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Deone Bucannon found his way back onto the field in Week 8 and he survived the trade deadline without being moved. While all that can be seen as a positive for his fantasy stock, there is still nothing to be excited about yet. Bucannon served as a two-down weakside linebacker while Haason Reddick continued to play every snap as a three-down strongside backer. In all Bucannon saw action on 59% of the defensive snaps. While this may be a sign he is working back into the good grace of the coaching staff, it probably has more to do with Tre Boston missing the game due to his shoulder and rib injuries. Instead of running three safeties as they usually do, the Cardinals had three linebackers on early downs and used Jamar Taylor as a nickel corner. Boston should be back when the team returns from the bye in Week 10.
Markus Golden had a breakout game with seven solo stops and a sack against San Francisco. Get him on your roster for the stretch run if you have a need at the position.
Limit your expectations for Atlanta’s pass rushers this week against a Washington offense that has allowed one sack in the last two games.
Shaq Thompson led the team in tackles against the Ravens with a line of 6-7-0, but we should not read too much into it. His 39 snaps represented 57% of the Panthers defensive plays in Week 8 while Thomas Davis played 50 (74%).
Managers in corner required leagues and/or those looking to stream matchups for defensive backs will want to consider James Bradberry and Donte Jackson this week. The Buccaneers are chucking the ball all over the field regardless of who is under center this year. As a result, their opponents have averaged almost 14 tackles, 2 passes defended, and a takeaway from the corner positions. Bradberry is a particularly strong option since he will probably match up with Mike Evans all over the field.
Sit your Chicago defenders this week unless you are looking for big play production. Khalil Mack will probably play but he is not completely healthy which could lead to a short day if the Bears get out to a lead. Buffalo is looking at Nathan Peterman as their starting quarterback so chances are they will not generate much tackle opportunity.
Cincinnati heads into the bye week looking to get healthy for a stretch run. In Week 8 they started Vincent Rey at strongside linebacker with Preston Brown in the middle and Jordan Evans on the weak side. Evans played every snap and was impressive, leading the defense with seven tackles, four assists, a sack and a half and an interception. There has been no word on how long Vontaze Burfict will be out but if he is not back by Week 10, Evans may be a strong free agent addition for the playoff push.
The Titans have allowed at least two sacks in every game since Week 2. Demarcus Lawrence stepped up in the Cowboys last game, and with the bye week, he should be back at full health. Lawrence is an obvious must-start, but Randy Gregory comes with some questions. He had a knee scope shortly after the Week 7 game in hope of being back on the field against Tennessee. If healthy Gregory should be a solid second starter for us, so keep an eye on his status as the week rolls along.
Another thing to keep an eye on this week is the playing time split at linebacker. Sean Lee and Leighton Vander Esch shared time against Washington. With the extra week of rest Lee should be 100% so we need to see if the coaching staff will try to keep him healthy by relieving some of his workload. It would be a good idea to sit both of these guys until we know what is going on here.
There may be a changing of the guard in the works at inside linebacker in Denver. There were rumors the Broncos were shopping Brandon Marshall leading up to Tuesday’s deadline. Marshall has not been much of a factor this year with the general perception blaming a sore knee for his lack of production. The fact is, he has never been much more than an average NFL starter. Marshall was active and played 29% of the snaps against the Chiefs but rookie Josey Jewell got the start and the rest of the playing time. Marshall was not traded but he could have a reduced role going forward.
Da’Shawn Hand came out of the gate fast but has done nothing in the two games since the team’s bye. This is about the point in the season where young guys hit the so-called rookie wall. Nothing seems to have changed with Hand in terms of playing time, position or scheme. He has seen more than 70% of the snaps in each of the last four games, playing mostly if not only at defensive end. The Vikings are a tough matchup so we should get Hand out of our lineups if possible, and keep him on the bench until the production returns.
It did not take long for Damon Harrison to make an impact. He went 7-0-1 against Seattle on just 39 snaps. Harrison did a good job at nose tackle in the Giants 3-4 but he is clearly more comfortable and a better fit at tackle in the 4-3.
Romeo Okwara continues to impress. He now has five sacks in the last four games.
Green Bay Packers
In what was arguably the most surprising move before the trade deadline, Green Bay shipped Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington. The Packers did not seem particularly deep at safety so it will be interesting to see if someone emerges at the position. The move could open the door for Josh Jones to get back on the field after losing the starting job in training camp. The other option would be third year man Jermaine Whitehead who coincidentally played 75 of a possible 78 snaps against the Rams.
Whitehead looks like the favorite to start at strong safety but we could see changes at free safety as well. Kentrell Brice has been adequate but has done little to endear himself as the long term answer. Against the Rams, he played less than 98% of the snaps for the first time this season as Jones got on the field for about a dozen plays. If you are looking for help at safety, Whitehead is the leading candidate here at the moment but it feels like there will be more to the story in the coming weeks.
The Texans got a scare when rising star Zach Cunningham left Thursday’s game with a knee injury. We are still awaiting results of the MRI but the word on Friday suggested it was not serious. That said, there is still a chance he could miss time. Have a backup plan if he is one of your starters.
Houston is quickly running out of bodies in the secondary. This week’s casualty was Johnathan Joseph who will miss some time with an ankle injury. With all the previous injuries, rookie Natrell Jamerson took over at corner opposite Kareem Jackson with fellow rookie Mike Tyson working as the third safety/nickel defensive back.
Aaron Colvin is expected back at some point, but for the immediate future, Houston will be sporting a young and inexperienced secondary including three rookies. Justin Reid has been playing well from the start and became a full time strong safety in Week 5. It is hard to picture a scenario where Reid is not in that role the rest of the season. With five solo tackles in three of his four games as a starter, and 15 or more points in two of those games, he has become a serious fantasy factor as well.
Clayton Geathers was back in action and played every snap against Oakland. He produced only three solo stops in the game but we have to consider just how poor a matchup the Raiders are at this point. All Colts defenders combined were awarded 28 solo tackles in this game. It was great to see Geathers play every snap and come through healthy though. We will not have to worry about such a horrible matchup the rest of the way.
With Geathers back, Mike Mitchell shifted over to free safety replacing the injured Malik Hooker. Mitchell was unable to finish however after going down with a calf injury. The Colts have a much needed bye this week and may have all three safeties available when they return.
Margus Hunt was on fire to open the season but turned back into a pumpkin after suffering a knee injury in Week 5. Over the last three games, he has one tackle. This may be the effect of a sore knee and Hunt may rebound coming out of the bye, but until we see it happen he is not start worthy.
Kansas City Chiefs
Anthony Hitchens left Sunday’s game with an obviously painful rib injury. The team is calling him week-to-week with severely bruised ribs, but we should prepare to be without him for at least this weeks matchup and possibly until after the team’s bye.
If you need a replacement for Hitchens, rookie Dorian O’Daniel could be an option. O’Daniel took over the nickel linebacker duties two weeks ago when Terrance Smith went down, but unlike Smith, O’Daniel is not such a liability versus the run. Unless Hitchens makes a miracle recovery we will want to avoid this group all together until we get a better a better feel for how it will play out.
Jordan Lucas had a solid game against Denver with six solo stops but he only played 24 of a possible 73 snaps. Eric Murray logged had a bigger role with 52. Chances are none of that will matter with the impending return of Daniel Sorensen who was activated from IR. Sorensen will practice this week and may be back on the game day roster against Cleveland. With the return of Sorensen, Ron Parker would shift to free safety on a full time basis.
Los Angeles Rams
The deeper we get into the season the more it looks like the Rams have no intention of playing Mark Barron on every snap. In four game since returning from injury, Barron has yet to play more than 83% of the snaps or more than 48 plays in any game. On most teams, 83% would be plenty of opportunity for a quality linebacker, but the Rams defense has been on the field for fewer than 60 total plays in five of their eight contests. With attrition eating up out depth, Barron is probably roster worthy as a potential third starter in most leagues but it does not look like we will get the stud from years past in 2018.
The big news for the Rams this week is the acquisition of Donte Fowler Jr. in a trade from Jaguars. Los Angeles was in dire need of an edge rusher and Fowler is a talented player who simply stuck behind a pair of exceptional pass rushers in Jacksonville. Where is becomes tricky for IDP managers is the change of scheme. An edge rusher in the Rams 3-4 is a linebacker but Fowler is listed as a defensive end by all the league management sites. If those sites leave him as a defensive end he could have solid value for the rest of the season. On the other hand, if they elect to change his positional designation Fowler will be useless to anyone not playing in big play based leagues.
Everson Griffen practiced all last week and returned to action against the Saints. He did not do much in the box scores in this tough matchup but Griffen was back in his near full time role playing 70% of the snaps. He should be back up around 85-90% this week against Detroit so it is safe to put him back in your lineup.
New England Patriots
Trey Flowers is coming off his best fantasy game of the season and it is not hard to figure out why. Since returning from a minor injury in Week 4 and playing 57% of the snaps, his workload has steadily increased up to Monday’s game when he was on the field 91% of the time. The six solo stops against Buffalo are a good sign and we can expect Flowers to start showing up more in the sack column as well over the second half of the season. New England’s remaining opponents are giving up an average of nearly three sacks per game with only the Steelers averaging less than two. Flowers is a solid start this week against a Green Bay offense that is allowing three and a half per game.
With Eric Rowe landing on IR this week, Jason McCourty becomes the starter opposite Stephon Gilmore. Unfortunately, some host sites mistakenly list him as a safety. McCourty has a long history of solid tackle production and has several top ten finishes among corners on his career resume. He could prove to be a solid CB3 to get you through the bye weeks.
New Orleans Saints
Rookie corner rule is in full force with Marshawn Lattimore. After averaging 11.2 points per game in his first year Lattimore is putting up less than 8 per game in year two. Opponents now recognize him as an elite corner and are no longer looking to challenge him. As a result, it is not the guys on the other side of the field and/or in the slot that are seeing more balls come their way. Ken Crowley totaled 16 solo stops in his last three game before being replaced by Eli Apple in Week 8. Apple racked up nine in his first start with the team while P.J. Williams took home Defensive Player of the Week honors with four tackles, two assists and a pick six as the slot corner. This is a trend we can expect to continue.
Marcus Davenport added another pair of sacks against the Vikings and has a bright future in New Orleans. That will be on hold for a while after he suffered a toe injury against Minnesota. He is expected to miss at least a month and is unlikely to make any significant contribution before the fantasy playoffs. With Davenport on the shelf, Alex Okafor could see more opportunity on passing downs and second year man Trey Hendrickson will likely have a role in the rotation for the first time since Week 1.
When the Raiders cut Derrick Johnson going into their bye week there was somewhat of a rush by managers to add Marquel Lee. There was wide spread expectation he would become a three down middle linebacker. At a glance his seven solos and four assists in Week 8 made it look like those expectations were realized. In reality however, Lee’s role has not changed. In fact, he went from getting about 75% of the snaps in weeks five and six, to 55% in Week 8. The drop in playing time came because Indianapolis used a lot of multi-receiver sets which kept the Raiders in nickel more than normal. Instead of Lee picking up sub package snaps the Raiders used a combination of linebacker Nicholas Morrow and extra defensive backs including safety Karl Joseph. This unit is a hot mess at the moment and should be avoid it like the plague. That said, keep an eye on the happenings over the next few weeks; someone could still emerge in time to help us in December.
We went into Week 8 looking to see how the Eagles would compensate for the loss of Derek Barnett. Michael Bennett did indeed get the start though you would not know it by looking at the box score. Josh Sweat was active as the team’s fourth defensive end but he played only four snaps. In effect, the team went with a three man rotation that saw both Bennett and Brandon Graham play at least 80% of the snaps while Chris Long logged 63%. The Eagles are on bye this week but look at both Bennett and Graham as potential starters down the stretch.
No Pittsburgh inside linebacker played more than 42 of the Steelers 64 defensive snaps in Week 8 and L.J. Fort led the group with three solo tackles. Sometimes the numbers really do tell the story.
The Seattle defense looked much better in Week 8. The return of linebacker K.J. Wright contributed significantly to the improvement but we should not overlook the role played by Dion Jordan. This is a player that blew up late last season with 10 tackles, eight assists and four sacks on 138 snaps over the final five games. There were high expectations for him entering this season but injuries once again derailed Jordan’s production. He had four tackles on 27 plays versus the Lions and is in line for a bigger role going forward if he can stay healthy.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are hurting and on a short week. Reuben Foster is down with a hamstring problem, Jaquski Tartt is out with a shoulder, Adrian Colbert landed on IR last week and backup safety Antone Exum has been ruled out with a concussion. The shuffle in the secondary likely puts Jimmy Ward at free safety with either Tyvis Powell or D.J. Reed at strong. Unless you are desperate for a body it would be best to avoid this group since we are not 100% sure who will line up where.
The linebacker situation is much more predictable. Elijah Lee will replace Foster on the weak side with strong side backer Malcolm Smith joining Fred Warner in sub packages. The Raiders are not a great matchup on most weeks but they should fare much better against the also struggling 49ers. When Foster was out for the first three games, Warner averaged almost 10-2-0. Make sure he is in your lineup this week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Adarius Taylor started at middle linebacker against Cincinnati but disappointed in the box score. He was not an every down player, seeing action on 80% of snaps and producing a dismal 1-2-0. Even with the ugly outing, we should not be too quick to dump Taylor. There is always a chance it was a fluke and we could be kicking ourselves for cutting him when Tampa Bay plays the Saints, Ravens and Cowboys in weeks 14 through 16. They have some rather solid matchups leading up to that stretch as well. Give Taylor another game before throwing him back. You could be very happy you did.
Carl Nassib started at end and played full time in each of the last two games. He is 4-1-2 with a batted pass in those two starts including a pair of sacks against his old team in Week 7. With so many teams on bye, Nassib could be a good answer. He has played 93% of the Buccaneers defensive snaps over the past two games so at least he is getting the opportunity.
Jayon Brown may not be playing every down now that Wesley Woodyard is back but he is arguably the most productive two down linebacker in the game this year. Add in the plus matchup with Dallas and Brown is a player worthy of strong starting consideration. The titans could also get Kenny Vaccaro back from his dislocated elbow this week.
The trade for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix solidifies Washington’s safety position for the long haul but it is unclear how much he will play in this week being new to the team. There is also some question about who will line up where. Montae Nicholson should become the third safety while both Clinton-Dix and D.J. Swearinger Sr can play either strong or free. This is a situation where their interchangeability could be a factor in how the team approaches opponents going forward. Fortunately, Washington has shown the potential to have both safeties provide fantasy value.
It will sure be nice to get the six team bye week behind us. Best of luck piecing together a lineup this week and keep in mind your opponent is probably having the same issue.