Hopefully, many of you are still reading this in preparation for your semi-finals match-ups this week. If not, well, I hope ou read just because you like the piece. I’m fortunate enough to still be in three playoff match-ups; I’m in the semis in my Shock and Awe 12-team IDP league, where I avoided a huge bullet with Sean Weatherspoon laying a bit of a stinker. I also sneaked into the playoffs in my 16-team all IDP dynasty league. This league, all you can do is hope to survive and advance because this league is brutal and extremely competitive. This is my second year in the league and I’ve been fortunate enough to make the playoffs in both seasons. Lastly, I’m in a CBS Experts League with IDP and in the semis, as well as I sneaked into the playoffs with a 6-7 record and my team has some decent match-ups. Well, enough about me, as I’m sure you’re wanting to know how some of the news will affect your teams this week, so here goes, my week 15 edition of Tales from the Strong-Side…
-If you’ve held on to Kerry Rhodes for this long, your patience will be paying off. Rhodes has put in full practices this week and is probable for week 15 against Cleveland. Rhodes hasn’t played since week 5 and had 24 tackles and 2 sacks up to that point. If he’s on your waiver wire, I might consider grabbing him if you need some DB help.
-Adrian Wilson has been playing through nagging injuries all season, but unfortunately for his owners, the numbers haven’t translated on the field. With just 47 tackles this season, he’s been barely a DB3 and should be on most benches, as he’s been inconsistent with his tackles this season. His playing efficiency, has been graded rather favorably by Pro Football Focus, as he’s graded at a +13.6. His pass coverage skills have been graded favorably, as well as he’s only allowed 11 catches on 23 balls thrown his way.
-How has Paris Lenon been so productive? He’s played the most snaps (924) of any linebacker in the league. He’s only had three games where he’s been held to less than 5 tackles.
-Ray Lewis has been limited in practice, but this week was his targeted return so even though he’s questionable, Lewis and the Ravens expect him to play against San Diego. Lewis should be in IDP lineups this week as he’s averaging over 7 tackles per game this season.
-Terrell Suggs, coming off his third 3 sack game of the season, set his career mark in sacks in week 14. Suggs has been a monster to deal with and with Haloti Ngata and Cody Redding picking up their play in the pass rush, he’s been seeing more one on one match-ups. PFF has him graded at a +37.0, placing him first among 4-3 DE.
-Jimmy Smith is on track to start at corner Sunday, with LaDarius Webb not practicing this week. Webb has been battling turf toe, so Smith will get the nod. Smith will probably draw Vincent Jackson in coverage, so he’s going to be busy.
-George Wilson didn’t suffer any setbacks in week 14 and isn’t on the injury report this week, so he’s full go back to being a top 5 DB. Wilson notched 6 tackles last week and now has 85 on the season.
-Jairus Byrd has come a long way in his third season. His rookie year, it was all about picks as he had 9. In 2010, he was making more tackles, but not around the ball as much. This season, he’s put forth another all-around season as he continues to reward those IDP owners that drafted him late or nabbed him from the wire. PFF has him graded out third among safeties. Byrd should be able to hit the 100 tackle mark this season.
-Another Panther LB ended up on IR this week, as the Panthers lost Jason Phillips to a calf injury in week 14. His IDP value was very minimal to begin with and Carolina should address LB depth in the 2011 draft or through free agency.
-Greg Hardy started out hot through the first few weeks of the season. However, he hasn’t recorded a sack since week 5 and isn’t generating a consistent pass rush. He does have 42 tackles on the season, but that just isn’t enough for IDP owners to really count on. Hopefully, you cut bait on him, as he’s just not producing consistently.
-Brian Urlacher continues to be the heart and soul for the Bears’ defense and his IDP owners. In weeks 11-13, Urlacher had notched 11 sacks, while in week 14, he compiled 11 tackles alone. His focus this week will be Marshawn Lynch, so his owners can expect another solid game out of the captain. PFF has him graded out at a +10.2, which ranks him within the top 15 among ILBs.
-Major Wright has been a limited participant in practice this week, as he’s still dealing with an injured shoulder. He’ll be questionable, at best, heading into this week as Craig Steltz could get another start at strong safety and is worthy of a start in IDP leagues, since he’ll be playing more in the box to help stop the run.
-Carlos Dunlap has practiced this week and looks to be on track to play this week. He would help the pass rush, but could be in a rotation between Robert Geathers and Frostee Rucker. He’s been one of the better pass rushers in the league and leads the Bengals with 24 QB pressures.
-The Browns are going to do all they can to bring back impending free agent D’Qwell Jackson long-term. If the Browns mess this situation up, than there really is no hope. They sign Chris Gocong long-term, but they neglect DQ (I know about the injuries). It’s obvious that when he’s healthy, there’s not a better defender and only London Fletcher has more tackles right now than Jackson.
-TJ Ward has been running on his fractured foot, but while he hopes to play this week, he says that foot is still bothersome. I cut bait on him in one of my IDP leagues right when he suffered the injury, so if you haven’t already done so, it’s time. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him sit the last few weeks of the season. Usama Young has 31 tackles in 5 starts, so there really is no rush in getting Ward back on the field…not like there’s a playoff push here.
-As a rookie, Jabaal Sheard is among the top 5 4-3 DE in QB pressures with 33.
-If there was any worry about the lingering effects from Von Miller’s thumb surgery, they are put to bed. Miller finished week 14 with 5 tackles and a sack and he’s been putting in a full practice all week. Miller is a high upside LB2 this week against the Patriots at home.
-Ndamukong Suh will return to the field in week 15, after serving his 2 game suspension for his Thanksgiving Day stomping incident. In terms of an IDP standpoint, Suh has been a bust for his owners after posting huge numbers as a rookie in 2010.
-Louis Delmas is still not practicing, as he’s still dealing with a knee injury. Chris Harris is looking like he’ll get the nod at free safety and remain a liability in coverage for Detroit.
-Justin Durant looks like he’s going to miss this week with a hamstring injury. He’s missed practice all week and Bobby Carpenter filled in for him in week 14, so look for him to get the start this week.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
-Desmond Bishop hasn’t been practicing all week, so he’s looking doubtful this week. DJ Smith owners, that have been riding this guy’s hot streak, look to have another week in the chamber with this bullet. Smith has proved more than capable, as he has 24 tackles in the last three weeks (including 10 in week 14) and has an INT. Smith’s play has allowed the Pack to take it easy with Bishop.
-Danieal Manning is showing no ill-effects from a leg injury that he suffered in week 7. He led the team in tackles in week 14, with 11 and has been a good addition to the defensive backfield for the Texans. He seems to be at full health and played every snap for the Texans this past week.
-Can you believe that Houston’s defense hasn’t missed a beat with Mario Williams on IR? Connor Barwin has thrived in Wade Phillips’ defense and has been an aggressive pass rushing threat. Barwin has reached double digit sacks and has also added 40 tackles this season. Barwin and Brian Cushing are the ones that getting the hang of the defense and are the two most productive IDPs in Houston.
-Phillip Wheeler isn’t practicing this week after suffering an ankle injury against Baltimore. The Colts are looking at him, but there’s no real timetable for him getting back on the field. At this point, he’s questionable and will probably be a game-time decision this week. Ernie Sims and Kavell Conner would see an increase in snaps if Wheeler can’t suit up.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
-Derrick Johnson ranks 4th among ILBs according to PFF metrics, which include pass rushing, coverage and run stopping. When it comes to stopping the run, only Navorro Bowman grades out better this season. He’s the centerpiece of the defense and has been an LB1 all season for his owners. He only has three games where he’s been held to less than 7 tackles and is an absolute stud.
-Kevin Burnett and Karlos Dansby combined for just 7 tackles in their first go around with the Dolphins, so they’ll be looking to improve upon that number this week. I like Burnett and Dansby as LB2 material this week against their division rival.
-Cameron Wake is stuck at 7 sacks and has gone the last two without one. Can’t say he’s not getting pressure on the QB, as he leads all 3-4 OLBs in pressures with 40 and has 14 QB hits. PFF has him graded out at a +31.6, which puts him first overall among 3-4 OLBs.
-It’s week like this past week, that makes me wish I wasn’t on a bye week as a Jared Allen owner. Allen notched 3 sacks and is just two away from hitting the 20 mark. He’ll have three opportunities to do so, beginning with the Saints this week. There’s only a handful of DEs that are playing at the level that Allen is playing at right now.
-EJ Henderson has been one of the better run stuffing MIKE ‘backers this season, as he’s been graded at a +12.5 by PFF and has 76 tackles on the season. He has definitely helped solidify the run defense and is providing LB3 numbers this season, as he’s playing through some nagging injuries.
-Just another 115+ tackle campaign for Chad Greenway. Since the bye week, he’s turned his game up as he has 53 tackles since the bye week and is producing the LB1 numbers that his owners were hoping for.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
-The Patriots have downgraded Patrick Chung to doubtful for week 15 against Denver. This will be Chung’s 6th straight game missed and they’ve missed him in the defensive backfield. There’s talk that he’s suffered a setback with his injured foot and I’d be surprised if he plays the rest of the regular season.
NEW YORK GIANTS
-Osi Umenyiora is not expected to play in week 15 and they haven’t missed his presence whatsoever. Jason Pierre-Paul has seized his opportunity to be an every-down player and isn’t relinquishing that anytime soon. If/when Osi returns, it’s only certain situations, maybe a nickel role at this point. His owners can safely cut bait.
-Justin Tuck said he plans on playing through his toe injury, but he could be limited by the injury. He only had 3 sacks in the 9 games that he’s played, so I don’t think I could trust him this week.
-As expected, the NFL upheld James Harrison’s one-game suspension, so he won’t be available for Monday Night Football against the 49′ers. LaMarr Woodley and Jason Worilds will get the starts at OLB in place of Harrison.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
-Donald Butler owners will want to keep an eye on him and his status Sunday. He missed most of practices this week, but did turn in a limited practice Friday, and is listed as questionable. With Butler battling injury, and the fact he only had 2 tackles last week, he makes a risky LB3 this week. There’s a bit of upside, as the Ravens should try and run the ball a lot at the Charger defense.
SAN FRANCISCO 49′ERS
-Patrick Willis looks like he will not play week 15 against the Steelers on Monday night. Larry Grant will get the start, once again, but it’s definitely not a bad thing for the 9′ers. Grant more than held his own, as he racked up 11 tackles in week 14. Grant was graded at a +1.7 for his run defense efficiency, so he should be quite active and productive once again in week 15.
-David Hawthorne, who’s battling knee injuries, practiced fully Thursday and Friday and is listed as probable for Chicago this week. Hawthorne is coming off a 10 tackle game in week 14 and is on pace to reach 100, so deploy him in your IDP lineups this week. Solid LB2 this week.
ST. LOUIS RAMS
-Chris Long has been dealing with an ankle injury but is expected to play against the Bengals in week 15. He returned to practice on Friday, which bodes well for his prospects this week. The guy’s a gamer and as long as he’s active, he should be in your IDP lineups because of his sack potential.
-Colin McCarthy owners can keep him in their lineups for the rest of the season as Barrett Ruud was placed on IR this week and his time in Tennessee will end after appearing in just 9 games this season. Ruud signed a one-year deal, so it’s a foregone conclusion that he’ll be seeking employment with another team in 2012. McCarthy’s dynasty stock also rose sharply with the news.
-LaRon Landry was placed on season ending IR this week, as he hasn’t been able to get over this Achilles’ issues that hampered him last season. Landry looks like he’ll going under the knife this offseason to repair the damaged Achilles. It’s looking like DeJon Gomes will get the starts at strong safety, so there’s some IDP upside at the SS position, so he’s a sneaky starter over the next few weeks. Reed Doughty is also on track to start over OJ Atogwe at free safety this week.
Here’s a look inside the numbers as you prepare your IDP lineups
Fantasy Points Allowed to IDPs (Atlanta and Jacksonville left out)
1. Denver Broncos (192 tackles/22 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Andre Carter
2. San Francisco 49′ers (166 tackles/27.5 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Brett Keisel
3. Houston Texans (208 tackles/14 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Charles Johnson
4. Green Bay Packers (194 tackles/20.5 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson
5. Arizona Cardinals (165 tackles/26 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Jabaal Sheard, Ahtyba Rubin
6. Baltimore Ravens (202 tackles/11.5 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Antonio Garay
7. Seattle Seahawks (181 tackles/24 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije
8. Pittsburgh Steelers (167 tackles/25.5 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Justin Smith, Ray McDonald
9. St. Louis Rams (155 tackles/23.5 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Robert Geathers, Frostee Rucker, Carlos Dunlap
10. Chicago Bears (159 tackles/20 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Chris Clemons
1. San Diego Chargers (288 tackles/19 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Ray Lewis, Jameel McClain
2. New York Jets (292 tackles/17 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Jamar Chaney (risky, since he’s not an every-down backer)
3. Washington Redskins (284 tackles/15 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Mathias Kiwanuka, Michael Boley
4. St. Louis Rams (247 tackles/17 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Rey Maualuga, Thomas Howard
5. Houston Texans (280 tackles/7 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Jordan Senn, James Anderson
6. Dallas Cowboys (275 tackles/9 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Mason Foster, Geno Hayes
7. Philadelphia Eagles (248 tackles/13.5 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: David Harris
8. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (261 tackles/8.5 tackles allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Sean Lee, DeMarcus Ware
9. Baltimore Ravens (267 tackles/10.5 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Donald Butler, Takeo Spikes
10. Oakland Raiders (272 tackles/8.5 sacks allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy
1. New Orleans Saints (396 tackles/9 INTs allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Asher Allen, Benny Sapp
2. Philadelphia Eagles (317 tackles/19 INTs allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Eric Smith
3. Oakland Raiders (338 tackles/17 INTs allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Alphonso Smith, Eric Wright, Amari Spievey
4. Buffalo Bills (339 tackles/14 INTs allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Yeremiah Bell
5. New England Patriots (365 tackles/8 INTs allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Not a fan of any Denver DBs this week
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (338 tackles/8 INTs allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Donte Whitner, Dashon Goldson
7. San Diego Chargers (319 tackles/14 INTs allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Bernard Pollard, Jimmy Smith, Cary Williams
8. Carolina Panthers (306 tackles/11 INTs allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Jonathan Joseph, Danieal Manning
9. Cincinnati Bengals (320 tackles/12 INTs allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Darian Stewart, Quintin Mikell
10. Kansas City Chiefs (306 tackles/15 INTs allowed)
Favorable Match-up: Morgan Burnett, Charlie Peprah, Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams
Key IDP Match-ups I’ll Be Watching
Julius Peppers vs. Paul McQuistan (LT, SEA): McQuistan has replaced Russell Okung at LT, who was placed on IR. McQuistan is a much better suited at run blocking than pass blocking, which could be in his favor as they continue to run Marshawn Lynch. McQuistan allowed 4 total QB pressures and hits on Tarvaris Jackson, and Julius Peppers is playing at a high level right now. Peppers has 41 QB pressures on the season, so he could have a solid game against the journeyman lineman.
Andre Carter vs. Ryan Clady (LT, DEN): Carter, since his 4 sack explosion in week 10, has 2 sacks and 15 tackles in the last four games and has forced a fumble, so he’s been a solid force up front. Carter has been graded by PFF at a +23.6, placing him 6th among 4-3 DEs this season. Carter has generated 24 QB pressures and 16 QB knockdowns, so he’s enjoyed a resurgence in New England’s system. Clady has been a solid LT and has allowed just 6 sacks on the season and his strength has been pass blocking, and he’s allowed 20 total QB pressures and just 3 QB hits. This should be an interesting match-up, as we’ll see if Carter can get to Tebow.
Jabaal Sheard vs. Arizona Right Tackles: The Cardinals have been rotating between Jeremy Bridges and Brandon Keith, and between the two, they’ve allowed 10 sacks 38 total QB pressures and knockdowns. Sheard has really blossomed into the pass rusher the Browns hoped they were getting when they drafted him in the second round of the draft. He ranks among the top 15 4-3 DEs for his efficiency and has 36 total QB pressures and hits, to go along with his 6 sacks. He could have himself another big game against Arizona this week, as he’s approaching every week start status.
Chris Clemons vs. J’Marcus Webb (LT, CHI): Webb has been abused for 30 total QB pressures and knockdowns on his QB this season, and, has also allowed 7 sacks on the year. He ranks near the bottom half of the league among tackles, according to PFF’s grading metric, so Clemons has a very favorable match-up this week. PFF has Clemons graded at a +18.8 for his pass rush efficiency, as he has 39 QB pressures, third among 4-3 DEs. Clemons, and his 10 sacks this season, should have a field day against the Bears’ LT this week.
Stephen Tulloch/DeAndre Levy vs. Oakland Raiders: Raiders have been going more run heavy, as they are dealing with injuries at the receiver position. The Raiders, over the last three weeks, have been allowing around 19 tackles per game to linebackers, and this could be the type of game that snaps Levy out of his funk. Tulloch has 19 tackles in his last two games, while Levy has been struggling. The two Lions backers could be busy snuffing out Michael Bush this week.
Sean Lee/DeMarcus Ware vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: As long as Tampa can keep this one close, they’ll run LeGarrette Blount this week at the defense and Sean Lee will get his tackle opportunities. However, if Dallas goes up a few scores, they could abandon the run. However, Lee is so versatile, he’s just as good in pass coverage. On the surface, Ware looks to have an unfavorable match-up, since the Bucs have only allowed 8.5 sacks to LBs this season. However, TB struggles with pass rushing OLBs, especially those in the 3-4. The Bucs have allowed 5.5 sacks to 3-4 OLBs, so Ware could have a big night on Saturday.
Jerod Mayo vs. Denver Broncos: Mayo has struggled this season, battling various injuries and struggling to adjust to a 4-3 scheme in the process. Mayo does have 19 tackles over his last three games, to go along with 2 INTs. The Broncos are 5th in points allowed to opposing LBs and they’ve allowed, on average, around 26 tackles to opposing LBs, as they are running the ball a ton.
Morgan Burnett vs. Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs have a competent QB starting for them this week in Kyle Orton. Not much to say there, as anyone is better than Tyler Palko at this point. Orton should be able to move the ball in the air, and Burnett’s been targeted 37 total times this season. Burnett is also effective playing near the line of scrimmage, so he could have a decent day with defended passes and tackles.
Yeremiah Bell vs. Buffalo Bills: Bell has 86 tackles on the season, and is in a stretch of games where he hasn’t been getting to the ball. The 7 tackle game in week 14 was a good sign that he’s snapping out his funk. The Bills have been allowing around 8 tackles per game to opposing 3-4 safeties, however, Bell only notched 4 tackles in his first tilt with the Dolphins. I look for a rebound in week 15 out of Bell and he could be busy in the pass and defending CJ Spiller.