The IDP Breakdown is a weekly feature column that goes game by game and looks at all of the key matchups to help you identify big value plays, some not-so-obvious starts, and players to avoid. Analysis is based in part on Jeff Ratcliffe’s weekly projections for the defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs.
Jacksonville @ Carolina
There hasn’t been much to like thus far from the Jacksonville IDPs. Paul Posluszny has been solid, grading out at a +4.7, but has only produced 10 solos over the first two games. Though I’m not giving up just yet on Posluszny as an LB1, I don’t like this matchup for him this week. Carolina is not what they used to be, and will not be pounding the ball up the middle as in years past. I would be hesitant to rely on Posluszny as anything more than a low-end LB2. Your value here may just come from the safety position. My apologies to all of the Courtney Greene owners, but it looks as if Dwight Lowery has supplanted him in the starting lineup. I don’t expect much from Lowery, but we could see decent numbers from Dawan Landry, who has eight solos through the first two games. I like his upside in this one, and he makes a sneaky DB2 play.
Just last week I talked about the fallout from the Jon Beason injury, and here we are again with another Carolina injury. This time, it’s Thomas Davis, who has torn his ACL for the third time. This is a very tough break for Davis, who stood to benefit the most from Beason’s injury. Those of you who stepped up and grabbed Dan Connor should be rewarded at least in the short-term. Last week, Connor saw just 17 snaps, as it was Davis and James Anderson in the nickel packages. This week, Connor figures to get those snaps with Anderson. Upgrade Connor to a high-end LB3, and move Anderson back to where he was last season when he graded out at +14.1 and recorded 100 solo tackles. He makes a solid LB2 play this week.
Detroit @ Minnesota
The LB picture in Detroit is murky at best. Last week, I said you should avoid playing Justin Durant until further notice, and that you could even consider dropping him. He then went out and put up the best IDP numbers of the three Detroit LBs. Am I buying it? No. I think, however, that it is an indication that we’re dealing with a situation that could be in flux all season. I would stay away and look for other more steady options. From an IDP standpoint, this matchup isn’t very good all around for the Lions. Donovan McNabb doesn’t get sacked often, and doesn’t throw a ton of interceptions, so Detroit IDPs will be limited in big play leagues. There will be tackling opportunities with Adrian Peterson running the ball, but with the unpredictability of the Lions defensive packages, it’s not clear which LB will benefit the most.
Antoine Winfield has always been a solid tackler, who has gotten plenty of opportunities in this Tampa-2 scheme. This season, he’s been extremely productive, with 18 tackles in the first two weeks. Look for this trend to continue this week against the Lions high-powered offense. Husain Abdullah (+1.3) has also played well over the first two weeks, recording 12 solos, a pick, and a pass defensed. I like him as a spot play at DB as your DB3 or potentially S2 in deeper formats.
San Francisco @ Cincinnati
I mentioned it last week, and I will say it again. Navorro Bowman is outperforming Patrick Willis in all IDP formats through the first two games of the season. Bowman currently leads all ILBs with 19 solo tackles, which is seven more than Willis. If he’s out there on your waiver wire, and you’re thin at LB, go out and grab him before everyone catches on to this one. I love both players in this matchup, but the rise of Bowman means the decline of Willis. Now, that’s not a massive decline, but Willis may soon be a middle LB1 instead of the high-end option we’ve known for the last several years. Bowman is now an LB2 option, and should be played as such in this matchup.
The Cincinnati defense has been relatively solid so far this season, grading out at +13.5. However, there is no real standout player in this unit from an IDP standpoint. Thomas Howard and Rey Maualuga have gotten the nickel roles, and both have recorded 11 solos through the first two games. Howard (+2.6) has graded out much stronger than Maualuga (-3.6) thus far, but neither has been too effective in IDP leagues. Carlos Dunlap (+6.6) has looked strong when he plays, but unfortunately that has been limited through the first two games. I still really like his potential, but we need to see an expanded role before his IDP value matches what many of us thought in the preseason. Perhaps the biggest IDP scorer so far for the Bengals has been Reggie Nelson, with his 13 solo tackles. Though he put up decent numbers in 2009, his Week 1 outburst is unsustainable. I don’t really like any Bengal in this one, and would do my best to avoid playing them for the time being.
Miami @ Cleveland
Reshad Jones went out and had another nice IDP day for owners last week, but it was due to a sack, unlike Week 1 where he notched 11 solos. I’m still not interested in Jones, especially because of his -3.0 PFF grading. Yeremiah Bell didn’t give us that DB1 box score that we drafted him for last week, but it’s looking better. He graded out +0.3, which was a marked improvement from his -2.1 in Week 1. Though he only recorded five solos, three of them resulted in an offensive failure. Don’t panic on Bell, I expect we see him right the ship this week and return to DB1 status. Another player I like in this one is Cameron Wake. He has a sack in each of the first two weeks. Though Cleveland has given up just three sacks so far, Oniel Cousins (-4.8) and Artis Hicks (-3.2) has been dreadful in pass blocking. Look for Miami to use Wake to exploit this weakness. In big-play leagues, he’s a must start.
Through the first two weeks of the season, Miami grades out as the worst pass blocking team (-12.7), and they have allowed six sacks so far. This bodes well for rookie DE Jabaal Sheard, who has played 131 snaps through the first two weeks and grades out at a +3.3 overall. I expect him to get opportunities at Chad Henne in this one and think we see a sack. Sheard makes an interesting DE2 play this week in all formats. We also will see another solid performance out of D’Qwell Jackson, who followed up his monster Week 1 performance with decent numbers against the fledgling Colts offense. Jackson is an every-week LB2.
New England @ Buffalo
Patriots safety Patrick Chung underwent surgery on his thumb this week, which will keep him out of this one. This is a shame for Chung owners, because while he may not be grading out that strongly at -0.6, he has 13 solo tackles and a sack through the first two games of the season. He was shaping up to see a lot of action against the Bills offense that grades out as the fifth ranked so far this season. With Chung out, you’ll see a lot of Sergio Brown (+1.8) and Josh Barrett (+0.1). Of the two, I prefer Brown, who not only grades out higher, but also has recorded tackles at a greater frequency than Barrett thus far this season. Playing nearly the same amount of snaps, Brown has a tackle on 9.2% of his snaps, while Barrett has recorded one on just 7.0%. With Chung out, Brown makes a sneaky DB2 play.
Through two games this season, it’s not popular sleeper George Wilson, but actually Jarius Byrd who has been the highest fantasy producing safety in Buffalo. I like that to continue this week against the Patriots, as they have given up big points to both Reshad Jones and Eric Weddle this season. Byrd has 12 solos compared to nine for Wilson on the season, and I expect Byrd will have plenty of tackling opportunities this Sunday against the number one ranked passing offense (+37.3) here at PFF.com. If you need a plug and play at safety, Byrd’s your guy.
New York Giants @ Philadelphia
The Eagles have been the eighth worst rated team in pass blocking through the first two weeks of the season, but surprisingly none of the offensive linemen have given up a sack thus far according to the premium stats here at PFF.com. In fact, Michael Vick has only been sacked three times this season. While it’s a no-brainer to start both Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, who have already generated five sacks and 12 QB interruptions between the two of them, I would be cautious in my expectations. A player who I do really like in this matchup is Antrelle Rolle, who had been the early beneficiary of the season ending injury to Terrell Thomas. Rolle has 13 solos thus far and faces the pass-happy Eagles offense where he should see plenty of action. Rolle has moved up to a sneaky DB2.
This is a great matchup if you’re and owner of Trent Cole or Jason Babin. With Daryl Tapp and Juqua Parker banged up, both Cole and Babin are in line for an increased workload this weekend. While the Giants do grade out tenth overall in pass blocking, they have given up seven sacks already this season. This could be in part due to the apparent regression of Eli Manning. Manning currently ranks as the 19th overall QB, behind such names as Jason Campbell, Alex Smith, and Matt Hasselbeck. Cole (+13.8) grades out as the top rated 4-3 DE, and has racked up an eye-popping 18 QB interruptions, two of which he’s converted for sacks. Babin hasn’t come close to matching Cole’s ability to get to the QB, but he has notched three sacks on seven interruptions this season. Cole is a top-end DL1, and Babin a solid DL2 this week.
Denver @ Tennessee
We knew coming in to the season that it would be a long road for the Denver defense, and that has translated into unpredictability in terms of IDP. Brian Dawkins (+1.5) had a great Week 1 showing, recording nine solos and four QB pressures, but followed that up last week with just four solos. Wesley Woodyard had a huge game last week, totaling ten solos, but his value is limited with D.J. Williams likely to be eased back in to the lineup. Elvis Dumervil is still ailing, so there’s not much to be had on the Denver DL (though I still believe we see Robert Ayers break out this season). So that leaves us with Von Miller, who recorded his first NFL sack last week. Miller has been impressive so far this season, grading out a combined +9.4, which ranks him second among 4-3 OLBs. As much as I love this guy, though, I’m not crazy about this matchup. Miller won’t get you a ton of tackles (he has six solos so far), so you need him to sack the QB. Tennessee currently grades out as the best pass blocking offense (+8.8) and has given up just two sacks on the season. This may be a week to look to better options.
On the Titans side of things, I would not want to have to rely on Barrett Ruud as my LB1 this week. The Broncos gave up the second least fantast points to opposing LBs last season, and that trend looks to be continuing this season. You’re value in this one will be at CB. Obviously, Courtland Finnegan is owned in your league, and for good reason. He graded out at +4.5 for his Week 2 effort against the Ravens, where he had four solos and three passes defensed. He’s a CB1 in all formats this week, and could be a low end DB1 in formats that reward for PDs. The player who may not be owned is Jason McCourty. Devin’s brother has had four solos in each of the first two games, and also has a pick, a sack, and two PDs on the season. If he’s out there on waivers, claim him ASAP. I also like him as a CB1 start this week against a Denver team that gave up the second most fantasy points to opposing CBs last season.
Houston @ New Orleans
All signs in the preseason pointed to it, and now the first two games have confirmed that Brian Cushing is the Texans ILB to own. Through the first two games, Cushing has played 18 more snaps than DeMeco Ryans and has seven more solo tackles (13 for Cushing to six for Ryans). Cushing also just plain looks better. This is a great matchup for him, as the Saints gave up the second most fantasy points to opposing LBs last season. Look for New Orleans to pound Mark Ingram a bit more than they have to this point, which will lead to a big day for Cushing. He makes a rock solid LB1 play this week.
Roman Harper is one of my favorite players to watch on defense. No, he’s not the most technically sound safety. In fact, he currently grades out (-6.2) as the second lowest rated safety here at PFF.com. From the standpoint of pure football, that’s not good at all. Like many of the in-the-box thumping safeties, he’s not a good cover guy. Receivers have been targeted 15 times in his coverage, catching 11 of those balls with two going for TDs. But from a fantasy standpoint, he’s been a stud through the first two games of the season. He’s racked up 11 solos to go along with three sacks and a forced fumble. Look for that to continue this weekend. Houston gave up the fourth most fantasy points to opposing safeties last season, so I like Harper as a top-end DB start in all formats.
New York Jets @ Oakland
The Jets are a frustrating team from an IDP standpoint. They have such a good defense, but this talent just doesn’t translate into fantasy production. David Harris currently leads the team in solo tackles with ten, but did not play the entire game last week due to injury. He’s the best IDP option from the Jets, but you may want to closely monitor his status before plugging him into your lineup. Other than Harris, who if healthy makes a solid LB3 in this one, I would avoid all other Jets in this game and moving forward.
Finally, we see some life out of Rolando McClain. Just when I was about to throw in the towel, McClain goes off for seven solos and a sack against the Bills. This is a nice matchup for McClain, as the Jets gave up the most fantasy points to opposing LBs last season. I like him as a low-end LB2 this week. Another interesting trend through the first two games of the season has been the play of Kamerion Wimbley. Though he’s not fantasy relevant in all but the deepest leagues, Wimbley currently sits as the top rated 4-3 OLB. Through the first two games, he has 11 QB interruptions. That’s more than James Harrison, DeMarcus Ware, Tamba Hali, Cameron Wake, or Brian Orakpo have individually. The one difference is that Wimbley has yet to convert any of these into sacks. I expect that will come, so those of you in big-play formats may want to stash Wimbley.
Baltimore @ St. Louis
The story through the first two games of the season for the Ravens has been the production from CB Lardarius Webb. He currently leads all CBs in tackles with 19 of them. That also ties him with Navorro Bowman for the most solo tackles among all defenders in the league. How has this happened? Well, he’s been targeted 19 times, and receivers have caught 12 of these targets. Look for Sam Bradford to continue this trend this week. There’s a good chance Webb may be a free agent in your league. If he is, grab him and ride this wave while it lasts.
In the preseason, I wrote that James Laurinaitis would join the elite tier of fantasy LBs possibly as soon as this season. Through the first two weeks of the season, Laurinaitis is doing his best to prove me right. He’s racked up 14 solos and six assists, and faces a Ravens team who gave up the third most points to opposing fantasy LBs. I like Laurinaitis as my number two LB this week, and I expect a big game out of him.
Kansas City @ San Diego
In tragedy there is sometimes opportunity. Eric Berry owners are still feeling the sting of losing their stud safety for the season, but all is not lost. Hopefully, those owners were able to grab Jon McGraw, who has racked up 14 solos in place of Berry. As we all know, the Chargers like to air the ball out, and they gave up the most fantasy points to opposing safeties last season. McGraw is in store for another nice day, and makes a good low-end DB1 play, especially in tackle heavy formats.
The Kansas City offense hasn’t been able to generate much this season, and currently grades out as the worst passing offense (-5.5). With Jamaal Charles now on IR, matters are even worse. As a result, there’s not a ton of IDP value to be had in this one from your Chargers. Like we expected, Eric Weddle had a very nice fantasy day last week, recording nine solos. I do not expect a repeat performance. The picture at ILB still has not cleared up between Takeo Spikes and Donald Butler. Though I believe Butler eventually establishes himself as the guy to own, neither make very good plays in this contest.
Atlanta @ Tampa Bay
Curtis Lofton followed his ten solo tackles in Week 1 with eight more last week against the Eagles. The problem with Lofton from an IDP standpoint is that he typically doesn’t fill up the box score beyond the tackles column. So, look for solid tackle numbers again from him, but don’t overvalue him in big-play leagues. John Abraham (+5.9) got off to a hot start to the season with two sacks in Week 1, but then failed to record a sack last week despite playing 21 more snaps than he did the previous week. I expect we see a similar result this week, as the Buccaneers have allowed just four sacks on the season.
Though we may not typically think of Atlanta this way, the Falcons currently sit as the third worst rated team in pass blocking, and have given up the third most sacks to opposing defenses with nine through the first two games. This bodes well for the Tampa Bay defensive line, which has yet to notch a sack this season. If you want to get sneaky at DL, Adrian Clayborn could be an interesting play. He’s played 80 snaps to just 44 for Da’Quan Bowers, and this should be the week where he records his first NFL sack. Another Buccaneer of note in this one is rookie Mason Foster. After playing just 23 snaps in Week 1, Foster shined while Quincy Black was on the sideline with an injury. With Foster getting the nickel snaps, he immediately jumps up to an every week LB2.
Arizona @ Seattle
There’s not much to like in this one, but one player I do like for Arizona is Calais Campbell. Campbell has underachieved thus far, recording just four QB interruptions and zero sacks. But Seattle has given up the second most sacks so far this season with ten of them. The team grades out seventh worst in pass blocking, so I expect Campbell will get his shots at Tavaris Jackson. We’re continuing to monitor Daryl Washington’s status, but even if he plays in this one, I don’t expect much. The Seahawks grade out as the worst overall offense (-27.1).
The big news this week in Seattle is the demotion of former first round pick, Aaron Curry, from the starting lineup. If you happen to own Curry, it’s safe to drop him. K.J. Wright will replace Curry on the strong side, but he has no fantasy value at this point. Owners of David Hawthorne may also have concern based on his play last week. Hawthorne had a nagging injury through the preseason that kept him out in Week 1 and limited him to just 41 of Seattle’s 72 snaps last week. Though I wouldn’t overreact and drop him, keep Hawthorne on your bench until he shows us otherwise. The best IDP bets in this game are the two Seattle safeties. Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas are one and two on the team in tackles and should see plenty of action against this Arizona offense who likes to pass. Chancellor is a great play in tackle-heavy formats, while I like Thomas better in big play leagues.
Green Bay @ Chicago
Through the first two weeks of the season, Desmond Bishop has 18 solo tackles and sack. In many formats, that’s good enough to put Bishop in the top-10, so if you drafted him, you’re sitting pretty. I like this to continue not only this week against the Bears, but also moving forward. The Packers were also hit with an injury last week, losing Nick Collins for the season. Charlie Peprah will now see more snaps, but this doesn’t really change anything on the IDP landscape. Morgan Burnett is still the Packer safety you want. On the season, he has 13 solos, a sack, a forced fumble, a pick, and two passes defensed. Look for the production to continue, and also look for the Packers to rack up the sacks this week. The Bears have given up a league-leading 11 sacks so far. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Clay Matthews notch multiple sacks this week and score huge points in big-play formats.
When researching for this piece, I was really surprised to see that Tim Jennings actually leads the Bears in tackles through the first two weeks. While I’m not going to read too much into his 16 solos, I also don’t believe it’s a fluke. The Tampa-2 has a tendency to inflate tackle numbers from the CBs, and Jennings notched eight in each of the first two games. He’s an extremely sneaky play, but he’s been targeted 17 times this season, and I expect Aaron Rodgers to at least equal this pace. That means plenty of tackle opportunities for those of you hurting at CB.
Pittsburgh @ Indianapolis
I love the Steelers defense, but I really don’t like this matchup for most of their IDPs. Unless it’s garbage time, the Colts offense just hasn’t generated much of anything this season and currently grade out as the second lowest rated offense overall. However, there is still IDP value to be had if you’re a James Harrison or Lamarr Woodley owner. I think we see both players get to Kerry Collins at least once, which could lead to a big play or two, especially with Harrison’s mastery of the strip-sack.
While I thought it would be Pat Angerer’s day last week, he shared the IDP spotlight with Kavell Conner, who had four solos and six assists to three solos and five assists for Angerer. We should see a similar pattern this week, but I again give the edge to Angerer, and like him as an LB3/flex play. Another player to keep an eye one is CB Jacob Lacey. He racked up nine solos last week, and could be an interesting plug and play at DB in tackle-heavy leagues.
Washington @ Dallas
Much to fantasy owners’ delight, LaRon Landry will likely be back in the Redskin’s lineup on Monday night. Even if he’s not fully healthy, he will make an immediate IDP impact. However, let’s all hope that he’s not rushing back too soon. A sneaky player I like in this one is Rocky McIntosh. So far, he’s outperformed London Fletcher, and has a great matchup against the Cowboys, who have given up nice fantasy games to Navorro Bowman and Bart Scott already this season. McIntosh could sneak into your lineup as an LB3/flex play, especially if you lack depth.
Sean Lee. That’s all I really need to say for the Cowboys. He’s likely the top scoring LB in your fantasy league, so hopefully you were lucky enough to get him. Though he may not hold that spot through the entire season, he will finish as an LB1. He continues to anchor the Cowboys and your IDP defense this week. Aside from Lee and DeMarcus Ware, I’m really not crazy about any other Cowboy this week.
That’s all for Week 3. If you have any questions, comments, or just want to talk football, feel free to hit me up on Twitter – @JeffRatcliffe. Good luck this weekend!