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Behind the Iron Curtain - Week 12
By Dave Foral
November 20, 2003
 

Linebackers

WHO'S HOT

Is there anyone performing with more consistency than Donnie Edwards, San Diego Chargers? Edwards is a natural when it comes to being around the ball, and is a bright spot on an otherwise very disappointing defense, averaging 8 solo tackles a game. Against an overpowering Bronco team in Week 11, Edwards raked in 13 solo and 5 assisted tackles, providing the best output by a linebacker for the week. He'll continue to prosper throughout the fantasy regular season, facing 3 run-oriented offenses out of 4 (Cincinnati, Kansas City and Green Bay). While many (including myself) thought under-sized rookie Nick Barnett, Green Bay Packers, would fade as the season progressed, he's hung in there and continues to post dependable fantasy numbers. The Packers have found themselves a true gamer with terrific pursuit and instincts, and Barnett exhibited his toughness in a must-win performance against the Buccaneers. He was disruptive all over the field, and netted 8 solo and 2 assisted tackles, and an interception. Someone who may be flying under the radar in some leagues is Marvin Jones, New York Jets. After a slow start to the season, Jones is back in form and is looking like the dependable MLB he's been for years, realizing consistent tackling output. Over the last 4 games, he's averaging 7 solo tackles, and appears to be getting stronger with each game. In a shoot out with the Colts, Jones was in on 9 solo and 3 assisted tackles. Certainly, if Jones is on your free agency board, grab and start him for the remainder of the fantasy season. Other LB's of note in Week 11: Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens; Keith Brooking, ATL Falcons; Brant Boyer, CLE Browns; D.D. Lewis, SEA Seahawks; Jamie Sharper, HOU Texans; Napoleon Harris, OAK Raiders; Dat Nguyen, DAL Cowboys; Keith Bullock, TEN Titans; and James Farrior, PIT Steelers.

WHO'S NOT

As you will see in the three "Not" portions of this week's BTIC, there were more key IDP players injured and placed on IR than I can remember seeing in recent past. Included in this bunch is Travian Smith, Oakland Raiders, who is lost for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee. Earlier in the season, when veteran Bill Romanowski was sidelined with concussion problems, many fantasy owners stumbled onto Smith by default and blind ignorance. To say that Smith was a pleasant surprise is an understatement, out-performing fellow linebackers Eric Barton and Napoleon Harris each week. With Smith gone, Tim or Eric Johnson will be given a chance to fill in, with Eric Johnson having more game-time experience. Another LB corps hit hard by injury is found in Denver. This week, it's Terry Pierce, Denver Broncos, who'll miss the rest of the season with a torn left pectoral muscle. Prior to Pierce, it was Ian Gold and John Mobley who realized season-ending injuries, and the team is dangerously thin at this position with only one backup, Keith Burns.

START 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM

Dat Nguyen, DAL Cowboys, against the CAR Panthers
Chris Claiborne, MIN Vikings, against the DET Lions
David Thornton, IND Colts, against the BUF Bills
Sam Cowart, NY Jets, against the JAX Jaguars
Jamie Sharper, HOU Texans, against the NE Patriots
Mark Simoneau, PHI Eagles, against the NO Saints
Kendrell Bell, PIT Steelers, against the CLE Browns
Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens, against the SEA Seahawks
Nick Barnett, GB Packers, against the SF 49ers
Al Wilson, DEN Broncos, against the CHI Bears
Donnie Edwards, SD Chargers, against the CIN Bengals
Shawn Barber, KC Chiefs, against the OAK Raiders
Keith Bullock, TEN Titans, against the ATL Falcons
Mike Barrow, NY Giants, against the TB Bucs

Defensive Linemen

WHO'S HOT

One defensive lineman I've been waiting to see come back into form is Pat Kerney, Atlanta Falcons. Kerney was a regular in the "Start 'em if you got 'em" section in 2002, but just hasn't gone off this year as expected. While the Falcons are a much more poor team than many thought, Kerney has underperformed to an even greater degree. In the last two weeks, however, he's battled through a shoulder that's been bothering him this season and has posted 3 sacks. Against the Saints, he had 3 solo and 1 assisted tackles, and 2 sacks. If he's back in form, Kerney could be a steal as a free agent pick up this late in the season. Someone else who's underperformed this year, but is beginning to shape up is Hugh Douglas, Jacksonville Jaguars. The team is becoming more and more competitive, and Douglas is beginning to harass opposing quarterbacks the way he had for years with the Eagles. In Week 11, Douglas had a phenomenal game versus the Tennessee Titans, posting 4 solo and 1 assisted tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. While I wouldn't rush out to pick up Douglas yet, keep an eye on him to see what he does against the Jets this week. Other defensive linemen of note in Week 11: Adwale Ogunleye, MIA Dolphins; Shaun Ellis, NY Jets; N.D. Kalu, PHI Eagles; and Richard Seymour, NE Patriots.

WHO'S NOT

Kenny Holmes, NY Giants, is lost for the year after succumbing to knee surgery. Even though he was battling knee problems through most of the year, Holmes was enjoying a solid year opposite stud Michael Strahan. Rookie Osi Umenyiora will assume the starting spot, but he's failed thus far to exhibit playmaking performances in spot duty. Veteran sack-master Trace Armstrong, Oakland Raiders, dislocated his shoulder and will also be lost for the season. While Armstrong was not an every-down player, he was someone who you could count on getting at least one sack per game. DeLawrence Grant will likely assume the starting role, and is a player with decent potential. Keep an eye on Jevon Kearse, Tennessee Titans, this week. Kearse realized a high-ankle sprain against the Jags in Week 11, and is listed as questionable to play this week. He's not been able to practice, and it appears that Carlos Hall could get the nod. The Titans are in great shape to make the playoffs, so it would be in their best interest to do whatever it takes to get Kearse healthy over the next few weeks.

START 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM

Mike Rucker, CAR Panthers, against the DAL Cowboys
Dwight Freeney, IND Colts, against the BUF Bills
Shaun Ellis, NY Jets, against the JAX Jags
Richard Seymour, NE Patriots, against the HOU Texans
ND Kalu, PHI Eagles, against the NO Saints
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, GB Packers, against the SF 49ers
Trevor Pryce, DEN Broncos, against the CHI Bears
Grant Wistrom, STL Rams, against the AZ Cardinals
Eric Hicks, KC Chiefs, against the OAK Raiders
Jason Taylor/Adwale Ogunleye, MIA Dolphins, against the WAS Redskins
Simeon Rice, TB Bucs, against the NY Giants
Michael Strahan, NY Giants, against the TB Bucs

Defensive Backs

WHO'S HOT

Jerry Azumah, Chicago Bears, has been on a terror in recent weeks, both as a defensive back and as a kick returner. Any time you can get a dual-threat fantasy player, it's a good thing. In a near-victory against the Rams in Week 11, Azumah had 8 solo tackles, a sack, and an interception. He also averaged 30 yards per kick return, and has the speed to realize a return for a touchdown this year. Ahmed Plummer, San Francisco 49ers, is another corner back who's enjoying the best season of his career. Plummer will get his tackles in a game, but also has a great nose for the ball and is always a threat to grab an interception or two per game. Against the Steelers, Plummer had 9 solo tackles, and he appears to peaking at the right time, and while the team is playing its best football of the season. Greg Wesley, Kansas City Chiefs, is one of the best all-around safeties in the league, and he's been playing his best ball over the last few weeks. Wesley is 2nd overall in solo tackles by a DB this season, and is always a threat to haul in an interception with each game - he's got 3 on the season, thus far. In a loss to the Bengals, Wesley logged 7 solo and 1 assisted tackles, and a sack. Wesley is one of few defensive backs who is a must start every week, as he's realizing linebacker-type stats, and has a knack for making a big hit and play. Other DB's of note in Week 11: Ed Reed, BAL Ravens; Dexter Jackson, AZ Cardinals; Quintin Jammer, SD Chargers; Charles Tillman, CHI Bears; Ronde Barber, TB Bucs; Corey Chavous, MIN Vikings; Troy Vincent, PHI Eagles; and Mike Logan, PIT Steelers.

WHO'S NOT

Two starting Strong Safeties were lost to injury in Week 11: Shawn Williams, New York Giants, and Kwamie Lassiter, San Diego Chargers. Williams is a devastating tackler, and will be missed primarily in run support, after being placed on IR with a knee injury. There is a huge drop in talent, as Johnnie Harris will try to fill Williams' shoes. Lassiter may not be the bone-crushing hitter Williams is, but he's always around the ball and realizes his share of tackles, as a result. Lassiter will also miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury, and will be replaced by rookie Terrence Kiel. Kiel's got the speed and talent to be effective, so he could be a decent pickup if you were relying on Lassiter this year.

START 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM

Roy Williams, DAL Cowboys, against the CAR Panthers
Corey Chavous, MIN Vikings, against the DET Lions
Lawyer Milloy, BUF Bills, against the IND Colts
Rodney Harrison, NE Patriots, against the HOU Texans
Eric Brown, HOU Texans, against the NE Patriots
Michael Lewis, PHI Eagles, against the NO Saints
Ed Reed, BAL Ravens, against the SEA Seahawks
Darren Sharper, GB Packers, against the SF 49ers
Adam Archuleta, STL Rams, against the AZ Cardinals
Greg Wesley, KC Chiefs, against the OAK Raiders
Lance Shulters, TEN Titans, against the ATL Falcons
Sammy Knight, MIA Dolphins, against the WAS Redskins
Ronde Barber, TB Bucs, against the NY Giants

Top 12 Team Defenses

  1. MIA Dolphins vs. WAS Redskins - WAS QB (Ramsey/Hasselbeck) in great danger
  2. TB Bucs vs. NY Giants - Buc D needs to and will make a statement game on MNF
  3. KC Chiefs vs. OAK Raiders - Arrowhead will be rocking - Mirer will get rocked
  4. IND Colts @ BUF Bills - Bledsoe and offense making way too many mistakes
  5. STL Rams @ AZ Cardinals - No one turns the ball over more than AZ
  6. CLE Browns vs. PIT Steelers - Browns are fired up and will pressure Maddox
  7. PHI Eagles vs. NO Saints - Eagles getting better every week
  8. TEN Titans @ ATL Falcons - Kearse questionable, but Titan D will still dominate
  9. NE Patriots @ HOU Texans - Pats D is stingy and will force Banks into mistakes
  10. SF 49ers @ GB Packers - Niner D has been exceptional - 3rd overall in takeaways
  11. BAL Ravens vs. SEA Seahawks - Ravens D is still Ravens D
  12. CAR Panthers @ DAL Cowboys - Carter will see pressure like never before

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