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Well, the long, dark days of the offseason have come and gone, and after training camps, preseason, roster cuts and about 137 injuries to prominent linebackers (approximately), the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants got the 2012 NFL season underway Wednesday night.
That also means it’s time for yet another season of Individual Defensive Player (IDP) “Studs and Duds,” where yours truly attempts to point out (many times with the acuity of Mr. Magoo) some players who could be set to exceed expectations this week (studs) and some that for whatever reason are riskier plays than usual (duds).
That isn’t necessarily to say that every “stud” is a must-start (it depends on your other options) or that every “dud” should be glued to your bench (just that the odds of a letdown week are greater than usual), but forewarned is forearmed and all that happy nonsense.
Finally, before we get on with the show, if you have a specific IDP start/sit question you’d like my take on it, you can email me at email@example.com or post the question in the “Kilroyz Krystal Ball” thread in the Fantasy Sharks IDP Forum. I can’t promise I’ll get to every question, but I’ll do the best I can.
Mark Anderson, DE, Buffalo (at New York Jets): The Bills have completely re-tooled their defensive line, the Jets were a favorable IDP matchup for defensive linemen in 2011, their offensive line may well be worse, and Mario Williams will be wreaking havoc on the other end. Not much to not like here.
Cliff Avril, DE, Detroit (vs. St. Louis): No team in the National Football League allowed more sacks in 2011 than the St. Louis Rams, who were also a Top 10 fantasy matchup for defensive linemen. Toss in that St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford is still favoring his ankle and you have the makings of IDP tastiness.
Matt Shaughnessy, DE, Oakland (vs. San Diego): The same San Diego offensive line that was the team’s undoing last year is already springing leaks before the season even starts, and Shaughnessy appears fully recovered from the injury that cost him most of 2011. The fourth-year pro’s breakout season starts in Week 1’s final game.
Nick Barnett, OLB, Buffalo (at New York Jets): I’ll admit that I don’t share the reservations of some about Barnett’s switch to WLB in a 4-3, given that he showed the ability to produce in that slot while with the Green Bay Packers. Meanwhile, the Jets gave up the third-most fantasy points in the NFL to opposing linebackers last year.
Kevin Burnett, OLB, Miami (at Houston): Burnett’s another guy making the switch to 4-3 WILL, and while the 29-year-old may be hard-pressed to repeat his career year from 2011, there should be ample tackle opportunities when the Texans pound Arian Foster and Ben Tate down Miami’s throat.
Stephen Tulloch – MLB, Detroit Lions (vs. St. Louis): If the Rams have any chance of staying in this game it will lie with using running back Steven Jackson to play “keep away,” which means plenty of opportunities for fantasy production for Tulloch against the NFL’s friendliest team to opposing fantasy linebackers in 2011.
DeAngelo Hall, CB, Washington (at New Orleans): This may come as something of a surprise (if you’ve been in Tibet), but Drew Brees has a tendency to keep opposing cornerbacks busy. After all the team’s been through, the Saints are going to come out firing…right at Hall in front of the home crowd.
T.J. Ward, SS, Cleveland (vs. Philadelphia): Granted, Ward was a massive disappointment last year, but in a very favorable fantasy matchup against the Eagles, where the defense will be on the field a lot, and with the Browns’ linebackers banged up, the table is set very nicely here for a big game.
Eric Weddle, FS, San Diego (at Oakland): Weddle was a Top 10 performer at his position last year after posting a career-high seven interceptions. If there’s one thing Carson Palmer has liked to do since getting to Oakland, it’s throw interceptions, and the Raiders were a very nice IDP matchup for defensive backs a year ago.
Michael Bennett, DE, Tampa Bay (vs. Carolina): I actually like Bennett as a value IDP DL3, that’s a viable starter when the matchup’s right, and he had a sack against Carolina last year. Problem is that’s all he had in two games, and combined with a mediocre matchup, that leaves him a shaky option this week at best.
Charles Johnson, DE, Carolina (at Tampa Bay): After a breakout 2010 season, Johnson got off to a hot start last year before cooling off, recording only two sacks after Week 8. Add to that an unfavorable IDP matchup with the run-first Buccaneers this week and Johnson’s a risky DL2 play to open the season.
Jabaal Sheard, DE, Cleveland (vs. Philadelphia): Sheard turned in one of the best fantasy seasons by a rookie defensive lineman in years in 2011. I love his overall prospects this year, but there’s just no escaping the fact that no NFL team was stingier to fantasy defensive linemen in 2011 than the Eagles.
Curtis Lofton, MLB, New Orleans (vs. Washington): On its face, this is the sort of matchup that should have Lofton on the “studs” portion of this list. But all his proclamations that he’ll be fine just don't seem legit given the high ankle sprain he suffered less than two weeks ago. He's almost certain to have limited mobility.
Jerod Mayo, WLB, New England (at Tennessee): For the first time in his four-year career, Mayo failed to top 100 tackles last season. While that may have more to do with injury than talent, the fact of the matter is that IDP owners searching for the halcyon 170-tackle days of 2010 are chasing ghosts.
Brian Urlacher, MLB, Chicago (vs. Indianapolis): One of these days Urlacher will likely join fellow Bears' great Dick Butkus in Canton, but even he’s admitted his balky knee isn’t right. Combine that with the fact that the Colts were the lousiest matchup in the league for fantasy linebackers last year, and I’m not starting Urlacher this week unless I have to.
Troy Polamalu, SS, Pittsburgh (at Denver): This one may honestly have as much to do with my inherent distrust of “big play” defensive backs, of which Polamalu’s the poster child. Also, with Ryan Clark out, Polamalu will probably also play a lot more “center field” than usual, which is going to hurt his tackle opportunities.
Charles Tillman, CB, Chicago (vs. Indianapolis): If the Bears were going to use Tillman to shadow Reggie Wayne this week, I’d like this matchup a lot more. It’s not to say that Tillman won’t have a fine game, but given the Bears’ tendency to stick to left cornerback/right cornerback, I also wouldn’t be surprised even a little bit if Tim Jennings outpoints him Sunday. Welcome to defensive back roulette.
Antoine Winfield, CB, Minnesota (vs. Jacksonville): I’ve loved Winfield as a player for years (5-foot-9 defensive backs that flatten fullbacks are good people in my book), but after an injury-shortened 2011 season, the Vikings intend to limit his snaps and the matchup with Jacksonville just isn’t very good.
Looking for more IDP information? Be sure to checkout all the other great IDP articles by the rest of the Fantasy Sharks’ crew, the IDP Forum, IDP Manor, and, for the latest injury news, follow @IDPManor on Twitter.
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