Elvis Dumervil is making others feel his pain
For IDP fantasy teams, yesterday's games brought another slew of injuries. Top IDP DB, Leodis McKelvin was perhaps the biggest fantasy casualty. He can be dropped in all but dynasty and keeper leagues. The Bills' Donte Whitner is also out for an as yet undetermined amount of time after requiring surgery on his thumb. Colts' DL, Dwight Freeney will be out at least two weeks with an quadriceps injury
–IDP Start ‘em ~ Week 4–
I had a miserable week with my IDP Defensive Linemen starts last week. All were poor fantasy producers. I'll try to make amends this week. My starts this week are all guys who are barely owned in most leagues and should be solid beyond week 4 as well.
Marcus Stroud, BUF ~ With injuries piling up for the Bills, Stroud will be asked to apply even more pressure to opposing QBs. Through three weeks he is a top 15 DL in Yahoo and ESPN leagues and he's only about 6% owned in both. If you need help at DL or a bye week fill in, grab him.
Ray Edwards, MIN ~ Like Stroud, Edwards is another top DL performer so far this season. I pitched him last week and he let me down, but that just makes the fact that he's a top 15 performer despite a poor week, even more impressive. He's currently only owned in about 13.5% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues.
Greg Ellis, OAK ~ Ellis qualifies at DL in Yahoo leagues but not ESPN, so check your own league's position eligibility. But if he does qualify at DL in your league, snap him up because he's putting up linebacker stats. he's only 19% owned in Yahoo leagues.
E.J. Henderson, MIN ~ Henderson missed the 2008 season due to injury, but in 2007 he was a 100 tackle monster. This season he seems to be overlooked in most IDP leagues. He's a top 10 performer so far, but he's only owned in 17% of Yahoo leagues.
Scott Shanle, NOS ~ Like Henderson above, Shanle is a top 10 performer through 3 weeks of play. Quite surprising given that his offense is on the field most of the time. This week they face the Jets, so he'll see more field opportunities. He's only owned in about 7.5% of most leagues.
David Hawthorne, SEA ~ This is one of those risk/reward picks. He barely played in week 1. In week 2 he had 6 tackles. Last week he filled in for Lafu Tatupa, who always seems to be hurt, and he racked up 16 tackles. The Seahawks will find ways to play this guy even when Tatupa is healthy. I think for week 4 he'll have another solid day. He's only owned in about 2% of all leagues, though that will change after Sunday's performance. He will be this week's top IDP pick up. If you have a high waiver pick I don't know that I'd burn it on this kid unless you're truly strapped at LB.
Tyvon Branch, OAK ~ I pitched this kid as a sleeper in the preseason, and so far his top 12 ranking amongst fantasy DBs is proving me correct, yet he's still only owned in about 7% of all leagues. After a rash of week one IDP injuries I recommended him again. In week 4 the Raiders face the Texans, and QB Matt Schaub, who likes throwing the ball. If you need help at DB, grab this kid before someone else does.
Abram Elam, CLE ~ Elam has been another under the radar producer. I have said time and again in IDP, you want guys who consistently get tackles. They are the ones making plays and putting up points each week. Sacks and interceptions are hard to predict. The two defensive backs with the most solo tackles through three weeks? Elam and Tyvon Branch, with 21 each. Elam also has a sack. In week 4 he faces Carson Palmer and the Bengals. Perhaps this week he'll get his first interception. He's a top 10 fantasy DB so far, but only owned in 2.7% of ESPN leagues, and 8% of Yahoo leagues.
Antoine Bethea, IND ~ Bethea has had an interception in 2 consecutive weeks, and is a top 5 producing fantasy DB so far. He's only owned in about 17% of fantasy leagues. This week he plays against either Seahawks' back-up Seneca Wallace, or an interception prone Matt Hasselbeck. Sing it with me: "Money, money, money, money...money"
–IDP Sit ‘em ~ Week 4–
Albert Haynesworth, WAS ~ The big man finally got his first sack last week, and subsequently got hurt on the play. He returned later, and coach Zorn says he's fine, but I'm keeping him on the bench this week against at Tampa Bay team that will be working extra hard to protect their new QB.
Stick a fork in him. He's done.
I'm amazed any time a throw a thumbs up on the Detroit Lions' defense but they are ranked 9th in fantasy points, followed at number 10 by the Chicago Bears they'll face this week. Bears' QB Jay Cutler now has two wins to put the confidence back in his sails but he is still prone to interceptions, and the Lions' defense has a lot of confidence, and the team is pumped after ending their 19 game losing skid. It should be a cold day at Soldier Field and I expect a low scoring game.
|Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns|
27 - 10
The Oakland Raiders have so many problems on both sides of the ball, I think Rich Gannon may be right, blow the stadium and the team up, and throw Al Davis under the team bus. It's time to bench rookie WR Darius Heyward-Bey, and if JaMarcus Russell cannot fulfill on his promise, it's time to snag Michael Vick from the Eagles. On the other side of the field, the Houston Texans are an anomaly. In week one they had no offense. In week 2 they were all offense, and last week they were all offense again. The one constant so far has been the horrendous play of the defense.
|Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts|
31 - 24
The Titans rely primarily on their running game, but so far the Jags have been pretty solid, allowing only 3 TDs to running backs, and not a ton of yardage. The Titans on the other hand have been the best against the run allow no scores and only 231 total rushing and receiving yards to RBs. Don't look for Maurice Jones-Drew to have another three TD performance this week. Despite last week's offense explosion, the Jags will have a hard time against Tennessee this week. This game should be one of Sunday's duller affairs, but the Titans will get their first win.
|New York Giants at Kansas City Chiefs|
34 - 10
The Baltimore Ravens are 3-0 on the strength of their offense. Joe Flacco is turning into a top flight QB, and quasi-discarded RB, Willis McGahee has 2 touchdowns on every game so far. Meanwhile the New England Patriots offense has been sputtering to keep the team moving in the right direction. Tom Brady has been rusty, and Wes Welker has missed two games. Welker has long been Brady's safety valve. And of course the Patriots' defense has been decimated by injuries and retirements. They will be hard pressed to get going against the Ravens, but if anyone can surprise, it's Brady and Co.
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Washington Redskins|
The Buffalo Bills defense is ranked 4th in fantasy scoring so far, mostly on the strength of two defensive touchdowns. They are the first team to keep Drew Brees from a passing touchdown so far, but in the process lost three of their key players, Donte Whitner, Leodis McKelvin and Bryan Scott. Whitner and McKelvin will not face the Dolphins this week for sure. Miami lost their starting quarterback, Chad Pennington for the season. Their defense is solid, though not for fantasy purposes, so they should keep the game close, but look for T.O. to be more involved for the Bills, and likely score in the game.
|New York Jets at New Orleans Saints
27 - 20
How can the Cowboys be so bad defensively yet be 2-1 in football's toughest division? This week they play the upstart Broncos have have used smoke and mirrors (along with a favorable schedule) to go 3-0 to start the season. Denver is running the ball well, as usual, despite splitting carries with four backs. The injury to Brandon Stokely finally got WR Brandon Marshall into the game more prominently, and he immediately scored. The Broncos defense is tied for the league lead with 10 sacks to go along with 5 interceptions. The Cowboy's defense has been abysmal from a fantasy standpoint, and not much better in reality. I think the Cowboys will win the game, but it's Broncos defense that's worth the start.
|St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers|
28 - 20
You may be wondering how I can only list the Steelers as a marginal play this week. They are the best defense in the NFL. Even when they lose they limit points. This is all true. However, without Troy Polamalu they are a shadow of their fantasy productive selves. They are currently ranked 30th in fantasy production averaging 2 measely points a week. Ouch. The Chargers, by contrast are ranked 11th, and playing against Big Ben, sack opportunities abound.
|Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings|
This is going to be the game of the week for obvious reasons. It could only be better if they were playing at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. Both teams are tied for 5th in defensive fantasy scoring, averaging 6.7 points a week. Both sides of the ball will be unusually amped up for this game. It's on Monday Night Football, Favre will be playing against his old team, and the Vikings are 3-0 to start the season. Favre's former pupil has been adequate through three games, but not like we saw in 2008. He'll have extra reason to be playing his 'A' game this week. Green Bay has yet to allow a TD to a running back. Can Purple Jesus part the green and yellow seas?
Do not forget the Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers will be on Bye this week. Adjust your rosters accordingly.
What I was listening to while writing this week's article - Five Finger Death Punch: