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Tony Jefferson had another monster game in week eight but we should not over react as nothing has really changed here. The Cardinals continue to shuffle their defensive backs as they have in recent weeks with Rashad Johnson the only safety to see full time action. It was a matchup with Philadelphia that provided Jefferson's opportunity. In all the Cardinals defense was on the field for a whopping 94 defensive snaps in this game, thus even as a part time player seeing less than 80% of the playing time, Jefferson was able to post big numbers. He could have a few more quality outings over the second half of the season but depending on Jefferson as an every week starter is a risky proposition.
No one wants to see a player get injured but the Cardinals safety positions could be a bit easier to figure out this week if Jefferson and/or Patrick Peterson are held out due to concussions suffered against the Eagles. Jefferson's injury was not obvious and was not reported on until well after the game. Peterson however, took a big hit and was down for a while before being helped off. This injury looked bad and it would be no surprise to see him miss some time. Keep an eye on the late week practice reports for word on both players. If Peterson sits, nickel corner Jerraud Powers would move into the lineup and would be a quality play against the Cowboys. In their last four games, six corners have reached double digit fantasy points when facing Dallas.
The Steelers have been an excellent matchup for both safeties and inside linebackers over the past several weeks. The problem is that none of the Ravens safeties have shown enough promise to make me believe they are capable of taking advantage. If bye weeks and injuries have you hurting at the position, Darian Stewart would be the Ravens safety most likely to succeed.
Owners with Daryl Smith or C.J. Mosley on their rosters will certainly want to play them in this one. Since week four Lavonte David (10-2-0 and a forced fumble), Paul Posluszny (9-3-1 with a pass defended), Karlos Dansby (5-6-1) and D'Qwell Jackson (8-5-0) have all posted big numbers against the Steelers.
Over the past four games the resurgent Charles Johnson has totaled 12-9-3 with a forced fumble, a recovery and a pass defended. While that is plenty of reason to be optimistic about his value down the stretch, it would be a good idea to get him out of our lineups this week. Through week eight the Saints have allowed just 5 total sacks to 4-3 ends and 3-4 outside linebackers combined.
Owners in deep dynasty leagues have been keeping an optimistic eye on Khaseem Greene in hope that he could eventually be a full time option for the Bears. Much of that optimism vanished in week eight when Chicago went with Christian Jones as their three down weak side backer while Greene failed to get on the field for a single snap. Unfortunately for Bears fans Jones was not very impressive either. He finished at 2-8-0 with a pass defended.
With all the fines, suspensions and penalties that have been added to the game in an effort to curb injuries; when are they going to start penalizing players like Lamar Houston for injuring themselves while celebrating a big play? Someone should have reminded him that it was his first sack of the season and came in garbage time when his team was getting killed. C'Mon man!
Vontaze Burfict failed to finish yet another game in week eight. The good news is that it was not his head or neck this time. The bad news is that he will miss at least a couple of games after having his knee scoped. This makes Vincent Rey and Emmanuel Lamur the Bengals three down linebackers for a while.
As matchups go, the Jaguars were a good one early but have fallen off sharply in recent weeks. Thus my expectations for either Cincinnati linebacker are not great for this week. That said, in weeks ten through sixteen they play Cleveland twice, New Orleans, Houston, Pittsburg and Denver. The only questionable matchup over that stretch is Tampa Bay in week thirteen and even they have provided opposing linebackers with quality numbers of late.
The hits just keep coming for the Cowboys defense as Justin Durant landed on IR this week. Adding insult to injury, Rolando McClain is not practicing early this week with a shoulder problem. McClain was able to finish the game Sunday night so hopefully he will be able to go. This situation puts Bruce Carter back in the spotlight and has us once again keeping an eye on Anthony Hitchens. Carter was a two down linebacker against Washington before Durant went down. This may have been due to the fact that he was coming back from injury himself. Regardless, he will be called upon to handle a full time role the rest of the way. Carter has proven to be a productive fantasy option when playing full time and is a strong candidate to continue that trend. If McClain is unable to go, Hitchens will be in line for his second start of the season. When called upon in week three the rookie responded with 10 solo stops, 3 assists and a pass defended. Keep an eye on McClain's status. If you need a spot start, Hitchens could be your guy.
With Brian Cushing out, recent addition Akeem Dent got the start at inside linebacker for the Texans on Sunday. His stay was short lived as Mike Mohamed took over after 22 snaps and went the rest of the way as the team's three down inside backer. I have seen nothing that would suggest Dent was injured so at face value this looks like a coaching decision. Knowing that Dent is little more than a serviceable backup, it was more of a surprise to see him start than to see him benched. Mohamed on the other hand, looked pretty good. He finished with a team best 8 solo stops. If Cushing sits again this week, Mohamed will have a lot of opportunity against Philadelphia.
D.J. Swearinger Sr has been a major disappointment. Way too often he has arrived at the party just in time to look down at the pile. That said, he has an excellent matchup this week against the Eagles. Fellow safety Kendrick Lewis was hot early but has recorded more than 4 solo stops just once in the team's last five games. The matchup and the fact that he has made a lot of big plays, make Lewis a good risk/reward start in this one. In their last four games, five safeties have posted 7 or more solo stops against Philadelphia with T.J. McDonald and Tony Jefferson each hitting double digits.
LaRon Landry's four game suspension ended Monday but he has not yet been added to the Colts active roster. This is a strange situation that smells a little funny. When asked about the situation, Coach Pagano said the team wants to get him back in the building and see where he is at physically. Maybe they think he sat on the couch eating Halloween candy for the last month. I am not sure what to read into this but I am pretty sure we should be concerned. Hopefully we will get some clarity soon. Meanwhile, start making other plans if you were looking to start Landry this week.
Owners who jumped on J.T. Thomas last week have to be happy with the fact that he was indeed the Jaguars three down linebacker against Miami. He bailed out fantasy owners by adding a sack to his meager tackle numbers in his first start, but I would not let the 3 solo performance keep you from starting him this week against a Bengals squad that has been a much better matchup. D'Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman did little in the Colts blowout win over the Bengals in week seven, but that was sandwiched between Luke Kuechly's 9-4-0 in week six and the 11-15-0 with a pick total posted by C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith in week eight.
Last week I mentioned that Ryan Davis could take on the same role that Andre Branch had been playing. That is basically what happened as Davis was moved around the formation and allowed to rush the passer on 18 of his 28 snaps. The result was his second 2 sack performance of the year. He is not a player I would trust as an every week starter but owners hurting for a bye week plug in could do much worse than Davis, even with a poor matchup.
I would be easy to look at his totals over the last four weeks and decide to sit Jelani Jenkins. That could be a big mistake. Consider that Miami's last four games have been against Oakland, Green Bay, Chicago and Jacksonville. The Raiders are possibly the worst matchup in the game and the Bears ran the ball twelve times. Jenkins had 6 solo stops against Green Bay and then faced a Jacksonville squad that is suddenly pushing Oakland for the title of worst matchup. This week Miami gets a Chargers offense that has been on fire and has been an excellent matchup. This is not the week to give up on Jenkins. Reshad Jones is a must start in this one as well, and Brent Grimes is a hot play in corner required leagues.
New York Giants
The Colts have been a quality matchup for nearly all defenders at the second and third level of the defense. Jameel McClain should regain his early season role as a three down middle backer and is a safe bet to post 5+ solo tackles with potential for much more. Safeties Antrel Rolle and Quintin Demps should also see plenty of opportunity this week, but it is the corners in New York that may have the best matchups of the bunch. In seven of the Colts eight games to date, at least one corner has reached 6 solo stops or double digit fantasy points. Start Prince Amukamura in this one for sure and consider Zachary Bowman as well if you are in a pinch.
Mychal Kendricks returned to action on Sunday but was not yet 100%. As a result he was eased back into action, playing only 23 snaps versus Arizona. On Monday he was reportedly a little sore but Kendricks has been a full participant in practice this week. He may still be a little less than 100% healthy, but signs are pointing to a full workload in week nine. That said, owners with enough quality depth to do so might want to give him another week on the bench just to be safe. On the other hand, a quality matchup like the Texans could mean a big game if he is healthy. Keep an eye on the late week practice reports.
Ryan Shazier started for the Steelers in week eight but played only 30 snaps. He did not look completely healthy or comfortable in the game. At this point I want to see Shazier look like Shazier before I can trust him. One other interesting note here, it was Vince Williams and not Sean Spence who logged the rest of the playing time at inside linebacker for the Steelers in week eight.
San Diego Chargers
In what is a somewhat strange numbers trend; no linebacker has posted more than 4 solo tackles against the Dolphins since week four. Yet safeties Usama Young was totaled 7, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix had 7 and Jonathan Cyprien recorded 9 with Brock Vereen adding 5 over that same span of games. The numbers tell us to sit Donald Butler this week if you can, while Eric Weddle is a must start.
San Francisco 49ers
Owners looking for a bye week big hitter with major upside should go after Ahmad Brooks this week. Brooks was 5-0-2 against the Rams in week six and if that is not reason enough, add the fact that the Rams placed left tackle Jake Long on IR this week. Brooks could have a career game in this one. Justin Smith did not have big numbers in the first meeting but the loss of Long, and the fact that St. Louis allowed 2.5 sacks to Chiefs defensive ends last week, are plenty of reason to expect a strong game from him as well.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams traded for Mark Barron just before the deadline on Tuesday. This is an interesting move in that both he and T.J. McDonald are best suited to work as in the box strong safeties. The speculation now begins on what this means for the long term future of the St. Louis secondary. With free safety Rodney McLeod not practicing and questionable for week nine, we may not know the team's long term plan for a while. One thing that is certain, unless Barron flops horribly, he will be part of the long term plan. If all three guys are active on game day I would lean hard toward sitting them all until we can see who is playing where and when. If McLeod is out, McDonald should be a pretty strong play.
With three sacks and a forced fumble over the past three games. Robert Quinn, the sleeping Giant, has awakened.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Heading into last week there was some speculation that Dashon Goldson's injury hiatus may have cost him the starting job in favor of Major Wright. As it turns out Goldson went right back into the every down role, picking up right where he left off in the box scores as well with a 7-1-0. The trade of Mark Barron pretty much ensures that Goldson's job is safe and opens a spot for Lovie Smith favorite Wright to get on the field.
Tennessee continues to have no every down linebacker but Avery Williamson continues to inch closer to changing that. Against Houston he played on 91% of the snaps and finished with an impressive 8-2-1. The more I see this guy the better I like him.
The Vikings have allowed 16 sacks to defensive linemen and 3-4 outside linebackers over the past four games. I am not normally a proponent of 3-4 outside linebackers, but with so many injuries and six teams on bye, many of us have no choice but to swing for the fences. Ryan Kerrigan has been hot and could blow up with this matchup. Trent Murphy deserves a little risk/reward consideration in this one as well.
That is a wrap for week nine. May the funny shaped ball bounce you way and all you players survive to fight again next week. Best of luck to you all.