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Injuries to the Atlanta and Indianapolis linebacker groups will thrust value on unexpected players. We continue to get clarity on defensive line rotations and seeing more favorable roles for some secondary situations. I don't see any major game-time decisions to track this morning, but there are some depth chart changes and matchup considerations to be aware of before setting your lineups today.
NOTE: This column is a living document and will be updated throughout the morning. Major changes to the content will be in red. Check back often for additions as gameday inactives are announced and lineup / depth chart changes are reported. I'll also be retweeting those reports with quick bits of analysis, so make sure you're following @JeneBramel and checking my timeline on Twitter.
Arizona at New Orleans
The Cardinals relied heavily on a Big Nickel alignment last week, with Jasper Brinkley playing only 14 snaps. That's likely to happen again against New Orleans. The Saints are yet another good matchup for slot corner Tyrann Mathieu.
Roman Harper is out with a knee injury. That could give David Hawthorne a few more subpackage snaps today. Big play leaguers should keep an eye on the snap count and explosiveness of Martez Wilson. There's a chance he could begin seeing more snaps and hold matchup value soon.
Cleveland at Minnesota
Ahtyba Rubin is questionable with his calf injury. T.J. Ward is probable. We should begin seeing more of Barkevious Mingo, who may become a viable matchup play in sack-heavy scoring systems very soon.
The Vikings are saying that Desmond Bishop will have a larger rotational role this week, but it's unlikely he'll see more than every other series in the base defense. Keep an eye on his usage, but he's not rosterable yet. I'm waiting to see Xavier Rhodes return to the starting lineup, but he may have more fantasy value if he stays in his Week 2 role as a rotational passing situation corner.
Detroit at Washington
Nick Fairley missed last week's game with a shoulder injury and is listed questionable and will again be a game-time decision. Ndamukong Suh hasn't been a strong fantasy play, but the pressure stats suggest a big week could be coming soon. Ezekiel Ansah is also playing better than his number and getting more playing time each week. Glover Quin bounced back with a nice Week 2 and the matchup is better this week.
Brandon Meriweather is questionable after last week's concussion but practiced fully on Friday and should play. For how long is anyone's guess. Bacarri Rambo will go back to a more traditional free safety role if Meriweather goes. I'm watching London Fletcher closely this week. He didn't do well against the Packers and the Lions are a similar matchup. If Fletcher is back to his usual numbers this week, chalk Week 2 up to a fluke. But I'm worried Fletcher's smarts and instincts are finally not going to be good enough to hide his aging legs.
Green Bay at Cincinnati
Morgan Burnett is out again and reportedly not close to returning. Hopefully, he'll be ready to play after the Packers' Week 4 bye. Even without him and Casey Hayward, the Packers have continued to run lots of dime subpackages, making A.J. Hawk a continued boom-bust option.
Robert Geathers is on IR now with an elbow injury. That could mean a few more snaps for Carlos Dunlap and Michael Johnson but I expect the Bengals will continue to try to keep them fresh and around 40-50 snaps a game. Vincent Rey, Taylor Mays are still splitting nickel snaps. There's been no sign of Shawn Williams at safety this year, but George Iloka isn't proving to be a viable fantasy option.
Houston at Baltimore
The Texans are a dime team. Joe Mays and Darryl Sharpton won't see enough snaps to have matchup value. Ed Reed could return this week, but he won't have much fantasy value or affect the value of anyone else in the back seven.
Arthur Brown is doubtful with a pectoral strain. The Ravens are calling it minor, but it could be a multiple week injury. Josh Bynes is a likely every-down defender and has a solid matchup against Houston. He's a decent LB3/LB4 flyer if you're in a pinch. Chris Canty is doubtful with a thigh injury. Durability has always kept him from consistent fantasy value. Look for Arthur Jones to see his snap count jump today. Matt Elam has cemented himself as the starter over Michael Huff.
New York Giants at Carolina
Jason Pierre-Paul isn't in form yet. Until you see him take base defensive snaps and show his usual explosiveness, he's a big play league option only. No chance in the Giants linebacker situation. There's no value to be found there. Corey Webster is out with a hip injury. Aaron Ross seems the most likely spot starter.
There are few healthy bodies in the Carolina secondary right now. Charles Godfrey is on IR with an Achilles tear. Quintin Mikell is out, leaving Mike Mitchell as the lone fantasy option at safety. He's a flyer DB3. Josh Norman could have a busy day at corner, with a rotation through the other safety and corner spots.
San Diego at Tennessee
Manti Te'o is practicing but still at least a week from returning. Bront Bird barely played last week, with Reggie Walker and Andrew Gachkar rotating on a package-by-package basis. Walker is the best bet but worth the risk in the deepest of leagues only. Donald Butler fully practiced on Friday and will start. Shareece Wright didn't practice Friday with a hamstring injury and is more doubtful than questionable. Cut him loose if you've been streaming corners.
1145 ET: Donald Butler an unexpected scratch today. Reggie Walker now a solid LB4++ flyer today.
1250 ET: Lots of confusion on Chargers' inactive list. Team did not get Butler added to list in time. He'll be listed active, but he will not start and is extremely unlikely to play today.
George Wilson got some nickel defensive time last week but isn't a trustworthy flyer. Moise Fokou is still the middle linebacker and an every-down player but I consider him a desperation LB4 with little upside.
St. Louis at Dallas
The Rams are healthy. Michael Brockers could have a very good week against a struggling Dallas interior line. If you don't have a clear starter in DT-required leagues, get him in your lineup. Rodney McLeod looks like the better safety option and it's a reasonable matchup if you need a DB3 flyer in deeper leagues.
Anthony Spencer reportedly had no setbacks last week, but he's not practicing much. With George Selvie playing well, Spencer is a rotational player at best again this week. I think the Barry Church will turn back into a pumpkin soon, but this matchup (strong slot receiver, tight end, etc) makes him a reasonable bet again this week. DeMarcus Ware had his first stinger of the season last week. That's been my main concern with him in a three point stance. He should be in your lineup but watch for any downward trend in snaps or production.
Tampa Bay at New England
The Bucs defense is straightforward right now. They're a dime team on most passing downs, with Mason Foster a high risk play against offenses like New England. Mark Barron is seeing some hybrid linebacker duty and could be a strong play today.
Dont'a Hightower seems to have taken over nickel duties from Brandon Spikes. There's some potential for Michael Buchanan and Jamie Collins to begin seeing more time but they won't be rosterable anytime soon (barring injury).
Atlanta at Miami
The loss of Kroy Biermann (IR-out for season) and Sean Weatherspoon (IR-designated to return) will have the Falcons digging into the depth chart today. Joplo Bartu will start at weak side linebacker and very likely play every down. Stephen Nicholas is listed as the starting strong side linebacker, but barely played. He'll rotate with Jonathan Massaquoi, who will try to fill Biermann's hybrid end-backer role. It's not the best of matchups, but it's time to put Robert McClain on your cloud corner list as a slot corner with lots of weekly upside.
Chris Clemons is listed questionable. He's a game-time decision, but reports are leaning toward him playing. The Dolphins have a muddled depth chart behind their starting secondary and none of Clemons' possible replacements is worth pursuing. This could be a favorable matchup for Miami to try to get Dion Jordan more snaps.
Buffalo at New York Jets
Jairus Byrd is reportedly progressing and upgraded to questionable this week, but isn't guaranteed to play. If he's active, he may only be a passing down player. Nigel Bradham played only one snap last week, with Arthur Moats taking over as the base starter. Da'Norris Searcy and Aaron Williams should continue to see enough snaps to hold value, but they aren't slam dunk plays if Byrd is ready to go.
Quinton Coples is probable and should play a situational role today. Dee Milliner was benched last week and may not start today, but he'll still see time rotating with Kyle Wilson. Neither is a great bet for fantasy value.
Indianapolis at San Francisco
Stop me if you've heard this before -- Pat Angerer is out with an injury, this time a knee injury. Kelvin Sheppard got the call in Week 1 with Angerer out. He's risky since he won't play in subpackages and Kavell Conner should be ready to play. LaRon Landry is out with an ankle injury. Joe Lefeged hasn't impressed in past weeks when he's started. He's a desperation play only.
Eric Reid (concussion) is questionable but looking likely to play today. I'm watching to see how Glenn Dorsey looks at nose tackle; he's a pre-emptive pickup in deeper, DT-required leagues.
Jacksonville at Seattle
Geno Hayes continues to play over Russell Allen in subpackages but this could be a good week for both, as Seattle isn't likely to run many multi-WR sets in a game they should have a big early lead. It's also a big game for rookie Jonathan Cyprien, who should have a strong game. If he doesn't, he won't be a viable fantasy option until he proves some consistency.
Brandon Browner and Chris Clemons are back, Cliff Avril is off the injury reports altogether. Avril and Clemons are big play flyers today, but the Seahawks aren't likely to give any of their defenders enough snaps and tackle opportunity to trust -- unless you're looking for a big play. That includes presumptive LB1 Bobby Wagner.
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Chicago at Pittsburgh
Charles Tillman has struggled to get through each of the first two games with conditioning issues and knee pain but will try to play full time this week. Jon Bostic has yet to see a defensive snap. Corey Wootton and Shea McClellin continue to see 40+ snaps each, with Wootton getting the interior snaps in the Bears' nickel.
Neither Kion Wilson nor Vince Williams were impressive last week. They'll likely rotate again today. Lawrence Timmons has been better than his stat lines and the Bears are a good matchup. I'm not benching him today unless I have a clearly better option. With Cortez Allen out again, Shamarko Thomas could see slot snaps again. The Bears aren't multiple enough on offense to make Thomas a viable play.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Oakland at Denver
Tyvon Branch is out indefinitely. Usama Young likely draws the first chance at replacing him due to his coverage experience. Whether he or Brandon Ross eventually see more time is an open question. Nick Roach likely bounces back this week after a poor stat crew effort and horrid tackle opportunity in Week 2. Jason Hunter and LaMarr Houston are both playing well, but Peyton Manning is a tough get. Use the Oakland defensive ends in tackle-heavy setups only this week unless you're feeling frisky with Ryan Clady out for the Broncos.
Duke Ihenacho practiced fully Friday and is probable. Shaun Phillips was added to the injury report Saturday with a back issue. It's safe to leave Iheancho in your lineup, but look for other options if you planned to start Phillips.
Best of luck in your fantasy games this weekend. Reading the Defense returns on Tuesday with an early look at the top tiers by position. Follow me on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking news and analysis during the games today.