Neither team yields especially favorable numbers to opposing linebackers, but you have to expect a considerable amount of smash-mouth action in this one. Inside linebackers Lawrence Timmons and Ray Lewis are probably the safest plays, as this will be a battle fought and won in the trenches and interior gaps. James Farrior (playing well of late) even gets a nod this week, and Steelers OLB James Harrison has a history of IDP madness against Baltimore. I didn't include the risk/reward OLB/DE Terrell Suggs in my rankings, but if he happens to be DL-eligible, he's a must-play. In deeper formats, Suggs is worth a shot at LB4.
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1. Jerod Mayo, NE (vs. NYJ)
2. Lawrence Timmons, PIT (at BAL)
3. Stephen Tulloch, TEN (vs. JAC)
4. Patrick Willis, SF (at GB)
5. Ray Lewis, BAL (vs. PIT)
6. Curtis Lofton, ATL (at TB)
7. Brian Urlacher, CHI (at DET)
8. London Fletcher, WAS (at NYG)
9. Clay Matthews, GB (vs. SF)
10. Derrick Johnson, KC (vs. DEN)
11. James Anderson, CAR (at SEA)
12. Chad Greenway, MIN (vs. BUF)
13. D.J. Williams, DEN (at KC)
14. Paul Posluszny, BUF (at MIN)
15. Barrett Ruud, TB (vs. ATL)
16. James Harrison, PIT (at BAL)
17. Jon Beason, CAR (at SEA)
18. James Laurinaitis, STL (at ARI)
19. Lance Briggs, CHI (at DET)
20. Jonathan Vilma, NO (at CIN)
21. A.J. Hawk, GB (vs. SF)
22. Dhani Jones, CIN )vs. NO)
23. E.J. Henderson, MIN (vs. BUF)
24. Karlos Dansby, MIA (vs. CLE)
25. Paris Lenon, ARI (vs. STL)
26. David Harris, NYJ (at NE)
27. Keith Brooking, DAL (at IND)
28. David Hawthorne, SEA (vs. CAR)
29. Stewart Bradley, PHI (vs. HOU)
30. Desmond Bishop, GB (vs. SF)
31. Rolando McClain, OAK (at SD)
32. Kevin Burnett, SD (vs. OAK)
33. Rocky McIntosh, WAS (at NYG)
34. Brian Cushing, HOU (at PHI)
35. Shaun Phillips, SD (vs. OAK)
36. DeMarcus Ware, DAL (at IND)
37. James Farrior, PIT (at BAL)
38. Pat Angerer, IND (vs. DAL)
39. DeAndre Levy, DET (vs. CHI)
40. Takeo Spikes, SF (at GB)
• Colts MLB Gary Brackett (turf toe) might be able to play Sunday against Dallas, according to team president Bill Polian. While Brackett, the team captain, hasn't played since Week 9 against the Eagles, it's obvious the struggling defense needs him back. Rookie Pat Angerer led the team in the game with 12 tackles (eight solo), but he's needed even more at WLB, where Clint Session (elbow) has missed several games. The Colts hope to get Session back on the practice field at some point this week, but there's little reason for optimism from an IDP standpoint.
• Falcons MLB Curtis Lofton had five tackles and forced a fumble in Sunday's win over the Packers. The tackle maven is on pace for 125 tackles this season. He's got a great matchup in Week 13 at run-heavy Tampa Bay.
• Patriots ILB Jerod Mayo had another double-digit tackle day against the Lions on turkey Day, finishing with a game-high 12 tackles. He now leads the NFL with 131 tackles and is a Top Five fantasy LB this season. In all seriousness – he could scare the 20-tackle mark against the Jets this weekend. No foolin, bro.
• Dinged-up Dolphins defensive leader Karlos Dansby (turf toe, ankle, elbow) was questionable heading into Sunday's matchup with Oakland, problems, but he suffered a wrist injury and could be inactive or see limited action this week if he can't get healthy. I'm downgrading him, but I realize it's a risk facing the Browns – who mount long, grinding drives behind the human tank that is Peyton Hillis.
• Cowboys OLB DeMarcus Ware had a sack on Thanksgiving against the Saints, giving him 9.5 for the season. He's almost guaranteed to reach double digits for the sixth straight season, but he doesn't have a great matchup this week. The subsequent matchups, however, are quite favorable for the veteran pass-rush specialist.
• Green Bay's LB rotation took a hit this week when Brandon Chillar aggravated a right shoulder injury and earned a spot on the IR. It'll guarantee more playing time for Desmond Bishop and A.J. Hawk, who have both played well with Chillar out earlier this year, but this week's matchup is tough to figure, considering the season-ending injury to Frank Gore. One guy who's bound to bounce back from an off game is OLB Clay Matthews. The second-year star didn't get a sack last week, but he still leads the NFL with 11.5 sacks and will likely terrorize Troy Smith on Sunday.
• As expected, D.J. Williams (concussion) started at home versus the Rams and posted eight tackles (four solo) and two PD. He's probably good to go against the Chiefs, who ran the ball close to 50 times last week.
• Derrick Johnson leads the Chiefs' defense with 104 tackles over 11 games. The breakout IDP performer has four forced fumbles; he picked up his first sack of the season against Seattle last Sunday. Get him in your lineup against the Broncos, as he's on the field trolling the second level on passing downs as well.
• Chad Greenway continues his career year. He led the team with nine tackles (six solo) and is third in the league with 108 stops on the season. Teammate E.J. Henderson (who mans the MLB spot) had a sack and an INT on Sunday, and is playing better football after looking tentative to start the season. You can't really blame the guy. After last season's horrific leg injury, some thought he'd never get back to this level.
• Texans SLB Brian Cushing (knee) did not practice Monday but returned on a limited basis Wednesday. He had one of his better games last week (seven tackles, two PD) and is listed as probable for Thursday.