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Behind the Iron Curtain
By Dave Foral
September 4, 2003
 

I’d like to welcome you all to another year of IDP and fantasy football madness, and madness it’s been this off-season and pre-season. Free agency has rocked its share of teams this year, and the quality of players that have been placed and picked up off the waiver wire has been significantly high. As a result, there are definitely defenses that have improved and suffered, and analyzing the effect of these moves on Individual Defensive Players will prove critical to your fantasy football success this year. I’m hear to help and plan on sharing with you weekly insight of who’s hot and needs to be in your starting line up, and who’s not and should be relegated to your bench.

Linebackers

HOT

Don’t let the fact that Takeo Spikes, Buffalo Bills, didn’t participate in preseason action distract you from the fact that he is poised to have a monster year. He’s got great support in the LB corps with London Fletcher and Jeff Posey. The defensive line will be clogged by Sam Adams and Pat Williams, and the recent addition of Lawyer Milloy solidifies the last piece of the puzzle for the Bills’ D. Spikes is a true outside linebacker with incredible speed and a nose for the ball. Look for double digit sacks from Spikes, as well as an above average total of tackles. Another free agency mover and shaker that will benefit greatly in a new defense is Mike Peterson, Jacksonville Jaguars. He’s moved from outside to MLB, and has shown great intensity in run support this pre-season. Peterson will definitely benefit from a solid D Line, headlined by the addition of Hugh Douglas, as well as a young and strong interior line combo of John Henderson and Marcus Stroud. Peterson will be among the league leaders in combined tackles this year, without a doubt. Shawn Barber, Kansas City Chiefs, tore it up in pre-season and seemed to be around the ball on every single play. Barber will also benefit from a solid defensive line, and his athleticism will rank him high in sacks and turnovers this year. He is being depended on to be a team leader on a young D, and so far he’s living up to his expectations.

NOT

One has to wonder if Dan Morgan, Carolina Panthers, can be depended on this year. Last year, Morgan suffered from a multitude of injuries that kept him off the field, and this prevented him from realizing his true potential. With arguably the league’s best defensive lines, Morgan should be in a position to lead the league in tackles, but he’s already incurred his first injury of the year, breaking his hand. He plans on playing with a cast, but it will undoubtedly effect his performance, especially in the turnover department. Morgan has the talent to be a stud in the NFL… it’s just his health that has me a bit worried. Don’t expect great things from Junior Seau, Miami Dolphins, this year. He’s definitely lost a step and has been burned repeatedly in pre-season. He will definitely add leadership and intensity to an already established D, but he will be a role player on the field that will allow other players, like Zach Thomas and Sammy Knight, to rake in the tackles and fantasy stats.

Start ‘em If You Got ‘em

Sam Cowart, NY Jets, against the WAS Redskins
Earl Holmes, DET Lions, against the AZ Cardinals
Al Wilson, DEN Broncos, against the CIN Bengals
Rob Morris, IND Colts, against the CLE Browns
Chris Claiborne, MIN Vikings, against the GB Packers
Mike Maslowski, KC Chiefs, against the SD Chargers
Keith Brooking, ATL Falcons, against the DAL Cowboys
Anthony Simmons, SEA Seahawks, against the NO Saints
Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens, against the PIT Steelers
Jamie Sharper, HOU Texans, against the MIA Dolphins
Mike Peterson, JAX Jaguars, against the Carolina Panthers
Takeo Spikes, BUF Bills, against the NE Patriots
Tommy Polley, STL Rams, against the NY Giants
Brian Urlacher, CHI Bears, against the SF 49ers
Eric Barton, OAK Raiders, against the TEN Titans
Derrick Brooks, TB Bucs, against the PHI Eagles

Defensive Linemen

HOT

If you didn’t know him before he caught Mike Vick from behind on the infamous play that broke Vick’s fibula, you probably know all about Adalius Thomas, Baltimore Ravens. Thomas has freakish speed, plays like a linebacker, and should enjoy a phenomenal year on one of the league’s best, top-to-bottom, defenses. He should definitely realize double-digit sacks this year, as well as an above average number of tackles for a D Lineman. Watch for Justin Smith, Cincinnati Bengals, to have a breakout year under new head coach and D guru Marvin Lewis. There may not be another D Lineman with a motor that runs as high as Smith’s, and he’s got plenty of support on an improved defense. Smith will easily eclipse the double-digit mark for sacks on his way to a Pro Bowl-caliber year. With addition of stud DE Vonnie Holiday, look for Eric Hicks, Kansas City Chiefs, to realize his full potential this year. Holiday will undoubtedly realize the bulk of the double-teams this year, and with Ryan Sims and John Browning adding strong play in the middle, Hicks should be a dominant force against opposing QBs this year.

NOT

Courtney Brown, Cleveland Browns, has been almost a complete bust since entering the NFL 2 years ago. While his injuries have been plenty and well-documented, it’s his attitude that’s been questioned recently in the Browns’ camp. It is possible that if he can stay healthy and head coach Butch Davis can motivate him to perform, Brown could realize an above average year. But Brown has been slow to enter the NFL fray this year already, so keep an eye on him over the first game or two before adding him to your roster. Similarly, it will probably pay to sit tight with Jevon Kearse, Tennessee Titans. Kearse is another great player with unmistakable talent… who cannot seem to stay healthy. He’s played it pretty close to the vest in preseason, so we’ve yet to see if he’s healthy enough to leverage his incredible outside speed rush. I’d certainly have Kearse in my line up, but I would also have a very good backup just in case he can’t find his way out onto the field this year.

Start ‘em If You Got ‘em

John Abraham, NY Jets, against the WAS Redskins
Trevor Pryce, DEN Broncos, against the CIN Bengals
Jason Taylor, MIA Dolphins, against the HOU Texans
Dwight Freeney, IND Colts, against the CLE Browns
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, GB Packers, against the MIN Vikings
Eric Hicks, KC Chiefs, against the SD Chargers
Pat Kerney, ATL Falcons, against the DAL Cowboys
Adalius Thomas, BAL Ravens, against the PIT Steelers
Julius Peppers, CAR Panthers, against the JAX Jaguars
Hugh Douglas, JAX Jaguars, against the CAR Panters
Richard Seymour, NE Patriots, against the BUF Bills
Michael Strahan, NY Giants, against the STL Rams
Andre Carter, SF 49ers, against the CHI Bears
Warren Sapp, TB Bucs, against the PHI Eagles

Defensive Backs

HOT

Mike Minter, Carolina Panthers, could have an incredible year if the Panther LB corps stays healthy. Minter is not a big safety, but he is a ferocious tackler and will be in on his share of interceptions and sacks. If Morgan can contribute in the middle, I predict big things this year for Mike Minter. Another safety that will see his share of hitting this year is Adrian Wilson, Arizona Cardinals. Wilson may the only player on the fantasy radar for IDP on the Cardinal team this year. Both the LB And DL corps are in disarray with injuries, and Wilson steps right in to assume the role of tackling machine on the field this year. Last but not least, second year safety Ed Reed, Baltimore Ravens, should have a Pro Bowl season this year. He’s got an incredible supporting cast, and brings a great nose for the ball. Reed could end up as 2nd high point producer behind Mr. Ray Lewis on this stellar D.

NOT

Even though Coy Wire, Buffalo Bills, had a promising rookie season last year, one has to expect that he will take a back seat, if not lose playing time altogether, this season now that the team has added veteran leader, Lawyer Milloy. Wire is a solid tackler, good in run support, but is still raw and cannot contribute the total package the way Milloy does. One of the league’s best cover men is also one of the most frail, as Shawn Spring’s, Seattle Seahawks, shoulder injury illustrates. Just as head coach Mike Holmgren was gaining momentum and had a solid D assembled, Springs let the air out of the sail, and he’s not expected back to the team for 8 weeks. Marcus Trufant will assume the CB position in Springs’ absence.

Start ‘em If You Got ‘em

Ifeanyi Ohalete, WAS Redskins, against the NY Jets
Adrian Wilson, AZ Cardinals, against the DET Lions
Kenoy Kennedy, DEN Broncos, against the CIN Bengals
Robert Griffith, CLE Browns, against the IND Colts
Darren Sharper, GB Packers, against the MIN Vikings
Greg Wesley, KC Chiefs, against the SD Chargers
Roy Williams, DAL Cowboys, against the ATL Falcons
Ed Reed, BAL Ravens, against the PIT Steelers
Sammy Knight, MIA Dolphins, against the HOU Texans
Mike Minter, CAR Panthers, against the JAX Jaquars
Donovin Darius, JAX Jaguars, against the CAR Panthers
Lawyer Milloy, BUF Bills, against the NE Patriots
Adam Archuleta, STL Rams, against the NY Giants
Mike Brown, CHI Bears, against the SF 49ers
Lance Shulters, TEN Titans, against the OAK Raiders
Brian Dawkins, PHI Eagles, against the TB Bucs

Top 10 Team Defenses

1. MIA Dolphins vs. HOU Texans – HOU O Line still very suspect
2. PHI Eagles vs. TB Bucs – Payback time from last year’s playoffs
3. CAR Panthers vs. Jax Jags – Best D Line vs. subpar O Line
4. ATL Falcons @ DAL Cowboys – DAL QBs still very mistake-prone
5. TB Bucs @ PHI Eagles – MNF opening statement from Champs
6. PIT Steelers vs. BAL Ravens – Even without Porter, a very solid D
7. BUF Bills vs. NE Patriots – Most improved D though free agency and waiver wire
8. BAL Ravens @ PIT Steelers – Ravens will shut down ground game and pressure QB
9. GB Packers vs. MIN Vikings – GB should be able to focus on pass D = turnovers
10. KC Chiefs vs. San Diego – Faster, healthier D versus rival

As always, be sure to check the latest injury reports before submitting your roster. Good luck in your first week, and thanks for supporting The Huddle!