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IDP Notes
Week 13

Quick Hits (Details in individual team notes)
  • No more byes, Thursday game this week
  • WAS FS Taylor shot and killed in home invasion
  • SF rookie ILB Willis blows up in OT win
  • GB DE Kampman takes over league lead in sacks
  • TEN WLB Bulluck finally racks up some tackles
  • STL MLB Witherspoon thriving as pass rusher
  • NYG MLB Pierce leaves early with ankle injury
  • SEA MLB Tatupu plays hurt most of game
  • AZ SS Wilson misses another game
  • DAL SS Williams doesn't start for first time in career
  • ATL LB Boley gets after Manning, hurts elbow
  • NE OLB Colvin done for season
  • MIN returns three picks for TDs
  • SEA DE Kerney gets 3 sacks for second week in a row
  • CHI DE Ogunleye dominating games lately
  • STL makes changes in DL and at LB to deal with injuries
  • DeVries in, Edwards out as DE starter in DET
  • GB pays price for win on Thanksgiving with injuries
  • Ellis thriving as pass rushing OLB in DAL
  • DE Rice gets sack for IND, then gets dropped
  • Injury concerns again headline for BUF
  • BAL OLB Jarrett Johnson banged up in loss
  • TB rookie DE White finds success after long road to NFL
  • JAX rookie LB Durant takes advantage of starting opportunity
  • BAL CB Rolle mystery revealed
  • AZ CB Green to IR, Rolle to start again
  • CAR CB Gamble has thumb surgery, Marshall replaces him
  • Another rookie steps up in place of injured CLE CB Wright
Week 13 Injury Report (available Friday PM)

IDP Depth Chart

Other than the anomaly of three picks, ILB Gerald Hayes has quietly been on pace to exceed all his other career-high numbers set last year. It has been quiet because he hasn’t had many big games, although he has had a few recently. He had his biggest game of the year on Sunday, leading the team with a season-high 12 solo tackles, including his third sack. It was just his second double-digit tackle game of the year. However, he has had 8 or more tackles in three of his last four games and over those four games, has 31 tackles and 2 sacks. It was another solid day for their other two top LBs, as well. ILB Karlos Dansby (4 solo) and OLB Calvin Pace (5 solo) both had 7 tackles. Dansby, playing through a sore shoulder, had a sack and broke up a pass, as well.

SS Adrian Wilson missed his second game with right calf and heel problems. He is seeing a specialist this week for another opinion. Oliver Celestin continued to replace him and had 6 tackles (5 solo). DE Joe Tafoya had 4 tackles (3 solo) and his first sack since 2005 as he continues to replace Bert Berry (IR) as a starting DE. CB Eric Green, already battling ankle problem, suffered a groin strain in the first half and did not return. He was placed on the IR with a torn groin. Former first-round pick Antrel Rolle should return to the starting lineup. Rolle didn’t have much of an encore to his career game the previous week, finishing with 3 solo tackles and a pass defensed. The NFL admitted a foul called on Rolle’s third pick last week that erased a 71-yard TD return was a mistake. It would have been an NFL-record third interception return for a TD in the game for him.

In his third year in the league, SLB Michael Boley had three career sacks and no multi-sack games. He added to his breakout season with 3 sacks in the first half against IND on Thanksgiving, including back-to-back plays late in the second quarter to keep their deficit at just eight points at halftime. He forced a fumble on his last sack, but IND recovered it. However, he went down writhing in pain after a tackle in the third quarter. Boley left the game with a hyperextended left elbow. He returned with it wrapped in the fourth quarter and finished the game leading the team in tackles with 10 tackles (9 solo), including one on special teams. WLB Demorrio Williams had 6 solo tackles and was not rotating with rookie Stephen Nicholas. The aggressiveness that got the Falcons out to an early lead also swung the momentum in the second quarter. Boley and Williams went after a punt on fourth-and-one with the kicked landing on both of them in the process. The running into the kicker penalty gave IND a first down. They scored a TD and took the lead for the first time in the game, a lead they wouldn’t lose the rest of the game. MLB Keith Brooking also had a solid game, posting 6 tackles (5 solo), including his second sack of the season.

Rookie CB Chris Houston was picked on throughout the game by IND QB Peyton Manning. He broke up 2 passes and had 4 solo tackles, but a lot of passes were completed in his direction. One of the few passes thrown at CB DeAngelo Hall was picked for his team-leading fourth interception. Hall also had 5 solo tackles.

With starting DTs Rod Coleman and Trey Lewis both going on the IR last week, Jonathan Babineaux and Montavious Stanley moved in to the starting lineup, with Tim Anderson rotating in as the top reserve.

The mystery illness plaguing CB Samari Rolle this year was revealed last week as epilepsy. He has had three major seizures this year which, along with the aftereffects, have kept him out of six games. Neither Rolle nor the team would comment on any restrictions in games, but Rolle indicated the condition was “under control” and he intends to keep playing, which experts seem to agree he can do. He started on Sunday and had 5 tackles (4 solo). However, the team was without CB Chris McAllister, who continues to battle a sore knee. Corey Ivy started in his place. FS Ed Reed continues to battle back and neck problems, as well as having suffered a minor concussion, after absorbing a few big hits against PIT in Week Nine. He was beaten by SD TE Antonio Gates on his first of two TDs. MLB Ray Lewis was beaten on the other. Lewis led the team 8 tackles (5 solo) and broke up a pass.

DE Trevor Pryce was placed on the IR with a torn pec suffered in Week Eleven. Dwan Edwards should start in his place the rest of the season. OLB Jarrett Johnson suffered a mild concussion and fractured thumb in the game and the team is hopeful he can play this week, but it seems he is likely to miss some time. Rookie Antwan Barnes could be in line for his first significant playing time if Johnson is out. The team had no sacks and forced no turnovers in the loss.

Another round of injuries plagued the Bills on Sunday, starting up front. DE Chris Kelsay left the game in the second quarter with a left ankle injury. It sounds like it will at least keep him out of this week’s game. Ryan Denney saw significant action in place of Kelsay and it may have been too much for his left foot. He left near the end of the game with pain in the foot. Denney missed the first half of the season with a broken left foot and has a screw in it. X-rays were negative, but Denney will be watched closely this week and obviously isn’t up to a full compliment of snaps if Kelsay misses any time. DE Tony Hargrove is next line.

The defense forced no turnovers and nickel CB Ashton Youboty had the only sack, the first of his career, when he chased JAX QB David Garrard out of bounds behind the line after pressure flushed him out. Youboty, as well as reserve safeties Jim Leonhard and Bryan Scott, saw more work with the depth a problem in the secondary. Kiwaukee Thomas went on the IR last week, Jerametrius Butler was out with a calf injury, and LB/S Coy Wire left the game in the third quarter with a neck stinger. The team signed CB Dustin Fox off the practice squad last week and he suited up, but did not play. LB Leon Joe was released to make room for Fox. Wire and Butler are both questionable for this week.

SLB Angelo Crowell played through foot problems and led the team with 10 tackles (7 solo). He is third in the league in tackles on the season. SS Donte Whitner started despite a recent concussion and had 4 solo tackles. CB Terrence McGee started the game with a sore ankle, then hurt his leg on his first kick return and was out briefly. He returned to the game to post 9 tackles (8 solo) and handle his normal kick return duties.

With a 3-0 lead, DE Julius Peppers tipped a pass to himself late in the first quarter for his first pick since 2004. However, the offense went three-and-out, then the Saints scored a TD on their next possession and never looked back. It was the only turnover forced by the defense, and they had no sacks.

CB Chris Gamble was inactive after having surgery on his dislocated right thumb last week. Richard Marshall replaced Gamble in the starting lineup and led the team with 13 tackles (3 solo), as well as broke up a pass. Gamble could return with a cast on the thumb this week. Patrick Dendy moved up to the nickel CB in place of Marshall. Despite HC John Fox indicating he was impressed with rookie UDFA Quinton Teal the last few weeks, he saw some work particularly in Week Ten when FS Deke Cooper was dinged up, Teal was back to just special teams work on Sunday.

SLB Thomas Davis played through a foot injury after being listed late last week as doubtful. He had 6 tackles (5 solo). MLB Jon Beason had 10 tackles (7 solo) and had double-digit tackles in three of his last four games.

Devin Hester and, for once, the offense, bailed out another shaky effort by the defense. However, DE Adewale Ogunleye resumed being one of the hottest ends in the league. He posted 7 tackles (6 solo) including 2 sacks. He forced a fumble on his first sack and although DEN recovered it, it was on third down forcing a punt. The offense converted it to a FG for the first points of the game. In the second quarter, he recovered a fumble forced by WLB Lance Briggs that led to another FG. It came after an interception for FS Danieal Manning was erased by a penalty. Three of his non-sack stops were for a yard or less, including two straight on a third quarter drive that forced the punt Hester returned for a TD. His second sack came on third down to stop a DEN drive late in the fourth quarter. On the subsequent drive, the Bears tied the game to force OT. He didn’t do much the previous game, but over the last four games, O-Gun has 20 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. He leads the team with 9 sacks on the season.

CB Charles Tillman grabbed his first pick of the season, but his biggest play was a blocked punt midway through the fourth quarter that CHI converted to a TD to cut the deficit to seven and allow them to eventually tie the game to force OT. CB Nathan Vasher remained inactive with a partially torn groin. Rookie Trumaine McBride, who had been starting in place of Vasher recently, was battling a hip problem of his own, so he was limited to special teams work. Nickel CB Ricky Manning Jr. got the start and showed why despite being an asset as a playmaking nickel in a Cover Two, he can’t play on an island like Vasher can. After DEN scored late in the third to go up by seven, Hester returned the kickoff for a TD to tie the game back up at 20. However, on the first play from scrimmage by DEN on the next drive, Manning was burnt off the line in man coverage for a 68 yard TD, capping three TDs in 27 seconds in what was a surprisingly exciting game.

Darwin Walker and Anthony Adams started at DT, with Tommie Harris continues to be limited by knee and groin problems. Harris missed a few snaps when he aggravated his groin on Sunday, but returned to the game. He will continue to be limited in practice to be as fresh as possible for games, but could be shut down for the season if the Bears are eliminated from playoff contention.

SLB Hunter Hillenmeyer led the team with 10 tackles (8 solo) and MLB Brian Urlacher had 8 tackles (6 solo). Urlacher also broke up two passes, including a nice tip on an athletic leap to redirect a potential TD pass in the first quarter. Briggs broke up the next pass, limiting DEN to a FG after they had a first-and-goal from the three-yard line.

Landon Johnson remained the man in the middle and Dhani Jones continues to thrive at WLB. He led the team with 9 tackles (6 solo), including his first solo sack since 2003. He forced a fumble on the sack that SLB Rashad Jeanty recovered. It was the only sack for the Bengals. Johnson, who is already battling a sore back, left the game briefly in the first half with a cut on his arm. He returned and finished with 3 tackles (1 solo). Anthony Schlegel only saw work while Johnson was out. Schlegel also had a bad back, but it looks like Johnson will remain the starting MLB for now.

Rookie CB Leon Hall, who replaced Deltha O’Neal in the starting lineup the previous game, continues to start and played through a shoulder injury. He had 2 tackles (1 solo). CB Johnathan Joseph had his second pick of the season and broke up 2 other passes. He also had 5 tackles (4 solo). Rookie Chinedum Ndukwe continues to take snaps away from SS Dexter Jackson, who was reportedly impaired by hand and wrist problems.

ILB D’Qwell Jackson returned to the starting lineup, but it was Leon Williams, not Andra Davis, who moved back to a reserve. Jackson led the team with 12 tackles (10 solo). He also got his first career pick when Davis tipped a low that Jackson made a nice diving grab on. Davis also had 2 tackles (1 solo). Williams had 2 solo tackles and while his strength is in pass coverage, he brought some good pressure as a pass rusher. Davis and Williams sharing a role again limits the value of both, while Jackson appears over his sprained ankle and ready to return to being a tackle machine. OLB Kamerion Wimbley also brought good pressure and although he didn’t have a sack, he broke up a pass and had 3 solo tackles, including forcing a fumble on one that CB Leigh Bodden recovered. Pass rush specialist OLB Antwan Peek had a sack against his old team, giving him 3.5 on the season.

With rookie CB Eric Wright sidelined with a sprained left knee, Daven Holly joined Bodden as the starting corners. However, it was another rookie corner, Brandon McDonald, who stepped in to the spotlight as the nickel corner. McDonald spent a lot of time on HOU WR Andre Johnson, holding him to under 40 yards and no TDs. McDonald broke up 4 passes, including grabbing his first career pick in HOU territory in the fourth quarter that led to a TD putting the game out of reach for the Texans. McDonald had a solo tackle on defense and two more on special teams. Wright is expected to miss up to three more weeks.

NT Ethan Kelley was out with a knee injury, so Shaun Smith, who was battling his own knee injury, slid in from end and started at NT. Smith had his second sack of the season, both in the last three games. Kelley remains questionable for this week. Orpheus Roye remained a starter at end with Robaire Smith.

After a couple scores by the defense, the rout was on when CB Terence Newman jumped a route and returned his third pick of the season 50-yards for a 21-0 lead in the second quarter. SS Roy Williams didn’t start a game for the first time in his career. The defense opened in their nickel package, which now features reserve S Pat Watkins in place of Williams, and played nickel a lot throughout the game. HC Wade Phillips dismissed it as a result of the scheme and said he had no idea of the streak, but reinforced Williams is a “starter” and pointed out he played his normal snaps, which is most of the game and on some special teams. ILB Akin Ayodele was also bumped as an official starter by Kevin Burnett because of this. Burnett is playing well and may have encroached more on Ayodele’s time than just because of playing more pass prevention schemes. Newman and Anthony Henry started together for the first time this season because of the scheme and Henry had his snaps increased significantly. Newman missed some time early with plantar fasciitis and Henry has not started the previous two games, despite being active, as he returned from an ankle injury. Jacques Reeves, who had started every game until Thanksgiving in place of Newman or Henry, was temporarily knocked out of the game when he colliding with FS Ken Hamlin to break up a pass in the end zone.

The rebirth of Greg Ellis as an OLB at age 32 continues. He had 2 sacks among his 4 solo tackles giving him 8.5 sacks on the season, half a sack short of his best season. Ellis has done this despite missing the first three games of the season recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon just over a year ago. He doesn’t get many tackles, but has only been held without a sack in two of the eight games he played this year and has three multi-sack games. With double-digit sacks, Ellis hits a significant salary incentive target. His play has made rookie Anthony Spencer worthless in redraft leagues.

DE Elvis Dumervil finished with just 3 solo tackles, but he was a force. He drew holding calls on both CHI tackles on the same drive, one of them negating a TD pass for the Bears. On the next play after erasing seven points, he blew up the middle with DT Kenny Peterson to get to CHI QB Rex Grossman. It appeared shared to me, but Peterson got credit for the sack. Dumervil was mostly frustrating CHI RT Fred Miller from the left side, drawing a face mask on Miller in addition to one of those holds. Peterson, who recently was brought back after being cut earlier this season, was a force in the game. He did not start, but rotated in regularly on both running and passing downs, getting four other solo tackles in addition to his sack, and batting down a pass. Rookie Tim Crowder also continues to do well as a situational pass rusher. He got his fourth sack of the season and all of them have come in the last three games.

SS Hamza Abdullah stopped a huge momentum swing by CHI in the third quarter. After a punt return for a TD by the Bears that tied the game, the DEN offense threw a pick on the next play from scrimmage that left CHI deep in DEN territory. On third down, Grossman escaped the pocket before Abdullah hit him and caused a fumble. The ball squirted away and after Abdullah popped up, he picked it up. He very likely could have returned it for a TD, but whistles had blown originally saying the ground caused the fumble and it was still CHI ball. That was reversed after being challenged and although a TD the other way may have been erased, at least DEN had the ball back. Abdullah had 7 solo tackles in the game and is locked in as the starter at SS now. CB Dre’ Bly had a sack and played a lot of good coverage, but a very questionable illegal contact call on him on fourth down kept the drive alive that eventually tied the game for the Bears and forced OT.

MLB D.J. Williams led the team in tackles with 11 (9 solo).

The Thanksgiving game started off good when GB QB Brett Favre tripped on the first play from scrimmage and lost the ball, which DE Jared DeVries recovered. However, they had little answer for the GB O after the first quarter, getting no other turnovers and no sacks in the game. DE Dewayne White returned after missing two games with a left triceps injury. He was back in the starting lineup, but moved over to right end in place of Kalimba Edwards. DeVries, who has played well in replacing both White and Edwards due to injuries this year, is now the starting LDE and pushes Edwards to the third DE and, once again, mostly a situational pass rusher.

SS Kennoy Kennedy forced a fumble with his usual vicious hitting, but it went out of bounds before DET could recover it. He led the team with 10 tackles (5 solo). CB Travis Fisher and CB Fernando Bryant started and played through some dings from the last few games, but both played poorly regardless of Favre being on fire.

DT Shaun Cody was a healthy scratch, with journeyman Langston Moore active over him for depth on the DLine. The former second-round pick has fallen a long way since he earned a starting role to begin 2006 before a toe injury ended his season early.

Green Bay
The offense sputtered out of the gate, but despite DET getting deep in GB territory twice, the defense held them to six points in the first quarter. DE Aaron Kampman was a big part of it, getting both of his sacks on third downs in the first quarter. Kampman brought good pressure the whole night, as DET was down to their third string RT quickly. DET starter George Foster was inactive and his back-up, Jonathan Scott, went out in the first quarter. Kampman got his second sack on the next play. He takes over the league lead in sacks with 11 this season. MLB Nick Barnett led the team with 8 tackles (4 solo) and continues to lead the team on the season.

The momentum swung to the Packers on the first play of the second quarter. Rookie FS Aaron Rouse stepped in front of DET rookie WR Calvin Johnson near mid-field to get his second career interception and returned in deep inside DET territory. The Packers would score a TD on that and their next drive to take control of the game heading in to halftime. It was the only turnover the defense forced in the game and gives Rouse a pick in back-to-back games in his third career start. He also had 6 tackles (4 solo). However, he had to leave the game in the second half after straining his knee. Charlie Peprah finished the game at FS. Adding a bit of a concern regarding how bad Rouse’s knee is hurt is the fact the team has brought back S Marviel Underwood this week. Underwood was a fourth-round pick in 2005 who was released in the preseason when he wasn’t ready to return from an ACL injury last year. Rouse remains questionable, although Nick Collins likely returns this week. More on that later.

DT Johnny Jolly was inactive with a shoulder sprain, so Corey Williams started in his place next to Ryan Pickett. Williams had a sack to tie a career high with seven on the season. Williams has five sacks in his last four games. Jolly is expected to miss a few more weeks and the injury problems mounted for the defense in the game. DT Colin Cole, who saw more work with Jolly out, broke his left forearm in the game and is done for the season. Pickett also left the game briefly after aggravating a previously strained knee in the first quarter, but returned the next series and is expected to play this week. Pass rush specialist Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila rolled his ankle on a sack in the second quarter and did not return. It gave KGB 9.5 on the season, tied for fourth in the league and the most since his last double-digit sack season in 2004. Mike Montgomery saw more work with KGB out. KGB thinks he is fine, but he also strained his knee in addition to spraining his ankle. He already missed practice Monday and is questionable this week, making him a risky play even if he is active. The biggest concern might be CB Charles Woodson. He hurt his right big toe on a punt return in the first quarter and did not return. There was significant swelling the next day, but it was not broken. Woodson has battled hip and foot problems all season, so he has been regularly held out of practice and it will be hard to gauge what it means when he misses practice this week, as he already did on Monday, although he went through a limited workout on Tuesday. It’s also important to note he has a history of problems with turf toe. Tramon Williams, who was a star in their previous game when he returned a pooch punt for a TD, replaced Woodson. Williams had another big play on special teams, making a TD-saving tackle on a kick return in the second quarter. Williams or Jarrett Bush would start in place of Woodson if he is out, and depth a corner would be a problem because Will Blackmon is still out with a broken foot, though he could return this week. I’d bet Woodson plays this week, but would be leery of starting him. CB Al Harris has been battling back problems most of the season, so they need to worry about him aggravating that problem, as well. FS Nick Collins, who should return this week from a knee injury, was still out on Thanksgiving, but his absence had been less of a concern due to the play of Rouse. Collins is expected to return to the starting lineup regardless of the condition of Rouse. At DT, the team has first-round pick Justin Harrell ready to return from an ankle sprain to replace Cole in the rotation, but will miss Jolly this week. Despite playing on Thanksgiving, the team doesn’t get the benefit of more time to rest this week because they are up again this Thursday night in a battle with DAL that will have a huge impact on determining home field advantage through the NFC playoffs.

DE Mario Williams remained hot with 4 solo tackles, including the only sack for the Texans on which he forced a fumble. He had sacks in back-to-back games and leads the team with 6 on the season. MLB DeMeco Ryans led the team with 11 tackles (9 solo).

CB Jamar Fletcher returned to practice from an appendicitis last week, but remained inactive. CB Von Hutchins had 10 solo tackles and started opposite rookie Fred Bennett, who had his second career pick and 6 tackles (5 solo).

After struggling through the first quarter against the Falcons on Thanksgiving, the team finally took a 14-13 lead late in the third quarter. On the subsequent drive, FS Antoine Bethea lit up ATL rookie WR Laurent Robinson just after he caught a pass, knocking it free and right in to the hands of CB Kelvin Hayden for his second interception of the season. Hayden lost a few yards trying to escape a tackle, then tried to lateral the ball to FS Bob Sanders as he was being tackles, but it hit the ground and was considered a fumble. Sanders picked it up and returned it 34 yards, but that was all erased by a hold by Bethea when brought ATL QB Joey Harrington down with a wrestling move from a headlock. The offense would convert that in to seven more points for a bigger cushion heading in to the half. Sanders also had 6 solo tackles in the game.

The defense would seal the victory late in the third quarter with their only other forced turnover in the game. SLB Rocky Boiman got his second pick of the season deep in ATL territory and Colts cruised from there. Boiman remained a starter with Tyjuan Hagler still inactive. Boiman broke up another pass and had 2 solo tackles. WLB Freddie Keiaho had 5 solo tackles and MLB Gary Brackett led the team with 13 tackles (11 solo).

DT Raheem Brock continues to step up to help the pass rush with DE Dwight Freeney done for the season. Brock had his second sack in as many games and has 2.5 on the season. Brock had 6.5 for two consecutive seasons when he used to platoon with Robert Mathis at end. He fell to three sacks last year as a full-time DT, but has some upside now in leagues that segregate interior linemen. The team’s other sack came from the man the team hopes can help directly fill the void at DE in Freeney’s absence. After failing to be the savior to the pass rush in Denver, Simeon Rice got his 122nd career sack, and first of the season, in the second quarter. Despite this, it apparently took the Colts just two games to decide Rice doesn’t have it anymore. He was cut this week and the team added FB/special teamer Luke Lawton back on the roster. A role player who really stepped up on the line Sunday was rookie DT Quinn Pitcock. He made a play on just about every snap he was in, totaling 4 solo tackles.

After beginning the month with an arrest for being passed out in his car with an open container of alcohol and resisting arrest, second-round pick Justin Durant turned it all around in the last game of the month. With MLB Mike Peterson sidelined with a broken hand, Darryl Smith moved to the middle and rookie Justin Durant got his third career start at OLB. Durant led the team with 9 solo tackles, including one on special teams, and grabbed his first career pick in the fourth quarter. Smith had 8 solo tackles. Peterson is expected to be out until at least late December.

CB Rashean Mathis (strained groin) missed a game for the first time in his career, snapping a string of 74 starts going back to the first game of his 2003 rookie season. He is expected to return this week. Veteran Aaron Glenn started in his place. Although reserve DB Jamaal Fudge has been seeing time in some pass packages over SS Sammy Knight, Knight got his team-leading fourth pick of the season on a first down in the second quarter. Fudge just missed a sack and forced a fumble that he recovered on one of his 3 solo tackles.
DE Paul Spicer had the only sack for the Jaguars. He leads the team with six for the season. DT Rob Meier continues to start in place of Marcus Stroud, who is suspended for one more game.

Kansas City
DE Jared Allen was held without a sack in back-to-back games for the first time this year. His 9.5 on the season still leads the team, but drops him to a tie for fourth in the league. DE Tamba Hali had his fifth sack of the season and OLB Donnie Edwards had his second. All three LBs had 7 tackles in the game and Edwards also forced a fumble on a tackle with CB Benny Sapp that Sapp recovered for the only turnover the defense forced. Sapp replaced Patrick Surtain as a starter at corner when Surtain left in the first quarter with what was reported as a shoulder injury, but Surtain has said he suffered a head and neck injury. Rookie UDFA Tyron Brackenridge took over Sapp’s nickel role when Sapp moved over to Surtain’s spot. Surtain is expected to play this week.

Bernard Pollard assumed his starting role at SS again. Greg Wesley was given a start last week as Pollard has struggled at times with his increased responsibilities this year as a starter and full-time player. However, Wesley left the previous game early with a lingering knee problem. He was active this week, but back in the third safety role.

MLB Zach Thomas missed his sixth game with HC Cam Cameron indicating “nothing has changed” regarding his status. Thomas missed two games earlier this season with a concussion and has now been inactive four straight games since reportedly suffering whiplash in a car accident after their 10/21 game. The migraines were first reported as a problem two weeks after that, at which time Thomas also said he wasn’t considering giving up on the season. He did not practice last week. My gut feeling is if the Dolphins win a game, Thomas will hang it up for the season. Unless there are some personal career statistical goals he is chasing, there is really no reason for him to rush a return. However, if they remain winless, I think he will wait out trying to be cleared to try and help the team avoid such a record. Either way, I imagine he doesn’t want to call it a career after such a brutal year, but he’ll be 35 at the beginning of next season and nature of his problems (head) make it a greater concern this could be it the longer he remains not cleared to play. The team had more problems at LB when Derrick Pope, who has been starting at WLB while Thomas is out, was admitted to the ER at a Miami hospital on Saturday. He was released in the afternoon and the only information being shared was that it was not related to a football injury. Pope’s agent was quick to also rule out it was not drug-related in any way.

Pope did not start on Monday night, but was active and played. Donnie Spragan got the start at WLB, splitting time with Pope. Channing Crowder continued to start in the middle in place of Thomas and led the team with 12 tackles (7 solo) and shared a sack with Rodrique Wright. Wright started with DE Matt Roth still active due to a groin strain. SLB Joey Porter was expectedly hyper about facing his former team, and did his part. Porter had a pick in the end zone, broke up another pass, and had 8 tackles (6 solo).

After trading punches on the first two drives, MIN swung the momentum late in the first quarter. SS Darren Sharper grabbed a pass rushed by NYG QB Eli Manning and after stumbling out of the gate, returned it 20 yards for the tenth TD of his career, moving him in to a tie for third in career defensive TDs and fifth in INT returns for a TD. It was the first of four picks Manning would throw, a Viking-record three of them returned for a TD. The next one in the second quarter FS Dwight Smith almost returned for a score, as well, getting to the NYG eight-yard line. The offense would convert that one to a TD. With NYG trying to mount a comeback early in the fourth quarter, SLB Ben Leber came on a blitz off the edge deep in MIN territory. It was a quick slant, but Leber managed to get a hand on the ball with an athletic leap. The deflected ball landed right in Smith’s hands and he returned his second pick in the game 93 yards for a TD. It was Smith’s first TD since he returned a record two picks for TDs in Super Bowl XXXVII. On the second play from scrimmage for the Giants on the next drive, WLB Chad Greenway stepped in front of a pass intended for NYG TE Jeremy Shockey and returned it 37 yards for his first career TD. Smith leads the team with four picks and Sharper had three on the season. Leber also had a sack in the game and continues to come up with big plays for the defense.

Despite HC Brad Childress saying CB Antoine Winfield could have returned last week when he sat out the second half after aggravating a pulled hamstring, Winfield missed practice all last week and was inactive on Sunday. He had missed the two games prior to that with the injury. Rookie CB Marcus McCauley started in his place, posting 5 solo tackles and breaking up a pass. Winfield did not practice on Monday and is still very questionable for this week. CB Cedric Griffin missed out on the pick party after one he appeared to have was challenged and ruled an incomplete after review. MLB E.J Henderson (5 solo) and DT Pat Williams (4 solo) led the team with 6 tackles.
Tank Williams left the game with a knee injury on special teams in the first quarter and did not return. It has been called an MCL strain and he is very questionable for this week. A former starter in Tennessee, he is the top reserve at safety. Reserve DT Fred Evans had his first sack of the season. His celebration of it this week was cut short when he was suspended two games for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Evans had a couple of arrests in the offseason.

New England
In what turned out to be a surprisingly challenging outing for the Pats, CB Asante Samuel got them on the board first when he intercepted the third play from scrimmage and returned it 40 yards for a TD. Then he sealed the victory with a pick in the end zone after the Eagles were driving in NE territory late in the game. Samuel moved in to a tie for the league lead in picks with his sixth of the season. FS James Sanders got his first pick of the season in a fruitless toss with seconds left. SS Rodney Harrison led the team with 9 tackles (7 solo, including one on special teams). Nickel CB Randall Gay left the game with what was reported as a back injury and didn’t return. He says he’ll play this week. Interestingly, the Pats, who notoriously abuse the injury report at times, had only one player on it last week – Tom Brady. Brady, who hasn’t missed a game since becoming a starter early in 2001, has appeared on the injury report every week since the start of the 2005 season.

The defense suffered a big loss when OLB Rosey Colvin left the game in the third quarter. It is being reported as a foot injury, but it appeared they were looking at his arm on the sidelines. He registered his fourth sack of the season earlier in the game. Colvin was placed on the IR this week and is done for the season, with the usual lack of information available from the player or team, including exactly what the injury was. Everywhere else in the media it is being called a foot injury. The team signed veteran LB Chad Brown to fill his roster spot. Brown played mostly special teams earlier this season with the Pats before being released. The loss of Colvin shakes up what had been a solid rotation among the LBs. Conventional wisdom says Adailus Thomas moves outside, where he produced 2.5 sacks in the previous game after spending more time there, and Junior Seau moves in to the starting lineup. Beyond just adding the 36-year old Brown, their depth at LB has little experience. ILB Eric Alexander and OLB Pierre Woods are the top back-ups, but almost exclusively special teamers. Alexander has the only career start between them, albeit a big one, when he started the AFC Championship game last year after the team had already lost Seau for the season. Special teams captain Larry Izzo had 12 years of experience and plays in some goalline packages, but no career starts.

New Orleans
SS Roman Harper led the defense in their best effort of the season. Harper led the team with 7 solo tackles (including 2 on kickoff coverage), forced a fumble that DE Will Smith recovered in the third quarter, and had his first pick of the season in the fourth quarter. FS Josh Bullucks had his second pick of the season and 5 solo tackles.

DE Charles Grant returned from a left ankle sprain and started. DT Brian Young (knee) remains inactive with Antwan Lake starting in his place and battling through an elbow problem. Lake had his first sack of the season, the only one in the game. Young is expected back this week.

New York Giants
The defense brought some good pressure, but gave up some big plays and couldn’t overcome four picks by QB Eli Manning, especially when they forced no turnovers. DE Osi Umenyiora looked good in posting 6 tackles (5 solo), including 2 sacks. He also forced a fumble on his first sack. Umenyiora now leads the team with 10 sacks on the season and is third in the league. DT Fred Robbins also had a big game, leading the team with 8 solo tackles. He also had a solo sack and shared one with pass rush specialist DE Justin Tuck. Tuck also had a solo sack, and has 8.5 on the season.

As expected, Reggie Torbor replaced Mathias Kiwanuka (on IR with broken leg) as the starting SLB. He had 4 solo tackles, with Tuck and Robbins seeing more work in pass rush packages, as well. FS Gibril Wilson played through a sore knee and had 7 solo tackles. CB Aaron Ross battled a sore hamstring throughout the game and was moved to the nickel and dime packages with normal nickel CB Kevin Dockery working outside. Dockery also briefly left the game in the third quarter after getting the wind knocked out of him, but returned. Ross has still been limited by the hamstring in practice this week, so he is questionable. Of most concern is MLB Antonio Pierce leaving the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. He sprained the ankle, but according to him, it is not the dreaded high variety. He has been limited, but has practiced this week.

New York Jets
Rookie ILB David Harris didn’t have double-digit tackles for the first time as a starter with Matt Chatham seeing more work specifically for pass coverage against DAL TE Jason Witten. It didn’t help much when Chatham was fooled on a 25-yard TD pass to Witten. Harris had 6 solo tackles and still leads the team on the season. It also looked like he was robbed of a forced fumble and perhaps half a sack that was completely credited to DT C.J. Mosley.

SS Kerry Rhodes had his team-leading third pick of the season and second in as many games, but just one assisted tackle. FS Abram Elam led the team with 9 tackles (8 solo, including 2 on special teams) and broke up 2 passes. CB Darrelle Revis eventually gave up a TD to DAL WR Terrell Owens and dropped a sure pick, but played Owens very well. In addition to the pass defensed on the dropped pick, he had 5 solo tackles. Revis is playing through a sore knee, but expected to play this week.

Despite battling knee problems most of the season, DT Dewayne Robertson is putting up career numbers. He had a sack on Thanksgiving, giving him 3.5 in his last two games and a career-best four on the season.

DE Derrick Burgess continues to return to form and terrorize QBs with pass rush specialist Chris Clemons. Burgess had 2 sacks, giving him five on the season, all in the last five games. Clemons got his team-leading sixth sack of the season. MLB Kirk Morrison led the team with 11 tackles (10 solo). KC successfully ran on OAK most of the game, but Morrison and WLB Thomas Howard combined to stop KC RB Kolby Smith for a loss on a fourth-and-one in OAK territory late in the fourth quarter to help secure the victory.

After leaving their previous game with a hip injury, FS Stuart Schweigert was inactive due to a calf injury suffered in practice. Hiram Eugene replaced him as a starter, with reserve CB Chris Carr seeing some additional work, as well. Depth at safety became a bigger problem when special team ace S Jarrod Cooper injured his right knee on kick coverage in the first quarter and had to be carted off the field. He has a torn ACL and is done for the season. Carr also saw more work as CB Nnamdi Ashomugha was limited as he is recently off a knee injury and suffered a mild concussion in the previous game. Schweigert is expected to return this week.

The Eagles hung tough with the Patriots in all three phases of the game, but losing the turnover battle ultimately can be pointed to as the difference in the close game. The Pats forced three turnovers and converted them in to seven points, while the Eagles failed to force any.

Juqua Thomas remained the starter at LDE opposite Trent Cole and had another big game. He had a season-high 8 tackles (4 solo), including his fifth sack of the season. His strong play, particularly as a pass rusher, could help Cole get out of a rut as he has become the focus of opposing defenses in pass protection. Cole has gone four weeks without a sack, after getting 9 in the first 7 games, as the team has struggled to generate pressure anywhere else on the edges. Although it only resulted in three sacks, DC Jim Johnson was able to frustrate the NE passing game at times by frequently bringing the blitz. SLB Chris Gocong got the first sack of the season for a Philly LB, albeit it came with him lined up as an end. Gocong spent a lot of time as a rush end as the team frequently used nickel looks, with Gocong coming off the edge, to combat the spread offense. Even DE Darren Howard can be removed from milk cartoons after getting his first sack of the season working from the inside. DT Brodrick Bunkley suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee and strained hamstring during the game. He’ll be evaluated later this week, but seems very questionable for this week. DE Jevon Kearse was active, but saw limited work.

Injury problems continue to plague the PHI secondary. After moving to SS to replace Sean Considine, who went on the IR, in the starting lineup last week, Quintin Mikell was ruled out on Saturday due to a sprained MCL. J.R. Reed at SS in place of Mikell and played surprisingly well for a guy who had been pigeon-holed as simply a return specialist. Reed had 6 tackles (5 solo), including a couple impressive shots. He broke up 2 passes, including just missing a pick. He should remain the starter at least another week, as Mikell is probably going to miss another game. CB Lito Sheppard appeared to be over his knee injury from earlier this season as he blanketed NE WR Randy Moss all night. Sheppard had 6 solo tackles. MLB Omar Gaither led the team with 12 tackles (8 solo).

SS Troy Polamalu was inactive with a knee sprain, but could return this week. Tyrone Carter started in his place and led the team with 12 tackles (11 solo). ILB James Farrior had 11 tackles (7 solo), including sharing a sack with ILB Larry Foote and the hit that ended MIA RB Ricky Williams’ return to the NFL not long after it started. Farrior forced a fumble on the play that rookie LB Lawrence Timmons recovered. Timmons saw his first significant action of the season with fellow rookie LaMarr Woodley inactive with a hamstring injury. OLB James Harrison continues to be “Mr. Monday Night” as he got a sack and forced a fumble that DE Aaron Smith recovered to end the best drive of the night by MIA that got all the way to the PIT 25-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

St. Louis
Last week I discussed MLB Will Witherspoon being used more as a pass rusher and this week he had two more among his 5 solo tackles. He also broke up 2 passes. Witherspoon now leads the team with six sacks on the season, getting at least one in four straight games. SLB Brandon Chillar also had 2 sacks. He is playing on a tender ankle, but is expected to play this week. The team played a lot of nickel against the spread sets SEA runs, so nickel CB Ronald Bartell saw plenty of work. Bartell led the team with 8 solo tackles, including one on special teams, and broke up a pass. Tinoisamoa also left the game in the third quarter with a sprained left knee and was replaced by Chris Draft. Tinoisamoa tore his MCL in the knee and is likely done for the season. Draft moves in to the starting lineup and becomes a nice waiver wire addition if you need help at LB.

DE James Hall was active and started, but limited when he aggravated his sprained left ankle. Hall is expected to miss this week, killing the team’s already razor-thin depth at ends. The team was already considering sliding first-round pick Adam Carriker outside to get some work at DE, so it would make sense he replaces Hall this week and Trevor Johnson starts at the DT slot vacated by Carriker. FS O.J. Atogwe had a pick for the second straight game and leads the team with four, a new career best, on the season.

San Diego
OLB Shawne Merriman had his first sack since Week Six among many big plays he had in the game. He stopped BAL RB Willis McGahee for a loss twice, although both were erased by penalties. Merriman led the team 7 tackles (5 solo) and forced a fumble on his sack that was recovered by OLB Marques Harris. OLB Shaun Phillips had 6 tackles (4 solo) and shared a sack with DT Ryon Bingham. Merriman leads the team with 6.5 sacks and Phillips is second with 6 sacks.

NT Jamal Williams played through lingering knee problems and had 6 tackles (4 solo). DE Luis Castillo remained inactive and is expected to be out until at least Christmas Eve after surgery on a right ankle tendon.

San Francisco
After struggling a bit recently with a cast on his broken right hand, rookie ILB Patrick Willis was all over the field on Sunday. He led the team with a season-high 18 tackles (17 solo), including sharing a sack with OLB Parys Haralson. None were bigger than when he caught AZ WR Sean Morey from behind after a 62-yard gain in overtime. As opposed to a win, AZ had to settle for a FG. It appeared they made it, but were flagged for delay of game. After moving back five yards, AZ K Neil Rackers missed. After the 49ers failed to advance on the subsequent possession, they pinned AZ deep in their own territory. On their first play from scrimmage, AZ QB Kurt Warner dropped back in the end zone and DT Ronnie Fields knocked the ball loose on his first career sack. OLB Tully Banta-Cain fell on it for the victory. Willis broke 100 tackles for the season and took over the league lead.

SS Michael Lewis had his best statistical game since joining the 49ers. He posted 12 tackles (11 solo), forcing a fumble on one and getting a sack on another. CB Nate Clements had 10 tackles (8 solo) and forced a fumble FS Mark Roman recovered deep in AZ territory that led to a second quarter TD. Clements had a tough day in coverage on AZ WR Larry Fitzgerald, who made several nice catches with Clements on him most of the day. After AZ WR Bryant Johnson made a nice 30-yard catch over CB Donald Strickland to get the 49ers to the one-yard line at the end of regulation, Strickland made an outstanding play to break up a potential game-winning catch by Johnson on the next play. With just two seconds left after that, AZ had to go for a FG and settle for OT, instead of the victory. Strickland saw more work, and Roman even had to play a little corner, when Marcus Hudson and Shawtae Spencer went down. Spencer left with a strained left quad in the second half and Hudson left with a knee injury during the second of two first quarter interceptions by CB Walt Harris. Harris now leads the team with three picks on the season. They were his first since Week One, after Harris had a career-high eight interceptions in 2006. Hudson had a torn left PCL and is expected to miss a couple weeks, while Spencer is questionable for this week.

ILB Jeff Ulbrich was limited again by an ankle injury suffered in their previous game. DT Aubrayo Franklin was out with a calf injury suffered in the previous game and is expected to miss three more game. Isaac Sopoaga started at NT in his place. OLB Roderick Green had a sack for the second straight game, in just his third game with the team. The team has struggled to find more pass rush help from the edges after losing Manny Lawson for the season and brought back Green, who was cut in the preseason, in Week Ten. He had 4.5 sacks as a reserve with SF last year. Green, a converted DE with small-school pass rush prodigy pedigree, was originally drafted by the Ravens in the fifth round in 2004.

DE Patrick Kerney had 7 solo tackles, including 3 sacks for the second straight week, and his first interception since 2004. Kerney grabbed the pick in the first quarter and on the next series got his first sack and forced a fumble on it that STL recovered. His second sack came on a third down in the fourth quarter and ensured STL was out of FG range. The offense scored the eventual game-winning TD on the subsequent drive. Kerney now leads the team with 10.5 sacks on the season, 7 in his last three games, and has his first double-digit sack total since 2004. He has risen to second in the league in sacks. OLB Leroy Hill had a sack for the second consecutive game, third on the season, and forced a fumble on it. He also had 7 tackles (6 solo). DE Darryl Tapp missed a sack, but sealed the victory on the last play from scrimmage by the Rams with SEA up by five. On a fourth-and-goal to decide the game, STL QB Gus Frerotte pulled out from under center too early and mishandled the snap. Frerotte picked it up off the bounce, but Tapp was on him to end the threat. Tapp had 4 solo tackles and forced a fumble. STL recovered the fumble, but then Frerotte threw a pick to CB Marcus Trufant on the next play. Trufant leads the team with four interceptions this season.

DT Rocky Bernard (groin, concussion) returned to practice late last week and played on Sunday. MLB Lofa Tatupu hurt an oblique muscle in the first quarter and struggled through the game in pain. Niko Koutouvides replaced him in the nickel and in most packages late in the game, but Tatupu came back for the final four plays at the goalline. He had x-rays that were negative, so he doesn’t have broken ribs. It is reported he is expected to play this week, but keep an eye on if he practices Friday. He led the team with 9 solo tackles and broke up a pass.

Rookie CB Josh Wilson returned a first quarter kickoff 89 yards for his first career TD. Wilson is the fourth corner, but splits kick returns with WR Nate Burleson. Wilson is averaging an excellent 30.0 yard per kick return. He has some nice upside in dynasty leagues that count return yards.

Tampa Bay
The defense would force turnovers on the first two possessions by the Redskins, setting the tone for a game which they hang on to win in spite of the offense in the second half. FS Tanard Jackson recovered fumbles forced by CB Phillip Buchanon and DE Greg White on those drives. The Redskins would then lose fumbles on the first two drives on the second quarter. White would forced a fumble on a sack and then recover a fumble forced by SS Jermaine Phillips on the next drive. DE Kevin Carter recovered the fumble forced by White on the sack, and had a sack of his own later in the game. Despite starting just two games, White leads the team with 5.5 sacks. He has 4.5 of those sacks in the last five games. If you are wondering where White came from, he is a 28-year old rookie who played his last college game six years ago, but played in his first NFL game this year. Between then and finally breaking in the league, he had been to camp and on the practice squad of six NFL teams, as well as playing in just about every other professional league out there, and worked a variety of other jobs in between. He finally rose to prominence in the Arena Football League on the Orlando Predators, under HC Jay Gruden. After losing Dewayne White to free agency and parting ways with Simeon Rice, the team had a hole at DE. With a good word from his brother, White got another opportunity (he was in camp with TB in 2002) in the NFL under HC John Gruden and it has worked out pretty well for both parties.

While the offense struggled in the second half, the last two turnovers forced by the defense protected a six-point lead in the fourth quarter. CB Rhonde Barber and Brian Kelly each got their first pick of the season, with Kelly getting his in the end zone with less than a minute to play. Barber is heating up in the big play department after returning a fumble for a TD last week.

DE Greg Spires (torn left calf) remained out, as expected, and shouldn’t be ready to play this week, either. Rookie Gaines Adams got the start in his place and had 3 solo tackles, but it was White, as discussed above, who continues to make big plays. With the play of White and the opportunity to develop being pushed on Adams, pass rush specialist Patrick Chukwurah’s role has been limited since returning from injury.

SLB Cato June started despite his DUI arrest after the previous game. He had 5 tackles (3 solo). WLB Derrick Brooks led the team with 12 tackles (9 solo). After low production the last couple of games, MLB Barrett Rudd returned to double-digit tackle numbers in posting 10 (5 solo) for the game.

WLB Keith Bulluck finally had the game his owners have waited all season for, but probably long after most have stopped considering him a “must-start” player. Bulluck led the team in tackles with 14 (11 solo), his first double-digit tackle day of the season. He was helped by the Bengals dominating the time of possession, holding the ball over 38 minutes and rushing 36 times.

DT Albert Haynesworth (hamstring) remained inactive and continues to be replaced by Randy Starks. DE Travis LaBoy (concussion) was also inactive. Both remain questionable this week. DE Kyle Vanden Bosch had the only sack in the game for TEN, his team-leading sixth of the season. He forced a fumble on the sack that CIN recovered. Vanden Bosch was dinged in the ribs during the game, but stayed in and is expected to play this week.

SS Chris Hope left in the second quarter with a concussion. He did not return and was replaced by Calvin Lowry, who posted 7 tackles (6 solo) and grabbed his first career pick. Hope will be checked later this week and sounds very questionable. CB Nick Harper returned after missing the previous game with a concussion and was back in the starting lineup.

In a horrible tragedy, FS Sean Taylor was shot in his home early Monday morning and died the next day after losing a significant amount of blood. Taylor, the fifth-overall pick in the 2004 draft, was 24 years old.

Despite holding the Buccaneers in the second half to 16 yards and no first downs, they couldn’t overcome the hole the offense dug with six turnovers. FS Reed Doughty led the team with 8 tackles (4 solo). Doughty replaced Taylor in the starting lineup, as Taylor missed his second game recovering from an MCL sprain. PFW reported the team has gone with Doughty, a sixth-round pick in 2006, over journeyman Pierson Prioleau the last two games because Doughty has been practicing at FS all season as Taylor’s primary back-up. Prioleau has roles in the nickel package and other pass schemes. Doughty should remain the starter for now.

SLB Marcus Washington (OLB, S) returned after missing two more games with a lingering hamstring injury. He had his fourth sack of the season, and first since Week Five, among his 4 tackles (3 solo). DE Andre Carter had his team-leading eighth sack of the season. MLB London Fletcher played through rib pain and had 4 solo tackles. DT Cornelius Griffin aggravated an ankle injury during the game.