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Behind the Iron Curtain - Week 4
By Dave Foral
September 25, 2003
 

Linebackers

WHO'S HOT

Sam Cowart, New York Jets, is in fine form after battling injury last year. Cowart is an incredible athlete and, with his offense struggling, his upside potential this year is phenomenal as he should find himself on the field plenty. He leads the league in tackles, and Cowart's effort against the Patriots in Week 3 was stellar, logging 7 solo and 9 assisted tackles, 1 sack, and a forced fumble. Robert Thomas, St. Louis Rams, has flourished so far in his 3rd season in the NFL. After starting outside, Thomas is now entrenched at the MLB spot, and he's utilizing his speed to get to the ball all over the field. Against the Seahawks, he pulled in 7 solo tackles and a sack, and I anticipate that he'll be in action more so than not, as the Ram offense just isn't the same without Marshall Faulk in the line up. So far, so good for Brian Simmons, Cincinnati Bengals. Simmons was a fantasy disappointment last year, as he seemed to sparkle and fade way too often, especially as the season progressed. There is no doubt, however, that Simmons has talent, and like the aforementioned Cowart and Thomas, one can expect that he will be disproportionately on the field more than he should be with a struggling offense. In Week 3, Simmons continued his strong start of the season with an 8 solo and 1 assisted tackle outing against the Steelers. Also of note in Week 3: Andra Davis, CLE Browns; David Thornton, IND Colts; Nick Barnett, GB Packers; Raynoch Thompson, AZ Cardinals; Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens; and Donnie Edwards, SD Chargers.

WHO'S NOT

No significant injuries of note after Week 3's action, but let's take a look at some underperformers. Kendrell Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers, has been a disappointment so far this season, registering only 8 combined tackles in 3 games. Yes, he had 2 sacks against the Bengals, but now that MLB Bell is on the field on every down, he's got to get his tackling totals up to meet expectations this year. Perhaps Joey Porter returning from his gun shot wound will provide more pressure on the outside, freeing up Bell to pursue more in the middle and realize more tackles as the year progresses. Dan Morgan, Carolina Panthers, should be having the season of his career. He's got a stellar supporting cast, with arguably the best defensive line in the NFL, and a very strong defensive backfield. Morgan has, however, been bit by the injury bug again this year, and is developing the reputation as player who cannot stay on the field. Having missed time already this year with a broken hand and pulled hamstring, Morgan has vowed that he is not damaged goods and is ready to return to the line up after the Panther's Week 3 bye. Keep an eye on Morgan - he has the potential to be a top 10 line backer if he stays healthy. but that is a big if, at this point.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Robert Thomas, STL Rams, against the AZ Cardinals
Andra Davis, CLE Browns, against the CIN Bengals
Jay Foreman, HOU Texans, against the JAX Jaguars
Lavar Arrington, WAS Redskins, against the NE Patriots
Takeo Spikes, BUF Bills, against the PHI Eagles
Julian Peterson, SF 49ers, against the MIN Vikings
Keith Bullock, TEN Titans, against the PIT Steelers
Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens, against the KC Chiefs
Donnie Edwards, SD Chargers, against the OAK Raiders
Keith Brooking, ATL Falcons, against the CAR Panthers
Sam Cowart, NY Jets, against the DAL Cowboys
Ian Gold, DEN Broncos, against the DET Lions
Brian Urlacher, CHI Bears, against the GB Packers

Defensive Linemen

WHO'S HOT

Bertrand Berry, Denver Broncos, is off to a fast start this season. Playing opposite Trevor Pryce, who's seeing constant double teams, Berry has been applying consistent pressure to opposing quarterbacks. I also like to see a handful of tackles from a defensive lineman in a game, and Berry fits the bill in that category as well. Against the Raiders Monday night, he had 3 solo and 1 assisted tackles, and 2.5 sacks. Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams, has been on a terror the first 3 games of the season. He was a menace to the Seahawks in Week 3, realizing 5 solo and 1 assisted tackles, 2 sacks and a forced fumble. While Little is near the top of the leader board in sacks, he also always seems to have multiple tackles in run support. Adewale Ogunleye, Miami Dolphins, has been the primary benefactor of the double and triple teams 2003 sack leader Jason Taylor has realized this year. Taylor has been more or less neutralized on the right side, and Ogunleye has posted excellent stats, as a result. Against the Bills at home, he posted 4 solo and 1 assisted tackles, and 2 sacks. Ogunleye could be a nice pick up for those of you in need of a DE with decent sack potential. Other DL of note in Week 3: Shaun Ellis, NY Jets; and Aaron Schoebel, PIT Steelers.

WHO'S NOT

When it rains, it pours. after having already realized substantial injuries to key defensive personnel (Rosie Colvin and Ted Johnson), the New England Patriots lost line-clogger Ted Washington for the season with a broken leg. While Washington was not a stat-grabber, he facilitated the ability for those around him to move to the ball while he collapsed the middle of the line and took out multiple offensive linemen. So devastating was this injury, that the team is exploring moving to a 4-3 scheme. Rick Lyle will fill in at NT for the time being. A quick word to address the stressing out over lack of production at the DL spot, particularly from studs like Jason Taylor, Miami Dolphins, and Patrick Kerney, Atlanta Falcons, among a few select others. Each has a half sack through three games, and have been limited in the number of tackles accumulated this season. What do you do if you know your DL, one you drafted relatively high, is drawing double teams and shooting blanks in the sack department? The answer is simple. never bench your studs. It's like Murphy's Law - as soon as you start another lineman, Taylor or Kerney will bust out for 2-3 sacks in a game. Both players are on very good defenses, and opposing offenses cannot afford to dedicate the manpower to double and triple team these players forever.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Leonard Little, STL Rams, against the AZ Cardinals
Hugh Douglas, JAX Jaguars, against the HOU Texans
Andre Carter, SF 49ers, against the MIN Vikings
Kevin Carter, TEN Titans, against the PIT Steelers
Vonnie Holliday, KC Chiefs, against the BAL Ravens
Julius Peppers/Mike Rucker, CAR Panthers, against the ATL Falcons
Greg Ellis, DAL Cowboys, against the NY Jets
John Abraham, NY Jets, against the DAL Cowboys
Bertrand Berry, DEN Broncos, against the DET Lions
Willie Whitehead, NO Saints, against the IND Colts

Defensive Backs

WHO'S HOT

Dre Bly, Detroit Lions, had a fantastic fantasy game against the Vikings in Week 3, as he amassed 4 solo and 1 assisted tackles, a sack, and an interception. Bly is a playmaker and will continue to be utilized on a revitalized, young team to create problems for opposing offenses. Darren Sharper, Green Bay Packers, when healthy, is the best defensive player on the team. He is, essentially, a 4th linebacker, knows how to deliver a hit, and is effective in run support. In an embarrassing loss to the Cardinals, Sharper went 8 solo and 1 assisted tackles on the day. If the underperforming Packer defensive line can get more pressure on the QB, expect Sharper to get his fair share of picks, along with nice portions of tackles. I can't imagine Bill Belichick or the New England front office could have expected Lawyer Milloy, BUF Bills, to perform the way he has so far this year. I have to admit, as well, that I thought Milloy looked slower last year, and had him lower than I should have in my preseason DB rankings. Perhaps it was just a change of scenery, but Milloy has been solid and impactful with the revamped D of the Bills. Even in a beating against the Dolphins, Milloy scored on 7 solo and 4 assisted tackles. The Bills D is one of the league's best, and Milloy should continue to provide you with good production throughout the year. Other DB's of note in Week 3: Matt Stevens, HOU Texans; Ed Reed, BAL Ravens; Jeff Burris, CIN Bengals; and Rod Woodson, OAK Raiders.

WHO'S NOT

CB Andre Goodman, DET Lions, is yet another DB to be lost to injury this year. Goodman, while not a fantasy stud, was a serviceable player that kept teams relatively honest on his side of the field. Otis Smith, a veteran but slowing, will take Goodman's spot, and should see plenty of action opposite Dre Bly. As mentioned above, Safety Matt Steven, Houston Texans, had a noticeable outing (9 solo and 2 assisted tackles, 1 INT) in a mismatch with the Chiefs in Week 3. However, Stevens' lock on the job is in jeopardy, as the Texan signed ex-Jaguar FS, Marlon McCree. McCree is a playmaker and possesses better overall skills than Stevens. If you are a Stevens owner, this might be a good time to dangle him as trade bait after coming off his best game.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Adam Archuleta, STL Rams, against the AZ Cardinals
Jeff Burris, CIN Bengals, against the CLE Browns
Lawyer Milloy, BUF Bills, against the PHI Eagles
Lance Shulters, TEN Titans, against the PIT Steelers
Ed Reed, BAL Ravens, against the KC Chiefs
Kwamie Lassiter, SD Chargers, against the OAK Raiders
Derrick Gibson, OAK Raiders, against the SD Chargers
Mike Minter, CAR Panthers, against the ATL Falcons
Roy Williams, DAL Cowboys, against the NY Jets
Corey Harris, DET Lions, against the DEN Broncos
Mike Doss, IND Colts, against the NO Saints
Jay Bellamy, NO Saints, against the IND Colts
Darren Sharper, GB Packers, against the CHI Bears

Top 12 Team Defenses

  1. BUF Bills vs. PHI Eagles - BUF D coming off sour L vs. MIA; PHI is turnover-prone
  2. CAR Panthers vs. ATL Falcons - After week's rest, sack attack is on
  3. DEN Broncos vs. DET Lions - Bronco D = too much speed & at home
  4. BAL Ravens vs. KC Chiefs - AFC D powerhouses go head-to-head
  5. KC Chiefs @ BAL Ravens - See above
  6. IND Colts @ NO Saints - Colts D is surprisingly good this year
  7. WAS Redskins vs. NE Patriots - WAS (rising) too much for the Pats (falling)
  8. PIT Steelers vs. TEN Titans - Healthy Porter means a lot to this D
  9. SF 49ers @ MIN Vikings - Gus Frerotte will be tested early and often
  10. MIN Vikings vs. SF 49ers - Two of league's turnover leaders square off
  11. OAK Raiders vs. SD Chargers - Raiders play better and with pride at home
  12. CLE Browns vs. CIN Bengals - CLE is pumped after upset over 49ers

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