Week 2 is in the books; one more week until teams start having bye weeks. I got last week’s plug and play defenses about half right. My Oakland prediction was nearly spot-on, and they proved a valuable pickup. Unfortunately, my Cleveland prediction was way, way off; their contributions included 27 points allowed (yuck) and a forced fumble. After the Bengals only put up 7 points in Week 1, I didn’t expect much offense from them, but it appears good defense was more the cause of that low-scoring game than bad offense. Atlanta allowed 20 points to Carolina but also notched 2 sacks, 1 INT and 2 forced fumbles, so they at least didn’t do a lot of harm to most fantasy lineups.
Week 3 is tougher to project because many lower-tier defenses likely available in free agency have tough matchups, but the show must go on, even if it means reaching a little more than usual.
Plug and Play Defenses – Week 3:
1. Denver – The Broncos’ defense has performed above expectations so far this season. They are currently second in the league in yards per game (253.5) and first in points allowed (13). This week they travel to Oakland to face a team that, while it has talent on offense, hasn’t lit up the scoreboard this year. In Week 1, they relied on their running game and one big passing play for most of their offense, and in Week 2 they were shut down for most of the game against a Chiefs defense that allowed 501 total yards in week 1. Until JaMarcus Russell starts completing more than 40% of his passes (he has completed only 35.2 percent of his passes through two games), the Raiders will likely struggle offensively as teams load up against Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. If Denver’s defense continues its strong play, I would expect a productive game from them. Projection: 10 points allowed, 5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble.
2. Seattle – The Seachickens came through in Week 1 when I picked them as a strong play vs the Rams. Seattle shut out St. Louis in Week 1 but allowed 23 points to the 49ers in Week 2, mostly due to long touchdown runs by Frank Gore. Seattle’s next opponent, the Chicago Bears, haven’t lit up the scoreboard as expected. The Bears’ 32 total points puts them 25th overall in the NFL. In their defense, they played in the unfriendly confines of Lambeau field and followed up against the Steelers, who have one of the NFL’s elite defenses. Even so, I like the Seahawks to do relatively well in this one. Projection: 14 points allowed, 2 sacks, 2 INT, 1 Forced Fumble
3. San Francisco – The 49ers are on the road at the Metrodome, one of the loudest stadiums in the league. It might seem crazy to pick a defense on the road facing Adrian Peterson and the immortal Brett Favre, especially with their two blowout wins to start the season. However, keep in mind that those wins came against the Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns, not exactly the most elite competition. And despite putting up 61 points, the Vikings are only 26th in the NFL in total yardage, indicating that they have capitalized on their opponents’ mistakes and haven’t needed big production from their passing game yet. The Vikings have also allowed 7 sacks so far, something that should continue against a defense playing as well as the Niners’. San Francisco is currently ranked 8th in the league in total defense and has given up only 26 points on the season. Projection: 15 points allowed, 4 sacks, 0 INT, 1 Forced Fumble.
Mike Bazinet wrote this week’s IDP section; he posts in the Cafe’s forums under the handle bazzy_51 and will be collaborating with me to bring more insight into the IDP aspect of fantasy football.
It’s been a pretty harsh first couple of weeks for big name IDPs. Some are already on injured reserve while others will miss significant time. Brian Urlacher and Paul Posluszny are out for the year, while Jerod Mayo is out for an undetermined period of time with a knee injury.
Other Notable Injured Linebackers: Week 3
LeRoy Hill, SEA
Matt Roth, MIA
Jason Williams, DAL
Pisa Tinoisamoa, CHI
David Bowens, CLE
Chike Okeafor, ARI
Lofa Tatupu, SEA
David Thornton, TEN
Several prominent defensive backs have also suffered serious injuries. Troy Polamalu is out for 3-6 weeks with a torn MCL. Leodis McKelvin of the Bills left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury, the severity of which is unknown. Nick Collins of the Green Bay Packers also went down with a clavicle injury and will be re-evaluated Wednesday. If Collins can’t go Sunday, Green Bay will be without both starting safeties, as Atari Bigby is already out with a knee injury. Finally, Eagles CB Asante Samuel injured his neck in Week 2. As of right now he is questionable for Week 3.
Other Notable Injured Defensive Backs: Week 3
Bob Sanders, IND
Brandon Flowers, KC
Terrance McGee, BUF
Kenny Phillips, NYG
Jerraud Powers, IND
With all these injuries, it’s time to find some replacements in free agency. Here are some defensive players who either could step up in the absence of a star defender or may have been overlooked by others in your league. They all should be strong plays this week.
1. LaMarr Woodley, PIT - Woodley has started slowly (2 tackles through 2 weeks) as compared to last year when he recorded 23 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, a forced fumble and one INT in the first five games. Look for this trend to change as Pittsburgh heads to Cincy to take on the Bengals. The Bengals will likely try to run the ball early and often against the Steelers as they did last week at Green Bay when Cedric Benson accumulated 140+ rushing yards. Woodley should be in on some of these running plays, and if Pittsburgh can shut down Cincy’s running game, which they usually do against every opponent, the Bengals will have to go to the air. This plays to Woodley’s strengths as he is a great blitzer, and Carson Palmer isn’t as quick as he once was in the pocket. Projection: 6 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and fumble recovery
2. Thomas Howard, OAK - Howard is widely overlooked because he plays for the Oakland Raiders and because he plays alongside the much better known Kirk Morrison. However, Howard has started off the 2008 season with 17 total tackles through 2 games. Howard has recorded 97+ total tackles 3 years in a row. Don’t look for this trend to change this week in Denver, because the Broncos have rushed the ball 57 times in their first 2 games. Oakland’s pass defense is stout, so I would expect Denver try to run the ball on Oakland early in the game. Projection: 11 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended
3. Scott Shanle, NO - Shanle is widely overlooked because he plays alongside Scott Fujita and Jonathan Vilma. However, he plays at the typically productive weakside linebacker position, and so far that has paid off as he has 16 tackles, more than Fujita and Vilma combined. Look for him to reach double digit tackles against the Bills and Fred Jackson this week. Projection: 12 tackles
4. Elvis Dumervil, DEN - Dumervil is one of the DE/OLB hybrid players who is revolutionizing the NFL and allows the Broncos to run both 4-3 and 3-4 defensive fronts. Dumervil had a down year in 2008 while battling injuries, tallying only 5 sacks. However, he recorded 12 sacks two years ago and is already up to 4 in 2009. Denver has effectively shut down its opponents running games thus far this season and will likely focus on doing so against Oakland because of JaMarcus Russell’s poor play. If they succeed in that regard, it will create sack opportunities for Dumervil. Projection: 4-5 tackles, 2 sacks
1. Charles Tillman, CHI – Tillman is finally healthy after healing from a back injury for most of training camp. In Week 1, he only recorded 2 solo tackles. He rebounded in Week 2, putting up 6 tackles (4 solo) and an interception. This week, the Bears travel to Seattle. With Matt Hasselbeck likely out, Seneca Wallace will step in against a stout Chicago D. I’m expecting Chicago to get an early lead and to hold Seattle’s rushing attack in check, which will force the Seahawks into throwing the ball quite a bit. Projection: 9 tackles, 1 INT
2. Donte Whitner, BUF - Whitner is owned by under 5% of teams in Yahoo! leagues. The former top 10 pick in the 2006 draft has looked like a man possessed this season, recording 10 total tackles in Week 1 and following up with 8 more tackles and an interception returned for a touchdown against Tampa Bay. This week, he will face a tough New Orleans pass game that will give him plenty of opportunities for pass deflections, tackles and interceptions. He will most likely match up with Devery Henderson or Robert Meachem, both respectable receivers. Still, with as many pass attempts as New Orleans takes, Whitner should be in for a productive day. Projection: 8-10 total tackles, 1 INT
3. Nate Clements, SF - Clements had a tall order last week in defending Seattle’s T.J. Houshmandzadeh and rose to the occasion, recording 6 total tackles and 4 passes defended. The savvy vet is one of the best pass defenders but also isn’t afraid to stick his nose in the backfield to make a big hit. The 49ers have played the Cards and Seahawks tough the last 2 weeks and came out 2-0 in large part thanks to their defense. Clements will have his number called again this week to cover Bernard Berrian and Percy Harvin. I believe that Favre will break 30 pass attempts for the first time in a Vikings jersey assuming the Niners can stop Adrian Peterson from repeating his Week 1 performance against Cleveland. Projection: 6-8 tackles, 1 INT, 3-5 passes defended
4. Aaron Rouse, GB - Rouse is filling in for Atari Bigby and did a fine job last week against the Bengals. Rouse is not your everyday household name, but he looked great in blanketing the likes of Coles and Henry, recording 9 tackles. Rouse ended up with a neck stinger but is labeled as good to go for this week against the Rams. Considering the Rams have put up only 9 points in their first two games, Green Bay could potentially take a big lead early, forcing Bulger and the Rams to air it out to keep pace. Projection: 8-10 tackles, 1 INT, 2 passes defended. Update: Despite the good stats in Week 2, Rouse has been waived by the Packers.
Eli Ricke knows absolutely nothing about Fantasy Football that everyone else doesn’t already know. All of his success in Fantasy Football can be attributed entirely to dumb luck. He has been playing Fantasy Football since 1999 and is a habitual liar. You will occasionally run across him in the café forums under the name 204BC, a name that has no particular meaning whatsoever. He just made it up, the same thing he does with most of the advice he gives.
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