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Week 15 Upgrades/Downgrades

UPGRADES

DL James Hall, Detroit (10 solos, 1 sack)

Where did this come from? Hall’s previous career-high for solo tackles in a game was 6, but he somehow managed to come up with 10 last night against the Packers, who have generally been a terrible matchup for opposing defensive linemen. Brett Favre doesn’t take many sacks (19 times in 13 games), but Hall has 2 of those.

DL Reggie Hayward, Jacksonville (5 solos, 2 sacks)

Another performance that seemed to come out of nowhere. Hayward had been nearly invisible with just 6 solo tackles and 0 sacks over his last 6 games before coming through with a huge performance against the Colts yesterday. Any player who gets to Peyton Manning (12 sacks in 13 games) twice in the same game deserves an upgrade, but Hayward needs to be more consistent from week to week.

DL Darrion Scott, Minnesota (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)

After spending 1st round picks on defensive ends the past 2 years (Kenechi Udeze, Erasmus James), Scott was overlooked by most observers but he’s been playing well and has contributed to the defensive turnaround in Minnesota with 15 solo tackles and 3 sacks over his last 5 games.

DL Marcus Tubbs, Seattle (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 1 PD, 1 FF)

The Seahawks lead the league with 44 sacks and have been getting big contributions from some unlikely people. Tubbs had been struggling with a sore calf muscle over the past month or so, but he came off the bench and had a huge game against the 49ers yesterday. He now has 4 sacks, which is twice as many as Grant Wistrom has this year.

LB Zach Thomas, Miami (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)

After missing a couple games with injuries, Thomas returned on Sunday and picked up right where he left off. At 32 years of age, Thomas is averaging almost 8 solo tackles/game and having one of the best seasons of his career.

LB Channing Crowder, Miami (9 solos, 1 asst)

Crowder was drafted to be the MLB of the future in Miami, but his production this year suggests he might be a better fit at WLB. He registered just 4 solo tackles during his 2 starts at MLB in place of Thomas, but has averaged over 5 solos/game during his last 7 starts at WLB.

LB Wali Rainer, Detroit (10 solos)

Rainer has been primarily a backup and special teams player during his time in Detroit, but he got a rare start in place of the injured Boss Bailey at outside linebacker and finished with an impressive 10 solo tackles.

LB Scott Fujita, Dallas (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF)

Fujita has turned out be a very big signing for the Cowboys this year and he made his former team pay for releasing him when he came through with a sack and forced fumble that completely changed the momentum in yesterday’s win over the Chiefs.

LB James Darling, Arizona (9 solos)

Darling had primarily been a backup linebacker for his first 7 years in the league, but he emerged as a solid fantasy contributor last year and is doing it again this year. He’s averaged just under 7 solo tackles/game over the last 5 weeks.

DB Brian Williams, Minnesota (5 solos, 1 asst, 2 INTs, 3 PD, 1 FF)

Fred Smoot returned to the lineup this week but was upstaged by his backup, who was responsible for 3 of the 6 takeaways the Vikings created on defense. This game will probably make Williams a few extra bucks in the offseason when he is due to become a free agent.

DB Brandon McGowan, Chicago (9 solos, 2 asst)

Mike Green replaced an injured Mike Brown in the starting lineup on Sunday but he was so bad that he was benched in the second half for the rookie McGowan, who wound up leading the team in tackles.

DB Pierson Prioleau, Washington (6 solos, 1 sack, 1 PD, 1 FF, 1 FR)

Despite playing primarily in the team’s dime package, Prioleau had a huge game against the Cardinals on Sunday. He recorded his second game in a row with a sack and also added 6 solos, a forced fumble and fumble recovery.

DB Carlos Rogers, Washington (7 solos)

Cornerbacks in Gregg Williams’ defensive system have generally been productive fantasy options and Rogers looks like he could continue the trend with 20 solos, 2 interceptions and 4 passes defensed over his last 3 games.

DOWNGRADES

DL Shaun Ellis, NY Jets (0 tackles)

Ellis has been a major disappointment this year with just 2.5 sacks in 13 games. Things were made even worse yesterday when he suffered a hamstring injury and sat out the second half.

DL Simeon Rice, Tampa Bay (0 tackles)

Despite being healthy and playing against an offensive line that had struggled to protect Jake Delhomme in recent weeks, Rice had his 3rd game of the season with 0 solo tackles. He still needs 1 sack to post his fifth consecutive season with double digit sacks, which would be the fifth longest streak in NFL history.

DL Dwight Freeney, Indianapolis (0 tackles)

After recording 2 sacks a week ago against the Titans, Freeney was shut out by rookie tackle Khalif Barnes yesterday.

DL Bryce Fisher, Seattle (1 solo)

Fisher has 8 sacks on the year and has been a great free agent signing for the Seahawks, but he seems to be cooling off after a great start. He had 23 solos and 6.5 sacks in his first 8 games, but has just 6 solos and 1.5 sacks in his last 5.

LB Chris Claiborne, St Louis (0 tackles)

After coming off the bench to make a team-high 7 solo tackles against the Redskins last week, Claiborne finished with no tackles this week against his former team. It looks like he has been permanently replaced in the starting lineup by Trev Faulk, who has now started 3 straight games at MLB.

LB Shaun Phillips, San Diego (1 solo)

Phillips stepped in for an injured Steve Foley earlier this year and put up 9 solos and 4 sacks in 3 games, but he has just 1 solo tackle in the 2 games since Foley has returned.

LB Mike Vrabel, New England (1 solo)

Vrabel leads the Patriots in tackles by a wide margin, but that is mostly because nearly every other key player on the team has missed time with injuries. He put up solid numbers initially when the team moved him to ILB, but he has just 8 solo tackles over the last 3 games and is being hurt by the team’s dreadful pass defense.

LB Antonio Pierce, NY Giants (2 solos)

Pierce left the game in the first quarter on the Eagles second offensive series with an ankle injury and was unable to return. It looked pretty serious as he was taken to the locker room on a cart, but he was optimistic about being ready to play next week.

DB Darrent Williams, Denver (0 tackles)

Williams injured his groin early in the game on Sunday and was unable to return. Early reports suggest the injury may be serious, which would mean an upgrade for nickel back Domonique Foxworth.

DB Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh (1 solo, 2 asst)

Polamalu remains one of the league’s best safeties, but his fantasy production has dropped off a bit in recent weeks. After finishing with just 3 solo tackles in a shootout against the Bengals a week ago, he came through with an even worse stat line against the Bears yesterday.

DB Deke Cooper, Jacksonville (1 solo)

Cooper has pretty much been a fantasy bust down the stretch this year. He’s finished with 1 or fewer solo tackles in 4 of the last 5 games, which is pretty bad for a starting strong safety.

DB Mike Brown, Chicago (0 tackles)

Brown suffered a pulled calf muscle in practice last week and was forced to miss the Steelers game yesterday. There have been some rumors that the injury could force him to miss a couple weeks, so Brown owners will want to look for other options with the fantasy playoff season coming up.

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