Week 1 of the NFL Season is here. Don’t get cute and over-think the match-ups. Play your studs and if you have too many of them, use rankings or the match-up to flip the coin. Heading into the new season, I give you some facts/analysis of each match-up from an IDP standpoint. Let’s get to it:
Seattle Seahawks vs. Green Bay Packers
-After averaging just under 4 tackles/gm in his first 6 games, Bobby Wagner turned on the jets. Wagner, in the last 10 games of the season, averaged just under 10 tackles/gm, which included 4 games of 10+ tackles and just one game where he finished with less than 9 tackles. Wagner finished the season with a 13.6% tackle rate.
–Cliff Avril, in a limited snap count, still managed to get to the QB in almost 14% of his rush snaps, leading to 8 sacks in 2013. Avril enters 2014 as one of the starters alongside Michael Bennett. His snaps should increase and could be lined up on David Bakhitiari, who was responsible for giving up over 40 total QB pressures (including 10 sacks) in 2013.
–Michael Bennett was among the best 4-3 DE in 2013. He should be able to produce DL2-type numbers, once again. Bennett was able to interrupt the QB in nearly 15% of his rush snaps, which led to 8.5 sacks. Bennett will test right tackle Bryan Bulaga often.
–Brandon Mebane will have a juicy match-up for those in DT-required leagues. He’ll be lined up over rookie C Corey Linsley, who’s making his first start.
–Earl Thomas had 40 passes thrown in his direction and made play on the ball in nearly 35% of those targets, meaning, he was either deflecting a pass or hawking the ball away. Thomas matched his 2010 INT mark with 5 and matched his 2012 total of passes defended (9). He also increased his tackle total from 66 to 105, leading to a 8.5% tackle rate and near 3:1 solo to assist ratio on tackles. Week 1 proves to be a favorable match-up for Thomas.
–Byron Maxwell has been thrust into a starting role alongside Richard Sherman. Maxwell is a sneaky CB play against GB’s potent offense. Maxwell, in 2013, was productive from a big play standpoint, making a play on the ball on nearly 28% of his targets (12 defended passes/4 INTs). Hopefully, more snaps leads to more tackles to go along with his big play upside.
-It’ll be hard to trust AJ Hawk as anything more than an LB3 this week. We’re not sure if he’ll play every snap, plus, he has the propensity for missed tackles. Last season wasn’t horrible, as he missed just one in every 10 attempts, but did miss 13 last season.
–Brad Jones is questionable, appears ready for Week 1. After appearing in 12 games, he still managed 84 tackles and a 14.1% tackle rate. He’s been undervalued and should see plenty of action against the ‘Hawks run game.
–Datone Jones, who the Packers are expecting big things from, could be lining up against rookie, Justin Britt. Jones could have himself a busy night, as Britt allowed a sack and 8 hurries during the pre-season.
For those counting on Ha-Ha Clinton Dix in Week 1, might need to wait. According to the 8/31/14 depth chart, Micah Hyde will be manning free safety. At the outset, there could be a snap rotation so it’s hard to trust them this week.
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New Orleans Saints vs. Atlanta Falcons
–Junior Galette will be called on to lead the Saints pass rush behind Cameron Jordan. Galette hopes to keep the momentum going from his break-out 2013 campaign, where he finished the season with 12 sacks and got to the QB in over 12% of his rush snaps. He’ll be called on to give Lamar Holmes fits. Holmes gave up 76 total QB pressures, including 10 sacks. Galette could be a big play scoring sleeper.
–Akiem Hicks is poised for another solid season, taking advantage of playing alongside Jordan. He could get the attention of Atlanta’s right tackle or guard this week, but he’s still a stuffer. Hicks notched 4.5 sacks and recorded 56 tackles in 2013.
–Keenan Lewis makes an intriguing CB start this week. Though his tackles were down, Lewis recorded a career high, 4 INTs in his first stint in the Big Easy. Lewis saw 68 targets and made a play on the ball 22% of the time. Flip a coin this week, as he’ll draw either Roddy White or Julio Jones, so he’ll see plenty of chances to make a play this week.
–Jairus Byrd appears healthy and ready for the regular season. After appearing in 16 games for three-straight seasons, Byrd appeared in 11 in 2013. Opposing QBs are still wary of him, as he saw 22 balls thrown his way and still made play 45% of the time. He’ll help out over the top against the Falcons’ potent offense and looks to be a solid DB2 this week.
–Osi Umenyiora didn’t see a pre-season snap and is listed 3rd on the depth chart, so his IDP value is going to be limited at the outset. If he’s seeing limited snaps, his IDP value will be capped this week.
-From Week 7 on, Paul Worrilow was a tackle-machine. Worrilow notched 120 tackles in those 10 games, including three-straight games of 16+ tackles. He followed that up with a strong pre-season showing, notching 17 tackles in 88 snaps, resulting in a near 20% tackle rate. He doesn’t have a particularly favorable match-up, but if he’s your LB1, you have to roll with him.
–William Moore owners will want to get him in their lineups Week 1, especially tackle heavy formats. In 4 career games against the Saints, he’s recorded 47 tackles, 6 defended passes and 2 INTs.
Buffalo Bills vs. Chicago Bears
-We’ll get a look first-hand if Brandon Spikes can handle every-down work. He’ll also be challenged in pass coverage, especially if he’s called on to cover Martellus Bennett. At the outset, he’ll provide upside as an LB2 if he’s on the field for subpackages since he’s a solid tackler with a 12.3% tackle rate and missed tackle rate of just 4.5%.
–Stephon Gilmore is going to be busy in Week 1 and makes a good play in CB required leagues. Gilmore will lock-up with either Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffry, but I could see him being used on Marshall initially. Gilmore is coming off of off-season hip surgery.
–Nigel Bradham could be a big paranoid this week, since he’ll be serving a one-game suspension for a marijuana bust in 2013. Preston Brown will line-up in his place at WILL and could carve more of a role if he plays well. Bradham, upon his return, should return to his starting role but he’ll be looking over his shoulder.
–Marcel Dareus needs to be a disruptive force if the Bills want to have a chance. Dareus is a DT1 in those leagues requiring interior linemen. Dareus is coming off a career-year that saw him post 71 tackles and 8 sacks.
-The Bears improved their defensive line in adding Jared Allen, Lamar Houston and Willie Young in the off-season. Young doesn’t get enough credit as a pass-rusher, as he pressured the QB in 11% of his rush snaps, which led to 3 sacks and 55 total QB pressures. Before considering him in IDP leagues, monitor his snap count.
–Jared Allen and Cordy Glenn (BUF LT) will be a match-up to watch. In 2013, Allen is coming off an 11.5 sack season that saw him get to the QB in just under 10% of his rush snaps. Is this a sign of age slowing him down? He still managed double-digit sacks, but Glenn allowed just 2 sacks all season in 2013.
-It was good to see Lance Briggs in the pre-season. He appeared in 79 defensive snaps and recorded a handful of tackles. The Bills were among the top 10 in points allowed to opposing LBs, so Briggs could be in for a heavy workload.
–Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman may not see a whole lot of action, especially since Stevie Johnson is no longer with Buffalo. Jennings and Tillman will be on Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, but Buffalo could go conservative.
Tennessee Titans vs. Kansas City Chiefs
–Jurrell Casey was playing on right side of the line during the pre-season and managed a sack and 5 tackles. He did manage to get to the QB in just over 10% of his rush snaps. Let’s hope he maintains an aggressive rush and isn’t asked to take on blockers in Tennessee’s new 3-4 defense.
–Ropati Pitoitua’s IDP value will also be limited. He’ll be lined up on the left side of the line and could see a lot of Jeff Allen and Zach Fulton.
–Derrick Mogan comes into 2014 with 86 pre-season snaps at OLB. He graded well, getting to the QB in 11% of his rush snaps, but didn’t register a sack. Allen and Fulton struggled during the pre-season, so this might be a match-up to take advantage of in big play leagues.
–Michael Griffin and Bernard Pollard were among the top 16 safeties in run stop % (where a stop constitutes an offensive failure). Pollard was among the best safeties in tackling efficiency, missing a tackle once in every 12 attempts. They’ll be called on plenty to focus on Jamaal Charles.
–Dontari Poe looks to be lined up over Brian Schwenke, who graded among the worst centers in the NFL. Poe is a beast already at the nose, recording 4.5 sacks and 51 tackles last season. He’s set to abuse Schwenke and is a solid play in DT-required leagues this week.
-If you’re looking for a sneaky start in deeper leagues, Josh Mauga is slated to start for the injured Joe Mays next to Derrick Johnson. It’s a risky play, even in deeper leagues, however.
–Sean Smith has finally edged out Chris Owens for the other outside corner spot opposite Marcus Cooper (who’s questionable Week 1). Smith could be lined up against Kendall Hunter, making him a sneaky start in CB-leagues. Smith saw his lowest tackle total since 2009, but made a play on the ball in 25% of his targets.
–Eric Berry admits he’s dealing with a heel injury that could linger. Although he has failed to reach the 90 tackle mark in two-straight seasons, he’s still hawk. He recorded 3 INTs and 10 defended passes in his 63 targets. Definitely keep an eye on the injury.
Minnesota Vikings vs. St. Louis Rams
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-How will the Vikings generate a pass-rush without in a post-Jared Allen era? Everson Griffen and Brian Robison will be asked to pin their ears back, but have a tough first match-up. Griffen and Robison will face Jake Long and Joe Barksdale, who combined to give up 10 sacks all season between them.
–Anthony Barr, outside of Ryan Shazier, could be one of IDP’s more productive rookie since he has a role carved out. Barr should be playing outside and the end in certain packages. I look for him to be on the field every snaps
–Robert Blanton could be a decent DB streaming option this week. He was named starting strong-safety. While I’m not suggesting you start him over your studs, but in a deeper or all-IDP league, could be a DB3.
–Harrison Smith missed 8 games due to a toe injury, but was on a torrid tackle pace up until the injury. In just 537 defensive snaps in 2013, he produced a near 11% tackle rate and was averaging just over 7 tackles/gm. He looks to start 2014 off on the right toe against the Rams.
–Michael Brockers had a strong start to his 2013 season, but after the bye week, registered just 2 sacks and 20 tackles over the last 6 games. Brockers is going to clog up the middle once again on a talented defensive line. Brockers could see a bit of ADP and is looking like a DT2 in tackle required leagues this week.
-Matt Kalil better be on A+ game against Robert Quinn. Quinn only had 5 games where he didn’t register a sack. Otherwise, he was wreaking havoc on the opposing gunslingers. 21% of Quinn’s QB pressures were sacks and he was generating pressure in over 17% of his rush snaps.
-Of course James Laurinaitis is a stud, but he has a great match-up against run heavy Minnesota, who allowed the 6th most points to opposing LBs in 2013. I believe Laurinaitis should improve his 10.8% tackle rate from 2013.
–Chris Long will look to produce double-digit tackles in 2014, after coming up 1.5 short in 2013. He’ll face Phil Loadholt, who graded among the better tackles, allowing just 4 sacks in 2013. Should be a great battle in the trenches.
New England Patriots vs. Miami Dolphins
-Before injury, Jerod Mayo was averaging over 9 tackles/gm and was on his way to notching 130+ tackles in 2013. He’ll return to LB1 form in Week 1.
-We’ll get our look at Jamie Collins and whether or not he’s worth the LB2 draft price. In his last 7 regular season games, he recorded 28 tackles. During his two-game playoff run, he recorded 13. He’s a true boom or bust LB2 in IDP leagues.
-As of now, it does appear that Chandler Jones will retain his DE status after appearing in pre-season snaps at OLB.
-With Darrelle Revis lined up, the other New England corners could have some IDP value. Alfonzo Dennard is slated to lineup as starter opposite, but Kyle Arrington has value in the slot. Revis could put Mike Wallace on an island in Week 1, giving Dennard or Arrington value in CB-required leagues.
–Rob Ninkovich has started 48 straight games since 2011 and is coming off back-to-back 8 sack seasons. Is this the year he hits double-digits? He has a nice match-up against rookie Ja’Wuan James, so get him in your lineup as a solid DE1.
–Koa Misi graded well during the pre-season at MIKE, so he appears ready to take on a three-down role. He’s still an unknown commodity IDP wise, as he hasn’t been much of a factor. The Patriots can be unpredictable when it comes to running the ball, but they were among the top-13 in points allowed top opposing LBs. If you can avoid starting him this week, I would and see how he fares.
–Reshad Jones is slated to join Dion Jordan on suspension and will miss the first 4 games, so bring in Jimmy Wilson. Wilson is converted corner to safety and should play strong-safety with Louis Delmas manning the free-side. It is entirely possible that Miami brings back recently released Texan, Chris Clemons. That’s purely speculation at this point.
–Cortland Finnegan had a solid pre-season and will slot outside opposite Brent Grimes. Grimes resurrected his career in Miami and Finnegan will look to do the same. He graded well during the PS and finished with a defended pass and 6 tackles on 6 targets. He’s a high upside CB2 in those requiring a corner.
–Philip Wheeler started all 16 games in 2013 and after the bye week, posted 10 games of 5+ tackles and finished with a 2.3:1 solo-to-assist ratio. Unfortunately, he’ll be of no use to you this week, as he’s been declared out. His replacements at SAM aren’t even worth mentioning. If you are a Wheeler owner and need some replacement suggestions, let me know via Twitter.
Oakland Raiders vs. New York Jets
–Kalil Mack saw 119 pre-season snaps, however, had two games where he saw less than 20 snaps. Mack, even though a rookie, has big-play upside against a top-10 team in points allowed to LBs.
-After two down years, Justin Tuck returned to form in 2013. After producing just 1.5 sacks in the first 8 games, he notched 9.5. His arrow is pointing up and could be on the field a lot in 2014.
–Sio Moore will man the WILL spot, beating out Miles Burris. What will his IDP value hold? If Moore can maintain his near 11% tackle rate from the pre-season, he’s has LB3 upside, especially if called in to rush more.
-It’s good to see Tyvon Branch back on the field. Branch posted a 10.3% tackle rate in the pre-season, which is typical of his production. He’s a DB1 against the Jets this week.
-Personally, I don’t think Demario Davis or David Harris get enough credit as IDP producers. They aren’t the most glamourous, but they produce. Davis is coming off his first 100+ tackle season and Harris is coming off back-to-back 120+ tackle campaigns.
–Damon Harrison could have his hands full with Oakland C Steve Wisniewski. Wisi allowed 0 sacks and 11 total QB pressures in over 900 snaps. Harrison, though, is still a solid run-stuffer, producing 66 tackles for high 12.9% tackle rate. He’ll be called on to stuff the duo of Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew.
-The Jets are hoping for increased efficiency in Sheldon Richardson’s pass rush. In his rookie year, he finished with 3.5 sacks and only got to the QB in fewer than 4% of his rush snaps. He was a sure tackler, however, missing one in every 20 attempts.
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Philadelphia Eagles
–Vinny Curry could be one of those deeper sleepers this week. He spent some time with the ones in pre-season and Jacksonville’s o-line has struggled in the past. Curry generated pressure on nearly 15% of his rush snaps during this pre-season.
–DeMeco Ryans posted 13 games of 6+ tackles in 2013 and a 4:1 solo-to-assist ratio.
–Mychal Kendricks produced 5 turnovers and had 8 games of 8+ tackles in 2013. Ryans and Kendricks should see plenty of Toby Gerhart.
-I’d like Malcom Jenkins more, but he missed way too many tackles and is losing out on points. He’s missed 32 tackles the last two seasons, leading to a miss in every 5 attempts.
–Andre Branch could be called on more to help Jacksonville’s pass rush. After producing just a sack in the first 8 games, Branch notched 5 in the 2nd half of the season. He’ll need to take advantage of the snaps he receives.
–Geno Hayes could be valued more in IDP, but misses too many times. He could’ve reached 90+ tackles in 2013, but missed a tackle in every 7 attempts. He hasn’t hit the 90 tackle mark since 2009.
–Chris Clemons is going to have his hands full with Jason Peters this week and makes a weak DE3. Peters allowed just 4 sacks in 2013 and gave up pressure on just 3% of his snaps.
–Dwayne Gratz is a high upside CB this week against the fast-paced Eagles.
Cleveland Browns vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
-I’ve been one of the conductors of the Christian Kirksey train, but might need to slow the coal. As of now, Craig Robertson is ahead of Kirksey. They’ll rotate this week, leaving neither to be a viable IDP option.
-If Justin Gilbert started this week, I could see Joe Haden getting Revis-type treatment. Haden will be shadowing Antonio Brown, so there’s no reason to think he won’t be thrown at between 5-6 times.
–Armonty Bryant could get the nod at DE this week. Bryant had a solid pre-season, generating pressure on 15% of his rush snaps.
-I would try and get Cam Heyward into your lineups this week. He should be lining up on the left-side, allowing him to face turnstile, Mitchell Schwartz.
–Jason Worilds is another that will benefit from playing on the left-side. He was able to generate pressure on 13% of his rush snaps, leading to a career-high 8 sacks, including 7 in his final 9 games.
–Mike Mitchell joins Pittsburgh’s defensive backfield and will roam all over. He can cover, rush and play the run, but can be too aggressive. He missed a tackle in every 4 attempts this past season.
–Ryan Shazier is the first Steeler rookie to start a season-opener on defense since 2001. He’ll be a tackle machine and should be called on to cover Jordan Cameron and get to Ben Tate.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens
-Even though Emmanuel Lamur plays the strong-side, he’s still an intriguing IDP option, especially big-play formats. He finished the pre-season with 8 tackles and a sack. He had only 8 rush snaps, but generated 4 total pressures (including the sack).
–Leon Hall will start Week 1 and was eased back in during the pre-season. He needs to prove he can stay healthy before trusting him even in CB-leagues.
-Start Vontaze Burfict with confidence in Week 1 as he turned in a full practice. Even had he not, you’d still have to start him.
–Geno Atkins saw just 13 pre-season snaps, but should be able to play his full complement of snaps in Week 1. He’s a risky DT1 in first game back from his ACL injury.
-In losing Michael Johnson, the Bengals will see what they have in Margus Hunt. Hunt had a monstrous pre-season, posting 10 tackles and 4 sacks (3 against Indianapolis). He generated pressure on the QB on 20% of his rush snaps in 4 games.
–Lardarius Webb has been dealing with back spasms, but even after practicing this week, could miss Week 1. Jimmy Smith was one of the starters and appears Chykie Brown will be the other. Smith is coming off a solid 2013 that saw him defend 16 passes and make 59 tackles. He’s a high upside CB2 this week.
–Matt Elam finished the last 3 games of 2013 with 26 tackles, including 2 games of 10+.
–CJ Mosley is another rookie you should be able to count on in Week 1. He’ll be busy tracking down Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill.
-We’ll see if Timmy Jernigan gets his chance in Week 1. He appeared in 97 snaps and notched a sack and 4 total QB pressures. He’s got a promising future on Baltimore’s defensive line.
Washington Redskins vs. Houston Texans
–Jason Hatcher saw a handful of snaps in the pre-season but did manage a sack. He’s going to line up on the right side of the defense and will line against Duane Brown. It’s not a favorable match-up for Hatcher against one of the best LT in the league.
–Keenan Robinson appeared in 79 pre-season snaps after missing the entire 2013 season. He notched 10 tackles and appears ready for the Texans. I look at him as an LB3 this week.
–DeAngelo Hall is oozing upside as a CB1 this week. He saw 94 targets in 2013, however, made a play on the ball 18% of the time. He does make the tackles, but needs to be disciplined and cut the misses. He would’ve recorded 96 tackles had it not been for 18 misses.
-The only safety I trust is Ryan Clark at this point. Brandon Meriweather can be counted to be a dirty player, and while it was thought Bacarri Rambo would man strong-safety, the Redskins brought in Duke Ihenacho. Clark has three straight seasons of 100+ tackles.
–Akeem Dent won the job as starting ILB next to Brian Cushing. He can’t counted to play every snap at this point, he’s a liability in coverage.
-Jadeveon Clowney made an impression in just 29 snaps, registering a sack and grading out favorably in his limited action. Clowney taking on RGIII will be a great battle between two quick athletes.
–Jonathan Joseph is an intriguing CB play this week. Although he’s battled injuries, he has put up decent numbers. He’s recorded three-straight seasons of 10+ defended passes and made a play on the ball in nearly 22% of his targets in 2013. He just needs to stay healthy.
-Until a knee injury ended his 2013 season, Brian Cushing had 6 straight games of 5+ tackles, including 4 games of 6+ tackles. He returns to LB1 status this week.
San Francisco 49’ers vs. Dallas Cowboys
-Sure it’s a small small sample, and like you needed another reason to start Patrick Willis, but he’s recorded 16 tackles in 2 career games against Dallas (yeah, I know I’m reaching here).
-It’s quite possible that Michael Wilhoite and Chris Borland cancel out their IDP value this week. I anticipate a rotation, with Wilhoite starting, I anticipate him getting slightly more snaps. It’s an IDP situation to avoid, unless you’re in a deeper IDP league.
-It appears that Ray McDonald could play this week after his accusation of domestic violence. Apparently, he wants to be the poster boy for the new policy.
-Long-time special teamer, Dan Skuta, is slated to start at OLB for the suspended Aldon Smith. Corey Lemonier is a sneaky play this week in deeper big-play leagues, since he has more of the pass rush skillset. Lemonier registered 2 sacks and generated pressure on 13% of his rush snaps.
-Cowboy linebackers are going to be busy behind their shaky defensive line. Justin Durant is an LB3 since he’s the only, at this point, assured of a three-down role.
-It’s going to be hard to trust Morris Claiborne in CB leagues. He didn’t appear in a pre-season game and if his play is ineffective, Orlando Scandrick could take outside duties upon return from suspension. Claiborne is a shaky CB3 this week.
-Barry Church had only 3 games where he didn’t record more than 7 tackles in a game. He’s a locked in DB1 this week.
Carolina Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If it wasn’t for Luke Kuechly, LaVonte David would probably be my favorite young LB. David recorded 6 games of 10+ tackles and didn’t have a game of fewer than 6 tackles. He’s going to thrive in Lovie Smith’s scheme.
–Alterraun Verner had a career high 22 defended passes and made a play on the ball in all but 4 games. I would like to see his tackles get near the 60 range, but he’s a locked in CB1 this week.
–Gerald McCoy is on the DT1 radar this week, especially if Cam Newton is inactive. McCoy graded out as football’s best DT and is an elite IDP at his position. He converted 9.5 of his total QB pressures into sacks and generated pressure 13% of his rush snaps.
-The addition of Michael Johnson should free up Adrian Clayborn. This week, Clayborn should line up over Nate Chandler, who was responsible for 5 sacks in 2013.
–Roman Harper saw just 7 snaps in the pre-season and is coming off a 2013 season that saw him appear in just 9 games. He’s on the wrong side of 30, but still could see the majority of snaps in Week 1. He’s a weak DB3.
–Thomas Davis posted a career-high 123 tackles in 2013. He had 10 games of 6+ tackles and he and Kuechly will be busy against Doug Martin and the Bucs. Davis is a solid LB2.
-It’s unclear if the new domestic policy rules will impact Greg Hardy, but he’ll suit up for Week 1 (unless there’s a drastic change). Hardy is an every-week starter, but has a tough draw against LT Anthony Collins, who didn’t allow a sack in 673 snaps.
–Charles Johnson’s sledding is slightly more appealing, but still rough. CJ will face Demar Dotson, who gave up just 5 sacks in 2013.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Denver Broncos
-Don’t expect Erik Walden and Bjoern Werner to produce like Robert Mathis. Werner notched 3 sacks but didn’t generate consistent pressure in 2013, as he generated pressure in just 8% of his rush snaps. Werner did up it to 11% during the pre-season.
–LaRon Landry produced a near 2.5:1 solo-to-assist ratio in 2013 and recorded 87 tackles in 12 games. Had he played a full-season, which is not a guarantee this yea, he would’ve eclipsed the 100+ tackle mark.
–Arthur Jones was an under the radar signing for the Colts. He has experience in Indy’s scheme and is a sneaky DL3. Jones recorded 53 tackles and 4 sacks in 14 games. Jones has a tough match-up against Denver, as Peyton Manning doesn’t take many sacks thanks t his quick release
–Jerrell Freeman had 12 games of 7+ tackles in 2013 and I like him as an LB1 just slightly more than D’Qwell Jackson this year.
–DeMarcus Ware struggled after Dallas’s bye week. After the Week 11 bye, he recorded just 1 sack. He’s out to prove this year that he’s healthy and that last year was a fluke.
–Malik Jackson should rotate in on pass rush snaps and is an under-rate cog on the Denver defense. Jackson generated pressure on 10% of his rush snaps and posted 6 sacks while starting in just 6 games. He’ll push Derek Wolfe for snaps.
-I really like Chris Harris as a CB play this week. He saw 89 targets and appeared in over 1,000 snaps in 2013. He made a play on the ball almost 20% of the time he was thrown at and the Colts should be throwing often to keep up.
New York Giants vs. Detroit Lions
–Jason Pierre-Paul looks to be the healthy and ready for Week 1. He’s been dealing with a bad back and last season was first time he’s missed games, but it has been eating into his production. After recording 16.5 sacks in 2011, he’s recorded just 8.5 since. JPP has a tough match-up, as the Lions gave up the 2nd least amount of sacks in 2013 (23).
-2nd year DE, Damontre Moore, is expected to take a huge leap in production. He responded with a monstrous pre-season that saw him produce 17 tackles and 4 sacks in 141 defensive snaps. He also generated pressure on the QB in 15% of his rush snaps, where 26% of those pressures converted to sacks. We’ll see what kind of snaps he receives in the first week of the season.
–Jon Beason is expected to be in the lineup after injuring his foot in June. He’s a key part of the defense and he’s expected to get his full snap count. The possibility of limited snaps in Week 1 makes him a risky LB2.
-The Giants have two solid cover corners and both are good plays against the Giants passing attack. Prince Amukamara was a tackle-scoring asset, notching 85 tackles but made play on the ball on only 15% of his targets. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie saw 68 targets and made a play on the ball 25% of the time. Both should be busy in Week 1.
–Antrel Rolle figures to produce big once again in 2014. Rolle was 2nd among safeties in times thrown at and made a play on the ball nearly 30% of his targets, leading to a career-high 6 INTs. 57 of his 98 tackles came in the last half of the season in 2013.
–Nick Fairley is finally back atop the depth chart as starting DT. He did record 6 sacks, but doesn’t get in the trenches to get the tackles. This week I look at him more as a DT2 in leagues requiring defensive tackles.
-If the Lions keep Ziggy Ansah on the right side, he should have a field day against William Beatty. Beatty gave up the most sacks among tackles (13) and allowed opposing ends to generate 46 QB hits/hurries. Ansah finished with 8 sacks in 2013 and has a great match-up to start the new year. There’s DE1 upside this week.
–Kyle Van Noy is expected to miss 4-6 weeks and it’s expected to result in a rotation at SAM between Ashlee Palmer and Tahir Whitehead. This week, I wouldn’t factor them into your IDP plans.
–James Ihedigbo has been dealing with neck and back injuries and is considered doubtful. I offer pause on his IDP value this season, since he’s coming off a monstrous contract year. Lions spread thin at safety this week as Don Carey also out. Glover Quin could be a DB3 at free safety this week.
–Darius Slay is expected to improve after an tumultuous rookie year. Slay saw just 353 snaps and wasn’t able to produce an INT, leading to a negative overall grade.
San Diego Chargers vs. Arizona Cardinals
-Safety Tyrann Mathieu is the dreaded game-time decision for Monday. Honey Badger started 11 games and recorded 65 solos and hawked 2 picks while defending 9 others. For those in tackle heavy formats, I’m hoping for an increased 8.5% tackle rate. As tempting as it might be, I’d consider other options.
–Kevin Minter appears to be the ultimate boom or bust IDP. Minter appeared in just 33 pre-season snaps, while Larry Foote recorded 61 snaps. Either way, the Cardinal LB group has a lot of production to make up with the loss of Karlos Dansby (Browns) and Daryl Washington (suspension). I have both Minter and Foote ranked outside the top 50 LBs this week.
–Deone Bucannon is a high-upside play this week (and for the season). Bucannon, according to the Arizona Republic, could see time at LB in certain packages. He’s expected to be a three-down player and excelled in the pre-season; he notched 23 tackles in just 120 snaps (19.2% tackle rate), so he’ll be a good play in tackle-heavy formats.
-With Darnell Dockett out for the year, it’s expected that Frostee Rucker will line-up opposite Calais Campbell.
-I like Manti Te’o as an LB3 this week, especially if he gets the subpackage role.
–Richard Marshall’s IDP value could rise, especially if he plays both safety and corner. He’s a versatile player and does have a track record of IDP production.
-The Chargers are hoping Brandon Flowers bounces back from a sub-par 2013. Flowers had just one INT and failed to produce double-digit defended passes. Flowers is a high-upside CB play against the Cardinal WR duo of Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd.
-The Chargers are hoping for more efficient rush-snaps out of Corey Liuget. Liuget generated pressure on just 7.5% of his rush snaps in 2013. Liuget has a favorable match-up, as he’ll be lining up near Bobby Massie, who gave up 61 total QB pressures in 2012 and is coming off a 2013 where he appeared in just over 50 snaps.
Target, grading and rush snap data courtesy of Pro Football Focus