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IDP Game Breakdowns - Week 1
Steve Gallo
September 11, 2009
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Weekly, I will break down each team’s matchup and offer ratings on the more important IDPs.  Preceding the game breakdowns is a reference chart that lists each team’s scheme, defensive coordinator & projected three down linebackers.  Ratings are based on a 12-team league that assumes the following starting requirements: 1 defensive tackles (DT), 2 defensive ends (DE), 3-4 linebackers (LB), 2 cornerbacks (CB) & 2 safeties (S).  As the season progresses trends will become apparent and allow me to utilize IDP TOP as a viable tool for these game breakdowns.  Good luck & enjoy!

Rating System:
Five-Star Play: Studly performance anticipated
Four-Star Play: Above average solid start
Three-Star Play: Decent starter or sleeper
Two-Star Play: Bench ‘em, unless you don’t have better options
One-Star Play: Bench ‘em no matter what

Scoring system used for this article: solo tackle (2), assisted tackle (1), sack (3), forced or recovered fumble (3), interception (3) and pass defended (1).

Team base schemes, defensive coordinators and three down linebackers (remember Scheme Matters)

Team Scheme Defensive Coordinator Three down linebackers
ARZ 3-4 Bill Davis Karlos Dansby, Chike Okeafor
ATL 4-3 Brian VanGorder Curtis Lofton, Mike Peterson
BAL 3-4 Greg Mattison Ray Lewis
BUF Tampa 2/Cover 2 Perry Fewell Paul Posluszny, Kawika Mitchell
CAR 4-3 Ron Meeks Jon Beason, Thomas Davis
CHI Tampa 2/Cover 2 Bob Babich Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs
CIN 4-3 Mike Zimmer Dhani Jones, Keith Rivers
CLE 3-4 Rob Ryan D'Qwell Jackson, Eric Barton, Kamerion Wimbley
DAL 3-4 Wade Phillips Bradie James, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer
DEN 3-4 Mike Nolan DJ Williams, Elvis Dumervil
DET 4-3 Gunther Cunningham Larry Foote, Ernie Sims
GB 3-4 Dom Capers Nick Barnett, Aaron Kampman
HOU 4-3 Frank Bush DeMeco Ryans
IND Tampa 2/Cover 2 Larry Coyer Gary Brackett, Clint Session
JAX 4-3 Mel Tucker Justin Durant, Daryl Smith
KC 3-4 Clancy Pendergast Mike Vrable, Tamba Hali
MIA 3-4 Paul Pasqualoni Channing Crowder, Jason Taylor, Joey Porter
MIN Tampa 2/Cover 2 Leslie Frazier EJ Henderson, Chad Greenway
NE 3-4 Dean Pees Jerod Mayo, Adalius Thomas
NO 4-3 Gregg Williams Jonathan Vilma, Scott Shanle
NYG 4-3 Bill Sheridan Antonio Pierce, Michael Boley
NYJ 3-4 Mike Pettine David Harris, Bart Scott
OAK 4-3 John Marshall Kirk Morrison, Thomas Howard
PHL 4-3 Sean McDermott Omar Gaither, Akeem Jordan
PIT 3-4 Dick LeBeau James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons (inj), James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley
SD 3-4 Ron Rivera Cooper, Burnett, Merriman, Phillips
SEA 4-3 Gus Bradley Lofa Tatupu
SF 3-4 Greg Manusky Patrick Willis, Takeo Spikes
STL 4-3 Ken Flajole James Laurinaitis, Will Witherspoon
TB 4-3 Jim Bates Barrett Ruud
TEN 4-3 Chuck Cecil Keith Bulluck, David Thornton
WAS 4-3 Greg Blache London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh, Brian Orakpo

Miami at Atlanta

Miami Dolphins:
The Dolphins defense opens against what should be a run heavy game plan from the Falcons.  Expect Channing Crowder to be the biggest beneficiary.  Matt Ryan was a great success last year but he opens his sophomore season against two OLB’s in Jason Taylor and Joey Porter that can create havoc for opposing QBs.  Taylor returns to the Dolphins after one year away but unfortunately for IDP GMs he is now listed as an OLB instead of a DE.  He isn’t the player he used to be and his new designation makes him almost unrosterable in all but the deepest of leagues.  It will be interesting to see safeties Gibril Wilson & Yeremiah Bell play together in their first regular season game together.  Both should be in starting lineups this week and don’t be shocked if both end up as top 10 ranked safeties at year end.  The 3-4 defense that the Dolphins run makes it easy to decide to bench their DE’s.

Five-Star Plays:
Channing Crowder LB

Four-Star Plays:
Yeremiah Bell SS
Gibril Wilson FS

Three-Star Plays:
None

Two-Star Plays:
Jason Taylor LB
Joey Porter LB
Akin Ayodele DE

One-Star Plays:
Kendall Langford DE

Atlanta Falcons:
Gone is long time Falcon LB Keith Brooking and in is former Jaguar and Colt LB Mike Peterson.  Peterson will man the weak side for the Falcons but make no mistake that this defense now belongs to second year MLB Curtis Lofton.  Look for Lofton to get off to a great start in week 1 en route to what very easily could be a top 10 ranking this season.  John Abraham is a DE that should be in your lineup every week that he is healthy and he is healthy so make sure you get him into your lineup.  The Falcons drafted William Moore in round 2 and many expected him to be the safety to target this year but injuries have set him back and IDP GM’s should be looking for very good production from Eric Coleman who is currently starting at SS.

Five-Star Plays:
Curtis Lofton LB

Four-Star Plays:
Eric Coleman DB
John Abraham DE

Three-Star Plays:
Mike Peterson LB
Brent Grimes CB

Two-Star Plays:
Stephen Nicholas LB

One-Star Plays:
Jamal Anderson DE


Kansas City at Baltimore

Kansas City:
For the longest time Chiefs fans were calling for Herm’s head and they got their wish this past offseason.  Now not only do the Chiefs now have a new head coach (Todd Haley) & new defensive coordinator (Clancy Pendergast) they are also installing a new 3-4 defense.  Expect first round pick DE Tyson Jackson to be a major component in the success with the new defense just realize his impact will be geared towards NFL production rather than fantasy stat production.  Mike Vrabel and Zach Thomas were brought in to help with veteran leadership and the transition to the 3-4 but Thomas wasn’t healthy enough to make the team.  The value that Vrabel brings to the Chiefs is much like Jackson in that fantasy wise he won’t be worth much.  This defense will spend a ton of time on the field this year and LB Derrick Johnson should benefit greatly, that is if he can earn back his starting job.  Coach Haley played games with Dwayne Bowe with regards to the depth chart and looks to be doing the same with Johnson.  Corey Mays looks to be a sleeper as one of the starting ILB’s.  Mike Brown should be a very good play this week as he won the starting SS job from former 2nd round pick Bernard Pollard, who was recently cut.  This week versus the Ravens, expect to see an above average number of rushing attempts, which should be beneficial but realize that there is risk in starting any Chiefs until we see exactly how the depth chart has truly shaken out.

Five-Star Plays:
Mike Brown SS
Four-Star Plays:
Derrick Johnson LB

Three-Star Plays:
Brandon Flowers CB
Brandon Carr CB
Corey Mays LB

Two-Star Plays:
Mike Vrabel LB

One-Star Plays:
Tyson Jackson DE
Tamba Hali LB

Baltimore:
DE Terrell Suggs is reportedly healthy and says he is ready to play an entire game so plug Suggs into your lineup this week and don’t even think twice about it.  Yes, I consider Suggs a defensive end and his ratings for this season are going to be a reflection of that.  If your league considers him a LB then you need to understand that his ranking would differ greatly.  Ray Lewis is another year older but is still a very worthy LB1 and don’t be surprised to see Lewis in the middle of things creating a few big plays versus the Chiefs.  DT Haloti Ngata is easily one of the best DTs in the league (both fantasy and NFL wise) and is a top play in DT mandatory leagues.  If you own Ed Reed he is probably an ok play this week but remember that Reed is another one of those players where his value is much greater NFL wise then it is fantasy wise.

Five-Star Plays:
Terrell Suggs DE

Four-Star Plays:
Ray Lewis LB
Haloti Ngata DT

Three-Star Plays:
Tavares Gooden LB

Two-Star Plays:
Ed Reed FS
Fabian Washington CB
Domonique Foxworth CB
Jarrett Johnson LB

One-Star Plays:
Trevor Pryce DE


Philadelphia at Carolina

Philadelphia:
The biggest hit the Eagles defense took this offseason is the loss of Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson to cancer.  Sean McDermott steps in as an internal promotion to Defensive Coordinator and should still do a good job but the loss of Stewart Bradley for the season due to a knee injury put him behind the eight ball a bit.  Former starting MLB Omar Gaither won the MLB competition this preseason with 2nd year player Joe Mays.  Gaither wasn’t anything special two years ago when he was the starting MLB but he should be an option as a LB3/4 this year.  Look for LB Akeem Jordan to continue to build on a good end of season performance.  DE Trent Cole is a top 5 stud in all formats and should be in your lineup this week.  The biggest beneficiary from the loss of Bradley will probably be SS Quintin Mikell who could exceed his 93 total tackles from a year ago.  Sharing starting secondary duties with Mikell is rookie 5th round draft pick Macho Harris and not the newly signed Sean Jones or 2nd year 4th round draft pick Quintin Demps.  If you find yourself in a dire situation at the S/DB position Harris could be a decent sleeper play this week.

Five-Star Plays:
Trent Cole DE

Four-Star Plays:
Akeem Jordan LB
Quintin Mikell SS

Three-Star Plays:
Omar Gaither LB

Two-Star Plays:
Macho Harris FS
Asante Samuel CB

One-Star Plays:
Chris Gocong LB

Carolina:
Reports are that Jon Beason returned to practice on Wednesday after suffering an MCL injury earlier in the preseason.  Beason is a stud but I would temper expectations some against an Eagles team that likes to pass the ball.  Also, the loss of DT Ma’ake Kemoeatu for the season due to a knee injury could end up hurting Beason some this year.   DE Julius Peppers tried his best to force the Panthers to trade him this offseason but he is still a Panther thanks to the franchise tag.  Expect Peppers to be playing for a very large contract next year and a ticket out of Carolina.  The Eagles should have a very good OL this season but the starting unit has yet to play a single snap together this year and that bodes very well for Peppers and his owners.  CB Richard Marshall looks to have a great weekend versus the pass happy Eagles and when it happens don’t blow it off as a one off type week.  I have Marshall ranked as the top CB and a top 5 DB this year.  He should have no problem making the most of finally securing a starting spot in this defense.
 
Five-Star Plays:
Julius Peppers DE

Four-Star Plays:
Richard Marshall CB

Three-Star Plays:
Jon Beason LB
Thomas Davis LB

Two-Star Plays:
Chris Harris SS
Chris Gamble CB

One-Star Plays:
Damione Lewis DT


Denver at Cincinnati

Denver:
The Broncos are another team that is transitioning to a new defense with the implementation of a 3-4 headed up by former San Francisco head coach Mike Nolan.  Many feel that Denver trying to play a 3-4 is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole.  While that may be very true, make no mistake about the fact that LB DJ Williams is still going to be a monster in this defense.  He is coming back from injury but as long as he plays 16 games this year, he should end up a top 5 LB.  Brian Dawkins brings plenty of leadership with him but he is a liability in coverage and will be best utilized near the line of scrimmage.   If you are in a big play league, you will probably want to bench Dawkins while he has his hand in a club like cast otherwise in tackle heavy leagues he should be a safer play.  Elvis Dumervil can get after the QB but his designation has changed to OLB and that is a big hit to his value making him waiver wire fodder in just about every league format.

Five-Star Plays:
DJ Williams LB

Four-Star Plays:
None

Three-Star Plays:
Andra Davis LB

Two-Star Plays:
Brian Dawkins SS
Elvis Dumervil LB
 
One-Star Plays:
Robert Ayers LB

Cincinnati:
LB Dhani Jones led the Bengals in tackles last year with 116 total tackles but this year he will be fighting with LB Keith Rivers and rookie LB Rey Maualuga to get the ball carrier.  Last year the Bengals were the 2nd worst team at sacking the QB and this year doesn’t look to be much better.  Rookie DE Michael Johnson could change that as the season progresses but don’t expect much from him in week 1.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
None

Three-Star Plays:
Dhani Jones LB
Keith Rivers LB
Domata Peko DT

Two-Star Plays:
Antwan Odom DE
Roy Williams SS
Leon Hall

One-Star Plays:
Rey Maualuga LB


Minnesota at Cleveland

Minnesota:
Good news for Viking fans and bad news for Browns fans, DT’s Kevin and Pat Williams are eligible to play in week 1.  The Browns should send DE Jared Allen a jersey because with as much time as he is going to be in their backfield you might think he actually played for the Browns offense.  Both CB Antoine Winfield and CB Cedric Griffin are top 5 CBs this season and top 10 in combined DB leagues.  Their opportunities may be limited some this week but they should both still produce enough to warrant starting them.  LB EJ Henderson is back from a season ending injury last year and while this week could be a pedestrian performance should still be a top 15-20 LB this season.  Expect LB Chad Greenway to be a workman like productive play this season but temper expectations versus the Browns offense.

Five-Star Plays:
Jared Allen DE

Four-Star Plays:
Kevin Williams DT

Three-Star Plays:
EJ Henderson LB
Chad Greenway LB
Antoine Winfield CB
Cedric Griffin CB

Two-Star Plays:
Madieu Williams FS

One-Star Plays:
Ben Leber LB
Ray Edwards DE

Cleveland:
LB D’Qwell Jackson led the NFL in tackles (154) last year and versus what should be a heavy dose of Adrian Peterson he looks to pick up right where he left off.  Look for DT Shaun Rogers to be a strong play for the same reason.  LB Eric Barton was productive while playing for the Jets last year and there should be enough to go around this week to make him a solid start.  SS Abram Elam is a sleeper that fantasy GM’s should keep their eye on going forward but don’t expect much this week.

Five-Star Plays:
D’Qwell Jackson LB

Four-Star Plays:
Shaun Rogers DT

Three-Star Plays:
Eric Barton LB

Two-Star Plays:
Kamerion Wimbley LB

One-Star Plays:
Brodney Pool FS


NY Jets at Houston

NY Jets:
The Jets defense should get a shot in the arm with new Head Coach and former Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan coming to town.  Joining Ryan in New York from Baltimore is LB Bart Scott and SS Jim Leonhard.   In the Jets 3-4, Scott will be playing next to LB David Harris who is coming back from injury in 2008.  Both should be solid plays versus a Houston team that should be one of the better offensive teams in 2009.  Many are hoping that Kerry Rhodes will return to being a top performing S under Ryan but don’t be surprised if Leonhard ends up being the more productive fantasy player.  CB Lito Sheppard is still wearing green but it’s not the same shade as the Eagle green he wore last year.  With Darrelle Revis manning the other CB position don’t be shocked to see Matt Schaub targeting Sheppard’s side of the field early and often.  LB Calvin Pace is opening the season on the suspended list giving former 1st rounder LB Vernon Gholston a chance to shine.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
Lito Sheppard CB
Jim Leonhard SS

Three-Star Plays:
Bart Scott LB
David Harris LB
Kerry Rhodes FS
Kris Jenkins DT

Two-Star Plays:
Darrelle Revis CB

One-Star Plays:
Vernon Gholston LB

Houston:
Expect the Texans to face a hard and heavy rushing attack from the Jets as a way to try to protect their star rookie QB Mark Sanchez.  DeMeco Ryans looks to be healthy and there is no reason not to expect him to perform like the stud that he is.  Last year, Zac Diles burst onto the scene and was a waiver wire darling but then he broke his leg.  Coming into the season Diles was working in a reserve role but the poor play of LB Xavier Adibi in the preseason has thrust him back into a starting role.  LB Adibi should still see the field enough to limit the fantasy production of Diles.  Expect to see DE Mario Williams welcome Mark Sanchez to the NFL.  This season should help to solidify Williams as the stud that he is.

Five-Star Plays:
Mario Williams DE
DeMeco Ryans LB

Four-Star Plays:
Amobi Okoye DT

Three-Star Plays:
Zac Diles LB

Two-Star Plays:
Antonio Smith DE

One-Star Plays:
Brian Cushing LB


Jacksonville at Indianapolis

Jacksonville:
LB Justin Durant was anointed the starting MLB earlier this year by coach Jack Del Rio and the result should be very positive for Durant owners.  With Durant taking over the MLB spot that means that LB Daryl Smith was being moved back to his former WLB position.  DE Derrick Harvey should take a step forward this year but this week he would be better off left on the bench as Peyton Manning doesn’t take many sacks.  Look for Manning to pick on rookie CB Derek Cox all day long.  The “rookie corner rule” is in full effect for this matchup.

Five-Star Plays:
Derek Cox CB

Four-Star Plays:
Justin Durant LB

Three-Star Plays:
Daryl Smith LB

Two-Star Plays:
Derrick Harvey DE
John Henderson DT
Rashean Mathis CB

One-Star Plays:
Clint Ingram LB

Indianapolis:
LB Gary Brackett returns from injury to anchor the Colts LB group and he is a solid play versus the Jaguars.  LB Clint Session takes over the WLB job that was manned by Freddie Keiaho last year.  DE Dwight Freeney and DE Robert Mathis are one of the best tandems in the NFL but Mathis is the safe fantasy play as Freeney is too inconsistent.  SS Bob Sanders is injured again, will miss this week’s tilt, and is being replaced in the starting lineup by SS Melvin Bullitt who should be a safe start in deeper leagues this week.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
Gary Brackett LB
Clint Session LB

Three-Star Plays:
Robert Mathis DE
Melvin Bullitt SS

Two-Star Plays:
Dwight Freeney DE

One-Star Plays:
Ed Johnson DT
Marlin Jackson CB


Detroit at New Orleans

Detroit:
The Lions seem to be going in the right direction.  Then again, can they go any farther in the wrong direction?  With that said, the Lions did make a few nice acquisitions this offseason.  LB Julian Peterson was acquired from the Seattle for DT Cory Redding and LB Larry Foote formerly of Pittsburgh will man two of the starting LB spots.  Foote should be a safe play as the Lions MLB this week but until we see how nickel snaps shakes out there is some risk in starting him and Peterson.  LB Ernie Sims will continue to be the starter at WLB and should be a three down linebacker.  Sims doesn’t present the upper echelon stats that were hoped for when he first came into the league but he should put up solid LB2 numbers this week and for the season.  FS Louis Delmas has looked great in practice and the rookie 2nd rounder should be an above average start against the high flying Saints offense.  The Lions biggest Achilles heel is probably their defensive line and this week versus QB Drew Brees it is best to bench them all since Brees has been one of the least sacked QB’s in the NFL.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
None

Three-Star Plays:
Ernie Sims LB
Larry Foote LB
Louis Delmas FS

Two-Star Plays:
Julian Peterson LB

One-Star Plays:
DeWayne White DE

New Orleans:
Both DE Will Smith and DE Charles Grant will be active and play in week 1.  Both should be above average plays against rookie QB Matthew Stafford.  Going forward there is still a chance that Smith and Grant will have to serve 4 game suspensions due to testing positive for bumetanide last season (better known as the StarCaps case).  LB Jonathan Vilma returns for his second season with the Saints and it should be a top 5ish season at that.  Vilma may have his chances limited by an inept Lions offense but you still need to start him.  Look for 2nd year CB Tracy Porter to have a solid game with the good possibility of picking of a Stafford pass or two.

Five-Star Plays:
None                    

Four-Star Plays:
Jonathan Vilma LB
Will Smith DE

Three-Star Plays:
Charles Grant DE
Roman Harper SS
Tracy Porter CB

Two-Star Plays:
Darren Sharper FS
Scott Shanle LB

One-Star Plays:
Scott Fujita LB
Kendrick Clancy DT


Dallas at Tampa Bay

Dallas:
LB DeMarcus Ware is the big name on the Dallas defense but when it comes to fantasy production LB Bradie James is who fantasy GM’s should be relying on for week to week production.  If you are in a sack heavy league then Ware is a no brainer start but in tackle heavy leagues he is to inconsistent to rely on weekly.  However, this is a week where you should be able to insert Ware and expect one to two sacks and maybe even a forced fumble.  LB Keith Brookings arrives from the Falcons and takes over for the departed Zach Thomas next to Bradie James at the other ILB position.  Brookings looks like he will end up being a low level LB3 or high level LB4 this season.

Five-Star Plays:
DeMarcus Ware LB

Four-Star Plays:
Bradie James LB

Three-Star Plays:
Jay Ratliff DT
Ken Hamlin FS

Two-Star Plays:
Keith Brooking LB
Anthony Spencer LB

One-Star Plays:
Terrance Newman CB
Igor Olshansky DE
Marcus Spears DE

Tampa Bay:
The best news of the fantasy offseason had to be for LB Barrett Ruud owners when it was announced that Jim Bates would be the Tampa Bay defensive coordinator.  Middle linebackers flourish in the system that Bates runs which can be seen by looking at the past performances of Zach Thomas, DJ Williams and Jesse Tuggle.  When coupled with the assumption that the Tampa Bay offense will struggle this year it is easy to understand why I have Ruud ranked as my #1 LB for this season.  This will also be the 1st time in 14 seasons that Derrick Brooks will not be a part of the Tampa Bay defense.
Brooks was going to be replaced by converted SS Jermaine Phillips but Phillips will start the season playing SS due to the suspension to Tanard Jackson.  LB Geno Hayes will start in place of the departed Brooks at WLB and has some nice upside because of it.  DE Gaines Adams should take a major step forward this season into elite status.
 
Five-Star Plays:
Barrett Ruud LB
Jermaine Phillips SS

Four-Star Plays:
Geno Hayes LB
Gaines Adams DE

Three-Star Plays:
Ronde Barber CB

Two-Star Plays:
Aqib Talib CB
Sabby Piscitelli FS

One-Star Plays:
Quincy Black LB


San Francisco at Arizona

San Francisco:
LB Patrick Willis is about as plug & play as it gets for fantasy owners but versus a pass happy Arizona team his tackle opportunities could be limited.  Still he is a stud and you have to start him just stay off the ledge if he gets off to a pedestrian start.   DE Justin Smith may see less time as an OLB in the 3-4 this year but gets a pretty good matchup versus an immobile Kurt Warner.  CB Nate Clements & SS Michael Lewis both should be in line for a very good game.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
Patrick Willis LB
Michael Lewis SS

Three-Star Plays:
Justin Smith DE

Two-Star Plays:
Dashon Goldson FS

One-Star Plays:
Takeo Spikes LB

Arizona:
The Cardinals should get a healthy dose of RB Frank Gore this week and that bodes well for LB Karlos Dansby owners.  Dansby solidified his stud status last year and will easily be a LB1 again this year.  SS Adrian Wilson is healthy and looks primed for a great season.  Expect him to make plenty of plays in the secondary and to be active blitzing QB Shaun Hill too.  LB Gerald Hayes should be a solid yet unspectacular play facing the 49ers heavy rushing attack.

Five-Star Plays:
Karlos Dansby LB
Adrian Wilson SS

Four-Star Plays:
Gerald Hayes LB
Darnell Dockett DT

Three-Star Plays:
Antrel Rolle FS

Two-Star Plays:
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB

One-Star Plays:
Calais Campbell DE


Washington at N.Y. Giants

Washington:
Look for 100 million dollar DT Albert Haynesworth to have a huge impact on the Washington defense this year both fantasy and NFL wise.  Fantasy wise Haynesworth remains a top DT play, especially this week versus what should be a heavy running game of the Giants.  The Redskins defense was top 5 without Haynesworth last year and will be even better this year.  Rookie LB Brian Orakpo lost most of his fantasy value when he was moved from DE to LB but should provide good value NFL wise.  LB London Fletcher and SS Chris Horton could see Haynesworth eat into their production this year so temper your expectations from them this year.  FS Laron Landry is an elite NFL talent but stuck in fantasy purgatory playing the deep part of the field.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
London Fletcher LB

Three-Star Plays:
Chris Horton SS
Andre Carter DE
Albert Haynesworth DT

Two-Star Plays:
Rocky McIntosh LB
Brian Orakpo LB

One-Star Plays:
Laron Landry FS
Fred Smoot CB

NY Giants:
This Giants defense has all the makings for another exceptional unit this year.  SS Kenny Phillips should take a step forward in his sophomore season and end up as a solid fantasy contributor.  Not that the Giants needed it but they added to an already great defensive line with the additions of DT Rocky Bernard and DT Chris Canty. DE Osi Umenyiora is returning after missing last year due to injury and he should return to stud DE status instantly.  LB Antonio Pierce was inconsistent last year and with the strength of the defensive line the same can be expected this year. 

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
Justin Tuck DE
Osi Umenyiora DE

Three-Star Plays:
Rocky Bernard DT
Kenny Phillips SS

Two-Star Plays:
Mathias Kiwanuka DE

One-Star Plays:
Michael Johnson FS


St. Louis at Seattle

St. Louis:
The Rams are in rebuilding mode and their defense should see plenty of action this year.  FS Oshiomogho Atogwe looks to be a very good play this week and should end the season as the Rams top fantasy player and as a top 5-10 defensive back.  Second year DE Chris Long should continue to improve and is a good play against a beaten up Seattle OL.  If you are in a dynasty league and you don’t own Long you better make a play for him sooner rather than later.  The Rams also drafted LB James “Little Animal” Laurinaitis to play MLB and he should be a high level LB2 with some upside.  If you aren’t sure why his nickname is “Little Animal” it is because his father is the former Road Warrior known as Animal. 
 
Five-Star Plays:
Oshiomogho Atogwe FS

Four-Star Plays:
James Laurinaitis LB
Chris Long DE

Three-Star Plays:
Will Witherspoon LB

Two-Star Plays:
Leonard Little DE

One-Star Plays:
David Vobora LB

Seattle:
This past offseason Seattle sent LB Julian Peterson to Detroit for DE/DT Cory Redding and then promptly replaced Peterson with 1st round pick LB Aaron Curry.  Curry should work his way into being a consistent fantasy producer as the season progresses but LB Lofa Tatupu is still playing MLB and is likely to still lead the team in tackles.  Both DE Darryl Tapp and DE Patrick Kerney should have productive games versus the Rams.  Just be cautious with Tapp as he looks to be used in rotation with DE Lawrence Jackson and Redding.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
Patrick Kerney DE
Brandon Mebane DT

Three-Star Plays:
Darryl Tapp DE
Lofa Tatupu LB
Leroy Hill LB
Aaron Curry LB

Two-Star Plays:
Lawrence Jackson DE

One-Star Plays:
Deon Grant SS


Chicago at Green Bay

Chicago:
When it comes to the Bears defense LB Brian Urlacher is face of the defense but make no mistake that Urlacher has lost a step and shouldn’t be relied up as a LB1.  He will still be a solid fantasy player just not the former stud that he used to be.  On the other hand LB Lance Briggs is a low level LB1 and should get a good start to his season this week.  CB Charles Tillman was money for fantasy owners last year but he is far from healthy going into this week 1 tilt and you should look for other options if you have them.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
Lance Briggs LB
Kevin Payne SS

Three-Star Plays:
Brian Urlacher LB
Adewale Ogunleye DE
Alex Brown DE

Two-Star Plays:
Charles Tillman CB

One-Star Plays:
Tommie Harris DT

Green Bay:
Dom Capers comes to town as the Packers new defensive coordinator and has brought his 3-4 defensive scheme with him.  LB Aaron Kampman takes a big hit fantasy wise with his move from DE to LB.  The jury is also out on how the move to a 3-4 is going to affect LB Nick Barnett and LB AJ Hawk until we see who plays in sub packages. 

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
None

Three-Star Plays:
Nick Barnett LB
AJ Hawk LB
Charles Woodson CB
Atari Bigby SS

Two-Star Plays:
Aaron Kampman LB

One-Star Plays:
Cullen Jenkins DE


Buffalo at New England

Buffalo:
The Bills defense looks to have their hands full with the Tom Brady led Patriots team to open the season.  LB Paul Posluszny looks to build on a good sophomore season and hopefully take a step towards being a stud fantasy LB.  With the amount of time the Bills defense could spend on the field that is a real possibility.  DE Aaron Schobel will be coming back from injury last year and should see a good bounce back year but don’t expect much versus the Patriots this week.  CB’s Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin should be plenty busy this week.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
Terrence McGee CB

Three-Star Plays:
Paul Posluszny LB
Kawika Mitchell LB
Leodis McKelvin CB

Two-Star Plays:
Aaron Schobel DE

One-Star Plays:
Aaron Maybe DE
Marcus Stroud DT

New England:
LB Jerod Mayo had a fantastic season as a rookie last year and is easily a top 10 LB this year.  His tackle opportunities could be limited this week versus and offensively challenged Bills team.  Outside of Mayo the rest of the Patriots IDP plays look to be inconsistent at best.  SS Patrick Chung eventually will be a force in the secondary but that time hasn’t come yet.  LB Adalius Thomas is still a difference maker but that difference is on an NFL level and not fantasy level.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
Jerod Mayo LB

Three-Star Plays:
Vince Wilfork DT

Two-Star Plays:
Adalius Thomas LB

One-Star Plays:
Leigh Bodden CB
Shawn Springs CB


San Diego at Oakland

San Diego:
This week LB Shawne Merriman should be a good play versus the Raiders.  I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see a multi sack game for Merriman.  LB Stephen Cooper put up some very impressive fantasy stats when he returned from suspension last year and this year he should be good for a low level LB2 with some upside.  The thing that may limit Cooper is that LB Kevin Burnett will be starting next to him and very well could steal some tackles from him.  Burnett has the makings of being a nice sleeper this year.  FS Eric Weddle should also be a strong play against the Raiders.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
Shawne Merriman LB
Eric Weddle FS

Three-Star Plays:
Stephen Cooper LB
Kevin Burnett LB

Two-Star Plays:
Clinton Hart SS

One-Star Plays:
Quentin Jammer CB
Antonio Cromartie CB

Oakland:
Everyone was fighting for their job this preseason for the Raiders and that included the team’s leading tackler from last year, LB Kirk Morrison.  Morrison looks to have held on to his starting job but an elbow injury had him questionable for week 1.  Currently it looks as if he will be ready to play and should be in owner’s lineups.  CB Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the best corners in the league and because he is so good QB’s do their best to avoid throwing to his side of the field.  In other words, don’t start Asomugha.  LB Thomas Howard should find himself busy chasing LaDainian Tomlinson from his WLB slot.  Crazy Old Al Davis sent the Patriots a 1st round pick for DE Richard Seymour who so far has refused to report to the team.  Talk about going from the penthouse to the outhouse.  Don’t be surprised if Seymour sits out the entire seasonSS Tyvon Branch will not put up the numbers as good as Gibril Wilson did last year but he should put up above average numbers as long as he holds onto his starting job.

Five-Star Plays:
None

Four-Star Plays:
Kirk Morrison LB

Three-Star Plays:
Thomas Howard LB
Tyvon Branch SS

Two-Star Plays:
Greg Ellis DE

One-Star Plays:
Nnamdi Asomugha CB

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