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.
Week 17 is upon us, and many fantasy leagues had their championship games last week, but for those that didn't this is the biggest week of the year for you. Much of this week's article is going to be straightforward and to the point based on risk/reward. I actually contemplated rating everyone either a 1, 3 or 5-star play, but in the end decided to stay consistent with how ratings were done all year. Good luck and I hope everyone found the weekly IDP Game Breakdowns along with the Tackle Stats, IDP Star Ratings and the Friday Injury and Practice Report to be valuable resources.
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!
San Francisco at St. Louis
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: If you are a Justin Smith owner you know what you have in him, a consistent and safe fantasy option. This week Smith once again belongs in fantasy lineups, and against a Rams team that ranks in the top 10 in FPA to DLs he even has some upside.
Linebacker: I know that what people want to know is if Patrick Willis is going to play or not. Well, the answer to that question is, it depends. Evidently, Willis "is expected to be available for the 49ers' season finale, if the team decides to play him.". More than likely the decision will be based on if they NEED him to beat the Rams. For my money, if you are a Willis owner you can't afford to risk having him in your lineup this week. The only reason I have Larry Grant rated as a 1-star play is simply because of the risk that Willis "could" play, I know it is doubtful but week 17 isn't a week to be taking unnecessary risks in. NaVorro Bowman, simply put, leave him in your starting lineups this week.
Secondary: Here is all you need to know about the 49ers' DBs this week, Kellen Clemens. Seriously, way to much risk to rely on starting Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner or even Carlos Rogers against the Rams this week.
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: Here is our first swing for the fences play of the week. Chris Long has put up some nice numbers this year, but he has been inconsistent at times too. Relying on him in your starting lineup from week to week can be a risky proposition, and this week is no different. However, the 49ers are a nice option for opposing DLs, ranking 6th in FPA allowed to the position. So if you need to swing for the fences, Long and even James Hall or Robert Griffin are decent options.
Linebacker: James Laurinaitis, plug and play, don't over think things just keep him in your lineups. As for Chris Chamberlain, his production has been solid and with this matchup I see him as a safe 3-star play this week. Doubtful you see much upside, but little downside exists too.
Secondary: The 49ers are a middle of the road matchup for safeties this year. Darian Stewart and Quintin Mikell have been pretty solid producers for much of the season, and even though this isn't a strong matchup, each should put up solid numbers for their owners this week. Just don't expect them to carry your DBs this week.
Washington at Philadelphia
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: This is an easy one for fantasy owners. If you own London Fletcher and Perry Riley, you keep both in your lineups this week. However, realize that they aren't playing in Washington, which means they are far less likely to rack up assists like they do in their home games, but in Philadelphia, where assisted tackles are hard to come by. That means, temper your expectations. Something in the neighborhood of a 6-8 solos with 2-3 assists for Fletcher and 5-7 solos with an assist or two for Riley. As for rush OLBs Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, leave them on the bench this week. Far to much risk with little upside against an Eagles team that doesn't give up much to pass rushers.
Secondary: As I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, you would probably be best served by avoiding the DB situation with the Redskins. However this week facing an Eagles team that ranks 4th in FPA to safeties I can see rolling the dice on a Redskins safety. Pick your poison if you may, but for me, I would roll with Reed Doughty if I had to make a choice. DeAngelo Hall has been a pretty consistent scorer this year, but against an Eagles team that ranks just 19th in FPA to CBs he could find things a bit tough going this week. He is probably one of the riskier 3-star plays out there this weekend.
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: If you own either Trent Cole or Jason Babin you plug them into your lineup this week. I don't care how frustrating they have been this year, just get them in your lineups. Sure they could crap the bed like they have in previous weeks, but they could also go nuts, and that can't be said about many DL. You just have to chalk it up to risk/reward, where the reward is far high enough to warrant the risk. Plus it helps that since week 12 the Redskins rank #1 in FPA to the DL position. In DT mandatory leagues that nugget would also have me plugging Cullen Jenkins into my lineups.
Linebacker: PROCEED WITH CAUTION!! I have both Jamar Chaney and Casey Matthews rated as 3-star plays, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a ton of risk associated with each, because there is. The Redskins for the season rank as the #1 team in FPA to LBs, and that is why I have both as a 3-star play. But with neither playing 3-downs it is easy to see why they are a risky option. Treat each as a swing for the fence option where you will be happy if they at least hit a double in the gap.
Secondary: Kurt Coleman has been a big producer for fantasy owners this season, but a biceps injury has landed him on injured reserve. That means that rookie Jaiquawn Jarrett will get back on the field this week. The Redskins are a very nice matchup for safeties and I see Jarrett making a nice bit of noise this week. Should be a glimpse of what dynasty league owners can hopefully expect from him next season. Also, it is being speculated that not only will Asante Samuel not play this week, but that he has played his final snap as an Eagle.
Detroit at Green Bay
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 43, 2009: 48, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 54, 2009: 53, 2010: 51
Defensive Line: The Lions may not get the Packers starters for much of the game, but that doesn't mean the Lions will let up in a game that they will most likely want to make a statement in. The Lions DL does have a decent enough matchup against the Packers this week, but outside of Cliff Avril I think they are all pretty risky options. Ndamukong Suh hasn't been nearly as productive in the box score as he was last year, and that makes him even a bit risky in DT mandatory leagues.
Linebacker: I really expected Stephen Tulloch (13 pts) and DeAndre Levy (10 pts) to have big games last week, but that didn't materialize. It was like getting a gift card for $10 as a gift, when you were expecting at least a $25 gift card. This week against the Packers, who rank 30th in FPA to LBs, I don't see how you can risk having either in your lineups. To much risk, and not nearly enough reward. Don't tempt the numbers with this one, sit them down, and look for better options. Oh and Justin Durant, he was the one that got the $25 gift card last week.
Secondary: The Packers are an average matchup at best for CBs and for safeties they are bad, very bad, ranking 30th in FPA. Add in that Aaron Rodgers is likely to play no more than the first half and it is easy to see why I don't have any of the Lions DBs rated above 2-stars this week.
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 I pointed out that while Desmond Bishop very well might play that there was just to much risk to rely on playing him considering he played on Sunday night. If you were a risk taker you probably tuned me out and if so, you were richly rewarded. Not only did Bishop put up a very nice game last week, he showed that he can easily be relied on this week too. Of course the matchup isn't the best, but if you are a Bishop owner, I say keep him in your lineup. Yes there is the risk that he may not play the entire game, but I think that he plays more than enough to be productive. After all he missed multiple games due to the injury so letting him get his game legs back under him has merit. If you are a regular reader you know that I am not the biggest fan of relying on rush OLBs as they can be very risky options with the scoring system that we use here. However, last week I rated Clay Matthews a 4-star play due to the matchup he had, and he surely didn't disappoint, posting 18 fantasy points, tied for his second best week of the season. This week, thank Mr. Matthews for his contribution in getting you to the the dance, but sit him down and tell him you are going to dance with someone else this week.
Secondary: Again, there is plenty of risk surrounding Packers starters since we don't know exactly how much they are going to play, but I think that both Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams will be on the field enough to take advantage of the plus matchup they have this week. As for Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah, I went back and forth on which to rate as the 2-star and 3-star play, in the end I decided on Burnett, but quite honestly, I still am not 100% on him being the one to start this week.
TEnnessee at Houston
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: Finally, Derrick Morgan showed a glimmer of hope that he could end up being a fantasy factor in the future. The Texans present as a very nice matchup for opposing DLs, but I can't bring myself to recommend any of them as a starter this week. Morgan, Dave Ball, the entire lot of them were just far to unreliable this year to put a fantasy championship on the backs of any of them.
Linebacker: Colin McCarthy has really come on in the second half of the season for the Titans, and this week, after three weeks of mediocre production, look for McCarthy to ramp things up again. the Texans may not have anything to play for, but that doesn't mean they won't continue to pound the ball with their running game. Over the past month, the Texans rank 3rd in FPA to LBs, so with that in mind, McCarthy's 4-star rating might actually be to low. Akeem Ayers has put up double digits in three straight weeks, but with a limited upside, I don't think he should be in lineups this week. Granted his 1-star rating is probably to low, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't think he is someone fantasy owners should lean on this week.
Secondary: I currently have Jason McCourty and Cortland Finnegan as 3-star plays, but the more and more I think about it the more risk I see in this matchup, and the more likely I am to lower each to 2-stars. The matchup is good, don't get me wrong there, but not knowing how much Taylor Yates plays, and what Jake Delhomme or Jeff Garcia will bring to the table is what leads me to say that they are just to risky to rely on this week. As for Chris Hope and Jordan Babineaux, well we already know what they have done to each others value, which is why they are both 1-star plays.
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: I like JJ Watt the player, I really do, but as long as he plays in a 3-4 front his fantasy value will be limited. That doesn't mean he can't and won't be productive, because he can and will, but he will be inconsistent at times. This week I have him as a 3-star play, but I did go back and forth on that rating from 2-stars to 3-stars. I only point this out because I am on the fence with regards of my expectations from him. Not something you want in a championship game, and seeing as he may not play the entire game, I very well may bump him back down to a 2-star play.
Linebacker: Last week I rated Brian Cushing a 2-star play, I was wrong. This is also what I wrote about Cushing last week, "The Colts are a horrible matchup for LBs, ranking 32nd in FPA to the position. Hard as it will be, I think you need to sit Brian Cushing down this week. You just can't afford to risk a clunker in what will be a championship game for many." Last week, a commenter named Joe, who said the following, "
Sure glad I didn't take the advice on Brian Cushing. He was a beast last night. Sit him on the bench? Really?" decided to call me out on Cushing. All I can say is that I never said that I have crystal ball or would always be correct on my calls, but what I can say is that I look at the numbers, digest them, along with any and all other factors that I think apply and go from there. Which is why I posted the following as an answer to Joe's comment, "
Sorry that you feel me saying to sit Brian Cushing was bad advice, but even knowing the outcome of last nights game I have no qualms whatsoever standing by what I said...
FWIW, prior to last nights game there were a total of 25 ILBs that had scored fantasy points against the Colts....of those 25, TWO recorded more than 4 solos....only 9 of the 25 hit double digits...Curtis Lofton by far had the best fantasy game vs the Colts, posting 23 points (8 solos, 4 assists, and 1 forced fumble)...outside of Lofton the double digit scores posted were (number in parentheses are solos recorded) 10(4), 11(4), 15(6), 11(3), 12(3), 13.5(2), 10(3) & 14(2)...then the other scores were 6(2), 4(1), 4(1), 7(3), 6(1), 7(2), 2(1), 8(1), 3(1), 4(1), 3(1), 8(3), 3(1), 2(1), 8(2) & 3(1)...and if you want to drill down even more just look at the 3-4 ILBs...Ryans (4 solos, 3 assists), Cushing 4 solos, 2 assists), Farrior (2 solos, 2 assists), Timmons (1 solo, 2 assists), Foote (1 solo, 1 assist), Derrick Johnson (3 solos, 5 assists), Belcher (1 solo, 3 assist), Niko Koutouvides (3 solos, 4 assists), Mayo (2 solos, 5 assists), Guyton (2 solos, 1 assist), and depending on if you consider the Ravens a 3-4 or a 4-3 Ellerbe had 1 solo (with NO Ray Lewis)...one other thing that Cushing had was 2 forced fumbles last night, prior to last night, ILBs had forced a grand total of 1 fumbles against the Colts this year...Oh and his sack, that bumps the total of sacks surrendered to ILBs to 1 1/2 for the year...yes prior to last night the Colts had given up a grand total of a 1/2 sack to ILBs all year long....sorry but I am having a hard time seeing where recommending Cushing as a good play would have been the right thing to do...I will be the first to tell you that I, nor anyone else is always going to be right. I am sure that there are many more instances that you can and will find where I was wrong. But there are also going to be times where I am or have been right, hopefully more often than not (will let the rest of the readership be the judge of that)." The reason I am pointing this out is just to let the readership know that there are times the "tea leaves" aren't going to go the way that I think they will, if that happens and it burns you, I am sorry, if it happens and you go against what I said and it benefits you, the congrats. As for Cushing this week, the Titans are another poor matchup and one where I should probably say to leave him on the bench for, but there have been a few big games that warrants looking at Cushing as a swing for the fences type play. Just remember that with nothing to play the Texans could decide to just sit and rest Cushing at any point in the game too.
Secondary: The Titans are a pretty nice matchup for CBs, ranking 6th in FPA to them for the season. Jonathan Joseph is the safest fantasy option but like Cushing he too carries some risk considering there is no telling how much or little he will play. My gut says enough to warrant being a DB3, but the risk limits his upside. As for Glover Quin and the safeties, the Titans aren't a very good matchup at all, ranking just 28th in FPA to the position. That should make it pretty easy to pass on Quinn, and Danieal Manning this week.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
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: This is one of those big risk/reward type plays that could pay off very nicely. In Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney you have two of the very best pass rushers in the NFL, but fantasy wise you have Mathis who is more reliable, albeit not by much this year, and Freeney who is very inconsistent. This week against a Jaguars team that ranks #2 on the season in FPA to DLs, it seems that getting either of the duo into your lineups would be the prudent thing to do. Mathis of course has a bit less risk, hence his 3-star rating vs the 2-star rating of Freeney. Freeney surely fits the swing for the fences risk/reward type play, with him you are either getting the strikeout or the homer. So if you are outclassed by your opponent this week, Freeney is the type of risky play that could help to level the playing field for you.
Linebacker: The Jaguars may only rank 30th in FPA to LBs this year, but for the most part, especially of late, it seems as if a teams top LB is at least putting up a solid double digit score. Pat Angerer may not give you the big production you were getting earlier this year, but he falls into the safe start realm for me. Yes there is a bit of risk, but a 4 solo, 2 assist day, good for 10 points should be a minimum stat like for the ex-Iowa LB. Kavell Conner and Ernie Sims continue to hurt each others value, leading each to be inconsistent fantasy options. On the injury side of things, the Colts placed Phillip Wheeler on injured reserve.
Secondary: Normally it is hands off on opposing DBs that face the Jaguars, but with Antoine Behtea, I am willing to change my stance a bit. Bethea currently is the top scoring DB in all of fantasy, you just can't sit a guy like that down, however, since this matchup is less than stellar I do recommend tempering expectations. As for everyone else in the Colts secondary, just say no, there is just far to much risk against a Jaguars team that ranks 28th in FPA to CBs and 30th to the safety position. Now you know why I said to temper expectations.
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: The Jaguars added another DL to injured reserve, Matt Roth, who just couldn't get healthy after suffering a concussion earlier this year. Jeremy Mincey has been the only bright spot on a wretched Jaguars DL this year, and if you have stuck with Mincey through his rough patch, this week you might just get paid off because of it. Mincey gets to face a Colts team that ranks 5th on the season in FPA to DLs. Since he has been hit or miss a bit of late there is some risk in his 4-star rating, but I wouldn't let that deter me from starting him this week.
Linebacker: Before I published the star ratings I did have both Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith as 3-star plays, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt that their matchup was just to risky/poor to give them a 3-star rating. For the season the Colts rank dead last in FPA to LBs, and over the past three weeks it has been much of the same, ranking 31st. Yes, Brian Cushing did have a monster game against the Colts last week, but those types of performances have been few and far between. Save yourself the heartache and leave them on the bench this week.
Secondary: If you h think the Jaguars have put a bunch of DLs on injured reserve this year, take a look at their CBs. Since week 11 the following CBs have all landed on IR; Rashean Mathis, Derek Cox, William Middleton & Ashton Youboty. Evidentally the safeties were feeling left out because both Chris Prosinski and Courtney Greene joined those CBs on IR. That my friends is what you call a secondary ravaged by injury. Don't be surprised if the Colts are able to move the ball thru the air this weekend, just do yourself a favor and steer clear of the Jaguars DBs.
NY Jet at Miami
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: If you are in a bind at the DL position it probably wouldn't hurt to take a look at Mike Devito and the rest of the Jets DL crew. Just make sure you are in a real bind, because they have all been more miss than hit this year, but if you are in need, it should comfort you to know that over the past month the Dolphins rank #1 in FPA to DLs. Kind of stinks to waste such a strong matchup on the Jets.
Linebacker: While over the past four weeks the Dolphins have been a good matchup for opposing DLs, the same can't be said for LBs. Over that span of time the Dolphins rank just 24th in FPA to LBs, and when you add in that Reggie Bush looks to be questionable at best for this week, it becomes clear that David Harris is a risky 3-star play. So much so that I am planning on downgrading him to a 2-star play. As for Calvin Pace, his 3-star rating is based on how many points the Dolphins are giving up to DLs over the past month. Pace makes for a very nice risk/reward swing for the fences type play, especially in big play scoring leagues.
Secondary: Eric Smith is another of those 3-star plays that I am just quite honestly not 100% sold on. Add to it that Smith is dealing with a knee injury that limited him in practice on Wednesday, along with the fact that over the past month that the Dolphins rank 25th in FPA to the safety position and you can see why I am not solid on the 3-star rating that I gave him. I would say that with the limited upside of this matchup, that Smith should very well be on more benches than he is in starting lineups this weekend.
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: Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett both had fantastic games in a very bad matchup last week, so this week facing a Jets team that ranks #2 in FPA to LBs, there is nary a reason to not have both in starting lineups this week. Yes, I said that both belonged on the bench against the Patriots, and I was wrong. This week I am saying the opposite, let's just hope I am not wrong again.
Secondary: The Jets aren't exactly a prime matchup for the Dolphins secondary this week. However, there is still some value to be add, not much but some. The Jets rank 12th in FPA to the safety position so getting Yeremiah Bell into your lineup should payoff a bit, not handsomely but still it should pay off. As for Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, leave them on the bench. Facing a Jets team that ranks 29th in FPA to CBs makes them a very risky option that has very little upside. Plus Davis is dealing with an elbow injury he suffered against the Patriots.
Chicago at Minnesota
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: Live by the sword, die by the sword. That is what you get with players like Julius Peppers. By nature the DL position is much like that of the WR position, one of much inconsistency, and if you own a top WR like Mike Wallace or Vincent Jackson, you know how hard it is to sit them. Well it is the same with a player like Peppers, except it is even harder to sit him because there are far fewer viable options to sub in at DL than their are at WR. This week, after coming off of a ZERO point effort in week 16 I am sure you will be gun shy regarding Peppers, but sorry to say, you still have to plug him into your lineup. No the matchup isn't stellar, the Vikings rank 20th in FPA to DLs this year, but you don't want to be the one that says, "figures Peppers went off, I left him on my bench!".
Linebacker: For years, both Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs have been huge for their fantasy owners, and for much of this year it was more of the same. However, of late, that isn't exactly the case. Urlacher has three, THREE, single digits performances (4, 5 & 6 pts) in his last six games, and Briggs has three in his last four weeks (6, 8 & 9 pts). I currently have them both rated as 3-star plays, but the more I look at it the more I see that I should have rated each a 2-star play. Over the past month the Vikings rank 11th in FPA to LBs, which was the major factor in my rating of both LBs as 3-star plays, but seeing how inconsistent they have been has me thinking that I was a bit overzealous with their initial ratings. If you nee to swing for the fences at the LB position you surely don't want to do it with your LB1. Tough as it is to write this, I think each is to risky to rely on this week.
Secondary: The Pro-Bowl starters were just announced this week, and starting at one of the CB spots for the NFC will be Charles Tillman. Tillman is most deserving, but what may shock you is that this will be Tillman's first Pro-Bowl. Fantasy wise I think the entire Bears secondary is a risky play this week, but Tillman, no way I sit him, especially in CB mandatory leagues. My one fear with regards to Tillman is that the Vikes could just chose to steer clear of him this week, but even then, I see Tillman helping out enough in run support to warrant his 3-star rating.
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: Not a good time for Jared Allen to cool off for his owners. Allen has scored just 11 points total the past two weeks, but at least his 8 points last week were much more serviceable than the 3 he scored in week 15. If you are still alive and fighting for your league championship I would have to guess that Allen was a key factor in your regular season success. This week, don't over think it, keep him in your lineup and just hope that he does what he has done most of this year, if he doesn't you really can't be faulted for plugging the #2 overall DL into your lineup. Of course it helps that over the pas three weeks the Bears are a top 10 matchup for opposing DL. Even Brian Robison is worthy of a starting spot this weekend.
Linebacker: This might be hard to fathom but over the past five weeks, the Bears rank #1 in FPA to LBs. Yes, number one, hard to believe considering they have been dealt huge blows by the loss of Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. I have both Chad Greenway and EJ Henderson as the starting plays, but Greenway is far and away the better play, with Henderson being a big risk. However, if you own EJ he is probably a LB3 for you, and in that case, he makes for an excellent swing for the fences LB3 type play this week.
Secondary: The Bears present as a pretty nice matchup for the safety position, ranking 6th in FPA to the position over the past month. Jamarca Sanford isn't a well known name, but he has a nice matchup, and his downside is in the 8-9 point range, making him a solid DB3 play with some upside this week. As for the Vikings CBs, they have an abysmal matchup, facing a Bears team that on the season ranks 32nd in FPA, and over the past four weeks ranks 29th in FPA to the position. That should really be all that needs to be said about that.
Buffalo at New England
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: Just don't do it, do not think twice about plugging in any Bills DL against the Patriots this week. On the season the Patriots are giving up the 5th fewest points to DLs. Seriously, the risk just isn't worth it, not in the least. The last time these two teams faced off earlier this year the entire Bills DL combined to record just 5 solo tackles. Oh and sacks, they recorded NONE.
Linebacker: Both Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett had productive games against the Saints last week. Of course that wasn't the norm, as the Patriots rank as a poor matchup for opposing LBs. Initially, I was going to rank Barnett a 2-star play, but something tells me that the Patriots are going to lean on their running game a bit more than usual this week. Of course that is based on nothing more than a gut feeling so that makes Barnett and his 3-star rating, risky to say the least. Rookie Kelvin Sheppard, would be best left on the bench. I see his 2-star rating more as a signal to bench him, and not one of a sleeper value.
Secondary: The main value on the Bills defense against the Patriots this weekend lies in the secondary. George Wilson may have missed three games, and not returned to the level he was playing at pre-injury, but that very well should change this weekend. I have Wilson as a 5-star play, and while that might be a tad high, facing a Patriots team that ranks #1 on the year in FPA to the safety position, I can't help but think that Wilson puts a big exclamation point on his fantasy season this week. Same goes for Jairus Byrd, but with Byrd scoring in single digits in 3 of the past 5 weeks I was a bit more cautious with his rating, but still see him as a solid 4-star play. At CB, the Patriots haven't been the best matchup, but I still see Aaron Williams being a solid start and building upon his past two double digit games.
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: Last week I warned that Mark Anderson was a swing for the fences type play and not a safe start. Sure the matchup was strong last week, but when you have a player that scores, 10.5, 2, 1, 2 & 18 points you have to realize just how much risk there is in relying on that type of player. Anderson is that type of player, and even with Andre Carter on IR that wasn't going to change anything. Last week Anderson was a swing for the fence type play with a good matchup and he put up a doughnut. He remains a swing for the fences type player, but this week he has a very poor matchup, do yourself a favor and let him practice his swing from your bench.
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo was high on the list of many drafters this year, as high as #1 for many. Well, Mayo didn't exactly live up to those lofty expectations this year, much due to the injury he suffered earlier this season. But whatever the reason, you can't look past the three single digit games (3, 6, & 6 points) that he has had since the Patriots bye week. Yes he is coming off a season high 23 point effort last week, but this week against a Bills team that ranks 27th on the season in FPA to LBs, and 26th over the past month, I see Mayo as a risky fantasy option this week. My 2-star rating might be to low, but even as a 3-star play, I wouldn't expect Mayo to light up the scoreboard this week. Outside of Mayo, the Patriots other LBs are just to risky to recommend starting in a championship game week. That includes Rob Ninkovich who has scored in double digits for three straight weeks.
Secondary: Hopefully by now you have written off Patrick Chung as a fantasy option for this year. Chung has now missed his last 7 games. He was limited in practice on Wednesday, but his status for this week is currently unknown. If I had to guess, I would think that Chung could play some this week, emphasis on some, just to get him back on the field and ready for the postseason, but no way in the world would I put him in my fantasy lineup. However, Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty, against a Bills team that on the season ranks #2 in FPA to CBs, I get them into my lineups no questions asked.
Carolina at New Orleans
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: What does A, B, & C equal if A+B+C=X, and X=Sit them down? A= a Saints team that ranks 25th in FPA to DLs, B= A back injury that kept Charles Johnson from practicing on Wednesday and Thursday, and C=Greg Hardy who hasn't scored in double digits in 10 weeks, and Charles Johnson who has scored 2 points in each of the past two weeks. So there you go, a mathematical equation on how and why you should have both Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson on your bench this weekend.
Linebacker: Going by the numbers it looks as if the Saints aren't a very good matchup for opposing LBs, but that doesn't tell the entire story. While the Saints haven't given up big numbers to the opposing teams entire LB corps, they have given up some nice games to the top or top two LBs. Therefore I see value in rating both James Anderson and Jordan Senn as 3-star options this week. Senn of course does carry a bit more risk than Anderson does, but he is also fighting to prove to the coaching staff that he should be in the starting lineup next year too.
Secondary: Charles Godfrey has a very, VERY nice matchup this week, facing a Saints team that has given up the 2nd most points to safeties this season. Unfortunately, his shoulder is limiting him in practice and that has me a bit trepidatious about him this week. If you own him, monitor the inactive report and if he is active by all means plug him into your lineup, but cross your fingers that his shoulder holds up for the entire game.
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: Hopefully you heeded my warning about Will Smith (4 pts) last week. This week, it is more of the same, I just don't trust Smith enough to recommend him being in a championship lineup. Even against a Panthers team that over the past month ranks as a top 12 team in FPA to DLs.
Linebacker: You might think that me rating the entire Saints LB corps 2-star play is ludicrous, but honestly I am probably being to generous. Over the past month of the season the Panthers rank dead last in FPA to LBs, and over that span of time only four LBs, Mason Foster (4), Sean Weatherspoon (8), Brian Cushing (9), and DeMeco Ryans (6) have logged more than 4 solos against the Saints. Take that and add in the inconsistent production by Jonathan Vilma and crew and you can see why I am recommending that all be left on the bench this week.
Secondary: For the season the Panthers don't rank as a very good matchup for either CBs or safeties, but over the past month they have been downright horrible, ranking 31st to CBs in FPA, and 27th to the S position. That doesn't bode well for Roman Harper owners, who have seen Harper struggle to crack double digits each week since the Saints bye. My initial 3-star rating was probably largely based on Harper's reputation, but when I look at it more objectively I see a DB that is struggling to put up good numbers with what amounts to a horrid matchup. That my friends is why I have downgraded Harper to a 2-star play.
Tampa Bay at Atlanta
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: Here is the deal, the Falcons are a horrid matchup for opposing DLs, and the Buccaneers DLs have been inconsistent at best this year. That makes starting Michael Bennett, Adrian Clayborn or any other Bucs DL a very risky proposition. If you are lucky you will be playing against the Clayborn owner who will be looking for him to bounce back from his 6 point effort, after scoring 12 and 13 points the two weeks prior. If you are that guy, then congratulations to you.
Linebacker: Mason Foster is a risky, no, very risky play this week. If you are looking for an upside matchup with little downside then this isn't it. Over the past three weeks, only Jonathan Vilma (4 solos), and James Anderson (10 solos) recorded more than 3 solo tackles against the Falcons. Over that span of time there have been a total of six LBs that have scored in double digits, which is why I ended up giving Foster a 3-star rating. Quincy Black, Geno Hayes, and Adam Hayward, all to risky to have in lineups this week.
Secondary: Ronde Barber and EJ Biggers have a pretty nice matchup this week. The Falcons over the past month rank 8th in FPA to CBs. I have Barber as the 3-star play, mainly thinking that he will want to go out with a bang in what very well could be the final game of his NFL career. At the safety spot the matchup isn't nearly as nice - over the past month the Falcons rank 22nd in FPA to the safety position. Not exactly the type of matchup I would want to plug Sean Jones or Tanard Jackson in for. Back in week 3, Jones did put up 11 points, but his play of late has been less than inspiring.
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: One point, John Abraham scored one measly point last week. Hey you can't say that I didn't warn you. Don't remember what I wrote last week, try this, "I know that John Abraham is coming off of a massive 25.5 point week, where he logged 4 solos, 1 assist, 3.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. And yes, after that performance I am rating Abraham just a 1-star play. I have to be honest, I did for a moment think about ranking him and Ray Edwards both -5-star plays (yes, that is a negative five)...". Hopefully you weren't defiant and followed my recommendation, not just on Abraham and his 1 point, but also on Edwards and his 2.5 points too. This week, more of the same, leave the both of them on your bench. They just aren't worth the risk.
Linebacker: For the most part the Buccaneers have been a boon for opposing LBs this year. Sean Weatherspoon has put up back to back single digit games for the first time all year, but if you were able to weather that storm and are in the championship game don't let that dissuade you from playing him. Curtis Lofton is dealing with an ankle injury that limited him in practice on Wednesday, but he practiced fully on Thursday, so he should be good to go on Sunday, and if he does indeed play, then he too should be in starting lineups.
Secondary: I won't fault you one bit if you look at my 3-star rating of William Moore and say, there is no way you can put him in your lineup. I know, he has been that frustrating to own this year, and I speak from experience, and with him facing a Buccaneers team that over the past month ranks 31st in FPA to safeties probably makes you even more queasy. However, dig a bit deeper and you will see that the Buccaneers have given up a few nice games of late to safeties. Look, Moore's rating isn't for the faint of heart, and quite honestly it probably should be a 2-stars, but something tells me that he puts up a good stat line this week. Brent Grimes returned to the lineup last week after missing three weeks, all he did was put up 14 points, the second best effort of the year for him. If that is Grimes upside then he too is a bit of a risky play this weekend.
Baltimore at Cincinnati
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: After two consecutive weeks of non-Terrell Suggs like production his owners are fortunate if they are playing in a meaningful game this week. However, as lucky as they might be, the matchup isn't one to make them smile. The Bengals rank 30th in FPA to DLs, making not just Suggs but Haloti Ngata risky fantasy options. With that said, you don't bench a guy like Suggs, you just don't do it. I know I currently have Ngata as a 2-star play, and considering the only stat he recorded the last time these two teams met was an assist I don't see me changing his rating at all, even in DT mandatory leagues he probably should be on the bench this week. Suggs at least put up 8 points, so he should at least be a serviceable play, just temper expectations and don't expect him to carry your D this week is all.
Linebacker: Ray Lewis missed the game due to injury the last time these two teams faced off. However, Jameel McClain logged an impressive 8 solos against the Bengals. While McClain didn't replace Lewis as the starter, I do expect that Lewis will steal much of the value that McClain did. At first blush I did see what looks to be a not so great matchup for Lewis, but looking a bit deeper it does seem that he should at a minimum be able to hit the 10-12 point range.
Secondary: Bernard Pollard might seem a bit high as a 4-star play, but truth be told, I don't think he is rated high enough. Pollard gets a juicy matchup this week, facing a Bengals team that over the past three weeks ranks #1 in FPA to safeties. Giving up such big games as the 17 points to Kerry Rhodes, 15 to Adrian Wilson, 25 points to Quintin Mikell, 14 points to Darian Stewart and the 19 points to Danieal Manning, over the past three weeks. Start Polllard and don't look back. As for the CB position, the Bengals aren't nearly as nice a matchup, ranking 27th in FPA over the past three weeks. With numbers like that I think that Lardarius Webb should be on fantasy benches. On the injury front, Cary Williams was limited on both Wednesday and Thursday by what is listed as a head injury.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 48, 2009: 51, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 47, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: The Ravens are a top 5 matchup for DLs this year, so if you own Michael Johnson, Carlos Dunlap or any other Bengals DLs they should be considered for starting duty this week. However, I recommend only starting them if you are in a swing for the fences type position. Because if you aren't then you could easily be left holding the bag since Dunlap and Johnson as well as the rest of the Bengals DL have been very inconsistent this year. Even Geno Atkins, who has been money in DT mandatory leagues has been inconsistent at at times. But with all that said, you really would be hard pressed to find a much better matchup to try and take advantage of in week 17.
Linebacker: The Ravens are also a top 5 matchup for LBs this year, so if you have been waiting for Rey Maualuga to breakout all year, well this just might be the week for him to do it. Back in week 11 Maualuga put up just 7 points, but this week I really do have a gut feeling that he has one of his best games of the season. However, his poor performance in week 11 is what holds me back from rating him higher than a 3-star play. Same goes for Thomas Howard, I really want to rate him higher, but his 2 solos in week 11 have me proceeding with caution when it comes to him.
Secondary: The Ravens aren't a very good matchup for either the Bengals CBs or safeties, ranking outside the top 20 in FPA to each. Reggie Nelson has had some very nice games this year, but his 2-star rating is a combination of a poor matchup and inconsistent fantasy production. I mean just look at his last six weeks, 1, 10, 9, 21, 3 & 19 points. If you see that as a swing for the fence type player then have it, but when coupled with the matchup, I see far to much risk that outweighs any and all upside that there might be.
Pittsburgh at Cleveland
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 51, 2009: 52, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 46, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: The Steelers run a 3-4 scheme that basically renders their DL useless for fantasy purposes.
Linebacker: This matchup isn't as much about the numbers showing this is a good or bad matchup as it is about two bitter division rivals that just don't like each other very much. Oh and one has had plenty of success and to put it mildly, the other has well been, less fortunate. The Browns aren't a great matchup for pass rushers, but that doesn't mean that James Harrison shouldn't be in fantasy lineups this week. We all know that Harrison plays the game violently, I am sure you have heard the saying, "I am so mad I am seeing red", well Harrison, you might think sees red before he hammers a defenseless player, but you would be wrong he sees orange. I am sure that many see the Steelers romping in this game, and they very well may do just that, but I do see the Browns force feeding Peyton Hillis the ball this week, and that in turn should equate to a solid fantasy week for Lawrence Timmons. You know, Timmons that guy that everyone was ragging on earlier in the year because he wasn't producing, well that guy has now scored in double digits in 6 straight games, and over that span of times he ranks 17th in PPG with an average of 14.833. Sure it isn't top stud like LB1 production, but is solid production for a LB2, and with Timmons there is always going to be upside. As for Harrison, I just expect him to exact some revenge for him getting himself fined on the Colt McCoy hit, it might lighten his wallet again, but I see him having a big day.
Secondary: Here it is, the Browns rank as a top 7 matchup for safeties this year, and with the production that both Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu had in week 14 against the Browns, you have to make sure you have both in starting lineups this week. In 14, Clark logged 10 total tackles (19 pts), and Polamalue 8 total tackles (16 pts), while each might be hard pressed to replicate those numbers the upside is there so take advantage of it. As for Ike Taylor and the rest of the CBs, just say not against a Browns team that ranks 21st in FPA to CBs for the season.
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: Gun-shy, that is the best way to describe how I rated the Browns DL this week. It is no secret that the Steelers are a nice matchup for DLs, however, the last time these two teams met things didn't exactly play out how I, or I am sure many others thought it would. I for one rated rookie Jabaal Sheard, who had just come off of streak of games that saw him post 9, 14 and 22 points, a 4-star play. We all know how that worked out, Sheard followed up his 22 point week 13 coming out party with a measly 1 point effort the following week against the hated Steelers. Following that 1 point performance Sheard bounced back to put up 12 points against the Cardinals, but then last week, another 1 point stinker. So color me scared, the numbers show the Steelers are still a good matchup, but I know I wouldn't be able to pull the trigger on Sheard this week, if you can or can't is another story. As for DTs Ahtyba Rubin and Phil Taylor, I like them as options in DT mandatory leagues, because I do think that we see the Steelers lean heavily on their running game this week.
Linebacker: D'Qwell Jackson has 106 solo tackles this year, and if he can log 9 more solos for 115+ it would represent the most solo tackles in the NFL since Patrick Willis logged a mind blowing 135 in 2007. Against a Steelers team that is a very nice matchup for opposing LBs, he just very well might be able to pull off the feat too, after all, he has recorded 9 or more solos four times this year. Outside of Jackson, you really don't want to rely on Kaluka Maiava, who will be playing with a cast due to a broken bone in his hand, or Chris Gocong.
Secondary: With Charlie Batch likely under center again for the Steelers I think it would be best to avoid the Browns secondary this week. I mean do you really want to rely on Usama Young or Joe Haden, each who have only hit double digits once in the past month? I didn't think so. As for TJ Ward, the Browns finally put him on injured reserve, ending a season that ended long ago for fantasy owners.
Seattle at Arizona
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 put up his second consecutive double digit performance in the past two weeks, an 11 point effort. I pointed out that Clemons can be a very nice matchup DL for his owners, and this week, like last week appears to be a nice matchup for Clemens. For the season he ranks 12th among DL in fantasy scoring, and this week facing a Cardinals team that over the past couple of weeks is a top 12 matchup for DLs, he could find himself as a top 10 DL when all is said and done. I wouldn't call this a swing for the fences type matchup, but one with a bit of upside and not much downside.
Linebacker: David Hawthorne keeps plugging away, his double digit scoring streak is now up to 13 games. His upside isn't what many had hoped for, but he isn't leaving his owners high and dry either. This week, the matchup top 5, but it is solid, and with Hawthorne's consistency I can't see how you don't have him in your starting lineup this week. If you need a big game, then yes, go look for help elsewhere, but if you need safe solid production, then Hawthorne is most certainly your guy. I know that both Leroy Hill and KJ Wright (4 straight double digit games) have scored well at times this year, I just see each as a slight bit to risky to rely on this weekend.
Secondary: Kam Chancellor doesn't have a top notch matchup this week, but facing a Cardinals team that has surrendered the 9th most FPA to safeties over the past three weeks isn't anything to turn your nose up at either. Chancellor is coming off a huge 20 point effort, tieing his best effort of the season from all the way back on week 1. Chancellor is easily the choice of fantasy owners, but NFL wise it was his running mate, Early Thomas that got selected to start in the Pro-Bowl. Thomas isn't a slouch when it comes to fantasy viability either, he just hasn't put up the numbers like Chancellor has this year. This week I have him as a 3-star play too, but if I had to pick between him or Chancellor, I would most likely give the nod to Kam. At CB the Seahawks have a pair of big young corners that look like they are going to be able to hold their own, but fantasy wise, Brandon Browner is the safer more consistent scorer. That doesn't mean that Richard Sherman hasn't put up nice numbers, he has, he has just been much more inconsistent is all. This week against a Cardinals team that ranks 24th in FPA to CBs, I think both make for risky plays and probably should be on fantasy benches this week.
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, Mr. Consistency, finally had a big breakout game for his owners last week. His 19 point effort, was his 2nd best of the year, only being bested by the 22.5 game he had in week 3 against the, get this, wait for it, wait for it...the Seahawks. Get Campbell in your lineup, at worst you are looking at 8-9 points, but there is plenty of upside as can be seen by his week 3 performance. Even Darnell Dockett did well in week 3, but his inconsistent scoring this year, made it hard for me to rate him more than a 2-star play.
Linebacker: Daryl Washington didn't have a good game against the Seahawks the last time these two teams faced off. However, the Seahawks running game is a completely different beast now, or should I say, is in a completely different beast mode now. With the production that LBs have had of late against the Seahawks I don't see how Washington isn't in line for a very nice game this weekend. I mean over the last 6 weeks the Seahawks have given up 11 or more total tackles to six different LBs. If that doesn't scream upside, then I don't know what does.
Secondary: Over the past three weeks the Seahawks haven't been a very good matchup for CBs or safeties. Especially CBs, ranking 31st in FPA to the position over that time span. As for the safety position, it isn't much better, ranking 24th in FPA. In my initial ratings I gave Kerry Rhodes 3-stars, but after thinking about it more, I think the situation is best avoided, and thusly have downgraded him to a 2-star play.
Kansas City at Denver
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: Do you really need me to tell you that Derrick Johnson is as plug and play as you get at the LB position? Or do you need me to point out that the Broncos have given up some very big games to LBs, so expecting Derrick Johnson to get to the 20 point plateau doesn't look like a stretch? Didn't think so. What you might like pointed out is that the Broncos rank #1 in FPA to DLs. Yes I know we are talking about LBs, but follow along. Did you know that Tamba Hali, a pass rushing extraordinaire, was voted as a starting Pro-Bowl OLB? Did you know that Hali's QB used to play for the Broncos and lost his job to Tim Tebow? I have a feeling that Hali is going to make sure to thank Tim Tebow multiple times this week for their QB. Something else that you might not realize is that in this game two of the three starting OLBs for the Pro-Bowl will be playing, the other is Von Miller.
Secondary: The Broncos passing offense has come along since the last time these two teams faced off, but not nearly enough where you will find me recommending to start anyone in the KC secondary against the Broncos. Just isn't going to happen. Sure Brandon Carr, Brandon Flowers or someone else could end up with solid numbers against the Peyton Hillis led, ooops, I mean Tim Tebow led passing attack. So sue me, I get my big bruising RBs mixed up at times.
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: I am far from a Star Wars geek, but does anyone else feel like this game is a matchup between Darth Vader and the dark side versus Luke Skywalker and the "good side"? Hey, I told you I wasn't really a Star Wars geek. Anyway, the problem I am having is figuring out if it is Tebow or Orton that is Vader. I know that Tebow has really inspired his team this year, but this week, I think it is Orton that has the team inspired. So while I guess that Elvis Dumervil will probably get to give Orton an up close and personal hello during the game, I can see his OL stepping up to keep Dumervil and the rest of his DL away from Orton. Even without any added motivation the Chiefs have done a good job limiting the amount of points that opposing DLs have scored at the hands of their QBs. So if you are having a hard time deciphering what I am saying, Dumervil is a risky play, a swing for the fences type play at best.
Linebacker: For the year, the Chiefs have been a rather nice matchup for opposing LBs, however, over the past few weeks the numbers don't really support that trend. However, seeing as Rolando McClain (16 pts), Aaron Curry (10 pts), DJ Smith (15 pts), AJ Hawk (14 pts), David Harris (13 pts) & Lawrence Timmons (15 pts) have all had decent success against the Chiefs since week 12 I think it is safe to expect decent to big numbers for DJ Williams this week. I initially had Joe Mays as a 3-star play, but after looking at things a bit more, I see him as a very risky option, and therefore I lowered his rating to 2-stars. Wesley Woodyard has put up some nice numbers this year, but this week against an anemic Chiefs passing game I don't expect him to do much.
Secondary: Week 17 we may be seeing the final snaps played by some future Hall Of Fame players, such as Ronde Barber and Jason Taylor. Another player that probably joins them in Canton is Brian Dawkins, the difference is that Dawkins may have already played his final NFL snap. A neck injury will more than likely keep Dawkins off the field this week, and while he hasn't announced his retirement like Taylor has, his future as an NFL player doesn't look very promising. With Dawkins sidelined the Broncos will have two rookies starting in their secondary, so maybe that Chiefs passing attack won't be so anemic after all. As for fantasy purposes, I see Rahim Moore, Quinton Carter and the rest of the Chiefs secondary as all being to risky for fantasy lineups this week.
San Diego at Oakland
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.
Linebacker: I can give you one very good reason why you should have both Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler in your starting lineups this week. Upside, pure and simple, it is upside. Over the past three weeks only the Ravens have given up more points to opposing LBs than the Raiders have. Over the past three weeks 5 LBs have scored 16 or more points against the Raiders, with two of them scoring more than 20 points. That my friends is upside, so smile and just cross your fingers that it continues.
Secondary: Over the past three weeks the Raiders have been a better matchup for CBs than they have safeties, ranking 9th vs. 18th in FPA. However, with how inconsistent the Chargers CBs have been, I just don't see putting them in your starting lineup as a very wise thing to do. Over the past month Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer have just one double digit scoring game each. At safety, I have Eric Weddle as the 3-star play, even though his production has somewhat paled in comparison to Steve Gregory's of late. However, Gregory seems to have more downside and thus is a riskier play, so he warrants just 2-stars.
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 Chargers OL is supposed to be banged up and horrible, but you know what, over the past month they rank 21st in FPA to DLs. Far from what I would call a prime matchup. Add that to the fact that over the past month combined Lamarr Houston, Desmond Bryant, Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly have a total of 2 double digit games (two 11 pt games both belonging to Bryant) and it is easy to see why it is bests to avoid each and every one of them.
Linebacker: On the season the Chargers rank 3rd in FPA to LBs. That makes Rolando McClain a nice upside play this week, and when you add in how consistent he has been over the past 4-5 weeks you should feel good about him in your starting lineup. McClain has recorded 7 solos in each of his last four games. So expecting him to minimally put up a 7 solo, 2 assist game seems fairly reasonable to me. Outside of McClain, both Kamerion Wimbley and Aaron Curry have had some very nice games this year. Especially Wimbley, who had his best performance of the year against the Chargers. In case you don't remember, Wimbley tallied 7 solos, 4 sacks and a pass defended, good for 27 points. In his last 7 games since that performance, he has hit double digits just once, and in total the six other games he has scored 28 points. That my friends is what you call risk. Because of it I have Wimbley as a 2-star play, but if you think he can conjure up more of what helped him to those 27 points back in week 10 then by all means, take your swing for the fence. I just think that you are going to be disappointed if that is what you bank on him doing.
Secondary: Michael Huff has missed the last two games due to injury, yet I still saw fit to rate him as a 3-star play. Pretty much goes against everything I believe in, but Huff has vowed that he will play this weekend, and with a division title hanging in the balance, if Huff plays, I think he should be in lineups. Of course you will need to monitor the game day inactives before you can commit to Huff in your starting lineup. If you can't stick around to see if he is active or not then there is indeed to much risk and you should look for another option. The Chargers do present as a very strong matchup for safeties, ranking in the top 10 in FPA this season. Tyvon Branch hit a rough patch the past month, but this week I fully expect him to bounce back in a big way, as evidenced by my 4-star rating for him. I also like Lito Sheppard and Stanford Routt as solid starters against a Chargers team that ranks 3rd in FPA to CBs this season.
Dallas at NY Giants
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: DeMarcus Ware is still on the injury report with a neck injury, it kept him out of practice on Wednesday but he was a limited participant on Thursday. I fully expect Ware to be ready to go this week, in what should be a very chippy NFC East battle for hte division crown. Fantasy wise, Ware makes for a risky option, but with 18 sacks on the year, if you need a swing for the fences play, then Ware is as good as any you will find in the NFL. Just make sure that you realize that he is a risky option is all. If you want a LB that has far less risk then look no further than to Sean Lee. Against a Giants team that over the past three weeks ranks 6th in FPA, Lee makes for a fantastic LB1 this week. I know that Lee is coming off of back to back single digit performances, but that doesn't concern me in the least. Also, it should be noted that with last week's game being meaningless the Cowboys pulled Lee from the game to rest him up for this week.
Secondary: For the season the Giants are a top 5 matchup for opposing CBs and a middle of the road matchup for the S position. However, with the way the Cowboys CBs have played with regards to fantasy production, you just can't bank on any of them as a starter this week. Terrence Newman's last four weeks go 10, 6, 6 & 12 points scored, the 10 and 12 aren't bad, but can you really risk the 6 point clunker in a championship game? No, I didn't think so. Then there is Orlando Scandrick, scoring 7, 9, 14 & 3 points, I mean come on, not exactly awe inspiring numbers, and Mike Jenkins, yeah we won't even go there. Things aren't even much better at the safety spot. Gerald Sensabaugh has scored 7, 5, 12, 0 & 4 points over his last 5 games, and Abram Elam, he hasn't scored in double digits since week 8. You have been warned, start anyone in that motley crew at your own risk.
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: For much of the season the Giants have played somewhat uninspired ball on the defensive side, but with the injuries they have had to fight thru it is almost understandable. If one thing was a constant all year, it was that the Giants can get after the QB, and much of that was due to the play of Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP wasn't expected to anchor the Giants DL this year, but with injuries to Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora he did just that, and after scoring 68 points over the past three weeks he has overtaken Jared Allen for the top spot among DL in fantasy scoring. If you own JPP you know there is no way you aren't starting him this week, and I surely won't try and talk you out of it. JPP is white hot, and you ride that until you can't ride it anymore. As far as Tuck and Umenyiora goes, I also think that both should be in your lineups this week. Tuck is a given due to his upside, but Umenyiora might seem a bit odd, especially considering he hasn't played in over a month, but if he is active and you own him, I think he is worthy of the risk associated with playing him. I mean it isn't like he would need to do much to put up viable numbers, 1 strip sack would be good for 8 fantasy points, so that is why I see upside with Osi and feel he is worth the risk. Just make sure you check the inactives before inserting him into lineups this week.
Linebacker: For the season the Cowboys rank 8th in FPA to LBs, and that was largely the reason why I have Michael Boley as a 4-star play. However, after digging a bit deeper I found that only one LB over the past three weeks has recorded more than 5 solos against the Cowboys. Leading to the Cowboys ranking just 24th in FPA over that span of time, and also leading to me downgrading Boley to a 3-star play, and quite honestly, without much upside to the matchup it would probably be more prudent to lower him to a 2-star rating. Mathias Kiwanuka hasn't scored in double digits for five weeks, so expecting him to break that streak this week probably isn't the best thing to bet on.
Secondary: If you want to know why I don't have a single Giants secondary player rated above a 2-star play the reason is that over the past three weeks the Cowboys haven't been a good matchup at all, not for CBs or the S position. Over that span of time the Cowboys rank 22nd in FPA to CBs and to the S position a nauseating 30th. Mix in the inconsistent play of Antrel Rolle(11, 6, 8 & 14 pts), Kenny Phillips (3, DNP, 14 & 7 pts), Corey Webster (9, 0 5 & 19 pts), and Aaron Ross (9, 6, 5 & 7 pts) over the past month and as you can see, there is plenty of downside with very little upside. Save yourself the heartburn and avoid the Giants DBs this week.