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IDP Notes
Week 14
12/3/08

Quick Hits (Details in individual team notes)
  • No more byes
  • Thursday game this week: OAK@SD
  • StarCaps suspensions upheld, MIN hit hardest
  • DAL OLB Ware has three sacks, takes league lead, hurts knee
  • PIT OLBs Harrison and Woodley set new team sack mark
  • CLE ILB Jackson leads league in tackles
  • WAS MLB Fletcher keeps streak alive
  • IND MLB Brackett injures ankle, likely out this week
  • STL MLB Witherspoon limited, "Mr. Irrelevant" gets start
  • MIN DE Allen and HOU DE Williams each rack up three sacks
  • PIT S Polamalu separates from pack for league lead in picks
  • IND ends Freeney and Mathis flash back to glory days
  • CIN FS White done for season
  • BUF SS Whitner and DE Schobel still not playing
  • A Mike Vrabel sighting!
  • Youth gets opportunity at DE in DET
  • SD CB Jammer continues to put up career numbers
  • JAX CB Mathis sprains knee
  • WAS CB Springs aggravates injury
  • Key defenders healing in DEN
  • NYG MLB Pierce involved in Burress mess
Week 14 Injury Report (available Friday PM)

IDP Depth Chart
ARI | ATL | BAL | BUF | CAR | CHI | CIN | CLE
DAL
| DEN | DET | GB | HOU | IND | JAX | KC
MIA | MIN | NE | NO | NYG | NYJ | OAK | PHI
PIT | STL | SD | SF | SEA | TB | TEN | WAS


Arizona
DE/OLB Travis LaBoy was back in the starting lineup, but continues to be limited by an ankle sprain and lingering groin injury. Not a very good guy to play right now. He and back-up Bert Berry each had just a solo tackles. DE Antonio Smith and OLB Chike Okeafor shared the only sack for the team in the game. FS Antrel Rolle led the team with eight solo tackles.

CB Rod Hood was inactive with lingering rib problems. Ralph Brown, and not Eric Green, started in place of Hood. Green was active, but limited by a sore knee, and worked as the third corner. Hood is expected back this week. SS Adrian Wilson played through a mild shoulder sprain suffered in the previous game. He had three solo tackles. Third S Aaron Francisco saw significant work with Wilson limited and depth thin at CB.

Atlanta
DT Jonathan Babineaux celebrated a contract extension with a sack and a half in the game, setting a new career high with 3.5 so far this season. The half-sack was shared with DE John Abraham, who continues to play through left neck and shoulder pain, as well as getting his bell rung in the previous game. He was listed as questionable and had his snaps limited. Abraham has 12.5 sacks on the season, fourth in the league. DE Jamaal Anderson blocked a FG in the third quarter. Rookie tweener Kroy Biermann got his first career sack.

DT Grady Jackson was the only player involved in the StarCaps Scandal not suspended today, but that could change. His case is still pending as the league has asked for more information from Jackson. Jackson is one of several players suspended for violating the league’s substance abuse policy related to the use of StarCaps, a diuretic used for weight loss that is banned because it contains a steroid masking agent. Jackson has also filed a class-action lawsuit against StarCaps because of false advertising regarding Bumetanide, the specific banned substance. This story isn’t over by a long shot.

Baltimore
MLB Ray Lewis led the team with seven tackles (four solo) and batted down a pass. OLB Terrell Suggs and nickel CB Corey Ivy shared a sack, as did OLB Jarret Johnson and ILB Bart Scott. Johnson has three sacks in the last three games and a career-high five on the season. Suggs leads the team with 5.5 on the year. Special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo saw some work at LB and got his first career sack, in his sixth season, as he won the race to a prone CIN QB Ryan Fitzpatrick after he fell on an aborted shotgun snap.

With the game out of hand, the Bengals brought in back-up QB Jordan Palmer, the brother of Carson, late in the game. On his first pass, he overthrew a curl right to SS Jim Leonhard, who returned it 35 yards for a TD. It was the first pick of the season for Leonhard. DE Trevor Pryce started despite suffering a concussion in the previous game.

Buffalo
SS Donte Whitner missed another game with a separated shoulder, despite practicing last week. Bryan Scott replaced him and had three tackles (two solo) and was awarded a fumble recovery after replay challenge on a SF RB Frank Gore carry in the third quarter. Whitner is still questionable this week. More injury problems in the secondary as CB Jabari Greer missed his second straight game with a knee sprain. First-round pick Leodis McKelvin started in place of Greer again, opposite Terrence McGee. Rookie Reggie Corner was the nickel.

DE Aaron Schobel missed his seventh game with a bone bruise and torn tendon on his toe. He has begun working out, but is expected to miss this week with the goal of returning the week after. Ryan Denney continues to start in his place and had his best game of the season. He doubled his sack total on the season with two in the game, forcing a fumble on one, among his six tackles (four solo). He has three sacks in his last two games. DE Chris Kelsay got his second sack of the season and led the team with seven tackles (five solo). OLB Keith Ellison was limited by a tender ankle. DT John McCargo was placed on the IR. The former first round pick is likely done with the team. He failed a physical earlier to void a pending trade with the Colts.

Carolina
DE Julius Peppers had two sacks among his four tackles (three solo) to reach double digits on the season with 11 sacks. However, his second sack was costly, as it came when GB QB Aaron Rodgers ran out of bounds for no gain as Peppers approached, but was still blasted by him well past the white line. The resulting penalty helped progress a late fourth-quarter drive that led to a go-ahead FG. The offense would bail him out with a quick strike for the win with less than two minutes to go. On the other side, Tyler Brayton remains the starting LDE, but Charles Johnson continues to impress on the field, if not in the box score. Johnson had three tackles (two solo), including combining with MLB Jon Beason for a goal-line stop. Johnson also batted down a pass and recovered a shotgun snap over the head of Rodgers late in the first half. After a disappointing rookie year, Johnson looks like a player with some potential in his second year. Beason led the team with 11 tackles (nine solo) and sealed the victory with a pick on the final GB drive. Beason is third in the league in tackles, passing the 100-tackle mark in the game, and leads the team with three picks this season. He must have read my column last week where I said it would be nice to see some more big scoring fantasy plays from him, as he continues to solidify his status as one of the elite IDP performers.

Chicago
After the offense failed to convert from the one-yard line to add to a 7-3 lead, an error on the next drive swung the momentum of the game. CB Charles Tillman blew the coverage on the next play from scrimmage and the Vikings completed an easy 99-yard TD to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish the rest of the game. SS Kevin Payne briefly got the team back in the game early in the third quarter. After giving up another TD in the second quarter, the team was down 17-7 coming out of halftime when they got the ball first, but ended up punting on the opening drive. Payne would step in for his team-leading fourth pick of the season on the subsequent drive and return it all the way to the MIN four-yard line. The team would score a TD on the following drive to narrow the lead to three before falling apart. CB Nathan Vasher was placed on the IR last week after re-fracturing his right thumb and wrist injury. Corey Graham started in his place and led the team with nine tackles (six solo), as well as breaking up a pass. Graham has been a terrific producer in the spots he’s been given this year and now he has a starting job the rest of the season. Danieal Manning replaces Graham as the nickel.

DE Alex Brown and DT Tommie Harris each had their team-leading fifth sack of the year in the game. That is back-to-back games with sacks for Brown and three in the last two for Harris, who has really turned his season around. Harris totaled five tackles (three solo) in the game. For the third time in his three seasons in the league, DT Dusty Dvoracek ends the season on the IR. He ruptured his biceps in the game and is done for the season.

Cincinnati
Lots of opportunities for tackles as a bumbling offense kept the ball only about a third of the game. WLB Brandon Johnson had a career fantasy day, posting 14 tackles (five solo), including an assist on special teams. Among them he shared a sack with SS Chris Crocker and had a solo sack of his own later in the game. They were the first sacks of Johnson’s career. He has been a solid play since rookie Keith Rivers went down for the season and seeing his first significant action after two years as mostly a practice team player in Arizona. Crocker got another start with SS Chinedum Ndukwe inactive again with a torn plantar fascia. SLB Rashad Jeanty had 12 tackles (five solo). MLB Dhani Jones had eight tackles (three solo). Jones has fallen off the fantasy grid in the second half of the season. After double-digit tackles in five of his first six games and briefly led the league in tackles. Since Week Six, his highest tackle total in a game was five, until the eight he put up Sunday. He doesn’t turn in big plays, so he has lost most of his value and is no longer a starter in most leagues.

DE Antwan Odom missed his third straight game with a left shoulder injury, and with Frostee Rucker and Robert Geathers going on the IR last week, depth was thin at DE. DT John Thornton bumped out to LDE and Jonathan Fanene got the start at RDE. Fanene had six tackles (five solo). Odom’s status remains in question for this week. With CB Johnathan Joseph already on the IR, his replacement, David Jones was inactive with a knee injury. Jamar Fletcher started opposite Leon Hall. Hall had a rough day, getting beat on a couple long passes by BAL WR Mark Clayton, including a TD, and then getting fooled on reverse pass by Clayton and giving up a TD. The injury hits kept coming as FS Marvin White tore his ACL and MCL in the game and is done for the season. Crocker looks like he’ll remain in the starting lineup when Ndukwe returns.

Cleveland
Stop me if you heard this before - ILB D’Qwell Jackson led the team in tackles. He had seven (six solo) and leads the league with 115 so far this season, already a career high. SS Sean Jones had a pick for the second straight game and three solo tackles, playing on a sore ankle that continues to limit him in practice during the week. FS Brodney Pool recovered a fumble when the Colts went for it on a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line. IND QB Peyton Manning tried the sneak and lost the ball. The Colts challenged, but the call was upheld, and the Brown took a 6-3 lead in to the halftime, before the offense blew it in the fourth quarter.

DE Shaun Smith played through a lingering calf injury that held him out of the previous game. He forced a fumble that CB Eric Wright recovered. DE Corey Williams (foot) and NT Shaun Rogers (shoulder, primarily) round out a front three that is playing through injury, pretty much just for pride at this point. Williams also left the game briefly when his arm was cut after being stepped on. CB Brandon McDonald is back starting opposite Wright after Travis Daniels got a chance. McDonald is the beneficiary of teams starting to stop challenging Wright. McDonald had his third pick of the season, and second in the last three games.

Dallas
The defense destroyed the hapless Seahawks on Thanksgiving, racking up seven sacks. OLB DeMarcus Ware led the way with a three-sack game, giving him 15 on the season, a new career high, and a half-sack lead over MIA OLB Joey Porter. He played less than three quarters, as he left early with a hyperextended knee. An MRI was negative and he sounds likely to play this week, perhaps with a brace which could limit him, but watch for his status. ILB Bradie James had a career day, getting two sacks, a season-high 13 tackles (12 solo), and forcing a fumble. He has five sacks on the season, a new career best, and has had double-digit tackles in three of the last four games. After talk of being replaced as a starter by Anthony Spencer, OLB Greg Ellis had a sack for the second straight game and has five on the season. Spencer still continues to rotate in more, but Ellis appears he will hold down the starting role for now. Spencer gets a bump if Ware can’t go his week.

Rookie CB Mike Jenkins was inactive, as expected with a hamstring. He will miss this week, as well. Rookie nickel CB Orlando Scandrick had six solo tackles and broke up a pass. CB Terence Newman grabbed his second pick of the season and broke up another pass. Pacman Jones is eligible to play this week, as the primary punt returner and at least in the dime, but it’s hard to see him bumping Scandrick, who has performed well as the nickel. Reserve S Pat Watkins was placed on the IR with a neck stinger. The move opens up a roster spot for Jones.

Denver
On a bizarre stretch in the third quarter, the Broncos lost three players on three consecutive plays, all left screens to RB Leon Washington for big gains. First MLB Spencer Larsen left with a bruised hip. On the next play, DE Ebenezer Ekuban left with a shoulder injury. Finally, CB Dre' Bly has to be assisted off the field with a leg injury. Ekuban and Bly would return, Mario Haggan would finish in the middle and post five tackles (four solo), including his first sack of the season. Larsen said he is OK, but Nate Webster is likely to return this week after missing three games with a second-degree MCL sprain in his knee. WLB D.J. Williams missed his fourth game with a torn MCL and is likely to miss this week, as well. UDFA rookie Wesley Woodyard continues to replace him and he led the team with ten tackles (nine solo).

Musical chairs at FS continued as Vernon Fox became the fourth player to start there in the last five games. He got off to a good start when a trick play went awry for the Jets in the first quarter and Fox came up with the ball and went 23 yards for the first score of the game. Fox was later caught not following the right keys on a long TD run. He finished with three tackles (two solo). It sounds like he will get another shot to start this week and Calvin Lowry has fallen out of favor. At SS, Marlon McCree missed his fourth game with a bad ankle sprain. He is expected to be out again this week. Marquand Manuel continues to start in his place and he had to briefly leave the game after a big collision in the fourth quarter, but he returned and sounds fine to play this week. He had nine tackles (five solo). DE Elvis Dumervil had his first sack since Week Seven and just his fourth of the season. CB Champ Bailey missed his fifth game with a groin injury, but expects to play this week.

Detroit
RDE Dewayne White missed his third straight game with a calf injury and LDE Jared DeVries just went on the IR, so it was Corey Smith starting again in place of White and second-round pick Andre Fluellen at LDE with his first career start. Fluellen, a tweener, was primarily a DT in college and was used mostly on running downs, so pass rushing rookie Cliff Avril and second-year DE Ikaika Alama-Francis saw plenty of work, as well. Avril had the only sack in the game, forcing a fumble on it and recovering it himself for the only turnover of the game. He is looking like a nice prospect as a rusher, as he has gotten sacks in back-to-back games and has three in limited work this season, forcing a fumble on all of them. White has yet to practice this week, so his outlook remains uncertain for Sunday.

SLB Ryan Nece led the team with nine tackles (six solo, including one on special teams). MLB Paris Lenon had eight tackles (four solo). WLB Ernie Sims continues to play with knee and shoulder problems. He had six tackles (four solo) and leads Lenon by just one tackle for the team lead on the season. FS Dwight Smith returned after missing five games with a foot sprain, but saw limited work and Kalvin Pearson continues to start. Pearson is a big hitter, but takes bad angles, as demonstrated by all the long runs they gave up, and a liability in coverage, so Smith should be back starting soon.

Green Bay
After a long completion to CAR WR Muhsin Muhammad on the first play from scrimmage, CB Tramon Williams knocked the ball loose and CB Charles Woodson recovered it. With Atari Bigby active, but struggling and battling a shoulder sprain and lingering ankle injury, and Aaron Rouse inactive with an ankle sprain in the previous MNF game, Woodson technically was the SS, although he, Williams, and CB Al Harris all frequently played man coverage. Woodson also had six tackles (four solo) and forced a fumble, as well. He also gave up a bomb to CAR WR Steve Smith that set up the winning score with less than two minutes left. In Woodson’s defense, it was a heck of a catch by Smith. Rouse is expected back this week, but Woodson should continue to work in at safety, hurting the value of Rouse and Bigby in the short term. FS Nick Collins left early in the game with a hip injury after a collision, but returned in the second quarter. Collins was already battling a knee injury that limited him in practice last week. With safety thin, Charlie Peprah filled in while Collins was out. Rouse was able to practice a bit last week, so he should return this week, but Bigby is likely to be out.

DE Aaron Kampman had both of the team’s sacks and leads the Packers with 9.5 on the season. On the other side, Mike Montgomery had seven tackles (four solo). Depth was shaky there, too, as DE Jeremy Thompson battles groin and left ankle problems. He had to leave late in the second quarter and is not expected to play this week. MLB A.J. Hawk led the team with nine tackles (seven solo).

Houston
On his third sack of the game, DE Mario Williams locked up the win when he forced a fumble that DT Jeff Zgonina recovered and the offense converted to a TD. Williams had gone three games without a sack and now has 11 on the season. FS Eugene Wilson briefly left the game in the third quarter, but returned and finished with a team-high eight solo tackles. SS Nick Ferguson had eight tackles (six solo) and recovered a fumble. CB Jacques Reeves had his team-leading fourth pick of the season.

Indianapolis
When the defense needed them most, ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis showed up with their best combined effort in a few years. Mathis got his first sack of the game in the second quarter to end a drive at the IND eight-yard line and force CLE to settle for a FG. Then the two combined for the game-winning play on a third-and-eight in the fourth quarter with the Colts down 6-3. Freeney bull-rushed CLE former first-round pick LT Joe Thomas in to QB Derek Anderson for a sack and knocked the ball free. Mathis recovered it and raced 37 yards for his first TD ever, on a day when their once-potent offense scored none. Mathis helped preserve the victory with his second sack of the day on the Browns’ final drive. He bull-rushed CLE RT Kevin Shaffer in to Anderson for the sack, knocking Anderson out of the game, and perhaps Cleveland. Freeney now has eight sacks and four forced fumbles on the season, after just nine sacks in the last two injury-plagued seasons. He is playing his best football now, with five sacks in his last four games. Mathis now leads the team with nine sacks, after putting up back-to-back two-sack games. His high the last two seasons was 9.5. These two are back to being a dynamic rushing duo just when their real and fantasy teams need them.

FS Antoine Bethea sealed the victory with his second pick of the season three plays after Mathis’ second sack. He also led the team with ten tackles (eight solo). Bethea played despite being limited in practice the previous week due to an ankle injury. He was needed with the secondary banged up. Bob Sanders missed his third straight game with swelling complications in his surgically-repaired right knee. Melvin Bullitt started in his place, and even he had some sore ribs. HC Tony Dungy said Sanders “might” return this week.

The defense has a new big injury concern as MLB Gary Brackett, the leading tackler and heart of the defense, was carted off the field early in the second quarter with a right ankle injury. HC Tony Dungy indicated he expects to be without Brackett this week. Brackett was already battling a hamstring injury that was limiting his practice and having him listed as questionable each week. Freddy Keiaho moved inside when Brackett left and Tyjuan Hagler replaced him at WLB. The situation got worse when Keiaho left with a limp in the fourth quarter, moving Hagler to the middle and someone name Jordan Senn coming in at WLB. However, Keiaho returned after a couple of plays. Senn is an UDFA rookie out of FCS Portland State who was a special teamer, until Sunday. This week, expect Keiaho in middle with Brackett out, with Hagler returning to the starting lineup to replace Keiaho at WLB and Sessions remaining at SLB. The team signed LB Rufus Alexander for depth with Brackett out.

Lost among the bigger named injuries was the loss of DT Keyunta Dawson, who pulled his right hamstring in the first half and had to leave. Antonio Johnson replaced him and as Dawson is expected to miss a few weeks, Johnson should move to the starting lineup with UDFA rookie starter Eric Foster.

Jacksonville
CB Rashean Mathis was on cart at halftime after suffering a right MCL sprain. He is likely out this week. Before leaving, he had his team-leading fourth pick of the season. It was the only turnover the defense forced in the game. They had no sacks. CB Brian Williams and SS Gerald Sensabaugh led the team with five tackles (four solo). Mike Peterson continues to be worked at WLB. He had four tackles (three solo), more than any of the three starters.

Kansas City
LBs Pat Thomas (hamstring) and LB Donnie Edwards (knee and hamstring) remained inactive. Thomas is uncertain this week, but looks like he has been replaced by Rocky Boiman even when he returns, and Edwards is expected to miss this week. OLB Derrick Johnson led the team with nine tackles (seven solo) and forced a fumble. Boiman chipped in with seven tackles (five solo) and forced a fumble that rookie CB Brandon Flowers recovered. Reserve CB Maurice Leggett picked up a fumble snap on a FG attempt and went 67 yards for a TD to give the Chiefs their first lead of the game early in the second quarter. The team had no sacks in the game.

Miami
STL QB Marc Bulger cost his team the game, but it wasn’t because of the pressure the Miami D usually brings. The team had no sacks and hit Bulger just once, with OLB Joey Porter posting just one solo tackle. FS Renaldo Hill and CB Andre Goodman each grabbed their second pick of the season in the fourth quarter. ILB Akin Ayodele got his second of the season earlier in the game.

SS Yeremiah Bell and ILB Channing Crowder, the two top tacklers, respectively, for the team on the season, led them in the game with seven solo each. Former first-round pick Jason Allen was expected to play with a cast on his fractured hand, but he was inactive and Joey Thomas worked the nickel in his place. He is questionable this week.

Minnesota
Wither the Williams Wall. Coming off a win over the Bear on Sunday night that give them sole possession of first place, the road to the playoffs took a hit when the heart of their DLine lost their appeal of a four-game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. The Williams DT duo were among the players involved in the controversial suspensions for using StarCaps, a diuretic used for weight loss that is banned because it contains a steroid masking agent. Kevin and Pat will miss the rest of the regular season, erasing their IDP value and hurting the value of the collective MIN D in real and fantasy terms. The decision came down Tuesday, so both players were active Sunday night and both had five tackles (four solo). Pat also batted down a pass. This week, the team will start out now relying on journeyman Ellis Wyms and unproven Fred Evans in the middle of their line. Wyms replaces Kevin Williams as the three-technique tackle and Evans replaced Pat Williams as the nose tackle. Evans, a seventh-round pick in 2006, washed out of Miami after two seasons of little work and hasn’t seen the field much for MIN this year. The team also has a rookie DT, Letroy Guion, a fifth-round pick out of FSU, who has only been active one game this year. Expect them to peruse practice squads and add some street free agents at least for depth, with the opportunity to start the final few games over their unimpressive current choices. There is some glimmer of hope as all six suspended players will file an injunction in federal court to prevent the NFL from suspending them. It sounds like a desperate attempt unlikely to produce immediate results, but you should be able to find an answer by Thursday morning for this week. The DLine got more bad news with DE Brian Robison needed to get his right knee cleaned after an injury in the Sunday night game. He will miss a few weeks.

Leading 7-3 late in the second quarter, the Bears decided to go for it on a fourth-and-one at the one-yard line. Pat Williams and WLB Ben Leber initially stopped the momentum of CHI RB Matt Forte, when DE Jared Allen came from the backside and cleaned him up for the turnover. On the next play, the Vikings scored a 99-yard TD and would never trail again. The turnaround bailed out nickel CB Benny Sapp, who drew a personal foul after a third down stop that kept the Bears’ drive to goal-line alive. Allen’s assist was one of a team-high eight tackles (four solo). He would also ring up eight sacks in the game to jump to 11 on the season. The third-degree sprain in his AC joint wasn’t a problem on Sunday night. Expect him to remain limited in practices and even listed as questionable, but he is a safe play again.

Leber, SS Darren Sharper, and Sapp each had a pick. The Vikings converted those to 17 points. Leber was stripped during his pick and after originally ruling a recovery for CHI, which would have given them a new set of downs, it was reversed on replay as going out of bounds and the Vikings kept possession. They would score a TD on the subsequent drive. FS Madieu Williams continues to play through a shoulder problem. He had five solo tackles, including one for a loss.

New England
OLB Mike Vrabel flashed some of the playmaking ability that has been absent this year when he grabbed his first pick of the season on a nice leaping catch on the first drive of the game. It set up a TD and quick lead for NE. Vrabel batted down another pass and had just two tackles (one solo), but was more of a presence on Sunday then he has been in most games this season. OLB Pierre Woods left the game in the second half after a collision with PIT TE Heath Miller. It was reported as a “mouth” injury. UDFA rookie Gary Guyton, who has been impressing as the third ILB, took over for Woods and finished with seven tackles (four solo). Woods is already replacing Adalius Thomas, who remains out with a broken left forearm, but has not been placed on the IR while NE has playoff hopes. The team is reportedly taking a look at a familiar face in Rosevelt Colvin, who failed to catch on with the Texans after the preseason. It could mean Woods will miss some time. ILB Tedy Bruschi (seven solo) and SS Brandon Meriweather (six solo, including one on special teams) led the team with ten tackles.

DE Ty Warren was inactive with a groin injury and Mike Wright started in his place. On the other side, Richard Seymour played through a sore knee and shared the only sack for the Pats with CB Ellis Hobbs. PIT QB Ben Roethlisberger absorbed an unimpeded blindside hit from Hobbs on the play, but Seymour got there to finish him off. Seymour has 6.5 sacks in the last 7 games, and at least a half in four straight, as the next time he gets to the QB will set a new career high. Reserve CB Jason Webster was placed on the IR with an ankle injury, so depth remains a problem in the secondary.

New Orleans
MLB Jonathan Vilma had seven tackles (six solo), including forcing a fumble and recovering it on one and his first solo sack since his rookie year (2004), on which he also forced a fumble. He leads the team in tackles on the season. WLB Scott Shanle had his best game of the season, leading the team with 10 tackles (eight solo), including his first sack of the season.

DE Bobby McCray had two sacks for his second two-sack game of the season. He leads the team with six. DE Will Smith had eight tackles (six solo). Smith and DE Charles Grant were denied their appeal of four game suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Both players were involved in the controversial suspensions for using StarCaps, a diuretic used for weight loss that is banned because it can be a steroid masking agent. Grant, who is already on the IR, will serve his suspension at the start of next season…assuming he is playing. He also has an involuntary manslaughter charge hanging over his head after being another player getting in to trouble at da club. Smith will miss the rest of the regular season. Jeff Charleston should step in to the starting role opposite McCray. Charleston, who shares an alma mater in Idaho State with All-Pro DE Jared Allen, was an UDFA in 2006 before landing in Indy last year, where he started three games. As discussed previously in this article, under the reports for Atlanta and Minnesota for their players involved, the story isn’t over, as the players are looking to take the battle to the courts to continue playing. More to come.

With corners Mike McKenzie and Aaron Glenn both suffering season-ending injuries in the previous game and joining rookie CB Tracy Porter on the IR, Jason David returned to a starting role opposite Randall Gay. Usama Young worked the nickel. DE Josh Savage was added to fill Glenn’s roster spot, likely in expectation of losing Smith for four games, so he is promoted by default to third DE. FS Kevin Kaesviharn suffered a shoulder stinger in the game and is expected to not play this week, so Josh Bullocks returns to the starting lineup.

New York Giants
MLB Antonio Pierce has been dragged into the mess WR Plaxico Burress created by allegedly shooting himself in the leg with his own gun in a nightclub. The fact it was a concealed weapon makes it a serious crime in NY and, depending who you believe, Pierce could be in trouble too. Reports on Pierce are on both ends of the spectrum, from him being the key force in assisting the investigation and getting Burress to turn over the weapon, to him being involved in hampering the investigation and a possible obstruction of justice. Either way, it is clear this mess has dragged Pierce in some capacity. Pierce had six tackles (four solo) in the game and, wisely, has not commented on the Burress situation or his role.

DE Justin Tuck had two sacks, giving him three in the last two games and 11.5 – a team high and new career best – on the season. Tuck had missed some practice with a leg problem during last week. Standout DT Fred Robbins was inactive with a shoulder injury suffered in the previous game. Jay Alford started in his place. Robbins expects to return this week. The three-way at safety continued. Michael Johnson (FS) and James Butler (SS) continue to start, with first-round pick Kenny Phillips in the mix. One player out of the picture is journeyman Sammy Knight. He was placed on the IR with hip injury. His time is done with the Giants. Johnson led the team with nine tackles (seven solo). CB Aaron Ross had his third pick of the season.

New York Jets
SS Abram Elam led the team with 12 tackles (nine solo) as his breakout season continues. Rookie CB Dwight Lowery had his first career pick. He was limited by a sore hammy in the game. It was the only turnover the defense forced. They has no sacks in the game.

ILB David Bowens limped off the field late in the first half, but returned in the second. He continues to replace ILB David Harris, who missed his fifth straight game due to groin surgery. He has started practicing on a limited basis and may return this week.

Oakland
MLB Kirk Morrison led the team with nine tackles (five solo). After putting up a goose egg at DEN, DT Tommy Kelly had the team’s only sack among his four tackles (three solo). Kelly has 4.5 on the season, tying his career high. CB Chris Johnson grabbed his second pick of the season and returned it 44 yards. Jon Alston remained the starter at SLB over Sam Williams and with Ricky Brown still out with a groin injury. Brown is expected to miss this week, as well.

Philadelphia
CB Asante Samuel was inactive with a neck stinger, so Joselio Hanson, not Lito Sheppard, got the start and set up a TD with his first career pick in the first quarter. Sheppard remained the nickel, Samuel is expected back this week. SS Quintin Mikell grabbed his third pick of the season on the next series. Mikell also led the team in tackles with seven tackles (six solo, including one on special teams). FS Brian Dawkins got his first INT of the season and the 34th of his career, tying him for the team’s all-time record. Dawkins also forced a fumble that WLB Akeem Jordan recovered. Jordan remains the starter over Omar Gaither. Jordan had four solo tackles, including one on special teams.

DT Darren Howard was active after suffering a neck stinger the previous game. He had one solo tackle, forcing a fumble on it. The team had no sacks in the game.

Pittsburgh
They released the hounds on NE QB Matt Cassel and got to him five times, forcing two fumbles, and picked him two other times. OLB James Harrison led the way with two sacks in the second half, forcing a fumble on both. ILB James Farrior and OLB LaMarr Woodley recovered the fumbles. Harrison also led the team with ten tackles (seven solo), including one on special teams. Harrison is now third in the league with 14 sacks this season and leads the league with six forced fumbles. He is one sack shy of Mike Merriweather’s team record. Woodley tried to keep pace, adding a sack of his own in the game for 11.5 on the season. The duo surpassed the team record for sacks by a pair shared by Kevin Greene and Greg Lloyd (1994) and Joey Porter and Jason Gildon (2000). A veritable Hall of Fame of pass rushing LBs could be formed with one team. Harrison is right there with Porter, now with MIA, and DAL OLB Demarcus Ware at the front of the DPoY conversion. Here's a nice AP profile on one of the top defensive players in the league since becoming a starter last year. The next generation at LB for the Steelers had an impact, as well. Third ILB Lawrence Timmons putting the cherry on top of the defensive effort when he picked Cassel deep in NE territory and took it back 89 yards, running out of gas at the one-yard line. Farrior shared a sack with DE Aaron Smith and posted seven tackles (four solo). He leads the team on the season.

SS Tory Polamalu grabbed his second pick in as many games and took over the league lead in interceptions with six on the season, a new career high. William Gay continued to start at CB opposite Ike Taylor despite the return of Deshea Townsend. Townsend missed two games with a hamstring and was eased back in as the nickel. His workload should increase this week. CB Bryant McFadden, who had replaced Townsend as a starter, remained inactive with a broken arm. He continues to practice and could be back this week, perhaps being the one eased back as the nickel this time. DE Brett Keisel was inactive with a right knee MCL sprain suffered in the previous game. He is expected to miss another two weeks. Chris Hoke started in his place.

St. Louis
In the Long Battle of the Top Two Draft Picks, RDE Chris faced his top overall draft pick MIA LT Jake Long. It was fairly anti-climatic, with Jake mostly getting the best of it in getting the win and limiting Chris to a single tackle, for a loss on a botched handoff exchange, and a couple QB pressures, but no sacks. Victor Adeyanju got another start at LDE as Leonard Little continues to see little work while battling a lingering hamstring injury. The team had no sacks in the game. Little has said the injury is actually a complete tear off the bone of one of the three hamstring muscles, apparently the least important. He can still play, but lacks burst and it will not completely heal until he can rest it in the offseason, but it apparently doesn’t require surgery. At 34, it remains to be seen if he does return next year, so he may be hanging on and fighting being put on the IR to play out his last season on his terms. If you haven’t already, dump him. DT Clifton Ryan continues to start in place of Adam Carriker, who is active, but limited by ankle and shoulder problems.

MLB Will Witherspoon was active, but didn’t start and saw little work, mostly in pass packages, as he battles injuries to both shoulders (torn labrums in each). David Vobora, the last player selected in this year’s draft, aka Mr. Irrelevant, got his first career start in place of Witherspoon. He posted five tackles (four solo). They may have the same arrangement in the middle this week. FS O.J. Atogwe led the team with nine solo tackles, forcing a fumble on one that was recovered by SLB Quinton Culberson. Culberson got another start as Chris Draft (broken foot) missed his fourth game. He could return this week. CB Tye Hill (torn cartilage in knee) remains inactive and out indefinitely.

San Diego
The Chargers lost despite forcing three turnovers, all of which they turned in to point. CB Quentin Jammer was in on two of them. First, reserve LB Anthony Waters recovered a muffed punt in the first quarter that led to a TD. Next, down by just eight in the third quarter, but with the Falcons threatening, CB Quentin Jammer forced a fumble that FS Eric Weddle gathered and raced 86 yards for his first career TD. Finally, in the fourth quarter, Jammer would force a fumble on former teammate ATL RB Michael Turner and recover it himself. Jammer looked like he was done when he came up gimpy and had to leave in the first quarter, but he returned to have a strong game. In addition to the turnovers, he finished with eight solo tackles to give him 78 on the season, already tying his career best. Weddle led the team with ten tackles (seven solo) and leads the team on the season. SS Clinton Hart suffered a stinger and left early, while back-up Steve Gregory was also dinged up. Hart has yet to practice this week and his status is in question. CB Antonio Cromartie has been battling a hip problem all season and it limits his participation in practice, but he continues to play though it. Look for him to bounce back next year, of course that is no consolation to his redraft owners.

OLB Marques Harris was done early after suffering a hamstring injury and his status is in question for this week, he has yet to practice. DE Luis Castillo returned from a groin. The team had no sacks in the game.

San Francisco
The defense had a performance HC Mike Singletary could be proud of, holding the Bills to three points and none on four red zone trips. ILB Patrick Willis led the way, on a gimpy ankle, with 14 tackles (ten solo) and forcing a fumble that FS Mark Roman recovered. It was the third double-digit sack game of the season for Willis, who went over the 100-tackle mark and is second in the league. Willis needed x-rays for his ribs after the game, but they were negative and the ribs are just bruised. DE Justin Smith shared a sack with OLB Roderick Green on the Bills’ second-to-last drive and Smith had one of his own on the final drive to help preserve the win. It was the first time Smith had gotten to the QB since Week Five. He has 4.5 sacks on the season. Parys Haralson also had a sack. He leads the team with 5.5 this season.

CB Walt Harris played despite a sore hamstring that limited him in practice last week. Tarell Brown, who was hinted at being the one tapped to start for Harris, saw mostly special teams work as Donald Strickland remains the third CB and nickel. CB Nate Clements is playing with a bum thumb. LB Ahmad Brooks was waived last week because the team needed depth at WR. He was resigned this week and apparently remains a project.

Seattle
CB Marcus Trufant had one of few highlights of their embarrassing Thanksgiving game with a nice pick in the end zone in the third quarter. It was his first INT of the season. He also five tackles (four solo). The team had no other turnovers and no sacks. OLB Leroy Hill had another highlight with a nice stop of DAL RB Marion Barber III on a goal-line stand in the first quarter. However, Hill suffered a shoulder stinger, left the game, and Barber scored on the next play. D.D. Lewis replaced Hill, who didn’t return, and finished the game with six tackles (five solo). Hill is questionable this week.

Tampa Bay
Three second-half picks in the rain off NFL passing leader NO QB Drew Brees was the difference. SLB Cato June grabbed a ball tipped by CB Ronde Barber in the end zone for his first pick of the season to stop a NO drive in the third quarter. Barber broke up two other passes and had seven solo tackles, but also erased a pick by FS Tanard Jackson with an illegal contact penalty. SS Jermaine Phillips got his second pick of the season just before the two minute warning to set up the eventual game-winning FG and then CB Phillip Buchanon got his second pick of the season on the next the drive to seal the victory. It was the first game back for Phillips after missing three games with a forearm injury. Phillips also had eight tackles (six solo). MLB Barrett Ruud led the team with ten tackles (nine solo).

DT Jovan Haye left in the first half with a knee injury that seemed serious and did not return. Ryan Sims replaced him. Haye is questionable this week and it sounds like they are planning to be without him. DE Gaines Adams was also dinged up in the game, suffering a hip pointer, but didn’t leave and brought great pressure, hitting Brees four times, including helping force the final pick. He also shared a sack with third DE Greg White. White leads the team with five sacks on the season. He has 1.5 in the last two games after going seven games without any.

Tennessee
FS Michael Griffin forced a fumble on the second play from scrimmage and the rout of the Lions on Thanksgiving was on shortly after. DE Kyle Vanden Bosch recovered the fumble. He also had a sack in the game, giving him 4.5 on the season. KVB now has eight tackles (four solo), 1.5 sacks, and a fumble recovery in the two games since returning from missing all or most of the previous four games with a groin injury. It looks like he is over the injury. Third DE Dave Ball added a sack, on which he forced a fumble, and returned his first career interception 15 yards for a TD when DET QB Daunte Culpepper seemingly threw it right to him while being pressured by OLB Keith Bulluck. Ball has 4.5 sacks this season. Jacob Ford had his fourth sack of the season, as well. Ford, in his second season, and Ball, who spent most of his first four seasons in the NFL inactive with the Chargers and Jets, have been key contributors with the Titans this season, especially during the stretch when KVB was dinged.

DT Albert Haynesworth left the game in the third quarter with an apparent leg injury. CB Nick Harper returned after missing two games with a right foot injury. He has four solo tackles and broke up three passes. However, he turned his left ankle in the game, but the injury is not serious and he is expected to play this week. Rookie DL Jason Jones missed his third game with a foot injury. He is expected to play this week.

Washington
Despite not practicing all week with a left foot sprain, HC Jim Zorn saying he wouldn’t play if he couldn’t practice, and mixed pre-game reports, MLB London Fletcher made his 131st straight start and played in his 172nd straight game. He still hasn’t missed a game in 11 years. He not only played, but he didn’t miss a snap and led the team with 14 tackles (11 solo), his second highest total of the season. He is fifth in the league with exactly 100 tackles. Fletcher reported he didn’t aggravate the foot, but expects to not practice this week and will likely be questionable again, but unless a serious setback is reported, it is hard to imagine he’ll miss the game.

Some others overcame injuries, some did not. DE Andre Carter played through a plantar fascia sprain in his right foot and had his third sack of the season, and first since Week Seven. DT Kedric Golston missed his first start of season with a foot problem of his own, a bone spur. Anthony Montgomery returned after missing the previous game with an Achilles’ injury and started in place of Golston. Montgomery got his second sack of the season in the game. He started next too Cornelius Griffin, who is playing with a bum shoulder. Golston remains uncertain for this week, but is expected to return. When he returns, Montgomery goes back to a reserve role. SLB Marcus Washington remained inactive, as expected. He is out indefinitely with a high-ankle sprain, as well as hamstring and shoulder problems. H.B. Blades continued to start in his place, with DE Jason Taylor seeing some work there again, as well. Blades had four tackles (two solo). He will continue to start in place of Washington, at least one more week, but would move to the middle if Fletcher can’t go.

Fred Smoot started over Shawn Springs at corner. The team wanted to use Springs at FS in more passing situations, as Chris Horton and LaRon Landry both are better in the box, and also to protect his lingering calf injury with less demands of man coverage. However, Springs still aggravated his calf injury and his status is uncertain this week. DeAngelo Hall saw more work at corner and grabbed his first pick as a Redskin. He and Springs missed a shot at one of them getting another when they collided in the third quarter closing on a pass.