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IDP Game Breakdowns - Week 8
Steve Gallo
October 30, 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.  In addition the reference chart is color coded to identify teams that are giving up average (highlighted in yellow), below average (highlighted in red) & above average (highlighted in green) tackle opportunities (TOs) based on their season average.  Basically, if your LB is facing a RED team then it isn't a good matchup, conversely a GREEN team would be a GOOD matchup.  The historical average for tackle opportunities is 47 (highlighted in yellow) and anything 46 or less will be in red and above 47 will be in green.  Ratings are based on a 12-team league that assumes the following starting requirements: 2 defensive linemen (DL) (defensive ends (DE) & defensive tackles (DT)), 3-4 linebackers (LB), 2 defensive backs (DB) (cornerbacks (CB) & safeties (S)).  Good luck & enjoy!

Star Rating System:
Five-Star Play: Studly performance anticipated
Four-Star Play: Above average solid starter
Three-Star Play: Starter
Two-Star Play: Bench ‘em or possible sleeper
One-Star Play: Bench ‘em no matter what
* Star Ratings boxes are now color coded to show the tackle opportunities the team they are facing is giving up:
average (highlighted in yellow), below average (highlighted in red) & above average (highlighted in green)  This will help so that you don't have to continually scroll up to the reference chart and also if you are stuck between who to start out of say two 3 Star players then you will probably want to go with the one that has a "Green" matchup versus a "Red" matchup.

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).

Teams on BYE in week 8:  Cincinnati, Kansas City, New England, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Washington

Tackle Opportunities(TOs) given up by teams offense, Team base schemes, Defensive Coordinators and three down linebackers (remember Scheme Matters)

Team Avg TOs
Given Up/Wk
Defensive
Scheme
Defensive
Coordinator
Three down linebackers
ARZ 48 3-4 Bill Davis Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor
ATL 48 4-3 Brian VanGorder Curtis Lofton, Mike Peterson
BAL 50 3-4(Multi Front) Greg Mattison Ray Lewis, Tavares Gooden
BUF 45 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Perry Fewell Paul Posluszny, Keith Ellison
CAR 48 4-3 & Tampa 2 Ron Meeks Jon Beason, Thomas Davis
CHI 45 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Bob Babich Lance Briggs, Nick Roach
CIN 49 4-3 Mike Zimmer Dhani Jones
CLE 41 3-4 Rob Ryan Eric Barton, Kamerion Wimbley, David Bowens
DAL 47 3-4 Wade Phillips Bradie James, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer
DEN 52 3-4 Mike Nolan DJ Williams, Elvis Dumervil
DET 46 4-3 Gunther Cunningham Larry Foote
GB 48 3-4 Dom Capers Aaron Kampman, Nick Barnett
HOU 50 4-3 Frank Bush DeMeco Ryans, Bryan Cushing
IND 50 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Larry Coyer Gary Brackett, Clint Session
JAX 49 3-4 Mel Tucker Justin Durant, Daryl Smith
KC 46 3-4 Clancy Pendergast Mike Vrabel, Tamba Hali
MIA 55 3-4 Paul Pasqualoni Channing Crowder, Jason Taylor, Joey Porter
MIN 51 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Leslie Frazier EJ Henderson, Chad Greenway
NE 55 3-4 Dean Pees Jerod Mayo
NO 55 4-3 Gregg Williams Jonathan Vilma, Scott Shanle
NYG 51 4-3 Bill Sheridan Antonio Pierce, Michael Boley (inj)
NYJ 50 3-4 Mike Pettine David Harris, Bart Scott
OAK 38 4-3 John Marshall Kirk Morrison, Thomas Howard
PHL 45 4-3 Sean McDermott Will Witherspoon
PIT 50 3-4 Dick LeBeau James Farrior, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, L Timmons
SD 44 3-4 Ron Rivera Stephen Cooper, Kevin Burnett, Sh. Merriman, Shaun Phillips
SEA 49 4-3 Gus Bradley Aaron Curry
SF 41 3-4 Greg Manusky Patrick Willis
STL 44 4-3 Ken Flajole James Laurinaitis, Paris Lenon
TB 41 4-3 Jim Bates Barrett Ruud, Geno Hayes
TEN 44 4-3 Chuck Cecil Keith Bulluck, David Thornton, Stephen Tulloch
WAS 44 4-3 Greg Blache London Fletcher, Rocky McIntosh, Brian Orakpo

REMINDER:  STAR BOXES ARE COLOR CODED BASED ON THE TACKLE OPPORTUNITIES THE TEAM THEY ARE FACING IS GIVING UP ON AVERAGE.

Denver at Baltimore

5 STAR
DJ Williams
Brian Dawkins
4 STAR
Andra Davis
3 STAR
Champ Bailey
Elvis Dumervil
2 STAR
None
1 STAR
Robert Ayers

BroncosThe Broncos are coming off of a bye and just as they were going into their bye they are still undefeated. It seems like it took forever for the Broncos to start getting any respect and after this week the respect that they did gain will start to be questioned. The Broncos defense has easily been outplaying the expectations of many and if they are to remain undefeated the defense is going to have to keep up their play.  While I don't think Broncos fans will be happy after this game is completed I do think that Bronco IDP owners will be very happy as the Ravens are giving up the 4th most tackle opportunities/game.

Defensive Line: As much as I would like to write something different about the Denver DL I just can't.  There is no fantasy relevance on the Bronco DL.

Linebacker: DJ Williams owners will be very excited to get him back into their lineups this week after being without him last week due to his bye week.  This week I expect the Ravens to get back to their roots and run the ball and run it some more.  Don't be surprised to see Williams among the best fantasy producing LBs this week.  LB Andra Davis has put up very good numbers even if he isn't a three down LB and should also have an above average week this week.  Thru 6 games OLB Elvis Dumervil has already recorded 10 sacks.  He hasn't gone consecutive games without a multi sack game and is in the type of zone that makes benching him almost impossible to do.  I think this is probably a week he should actually be on your bench as I see the Ravens really limiting their passing game to focus on their running game.

Secondary:  Brian Dawkins injured his leg back in his week 6 game and was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday.  Dawkins is a warrior and if he is able to keep practicing then he is a great play this week.  Just beware that there is some risk due to his hamstring injury and make sure you keep a close eye on game day inactives. I will update his practice status for Thursday and Friday on Friday evening.

INJURY UPDATE:  Brian Dawkins (hamstring) practiced fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Ray Lewis
3 STAR
Terrell Suggs
2 STAR

Haloti Ngata
Tavares Gooden
Kelly Gregg

1 STAR
Ed Reed

RavensHopefully the Ravens were able to use their bye week to figure out how to improve upon their 3-3 start.  My guess is that the Ravens will try to get back to a heavier reliance on the run.  This year they are throwing the ball 60% of the time and running it just 40% of the time.  Last year it was almost the complete opposite when they only passed the ball 42% of the time and ran it 58% of the time.  QB Joe Flacco has a gun and can air it out but at 3-3 it sure would seem likely to see the Ravens return to what they are known for, smash mouth football.  The Ravens can ill afford to drop another game as they trail both the Steelers (5-2) & Bengals (5-2) in the standings.  The Broncos rank 2nd in tackle opportunities given up per game.

Defensive Line:  Many Terrell Suggs owners are probably slightly disappointed with his performance so far. While Suggs has only recorded 2.5 sacks he does rank 3rd among all DL with 31 total tackles.  The sacks will start to come but until they do Suggs will still normally be a 3 star play at a minimum.  Haloti Ngata and Kelly Gregg will remain options in DT mandatory leagues but this week I would temper expectations.

Linebacker:  Ray Lewis currently ranks 14th among LBs in total tackles.  Eight of the LBs that rank above Lewis have played one more game than he has too.  Lewis is easily one of the most energizing players ever in the NFL and this week I would expect Ray Ray to be in rare form as he leads a Ravens defense in an effort to upset the undefeated Broncos.  Tavares Gooden (head) was held out of practice on Wednesday and was a limited participant in practice on Thursday.  If Gooden wasn't being limited this week he would more than likely be rated a 3 star play.

INJURY UPDATE:  Taveres Gooden (head) practiced fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  I have pointed out numerous times this year that Ed Reed is not a good option to rely on in fantasy football. In Reed's last two games he has logged back to back 5+ solo tackle efforts and that is the first time since early in 2004 that he has accomplished that feat.  I guess we could be seeing a new trend that shows that Reed is taking a step towards being fantasy relevant but I wouldn't bet money on that.


Houston at Buffalo

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Mario Williams
2 STAR
Brian Cushing
DeMeco Ryans
Bernard Pollard
1 STAR
Connor Barwin
Antonio Smith
Dunta Robinson
Amobi Okoye

TexansAfter putting together back to back wins the Texans are back in a position to make a run at a Wild Card spot this year.  The Bills aren't a very good team but they do seem to play better at home so this won't be an easy win but it still should end up being a win.  Remember that the Bills did pretty much shut down the high octane Saints offense earlier this year.  The Bills are giving up below average tackle opportunities and that is why many key Texans IDPs are ranked below a 3 star play.

Defensive Line:  Saying Mario Williams hasn't lived up to his lofty draft status is putting it mildly but as pointed out in previous weeks, Williams is playing thru a shoulder injury.  The Bills OL presents a very good matchup for Williams and maybe he can use this game as one to help heal his stat line.  While there is some risk in relying on Williams I do think he is a major cog in setting the tone for the Texans defense this week.  Amobi Okoye has put together two consecutive poor performances and this week should make it three in a row.

 INJURY UPDATE:  Mario Williams (shoulder) practiced fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  Brian Cushing is still fighting a foot injury but has yet to miss any games because of it.  As long as he is listed as having a foot issue he will be a slightly risky start.  Just remember that Friday practice is the most important practice and if he practices in full on Fridays then he has a very good chance to play that week.  This week I have both he and DeMeco Ryans listed as 2 star plays as I expect the Bills offense to be severely limited in this game.  Ryans (groin) has also been limited in practice. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Both DeMeco Ryans (groin) & Brian Cushing (foot) practiced fully on Friday and are listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  The Bills passing offense is far from being prolific and I would expect to see their shortcoming really limit the production of the Texans secondary.  Bernard Pollard will be a much better play when the Texans face a team that is going to not only commit to running the ball but also actually be able to run the ball. 

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Paul Posluszny

3 STAR

Bryan Scott
Terrence McGee
Keith Ellison

2 STAR
Aaron Schobel
Chris Kelsay
Marcus Stroud
1 STAR
Chris Kelsay

BillsAdmit it, you can't wait for TO to blow his top.  The Bills are not a fun team to watch right now so why not watch the media have some fun at TO's expense.  As bad as the Bills seem to be can anyone actually explain how they have as many wins as both the Ravens and Chargers.  This week they may have run out of their "nine lives" wins but their key IDPs should be in for another good week.

Defensive Line:  The Texans are pretty much middle of the row with regards to giving up sacks so I wouldn't expect the Bills to impact the box score with sacks.  What many may not realize is that the trio of Aaron Schobel, Chris Kelsay & Marcus Stroud all rank in the top 7 in total tackles by DL.  The Texans haven't really given up much in the way of tackles to DL so that is why they are all 2 star plays this week.  Only Tommy Kelly (Oak) and Justin Smith (SF) have really put up starters worthy fantasy numbers against the Texans this year.

Linebacker:  Paul Posluszny owners sure would like to see him continue to build on his weekly production since he returned from his broken forearm.  All that "Poz" has done since returning two weeks ago is to log 15 solos, 5 assists, 1 interception and 1 pass defended.  This week he faces a Texans team that has given up an average of 9 total tackles/week to opposing MLBs.  Keith Ellison should also be busy enough with the Texans multi WR sets to be startable this week.

Secondary: The Bills secondary was about as injury ridden as you could ever expect but this week it looks like they could finally get S Bryan Scott (ankle) back.  He is practicing in a limited fashion as is Terrence McGee (knee) but that is better then Donte Whitner (ankle) who has yet to practice this week.  S George Wilson has been a nice sub in place of Scott but if Scott returns this week then Wilson will lose most if not all of his value.

INJURY UPDATE:  Donte Whitner (ankle) is OUT this week.  Both Terrence McGee (ankle) & Bryan Scott practiced fully on Friday.  McGee is listed as PROBABLE and Scott is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.


Cleveland at Chicago 

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Abram Elam
3 STAR
Eric Barton
Shaun Rogers
2 STAR

Kamerion Wimbley
David Bowens
Kaluka Maiava

1 STAR

Kenyon Coleman
Brodney Pool

BrownsTake the under.  That is about the best way to sum up this "battle" this week.  The Browns are a team that is just "lost" on offense and it currently doesn't look like any improvement can be expected in the near future. Expect the Browns IDPs to continue to see above average tackle opportunities until they can get their offense fixed.

Defensive Line:  Matt Forte hasn't done much to live up to his fantasy draft status but this week he should carry the rock enough to make Shaun Rogers a good play.  Beyond Rogers there are no other DLs with fantasy relevance on the Browns. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Kenyon Coleman (groin) was a limited participant in Friday practice and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker: Last week there were many questions with regards to who would replace D'Qwell Jackson and that question seems to have been answered.  Or has it? Rookie LB Kaluka Maiava got the start at ILB next Eric Barton and played in 25 of the teams 29 1st half defensive snaps but in 2nd half he only played in 5 of the teams 37 defensive snaps.  David Bowens is who took over for Maiava in the 2nd half as he played in 33 of 37 defensive snaps and 26 of those were at ILB. Until it is clear who is going to start and play the majority of the snaps both Bowens and Maiava are risky starts. 

INJURY UPDATE:  David Bowens (knee) was limited in practice on Thursday but practiced fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  Abram Elam isn't playing every down like he was earlier in the year and that will have an effect on his numbers.  This week I still happen to think even with fewer snaps that Elam is a very nice play.  Luckily the DB position is the deepest position in fantasy football so if you do find the need to replace Elam finding a replacement shouldn't be to difficult.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Lance Briggs

2 STAR
Nick Roach
Danieal Manning
1 STAR
Adewale Ogunleye
Alex Brown
Charles Tillman
Al Afalava
Zachary Bowman

BearsThe Bears couldn't have asked for a better opponent to try and right their ship this week.  The Browns shouldn't put up much of a fight as the Bears attempt to get back into the win column.  After two consecutive losses the Bears sit 3rd in their division behind the Vikings (6-1) & Packers (4-2).  Unfortunately, what is good for Bears fans is bad for Bears IDP owners.  The Browns are giving up the 2nd fewest tackle opportunities/game and that is the reason why there is only one Bears player ranked above a 2 star play.

Defensive Line:  Adewale Ogunleye (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday but did participate in a limited fashion on Thursday.  To make matters worse the Bears DL are all playing right around 50% of the defensive snaps so that makes relying on any of them including Alex Brown or Gaines Adams a risky proposition.

INJURY UPDATE:  Adewale Ognuleye (ankle) practiced fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  Lance Briggs (shoulder) was limited in practice on Wednesday but did practice in full on Thursday.  Briggs is the only safe start in what should be a very limited Browns offensive "attack".  Nick Roach was only able to scrape together 2 solo tackles last week but he did add 6 assists.  It should be noted that Roach was on the field for all of the Bears defensive snaps too.

INJURY UPDATE:  Lance Briggs (shoulder) practiced fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  Danieal Manning ranks 7th among all DBs but this week looks to be a very difficult matchup for him.  He really should be on benches this week along with all other Bears secondary players. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Danieal Manning (foot) & Al Afalava (shoulder) practiced fully on Friday while Zachary Bowman (knee) was a limited participant in Friday practice.  All three players are listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.


NY Giants at Philadelphia

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Justin Tuck
3 STAR

Antonio Pierce
CC Brown

2 STAR

Corey Webster
Osi Umenyiora
Mathias Kiwanuka
Chase Blackburn

1 STAR
Michael Johnson

GiantsThe Giants are headed into the unfriendly confines of Lincoln Financial Field to try and put a halt to their 2 game losing streak.  The Giants will need to control the clock to try and limit the number of times the big strike Philly offense can be on the field.  Brandon Jacobs may have to shoulder a bigger load for them to achieve that feat as RB Ahmad Bradshaw is playing with a slightly bum foot. Giants IDPs could be limited as the Eagles are giving up below average tackle opportunities/week.

INJURY UPDATE: Michael Boley (knee), Chris Canty (calf) & Aaron Ross (hamstring) are all OUT again.

Defensive Line:   Since their bye week the Eagles have given up 12 sacks in just 3 games so look for Justin Tuck to have a very good game this week.  Osi Umenyiora is no stranger to having a big game against the Eagles but with how Umenyiora is playing this year he is a risky start.

Linebacker:  Michael Boley is still out but could be ready to return in a week or so.  Antonio Pierce missed practice on Wednesday but was able to participate in a limited fashion on Thursday.  Look for Pierce to be able to produce just enough fantasy points to be startable this week.  Versus the Cardinals Chase Blackburn had his worst performance since taking over for the injured Michael Boley and this week is probably best left on your bench because of the Eagles passing attack.

INJURY UPDATE:  Antonio Pierce (ankle) was a limited participant at practice on Thursday but practiced fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:   CC Brown has put up double digit tackles in each of his past two games. No reason not to ride the hot hand as Brown should be pretty busy this week. Don't confuse his filling up the box score as good NFL play but at this point in the season the Giants will have to live with what they have.  CB Aaron Ross (hamstring) has yet to play this year and has yet to practice this week.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Will Witherspoon
Quintin Mikell
Sean Jones
3 STAR
Akeem Jordan
Trent Cole
2 STAR

Asante Samuel

1 STAR
Darren Howard
Victor Harris

EaglesThe Eagles were able to bounce back from their week 6 loss to the Raiders by dispatching the Washington Redskins on Monday night 27-17.  It wasn't what I would call a dominant win but it was a win and that really is all that matters.  This game will go a long way to determine who is going to take control of the NFCE this year. 

Defensive Line: Trent Cole was able to log a multi sack game versus the Redskins but will need to be more active in run support this week.  Cole currently ranks 3rd in PPG average among all DLs and is a solid weekly start regardless of match-ups.  Victor Abiamiri (knee) is OUT and will  not play this week. 

Linebacker: Will Witherspoon sure made his presence felt in his first game with his new team as he filled the box score with 8 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and a defensive TD.  Witherspoon will be hard pressed to ever eclipse that stat line but he should remain a solid LB2 going forward.  This week versus a Giants team that should look to run the ball quite a bit he is a low level LB1.  Akeem Jordan has been very inconsistent this year but should be able to be relied upon as a LB3 at worst this week.

INJURY UPDATE:  Omar Gaither (foot) was officially placed on IR on Wednesday.

Secondary: Since the bye week, Quintin Mikell has been anything but stellar but that should change this week. Mikell is still playing an every down role so his lack of stats has more to do with the play in front of him then a lack of playing time.  With S Victor "Macho" Harris missing practice on both Wednesday and Thursday safety Sean Jones could be a sneaky play.


Miami at NY Jets

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Yeremiah Bell
3 STAR

Gibril Wilson
Akin Ayodele

2 STAR

Joey Porter

1 STAR
Jason Taylor
Channing Crowder

DolphinsThe Dolphins had the Saints on the ropes and let them off the hook and that is putting it mildly.  The question now is how will the Dolphins respond after such a tough loss.  To make matters worse they get to travel up to New York to visit their division foe the Jets.  Both the Jets and Dolphins like to run the ball and that will benefit all the IDPs in this game.  The Dolphins IDPs get to face a Jets team that is giving up the 4th most tackle opportunities/game.

Defensive Line:  Move along, nothing to see here from a fantasy perspective.

Linebacker:  Channing Crowder (shoulder) has yet to practice this week but even if he doesn't play his owners probably wouldn't notice much of a difference in the box score.  Joey Porter seems to be taking some things that Jets Coach Ryan has said so there could be some added motivation for Porter this week but he is a risky play if he doesn't get to the QB. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Channing Crowder (shoulder) did not practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.

Secondary:  Yeremiah Bell continues to lead the Dolphins secondary in tackles and this past week he added 1.5 sacks to the box score too.  If you are a Gibril Wilson owner you were elated to see him have such a great game this past week. Wilson did his part now you should do your part and try to sell Wilson high before owners realize just how poor of a year he was having prior to last week.

5 STAR
David Harris
4 STAR
Kerry Rhodes
3 STAR
Bart Scott
2 STAR
Calvin Pace
Jim Leonhard
1 STAR

Darrell Revis

JetsTalk about a team having its ups and downs.  The Jets start the season ripping off three wins in a row and Mark Sanchez looks like the second coming of Broadway Joe and then they blink and are reeling with 3 consecutive losses to sit at 3-3.  Then they go out West to face a Raiders team that was coming off of a big win versus the Eagles and all they did was win going away (38-0).  This week the Jets face an equally up and down Dolphins team but I am going to give the edge to the home team in this tilt.  Look for Jets IDPs to have a very good day as the Dolphins come to town giving up the most tackle opportunities per game this year.

Defensive Line: DT Sione Pouha is doing his best to replace the Kris Jenkins who was lost for the season but no matter how well Pouha does he will have little to no fantasy value.

INJURY UPDATE:  Shaun Ellis (knee, ankle) was a limited participant in practice on both Thursday and Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker: If you own David Harris just plug him into your lineup and try not to smile to smugly.  It really is just one of those games where you don't need to think about it.  Even Bart Scott owners should just plug him and play him this week.  Scott very easily could end up as a 4 star type play.  Calvin Pace will probably have a bigger impact NFL wise in this game then he will fantasy wise.  Pace will be an integral part of the pressure that the Jets defense will need to create to pull off a win this week.

INJURY UPDATE:  Bart Scott (knee) was a limited participant in practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: Don't be discouraged by the 2 solo effort that Kerry Rhodes put up last week.  Rhodes didn't face many tackle opportunities at all last week and should bounce back this week.  Darrell Revis owners will be best served to keep him on the bench this week as the Dolphins will most likely be avoiding throwing the ball to his side of the field.

INJURY UPDATE:  Lito Sheppard (quadricep) is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.


San Francisco at Indianapolis

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Patrick Willis

3 STAR
Nate Clements
Michael Lewis
Dashon Goldson
2 STAR
None
1 STAR
Justin Smith
Takeo Spikes

49ersLike anyone saw the Niners coming back from their big deficit versus the Texans last  week.  Let alone having that come back led by former first round selection Alex Smith.  The comeback did end up a bit short but Smith sure did well coming off the bench for an ineffective Shaun Hill.  This week Smith should get plenty of chances to air the ball out again as they go on the road to face the unbeaten Colts. The Colts are giving up the 4th most tackle opportunities/game so that should bode well for key Niners IDPs.

Defensive Line:  Earlier this year I said, "If you are still waiting for Justin Smith to put up fantasy relevant numbers it is time to just accept the fact that it isn't going to happen." and with that Smith put up a huge 8 solo and 2 assist game versus the Texans.  I still wouldn't get overly excited by that performance, that is unless we find out that the Niners are going to utilize Smith more like they did last year.

Linebacker:  Patrick Willis can't be a 5 star play every week but there is nothing wrong with a 4 star play.  Takeo Spikes (shoulder) missed practice on Wednesday but with the passing attack of the Colts probably wouldn't see much action even if he were 100% healthy.

INJURY UPDATE:  Takeo Spikes (shoulder) practiced on on a limited basis on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  After missing last weeks game due to a concussion Michael Lewis is expected to start this week versus the Colts.  Lewis isn't great in coverage but should still be a solid this week.  Last week with Lewis out of the lineup Dashon Goldson put up 9 total tackles with a forced fumble.  This week Goldson will see his production cut by Lewis but still should be startable versus the potent Colts offense

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Robert Mathis

3 STAR
Dwight Freeney
Gary Brackett
2 STAR
Bob Sanders
Antoine Bethea
Clint Session
1 STAR
Jerraud Powers

Colts The Colts are just rolling along and seem to even be flying under the radar just a bit. The next big game on the Colts schedule is when they face the Patriots in week 10.  The Niners are an improved team I just don't think they are improved enough to go into Indy and deal them their 1st loss of the season. Colts IDP owners should temper their expectations this week as the Niners will probably be in catch-up mode for most of the game.

Defensive Line:  Look for both Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney to have solid games this week as they should get plenty of opportunities once the Niners are forced into pass, pass and pass some more mode. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Dwight Freeney (knee) missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday but practiced fully on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  If the Niners are able to exploit the Colts run defense then and only then could Gary Brackett have a very good day.  Otherwise, expect Brackett to just barely put up starting fantasy numbers this week.

Secondary:  Good news for the Colts was that Bob Sanders made his way back to the field last week and came away from the game unscathed.  Unfortunately, for fantasy owners Sanders was not relevant in the box score.  If you can stash Sanders he could pay big dividends as he gets his game legs back.  Antoine Bethea has been very good this year but expect subpar numbers this week.


Seattle at Dallas

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Josh Wilson
3 STAR

Aaron Curry
David Hawthorne
Jordan Babineaux

2 STAR

Leroy Hill
Darryl Tapp

Will Herring

1 STAR
Deon Grant
Patrick Kerney
Marcus Trufant

SeahawksThe Seahawks are coming off their bye week but they weren't able to get healthy over the bye and heading to Dallas to face a Cowboys team that has put together back to back wins isn't such a good thing.  The Seahawks IDPs look to be good plays this week as they face a Dallas team that is giving up over 50 tackle opportunities in their last two home games.

Defensive Line: Patrick Kerney (groin) just can't get healthy so he makes for a risky start.  If and when Kerney is going to be limited more than normal then and only then is Darryl Tapp a safe start.  Tapp could probably be a safe start weekly if he weren't used in a rotation but he is so that makes him a risky start.

INJURY UPDATE:  Patrick Kerney (groin) practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  Initially, it was thought that Lofa Tatupu was lost for the season due to a muscle tear and then it was revealed that Tatupu may actually only miss around a month due to the injury.  Well, this week Tatupu had season ending surgery to repair his injury.  David Hawthorne will continue to fill in for Tatupu but temper expectations for Hawthorne going forward because Leroy Hill will return to the starting lineup this week. According to Coach Mora, Hill will only see action on 1st and 2nd downs.  Hill should work his way back to nickle duties and that will cost Hawthorne some production once it happens.   Since this is Hill's 1st game back I would be very cautious in running him out in your lineup until you see him play in an actual game again.

Secondary:  Coach Mora also said that Marcus Trufant will return this week and see action on 3rd downs at his normal left CB position.  Josh Wilson and Jordan Babineaux both look to be the best plays in the secondary this week.  Hopefully for the Seahawks they have better luck tackling Miles Austin than the Chiefs and Falcons secondary did.

5 STAR

None

4 STAR
DeMarcus Ware
3 STAR
Bradie James
Keith Brooking
2 STAR

Gerald Sensabaugh
Jay Ratliff

1 STAR

Marcus Spears

CowboysThe Cowboys have quietly put together two consecutive wins and now are just 1 game back in the loss column of the division leading NY Giants.  If the Cowboys can take care of business this week and get some help from the Eagles all three teams (Dal, Phl, NY) will have 2 losses on the year. 

Defensive Line:  I wouldn't expect much of anything from the Cowboys DL this week.  Even Jay Ratliff is a risky start in DT mandatory leagues.

INJURY UPDATE:  Jay Ratliff (knee) did not practice on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  Bradie James and Keith Brooking have both been solid starts this year and this week should be able to be relied upon as LB3's at worst.  DeMarcus Ware is being hindered by a sore foot but this week I expect to see Ware take advantage of a patchwork Seahawk OL.

Secondary:  Gerald Sensabaugh broke his thumb earlier this season but is back to practicing and looks like he will see the field this week.  He was playing pretty well prior to breaking his thumb but I would leave him on your bench until you see him get back into the flow of things. 

INJURY UPDATE: Gerald Sensabaugh (thumb) practiced fully all week but is still listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.


St. Louis at Detroit

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

3 STAR

James Laurinaitis
Oshiomogho Atogwe

2 STAR
Ronald Bartell
James Hall
James Butler
Craig Dahl
1 STAR
Leonard Little
Chris Long

RamsThere is talk of the NFL wanting to possibly put a team in London. Maybe to make this game a bit more interesting the league could dub this the "London Bowl" and make the loser move to London for good. On a serious note this is probably going to be one of the best chances the Rams have at stealing a win this year. If they do pull off a win people in Detroit won't see it as the game did not sell out and has been blacked out.

Defensive Line:  James Hall missed last weeks game due to injury and this week is still being limited in practice because of it. Prior to last week Hall was the most consistent fantasy DL. Even without Hall in the lineup last week, Chris Long was unable to put up starters numbers.  Leonard Little is always a threat to record a sack or two but is just far to inconsistent to rely on as a starter in 12 team leagues.

INJURY UPDATE:  James Hall (groin) practiced fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  Rookie James Laurinaitis for only the 2nd time this season failed to post 5+ tackles.  LBs can be pretty inconsistent but I wouldn't worry to much about last weeks performance.  Laurinaitis should remain a low level LB1 or high level LB2 for the rest of the season.  Paris Lenon looks to be taking over at WLB for Will Witherspoon who was traded last week to the Eagles. Don't expect Lenon to do much initially but he could be solid once he gets the playbook down.

Secondary:  Craig Dahl put up some decent numbers while James Butler was out but Butler did return to the lineup last week.  Look for Dahl to see his numbers decline as Butler gets worked back into things.  Oshiomogho Atogwe is by far the safest of all Rams secondary players as he currently ranks 3rd among all DBs.  Look for Atogwe to continue to stay near the top of DBs for the rest of the season too.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Larry Foote
Julian Peterson
3 STAR

Louis Delmas

2 STAR
Cliff Avril
Dewayne White
Marquand Manuel
1 STAR
Jason Hunter
Ernie Sims
DeAndre Levy

LionsIf the Lions were given to London would their fans even miss them?  I only ask because they were unable to sell out their game this week and their TV broadcast will be blacked out in the Motor City. The Lions are heading in the right direction so there is some hope for their fan base.

Defensive Line:  Cliff Avril had a very nice 6 solo, 1 assist & 1 sack game prior to last weeks bye.  Avril will look to build on that solid performance but I would still be a bit cautious in relying on him as a starter.  Jason Hunter (ankle) has not practiced this week but Dewayne White isn't listed on the injury report for the first time in who knows how long.

INJURY UPDATE:  Jason Hunter (ankle) is OUT this week.  Dewayne White (hamstring) practiced fully all week but is listed on the injury report as PROBABLE.

Linebacker:  Coming out of the bye week there is no telling how the Lions will utilize their LBs so proceed with caution. Larry Foote is the safest play by a large margin and should be busy trying to keep RB Steven Jackson under wraps.  Julian Peterson is a bit riskier as a start but I think we should see him wreak havoc on the Rams when he is rushing the passer. Ernie Sims is back practicing fully so there is no telling if he will regain his starting gig from rookie LB DeAndre Levy.  This game should go a long way towards indicating who is going to be the good play going forward.

Secondary:  The opportunities for the Lions secondary will probably be limited but rookie FS Louis Delmas has shown a nose for the ball and big play so he should make for a safe start at DB this week.  The Rams passing offense just isn't inspiring enough to risk starting any other Lions DB.


Oakland at San Diego

5 STAR
Kirk Morrison
4 STAR
Thomas Howard
Tyvon Branch
3 STAR

Michael Huff 

2 STAR
Richard Seymour
1 STAR
Greg Ellis

RaidersI wonder if Richard Seymour still thinks the Raiders are going to make the playoffs?  You have to appreciate it when a guy wants to win so you really shouldn't fault Seymour for his comments.  If you want to fault anyone for the current state of the Raiders then the whipping "boy" is Al Davis.  Don't expect the Raiders to fix what's wrong with them on this trip to San Diego.  At least owners of Raiders IDPs can smile as they should continue to face above average tackle opportunities.  Currently the Raiders only trail the Titans in number of TOs faced/game.

Defensive Line: Greg Ellis started out the season on fire as he posted 4 sacks in his first 4 games.  Over his last 3 games Ellis hasn't logged a single sack and also hasn't topped 2 solo tackles.  Ellis is also being limited by a knee injury that kept him out of practice on Wednesday.  Richard Seymour was only able to post 2 solo tackles the week after he declared the Raiders would make the playoffs so I guess you should understand why I am hesitant to rank him above a 2 star play.  Seymour has a ton of talent but just isn't doing enough with his opportunities. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Greg Ellis (knee) did not practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker: Kirk Morrison was in a fight for his job earlier this year and because of it he fell in many drafts.  Well if you were lucky enough to land Morrison you are the proud owner of the 2nd ranked LB in the league in PPG.  Ricky Brown is still OUT so Morrison owners really have nothing to worry about.  Just keep plugging him in your lineup.  If you are in a dynasty league you might want to look at shopping him while his value is high.  Thomas Howard is also making the most out of all the tackle opportunities that the Raiders are facing as he currently ranks 20th among LBs in PPG.

Secondary:  Tyvon Branch is another Raider that is making the most of the opportunities and he ranks 1st among DBs in PPG.  Michael Huff has been hit or miss this year but t his week versus the Chargers passing attack should be able to put up starters numbers.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Eric Weddle

2 STAR
Shawne Merriman
Stephen Cooper
Tim Dobbins
Brandon Siler
1 STAR

Larry English

ChargersAm I the only one that can't believe that Norv Turner still has a job? This may not be the same team that it was a couple of years ago but there is no way that they should be just 3-3.  Sure LT isn't the same RB he once was but Norv has to shoulder much of the blame.  I don't even want to think what happens if Oakland comes into San Diego and leaves with a win.

Defensive Line: The Chargers DL presents no fantasy value you at all.

Linebacker:  Stephen Cooper looks to be less than 100% and when coupled with facing an inept Raiders offense you should leave him on your bench this week.  Kevin Burnett (ankle) not only missed last weeks game but also missed practice on Wednesday.  Tim Dobbins started in place of Burnett and he made the most of the opportunity as he logged 11 solo tackles and tacked on an interception.  Starting Dobbins or any other Chargers LB this week is a risky proposition. The Raiders are giving up the fewest tackle opportunities in the league this year and are the only team to be giving up less than 40 TOs.

INJURY UPDATE:  Kevin Burnett (ankle) did not practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.

Secondary:  Eric Weddle has been a tackling machine this year and ranks 10th in PPG among DBs.  His worst performance was just this past week versus the challenged Chiefs offense so there is some risk starting Weddle this week.  Short of Weddle I wouldn't even consider starting any other Chargers DB this week.  You can keep an eye on Steve Gregory for future games but not this one.


Jacksonville at Tennessee

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Justin Durant
Daryl Smith
2 STAR

Gerald Alexander
Derek Cox
Reggie Nelson

1 STAR
Rashean Mathis

JaguarsThe Jaguars sit at 3-3 and will look to come out of this week above .500. Notching that win may not come as easily as one would think considering the Jaguars have to travel to face a winless Titans team that will be starting Vince Young at QB.  The difference in this game will be if the Jaguars are able to get MJD going or not.  My gut says that Jacksonville will be leaving with a loss.

Defensive Line:  Hopefully you are not looking for DL fantasy help from the Jaguars because there is no fantasy value to be found there.

Linebacker: Justin Durant has missed the past two Jaguars games but is back to practicing and looks like a lock to play this week.  He is a slightly risky start but I think he is still someone I would trot out as a LB2 this week.  Daryl Smith has been surprisingly pretty good this year and currently ranks 30th among LBs in PPG.  He had his worst game of the year (5 points) the week prior to the bye versus the Rams.  If Tennessee is unable to get their offense in gear Smith will struggle but I think that the Jaguars defense will be on the field more than current numbers and trends would suggest.

Secondary: The Titans don't have much of a passing offense, especially with Vince Young under center so temper your expectations for Jaguars secondary players.  Rashean Mathis missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday so he could be in danger of missing this weeks game. Gerald Alexander and Reggie Nelson will probably be busy trying to contain Vince Young and the Titans running game but both are still risky starts.

INJURY UPDATE:  Rashean Mathis (finger) has been ruled OUT for this week.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Chris Hope
Keith Bulluck

3 STAR

Stephen Tulloch
David Thornton

2 STAR

Kyle Vanden Bosch
William Hayes

1 STAR
Michael Griffin
Jason McCourty

TitansWhat the owner wants, the owner gets.  So that is why Vince Young will be starting at QB this week.  The truth is that the Titans do need to see what they have in Young and if he will play a factor in their future plans.  Look for Young to do well this week as there really is next to no pressure on him to do well.  If you own any Titans IDPs you have to be hoping the  Jaguars can jump out to an early lead and are able to establish MJD and their running game. 

Defensive Line:  Kyle Vanden Bosch and the rest of the Titans DL are risky starts not just this week but each and every week at this point.  It sure looks like Albert Haynesworth really did make that much of a difference.

Linebacker: Keith Bulluck (13th) and Stephen Tulloch (8th) are currently ranked in the top 15 in LBs PPG. The thing to keep your eye on is that the Titans are facing over 20% more tackle opportunities than the historical league average.  In dynasty leagues Bulluck is a prime sell high candidate.  Tulloch was playing in the nickle earlier this season when David Thornton was a bit banged up and is now seeing more time due to the injuries in the Titans secondary.  If and when the Titans secondary gets healthy then you should expect to see Tulloch lose some production.

Secondary: Chris Hope is another player that is benefiting from increased tackle opportunities and a depleted secondary.  He is currently averaging over 13 PPG and should be a solid play this week.  Nick Harper is practicing on a limited basis after missing time with a broken forearm.  Also, Cortland Finnegan made his way back to the practice field on Thursday after not participating in practice on Wednesday.   Look for Friday practice updates and check game day inactives to see if either can get back on the field this week.

INJURY UPDATE:  Nick Harper (forearm) and Cortland Finnegan (hamstring) were each limited in practice on Thursday and Friday. Harper is listed as DOUBTFUL and Finnegan is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.


Minnesota at Green Bay

5 STAR
Jared Allen
4 STAR
Cedric Griffin
3 STAR
Chad Greenway
2 STAR
Kevin Williams
Madieu Williams
EJ Henderson
1 STAR
Tyrell Johnson
Pat Williams
Ray Edwards

VikingsI am not sure if you heard but Brett Favre is returning to face his former team at Lambeau Field.  Yep, Brett Favre is going to be playing against the Packers at Lambeau this week. It is going to be the first trip for Favre to Lambeau as a Viking.  Did you happen to hear on ESPN that Brett Favre is returning to Lambeau field to play his EX-team the Packers.  Oh and the forecast is for the Frozen Tundra to not be frozen. 

Defensive Line:  All the talk will be about Brett Favre and his return trip to Lambeau but this week it is Jared Allen that is a major key to helping the Vikings get out of town with a win.  The Packers OL has been well down right offensive so far this year so if you own Allen you have to be very excited about this match-up.

Linebacker:  EJ Henderson (knee) was held out of practice on Wednesday but practiced on a limited basis on Thursday.  Henderson is a stud when he plays but you need to monitor this situation to make sure he is able to play this week.  Chad Greenway should be a solid start this week and should remain a top 20 LB in PPG after this week too.  If you are in a bye week bind you could consider starting Ben Leber if and only if Henderson is not able to play this week.

INJURY UPDATE:  Both EJ Henderson (knee) and Ben Leber (calf) were limited participants in practice on Thursday and Friday and each is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  Antoine Winfield (foot) is still not practicing and isn't expected to play this week.  Look for Cedric Griffin to be extremely busy against the Packers passing attack. Griffin currently ranks as the 6th best DB (2nd CB) in points scored and is a solid DB1 in all formats.  Madieu Williams is far from the fantasy force he was a few years ago and is to inconsistent to rely on as a weekly stater.  However, this week if you are in a bind Williams could be a sly play.

INJURY UPDATE:  Antoine Winfield (foot) has been ruled OUT this week.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Nick Barnett
3 STAR

Charles Woodson

2 STAR

AJ Hawk
Brandon Chillar
Al Harris
Aaron Kampman

1 STAR

Nick Collins
Cullen Jenkins

PackersDid you know that Brett Favre is returning to Lambeau Field to face his former team?  Surely, you had to know that Favre was coming to town to face his Ex-team. Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre, Brett Favre...blah blah blah blah blah.  Just imagine if John Madden was actually broadcasting this game.

Defensive Line:  The Packers defensive scheme doesn't highlight their DL for fantasy purposes so while Cullen Jenkins or Johnny Jolly may have a good game here or there I wouldn't want to rely on either as a starter. 

Linebacker: Nick Barnett put up a very strong 6 solo effort last week versus the Browns limited offensive attack.  This week Barnett is a very strong play against a Vikings team that is among the league leaders in tackle opportunities given up.  Just don't be fooled into a false sense of security with regards to AJ Hawk.  Hawk put up a very good 8 total tackles last week but he is still playing fewer than 2/3rds of the Packers defensive snaps.  I am sure that many will feel better about running Hawk out this week but I would still be more apt to leave him on my bench if I owned him.

Secondary: Atari Bigby led the secondary in tackles last week.  Unfortunately, he only logged 3 solos with 1 assist and that is the type of production you can can expect for the most part from Bigby and even Nick Collins.  Charles Woodson should be the best play versus his former teammate.  We all know that Favre is a gunslinger so don't be surprised to see Woodson pick Favre off.


Carolina at Arizona

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Jon Beason
Richard Marshall
Chris Gamble
3 STAR
Julius Peppers
Chris Harris
2 STAR
Thomas Davis
1 STAR
Damione Lewis

Panthers Talk about snake bitten.  The Panthers lost a game that they really should have won rather easily last week.  Yet they found a way to let the Buffalo Bills pull off a 20-9 win. All the Panthers did was out gain the Bills 441 to 176 yards but they still found a way to come up not just short but way short of a win.  Travelling to visit the reigning NFC Champions doesn't make things look any better either.  Luckily if you own any Panthers IDPs the Cardinals are giving up above average tackle opportunities/game.

Defensive line: Currently Julius Peppers is a top 10 DE and facing an immobile Kurt Warner should be a good thing.  Peppers is the type of player that can easily carry your team but when he disappears he really disappears.  Hopefully that doesn't happen this week.

Linebackers: Jon Beason started out the season fighting a knee injury and that hindered his early season production some.  For the most part this year MLBs have fared very well against the Cardinals.  DeMeco Ryans is the only MLB that didn't approach 10 total tackles.  Now he looks to be close to 100% and Thomas Davis is the one that missed a game due to injury and is missing practice.  Davis missed practice on Wednesday but he did participate in a limited fashion on Thursday.  If Davis practices on Friday and is active for the game then you can bump him up to a 3 star play.

INJURY UPDATE:  Thomas Davis (hamstring) practiced fully on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  Last week Chris Harris only put up 2 combined tackles but don't let that scare you away from starting him this week.  The Bills really were limited offensively last week and that severely impacted Harris.  Richard Marshall and Chris Gamble have been huge disappointments for much of this year but the Panthers have faced the fewest pass attempts in the NFL this year.  This week expect the Panthers secondary to be very busy.

INJURY UPDATE:  Charles Godfrey (ankle) is listed as OUT for this week.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Adrian Wilson
Gerald Hayes
Karlos Dansby
2 STAR
Chike Okeafor
1 STAR
Darnell Dockett
Calais Campbell
Antrel Rolle

CardinalsAfter starting the year 1-3 the Cardinals have bounced back by winning three consecutive games, including knocking off the Giants in NY on Monday night.  Returning to the desert to face a Panthers team that is really struggling should help them to add to their win streak as they look to stay in first place in their division.  The Panthers are giving up slightly above average tackle opportunities so if you have any key Cardinals IDPs they should be safe starts.

Defensive Line: Cardinals DL should not be relied upon as fantasy depth let alone as starters.

Linebacker: Karlos Dansby bounced back after a poor week 6 to post 10 total tackles in week 7 versus the Giants.  The Panthers probably won't be able to run the ball all game long but Dansby should still be able to scrape together starters worthy points.  Gerald Hayes was disappointing versus the Giants but has been a pretty solid start as a LB3 or bye week filler.  That is if you look past last weeks game.

Secondary: It sure does seem like when I write off a player that they have to fill the box score to make me look bad.  I pretty much wrote off Adrian Wilson as a fantasy stud a few weeks ago but he still remains startable as a DB2 or DB3.  This week he probably falls into the DB3 realm.  Fellow S Antrel Rolle (foot) has missed practice on both Wednesday and Thursday and is in danger of missing this weeks game.

INJURY UPDATE:  Antrel Rolle (foot) was a limited participant in Friday practice and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.


Atlanta AT New Orleans

5 STAR
Curtis Lofton
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Eric Coleman
Mike Peterson
Thomas Decoud

2 STAR

John Abraham
Brent Grimes
Chris Houston

1 STAR
Stephen Nicholas

FalconsThe Flacons were handed their rear ends by the Cowboys in Dallas last week and will look to get back to their winning ways against a Saints team that has yet to lose a game this year.  If this game were in Atlanta I would give them a better chance to knock the Saints off but the odds aren't good that they do it in New Orleans. Falcons IDP owners will be happy to know that the Saints are giving up the most tackle opportunities/game this year.

Defensive Line:  Last week the Dolphins did a great job in pressuring Drew Brees.  Well at least for one half they did. Normally Brees is one of the harder QBs to sack so I would temper expectations if you are a John Abraham owner.

INJURY UPDATE:  John Abraham (foot) was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday.

Linebacker: Curtis Lofton has produced some fantastic numbers this year when he faced poor match-ups and this week his match-up is anything but poor. Plug and play is about a simple as I can put it for Lofton.  Next to Lofton at WLB is Mike Peterson who got off to a fast start has put up 2 clunkers in his past 3 games and is a bigger risk of not living up to expectations this week.

Secondary:  The potent Saints passing attack should bode well for Eric Coleman and Thomas Decoud's box score this weekend.  If you are in need of bye week help you could give a look at CB Brent Grimes and/or CB Chris Houston.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Roman Harper
3 STAR
Jonathan Vilma
Scott Shanle
Tracy Porter
2 STAR

Will Smith
Charles Grant
Jabari Greer
Darren Sharper

1 STAR
Scott Fujita

SaintsThey say that when you go thru adversity that it makes you stronger.  Well if that is the case then the Saints are one heck of a strong team now.  The Dolphins had the Saints beat last week as they had built a 21-6 lead with just a few minutes left in the first half. You probably would have had a hard time even finding a Saints fan that truly felt the Saints were going to come back and win that game.  Well, that is what they did and they did it in pretty convincing fashion too.  The defense showed that it was human last week but they came up big when it was all said and done and we already know the Saints have a world class offense. The biggest challenge will be for the coaching staff to keep the team focused and from getting a big head.

Defensive Line:  Charles Grant has regressed back to being an unproductive and inconsistent DL and starting him is a slightly risky proposition.  Ditto for Will Smith and his lack of production.  Both Grant and Smith are barely even rosterable in even the deepest of leagues at this point.

INJURY UPDATE:  Sedrick Ellis (knee) did not practice on Thursday or Friday.

Linebacker: Last week looked like a great match-up for Jonathan Vilma and lucky for Vilma owners he did produce good numbers.  You still have to be leery of Vilma's lack of production earlier this year but versus what should be a decent Falcons rushing attack he looks to be a safe start this week.  Scott Shanle has been a pretty safe start as a LB3 this year and this week should be no different. On the injury front Scott Fujita (calf) did not practice on Thursday.

INJURY UPDATE:  Scott Fujita (calf) did not practice on Thursday or Friday.

Secondary:  Darren Sharper is a guy that I would want to buy me lottery tickets.  He sure seems to be in the right place at the right time more often than not.  Still considering he relies on the big play to rack up fantasy points he is a risky start in tackle heavy leagues. If you want solid consistent production it is Roman Harper that you have to look at.  Harper is currently on pace for over 100 combined tackles and is easily a solid DB1 play this week and going forward.

INJURY UPDATE:  Tracy Porter (foot) did not practice on Friday.

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