With the glut of talent at the safety positions in Arizona we probably should not be surprised about any move the coaching staff makes. Still it is a little hard to understand why they would suddenly elect to bump Tony Jefferson into a backup role. Jefferson has played well and had been a highly productive fantasy option for us. Apparently his run has come to a sudden halt. Jefferson managed 2 solo stops in week six on only fifteen snaps. This despite the Cardinals extensive use of nickel and dime packages in the game. Both Deone Bucannon and Tyrann Mathieu saw action on 50 of 65 defensive plays with Rashad Johnson and Larry Foote being the only defenders to take every snap. This is great news for those of us who have been sitting on either Mathieu or Bucannon as we may soon be able to get some return on those investments. I am still hesitant to plug either of these guys into my lineup until we see for sure that this is going to be a trend and was not a one week deal, but I would recommend picking these guys up now if you have room or a need. This is of course assuming that Johnson is not available. He has been a quality play all season and is coming off the biggest game of his career.
Strong safety Kemal Ishmael turned in a second solid outing in week six, proving that his big tackle totals of week five were not a fluke. Atlanta has a string of average at best matchups starting in week eight, but the way this team has struggled versus the run, I will have a hard time keeping Ishmael out of my lineups going forward.
After starting Prince Shembo at inside linebacker in week five, his absence in week six is a mystery. Shembo did show up on the practice report Wednesday as being limited with a knee injury, but he was not inactive on Sunday. Apparently it was a coaching decision to sit him. Regardless of the reason, it is clear that he cannot be trusted even as a matchup based spot start at this point.
Lardarius Webb was back in his starting role on Sunday and wasted no time getting back to his fantasy friendly production. Through the first six game there have been ten corners who have posted at least 5 tackles or have reached double digit fantasy points with this matchup. Owners in corner required leagues will want Webb in the lineup this week.
Talking about the Buffalo linebackers has become a weekly routine. With everyone available in week six it was Nigel Bradham in the feature role with Brandon Spikes and Keith Rivers working on early downs only. Bradham was joined by Preston Brown in most nickel packages and it was Brown as the lone linebacker in the dime. The Bills will not be playing a lot of dime on most weeks so Bradham should continue to be a quality play for use going forward. He led the team in tackles at 7-4-0 on 59 snaps out of a possible 73 against the Patriots.
It was a bit surprising that even with Aaron Williams out, Da'Norris Searcy was still a part time player. The Bills started corner Corey Graham at strong safety and Duke Williams at free. Searcy may have been a little gimpy for this game which would explain a lot, but I believe the decision had more to do with his struggles in coverage than any injury. Keep an eye on the practice reports late this week to see if Aaron Williams is going to go. If he is out, Graham could be a sneaky sleeper play for owners in corner required leagues.
Leading up to last week’s games we knew there was a chance the Bears could be without their top four linebackers. That possibility came to pass as the team was forced to start Khaseem Greene and recent addition Darryl Sharpton. The combination of injuries and a matchup with Atlanta had Chicago in a nickel base defense for the entire game. Sharpton is no more than an emergency veteran place holder, but Greene is a young player with some long term upside. He made a good showing against the Falcons both on the field and in the box scores. Miami has been a solid matchup for linebackers this year and Briggs has already been ruled out for week seven. Jon Bostic was limited and Shea McClellin is set to return so Greene should make a second start on the weak side. Keep an eye on the Bears practice reports when it comes to Bostic as he would probably join Greene in the Bears sub packages this week. Dynasty owners should keep an eye on Greene for future reference. Sooner or later he will likely replace Lance Briggs.
The good news for Cincinnati is that Vontaze Burfict made it through a full game and was his usual productive self. The bad news is that Rey Maualuga left the game with what looked like a serious hamstring injury and Emmanuel Lamur was also dinged late in the game. The Maualuga injury likely puts Vincent Rey back on the field as the starting middle linebacker this week. It was from this position that he posted excellent numbers down the stretch in 2013. If Lamur is healthy, Rey would most likely be on the sideline in passing situations, but if Lamur is out with his sore shoulder, we could see Rey in an every down role yet again. This is yet another wait and see situation that may be determined late in the week. Neither Maualuga nor Lamur practiced on Wednesday.
Early in the season the Jaguars were a horrible matchup for our IDPs. In recent weeks however, they have turned that around. In three of their last four games, D'Qwell Jackson, Donald Butler and Lawrence Timmons have all recorded 7 or more solo stops versus Jacksonville. If Tennessee had better linebackers, one of them would probably have followed suit. Instead it was the Titans corners with the big day as both Jason McCourty and Blidi Wreh-Wilson had 10 solo tackles and a takeaway against the Jaguars. Do not hesitate to start Karlos Dansby this week.
It has been rare for Dallas to have all three of their starting linebacker on the field together, so we really do not know who will be in the every down role once Bruce Carter returns. He is expected to sit one more game and return in week eight, so for now it is a safe bet that both Rolando McClain and Justin Durant will be three down linebackers against the Giants. What we do not know is which Giants team will get off the plane this week. If it is the one that was successfully on offense in weeks four and five, both McClain and Durant should post decent numbers. If it is the Giants that took week six off, not so much.
There is some good news for the Cowboys this week on the injury front. Rookie end Demarcus Lawrence has started practicing. He may even get some action this week but is still a game or two away from claiming a significant role.
Danny Trevathan made it through week five with flying colors but lasted just two plays in week seven before going down with another injury to the same knee. It was not the same injury but this situation still has a really strange smell to it. Trevathan was placed on IR this week so we will not know until next season if there is some other issue at work here. What we do know is that Brandon Marshall is set to be the Broncos three down linebacker for the rest of this year. The other strange twist to this story is that despite Trevathan leaving so early, Nate Irving played only fifteen snaps. Instead it was Corey Nelson who saw the bulk of the work. This may have been due to Denver using a lot of nickel, but it still makes me wonder if Irving will go back to the same role he had through the first five games. It seems like the coaching staff is going to great lengths to keep him in a part time role.
Ezekial Ansah exploded for the biggest day of his professional career against Minnesota. The 4 solo tackles and the 2.5 sacks were both career highs for the second year man. Some are starting to call him the next Robert Quinn as Quinn's career followed a similar path over his first two years. I will be the first to admit that Ansah has looked better and been more productive in the tackle columns this year, but I still have to question his consistency. With defensive end production so hard to come by this year it is hard to overlook Ansah's huge week six. That said, we should also not overlook the fact that New Orleans has only allowed 1 sack to a defensive end and 2 sacks total to all defensive linemen this year. The moral of this story; do not be a points chaser. Sit Ansah this week.
Green Bay Packers
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is coming off a season high 7 solo tackles and has 17 over the past three games. Those numbers would suggest that his role is increasing but that has simply not been the case. He continues to see action on a rotational/situational basis. Clinton-Dix played 37 of 60 defensive snaps against the Dolphins and worked in basically the same role we have seen all year. He does however, seem to be getting more comfortable and is reacting rather than thinks as he seemed to be early on. I have to believe he will soon move past Micah Hyde into the starting spot. On the other side of that coin, do not be alarmed that Morgan Burnett had a down week against Miami. Again, nothing has changed with the scheme so he should be back to form against Carolina.
Kansas City Chiefs
Safety Eric Berry has returned to practice on a limited basis this week. It is uncertain if he will go against San Diego but he is clearly close to getting back on the field. Owners in leagues with tight rosters will want to look and see if he is available. Those who have him on their roster will want to watch his status as the weak wears on. If Berry goes he has the potential to be the top scoring defensive back of the week. The risk would certainly be worth taking. Josh Mauga is also a strong start in this one. In all, sixteen players have posted 6 or more solo tackles against the Chargers to date.
Strong safety Rashad Jones returned to action with a bang. His 9 solo tackles were a team high in the game. He is a strong start again this week against the Bears who have helped Antonio Allen, Morgan Burnett and Kemal Ishmael to strong point totals in recent weeks.
Koa Misi was the Dolphins starting middle linebacker and finished as the team's second leading tackler at 8-1. That will have him on a lot of waiver lists this week with good reason, but be aware that Jelani Jenkins is still the team's every down linebacker. Misi saw action in nickel packages over Phillip Wheeler but took a seat in dime situations.
It looks like the Vikings will have Chad Greenway back this week. He practiced in full on Wednesday while Gerald Hodges sat out with his bad hamstring. Greenway was not producing well early but that may have been largely due to the injuries he tried to play through. If he is close to 100% he should have a good game against a Buffalo squad that has been a quality matchup on most weeks.
New England Patriots
With Jerod Mayo on IR it is hard to say what the Patriots defense will look like on Thursday. They could go to more of the 4-3 look we have seen from them over the past two years or they could have the look of a traditional 3-4 with Jamie Collins Sr and Dont'a Hightower (if he's healthy) on the inside. What we are not likely to see is big numbers from anyone in a Patriots uniform save for those who earn their keep by rushing the passer. Yes the Jets are a rivalry game but they do not look like a team that should provide a big challenge. From a pure box score perspective, no linebacker has totaled more than 4 solo stops against the Jets since week three.
New Orleans Saints
Cameron Jordan was showing signs of life heading into the Saints bye week. A matchup with the Lions coming out of the break could be just what he needs to jump start his season. The Lions are giving up better than 3 sacks a game to defensive linemen and outside pass rushers, with more than half of them credited to interior linemen or 3-4 ends. If Jordan is not able to take advantage of this matchup, it is clearly time to move on. Fellow end Akiem Hicks and outside linebacker Junior Galette could also be surprisingly solid starts for those in deep leagues.
New York Giants
Jason Pierre-Paul has shown some resurgence over the first six games but a matchup with Dallas is a good reason to leave him on the bench. The Cowboys have not allowed a sack to a defensive lineman since week two.
A couple of guys we do not want to leave out of the lineup this week are Giants safeties Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps. Both players have been hot over the past couple of games and the Cowboys have been a strong matchup. In all, nine defensive backs have turned this matchup into 6 or more solo tackles.
Call this one a gut feeling but I like Jon Beason in this game as well. He has struggled with the foot injury and was not an every down player against the Eagles in week six, but Beason is the guy New York is counting on to lead their defense. He made it through last week with no setbacks so I expect he will return to every down duty against a Dallas running game that has helped opposing inside linebackers to some big point totals.
New York Jets
Last week I talked about the injury to Darin Walls opening the door for Antonio Allen to get back on the field in a significant role. As it turned out Walls was able to play. The Jets however, lost Dee Milliner for the season with a torn Achilles on the fourth play of the game. Still Allen saw action on just 18 snaps. This is a pretty strong indicator that Allen is or at least was not a significant factor in the team's plans going forward. We know that he can be highly productive if given an opportunity so we should keep an eye on him this week. My expectations are not high but it would be nice to be wrong on this one.
I was excited when Justin Tuck went to the Raiders. It seemed like the perfect place for him to resurrect his career. Unfortunately the team has been using a great deal of 3-4 and Tuck has been a marginal factor. He played all of 22 snaps versus San Diego, making no significant impact on the field or in the box scores. If anyone out there is still clinging to hope, it is time to let go.
It was great to see Sio Moore back in action and looking healthy. This week's matchup with the Cardinals is nothing special but the Raiders face Cleveland, Denver, San Diego, Kansas city twice, San Francisco and Buffalo over their next ten games. If Moore can stay healthy he will be a beast. Miles Burris will also continue to have good value the rest of the way now that he is the starter in the middle.
San Diego Chargers
Donald Butler got off to a slow start but he has come on strong over the past three weeks. If his solid production are not enough to make him a starter for you this week, consider that Wesley Woodyard, Nate Irving, Brandon Marshall, Jelani Jenkins, Jason Trusnik, Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins Sr and Patrick Willis have all reached double digit fantasy points against the Chiefs and several of those guys have exceeded 15. Butler is a must start in this one.
Byron Maxwell has given us some solid production this year while playing opposite Richard Marshall. Unfortunately he is going to miss a couple of weeks with his calf injury. Marcus Burley is the next man up at the position. Burley is a second year former undrafted free agent but he did not take a snap in the regular season as a rookie Ankle. So basically what we have is the rookie corner rule opposite the best corner in the game. The only way this could get any better is if Seattle was playing the Saints, Packers or some other high powered passing attack. St. Louis does not have that kind of offense but they will likely get behind early so Burley will have plenty of opportunity. He was 6-2-0 on 80% of the snaps against Dallas.
San Francisco 49ers
With Patrick Willis in a walking boot, it looks like San Francisco will be starting Chris Borland and Michael Wilhoite at inside linebacker against Denver this week. Wilhoite has played well but has had a marginal box score impact. Now we will get to see if the rookie can be a better fantasy option. Denver is a quality matchup for this situation so if you are in a pinch and are willing to roll the dice, give Borland a shot. At worst he should deliver a handful of tackles and he could be a pleasant surprise.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Heading into last week I wanted to see if Mason Foster was healthy and if he would assume the three down role he had before the shoulder injury. He passed both tests with flying colors. He missed just one snap in the game and finished with a respectable 5-3-0 and a pass defended. Most importantly he did not seem to be favoring the shoulder nor was he afraid to deliver a hit with it. Tampa Bay is on a bye this week so Foster has another week to heal. Barring injury he should prove to be a solid LB3 for us the rest of the way.
The Buccaneers could get DaShon Goldson back after the bye week as well. That would be a big plus for the struggling defense and if he is healthy, a quality mid season pickup for many fantasy owners. Chances are we will not hear anything about him during the bye week but I wanted to make mention for those who need to go a week early to beat the competition.
Michael Griffin did little in his first game without Bernard Pollard in the secondary. This is not a big surprise as consistence has been a major issue with Griffin in the past. That said, I still expect that he will give us quality DB3 numbers on most weeks.
DeAngelo Hall is already on IR and now Washington could be without David Amerson who is going through concussion protocol. Bashaud Breeland entered the starting lineup opposite Amerson when Hall was lost and now the rookie faces the prospect of being the team's number one corner in week seven. Tennessee is hardly a great matchup but I do like Breeland's chance of putting up good numbers in this one. Veteran E.J. Biggers would get the start for Amerson if he is not cleared.
That is a wrap for another edition. I hope you all are faring better than I am in most of my leagues. Injuries are always an issue but I have been completely crippled this year. That has turned my 2014 season into an extended exercise in micro-management and matchup plays off the waiver wire. It sure is a lot more work doing it this way. As always, best of luck to you all.