T.J. Ward, S, CLE - Ward continues to have a rather awesome rookie season for the Browns. While he hasn’t maintained his insane tackle pace from earlier this season, he has remained a force against the run while upping his presence in the passing game. Ward started the year with 54 tackles (41 solo), no passes defended, and no interceptions in his first six games, but in the four games since then he has totaled 26 tackles (20 solo) to go along with six passes defensed and two interceptions, both of which came against Jacksonville last week. Ward’s aggressive style of play and disregard for his own safety makes him an injury worry, but he looks like a permanent IDP stud as long as he is on the field.
Devin McCourty, CB, NE - This is looking like yet another great pick by the Belichick regime. The rookie has started for the Patriots since the first preseason game, and while he has not exactly been a shutdown corner, he seems to be learning from his mistakes as the season goes on. McCourty’s Thanksgiving performance against Detroit was a high point - he made seven tackles (five solo) while intercepting two passes. McCourty now has 61 tackles (52 solo), 12 passes defensed, and five interceptions on the season, so he should probably be owned in most IDP formats.
Eric Smith, S, NYJ - Smith started Thursday’s game against Cincinnati, and he responded by racking up nine solo tackles. Smith is unlikely to ever be a big-play guy, but he did total 18 tackles (13 solo) while starting the first three games of the season. As an in-the-box sort of safety, Smith should continue to be a solid source of tackles as long as he can hold off Brodney Pool in practice.
Kevin Bentley, LB, HOU - Bentley is a career journeyman whose spot in the lineup might not be particularly safe, but the Texans seem somewhat committed to playing him at middle linebacker in the absence of DeMeco Ryans. Bentley is probably not talented enough to put up huge numbers, but he should be a solid replacement option for owners who need linebacker help.
Jared Allen, DE, MIN - Like Julius Peppers in Chicago, Allen has salvaged his season (from an IDP perspective, obviously) in recent weeks. After totaling just one sack in seven games, Allen seems to have rediscovered how to get to the quarterback in the last three games. Those three contests have yielded 5.5 sacks for Allen, giving him 6.5 sacks with six games to go. We assume Allen will lose a bit of steam relative to his recent performances, but he still appears to be on the upswing.
Laron Landry, S, WAS - Landry was having a brilliant season from an IDP perspective, but a nagging Achilles tendon injury has will cost him at least two games, including the Redskins’ upcoming matchup with Minnesota. Maybe all the extra tackles this season simply beat up Landry too much. Landry's increase in production this year has been a bit shocking—his 85-tackle total through nine games nearly matches his 16-game career high of 95 tackles. He should remain in the elite tier of IDP options when he returns, but his absence will hurt fantasy owners in the short term. Reed Doughty should get more work for as long as Landry is out.
Anthony Spencer, LB, DAL - Spencer started off the season reasonably well, but he has been completely invisible for most of the season. Even in leagues that disproportionately reward sacks more than tackles, Spencer is useless at this point. Whatever magic he found at the end of last season appears to have faded away in a somewhat permanent fashion. Spencer has just 42 tackles and three sacks after finishing 2009 with eight sacks in the last eight games.
Amari Spievey, S, DET - The former Iowa cornerback has looked out of place at strong safety in his rookie season; and despite a 10-tackle performance against New England Thursday, it would be somewhat surprising if he kept his starting role. Detroit coaches nearly benched him in favor of C.C. Brown before Thursday but for some reason left him in. Spievey responded by struggling to maintain his coverage responsibilities while showing the shaky tackling one would expect from a former cornerback.
Alphonso Smith, CB, DET - IDP owners were loving Smith when he swiftly intercepted five passes upon arriving in Detroit, but on Thursday he looked like the draft bust that Denver basically gave away to the Lions back at season’s start. Smith got torched for three touchdowns by the Patriots, including a particularly pathetic touchdown pass to Deion Branch where Smith missed about four chances to tackle him. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Smith on waivers in the upcoming days, let alone the bench.
Paris Lenon, LB, ARI - Lenon is having a respectable season, but his production has slowed in recent weeks. He started the season with 39 tackles (31 solo) in the first four weeks, and also posted an interception and a sack in the same time frame. Since then, however, Lenon has posted just 35 tackles (24 solo) in six games. His solo tackles in particular have dropped in that span, indicating that Lenon is serving as little more than a speed bump in Arizona's crumbling defense.