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The Cardinals welcomed back Patrick Peterson from suspension this week. The only IDP impact of his return might be even more targets for rookie Byron Murphy, who is already racking up fantasy points. Murphy has 19 tackles, an assist and 3 pass breakups over the last three games, and a solid matchup with the Giants in week seven.
Kemal Ishmael played every snap at strong safety in week six but we should not read too much into it. With Desmond Trufant sidelined, Damontae Kazee was pressed into service as a full-time slot corner, where he played 56 of a possible 69 snaps. Once Trufant returns from his turf toe injury, playing time in the secondary will probably go back to what we have seen prior to week six.
For the fifth time in six games, De’Vondre Campbell out-scored Deion Jones.
Maurice Canady recorded 9 tackles and a pass defended against Cincinnati while no other Raven managed more than three solo tackles. Canady was identified by the Bengals as a weak spot in Baltimore’s secondary. That weak spot was removed by the trade for Marcus Peters who will step right into the lineup in week seven. Seattle has been a strong matchup for corners this year but it is hard to call how things will break in this game. Ravens corners have not given us much value.
With Patrick Onwuasor healing sidelined with a sore ankle, Josh Bynes and L.J. Fort were Baltimore’s inside linebackers against Cincinnati. Neither played more than 60% of the snaps though. It was surprising not to see Kenny Young on the field, but now we know why. He was part of the deal that landed Peters.
If you are struggling for production at safety, take advantage of the opportunity to start Earl Thomas this week. To get an idea just how much playing a former team motivates a player, look no further than last week when Gerald McCoy planted his former teammate Jameis Winston on his butt twice. Or the week before when Ndamukong Suh scored on a fumble recovery against the Rams. Thomas did not leave Seattle on good terms so there is no doubt he has been looking forward to this week’s game.
Think twice about starting your Bills linebackers this week. The Dolphins continue to be a horrible matchup for tackle production. On the other hand, Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy are worthy of strong consideration, especially for managers streaming pass rushers.
The Bears took a big hit this week when they placed Akiem Hicks on IR due to his elbow injury. That makes Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Williams the starters at defensive end the rest of the way. Williams has turned some heads over the early portion of the season. In four games he is 9-6-4 with a fumble recovery and a batted pass. Unfortunately, he does not have a good matchup this week with the Saints coming to town.
Shawn Williams continues to nurse a thigh bruise that limited him in week six. He played 40 snaps in the game but did not start. Brandon Williams got the call at strong safety to open the game and was on the field for more than 70% of the action. Another week of healing should go a long way with Williams, which is a good thing for the Bengals who will be without their top-three corners for this contest. (hint, start your Jaguars skill players). Williams may end up playing one of the corner spots or working in the slot.
After playing no more than 12 snaps in any of the previous games, Germaine Pratt was in the starting lineup against Baltimore. He made a strong showing both on the field and in the box scores, going 5-1-0 on a season his 31 plays. While this bodes well for his long term upside, we should not get too excited about his immediate future. Cincinnati played more three linebacker sets in this game, partly by design against a team that runs a lot, but largely because they were so short-handed in the secondary.
Dre Kirkpatrick is expected to miss a few weeks with a minor knee injury while William Jackson III will be sidelined for a while with a bad shoulder. This makes nickel corner B.W. Webb the team’s number one option. Webb had been replacing Darqueze Dennard who landed on the PUP at the end of training camp. Things are getting uglier and uglier for Bengals fans.
So much for the expectation of Morgan Burnett going back to an every-down role. For the second straight week, he played less than 25% of the snaps while Jermaine Whitehead continued to go full time. Teams tend to make changes over their bye weeks though, so we are not out of the woods with Whitehead just yet.
Early in the season, I suggested patients with Olivier Vernon who is traditionally a slow starter. Over the last three games, he is 8-0-1 with a forced fumble and is coming off the best game of his season. If you need a bye week fill-in, give him some consideration when Cleveland returns to action in week eight.
For some unknown reason, the Cowboys have not been playing either Jayon Smith or Leighton Vander-Esch full time. Smith has now played less than 85% of the snaps in three of the last four games (79% in week six), while Vander Esch went from 89% or more in each of the first three games to 77% against the Jets. Meanwhile, Sean Lee has been seeing his time increase over the last three games, up to 60% in week six. This is probably not a big deal but it is worth keeping an eye on going forward.
A.J. Johnson is taking advantage of his opportunity in a big way. He has now started two games for the injured Josey Jewel. In those games Johnson has played full time, recording 11 tackles, 6 assists, a sack and a half, an interception and a second pass breakup. Not to mention the defense has a shutout in one of those games and has won them both. Johnson may well be in the lineup to stay.
Both Darius Leonard and Clayton Geathers have cleared protocol and will be back in action this week against the Texans. With Khari Willis now starting at free safety, Geathers is set to resume an every-down role, making him a viable consideration for our starting lineups.
Leonard will also be back in his usual role and is a clear must-start regardless of matchup. The only downside to his return is for those of us who have been starting Anthony Walker or Bobby Okereke over the last couple of games. With Leonard back, Walker and Okereke are likely to resume the timeshare situation they were in over the first few games.
It did not take long for Jabaal Sheard to get up to speed. After his long absence, Sheard was back to more than 70% of the playing time in his second game of the season. Early in the year, Houston was an excellent matchup for pass rushers. They have not allowed a sack since week four but consider they have faced the Falcons and Chiefs in the last two weeks. Neither of those teams has generated a lot of pressure on the quarterback this year. The Colts do a much better job of rushing the passer, averaging better than two and a half sacks per game. That number should go up with Sheard back in action. With several of our usual starting edge rushers on bye, I like him as a solid DL2 option this week.
Najee Goode replaced Quincy Williams for the fourth quarter of the week five game. It appears that move is permanent. Goode saw 95% of the playing time in week six while Williams watched the entire game from the sideline. There is nothing to get excited about with Goode who has proven to be an average NFL player over his career, but he did manage a mark of 4-2-1 with a pass breakup. Sheer volume of opportunity could make Goode a decent spot play to cover bye weeks.
Sit all your Jaguars defenders that do not rush the passer this week. The Bengals are possibly the worst matchup in the game for our tackle producing defenders this year. They are passing the ball about 70% of the time because they are well behind by the end of the first quarter of most games.
Kansas City Chiefs
Many prognosticators and experts view Anthony Hitchens as a marginal NFL starter but the Chiefs sure missed him in week six. They compensated by shifting Damien Williams to the middle, starting Ben Niemann on the strong side and having Darron Lee play a bigger role on the weak side. The result was a 10 tackle day for safety Tyrann Mathieu. The good news for Kansas City is Hitchens returned to practice on Tuesday and should be a go for this week providing there are no setbacks with his groin injury.
Los Angeles Rams
The big-name corners that were involved in this week’s trades are getting all the headlines but the greatest IDP impact may prove to be the escape of Kenny Young from Baltimore. The Rams have been in search of an inside linebacker to team with Cory Littleton since Micah Kiser was lost to injury early on. Tony Reeder recently got his shot at the job and looked good in the box score last week, going 8-3 on 62% of the snaps, but his play on the field left room for improvement. It will be a surprise if Young is not given a look at some point in the near future. He could even get on the field some this week. If you need to beat the competition to the punch, go ahead and pick him up for safekeeping before he has a chance to produce.
John Johnson was knocked out of last week’s game with a shoulder injury that landed him on IR Wednesday afternoon. Rookie Taylor Rapp will be the replacement on the field and a good option to target as Johnson’s replacement on your fantasy roster as well. Rapp had been playing well while serving as the third safety in many nickel sub-packages. He recorded a solid mark of four tackles and two assists on 34 snaps against San Francisco
In 27 years of fantasy football, I have never seen a team as bad as the Dolphins that had less to offer IDP managers. Coming out of the bye week, no Miami linebacker saw more than 81% of the playing time against Washington. The closest thing they have to a quality option at linebacker is Jerome Baker. He was 3-1 against the Redskins on 81% of the snaps while taking a seat in many sub-package situations. Raekwon McMillan and Vince Biegel were the linebackers when Miami opened in a nickel. By the end of the game, McMillan had played about half the snaps with Biegel around 70%. The team’s biggest IDP contributor in week six was safety Reshad Jones at 7-1. Even he was allowed to play less than 75% of the time. I guess this is one way to ensure the number one overall pick.
The Vikings strong side linebacker position has provided quality production for us this season. Anthony Barr is not a stranger to IDP value. In 26 games over his first two years, Barr totaled 109-28-7.5 with 9 turnovers and a defensive score. Over the past three seasons, however, he has been all but invisible. I have not been able to put my finger on what has changed, but Minnesota’s strong-side linebacker position, including one game with Eric Wilson while Barr was sidelined, has produced double-digit fantasy points in five of six games with an average 15.7 points in those five contests. Barr and Wilson have combined for 31 tackles, 9 assists, 3 sacks, an interception, and a fumble recovery. This is a trend we can certainly put to good use over the next several weeks.
New England Patriots
No Patriots defender recorded more than three solo tackles in week six but this defense is putting up serious big-play stats week in and week out. Jamie Collins has been the only one with any consistency while both Kyle Van Noy and Dont’a Hightower have been boom or bust. This is worth talking about because Hightower continues to battle a shoulder injury that caused him to miss week four and forced him out of the week six game early. When he sits, both Collins and Van Noy see an increased workload. They each played every snap in week four and were around 90% in week six. It was the week four game that saw Van Noy explode for 6-2-2 with a pair of fumble recoveries. Playing him is going to be a risk regardless of the matchup, but if Hightower is out against the Jets this week, Van Noy might be worth the gamble.
Last week I pointed out how none of the Patriots edge defenders were getting enough playing time to provide much value. While that has been true for most of the season, John Simon is a high upside sleeper option this week against the Jets. He leads the team’s pass rushers in snaps on the season, has now played at least 48% of the time in three of the last four games. With Michael Bennett suspended by the team for a game, there will be one less mouth to feed against a Jets offense that gave up three more sacks last week, even with Sam Darnold under center.
New York Giants
Alec Ogletree returned from injury to go 9-3-1 which was his best single-game production since week three of 2014. Meanwhile, his new running mate David Mayo chimed in with a career-best of 9-4-.5. Mayo has looked good since taking over as the starter, and it is safe to expect decent production from both of these guys on most weeks, but be careful not to over-pay to land either of them.
Dexter Lawrence has seen his playing time increase from 33 snaps in weeks three and four, to 53 in week five and 63 in week six. With the increase of opportunity has come numbers worthy of a starter in tackle required leagues. He is 6-4-1 with a forced fumble in those two games. Leading up to the draft, Lawrence was touted as a three-down interior lineman with a little pop to his pass rush so the numbers are not unexpected, nor are they likely to be a mirage.
Janoris Jenkins was on my start list last week against the Patriots and that worked out well. This week he faces a Cardinals offense that may be the only better matchup for corners than New England.
New York Jets
Trumaine Johnson returned to the starting lineup in week six. He played every snap against Dallas, finishing with seven solo tackles and a pass breakup. In fact, all three of the Jets starting corners recorded at least six solo stops in the week six game. When the Jest faced New England in week three, Darryl Roberts and slot corner Brian Poole racked up 18 solo stops between them with Johnson and Nate Hairston combining for 5 more in a timeshare situation. Hairston is battling a knee injury and is not likely to play, so Johnson, Roberts, and Poole are all worthy of serious starting consideration this week.
C.J. Mosley expected to practice this week and has a shot at playing if all goes well. Neville Hewitt left the week six game after suffering a stinger. Keep an eye on his practice participation late in the week.
If you find yourself in need at the safety position, take a look at Eric Harris. He has played every down as the Raiders strong safety in their last two games, recording 12 tackles, an assist, an interception for a score and an additional pass breakup. The packers have been a decent matchup for safeties on most weeks.
Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills have both been on the practice field in some capacity this week. Mills has not yet been activated from the PUP but that is expected to happen soon. Both have a shot at playing this week though Mills would be a long shot to play full time after the long absence. Whoever starts against Dallas will be a strong play. Last week all three Jets corners had at least six solo tackles while Will Redmond and Kevin King combined for 15 against the Cowboys the week before. Rasul Douglas was 5-1-0 as the starter last week and has a good chance of making one more start before falling back into the nickel role. Chances are he will make at least one more start with Mills likely to be brought back slowly after missing so much time.
Nigel Bradham left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury and has not practiced as of Wednesday. The team also released Zach Brown this week, painting a rather clear picture of their expectation that Kamu Grugier-Hill is ready to assume a full-time role. Grugier-Hill had his snap count increased to about 50% in week six and looked fine. If Bradham is not able to go, look for Grugier-Hill and Nathan Gerry to both play virtually full time against Dallas. Gerry logged a season-high 62 snaps against the Vikings along with a season-best 4-2-0 in the box scores. I like both of these linebackers this week against a Dallas squad that is backed into a corner and likely to come out riding Ezekiel Elliot.
Stephon Tuitt suffered a torn pectoral in week six and has been placed on IR. Tyson Alualu will be a quality replacement on the field but he does not hold the same value as a pass rusher, thus he has little to offer in IDP terms.
After getting on the field for more than 60% of the action in weeks four and five, Ezekiel Ansah saw a significant drop in playing time against the Browns. L.J. Collier was active for this game but his seven plays were not a big factor in Ansah’s reduced time. Rather it was a game plan targeting the Cleveland rushing attack by putting bigger run-stuffing guys on the outside more often. At this point, we should not have grand expectations for Ansah until he shows us some consistency.
It will be interesting to see how the playing time breaks down with Jarran Reed coming back from suspension. Reed was a top-five defensive tackle last season and there is something to be said for a lineman with fresh legs entering the fray seven games in the season. I look for a big day from him if he gets a full workload.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As Halloween approaches, has Shaq Barrett turned into a pumpkin? He has nine sacks on the season but none in the last two games. So here is the deal, when a player puts up the kind of production we saw from Barrett in September, opposing offenses take notice and begin to game plan against that player. Once someone figures out how to neutralize him, he will struggle until/unless someone else on the team steps up and forces offenses to be more honest.
Through week five, the rest of Tampa Bay’s defense had two sacks combined. That is not going to get it done. Fortunately for Barrett and those fantasy managers playing him, Carl Nassib is showing signs of life and Jason Pierre-Paul returned to practice this week. Nassib was 6-0-1 against the Panthers and has two sacks in the last three games. Pierre-Paul will instantly demand some attention once he gets on the field, based on reputation alone. So the bottom line here is that Barrett may not land nine more sacks over the rest of the season, but he should rebound from two horrible weeks in the box scores.
Devin White did not look great before the week one injury but was all over the field making plays in his return. Maybe the time off allowed him to become more comfortable in the defense, and maybe it was just the great matchup, either way, White has a string of quality matchups coming out of the bye week and looks like a solid play the rest of the way.
Jayon Brown suffered a groin injury on the first series against Denver. He is not practicing early this week and there does not seem to be much optimism about his week seven availability. If he is your guy or you have a need at linebacker, grab Wesley Woodyard. He is not going to be a long term answer but should give us quality production for at least a game or two and possibly several more.