By Ted Rossman
It's the halfway point of the NFL season. In this section, we take a look at five surprising starts and determine whether these players are likely to remain hot.
- Justin Tuck (DE, NYG): A part-time role is usually detrimental to a player's fantasy value, but for some pass rushers like Tuck, it keeps them fresh and still allows them to be on the field for sack opportunities. Tuck is tied for sixth in the NFL with seven sacks and has been very consistent; the Notre Dame product has only been shut out in two games. Expect more strong sack totals from Tuck, who is part of a balanced New York defensive line.
- Elvis Dumervil (DE, DEN): Unlike Tuck, Dumervil is having a boom-or-bust season. His six sacks have come in bunches, with three two-sack games and four zero-sack games. Dumervil has succeeded against immobile Oakland, Jacksonville and Pittsburgh quarterbacks. Play him down the stretch when he has a strong matchup, but he's not a weekly starter. Plus, he has 18 tackles compared with Tuck's 34.
- Leigh Bodden (CB, CLE): Bodden is tied for second in the league with four interceptions. Yes, three of those picks came against weak offenses (Baltimore, Miami and St. Louis), but it's a simple fact that players will post better numbers against weaker opponents. Cleveland has plenty of patsies on its remaining schedule, so Bodden is worth a shot most weeks. It helps that he averages almost six tackles per game.
- Antonio Cromartie (CB, SD) and Stanford Routt (CB, OAK): Both have three interceptions, tied for eighth-most in the NFL, but they only have 11 tackles each. That's not the kind of consistent production we like to see.
- Chris Harris (S, CAR): Harris leads the league with four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He has also contributed 38 tackles and one interception. The Louisiana-Monroe product has been one of the anchors of Carolina's defense thus far, and that should continue during the second half of the season.
Here, we look at trends and matchups that savvy owners can exploit in the upcoming week.
- Teams that could be starting questionable backup quarterbacks this week are Atlanta (vs. San Francisco), Buffalo (vs. Cincinnati), Carolina (at Tennessee), Houston (at Oakland), Jacksonville (at New Orleans), Minnesota (vs. San Diego) and the N.Y. Jets (vs. Washington). These teams' opposing defenses warrant an upgrade in Week 9.
- The league's worst offenses (in terms of points per game) are San Francisco, Atlanta and Buffalo. Those teams, respectively, play at Atlanta, home vs. San Francisco and home vs. Cincinnati this week. The best offenses are New England (at Indianapolis), Dallas (at Philadelphia) and Indianapolis (vs. New England).
- Remember that many teams fare well following a bye week. This week, that includes Arizona (at Tampa Bay), Atlanta (vs. San Francisco), Baltimore (at Pittsburgh), Dallas (at Philadelphia), Kansas City (vs. Green Bay) and Seattle (at Cleveland).
- Looking for sacks in Week 9? Try the Broncos (at Detroit, which allows a league-high 5.0 sacks per game), the Cowboys (at Philadelphia, which allows 3.9 sacks per game) and Atlanta (vs. San Francisco, which allows 3.7 sacks per contest). Teams to avoid are Jacksonville (at New Orleans, the toughest team to sack), New England (at Indianapolis, the second-toughest team to sack), Indianapolis (vs. New England, tied for the third-toughest team to sack) and Tampa Bay (vs. Arizona, tied for the third-toughest squad to sack).
- Wondering who is toughest to intercept? Philadelphia and Jacksonville have only been intercepted twice. New England and Indianapolis have only thrown three picks each. Downgrade the Dallas, New Orleans, Indianapolis and New England secondaries, respectively, in Week 9. The easiest teams to pick off? Chicago (bye), St. Louis (bye), Houston (at Oakland), Miami (bye) and the N.Y. Jets (vs. Washington).
- Slippery fingers, anyone? The Texans (at Oakland) lead the league with 11 fumbles lost. Tennessee (nine lost, vs. Carolina), St. Louis (eight lost, bye) and Baltimore (eight lost, at Pittsburgh) are next. The Jets (vs. Washington), Colts (vs. New England), Bills (vs. Cincinnati) and Falcons (vs. San Francisco) have lost only two fumbles apiece.
WHITHER THE WEATHER
Because bad weather usually means fewer points and more turnovers, you need to know where IDPs should benefit from the elements. Here are some sites where the weather could be a significant factor. Keep in mind that forecasts can change leading up to game day.