating, but then decided that wasn't the prudent thing to do.


Tennessee at Indianapolis

Titans
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: 
I have bagged mercilessly on the Titans DL for much if not all of this season.  Well this week, that is about to change.  OK, not really, but I am going to say that I won't fault anyone for taking a stab at starting any of the Titans DLs this week.  After all, they are facing a Colts team that ranks 8th in FPA to DLs. 

Linebacker: Colin McCarthy has taken the MLB job and as they say, "run with it".  The door opened for McCarthy when Barrett Ruud was injured, and with Ruud still dealing with a groin injury the Titans have placed him on IR.  That means that by default the MLB job is McCarthy's, but essentially, he looks to be entrenched as the Titans MLB for the future.  After scoring 23, 21 and 28 points in weeks 11-13 it looked like McCarthy was Superman, but last week against a Saints team that doesn't give up many points to LBs, we saw that McCarthy is indeed human and not Superman.  I would like to say that you can expect him to bounce back from his 11 point performance, but against a Colts team that ranks dead last in the NFL in FPA to LBs, I wouldn't bet on it.  I gave McCarthy a 3-star rating, I think he earned it with his play over the past 5 weeks, but in all honesty, he probably should be rated a 2-star play. So proceed with caution if you are a McCarthy owner.

Secondary: Not only do the Colts rank last in FPA to LBs, but they also rank last to the safety position too.  Add that and a time share between Chris Hope and Jordan Babineaux and it is easy to see why they are 1-star plays this week.  Believe it or not but the Colts do offer a bit of value to CBs, ranking 16th in FPA to the position. Both Alterraun Verner and Cortland Finnegan performed very well in what was a prime matchup against the Saints last week, but production like that isn't something to expect this week. Verner will more than likely be headed back to a reserve role as Jason McCourty (concussion) has been cleared for practice.  As for Finnegan he has been an erratic performer this year, and unless the matchup is pristine (like last week), I think it is best to leave him on the bench.  If McCourty practices all week, and doesn't have any setbacks I very well may upgrade him to a 3-star play, but until then, he and his teammates all get 2-stars or less.

Colts
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:  With as bad a fantasy matchup that the Colts are for the most part, the Titans aren't much better. Robert Mathis had a nice game last week but this week against the Titans that rank 28th in FPA to DL, he is best left on the bench.  Same goes for Dwight Freeney, who by the way scored in double digits (10) for the first time since week 5, should also be firmly planted on the bench for week 15.

Linebacker: Pat Angerer owners were fearful that they would be without his services after he suffered an injury in week 13, but Angerer was indeed able to get back on the field last week.  He didn't have a big week, but there isn't anything wrong with 14 fantasy points.  This week, Angerer has an absolutely horrid matchup, for the season the Titans rank 31st in FPA, and even in the short term, weeks 11-14, they rank dead last.  So there isn't anything I can point to that gives me hope for Angerer having a good game let alone a big game this week.  As hard as it may be, you should sit him down and look for another option.  If you don't then at least realize he will probably be good for 4-5 assists since he is playing at home.

Secondary: On the surface this looks like a pretty bad matchup for the Colts secondary.  I mean they are after all facing a Titans team that ranks 21st in FPA to DBs. However, if you look at the Titans recent track record you find that for weeks 11-14 they rank #2 in FPA to CBs and #9 to safeties.  Seeing the latest trend is what helped me to reluctantly rank Antoine Bethea and Jacob Lacey as 3-star plays this week.  I think they are a bit risky, but the trend is what it is.


Green Bay at Kansas City

Packers
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: Last week Desmond Bishop was ruled out due to his calf injury and AJ Hawk, while active didn't play against the Raiders.  Those ILB positions were manned by DJ Smith and Robert Francois.  Combined they played in a 147 defensive snaps, with Smith playing in all 75 of the teams defensive snaps.  Fantasy wise, Francois (23 pts) and Smith (21 pts) were both fantastic fill-in plays, that is if you had the stones to actually play them.  This week I  have both Smith and Francois as 2-star plays but that has everything to do with needing to see how Bishop and Hawk look during practice this week.  As it stands now I plan to update all four players ratings on Friday evening. 

Secondary: The Chiefs actually present as a solid matchups for opposing DBs.  Ranking in the top 12 in both FPA to CB's and S's.  Even with that said, I really don't have a good feeling about this matchup, because if I did I would have more than just Morgan Burnett and Charles Woodson as 3-star plays.  That leaves Tramon Williams and Charlie Peprah as pretty decent sleeper options, that is if you trust the Chiefs rankings.

Chiefs
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: This is going to be short and to the point.  Derrick Johnson owners have no choice but to plug him into their lineups this week, and every week for that matter.  Derrick Johnson owners will need to also realize that he has a pretty bad matchup this week and he will be hard pressed to hit his 16.614 PPG average. Outside of a handful of LBs this would be a 1 or 2-star matchup easily.  While the matchup is bad for a LB, I am looking at Tamba Hali as a pass rusher and basing his rating on how DLs have done against the Packers. There is plenty of risk in starting Hali, but he has the ability to get to Aaron Rodgers multiple times this weekend.

Secondary:  Believe it or not but the Packers are at best a below average matchup for opposing DBs.  Jon McGraw suffered an ankle injury in last week's game and at this point in time there is no additional information available.  So when coupled with he poor matchup I think that it would be best to leave McGraw on the bench this week.  It isn't like he has been on fire, scoring in double digits in just one of his last 4 games.  Kendrick Lewis was the only Chiefs DB to score in double digits (11) last week, but it was also his first time in a month that he did so.  At this point, I am avoiding the entire Chiefs secondary.


Seattle at Chicago

Seahawks
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up:
2008:  45,  2009:  51,  2010:  46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced:      2008:  54,  2009:  52,  2010:  53


Defensive Line:
 Chris Clemons has scored 9 or more points just twice in his last 7 games, the five times he didn't, weren't really close either (2, 0,3,3, & 6), outside of the 6 points he scored in week 13.  The two weeks he hit 9 or better (9 & 24) were against the Rams, well this week he doesn't get to face the Rams.  However, he does face a Bears team that has given up 15 sacks over the past three weeks.  So that makes this a swing for the fences type play.  Yes, I know it isn't the Rams, but I do think he warrants a 3-star rating.  Outside of Clemons, take a pass on the rest of the Seahawks DLs.

Linebacker:  You will have to decide if David Hawthorne's 15 points lived up to a 5-star rating or not.  He did rack up 10 total tackles, but unfortunately the split was 50/50 between solos and assists.  All told, considering he faced just 45 tackle opportunities I think he did pretty well.  And if I must say so my self, I do think that my logic was correct in why I had him rated a 5-star play.  This week I am not as bullish, but I still think he should be in fantasy lineups.  For the most part Leroy Hill has been more productive than rookie KJ Wright this year, but with how Wright has played the past two weeks I think he and not Hill deserves a 3-star rating this week.

Secondary: Simply put, the Bears are not a good matchup for opposing CBs this year, ranking 32nd in FPA. Yes, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman have had some productive games of late, but there is no way they should be in fantasy lineups this week. Don't even think twice about it, sit them down.  As for safeties Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas the matchup isn't as bad but it is below average, as the Bears rank 17th in FPA this year, but over the past four weeks they rank 11th, which is why I have both as 3-star plays.

Bears
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up:
2008:  48,  2009:  47,  2010:  47
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced:      2008:  53,  2009:  53,  2010:  49

Defensive Line: Julius Peppers has a solid matchup against a Seahawks team that ranks 12th in FPA to DLs, but that doesn't mean that Peppers is a lock for big numbers.  Last week, Peppers had a killer matchup against a Broncos team that gives up more points to DLs then any other team in the NFL, yet that only turned into 7 fantasy points.  Peppers currently ranks as the 12th best DL in fantasy scoring, but he hasn't had those "put your fantasy team on his back and won the game for his owners" type games this year.  With his inconsistent and less than Peppers type play, I feel this matchup warrants a 3-star rating.  I think that Peppers owners still should have him in their lineups, just that they should temper expectations is all.  Israel Idonije scored in double digits for the second consecutive week, and the third time in four weeks.  The problem for me is the week he didn't hit double digits all  he did was put up 2 fantasy points.  In what should be a pretty big playoff game for most owners, I wouldn't want to risk Idonije coming up small, which is why I have him as a 2-star play.  He does have some sleeper value, but i don't think he is a no brainer play.

Linebacker: Last week I basically said I was expecting big things from Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher.  Well, facing a Broncos team that has been a pretty plum matchup for opposing LBs since Tim Tebow took over as the starting QB, led to Briggs scoring 18 fantasy points, and Urlacher did even better with 21 points.  This week, Briggs and Urlacher still belong in starting lineups, but their matchup isn't nearly as nice as it was last week.  I have each rated 3-stars against a Seahawks team that since week 11 ranks 12th in FPA to LBs.  All three Rams LBs, James Laurinaitis (20 pts), Chris Chamberlain (12 pts) and Brady Poppinga (12 pts) scored in double digits, and Laurinaitis' performance shows that there could be some upside to the 3-star ratings.

Secondary: Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings and Craig Steltz all scored much better than I expected that they would last week against the Broncos.  However, when a matchup looks to be as poor as that one was you can't second guess yourself if you left them on your bench.  This week doesn't look to be much of a better matchup, facing a Seahawks team that ranks 23rd in FPA allowed to DBs. On the surface that looks like a bad matchup, but dig a bit deeper and you find that the Seahawks rank 10th in FPA to the safety position, and over the past four weeks they actually rank 4th. With Major Wright's status for this week currently unknown it was hard to rate him or Craig Steltz who started for him in each of the past two weeks.  As it stands now I rated Steltz a 2-star play but if Wright looks like a no-go then I will bump him up to a 3-star play, and if it looks like Wright will play then Steltz get bumped down to a 1-star play and Wright becomes the 3-star play.  Charles Tillman ranks as the #1 overall scoring DB so far this year, and his interception of Tim Tebow helped him to put up a very solid 14 fantasy points last week.  This week Tillman once again has a poor matchup, with the Seahawks ranking 28th in FPA to CBs, but I think that Tillman showed he can put up numbers in poor matchups, which is why I have him as a 3-star play.  Of course I say that now, but don't be surprised to see me back pedal and lower his ranking to 2-stars later this week.


Miami at Buffalo

Dolphins
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: As they say, all good things must come to an end, and for Kevin Burnett owners, that end came last week as he scored just 7 fantasy points.  A performance like that, in what was the first week of the playoffs for many owners, stings, and as a Burnett owner, I know firsthand just how much it stings.  Karlos Dansby played second fiddle fantasy scoring wise to Burnett for three weeks, but last week, he was the top dog, scoring 17 fantasy points.  This week I would temper expectations for both players, as they face a Bills team that since week 9 ranks 27th in FPA to LBs.  I have both Dansby and Burnett rated as 3-star plays, but truth be told I really wouldn't feel comfortable starting either.  And since Burnett's poor play last week contributed to me getting knocked out of the playoffs I won't have to make a decision on him.  Depending on what direction you decide to go in, good luck!

Secondary: After back to back 8 point games in weeks 12 & 13 Yeremiah Bell got back into double digits with a 13 point performance. For the year, Bell ranks as the 10th best scoring fantasy DB, however, since week 10 his play has been very inconsistent and over that span of time he ranks 55th in DB scoring with a 9.0 PPG average. Vontae Davis actually ranks higher (41st) and has a higher PPG average of 9.80. Recent production would seem to show that Davis is the better play this week, but looking at the matchup shows that Bell is the better matchup, because the Bills are a much better matchup for the safety position than they are for CBs.

Bills
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 Dolphins gave up big games to both Trent Cole (23 pts) and Jason Babin (18 pts) last week.  Expecting to get that type of production from Dawan Landry & Marcel Dareus is most likely a pipe dream, however, one would probably think that at least they would warrant a 3-star rating, but not for me.  Yes, they both scored in double digits last week but looking at their production over the past 7 weeks shows that combined they have scored 4 or fewer points 8 times. So while either one or both of Landry and Dareus could put up a decent score this week, I think there is far to much risk to use them in round 2 of the fantasy playoffs.

Linebacker: Nick Barnett had a productive 14 point game in week 13, but that pales in comparison to the 25 point game that rookie Kelvin Sheppard had.  I only rated Sheppard as a 2-star play last week, but that was mainly because there were reports that Bryan Scott had been working with the LBs last week and there was no telling how the Bills would use Sheppard and Scott.  More than likely you probably had Sheppard on your bench last week and if you did you just have to shrug it off, what you don't want to do is try to chase points with him.  Especially, when you realize that this week, he and the rest of the Bills LBs have a tough matchup against a Dolphins team that over the last four weeks ranks 24th in FPA to LBs.  I think that Nick Barnett makes for the safest play, but if you have better options, it might be wise to use them this week. 

Secondary:  George Wilson got back on the field last week, and he rewarded his owners with an 11 point game.  Not exactly the type of production that Wilson owners were used to prior to his injury, but at least he was productive in his return to the field.  Jairus Byrd ranks as the 6th best fantasy DB in scoring this year, but last week's 4 point performance was his worst of the season.  As was noted above, Bryan Scott saw time at LB, and it equated to a huge 26 point day for him.  I have him rated as a 2-star play based on how the Dolphins rank in FPA to LBs.  As for Wilson and Byrd, they don't have a horrible matchup, as the Dolphins rank 13th in FPA to safeties over the past four weeks, but that isn't a great matchup either.  So I would temper expectations for each this weekend.


New Orleans at Minnesota

Saints
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: Here is where I stand on this matchup for Will Smith this week. The matchup is pretty much an average one, but with how inconsistent he has played this year, you really would be best served to leave him on the bench this week.  Smith has scored 2 or fewer points in 3 of his past 5 games, so if you want to risk your playoff hopes on his shoulders go right ahead, but remember, I warned you.

Linebacker: Jonathan Vilma and his 1 frickin fantasy point surely burned many a fantasy owner last week, I know it burned me (multiple leagues).  Vilma has missed some time due to injury this year, and he hasn't been as good a producer as he has in the past, but still his worst performance of the year prior to last week was the 7 points he scored in week 2. I wish I could say that Vilma didn't play much but he played in all 62 of the Saints defensive snaps.  If I took the emotional burn from last week out of the equation I would probably have Vilma rated as a 3-star play this week, but I am human and can't .  But even then, even if I did the fact that he presents so much risk, I can justify only rating him as a 2-star play. 

Secondary:   For the season the Vikings rank just 21st in FPA to safeties, but since week 11 they rank 3rd. That makes Roman Harper a very nice play this week.  Harper hasn't put up big numbers since the Saints came off their week 11 bye, but this week that very well should change.  The Vikings are also a very nice matchup for opposing CBs, ranking #3 to CBs too over the last four weeks. Jabari Greer and Tracy Porter have been inconsistent this year, but this week I think each warrants their 3-star rating. 

Vikings
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: 
After recording 3 sacks in week 14, raising his season total to 17.5,  Jared Allen is now within striking distance of Michael Strahan's single season sack record of 22.5.  Allen has been a beast this year, and I for one hope that he can notch 5.5 more sacks to overtake Strahan for the record.  If he is able to do it, I also hope he doesn't have a QB "lie down" for him. Fantasy wise, don't think about it, just keep plugging #69 into your lineups.  Brian Robison didn't have a day like Allen did in week 14, but he was productive.  He added a half sack to raise his season total to 6. From the fantasy side of things relying on a guy like Robison is a risky proposition, as he has scored 8.5 or more points just 4 times this season.  Facing a Saints team that doesn't give up much to DEs makes Robison clear cut bench material, and I know I said you keep plugging Allen in, and you do, just temper expectations for him this week.

Linebacker:  Last week was a swing and a miss on multiple levels regarding the Vikings LBs.  One was that I bumped Chad Greenway up from a 4-star to a 5-star play, and he only put up 13 points, not a bad day by any stretch, but not a 5-star play either.  The other miss was regarding the Henderson brothers.  I felt that against the Lions passing attack that Erin would see the field much more than his older brother EJ.  That wasn't the case, EJ played in 61 of the teams 62 defensive snaps, while Erin played in just 14.  At least I did qualify my rating of Erin by saying he was a risky fantasy starter.  This week Greenway is the only LB I would entertain to use in fantasy lineups.  He currently has a 3-star rating, but with the Saints ranking 29th in FPA to LBs, I am leaning very heavily towards lowering him to 2-stars.

Secondary:  Coach Leslie Frazier might be saying that Cedric Griffin isn't in his doghouse, but that doesn't matter, because he is on his bench.  After giving up a long TD to Titus Young, Griffin was benched by the Vikings.  Benny Sapp is who replaced Griffin for the rest of the game. Griffin clearly isn't what he was prior to his TWO ACL injuries, and at this point, on the fantasy front you can cut bait.  The Saints do present as a very nice matchup for Jamarca Sanford, Asher Allen and the rest of the Vikings secondary this week.  For the season the Saints rank #1 in FPA to CBs and #2 to Ss. The only thing that kept me from ranking anyone above a 3-star play is the fact that they have been inconsistent or are to new (Mistral Raymond) to get a better gauge on what to expect from them.


Cincinnati at St. Louis

Bengals
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:
 If you are a Carlos Dunlap owner you have to be just sick with the prime matchups that you are missing out on due to his injury.  At this point, even if Dunlap comes back, I think you need to shut him down, far to much risk to rely on him after missing basically 5 weeks.  Against a Rams team that ranks 7th in FPA to DLs I think that Michael Johnson is worth a shot this week, I know he has been inconsistent this year, but he has the talent to take advantage of this matchup.  Last week I wrote that I thought Geno Atkins was a good start in DT mandatory leagues, and the 11.5 points he scored shows that he was a good play.  Once again I think Atkins deserves a starting nod in DT mandatory leagues.  I also think that Domata Peko, who scored 10 points last week, should also be a viable start in DT mandatory leagues. 

Linebacker: Last week, in a matchup with the Rams I rated David Hawthorne a 5-star play.  Some may have seen that as a bit overzealous but I also showed how many LBs scored very well against the Rams.  I didn't give Rey Maualuga a 5-star rating, but i do think for many of the same reasons I rated Hawthorne a 5-star play that Maualuga a 4-star play.  I also see Thomas Howard as a strong play too, especially with him coming off of a massive 21 point game in week 14 where he racked up 9 solos and 2 assists. Earlier in the year Howard was pretty inconsistent, but over the past three weeks he looks to be a solid LB3 with some upside. 

Secondary: Reggie Nelson had a huge game last week, huge to the tune of 21 fantasy points, and yes I was "lucky" enough to be facing him in one league last week.  All I am going to say about this week's matchup is "Beware", that is because the Rams rank 31st in FPA to the S position.  For the year they are giving up just 21 points/game to safeties, and that average is just 2 points more per game than the Colts allow.  Yes that is bad.  I can easily say that I would avoid each and every Bengals DB like the plague this week.

Rams
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: 
The consistency that I pointed out that Chris Long was having came to an end last week.  Long was only able to put up 2 fantasy points, but he was severely limited by his ankle injury, and was shown numerous times on the broadcast with it being iced.  Don't get me wrong, Long played and gritted it out, but you have to wonder if his 4 QB pressures could have been much more had that ankle not been giving him fits.  This week, Long and his fellow DL face a Bengals team that ranks 31st in FPA allowed to DLs.  With a ranking like that it should make it easy to sit not only Long, but James Hall, and in deeper leagues, Robert Quinn too.

Linebacker:  The Bengals are not a very good matchup for James Laurinaitis this week, ranking 27th in FPA to LBs.  Laurinaitis is coming off a very nice 20 point performance against the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.  It was Laurinaitis' 4th time scoring 20 or more points in his last 5 games, and 5th time in 7 games too.  With production like that it makes it really hard to rate Laurinaitis just a 3-star play, but his week nine 7 point performance shows that he is human.  Quite honestly, if it wasn't Laurinaitis this is a 1 or 2-star matchup at best for most other LBs.  Chris Chamberlin and Brady Poppinga both scored in double digits in week 14, but I wouldn't touch them with a 10 foot pole this week.

Secondary: Darian Stewart returned after missing week 13 due to a concussion, and he made some noise in the box score.  Stewart racked up 8 solos and a pass defended for a total of 17 fantasy points.  Hopefully, you didn't do like me and leave him on your bench last week.  If you did, don't fret, this week looks to be another good matchup for Stewart, facing a Bengals team that ranks 7th in FPA to safeties, and since week 10 ranks #2. Giving up production like that tells me that Quintin Mikell should also be in starting lineups this week.  Mikell hasn't been as productive, or consistent as Stewart has, hence his 3-star vs Stewart's 4-star rating.  At CB, the Rams can't seem to keep anyone healthy this year.  On MNF they reported that the Rams have put something like 9 or 10 CBs on IR this year. The Jags look at the Rams and say, "damn" that is a lot of CBs on IR".


Washington at NY Giants

Redskins
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:  If there was a Fantasy Football Hall Of Fame, London Fletcher would easily be in it, and no, he wouldn't need a waiting period either.  Hmmmm, maybe I should look into establishing the first FFHOF. OK, enough of that, and back to week 14.  Fletcher gets to face a Giants team that on the season doesn't rank very high in FPA allowed to LBs, but over the past three weeks they have been an attractive matchup, ranking 8th in FPA to LBs over that span of time.  I teetered back and forth between a 3 or 4-star rating for Fletcher but settled on 4-stars for the someday-to-be FFHOFer.  I guess I should point out that on the year, Fletcher ranks 2nd in fantasy scoring among LBs.  The old man still has it, that is for sure.  Fletcher's running mate in the middle of the Redskins defense is Perry Riley, and while no Fletcher, Riley has been uber-productive since taking over as a starter.  Over his past five games he has scored 82 fantasy points (16.40 PPG), which ranks 9th among LBs.  The nice thing is that he has been very consistent too, scoring fewer than 16 points just once in that span of time, and that was a 14 point effort in week 13 against the Jets. If you own Riley, I wouldn't expect him to match Fletcher point for point, but he will hold his own. He should easily be in all starting lineups this week.

Secondary:  LaRon Landry has now missed his last two games due to his groin injury, and the prospects for him playing again this year look bleak at best.  His replacements have been Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes, and like his RBs, Shanahan seems to like to play Shananagans with fantasy football owners.  But to make matters worse, both players started and OJ Atogwe played a limited role on Sunday against the Patriots.  The defensive snaps broke down for the three like this; Doughty (60), Gomes (47) and Atogwe (13). This is a mess of a mess that fantasy owners just need to avoid.  On twitter, Rich Campbell, the Redskins beat writer for The Washington Times, wrote the following, "Not sure why Mike Shanahan said OJ Atogwe played 8 snaps vs NE. He played 13. Question is why he replaced DJ Gomes for last 2 series.".  Shananagans, plain and simple! 

Giants
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: 
Last week the Giants beat the Cowboys without Osi Umenyiora suiting up for the game.  This week against the Redskins it is very likely that once again the Giants will be without Umenyiora's services.  However, he might not be their only key DE missing from the lineup in week 15.  Justin Tuck was scheduled to have an MRI on his ailing toe on Monday, results are unknown, but what is known is that Tuck didn't practice on Wednesday. Supposedly Tuck has said he has "no clue" if he will be able to play this week against the Redskins.  Injuries sure have derailed Tuck's fantasy season, and at this point, even if he is active and plays, I would most likely avoid relying on him if at all possible.  One DE that will be in the lineup is Jason Pierre- Paul,  and against a Redskins team that since week 11 ranks 8th in FPA to DL I think it is safe to say that JPP should be a very solid play for his owners this week.

Linebacker: Thru the first 9 weeks of the season, Michael Boley was having a fantastic fantasy season.  Boley had accumulated 122 fantasy points, ranking 11th in LB scoring.  However, in his last 5 games, largely due to injury, his production hasn't been very good, he has two games where he was inactive, two where he scored in single digits, and in his 5th game last week, he cracked double digits, but just barely as he posted 10 fantasy points.  Clearly the Giants are managing Boley's snaps, very likely due to his injury, and that in turn is impacting his fantasy production.  I like this matchup and if I new that Boley would see a full compliment of snaps then I would have him rated as a 4-star play this week.  As it is now, with his limited snaps, I do have some slight concerns about rating him a 3-star play.  Mathias Kiwanuka has been very inconsistent this year, so it was with trepidation that I rated him a 3-star play.  what I like about Kiwanuka this week is that with Umenyiora likely out and Tuck possibly joining him on the sidelines, I could see Kiwanuka get a few more attempts to rush the passer and if that happens I actually think he gets to Rex Grossman for at least one sack this week.

Secondary: The Giants secondary, like the Giants LBs have been ravaged by injuries this season.  So it is good news that Kenny Phillips actually got back on the practice field this Wednesday.  Supposedly there is a chance that Phillips could actually get back on the field this week.  I wouldn't even entertain starting him this week, but if he can get back this quickly it would be a shot in the arm for the Giants secondary and defense too.  Fantasy wise, Antrel Rolle has had his good moments this year, but he has also had his bad ones too, like his 6 point performance in week 14.  This week against a Redskins team that ranks 4th in FPA allowed to safeties he looks to have a good matchup, but dig a bit deeper and you find that the over the past 5 weeks the Redskins rank 22nd in FPA to the safety position.  Not exactly the matchup that it initially seemed to be.  From where I am standing, I think that Rolle as well as Deon Grant and the rest of the Giants secondary should be on fantasy benches this week.


Detroit at Oakland

Lions
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
: Big news surrounding the Lions DL this week is the return of Ndamukong Suh from his 2 game league imposed suspension.  As much as I think that Suh is going to come back like a rabid dog this week, I just can't look past how poor the matchup against the Raiders is.  In DT mandatory leagues he is probably worth a shot, but even in those leagues I have enough concern to not give him a 2# rating.  While Suh was out Cliff Avril gave his owners a fantasy roller coaster ride, scoring ZERO points in week 13, but then last week he was in beast mode and scored 27 points.  I know it won't be easy to accept Avril being a 2-star rated play, but the Raiders rank 28th in FPA to DLs this year, and for me that is enough, when coupled with the lows of Avril's season to say he is best left on the bench this week.  Also, I should point out that with Suh returning and Nick Fairley's injury looking better, the Lions saw fit to waiver Jovan Haye, who was recently signed with Suh on suspension.

Linebacker: Justin Durant started last week's game, but he only played in 17 snaps.  Bobby Carpenter ended up playing much of the game in place of Durant, and the 51 snaps he played were the most he played in since playing in 50 snaps in week 6.  I would say that both should be left alone for fantasy purposes.  While those two aren't really viable fantasy options, Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy are.  Tulloch ranks as the #15 scoring LB, and on the season he has scored in double digits in all but three contests. Even those three single digit games weren't total flops, as he scored 7, 8 & 9 points.  This week against a Raiders team that ranks 7th in FPA to LBs, I see Tulloch as a very strong play.  Levy on the other hand has been inconsistent enough that I couldn't see rating him higher than 3-stars, and there is probably some risk in that rating, considering that in his past 5 games Levy has scored in double digits twice, but those were very poor 4 point efforts.

Secondary: The Lions are pretty beat up in their secondary, and that leaves few viable fantasy options for owners to chose from. While the Raiders are a slightly better matchup for CBs than they are for safeties, I still think that Chris Harris and Amari Spievey are the better plays in the Lions secondary this week.  However, if you are in a big play league that really rewards for INTs then it is probably worth rolling the dice on Eric Wright, or even the Lions secondary coach for that matter.  I mean it seems like Carson Palmer is throwing INTs, like Seattle fans are throwing Skittles at Marshawn Lynch when he scores a TD.

Raiders
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 Lions aren't exactly a bad matchup for opposing DLs, but they also aren't very good either.  Couple that with the inconsistent fantasy play of Lamarr Houston and the rest of the Raiders DL, and you have the reason why Houston and company don't garner any ratings higher than 2-stars.  I have Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour as 1-star plays due to how little the Lions run the ball between the guards.  They rank 26th in rushing attempts over left guard, and 28th over right guard.  They do rank a bit higher (17th) in rushing attempts up the middle, but when coupled with the other two listed rankings it is easy to see that isn't enough to make this more than a below average matchup.

Linebacker: For the season the Lions rank as a middle of the road matchup for opposing LBs, but they have given up some very nice games to opposing LBs.  That is why I have Rolando McClain as a 3-star play.  I don't see this as a very strong matchup, but there is enough evidence with past performances that show that McClain has upside in this matchup and I think that coupled with his strong fantasy play over the past three weeks are led me to the feeling that McClain is a starting caliber play for owners this weekend.  Outside of McClain, I think that you need to take a pass on not just Aaron Curry, but also Kamerion Wimbley this week.

Secondary:  If you want to talk about two rankings being about as diametrically opposed as they could be, just look at how the Lions rank in FPA allowed to CBs and safeties.  They rank #2 in FPA to CBs, and only the Saints are allowing more points.  As for the safety position they rank 29th.  That means that the plug and play status of Tyvon Branch is a bit tenuous at best this week.  I know that my 2-star rating probably won't deter many if any Branch owners, but consider yourself warned if you decide to roll with him.  Chris Johnson ended up not playing last week, but this week I think we see him back on the field.  That doesn't mean he isn't a risky fantasy option, because he is.  After all, the next snap he plays will be just the 26th snap he has played since week 3.  Fantasy wise, he might be a risky play, but I think that Lito Sheppard is a good option this weekend.


Cleveland at Arizona

Browns
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:
 Do you remember when you learned to ride a bike? Remember falling off and how you didn't want to get back on that bike.  After all who could blame you, you were scared that you would fall again, and you didn't want to hurt yourself.  But what did you do, you got back up on that bike, and rode it. Of course I am trying to make a point, and that point surrounds rookie Jabaal Sheard.  Sheard was coming off of back to back double digit games (14 & 22 pts) in weeks 12 & 13, and up next for Sheard as a prime matchup against a Steelers team that ranked #1 in FPA allowed to DLs.  But what happened was that Sheard fell flat on his face fantasy wise and scored a measly 1 fantasy point.  So coming off a 1 point effort last week in a prime matchup you probably are a bit "gun shy" and don't want to get back up on that bike this week.  Well, I am here to tell you that you should get back up on it.  No the Cardinals aren't as strong a matchup as the Steelers were, but they still rank 10th in FPA to DLs this year.  Outside of Sheard I think Ahtyba Rubin and the rest of the Browns DLs are risky fantasy options and rated them as such with 2-star ratings.

Linebacker: D'Qwell Jackson still ranks as the #1 overall scoring LB in the league this year, but this week against a Cardinals team that since week 8 ranks 24th in FPA to LBs he could have a hard time hitting his 18.577 PPG average.  Now that I scared you a bit I am still going to say that it would be crazy to bench Jackson this week.  Play him and hope for the best, but expect the worst, just realize that his worst is still usually better than many LBs best.

Secondary: TJ Wards foot injury is supposedly improving but his status for this week is far from clear but a best guess is that he misses his 6th consecutive game.  As much as I would like say Usama Young is a solid option with Ward out of the lineup I just can't.  At best Young is a low floor low ceiling type play, not exactly the type of DB you want to rely on in the playoffs.  Mike Adams did have a very nice game last week, racking up 20 fantasy points.  The problem with Adams is that was just the 2nd time this year that he scored in double digits. Joe Haden has had some nice moments this year, but he has also struggled to put up good numbers at times too, and against a Cardinals team that ranks 25th in FPA to CBs I think it is best to leave Haden on the bench this week too.

Cardinals
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up:
2008:  50,  2009:  49,  2010:  41
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced:      2008:  49,  2009:  49,  2010:  55


Defensive Line:
Calais Campbell continued his solid yet unspectacular play with another 9 point effort against the 49ers last week.  It was Campbell's 4th 9 point game in the past 5 weeks, and his other game was a 10 point effort in week 12. Surely, his owners would like to see some bigger numbers, but they can't complain with the consistency that Campbell is giving them.  This week, he gets to face a Browns team that over the past 3 weeks ranks 10th in FPA to DLs.  While Campbell has been very consistent the same can't be said for Darnell Dockett.  Dockett has scored 10 points in each of the past two weeks, but in four of the prior 6 weeks he scored between 1-5 points four times.  Inconsistent play like that has me in the camp that thinks Dockett makes for a risky play this week.

Linebacker: Daryl Washington has been a very solid fantasy option this year, currently he ranks just 0.50 points from being a top 20 fantasy LB.  If it wasn't for him missing week 2, he very likely would be pushing to be ranked inside the top 15.  Washington has a 14.208 PPG average, and what is nice about his production is that over the past 10 weeks he hasn't scored fewer than 11 points in any week.  This week, he unfortunately faces a Browns team that over the past month ranks 25th in FPA to LBs.  Over that span of time, only Rey Maualuga and Jason Worilds have recorded more than 5 solo tackles against the Browns.  I still feel that Washington should be in starting lineups this week, I just think he has limited upside is all.  As for Paris Lenon, I think he makes for a risky fantasy option with such a poor matchup in front of him.

Secondary: The Browns just don't line up as a very fantasy friendly matchup for the Cardinals CBs this week.  Rookie Patrick Peterson is electric when he gets the ball in his hands, and if you get points for return yardage he could end up being a solid play, but in huddle scoring I think he is a 2-star play at best this week.  Especially when you realize that the Browns rank 24th on the season in FPA to CBs. As far as the safety position goes, the Browns actually are  a pretty good matchup, as they have surrendered the 8th most points to safeties this year.  Unfortunately, in what is a good matchup I just haven't seen enough consistency from the Cardinals safeties to recommend any as a starter this week. To cloud things up a bit, Kerry Rhodes could possibly get back on the field this week and if that happens there is no telling how the Cardinals will use him, Adrian Wilson or Rashad Johnson.


New England at Denver

Patriots
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: 
Buckle up your chin straps boys, this is going to be a wild one. Not really but I felt like I needed something to convey just how much the Patriots DL, namely Andre Carter, I think are going to knock Tim Tebow around.  I am not a fan of Bill Belichick, but he is one hell of a coach, and he may not have a very good defense this year, but I surely think he ramps things up to knock Tebow down a notch or five. Carter has been uber-productive at times this year, and against a Broncos team that ranks #1 in FPA to DLs, I can't see how you don't rate him a 5-star play. Even pass rush specialist Mark Anderson is worth a shot in big play sack heavy leagues. 

Linebacker: Last week I rated Jerod Mayo a 5-star play, and he came through with 19 fantasy points against the Redskins.  This week I am sure many of you are wondering why I have him as just a 3-star play, when he is facing a Broncos team that since week 10, ranks #4 in FPA to LBs.  Well the reason is that I don't think the flow of the game is going to allow Tim Tebow and the Broncos offense to run the ball, and run the ball, and run the ball some more.  I fully expect the Patriots to come out guns a blazin', and if they can capitalize and build a big league, well, that should effectively stall the Broncos rushing attack.  With a stalled rushing attack, Mayo will see limited opportunities to make tackles and score fantasy points. That is probably a view that doesn't fall in line with many others, but that is how I see things shaking out.  

Secondary: The secondary of the Patriots is bad, just plain bad, in NFL terms that is.  Fantasy wise Kyle Arrington, Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty have put up nice numbers at times this year.  Arrington leads the trio in fantasy points scored, but he is also the only one of the three to play in every patriots game so far this year.  Chung can be a beast, but he needs to be on the field, a place he hasn't been for 5 straight weeks now.  As much as I would like to say Chung will or won't play, I can't, I mean you all know how New England is with injuries.  After missing two games due to a shoulder injury McCourty seems to have things clicking again. As for fantasy prospects this weekend, they aren't good, not in the least.  I do think that the Broncos will need to throw the ball much more this week, so that could help Arrington notch another INT, but it doesn't take away that he and the rest of the secondary are just way risky plays this week. For the season the Broncos ranks 26th in FPA to CBs and 30th in FPA to safeties, and looking at recent production doesn't help matters much if at all.  Just do yourself a favor and find DB help elsewhere this week.

Broncos
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: 
Elvis Dumervil is coming off a season high 16 point week, finally doing what his owners have expected him to do, blow up!  This week you might be giddy off of last week's performance, but don't let that cloud your judgement. Against a Patriots team that ranks 29th in FPA to DLs I don't see how you can do anything other than to sit him.  Seriously, find another option at DL, because Dumervil carries a ton of risk this week.

Linebacker: This is not the type of matchup that DJ Williams or Von Miller owners are going to be happy about this week.  Both players have been key cogs for many fantasy teams, but this week you are going to need to lower expectation, a lot. Reason being is that the Patriots on the season rank 25th in FPA to LBs, but to make matters even worse, over the last three weeks they rank 29th.  I have Williams as a 3-star play, but there is a ton of risk in that rating, and quite honestly I am very close to bumping him down to a 2-star rating like Miller has.  Miller has two things going against him this week.  One being that the Patriots don't give up much to pass rushers, and two, they don't do much for LBs.  Double whammy, in a bad week for one whammy.

Secondary: The Patriots present as a good and bad matchup for the Broncos secondary this week.  The good is that the Patriots rank #1 in FPA allowed to the safety position.  The bad is that they only rank 22nd in FPA to CBs. That means that Quinton Carter should be a very good play this weekend, but his sporadic fantasy play has me cautiously rating him a 3-star play.  At CB the numbers say to avoid the Broncos CBs, but I think that nickle CB Chris Harris is in for a solid week. 

NY Jets at Philadelphia

Jets
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: Since the Jets bye in week 8, David Harris has run off 6 consecutive double digit performances, with a high of 18 points in week 12 against the Bills.  This week he faces an Eagles team that for the season ranks 6th in FPA to LBs.  That high ranking is what prompted me to rank Harris as a 4-star play, however, after looking at the production the Eagles have given up recently I think that I was a bit overzealous with his initial rating.  I think that Harris makes for a solid play this week, but I can say that I will be lowering him to a 3-star play. Unlike Harris, Bart Scott hasn't been very good since the Jets bye week.  Over that span of time he has just one double digit performance, thusly making him a risky fantasy option.  Calvin Pace at times makes a nice matchup play, but his pass rushing skills against an Eagles team that doesn't give up much to DLs relegates him to bench status for me this week.  And yes, I know he isn't a DL, but you get the point, or should.

Secondary:  Jim Leonhard may not have been a very effective fantasy option this year, but he is a key cog in the Jets defense.  Leonhard had surgery on his injured knee and is done for the season,  that pushes Brodney Pool into the starting lineup with Eric Smith.  Most weeks Pool will probably be a pretty risky play, but this week against an Eagles team that ranks 3rd in FPA to safeties, I think he makes for a nice DB3 option, and Eric Smith I like as a 4-star play with some upside.  Even if Smith doesn't live up to his 4-star status at worst his recent production suggests he will be in the high single digits.

Eagles
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: 
Trying to figure out exactly how this matchup for Trent Cole and Jason Babin will be this week has been a very difficult thing to do. On one hand, there is data to support this being a very bad matchup, and on the other hand there is data that supports this as a very good matchup. On the bad hand you have the fact that the Jets rank 21st in FPA to DLs this year, and then to make that even uglier you look at the past four weeks, and the Jets rank 31st in FPA to DLs. Additionally, take a look at what Terrell Suggs did in week 4 against the Jets and you will find that all he did was log 2 solos and an assist, good for 5 fantasy points.  If those facts don't present as a strong case for this being a very bad matchup then I don't know what does.  However, on the good side you have the fact that Andre Carter has faced the Jets twice and scored 11 and 24.5 points against them.  Carter's 24.5 points came on the strength of the 4.5 sacks he recorded in week 10.  Elvis Dumervil also had some success against the Jets, posting 9.5 points by logging 2 solos, 1 assist and 1.5 sacks.  So I kept looking at one hand, and then the other, then back to the one hand, and again back to the other. So after making myself dizzy I settled on Cole and Babin as 3-star plays.  Yes there is risk/downside, but there is also some upside to be had.  So if you need a safe solid option at DL this week, then Cole and Babin aren't for you, but if you can take the risk associated with them for a chance at their upside, then plug them in and hope for the best. 

Linebacker: It isn't a secret that the Eagles run defense has been suspect at times this year, and because of that I really expect Jets coach Rex Ryan to lean heavily on his rushing attack.  Last week, Jamar Chaney lost his status as a 3-down LB, as the team replaced him in passing situations with rookie Casey Matthews.  Remember him?  He is the guy that began the year as the Eagles starting MLB, but he got benched, largely due to his weakness in the running game. So that means that either Chaney was that bad in coverage, or Matthews improved that much in practice.  The answer is most likely somewhere in between, but Chaney has been bad and looked lost at times in pass coverage.  Last week, Matthews in a nickel role actually played more snaps (50) than Chaney (21) did. With me expecting a heavy dose of the Jets running game is why I have Chaney as a 3-star play, and honestly, if he was a 3-down LB this would be a 4 or 5-star matchup.  As for Matthews, Akeem Jordan, and Keenan Clayton (the other nickel LB) they should all be on fantasy benches.

Secondary: Kurt Coleman had another solid performance, posting 15 fantasy points on the strength of 5 solos, 1 assist, 1 pass defensed, and 1 almost a pick 6 interception. As a Coleman owner, I was sick that he didn't get in for the TD on that interception, but I was even sicker at the fact that LeSean McCoy, who I was playing against, is the one that punched it in.  Fantasy football can be cruel at times, last week it was cruel to me, and this week it looks like it will be cruel to everyone else that owns Coleman.  Note that it isn't cruel to me because I got knocked out of the playoffs.  Anyway, facing a Jets team that for the season has given up the 27th fewest FPA to safeties, and that since week 11 ranks 30thin FPA makes Coleman a bad play.  I know accepting him as a 2-star play isn't easy, but heed my warning, because it is, what it is. If Coleman isn't a good play then that means that there aren't any other good plays in the Eagles secondary. Nnamdi Asomugha and Asante Samuel haven't seen a double digit game in over a month, and Nate Allen the other starting safety has scored 5 or fewer points in 4 of his last 6 games.

Baltimore at San Diego

Ravens
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: 
I know you werent' expecting there to be any math, but I have some new NFL math for you.  SDL + SOL =5*P  Now to help you understand how the new math works and what it all stands for...SDL(Stud DL), SOL (Suspect OL) = 5-Star Play.  Now take that and apply it to Terrell Suggs, and go plug him into your lineups.  That was an attempt to avoid saying, [Caveman Voice]Suggs good, Suggs stud, Suggs plug and play LB [/Caveman Voice].  Haloti Ngata started out the season on fire, but for much of hte second half of the season he has been very inconsistent, enough so that at this point he is risky as a starter in combined leagues, but in DT mandatory leagues he is still a must start.

Linebacker:  Ray Lewis has now missed the Ravens last four games due to a toe injury.  However, this is the week that Lewis was said to be expected by, and it looks like he most likely will return to the field this week.  Practice wise he was limited on Wednesday and Thursday, but unless he has a setback it sounds like the Ravens believe he will play against the Chargers this week.  Fantasy wise, if Lewis is healthy and playing it would be hard to sit him, even after four weeks off,  but only if you are Ray Lewis.  So if you need to play him, make sure to check inactives and then if he is a go, you can look at him as a 3-star play with a 4-star matchup.  Even if Lewis plays I think that Jameel McClain makes a decent option as a 3-star LB3 this week.

Secondary: Last week I warned that Bernard Pollard was a risky fantasy option against the Colts.  So his 8 point fantasy effort shouldn't have come as a complete surprise.  This week, Pollard owners, if they are still alive in the playoffs will be much happier to know that the Chargers rank 5th in FPA to LBs.  The Chargers are an even better matchup for the Ravens CBs, ranking 3rd in FPA to CBs.  Lardarius Webb is dealing with a toe injury, and didn't practice on Wednesday or Thursday, and is a long shot at best to play this week.  If Webb can't go then look for rookie Jimmy Smith to start in his place, fantasy wise I have Smith as a 3-star play, but the more I think about it, I am going to bump him up to a 4-star play.  Reason being, the good matchup, and the fact that Phillip Rivers will probably try to "pick" on the rookie, which should lead to opportunities for more fantasy points.

Chargers
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.  That is with the exception of Antonio Garay who most weeks has value in DT mandatory leagues, and this week is one of those weeks. 

Linebacker: Donald Butler and Takeo Spikes look like they should be able to give their owners an early Christmas present this week.  The Ravens come into this game having given up the 8th most FPA to LBs this year.  Just as I have you thinking you are getting a nice Christmas present I get to play the Grinch and snatch that gift away from you.  By that I mean that over the last four weeks the Ravens rank 26th in FPA to LBs. That my friends is why I had to downgrade both Spikes and Butler to 3-star plays.  Look at it this way, at least I wasn't grouchy Grinch or I would have taken all the stars away.

Secondary: When it comes to the secondary there won't be any "Grinching", because simply put, the Chargers are a below average matchup for both CBs and safeties.  I have Eric Weddle as the only 3-star play in the secondary, but i even see him as a slightly risky play.  So if you have better options, I would look to use them this week.  At best, you are probably looking at 10-11 points for Weddle.  Steve Gregory is coming off a huge 24 point performance, but I don't recommend chasing the points with him.  First of all, those 24 points represent the first time he has hit double digits since week 8, and lastly this matchup just isn't a good one. Sitting him is the most prudent thing to do as I see it.

Pittsburgh at San Francisco

49ers
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: 
Lasts  week Jabaal Sheard and the Browns DL had a very good matchup against the Steelers, yet none of the Browns DLs were able to score in double digits.  I only point this out so that Justin Smith owners realize that even though he has a great matchup against a Steelers team that for the season ranks #3 in FPA to DLs, that a great performance from Smith isn't a lock. Especially when you realize that over the past three weeks the Steelers rank just 21st in FPA to DLs.  Now with all that said, I still have Smith as a 4-star play. My reasoning is that, one, the Steelers have been a good matchup for much of the year, and two, Smith has a non-stop motor and I think he has the added motivation of trying to help secure a bye week in the playoffs for the 49ers. 

Linebacker:  One of the biggest questions in all of fantasy football this week has to be if Patrick Willis is going to be able to play or not.   As of this writing Willis did NOT practice on Thursday, and his status for Monday night isn't clear.  With Willis playing on Monday you can look at it two ways, one being that he has an extra day to heal.  The other way is that he is a risky option if you don't own another 49ers LB that you can sub in if Willis is declared inactive.  My best guess is that Willis will NOT play this week, but either way, I think it is much safer for fantasy owners to just suck it up,  sit him down, and find another option to use this week.  If you had the ability to nab Larry Grant off the wire then you can play one or the other, but even if Grant plays, I don't see him as a rock solid option this week.  With Willis out of the lineup last week NaVorro Bowman wore the "Green Dot" communication helmet.  Fantasy wise, I am sure his owners were expecting better production with Willis not there to cannibalize tackles.  The Steelers don't present as a very good matchup for LBs, but Bowman has played well enough for most of this year that he should be in lineups this week, I just would temper expectations some is all. Each of the past two weeks I have said that I liked Aldon Smith due to his ability to get after the QB, and in back to back weeks he has posted 15 and 14 fantasy points.  This week, I see Smith once again as a swing for the fences type play.  Just understand that his 4-star rating has plenty of risk in it, but I see enough upside to "risk" giving him the 4-star rating.

Secondary:If you look at the entire season the Steelers look like they are a good matchup for the 49ers CBs. After all the Steelers have given up the 5th most points to CBs in the NFL this year.  However, since week 11, they rank 21st in FPA allowed to CBs.  That is the exact reason why I have both Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown as 2-star plays.  As far as safeties Dashon Goldson and Donte Whitner go, it looks like an uphill battle for them this week.  The Steelers rank 21st in FPA to safeties this year, and there isn't anything in the recent production that they have allowed that makes me feel like this is a good matchup for either player.  That is unless you want to put credence into Mike Adams performance last week.  For me, I wouldn't, I see that more as the "blind squirrel" type deal.

Steelers
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: Lots of risk with the Steelers LBs as I see it this week.  For starters, the 49ers have been a very hit or miss matchup for opposing LBs.  Never mind that they rank 28th on the season in FPA to LBs, I am more concerned with the fact that they have given up 9 or more solos twice in the last 5 weeks, but in the other 3 weeks no LB logged more than 4 solos.  Add that to the questions about who plays the OLB spots with James Harrison suspended.  Plus not knowing how much/effective Lamarr Woodley will play, it should be easy to see why I am pessimistic about week 15 for him, Lawrence Timmons, James Farrior and crew.

Secondary: After the Steelers bye in week 11 it looked as if Ike Taylor was going to be a viable fantasy option for the playoffs for fantasy owners, but after posting weeks of 12 and 19 points, he crashed back down to earth with a paltry 2 point effort.  Take Taylor's inconsistent play, and add that to a 31st ranking for the 49ers in FPA to CBs, you get a CB that is best left on the bench this week.  The 49ers may not be a good matchup for CBs, but for safeties they are a solid matchup, giving up the 9th most points to safeties over the last three weeks.  For my money that makes Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark solid 3-star plays.  The reason I use the word solid is because both are at worst usually very close to 10 points so their floor isn't so bad.


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