Everyone loves a Monday Morning Quarterback, so why not a Monday Morning Linebacker? If you're like me, you tend to express your consternation when a player or players on your roster don't exactly perform as expected. Many expletive-laden tirades have been directed at my computer or smart-phone as I scan the scoreboards. Occasionally I'm pleasantly surprised, but more often than not it's "WTF just happened?!" In this weekly article we'll take a look at those players that performed as expected and those that didn't. This won't be a complete review of every player from every game; simply the outliers that deserve recognition, one way or the other.
Studs That Were Studs (*Notable players that lived up to or exceeded expectations)
Sean Lee, Dallas, LB vs. NYG- I'll start by saying I actually did predict that. Lee was my top ranked LB for Week 1 and he didn't disappoint. 10 solo tackles, 2 assists and a forced fumble for Lee. He was everywhere, wreaking havoc, taking down ball-carriers and he should be in your lineup every week.
Demarcus Ware, Dallas, LB vs. NYG - Much like Lee, Ware seemed to be in on virtually every play. He racked up 5 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and regularly harassed and disrupted Eli Manning and the Giants offense. Plug him into your lineup and forget about him. Cortland Finnegan, St. Louis, DB vs. DET - Wow. That's all I can say. Finnegan tallied 9 solos, an assist, 2 passes defensed, an interception and a touchdown. It's hard to ask for much more from a DB. He helped hold Megatron to just 6 catches and kept him out of the endzone en route to a terrific statistical performance.
T.J. Ward, Cleveland, DB vs. PHI - As ugly as this game was, there were a few bright spots, and Ward was one of them. He recorded 7 solos, and assist, a forced fumble and a sack. He was brilliant in run support making several touchdown-saving tackles. He'll be inconsistent at times, but the good will outweigh the bad.
Chad Greenway, Minnesota, LB vs. JAX - Yes I know; you can make the argument that Greenway is no stud. But after 9 solos, 4 assists and 2 passes defended, he certainly qualified yesterday. With little help up front, Greenway was flying around to the ball and making plays, holding the Jags to just 4 yards per carry. He's a weekly starter.
Studs That Were Duds (*Notable players that didn't even come close to expectations)
Jared Allen, Minnesota, DL vs. JAX - Paging Mr. Allen, Mr. Jared Allen; you're wanted on the stat sheet. David Copperfield would be impressed with this disappearing act. Allen posted a painfully apparent goose-egg yesterday. Looking back a few years, he had not posted a ZERO in stat line in all of 2010 and 2009, so needless to say this is a major letdown; especially when you consider both his draft position and his opponent. Consider this a blip on the radar and don't worry about it moving forward. Keep starting him and he'll reward you kindly.
Trent Cole, Philadelphia, DL vs. CLE - Slightly better than Allen (hard not to be), but still largely disappointing. 1 solo and 1 assist is rather mind-boggling going against a rookie QB and rookie RB. But someone forgot to tell the Eagles the practice games are over, so I'm willing to give Cole a pass this week and expect bigger and better things moving forward.
London Fletcher, Washington, LB vs. NO - The Skins jumped out to an early and surprising lead and never gave it back, limiting the Saints' rushing attempts to just 10. This is further evidence that opportunity is just as important as talent. 2 solos and 1 assist is not what LFB owners were expecting, but Perry Riley was the top tackler for Washington with just 4 solos and an assist. Fletcher wasn't outplayed, he was simply limited based on the game situation and will be fine going ahead.
Eric Berry, Kansas City, DB vs. ATL - This one is confusing. The Falcons got ahead and stayed ahead, yet ran the ball less than 20 times. So, 2 solos and 1 pass defensed is certainly startling, but when you look closely at the situation, it does tend to make sense. Berry is a LB in a DB's body, and he'll rebound from this lackluster effort and should be an every-week starter despite this little gaffe.
Brian Urlacher, Chicago, LB vs. IND - Well what did we really expect? We've been hearing all summer about Urlacher's 27 knee surgeries and that he is not, and will not be, 100% probably ever again. 1 solo, 1 assist and 1 pass defensed, and that's it. Much like LFB's situation, the Bears jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, thus limiting Urlacher's chances. But he was massively outscored by DB Major Wright and looked slow at times getting to the play. This could be a sign of things to come, but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, at least for a few more weeks.
*Honorable Mention Luke Kuechly, Carolina, LB vs. TBB - 2 solos and 2 assists was a pretty lackluster debut for a highly touted rookie linebacker. He was outshined by veteran LB Jon Beason (9 solos, 1 assist) as expected, but he'll improve on this slow start."
Duds That Were Studs
(*Surprising players that far exceeded expectations. Don't take 'dud' literally)
Stephen Nicholas, Atlanta, LB vs.KCC - Where did that come from?? You don't usually expect 10 solos, 2 assists and a pick from a strong-side linebacker, but that's exactly what you got from Nicholas yesterday. First time I saw the stat-line, I thought it was a mistake. But he was the top IDP scorer among both teams in this contest and will garner starting consideration next week and beyond.
Kurt Coleman, Philadelphia, S vs. CLE - Despite getting posterized by rookie RB Trent Richardson, Coleman had a fantastic day as the Week 1 starter at SS for the Eagles. He was very busy in the defensive backfield, tallying 5 solo tackles, 2 passes defensed and 2 interceptions. A solid debut that is unlikely to be repeated week-to-week, but will merit starting consideration each week.
Darrelle Revis, New York Jets, DB vs. BUF - Normally Revis Island is avoided by opposing QBs to the point that he's not a worthy IDP play. I don't own him on a single fantasy team, and there are many. But yesterday Revis impressed both on the field and on the stat sheet with 4 solo tackles, an assist, 3 passes defensed and an interception. If the Jets offense can continue to score 48 points per week, Revis will continue to be involved as teams play catch-up. But that seems unlikely, so play the matchups with Revis.
A.J. Hawk, Green Bay, LB vs. SF – Personally, I consider Hawk a hit-or-miss IDP any given week, but this week he was a hit. With 10 solos and 4 assists, Hawk was active early on and was the top tackler on either team in this game. I seriously doubt that will be the case on a weekly basis, but if the Packers continue to look human and allow opposing teams to run the ball late into the game, he'll have his chances.
The Bold Prediction Scorecard Mario Williams vs. Jason Pierre-Paul
If you've read any of my stuff during the pre-season, you know I think highly of Mario Williams this year. So much so that I've gone out on a limb to predict that Super Mario will be the top DL in IDP fantasy leagues in 2012. Since most other "experts" consider Jason Pierre-Paul the top-dog, it seems only fitting to pit them head-to-head on this scorecard. I will keep a running weekly tab to see how they match up.
Super Mario: 1 lousy solo tackle
JPP: 3 solos, 1 assist
Steve Sheiner spent more than a decade as a writer and Senior Editor at fantasyfootball.com and Fanball. He’s also hosted a number of radio shows, including the Fantasy Football Extravaganza on 790 the Ticket in Miami. Send Steve your questions and comments to email@example.com.