There was a rash of significant injuries in Week 10. While many of us lost good players, the lineup openings will also provide some interesting waiver wire prospects as enter the last of the bye weeks.
Tyvon Branch landed on injured reserve this week after suffering a knee injury early in the Week 10 contest. If you need to replace Branch, want to block a rival or simply have a need at the position, Budda Baker and/or Antoine Bethea are good waiver targets this week. I have not yet been able to confirm, but I believe Baker stepped right into Branch's every-down role. It looked as if everything remained the same for Antoine Bethea who generally plays around 85% of the snaps. There is no way to be sure what the team will do with a week to adjust, but it is safe to expect both of these players to have plenty of opportunity going forward. Baker finished Sunday's game at 8-1-0 with a pass defended on 44 plays while Bethea went 5-0-1 of 58 of the team's 63 defensive snaps. Houston has been a below average matchup for safeties in general so temper your expectations for either of them this week.
Here come the ambulance chasers again. After his monster 6 sack and 2 forced fumble performance against Dallas, Adrian Clayborn will probably be the most added defender in IDP leagues this week. Let someone else pick him up while you go after a player that will actually help. Clayborn is a good player but 6 sacks is more than he has recorded in any full season since 2011. He was 8-2-2 combined over the first eight games and is all but certain to turn back into a pumpkin in Week 11.
After his eleven solo stops versus the Cowboys, one player I am gaining confidence in is De'Vondre Campbell. Since taking on an every-down role in Week 7, he has recorded at least 8 combined tackles/assists in three of four games with a pair of impressive fantasy point totals. Seattle is not known as a great running team but they have been a quality matchup for linebackers all season.
Jerry Hughes left Sunday's game with a shin injury and was not able to return. He is currently day to day according to the team and will be limited if he is able to practice at all before Friday. Eddie Yarbrough would get the start if Hughes sits. The Chargers are a tough matchup for pass rushers anyway, having given up fewer than 2 sacks in six of nine games thus far. We are better off to avoid Buffalo's pass rushers all together this week.
In last week's column, I talked about Nick Kwaitkoski possibly taking snaps from Christian Jones. As it turned out Jones replaced Danny Trevathan as the Bears three-down linebacker while Kwaitkoski went 9-1-1 on only 36 snaps in a two-down role. Trevathan was not able to practice at all last week due to a strained calf and is a question mark for Week 11 as of Wednesday morning. The Lions have been a hit or miss matchup for linebackers in general. My particular concern for Kwaitkoski is that most teams use a lot of nickel against the Lions so his snap count could be way down unless he takes over the sub-package role.
It has become painfully obvious that NFL officials have targeted Vontaze Burfict. First, he was flagged for a late hit because he brushed the ball carrier out of bounds, even though he was obviously pulling up in an effort to avoid contact. Then he was ejected for touching the arm of an official two plays after the horrible call. Burfict will not be suspended for this incident and he should not even be fined. The concern from a fantasy perspective comes from not knowing if he will be allowed to finish the next game before being ejected for making a tackle. And the NFL wonders why they are losing fans.
Jamie Collins Sr landed on IR early this week after suffering a torn medial collateral ligament against the Lions. James Burgess will take over the position going forward but we should not expect him to pick up the same fantasy production. Burgess had a good outing earlier in the season when Collins missed a game but he did not see action in all the sub packages as Collins did. In a three-game stretch as a starter, Burgess played 75% of the snaps.
Sean Lee is likely to miss a couple games with the hamstring he suffered early in Week 10. Anthony Hitchens stepped into the three-down role, playing all 62 defensive snaps and finishing at 5-5-0 on the day. Hitchens is solid when given a chance to play full time and should be a quality play this week against the Eagles and in Week 12 versus the Chargers. Jaylon Smith should also have a bigger role while Lee is out. Smith was 3-0 on 50 snaps in Week 10.
Jeff Heath left the Week 10 game with a concussion. If he is not cleared in time, it would open the door for Xavier Woods to show what he is capable of. I have never been impressed with Heath and believe this is a situation worth watching.
This would be a good week to sit all Denver defenders not named Von Miller. The last player to exceed 5 solo tackles against the Bengals was Shareece Wright in Week 5. Even Miller is not a particularly strong play as Cincinnati is averaging about 2 sacks allowed over their last four contests.
After being banged up early in the season Tavon Wilson has come on strong of late. He has quietly produced at least 6 solo stops in three of the last five games and has a sack in each of the last two. Between now and Week 6teen Detroit will face the Bears twice, Vikings and Ravens; all of which have been plus matchups for linebackers and strong safeties.
Cornelius Washington got the call for the injured Ziggy Ansah in Week 10. Washington had a career day with 3 tackles and a pair of sacks but we should not read much into it. The 2013 sixth round pick now has 5 career sacks and has shown no sign of becoming more than a backup.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers gave us some unusual stat lines in Week 10. Blake Martinez's hot streak came to a sudden halt when he finished at 1-1-0 despite the favorable matchup, Mike Daniels had his second big game of the season at 5-0-1, Nick Perry set a personal best with 3 sacks and Davon House piled up 8 tackles and a sack against a team that has averaged twenty passing attempts over the previous four games with Mitchell Trubisky under center.
The Martinez flat line was a fluke. Nothing has changed with his situation and he is still playing nearly every defensive snap. Baltimore has been a fairly good matchup for linebackers in general so I expect a strong bounce back from him this week.
When Daniels blew up in Week 1 I cautioned against picking him up, pointing out he is good for two or three of those games a year. He did little in the games between before taking advantage of the Bears. We might get one more quality outing from him down the stretch but who knows when or if it will happen.
Perry will probably reach double digit sacks this year but Sunday's game was his first with more than 3 solo tackles this season. He simply provides no consistency and not enough overall production to warrant roster consideration.
House has become an interesting prospect of late. When he posted good numbers in Week 7 I chalked it up to the matchup with New Orleans. Then he had another strong outing against Detroit the following game. Again I thought little of it and gave all the credit to the excellent matchup. When he went 8-0-1 against the Bears who had been a lousy matchup for third level defenders since giving the rookie the keys at quarterback, I had to start giving him so love. House is now 21-2-1 with an interception over the last three games. Big numbers have never been his thing so I am still hesitant to give House an endorsement, but I did put in a low bid for him in a couple dynasty leagues this week just in case he can keep it up.
The Colts have mercifully reached their bye week. Maybe this will give them a chance to regroup. Getting Clayton Geathers back should be a step in that direction. Geathers was activated this week and will practice with the hope of getting back on the field in Week 12. I am not sure what to expect from him for the first game or two but if he is healthy I expect he will be a strong addition for a playoff run. The Colts face Jacksonville in Week 13 followed by Buffalo, Denver, and Baltimore during our playoffs.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers linebacker situation has me scratching my head after Week 10. We knew Denzel Perryman would be back in some capacity so his 8 solo stops were not a huge surprise, nor was the fact he did not play full time right out of the gate. What was a surprise was seeing Korey Toomer show up with 5-2-0 on 34 plays in a surprise start on the weak side. It got even more confusing when I looked at the snap counts and saw Jatavis Brown leading all linebackers with 53 of a possible 82. Even safety Adrian Phillips saw significant action logging many of his 42 snaps as a sub package linebacker. I am unsure what to make of all this but here is how I see it heading to Week 11; Perryman is probably headed for a bigger role each week until he is back to full time, possibly this week. Toomer has been with the team long enough to know they do not see him as a starter on a regular basis and even if he does get that title he will be no more than a two-down guy. Brown is a player I like a lot and has been a starter for the Chargers over the past couple seasons. Maybe they are working back to where they were in Week 1 with Perryman and Brown both playing virtually full time. Productive as he has been in the past, the jump in snap count gives me the incentive to sit tight on Brown in my dynasty leagues and maybe even pick him back up in some redrafts. This is a moving target at the moment but it could pay big dividends during the playoffs if the right guys have seats when the music stops.
With the return of T.J. McDonald from suspension the Dolphins safety position was high on our watch list entering Week 10. What we saw was sort of a good news-bad news situation. On the good side, McDonald made a big impression in his debut with the team by leading them in tackles at 7-2-0. He played all 75 snaps and was as sharp on the field as he was in the box scores. The bad news for IDP owners is really not all that bad as Reshad Jones still put up respectable numbers of 4-3-0. The initial fear here was the potential shift of Jones into a free safety role. It does not look like the team will go that route. It looked like the safeties played more of a right and left than strong/weak. Both were up near the line at times and both worked deep in some situations. Without watching every play it looked as if Jones was deep a little more often but that may have been due to offensive formations etc. The moral of this story as it reads through chapter one; grab McDonald if you have room or need, and there is no reason for panic if Jones is your guy.
With Everson Griffin on the shelf for Week 10, it was unclear who the third defensive end would be. The answer was Stephen Weatherly though he was not on the field much. Instead, the Vikings all but eliminated the third man with Brian Robison seeing 65 snaps and Danielle Hunter 70 of a possible 75. Hunter parlayed the extra opportunity into his most productive game of the season at 4-0-1 while Robison also had his best production to date with 4 tackles and a batted pass. Griffin returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis so keep an eye on the practice reports as the week moves along. When making a decision on these guys you might also consider the Rams are a below average matchup for pass rushers; giving up 1.8 sacks per game since Week 4.
New England Patriots
I am beginning to believe Bill Belichick is somehow related to Loki. He just keeps luring us back with the hope that he will become a hero then he stabs us in the back again soon as we begin to believe. Last week I talked about how the Dont'a Hightower injury was likely to make Elandon Roberts a solid fantasy option. Instead, he played 38 of 63 snaps while David Harris saw a bigger role (30 plays), Marquise Flowers got on the field for 19 and even Trevor Reily saw action. Flowers and Reily played late in the blowout win, but even in the first half, Roberts was not on the field in most sub packages.
New Orleans Saints
For the first time this year, Cameron Jordan failed to show up in the box scores Week 10. To the best of my knowledge on Wednesday afternoon, this is nothing to worry about. He played a season-low 31 snaps in the blowout win with rookie Trey Hendrickson seeing increased opportunity in the second half. A healthy Jordan should be started every week regardless of matchup. If he belongs to another team, look hard at Alex Okafor this week against Washington. Defensive linemen are putting up strong tackle totals against the Redskins on most weeks and they are allowing 3.2 sacks per game since Week 5.
Sheldon Rankins is finally starting to show up a little, recording his first sack of the season against Buffalo. Owners looking for a sleeper in tackle required leagues might want to give him a shot this week. He is a talented player with the potential to blow up on any given week and the Bills have allowed a sack per game to interior linemen since Week 5.
New York Giants
If anyone wants to try out; the Giants are in dire need of help at linebacker. Last week they signed Kelvin Sheppard and put him right in the starting lineup. He lasted 26 plays and went 5-1-0 before leaving with a groin injury. This week the team placed Keenan Robinson on IR but the news is not all bad on the injury front. Jonathan Casillas returned from his neck injury to play in Week 10, he also finished at 5-1-0 on the day. Casillas, Devon Kennard, and Calvin Munson were all limited participants in practice on Wednesday.
Olivier Vernon returned to action in Week 10 and came through healthy. The team may, however, be without tackle Damon Harrison this week. He missed practice on Wednesday with a sore ankle after leaving Sunday's game.
The Steelers eked out a win over the Colts on Sunday but it came at a price. Joe Haden is going to miss some time with a fractured fibula and free safety Mike Mitchell left the game with a sprained ankle. Mitchell was able to participate on a limited basis Wednesday so there is hope he will go. He was replaced by Robert Golden which was somewhat of a surprise considering J.J. Wilcox is listed as the backup at the position.
Frank Clark has done a vanishing act for the past couple games. After working in a three-down role on over 80% of the snaps for five straight games, his playing time was slashed to 30 of a possible 80 snaps in Week 10. I have been looking for news of an injury but so far it looks like a coaching decision. The ancient one (Dwight Freeney) logged 41 plays against Arizona while former Dolphins first-round bust Dion Jordan played 33 and landed his first sack since 2014. For anyone that added Clark after the Cliff Avril injury, the time has come to move on.
Earl Thomas is set to return this week but Seattle will be without Richard Sherman for the rest of the season. Byron Maxwell was brought back to fill Sherman’s roster spot and add depth while rookie Shaquill Griffin, Justin Coleman, and Jeremy Lane will be the starters. Atlanta is a strong matchup for corners and I see Griffin as the most likely to have value among the trio.
There is also a chance Seattle could be without Kam Chancellor this week. He suffered a stinger late in the Arizona game and has been seeing doctors this week according to Coach Carroll. No one is saying much at this point but have a backup plan if he is your guy. Bradley McDougald would get the start if Chancellor sits. He would be a good backup plan if you are in the need of one.
The Redskins are down yet another inside linebacker as Will Compton suffered a Lisfranc injury in Week 10. Martell Spaight is the next man up at the position and could be a solid target if you need help at linebacker. He stepped in and played full time after Compton went out and has shown good potential in limited action this year, including a mark of 5-2-0 on 38 plays in Week 8. Spaight was 2-5-0 on 29 snaps against Minnesota.
Washington was happy to get DeAngelo Hall back last week but the party was a short one. Hall left the Vikings game early with a knee injury and has been a limited participant this week. The Saints are an excellent matchup for safeties so plug in D.J. Swearinger Sr this week and/or keep an eye on Hall's progress.
That does it for Week 11. It's crunch time!