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Behind the Iron Curtain - Week 7
By Dave Foral
October 16, 2003
 

Linebackers

WHO'S HOT

Will Witherspoon, Carolina Panthers, has been a pleasant surprise this year. Not only has he been flexible in terms of shifting between positions opposite oft-injured Dan Morgan, but he's been productive in each position. There appears to be only upside with Witherspoon, because if Morgan goes down again, Witherspoon slides to MLB on what is close to being the best defense in the league. For the time being Witherspoon owner will just have to put up with 10 solo tackles per game, just as he realized against the Colts this past week. Alright. who spiked the Kool-Aid Roman Phifer, New England Patriots, was drinking? Phifer has filled in admirably for Ted Johnson this year, but has posted somewhat average numbers, averaging between 5 and 6 total tackles per game through Week 5. Well, that was until he exploded for 13 solo and 6 assisted tackles against the New York Giants. Obviously, one cannot expect those kinds of numbers each week, but knowing the potential is there is enough to warrant a starting role for Phifer in Week 7. FINALLY, a noteworthy game from last year's NFL Defensive MVP, Derrick Brooks, Tampa Bay Buccaneers! Brooks is, without a doubt, a superb athlete and the leader on an outstanding Bucs defense. However, his first 5 weeks were yawn-worthy, as Brooks failed to produce even average tackles per game stats or any big plays. Against the Washington Redskins, however, Brooks looked more like his old self, grabbing 7 solo tackles, as well as an interception for a touchdown. Last year, Brooks had big plays in bunches and in consecutive games, so for all of you owners who have patiently stood by your stud LB, this could be the start of something special for Brooks! Other LB's of note in Week 6: Marcus Washington, IND Colts; Mike Barrow, NY Giants; Tedy Bruschi, NE Patriots; Sam Cowart, NY Jets; Shawn Barber and Scott Fujita, KC Chiefs; Nate Wayne, PHI Eagles; Travian Smith, OAK Raiders; Anthony Simmons and Chad Brown, SEA Seahawks; Jamie Sharper, HOU Texans; and Keith Brooking, ATL Falcons.

WHO'S NOT

Perhaps the biggest injury incurred thus far in the world of IDP was to Ian Gold, Denver Broncos, who was off to a blistering start to the season before realizing a season-ending torn ACL injury against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. Gold was second in tackles on the team, and his both his blazing speed and team leadership will be irreplaceable for the rest of the season. 3rd year player Donnie Spragan will fill in for Gold at WLB, and is worthy of being picked up if you were a Gold owner. If you are the owner of Robert Thomas, St. Louis Rams, it's officially time to start worrying about his pulled groin. Thomas has flourished at the MLB position this year, but his inability to play on MNF, even after a bye week, is an indication that he could be out for a while. Also, backup Jamie Duncan brings a lot of experience to the position, and played MLB for Defensive Coordinator Lovie Smith while with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. So, if Duncan plays well, he could end up with shared playing time with Thomas, even after Thomas returns.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens, against the CIN Bengals
Chris Claiborne, MIN Vikings, against the DEN Broncos
Nick Barnett, GB Packers, against the STL Rams
Tedy Bruschi, NE Patriots, against the MIA Dolphins
Keith Brooking, ATL Falcons, against the NO Saints
Mike Barrow, NY Giants, against the PHI Eagles
Andra Davis, CLE Browns, against the SD Chargers
Donnie Edwards, SD Chargers, against the CLE Browns
Keith Bulluck, TEN Titans, against the CAR Panthers
Sam Cowart, NY Jets, against the HOU Texans
Anthony Simmons, SEA Seahawks, against the CHI Bears
Derrick Brooks, TB Bucs, against the SF 49ers
Takeo Spikes, BUF Bills, against the WAS Redskins
Eric Barton, OAK Raiders, against the KC Chiefs

Defensive Linemen

WHO'S HOT

Simeon Rice, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, isn't going to surprise anyone by showing up in the "Hot" section of this column. The day Rice had on Sunday against a good Redskins team, however, bears mentioning, as he scored big time for his fantasy owners with 6 solo tackles, 4 sacks (FOUR!), and a forced fumble. Rice is successfully proving that he is the premier sack specialist of the league. Just like with Derrick Brooks above. welcome back to prominence, Jason Taylor, Miami Dolphins! Taylor was likely the first or second defensive lineman chose in every draft this year, and has had an utterly disappointing start to his fantasy season. This is not to say he's not contributed on the field, as he's been constantly occupied by double teams, allowing teammates to realize tackles and sacks. Well, against the Jaguars, Taylor broke out with 6 solo tackles, a sack, and 2 forced fumbles. There have been many of you who have written in asking what to do with Taylor, and I've been adamant in stating that you always start your studs - hopefully, you will be justly rewarded moving forward this season. Please extend another welcome back to the "HOT" section to Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis Colts. Freeney's been limited by injury this year, but appears to have regained his health, as he reappeared on the radar screen this week against the Carolina Panthers with 3 solo tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. The Colts defense has one of the league's best this season, but it has missed Freeney's explosiveness and pressure on the quarterback. As long as he's healthy, look for Freeney to log at least a sack a game, which is nice to rely on. Other DL's of note in week 6: Adewale Ogunleye, MIA Dolphins; Michael Strahan, NY Giants; Shaun Ellis and Jason Ferguson, NY Jets; Trevor Pryce, DEN Broncos; and Charles Grant, NO Saints.

WHO'S NOT

I listed Joe Johnson, Green Bay Packers, in last week's BTIC in the "Not" portion of the column for his lack of contribution due to battling ongoing injuries. Well, I've got to mention Johnson again and probably for the last time this year, as he tore his quadriceps muscle and is reportedly gone for the season. While Chuck Nwokorie and Jamal Reynolds will fill in for the rest of the season, neither offers the leadership nor skills Johnson possess when healthy. Expect increased concentration in the form of double teams on opposite side DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Justin Smith, CIN Bengals, against the BAL Ravens
Greg Ellis, DAL Cowboys, against the DET Lions
Trevor Pryce, DEN Broncos, against the MIN Vikings
Leonard Little, STL Rams, against the GB Packers
Jason Taylor, MIA Dolphins, against the NE Patriots
Charles Grant, NO Saints, against the ATL Falcons
Michael Strahan, NY Giants, against the PHI Eagles
Courtney Brown, CLE Browns, against the SD Chargers
Mike Rucker, CAR Panthers, against the TEN Titans
Jevon Kearse, TEN Titans, against the CAR Panthers
Shaun Ellis, NY Jets, against the HOU Texans
Alex Brown, CHI Bears, against the SEA Seahawks
Simeon Rice, TB Bucs, against the SF 49ers
Eric Hicks, KC Chiefs, against the OAK Raiders

Defensive Backs

WHO'S HOT

One player who I thought would light it up this year, but who had struggled to live up to fantasy expectations is Mike Brown, Chicago Bears. Brown is an intelligent leader on the defensive side of the ball, and is fearless in delivery a blow. I thought heading into the year that both he and fellow safety Mike Green would see a lot of action with the departure of Rosie Colvin at OLB. Well, Brown is starting to warm up and could fulfill my prophecy of being a top 10 caliber DB, as he posted a fine 8 solo tackle outing against the Saints. He should see plenty of action against the Seahawks, so Brown makes a great start this week. SS Greg Wesley, Kansas City Chiefs, is a big reason why the team is 6-0 to start the season. Wesley has showed great leadership, a willingness to play through injury, and provides both excellent run support and ball-hawking skills. Against the Packers, Wesley posted wicked tackling stats, with 11 solo and 2 assisted tackles. With Antuan Edwards sideline with an ankle injury, 3rd year Marques Anderson, Green Bay Packers, stepped in with a huge game against the Chiefs, delivery 10 solo and 3 assisted tackles. With 10 total tackles the week before against the Seahawks, Anderson could find himself securing the starting spot with Edwards' continued absence. Keep an eye open as this situation develops, as Anderson could be key free agency pick up this season. Other DB's of note in Week 6: Rodney Harrison, NE Patriots; Jay Bellamy, NO Saints; and Adam Archuleta, STL Rams.

WHO'S NOT

Fred Smoot, Washington Redskins, will miss 2-3 weeks with a broken sternum. In his place, 3rd year man Rashad Bauman will be asked to cover opposing teams #2 receivers. With Champ Bailey, one of the league's best cover men, on the other side, you can bet that offensive coordinators will be focusing their game plan around testing Bauman early and often. Bauman should get plenty of tackling opportunities in pass defense while starting, and already has an interception this year, so he makes an interesting choice, should you need a DB until Smoot returns. FS Jon McGraw, New York Jets, will also miss 2-3 weeks with a dislocated shoulder. Prior to his injury realized against the Bills in Week 6, McGraw was producing affirmative numbers with aggressive tackling. In McGraw's will likely be Derek Pagel, which represents a serious drop-off in talent at this position.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Ed Reed, BAL Ravens, against the CIN Bengals
Roy Williams, DAL Cowboys, against the DET Lions
Corey Chavous, MIN Vikings, against the DEN Broncos
Adam Archuleta, STL Rams, against the GB Packers
Darren Sharper, GB Packers, against the STL Rams
Rodney Harrison, NE Patriots, against the MIA Dolphins
Jay Bellamy, NO Saints, against the ATL Falcons
Robert Griffith, CLE Browns, against the SD Chargers
Mike Minter, CAR Panthers, against the TEN Titans
Mike Brown, CHI Bears, against the SEA Seahawks
Ronde Barber, TB Bucs, against the SF 49ers
Greg Wesley, KC Chiefs, against the OAK Raiders

Top 12 Team Defenses

  1. TB Bucs @ SF 49ers - Bucs hitting on all cylinders in sack department
  2. BAL Ravens @ CIN Bengals - Too easy for Ray and Company
  3. MIA Dolphins vs. NE Patriots - MIA D starting to gel, and Taylor coming alive
  4. NY Jets @ HOU Texans - Jets racking up sacks AND get Abraham back
  5. BUF Bills vs. WAS Redskins - BUF bounces back against poor-blocking 'Skins
  6. CLE Browns vs. SD Chargers - CLE D line becoming formidable
  7. SEA Seahawks vs. CHI Bears - Plenty of sack and INT opportunity here
  8. MIN Vikings vs. DEN Broncos - Tough MIN D will test Beuerlein in Dome
  9. KC Chiefs @ OAK Raiders - KC D playing very well, while OAK looking horrible
  10. DAL Cowboys @ DET Lions - DAL will pressure rusty Harrington
  11. NO Saints @ ATL Falcons - Kittner gets start - Saints to reap benefits
  12. NY Giants vs. PHI Eagles - Giants DL should rack up some sacks vs. McNabb

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