Philadelphia has been an excellent matchup for safeties. In their last three games Antoine Bethea was 7-0-0 with a pick and a forced fumble, T.J McDonald went 10-1-0 with a pass defended, Quintin Demps was 9-1-0 and Antrel Rolle had 4 tackles with an interception. Unfortunately the Cardinals coaching staff has take a page out of the Bill Belichick book on how to ruin the fantasy value of players. Every week we are seeing a different approach from Arizona when it comes to how (or how much) their safeties will be used. Granted the matchup with Oakland had a lot to do with the weak production of all Arizona players in week seven. Still we cannot overlook the fact that Tony Jefferson, Deone Bucannon and Tyrann Mathieu all saw action on less than 55% of the team's defensive snaps. At this point the only dependable IDP option on this team is Rashad Johnson. He should have a big day against the Eagles this week.
Unless you are extremely desperate at the linebacker position, this would be a good week to sit Larry Foote. Since week one only two linebackers have recorded more than 4 solo tackles versus the Eagles. Those two were James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree who both did it in week five. Foote is marginal even with a good matchup but with all the injuries we are dealing with, a lot of owners have been forced to play him.
Owners in big play based leagues or those looking for a spot start sleeper may want to consider Kroy Beirmann this week. The Lions offensive line continues to struggle, particularly with outside pass rushers. They managed to keep Cameron Jordan off of Matt Stafford in week six but gave up sacks to both Junior Galette and Parys Haralson.
It might be a good idea to look at other options at linebacker besides Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley. The Bengals have struggled offensively in recent weeks. Even when they were playing well in the week one meeting of these teams, both Mosley Smith finished with 4 solo tackles.
Time for the weekly report on Buffalo linebackers. As expected Nigel Bradham continued to see time in the nickel sub package. He played 59 of 67 snaps and once again led the team in tackles. The underlying change in week seven was that even with everyone available, Preston Brown was finally used as the every down linebacker. It did not translate to big box score production against the Vikings but that should change this week versus the Jets who have been a quality matchup for tackle producing linebackers on most weeks. I like the chances that both Bradham and Brown will produce quality numbers in this one. Just look at last week when Jamie Collins Sr and Dont'a Hightower combined to total 16-10-1 against New York.
Buffalo has been just as inconsistent at the safety positions as Arizona. In week seven Da'Norris Searcy started at SS with Aaron Williams at free and Duke Williams playing only in sub packages. No safety played more than 82% of the defensive snaps. Stay away from this mess until/unless we see some consistency.
Charles Johnson has quietly come to life over the past three weeks. He has a sack in each of those three games and posted a season best 5-1-1 with a forced fumble versus the Packers on Sunday. Meanwhile the Seahawks just allowed 3 sacks to a Rams team that had only 1 in their first five games. I like the chances of Carolina to bounce back from the blowout loss and play well. I also like the chances that Johnson will stay hot.
With the injury to Paul Posluszny, Luke Kuechly is basically the last of the elite linebackers that is still standing. As such there is little chance than anyone can seriously consider sitting him this week, but keep in mind A.J. Hawk, Donald Butler, Keenan Robinson, Rolando McClain, Justin Durant, James Laurinaitis and Alec Ogletree all recorded 4 or fewer solo tackles in their games against the Seahawks.
The Bears defense has been hammered by injuries at all three levels this season. The latest to go down is rookie sensation Kyle Fuller who left the week seven contest with a hip injury. Fuller is officially questionable as of Wednesday but has not practiced this week. Sherrick McManis would be the next man up. The Steelers have been an above average matchup for corners so McManis could be a decent sleeper for owners in leagues that break out the defensive back positions.
Vontaze Burfict took yet another early exit in week seven. The good news here is that it was not a concussion this time. Marvin Lewis made the statement early this week that Burfict "will be fine", leaving optimism that he will be a go this week. He was limited in practice on Wednesday with what is being called a neck strain. Burfict was also called out by defensive coordinator Paul Guenther who criticized his head down tackling style. Hopefully Burfict will get the hint. Even if he is a go as expected, Vincent Rey could be a good start. Emmanuel Lamur was also limited in practice with his shoulder injury and Rey Maualuga has already been ruled out. That means Rey will be the starting middle linebacker. A healthy Lamur is a three down SLB. while he is nursing the sore shoulder however, his role may be reduced.
There was a Christian Kirksey sighting in week seven when the rookie finished with an impressive 7-2-1. While the numbers are a good sign when it comes to his future potential, we should not overlook the fact that Kirksey is still splitting time virtually 50/50 with Craig Robertson. It will be interesting to see if Kirksey's production earns him a bigger role this week. Even if that is the case, we should not have much expectation for either he or Karlos Dansby in week eight. The Raiders have been an inconsistent matchup at best and when they have been bad they have been really bad. To date Donald Butler is the only linebacker to put up more than 5 solo tackles against them.
It would be a good idea to avoid starting Justin Durant or Rolando McClain this week. There has been some big play production among inside linebackers facing Washington, but no linebacker has exceeded 5 solo stops against them to date.
As expected Brandon Marshall returned to the every down role in week seven. Even with all their injuries at running back the Chargers have continued to be an excellent matchup for linebackers, making Marshall a strong starting option this week. Nate Irving on the other hand, has not returned to his same significant role. In fact he has seen action on just 38 plays in the last two games combined. Irving is now sharing time both Corey Nelson and Lerentee McCray who both had a similar snap count against San Francisco. Some of this can be attributed to the blowout win over San Francisco, but Irving was playing far less than a full time role even before the score got out of hand.
Rookie corner Bradley Roby has posted at least 9 fantasy points in four of his six games this season. He is working as the Broncos slot corner seeing action mostly in sub packages, but has been on the field for over 76% of the team's defensive plays thus far. San Diego will be doing a lot of passing on Thursday night and it is a safe bet that Phillip Rivers will be looking at the rookie often. I like Roby as a strong CB2 sleeper this week.
Tahir Whitehead continues to give up some early down snaps Josh Bynes but is still playing a significant role. He missed 14 of the team's 75 snaps in week seven. Whitehead should continue to provide decent LB3 value for us through the bye weeks, but his upside will be a bit limited until/unless he gets those snaps back.
Green Bay Packers
Back during the summer and into the preseason we heard noise about Sam Barrington getting a shot at the starting inside linebacker job. It finally happened in week seven when he got the call next to A.J. Hawk. Barrington played 30 of 71 snaps in a time share with Jamari Lattimore who saw mostly early down action. This is a situation to keep an eye on going forward. Green Bay will likely be in a nickel base defense this week against New Orleans so Hawk will be the only inside backer on the field for the most part.
The way Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been playing it was only a matter of time before he claimed the starting job over Micah Hyde. That finally happened in week seven when he and Hawk were the only Packers defenders to play all 71 snaps. If you have been hesitant to start him because of the part time role, the time has come to get Clinton-Dix into your lineup. He even has an excellent matchup this week with the Saints next on the schedule. In their last three games, starting safeties have recorded 31 solo tackles and 4 takeaways against New Orleans. I like Tramon Williams in this matchup as well if he is healthy enough to go.
Just a reminder that LaRon Landry is serving the final game of his suspension this week. He should be back in action in week nine and will be available in many leagues. Pick him up this week while no one is thinking about him. Landry will be a quality contributor for us as a solid DB3 or a low end DB2 the rest of the way.
Jacksonville got their first win but it was a costly one. Paul Posluszny was lost for the year to a torn Pectoral and Andre Branch is expected to miss a few games with a groin injury. J.T. Thomas replaced Posluszny in the game and is expected to get the call in the middle this week. A lot of owners are jumping on Thomas and rightly so. Let me caution however, that there is no guarantee he will be a three down player. Posluszny's injury happened late in the game so we really did not get an extended look at Thomas or the makeup of the sub packages after he entered the game. Grab Thomas is you can but it may not be a bad idea to have Geno Hayes on your list as well, and possibly even Telvin Smith Sr. One thing that is certain; the stock of Jonathan Cyprien gets a serious boost.
Branch was not a starter but was getting plenty of playing time. His absence likely means more opportunity for Ryan Davis who recorded sacks in each of the first two games before vanishing for four weeks. Davis is a 260 pound pass rush specialist who could be plugged right into the same role Branch was playing. He is worth keeping an eye on.
Many owners are losing patience with Jelani Jenkins who has averaged only 4 tackles over the team's last three games. Keep in mind that two of those games were against a struggling Raiders offense and a Bears team that fell behind early and ran the ball just 12 times. In the other game Jenkins had a respectable 6 solo stops against the Packers. Over the next eight weeks Miami plays Jacksonville (who has been a solid matchup) San Diego, Buffalo, Denver, the Jets, Ravens and Patriots. Be patient young Jedi.
No one needs me to tell them to start Everson Griffen after his huge week seven. Just in case you have been sleeping on him; the Buccaneers have not been a particularly strong matchup but Griffen has been on fire. He has a sack in each of the past three games including 3 against the Bills in week seven. At this point he is an every week play virtually regardless of the opponent.
Brian Robison on the other hand, has not made much of an impact and has just half a sack on the season. If he is not able to break out of the funk soon we may start seeing more of rookie Scott Crichton. It is worth mention however, that Robison did have a quarterback hit and four hurries on Sunday.
New England Patriots
Jamie Collins Sr and Dont'a Hightower were both being used as three down inside linebacker in week seven. Both players posted strong numbers and have many fantasy owners looking to start them this week. I will pull up short of suggesting that we sit either of them against a Bears squad that has been a quality matchup in most weeks, but the injury to Chandler Jones has me a little concerned about what the player shuffle will bring. Both of these players are capable pass rushers who could be shifted outside. We never know what to expect from Bill Belichick even when everyone is healthy. I can easily see one of these guys moving outside with Deontae Skinner filling the void on the inside. He would seem the be the most logical replacement but is not an accomplished outside pass rusher.
New York Giants
Jon Beason is finally considering surgery on his recurring toe injury. He has not been able to play for long without setbacks and it has become painfully obvious that he will never be healthy this year. Beason has been ruled out for week eight, making Jameel McClain the team's every down middle linebacker for the foreseeable future. The Giants are off this week but when they return to action in week nine they have a strong matchup with the Colts.
New York Jets
Kyle Orton may give Buffalo a better chance of winning but he sure has opposing pass rushers licking their chops. The Bills have allowed 10 sacks to defensive linemen over the past two weeks. Mohammad Wilkerson is a must start in this one and Sheldon Richardson should get strong consideration as well.
Start Demario Davis and Davis Harris with this matchup as well. Since week four Brian Cushing, DeAndre Levy, Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway have all totaled 7 or more solo stops against the Bills. Jerod Mayo was on his way to similar numbers before his injury. Even with their top two backs out of action, the Bills are still going to run the ball often. With Orton at quarterback they are not going to have a lot of choice.
The Browns running game was shut down in an ugly week seven loss to Jacksonville. Nothing could be better to get that problem fixed than a matchup with the Raiders 29th ranked run defense. Oakland will see a heavy dose of Ben Tate and Cleveland's duo of rookie ball carriers. That means a lot of opportunity for Sio Moore, Miles Burris and Rod Woodson. Moore and Woodson are must starts in this one. Burris is worth strong consideration as an LB3.
If you are looking for a sleeper at the safety position consider Brandion Ross. The Raiders lost Usama Young to a season ending knee injury in week seven and Ross is the next man up. Both of these players are similar replacement level players with no long term value but it is hard to overlook the fact that Young posted double digit fantasy points in all three of his starts this year. Ross is simply an average player in an excellent situation.
San Diego Chargers
San Diego is looking at the prospect of facing Denver without either of their starting corners this week. Brandon Flowers has already been ruled out and Jason Verrett is on the doubtful side of questionable. That makes Shareece Wright and Richard Marshall the likely starters number three safety Jahleel Addae serving as the nickel defensive back. Addae would line up at safety with Marcus Gilchrist covering the slot receiver on passing downs. Chances are the nickel will be the team's base defense in this matchup so Addae could be a sneaky sleeper play. Both Wright and especially Marshall have been highly productive when given an opportunity to play full time. Marshall is my favorite corner sleeper this week.
I am out of time for this week's edition. Be sure to check out the Audible pod cast and all the other outstanding IDP coverage we have to offer here at Footballguys. Best of luck this weekend and may you come through without injuries.