Everyone loves a Monday Morning Quarterback, so why not a Monday Morning Linebacker? If you're like me, you tend to express your consternation when a player or players on your roster don't exactly perform as expected. Many expletive laden tirades have been directed at my computer or smart-phone as I scan the scoreboards. Occasionally I'm pleasantly surprised, but more often than not it's "WTF was that?!" In this weekly article we'll take a look at those players that performed as expected and those that didn't. This won't be a complete review of every player from every game; simply the outliers that deserve recognition, one way or the other.
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Studs That Were Studs
(* Notable players that lived up to or exceeded expectations )
J.J. Watt, DE, HOU vs. IND - This guy is ridiculous. If you own him, it feels kinda like you won the lottery, no? What a stud. He's been more than anyone could have expected, and yesterday he continued to build on his monstrous season. Watt had a season high 10 solo tackles, forced a fumble and had 3 more sacks, bringing his season total to 19.5. If you've made it this far, Watt is likely a large reason for that. Hopefully you can hang on to him for next year ;)
Chad Greenway, LB, MIN vs. STL - Greenway is another guy that continues to build on a fantastic season. He's had ONE off game (last week) this season and is the #2 overall IDP on the year. Yesterday he tacked on a season-high 13 solo tackles, along with 1 assist, 1 fumble recovery and 1 sack. Obviously you'll continue to plug him in throughout the playoffs.
Chris Clemons, DE, SEA vs. BUF - Unlike the two players listed ahead of him, calling Clemons a 'stud' is a borderline reach. But he's been very good over the last month, including yesterday. Clemons had 3 solo tackles, 2 assists, forced one fumble and a season-high 2.5 sacks. He's a risky start next week against the 49ers.
Greg Hardy, DE, CAR vs. SDC - Hardy has quietly been having a great 2nd half to the 2012 season. He started off slow, but he's really picked it up over the last two months. And yesterday he had a season high 5 solo tackles, along with 1 forced fumble and 2 sacks. He's definitely worth considering next week against the Raiders.
Bobby Wagner, LB, SEA vs. BUF - The rookie is currently the 7th ranked LB in balanced scoring leagues. He hasn't scored in single digits since Week 2. And this week, he recorded a season high 10 solo tackles along with 2 assists. Be sure to have him in your lineup for the IDP championship game.
Studs That Were Duds
(* Notable players that didn't even come close to expectations )
Perry Riley, LB, WAS vs. CLE - 2 solo tackles and 3 assists isn't the worst that could have happened, but Riley hasn't scored in the single digits in nearly two months and he's only done so three times all year. So Week 15 is not a great time to do it again. Blame the Browns, who ran the ball just 13 times on Sunday. Can't they do anything right? Riley will be fine, both next week and moving forward next year.
Antoine Winfield, DB, MIN vs. STL - Winfield will likely join teammate Adrian Peterson as the comeback players of the year. He's been a very pleasant surprise this season, and downright studly most weeks. This week, however, wasn't one of them. Just 3 solo tackles and 1 pass defensed in a crucial Week 15 game. If you managed to survive, he's sure to rebound next week against the Texans. But he was definitely a letdown this week.
Jared Allen, DE, MIN vs. STL - This is the 2nd week in a row Allen makes this list. Not something he should be proud of; or that owners are excited about. 1 measly solo tackle against a Rams team that ran the ball 16 times, but dropped back to pass 55 times! And Allen doesn't even get a piece of a sack. Major disappointment in back to back games, but he also needs to be in your lineup next week against Houston.
Von Miller, LB, DEN vs. BAL - Miller has been other-worldly over the last 6 weeks, but yesterday he came crashing back to earth. He had just 2 solo tackles and 1 assist, and did not record a sack for the first time since Week 8. He's upside is too great to have him sitting on the bench, so if you're around next week, get him in there against the Browns.
Duds That Were Studs
(* Surprising players that far exceeded expectations. Don't take 'dud' literally )
Trent Cole, DE, PHI vs. CIN - Who? What? Wait a minute. That can't be right. Trent Cole did something productive? Well that's ok, I'm sure he was on everyone's bench anyway. But in the off chance you had him in your lineup, he surprised you with 5 solo tackles, 1 forced fumble, a pass defensed and a sack! It's the first time he's scored in double-digits all year! He's been a major bust this season, but he finally showed up this week.
Brandon Graham, DE, PHI vs. CIN - Apparently Cincinnati has some offensive line work to do. Not only did they resurrect Trent Cole, youngster Brandon Graham was getting in on the action. Four solos, 2 assists, a forced fumble and 2.5 sacks for Jason Babin's replacement. A great game for a player that only those in the deepest of leagues likely started. Keep an eye on him for 2013.
Clay Matthews, LB, GBP vs. CHI - Remember him? I've owned him in a number of leagues over the last few years and, injuries aside, he can be SO frustrating. Some weeks he looks like the most dominant defensive player in the NFL; other weeks he's invisible. But yesterday he reminded us of just how good he can be. 5 solo tackles, 1 assist, a pass defensed and 2 sacks; though it was against the Bears, so . . . you know. Draft him at your own risk next year.
Eric Berry, DB, KCC vs. OAK - I know, it's unfair to call him a dud. But how else can you describe his play this season? He's been spotty at best, which is surprising considering how much KC's defense in on the field. But this week he posted a season-high 11 solo tackles (something he should do every week) and defended one pass. He's been a huge disappointment, but I would still gamble on him as a borderline DB1 next year.
Rob Jackson, LB, WAS vs. CLE - The name probably doesn't ring too many bells for most (other than the deep IDP leaguers), but the OLB should have gotten your attention yesterday. He had 4 solo tackles, 2 assists, 2 passes defensed, a forced fumble, an interception and a sack. All in all, a pretty impressive day. I would absolutely start him next week against the Eagles and would write his name down as someone to remember in next year's drafts.
The Bold Prediction Scorecard
Mario Williams vs. Jason Pierre-Paul
If you've read any of my stuff during the pre-season, you know I think highly of Mario Williams this year. So much so that I've gone out on a limb to predict that Super Mario will be the top DL in IDP fantasy leagues in 2012. Since most other "experts" consider Jason Pierre-Paul the top-dog, it seems only fitting to pit them head-to-head on this scorecard. I will keep a running weekly tab to see how they match up.
Mario takes the lead! They've both been rather disappointing, as their owners will likely tell you. Heading into the homestretch, it's about as close as it can get.
This Week: JPP
Not-so-Super Mario: 2 solo tackles, 2 assists
JPP: 2 solo tackles
Steve Sheiner spent more than a decade as a writer and Senior Editor at FantasyFootball.com and Fanball.com. He's also hosted a number of radio shows, including the Fantasy Football Extravaganza on 790 the Ticket in Miami. Send Steve your questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Steve on Twitter @Steve_Sheiner