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Between all the injuries and having six teams on a bye, many of us are having a hard time fielding starting lineups on both sides of the ball this week. As we head down the stretch these games are vital to playoff hopes for many of us. Since we will be using a lot of marginal players to fill in holes, micro-managing and match ups have never been more important.
Any defensive player in a Falcons uniform should be at the bottom of our option lists this week. The 49ers offense is a shambles. This week’s free agent addition Pierre Thomas may lead the team in rushing and Blaine Gabbart is the starting quarter back. Atlanta may be playing their backups in the third quarter.
Kyle Fuller is a good sleeper option for us this week. Not only in corner required leagues but in those where the defensive back positions are lumped together as well. Despite their injuries San Diego is going to keep throwing the ball. It’s what they do. Fuller has been a disappointment thus far but he will be overwhelmed with opportunity this week.
Vontaze Burfict played in base packages against the Steelers, recording 5 solo tackles on 36 snaps. He came through the game healthy and his role is expected to grow. Rey Maualuga left last week's game with a calf injury after two snaps, so instead of splitting time with Burfict, Vincent Rey moved over to the middle linebacker where he continued to be a three down player. Maualuga has not practiced and is officially questionable. On a short week it is unlikely he will play. If he is indeed inactive on Thursday, Rey becomes a viable option even thought the Browns are not a great match up.
Carlos Dunlap also left the Steelers game early. He returned for some snaps late in the game but was obviously not 100% with a sore shoulder. Dunlap has practiced on a limited basis this week and is also questionable. It will be somewhat of a surprise if he does not play but he may not have a full workload. With the Browns allowing 3.4 sacks per game on average it would be a shame to miss such a juicy match up. If Dunlap plays he is worth the risk. If he sits, grab Wallace Gilberry as an emergency fill in. Michael Johnson is a good option this week as well.
Pierre Desir or Tramon Williams are sneaky sleepers this week against the Bengals. With Joe Haden out, one of these guys is probably going to draw the short straw and have to cover A.J. Green. Desir started for Haden against the Broncos in week six and was huge in the box scores with 10 tackles 2 assists and a pass defended. If the Browns elect to assign someone to shadow Green it will probably be Williams who is their best remaining corner. Andy Dalton is going to find Desir no matter who he covers and Green is going to have his share of catches.
Cleveland will be without Donte Whitner and Jordan Poyer this week as well. This puts rookie Ibraheim Campbell in the lineup at strong safety where he could be surprisingly productive. This is an IDP column but it is relevant to point out Jeremy Hill averaged 4 yards a carry on fifteen totes against the Steelers. The numbers were not eye catching but it was the best he has looked since being benched for fumbling a few weeks back. Cleveland is horrible versus the run and if the Bengals get an early lead, Hill could be poised for a huge day. That means a ton of opportunity for both Campbell and Teshaun Gipson.
Greg Hardy left Sunday's game briefly with an ankle injury but returned to make the highlight reel interception we have all seen by now. He is not expected to be limited this week. The bigger concern is the Cowboys failed to record a sack against the Seahawks who have allowed what is still a league high 31. There was plenty of pressure on Russell Wilson so there is no reason to panic at this point. Philadelphia has done a good job protecting the quarterback and is allowing slightly less than 2 sacks a game on average. There is a good chance Hardy gets to Sam Bradford at least once.
Barry Church is no longer an every week must play but he has a favorable match up this week. Over the Eagles past three games their opponents safety positions have averaged 12 tackles, 3 assist and an interception.
Heading into last week's match up with the Packers there was some concern about how much playing time Danny Trevathan would get. The Denver defense was on the field for 51 plays. Trevathan participated in 31 of them. This is not great news for those of us who need to play him this week. Like the Packers, Indianapolis uses a lot of three and four receiver sets, and they have a poor running attack. This is not a good situation so avoid it if possible.
When last we saw the Broncos C.J. Anderson ran for 101 yards and a score on fourteen carries against the Packers. This week he gets the Colts and their 28th ranked run defense. This could be just what the doctor ordered for Anderson and Anderson could be just what fantasy owners with Jerrell Freeman and D'Qwell Jackson need this week. With Anderson rolling last season Denver was an excellent match up for linebackers. Ronnie Hillman is not the same kind of runner and does not provide the same positive match up. Jackson and Freeman are must start players for most of us this week. If indeed Anderson has found his grove, they could both have excellent numbers.
Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi are both coming off back to back weak outings. They could both get right this week against a Bills squad that has consistently been one of the game’s best match ups for tackle producing IDPs. Opponents are averaging nearly 45 solo tackles per game against Buffalo which is fourth most in the league and to date 10 linebackers have recorded 6 or more solo stops against them.
If you have the option to do so, sit all your Vikings defenders this week. The Rams are the worst match up in the game pretty much across the board. Opponents are averaging about 33 solo tackles against them as a team, their assists against numbers are mediocre at best, they are giving up 1.6 sacks per game which is seventh fewest in the league, their turnover numbers are among the lowest and the 2.7 passes defended against them per game is second lowest only to the Packers. Even with Todd Gurley in the backfield only one linebacker has recorded more than 5 solo tackles against the Rams.
New England Patriots
Rob Ninkovich got his second sack of the season last week but he remains on pace to finish with fewer than 25 tackles and about 4 sacks. A match up with Washington does not seem like an opportunity for him to get back on track. The Redskins have struggled at times offensively but they are still allowing an average of 1.1 sacks per game. One aspect of this situation could work in the favor of New England's pass rushers, New England may well get out to an early lead and for Washington to the air much more often than they would like.
New Orleans Saints
Start Cameron Jordan and Hau'oli Kikaha against the Titans who have allowed 4 sacks a game on average. That number jumps to a whopping 5.3 when they are on the road.
New York Giants
How Brandon Meriweather played 78 snaps at safety in last week's record setting shootout and came away with 1 assist, is simply baffling. For those wondering if it is safe to start him this week, I am not excited about the prospect as the Buccaneers are not a great match up, but nothing has changed with his playing time.
Both Uani Unga and Devon Kennard continue to be part of the shuffle at linebacker. Unga played 43 of 78 snaps against the Saints with Kennard seeing action on 62.
With Justin Tuck landing on IR the Raiders are thin at end. Second year pro Denico Aurty and rookie Mario Edwards saw the majority of playing time in week eight with Aurty breaking out for a solid 5-0-1. Oakland will undoubtedly be counting on Aldon Smith and Kahlil Mack as outside pass rushers but Aurty is a player we should keep an eye on going forward.
David Amerson was an in season pickup for the Raiders a few weeks back and has moved into the starting lineup due to injuries. With 12 tackles an assist and 3 passes defended in his last two games Amerson has quickly become a fantasy consideration. It is a safe bet the Steelers offense will know where he is on every passing down and will look to exploit what is considered to be a weak spot in the Oakland secondary.
The Eagles could be a four headed monster at the inside linebacker positions this week with Kiko Alonso expect to return. It is hard to say how playing time will break down between Alonso, Mychal Kendricks, Jordan Hicks and DeMeco Ryans. Counting on any of them for much would be risky but if you are in dire need, Kendricks is likely to be the most productive and closest to an every down player.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers offense has been decimated by injuries that have overshadowed their losses on defense. This is a unit without its best safety Eric Weddle, without its best inside linebacker Manti Te'o and now without its best defensive lineman Corey Liuget who left the week eight game with an ankle injury. Remarkably there is still no one of value to fantasy owners among those still standing.
Bobby Wagner has been playing with a sore shoulder for the last couple of games. He was not the same aggressive player in week eight when he appeared to be avoiding contact with the shoulder when possible. The bye week comes at a great time for him. Wagner should be close to 100% when the team returns to action in week ten.
San Francisco 49ers
Jaquiski Tartt made a big impression in week eight when he had five solo stops, an assist and a forced fumble against the Rams. At 6'1" 221 pounds, Tartt is somewhat of a Kam Chancellor clone. He was the team's second round pick this year so they obviously have big expectations. If he continues to play well Tartt could secure the starting job going forward. For now he is an in the box strong safety for a team that is circling the drain and picking up speed. This should mean plenty of opportunity the rest of the way. The Falcons have been a somewhat inconsistent match up for safeties in general but several opponents have put up strong numbers against them from the safety spots. I like Tartt's chances of adding his name to the list this week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lavonte David has been a disappointment thus far but he and Kwon Alexander should both be in our lineups this week against a Giants offense that has been among the best match ups for linebacker this year. To date ten linebackers have posted 6 or more solo stops against them with four reaching double digits.
Clinton McDonald landed on IR this week so we will see a lot more of Henry Melton who should move into the starting lineup with Akeem Spence taking over as the third man in the rotation. Melton had 4 tackles and a fumble recovery against the Falcons and should be a solid DT2 with low end DT1 potential the rest of the way.
The numbers were there (5-2) for Jason McCourty in week eight when he looked to be back in his every down role before tweaking his hamstring. The injury is not expected to keep him out this week against the Saints who are a strong match up for corners.
Start Dashon Goldson and Keenan Robinson against New England this week. Goldson should see a lot of Rob Gronkowski this week and the Patriots may rely heavily on LeGarrette Blount after they get out to a lead. They have been a hit or miss match up for linebackers but when they have hit it has been big. With six teams on bye and all the injuries Robinson is a good risk reward play.
That does it for this week's offering. Best of luck with those thin lineups.