It is hard to believe we are already in week eight and heading into the stretch run. At this point the free agent pool has pretty much dried up and we are down to managing and micro managing our rosters while we navigate the rest of the bye weeks. There are a lot of players banged up so putting our best lineups together for week eight is going to require us to pay close attention to late week practice reports and injury replacement options. Many of us are going to be looking at NFL backups to help us get through the rest of the way.
Kemal Ishmael is one of those injury replacements who can make a difference for us in week eight. The Buccaneers have not been a particularly strong match up of safeties but there a few players who have put up good numbers against them, including Dashon Goldson and Trent Robinson who were 6-8-0 and 5-4-0 respectively in week seven. Ishmael managed a solid 6 solo stops versus the Titans last weekend on 34 snaps. He has been an excellent box score contributor when given an opportunity dating back to last season and would be a solid play for us if William Moore is out. Moore is not practicing as of Wednesday and the feeling is he will not play.
Paul Worrilow played 41 of the Falcons 54 defensive snaps in week seven. I have not yet had a chance to watch the game but there have been no reports of an injury and he did not show up on the Wednesday practice report. It would not be a shock to see Worrilow pulled from some sub packages since he is no better than average in coverage.
The Baltimore secondary got a boost with the return of Lardarius Webb in week seven. Both he and Jimmy Smith have high potential this week when they face the pass happy Chargers. San Diego has thrown the ball more than 50 times in each of the past three games. Phillip Rivers is not throwing a lot of interceptions but the sheer volume of opportunity has made opposing corners fantasy friendly. Five of the six starting corners who have faced San Diego over the past three weeks have recorded at least 5 solo tackles with three of them posting 7 or more.
At a glance the Chargers lack of running might make fantasy owners view them as a poor match up for linebackers, but this has not been the case. Rivers likes to throw to the tight end and checks down to the running backs often. As a result Sean Spence, Nate Palmer and Malcolm Smith have all recorded 8 or more solo stops against San Diego. We should not hesitate to start C.J. Mosley or Darryl Smith this week.
Carolina may be without Mario Addison for the game against Indianapolis. He left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury and is not expected to play. The good news for Panthers fans is Jared Allen was able to play 77 of 82 snaps against the Eagles and recorded his first sack as a Panther. The Colts are a middle of the road match up for outside pass rushers but at least we know Allen will have plenty of opportunity. Between injuries and bye weeks our limited options make him worthy of serious consideration.
It is tough to consider sitting Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis has been an excellent second or third starter for us. Keep in mind however; the Colts have been a poor matchup more often than not for stud linebackers. Paul Posluszny was 4-1-0 against them, Jamie Collins Sr 1-4-0, Preston Brown 2-4-0 and Brian Cushing 0-8-0. On the other hand Dannell Ellerbe, Stephone Anthony, Bernardrick McKinney, Telvin Smith Sr have all had decent games.
Coming back from their bye the Bears hope to have Antrel Rolle back in action against Minnesota. The Vikings have been a quality match up for safeties so Rolle could be a sneaky plug and play option.
When last we saw the Bengals in action they were without Vincent Rey and Michael Johnson who were both knocked out of the week six game. It looks as if both players are good to go for week eight as neither was mentioned in the team's Wednesday practice report. The Steelers have been a below average match up for nearly all positions to date but they should be a different team with their starting quarterback under center. Early week reports indicate Ben Roethlisberger will play.
Jordan Poyer has been replacing the injured Tashaun Gipson Sr at free safety but Poyer could miss week eight with a shoulder injury. Gipson returned to practice on a limited basis this week but he is not a sure thing to play. If neither of them are available we could see rookie Ibraheim Campbell against the Cardinals.
Greg Hardy has quickly moved into the every week must start category and could have a huge day against the Seahawks who have allowed more sacks than any other team in the league. Hardy played 51 of a possible 53 snaps in week seven going 2-1-1 on the day. Unfortunately no other Dallas end was on the field for more than 33 plays. The team used Demarcus Lawrence as the starter opposite Hardy in a rotation with Jeremy Mincey. Owners in a pinch may want to give Lawrence a flier start but we could see Randy Gregory's role increase as well. Gregory played 8 snaps against the Giants.
Owners in tackle required leagues may want to consider Tyrone Crawford this week. The Cowboys have been rotating a lot of players into the games at tackle including Mincey and his fellow end Jack Crawford in some passing situations. At least Tyrone Crawford is getting enough opportunity to be productive. He played 41 snaps versus the Giants. Seattle has given up 8 sacks to defensive tackles and 3-4 ends on the season.
As anticipated Anthony Hitchens was the starting strong side linebacker in week seven. Unfortunately he was on the field for all of 17 plays. Until/unless either Rolando McClain or Sean Lee go down, Hitchens is useless to us.
Many owners will have to strongly consider starting Danny Trevathan this week. This seems like a no brainer at a glance but we need to consider most teams use a nickel package as their base scheme when facing Green Bay. Trevathan's involvement in sub packages has been growing but he was not a full blown three down player when last we saw the Broncos in action. I will be starting him on one league simply because I have no better options, but it makes me a little nervous. If he is on the field enough the Packers can be a good match up. Consider Trevathan a risky play with a low floor and a high ceiling.
Despite their record the Panthers have been a poor match up for IDPs across the board. They are allowing fewer than 2 sacks per game on average, only the Rams have had fewer solo tackles recorded against them and they rarely fumble. This would be a good week to sit all of our Colts defenders if possible. If you have to start Jerrell Freeman or D'Qwell Jackson, temper your expectations.
Kansas City Chiefs
Rookie corner Marcus Peters has a knack for the interception and only Peyton Manning has thrown more of them than Matthew Stafford. Not to mention that 5 corners have posted at least 6 solo tackles against the Lions. Peters should have solid tackle numbers and a good shot at a big play or two this week.
If you have Ron Parker on your roster this would be a good week to start him. Not for the match up or any other reason than simply because I have given up and started cutting him in my leagues. Every time I get to this point with a good player who is not producing, he has a big game. Earlier this season I suggested sitting Keenan Robinson. He responded with his biggest game of the year. A couple of weeks back I cut Da'Norris Searcy in several leagues. That week he put up 8 solo stops. Parker has 7 solo tackles combined over the past three games. I just wanted to let everyone know I have let him go in a couple of leagues and will bench him in the other three where I have him rostered this week, so play him while he is hot.
Cameron Wake has been huge with 6 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and a pass defended over the past two weeks. Ndamukong Suh joined the party in week seven going 5-1-2 with a couple batted passes. Many owners will see a match up with the Patriots as a potential roadblock for these two players. The New England offense is a lot of things but flawless they are not. In fact the Patriots enter week eight tied for eighth worst in terms of protecting the quarterback, allowing 2.7 sacks per game on average. Over the past two weeks Miami has shown the kind of pass rush that has thrown Tom Brady off his game in the past. With the Dolphins playing as they currently are, Wake and Suh are players we should not hesitate to start.
With Sharrif Floyd recovering from a foot injury that could keep him out a while, owners in tackle required leagues may want to consider picking up Tom Johnson. Johnson has been the third tackle in the Vikings rotation since last year when he totaled 6.5 sacks in the role. Against the Lions in week seven he started and recorded his second sack this season. Chicago is no better than an average match up for interior linemen but Johnson will have plenty of opportunity. He was on the field for 44 of a possible 54 plays against the Lions.
New England Patriots
Things change from week to week with the Patriots but it is worth mention that Dont'a Hightower was an every down linebacker in week seven playing 71 of a possible 72 snaps. As a result he finished with a whopping 10 solo stops. There is no guarantee he will have the same role against Miami but the fact he was in a similar role for a couple of games before the injury in week three, is a good sign.
New Orleans Saints
Dannell Ellerbe is not a player who excites me from an NFL perspective but he has clearly become a factor for fantasy owners. He has recorded at least 7 solo stops in each of his three starts and is currently 26-2-0 with a couple of turnovers and a pass defended on the season. This week's match up with the Giants should make it four in a row with double digit fantasy points as New York has been one of the game's best opponents for our tackle producing linebackers.
New York Giants
Jon Beason had by far his best outing of the season going 7-4-0 against the Cowboys. Just as importantly, he played 60 of 71 possible snaps while no other Giants linebacker saw action on more than 43. Both the production and playing time could be an effect of Uani Unga being inactive for the game with a sore neck. While this is a good sign for Beason owners, there is no guarantee he will continue to be the featured linebacker once Unga is healthy.
The big news in New York this week is the return of Jason Pierre-Paul. It remains to be seen how effective he can be but it looks as if we will probably see him on the field in the next week or two. If you have the room it might be worth a flier to add him just in case he can still play somewhere close to as well as he did previously.
The Steelers strong safety position has provided fantasy owners with quality production this season. It looks like Will Allen has a good shot at returning this week. A lot of owners moved on when he was injured so check and see if he is available.
San Francisco 49ers
Antoine Bethea has landed on IR with his shoulder injury. He will be replaced by rookie Jaquiski Tartt who was 7-2 on 48 snaps in relief last week. Tartt is a big physical strong safety who at 6'1" and 221 pounds is more like an extra linebacker on the field. He could be a solid roster addition for us down the stretch and may prove to be the future of the position for the 49ers. Dynasty owners in particular should have Tartt on our radar.
St. Louis Rams
There was still some uncertainty over Mark Barron's role entering week seven. Now that the dust has settled we know he is going to be an every down weak side linebacker the rest of the way. Barron put up a team leading 10-6-0 against the Browns who are not a great match up.
I am out of time so that is going to be a wrap for this edition. Best of luck to you in Week 8.