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Behind the Iron Curtain - Week 16
By Dave Foral
December 18, 2003
 

For most of you, this is Championship Week, and if there was ever a time to pour over your team, weigh match ups, and exhaust free agent options, this is the week to do it!  Don't get TOO crazy, though.  Too many owners over-analyze their way out of a victory by breaking the Cardinal Rule of fantasy football - always start your studs!  "Ray Lewis has a shoulder injury, so I'll start this other player who's been getting hot". big mistake!  Start Lewis, Edwards and Sharper.  Start Strahan, Rice and Little.  Start Archuleta and Harrison.  Once you get past the horses that got you to the dance in the first place, look at 5 criteria when completing your starting Championship roster:

1)      The performance of the player the last 4 weeks
2)      How he played in a previous game against this week's opposition
3)      How other players of the same position performed against this week's opposition.
4)      Health.
5)      How weather might impact performance.

Lastly, convince yourself that each player selected to start, offense and defense, will contribute double-digit production.  As long as your players perform to that level, you will offer a competitive product and put yourself in a position to claim the trophy!

Keep in mind that there are Saturday games this weekend - be sure to have your line ups prepared accordingly.  Best of luck!

Linebackers

WHO'S HOT

I had Kendrell Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers, slated to be a top 10 or 15 line backer this year, and drafted him accordingly.  Over the first half of the season, Bell didn't play poorly, but he didn't seem comfortable and wasn't a big fantasy producer.  Since Week 9, however, Bell scored no fewer than 5 solo tackles and seemed to get better and better.  While I traded Bell away earlier in the season, you may be counting your blessings that you stuck with him, as he posted 9 solo tackles last week.  Bell should help you close out your season in grand fashion, as he meets head-on with LaDanian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers in Week 16.  Another player fulfilling his potential in Week 15 was Mike Peterson, Jacksonville Jaguars, as he realized his best game of the season with 8 solo and 6 assisted tackles, and a sack.  While the Jaguars have been out of the playoff hunt for some time now, the team appears to be improving with each week, especially on defense.  Peterson is a major reason why, and I expect him to close out the last two games with significant fantasy output.  Jeremiah Trotter, Washington Redskins, has quietly returned to the form that the team once saw when he was an All Pro with the Eagles a couple years back.  Trotter has had nothing short of excellent production the last 4 weeks, averaging 8 solo tackles per game.  Against the Cowboys in a lopsided loss at home, he contributed 11 solo and 1 assisted tackles, and 1 sack.  Trotter should close the season with two strong outings against the Bear and the team he once played for, the Eagles.  Other LB's of note in Week 15: Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens; Andra Davis, CLE Browns; Keith Brooking, ATL Falcons; Marcus Washington, IND Colts; LaVar Arrington, WAS Redskins; Will Witherspoon, CAR Panthers; Nick Barnett, GB Packers; Jamie Sharper, HOU Texans; and Keith Bulluck, TEN Titans.

WHO'S NOT

There were no significant injuries to linebackers in Week 15, but there were some disappointments.  With Adalius Thomas going on IR, last week was to be Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens, breakout game, as he would be on the field for more than just passing downs.  This was not the case, however, as Suggs simply vanished on the field and produced only 1 assisted tackle.  Another player finding more playing time as a result of another's injury is MLB Jamie Duncan, St. Louis Rams.  Spelling the productive Robert Thomas, who's on IR, Duncan should have seen plenty of tackling opportunities against Shaun Alexander in Week 15, who rushed 25 times.  Not to be, as Duncan only had 2 solo and 1 assisted tackles to show for the day.  Duncan was an underperformer in Tampa Bay, and continues to be so in St. Louis this year.  He should, in no way, be counted on to contribute to the success of your team this or any week.

START 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM

Keith Brooking, ATL Falcons, against the TB Bucs
Shawn Barber, KC Chiefs, against the MIN Vikings
Tedy Bruschi, NE Patriots, against the NY Jets
Ray Lewis, BAL Ravens, against the CLE Browns
Andra Davis, CLE Browns, against the BAL Ravens
Brian Simmons, CIN Bengals, against the STL Rams
London Fletcher, BUF Bills, against the MIA Dolphins
Zach Thomas, MIA Dolphins, against the BUF Bills
Mike Peterson, JAX Jags, against the NO Saints
Mike Barrow, NY Giants, against the DAL Cowboys
Keith Bulluck, TEN Titans, against the HOU Texans
Jamie Sharper, HOU Texans, against the TEN Titans
Jeremiah Trotter, WAS Redskins, against the CHI Bears
Donnie Edwards, SD Chargers, against the PIT Steelers
Kendrell Bell, PIT Steelers, against the SD Chargers
David Thornton, IND Colts, against the DEN Broncos
Eric Barton, OAK Raiders, against the GB Packers

Defensive Linemen

WHO'S HOT

John Henderson, Jacksonville Jaguars, is a defensive tackle with better than average mobility, and this results in greater tackling opportunities.  Against a tough Patriot offensive line, Henderson had 8 solo and 1 assisted tackles, and a sack.  Henderson hardly qualifies as a DL stud, but you could do far worse this weekend as he should see plenty of Deuce McAllister when the Jags face off with the Saints.  Speaking of the Big Easy, it appears that DE Darren Howard, New Orleans Saints, is back healthy and hungry.  Howard and the rest of the DL were in replacement Giants QB Jesse Palmer's face on every play, and posted 5 solo tackles and a sack.  With monster end Charles Grant on the other side, and with the Saints still holding slim hopes for a NFC Wild Card spot, expect Howard to be very active, productive, and worthy of being in your starting line up.  Richard Seymour, New England Patriots, is another athletic DT who covers a lot of ground on defense and offering better than average support against the run.  Seymour is a very consistent producer, having provided 3 sacks in the last 4 games.  Against the Jaguars, Seymour offered similar numbers as weeks past with 4 solo and 3 assisted tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble.  Seymour is another sure start if on your roster, with divisional match ups with the Jets and Bills to close the regular season.  Other DL's of note in Week 15: Roderick Coleman, OAK Raiders; Gerard Warren, CLE Browns; Alex Brown, CHI Bears; and Aaron Schobel, BUF Bills.

WHO'S NOT

Backup DE Keith McKenzie, Buffalo Bills, will be listed as questionable this weekend against the MIA Dolphins.  While McKenzie's not been a player worth considering for your fantasy squad, this injury will limit his production the remainder of the season, and will keep starter Aaron Schobel on the field longer.  Schobel is such a tremendous athlete that the additional minutes played will only result in increased production.  DE Brady Smith, Atlanta Falcons, has provided very little to cheer about this season, and he will also be listed as questionable for this week's game against the Bucs with a hyper-extended elbow.  Smith's loss of time on the field will only benefit Travis Hall, who racked up 6 solo tackles and a sack against the Colts in Week 15.  With stud Pat Kerney on the other side, Hall could provide value in a pinch.

START 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM

Pat Kerney, ATL Falcons, against the TB Bucs
Simeon Rice, TB Bucs, against the ATL Falcons
Kevin Williams, MIN Vikings, against the KC Chiefs
Richard Seymour, NE Patriots, against the NY Jets
Leonard Little, STL Rams, against the CIN Bengals
Julius Peppers, CAR Panthers, against the DET Lions
Jason Taylor, MIA Dolphins, against the BUF Bills
Aaron Schobel, BUF Bills, against the MIA Dolphins
Darren Howard, NO Saints, against the JAX Jaguars
Michael Strahan, NY Giants, against the DAL Cowboys
Dwight Freeney, IND Colts, against the DEN Broncos
Bertrand Berry, DEN Broncos, against the IND Colts
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, GB Packers, against the OAK Raiders

Defensive Backs

WHO'S HOT

Charles Tillman, Chicago Bears, has been "en fuego" the last couple of weeks!  The rookie out of Louisiana-Lafayette has played with an attitude and is showing coaches that he now owns the LCB position opposite Jerry Azumah.  Against the Vikings, Tillman flourished with 9 solo and 1 assisted tackles, an interception and 3 pass deflections.  With the sporadic Redskins coming to Soldier Field in Week 16, there should be plenty of big play opportunities for Tillman.  After having been challenged by the NFL Coach of the Year, Bill Parcells, to create more turnovers, Terence Newman, Dallas Cowboys, stepped in a major way in Week 15 against the woeful Redskins.  Newman displayed the ball-hawking abilities the team knew he had when they drafted him in the first round this year, posting 3 solo and 2 assisted tackles, 3 interceptions, and 3 pass deflections.  Against another struggling QB and offense, Jesse Palmer and the New York Giants, Newman could reel in another interception or two this weekend.  It appears that Brian Dawkins, Philadelphia Eagles, is healthy and thriving again on the gridiron, as he realized 5 solo and 2 assisted tackles, a ½ sack, an interception, and 2 pass deflections.  If Dawkins is free and clear from the foot problems he's had this year, look for a big game against the San Francisco 49ers this weekend!  Other DB's of note in Week 15: Adam Archuleta, STL Rams; Rodney Harrison/Tyrone Poole, NE Patriots; Robert Griffith, CLE Browns; Terrell Roberts, CIN Bengals; Mike Minter, CAR Panthers; Jerry Azumah/Charles Tillman/Mike Brown, CHI Bears; Darren Sharper, GB Packers; Terrence Kiel, SD Chargers; Lawyer Milloy, BUF Bills; and Johnnie Harris, NY Giants.

WHO'S NOT

Greg Wesley, Kansas City Chiefs, has had a phenomenal, Pro Bowl-caliber year, and the team can ill-afford to have him sitting idle as they fight to win home field advantage in the playoffs.  Wesley, however, is listed as questionable with a strained quadriceps.  Wesley will likely play through the injury, but it is pretty safe to assume that his performance could be hindered by the lack of speed and explosion caused by the injury.  In other words, if you were banking on Wesley for your championship game this weekend, it may pay to find another option.  Artrell Hawkins, Cincinnati Bengals, will also be listed as questionable with a quad injury.  Like Wesley, Hawkins is a leader on the field, and he'd be missed if the team had to battle for the AFC Central title without him.  Jeff Burris would fill in if Hawkins had to sit, and could find himself quite busy trying to track down the WR's of the St. Louis Rams this weekend.  When it rains, it pours. Ralph Brown, New York Giants, joins a long list of Giant players who are injured and have been placed on IR.  In Brown's case, a dislocated shoulder will keep him sidelined until 2004.  The Giants were so desperate that they signed free agent Ray Green, a player who will undoubtedly get burned repeatedly by the Cowboys this weekend.

START 'EM IF YOU GOT 'EM

Ronde Barber, TB Bucs, against the ATL Falcons
Brian Russell, MIN Vikings, against the KC Chiefs
Rodney Harrison, NE Patriots, against the NY Jets
Ed Reed, BAL Ravens, against the CLE Browns
Adam Archuleta, STL Rams, against the CIN Bengals
Mike Minter, CAR Panthers, against the DET Lions
Lawyer Milloy, BUF Bills, against the MIA Dolphins
Sammy Knight, MIA Dolphins, against the BUF Bills
Roy Williams/Darren Woodson, DAL Cowboys, against the NY Giants
Eric Brown, HOU Texans, against the TEN Titans
Charles Tillman/Jerry Azumah, CHI Bears, against the WAS Redskins
Ifeanyi Ohalete, WAS Redskins, against the CHI Bears
Dexter Jackson, AZ Cardinals, against the SEA Seahawks
Brian Dawkins, PHI Eagles, against the SF 49ers
Mike Doss, IND Colts, against the DEN Broncos
Darren Sharper, GB Packers, against the OAK Raiders

Top 12 Team Defenses

  1. TB Bucs vs. ATL Falcons - ATL mailing it in while Bucs fighting for Wild Card
  2. BAL Ravens @ CLE Browns - All-out war between hated rivals
  3. CAR Panthers vs. DET Lions - Teams on opposite sides of the spectrum
  4. DAL Cowboys vs. NY Giants - Turnover heaven for Cowboy D
  5. CHI Bears vs. WAS Redskins -  Bears D playing much better; WAS stinks
  6. NE Patriots @ NY Jets - NE 3rd overall in takeaways and D is solid
  7. IND Colts vs. DEN Broncos - Colts D should clamp down on Portis-less DEN
  8. SEA Seahawks vs. AZ Cardinals - Seahawks are a different team at home
  9. PIT Steelers vs. SD Chargers - Chargers won't want to play in the snow
  10. MIA Dolphins @ BUF Bills - D must step up in must-win game
  11. BUF Bills vs. MIA Dolphins - MIA tends to struggle in December in Northeast
  12. STL Rams vs. CIN Bengals - STL D leads league in takeaways

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