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IDP Game Breakdowns - Week 14
Steve Gallo
December 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.  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).

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 49 3-4 Bill Davis Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor
ATL 48 4-3 Brian VanGorder Curtis Lofton, Mike Peterson
BAL 49 3-4(Multi Front) Greg Mattison Ray Lewis, Jarret Johnson
BUF 42 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Perry Fewell Paul Posluszny, Bryan Scott (still a DB or SS in many leagues)
CAR 48 4-3 & Tampa 2 Ron Meeks Jon Beason
CHI 45 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Bob Babich Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer
CIN 52 4-3 Mike Zimmer Dhani Jones
CLE 42 3-4 Rob Ryan Kamerion Wimbley, David Bowens, Kaluka Maiava
DAL 47 3-4 Wade Phillips Bradie James, DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer
DEN 48 3-4 Mike Nolan DJ Williams, Elvis Dumervil
DET 45 4-3 Gunther Cunningham Larry Foote
GB 51 3-4 Dom Capers Nick Barnett, Clay Mathews
HOU 51 4-3 Frank Bush DeMeco Ryans, Bryan Cushing
IND 50 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Larry Coyer Gary Brackett, Clint Session
JAX 48 4-3 Mel Tucker Justin Durant, Daryl Smith
KC 44 3-4 Clancy Pendergast Tamba Hali
MIA 52 3-4 Paul Pasqualoni Channing Crowder
MIN 53 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Leslie Frazier Chad Greenway, Ben Leber (unconfirmed)
NE 54 3-4 Dean Pees Jerod Mayo
NO 54 4-3 Gregg Williams Jonathan Vilma, Scott Shanle
NYG 49 4-3 Bill Sheridan Michael Boley, Chase Blackburn
NYJ 49 3-4 Mike Pettine David Harris, Bart Scott, Calvin Pace
OAK 40 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 47 3-4 Ron Rivera Stephen Cooper, Shawne Merriman, Shaun Phillips
SEA 48 4-3 Gus Bradley Leroy Hill, David Hawthorne
SF 41 3-4 Greg Manusky Patrick Willis
STL 46 4-3 Ken Flajole James Laurinaitis
TB 42 4-3 Raheem Morris Barrett Ruud, Geno Hayes
TEN 49 4-3 Chuck Cecil Keith Bulluck, David Thornton
WAS 47 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.

Pittsburgh at Cleveland

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
James Harrison
3 STAR
None
2 STAR
Lawrence Timmons
James Farrior
Ryan Clark
Lamar Woodley
1 STAR
Troy Polamalu

SteelersTalk abut a team that is reeling.  The Steelers have lost 4 straight games and their record has fallen to 6-6.  One would think that a trip to face a bad Browns team would be just what the doctor ordered for the Steelers to get well with.  Well at this point in time that is probably faulty logic since I am sure that is what everyone expected last week when the Steelers squared off against the Oakland Raiders.  I am sure the Steelers and their fans would like to get back into the playoff hunt but how about just trying to notch a win first. Considering weather conditions are going to be pretty bad and that the Browns don't give up very many tackle opportunities I wouldn't be expecting much from the Steelers IDPs.

Defensive Line: Limited by scheme the Steelers DL present no real fantasy value.

Linebacker:  This game could end up being sloppy due to weather conditions so expecting the Browns offense to mount much of an attack is a pipe dream.  But with bad weather comes turnovers and with James Harrison having a nose for the ball like he does I would expect him to have a big game.  Just realize that there is some risk involved starting Harrison if the Browns offense lays a complete egg.  I wouldn't be surprised to see any other Steelers LB post a nice box score that included multiple big plays but I think the risk is far to high to recommend ranking any of them above a 2 Star play.

Secondary:  If you really want to know who the NFL MVP is this year you might not need to look any further than Troy Polamalu.  Yes, Polamalu has missed a bunch of games and is in danger of missing the rest of the NFL season but with that said it is easy to see just how much the Steelers defense misses him. Five of the Steelers 6 losses have come with Polamalu out of the starting lineup.  Ryan Clark is a risky play due to the expected poor weather conditions so I would look for DB help elsewhere this week.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
David Bowens
3 STAR
Kamerion Wimbley
Robaire Smith
2 STAR

Jason Trusnik
Kaluka Maiava
Abram Elam

1 STAR

Kenyon Coleman

BrownsTrying to find a positive thing about the Browns leads me to point out that they haven't put anyone on IR this week. That and Brady Quinn looks to actually be progressing a bit.  Hey with the Browns you have to take baby steps.  You wouldn't expect the Browns to have much of a chance this week but then again no one gave the Raiders much of a chance last week either. 

Defensive Line: The Steelers have actually been a good play for opposing DLs of late.  In three of their last four games opposing an opposing DL has logged at least 5 or more total tackles.  Since Kenyon Coleman missed practice on Monday and Tuesday I can't rank him above a 1 Star play.  Robaire Smith has had a handful of nice games this season and looks like a good play this week. 

Linebacker: David Bowens hasn't exactly lit up the scoreboard the past couple of weeks but he is active enough that I think he will be able to take advantage of the poor weather conditions to log a couple of big plays.  Kaluka Maiava has put up consecutive goose eggs and when you look deeper and see he only played in 12 defensive snaps it makes sense he didn't record any stats.  The addition of Matt Roth has solidified the OLB spot opposite of Kamerion Wimbley and allowed the Browns to use Jason Trusnik inside with David Bowens.

Secondary:  The conditions for the passing game look like they are going to be very limiting due to high winds so expecting much production from the secondary wouldn't be prudent. It looks like due to injuries that Abram Elam is back to playing on all defensive snaps but this week I would probably still leave him on the bench.


New Orleans at Atlanta

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Roman Harper
Jonathan Vilma
3 STAR
Darren Sharper
Will Smith
Scott Shanle
2 STAR

None

1 STAR
Charles Grant

SaintsTalk about a scare.  The Saints needed OT to knock off the Redskins in order to extend their undefeated season. Look for the Saints to use this game as wake up call in their quest for an undefeated season.  The biggest concern has to be that the defense actually let the Redskins put up 30 points.  This week they head to face a Falcons team that will be looking to get back on track after being blown out by the Eagles last week.  The Falcons are giving up above average tackle opportunities so look for a decent week from the Saints key IDP players.

Defensive Line:  Will Smith has recorded at least one sack in 5 of his last 6 games and looks to be a solid option at DL this week.  Add in that the Falcons OL is beat up and it makes it an even easier decision to plug Smith into your starting lineup.  If you are in deeper leagues you could give Charles Grant a look but for what it is worth I am in a start 3-4 DL 32 team league and I am sitting Grant. 

Linebacker: The have given up some very big games to LBs and Jonathan Vilma owners should have no problem starting him with confidence this week.  Scott Shanle was putting up some very good numbers earlier this year but over his last three weeks his performance has been less than desirable.  

INJURY UPDATE: Scott Fujita (knee) has been ruled OUT for this week.

Secondary:   Big news in the Saints secondary this week is that Jabari Greer had sports hernia surgery in Philadelphia this week.  He of course will be out this week but the Saints do expect to have him back and available for the playoffs.  Roman Harper is squarely in the top 10 among DBs this year but he has had two subpar performances in the past three weeks.  This week I would look for Harper to get back to putting up top 10 type numbers.

INJURY UPDATE: Tracy Porter (knee) is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.

5 STAR
Curtis Lofton
4 STAR
Mike Peterson
Eric Coleman
3 STAR

Brent Grimes
Thomas Decoud

2 STAR

Jonathan Babineaux
Stephen Nicholas

1 STAR
John Abraham

FalconsThe Falcons are in need of a win if they want to hold on to their slim playoff hopes. An interesting tidbit is that over their last two games the Falcons have scored a touchdown on the last play of the game.  Two weeks ago that allowed them to steal a win versus the Buccaneers and last week allowed them to foil the Eagles bid for a shutout.  This week Falcons IDPs face a Saints team that is giving up the most tackle opportunities/game.

Defensive Line: No Falcons DL has logged more than 3 solo tackles since week 10  Add in that the Saints haven't given up a sack to a DL in their last three games it makes sense that none of their DLs are ranked above a 2 Star play.

INJURY UPDATE: Jonathan Babineaux (shoulder) was limited in practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker: Curtis Lofton is currently the 2nd ranked LB in fantasy point scored and is averaging 17.9 PPG.  We all know that Lofton is a beast and going to be in lineups no matter the matchup.  However, in looking at his statistics I noticed that in his past 7 games only twice has Lofton met or eclipsed his 17.9 PPG average.  Nothing to be overly concerned with but at least worth mentioning.  Mike Peterson is coming off two very poor weeks where he only put up 12 points combined in those games.  Look for Peterson to bounce back in a big way versus the vaunted Saints offense. 

Secondary:  Chris Houston suffered a hamstring injury and will miss this week's game.  Like a team needs to be thin in the secondary versus the Saints.  Look for Brent Grimes to be busy from his CB position this week.  Also, don't get down on Eric Coleman because of his last two poor performances.  You will be kicking yourself if you don't start Coleman this week.

Denver at Indianapolis

5 STAR
DJ Williams
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Brian Dawkins
Andre Goodman
2 STAR

Champ Bailey
Andra Davis
Elvis Dumervil

1 STAR
Robert Ayers

BroncosThe Broncos will get a chance to build some much needed momentum for their final playoff push. If and that is a big if the Broncos can give the Colts their first loss of the season it could be the type of win that could really propel the Broncos back up the ranks as a team to beat this year.  I don't know that I would bank on the Broncos pulling off a win but I would bank on their IDPs having a very good game.

Defensive Line: No fantasy value exists on the Broncos defensive line.

Linebacker: Linebackers have had some very big games versus the Colts this year so ranking DJ Williams a 5 Star play seems like a no brainer.  Andra Davis is more of a run stopper so he is a risky start this week because of how many multi receiver sets the Colts run.  Wesley Woodyard will probably log a few tackles and could be a nice play this week but with most owners involved in playoff games I would rather not take that sort of risk.

Secondary: Brian Dawkins should be a 5 Star play this week.  I am just concerned about his ankle.  Dawkins is practicing fully but there is still some risk involved.  Andre Goodman should be plenty busy playing opposite of Champ Bailey. 

INJURY UPDATE: Brian Dawkins (ankle) practiced fully all week and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

3 STAR
Clint Session
Gary Brackett
Antoine Bethea
Melvin Bullitt
Dwight Freeney
2 STAR
Jerraud Powers
Jacob Lacey
1 STAR
Robert Mathis

Colts With their win over the Titans the Colts joined the Saints at 12-0 which marks the first time in NFL history that there have been two 12-0 teams at the same time. The Colts also tied the New England Patriots for consecutive regular season wins with 21.  Fantasy owners are expecting the Colts to start resting players but I expect they will try to keep their offense clicking.  While they are 12-0 they did go thru a 4 game stretch that they easily could have picked up 3 or 4 losses in.  So look for the Colts to try and get their squad revved up for the playoffs.  This week Colts IDPs face a Broncos team that is giving up above average tackle opportunities.

Defensive Line:  Robert Mathis has yet to practice this week and looks like he will be a game time decision due to his quadricep injury.  Dwight Freeney hasn't had a really good statistical game in over a month so to use an old baseball adage, he is due.  There have been a few very good games by DL against the Broncos.

INJURY UPDATE: Robert Mathis (quadricep) was able to practice full on Friday but is still listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  The Broncos have given up some decent games to opposing LBs but there have also been games where opposing LBs haven't fared very well.  Gary Brackett and Clint Session are both playing pretty well right now so I would be willing to look at them as solid starters this week.

INJURY UPDATE: Gary Brackett (foot) & Clint Session (calf) were both limited in practice on Thursday.  Brackett is listed as PROBABLE and Session is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  The Broncos are most likely going to need to pass the ball more than usual if they are going to keep pace with the Colts and that should lead to a decent day for both Melvin Bullitt and Antoine Bethea.  Rookies Jerraud Powers and Jacob Lacey played well for the Colts this season but relying on them your fantasy playoffs might be a bit risky.


Buffalo at Kansas City

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

3 STAR

Paul Posluszny
Bryan Scott

2 STAR
George Wilson
Chris Kelsay
Terrence McGee
Donte Whitner
Aaron Schobel
Kyle Williams
1 STAR
Marcus Stroud
Jairus Byrd
Drayton Florence

BillsWell the one thing that Bills fans can say is that their team didn't get beat last Sunday.  Of course that is only because they were getting beat by the Jets on Thursday night instead.  This week they will travel to face a Chiefs team that has beaten them in five of their last seven trips to Arrowhead.  Normally, Bills IDPs have been golden but this week a limited Chiefs offense will diminish much of the value that IDP owners have been getting from the Bills defenders.  If you don't believe me just look no further than to the Chiefs 4th worst ranking in tackle opportunities given up.

Defensive Line:  It is hard to recommend starting any of the Bills DL this week considering that since week 7 only 2 DLs have recorded more than 3 solos in a game.  Aaron Schobel is having a fantastic year as he ranks 5th among DLs in fantasy points scored.  But with that said last week was the first week in the last 6 that he was able to log double digit points.  Kyle Williams has been a tackle machine for a DL the last 3 weeks but I still can't recommend starting him versus the Chiefs.

Linebacker: Paul Posluszny continues his stellar play and I am sure he has probably carried more than a few fantasy teams into the playoffs.  Unfortunately, this is one of the worst matchups that he has had so the upside isn't there like it has been in previous weeks.  I would still be starting Poz without question this week, just temper your expectations some.  Same goes for Bryan Scott who has been putting up very nice numbers since returning from injury.

Secondary:  The Chiefs have struggled for much of the season to do much on offense and that is what limits the upside of the Bills secondary this week.  Terrence McGee is expected to have a bigger role this week so keep an eye on him to see how he responds.

  INJURY UPDATE: Jairus Byrd (groin) was limited in practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

3 STAR
Tamba Hali
Mike Brown
2 STAR

Demorrio Williams
Brandon Carr
Brandon Flowers
Jovan Belcher

1 STAR
Glenn Dorsey

ChiefsIt really is pretty hard to fathom how the Chiefs and Bills have combined to win 7 games this year. The Chiefs continue to struggle on offense but even they should be able to mount a decent enough offensive attack to beat the Bills this week.  This game is close to being blacked out but I think that there will be enough Chiefs fans at the game to play a big factor in helping to will the Chiefs to this win.

Defensive Line: The Chiefs 4-3 scheme is the contributing factor in their DL having basically no fantasy value at all. 

Linebacker: Normally I would warn against chasing stats but this week I have to rank Tamba Hali a 3 Star play.  Hali has really under-performed but last week he had a huge game.  The hope is that he can stay hot and then secondly take advantage of what should be a very good matchup.

Secondary: The Bills passing attack has gained some life recently but I think playing in Arrowhead will stifle the Bill passing attack enough to make all the Chiefs secondary players benchable.  That is with the exception of Mike Brown.

INJURY UPDATE: Brandon Flowers (shoulder) missed practice on Thursday and was limited in practice on Friday, he is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.


Detroit at Baltimore

5 STAR
Larry Foote
4 STAR
Louis Delmas
3 STAR

DeAndre Levy

2 STAR
Julian Peterson
1 STAR
Cliff Avril
Jason Hunter
Dewayne White

LionsWith Lions teams of years past you would just look at this game and say they have absolutely no chance to go to Baltimore and beat the Ravens.  Well, this year things are no different.  You would have to be crazy if you think that the Lions are going to show up and notch their third win of the season this week.  But hey at least with 4 games to go the Lions are looking for win number 3 and now win number 1.

Defensive Line: If you are playing this week you are probably in the playoffs.  Do you really want to rely on a Lions DL in a playoff game?  Yeah, that's what I thought.

Linebacker:  The Ravens need a win in the worst way to stay in the playoff chase. Because  of that I think we will see the Ravens lean heavily on their rushing attack and that should mean very good things for Larry Foote owners.  Look for DeAndre Levy to be a solid start too.  If you are a dynasty league owner you should look into acquiring Levy because he very well could be the MLB of the future for the Lions.

INJURY UPDATE: Ernie Sims (hamstring) was limited in practice all week and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: Rookie Louis Delmas has recorded 25 total tackles over his last 3 games and should be very active in both pass coverage and run support this week.  While the rest of the secondary might put up good numbers this week I can't recommend any with any sort of confidence.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Ray Lewis
Dawan Landry
2 STAR

Ladarius Webb
Kelly Gregg
Tavares Gooden

1 STAR
Haloti Ngata
Ed Reed

Ravens WWJD?  No, not "What would Jesus do?", it's "What would Joe do?". The answer is, he would throw a very ill advised pass in the end zone that would be intercepted and basically seal the deal on a loss to the Packers on Monday Night. Looks like it is time for the Ravens to reel their young QB back in some.  The Ravens now have a very uphill battle to make the playoffs but this team does have the ability to run off 4 straight wins that it would probably take to secure a wild card spot.

Defensive Line: Terrell Suggs is back practicing, albeit on a limited basis.  I know that Suggs owners would love to get him back into their lineups but I would seriously wait to see how he looks when he gets back on the field before I would put him in my starting lineup.  Kelly Gregg can be bumped up one level in DT mandatory leagues.

INJURY UPDATE: Terrell Suggs (knee) is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  You may not be surprised to know that Ray Lewis ranks as a top 10 LB this year but what you may not realize is that Lewis is actually 34 years old.  I am not sure how much longer Ray's body can hold up but I can tell you that as long as he is playing he is going to give 110%.  In a big game like this I would expect Lewis to put up very good stats.  And by big game  I mean a must win for the Ravens.  The Lions are giving up below average tackle opportunities so I wouldn't risk starting any other Ravens LBs.

Secondary:  Ed Reed missed his first game since 2005 last week and it is easy to see that Reed is a leader that the Ravens need to have on the field.  Reed missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday so he is in danger of missing his second consecutive game.  Dawan Landry only recorded 3 solo  tackles and 2 assists last week but look for him to bounce back some and post low level DB3 type numbers.

INJURY UPDATE: Ed Reed (groin, foot) did not practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.


Miami at Jacksonville

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Yeremiah Bell
3 STAR
Channing Crowder
Gibril Wilson
Akin Ayodele
Gibril Wilson
2 STAR

Randy Starks

1 STAR
Joey Porter
Jason Taylor

DolphinsThe Dolphins are one of those teams that look so good one week and then they leave you scratching your head another.  Well last week was one of those good weeks as they were able to mount an impressive comeback win versus the New England Patriots.  At 6-6 the Dolphins are another team that needs to run the table if they want a chance to make the playoffs.  This week they face a Jaguars team that sits above them in the playoff race so a win would be huge. 

Defensive Line: Most weeks I can't recommend playing a Dolphins DL due to their 3-4 scheme.  This week is really no different but if you are in desperate need  of DL help you can take a look at Randy Starks.  Starks has recorded 4 or more tackles in each of his past 3 games.

Linebacker: IDP owners of Channing Crowder know all to well just how frustrating it has been to own him this year.  As hard as it may be this week looks like Crowder should be in your starting lineup.  The Jaguars will look to keep feeding the ball to Maurice Jones-Drew and that should lead to Crowder putting up decent stats this week.  Joey Porter and Jason Taylor both missed practice on Monday and make for risky plays in tackle heavy leagues.

Secondary:  The best play in the Dolphins secondary will continue to be Yeremiah Bell.  The Dolphins rookie CBs continue to develop nicely but relying on any of them is something I wouldn't recommend.  Gibril Wilson was expected to be a stud this year but ended up being very inconsistent but recently he has been a bit safer of a play.  If you can rely on Wilson as a DB3 then I wouldn't hesitate to start him.

5 STAR
Justin Durant
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Reggie Nelson
Daryl Smith
Derrick Harvey
2 STAR

Gerald Alexander
Derek Cox

1 STAR
Sean Considine

JaguarsWell just like that the Jaguars are in a prime spot to secure a wild card spot and they are going to be blacked out again because they can't sell out their game. Maybe their fans aren't showing up because they realize that even though they have 7-5 record that it isn't that impressive because even the Raiders have more quality wins then they do.  But hey, a win is a win, especially if it gets you into the playoffs. 

Defensive Line:  The only Jaguars DL worth starting this week is Derrick Harvey.  I wouldn't expect anything more than 5 total tackles and maybe a sack.

Linebacker: Justin Durant logged 6 solo tackles a sack and interception last week and was also named the AFC defensive player of the week.  Durant owners have to be giddy with his matchup this week versus the Dolphins.  Due to missing a couple of games Durant doesn't rank very high in fantasy points scored but his 15.89 PPG ranks in the top 10 among all LBs.  Daryl Smith has quietly put up a top 20 season to date.  Expect Smith to be a solid LB2 this week and if the Dolphins can build a big lead early Smith could approach LB1 type numbers.

Secondary: Rashean Mathis is back at practice but his availability for this week has not been determined as of yet.  The only DB in the Jaguars secondary I would be willing to start with any confidence would be Reggie Nelson.  Nelson's production hasn't been anything to really crow about but this week the matchup is to good to look past.

INJURY UPDATE: Rashean Mathis (groin) was limited in practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.


NY Jets at Tampa Bay

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
David Harris
2 STAR
Bart Scott
Calvin Pace
Shaun Ellis
Darrell Revis
1 STAR

Eric Smith
Kerry Rhodes

JetsWhat more can the Jets ask for than a schedule that gives them back to back games against the Bill and Buccaneers. At 6-6 they can't afford to slip up at all so hopefully having the extra time to prepare for this game is something that they took advantage of. One thing the team will have to overcome is the loss of starter Mark Sanchez for this game.  Look for the Jets to lean even more on their rushing attack this week.  On the IDP side temper expectations as the Buccaneers are giving up the 3rd fewest tackle opportunities/game this year.

Defensive Line:  Last week Damione Lewis was the first DL to post more than 3 tackles versus the Buccaneers since week 7. So leave Shaun Ellis and the rest of the Jets DL on your bench this week.

Linebacker: Since week 7 an opposing LB has posted between 6-9 tackles every week versus the Buccaneers. With numbers like that David Harris should probably be ranked as a 4 Star play but I think the Jets rushing attack will control the clock and really limit the Jets tackle opportunities.

Secondary:  Josh Freeman looks like he has what it takes to be a solid NFL QB in the future.  But at this point relying on anyone in the secondary to put up points against the Buccaneers offense is a risky proposition. The DB position is just to deep to make such a risky play during the fantasy playoffs.

5 STAR
Barrett Ruud
4 STAR
Geno Hayes
3 STAR

Tanard Jackson
Sabby Piscitelli
Quincy Black

2 STAR

Aqib Talib
Ronde Barber

1 STAR

James Wilkerson
Stylez White

Buccaneers After a week in which the Buccaneers almost upset the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome they went back to doing what they do best this year, losing. Looks like the Buccaneers realized they are in a race for the rights to draft a boy named Suh (Ndamukong). I have a feeling that at some point the Buccaneers are going to win a game that they shouldn't and not have a chance to take Suh first overall in the draft.  I just don't think this is the week. The Jets rushing attack should make Tampa IDPs very nice starts this week.

Defensive Line: Many fantasy jumped on James Wilkerson and Stylez White earlier this year after they posted some good stats in a game.  I warned then that expecting to get top production from either was basically a pipe dream.  At this point in time you just have to walk away from the Buccaneers DL.. 

Linebacker: The Buccaneers LBs are seeing plenty opportunities to make tackles and this week facing the Jets shouldn't see that trend change.  Barrett Ruud looks to be a big play this week and if you are short at LB even Quincy Black should be able to post LB3 numbers at worst.

INJURY UPDATE: Geno Hayes (hamstring) practiced fully on Thursday and Friday but is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: Mark Sanchez is going to miss this game and Kellen Clemens is going to be starting in his place. Clemens has started before but I am expecting the Jets to really limit the number of times they throw the football this week.  Both Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib have the ability to post solid stats but why risk starting them versus what should be a limited passing attack when there are plenty of options at DB.


Cincinnati at Minnesota

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Nedu Ndukwe

3 STAR
Leon Hall
Dhani Jones
Keith Rivers
2 STAR
None
1 STAR
Rey Maualuga
Brandon Johnson

BengalsThe Bengals got back to their winning ways last week but this week they face a Vikings team that is coming off just their 2nd loss of the season.  This game should be a good barometer for how well the Bengals will do in the playoffs this year.  Look for them to keep leaning on Cedric Benson to control the clock as they try to hand the Vikings a 2nd consecutive loss.  On the defensive side of the ball expect big numbers versus a Vikings team that is giving up the 2nd most tackle opportunities/game this year.

Defensive Line: There hasn't been a consistent DL worth starting on the Bengals since Antwan Odom was put on IR earlier this year and this week is no different.

INJURY UPDATE: Domata Peko (knee) has been ruled OUT for this week. 

Linebacker: Dhani Jones has been a bit inconsistent this year but this week he has a prime matchup versus the Vikings.  Most LBs would be a 4 Star play with this matchup but his inconsistent play is why he is only being ranked as a 3 Star play.  Keith Rivers has been mostly disappointing for his owners this year but this week he should put smiles on their faces.

Secondary:    We all know how well Brett Favre was playing prior to facing the Cardinals but a loss and a couple of interceptions won't keep Favre from doing what he does best, sling the ball around.  Look for Leon Hall to put up DB3 type numbers this week. 

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Chad Greenway
3 STAR
Jared Allen
Cedric Griffin
Ray Edwards
2 STAR
Antoine Winfield
Kevin Williams
Madieu Williams
Jasper Brinkley
1 STAR
Tyrell Johnson
Pat Williams

VikingsThe "Old" Brett Favre decided to show up on Sunday night and just like that the Vikings suffered their 2nd loss of the season.  Calling this a must win might seem pretty ludicrous but if the Viking lose they can all but kiss any hopes of home field advantage throughout the playoffs away.  Making matters worse is that due to injury the Vikings will be starting a rookie in a key defensive position. But Vikings defenders should also have a good week because the Bengals are giving up the 3rd most tackle opportunities/game this year.

Defensive Line:  Jared Allen has been straight up awful in the box score in 3 of the past 4 games. Allen posted the following points in each of the last 4 games; 0, 12, 1 & 3.  As bad as those numbers they also show just how good Allen is.  How is that you ask?  Well even with horrible numbers like that Allen STILL ranks 1st among all DLs in fantasy points scored for the year.  If you are an Allen owner you really can't bench him due to his recent play.  More than likely Allen is a main reason you are in the playoffs so this is one of those times that you dance with who brought you.

Linebacker:  Sadly, EJ Henderson broke his femur in last week's game. I am sure that everyone is with me in wishing Henderson the best and a speedy recovery too.  Jasper Brinkley will step in for Henderson at MLB but his upside will be limited by a two down role.  Look for Ben Leber to take over in the nickle. 

Secondary:  Antoine Winfield is getting closer to getting on the field and for fantasy owners he can't get back soon enough.  Or should I say Cedric Griffin owner and Winfield owners. Griffin has fallen from a top 5 DB when Winfield first went out with his foot injury to a top 25 DB now.

INJURY UPDATE: Cedric Griffin (kneck) & Antoine Winfield (foot) were both limited in practice all week and are listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.


Green Bay at Chicago

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Charles Woodson
Nick Barnett
Tramon Williams

2 STAR

AJ Hawk
Brandon Chillar

1 STAR
Nick Collins
Atari Bigby
Cullen Jenkins

Packers Did the Packers have a mental lapse or just fall asleep at the wheel on Monday night versus the Ravens.  They had the Ravens thoroughly beaten with their foot on their throats and then inexplicably let them off the hook and it almost cost them the game. This week I think many people are just expecting the Packers to roll over the Bears but going to Chicago and coming out with a win won't be an easy task. Especially when you consider that Mike McCarthy has only been able to beat a Lovie Smith led Bears squad 3 times and that the Bears have won 7 of the last 11 meetings.

Defensive Line:  No real fantasy value on the Packers DL.

Linebacker: Nick Barnett has really been a solid LB since working his way back to full time status earlier this year.  Actually, since week 6 Barnett has been a solid low level LB1. If you need to rely on any other Packers LB you really would be taking a risk that you shouldn't be taking.  Clay Mathews looks like he is going to be a special player but the one thing he won't be is a safe consistent fantasy starter in tackle heavy leagues.

Secondary:  I think we safely can now see that the Packers scheme doesn't present solid consistent numbers from the safety positions.  Charles Woodson can be up and down from a fantasy perspective but there is no way you can bench him versus Jay "The Interception Machine" Cutler. Cutler would be best served in steering clear of Woodson and going after Tramon Williams but you just know Cutler is going to take a chance or two that he shouldn't have taken.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Charles Tillman
3 STAR

Kevin Payne
Lance Briggs
Adewale Ogunleye
Alex Brown

2 STAR
Hunter Hillenmeyer
1 STAR
Danieal Manning
Jamar Williams

BearsI know what you are already thinking, Charles Woodson vs Jay Cutler. OMG!!  But I have a feeling that Cutler is going to have his absolute best game of the season this year. I wouldn't expect Cutler to throw more than say 8-9 interceptions in this game. Now with all seriousness I do think that the Bears step up in this division game and knock the Packers off. 

Defensive Line:  We know that the Packers OL has been extremely vulnerable to the sack this year and that should make Adewale Ogunleye and Alex Brown very nice plays.  However, neither player has been able to really put up consistent numbers so most will probably be leery of starting either of them and I can't really blame you considering that combined they have only one double digit fantasy point game this year combined.  But if you have them on your team I doubt you will get a better opportunity to start them this year.

Linebacker:  Last week Lance Briggs missed the game due to injury and Jamar Williams filled in and filled up the box score.  This week Briggs is expected back so that should put the kabash on Williams' value.  However, Lovie Smith has hinted in so many words that Williams has played his way into more playing time.  Unfortunately, Smith didn't give any real idea if he would get that time at MLB or SLB.  Until we have something concrete I would leave Williams on the bench. 

INJURY UPDATE: Lance Briggs (knee) & Hunter Hillenmeyer (groin) both practiced fully on Thursday and Friday and are listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: Hopefully you didn't get burned by Danieal Manning's "benching".  Manning was replaced in the starting lineup by former starting safety Kevin Payne.  Manning's struggles in run support are what seems to have precipitated the move.  He will still get time in the nickle and on special teams but long gone are his days as a top 5 DB.  That is until Payne gets benched again.


Carolina at New England

5 STAR
Jon Beason
4 STAR

Richard Marshall

3 STAR
Chris Harris
Chris Gamble
Julius Peppers
James Anderson
2 STAR
None
1 STAR
Damione Lewis

Panthers Carolina will look to do something that hasn't been done for a very long time.  They will try to give the Patriots their 3rd consecutive loss.  However, for that to happen the Panthers would have to win their second consecutive game and that is the rub.  The Panthers have only won back to back games once this year and that was against the Redskins and Buccaneers and even if these aren't the 2007 Patriots they are still far better than the Skins or Bucs.  Look for the Panthers defenders to be on the field plenty this week.  That really shouldn't be a surprise either considering the Patriots lead the league in tackle opportunities allowed per game. 

Defensive Line: Julius Peppers looks to be past the hand injury that was limiting his production a few weeks ago.  Normally, a DL isn't a good start against the Patriots but Peppers is the kind of guy that can put up one of those monster stat lines that allows you to steam roll your opponent.  A game like that in the playoffs is even more special.

INJURY UPDATE: Tyler Brayton (concussion) has been ruled OUT for this week. 

Linebacker: The Patriots are a great matchup for opposing defenders and when you add in that Jon Beason is as good as he is and it is easy to see why he is a 5 Star play.  Beason should approach a dozen tackles this week.  James Anderson is a bit riskier to start as a LB3 but the matchup versus the Patriots should be good enough to get him to 5 of 6 tackles.

Secondary:  I was extremely high on Richard Marshall prior to the start of the season.  Actually, I had been waiting for a couple of seasons for Marshall to get his shot as a starter.  And all Marshall did was struggle out of the gate but over the last month Marshall has been the top 5 DB I had him pegged for prior to the start of the season. The Patriots are going to be looking to get their offense back on track so look for Chris Harris and Chris Gamble to also have a good week.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Jerod Mayo
3 STAR
Brandon McGowan
Brandon Meriweather
2 STAR

Ty Warren
Vince Wilfork
Leigh Bodden
Patrick Chung
Gary Guyton

1 STAR
Mike Wright
Shawn Springs

PatriotsAre the wheels coming off for the Patriots?  They sure don't seem like the Patriots of old.  Bill Belichick is still acting like he is playing a video game. Randy Moss and three other Patriots players arrived late for practice and were sent home for being late.  It will be interesting to see how this team rebounds after their back to back losses.  I still expect them to pull off a win versus the Panthers but at times it sure does look like the Patriots are playing without heart.

Defensive Line: Ty Warren is being limited in practice by an injured ankle and to make matters worse the last timet that Warren posted more than 3 solo tackles was way back in week 5.  We know that the Panthers will want to run the ball but i doubt they will be able to do much running when they end up down big to the Patriots and have to play catchup.

INJURY UPDATE: Ty Warren (ankle) was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  Look for Jerod Mayo to step up this week. Coach Belichick made it a point to send a message to some players that were late for practice by sending them home.  Mayo has the look of a player that will respond and step up as a leader. And a leader is what the defense seems to be missing.

Secondary:  Both Brandon Meriweather and Brandon McGowan should have value as a DB3 this week but both also hold a good amount of risk as long as the Panthers are starting Matt Moore at QB.  On top of that Patrick Chung is starting to get additional playing time which will siphon some stats.


Seattle at Houston

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Jordan Babineaux
3 STAR

David Hawthorne
Patrick Kerney

2 STAR

Leroy Hill
Josh Wilson
Marcus Trufant

1 STAR
Aaron Curry

SeahawksThe Seahawks sure are a different team when they are home versus playing on the road.  Last week the Seahawks all but extinguished any postseason hopes that the Niners had.  For the season the Seahawks are a strong 4-1 at home but on the road they are a lowly 1-5 and that lone win came against the Rams.  Unfortunately for the Seahawks this week they are on the road and I don't think they will be able to log road win #2 this week.

Defensive Line: The Texans could be without Matt Schaub this week and when coupled with the fact that they have given up 10 sacks over their last 5 games to opposing DL it looks like fantasy owners have a matchup worth starting Patrick Kerney for.

Linebacker:  If you are a David Hawthorne owner you shouldn't get to down on his poor performance last week.  The Niners are giving up the 2nd fewest tackle opportunities so it was understandable to see his performance tail off some.  This week he should have no problem surpassing 6-7 solo tackles versus the Texans.  Leroy Hill should see plenty of work in nickel sets versus the Texans multi receiver sets but relying on him as a starter wouldn't be wise this week.

Secondary:  At this point in time Jordan Babineaux has distinguished himself as a must start for the rest of the fantasy season.   Just in case you need some substance to back that up you can chew on this;  Charles Woodson is the 2nd leading fantasy DB over the past month and the DB that has out-scored Woodson over that period is Babineaux. Both Josh Wilson and Marcus Trufant would be 4 Star plays if Matt Schaub was guaranteed to be the starter this week but at this point it looks Schaub's status is up in the air.  If for some reason Schaub does end up being announced as the starter then you can bump both up to 4 Star plays.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Brian Cushing
Bernard Pollard
3 STAR
DeMeco Ryans
Mario Williams
2 STAR
None
1 STAR
Connor Barwin

TexansThe Texans last won a football game on November 1st.  Since then they have suffered four consecutive losses and saw their record fall from 5-3 to 5-7.  The Texans could be without Matt Schaub this week and they will be without Steve Slaton who was put on IR and that won't make getting back into the win column any easier.  The Seahawks are providing above average tackle opportunities so key Texans IDPs should have a good week.

Defensive Line: Mario Williams is going to burn quite a few fantasy owners this week or next in their playoff games.  At this point starting Williams is risky business, that is unless you like watching him put up 1 or 2 tackles and a sack.  The reason I say he is going to burn some fantasy owners is because if he puts up a monster game half of his owners will have left him on their bench and if he puts up a really bad game the other half that started him expecting he was due are going to get burnt. So many I should start calling Mario Can't win Mario instead of Super Mario.

INJURY UPDATE: Mario Williams (shoulder) missed practice on Wednesday and was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker: Last year I ended up being wrong with my assessment of Zack Diles.  Well up until last week Diles has been relatively unheard from this year. Yet last week's performance already has people posting in the forums asking what's up with Diles and should they pick him up.  Simply put, No do not pick him up. One offs happen and need to be discounted and this is one of those instances.  The LBs that you need to keep plugging into your lineup are Brian Cushing and DeMeco Ryans.

INJURY UPDATE: Brian Cushing (foot) is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  Over the past month, Bernard Pollard ranks as the 3rd best scoring DB in the league.  You might as well continue to ride his hot hand.


Washington at Oakland

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

London Fletcher
Reed Doughty
Laron Landry
Andre Carter

2 STAR

Brian Orakpo
Rocky McIntosh

1 STAR
Albert Haynesworth

RedskinsThe Redskins were so close to pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the season last week. They were a chip shot missed FG from sealing the deal.  Instead that miss opened the door to allow the Saints to comeback and tie the game to force OT.  Of course the Saints completed their comeback and stayed undefeated.  This week the Redskins will head cross country to face a Raiders team that just dealt the Steelers their 4th consecutive last week.

Defensive Line:  Over the past 6 weeks the Raiders have only given up 1.5 sacks to opposing DL.  That makes Andre Carter a bit of a risk but Carter has been a top option at DL for much of the season and sitting him isn't easy to do. I would and actually am starting Carter this week.  I am not expecting a big game but I do think he will post solid numbers.  Albert Haynesworth's ankle is keeping him out of practice so expect him to be a  game time decision this week.

INJURY UPDATE: Albert Haynesworth (ankle) has been ruled OUT for this week. 

Linebacker: For years London Fletcher has been money for fantasy owners and this year doesn't look much different when you see that he ranks 7th year to date in fantasy points scored by a LB.  Unfortunately, what that ranking doesn't show is that Fletcher has been very up and down this season.  His good has been really good but then his bad has been really bad.  If you have a better more consistent option I would probably look there rather than start Fletcher.  I still think Fletcher should post minimally LB3 type numbers but there is downside facing the Raiders.

Secondary:  Laron Landry is a big big hitter but what he isn't is good in coverage.  The Saints utilized Landry's aggressive play against him to beat him deep numerous times.  The Raiders surely don't have the firepower that the Saints have but don't be surprised to see the Raiders try to take advantage of Landry the same way.  Reed Doughty has been a very good play since Chris Horton was put on IR but this week temper expectations and look for closer to DB3 numbers than DB1 numbers.

INJURY UPDATE: DeAngelo Hall (knee) has been ruled OUT for this week.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Tyvon Branch
3 STAR

Kirk Morrison
Trevor Scott

2 STAR
None
1 STAR
Michael Huff 
Richard Seymour
Thomas Howard
Greg Ellis

Raiders The Raiders showed a lot of moxie in trading shots with the Steelers in the 4th quarter last week and pulling off the upset when the dust settled. The Raiders aren't going to make the playoffs like Richard Seymour said earlier this year but they very well could run the table to finish 8-8.   More than likely they will finish with 6 wins but that seems like a great season considering just how bad the Raiders looked at times this year.  The Redskins rejuvenated offense could be a boon for Raiders IDPs.

Defensive Line: Greg Ellis is still having issues with his knee and was kept out of Wednesday practice because of it.  At this point relying on any Raiders DL is something that I wouldn't really want to do.

INJURY UPDATE: Greg Ellis (knee) missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday and was limited in practice on Friday, he is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker: The big news with the Raiders LBs last week was that Trevor Scott would be the starting WLB.  Well Scott did get that start but his numbers were far from stellar and that was because he spent time playing DE outside of the Raiders base defense.  Kirk Morrison has seen his production drop off a bit over his last 5 games.  But then again he was really clicking for much of the early part of the season.  This week he is a safe start but I am a bit cautious with his ranking since he is playing the Redskins.  If the Redskins can keep up their offensive play then Morrison will be a much better play but part of me thinks we see the Redskins have a pretty big letdown after last week's let down loss to the Saints.

Secondary:  Hopefully you took my advice and kept Tyvon Branch in your lineup last week because he bounced back from his 4 point effort in week 12 and posted 17 points in week 13.  Look for Branch to continue being active in the secondary as he stays atop the DB rankings with his #1 position.


St. Louis at Tennessee

5 STAR
James Laurinaitis
4 STAR

None

3 STAR

Ronald Bartell
James Butler
Craig Dahl

2 STAR
James Hall
1 STAR
Leonard Little
Chris Long

RamsThe Rams are tied with the Buccaneers and Browns for fewest wins this year (1).  In looking at the Rams final 4 games they very well could finish the season 1-15. Six or seven weeks ago Rams fans probably circled this game on the schedule as a possible win but the Titans have rebounded in a big way and the Rams sure look like they will be logging their 12th loss of the season this week.  The Titans have committed to the run in a big, big way and present a great tackle opportunity for Rams IDPs this week.

Defensive Line:  Currently I am suggesting that all of the Rams DL be left on fantasy benches this week.  However, there is a chance that Vince Young may not be able to play this week and if Kerry Collins has to start then I would bump James Hall up to a 3 Star play..

Linebacker:  Talk about the perfect storm.  If you are a James Laurinaitis owner you have to be licking your chops to get him into your lineup this week.  Last week, Chris Johnson had his string of 125+ yard rushing games broken and I am sure that Johnson is going to still see the ball a ton this weekend.  Don't be surprised to see Laurinaitis rack up over a dozen solo tackles this week.

Secondary:  As if the Rams can afford to lose any players to injury they go and lose one of their best playmakers, Oshiomogho Atogwe.  Atogwe was put on IR with a neck injury.  Look for Craig Dhal to replace him in the starting lineup.  I would expect both Dhal and James Butler to have good games helping to keep, or should I say trying to keep Chris Johnson in check.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

3 STAR

Chris Hope
Keith Bulluck
Stephen Tulloch

2 STAR

David Thornton
Michael Griffin
Kyle Vanden Bosch
Nick Harper
Cortland Finnegan

1 STAR
William Hayes
Tony Brown

TitansThe Titans had 2 streaks ended last week; their 5 game winning streak and Chris Johnson's consecutive games with 125 yards rushing.  Look for the Titans and Chris Johnson to start those streaks back up this week versus the Rams. While the Rams may not be winning many games they are giving up good games to opposing IDPs. 

Defensive Line:  The Rams are a team that should warrant starting opposing DLs against but the inconsistent play, at least fantasy wise makes the Titans DLs all risky plays and ones that I would avoid.

Linebacker:  I am pretty sure that I wasn't the only one that got burned by Stephen Tulloch's goose egg last week.  The Titans actually were in their nickle defense for almost the entire game against the Colts.  Tulloch only played in 6 defensive snaps so it is no wonder that he didn't log a single tackle. This week I would expect Tulloch to get enough snaps to be a viable starter.  I know it seems risky but the Rams will run many more 2 TE sets and less mutli WR sets which is what sends Tulloch to the bench.

INJURY UPDATE: David Thornton (hip) was limited in practice on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: Chris Hope should be very busy helping in run support versus the Rams rushing attack that is led by Steven Jackson.  Hope has been pretty inconsistent since about week 4 but the Rams are finding ways to keep feeding Jackson the ball 25+ times so I think it should be relatively safe to start Hope.


San Diego at Dallas

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Stephen Cooper
Kevin Burnett

2 STAR
Brandon Siler
Kevin Ellison
1 STAR

Steve Gregory
Eric Weddle
Shaun Phillips
Shawne Merriman

ChargersThe Chargers are looking to push their win streak to 8 games but make no bones about it, the Cleveland Browns put a bit of a scare in them last week.  There must have been something in the water because the Raiders beat the Steelers, Redskins almost knocked off the Saints and the Browns game the Chargers a big scare.  This week the Chargers will be looking to knock off the 3rd NFCE team that they have faced.  Also the win over the Browns allowed the Chargers to add to their current December winning streak which is now at 15 and is an NFL record.

Defensive Line: The Chargers DL presents no fantasy value so look for DL help some place else.

Linebacker:  Stephen Cooper had two poor games in a row and last week versus the Browns looked to be a recipe for 3 straight bad games but Cooper actually was able to post a solid 13 points versus the Browns.  The Cowboys should present a solid enough offensive attack to keep Cooper as a starter for fantasy teams.  Kevin Burnett should also be a solid play this weekend.  Burnett has put up double digit fantasy points in all but one week since returning from injury.

INJURY UPDATE:Shawne Merriman (foot) practiced fully on Thursday and Friday but is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  Kevin Ellison looks to be the best play in the San Diego secondary with Eric Weddle still out due to injury.  I know that they Cowboys offense should be solid enough to make Ellison a solid 3 Star play at the least but this is one of those matchups that something just makes me feel a bit uneasy about it.

INJURY UPDATE: Eric Weddle (knee) didn't practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.

5 STAR

None

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

Jay Ratliff

1 STAR

Marcus Spears

CowboysThe Cowboys and December are like oil and water, at least in recent times.  If you haven't heard about the trials and tribulations of the Cowboys in the month of December then you just haven't had your TV on and have been living in a hole.  It is kind of funny how this game the Cowboys who have struggled in December are facing a team that has won 15 consecutive times in December.  The team that has the second longest December winning streak in NFL History just happens to be the Cowboys who from 1968-1972 reeled off 13 consecutive wins in the month of December.  Ironic, isn't it.

Defensive Line:  The Cowboys 3-4 defense really limits the value of its DL and for the most part makes them unreliable fantasy players.  That is with the exception of Jay Ratliff who is normally a strong start in DT mandatory leagues.

Linebacker: The Chargers have been very up and down in the stats that they have yielded to opposing LBs this year.  So much of the value of Keith Brooking and Bradie James lies in the type of game you think this will be.  If you expect the Chargers to win this game handily they you can expect to see the Cowboys LBs rack up a bunch of tackles in the 2nd half.  And if you think that the Cowboys are going to win this game going away then their LBs could see their production limited because the Chargers will be in catchup mode.

Secondary:  The Chargers like to throw the ball down field as well as utilizing Antonio Gates in the middle of the field and those two things should be enough to make Gerald Sensabaugh a DB3 this week.


Philadelphia at NY Giants

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Will Witherspoon
3 STAR
Trent Cole
Quintin Mikell
2 STAR

Akeem Jordan
Sean Jones
Sheldon Brown
Asante Samuel

1 STAR
Joe Mays

EaglesI would say that this is a big divisional game for the Eagles but the truth of the matter is that all NFCE games are big for the Eagles.  Currently, the Eagles are tied with the Cowboys for wins in the division with 8 but the Cowboys do have the tiebreaker over them at this point in the season.  This week though they head up Interstate 95 to face a Giants team that just beat the division leading Cowboys last week. The Eagles should get WR Desean Jackson back this week so look for the Eagles quick strike big play offense to keep things firing on all cylinders. Good news if you are an owner of Eagles IDPs since they are facing a Giants team that is giving up above average tackle opportunities/game.

Defensive Line: Trent Cole like Jared Allen, Andre Carter and many other stud DLs can put up a few stinker games and then blow up and the truth of the matter is that if you own guys like Cole, Allen, Carter, Peppers etc you have to start them in your playoffs.  Just don't think about it and cross your fingers.  At least this week is a big NFCE battle so that should add some additional incentive for Cole to perform well.

Linebacker: Unfortunately, last week Akeem Jordan wasn't able to get back on the field but now it does look like he will return to the lineup this week.  I wouldn't consider starting him this week but if he is a go I would most certainly look at putting Will Witherspoon in my lineup.  If for some reason Jordan isn't able to get back on the field this week then drop Witherspoon from a 4 Star to a 2 Star play.

INJURY UPDATE: Akeem Jordan (knee) practiced fully all week and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: It is getting to the time of year where playing in the Northeast is far from optimal for passing attacks.  Giants Stadium also gets it's share of swirling winds so I wouldn't want to rely on much from the Giants passing attack.  I actually expect to see the Giants try to lean heavily on Brandon Jacobs and look for Quintin Mikell to be very active in the box.  Asante Samuel is always going to have a shot at picking off a pass but this week I think it would be risky to put him in starting lineups.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Justin Tuck
3 STAR

Michael Boley
Aaron Rouse

2 STAR

Jonathan Goff

1 STAR
Mathias Kiwanuka
Osi Umenyiora

GiantsThe Giants haven't won consecutive games since they notched their 5th win of the season back in October versus the Raiders. The Giants have won 6 of their last 9 games against the Eagles with two of those losses being in the last two meetings between these teams.  The Giants currently are on the outside looking in at a playoff spot but they do hold a tiebreaker over the Cowboys and a win this week versus the Eagles will go a long way towards getting back into the thick of the playoff chase.  Since the Eagles have such a quick strike offense they are giving up below average tackle opportunities so you probably want to temper expectations for their IDPs this week.

Defensive Line:  Justin Tuck is by far the Giants best DL and also one of the best in the entire NFL.  The Eagles and Giants usually play very hard fought games and the Giants DL has had its fare share of success against the Eagles.  Jason Peters is practicing in full but he is fighting a shoulder injury so I wouldn't be surprised to see the Giants exploit Peters if they can.

Linebacker:  Opposing LBs have been a mixed bag this year versus the Eagles.  One week you have a guy like London Fletcher posting double digit tackles and then the next you have Curtis Lofton posting just 6 solo tackles.  At this point Michael Boley is the LB to own on the Giants and while he may not have a huge game he should minimally post 5 solos.  The Eagles lack of a rushing game will more than likely limit Jonathan Goff, so keep Goof on your bench this week.

Secondary: The Giants have had issues in their secondary since they lost Kenny Phillips earlier this year.  Expect the Eagles to do exactly what they do best and that is throw the ball down the field.  That should mean good things for Aaron Rouse owners.  CC Brown very well could find himself back in the starting lineup and you can bet your bottom dollar the Eagles will try to attack him when they can.

INJURY UPDATE: Michael Johnson (groin) missed practice on Wednesday and was limited in practice the rest of the week, he is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.


Arizona at San Francisco

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

Cardinals The Cardinals really looked good last Monday night against the Vikings. Most teams look like they have been selling out to stop the Vikings running game and basically daring Favre and the passing attack to beat them.  Well the Vikings and Favre did just that in all but one game prior to the Cardinals game.  The Cardinals defense really did a fantastic job with the Vikings WRs and were also able to keep Adrian Peterson in check too.  What I am saying is that the Cardinals are for real.  Unfortunately, this week IDP owners will have to suffer through a very poor matchup for Cardinals IDPs.  The only team giving up fewer tackle opportunities than the Niners are the Raiders.

Defensive Line: The Niners really are one of the worst matchups for defenses to face this year but Darnell Dockett is playing to well to really sit so stick him in your lineup and hope he is able to keep up his good play.

Linebacker: As hard as this probably is to fathom, Karlos Dansby is a risky start this week.  The Niners as I have said have been horrible for the most part for opposing defenders.  At best l would expect to see Dansby post 4-6 total tackles. 

Secondary: With how deep the DB position is it is very easy to say that you really shouldn't consider starting Antrel Rolle, Adrian Wilson or any other Cardinals secondary player.

5 STAR
Patrick Willis
4 STAR

Michael Lewis
Dashon Goldson

3 STAR
Tarell Brown
2 STAR
Shawntae Spencer
1 STAR
Justin Smith

49ersThe Niners went into last week knowing that if they were able to win their game and the Cardinals lost theirs that this game would be for 1st place in the NFCW.  Well, the Niners didn't do their part because they took it on the chin in Seattle and the Cardinals as we already know gave the Vikings their 2nd loss of the season.  What I am trying to say is that this game now means nothing with regards to the NFCW title.  The Cardinals are giving up above average tackle opportunities so expect key Niners IDPs to have a good week.

Defensive Line:  Kurt Warner can be gotten to but the Niners defensive scheme doesn't look for their DL to create their pass rush.  Look elsewhere if you need DL help.

Linebacker:  All other LBs would probably be a 4 Star play this week but Patrick Willis is head and shoulders ahead of everyone else at the position.  If you are a Willis owners feel fortunate that he hasn't just carried you to the playoffs but that he very well could carry you all the way to a championship.  Takeo Spikes has been a nice spot play at times this year but again in the playoffs I want to limit my risk as much as possible and that means leaving Spikes on the bench. 

Secondary: Look for Michael Lewis and Dashon Goldson to have big games versus the Cardinals impressive passing attack. The Cardinals most undoubtedly look to test Tarell Brown.  Brown has recorded 5+ solo tackles in 3 consecutive games so expecting him to keep up that pace against the Cardinals seems like a no brainer.

INJURY UPDATE: Nate Clements (shoulder) has been ruled OUT for this week.

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