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FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

IDP Game Breakdowns and Player Rater - Week 1
Darin Tietgen & Steve Gallo
September 5, 2008
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Each week, Darin Tietgen and Steve Gallo will break down each matchup and offer ratings on the more important IDPs.  This week, Darin will take the home teams and Steve tackles the away squads.  Hopefully these breakdowns and ratings will help you make some key decisions on who to start this week.  Good luck! Rating System:
Five-Star Play: Studly performance anticipated
Four-Star Play: Solid start
Three-Star Play: Decent start or sleeper
Two-Star Play: Bench ‘em, unless you need a sleeper in a large league
One-Star Play: Bench no matter what

Washington Redskins @ New York Giants

Washington Redskins:
Greg Williams is gone as the Washington defensive mastermind but you can still bank on the defense being led by London Fletcher and Jason Taylor.  The Redskins have quite a few questions heading into the season because of past injuries (Rogers & McIntosh) and present injuries (Taylor).  Taylor owners dodged a bullet with him being dealt to the Skins because if he had stayed in Miami he most likely would have been reclassified as an OLB.  Unfortunately, for Taylor owners he is listed as questionable for the matchup versus the Giants and it looks like he won’t be ready to go.  Andre Carter will benefit greatly once Taylor is up and playing but should still be a pretty good play this week even without him.   LaRon Landry is now the big name and big hitter in the Redskins secondary but he is going to be manning the FS spot and that could put a big damper on him producing big fantasy numbers.  The sneaky pick could be Reed Doughty who is starting at SS.  We will know more a few weeks in just how the skins will utilize Landry and Doughty. 

Five-Star Plays:
London Fletcher (LB)

Four-Star Plays:
None

Three-Star Plays:
Andre Carter (DL)
Cornelius Griffin (DL, in DT-mandatory leagues)
LaRon Landry (DB)
Reed Doughty (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Rocky McIntosh (LB)
Carlos Rogers (DB)

One-Star Plays:
Jason Taylor (DE)

New York Giants:
Both teams should run the ball a ton in the NFL’s Thursday night opener.  The Redskins were 5th in the NFL in 2007 in rush attempts per game.  Don’t expect that to change much with Jim Zorn as the head coach.  You can feel safe in starting LB Antonio Pierce, as he’ll be plugging up the middle, looking to stop RB Clinton Portis.  For the decimated Giant line, Justin Tuck remains the only real good play, as Osi Umenyiora is out for the season and Michael Strahan chose to remain retired.  The secondary may not see as much action as you’d like, but Kenny Phillips may be tested in his first NFL game, so he could be a decent start.  No other Giant defensive back is worth a look this week, unless you’re in a deep league.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
Antonio Pierce (LB)
Justin Tuck (DL)

Three-Star Plays:
Kenny Phillips (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Gerris Wilkinson (LB)
Danny Clark  (LB)
Mathias Kiwanuka (DL)
Sammy Knight  (DB)
Sam Madison (DB)

One-Star Plays:
Aaron Ross (DB)


Seattle Seahawks @ Buffalo Bills

Seattle Seahawks:
Lofa Tatupu put a scare into his owners during the preseason when he ended up on crutches after the Charger game but the good news is that Tatupu is going to be ready to go and should be very productive against the Bills this week.  LeRoy Hill and Julian Peterson should both be productive enough to start in deeper leagues.  In big play leagues keep an eye on how much more the Seahawks use Hill to blitz versus last year.  The Seahawks interior DL takes a hit with the suspension of both Rocky Bernard and Jordan Babineaux due to their violations of NFL policies.   However, as long as the Seahawks can get out to a lead DE Patrick Kerney should lead the way while Darryl Tapp and rookie Lawrence Jackson are used in rotation to put additional pressure on Bills QB Trent Edwards.  Marcus Trufant will be a solid CB this year but don’t expect him to match his big play production from last year.

Five-Star Plays:
Lofa Tatupu (LB)
Patrick Kerney (DL)

Four-Star Plays:
None.

Three-Star Plays:
Julian Peterson (LB)
LeRoy Hill (LB)
Darryl Tapp (DL)
Marcus Trufant (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Lawrence Jackson (DL)

One-Star Plays:
None.

Buffalo Bills:
The Bills had a hard time getting to the quarterback in 2007, and the Seahawks’ line appears to be improved in 2008, so don’t expect the Bill line to see much time in the offensive backfield.  Should be plenty of tackle stats to go around for the Bill linebackers and defensive backs, though, as the Seattle offense will spread the ball around.  Paul Posluszny looks to bounce back from a disappointing ’07 campaign where he was injured three games in.  Expect him to put up double-digit tackles to open this season.  Kawika Mitchell and Angelo Crowell man the edge linebacking positions and represent decent sleepers for week one.  DE Aaron Schobel will be a must-start until further notice.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
Paul Posluszny (LB)
Aaron Schobel (DL)

Three-Star Plays:
Angelo Crowell (DB)
Terrence McGee (DB)
Donte Whitner (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Kawika Mitchell (LB)

One-Star Plays:
Chris Kelsay (DL)
Ko Simpson (DB)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ New Orleans Saints

Tampa Bay Buccaneers:
Derrick Brooks is entering his 14th NFL season and for the most part seems to be flying under the radar within many IDP circles.  All Brooks has done is accumulate 100 combined tackles for 13 straight years.  He is not the once dominate LB that he used to be but he is someone you are going to be able to plug in and start as a LB3 on a weekly basis.  The bigger question is what Barrett Ruud owners will get this year.  The Ruud that posted 78 combined tackles in his first 8 games last year or the one that put up a lowly 36 combined tackles over the final 8 games of the year.  I would look for Ruud to rack up around 110-125 combined tackles this year.  Versus the Saints, Ronde Barber and Jermaine Phillips should be solid plays for fantasy owners.  On the defensive line Jovan Haye had a fantastic year last year but reproducing at that same level is not going to be an easy feat.  Haye is still a must start in leagues that require a DT.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
Derrick Brooks (LB)
Ronde Barber (DB)
Jermaine Phillips (DB)

Three-Star Plays:
Jovan Haye (DL, in DT mandatory leagues)
Barrett Ruud (LB)

Two-Star Plays:
Greg White (DL)
Gaines Adams (DL)

One-Star Plays:
None.

New Orleans Saints:
The Saints’ defense was less than average in 2007, but their stars have a bit more seasoning now, and they added LB Jonathan Vilma.  Expect Vilma to have a big Week 1 and a big season.  Despite having a decent 2007 season on the strong side, Scott Fujita will probably be a fantasy afterthought in 2008.  The Saint secondary has a stud in Roman Harper but the value drops off significantly from there.  Expect Harper to defend well against Tampa’s West Coast offense and defend a few passes and perhaps pick one off.  The Saints’ beef up front should put plenty of pressure on Jeff Garcia and veteran Will Smith could get his first sack of the 2008 season early on.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
Jonathan Vilma (LB)
Roman Harper (DB)

Three-Star Plays:
Will Smith (DL)

Two-Star Plays:
Mike McKenzie (DB)

One-Star Plays:
Scott Fujita (LB)
Charles Grant (DL)


New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins

New York Jets:
Last year the Jets logged the 11th most defensive plays in the league.  This year I would expect to see them see approximately 10% fewer snaps (the Favre Effect).  With that in mind you may want to temper expectations for the Jets defensive players, namely David Harris.  Harris was nothing short of phenomenal for fantasy teams last year and while he should be a top producer at LB this year I just do not see him keeping the same pace he had to finish off the year last year.  Kerry Rhodes was a pretty big fantasy disappointment last year but you should expect him to rebound this year and reclaim one of the top rungs on the DB ladder.  As a rookie last year Darrelle Revis was a pleasant surprise for owners when he finished top 10 in many formats.  This year the Jets have another rookie CB (Dwight Lowery) that could put up surprisingly good fantasy numbers like Revis did last year.  Early on in the preseason it looked as if Justin Miller was going to be the starting CB opposite of Revis but when it was all said and done Lowery looks to be a starter for week 1.

Five-Star Plays:
Kerry Rhodes (DB)

Four-Star Plays:
David Harris (LB)
Darrelle Revis (DB)

Three-Star Plays:
Calvin Pace (LB)
Dwight Lowery (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Eric Barton (LB)
Shaun Ellis (DL)

One-Star Plays:
None.

Miami Dolphins:
The Dolphins have a tough GM looking over their shoulders, and lost both of their best defenders.  Not the recipe for success, especially when they have to face NFL legend Brett Favre in the first week of the season.  Until we see how this defensive unit plays together in a real game, it’s tough to tell which IDPs are going to be the best bets.  More than likely, LB Channing Crowder will put up decent tackle stats.  We recommend staying away from all other Fin IDPs, unless you’re in a large league and need DL or DB help.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
None.

Three-Star Plays:
Channing Crowder (LB)

Two-Star Plays:
Vonnie Holliday (DL)
Yeremiah Bell (DB)
Chris Crocker (DB)

One-Star Plays:
None.


Houston Texans @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Houston Texans:
DeMeco Ryans just keeps plugging along and this year should be no different.  Ryans should be a top 5 LB in just about every IDP format there is this year.  Morlon Greenwood should be good for some solid games to start the year, especially against a team like the Steelers that will commit to the run.  However, as the season progresses do not be surprised to see rookie Xavier Adibi to eat into his numbers.  On the defensive line Mario Williams is going to pick up right where he left off last year where he was one of the most dominating DE’s in the NFL.  One thing that is going to help Williams even more this year is the development of Amobi Okoye who is going to show that he is a must start in IDP formats that require a DT.

Five-Star Plays:
DeMeco Ryans (LB
Mario Williams (DL)

Four-Star Plays:
None.

Three-Star Plays:
Morlon Greenwood (LB)
Amobi Okoye (DL, in DT mandatory leagues)
Fred Bennett (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
None.

One-Star Plays:
Xavier Adibi (LB)

Pittsburgh Steelers: 
The Steelers’ defense has slipped a bit in the past few years, but look to improve in 2008 with some emerging young defenders.  LB James Farrior will again be a decent second or third fantasy LB, but youngsters Lawrence Timmons and LaMarr Woodley will eventually put up decent fantasy numbers as well.  James Harrison had some big games in 2007, but is a bit too inconsistent to rely upon, especially this early in the season.  The defensive line is solid, but neither end is worthy of a fantasy start this week.  The secondary is led by SS Troy Polamalu, and he represents the best and only IDP start there.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
None.

Three-Star Plays:
James Farrior (LB)
James Harrison (LB)
Troy Polamalu (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Lawrence Timmons (LB)
LaMarr Woodley (LB)

One-Star Plays:
Aaron Smith (DL)


Jacksonville Jaguars @ Tennessee Titans

Jacksonville Jaguars: 
This past offseason the Jaguars did more than just add a couple of highly touted rookie pass rushers.  They also added one of the best defensive minds in the NFL when they brought on Gregg Williams as their new defensive coordinator.  Mike Peterson is entering the season healthy and he should have no problem putting up a big game against what should be a run first Titans game plan.  In the past the Jaguars have played more of a right/left designation with their outside linebackers but under Gregg Williams I would keep an eye on upstart Justin Durant.  Durant is a guy that may have gone undrafted in many leagues and in turn will end up being a big waiver wire pickup for many.  Do not expect big games early on at the DL position from either Derrick Harvey or Quentin Groves as they get acclimated to the NFL.  However, versus the Titans you should expect above average production from both safeties Brian Williams (SS) & Reggie Nelson (FS).  

Five-Star Plays:
Mike Peterson (LB)

Four-Star Plays:
Brian Williams (DB)
Reggie Nelson  (DB)

Three-Star Plays:
Justin Durant (LB)
Daryl Smith (LB)

Two-Star Plays:
Rashean Mathis (DB)

One-Star Plays:
Paul Spicer (DL)
Reggie Hayward (DL)
Derrick Harvey (DL)
Quentin Groves (DL)

Tennessee Titans: 
Good news is LB Keith Bulluck is back.  Bad news is that he’s already been dinged up in pre-season and is showing signs of decline.  In fact, the coaching staff has opted to give David Thornton the play-calling headset for the defense.  Bulluck will still be a good start, but don’t be surprised to see Thornton out-tackle him this week and beyond.  The Titan DL is anchored by Kyle VandenBosch, a high-motor guy that seems to be under-valued.  The secondary’s best bet is SS Chris Hope.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
None.

Three-Star Plays:
Keith Bulluck (LB)
David Thornton (LB)
Kyle VandenBosch (DL)
Chris Hope (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Michael Griffin (DB)

One-Star Plays:
Jevon Kearse (DL)


Detroit Lions @ Atlanta Falcons

Detroit Lions: 
With the Falcons throwing Matt Ryan to the “Lions” in week one you can expect to see a pretty healthy dose of the Falcon running game.  That will bode well for Ernie Sims to rack up plenty of tackles in the Lions Cover-2 Defense.  Paris Lenon will be the starting MLB for the Lions and he should have a respectable day but once Jordan Dizon finally gets a grasp of this defense those days will become few and far between.  The Lions also have a revamped secondary so after a few weeks we will have a better feel for what to expect from that group but even though Leigh Bodden isn’t listed as a starter I expect him to put up good numbers.  I wouldn’t expect much from the DL this week but keep an eye on the young up and comer Ikaika Alama-Francis.

Five-Star Plays:

Four-Star Plays:
Ernie Sims (LB)

Three-Star Plays:
Paris Lenon (LB)
Leigh Bodden (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
DeWayne White (DL)
Jared DeVries (DL)

One-Star Plays:
Jordan Dizon (LB)
Ikaika Alama-Francis (DL)

Atlanta Falcons:
The Falcons gave up 27 passing scores in 2007, a number they better improve on in 2008 if they want to be in games.  They were rather average with 16 picks in 2007, a number that will probably stay about the same.  The real stars of this defense will be the linebackers; both this week and for the season.  Rookie MLB Curtis Lofton will look to prove his worth and veterans Michael Boley (who has put up good fantasy stats from the strong side) and Keith Brooking should have decent outings.  The Lions allowed a whopping 54 sacks in 2007, so expect the Falcon defensive ends to put plenty of pressure on QB Jon Kitna.  Small problem though:  the Birds only had 25 sacks last year, so don’t expect much.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
None.

Three-Star Plays:
Curtis Lofton (LB)

Two-Star Plays:
Keith Brooking (LB)
Michael Boley (LB)
John Abraham (DL)
Jamaal Anderson (DL)
Lawyer Milloy (DB)
Erik Coleman (DB)

One-Star Plays:
Chris Houston (DB)


Kansas City Chiefs @ New England Patriots

Kansas City Chiefs: 
A big question this year with the Chiefs is how the starting linebackers are going to shake out and how will Tamba Hali’s performance fare without Jared Allen lining up opposite of him. This week it especially does not help that Hali will be trying to get his hands on Tom Brady.  I am sure that there are many that drafted Hali as their #1 DL but expecting that type of production out of the gate may be a bit much to expect.  Pat Thomas looks to have the current hold on the starting MLB and Demorrio Williams looks to see time coming off the bench but do not expect much production from either of them.  At this early point in the season the only safe IDP plays on the Chiefs looks to be Derrick Johnson, Bernard Pollard and rookie CB Brandon Flowers

Five-Star Plays:
Bernard Pollard (DB)
Brandon Flowers (DB)

Four-Star Plays:
Derrick Johnson (LB)

Three-Star Plays:
Donnie Edwards (LB)

Two-Star Plays:
None.

One-Star Plays:
Pat Thomas (LB)
Demorrio Williams (LB)
Tamba Hali (DL)

New England Patriots: 
Could be a pretty fruitful day for the Patriot defense and their IDPs.  The Chiefs gave up a league-worst 55 sacks in 2007, and the Patriots racked up 47 sacks, good for second in the NFL.  Expect the front seven to get to QB Brodie Croyle a bunch on Sunday.  The secondary is pretty average and lost Asante Samuel, so until things get a bit clearer, we recommend staying away unless you’re in a pinch.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
None.

Three-Star Plays:
Jerod Mayo (LB)
Adalius Thomas (LB)

Two-Star Plays:
Mike Vrabel (LB)
Tedy Bruschi (LB)
Richard Seymour (DL)
Ty Warren (DL)
Rodney Harrison (DB)
James Sanders (DB)

One-Star Plays:
None.


Cincinnati Bengals @ Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati Bengals: 
The biggest thing that will hold back Bengal IDPs this week is that the Baltimore offense probably won’t be on the field very much as they rack up a bunch of three and outs.  However, if there is anyone that is going to be worth starting it is probably going to be rookie LB Keith Rivers.  Don’t expect Patrick Willis or a DeMeco Ryans type rookie year from Rivers but he should be the most productive Bengal IDP this year.  Dhani Jones will be manning the MLB spot and wearing the defensive headset for the Bengals.  Dhani will more than likely be a productive enough to start as a #3 LB for most IDP leagues but his impact NFL wise isn’t something that will make Bengal fans very happy.  Robert Geathers should be able to log at least one sack versus rookie Joe Flacco in his debut as an NFL QB.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
Keith Rivers (LB)

Three-Star Plays:
Dhani Jones (LB)
Robert Geathers (DL)

Two-Star Plays:
Jonathan Joseph (DB)
Leon Hall (DB)

One-Star Plays:
None.

Baltimore Ravens: 
Well the good news for the Raven D is that the Bengals are a complete mess right now.  They inexplicably released RB Rudi Johnson and have opted to start the oft-injured Chris Perry.  Expect the aggressive Raven front seven to put plenty of pressure on the quarterback, daring the Bengal offense to rely on Perry.  DE Terrell Suggs should have a good start to the 2008 season, and LBs Ray Lewis and Bart Scott should be plenty busy come Sunday.  The Raven secondary will be without veteran Ed Reed but Jim Leonhard should fill in admirably. 

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
Ray Lewis (LB)
Terrell Suggs (DL)

Three-Star Plays:
Bart Scott (LB)
Jim Leonhard (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Marques Douglas (DL)
Samari Rolle (DB)

One-Star Plays:
None.


St. Louis Rams @ Philadelphia Eagles

St. Louis Rams: 
Chris Long was the big headliner during the preseason when the Rams selected him second overall this spring in the NFL draft.  The forgotten man seems to be Leonard Little on the DL and he should not be forgotten.  Little shut it down last year and had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left big toe.  Look for a rebound year from Little but temper expectations this week against what should be a more mobile Donovan McNabb.  Will Witherspoon is the Rams IDP that should really shine this week versus an Eagles team that will be leaning heavily on Brian Westbrook. 

Five-Star Plays:
Will Witherspoon (LB)

Four-Star Plays:
None.

Three-Star Plays:
Leonard Little (DL)
Oshiomogho Atogwe  (DB)
Corey Chavous (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Pisa Tinoisamoa (LB)
Chris Long (DL)

One-Star Plays:
None.

Philadelphia Eagles: 
The Eagles were pretty average at getting to the quarterback in 2007, and only had 11 interceptions.  Their defense may be slightly improved (especially with the addition of Asante Samuel), but it’s recommended to stay away from all non-stud IDPs this week. 

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
Trent Cole (DL)

Three-Star Plays:
Asante Samuel (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Omar Gaither (LB)
Stewart Bradley (LB)

One-Star Plays:
None.


Arizona Cardinals @ San Francisco 49ers

Arizona Cardinals: 
Look for a healthy Adrian Wilson to show why he was considered one of the top if not top DBs going into last year.  Antrel Rolle will man the FS spot and should have a chance to intercept a couple of balls versus the pass happy Mike Martz offense.  All signs point to Karlos Dansby being healthy which means he should put up very good numbers.  Gerald Hayes will still be a startable LB in most formats but Wilson and Dansby will eat into his opportunities.  Bert Berry has had his designation changed from DE to LB and Darnell Dockett had his changed from DT to DE.  Those position designations are huge blows to the value that each of those players presented to their fantasy owners.

Five-Star Plays:
Adrian Wilson (DB)

Four-Star Plays:
Karlos Dansby (LB)

Three-Star Plays:
Gerald Hayes (LB)
Antrel Rolle (DB)

Two-Star Plays:

One-Star Plays:
Bert Berry (LB)
Darnell Dockett (DL)

San Francisco 49ers: 
The Niners’ IDPs value gets an overall bump-up with their offense set to struggle.  You can start LB Patrick Willis every week without question, and DBs Michael Lewis and Nate Clements should put up gaudy stats this week and in future weeks.  The Cards will be throwing the ball all over the field, so expect solid stats from Lewis and Clements and possibly some decent stats from all other DBs.  We recommend staying away from the entire front seven except Willis, of course.

Five-Star Plays:
Patrick Willis (LB)

Four-Star Plays:
Nate Clements (DB)

Three-Star Plays:
Michael Lewis (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Justin Smith (DL)

One-Star Plays:
None.


Carolina Panthers @ San Diego Chargers

Carolina Panthers: 
The Panthers put a small scare into Jon Beason owners when they drafted Dan Connor in the NFL rookie draft.  As it turns out Connor will not be taking over Beason in the middle but Thomas Davis is sliding over to the WLB position.  Owners that have stashed Davis will be very happy with his production from the WLB spot this year.  Beason will still be one of the top LBs in the league this year but make no mistake about it that Davis will eat into some of his production.  While he isn’t listed as a starter, make it a point to get your hands on Richard Marshall.  He may be a spotty start this year as a 3rd CB but trust me when I say he is a top 5 CB waiting to happen for fantasy owners.  In dynasty leagues you should be acquiring him now and just wait patiently.   Chris Harris should be involved plenty in run support to try and slow down LaDainian Tomlinson.  Another thing of note is that Julius Peppers has been shifted to RDE and is in a contract year.  Last year was the first time in four years that Peppers did not make the Pro Bowl.  Look for a very big rebound year from Julius Peppers.

Five-Star Plays:
Jon Beason (LB)

Four-Star Plays:
Thomas Davis (LB)
Julius Peppers (DL)
Chris Harris (DB)
Richard Marshall (DB)

Three-Star Plays:
None.

Two-Star Plays:
None.

One-Star Plays:
Nail Diggs (LB)
Landon Johnson (LB)

San Diego Chargers: 
The big news for the Chargers’ D is that of Shawne Merriman and his balky (at best) knee.  He’s taking it “game by game”, which is not what you want to hear.  The Panthers did give up a couple of sacks per game last season, but that’s not enough to warrant starting Merriman, unless you’re in a bind or in a big league.  There are a few Bolt LBs that have the talent and opportunity to step up and produce fantasy numbers, but at this point, the situation is cloudy at best.  The secondary is led by interception-machine Antonio Cromartie, but I wouldn’t bank on a healthy Jake Delhomme throwing a pick. 

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
None.

Three-Star Plays:
Antonio Cromartie (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Shawne Merriman (LB)
Matt Wilhelm (LB)
Shaun Phillips (LB)
Luis Castillo (DL)

One-Star Plays:
None.


Dallas Cowboys @ Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys: 
Zach Thomas makes his Cowboy debut in a Wade Wilson defense that made Donnie Edwards a perennial top 5 LB.  The question to be answered is how much time if any Thomas sees on 3rd downs.  Demarcus Ware should build on his stud NFL status but will still continue to be an inconsistent fantasy play.  Probably the best news for Cowboy fans is that Roy Williams is going to be relegated to run only plays but unfortunately for fantasy owners that will limit his upside, especially with a ball hawk like Zach Thomas playing LB in front of him.  If your league awards return points for your IDPs then keep a close eye on Adam Jones.  Note I said keep an eye on him I did not say to start him.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
Zach Thomas (LB)

Three-Star Plays:
None.

Two-Star Plays:
Roy Williams (DB)
Bradie James (LB)
Demarcus Ware (LB)

One-Star Plays:
None.

Cleveland Browns: 
The Brown defenders will be busy battling the Cowboy offense, which will be spreading the ball around to all of its skill position studs.  The Browns’ 3-4 defense will make their linebackers less valuable, but the defensive backfield has a pair of solid starts in SS Sean Jones and CB Eric Wright

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
Sean Jones (DB)

Three-Star Plays:
D’Qwell Jackson (LB)
Eric Wright (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Andra Davis (LB)
Brodney Pool (DB)

One-Star Plays:
Kamerion Wimbley (LB)
Robaire Smith (DL)


Chicago Bears @ Indianapolis Colts

Chicago Bears:
The best thing for Bears IDP owners is going to be the Bears offensive inability to stay on the field.  Look for a big year from Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman.   At S many were acquiring Brandon McGowan early but it looks like Kevin Payne is the one that has secured the SS position.  The Colts will control the clock and will look to protect Peyton Manning so I wouldn’t expect much out of the Bears defensive line in this game.

Five-Star Plays:
Brian Urlacher (LB)
Charles Tillman (DB)

Four-Star Plays:
Lance Briggs (LB)

Three-Star Plays:
Kevin Payne (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Adawale Ogunleye (DL)
Alex Brown (DL)
Mike Brown (DB)

One-Star Plays:
Mark Anderson (DL)
Brandon McGowan (DB)

Indianapolis Colts:
The Colts will look to control the game on the defensive side so Peyton Manning doesn’t have to work as hard with his balky knee.  The Bear offense will definitely struggle against the speedy Colt defense, so look for solid to decent IDP stats across the board for the Colt defenders.

Five-Star Plays:
None.

Four-Star Plays:
Gary Brackett (LB)
Bob Sanders (DB)

Three-Star Plays:
Freddy Keiaho (LB)
Robert Mathis (DL)
Marlin Jackson (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Dwight Freeney (DL)
Antoine Bethea (DB)

One-Star Plays:
None.


Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers

Minnesota Vikings: 
Jared Allen is going to make what was a very good defense last year downright scary this year.  Start Allen with the utmost confidence and enjoy the occasional offensive TD he supplies you with when he lines up as TE in some goal line sets.  EJ Henderson had a rock solid year manning the MLB spot last year and his solid production should continue.  The real intriguing thing to watch is if Chad Greenway has actually been moved to the less productive SLB position as it seemed like he was at times in the preseason.  Ben Leber owners will be the ones to benefit if Greenway is in fact playing SLB.  If there is going to be an Achilles heel for the Viking defense it could be that they are starting rookie Tyrell Johnson in place of the injured Madieu Williams at one of the safety positions.  Expect both Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin to be top performers at CB this year with Winfield being the top dog.

Five-Star Plays:
Antoine Winfield (DB)
Jared Allen (DL)

Four-Star Plays:
E.J. Henderson (LB)

Three-Star Plays:
Cedric Griffin (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Chad Greenway (LB)
Ben Leber (LB)
Ray Edwards (DL)

One-Star Plays:
Tyrell Johnson

Green Bay Packers: 
It’s well-documented that the Viking defense was awesome in 2007, and got better in 2008.  Well the Packer D was pretty solid in 2007, and looks to improve in 2008 as well.  This could be a defensive battle, with the Packer IDPs putting up solid stats, especially the LBs.  Expect both Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk to put up good numbers in their controlling of the Viking run game.  You will want to watch the injury report carefully, as Hawk is still battling with an injured chest. 

Five-Star Plays:
Nick Barnett (LB)

Four-Star Plays:
Aaron Kampman (DL)

Three-Star Plays:
A.J. Hawk (LB)
Atari Bigby (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
None.

One-Star Plays:
None.


Denver Broncos @ Oakland Raiders

Denver Broncos: 
In case you missed it DJ Williams is going to be playing a different position yet again for the Broncos.  Williams will be playing the same WLB position that he played in his rookie year.  He won’t put up the type of production he did last year when he was manning the MLB spot but he still should post top 20 or better stats this year.  The good news for Williams’ owners is that that the starting MLB for the Broncos is Nate Webster (bad news for Bronco fans).  Webster will rack up some tackles due to scheme but shouldn’t be someone you rely on at the LB position.  Champ Bailey will still be a force at CB both in NFL and fantasy value.  Outside of Williams and Bailey it is best to steer clear of all other Bronco IDP’s at this time.  Once Elvis Dumervil is healthy then he too should be a solid start at the DL position.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
D.J. Williams (LB)

Three-Star Plays:
Champ Bailey (DB)

Two-Star Plays:
Nate Webster (LB)
Elvis Dumervil (DL)

One-Star Plays:
None.

Oakland Raiders: 
The Raiders D should be vastly improved in 2008, and their IDPs should put up great stats.  Headlining this group is LB Kirk Morrison, but expect safety Gibril Wilson to put up huge stats, as he’s been playing “in the box” on many occasions, which can only improve his fantasy value.  The Broncos will look to control the game on the ground, but will also look to pass quite a bit too.  Without WR Brandon Marshall, the big-play ability won’t be as prevalent, so expect the Raider defensive backs to be as busy as the linebackers. 

Five-Star Plays:
Kirk Morrison (LB)
Gibril Wilson (DB)

Four-Star Plays:
Thomas Howard (LB)
Derrick Burgess (DL)

Three-Star Plays:
Tommy Kelly (DL)

Two-Star Plays:
Michael Huff (DB)
Nnamdi Asomugha (DB)

One-Star Plays:
None

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