The league was without two of its top defensive players last week as Ray Lewis (toe) and George Wilson (neck stinger) sat out for their respective teams, but their absences were somewhat offset in the IDP world by the emergence of two rookies - Colin McCarthy and Prince Amukamara.
McCarthy stepped up at linebacker for Tennessee as Barrett Ruud dealt with groin troubles, while Amukamara was promising in his long-awaited debut for the Giants defensive backfield. The pair is joined on the riser list by fellow rookie Von Miller, who has been excellent all year for the Broncos.
Meanwhile, both Lewis and Wilson remain questionable for this week, so their owners may need to go without them two games straight. In the event that Wilson sits out again, his owners might be able to find comparable production from his replacement - rookie fourth-round pick Da'Norris Searcy. The North Carolina product posted 11 tackles (nine solo) in Wilson's place last week against the Dolphins.
In other injury news, Jacksonville linebacker Clint Session will miss the rest of the season with a head injury, while Carolina linebacker Dan Connor (shoulder) and Houston safety Danieal Manning (leg) appear to be close to returning to the field. Otherwise, Dallas safety Gerald Sensabaugh (foot) appears highly questionable for Thursday's game against Miami. If Sensabaugh misses that game, deep-league owners could find a viable spot starter in Sensabaugh's backup, Barry Church. Church has nine tackles the last two weeks despite playing in a situational role.
Von Miller, LB, DEN
Miller came into the league with sky-high expectations, but the second overall pick probably has been better than almost anyone expected. Through his first 10 NFL games he has 48 tackles (38 solo), 9.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. That sack total ranks fifth in the league, and the players ahead of him (DeMarcus Ware, Jared Allen, Jason Pierre-Paul and Jason Babin) are a group comprised solely of 4-3 ends and 3-4 outside linebackers - Miller's sack total would probably be even higher if he didn't have to spend some of his time standing up as an outside linebacker in 4-3 formations. Miller is a viable IDP starter in all formats.
Prince Amukamara, CB, NYG
Although the Giants are presumably in a bad mood after Sunday's 17-10 loss to the Eagles, Amukamara's performance provided a bit of a silver lining. The rookie and 19th overall pick was impressive in his pro debut after sitting out since the first week of August with a fractured metatarsal, making five solo tackles and defending two passes - intercepting one. With the Giants secondary as beat up as it is, Amukamara should continue to see a good number snaps.
Chris Clemons, DE, SEA
He doesn't get much credit for it, but Clemons has clearly been a standout pass rusher for Seattle the last two years. With a three-sack showing against St. Louis last week, he now has eight in 10 games in 2011 after finishing 2010 with 11 sacks. He's in a very good position to produce over the final stretch this year - Seattle's next four opponents combine to allow an average of 2.7 sacks per game. That includes another matchup with the Rams.
Danieal Manning, S, HOU
Manning has missed Houston's last three games with a broken fibular, but he appears to be nearing his return. He was back in practice Monday and shouldn't miss time beyond Sunday's game against Jacksonville. Manning isn't a big IDP name, but he is a viable option in deeper leagues when he's on the field, as he totaled 31 tackles (23 solo) in the first six weeks. He's especially useful in return yardage leagues - he has a career average of 26.9 yards per kick return and has two returns of at least 40 yards in 2011.
Colin McCarthy, LB, TEN
McCarthy probably is only worth a roster stash in deep leagues at the moment, but at the very least his value looks quite promising in dynasty formats. The fourth-round pick from Miami is an injury worry, but he has impressed so much the last two weeks that he has to be considered a semi-favorite to start at middle linebacker for Tennessee in 2011. With incumbent Barrett Ruud going in and out of the lineup with groin issues, McCarthy totaled 18 tackles (15 solo and five for a loss) and a forced fumble in matchups against Carolina and Atlanta.
Barrett Ruud, LB, TEN
McCarthy's strong showings of late make Ruud a risky IDP option. Between Ruud's injury issues and the fact that he's playing on a one-year contract, the Titans could look to the future and start grooming McCarthy for a 2012 starting role, giving the rookie snaps at Ruud's expense. While Ruud only has a potential place on the Tennessee roster beyond this year, McCarthy has a definite one.
Justin Tuck, DE, NYG
It has been a month since Tuck returned from a three-game absence caused by neck and groin ailments, but his production since has fallen well short of expectations. The injuries appear to be lingering, as Tuck's last four games have seen him total just nine tackles (three solo) and half a sack. A player of his skill level is always capable of going off for big numbers in a short time, but Tuck's weak numbers of late mean he isn't a must-start IDP.
Dwight Freeney, DE, IND
Freeney is talented enough to go on a sack spree at any moment, but 2011 has been simply disastrous for his IDP owners. Through 10 games he has just 13 tackles and 4.5 sacks. If it weren't for his 98.5 career sacks and the reputation that comes with it, Freeney probably wouldn't warrant even slight IDP consideration at the moment.
Patrick Chung, S, NE
Chung is still a player who should probably remain owned in most or all IDP leagues, but his injuries this year have been quite disruptive for his owners. He has only missed three games, but his injuries have featured indefinite prognoses that make it difficult for owners to plan around. He's currently dealing with a foot injury that has cost him two games, and his status for Sunday's game against Philadelphia remains up in the air.
LaRon Landry, S, WAS
Like Tuck, Landry's past production indicates he's capable of posting big numbers out of nowhere, but it generally looks safe for Landry's owners to move on. The Achilles' tendon issue that cost him seven 2010 games and all of the 2011 preseason has come back in recent weeks and worsened to the point that Landry had to sit out Sunday's game against Dallas. Landry's shaky week-to-week availability might be more tolerable if he still boasted the production he did in 2010, when he posted 85 tackles in nine games, but he has just 44 tackles in seven games so far this year.