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IDP Game Breakdowns - Week 16
Steve Gallo
December 24, 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 48 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 43 3-4 Rob Ryan Kamerion Wimbley, David Bowens, Kaluka Maiava
DAL 48 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 49 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 45 3-4 Clancy Pendergast Tamba Hali
MIA 53 3-4 Paul Pasqualoni Channing Crowder
MIN 52 Tampa 2/Cover 2 Leslie Frazier Chad Greenway, Ben Leber
NE 54 3-4 Dean Pees Jerod Mayo
NO 53 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 41 4-3 John Marshall Kirk Morrison, Thomas Howard
PHL 46 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 46 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.

THIS WEEK DUE TO THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BEFORE THE WEDNESDAY INJURY REPORT WAS RELEASED.  THE FEW REFERENCES TO INJURIES WERE SUPPLIED BY TEAM BEAT WRITERS.  ALSO DUE TO THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY THE NORMAL FRIDAY INJURY UPDATES WONT BE DONE UNTIL SATURDAY.

San Diego at Tennessee

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Eric Weddle
3 STAR

Kevin Burnett
Kevin Ellison

2 STAR
Stephen Cooper
Brandon Siler
Tim Dobbins
Steve Gregory
1 STAR

Shaun Phillips
Shawne Merriman

ChargersWhile most of the talk about the AFC swirls around the undefeated Colts the Chargers seem to be getting overlooked a bit.  Make no mistake about it, this is one of the best teams in the NFL. They are also one of the hottest having won 9 straight games too. The Chargers have beaten the Titans 5 consecutive times so they will be trying to extend that streak and their consecutive wins in December streak at the same time. Look for the Chargers to see a healthy dose of Chris Johnson in this affair and in turn look for good things from the Chargers key IDPs.

Defensive Line: The Chargers DL took a huge hit earlier this season when they lost Jamal Williams so look for the Titans to try and exploit the middle of their DL with running back Chris Johnson.  None of this means much for the Chargers DL since their scheme isn't conducive to producing any fantasy value so look for DL help some place else.

Linebacker:  Last week Tim Dobbins led the Chargers LBs in tackles but this week with Kevin Burnett returning to the lineup I wouldn't consider starting Dobbins.  Believe it or not both Dobbins and Brandon Siler had roughly a 50-50 split in playing time but both produced much better than Stephen Cooper he played in all but one defensive snap.  For the past 8 games LBs have fared very well against the Titans and their running game.  If Cooper were playing at his pre-injury level he would be a no-brainer 4 Star play.  However, his inconsistency lately can't be overlooked which is why he is a 2 Star play.  If you are thin at LBs you could start Cooper and hope he makes the most of what looks to be a prime matchup. The previous week when Burnett was healthy, he and Cooper played basically all the defensive snap and Siler saw about 50% of them while Dobbins only played in fewer than 10.

Secondary:  Looks like Eric Weddle owners that are in their fantasy playoffs are going to be lucky enough to now be able to plug him back into their lineups.  Both Steve Gregory and Kevin Ellison played in approximately 50% of the teams defensive snaps last week with Ellison posting solid numbers and Gregory posting below average numbers.  Ellison should be a safe start this week but when players are only playing 50% of the defensive snaps it does greatly add to their risk.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Stephen Tulloch

3 STAR

Nick Harper
Cortland Finnegan
Gerald McRath

2 STAR

Chris Hope
Michael Griffin
Vincent Fuller

1 STAR
Kyle Vanden Bosch
William Hayes
Tony Brown

TitansThe Titans have a slim shot at the playoffs but still it is a shot.  Last week, I wrote that the Titans didn't have a shot but they sure did prove me wrong.  Last week was sort of an ugly win because they built a big lead and let it get away but in the end they pulled out the W. This season the Titans are like a sink faucet. You know, when you turn the faucet on it takes a bit for the water to go from very cold to hot.  Well, the Titans started the season off COLD and right now are HOT.  Actually, they are one of the hottest teams in the leagues with a 7-1 record over their last 8 games.  This should make for a fun and entertaining game on Christmas. 

Defensive Line: William Hayes has led the Titans DL in tackles the past two weeks but I would be leery about starting him. Why?  Because in 2 of his last 5 games he has recorded just one assist in a game.  Both Kyle Vanden Bosch and Tony Brown didn't practice on Tuesday. I would try and avoid the Titans DLs if I were you.

Linebacker:  The Titans defense took a big hit in their game versus the Dolphins when Keith Bulluck tore his ACL.  Bulluck has been put on season ending IR.  Look for rookie Gerald McRath to be fantasy relevant while he fills in for Bulluck.  Also, Stephen Tulloch should be a very safe play since he will no doubt not come out on nickle snaps now. 

Secondary: Both Cortland Finnegan and Nick Harper should be solid starts this week.  The numbers show that Chris Hope should also be a solid play but his inconsistency this year makes him a risk to rely on.  I would leave Hope on the bench if at all possible.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Vincent Fuller post a nice week considering that both Keith Bulluck and David Thornton will be missing from the LB crew but like Hope I think there is to much risk to recommend him as a starter.


Tampa Bay at New Orleans

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Barrett Ruud
Tanard Jackson
3 STAR

Geno Hayes
Aqib Talib
Ronde Barber

2 STAR

Sabby Piscitelli
Quincy Black

1 STAR

James Wilkerson
Stylez White

Buccaneers The Buccaneers pulled a win out of their hat last week and also most certainly saved their franchise some money.  How you ask? By winning they now will probably not pick higher than 2 in the upcoming draft this year.  Say goodbye to Suh Bucs fans.  Look for the NO offense to get back on track this week and that should bear good fruit for Bucs IDP owners.

Defensive Line: DL Chris Hovan was interviewed and said (paraphrased) he thought the Saints beat them badly last time because they were playing an old out dated defense (reference to Jim Bates scheme).  If Hovan thinks that scheme alone was what was wrong with the Bucs then maybe he should have his head examined.  I can see it now, Hovan listed on the injury report as "delirious".  The Buccaneers don't have any DL named Ware so leave them all on your bench.

Linebacker: Barrett Ruud was a player I expected big things from because of the scheme that the Buccaneers would be running this year.  Truth be told he was living up to expectations but when the Buccaneers ditched Jim Bates system to return to the Tampa 2 I was concerned we could see Ruud's numbers drop.  Well, as a testament to just how good Ruud is, he hasn't really missed a beat. 

Secondary: Tanard Jackson just keeps plugging along as he maintains his top 5 DB status since he returned from suspension.  He injured his knee versus Seattle but it didn't keep him from practicing on Wednesday.  He along with Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib should be very busy this weekend.  Sabby Piscitelli kept his consecutive streak of single digit fantasy production up last week and at this point is just to risky to start, even in a prime matchup like this one.

INJURY UPDATE:  Tanard Jackson (knee) is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report but he was a full participant in practice on Friday.

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

Scott Fujita
Scott Shanle
Tracy Porter

1 STAR
Charles Grant

SaintsThe Saints are human after all and if they aren't then that would make the Cowboys their kryptonite.  Look for the Saints to do whatever they can to get things clicking again.  I actually feel  bit bad for the Buccaneers this week.  As far as Saints IDPs go I wouldn't bank on much fantasy production from them this week.

Defensive Line:  Quietly, Will Smith is putting together a very nice season.  Both fantasy and NFL wise.  Fantasy wise, Smith is a top 10 DL and NFL wise he ranks 3rd in sacks with 12. Consistent and top DLs are not easy to find so run Smith out this week and cross your fingers that he keeps his production level up.

Linebacker: I really doubt the Buccaneers are going to be able to run the ball much or even mount much of an offensive attack for that matter. So temper expectations for Jonathan Vilma this week.  If you have better matchups I might even consider sitting Vilma if that were the case.  Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle should be firmly planted on fantasy benches this week.

INJURY UPDATE:  Scott Shanle (concussion) did not practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.  Scott Fujita (knee) was limited in practice all week and is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:   Roman Harper bounced back with a solid fantasy game after posting two subpar scores the previous two weeks.  This week I think Harper is still starter material but there is very little upside.  Tracy Porter knocked off the rust last week and showed some flashes of his former production.  In CB mandatory dynasty leagues, Porter is someone I really like. Now the Saints just need to get Jabari Greer back on the field.

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


Baltimore at Pittsburgh

5 STAR
Terrell Suggs
4 STAR
Ray Lewis
3 STAR
Dawan Landry
Kelly Gregg
2 STAR

Tavares Gooden

1 STAR
Haloti Ngata
Ed Reed

Ravens The Ravens are one of 196 teams still in the hunt for a wild card in the AFC.  Seriously, it is almost that bad and to make matters worse even the computers at NFL headquarters are overheating trying to figure out who needs to beat who and who has to lose to get in.  As far as IDP goes look for this game to have a bunch of tackle opportunities on both sides of the ball.

Defensive Line: The Steelers biggest concern has to be keeping Ben Ben upright and with Terrell Suggs on the other side of the ball that will be easier said than done. 

Linebacker:  Ray Lewis is still plugging along and with a playoff birth in the balance you can be sure he will leave it all on the field these last two weeks.  The Steelers will need to get their running game going (something they seem to not want to do of late) in order to try and limit the pressure the Ravens defense is able to generate versus their offense.  That means Ray Ray should be good friends with Mr. Mendenhall when the dust settles.

INJURY UPDATE: Tavares Gooden (groin) missed practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.

Secondary:  Ed Reed is still having issues with his hip and is scheduled to see a specialist in Miami.  No word yet on if he will be able to make it back out on the field if the Ravens are able to make it to the post season.  Dawan Landry should have a productive day, between the Steelers rushing attack and passing game, how could he not.  Last week, the Ravens took another blow to their already beat up secondary when rookie Ladarius Webb was lost for the season when he tore his ACL.

INJURY UPDATE:  Ed Reed (groin) missed practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Lawrence Timmons
3 STAR
James Harrison
James Farrior
Ryan Clark
Tyrone Carter
2 STAR
Lamar Woodley
1 STAR
William Gay

SteelersWell I called it last week, I said just when everyone had written the Steelers off that they would come back and knock off a Packers team that looks to be headed for the playoffs. That win keeps the Steelers playoff hopes alive, alive by the slimmest of margins but alive nonetheless.  This week coming off of a big win and looking to build on it in hopes of getting back to the playoffs I fully expect the Steelers to flub it up with a loss to a visiting Ravens team that they have beaten 6 of the past 7 times that they have played in Pittsburgh.

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

Linebacker:  The Ravens are going to want to play  bit of smash mouth football and that means running the ball.  They will take their shots in the passing game but look for a run heavy attack to spell good things for Lawrence Timmons.  James Farrior should also be safe to start as a LB3 and James Harrison is a guy  you can swing for the fences with.  Just realize that when you swing for the fence you do miss on occasion.

INJURY UPDATE:  James Harrison (biceps) practiced fully Wednesday and Thursday but did not practice on Friday and is now listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  Troy Polamalu recently received results from another MRI on his knee and he called them, "encouraging".  Yet, Polamalu didn't practice on Wednesday.  If the MRI results were that encouraging I would have to believe that he would be out on the practice field getting ready for what is the equivalent of a playoff game. All I really say is that Troy must have a different definition of encouraging than most of us.  Ryan Clark and Tyrone Carter should both be equally busy this weekend like when they combined for 14 total tackles the last time these two teams met.

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


Kansas City at Cincinnati

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Demorrio Williams

3 STAR
DaJuan Morgan
2 STAR

Brandon Flowers
Brandon Carr
Jovan Belcher
Mike Brown

1 STAR
Tamba Hali

ChiefsThe Chiefs gave up the 3rd best rushing performance in NFL history last week to Chris Johnson.  But that is understandable since Johnson is closing in on Eric Dickerson's NFL single season rushing record.  No wait, it wasn't Johnson, my mistake.  It was Adrian Peterson,  well that shouldn't be to surprising since Peterson already owns the NFL record for rushing yards in a game.  Oops, I didn't mean Peterson, what could I have been thinking? OK, I have it now, the Chiefs gave up the 3rd most rushing yards in a single game to Cleveland Browns running back Chris Jennings.  No wait, right team wrong running back.  Well after Jennings week 14 performance who didn't think he would be the Browns leading rusher in week 15.  Thanks to Eric Mangini the Browns leading rusher and who the Chiefs gave up the 3rd best rushing performance in a game to was Jerome Harrison.  Jerome Harrison!!!  To make matters even worse for the Chiefs they gave up 2 return TDs to the now all time leader in kick off return TDs, Josh Cribbs.  Yeah, the Chefs (spelled incorrectly on purpose) are that bad so go and grab yourself a Snickers bar while you wait for them to turn it around.

Defensive Line: The Chiefs 4-3 scheme is the contributing factor in their DL having basically no fantasy value at all. Not that it is of much fantasy consequence but I should point out that Glenn Dorsey was replaced in the starting lineup up by rookie 3rd round pick Alex Magee.

Linebacker: I have had hard time being able to recommend starting Chiefs LBs due to the rotation that they are used in but this week I do feel safe in saying that Demorrio Williams is a safe player versus the run heavy attack of the Bengals.  Outside of Williams all bets are off.

Secondary: DaJuan Morgan got the start at FS last week and led the secondary in tackles with 8.  Look for Morgan to use the final two games to try and showcase that he is ready to be a starter next year for the team.  put up some nice.  Mike Brown has had some nice games this year but could only post 3 solos in a week where the Browns ran the ball 49 times.  If he can't take advantage of a plush game like that then there is now way I can recommend starting him in the final 2 games.

INJURY UPDATE: DaJuan Morgan (chest) went from not practicing on Wednesday, to a limited participation on Thursday, then back to not practicing on Friday and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report. 

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

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

BengalsThe Bengals have had  fine season to say the least but what they have been thru in the past week is just hard to fathom.  First they find out that Chris Henry suffered serious injuries in an accident and then less than 24 hours later found out that he had died.  But in the NFL you still have to show up on Sunday to play the game and the Bengals did just that.  They flew out to San Diego to face a hot Chargers team.  A win would have been great but in the end they lost on a long FG by Nate Kaeding.  Then they headed to Louisiana to attend Henry's funeral.  Now they head back to the grind of the NFL. I am sure the Bengals will play with heavy hearts the rest of the season but I also expect them to play inspired ball for their departed teammate too.

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

Linebacker: The Chiefs offense of lack of one really concerns me in this game.  I see the Bengals controlling the clock with their running game and that should severely limit the amount of time and number of tackle opportunities that the Chiefs give up to Bengals LBs.  I wouldn't even think twice about playing Dhani Jones, Keith River or Rey Maualuga this week.

Secondary:    Leon Hall and Jonathan Joseph should be very limited by the Chiefs offense this week. At a deep position you shouldn't look to force a play.  Go to your waiver wire and find a better matchup.


Jacksonville at New England

5 STAR
Justin Durant
4 STAR
Daryl Smith
3 STAR
Reggie Nelson
Derek Cox
2 STAR

Gerald Alexander

1 STAR
Sean Considine
Derrick Harvey

JaguarsAin't karma a bitch.  The Jaguars had not sold out any game all year, at least not until their week 15 Thursday night matchup versus the undefeated Colts.  Sure enough the first sell out and the fans get to see their team get beat and have their playoff destiny taken out of their own control.  This week they won't have to worry about a blackout but my guess is that many of their "fans" won't see them lose in New England this week.

Defensive Line:  This is what I said about the Jaguars DL last week, "Peyton Manning is one of the least sacked QBs in the league so leave Derrick Harvey on your bench this week.".  This week just remove Peyton Manning's name and replace it with Tom Brady.  

Linebacker:  Right now the Patriots are fantasy gold when it comes to the oppositions leading LB.  Look for Justin Durant to minimally put up in the range of 10+ total tackles.  He probably won't add in an interception like Paul Posluszny did last week but hey you never know.  Daryl Smith had his worst tackling performance of the season last week but I would look for him to bounce back this week.

Secondary: It has been a month since CBs have really done much vers the Patriots offense.  I wouldn't expect much from Derek Cox but I think he can be looked at as a low level DB3 this week.  Reggie Nelson has been hit or miss but this week looks like a safe start as a DB3 too.

INJURY UPDATE:  Rashean Mathis (groin) missed practice on Wednesday, was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

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

Brandon Meriweather
Tully Banta-Cain

1 STAR
Vince Wilfork
Ty Warren
Brandon McGowan

PatriotsJust like that everything is all good in Patriotland.  All it took was their first win of the season in an opponents home stadium and getting Randy Moss involved in the offense.  OK, let's not get to carried away since it was only the Bills.  The Patriots may not be as strong as they once were but they should be able to take care of the Jaguars this week to lock up the AFCE title.

Defensive Line: Both Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork missed last week's game.  At the start of the game it was easy to see just how valuable Wilfork is to the Patriots defense.  If Wilfork is unable to go look for the Jaguars to exploit him being out with plenty of MJD.

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

Linebacker:  Jerod Mayo is averaging just over 8 total tackles over his last 5 games.  Look for him to be active versus the Jaguars Jones-Drew led rushing attack.  Tully Banta-Cain relies far to much on sacks to consider putting him into a starting lineup.

Secondary:  If you take a look at what the Jaguars passing offense does on the road I think it will be easily understood why Brandon Meriweather and his secondary mates aren't rated above a 2 Star play.


Buffalo at Atlanta

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Paul Posluszny

3 STAR

George Wilson
Donte Whitner
Josh Stamer

2 STAR
Chris Kelsay
Aaron Schobel
Kyle Williams
Drayton Florence
1 STAR
Marcus Stroud
Bryan Scott

BillsThe Bills look like they will be trotting out Brian Brohm at QB this week if Ryan Fitzpatrick (missed practice Wed.) can't play this week.  Kind of ironic because there were some that thought that Brohm at one point prior to coming into the NFL would land in Atlanta.

Defensive Line:  This week it was made known that Aaron Schobel may retire after this season.  Dynasty owners will wan to monitor this closely in the offseason. If Schobel is talking about retirement at this point in the season tells me he is either physically tired, tired of losing or a bit of both. Schobel is a true professional but I wonder if he can play with the intensity he needs over the final two weeks.  Color me skeptical, I would leave him on the bench now to be safe.

Linebacker: I am sure we will continue to hear that Michael Turner will be looking to play this week and next but I am not about to bank on it.  Even without Turner the Falcons should be productive enough to keep Paul Posluszny a 4 Star play.  Converted safety Bryan Scott had been lighting up the box score in recent weeks but he suffered a concussion versus the Patriots and more than likely will at least miss this week's game.

Secondary:  Before long the Bills are going to need to bring in CFL players to play in their secondary.  This week they placed both Terrence McGee and rookie Jairus Byrd on injured reserve.  Look for George Wilson and Donte Whitner to lead the secondary in tackles, that is as long as they can stay healthy.

INJURY UPDATE:  Bryan Scott (head) has been ruled OUT for this week.  Drayton Florence (illness) missed practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Curtis Lofton
John Abraham

2 STAR

Mike Peterson
Eric Coleman
Thomas Decoud
Brent Grimes
Jonathan Babineaux

1 STAR
Stephen Nicholas

FalconsThe Falcons have gotten a couple of early Christmas gifts this year.  Their first gift was when they won on a last second TD pass against the Buccaneers and the other gift was last week when they were able to do the same thing.  This time the TD was just one of the gifts.  The other gifts were 3 (THREE) missed field goals.  Oh and let's not forget those 52 interceptions that Mark Sanchez threw too. Lucky or not the Falcons are now in a position that if they can run the table versus the Bills and Buccaneers they will secure their very first ever back to back winning seasons.

Defensive Line: John Abraham didn't do much versus his former team last week.  All he could muster up was a sack on one play (credit for solo tackle too).  Well this week as much as you probably don't want to plug Abraham back into your lineup you really should.  Last week Tully Banta-Cain was able to register 3 sacks versus the porous Bills OL. I don't mean any disrespect to Banta-Cain but he isn't as talented as John Abraham.  I would like to make Abraham a 5 Star play but relying completely on sacks is a risky proposition so that is why I scaled him back to a 3 Star play.

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

Linebacker: Fred Jackson is on record as saying he would like to reach 1000 yards rushing on the season.  So look for Curtis Lofton to be busy enough to warrant starting this week.  I wouldn't expect super stud numbers but no matter because you can't bench Lofton.  Mike Peterson I would be a bit more worried about.  He had a fantastic week last week but this week he could be very limited by an ineffective Bills offense.

INJURY UPDATE:  Curtis Lofton (shoulder/hamstring) missed practice on Wednesday but was able to participate in practice on Thursday and Friday on a limited basis and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary:  Since it looks like Brian Brohm will be the starting QB for the Bills you really shouldn't be expecting much offense.  If you are going to start any of the Falcons secondary players you are most likely going to need them to notch an INT and maybe even a TD to make them startable.  In others words, the risk is large!

INJURY UPDATE:  Chris Houston (hamstring) missed practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.


Carolina at NY Giants

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

Jon Beason

3 STAR
Richard Marshall
James Anderson
Julius Peppers
2 STAR
Dan Connor
Chris Harris
Chris Gamble
1 STAR
Damione Lewis

Panthers Carolina showed why there were a playoff team last year when they knocked off the Vikings on MNF.  Carolina has a very good nucleus of good to great players and with a few key acquisitions and their health back look for the Panthers to return to playoff form next year.  Until then they will look to play the spoiler role.  Not to mention the Panthers will be looking to avenge a late December 34-28 OT loss they suffered to the Giants last year.

Defensive Line: Julius Peppers was playing like a man possessed last week. So much so that it has now created a new reality TV show on ESPN  called "So you want to be the Head Coach but aren't retired yet.". If you are a Peppers owner just plug him into your lineup and don't think about it.  Sure he could come up empty but he could also carry you to a win just as easily.

Linebacker: If it hadn't been over a month since a MLB had registered 10 total tackles versus the Giants, Jon Beason would have been a 5 Star play.  Again, Beason is one of those guys you aren't going to bench anyway so just feel fortunate that you have a guy of his ability to plug into your lineup.  James Anderson for the most part has been very solid since he took over the starting duties.  Look for Anderson to put up at least LB3 type numbers with some upside to reach low level LB1 numbers.

Secondary:  This might be hard to believe but after a slow start to the season Richard Marshall has logged 73 total tackles.  Marshall probably won't reach his career high of 89 total tackles but he could get close.  I would feel very comfortable starting him as a DB2 this week versus the now pass happy Giants.

INJURY UPDATE: Richard Marshall (ankle) missed practice on Wednesday, was limited on Thursday but practiced in full on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
Michael Boley
Justin Tuck
3 STAR

Aaron Rouse
Jonathan Goff

2 STAR

Mathias Kiwanuka

1 STAR
Osi Umenyiora

GiantsThe Giants are doing it with smoke and mirrors again.  Sure they thoroughly dismantled the Redskins but it was also easy to see that the Redskins had no fight in them.  Well, that is until later in the game when a couple of players decided to square off in a "boxing" match.  I have a sinking feeling that the Giants are going to come off that win on Monday night a bit full of it and it is going to end up biting them in their tail.

Defensive Line:  Justin Tuck made the most out of one play to post 7 fantasy points last week.  Over his last 4 games he has been very up and down but this week he should be able to take advantage of the depleted Panthers OL.  Mathias Kiwanuka is now starting over Osi Umenyiora and he had a nice game versus the Redskins last week but i would still be a bit worried starting him with the rotation he and Umenyiora are in. Here is something most people probably don't know, Osi leads the league in defensive fumble recoveries. So he still has a nose for the ball, dynasty owners will just have to hope he can get back to being 100% healthy for next year.

Linebacker:  Michael Boley should be extremely active versus the Panthers rushing attack this week. Since week 9 Boley is averaging over 16 PPG.  Jonathan Goff is a bit of a risky 3 Star play since he doesn't play in the teams nickle defense but he should also be active enough in base plays to be a LB3 this week.

INJURY UPDATE: Michael Boley (triceps) is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: The Giants secondary is basically a mess.  Aaron Ross doesn't look to be 100% so he makes for a risky play.  The only DB in the Giants secondary worth looking at and starting is Aaron Rouse.  Rouse should be a solid DB2 this week.


Houston at Miami

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

TexansThe Texans got a win last week versus the lowly Rams but it was a less than inspiring win.  If the Texans play like they did last week they will not be leaving Miami with a win.  The Dolphins at least present very good tackle opportunities for Texans IDPs.

Defensive Line: Mario Williams is about as frustrating a DL as there is this year.  He has so much talent yet he has really stunk up fantasy rosters for the most part this year.  I know this is a big week for teams and you will want to have your "stud" in your lineup but at this point I would be very hard pressed to rely on him.  When I say he is barely a 3 Star play, I do mean barely.

Linebacker: Brian Cushing has faded a bit of late but this week he gets a great matchup versus the Dolphins.  The 5 Star rating might be a bit over zealous but I think Cushing is up to the task.  Plus, Ricky Williams has had issues holding onto the football of late so there is the added chance of a big play too.  DeMeco Ryans put up another solid game this past week.  I know his owners wish he could rekindle games like he posted in his rookie season but at this point he isn't that type of stud but he sure does make a nice high level LB2 and this week he easily could approach LB1 status.

INJURY UPDATE:  Brian Cushing (foot/ribs) did NOT practice all week and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.  I dropped Cushing from a 5 Star Play to 2 Star since he wasn't able to practice all week.  He is now a risky play due to the injuries.

Secondary:  Bernard Pollard has been a beast since landing in Houston this year.  Over his last 3 games he is averaging 9 tackles per game. I can see Pollard eclipsing a dozen tackles this weekend.  Especially if Miami gets out to a lead like I think they will.

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

Channing Crowder
Akin Ayodele

1 STAR
Randy Starks
Jason Taylor

DolphinsThe Dolphins fought back to force OT in a game that looked like they were left for dead in.  Unfortunately, just a bit of pressure from the Titans forced a Chad Henne pass to sail and it was intercepted and then shortly after that turned into a game winning FG for the Titans. 

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

Linebacker: Channing Crowder probably isn't on many rosters at this point but if he is you will probably want to keep him on your bench.  Last week in a pretty good matchup where the Titans ran the ball 31 times Crowder was only able to generate 4 solo tackles.  That just won't get it done and surely isn't what Crowder owners were expecting this year.  Joey Porter could be in for a nice game if Texans LT Duane Brown is unable to play due to a knee injury that is flaring up.

Secondary:  Since week 5 safeties Yeremiah Bell and Gibril Wilson have combined to log at least 12 total tackles in each game.  Bell has been much more the better fantasy player for the season but of late Wilson has also been fantasy relevant.  I would expect both to post around 7 tackles each this week.


Seattle at Green Bay

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
David Hawthorne
Jordan Babineaux
3 STAR

Josh Wilson
Marcus Trufant

2 STAR

Leroy Hill
Patrick Kerney

1 STAR
Aaron Curry

SeahawksLast week I wrote that the Seahawks were a team in limbo.  Well after thinking about it a bit more they are not in limbo they are just truly a bad team.  At this point they will be looking to play spoiler but being away from home (which wasn't very friendly last week) won't make being a spoiler an easy feat.  The Packers are fighting for a playoff spot so I would expect them to be a nice matchup for Seahawks IDPs.

Defensive Line: As much as I would like to recommend starting a Seahawks DL versus the Packers I just can't do it.  Either of Patrick Kerney or Darryl Tapp could wreak havoc but I am not going to bet on it.

Linebacker:  Start David Hawthorne with the utmost confidence this week.  The Packers don't run the ball enough to make this a premier matchup but he still should be a low level LB1 at worst.  Leroy Hill could be active because of the multi WR sets the Packers run but I would be more apt to leave him on my bench then to rely on him, even as a LB3.  Aaron Curry looks like he will miss this week due to a shoulder injury and Will Herring will most likely replace him in the starting lineup.

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

Secondary:  Over the past 7 games, Jordan Babineaux ranks as the 3rd overall DB in fantasy points scored.  I would expect Babineaux to be very busy versus the Aaron Rodgers led passing attack of the Packers.  Of course I should also warn everyone that I played against Rodgers last week in two leagues so this week he will probably struggle.  I also expect to see Josh Wilson and Marcus Trufant putting up DB2 numbers and both present some additional upside too.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Charles Woodson
Nick Barnett
Clay Mathews

2 STAR

AJ Hawk
Brandon Chillar
Tramon Williams

1 STAR
Nick Collins
Atari Bigby

Packers The Packers sure picked a bad time to not put an opponent away. They are still a pretty safe bet to make the playoffs but they have little room to slip up now.  This is a game that the Packers should handle easily but there is something that tells me the Seahawks could actually pull off the upset.  It just seems that the most inopportune things are happening of late so this would just add to that list.

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

Linebacker: Julius Jones is ailing this week and may not play so the rushing load could fall on the shoulders of Justin Forsett.  If the Seahawks can commit to the run then Nick Barnett could have a pretty big day but with the chance the Seahawks lay an egg I feel safer ranking him as a 3 Star play.   Clay Mathews is making a late surge to get his name into the DROY talks.  Mathews has the pedigree and surely the motor to get it done for years to come.  This week if he can get to the QB he should be able to post LB3 numbers but there is risk since he will more than likely need a sack or two to make it happen.

INJURY UPDATE:  Nick Barnett (knee) is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: Charles Woodson very well could be DPOY this year and he has been a great play for IDPs for much of the season.  Now with that said he does have times when he doesn't reach double digit fantasy points.  This week I doubt he is able to record enough tackles to make him a strong start but you can't take him out of your lineup. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Charles Woodson (shoulder) is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.


Oakland at Cleveland

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Tyvon Branch
Kirk Morrison

2 STAR
Trevor Scott
1 STAR
Michael Huff 
Richard Seymour
Thomas Howard
Greg Ellis

Raiders The Raiders are perplexing for sure.  Do teams play down to them or do they play up to their competition?  With wins over the Eagles, Broncos & Steelers it does make you wonder.  This week the Charlie Frye led Raiders will head to face the Browns who Frye once started for.  I wouldn't expect much from Raiders IDPs this week.  Surely, the Browns won't put up the type of offense that they did last week.

Defensive Line:  Much more often than not opposing DLs haven't fared very well against the Browns.  This week I would leave Greg Ellis and the rest of the Raiders DL on the bench.

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

Linebacker: While this probably on the surface looks like a poor matchup for Kirk Morrison when you look a bit deeper you realize it probably is just the opposite.  In 5 of the past 6 weeks the oppositions top LB have scored very well against the Browns.  I wouldn't expect Morrison to log 13 solos like Demorrio Williams did last week but 6-8 solos should be within reason.  Since moving to the starting WLB spot Trevor Scott has been a pretty big disappointment.  Much of that has to do with the fact that on passing downs he is lining up as a DE and that is limiting his tackle opportunities.  This week I would expect fewer multi WR sets from the Browns so Scott could have a 5+ solo type day but his recent history suggests that to be far to optimistic and that is why he is just a 2 Star play.

Secondary:  Tyvon Branch utilized a 19 point effort versus the Broncos last week to overtake Brian Dawkins for the #1 ranked DB this year.  Rookie Michael Mitchell is starting to see more snaps so dynasty owners will want to keep an eye on him to see how he does.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

David Bowens
Kamerion Wimbley

2 STAR

Jason Trusnik
Kaluka Maiava
Abram Elam

1 STAR

Kenyon Coleman
Robaire Smith

BrownsThe Browns have made it official, Mike Holmgren has joined the team and will be their new President. One of the main questions is if he will keep Eric Mangini on as coach.  At this point Browns fans shouldn't even worry about that, just relish in the fact that it looks like you team has taken a huge step into the right direction for turning the franchise around.

Defensive Line: If Robaire Smith practices and looks like a lock to play then you can move him up to a 5 Star play. Outside of Smith I wouldn't start any other Browns DLs.

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

Linebacker: David Bowens has the chance to be very productive this week. I was really close to making him a 4 Star play but decided to err on the side of caution and make him a 3 Star play instead.  Bowens should be busy keeping tabs on the Raiders rushing attack and I think he could also log a sack or two versus the Charlie Frye led passing attack.

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

Secondary:  I have said it before but DB is the deepest position in fantasy football. Knowing that there is no reason to take big risks when it comes to starting a DB.  Abram Elam very well could put up 5-7 solo tackles this week but with the way Eric Mangini handles this team there is no way I would want to start Elam this week.


ST. Louis at Arizona

5 STAR
James Laurinaitis
4 STAR

James Butler
Craig Dahl

3 STAR

Ronald Bartell

2 STAR
None
1 STAR
James Hall
Leonard Little
Chris Long

RamsUnlike the Buccaneers, the Rams kept up their losing ways, which makes them the front runners for the 1st overall pick in this years draft. Having the #1 overall pick will be Suhweet for the Rams.  Many fans may think they should target a QB with that pick but there is no way that happens.  Ndamukong Suh is far and away the best player in the draft and one that will make an immediate impact on the Rams defense.  Just two more losses Rams fans, just two more losses and your team will have actually won something that mattered this year.

Defensive Line:  Once again I am going to recommend that you leave the Rams DLs on your bench this week.  Next year that won't be the case so dynasty owners should try and buy Chris Long if they can.

INJURY UPDATE:  Leonard Little (knee) has been ruled OUT for this week.

Linebacker:  The Cardinals should move the ball up and down the field all day and James Laurinaitis owners will be the ones that benefit the most.  Don't expect him to log 16 solo tackles again but double digits should reachable.  All other Rams LBs should be on your bench or waiver wire.

Secondary:  The last time these two teams played James Butler logged 8 total tackles and Crag Dahl logged 2.  That was also back when Oshiomogho Atogwe was still playing but he is now on IR.  I would look for Dahl to have his tackles in the 7 range too this time.

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

Cardinals The Cardinals were anything but impressive last week versus the Lions but still the win locked up the NFCW title for them.  The Rams shouldn't be to hard to dispose of but I would expect to see the Cardinals try to put an opponent away quickly so that they can gain some momentum heading into the playoffs. 

Defensive Line: With Keith Null leading the way I find it hard to see the Rams mounting much of an offensive attack versus the Cardinals.  I wouldn't look to start Darnell Dockett this week unless you were in a DT mandatory league.

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.

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.


Detroit at San Francisco

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR

Larry Foote
Marvin White
Louis Delmas

2 STAR
Ernie Sims
Julian Peterson
1 STAR
DeAndre Levy
Cliff Avril
Jason Hunter
Dewayne White

LionsI think it is safe to say that both the Detroit Lions and Daunte Culpepper are done.  Last week Culpepper got the start for an injured Matthew Stafford but he got pulled and was replaced by Drew Stanton The difference between the Lions and some of the other bad teams in the league is that they actually are starting to assemble a core of players that look like they will be able to turn this franchise around.  As for Culpepper, it is time to hang 'em up.

Defensive Line: Need to start a DL? The answer is yes if you are reading this.  Need to start a Lions DL?  The answer is NO!  Don't do it. 

Linebacker:  Larry Foote still is the safest play among the Lions LBs but the Niners haven't been exactly very friendly when it comes to giving up tackle opportunities.  At best I think you can expect low level LB3 numbers.  Ernie Sims has resumed his starting role and that has zapped the value that DeAndre Levy had for his owners. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Larry Foote (foot) missed practice all week (Lions did not practice on Friday) and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: Louis Delmas showed some skills last week as he picked off a pass and returned it 100 yards for a TD.  The Niners seem to be doing their most damage in spread formations so Delmas should have plenty of chances to make a big play as well as being able to rack up a minimum of 5 solo tackles.  Marvin White is averaging 7+ total tackles since week 11 and should be able to stay in that range this week.

INJURY UPDATE:  Louis Delmas (ankle) was limited in practice on Wednesday and missed practice on Thursday.  The Lions did not practice on Friday.  Delmas is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

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

49ersThe Niners aren't a good team yet but the one trait that they seem to have picked up from their coach is that they aren't quitters. The Eagles had pretty much put the Niners away last week but the Niners did fight back to make the game a bit interesting at a point in time.  You had better believe that guys are auditioning for jobs next year.  The Lions give up below average tackle opportunities so I would temper expectations from Niners IDPs this week.

Defensive Line:  For the most part the Niners DL has been fantasy irrelevant this year.  No need to think it will change this week.

Linebacker:  Look let's make this short and sweet. Patrick Willis is a stud.  You aren't going to bench him no matter if the matchup is bad or not.  This week isn't a good matchup so just don't expect a huge week is all.

Secondary: Both Michael Lewis and Dashon Goldson are borderline 3 Star plays due to their matchup this week.  At best I think you can expect low level DB3 type production from each of them.

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


Denver at Philadelphia

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

Champ Bailey
Andre Goodman
Andra Davis

1 STAR
Robert Ayers

BroncosThis is a big game for the Broncos as they posture for a playoff spot.  Last week's loss to the Raiders was a big blow in their playoff push. Traveling East is never an easy thing for teams to do so the Broncos will have their work cut out for them if they hope to leave Philadelphia with a win.

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

Linebacker: DJ Williams should be able to put up low level LB2 type numbers this week.  The simple reason is that the Eagles are a big strike offense that give up fewer than the average number of tackle opportunities/game.  The Eagles also throw the ball more than they run it so I would keep Andra Davis on the bench this week.  Elvis Dumervil leads the NFL in sacks but can be very hit or miss from a fantasy standpoint. If you are in your fantasy playoffs you should look at what you think you need this week and if you need solid safe production then I would recommend you stay away from Dumervil.  However, if you need a huge game  then you run him out and hope he can get to McNabb and rack up some big plays.

INJURY UPDATE:  DJ Williams (ankle) is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Secondary: The big news in this matchup is the return of Brian Dawkins to face the team that he made 7 Pro-Bowls with.  I am sure Dawkins will get a warm welcome by the Philly fans but after the whistle blows you can bet your bottom dollar Dawkins will be full throttle. Dawkins has had a huge year so far as he ranks 2nd among all DBs in fantasy points scored.  My main concern this week is that Dawkins production could be limited versus the Eagles vertical attack.  I really want to rate him a 2 Star play but I have a feeling he will want to say hello to Donovan at least once during the game.

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

Akeem Jordan
Will Witherspoon
Quintin Mikell
Sean Jones
Sheldon Brown
Asante Samuel

1 STAR
Jeremiah Trotter

EaglesThe Eagles locked up a playoff spot with their win over the Niners last week.  They also control their own future with regards to winning the NFCE.  Win out and they end up NFCE champs and with a little help they could actually end up the 2nd seed.  That is if the Vikings continue to falter.  I wouldn't expect much from the Eagles IDPs this week.

Defensive Line: The only Eagle that I feel comfortable recommending as a starter is Trent Cole.  He is a top 5 DL and has been hot the last two weeks so make sure to ride him while all is good. 

INJURY UPDATE:  Trent Cole (hamstring) practiced fully all week but is listed as PROBABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker: The Eagles are using all sorts of rotations among their LBs so it is hard to rank any as a starter.  Will Witherspoon will man the WLB spot but everyone else at MLB and SLB will be in a rotation of some sort.  I wouldn't expect to see much of Jeremiah Trotter versus what I expect to me an above average number of multi WR sets this week.  Akeem Jordan and Tracey White will get most of the snaps versus those sets.  So like I said there is to much risk involved expecting to be able to rely on any of the Eagles LBs.

Secondary: Someone in the Eagles secondary is probably going to have a very big day but putting the finger on who out of Quintin Mikell, Sean Jones, Sheldon Brown & Asante Samuel isn't an easy thing to do. All four should be busy but they all could split the tackles up just enough to make them all poor plays too.


NY Jets at Indianapolis

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
None
3 STAR
David Harris
Bart Scott
Kerry Rhodes
2 STAR
Calvin Pace
Darrelle Revis
1 STAR

Eric Smith
Shaun Ellis

JetsWell the Jets seem to be in the Holiday spirit.  Last week they gift wrapped the Falcons a win. Last week I said that the Jets needed to limit the number of passes that Mark Sanchez threw if they wanted to win the game but they didn't.  Sanchez threw the ball in excess of 30 times.  On the season the Jets are 2-5 when Sanchez puts the ball in the air 25+ times.  Guess what, this week if the Jets hope to get a win versus the Colts they are going to need to pass the ball and that just doesn't bode well for them.

Defensive Line:  I wouldn't expect the Jets DL to do much if anything versus Peyton Manning this week so move along and look for DL help elsewhere.

Linebacker: This looks like a very good matchup for the Jets ILBs, David Harris and Bart Scott but since you have to worry that the Colts could sit their starters at any given point in time I am ranking them as a 3 Star play instead of a 4 Star play.  Calvin Pace does most of his damage getting to the QB and that is something that shouldn't be very easy this week so Pace owners would be best served to leave him on the bench this week.

Secondary:  The one matchup I am really looking forward to seeing this week is Darrelle Revis versus Reggie Wayne/Peyton Manning.  What I actually think is that Wayne will be limited but Manning will use Clark to do his damage. Kerry Rhodes has worked his way back to being fantasy relevant and this week owners can expect him to put up low level DB3 type numbers.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR

None

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

Colts This is what I said last week, "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"  Well those questions are all still relevant and the answers are still just as vague. At this point my gut says that Manning and crew want to go for the undefeated season but i can't ignore the risk associated with starting any Colts players.  You know that the Colts are going to be damned if they do and damned if they don't.  By that I mean if they sit players and lose in the playoffs it will be because they didn't stay sharp and if they go undefeated and lose in the playoffs it will be because they should have rested players. 

Defensive Line:  Both Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis were limited last week and expecting anything different this week wouldn't be wise.

INJURY UPDATE:  Dwight Freeney (abdomen) & Robert Mathis (quadricep) are both listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  Gary Brackett had a big week last week and could do the same this week versus what should be a heavy dose of the Jets rushing attack.  You need to weigh the risk you need to take in your matchup this week and go from there.  All I will say is that this should be a good matchup under normal circumstances.

INJURY UPDATE:  Clint Session (knee) missed practice all week and is listed as DOUBTFUL on the injury report.

Secondary:  Same goes for the Colts secondary players, like with the Colts LBs.  They get a decent matchup from a run support stand point and also a nice opportunity for a big play versus the interception prone Mark Sanchez.

INJURY UPDATE:  Jerraud Powers (hamstring) has been ruled OUT for this week.


Dallas at Washington

5 STAR

DeMarcus Ware

4 STAR
None
3 STAR
None
2 STAR

Keith Brooking
Bradie James
Jay Ratliff
Anthony Spencer

1 STAR

Gerald Sensabaugh

CowboysThe Cowboys did what no other team could do thru 14 weeks this year and that is to beat the New Orleans Saints. Many think that the Cowboys have put their December demons to rest but only time will really tell.  But until then the Cowboys do deserve some props for turning it around.  Just like I wrote earlier about the Eagles the Cowboys also control their own playoff destiny.  Which ever team can win out will win the NFCE.  Also there is added pressure on the Cowboys because if they lose to the Redskins (not very likely) and the Eagles beat the Broncos then the Eagles would win the NFCE before their week 17 matchup.

Defensive Line:  If you saw how inept the Redskins offense last week then it is easy to understand why none of the Cowboys DL are ranked above a 2 Star play.  If you are in a DT mandatory league I think you can safely bump Jay Ratliff up to a 3 Star play.

Linebacker: There were doubts early in the week last week with regards to if DeMarcus Ware would be able to play on Saturday night or not.  But Ware played and he played well.  Hell, he played better than well, Ware was a key cog in helping to secure the Cowboys win.  I don't normally rank rush OLBs above a 2 Star play very often and that is because they are just far to inconsistent but this week is one of those perfect storm type weeks.  DeMarcus Ware is coming off of a hot week and the Redskins OL was utterly abused by the Giants last week.  If Jason Campbell can make it out of this game without an injury I will be somewhat amazed.  A guy who also played lights out last week was Anthony Spencer but he isn't a big name like DeMarcus Ware so he didn't get much ink or pub because of his play.  He too could have a big game versus the Redskins but I am being a bit more cautious with his rating.

Secondary:  With how poor the Redskins looked last week, especially passing the ball I think it is best to leave Gerald Sensabaugh and the rest of the Cowboys secondary on the bench this week.

5 STAR
None
4 STAR
LaRon Landry
Reed Doughty
3 STAR

London Fletcher

2 STAR

Brian Orakpo
Andre Carter
Rocky McIntosh

1 STAR
Albert Haynesworth

RedskinsThe Redskins play last week versus the Giants was about as much of an embarrassment as I have ever seen in the NFL.  Honestly, you probably have to go back to the Buccaneer expansion teams to find something more embarrassing. You can't help but feel sort of bad for Jim Zorn and his coaches who for the most part are all lame ducks.  The performance almost looked as if Zorn was thumbing his nose at owner Dan Snyder but the truth is that it looked as if some of the players had just given up and had no fight in them..

Defensive Line:  I said that it looked like some of the Redskins had no fight in them well Albert Haynesworth had some fight in him but it was the kind of fight that gets your team a 15 yard penalty and you a big fine from the NFL. In non DT mandatory leagues I think Haynesworth makes for a risky start so it would be better to just leave him on the bench this week.  Andre Carter has had a great season but he suffered a slightly torn biceps muscle versus the Giants.  He is supposed to play but I would be worried about how much it will limit his production and effectiveness.

INJURY UPDATE: Andre Carter (biceps) missed practice on Wednesday and Thursday but practiced in full on Friday.  He is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report. Albert Haynesworth (knee) was limited in practice on Thursday, did not practice on Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

Linebacker:  The last time these two teams faced off London Fletcher logged 13 total tackles but Albert Haynesworth was inactive for that game.  I would expect Fletcher to post at least 5-6 solos this week but expecting much more upside if Haynesworth plays may not be prudent.  Brian Orakpo has had a great rookie season but starting him is going to be a risk so only do so if you really need to hit a homer

Secondary:  Reed Doughty should continue to post average to above average tackle numbers because he is doing a good job getting to ball carriers.  LaRon Landry should continue to post average to above average tackle numbers because he is horrible in coverage and teams are going after him.  If I were a betting man I would put money on Landry getting beat by Miles Austin on a double move that ends up as a long TD.  Landry is going to need to make big strides in coverage if he wants to have a long career in the NFL.

INJURY UPDATE:  DeAngelo Hall (knee) was limited in practice on Thursday and Friday and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.


Minnesota at Chicago

5 STAR
Jared Allen
4 STAR
Antoine Winfield
3 STAR
Chad Greenway
Cedric Griffin
Ray Edwards
2 STAR
Kevin Williams
Madieu Williams
Jasper Brinkley
1 STAR
Tyrell Johnson
Pat Williams

VikingsThe Vikings could probably make some money by selling the rights to their drama to MTV so they can turn it into a reality TV show.  If the Vikings want to put this latest "schism" behind them all they need to do is get back to winning.  As they say, "winning cures all ills".  One has to wonder if there is a line on who throws more interceptions this week, Favre or Cutler.

Defensive Line:  Jared Allen recaptured the #1 ranking among DLs this week with his 16 point fantasy performance versus the Panthers last week.  The Bears are really a team in complete disarray so look for Allen to have a huge week this week.  Ray Edwards has had some big weeks this year and this week he should be a high level DL3 at worst.

Linebacker:  The Bears are struggling to do anything well so starting Jasper Brinkley who only sees time in the base defensive package would be a risky thing to do.  Chad Greenway looks to be the safest Vikings LB this week.  I would say he is a LB3 this week but has some upside considering the interceptions that Jay Cutler is throwing.

Secondary:  Last week Antoine Winfield lived up to his 4 Star ranking as he tied for the lead in tackles on the team last week with 8 solo stops.  This week is a bit of the same in that the numbers don't really support a 4 Star ranking but Winfield is the type of player that will just find a way to get it done.  No CB has eclipsed 6 solos versus the Bears this year but I won't be surprised in the least to see Winfield be the first.

INJURY UPDATE:  Antoine Winfield (foot) was limited in practice all week (Vikings did not practice on Friday) and is listed as QUESTIONABLE on the injury report.

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

None

2 STAR
Gaines Adams
Alex Brown
1 STAR
Danieal Manning

BearsSorry Bears fans but there isn't any easy way to say this, your team sucks.  The sad part is that there are some very talented players on this team.  I would be shocked to see Lovie Smith back as head coach next year but I am not 100% sure that he is the main issue.  About the only good thing to look forward to is that the Vikings should present a very good matchup for Bears IDPs this week. 

Defensive Line:  Adewale Ogunleye broke his leg last week and has been lost for the season.  I guess that means that Gaines Adams will get a bit more of a chance to show what he can do over the final two games.  I think that Adams is a buy low candidate in dynasty leagues but there is no way I would start him this week. 

Linebacker:  Lance Briggs had a huge week last week and I am sure carried many teams into the next round of their playoffs. I know that the drama this week surrounds Favre and "Chilly" but I have a gut feeling that Adrian Peterson gets fed the ball in a big way this week.  That means that Lance Briggs owners could be in for an even bigger week this week.  The only reason he isn't a 5 Star play is in case Favre decides he is going to audible out of 80% of the running plays.  If the game plan does center around Peterson like I think it will this week then Hunter Hillenmeyer should be able to put up LB2 type numbers this week.

INJURY UPDATE:  Lance Briggs (back) missed practice on Wednesday but practiced fully on Friday.

Secondary: Kevin Payne should be plenty active in run support this week as the Bears try to keep Adrian Peterson under wraps.  Since Favre looks like he has caught a bit of Cutleritis so don't be surprised to see Charles Tillman log an interception this week.  Even if Tillman isn't lucky enough to pick off a Favre pass he will be plenty busy in run support in the Bears Tampa 2 defense.

INJURY UPDATE:  Kevin Payne (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday.

 

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