This is part 3 in the weekly IDP Game Breakdown series. The final part of this weekly series is a narrative that will explain what to expect in the upcoming game for each team's DL's, LB's and DB's. It also acts as a supplement to the star rankings (Part 2 of the weekly series) so that owners can see the reasoning and thought process that generated those star rankings. Also, Part 1 of this series is used as a major resource in writing the narrative for each positional breakdown. In addition, each teams breakdown will be preceded by that team's average tackle opportunities given up for the past three years.
FPA = Fantasy Points Allowed
Team Tackles Allowed | Player Star Ratings | Injury & Practice Report (Available late Friday)
The IDP Game Breakdowns are based on a 12-team league with the following starting requirements: 2 defensive linemen (DL) (defensive ends (DE) & defensive tackles (DT)), 3 linebackers (LB), 3 defensive backs (DB) (cornerbacks (CB) & safeties (S)).
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 opportunity stats as well as other stats utilized in the breakdowns are derived from data provided by NFLData.com.
Follow me on twitter @IDPSteve and if you have any questions, criticisms, or suggestions feel free to e-mail me at IDPSteve@gmail.com. For specific lineup questions please be sure to visit our IDP Forum. Good luck & enjoy!
Houston at Indianapolis
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 52, 2009: 53, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 47, 2009: 48, 2010: 51
Defensive Line: The Texans 3-4 defense severely limits the fantasy viability of their DL. However, against a Colts team that ranks 5th in FPA to DLs, and has recently given up nice games to the likes of Dave Ball (11 pts), Cory Redding (13 pts) & Vince Wilfork (18 pts), I see JJ Watt as a solid 3-star option with some upside. I didn't forget about the 28 points that Terrell Suggs scored in week 14, but wanted to point out the guys that aren't looked at as stars doing work against the Colts.
Linebacker: The Colts are a horrible matchup for LBs, ranking 32nd in FPA to the position. Hard as it will be, I think you need to sit Brian Cushing down this week. You just can't afford to risk a clunker in what will be a championship game for many. After a season of utter frustration, DeMeco Ryans has now posted back to back double digit games. Just don't expect that production to continue against the Colts offense this week.
Secondary: The Colts are just as bad a matchup for opposing safeties, as they are LBs. Seeing a team that ranks 32nd in FPA to two positions should be more than enough to make you realize that they have troubles on offense, and that is putting it mildly. Over the course of the year Bernard Pollard (1 solo), Roman Harper (2 solos, 1 assist), and Sean Jones (1 solo, 1 assist) are just a few safeties that have had issues racking up tackles against the Colts. For my money I think it is best to sit not just Glover Quin and Danieal Manning, but the entire Texans secondary. Yes, the Colts aren't as bad a matchup for CBs, ranking 16th in FPA, but with the inconsistent fantasy play of Jonathan Joseph, Kareem Jackson and Jason Allen, I think the most prudent to leave them out of starting lineups this weekend.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 49, 2010: 53
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 52, 2009: 55, 2010: 52
Defensive Line: This is another one of those wasted matchups as I see it. The Texans rank 6th in FPA to DLs, which should equate to 3, 4 or even 5-star ratings, but not with Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney being the options. Both are far to risky to rely on for a championship week game. Mathis has shown glimmers of his former value this year, just not enough of it. As for Freeney, he has more zeros in his stat line than the Mega Millions does this week, so if you think you are lucky enough to win the Mega Millions, then and only then, should you have Freeney in your starting lineup.
Linebacker: Pat Angerer was on fire early after taking over at MLB for the injured Gary Brackett, but he cooled off down the stretch run. If you stuck with him, you were rewarded with his 2nd most productive game of the year, a whopping 27 points. Or if you were like me, you were knocked out of the playoffs last week, and watched as he racked up all those points when they didn't matter for you. In any event, if you are still alive in your playoffs, Angerer should be a key cog in your success this week. Facing a Texans team that is undoubtedly miffed after losing to the Panthers, I am expecting Angerer and the Colts see a steady diet of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. The Texans rank a solid 7th in FPA to LBs, but this week I see this game lining up as if they ranked #1. Kavell Conner and Ernie Sims should also be in for decent games, but unless you are in a deeper league they are still a bit to risky to rely on. On the injury front, AJ Edds (ankle) practiced fully on Wednesday, so that makes Conner and Sims even a bit riskier as fantasy options.
Secondary: Jacob Lacey may have led the Colts secondary in scoring last week with 29 fantasy points scored, but that doesn't make him my top option for the Colts this week. Yes, even though Lacey scored 20 points back in week 14, giving him back to back 20+ point efforts, I see him as a 2-star play this week. The Texans rank just 23rd in FPA to CBs, so that has me thinking that Lacey has an uphill battle to even hit 10 points this week. The play for me in the Colts secondary is Antoine Bethea. Bethea of course has been uber-productive this year, currently ranking 2nd in DB scoring with 197 fantasy points scored. Against a Texans team that has given up the 6th most points to safeties this year, you should feel very good about plugging Bethea into your lineup this week.
Cleveland at Baltimore
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 42, 2009: 47, 2010: 47
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 53, 2009: 54, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: This is the time of year when you see many rookies hit the wall, but not Browns rookie DE Jabaal Sheard. Sheard over the past 5 weeks, has put up some very strong numbers, excluding his 1 point week 14 performance that is. This week, against a Ravens team that ranks 8th in FPA to DLs, Sheard should make for a solid option for his owners. Ahtyba Rubin currently ranks 12th among DLs in fantasy scoring but his production of late leads me to say that he isn't a plug and play DL. This week, he has a decent matchup, but I only have him as a 2#-star play, I am probably being a bit overly-cautious with his rating in combined leagues. However, in DT mandatory leagues, I do think he is a must start, and even Phil Taylor looks to be a good option in DT mandatory leagues too.
Linebacker: All three Browns starting LBs had productive week 15 games, but let's face it, the Browns LBs are all about D'Qwell Jackson. Jackson turned in his 3rd straight performance with 20 or more points scored, and this week very well could up that trend to 4. Chris Gocong is coming off of back to back double digit performances and his 2-star rating probably does need to be adjusted upwards. Especially when you factor in that the Ravens rank 5th in FPA allowed to LBs.
Secondary: While the DLs and LBs have a nice matchup against the Ravens the same can't be said for the Browns DBs. The Ravens rank 20th in FPA to both the CB and safety position. It isn't like the Ravens haven't given up some nice games to DBs, because they have, but more often than not that hasn't been the case. I won't be surprised in the least to see someone in the Browns secondary have a productive game, but I can't in good faith say that you should have Usama Young, Joe Haden or anyone else in your lineup this weekend.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 53, 2009: 52, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 44, 2009: 48, 2010: 47
Defensive Line: If you were able to survive the four point clunker that Terrell Suggs had in week 14, don't let that keep you from starting him this week. It is the nature of the beast with the DL position, there are going to be times that you get next to nothing production wise, but with a player like Suggs, when you get that production, you get it, and good. I should point out that the Browns rank just 19th in FPA to DLs, but still, that wouldn't keep Suggs out of my lineup this week. After two straight less than stellar weeks, Haloti Ngata got things going again, posting 13 points on the strength of 5 solos and 3 assists. Currently, I have Ngata as a 2#-star play, but I am leaning towards bumping him up to a 3-star play. Cory Redding has had some nice games of late, and in deeper leagues he has some value, but in most leagues, he is a stretch to be a guy that you want to rely on.
Linebacker: The Ravens defense may not have been "Rayzor" sharp last week, but for fantasy owners all that matters is that Ray Lewis not only got back on the field, but put up Ray Lewis type numbers. After missing 4 games due to injury Lewis logged 19 fantasy points for owners that were brave enough to start him in his first game back. This week the Browns are a pretty middle of the road matchup, but don't let that dissuade you from keeping Lewis in your lineup. He will more than likely be a man possessed after the beating the team took on Monday night at the hands of the Chargers. Ray Lewis playing like a possessed mad man, sign me up for some of that in my fantasy lineup is all I have to say.
Secondary: Overall the Browns aren't a very good matchup for opposing secondaries, however, they do present as a very nice option for the S position. Look for Bernard Pollard to put an end to his three straight 8 point performances against a Browns team that ranks 8th in FPA to the safety position. I rated Pollard a 4-star play, but for some reason I feel like I should have rated him an 8-star play. Lardarius Webb and Cary Williams have been productive at times this year, Webb more so than Williams, but this week both should be on fantasy benches.
Minnesota at Washington
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 52, 2009: 55, 2010: 49
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 47, 2010: 49
Defensive Line: After scoring just 3 points against the Saints last week, Jared Allen is no longer the #1 ranked DL. Allen had ranked #1 since week 7, but a 30 point explosion by Jason Pierre-Paul valued him past Allen, who now ranks #2. It doesn't really matter if Allen finishes the season ranked 1st, 2nd or even 5th, what matters is that he had a horrible matchup in week 15 that probably contributed to a few of his owners being ousted from their fantasy playoffs. If you were lucky enough to survive Allen's 3 point effort in week 15 don't think twice about keeping him in your lineup this week. Rex Grossman, I feel for you man, I really, really do. For the season the Redskins rank just 13th in FPA to DLs, however, over the past three weeks they rank #2, so yes, start Allen with complete confidence this week. In deeper leagues, even Brian Robison is worth taking a shot on.
Linebacker: You might feel a bit apprehensive seeing Chad Greenway as a 5-star play, but on the season the Redskins rank #2 in FPA to LBs, and over the past three weeks their trend is just as strong, coming in at that same exact ranking. Greenway did have a run earlier this year when he scored 20+ points in three out of four games, so expecting him to put up big numbers shouldn't be such a surprise. After Greenway, deciding on which Henderson brother makes the best fantasy option isn't an easy thing to do. Well, maybe not that hard. EJ has scored 19 or more points in 3 of his last 5 games, opposed to his younger brother Erin who has broken double digits just once in his past 5 games, it looks pretty clear cut that EJ is the next best play at LB for the Vikings this week.
Secondary: The Redskins are an abysmal matchup for the Vikings CBs, ranking 27th in FPA to CBs. However, when it comes to the S position the Redskins are a prime matchup, ranking 5th in FPA to the position. Jamarca Sanford might not be a big name safety, but he has put up back to back double digit games (10 & 19 pts), and this week the matchup shows that he should be able to push it to 3 straight weeks of double digit scoring.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 52, 2009: 49, 2010: 47
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 44, 2009: 50, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: Washington plays a 3-4 defense that basically renders their DL useless in the realm of fantasy football.
Linebacker: Adrian Peterson wasn't happy with the number of touches he got last week, but he also clearly wasn't himself either. With Peterson not at 100%, coupled with the #20 ranking the Vikings wear in FPA to LBs, I couldn't give London Fletcher anything higher than a 3-star rating. Sure you can point to the big games by Stephen Tulloch, Mario Haggan, DJ Williams & Sean Weatherspoon of late as a reason to rate not just Fletcher, but Perry Riley better than 3-stars, but it is the poor performances by Rolando McClain, Jonathan Vilma & Lance Briggs that gives me pause. So while there are very good games, and very bad ones against the Vikings, the way I look at it is that you aren't going to sit Fletcher, and you shouldn't, but you should temper your expectations some, and by giving him a 3-star rating does that, but it also allows me to say that I see some upside in the rating too. Over the past month the Vikings have been a top 10 matchup for DLs, so that shows some upside for the Redskins pass rushing duo of Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan.
Secondary: For the season the Vikings aren't a very good matchup for CBs, but over the past 3 weeks, they have been a very good matchup, ranking 4th in FPA over that span of time. That makes DeAngelo Hall a solid option this week. Since the Redskins bye in week 5 Hall has scored in double digits in all but two games, and in the two he was in single digits he scored 8 and 9 points, so even on his off days, you are going to get decent enough production. Outside of Hall, I am in a hands off mode with regards to the Redskins safeties. OJ Atogwe is benched, but he plays in 43 snaps to starter DeJon Gomes 20 snaps, and you have a mess worth avoiding. Reed Doughty did play in 63 of 66 snaps, and that allowed him to put up 12 points, but no way am I trusting Shanahan with this. Do yourself a favor and just turn and walk away from this situation, the risk just isn't worth it.
Jacksonville at Tennessee
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 50, 2010: 53
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 47, 2009: 51, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: Let me be short and to the point - this is a terrible matchup for Jeremy Mincey and the Jaguars DL. There end of story. But just in case that isn't enough for you, let me point out that since week 3, only one DL has registered more than 3 solo tackles against the Titans. It is no wonder that the Titans rank 31st in FPA to DLs.
Linebacker: Let me start off by saying that there are almost always outliers when looking at rankings and trends. I point that out because the Titans rank 31st in FPA to LBs, yet Pat Angerer posted a huge 27 point performance against the Titans last week. Heck, even Ernie Sims got into the swing of things against the Titans, logging 15 combined tackles. Sure looks like this should be a better than 3-star matchup for Paul Posluszny and Daryl Smith, but I see those ratings as risky. Just look at the lack of production that Jonathan Vilma (1 pt), and Sean Weatherspoon (6 pts) had, and you can see why I am concerned.
Secondary: The Titans present as a better matchup for CBs than they do safeties, and that is why I have Ashton Youboty as a 3-star play. Dawan Landry is coming off a 14 point performance, his best performance in the past month, and only double digit performance over that span of time. Against a Titans team that ranks 25th in FPA to the S position I think that makes Landry bench material for week 16.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 49, 2010: 44
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 49, 2009: 52, 2010: 58
Defensive Line: Last week I pointed out that I bagged on the Titans DL for much of the year but that they had a decent enough matchup against the Colts that I wouldn't fault you if you plugged on of them into your lineup. Well if you decided to take the risk associated with starting one of the Titans DLs then I hope it was Dave Ball that you plugged into your lineup. Ball on the strength of his 5 solos and 1 assist scored 11 fantasy points, which of course led the Titans DL for fantasy scoring. This week, the Titans get another prime matchup against the Jaguars. Still plenty of risk, but I am going to step out on a limb and actually rank Ball a 3-star play. With the number of times that the Jaguars run the ball up the middle, Jurrell Casey makes for a solid play in DT mandatory leagues.
Linebacker: For the season the Jaguars rank as one of the undesirable matchups for LBs, ranking 24th in FPA, but over the last three weeks they are much more than undesirable, ranking 30th in FPA over that span of time. Yes there have been some nice games had by opposing LBs, but I have a hard time looking past the 2 solos that Sean Weatherspoon logged, or the zippo stat line put up by Lawrence Timmons against the Jaguars. Colin McCarthy has put up some big numbers this year, but the 8 he put up last week represents the worst game of the year for him, so it shows he isn't Teflon coated when it comes to poor matchups. I know that most owners will find it hard to accept his 2-star rating, but I truly see him as a risky option that I wouldn't want to lean on in week 16.
Secondary: If you feel good about William Moore's 7 solos, Tanard Jackson' 7 solos, Antoine Cason's 5 solos and 1 assist, or Glover Quin's 6 solos and 1 assist, then and only then should you consider starting Jason McCourty against the Jaguars. There was a time earlier this season when McCourty was playing as well as any IDP in the game, but sandwiched around week 14 when he missed the game due to injury he has scored 3 and 4 points. I just might be a bit to tight with my ratings for DBs against the Jaguars, but in my eyes the risk just isn't worth the reward.
St. Louis at Pittsburgh
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 47, 2009: 48, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 53, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: Chris Long's production over the past 8 weeks has been pretty good, not great but good, that is if you ignore the 2 point effort he had in week 14. This week he gets to face a Steelers team that is a top matchup for opposing DLs, so do what you can to get Long into your lineup this week. James Hall's chest injury is a concern, and if he can't play again then rookie Robert Quinn makes for a nice sleeper pick this week. Which means that Quinn currently being ranked a 3-star play is a bit premature, if Hall looks like a go then I will most likely drop Quinn down to 2-stars.
Linebacker: For the season the Steelers don't rank very highly in FPA to LBs, but since week 11 they rank 6th in FPA to LBs. It isn't as if you were going to bench James Laurinaitis, but at least you can rest easier knowing he has a good matchup this week. Laurinaitis has been a scoring machine this year, currently ranking #3 in LB scoring, and over his past 8 games, he has scored 20 or more points 5 times. Since week 6 Chris Chamberlain has quietly put up some very nice fantasy numbers, ranking 26th in fantasy points scored. That makes Chamberlain a high level LB3 over that span of time. This week against the Steelers he makes for a nice LB3 with some upside.
Secondary: Pay attention to the following or you might get confused. For the season the Steelers rank 8th in FPA to CBs, and 19th to the S position. Over the last 3 weeks the Steelers rank 19th in FPA to CBs, and 6th to the S position. So do you play the short term or long term trend? With Roethlisberger playing on one leg/ankle or possibly not playing at all I am leaning toward the short term trend. Plus both Quintin Mikell and Darian Stewart have been much more viable fantasy options than Justin King and Josh Gordy have been.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 51, 2009: 52, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 46, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: The Steelers run a 3-4 scheme that basically renders their DL useless for fantasy purposes.
Linebacker: The Steelers got their collective asses handed to them last week by the 49ers. But not all the Steelers, James Harrison sat out last week's game due to a suspension for his hit on Colt McCoy. This week, call me crazy but I like this matchup a ton for Harrison and crew. For the season the Rams rank 4th in FPA to LBs, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that over the past 3-4 games that they haven't been as strong a matchup. Still, I think that Lawrence Timmons and James Farrior, along with Harrison are in line for good games this week. If you are a LaMarr Woodley owner, start him at your own risk. Woodley ended up not playing in the 4th quarter. It is being reported that he didn't re-injure his hamstring, but that it was fatigued. Doesn't matter to me, I see that as reason enough to steer clear of Woodley in week 16.
Secondary: Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu have been the most productive DBs on the Steelers for fantasy purposes. However, relying on them against the Rams this week is a risky proposition, seeing as how the Rams rank 31st on the year in FPA to safeties. I also checked their current trend and it isn't much different, as they rank 30th in FPA over the past three weeks. I know it isn't easy to pass on guys like that, especially in what is probably a championship game for many, but it is the most prudent thing to do.
NY Giants at NY Jets
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 51, 2009: 51, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 48, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: No matter if you look at the last three weeks or the entire season, the Jets pretty much are a middle of the road fantasy matchup for opposing DLs. Now with that said, there is no way to rate the red hot Jason Pierre-Paul anything lower than a 4-star play. JPP has scored 56 points in his last two weeks, and his 30 point effort in week 15 surely carried many an owner onward in their playoffs. To put those 56 points into some perspective, Dwight Freeney has scored 56.50 points this season. Also, with JPP's torrid pace the past two weeks, he has overtaken Jared Allen as the #1 ranked DL in the NFL this year. So JPP is a no-brainer must start like Justin Tuck used to be. Used to be? Blasphemy, to talk about Tuck in such a way, but then again, due to his injury riddled 2011 season, not really. It is unlikely that Tuck will be 100% healthy until next season, but if you own him, how do you sit him down? You can't that is just it, while hampered Tuck has still been productive at times this year, and I know I would rather roll the dice on Tuck than say a John Abraham or Dave Ball type player. Osi Umenyiora has also dealt with injury this year, and I doubt we see him back on the field this week.
Linebacker: On the season there isn't a team that has given up more points to LBs than the Jets have. That makes Michael Boley a good play this week, and coming off a 22 point performance, should you give you plenty of confidence to trust the matchup too. Outside of Boley the fantasy options at LB for the Giants are risky at best. Mathias Kiwanuka hasn't scored in double digits in over a month, Jacquian Williams has been inconsistent, posting double digit scores followed by 2 point efforts, and then there is Chase Blackburn who has scored in double digits in 2 of his 3 games, but that one game where he didn't is a 1 game clunker. There are times when the risk is worth the reward, but with those three, not so much.
Secondary: Saying the Jets are a subpar matchup for opposing DBs would be putting it mildly. The Jets rank 31st in FPA to CBs, and 27th to safeties. If those numbers don't make you realize that you should avoid Kenny Phillips, Antrel Rolle, Aaron Ross and crew than I don't know what will. How about this, since week 11, only Nate Allen (5 solos) has recorded more than 4 solo tackles against the Giants. Simply put, this is a matchup worth running away from.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 53, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 45, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: The Jets DL doesn't present much if any fantasy value. On the injury front, Mike Devito, after missing two weeks due to injury got back on the field against the Eagles. Devito scored 7 points, in what was his best performance since scoring 10 points in week 2. Fantasy wise, you had better be in a very deep league if you are looking at Devito as a fantasy starter.
Linebacker: If you are scratching your head wondering why on Earth I have David Harris as a 4-star play when he faces a Giants team that for the year, ranks 15th in FPA to LBs. Wonder no more, because over the past four games only the Texans, Redskins, Ravens and Jets have given up more points to LBs than the Jets have. Harris currently ranks as the #24 LB in fantasy scoring, but since the Jets week 8 bye, he has reeled off 7 straight double digit games, and ranks 17th in LB scoring over that span of time. That makes Harris a solid LB2, and this week I see him exactly as that, but with plenty of upside. I also like Calvin Pace this week, but more as a low level LB3 with some upside. As for Bart Scott, Jamaal Westerman, and Aaron Maybin, I see far to much risk to put them in starting lineups this week. Especially Maybin, who looks like the LB equivalent of Dwight Freeney, scoring 10 points or donuts.
Secondary: The numbers show that this should be a good matchup for the Jets CBs, but I just don't see how I can feel good about rating Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie above a 2-star play. Fantasy wise, Revis has fared better than Cromartie, scoring in double digits four times, to Cromartie's two times. Suffice it to say, those numbers don't make me warm and fuzzy. As for safety Eric Smith, on the surface it looks like he has a ho-hum matchup, but dig deeper and you will find that over the past month, the Giants rank 3rd in FPA to the S position. Smith has been a bit inconsistent at times this year, or I easily would have had him as a 5-star, instead of a 4-star play this week.
Denver at Buffalo
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 51, 2010: 48
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 52, 2009: 50, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: It doesn't really matter if a player like Elvis Dumervil has a bad matchup or not, they very easily can go off and put up a monster game. However, with that said, the odds of it happening when the matchup isn't good still can't be ignored. This week Dumervil has a bad matchup, facing a Bills team that has given up league low 20 sacks this year, and rank 32nd in FPA to DLs. That adds up to Dumervil riding the pine in my eyes this week.
Linebacker: Last week I pointed out that both Von Miller and DJ Williams had a very bad matchup against the Patriots. I rated Williams a 3-star play, but pointed out there was a good amount of risk in that rating. Williams did just hit his 3-star rating with a 10 point effort. However, Miller, who I said had a double whammy working against him didn't do so well, as shown by his 2 point performance. This week I see things much the same way. Williams should be able to just barely hit the double digit plateau, but Miller once again gets the double whammy - Bills being a poor matchup for pass rushers and LBs.
Secondary: With Brian Dawkins dealing with another neck injury the Broncos started two rookies at safety last week. Rookie Quinton Carter's 15 points, bested fellow rookie Rahim Moore's 14 point effort. As it stands now, Dawkins availability for this week is up in the air, and that puts Rahim Moore in a holding pattern. Carter should still start and I think he makes a nice DB3 option against a Bills team that ranks 5th in FPA to safeties since week 12. His 3-star rating even has some upside built into it. As for the CB position, for the season the Bills rank #2 in FPA, but since week 12, they rank #1, so all signs point to this being a good matchup for Chris Harris and Andre Goodman. Champ Bailey, not so much, as I would expect the Bills to not look his way very much.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 49, 2009: 45, 2010: 46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 49, 2009: 54, 2010: 56
Defensive Line: The Broncos still rate as the best matchup for opposing DL, and over the past two weeks they are giving up sacks in bunches again. If you have Dwan Edwards on your squad this very well might be the week to get him into your lineup. Edwards hasn't been the most consistent DL, which of course has to make you nervous, but at least he has scored well in the past two weeks 10 & 9 points). Rookie Marcel Dareus would have been in line for a 3-star rating too, but he left last week's game with an apparent hand injury and as of this writing his status for this week's game is up in the air.
Linebacker: Nick Barnett owners, if there are any left in the playoffs after his meager 11 point performance last week, should be smiling this week. Barnett and rookie Kelvin Sheppard, get to face a Broncos team that has given up good games of late. Jerod Mayo (15 pts), Brian Urlacher (21 pts), Lance Briggs (18 pts), Takeo Spikes (22 pts), Jovan Belcher (18 pts) & Derrick Johnson (16 pts), Kamerion Wimbley (15 pts), Stephen Tulloch (17 pts), Kevin Burnett (12 pts), and Karlos Dansby (22 pts), have all done their damage against the Broncos since week 7, when Tim Tebow took over as the Broncos starting
RB QB. So according to my logic, get Barnett and Sheppard into your lineups this week, and if you have injury issues at LB then take a look at Chris Kelsay who makes fora decent enough sleeper with this matchup.
Secondary: Since Tebow became a starter in week 7, the Broncos rank 29th to CBs and 25th to safeties in FPA. That makes George Wilson and Jairus Byrd risky starts this week. Tebow has been throwing the ball a bit better, but I still don't think I could pull the trigger and but Byrd in my starting lineup. Wilson on the other hand, I think he is worth the risk, especially if the Bills use him close to the line of scrimmage. Another sleeper could be Bryan Scott, you won't catch me laying any bets that Scott goes off, but if you are in dire need of DB help, he is a swing for the fence type play that will truly be all or nothing.
Tampa Bay at Carolina
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 52, 2009: 45, 2010: 48
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 47, 2009: 54, 2010: 49
Defensive Line: Back in week 13 when these two teams faced off, Michael Bennett was unable to play due to injury. That opened the door for rookie Da'Quan Bowers to get the first start of his young NFL career, and he took advantage of that opportunity. Bowers, posted 20.50 fantasy points on the strength of 7 solos, 1 assist, 1 pass defended and 1 1/2 sacks. Since that time, Bowers has scored just 5 fantasy points. So do you gamble on Bowers being a Panthers killer or not? For my money, I am leaving Bowers on the bench, I mean this is a championship game week for many, and there is just no way I am starting him in a game with so much on the line. Yes, there is upside to the matchup, but you are going to have to pull that sleeper lever on your own. Adrian Clayborn didn't have nearly as good a game as Bowers did in week 13, but still his 8.5 points wasn't bad. Over the past 6 weeks, Clayborn has scored between 7-13 points each week, and if I had to pick between him, Bowers or Michael Bennett to start for me this week, I would pick Clayborn.
Linebacker: Mason Foster is coming off of back to back 13 point efforts. This week he goes against a Panthers team, that over the past 4 weeks ranks 30th in FPA to LBs. Neither he, Quincy Black or any other Buccaneers LB should be in your lineup this week. Yes, Brian Cushing, Sean Weatherspoon and even DeMeco Ryans have posted good games in the past two weeks, but with the way that many other LBs have produced, or should I say, haven't produced, I just can't see risking Foster in week 16 lineups.
Secondary: Don't blame EJ Biggers if he says he feels like a Yo-Yo. Biggers started in week 14 for an injured Aqib Talib, but then went back to the bench in week 15 when Talib returned to the starting lineup. However, after playing in just 7 snaps on the day, Talib was out of the game and Biggers was back taking his place with the starting defense. Talib has since been put on injured reserve, so Biggers should close the season as the starting corner opposite of Ronde Barber. This week against a Panthers team that over the past month ranks 26th in FPA both Barber and Biggers should be on fantasy benches. As for safeties Tanard Jackson and Sean Jones, they have a slightly better matchup against a Panthers team that for the season ranks in the top 12 in FPA to the S position. However, if past performance is any kind of barometer then Jones is the one that should be in starting lineups and Jackson should join the CBs on the bench.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 47, 2009: 51, 2010: 46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 49, 2010: 54
Defensive Line: Last week both Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy looked to have a very strong matchup against the Texans. Unfortunately, it didn't materialize that way for fantasy owners. After putting up back to back double digit games in week 13 and 14 it was bit of a shock to see Johnson log just 2 measly fantasy points. Hardy topped Johnson, but his 6 points aren't anything to write home about, and now Hardy's streak of single digit games is 9. At this point, good matchup or not, starting either of these two has to be considered highly risky, but if you are going to start one of them, then Johnson makes the less risky play. Also, don't forget that Johnson did hit double digits the last time the Panthers and Buccaneers faced off with each other.
Linebacker: This is one of those matchups that no matter what the numbers say that I just don't feel good about. For the season the Buccaneers are a top 12 matchup for LBs, however, over the course of their 8 game losing streak they rank 18th. James Anderson has been on fire of late, but his one bad game came against the Buccaneers. Jordan Senn has also been pretty hot, posting double digit games in 5 straight games, with his last being a very huge 33 point explosion. Even Dan Connor scored in double digits last week, but that was his first time doing so since week 7. I know it probably doesn't make much sense, but Anderson is the only one I feel comfortable recommending for fantasy owners this week. I know Senn just blew up and has been very solid of late, but I just have a bad feeling about this week's matchup. I wish I could put more numbers to it than just a gut feel, but it is, what it is.
Secondary: Charles Godfrey only recorded 3 fantasy points in week 15, but realize that a shoulder injury ended his day after just 30 snaps. The Panthers only had 61 defensive snaps, so it isn't as if he was on track to do much more than he already had. At this point his availability for Saturday is unknown, but considering he has scored a total of 5 points the past two weeks, I think it is safe to say that even if he plays, he shouldn't be in fantasy owners starting lineups this week. Chris Gamble might seem like an odd one to be the only 3-star or better play in the Panthers secondary, but the since week 11 the Buccaneers rank 4th in FPA to CBs. So when you see a trend like that, I think that a guy like Gamble makes for a nice play. As for the other starting CB, Captain Munnerlyn, a leg injury ended his day on Sunday, and as of this writing, his availability for the Buccaneers game is unknown.
Arizona at Cincinnati
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 49, 2010: 41
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 49, 2009: 49, 2010: 55
Defensive Line: Calais Campbell currently ranks 4th in DL scoring, with 145.50 fantasy points, and a PPG average of 10.393. Over the past 6 weeks, Campbell has hit double digits just one time, a 10 point effort in week 12, yet his PPG average over that span of time is still 9.00. While Campbell hasn't been putting up double digit games of late, he has been consistent, scoring 8 points once, 9 points four times, and of course that one 10 point performance. It's quite unusual to find a DL perform so consistently, and if you are Campbell owner, I am sure you like knowing his downside isn't all that down. This week, Campbell will be hard pressed to hit double digits, because he will be facing a Bengals team that ranks 30th in FPA to DLs. Most DL would only garner a 2-star rating, but Campbell, I can't see how he isn't a 3-star rated play, no matter the matchup.
Linebacker: Daryl Washington is coming off his first single digit performance since week 3, and this week things very well may not get any better. For the season the Bengals rank 30th in FPA to LBs, and when a team holds James Laurinaitis to just 5 solos and 1 assist you know that the matchup isn't very good. Initially I was going to rate Washington a 2-star play, but after more thought, I felt that a 3-star rating was one that he would be able to live up to. Just don't expect much more than 10-12 points from him. Paris Lenon may have outscored Washington last week, but there is no way I would bet on him doing that on a weekly basis, so with a poor matchup in front of him, I think you have to look at him as a 2-star play this week.
Secondary: Last week Kerry Rhodes got back on the field for the first time since week 5. He scored 9 points, while playing in just 29 of the Cardinals 65 defensive snaps. Rashad Johnson who started for Rhodes while he was out played more snaps (31) than Rhodes but managed just 4 fantasy points, the same amount of points scored by Patrick Peterson. Peterson had scored between 13-16 points in the previous three games, so those 4 points probably left more than a few fantasy owners hanging over a barrel. While those three didn't score very well Richard Marshall (15 pts) and Adrian Wilson (13 pts) did. This week presents some issues from a rating perspective, by that I mean that the Bengals are a better matchup for the safety position than they are CBs. The reason that presents a problem for me is that with Rhodes back, I can't safely recommend him, Johnson or even Wilson as a starter this week.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 48, 2009: 51, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 47, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: Good news/Bad news this week regarding the Bengals, and more specifically Carlos Dunlap. Good news is that he finally got back on the field last week, playing in 40 of 66 defensive snaps. Only Michael Johnson (44) and Geno Atkins (46) played in more snaps on the DL. The bad news is that he notched just 1 solo tackle. What makes that news even worse is that the Rams were a very good matchup for the DL position. Even worse is that Geno Atkins (14 pts) was the only DL to score in double digits, but Michael Johnson did score 9 points, so he was close. For my money the only safe weekly start at DL on the Bengals is Geno Atkins, and if you are looking for a decent sleeper option then Johnson would be my play. I still love Dunlap's upside, but I stand by my "shut him down" comment from last week.
Linebacker: Thru 14 weeks the Cardinals ranked as an average matchup for LBs, but after surrendering 26 solos, 3 assists, and 2 sacks to D'Qwell Jackson, Chris Gocong, and Kaluka Maiava they vaulted to #11 in FPA to LBs, just 8 fantasy points from ranking in the top 10. Even after giving up big numbers last week, I am still a bit pessimistic with regards to Rey Maualuga's upside this week. I do think that he is a 3-star play, I just don't feel good about much upside in that rating. I also have Thomas Howard as a 3-star rating, and unlike Maualuga, I see some upside in his rating.
Secondary: Reggie Nelson followed up his huge 21 point effort in week 14 with a paltry 3 point effort in week 15 against the Rams. Nelson has put up some very nice games this year, ,but he has also had enough stinkers to make him a risky starter, especially in week 16, which is a championship week for many teams. So with all that said, the point is that I do think Nelson deserves a 3-star rating this week, but if I had to assign a confidence level to the rating, it would be very low.
Oakland at Kansas City
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 45, 2009: 45, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 53, 2009: 53, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: For the year, the Chiefs haven't been a very good matchup for DLs, ranking 23rd in FPA, and over the past month the trend is pretty much the same, with them ranking 25th in FPA to DLs. It might seem like a cop-out to rank Lamarr Houston, Richard Seymour and the rest of the entire Raiders DLs a 1-star play, but due to the poor matchup and their inconsistent fantasy scoring this year makes it easy for me to say to steer clear of this bunch this week.
Linebacker: Surprising as it may be the Chiefs aren't a good matchup for opposing LBs, but a very good matchup. Since week 7 they rank #3 in FPA to LBs. Rolando McClain has been very productive over the past four weeks, ranking 4th in fantasy points scored among all LBs, and his PPG average of 17.750 is better than the PPG averages of James Laurinaitis, James Anderson, Colin McCarthy and every other LB not named D'Qwell Jackson, London Fletcher or Derrick Johnson, over that four week span of time. I currently have McClain as a 4-star play, but I actually see enough upside in that rating that I almost made him a 5-star play. Outside of McClain, I think that both Kamerion Wimbley and Aaron Curry very well could put up solid numbers this week, but I just see a bit to much risk to rely on them in starting lineups this week, hence their 2-star rating.
Secondary: Over the past four weeks the Chiefs have been a top 8 matchup for both the CB and S position. That is good news for Tyvon Branch owners, because last week I warned that he had a poor matchup, and that my rating him a 2-star play would be hard to swallow, seeing him put up just 9 points last week I hope that Branch's owners heeded my warning. Branch hasn't scored in double digits since week 12, but this week I fully believe that changes. I also think that Lito Sheppard is a solid play, last week he scored 16 points, and while I don't think he repeats that this week, but I do see him at a minimum putting up 10-12 fantasy points.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 45, 2009: 49, 2010: 53
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 54, 2009: 54, 2010: 54
Defensive Line: The Chiefs 3-4 defense severely limits the fantasy value of their DL, you should look for fantasy help elsewhere.
Linebacker: Don't you just love it when things/plans come together? For those of you that own Derrick Johnson and drafted him for what you knew would be his prime week 16 matchup you must be smiling big. OK, seriously, I am pretty sure that you didn't look at the schedule and peg the Raiders as a reason to draft Johnson, but hey, nothing wrong with a little luck. Because as luck has it, Johnson gets to face a Raiders team that since week 13 ranks 5th in FPA to LBs. Johnson is as plug and play as it gets, so the matchup doesn't matter, but this week he should be in for some big numbers. Tamba Hali is coming off of back to back monster performances where he scored 18 and 20 points, but don't let that blind you into thinking he is a safe weekly starter, because he isn't. Hali is still a matchup dependant play in my eyes, and this week, I don't think the matchup is in his favor. Sure the Raiders are giving up a ton of points to LBs, but rush OLBs haven't exactly done very well against the Raiders. For starters, in their week 7 matchup, Hali posted just one assist. Outside of Von Miller's 10.5 point game in week 9, and Antwan Barnes 19 point game in week 10 , I see enough bad recent performances - Clay Matthews (3 pts), Cameron Wake (1 pt) & Tamba Hali (1 pt) to say that Hali is a very big risk/reward type play this week. I doubt we see anything in the 7-12 point range, more like a total flop or something that approaches 15-20 points or more.
Secondary: I see this as a wasted matchup of sorts this week. What I mean is that over the past month the Raiders rank 5th in FPA to CBs, but I see both Brandon Flowers and Brandon Carr as very risky fantasy options. Flowers hasn't scored in double digits since week 9, and Carr has gone 3 straight without hitting double digits, and since the Chiefs bye in week 6 he has hit the double digit plateau just twice. In this one the risk outweighs the reward in my opinion, so I say you leave the duo on the bench. At safety, we expected big things out of the Chiefs this year, but injuries pretty much killed the fantasy value there. This week it doesn't help that the Raiders come in ranked 21 in FPA to safeties over the past five weeks. In big play, Kendrick Lewis is worth a look, but then so are Carr and Flowers, but relying on who gets the INT against Carson Palmer is risky business.
Miami at New England
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 55, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 48, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: The Dolphins play a 3-4 scheme that basically renders their DL fantasy irrelevant. You should look elsewhere for DL help.
Linebacker: CAUTION, tricky matchup ahead. That really is the best way to describe the matchup that Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett have this week against the Patriots. The one thing you don't want is to have a dud in your lineup during championship week, and that is why I have both Dansby and Burnett as 2-star plays. My main reasoning for those ratings is because the Patriots rank 31st in FPA over the last month of the season. Yet, when I did a bit deeper I find London Fletcher's 17 point game, Perry Riley's 16 pointer, and Wesley Woodyard's 15 pointer put up against the Patriots. Then again, there is a 2 solo tackle game by Jamar Chaney, Kavell Conner, Ernie Sims and Phillip Wheeler combining for 8 solos, and DJ Williams only being able to put up 4 solos and 2 assists, and those performances are what give me pause. Both Dansby and Burnett have had some massive games since the Dolphins bye in week 5, but each has also had craptastic games too. So, as I started out saying CAUTION, is the best way to approach this week, and by that, I mean that I think both should be on fantasy benches this week. Cameron Wake should be in for a long game too, against a Patriots team that just doesn't give up much to pass rushers.
Secondary: With the Patriots passing attack you might surmise that they are a great matchup for opposing secondaries, but that wouldn't be the case. Actually, they are partly a great matchup, for opposing safeties, ranking #1 on the year in FPA to the position, but to CBs, they rank just 22nd. So if you are a Yeremiah Bell owner, get him into your lineup this week. Outside of Bell the other Miami safeties are all to risky for fantasy purposes, so leave them under the Christmas tree this week.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 56, 2009: 55, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 46, 2009: 46, 2010: 52
Defensive Line: Andre Carter was a very nice IDP option for many an owner this year, however, Carter suffered a torn quadriceps in week 15 and was put on injured reserve by the Patriots. With Carter missing from the lineup an already not so good Patriots defense gets that much worse. Stepping in for Carter will be Mark Anderson. Anderson can get after the QB, but he isn't going to be nearly as effective in the run game as Carter was, and from an IDP perspective he is going to be more of a Dwight Freeney, all or nothing play than he is a Calais Campbell steady Eddie type. This week, against a Dolphins team that for the season ranks 15th in FPA to DLs Anderson probably doesn't look like a very enticing swing for the fences type option. However, look at the last three weeks and you see that no team has given up more points to DLs than the Dolphins have. That should make Anderson at least a 4-star play, but honestly he is just such a risky option that I had to rate him a 2-star play (sleeper), but if you need to swing for the fence this week, Anderson very well could be your guy.
Linebacker: Jerod Mayo owners have been on a serious roller coaster ride with him this year, and this week looks like it will be another dip/drop on that ride.Mayo's last 3 games of 14, 19 & 15 points probably have his owners mesmerized into thinking he is a safe plug and play LB now, and he very well may be, but for me, I see him as a risky fantasy option this week. Enough ILBs have scored well enough for me to give him a 3-star rating, but the fact that in the past two weeks that only Chris Kelsay, an OLB, is the only LB to log more than 4 solos against the Dolphins does indeed concern. So proceed with caution and I would temper expectations for Mayo this week. Brandon Spikes practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday, but he has now missed 6 consecutive weeks due to his knee injury, and at this point even if Spikes plays this week, there is no way in Hades I would consider putting him in my lineup, and that would even be if Andra Davis, Keith Brooking and Omar Gaither were my LBs.
Secondary: The Dolphins are an oddity of sorts in that they give up more points to opposing CBs than they do the S position. For the year they rank 12th in FPA to CBs, the same ranking they have if you look at the past four weeks too. As for the S position, for the year they rank 18th in FPA, but over the past four weeks they rank 24th. All that adds up to keeping Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty in your lineups this week, and avoiding Patrick Chung and whoever else the Patriots throw out at safety this week. Of course Chung has missed his last 6 games so fantasy wise he shouldn't even be on the radar at this point for this year. Yes, he practiced in a limited fashion on Wednesday, but like Spikes, you would be crazy to even consider using him as a starter if he gets back on the field this week.
San Diego at Detroit
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 47, 2009: 49, 2010: 53
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 53, 2009: 49, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: The Chargers 3-4 pretty much renders their DL useless for fantasy purposes.
Linebacker: For the season the Lions rank 17th in FPA to LBs, an average matchup, but over the past three weeks they rank 23rd, a below average matchup. However, those numbers don't tell the entire story. What they don't show is that Rolando McClain (19 pts), Chad Greenway (13 pts, and Jonathan Vilma (17 pts) all had productive games against the Lions over the past three weeks. So with that in mind, I decided to rate both Donald Butler and Takeo Spikes as 3-star plays. I don't want to completely dismiss the Lions FPA ranking, yet I can't turn my head to the numbers that those three as well as some others have put up against the Lions. So, I see it as a 3-star rating, with a bit of downside, and some nice upside too. I guess what I am saying is, don't be surprised if they don't live up to expectations, but also don't be surprised to see them go off either.
Secondary: The Lions, much like I wrote about the Dolphins in the Patriots write-up, are an oddity in that they surrender more fantasy points to CBs, than the do safeties, and not just by a bit, but by a large margin. For the season the Lions rank 3rd in FPA to CBs, and just 26th to safeties. Point wise the Lions have given up 106 more points to CBs than to safeties. So I think it is safe to say that Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer should each score better than Eric Weddle. Even with that said, I went and rated Weddle a 3-star play, but at this point in time I am seriously contemplating bumping him down a level.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 43, 2009: 48, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 54, 2009: 53, 2010: 51
Defensive Line: So much for the Chargers OL supposedly being swiss cheese and an OL that opposing DLs should be ravaging for sack after sack after sack. Since surrendering 6 sacks to the Raiders in week 10, the Chargers have given up just 5 sacks over their last 5 games, and those 5 came in two games, 3 against the Broncos in week 12, and 2 against the Bills in week 14. That means that the Chargers didn't allow a single sack to Jeremy Mincey and the Jaguars in week 13, or to Julius Peppers and the Bears in week 11, or Terrell Suggs and the Ravens last week. Mincey is far from one of the DE studs in the league but the Bears and Ravens are known for their pass rush, and holding Suggs and Peppers without a sack says something. To me it says that Cliff Avril, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Ndamukong Suh are risky plays this week against a Chargers OL that is holding their own.
Linebacker: If you are an owner of Stephen Tulloch or DeAndre Levy I think you are going to get an early Christmas present, in the form of a big game against the Chargers. For the season only the Redskins and Jets have given up more fantasy points to LBs than the Chargers have, and even their current trend is strong, over the last four weeks ranking 6th in FPA. Tulloch's 5-star rating might seem like a stretch to many, but not me. I just look at what Ray Lewis (19 pts), Paul Posluszny (18 pts), DJ Williams (22 pts), Kamerion Wimbley (27 pts), Desmond Bishop (22 pts) & Derrick Johnson (30 pts) have all done against the Chargers since week 8, and yes, it makes me feel very confident in Tulloch's rating. Levy is a bit riskier as a 4-star play, and I am contemplating bumping him down to a 3-star play, but in any event, with the upside that is present in this matchup, I can't see how he doesn't belong in all fantasy lineups this week.
Secondary: The Lions secondary has a very strong matchup against a Chargers team that ranks 5th and 6th respectively to the CB and S position this year. Unfortunately, the Lions secondary has been ravaged with injuries, and that makes rating them both difficult and risky. I am not going to be surprised in the least if one of Chris Harris, Amari Spievey or Eric Wright put up 4 or 5-star numbers this week, but I feel much safer rating the three as 3-star plays. If you twisted my arm on who of the three has the big week I would say Spievey. On the injury front Louis Delmas knee injury kept him from practicing on Wednesday, which makes sense because he had an arthroscopic procedure done on his knee this past weekend. However, with regards to the status of Delmas for Saturday, Jim Schwartz has been quoted as saying, "I mean it's to early too tell there, but there's a possibility,", let's just say that I would be shocked, SHOCKED I tell you if Delmas is on the field playing this week.
San Francisco at Seattle
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 48, 2009: 45, 2010: 45
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 51, 2009: 51, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: Last week I pointed out two things about Justin Smith's matchup, one being he had a very good matchup, and two being that he wasn't a lock for a great game just because of said matchup. However, I still felt compelled to rate him a 4-star play. His 9 fantasy points aren't exactly 4-star quality, but like I also pointed out, Smith has a non-stop motor and because of that, you are generally going to get at the very least, decent production out of him. This week against a Seahawks team that is a top 10 matchup for the DL position I have tempered my expectations a bit, and rated Smith a 3-star play. I still think he should be in starting lineups, but the 3-star tag, takes the pressure off of an owner expecting big things, but it also allows for some upside too.
Linebacker: Aldon Smith was money last week, posting 14.5 points, on the strength of 3 solos, 1 assist and 2.5 sacks. Had he not lost a sack due to a penalty he would have posted 19.5 points, and met his 4-star rating. Smith was so dominant in the game against the Steelers that the Monday Night crew was falling all over him and saying that his performance that night was going to get him into the HOF. Of course that isn't true but it does speak to how well he was playing. This week against the Seahawks I have him as a 3-star play, just again remember, plenty of upside when you rely on the rush OLB. As for his production of late, there is nothing wrong with three straight games with fantasy scoring between 14-15 points. For those of you that own Patrick Willis and are wondering about his status for week 16, you are going to have to keep wondering. As it stands now, as of this writing, Patrick Willis didn't practice on Wednesday, and at best he will be a GTD. My guess is that he doesn't play this week, but even if he was declared ACTIVE for this week on Saturday, I would probably still not play him in my lineup, just far to much risk. As for his running mate, NaVorro Bowman, I have him as a 4-star play. I know that Bowman's production has fallen off a bit of late, but his 15 points last week were solid, and this week against a Seahawks team that has given up big game to James Laurinaitis (26 & 20 pts), Perry Riley (20 pts), London Fletcher (15 pts) & Jamar Chaney (19 pts) I fully expect to see Bowman show more of what he was doing early in the season. I have Larry Grant as a 3-star play, which is based completely on my belief that Patrick Willis will not play this weekend. If for some reason news surfaces that Willis will give it a go, then you should look at Grant as a 1-star play.
Secondary: As much as I like the matchup for NaVorro Bowman and Aldon Smith this week, I can't say the same about the 49ers secondary. I currently have Dashon Goldson as the only player in the secondary ranked above 2-stars, and that is because the Seahawks for the season rank 9th in FPA to the S position. That means that Goldson or Donte Whitner could very well be in line for a nice game, I am rolling with Goldson over Whitner simply because he has been a bit more consistent of late, but if you are a Whitner owner I wouldn't fault you in the least if you decided to roll the dice with him t his weekend.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 45, 2009: 51, 2010: 46
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 54, 2009: 52, 2010: 53
Defensive Line: Chris Clemons has been a pretty good matchup DL this year, and this week looks like another opportunity to get him into starting lineups. Clemons gets to face a 49ers team that on the season ranks 9th in FPA to DLs. My 4-star rating is probably a bit high, and I do think I will drop him down to a 3-star play, but anyway you slice it, I do think he belongs in starting lineups this week. Red Bryant deserves a shout out after scoring in double digits for the first time all season last week, so what if he needed to intercept a pass and take it to the house to register all 10 of his points, the big man got there, and believe it or not, it landed him on the front cover of the Seahawks media guide for this week.
Linebacker: I know that I have been on David Hawthorne's bandwagon this year, and at times have been criticized/ridiculed for how I have had him rated, and probably rightfully so. This week, I think that everyone will get on board with my 3-star rating. I mean after all, Hawthorne hasn't scored in single digits since week 2, which is his only single digit performance of the year, and he gets to face a 49ers team that ranks 29th in FPA to LBs this year. Wait, that doesn't exactly sound like a ringing endorsement or reason to start Hawthorne, does it. Of course not, so that means that many will once again probably be at odds with my rating for him. However, I call it like I see it, and what I see is that the 49ers have given up good to great fantasy production to Lawrence Timmons (12 pts), Darryl Washington (11 pts), James Laurinaitis (25 pts), Jameel McClain (11 pts), Paris Lenon (18 pts) over the past 5 weeks to make Hawthorne a solid 3-star play. Had I decided to go all the way back to week one I might have been able to use the following in an argument to rate Hawthorne a 4 or 5-star play; Sean Lee (20 pts), DeAndre Levy (19 pts), D'Qwell Jackson (20 pts) & London Fletcher (18 pts). I will leave you with this, don't be surprised to see Hawthorne bumped up to a 4-star play. I have both Leroy Hill and KJ Wright as 2-star plays, and that is due to the fact that in many of the matchups against the 49ers only one LB scored well. To me that shows enough risk to not rate them any higher, but I will say that I think Wright could surprise. After all, he is a younger LB and one that is probably trying to leave a lasting impression in the coaches minds for next year.
Secondary: Earlier this season, Kam Chancellor was putting up huge numbers, but his production curtailed some, but once again seems to be ramping up. Chancellors 15 point performance in week 15 was his best score since scoring 15 points back in week 8. Chancellor owners might still be a bit shell shocked by the three straight single digit performances he had between week 10-12, but the shouldn't be. Over the past three weeks he has scored 11, 11 & 15 points, and this week he faces a 49ers team that since week 9 has given up the 3rd most points to safeties, over that span of time only the Bills and Bengals have given up more. I know that i had initially rated Chancellor a 3-star play, but I have no problem saying that I think I missed the mark with that, and have since adjusted his rating up. Earl Thomas had a 6 week run earlier in the year where he was putting up very good fantasy numbers, but of late his production has been inconsistent, and thus the reason I am going to leave him as a 3-star play this week. At the CB position the Seahawks duo of Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman have been doing a pretty good job, but fantasy wise Browner is the one that has been the most viable. He has scored in double digits for 4 straight weeks, but this week against a 49ers team that for the season ranks 30th in FPA to CBs, I suspect we will see that streak come to an end. Just in case you are curious the short term trend is better but not much, over the past month the 49ers still only rank 25th in FPA to CBs.
Philadelphia at Dallas
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 50, 2009: 47, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 47, 2009: 51, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: On the season, the Cowboys aren't a very good matchup for opposing DLs, ranking 24th in FPA. However, over the past month they rank 14th, not a great matchup, but at least an average one. Jason Babin is hot, scoring 18 and 17 points in the past two weeks, and scoring in double digits in four of the past five weeks. In his last game against the Cowboys in week 8, he scored 12 points on the strength of 3 solos and 2 sacks. I am not sure if I would expect Babin to log multiple sacks again, but with how he is playing it wouldn't surprise me either. Outside of Babin, Andre Carer and Jason Pierre-Paul, no other DL has logged more than 1 sack against the Cowboys this year. Trent Cole didn't put up huge numbers last week, but 8 points is still solid production for fantasy owners. I wish I could say that I think Cole makes for a great play this weekend, but I just can't, for starters, he has been very inconsistent this year, and then in week 8, he only logged 5 points (1 solo, 1 sack) against the Cowboys. In what is normally a slugfest/chippy game against a division rival anything can happen, and with what is Cole's upside, I don't see how you keep him out of your lineup this week.
Linebacker: I have Jamar Chaney as a 3-star play this week, largely based on the fact that the Cowboys have been a nice matchup for LBs this year. However, after thinking about it more, and seeing as how Felix Jones is gimpy, I am downgrading Chaney to a 2-star play. With him not playing in the nickel there is just to much risk that we see plenty of multi WR-sets that could very well kill his fantasy value. It wouldn't surprise me to see Chaney, Casey Matthews and Brian Rolle all in the 7-10 point range, but figuring out who to play is the hard part, and there just isn't enough upside to warrant plugging one of them into your lineup.
Secondary: If the Eagles have a shot at winning this game it is going to be because of the pressure that they get on Tony Romo, and to get that pressure they are going to need Nnamdi Asomugha, Asante Samuel and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to blanket the Cowboys receivers. If that happens then I wouldn't be surprised to see Samuel on one of the other two pick off an errant pass or two, but banking on that for fantasy purposes is risky business. You would normally be much better off banking on Kurt Coleman, who for the past 7 weeks or so, has pretty much been money for fantasy owners. However, this week, against a Cowboys team that for the season ranks 23rd in FPA to safeties, he could be in for a long week. Initially I rated Coleman as a 2-star play, but the more I look at it and see that Sean Jones (11 pts), Adrian Wilson (10 pts) & DeJon Gomes (20 pts) have had some sort of success against the Cowboys I think that Coleman deserves to be bumped up to a 3-star play. With that said, I should probably at least point out that over the past 4 games the Cowboys rank 29th in FPA to safeties.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 48, 2009: 51, 2010: 52
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 48, 2009: 47, 2010: 49
Defensive Line: The Cowboys 3-4 defense severely limits the value of their DL and it would be best to seek out fantasy help elsewhere.
Linebacker: DeMarcus Ware's injury (neck/stinger) had him as a limited participant in practice on Wednesday, but come hell or high water, you better believe that if Ware is walking he will be playing this week against the Eagles. From a fantasy perspective I think he is a risky play, and if it were me with the scoring we use at the huddle, I would have him riding pine this week. Especially when you consider that the Eagles rank 31st in FPA to DLs, granted Ware isn't a DL, but that ranking does go to show how little the Eagles in general allow to pass rushers. The only other Cowboy worth a fantasy start this weekend is of course Sean Lee, that is unless you think he is going to slam his wrist into Michael Vick's helmet again and re-break his wrist. Let's hope that doesn't happen. I have to be honest, I would feel better about Lee's 4-star rating if he wasn't wearing a cast, but even still the Eagles present as a nice matchup, ranking #8 this season in FPA to LBs. Over the past three weeks that ranking has bumped up to #6, so I think we should see Lee hit the 15 point range, and wouldn't be surprised to see him push the 20 point plateau.
Secondary: I am not sure if I was drunk or stupid (keep your comments to yourself) when I rated Gerald Sensabaugh and Abram Elam as 3-star plays this week. I looked at it again and decided that I am downgrading both to 2-star plays, but in all honestly, with how inconsistent they have been, along with the rest of the Cowboys secondary, they probably should all be 1-star plays. If you need numbers to make you feel better about the downgrade look no farther than the Eagles ranking 17th in FPA to safeties over the past four weeks. As for the Cowboys CBs, do you really want to rely on Mike Jenkins, Terrance Newman or Orlando Scandrick in a week 16 playoff game? If this were a matchup where the team they were facing was #1 in FPA I probably still would have a hard time starting them, but this week they don't face the #1 ranked team, they face an Eagles team that over the past three weeks ranks 27th. Save yourself the Tylenol and leave those guys on the bench.
Chicago at Green Bay
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 48, 2009: 47, 2010: 47
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 53, 2009: 53, 2010: 49
Defensive Line: The Packers rank 12th in FPA to DLs this year, but honestly getting jazzed for this matchup isn't easy to do. I mean with a top 12 matchup you would suspect that a player of Julius Peppers caliber would be a 4-star play, and at the very least a solid 3-star option, and yes I have him rated as a 3-star play, but I wouldn't say I feel good about it. When you see that Jason Pierre-Paul logged just 3 solos, and that only Cliff Avril (11 pts), Desmond Bryant (11 pts) and Justin Tuck (12 pts) are the only three DLs to score in double digits against the Packers since week 11, and that over that span of time only Tuck and Bryant recorded more than 3 solos, you can't help but be a bit concerned with the matchup. Israel Idonije has strung together 3 consecutive double digit games, and has 4 in his last 5, but the more I look at this matchup the more I think that a 3-star rating was a bit much for him.
Linebacker: For the season the Packers rank just 30th in FPA to LBs, making this a challenging matchup for Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. Yes, both Urlacher (17 pts) and Briggs (27 pts) had big games against the Packers back in week 3, but expecting a repeat of those numbers would be a pipe dream. The Packers of course got knocked off last week, and will be looking to get things going again, and the other side of that is that the Bears need a win in the worst way if they are to have a prayer at a playoff birth. I am sure many will expect the Packers to air it out, and they might, but I think we are more likely to see a low scoring defensive battle, and if that is how it breaks then I think there will be limited tackle opportunities for Urlacher and Briggs to take advantage of. Enough to warrant starting, but I am not sure if there is much more than that to be had in this matchup.
Secondary: This is one of those matchups where I sort of throw the numbers out the window. I fully expect to see Charles Tillman show up this weekend, and at the very least put up serviceable numbers for his fantasy owners. Just realize that is based on my assumptions and gut, and not any substantial data. If you look at the data you wouldn't just walk away, but would probably run, and run fast. For as prolific as the Packers passing offense is, it doesn't yield many fantasy points. For the season they rank 18th in FPA to CBs, however, over the last three weeks that ranking falls all the way down to #26. At safety the Bears lost Chris Conte to injury and placed him on season ending injured reserve. That means that Brandon Meriweather should be back on the field this weekend, but from a fantasy perspective that doesn't matter. Because against a Packers team that over the last month ranks 27th in FPA he, as well as Major Wright should be on fantasy benches this week.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 51, 2009: 53, 2010: 51
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 48, 2009: 44, 2010: 46
Defensive Line: The Packers DL play a vital role in the success of their 3-4 scheme but offers little to no fantasy value.
Linebacker: Good news and bad news all wrapped up into one nice little package, sort of like a Christmas gift that is from an older relative that you fear opening because you don't exactly know what to expect. Here it is, Desmond Bishop is back at practice, albeit in a limited fashion on Wednesday and Thursday, but still he was back out there. On Thursday, Mike McCarthy also said that Bishop was "close to being a full participant in practice", so it looks like he has a chance to play this weekend. The bad news is that the Packers play on Christmas, and only the Falcons and Saints will not have played when the Packers and Bears kickoff. That means that if you wait to see if Bishop is going to play, or roll the dice that he will, you very well could be backed into a corner where you have either no option or a very bad one left to pick from. As it stands now, I rated DJ Smith a 3-star play before this news came to light, and with the game being the next to last of the weekend I really have no choice but to drop Smith down to a 2-star play now too. Just far to much risk, that is unless the Packers come out on Friday and say "Desmond Bishop is 100% healthy and he will start and play the entire game against the Bears on Christmas" Well, we all know they won't say that, so leave both Bishop and Smith on the bench this weekend. While Smith and Bishop are risky plays, I see Clay Matthews as a very nice 4-star play on Sunday, Christmas night. Matthews gets to face a Bears team that for the season ranks #3 in FPA to DLs, again, I know that Matthews isn't a DE/DL, but it goes to show how pass rushers do against the Bears, which is well. Trust me when I say don't think twice about it, just plug Matthews into your lineup this week, even if it is with a new QB, Josh McCown under center for the Bears.
Secondary: I know it is hard to see Charles Woodson and Morgan Burnett both ranked as 2-star plays, but the Bears passing attack has been dreadful of late. To make matters worse, is that even possible, the Bears are turning the reigns over to Josh McCown this week. As much as I would like to say that should improve this matchup I just can't, and in what is a championship game for many, I just don't see the risk as being worth it. So do yourself a favor, find another matchup to exploit this week.
Atlanta at New Orleans
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 53, 2009: 57, 2010: 54
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 48, 2009: 50, 2010: 49
Defensive Line: I know that John Abraham is coming off of a massive 25.5 point week, where he logged 4 solos, 1 assist, 3.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. And yes, after that performance I am rating Abraham just a 1-star play. I have to be honest, I did for a moment think about ranking him and Ray Edwards both -5-star plays (yes, that is a negative five). The Saints just aren't a good matchup for opposing DLs. I mean you have Jared Allen (3 pts), Cliff Avril (0 pts), and all of the Titans DEs(6 pts) that have swung and missed over the course of the last three weeks. Sure if it was Jared Allen, I would probably say he deserves another chance, but Abraham is just to risky a play, and yes, I know he put up 8 points the last time these teams met earlier this year. Still doesn't matter to me, I say sit them down!
Linebacker: Let's be honest, no matter what stats I throw at you, you aren't going to bench either Curtis Lofton or Sean Weatherspoon this week, and you shouldn't. Sure the numbers show that for the season the Saints rank 27th in FPA to LBs, but over the past three weeks, they have improved a bit, ranking 24th, I know big whoop. Before you go an roll your eyes allow me to introduce you to some LBs that have had success against the Saints over the past three weeks; EJ Henderson (18 pts), Erin Henderson (13 pts), Chad Greenway (14 pts), Colin McCarthy (11 pts), Will Witherspoon (13 pts) & Stephen Tulloch (15 pts). There are my 6 main reason for why I rated Lofton and Weatherspoon as 3-star plays.
Secondary: Matchups don't get much sweeter for secondaries than they do when you face the Saints. For the season the Saints rank #1 and #2 respective in FPA to CBs and the S position. I am sure that with a matchup like this one that you would expect more than a 3-star rating for William Moore, Thomas Decoud and Dunta Robinson, but they have all been very inconsistent fantasy options this year. If you own any of them, sure they should be in your lineups, if for nothing else the upside that this matchup presents.
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Given Up: 2008: 52, 2009: 54, 2010: 54
Average Tackle Opportunities/Game Faced: 2008: 48, 2009: 50, 2010: 48
Defensive Line: If you are reading this to see what I think of the matchup for Will Smith, you had better be in a very deep league. Because if you aren't you had better think about seeing a doctor or something because you would be crazy to think that you should even consider putting Smith into you starting lineup in week 16. I know that Smith is a "name" DE, but his production this year, for the most part, has been abysmal. Add that to the fact that for the season the Falcons rank 22nd in FPA to DLs, but that over the past three weeks they rank 27th, it is easy to see why Smith is a 2-star play, and the rest of his DL cohorts are 1-star plays this week. Don't be shocked to see me send Smith down to the 1-star level with his buddies, because I very well may do just that.
Linebacker: As a Jonathan Vilma owner, and one that is no longer in the playoffs, I have to apologize for initially rating Vilma a 3-star play. I honestly don't know what overcame me to do such a thing. For starters, I know that if you own Vilma you are surely have to be a bit gun shy with him, and who could fault you? Surely not me. Anyway, take a healthy does of gun shy and mix it with a #22 ranking in FPA for the past three weeks, and what you get is a very shaky 2-star rating for Mr. Vilma. My apologies, to his owners that I scared with that initial 3-star rating. After Vilma, the Saints LBs is a mish-mosh of who guys that are all contributing just enough to ruin the value of any one individual.
Secondary: If you are a Roman Harper owner, you are more than likely a bit frustrated with a couple of his clunkers earlier in the season, and his lack of top notch production since the Saints bye in week 11. Well I am here to report that this week might be more of the same, since the bye week that is. So as hard as it might be to take Harper as a 3-star play in what is probably a championship game week, it is what it is. For the most part the Falcons haven't exactly been a stellar matchup for DBs this year, and over the past three weeks they rank 28th in FPA to the S position. While that might seem like a reason to rank Harper as a 2-star play, I see enough in the fact that both Dwan Landry, and Glover Quin scored 12 points that I think Harper should be in fantasy lineups this week. As for my 3-star ratings on Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer, let's just say I was a bit blinded by Ashton Youboty's 7 solo tackles when I rated them. After looking at it a bit more, I see both as slightly risky options, and that is why I downgraded each to a 2-star play.