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The Seahawks have allowed a league high 3.9 sacks a game on average but be careful counting on too much from the Cardinals pass rushers. Arizona is near the bottom of the league at 1.6 sacks per game and Seattle did not allow one when last they played in week eight.
With Justin Durant out in week nine, Phillip Wheeler got the start at weak side linebacker. He played 48 of a possible 66 snaps recording a team high 8 solo stops and 2 assists. The Falcons are off this week and chances are Durant will be back by week eleven, but this is a development to keep an eye on just in case. If Durant continues to miss time Wheeler could be a viable option. He has been rather productive in the past as a three down starter.
Leodis McKelvin was back in action week nine posting a surprisingly solid 6 solo stops. He did not start but entered the game at free safety in the second half, replacing Duke Williams. With the top three corners all playing well and the team having a need at free safety; this could be an excellent and permanent move. McKelvin has fresh legs and a skill set that could continue to make him successful as a safety. It is certainly something we need to keep an eye on; especially considering many of us can play him as a corner.
Jerry Hughes finally showed up for us with big numbers in week nine. Mario Williams on the other hand, remains a mystery. We know Rex Ryan will be fired up and looking to make a point this week but unless he changes up his scheme/play calling a little it may not matter for fantasy owners. With the Jets allowing barely more than a sack a game on average, it may be a good idea to look elsewhere for defensive line help if you have other quality options.
Luke Kuechly was banged up again in week nine but his sore ankle is not expected to keep him out of week ten. Charles Johnson can start practicing this week and is expected to be back in action week twelve. For owners hurting at defensive line, he could be a much needed boost for our playoff run. Kony Ealy is starting to heat up as well. He has a sack and a forced fumble in each of past two games. Carolina plays the Falcons in weeks fourteen and sixteen. The matchup is nothing special at this point but the Falcons have not looked good in recent weeks.
Rookie linebacker Jonathan Anderson first showed up on the stat sheet in week six when he had a couple of tackles an assist and an interception. No one thought much about it at the time since he was working in a part time role. He looked pretty good in week eight while again seeing action on about fifty percent of the team’s defensive plays. Obviously his solid play caught the attention of the Bears defensive staff. Against San Diego Anderson was plugged in as a three down inside backer. The result was a monster 11 solo tackle game. He was just as impressive on the field as in the box scores. Anderson did a fine job in coverage often running step for step with Antonio Gates, and seemed to be everywhere against the run. I have learned not to overreact to one big game from a player but Anderson certainly passed the eye ball test. He was far more impressive than Shea McClellin had been earlier in the year and should be on the hot pick up list for redraft and dynasty owners alike. Unless he proves to be a flash in the pan, Chicago has found its next middle linebacker.
Vontaze Burfict started fast against the Browns with a couple of tackles in the first quarter. He left the game for a series or two in the first half with a minor knee issue but was able to return. Unfortunately at that point the Browns offense was shut down and Burfict had little opportunity to continue the early production. As of Wednesday afternoon there are no indications he will miss any time and the Texans should provide a much better match up on Monday Night Football.
Vincent Rey moved over to the middle against Cleveland where he replaced the injured Rey Maualuga. Rey went on to lead the team with 5 solo stops and a couple of assists. There has been no word thus far on Maualuga's availability for week ten but we should have a good idea what his status is later in the week. The Bengals may be a better defense with both Burfict and Rey on the field full time but there has been no indication that Maualuga would not return to his normal two down role when healthy.
Ibraheim Campbell made the start at strong safety against the Bengals. He was having a productive game with 4 tackles and an assist before leaving in the second half with an injury that has still not been specified. The fact we have not heard anything more about it is probably a positive sign for his chances of playing against the Steelers. With Joe Haden and Donte Whitner still awaiting clearance to practice, it looks as if Campbell may get his second start. Pittsburgh should continue to lean heavily on the running game this week. Even more so if Ben Roethlisberger is not able to go. This could make Campbell a solid sleeper start. Raider’s safeties accounted for 13 solo tackles in week nine.
Against the Eagles Sean Lee suffered his second concussion in five games. He is not expected to go this week against the Buccaneers. Anthony Hitches would be his replacement if healthy but he also left the week nine game early with an ankle injury. There has not yet been an update on the severity of Hitchens injury. If he is not able to go Andrew Gachkar would likely join Rolando McClain as the Cowboys three down linebackers. Tampa Bay has been an inconsistent match up for linebackers but I have to believe someone here is going to step up with good numbers. McClain would be the safest option unless we get more to go on later in the week.
Brandon Marshall missed a few plays to have his knee looked at but returned to action. We need to keep an eye on his practice status this week just in case there is an issue. The bigger news here is Danny Trevathan who was a three down player for the first time this season. He saw action on 70 of a possible 74 plays, finishing with a strange but productive stat line of 6-13-0 with a pair of passes defended. Put him in your lineup this week against the Chiefs who have been a quality match up for linebacker in general. Trevathan had 7 solo stops against them in week two on 38 snaps.
With Demarcus Ware expected to miss up to a month, Shaq Barrett will have another opportunity to shine. The Chiefs were an excellent match up for pass rushers early on but have done a better job protecting Alex Smith in recent weeks. Barrett could still be a solid sleeper for owners in big play based leagues.
Green Bay Packers
Jake Ryan had a solid stat line of 6-4-0 in week nine but we should not be too excited about it just yet. The good news is he made a solid impression in his first significant action. The bad news is he played just over 50% of the defensive snaps. The Packers are looking for a solid every down inside linebacker. Many expected Ryan to be that guy long before now. Dynasty owners may want to go ahead and stash him just in case but we should not plug him into our lineups unless it is a desperate situation.
There are two good reason for owners in corner required leagues to consider Jonathan Joseph this week. For starters player tend to have some of their better games against former teams. More importantly, Joseph could draw coverage on A.J. Green if the Texans elect to have someone shadow him.
Colts defensive end Henry Anderson was having a strong rookie campaign and showing promise of being a quality fantasy option in the near future. His progress will be slowed greatly by the ACL injury that landed him on IR this week. The Indianapolis defense was already struggling and they have no one of Anderson's caliber as a replacement.
Safety Mike Adams appeared to have suffered a serious ankle injury on his interception of Peyton Manning. On Tuesday a source reported the injury was not serious and he would be fine. The Colts are off this week so Adams has time to recover but keep an eye on the practice reports next week if he is your guy.
Kansas City Chiefs
When the Chiefs faced Denver in week two rookie corner Marcus Peters had a monster game with 5 tackles, 4 passes defended and an interception for a score. Not much has changed with the Denver offense since that time. They are still relying heavily on Manning's arm and he is still throwing a lot of picks. One other thing that has not changed is Manning's ability to find and pick on perceived weaknesses. Peters may never have a bigger game in terms of fantasy production but it is a safe bet he will have another busy one this week when these teams meet again.
Jelani Jenkins has been one of this season's biggest head scratchers. In the first two games he combined for 16 solo tackles and 7 assists. In the six games since he is 19-6-0 with 4 or fewer solo stops in every contest. Jenkins continues to work in an every down role and the match ups while not stellar, have not been horrible. Those of you who have not yet given up on him may want to consider playing him this week because I am benching or dropping him in all four of the leagues I have him rostered. You may remember I gave everyone the same heads up a couple of weeks back when moving on from Ron Parker. Right on queue he came out with 4 tackles and a pair of sacks. Jenkins has a strong match up this week with the Eagles. If he fails to produce in this one it will be tough to continue holding a roster spot for him.
Olivier Vernon was horrible over the first four games. Since the Dolphins week five bye however, he has put up solid fantasy points in three of four games. Vernon had a sack in two of those games and comes off a season best 5 solo tackles against the Bills in week nine. Many owners dumped him early and he is still available in a lot of leagues. Not only is he is heating up at the right time for our stretch run, Vernon has match ups with the Chargers in week fifteen and the Colts in week sixteen. Both of those teams are struggling to protect their quarterbacks.
Just a few short weeks ago the Vikings had so much talent at linebacker they were comfortable trading away Gerald Hodges. In week nine Eric Kendricks was out with a rib injury and Anthony Barr left the stadium with his arm/hand in a cast. Neither Kendricks nor Barr participated in practice Wednesday leaving their availability for week ten in doubt. Chad Greenway's role had been reduced greatly until last weekend when he was back in the familiar three down role against the Rams. Greenway proved he can still get it done by leading the team with 8 solo stops and a pair of assists. The Raiders have been a solid and consistent match up for our tackle producing linebackers all season. If either Kendricks or Barr sit, Greenway is likely to have quality numbers for us.
New England Patriots
Donta Hightower owners will agree when I say Bill Belichick is a pain in the rear end. With Jamie Collins a last minute scratch due to illness it seemed both logical and obvious Hightower would be an every down player. Heck he played 71 of 72 snaps in week seven with Collins on the field. Instead it was Jonathan Freeney replacing Collins who saw all the sub package snaps while Hightower played only in base packages seeing action on 36 of a possible 58 plays. The Giants are among the game's best match ups for linebackers but with Belichick at the helm there is no sure thing, especially when we consider the Giants like to spread the field with three and four receivers. Hightower is a risk reward option with a high ceiling and a low floor this week.
If healthy Collins has all the upside with much less risk. His health however, is still a question mark. Getting reliable injury info out of New England is like trying to get blood from a turnip so we may not know until the last minute who will be active, much less who will be on the field in sub packages. It would seem that if Collins is out again Freeney becomes a good sleeper play, but who knows what goes on in the mind of a genius.
New York Giants
With Jon Beason landing on IR last week and Uani Unga sidelined by a sore neck, Jonathan Casillas and Jasper Brinkley were one and two in tackles against the Buccaneers at 6-0 and 5-2 respectively. Neither player worked in an every down role though both saw action on more than 50 snaps. The Patriots can be a great match up for linebackers on some weeks. Unfortunately there is not enough playing time consistency among the New York linebackers for us to know which one to play.
Heading into last weekend's game we had no idea what to expect from Jason Pierre-Paul. He played more (45 snaps) and looked better on the field than many expected. The stat line of 2 solo stops is not a good indicator of his impact on the game. Pierre-Paul pressured and/or flushed the quarterback on a number of plays and was generally disruptive. He may have had better numbers if not for the bulky protective wrap making it impossible to grab with his right hand. He is thinking about shedding the wrap this week against New England. Pierre-Paul looked like a player trying to prove himself last week. His role is expected to increase a little each game as he plays his way into game shape. The Patriots are not a great match up but Pierre-Paul is a player worth consideration this week if you have a need.
Opposing safeties have consistently put up quality tackle numbers against the Patriots. In fact the safety position has produced double digit solo stops in every game thus far with Jets safeties totaling 20 in week seven and Washington safeties accounting for 14 in week nine. Brandon Meriweather has given us good production on some weeks but has been horribly inconsistent. He has been plain bad of late to the tune of 1 tackle and 2 assists in the last two games combined. Since I mentioned this he will probably have the best game of his career this week, but the player I am looking at here is Landon Collins. Early on he was used in mostly a center field role as the Giants deep safety. Over the past few games he has been moved up toward the line more often and has been a bigger factor. Collins has at least 4 solo stops and 8 fantasy points in every game since week one but he has yet to have a breakout game. Call it a gut feeling but I think he has a big one against the Patriots with 15+ points. At worst he has a high floor.
We were looking to see what Darnell Autry would do for an encore in week nine. He did not do much. In fact Autry was shifted inside often with much if not most of his playing time coming at the tackle position. We will continue to keep an eye on him but it looks as if his solid 5-0-1 a couple of weeks back was a one hit wonder.
Charles Woodson still battling sore shoulder and aggravated the injury against Pittsburgh. This is one tough guy though. He had 7 solo tackles in the game as the defensive backs had to make a lot of tackles behind a front seven that was manhandled most of the day by the Steelers offensive line. He has been playing with this injury most of the season and it has kept his tackle numbers down a little. That said Woodson is such a playmaker we have to keep putting him in the lineup.
With Jordan Hicks going to IR this week and DeMeco Ryans still not able to practice, we may see a lot more of Kiko Alonso than the Eagles had planned this week. There is plenty of injury risk here and the Dolphins have been a below average match up for linebackers, but for anyone in desperate need Alonso is an option with some upside.
Dashon Goldson left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. He was limited in practice on Wednesday but the fact he worked at all is a good sign. If he can go this week Goldson should have a busy day against the Saints. Keep an eye on the late week injury reports and have a backup plan.
Jeron Johnson might be a good backup plan for Goldson. Johnson stepped in for Trent Robinson at the other safety spot in week nine, finishing with a solid 5-1 on 49 snaps. There have been no reports of an injury to Robinson so at this point we have to assume it was a coach’s decision. At the least Johnson should be on our radar going into week ten.
Keenan Robinson was having a huge game against New England before leaving with a stinger. He has not yet practiced this week so keep tabs on the situation later in the week. If Robinson is not able to go, Will Compton will be his replacement. Compton has been highly productive when given an opportunity to play and appears to have worked his way into a time share with Perry Riley even when everyone is healthy. Compton has looked good dating back to last season and may be on the verge of replacing Riley as a starter. This is another one to watch this week.
Bashaud Breeland was active last week but was not completely healthy. His snaps were limited as he appeared to be working only in passing down sub packages. With DeAngelo Hall possibly returning soon we may be better off to avoid all of Washington's corners until we see how it all works out. Keep in mind Hall and Chris Culliver were the starters when everyone was healthy.