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IDP Strong/Weak Plays

This will be a weekly feature for IDP owners out there who are having some troubles deciding who to start on Sundays. I'm going to analyze the statistics in a few different ways to find favorable matchups and unfavorable matchups and then point out some players who are most likely to be affected by those matchups. I'll provide the reasoning behind these selections so you can think about it and decide for yourselves. I will also review my picks from the week before so you can see how accurate the picks have been. As most people know, predicting performance on a game by game basis can be difficult for offensive players, but that difficulty is often exaggerated with IDPs. Matchups are important, but there are so many other variables that come into play that sometimes you have to just stick with your best players and hope they come through with just one or two big plays. Good luck.

Review of Last Week's Selections

STRONG STARTS

  • DL James Hall, Lions (@ Bears): 1 solo = 1 pt
  • DL Aaron Smith, Steelers (@ Texans): 2 solos = 2 pts
  • DL Chike Okeafor, Cardinals (vs Rams): 3 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack = 7 pts
  • DL Grant Wistrom, Seahawks (@ Falcons): 3 solos = 3 pts
  • LB Danny Clark, Raiders (vs Chiefs): 8 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD = 10 pts
  • LB Shelton Quarles, Buccaneers (vs Bills): 6 solos, 1 sack = 9 pts
  • LB Brad Kassell, Titans (vs Ravens): 5 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD = 11pts
  • LB Eric Barton, Jets (vs Dolphins): 5 solos, 4 asst = 7 pts
  • DB Antrel Rolle, Cardinals (vs Rams): 6 solos = 6 pts
  • DB Travis Fisher, Rams (vs Cardinals): 8 solos, 1 PD = 9 pts
  • DB Chris Crocker, Browns (@ Packers): 4 solos, 1 asst = 4.5 pts

Hit Rate for Week 2: 7/11 (64%)
Year to date: 14/23 (61%)

WEAK STARTS

  • DL Reggie Hayward, Jaguars (@ Colts): 2 solos = 2pts
  • DL Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, Packers (vs Browns): 3 solos, 2 asst = 4pts
  • DL Mike Rucker, Panthers (@ Patriots): 3 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF = 8pts
  • DL Justin Smith, Bengals (vs Vikings): 2 solos, 1 sack, 1 FR = 7pts
  • LB Dan Morgan, Panthers (@ Patriots): 2 solos, 1 asst, 1 FR = 4.5pts
  • LB Derek Smith, 49ers (@ Eagles): 6 solos, 2 asst = 7pts
  • LB Courtney Watson, Saints (@ Giants): 3 solos, 1 asst = 3.5pts
  • LB Odell Thurman, Bengals (vs Vikings): 3 solos, 3 asst, 2 FF = 8.5pts
  • DB Ken Hamlin, Seahawks (vs Falcons): 5 solos, 1 asst = 5.5pts
  • DB Lance Schulters, Dolphins (@ Jets): 4 solos, 1 asst = 4.5pts
  • DB Kenoy Kennedy, Lions (@ Bears): 1 solo, 1 asst = 1.5pts
  • DB Bob Sanders, Colts (vs Jaguars): 9 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD = 11pts

Hit Rate for Week 2: 7/12 (58%)
Year to date: 13/24 (54%)

A brief note about the hit rates: To provide an objective standard to evaluate these selections, 5 fantasy points will be used as the cutoff for DL and 6 fantasy points will be used as the cutoff for LB and DBs. Thus, when a player is listed as a strong start, that means I think he has a good chance to top 5 or 6 points based on his matchup, and when I say a player is a weak start, that means I think he has a good chance to put up fewer than 5 or 6 points. I'll continue to evaluate my success throughout the season to try and provide you with the information you need to make your starting decisions.

STRONG STARTS

  • DL Shaun Ellis, Jets (vs Jaguars)
    Like most of the Jets, Ellis got off to a slow start this year with a bad opener against the Chiefs. He rebounded a bit in week 2 with a statline of 1 solo, 2 asst, and 1 sack to reach the quality start threshold. The Dolphins, however, only rank #28 in fantasy points allowed to opposing DL this year, while the Jaguars are currently ranked #2 after a rough matchup with the Colts that saw Leftwich get sacked 6 times. Thanks to the presence of Dwight Freeney, the Colts certainly have a very intimidating pass rush, but the Jets front 7 is formidable itself. Leftwich is questionable after hurting his knee during last week's game, but is expected to play and the lack of mobility should play right into the hands of Ellis and Abraham.


  • DL Bryce Fisher, Seahawks (vs Cardinals)
    Fisher was signed to offset the loss of Chike Okeafor and he appears to be doing a good job so far with a sack in each of the first 2 games. While it looks as though he's benefited from some favorable matchups already (Jacksonville ranked #2 and Atlanta ranked #4), his good fortune should continue as the Cardinals rank #3 in fantasy points allowed to opposing DL. Kurt Warner is one of the least mobile QBs in the league and he has a tendency to hold onto the ball too long, which leads to plenty of sack opportunities for opponents (8 sacks in first 2 weeks). Look for Fisher and Wistrom to both have good games against their former Rams teammate.


  • DL Aaron Schobel, Bills (vs Falcons)
    For many IDP owners, Schobel has reached must-start status after having led the Bills in sacks for 4 straight seasons and setting a career high with 46 solo tackles last year. He is coming off a bad start against the Bucs last week though (1 solo, 2 asst), so some owners may be second guessing themselves at this point especially with the supermobile Michael Vick coming to town. Despite his mobility though, Vick gets sacked pretty frequently and was taken down 7 times in the first 2 games. That factor along with the Falcons heavy emphasis on the run creates plenty of tackle opportunities and the Falcons currently rank #4 in fantasy points allowed to opposing DL as a result.
  • DL Pat Williams, Vikings (vs Saints)
    Williams was one of the big defensive free agent additions the Vikings made this year, and he's one of the few that have been living up to expectations. After 2 weeks, he has 8 solos, 4 assists, and 1 sack. Additionally, those totals were put up against teams that rank much lower in fantasy points allowed to DL than his opponent this week. The Saints rank #5 in the league, thanks primarily to Aaron Brooks holding onto the ball too long and the team's consistently ineffective running game. Kevin Williams should continue to see most of the attention from blockers and that should allow Williams to consistently put up good tackle numbers.


  • LB Mike Peterson, Jaguars (@ Jets)
    Peterson had a very productive season in 2004, nearly reaching 100 solo tackles and setting a career-high with 5 sacks. After an unimpressive performance against the Seahawks in week 1 (4 solos), he blew up last week against the Colts with 9 solos, 4 assists, 1 INT, and 1 PD. Peterson is undersized for the MLB position, but his speed and coverage ability allow him to be involved in nearly every play. The Jets currently rank #2 in the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing LBs, so Peterson and WLB Daryl Smith should both be in for good games this week.


  • LB Julian Peterson, 49ers (vs Cowboys)
    Julian Peterson got his name in the news this week after guaranteeing a victory against the Cowboys. While that may help motivate the Cowboys, it should also motivate Peterson to come out and have a big game if he wants to avoid a lot of post-game criticism. He's one of the most athletic LBs in the league and has had quality starts in both games this year (10 solos, 4 assists, 2.5 sacks, 1 PD). The Cowboys rank #4 in the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing LBs, and Peterson should be heavily involved in defending two of the Cowboys biggest weapons in Julius Jones and Jason Witten.


  • LB Shelton Quarles, Bucs (@ Packers)
    The Bucs spent a 2nd round pick on ILB Barrett Ruud who was expected to challenge Quarles for a starting job this year, but Quarles isn't going to give up his job without a fight. After 2 weeks, he leads the team in tackles (13), sacks (1), FF (2), and also has a safety. He's clearly on a roll and look for it to continue with a trip to Lambeau this week. The Packers rank #6 in fantasy points allowed to opposing LBs, and Browns MLB Andra Davis collected 12 solos and 7 assists against them last week. The interior of the Packers line is inexperienced, which should make it easy for the DTs to keep blockers away from Quarles and allow him to make plenty of plays.


  • LB Odell Thurman, Bengals (@ Bears)
    As well as the Bengals offense has played in the first 2 weeks, the defense isn't too far behind thanks in large part to the great play of rookie MLB Odell Thurman. He immediately upgraded the run defense with his toughness, but also added an INT in the first game and has established himself as an everydown LB. His tackle numbers haven't been as high as one might hope, but his knack for making big plays has carried him (1 INT, 1 PD, 2 FF). This week, he'll face a Bears offense that ranks #8 in fantasy points allowed to opposing LBs. The Bears are coming off a blowout win over the Lions, but offensively they are pretty conservative and should give Thurman plenty of tackle opportunities with runs and short passes.


  • DB Marcus Trufant, Seahawks (vs Cardinals)
    Trufant is a very promising young physical CB who put up a very impressive 83 solo tackles and 5 INTs last year. He got off to a great start this year with 7 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF, and a PD against the Jaguars in week 1, but then disappeared last week against the Falcons with only 1 solo and 1 assist. Look for a rebound performance this week as the Cardinals rank #1 in the league in fantasy points allowed to opposing DBs. With Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin both getting plenty of targets, Trufant should have his hands full and will get plenty of opportunities to make plays.


  • DB Dwight Smith, Saints (@ Vikings)
    The Saints are very high on Dwight Smith and think he'll bring a lot of stability to their secondary this year. He has great range, is a good playmaker, and can deliver a heavy blow despite his small size (5'10", 200). After 2 games, he hasn't made much of an impact with just 7 solos and 2 assists, but look for that to change this week in a matchup against the Vikings. After 2 weeks, the Vikings rank #2 in fantasy points allowed to opposing DBs. The loss of Moss hasn't stopped them from throwing the ball as much as any team in the league, and Culpepper's interception total (8) leads the league by far.


  • DB Charles Tillman, Bears (vs Bengals)
    Reports in Chicago suggest that Tillman hasn't been all that impressive this year, but you couldn't tell from looking at his fantasy numbers. After 2 weeks, he has 14 solo tackles, 1 assist, 2 PDs, and a FF. This week, the high powered Bengals offense comes to town so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Tillman matched up against Chad Johnson early and often. If that happens, look for Tillman to put up very good numbers once again as Johnson is a huge focus of the Bengals offense and they will undoubtedly give him plenty of targets.


  • DB Ronde Barber, Bucs (@ Packers)
    Barber is probably the most consistent fantasy CB in the league. While playing in the Bucs cover-2 style of defense, he has managed to put up very solid tackle numbers over the years in addition to sacks and INTs that give him a chance for a huge scoring week at any time. Surprisingly, he didn't do much against the Vikings in week 1, but managed a solid 5 solo, 1 assist, 1 PD performance against the Bills in week 2. This week, however, he should be in for a big game as the Packers rank #5 in fantasy points allowed to DBs. In his last game against the Packers in 2003, Barber managed 9 solos and 4 assists.

WEAK STARTS

  • DL Marques Douglas, 49ers (vs Cowboys)
    Douglas was brought over to the 49ers from the Ravens by HC Mike Nolan so he had a head start on most linemen there because of his familiarity with the system. He didn't show much in the preseason, or in the 1st game against the Rams but came through with a solid 2 solo, 2 assist, 1 sack, 1 FF performance against the Eagles in week 2. While the Rams and Eagles look to have been pretty favorable matchups overall, the Cowboys rank dead last in fantasy points allowed to opposing DL. In fairness, the Cowboys have faced two of the weaker defensive lines in the league from a fantasy perspective in the Chargers and Redskins, but the 49ers aren't much better. Bledsoe would normally be the type of QB you want your linemen playing against, but he's only been sacked 4 times after 2 games so the Cowboys line appear to be doing a decent job of giving him time to throw.


  • DL Richard Seymour, Patriots (@ Steelers)
    Seymour missed part of training camp this year due to a holdout, but began his year with a solid game against the Raiders (6 solos, 2 assists, 1 PD). He followed that up with a 4 solo performance against the Panthers last week, in which the Patriots lost and were run over by Stephen Davis on his way to 3 TDs. Both Oakland and Carolina ranked in the bottom third in terms of fantasy points allowed to opposing DL, but the Steelers rank even lower at #31. Seymour did manage 4 solos and 5 assists in the regular season game vs Pittsburgh last year, which was his season-high for combined tackles, but don't look for him to get many sack opportunities.


  • DL Aaron Smith, Steelers (vs Patriots)
    Smith probably had the best season of his career in 2004 with 8 sacks, 31 solo tackles, and 3 FF. Despite a pretty favorable matchup against the Texans in week 2 though, he hasn't done much so far this season (4 solos, 3 assists). This week he'll face a Patriots team that ranks #30 in fantasy points allowed to opposing DL. In 2 games against the Patriots last year, Smith managed 4 solos, 3 assists, and 1 sack and failed to reach the 5pt quality start threshold in either. Tom Brady is difficult to sack and the Patriots running game hasn't been very effective thus far, so Smith will have a hard time coming up with enough points to help your squad.


  • DL Jevon Kearse, Eagles (vs Raiders)
    The Eagles made two huge additions last year in Terrell Owens and Jevon Kearse. While Owens has played up to expectations, Kearse has to be considered a significant disappointment at this point. His 7.5 sacks last year was the lowest total for him in a year in which he played at least 14 games, and he has been held sackless this year despite two easy matchups against the 49ers and Falcons. This week, he'll face Kerry Collins and the Raiders who rank #24 in fantasy points allowed to opposing DL thanks to one of the better offensive lines in the league. Kearse generally lines up at the LDE spot, which means he'll primarily be facing Robert Gallery who is quick enough to neutralize him.


  • LB Dat Nguyen, Cowboys (@ 49ers)
    Some wondered how Nguyen would do with the Cowboys plan to use more 3-4 fronts this year, but so far he has performed very well. After a solid game against LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers in week 1, he came through with a 7 solo, 1 assist, 1 sack game against the Redskins. Whereas those teams have solid running games and ranked in the middle third of the league, the 49ers have no running game and currently rank dead last in fantasy points allowed to opposing LBs. Nguyen is a risky player to bench, but if the 49ers offense can't sustain drives he'll have a hard time putting up decent numbers this week.


  • LB Eric Barton, Jets (vs Jaguars)
    Barton was a solid free agent pickup for the Jets last year, and his fantasy numbers allowed him to finish as the #21 ranked fantasy LB. While Vilma is the focal point of the defense, Barton provides consistent all-around play at WLB and gets to play in a lot of space thanks to the attention placed on RDE John Abraham. Barton struggled against the Chiefs, but managed 5 solos and 4 assists against the Dolphins last week. This week, however, he'll face a Jaguars team that currently ranks #30 in fantasy points allowed to opposing LBs. He'll likely need a big play (e.g., sack or INT) to reach the quality start threshold this week.


  • LB James Farrior, Steelers (vs Patriots)
    Despite a less than stellar 67 solo tackles, Farrior was one of the most impressive defensive players in the league last year. His big-play numbers were phenomenal (3 sacks, 4 INTs, 12 PD, 3 FF, 3 FR) and put him in contention for defensive player of the year. Through 2 weeks, he seems to be picking up right where he left off with 9 solos, 8 assists, and a FF. This week, however, he faces a Patriots team that doesn't make many mistakes and currently ranks #29 in fantasy points allowed to opposing LBs. If the Patriots commit to running Corey Dillon, Farrior should still put up solid numbers but don't be surprised if this is one of his lowest fantasy totals of the season as he only had 4 solos, 1 assist in the 2004 regular season matchup against the Pats.


  • LB Edgerton Hartwell, Falcons (@ Bills)
    Many IDP owners had very high expectations for Hartwell once he left Baltimore and became a starting MLB, but he's been a slight disappointment thus far. His season got off to a rough start with just 1 solo tackle against the Eagles. Hartwell isn't great in coverage so is often replaced in the nickel package, which limited the snaps against a pass-heavy team like Philly. He did manage to rebound a bit in week 2 with 5 solos, 3 assists, and a PD against the Seahawks last week. This week, he'll face the Bills who currently rank #27 in fantasy points allowed to opposing LBs. If the Bills can get the running game going and give McGahee 25 carries, Hartwell should do fine, but the Bills offense has been struggling this year and the Falcons have a good enough defense to limit their opportunities.


  • DB Chris Crocker, Browns (@ Colts)
    Crocker was a surprise starter at SS over Sean Jones in the season opener, and he blew up with 8 solos, 2 assists, and a sack. Things calmed down a bit in week 2 as he finished with just 4 solos and 1 assist. Both of those games came against very favorable matchups in the Bengals and Packers, but this week things could get tougher as the Colts currently rank dead last in fantasy points allowed to opposing DBs. It is a bit surprising to see the pass-heavy Colts ranked so low but even if they return to their high flying ways this week, it is not a great matchup for the strong safety.


  • DB Madieu Williams, Bengals (@ Bears)
    Williams was one of the most valuable IDP rookies last year, but his production appears to be taking a hit thanks to the improved play from the front seven. After 2 weeks, he only has 6 solos, 3 assists, and 2 PDs and he didn't do much with a great matchup against the Vikings last week. The Bears currently rank #31 in fantasy points allowed to opposing DBs. With a rookie QB under center and a questionable WR group (apart from Muhammad), the Bears are very conservative on offense and won't give Williams many chances to make plays.


  • DB Terrence Kiel, Chargers (vs Giants)
    Kiel is a solid young safety who is off to a great start this year. After an 8 solo, 1 FF performance against the Cowboys in week 1, he came through with a 6 solo, 1 sack performance against the Broncos last week. This week, Eli Manning (who refused to play for the Chargers) and the Giants come to town and the Chargers are trying to avoid an 0-3 start. After 3 weeks and a 2-0 start, the Giants only rank #30 in fantasy points allowed to DBs. They have been relying heavily on their running game, defense, and special teams and haven't asked Manning to throw much. Adrian Wilson of the Cardinals did manage 7 solos and an assist in week 1 against them though, so you may want to take a chance on Kiel if you don't have a better option.


  • DB Anthony Henry, Cowboys (@ 49ers)
    Anthony Henry currently ranks #1 in scoring among all fantasy DBs, but most of that production came in week 1 against the Chargers (10 solos, 2 assists, 1 INT, 5 PDs). In week 2 against the Redskins, he fell off considerably with just 3 solos, 4 assists, and 2 PDs. That was still enough to make him a quality start, but he should have a tough time even matching that total this week against the 49ers who currently rank #27 in fantasy points allowed to opposing DBs. The 49ers are going to have trouble sustaining drives against the Cowboys, so Henry's tackle numbers should be down and he'll likely need an interception to have a good day.
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