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Behind the Iron Curtain - Week 9
By Dave Foral
October 30, 2003
 

Linebackers

WHO'S HOT

Ben Taylor, Cleveland Browns, is one of three of the team's young LB's that have both struggled and showed the potential. Taylor had a super-human game in Week 8 against the New England Patriots, racking up an unbelievable 16 solo and 2 assisted tackles. Let's face it. the Browns offense is really struggling, and their defense is on the field more often than not, as a result. It is inconceivable to expect to post similar numbers again, but all three of the Brown LB's, including Kevin Bentley and Andra Davis, are worthy of starting on your team the remainder of the year. OLB Mike Vrabel, New England Patriots, also had an eye-popping performance in the same game against the Browns, producing 6 solo tackles, 3 sacks, and 1 forced fumble. Vrabel is a well-traveled veteran and has made consistent progress, especially of note with the Patriots the last 3 years. He's a high-motor player that fits the mold Bill Belichick likes on his defense. MLB Dat Nguyen, Dallas Cowboys, has been somewhat of a disappointment this year, not posting tackling numbers that I expected this year. Well, against the Buccaneers, Nguyen finally got off, displaying his speed and pursuit to the ball. He was responsible for 12 solo and 3 assisted tackles for the day. Three out of the four next games for the Cowboys will feature dedicated ground attacks, so expect Nguyen to be a producer in the month of November. Other LB's of note in Week 8: Mark Simoneau, PHI Eagles; Boss Bailey, DET Lions; Jay Foreman, HOU Texans; Scott Fujita, KC Chiefs; Takeo Spikes, BUF Bills; Zach Thomas, MIA Dolphins; Donnie Edwards, SD Chargers; and James Farrior, PIT Steelers.

WHO'S NOT

Fortunately for the Kansas City Chiefs, they draw a bye in Week 9, allowing the undefeated team to rest up and heal themselves for the remainder of the season. It comes at a good time, as starting MLB Mike Maslowski, will need some time to mend an injured knee incurred during the game against Buffalo. Apparently, the injury is significant enough that Maslowski could miss Weeks 10 and 11, as well. In his place, rookie Kawika Mitchell would see some action.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Jamie Sharper, HOU Texans, against the CAR Panthers
David Thornton, IND Colts, against the MIA Dolphins
Zach Thomas, MIA Dolphins, against the IND Colts
Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens, against the JAX Jaguars
Derrick Brooks, TB Bucs, against the NO Saints
Sam Cowart, NY Jets, against the NY Giants
Travian Smith, OAK Raiders, against the DET Lions
Brian Urlacher, CHI Bears, against the SD Chargers
Anthony Simmons, SEA Seahawks, against the PIT Steelers
Mark SImoneau, PHI Eagles, against the ATL Falcons
LaVar Arrington, WAS Redskins, against the DAL Cowboys
Chris Claiborne, MIN Vikings, against the GB Packers
Al Wilson, DEN Broncos, against the NE Patriots

Defensive Linemen

WHO'S HOT

Michael Strahan, New York Giants, has been a model of consistency with 5 solo tackles and 2 sacks in EACH of his last 3 games. There seems to be less talking and more "walking" this year from Strahan, as the Giants seek to get back on track and contend for the NFC East. Strahan is on pace for an amazing 18 sack season this year. Someone else who's been solid each week is Charles Grant, New Orleans Saints. Grant has been, without a doubt, the Saints defensive MVP, posting solid numbers despite numerous injuries on the defensive line. Against the Carolina Panthers, Grant had 7 solo tackles and a sack. Look for Calvin Pace, Arizona Cardinals, to have a decent remainder of the year. With the young defensive line beginning to gel, Pace should be able to leverage his athleticism to help in run support and pressure opposing quarterbacks. In an upset over the San Francisco 49ers, Pace had 6 solo tackles and a sack. Also, until the Cardinal offense can hold onto the ball, expect the defense to be on the field more often, as a result.

WHO'S NOT

Hollis Thomas, Philadelphia Eagles, will miss the rest of this season with a torn bicep muscle. Thomas was a stable force in the interior of the defensive line, and his consistency contributed to the recently improved play of the defense, over all. To try and shore up help in Thomas' place, the Eagles signed veteran Jim Flanigan. During an incredible 3.5 sack game against the Eagles, stud DE John Abraham, New York Jets, realized a strained groin that will keep him out of this week's game against the Giants, at the very least. Bryan Thomas will start in his place, and the Jets defensive line will still be effective. However, it is pretty scary to think how good the Jets defense could be if the starting line of Abraham, Jason Ferguson, Dwayne Robinson, and Shaun Ellis were intact the entire year. Through 7 played games, they have combined for 19 sacks.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Mike Rucker, CAR Panthers, against the HOU Texans
Dwight Freeney, IND Colts, against the MIA Dolphins
Simeon Rice, TB Bucs, against the NO Saints
Charles Grant, NO Saints, against the TB Bucs
Michael Strahan, NY Giants, against the NY Jets
Shaun Ellis, NY Jets, against the NY Giants
Justin Smith, CIN Bengals, against the AZ Cardinals
ND Kalu, PHI Eagles, against the ATL Falcons
Leonard Little, STL Rams, against the SF 49ers
Greg Ellis, DAL Cowboys, against the WAS Redskins
Kevin Williams, MIN Vikings, against the GB Packers
Trevor Pryce, DEN Broncos, against the NE Patriots

Defensive Backs

WHO'S HOT

Eric Warfield, Kansas Chiefs, experienced possibly the best game of his career against the Buffalo Bills, contributing big-time to the extension of the Chiefs undefeated season. Warfield had 5 solo tackles, 1 sack, 2 interceptions, and a forced fumble, making both IDP owners and team defense owners smile in Week 8. With the Chiefs defense playing as well as it has been, expect Warfield's numbers to continue to be very respectable. Corey Chavous, Minnesota Vikings, has been a pleasant surprise this year and has evolved into a team leader, both on and off the field. While the Vikings fell for the first time against the Giants, Chavous still posted excellent stats, with 9 solo and 2 assisted tackles, and an interception. Chavous averages 5 tackles per game, and is on pace for 12 interceptions this year. Ronde Barber, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is a true stud and big playmaker, but for some reason, isn't getting the attention he deserves this year. Barber is a corner back that can do it all - run support, blitz and cover man-to-man. Against the Cowboys in a must-win for the team, he came up big with 6 solo tackles, an interception and 2 forced fumbles. Barber was just picked up on waivers in my league last week. is he still on yours?

WHO'S NOT

DB Corey Fuller, Baltimore Ravens, is listed as doubtful for this week's match up with the Jacksonville Jaguars after straining his hamstring in Week 8. While Fuller isn't a fantasy production stud, he does provide solid, man-to-man coverage, and when paired with Chris McAllister on the other side, the rest of the defense can pursue the quarterback and ball more aggressively. Tom Knight appears to have the starting spot in Fuller's place.

Start 'em If You Got 'em

Mike Minter, CAR Panthers, against the HOU Texans
Mike Doss, IND Colts, against the MIA Dolphins
Ed Reed, BAL Ravens, against the JAX Jaguars
Ronde Barber, TB Bucs, against the NO Saints
Shawn Williams, NY Giants, against the NY Jets
Mike Green, CHI Bears, against the SD Chargers
Kwamie Lassiter, against the CHI Bears
Ken Hamlin, SEA Seahawks, against the PIT Steelers
Tony Parrish, SF 49ers, against the STL Rams
Roy Williams, DAL Cowboys, against the WAS Redskins
Darren Sharper, GB Packers, against the MIN Vikings
Corey Chavous, MIN Vikings, against the GB Packers
Rodney Harrison, NE Patriots, against the DEN Broncos

Top 12 Team Defenses

  1. TB Bucs vs. NO Saints - Bucs D appears to have returned to prominence
  2. CAR Panthers @ HOU Texans - If Tony Banks starts for HOU, look out!
  3. BAL Ravens vs. JAX Jaguars - Ray and Company will have a Jaguar BBQ
  4. IND Colts @ MIA Dolphins - Colts off bye week; 'Phins off MNF
  5. STL Rams @ SF 49ers - Garcia hobbling, and Ram D getting very good
  6. NY Jets vs. NY Giants - NY Jets DL will force Collins to make more mistakes
  7. CIN Bengals @ AZ Cardinals - Cards highest turnover margin in league (-14)
  8. MIN Vikings vs. GB Packers - Vikings at home with 2nd best turnover margin
  9. SEA Seahawks vs. PIT Steelers - 'Hawks tough at home; Maddox still struggling
  10. OAK Raiders @ DET Lions - Lions offense pressing = sacks & turnovers
  11. MIA Dolphins vs. IND Colts - Dolphins D playing much better than offense
  12. NE Patriots @ DEN Broncos - Pats are creating big plays on D

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