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Behind the Iron Curtain - Week 14
By Dave Foral
December 4, 2003
 

Linebackers

WHO'S HOT

Tommy Polley, St. Louis Rams, is a player just chock-full of talent in a similar role as Derrick Brooks with the Buccaneers and David Thornton with the Indianapolis Colts. Polley just hasn't shown consistent, week-to-week production, and MLB Robert Thomas has become the primary tackler on defense. However, players do bloom late, and when a team is playing as well as the Rams are, this can lead to opportunities for athletic, rangy players like Polley. Case in point, against the Vikings in Week 13, Polley flowed to the ball with regularity, posting an impressive 11 solo tackle outing. If Polley is on your league free agency list, he's worth a flyer on your roster for the remainder of the season. An unheralded player, Nate Wayne, Philadelphia Eagles, has been a steady IDP producer this year. Perhaps no team is playing better at this point of the year, and Wayne and company on defense, along with Donovan McNabb's turnaround, is a major reason why. Against the Panthers this past week, Wayne accounted for 6 solo tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble, and he posted almost identical stats in Week 12. Wayne is a safe starter the rest of the way this fantasy year. If you are in need of a linebacker with tremendous upside, look no further than Tim Johnson, Oakland Raiders. Johnson is the replacement for Travian Smith, who replaced Bill Romanowski, and is poised to be a contributor for the rest of the team's dismal season. The offense is just woeful, so expect the defense to see plenty of action the rest of the way. There should be plenty of tackles to go around, and you know that Johnson will use this opportunity to try and showcase his talent for future consideration. If Johnson can mirror the type of game he had against the Broncos this past weekend (9 solo and 1 assisted tackles), then he is well-worth grabbing if you have a roster spot open. Other LB's of note in Week 13: Zach Thomas, MIA Dolphins; Keith Brooking, ATL Falcons; Jamie Sharper, HOU Texans; Ronald McKinnon, AZ Cardinals; Brian Urlacher, CHI Bears; Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens; Derek Smith, SF 49ers; Brian Simmons, CIN Bengals; Mike Barrow, NY Giants; David Thornton, IND Colts; Jeremiah Trotter, WAS Redskins; and Scott Fujita, KC Chiefs.

WHO'S NOT

Someone I listed as "Hot" last week was MLB Rocky Calmus, Tennessee Titans. Calmus was putting together a solid, late season run when he realized a broken leg against the Jets during the Monday Night Football game. With Keith Bulluck and Peter Sirmon at OLB, the MLB is a position that is geared towards run D support. The replacement for Calmus is Brad Kassell. With stud rookie MLB Nick Barnett most likely returning in Week 14, it was a short-lived, but productive, showing by Torrance Marshall, Green Bay Packers. Marshall had a 7 solo and 1 assisted tackle, and 1 sack game against the Lions, but will be relegated to spot duty upon Barnett's return. Lastly, Raynoch Thompson, AZ Cardinals is done for the season, having been suspended 4 weeks for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Thompson was one of few notable fantasy players on the Cardinal defense, and his absence will make a bad D even worse. Gerald Hayes will likely fill in for Thompson for the remainder of the season.

START 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM

Brian Urlacher, CHI Bears, against the GB Packers
Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens, against the CIN Bengals
Mark Simoneau, PHI Eagles, against the DAL Cowboys
Jamie Sharper, HOU Texans, against the JAX Jaguars
David Thornton, IND Colts, against the TEN Titans
Keith Bulluck, TEN Titans, against the IND Colts
Joey Porter, PIT Steelers, against the OAK Raiders
Donnie Edwards, SD Chargers, against the DET Lions
Anthony Simmons, SEA Seahawks, against the MIN Vikings
Derrick Brooks, TB Bucs, against the NO Saints
Mike Barrow, NY Giants, against the WAS Redskins
Derek Smith, SF 49ers, against the AZ Cardinals
Scott Fujita, KC Chiefs, against the DEN Broncos
Al Wilson, DEN Broncos, against the KC Chiefs
Zach Thomas, MIA Dolphins, against the NE Patriots
Tedy Bruschi, NE Patriots, against the MIA Dolphins
Takeo Spikes, BUF Bills, against the NY Jets
Keith Brooking, ATL Falcons, against the CAR Panthers
Andra Davis, CLE Browns, against the STL Rams

Defensive Linemen

WHO'S HOT

Welcome back, Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams, and, boy, were the Rams missing this guy! After returning from a torn pectoral muscle, Little was a one-man wrecking crew against the visiting Vikings, producing an incredible 5 solo and 1 assisted tackles, 4 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. Little adds speed and fire to a Rams D that was already playing well. Look for Little to flourish the remainder of the season. Aaron Schobel, Buffalo Bills, is an unheralded lineman who is one of the league's best pass rushers. The Bills D looked solid against the Giants on Sunday, and Schobel dominated the line of scrimmage, posting 5 solo tackles and 3 sacks. Schobel has been hit-or-miss this year, but keep an eye on him, as the Buffalo D looked awesome on Sunday, and Schobel could be a key find if he gets hot during your playoffs. A beast of a defensive lineman is Robert Porcher, Detroit Lions, and he's had back-to-back, high-impact games. Against the Packers on Thanksgiving, Porcher was a force, netting 2 solo and 1 assisted tackles, and 2 sacks. He also posted 2 sacks the week prior versus the Vikings. The Lion defensive line looked as good as any other in the league, and if he receives such continued support, look for Porcher to continue his sack streak. Other DL's of note in Week 13: Adewale Ogunleye, MIA Dolphins; Ellis Johnson, ATL Falcons; Mike Rucker, CAR Panthers; and Duane Clemons, CIN Bengals.

WHO'S NOT

There were no injuries of note in Week 13, but there were some noticeable "no shows". Greg Ellis, Dallas Cowboys, has been a defensive end whose quickness has made him a lineman that realized linebacker-type stats. In recent seasons, Ellis could be counted on for 4-6 solo tackles per game, and a sack every other game or so. This tackling production made him a consistent provider of IDP fantasy points, but this year appears to be the exception. The last 4 games, Ellis has averaged only one solo tackle per game. Another underperformer has been Andre Carter, San Francisco 49ers. Carter, in his third year, was due to blossom and contend as sack leader, but this has failed to materialize. Over the last 4 games, Carter has contributed only 7 solo and 2 assisted tackles, and 2 sacks. Odds are that linemen producing better output can be found on your free agency wire as you head into your fantasy playoffs.

START 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM

Adalius Thomas, BAL Ravens, against the CIN Bengals
ND Kalu, PHI Eagles, against the DAL Cowboys
Marcus Stroud, JAX Jags, against the HOU Texans
Dwight Freeney, IND Colts, against the TEN Titans
Robert Porcher, DET Lions, against the SD Chargers
Simeon Rice, TB Bucs, against the NO Saints
Darren Howard, NO Saints, against the TB Bucs
Michael Strahan, NY Giants, against the WAS Redskins
Jason Taylor/Adewale Ogunleye, MIA Dolphins, against the NE Patriots
Aaron Shobel, BUF Bills, against the NY Jets
Mike Rucker, CAR Panthers, against the ATL Falcons
Leonard Little, STL Rams, against the CLE Browns

Defensive Backs

WHO'S HOT

There is little doubt that Roy Williams, Dallas Cowboys, is one of the league's brightest young stars on defense, and quite possibly the biggest hitter in the NFL. However, while Williams has been in jaw-dropping collisions this year, his fantasy production hasn't been so awe-inspiring. Perhaps Williams has turned the corner after accumulating 8 solo and 2 assisted tackles against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day. A noted "big-game" player, look for Williams to have his best outing of the year against division rival Philadelphia Eagles. SS Reggie Tongue, Seattle Seahawks, realized his most comprehensive game of the season against the Browns in Week 13. Tongue had 7 solo and 1 assisted tackles, a sack, and 2 forced fumbles, as the D redeemed itself after allowing Baltimore to come back in Week 12 and win. Brian Walker, Detroit Lions, enjoyed a solid Thanksgiving Day outing against division-rival, Green Bay Packers. Walker went for 7 solo and 3 assisted tackles, sack, and a forced fumble. This week, Walker faces a struggling San Diego Charger unit, one which he had torched for 6 solo and 3 assisted tackles, and 2 interceptions in their last meeting. Other DB's of note in Week 13: Tony Parrish, SF 49ers; Brian Russell, MIN Vikings; Adam Archuleta, STL Rams; Nick Harper & Mike Doss, IND Colts; Shawn Springs, SEA Seahawks; Quentin Jammer, SD Chargers; Charles Woodson, OAK Raiders; and Rashean Mathis, JAX Jaguars.

WHO'S NOT

Chad Scott, Pittsburgh Steelers, is lost for the season with a torn tendon in his right hand, and injury he realized in Week 12. Losing Scott is a tremendous setback for a team already struggling to gain some semblance of dominance on defense. Scott is a fantastic cover man, and does well on the blitz and in run support. Look for Dewayne Washington to join the line up in Scott's place. Tim Wansley, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is also lost for the season with a hamstring injury inflicted during last week's game against Jacksonville. Wansley had stepped in admirably when starter Brian Kelly was injured, and averaged 6 solo tackles and a pass deflection per game. Dwight Smith will assume the CB spot opposite Ronde Barber, and should also see plenty of action. Will Allen, New York Giants, is yet another CB who has been placed on IR. Allen is one of the league's best young corners and had been enjoying a fine year prior to the injury. Kato Serwanga or Ralph Brown look to replace Allen - both represent a significant drop off in talent, but could post some good fantasy numbers. Antuan Edwards, Green Bay Packers, has a partially torn hamstring and will miss at least the next 2 games. With Darren Sharper expected back, look for a very good Marques Anderson to assume Edwards' spot and realize good fantasy production.

START 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM

Darren Sharper, GB Packers, against the CHI Bears
Ed Reed, BAL Ravens, against the CIN Bengals
Roy Williams, DAL Cowboys, against the PHI Eagles
Nick Harper, IND Colts, against the TEN Titans
Charles Woodson, OAK Raiders, against the PIT Steelers
Brian Walker, DET Lions, against the SD Chargers
Brian Russell, MIN Vikings, against the SEA Seahawks
Ronde Barber, TB Bucs, against the NO Saints
Tony Parrish, SF 49ers, against the AZ Cardinals
Greg Wesley, KC Chiefs, against the DEN Broncos
Rodney Harrison, NE Patriots, against the MIA Dolphins
Sammy Knight, MIA Dolphins, against the NE Patriots
Mike Minter, CAR Panthers, against the ATL Falcons
Sam Garnes, NY Jets, against the BUF Bills
Adam Archuleta, STL Rams, against the CLE Browns

Top 12 Team Defenses

  1. BAL Ravens vs. CIN Bengals - Ravens are again the league's top D
  2. SF 49ers vs. AZ Cardinals - SF 4th best in takeaways; AZ 2nd worst giveaways
  3. STL Rams @ CLE Browns - CLE QB situation is looking bleak
  4. PHI Eagles vs. DAL Cowboys - Eagle D playing best football now
  5. NE Patriots vs. MIA Dolphins - Pats D and snow showers to slow down the 'Phins
  6. TB Bucs @ NO Saints - Do or die for Bucs D this weekend
  7. WAS Redskins @ NY Giants - Collins and offense really struggling
  8. MIA Dolphins @ NE Pats - DL key in forcing Brady to make mistakes
  9. CAR Panthers @ ATL Falcons - Vick vs. Rucker/Peppers. odds D
  10. DET Lions vs. SD Chargers - Improving DLine will create hurries by Brees/Flutie
  11. JAX Jags vs. HOU Texans - Injured Carr or Rookie Ragone will make mistakes
  12. TEN Titans vs. IND Colts - Huge division game - advantage home D

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