Join the Footballguys Daily Update
Start your morning with our roundup of the most important stories in football - with the fantasy insight you need to make league-winning decisions. Delivered straight to your inbox, 100% free.
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.
Buffalo at Chicago
Preston Brown will start for Nigel Bradham today. He'll likely see some subpackage snaps, but Keith Rivers will figure into the mix, too. I'd hold off on using Brown this week. Da'Norris Searcy won the starting safety job over Duke Williams. He's a risk-reward DB2. Stephon Gilmore is listed questionable but practiced fully Thursday and Friday and should play.
Jon Bostic will replace D.J. Williams on nickel downs. Avoid both. Lance Briggs is your only trustworthy fantasy option for now. Chris Conte (recovered from a preseason concussion) and Ryan Mundy are officially your safety starters. Neither are locks to stay in those roles all season, but Brock Vereen missed his opportunity to carve out a role. It may take an injury or horrid play from one of the veterans now, as it's hard for backups to get enough reps to shine once the season begins.
Cincinnati at Baltimore
Vontaze Burfict has been fighting a hamstring strain but will play. One final reminder that Emmanuel Lamur is your other every-down linebacker and will have a few LB3+ weeks. This matchup could be one of them if you're in a deep league and looking for a flyer early. Geno Atkins will likely see less than 40 snaps today. He has enough upside to start, but his floor is low until he shows he trusts the knee and is back in football condition. Darqueze Dennard is likely to play though his hip injury, but is only a subpackage player for now.
C.J. Mosley will play every down. His upside has been lost in the buzz surrounding Ryan Shazier. There are reports that Lardarius Webb may miss today's game despite fully practicing all week. More on that when inactives are released this morning.
1130 ET: Lardarius Webb is inactive.
Cleveland at Pittsburgh
Craig Robertson will play ahead of Chris Kirksey for now. That means two things. First, avoid him in your lineups today. Second, hope your leaguemates bail on Kirksey early next week so you can stash him. Joe Haden and Buster Skrine were back at practice this week and will start at corner. Justin Gilbert will come in when the Browns go nickel. Barkevious Mingo held down a starting role all preseason. He's poised for a double digit sack season under Mike Pettine. I'm still seeing Donte Whitner on the waiver wire in lots of leagues. Pick him up or you'll be competing on the free agent list for him next week.
Ryan Shazier has won the starting job easily. He may not be ready for prime time yet, but he's athletic enough that no one in the Pittsburgh front seven will be stiff competition for tackles outside the tackle box. He's an immediate LB2.
Jacksonville at Philadelphia
Andre Branch has been primarily a subpackage player this preseason. That makes Philadelphia a strong matchup for him with regard to projected snap count. The Eagles offensive line and game plan usually limits the upside of opposing pass rushers though, so don't rush to start Branch unless you're in a big play league and will be forced to deal with variance with any option. Telvin Smith Sr is the Jaguars' second nickel linebacker.
Minnesota at St. Louis
The focus this preseason was mostly on the competition (or lack thereof) at middle linebacker. But it's Anthony Barr who emerged as the every-down linebacker next to Chad Greenway. I'll be watching to see how much he's used as a traditional linebacker in subpackages. Preseason reps suggested the Vikings aren't ready to add many pass rushing snaps to his plate just yet.
Lamarcus Joyner will see some base safety snaps, but he's primarily the slot subpackage player now. This matchup isn't favorable for that role. Aaron Donald gets his first chance to run alongside Robert Quinn today. If you're able to watch more than one game today, make sure you check out a series and watch that duo work.
New England at Miami
Chris Jones has been declared out but I still think we'll see Dominique Easley limited to a rotation and see more subpackage snaps than base duty. The rest of the New England defense is healthy and I'm looking forward to seeing Jerod Mayo and Jamie Collins work together. Watch to see how often the Patriots use a 3-4 today and how it affects Rob Ninkovich. I expect to see a lot of rotation in the secondary. Unless you're in a deeper league, avoid the Patriots' defensive backs today and reevaluate this week.
Philip Wheeler is out with a thumb injury. That's a late week downgrade that might linger into next week. Jason Trusnik and Jelani Jenkins will likely rotate in his place. The injury likely cements Koa Misi as an every-down linebacker today, which is good news with the Patriots' matchup. Jimmy Wilson starts for the suspended Reshad Jones today.
New Orleans at Atlanta
I think the Kenny Vaccaro show hits primetime today. I'd be leery of David Hawthorne, who will likely lose some, if not all, subpackage snaps to Ramon Humber today. Although he didn't in the preseason, I think Junior Galette will get at least 80-90% of the snaps today. There's no one else on the depth chart with his pass rush upside at outside linebacker.
Joplo Bartu will play every down next to Paul Worrilow. It's not a great matchup for pass rush upside, but Kroy Biermann and Jonathan Massaquoi should have your attention today for potential future value.
Oakland at New York Jets
Nick Roach has been limited in practice this week in the concussion protocol. It's not yet known whether he's been cleared by an independent neurologist. Without a participation downgrade through Friday, I think it's likely he'll be cleared. We'll know when inactives are released shortly. If he doesn't go, expect Miles Burris to start at middle linebacker. Sio Moore will start at outside linebacker and likely play every down unless Khalil Mack has earned the trust of the Raiders' coaches this week.
The Jets are likely going to pressure Derek Carr relentlessly today. It's a great situation for Calvin Pryor, who is a strong DB start in sack-heavy systems. The pressure plan has much to do with the rookie starting, but also because the Jets have no cornerbacks of value. Dee Milliner is out. They'll be using Antonio Allen, who was knocked for his cover skills while playing safety, and Darrin Walls. If you're desperate or like living on the edge, Allen's profile suggests he could have a busy day as a player who may allow lots of short passes and isn't shy about playing the run.
Tennessee at Kansas City
The Chiefs remain predictable. The fantasy value will come from Derrick Johnson and Eric Berry in tackle-heavy leagues and Justin Houston and Tamba Hali in sack-heavy leagues. It's a good matchup for both groups today. I think Dontari Poe is underrated. If he's available in your DT-required league, he needs to be on your roster unless you're stacked with other talent.
Washington at Houston
Late word this morning suggests that Brian Orakpo will play today. He's been limited most of the week, but fully practiced on Friday with an ankle injury. The battle for tackle supremacy in the post London Fletcher world begins today with Keenan Robinson a slight dog to Perry Riley. Robinson may quietly put up 4-6+ sacks with his skill set should Jim Haslett turn up the pressure between the tackles.
San Francisco at Dallas
Michael Wilhoite will start next to Patrick Willis. There's a slim chance we'll see Chris Borland in some packages, but Wilhoite should be a relatively high floor LB3 start if you need one. Look for Tank Carradine to start taking more and more snaps from Ray McDonald. That may start today.
There were some hints that Rolando McClain wouldn't be ready for today's game as he continues to battle conditioning issues and knee pain. But he's off the injury report and ready to start at middle linebacker today. I don't think he'll see any subpackage snaps, but that won't be a major issue against the Niners today.
Carolina at Tampa Bay
No news of note in Carolina. Roman Harper is healthy and ready to play every down. Melvin White may become a strong option in CB-required leagues, but wait for a trend to develop before rostering / starting him.
We'll find out if Mason Foster is ready to make the leap to LB1 status today. He's slimmed down, quicker and reportedly picked up Lovie Smith's scheme well. He'll have to compete with Lavonte David and Mark Barron. We'll also get our first look at Michael Johnson in a Wide 9 look regularly and see just how good Gerald McCoy can be in Smith's pass rush scheme
SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Indianapolis at Denver
Erik Walden was added to the injury report midweek with an abdominal injury and is questionable. He was the best bet -- a relative term, of course -- to play every down at outside linebacker. There's not much pass rush to be found here, which is a recipe for disaster against the Broncos in Denver. That bodes well for both Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson, who won't have to worry about their assist-heavy stat keeper this week either.
Brandon Marshall will play every down while Danny Trevathan recovers. He's a solid LB3 start today. T.J. Ward will see the majority of his snaps in the box today with the game script likely to favor many subpackage snaps where he plays outside linebacker. Demarcus Ware and Von Miller are healthy are ready to roll.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
New York Giants at Detroit
Jon Beason is expected to start this week. Whether he's in condition to play every subpackage snap is a legitimate worry. And with the Lions moving to an New Orleans like offense, it's a little risky to start Beason in fantasy lineups this week. Jason Pierre-Paul looks ready to play 50+ productive snaps. Antrel Rolle will not see as many slot snaps as usual with Walter Thurmond on the roster. Rolle's numbers will be higher variance than in the past two years.
James Ihedibgo is doubtful for tomorrow night with multiple injuries. Don Carey III is also out, so Isa Abdul-Quddus will get the call at safety. That gives a slight bump to the expectation of both outside linebackers, making Tahir Whitehead a possible LB4 play in very deep leagues. Nick Fairley should see 40 snaps. He's out of the preseason doghouse for now.
San Diego at Arizona
Manti Te'o's foot injury isn't as severe as last season's midfoot sprain. He practiced fully on Saturday and is expected to start. He took nickel snaps for most of the preseason, but is risky this week. Wait until Week 2 to start him in deeper leagues after evaluating his usage this week. Jason Verrett is ready for Week 1, but he'll start out playing subpackages only for now.
There's a chance Tyrann Mathieu will plan Monday night, but it's looking unlikely although he fully practiced this week. If the Cardinals do decide to put Mathieu on the active roster, he'll be a nickel - dime player only. Deone Bucannon is also a subpackage only player for now, as is Kevin Minter. Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson start at safety.
Best of luck in your fantasy games this weekend. Reading the Defense returns on Tuesday. Follow me on Twitter @JeneBramel for breaking news and analysis during the games today.