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IDP Game Breakdowns - Week 15
Steve Gallo
December 18, 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 48 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 47 4-3 & Tampa 2 Ron Meeks Jon Beason
CHI 44 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Bob Babich Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer
CIN 51 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 49 3-4 Mike Nolan DJ Williams, Elvis Dumervil
DET 45 4-3 Gunther Cunningham Larry Foote
GB 50 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 47 4-3 Mel Tucker Justin Durant, Daryl Smith
KC 45 3-4 Clancy Pendergast Tamba Hali
MIA 53 3-4 Paul Pasqualoni Channing Crowder
MIN 53 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Leslie Frazier Chad Greenway, Ben Leber
NE 54 3-4 Dean Pees Jerod Mayo
NO 54 4-3 Gregg Williams Jonathan Vilma, Scott Shanle
NYG 50 4-3 Bill Sheridan Michael Boley
NYJ 50 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 49 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 42 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.

Indianapolis at Jacksonville

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

3 STAR
None
2 STAR
Clint Session
Gary Brackett
Melvin Bullitt
Jacob Lacey
1 STAR
Dwight Freeney
Robert Mathis
Antoine Bethea
Jerraud Powers

Colts Will they play?  Who will play?  How long will they play?  Why won't they play? Are some of the many questions floating around with regards to the Colts since they clinched home field advantage with last week's win.  Their 13th consecutive win this year and 22nd consecutive regular season win.  That 22nd win also set the new mark for consecutive regular season wins by an NFL team.  It is a short week and with all the (dis)information that you get in football you have to realize that if you start ANY Colt then you are taking on an undefinable amount of RISK! I do think that this week the Colts will want to do their best to dispose of a possible playoff team.  But with that said if they get up early then who knows who will be headed to the bench and for how long.  So now with all that said I can't with good conscious rank any Colt as a starter.  That doesn't mean I don't think they can put up starter numbers, it just means I think they are risky starts in what should be a playoff week for most fantasy owners. 

Defensive Line:  With the production or should I say lack of production that Robert Mathis has been providing owners he would have been a difficult start anyway. Now add in the risk that he could play a series or two and you can easily see why you want to keep him on your bench this week. Dwight Freeney has had his share of dings recently so I would also be worried about starting him since he too could find the bench early.  Mathis and Freeney both missed practice on Monday and Tuesday so that is why they are a 1 Star.

Linebacker:  Gary Brackett has been listed on previous injury reports with a foot injury.  He has played and played well but this could be the exact type of thing that the Colts are talking about when they say healthy players are going to play.  That means you have to ask yourself if Brackett is considered a healthy player.  I for one am taking a risk and starting Brackett this week but I do understand the risk involved.  If you have better/safer options you should explore them.  Same goes for Clint Session.  If the Colts get out to an early lead you don't know how long he will play.  Or on the other hand if the Jaguars get up big would they then just sit him. Under normal circumstances I would rank both players as a 3 Star play with Brackett being closer to 4 Star.  I still think it is safer to sit both guys but if you do indeed need to start them at least you can assess their risk a bit better now.

Secondary:  Basically, take everything that I wrote above about the DL and LBs and apply it to the Colts secondary.  Both Antoine Bethea and Jerraud Powers missed practice on Monday and Tuesday and that is why they are 1 Star plays.

INJURY UPDATE:  Jerraud Powers has been ruled OUT for this game.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Justin Durant
3 STAR
Reggie Nelson
Daryl Smith
Derek Cox
2 STAR

Gerald Alexander
Derrick Harvey

1 STAR
Sean Considine

JaguarsThe Jaguars control their own playoff destiny.  All they need to do is win and keep winning and they will make it to the post season.  That shouldn't be surprising as the Jaguars do have a pretty good team.  What should be more surprising is that they actually sold out this game.  Of course that means that the fans that are actually going to be there to watch them play are going to have their hearts crushed by a Jaguars loss.  That is just how karma works.

Defensive Line:  Peyton Manning is one of the least sacked QBs in the league so leave Derrick Harvey on your bench this week.   Even if the Colts said they would sit Manning after a series I would still leave Harvey on the bench.

Linebacker: Last week Justin Durant posted a very respectable 7 solo tackles last week against the Dolphins.  This week Durant should be a good play again. Even if the Colts do start to pull starters you can bet that Durant will be right in the thick of things.  Daryl Smith is a slightly riskier play but he should be solid enough to post LB3 type numbers this week.

Secondary: Derek Cox has been a pleasant surprise this year and with how the Colts like to throw the ball he should be a solid DB3 this week.  Rashean Mathis is practicing on a limited basis but until he gets into a game and gets his legs back under him I would leave him on your bench.  Don't be surprised if Reggie Nelson logs double digit tackles on Thursday night.  The past three weeks the Colts are giving up just shy of 10 total tackles to an opposing safety each game.


Dallas at New Orleans

5 STAR

None

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

Jay Ratliff

1 STAR

DeMarcus Ware

CowboysThe Cowboys recorded their second loss of this December and with it fell out of first place in the NFCE. A trip to New Orleans to face an undefeated Saints team surely looks like the Cowboys could see their current December slide make it to 3 straight.  At least if you own any Cowboys IDPs you won't have to worry if they are going to sit out because they have a playoff spot locked up.

Defensive Line:  If you are in a DT mandatory league you can bump Jay Ratliff up one level.  Otherwise, no Cowboys DL is worthy of being started.

Linebacker: The big question for the Cowboys LBs is if DeMarcus Ware is going to be able to play in this game on Saturday.  Ware suffered a neck injury that required him to be taken off on a stretcher in last week's game.  Initially, it was thought that Ware would miss this week's game but now it looks as if he is 50-50 to play.  Drew Brees isn't one of the easier QBs to sack so leaving Ware on your bench would be a prudent move, even if he were 100% healthy.  Look for Keith Brooking and Bradie James to benefit from facing the #1  ranked offense in tackle opportunities given up/game.

INJURY UPDATE:  DeMarcus Ware (neck/wrist) is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  The past two weeks, opposing starting safeties versus the Saints are averaging 8 total tackles.  Look for Gerald Sensabaugh to post numbers within that range this week too.  With as much as the Saints throw the ball you would think that the Cowboys CBs would be good plays this week but for the most part CBs don't really do to well versus them.

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

None

1 STAR
Charles Grant

SaintsThe Saints aren't just undefeated because they haven't played anyone.  They truly are a very good football team. In their last five meetings with the Cowboys the Saints are a perfect 5-0.  The last time these two teams met was in Dallas and Drew Brees (384 yards/5 TDs) torched the Cowboys and the Saints won 42-17.  That game took place in DECEMBER of 2006.  The last time these two teams played in New Orleans was DECEMBER 28, 2003, another Saints win.  So we have a Saints team that has won 5 in a row versus the Cowboys, won their last December matchup, won their last December matchup in New Orleans and the Cowboys stink in December. Sure looks like the Saints will remain undefeated and the Cowboys will remain winless in December this year.

Defensive Line:  Will Smith recorded a sack in each game from week 8 thru 12 but has been held without a sack in each of his past two games.  Looking at the past four weeks versus the Cowboys shows that there is some risk in starting Smith.  Especially when coupled with the past two weeks struggles he has had.  Still I think that the Super Dome will be rocking and Smith will benefit from the added crowd noise. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Sedrick Ellis (knee) missed practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker: The Cowboys haven't been the best of matchups for opposing LBs but they have yielded a few very nice games to some of the top LBs in the league.  Jonathan Vilma should be safe to have in starting lineups but due to the up and down nature he could fall anywhere between a 5 Star and 3 Star play.  Minimizing the risk would be to rely on him as a 3 Star play.  Scott Shanle is a bit riskier start but should still put up low level LB3 type numbers.

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

Secondary:   Roman Harper remains the stud fantasy IDP in the Saints secondary even though he has struggled in 3 of the past 4 games. Only once in those past four games has Harper posted double digit fantasy points yet he still ranks as the 7th best DB in fantasy points scored.  That is just a testament as to just how many points Harper is capable of putting up in a given week.  Darren Sharper has relied much more on big plays so banking on him for a 4 Star play is a bit risky but considering he is facing a Tony Romo led Cowboys team makes that 4 Star ranking much more understandable.

INJURY UPDATE:  Jabari Greer has been ruled OUT for this week.


Cleveland at Kansas City

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

David Bowens
Kamerion Wimbley
Robaire Smith

2 STAR

Jason Trusnik
Kaluka Maiava
Abram Elam

1 STAR

Kenyon Coleman

BrownsThe Browns beat the Steelers.  The Steelers, a team that they had lost to 12 consecutive times.  Just when Browns fans thought things couldn't get any better there are rumors circulating that Mike Holmgren has been offered a front office position with the team.  While that win over the Steelers is sweet for Browns fans, landing Holmgren would actually make this a very successful season, regardless of their season record.

Defensive Line: The Browns defensive scheme doesn't really lend itself to producing fantasy productive DLs, that is outside of Shaun Rogers so relying on any of them is a bit of a risk.  But Robaire Smith is playing pretty well and the Chiefs have given up multiple sacks to opposing DL's in over half of their games this year.

INJURY UPDATE:  Kenyon Coleman (knee) & Robaire Smith (groin) are listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report. Smith missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday but practiced on a limited basis on Friday.

Linebacker: The Chiefs are giving up below average tackle opportunities so starting any Browns LBs has some added risk. Even in limited opportunities I think that David Bowens and Kamerion Wimbley will be decent plays this week.  I could easily see them combing to notch a couple of sacks this week.

Secondary:  The fact that the Chiefs offense is far from clicking will likely limit the opportunities that the Browns defense will face.  Add to it that DB is the deepest position in the league and you can see why Abram Elam is a 2 Star play.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

3 STAR
Mike Brown
Brandon Flowers
2 STAR

Demorrio Williams
Brandon Carr
Jovan Belcher
Tamba Hali

1 STAR
Glenn Dorsey

ChiefsThe Chiefs get back suspended WR-Dwayne Bowe this week. The Chiefs passing attack sure could use Bowe, actually Matt Cassel sure could use Dwayne Bowe.  How effective Bowe will be is to be seen but honestly I can't see how he doesn't help give the Chiefs offense a kick in the pants. 

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

Linebacker: The Browns have been playing a bit better of late but hey they still are the Browns so relying on them to do enough to make Demorrio Williams or Jovan Belcher safe starts might be asking a bit to much.  You have to ask yourself, are you really brave enough to put a playoff outcome in the hands of a Chiefs LB when they are facing the Browns? 

Secondary: Since week 7 only one CB has posted more than 4 solos versus the Browns.  Starting Brandon Flowers or Brandon Carr isn't for the faint of heart.  Flowers should probably be a 2 Star play but over the past six weeks he has scored in double digits each week.  On the other side of the coin you have how opposing safeties have done versus the Browns and surprisingly they have done pretty well. Even with all that said if you have other viable options you probably should use them.


Chicago at Baltimore

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Lance Briggs
Charles Tillman
Kevin Payne
3 STAR

Hunter Hillenmeyer

2 STAR
Adewale Ogunleye
Alex Brown
1 STAR
Danieal Manning

BearsAt this point in the season the Bears  very well could be playing for their coaches job, as well as others in the organization. Last week I really thought that the Bears would make a stand in their house and get a win versus the Packers but I was wrong. They did fight back to make it a closer game but close just doesn't get it done.  This week look for big things from key Bears IDPs as they face a Ravens team that is giving up above average tackle opportunities.

Defensive Line:  I really wouldn't want to rely on starting Adewale Ogunleye or Alex Brown if I could help myself this weekend.  The Ravens have only surrendered 5 sacks to opposing DEs this year and only one DE has posted more than 4 solos in a game versus the Ravens. Also, over the past four games neither Ogunleye or Brown have posted more than 3 solos in a game.

Linebacker:  Lance Briggs owners have to be extremely happy to have him back for their playoff runs.  LBs against the Ravens have been a bit hit or miss but this week I really expect to see the Ravens lean heavily on their running game and that bodes very well for Briggs.  Hunter Hillenmeyer should also be a solid play as a mid to low level LB3 this week.

Secondary: In case you missed the news, Danieal Manning lost his starting safety job to Kevin Payne.  Yes, the same Kevin Payne that lost his starting safety job earlier this year.  But no matter as we already know that the Bears safety spot can be a productive one which is why Payne is a 4 Star play.  Charles Tillman owners can also expect to see a bounce back from his poor 3 solo tackle effort last week.  Over the past four games the Ravens have given up some very nice production to opposing safeties.

INJURY UPDATE:  Charles Tillman (back) is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report but he did practice in full on Thursday & Friday..

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Terrell Suggs
Ladarius Webb
3 STAR
Ray Lewis
Dawan Landry
2 STAR

Kelly Gregg
Tavares Gooden

1 STAR
Haloti Ngata
Ed Reed

Ravens The Ravens are still in the hunt for a wildcard slot but it is with a gaggle of other teams  There are a ton of scenarios that will allow a team to get into the playoffs with help but the best thing the Ravens can do is take it one game at a time and try to reel off wins in their last 3 games.  That would push their record to 10-6 and odds would be pretty good that 10-6 would get them into the playoffs.  The Bears are a team that are giving up below average tackle opportunities this year (3rd fewest given up) so temper your expectations for Ravens IDPs.

Defensive Line: The Bears will probably give up minimal tackle opportunities this week but I still think we see Terrell Suggs have a monster game.  In deeper leagues you can take a look at Dwan Edwards as a DL3 this week.

Linebacker:  Ray Lewis still ranks as a top 10 LB in fantasy points scored this year but what is even nicer about Lewis is that thru 14 weeks he has only posted fewer than double digits points in a game once.  That is a very remarkable stat considering he did much of his damage earlier in the season while facing minimal tackle opportunities.  This week I think you have to temper your expectations some but Lewis should be a very solid starter that does present some upside this week.  Tavares Gooden has logged 5 solos in two of his last four games but that sort of up and down isn't what I would want to start in the playoffs.  Especially when there is little to no upside with him.

Secondary:  Ed Reed is still not practicing as he continues to be hampered by groin and foot issues.  Rookie Ladarius Webb had a really nice week last week as he posted 7 solo tackles and if your league rewards return points then you even got a nice little bump there too.  Webb should be plenty busy this weekend but the real reason for him being a 4 Star play instead of a 3 Star play is Jay Cutler.  Look for Cutler to test the rookie this weekend.  Unfortunately, I think Cutler is the one that will fail.


Arizona at Detroit

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

Cardinals The Cardinals not only laid an egg versus the Niners last week they also put it on the carpet, 7 times!!!  I don't care how good a football team you are, if you turn the ball over SEVEN times you aren't going to win many of those games.  The Niners aren't a pushover by any means but if the Cardinals hope to compete in the playoffs with the likes of the Saints and Vikings they are going to have to do a better job in disposing of teams that they should beat.  This week they should get back into the win column but don't expect much from their IDPs. 

Defensive Line: After getting into the sack column in 3 consecutive games, Darnell Dockett has now gone two in a row without one. The Lions have only given up more than 4 solos to an opposing DE twice this year (both to Ray Edwards) so expecting a big tackle effort from Dockett looks like a bit of a pipe dream.

Linebacker: Last week it looked like Karlos Dansby had a horrible matchup versus the Niners but when the dust settled Dansby had logged 7 solo tackles and one assist.  Over his past 5 games Dansby has recorded at least 8 total tackles in each game.  The Lions will be without their starting RB and starting QB so Dansby may not reach 8 total tackles but he is still a safe start.  Gerald Hayes on the other hand would be best left on the bench, that is unless you are in a 16 team league that starts 3-4 LBs.  At that point Hayes is probably a low level LB3 to low level LB4.

INJURY UPDATE: Gerald Hayes (back) was limited in practice Wednesday and Thursday but practiced fully on Friday, he is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: The Lions probably won't have much success running the ball this week so that means they will need to turn to the pass.  Look for Adrian Wilson to take full advantage of the situation too.  Speaking of Wilson, while his fantasy numbers may not be living up to expectations his performance on the field surely is.  The sad part is that it doesn't always translate into fantasy production.

5 STAR
Larry Foote
4 STAR
Louis Delmas
3 STAR

Marvin White
Ernie Sims
DeAndre Levy

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

LionsWell it sure looks like the end of the season can't get here soon enough for the Lions.  They were throttled last week by the Ravens and this week they catch an angry Cardinals team.  Making matters worse is that starting RB Kevin Smith has been lost for the season due to a knee injury and QB Dante Culpepper will be starting over the injured Matt Stafford. 

Defensive Line: The Lions DL hasn't been worth starting all year long.  Don't make the mistake of starting one now.

Linebacker:  Larry Foote remains the safest LB to start among the Lions LB group.  The Cardinals do present a nice matchup this week.  How nice?  Well consider that for the entire year starting MLBs are averaging over 9 total tackles a game versus the Cardinals. As for Ernie Sims and DeAndre Levy there is a bit more risk involved since the two LBs were used in a rotation last week.  Julian Peterson is only a strong start in games where there is a high probability of sacks from him and this isn't one of those weeks.

Secondary: After rookie Louis Delmas posted his goose egg a few weeks ago, which was due to a tooth issue that kept him out of the game, he had posted 3 consecutive very nice games.  Last week, Delmas really let owners down as he posted just 3 fantasy points.  This week I would expect to see him bounce back versus the Cardinals vaunted passing attack.  Safety Marvin White is averaging just shy of 8 tackles per game over his past three games.  Look for him to post similar numbers this weekend.

INJURY UPDATE:  Louis Delmas (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday but was a limited participant on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.


New England at Buffalo

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
Jerod Mayo
2 STAR

Brandon Meriweather
Ty Warren

1 STAR
Vince Wilfork
Brandon McGowan

PatriotsTurmoil seems to be a word that best describes the Patriots right now.  "Has Belichick lost the team" and "has Randy Moss quit" are just a couple of the questions that are circulating in the media right now.  Who knows what the answer to those questions are and at this point it doesn't really matter.  What matters is winning and losing.  Unfortunately for the Patriots they have done more losing then winning over their past 5 games.  This Patriots team is a far cry, not just from the 2007 Patriots but the 2008 Patriots.  It would not shock me in the least to see the Patriots come out of Buffalo with a loss. 

Defensive Line: The Bills are giving up well below average tackle opportunities so starting Ty Warren or Vince Wilfork is a risky proposition.  I would look for a better matchup at DL if at all possible.

INJURY UPDATE:  Ty Warren (ankle) & Vince Wilfork (foot) both missed practice all week and are listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  The Bills have been spotty in the production they have allowed to opposing LBs.  For the most part I wouldn't expect Jerod Mayo to have a big day but expecting between 5-7 solo tackles seems about right for this matchup.

Secondary:  Dynasty leaguers should take note as Patrick Chung is starting to see more and more playing time.  Not enough that I would suggest to start him but he is worth keeping an eye on. Actually, Chung should be rostered in most dynasty leagues but I am suggesting you can do a bit of advanced scouting on him now.  Brandon McGowan owners are the ones that shouldn't be happy with Chung's playing time but it is what it is.  McGowan has not played well (good fantasy football scoring doesn't equate to good NFL play).

5 STAR
Paul Posluszny
Bryan Scott
4 STAR

None

3 STAR

George Wilson
Donte Whitner
Terrence McGee

2 STAR
Chris Kelsay
Aaron Schobel
Kyle Williams
Drayton Florence
1 STAR
Marcus Stroud
Jairus Byrd

BillsThe Bills just aren't an easy team to figure out.  Well that isn't completely true because we do know that they aren't all that good of a football team.  The part that is hard to figure out is how they go on the road and win in Kansas City. I know, the Chiefs are just that much more worse than the Bills.  There now we have the Bills figured out.  This week the Bills will look for redemption from all the way back in week one when they had the Patriots all but beaten.  You remember, Leodis McKelvin takes a kickoff out of his EZ tries to return and fumbles the ball and the rest is history.  The Bills IDP players have been great for much of the season and that should continue this week as they face a Patriots team that is tied with the Saints for giving up the most tackle opportunities/game.

Defensive Line:  The Patriots OL isn't what it used to be but Tom Brady is still one of the harder QBs in the league to sack so starting any Bills DL is risky this week. 

Linebacker: Paul Posluszny owners have to be grinning from ear to ear with the matchup that they have this week.  The Patriots are giving up a whopping 9.3 total tackles to each starting LB in a 4-3 scheme this year.  Yes, that means that MLBs, WLBs & even SLBs are averaging over 9 tackles per week against the Patriots.  It wasn't a typo, that average is for the YEAR, not a 3 game span or 5 game span, the YEAR. Bryan Scott owners most likely still own him as a DB, which is a good thing. Since Scott returned from injury in week 10 only THREE LBs (Beason 106, Willis 104 & Posluszny 101) have scored more points then the 98 points than Scott has.  And over that same span of time Scott ranks 1st among all DBs in points scored.  So yes if you are lucky enough to own either Poz or Scott you should run not walk to get them into your lineups this week.

Secondary:  The Patriots of course still like to pass the ball so it is also safe to expect good days from George Wilson, Donte Whitner and Terrance McGee. 


Atlanta at NY Jets

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Curtis Lofton
Mike Peterson
3 STAR

Thomas Decoud
John Abraham

2 STAR

Eric Coleman
Brent Grimes
Jonathan Babineaux

1 STAR
Stephen Nicholas

FalconsThe thing that is probably the hardest for Falcons fans, is to realize that the Falcons actually started the season 4-1.  That means that they have just 2 wins in their last 8 games.  You don't really want to know how bad that is (but if you pay attention later in this article you will find out).  On top of that the Falcons barely beat the Buccaneers a few weeks ago. In case you forgot they needed a TD on the final play of that game to get that win. If the Falcons want a chance to post their first ever back to back winning seasons they are going to need to run the table and facing a Jets team on the road is going to make that a tough road to hoe.

Defensive Line: John Abraham started his career with the Jets and played six season with New York before he joined the Falcons in 2006.  This will be the first time he has faced his former team.  For the past three weeks at least one DE in each game has posted 4 solo tackles and a sack versus the Jets.  If that streak is to stay alive it will be Abraham that keeps it alive.

INJURY UPDATE:  John Abraham (not injury related) is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker: I bet not many people realized this but since week 10, Curtis Lofton ranks as the #25 LB in fantasy points scored.  That is basically a top tier LB3. Hard to believe, but the numbers don't lie.  Still with that said you have to start Lofton and this week he actually has a very good matchup.  A matchup that would make most LBs a 4 Star play so Lofton's ranking isn't being based on his past performances.  Mike Peterson owners should also take advantage of the matchup this week.

Secondary:  Eric Coleman has been a below average play for the past three weeks so recommending him above a 2 Star play doesn't seem like a wise thing to do.  Thomas Decoud is probably the safest play in the Falcons secondary this week.  I would be surprised to see the Jets put the ball in the air 20 or more times so that should limit Brent Grimes and the rest of the CBs.

INJURY UPDATE:  Chris Houston (hamstring) did not practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.

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

Eric Smith
Kerry Rhodes

JetsWell the Jets have reeled off three consecutive wins to get back into the thick of the playoff race.  One of the main components of this win streak has been to limit the times that Jets QBs have passed the ball.  In two of the three wins they passed the ball fewer than 20 times and in the other game they only but the ball in the air 23 times.  Look for a similar recipe this week.  After this game the Jets really have a tough 2 game stretch where they face the Colts and Bengals.  Looks like Jets IDPs should be a good play for the rest of the season.

Defensive Line:  I wouldn't expect much from Shaun Ellis or anyone else on the Jets DL as the Falcons have only given up more than 3 solo tackles to opposing DE's just twice this year.

Linebacker: The Falcons have only given up a couple of very strong games to LBs so that is why I am tempering my expectations for David Harris.  I think that Harris and Bart Scott are both startable this week but there doesn't look to be much upside.

Secondary:  There is no doubt that Jets CB Darrell Revis is one of the best CBs in the game today.  Now with that said you would have to think that the Falcons QB will do their best to avoid throwing at Revis.  Of course that should limit his tackle and interception opportunities.


Miami at Tennessee

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Yeremiah Bell
3 STAR
Gibril Wilson
2 STAR

Channing Crowder
Akin Ayodele
Randy Starks

1 STAR
Joey Porter
Jason Taylor

DolphinsThe Dolphins will need to continue playing good football and winning games to keep their playoff hopes alive.  In the past two weeks they have beaten the Patriots and Jaguars, both teams that look to be heading to the playoffs, so we know that the Dolphins can get it done in tough games. The Titans are far from the team that started the season at 0-6 so the Dolphins will have their work cut out for them.  The Titans will look to keep Chris Johnson rolling along so that bodes well for key Dolphins IDPs.

Defensive Line: The Dolphins 3-4 scheme makes it hard to rely on their DLs for solid and consistent fantasy production.

Linebacker: I know that relying on Channing Crowder seems like a scary thing to do but the truth is that the Titans have given up very good games to LBs since week 7.  But with just how poorly and inconsistent that Crowder has been you really can't start him

Secondary:  The safest and best plays on the Dolphins defense are their two safeties; Yeremiah Bell and Gibril Wilson.  Over the past three games starting safeties are averaging 7 total tackles versus the Titans.

INJURY UPDATE:  Yeremiah Bell (knee) missed practice on Thursday but practiced in full on Friday.  Bell is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Keith Bulluck
Stephen Tulloch

3 STAR

Nick Harper

2 STAR

Chris Hope
David Thornton
Michael Griffin
Cortland Finnegan

1 STAR
Kyle Vanden Bosch
William Hayes
Tony Brown

TitansThe Titans are not going to make the playoffs but that doesn't diminish the grit and determination that they played with after suffering thru 6 straight losses. The Titans have what it takes to play spoiler and this week they will set out to do just that to the Dolphins.  Miami is giving up the 2nd most tackle opportunities/game so look for a big day from key Titans IDPs. 

Defensive Line:  The Dolphins have given up at least 5 solo tackles to a DL in three straight games.  If you were going to take a shot with one of the Titans DL I would love to be able to tell you who the best bet among Kyle Vanden Bosch, William Hayes and Tony Brown would be but they are all just so inconsistent that I won't even venture a guess.

Linebacker:  Keith Bulluck might look as if he has found the fountain of youth but truthfully he has just faced an above average number of tackle opportunities this year.  Stephen Tulloch has had a pretty good season but the fact that he doesn't play in the nickle does make him a bit riskier of a play.  Two weeks Tulloch played just 6 snaps against the Colts due to their multi receiver sets.  Yet last week he rebounded with a 7 tackle effort versus the Rams.  This week versus a Dolphins team that likes to run the ball Tulloch should be a safe 4 Star play.

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

Secondary: Believe it or not but since week 11 Nick Harper has been the Titans best and most consistent DB.  Chris Hope started the season off very well but fantasy football is a "what have you done for me lately" kind of hobby.  And in 6 of Hope's last 7 games he has recorded 3 or fewer solo tackles a game.


San Francisco at Philadelphia

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Patrick Willis

3 STAR
Michael Lewis
Dashon Goldson
Tarell Brown
2 STAR
Shawntae Spencer
1 STAR
Justin Smith

49ersThe Niners did what many thought to be the unthinkable and beat the Cardinals last week.  But that is exactly how the season has gone for the Niners.  They lose games they should win and win a game they should lose.  The main thing is that they haven't shown that they can win on the road outside of week one versus the Cardinals.  Getting win #2 by coming East to face the Eagles isn't going to be a walk in the park.

Defensive Line:  I wouldn't expect the Niners DL to do much versus the pass heavy attack of the Eagles.  As we know the Niners 3-4 scheme doesn't really set their DL up for fantasy productive games.

Linebacker:  For the most part LBs have been hit or miss versus the Eagles.  But as we know Patrick Willis isn't just any other LB.  Even if Patrick will was playing in a wheel chair he would still probably find a way rack up at least 5 tackles.  Outside of Willis you couldn't pay me to start any other Niners LBs.  Now I am not saying that the Niners LBs can't be productive but in what should be a playoff week for many there is no way I would be willing to risk it.

Secondary: The Eagles just don't give up many tackle opportunities so it is hard to rank Michael Lewis or Dashon Goldson higher than 3 Star plays.  I do think both will be safe to put up starters numbers but I would temper my expectations on their production.  Nate Clements remains out with a shoulder injury.

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

Akeem Jordan
Jeremiah Trotter
Quintin Mikell
Sean Jones

1 STAR
Sheldon Brown
Asante Samuel

EaglesThe Eagles have taken over control of the NFCE and lead the second place Cowboys by a game.  Actually, with an Eagles win and Cowboys loss the Eagles magic number to clinch the division would be 1 game.  The big question is will the Eagles be able to sustain their offensive production with their now thin WR group.

Defensive Line: Trent Cole fits the bill of a stud DE and actually could be the best DE in the game today but his fantasy production over the past 4 games has been very up and down.  Still there is just no way you can bench Cole.  The Niners may not be the best matchup for a DL but they aren't a horrible matchup either.

Linebacker: Eagles defensive coordinator has indicated that Akeem Jordan will play more in his second week returning from injury.  The part that is most important is the Will Witherspoon is expected to remain at the WLB position where he feels more comfortable.  The team feels that Jeremiah Trotter can man the MLB position on running downs.  Trotter did have an impressive 8 solo tackles last week but relying on Trotter for steady fantasy production seems risky to me.

Secondary: Neither Quintin Mikell or Sean Jones have been very consistent over the 2nd half of the season so I would look for DB help elsewhere if I could.  Either are very capable of posting solid stats but their inconsistency just adds to much risk into the equation.  I really have nothing more than a gut feeling on this but I really think that the Niners are going to struggle offensively in this game, especially passing the ball and that is why I have Sheldon Brown and Asante Samuel listed as 1 Star plays.


Houston at St. Louis

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

TexansThere are many that are speculating that coach Gary Kubiak will be fired after the season concludes.  I surely can understand why they think that and actually think it might be warranted.  But something in me says that the Texans will actually bring Kubiak back for one more year.   That is unless he loses to the Rams this week.  I definitely think that if the Texans lose to the Rams that it will seal his fate. 

Defensive Line: Mario Williams finally posted another double digit fantasy score last week.  His first since week four. Williams is far from a safe play but coming off a big game I would look to ride the wave and hope he stays hot.

Linebacker: The last two weeks Brian Cushing has been out-tackled by DeMeco Ryans.  But Cushing was still able to log double digit tackles last week.  If Steven Jackson is unable to play or is severely limited then I would probably drop both Ryans and Cushing to 2 Star plays.  Not exactly the type of thing owners want to hear during their fantasy playoffs.  With a healthy Steven Jackson pounding the rock both would be very solid 3 Star plays with upside of a 4 Star play. 

Secondary:  While the Rams have given up some very nice games to opposing DBs you just can't overlook the effect a limited or missing Steven Jackson will have on the Rams offense and the number of tackle/opportunities that the Texans face.  Bernard Pollard has been as hot as anyone of late but with the uncertainty surrounding Jackson I just can't rank him higher than a 3 Star play. 

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

James Laurinaitis
James Butler

3 STAR

Craig Dahl

2 STAR
Ronald Bartell
1 STAR
James Hall
Leonard Little
Chris Long

RamsAs if the Rams aren't suffering through enough this season they had to cancel practice this week due to the H1N1 virus.  With Steven Jackson battling a back injury and looking at being limited as a best case scenario I find it hard to see the Rams even making this much of a game.  The best thing with regards to this game is that the Rams IDPs should have very productive days.

Defensive Line:  Once again I am going to recommend that you leave the Rams DLs on your bench this week.

INJURY UPDATE:  Leonard Little (knee) missed practice on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  Since his 4 tackle effort in week 10 versus the Saints all that rookie James Laurinaitis has done is to record 37 total tackles and rank as the #2 overall LB in fantasy points scored.  So it looks like there is no rookie wall for Laurinaitis to contend with.

Secondary:  James Butler and Craig Dahl should be very busy helping to keep the high flying Texans passing game in check.  Ronald Bartell really started the season off fast but as completely fizzled out of late.  Starting any other Rams DB outside of Butler and Dahl wouldn't be a very wise thing to do.


Oakland at Denver

5 STAR
Tyvon Branch
4 STAR
Kirk Morrison
3 STAR

Trevor Scott

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

Raiders The Raiders starting QB this week is going to be Charlie Frye.  Why you ask.  Because the Raiders starting QB got hurt.  No, Jamarcus Busstle didn't get hurt.  The only way "Busstle" could have gotten hurt was if he fell off the end of the bench.  It was starting QB, Bruce Gradkowski that was injured and is who Frye is starting for. But wait, why isn't Jamarcus Busstle starting instead of Frye, you ask.  Well simply put "Busstle" is a big ol' BUST. 

Defensive Line: I wouldn't expect much from the Raiders DL in the thin air in Denver. Greg Ellis, Richard Seymour and the rest of the Raiders DL are all just to unreliable to be started right now.  Well that is outside of Trevor Scott.  But Scott is actually playing WLB but if he has DL eligibility then you have found yourself a starter on the Raiders DL. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Greg Ellis (knee) practice fully on Friday and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker: Kirk Morrison has struggled of late and I am sure that his owners are far from happy.  The think that has limited Morrison more than anything else is the fact that he faced some offensively challenged offenses.  I surely think that Morrison should bounce back in a big way against a Broncos team that is giving up an average of 10 total tackles to MLBs in their last two games.  Thomas Howard remains stuck in an unproductive SLB position so make sure you keep him firmly planted on your bench.

Secondary:  The Broncos are going to throw the ball, that much we know.  Tyvon Branch owners should be extremely happy about that too.  Look for Branch to approach and possibly surpass double digit tackles this week. Nnamdi Asomugha will look to put the clamps on Brandon Marshall who just last week set the NFL record for receptions in an NFL game. I wouldn't expect Asomugha to post starters numbers but I won't be shocked to see him shut down Marshall.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
DJ Williams
Brian Dawkins
Andra Davis
Elvis Dumervil
2 STAR

Champ Bailey

1 STAR
Andre Goodman
Robert Ayers

BroncosThe Broncos look like they are going to make the playoffs and it looks like Santa is giving them an early Christmas present too (Charlie Frye).  The Broncos have some key IDP players that have carried many a fantasy team this year but facing the Raiders this week looks like it will really limit their production.  The Raiders still rank dead last in tackle opportunities allowed/game.

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

Linebacker: DJ Williams owners have been treated to a very productive year so far. Williams currently ranks 12th in fantasy points scored by LBs and outside of Patrick Willis he is the only other LB in the top 50 that has played in 10+ games and not recorded a single digit fantasy scoring week.  Thomas Davis and Paul Posluszny are the only other two LBs to score in double digits all  year but neither have played in 10 games.  Well this week it looks like Williams streak of double digit performances could be in jeopardy.  Unfortunately, I just can't see how you can bench him.  I would temper expectations and realize that his upside is limited and just hope for the best.  The Raiders will more than likely run the ball more than pass it this week so Andra Davis owners should be able to sneak out lower level LB3 value from him this week.

Secondary: Brian Dawkins is another player that could be severely limited by the Raiders inept offense this week.  Last week, Dawkins posted a monster 25 point game and with it overtook Tyvon Branch for the top spot among all DBs.  Unlike Williams, Dawkins has had a few single point performances this year.  But just like Williams you have to start him and hope for the best.


Cincinnati at San Diego

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

3 STAR
Nedu Ndukwe
Leon Hall
Jonathan Joseph
Dhani Jones
2 STAR
Keith Rivers
1 STAR
Rey Maualuga

BengalsThis week receiver Chris Henry passed away at the age of 26.  My condolences go out to Henry's family, friends and the entire Bengals organization.  Henry was a player that was much maligned early in his career for his off-field antics but by all accounts he was getting his life back in order.  I know that the Bengals have to play a football game this week and I am sure that they will do so with heavy hearts.  May Chris Henry rest in peace.

Defensive Line: I wouldn't look at starting any of the Bengals DLs since they are all very poor performers on a fantasy level.

INJURY UPDATE:  Domata Peko has been ruled OUT for this game. 

Linebacker: The Chargers have been very hit or miss when it comes to opposing MLB/ILBs this year.  That makes Dhani Jones a bit of a risky start but considering he has played well in his past two games I think he should be safe to start as a low level LB3 this week.  Rey Maualuga has been very hit or miss this year but this week he could surprise if the Bengals decide to use him try and keep Antonio Gates in check.  If I had to bet on that I would bet that Gates wins much more often than Maualuga would.

Secondary:    Both Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph have posted some very nice games this year.  The biggest issue is their lack of consistency.  But this week I think we see enough of a Chargers passing attack to make both startable.  Nedu Ndukwe should also be busy helping to try and keep Antonio Gates under wraps as well as in run support too.

INJURY UPDATE:  Chris Crocker has been ruled OUT for this game.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Brandon Siler

2 STAR
Stephen Cooper
Eric Weddle
Kevin Ellison
1 STAR

Steve Gregory
Kevin Burnett
Shaun Phillips
Shawne Merriman

ChargersThe Chargers are going to want to finish the season strong and a win over a possible playoff opponent would be a good place to start.  Trying to gauge how the emotional aspect of things will effect the Bengals is almost impossible to do.  On one hand they could come in very inspired to win this one for Chris or they could just still be to stunned and play flat and end up just rolling over for the Chargers.  The only thing I feel confident predicting is that the Bengals will try to run the ball as much as possible and that will bode well for Chargers IDPs.

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

Linebacker:  Stephen Cooper has been very hit or miss since about week 7.  There are games where he approaches double digit tackles and then games where he logs just one solo. Relying on him as a starter in the playoffs is something that I would consider to be very risky.  I don't feel very confident ranking both Kevin Burnett and Brandon Siler has 3 Star plays but someone is going to have to tackle Cedric Benson and Burnett and Siler have been a bit more consistent than Cooper has.

INJURY UPDATE:  Kevin Burnett (neck) missed practice on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  The big news is that Eric Weddle practiced fully on Wednesday.  As of when this article was written the Thursday practice information has yet to be released.  Look for an injury update later this week and if all signs point to Weddle playing I will more than likely move him up to a 2 Star play and drop Kevin Ellison down from a 4 Star play to a 2 Star play. As you can tell risk is a big deal to me and at this time of year I think mitigating risk is a huge part of fantasy success. 

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


Tampa Bay at Seattle

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Barrett Ruud
3 STAR

Tanard Jackson
Geno Hayes

2 STAR

Sabby Piscitelli
Aqib Talib
Ronde Barber
James Wilkerson
Stylez White

1 STAR

Quincy Black

Buccaneers The Buccaneers should have no problem getting out of Seattle with a loss this week.  Even when the Seahawks aren't very good Seattle isn't an easy place to play in.  Now factor in just how bad the Buccaneers are and you can see that they are going to stay right there with the Rams for the race to Suh.  Seattle is actually giving up above average tackle opportunities so expect solid production from the key Buccaneers IDP players.

Defensive Line: The Seahawks have given up 6 total tackles to an opposing DL in 3 of the past 5 weeks.  That means that there is an opportunity for either Stylez White or James Wilkerson to put up a decent game.  Unfortunately, I can't find my dartboard to tell you who to play.  Both have been very up and down but White is probably the better gamble if you have to take one.  Heck, I wouldn't be surprised to see Tim Crowder post the best stats out of the three.  That is why if I were you I would just walk away from the Buccaneers DL situation.

Linebacker: Barrett Ruud owners have had a very nice ride this season.  Ruud ranks 7th among LBs in fantasy points scored and this week he should be able to keep on chugging.  The Seahawks have given up an average of over 12 PPG to MLBs over their past 3 games so that just puts a cherry on top for Ruud owners.

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

Secondary: For the most part the Seahawks have given up some very nice games to opposing DBs this year.  That should make Tanard Jackson and Sabby Piscitelli both solid plays but be warned that Piscitelli is the riskier play of the two.  Because of that risk is why Piscitelli is only ranked a 2 Star play.  Since his return from an early season suspension Jackson has out-scored Piscitelli in 9 straight games. Over that span, Jackson has just two single digit fantasy games while Piscitelli has six, including 4 in a row.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

David Hawthorne
Jordan Babineaux

2 STAR

Leroy Hill
Patrick Kerney
Josh Wilson
Marcus Trufant

1 STAR
Aaron Curry

SeahawksThe Seahawks are a team that is really in limbo.  There is no telling if their coach will be back next year.  I am of the opinion that they would be better served with a new coach.  Hopefully, for Seahawks fans the Hawks are able to secure a top notch GM to help turn their team around.  Luckily, they have some nice players to build around but they have room to add more.

Defensive Line: Since week 7 no opposing DL has posted more than 3 solo tackles in a game versus the Buccaneers.  Add to it that Patrick Kerney and Darryl Tapp have only posted more than 3 solo tackles once since week 7 and you can see why you should leave them on your bench this week. 

Linebacker:  Since week 11, the top scoring LBs against the Buccaneers has posted between 6-8 solo tackles.  That isn't anything to sneeze at but not what I would classify as a very good matchup.  David Hawthorne is a must start but I would temper expectations a bit this week.  Leroy Hill and Aaron Curry are much riskier plays this weekend and both should remain on fantasy benches.

Secondary:  Jordan Babineaux is coming off of his worst performance since the bye week but still ranks as a top 10 DB in fantasy points scored.  I think if you are a Babineaux owner that you pretty much have to keep him in your lineup but this is by no means a good matchup at all. The Buccaneers have given up more than 5 solo tackles just once this entire year.  Outside of Babineaux you would be best served to act as if none of the other Seahawks secondary even existed.


Green Bay at Pittsburgh

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Tramon Williams
3 STAR

Charles Woodson
Nick Barnett

2 STAR

AJ Hawk
Brandon Chillar

1 STAR
Nick Collins
Atari Bigby

Packers The Packers seem to be just rolling along headed for the playoffs but I just can't get past the fact that I think they are going to take the Steelers a bit for granted and it is going to jump up and bite them.  If you like defensive struggles this game very well could be a game exactly like that. 

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

Linebacker: Look for the Steelers to lean on their running game and that should bode well for Nick Barnett owners.  Over the past 9 games since the Packers bye week Barnett ranks as the 14th best LB in fantasy points scored. During that span he has scored in double digits in every week except for one.  I wouldn't look to start any  other Packers LB this week.  AJ Hawk could have a good day but again I think the risk is of him performing below standards is to great.

Secondary: Many in the media have pointed out that the Steelers have lost their personality and they are no longer a smash mouth football team but one that passes the ball.  Well, to an extent that is true and while I think we see a heavier rushing attack this week I think the Steelers will still put the ball in the air enough to making Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson good starts.

5 STAR
James Harrison
4 STAR
Ryan Clark
3 STAR
Lamar Woodley
Tyrone Carter
2 STAR
Lawrence Timmons
James Farrior
1 STAR
William Gay

SteelersThe Steelers have reached the level where people are now expecting them to lose.  Well this is the week that the Steelers are going to get back into the win column. It is just the way things work.  Their season is all but shot so why not get a win against what looks like a playoff bound Packers team to make their fans think of what could have been.  The Packers present a very nice matchup on many levels this week for Steelers IDPs.

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

Linebacker:  The Packers aren't giving up sacks in droves like they were earlier in the season but there is no way that you can rank James Harrison as anything other than a 5 Star play this week.  Now understand that there is a fair amount of risk involved since I expect that Harrison is going to net double digit sacks and that is what is driving his star ranking.  Also, as we know by now, predicting sacks is not an easy thing to do.  Lamar Woodley could also be a very nice play this weekend but I am being a bit more conservative on his ranking since he truly does rely on sacks to log his production.  I think the Steelers win this game and take the Packers out of their running game which is why James Farrior is just a 2 Star play.

Secondary:  Look for Ryan Clark and Tyrone Carter to benefit the most from the Packers passing offense.  Aaron Rogers has led many teams to the fantasy playoffs this year but I have a sinking feeling that the Pittsburgh secondary is going to make some big plays due to the pressure the front seven cause.

INJURY UPDATE:  Troy Polamalu has been ruled OUT for this game.


Minnesota at Carolina

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

VikingsThe Vikings got back to their winning ways last week as they easily disposed of the Bengals.  The Vikings are still chasing the Saints for home field advantage but they are quickly running out of time.  At least the fact that they Vikings have something to play for will ensure that their key players are playing and not resting on the sidelines.  This week I would expect the Panthers to limit Matt Moore to fewer than 20 pass attempts so look for the Vikings IDPs to benefit from what should be a fair amount of Panthers rushes.

Defensive Line:  Since the Vikings bye week Jared Allen has really struggled to put up solid fantasy numbers.  Only once has he been able to put up double digit points and to top it off this past week Andre Carter unseated Allen as the top scoring fantasy DL.  I am going out on a limb and predict that both Allen and Ray Edwards have very nice games this week.

INJURY UPDATE:  Ray Edwards (back) was limited in practice on Thursday & Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  Jasper Brinkley was probably a big waiver wire pickup in many leagues but Brinkley didn't produce the type of numbers that many had hoped for.  Brinkley surely can bring it and versus what should be a heavy Panthers rushing attack could make this a breakout game of sorts for Brinkley but if you are in a playoff game I am not so sure you should rely on the rook at this point in the season.

Secondary:  Heeeee's back! Not only did Antoine Winfield return to the field last week he posted a very strong stat line of 9 solo tackles with a forced fumble.  Here is the deal with regards to this week's ranking for Winfield.  The production that the Panthers give up to opposing CBs doesn't support a 4 Star ranking but you have to look a bit deeper than just the numbers for this game.  I think that the loss of EJ Henderson will help to bolster Winfield's tackle numbers in run support.  Then you look at the entire body of work that Winfield has over his career and you just have to believe he is going to be a very good play this week.  Cedric Griffin really fell off production wise while Winfield was out but this matchup makes me want to keep him on the bench this week.

5 STAR
Jon Beason
4 STAR

None

3 STAR
Chris Harris
Chris Gamble
Richard Marshall
James Anderson
Julius Peppers
2 STAR
Damione Lewis
Dan Connor
1 STAR
None

Panthers Carolina surely has disappointed this year but I guess the one thing that they can hang their hat on is that they won't fall from first to worst in their division.  When you can only post back to back winning weeks it is going to be hard to compete for a division title.  The Panthers record doesn't show it but they aren't a bad team and with a little bit of love in the right places should be right back in the thick of things next year.  Unfortunately, we are talking about next year with 3 games left in this season.  Facing a Vikings team that is giving up the 2nd most tackle opportunities/game sure does bode well for Panthers IDPs.

Defensive Line: Julius Peppers ranks 6th among DLs in fantasy points scored this year but over his last 6 games only once has he been able to put up double digit fantasy points.  While Peppers has been less than stellar of late and the Vikings don't give up much to opposing DLs you still have to just plug him in and hope for the best.

Linebacker: Jon Beason should change his name to Jon Beaston because he really is a beast.  The past 3 MLBs the Vikings have faced averaged over 10 total tackles against them.  You know as well as I do that it doesn't matter what the trends are with this game, there is no way you aren't starting Beason with confidence.  Last week, dynasty owners perked up a bit when they saw that Dan Connor logged 11 total tackles.  Connor's performance is a bit of a one off for a SLB so I wouldn't expect to see him repeat that performance.  James Anderson is still starting in the much more productive WLB slot..

Secondary:  For the most part this year Richard Marshall was a pretty big disappointment for fantasy owners but then from week 11 thru week 13 he posted very good numbers.  And then just like that he put up a stinker of a game last week.  With the amount of passing the Vikings do I would look for Marshall to bounce back and put up solid DB2 type numbers this week.

INJURY UPDATE: Richard Marshall (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday & Thursday but Friday practiced on a limited basis and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.


NY Giants at Washington

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Justin Tuck
3 STAR

Michael Boley
Aaron Rouse
Jonathan Goff

2 STAR

Mathias Kiwanuka

1 STAR
Osi Umenyiora

GiantsThe Giants seem to be living on their early season 5-0 record as well as past seasons performances with regards to being considered a playoff team, or should I say possible playoff team.  The truth of the matter is that the Giants are 2-6 over their last 8 games.  The following are some teams that have a better record than the Giants over their past 8 games; Chiefs, Raiders & Bills.  Shocking isn't it.  Well get this, if the Giants find a way to lose this week and the Browns find a way to win, then the Giants will have the same record over their past 9 games as the Cleveland Browns.

Defensive Line:  Justin Tuck has really been inconsistent this year with 6 single digit fantasy point weeks but this week I would expect him to step up in a big NFCE battle. As inconsistent as Tuck has been he still ranks 3rd among all DLs and really he is just a plug and play option.  Just hope for the best but I think Tuck owners will be rewarded well this week.  With Osi Umenyiora seeing decreased snaps he is far to risky to rely on at this point in the season. 

Linebacker:  Michael Boley owners have really had to persevere this year but if they did they have reaped the rewards over Boley's past 5 games.  Over that span Boley is averaging almost 18 PPG and ranks as the 8th best LB in PPG from week 9 thru 14.  The Redskins haven't given up more than 8 solos to any LB all year so temper your high end expectations from Boley this week.  Jonathan Goff was a hot waiver wire pickup for owners once he was announced as the new starting MLB a week after it looked like that job would belong to Chase Blackburn.  All Goff did was disappear.  Just realize that was because Goff wasn't playing in the nickle so his snaps were limited. 

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:  Aaron Ross (hamstring) missed practice on Friday.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Andre Carter
London Fletcher
Reed Doughty
3 STAR

LaRon Landry
Brian Orakpo
Rocky McIntosh

2 STAR

None

1 STAR
Albert Haynesworth

RedskinsThe Redskins have finally started the house cleaning process.  First, on Thursday, Executive VP of Football Operations - Vinny Cerato resigned.  Shortly after that the Redskins announced that they had hired Bruce Allen to be their Executive VP of Football Operations AND General Manager. Allen is a former GM for the Buccaneers and also the son of former Redskins coach George Allen.  Allen will be the first General Manager the team has had in the Dan Snyder era.  I would assume that the players know they now have a short audition for their new boss and I would expect that some will really step up.  I liked the Redskins to pull an upset prior to this news and now I love them to pull the upset. 

Defensive Line:  Last week Albert Haynesworth missed the game due to injury but this week looks like he could get back to action. Haynesworth practiced on Thursday, albeit in a limited fashion he still practiced.  Haynesworth is a risky start especially when you factor in that he plays on Monday night.  I would pass and look for someone that won't end up being a game time decision.  Prior to week 14, Andre Carter had struggled to put up good fantasy numbers in 4 of 5 games.  In week 14, he sure did make amends for his owners with an 18 point effort (3rd best of season) and that effort also elevated him to the number 1 ranked DL in fantasy football with 137 fantasy points scored.  Jared Allen is 2nd with 129 fantasy points scored.  If you haven't figured it out by now you should, Carter is a must weekly start, no matter the matchup.

INJURY UPDATE:  Albert Haynesworth (ankle) was limited in practice on Thursday but practiced fully on Friday.

Linebacker: London Fletcher has been on a tear the past four games.  Over that span he has recorded 41 total tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble and 2 passes defended.  Those stats equate to an average of 21 fantasy points per game.  Yes, that is pretty much what being white hot is.  Look for Fletcher to continue on his tear.  Rookie Brian Orakpo was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for week 14.  Orakpo ranks 5th in sacks this year, it is just a shame the Redskins converted him into a SLB and in turn he couldn't (shouldn't) be classified as a DE even though that is where he plays on most known passing downs. Starting LBs that make their bones getting to the QB can be a risky proposition when you start them because of their inconsistency.  Factor in just how hot Orakpo is and I find it hard to say that he shouldn't be started.  Just realize that there is the risk involved.

Secondary:  The Giants surely will want to get their running game going but you can bet your bottom dollar that they are still going to try and test Landry in coverage.  The Saints exposed just how much Landry can be abused in coverage and I would expect that the Giants will try to take advantage of that weakness too. For the season Landry ranks 17th among DBs but just in case you haven't noticed, six of his 13 performances have been in the single digits.  Since Chris Horton was lost for the season Reed Doughty has averaged over 15 PPG and ranks as the 9th best DB in the league.  Look for Doughty to continue to post low level DB1 or high level DB2 type numbers this week.

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