The IDP Breakdown - Week 2 Edition
It wasn’t pretty, but the Jets got the job done in Week 1 and escaped with a win over the Bucs. There wasn’t much to get excited about from an IDP standpoint, but we did get a glimpse of some possibilities. Starting strong safety Antonio Allen put up six total tackles against a lackluster Tampa offense. However, against the pass happy Patriots, he’s an ultra sneaky DB3. Likewise, FS Dawan Landry makes for a low-end DB2 play. Demario Davis may or may not be a viable IDP option this season, but I’m willing to take a shot on him this week as an LB3 with LB2 upside against a Patriots team that yielded the fifth most fantasy points per game to opposing linebackers last season.
While it appeared as though Brandon Spikes would finally have strong IDP value this season, he left the game after only a few snaps due to dehydration. Spikes managed to play just 16 snaps, with Dont’a Hightower replacing him in the nickel packages. If I’m a Spikes owner, I want no part of this. It’s a good idea to cut bait for a more reliable option. Rob Ninkovich showed why he’s one of IDP’s best-kept secrets with eight total tackles in Week 1. He won’t get you double-digit sacks, but his high tackle floor makes Ninkovich a rock solid DL2 play every week.
St. Louis @ Atlanta
Robert Quinn went out and had himself a day against the Cards in Week 1 with a mammoth three sacks. His performance comes as no surprise, but don’t expect this out of Quinn every week. There’s a lot of volatility at the defensive end position from week-to-week in terms of fantasy scoring. While you will have to endure some bad weeks, Quinn’s ceiling is too high to ever consider benching. Rookie Alec Ogletree came off the field in the dime packages, but he still managed 65 snaps in Week 1. He also put up eight total tackles. He’s now squarely on the fantasy radar, and deserves weekly consideration as an LB4.
As I suspected, Akeem Dent played an every-down role for the Falcons with Stephen Nicholas banged up. Dent struggled in coverage, but he did enough to likely keep the subpackages duties even after Nicholas returns. Nicholas no longer has fantasy value and should be dropped in all formats. Likewise, Dent is a priority add as roster depth. I’m not going as far as recommending you start him just yet, but he’ll be an asset when the bye weeks roll around. Kroy Biermann also played an every-down role at strong side linebacker. There’s still a chance that he keeps the job over Nicholas. Biermann is still classified as a defensive lineman on fantasy commissioner sites, and gives fantasy owners more bang for their buck, especially in tackle heavy scoring systems.
San Diego @ Philadelphia
In a strong matchup against the Texans, both Donald Butler and Bront Bird posted double-digit tackles on Monday night. Butler’s performance wasn’t shocking, but Bird’s certain raised more than a few eyebrows. If you’re looking for the 2013 breakout linebacker, don’t get too carried away here. Remember that Bird is only filling in for the injured Manti Te’o. While Te’o isn’t due back any time soon, I’d avoid Bird as a long-term solution. His 14 tackles came against a run-heavy Texans offense that was one of the best fantasy matchups for linebackers last season, so he’s an ideal streaming candidate. More importantly, Bird came off the field in passing situations. Against more balanced or pass-heavy offenses, Bird’s fantasy value will be limited. Still, you can expect Chargers IDPs to play a ton of snaps in this one. Philadelphia ran 83 plays last week, and head coach Chip Kelly said he’d like the team to execute even faster. If you’re hurting at LB3, Bird should again post strong numbers this week.
The Eagles defense was by no means as bad as I had anticipated, showing aggressive blitzes and only missing three tackles against Washington on Monday night. While Mychal Kendricks struggled in coverage, he managed a solid 10 total tackles (six solo) in the season opener. The pace of the Philadelphia offense certainly helps opposing IDPs, but it should also benefit the Eagles defenders as well. Kendricks will continue to get plenty of opportunities to make plays and remains an LB2. DeMeco Ryans also posted a strong stat line of eight total tackles and a sack. Of the two players, Kendricks is much more likely to consistently produce. I’m leaving Ryans in free agency. Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams also showed their IDP relevance in Week 1. Fletcher posted seven total tackles, and Williams recorded a sack and an impressive diving interception. Fletcher is dealing with a concussion and may not play this weekend, but Williams deserves low-end CB2 consideration in CB-required leagues against the shaky Phillip Rivers..
Dallas @ Kansas City
Okay, so it wasn’t a massive Week 1 for Sean Lee, but don’t jump to conclusions. The Giants run game didn’t do Lee any favors. This week he faces a Chiefs team that will give Lee a lot of opportunities to do what he does best. He’s still an elite fantasy option. DeMarcus Ware also struggled in what was a tough matchup against the Giants. A closer look shows that he actually was very effective despite not showing up in the stats sheet. Ware posted an impressive six QB pressures on the day. Be patient. The sacks will come. You might also be taking a long look at Barry Church after he posted eight Week 1 tackles. Keep in mind that this production was heavily matchup dependent, and Church is much less likely to see that kind of action against a Chiefs team that is much more reliant on short passes. Church will have fantasy value at various points this season, but this is not one of those points.
After posting just seven interceptions last season, Kansas City picked off two passes in the season opener. While that certainly bodes positively for this unit, I’m more interested with the pressure the Chiefs were able to generate. Justin Houston is a budding IDP rock star. He put up three sacks on six QB pressures in Week 1. Of course, this was against the Jags, but Houston is now clearly among the league’s elite rush outside linebackers. He should be owned in all balanced and big-play scoring formats. Dontari Poe also turned heads with his performance in the opener with six total tackles and 1.5 sacks. Be forewarned that he faced a poor Jags offensive line, and similar numbers are extremely unlikely in future weeks. Don’t rush out to pick up Poe.
Miami @ Indianapolis
I didn’t think it was possible, but Cameron Wake actually looks better this season. The beastly pass rusher posted 10 QB pressures against the Browns in Week 1 and converted three for sacks. If you own him, you have yourself and IDP stud. You may not be thinking the same thing of Dannell Ellerbe, who posted an uninspiring six total tackles on Sunday. I’m not willing to give up on Ellerbe just yet, though it could be another rough week. The Colts yielded the least fantasy points per game to opposing linebackers last season. Keep that in mind, and don’t overreact if Ellerbe posts another mediocre fantasy performance. Reshad Jones also had a modest opener with six tackles. If you’re considering dropping him, just remember that he actually led the team in solo tackles. Better days are ahead for Jones, and he gets back on track this week against the much more fantasy friendly Colts.
LaRon Landry and Antoine Bethea recorded a combined 26 total tackles on Sunday. There’s no doubt that this is an impressive stat line, but it’s not wise to read too much into the numbers. Kelvin Sheppard started in place of Pat Angerer, who was sidelined with a concussion. Sheppard was arguably the worst linebacker on the field in Week 1, leaving Landry and Bethea to man cleanup duty. Angerer has been cleared to play, so Landry and Bethea will have fewer chances to rack up tackles in this one. Still, both proved they’re still viable DB2 options. Start them as such. As for Angerer, I’m not ready to get him in my starting lineup just yet. There’s still a chance he could rotate with Kavell Conner, who was also sidelined in the opener. Angerer is nothing more than a roster stash until we get more clarity on this situation.
Tennessee @ Houston
The Titans faced a bad Pittsburgh team (sorry Steelers fans) in Week 1, which usually doesn’t result in massive fantasy numbers. Still, we did get an indication of what we’re working with in Tennessee. Zach Brown posted eight solo tackles, two sacks, and a pass defensed. He’s the Titans linebacker to own, and will flirt with LB1 numbers in a very favorable matchup against the Texans this week. I’m not crazy about Moise Fokou going forward just based on a talent standpoint, but he does make for a sneaky LB3 play in this one. Derrick Morgan’s week wasn’t massive, but he did convert one of his three QB pressures for a sack. I still like him to reach double-digits this season, and have him locked in my DL2 tier. Bernard Pollard managed six total tackles (five solo), but that was good enough for second on the team for the week. He’ll have a lot more opportunities against Houston and is my No. 1 defensive back for Week 2.
It’s never a good idea to panic in fantasy football, but I can understand why J.J. Watt owners might be following his three total tackles and no sacks in Week 1. Trust me when I say that you have nothing to worry about. Watt was actually very impressive in this game. While it’s unfortunate that his play didn’t translate to the stats sheet, I have no concerns about Watt. In fact, I think it’s the perfect time to buy low on him. Brian Cushing managed just five Week 1 tackles, but salvaged a strong fantasy week with a fourth quarter pick-six. There weren’t a lot of tackles to go around for the Texans on Monday night, so like Watt, there’s no need to worry about Cushing. He’s still a solid high-end LB2 option.
Washington @ Green Bay
Perry Riley and London Fletcher had extremely productive fantasy days in Week 1 with a combined 28 total tackles. Keep in mind that this came against the snap happy Eagles offense, and both are due for regression. That Packers were a middle of the road fantasy matchup for linebackers last season, so Riley and Fletcher come back to earth this week. Fletcher is still a high floor LB2, while Riley remains in the LB3 tier for now. Bacarri Rambo has an awesome last name. He also posted double-digit tackles against the Eagles. While this was a strong fantasy performance, Rambo was not particularly good on the field. Brandon Meriweather appears to be on track to play this week, moving Rambo back to free safety. Rambo is an intriguing DB3 play this week, though his poor play in Week 1 is concerning.
A late scratch had Morgan Burnett owners scrambling on Sunday. The all-world safety is dealing with a hamstring issue, but he is practicing. If I had to guess, I’d say he plays this weekend. While I am a doctor, I’m no physician, so this is all just speculation based on the practice reports. Burnett owners obviously want to keep a close eye on this situation. If he plays, Burnett is a must start. Brad Jones was rock solid in the opener, posting 10 total tackles (seven solo) and notching two QB pressures. He’s squarely in the LB2 tier. The same can’t be said for A.J. Hawk, who continued to come off the field in most subpackages. Hawk will only have fantasy value against run-heavy offenses this season.
Cleveland @ Baltimore
Even with Ahtyba Rubin sidelined, the Cleveland pass rush still managed three Week 1 sacks. Two of them came from Desmond Bryant, who looked extremely good at defensive end. Bryant now deserves DL3 consideration, though it’s unreasonable to expect multi-sack games out of him on a consistent basis. Unfortunately, this may have been his best fantasy performance of the season. Still, we now know his ceiling, and he’s worth a roster spot. As I had expected, D’Qwell Jackson was used as a pass rusher in Week 1. While he had no sacks, Jackson managed four QB pressures. Sacks will be a nice bonus to his fantasy value. Jackson is locked in as an LB1.
Peyton Manning absolutely torched the Ravens defense in Week 1, but don’t let this historic performance cloud your vision. Baltimore is a lot better than they showed in Week 1. Owners hoping to strike gold with LB Arthur Brown will have to play the waiting game this season. Josh Bynes played 68-of-74 snaps, while Brown played just six snaps. I’ve said numerous times that I don’t believe this situation is anywhere near resolved. Brown’s lack of playing time was likely a calculated decision, keeping the rookie off the field against Manning. We should get a better sense of how the Ravens plan to use Brown this week, but I’m avoiding both players for now.
Carolina @ Buffalo
There’s no denying that Luke Kuechly isn’t just the Carolina linebacker you want to own, he’s the linebacker to own this season. While it was almost a disappointment to fantasy owners that he did not reach double-digit tackles (he had nine total tackles), Kuechly was great on the field. He’s going to be fun to watch all season long. If you’re digging a little deeper, you may be looking at the Panthers’ linebacker situation as a spot to mine some potential fantasy gold. Thomas Davis and Jon Beason bookend Kuechly, and both players have been fantasy commodities in the past. However, the question was whether one player would emerge as a clear-cut three-down guy. After Week 1, it looks as though that may have happened, with Davis playing all 66 Panthers’ defensive snaps, while Beason played just 31. The dynamic Davis is an intriguing LB3, while Beason is now off the fantasy radar.
If you drafted Jairus Byrd, you likely have a big headache on your hands. The disgruntled defensive back held out of camp, and is now dealing with planar fasciitis in both feet. Byrd sat out Week 1, and has reportedly said he will not play until he’s 100 percent. Byrd owners could be waiting for a while for that to happen. In the meantime, Aaron Williams slid over to free safety and Da’Norris Searcy got the start at strong safety. While Searcy picked up a gift fumble and returned it for a touchdown, he also came off the field for Jim Leonard at times. That’s not good news if you made a sneaky Searcy pickup last week. I wouldn’t anticipate much to change this week, as Searcy and Leonard will both see the field. Neither is a particularly desirable play this week. If I had to choose would, I’d go with Searcy as my DB3, but I wouldn’t be too happy about it.
Minnesota @ Chicago
The Vikings failed to register a sack against Detroit in Week 1, but don’t jump to any conclusions. Jared Allen and Brian Robison were both very effective pass rushers, recording a combined 11 QB pressures. The sacks will come, and both players will be fine going forward. As expected, Erin Henderson and Chad Greenway played the every-down roles at linebacker, while Desmond Bishop did not play a single snap. For now, Bishop should not be rostered. However, it’s a good idea to keep a close eye on what the Vikings do in the coming weeks. If we see Bishop getting worked in, it’s time to pounce on him. Bishop at 100 percent is a superior player to Henderson, and I still suspect he ultimately overtakes Henderson for nickel duties.
Sorry Jon Bostic owners. I warned you in last week’s Breakdown to avoid Bostic because D.J. Williams would be rotating with him. In hindsight, it was actually much worse, as Williams got the start and Bostic didn’t play at all. This is the proverbial nail in Bostic’s fantasy coffin for 2013. If Bostic can’t beat out a player who barely played in the preseason, we know exactly how the Bears’ coaching staff feels about him. He’s droppable in all redraft formats, but don’t run out and pick up Williams. Lance Briggs and James Anderson are the every-down linebackers, and I don’t see that changing. Like I said last week, Briggs is still the only safe bet here. While Julius Peppers used to be a safe bet, I don’t know if I can say that following last week’s dreadful performance. He’s dipped into the mid-DL2 range in my rankings and could fall further with another poor performance.
New Orleans @ Tampa Bay
Throughout the preseason, we saw the Saints deploy Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins in three-down roles, while rookie Kenny Vaccaro came on the field in the subpackages. Of course, that’s not what we saw in Week 1. Instead in was Jenkins and Vaccaro as the every-down players, and Harper came on the field in the three-safety “Big Nickel” packages. Harper still played 49-of-56 snaps, and was obviously a fantasy factor. However, it’s going to be tough to trust him on an every week basis in that role. He’s no longer a DB1 consideration. Of this bunch, the most intriguing player for me is Vaccaro. He saw 8-of-13 run snaps in the box, which bodes positively for his tackle potential. For now, I’m keeping Vaccaro on the bench, but I want to make sure that he’s on my bench and not one of my opponent’s.
The Bucs/Jets game was just plain ugly, but there were some interesting IDP takeaways. Mason Foster was playing subpackage snaps along with Lavonte David. As I’ve said before, Foster can be a very productive fantasy linebacker with a full compliment of snaps. Just be conscious of matchup if you happened to grab Foster. When the Bucs go to dime, David is their lone linebacker. Against the Saints, we’re likely to see a lot of dime packages, so this isn’t the week to start Foster. Da’Quan Bowers is now a situational player and is off the fantasy radar. As for Mark Barron, he predictably didn’t put up a ton of fantasy points against the Jets, but the Saints are a much better matchup. Barron is a top 5 defensive back play this week.
Detroit @ Arizona
St. Louis absolutely destroyed the Arizona offensive line in Week 1. That bodes positively for the stout Lions’ front four. Ndamukong Suh posted the dreaded fantasy goose egg in Detroit’s opening week win over the Vikings, but don’t be concerned. Suh was arguably one of the best pass rushers in Week 1 with eight QB pressures. Both Suh and DT Nick Fairley make for borderline DL2 plays this week. I’d also be comfortable with rolling the dice on rookie Ziggy Ansah. While Ansah was used in a situational role against the Vikings, he’s not this year’s version of Bruce Irvin. Look for Ansah’s snap count to increase in this one, but keep in mind that you’re starting him for upside. A low fantasy total is certainly well within the realm of possibility from Ansah.
Both Jasper Brinkley and Karlos Dansby posted eight solo tackles last week. There are two important things we need to note here. First, the St. Louis home stat crew is essentially allergic to assisted tackles, so don’t expect these totals on a weekly basis. Second, Brinkley is only in the starting lineup until Daryl Washington returns from suspension. If you plan to stream your LB3, then sure, pick up Brinkley for this one. However, if you’re looking for a long-term solution, Brinkley is not your guy. Tyrann Mathieu played nickel corner in Week 1, and was as good as advertised with seven solo tackles and an impressive forced fumble. He’ll see the field a lot in this one and makes for a sneaky DB3 play.
Jacksonville @ Oakland
Entering the season, it appeared as though Russell Allen was locked into the every-down role along with Paul Posluszny for the Jags. However, in Week 1 Allen came off the field in nickel situations with Geno Hayes getting those duties. This is a big concern for Allen owners, though I wouldn’t drop him just yet. You can’t start him, but keep a close eye on how the Jags use their linebackers. If it’s Hayes as the three-down guy again this week, cut Allen loose. Jason Babin managed four QB pressures against the Chiefs, converting one for a sack. He’s now a borderline DL2, and is essentially all the Jags have in terms of a pass rush.
As I’ve been saying all preseason, Lamarr Houston is really good. He posted a whopping eight QB pressures against the Colts, managing a sack and five total tackles. He’s squarely in the DL2 tier. We also saw a strong performance out of DE Jason Hunter, who also posted a sack on four QB pressures. I’m not sold on Hunter just yet as anything more than a bye week fill in, but he should be rostered in deeper leagues. Nick Roach led the team with nine total tackles in the opener. He’s not the best play this week, but still remains an LB2 going forward.
Denver @ New York Giants
The loss of Von Miller didn’t appear to have as much impact on the Broncos as I had initially anticipated. Miller’s saga is far from over, as he could now potentially be facing more suspension time. If more games are added, Miller becomes essentially unrosterable. Stay tuned. With Miller out, Shaun Phillips certainly picked up the slack, recording 2.5 sacks on seven QB pressures. Keep in mind that Phillips is not an every-down player. He’s best suited to big play scoring systems, and should be avoided in tackle-heavy leagues. Duke Ihenacho looked fantastic in the opener, and is an early candidate for 2013’s breakout IDP. He’s almost certainly now owned in your league, but grab him if he isn’t. Ihenacho is a solid DB2 option this week. Wesley Woodyard appears to be on track to play, but Paris Lenon will get the start if Woodyard can’t go. Lenon would be a sneaky start in deeper leagues.
Jason Pierre-Paul played 51 snaps on Sunday night against the Cowboys. That’s fantastic news if you’re a Pierre-Paul owner, as he was expected to only play a limited role. He’s back as an every-week start. Justin Tuck appears to be going through a bit of a renaissance in 2013, as the former elite fantasy option looked strong in Week 1, posting eight total tackles and a half-sack. You likely grabbed Tuck at a value on draft day, and now have yourself a DL2. Spencer Paysinger is the only every-down Giants linebacker, which means no Giants linebacker should be on your roster. But Ryan Mundy should be on fantasy rosters. The former Steeler took over for the injured Stevie Brown, and posted six tackles and an interception that he nearly returned for a touchdown. Mundy is now a DB3.
San Francisco @ Seattle
Last season, the Seahawks were the third best fantasy matchup for linebackers, and the 49ers just so happen to have perhaps the best linebacker duo in the league with Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Both players make for LB1s this week, and I have Bowman as a top 3 option. Rookie FS Eric Reid turned heads with his seven-tackle performance in Week 1, but don’t get too carried away. Remember that this came against the Packers, who are much more reliant on the pass than the Seahawks. Don’t expect a repeat performance out of Reid against a Seattle team that gave up the least fantasy points per game to safeties last season.
Remember that it’s never a good idea to overreact to what transpires in Week 1. Bobby Wagner owners need to take that advice to heart. Your linebacker is still a stud, and the good news is that he doesn’t have to face the anemic Panthers’ offense every week. Wagner gets back on track in this one. We could see the season debuts of both Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons in this one. I’m reluctant to trust either in my starting lineup until we see them play. There’s a good chance we could see a heavy rotation, which will serious cap the fantasy potential of either player.
Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati
While the Steelers offense looked abysmal in the opener, the defense wasn’t terrible. Ryan Clark showed that he’s still a viable fantasy option, with 13 total tackles (seven solo). He’s a DB2 until further notice. Lawrence Timmons wasn’t nearly as productive, with just five total tackles. But like I just said about Bobby Wagner, don’t overreact. Timmons will be just fine, and is still an LB2. Larry Foote will not be just fine, as the linebacker landed on injured reserved. Kion Wilson will assume the starting job opposite Timmons, but I’m not rushing out to pick him up. It’s unclear the Steelers’ intentions for Wilson, and he could very well play a two-down role. Foote’s injury perhaps bodes most positively for Troy Polamalu, who saw 75 percent of his run snaps in the box last week. I’m grabbing Polamalu as a lottery ticket in every league I can.
Start your Bengals defensive linemen. With Maurkice Poncey on injured reserve, this Steelers line is incredibly suspect. Geno Atkins, Michael Johnson, and Carlos Dunlap are all top 15 defensive linemen this week. I’m still reluctant to place my trust in Vontaze Burfict as anything more than a low-end LB2. Rey Maualuga was predictably not good in Week 1, but he’s still out there a lot. This will limit Burfict’s fantasy upside going forward.
Jeff Ratcliffe is the Assistant Managing Editor and resident IDP maven of Pro Football Focus Fantasy. Follow him on Twiter – @JeffRatcliffe.