There was an unexpected face in the Cardinals secondary on Sunday. Jalen Thompson replaced Deionte Johnson at the safety position and played 97% of the snaps. He recorded just three tackles and a pass breakup versus the Dolphins, but we probably should not use this as a measuring stick since Budda Baker did not do any better in this particular game. Thompson has limited upside but the volume of action will give him a little value in deep rostered leagues.
Markus Golden played close to starters snaps against Miami and wasted no time showing that he belonged. Golden saw action on 56% of the plays, finishing a solid 2-3-1 with a pass breakup. He might never see 70% of the playing time in a game, but even at 55%-65%, he can be a contributor in big play formats.
Isaiah Simmons saw a leap in playing time against the Dolphins. He was on the field for 52% of the plays, which was almost twice the share of any previous game. Simmons recorded a respectable four solo stops on 32 plays, but he looked good doing it. Maybe that means we will see more of him down the stretch.
Chuck Clark had a great game against the Colts but it was not because he made a lot of tackles as was expected. He saved those managers that started him with a scoop-and-score fumble recovery. That situation might make managers think twice about starting him against the struggling Patriots this week but be aware that since Week 4, the safety positions of teams facing New England from Week 4 through Week 8, has averaged almost 15-2-0 with 5 takeaways.
L.J. Fort missed Week 9 due to COVID, so Malik Harrison finally had an opportunity. He and Chris Board shared playing time almost equally but it was Harrison who shined. On 33 plays he managed six tackles and five assists, while Board went 2-0-0 on 35. Fort should be back this week but Harrison certainly did not hurt his chances playing more. He is still considered by many in the organization, to be the future next to Patrick Queen.
Speaking of Queen, if he is your guy, keep an eye on his practice status later in the week. He was down on the field for a bit during the Colts game. Queen only missed a few snaps so hopefully, he is fine.
One Raven that is not going to be fine for a while, is Calais Campbell. He went down early on Sunday with a calf strain that is expected to keep him out a few weeks. Baltimore will likely use a committee to hold down the fort until Campbell returns.
Matt Milano was placed on IR this week, removing any mystery about his lack of playing time in weeks seven and eight. He missed two games with the pectoral injury then tried to play through it for a couple of games before shutting it down. I have not seen anything suggesting he will have surgery, so maybe Milano will make it back for the playoffs.
Meanwhile, A.J. Klein has been playing some of his best football in recent weeks. In four games since Milano was injured, Klein is 17-4-2.5 with a forced fumble and a recovery. He is not playing every down but has averaged 82% of the snaps over those four games. Klein has never been able to sustain quality numbers, be he has a habit of going on runs.
Jeremy Chinn was not able to go in Week 9 due to a sore knee. He is expected to practice some this week and hopes to be able to play against the Buccaneers. The Panthers compensated for his absence with a combination of linebacker Jermaine Carter on early downs, and safety Sam Franklin moving up into the box in passing situations. Franklin has been a starting safety over the last three games but the 5-2-1 versus the Chiefs is his first relevant production, so no one is paying attention to him. If Chinn is out again, Franklin could be a sneaky good stream against an angry Buccaneers team.
The Bengals were off last week so there was the normal silence we often get from teams on their bye. Another thing we often get from teams coming off their bye is change. Leading up to Week 9, Cincinnati was playing better on both sides of the ball, but one defender was standing out. Middle linebacker Logan Wilson looks the part of a three-down starter and has been making plays despite limited playing time. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that he is starting in Week 10.
Sam Hubbard has been designated to return and could join the team as early as this week, but chances are the team will want him to get in a few practice sessions before adding him to the active roster.
The Browns could also look a little different coming out of the bye week. When we last saw this team in Week 8, Mack Wilson jumped from about 40% playing time to over 70%. Wilson was a three-down starter for Cleveland last season and his playing time has steadily increased since his season debut in Week 3.
Last week I talked about the trend of Donovan Wilson posting good numbers every other week. That trend continued with a three tackle outing against the Steelers in Week 9, despite the excellent matchup. Now comes the hard part, Dallas is on bye this week, so does Wilson skip a productive even week, or does the rotation change since he doesn’t play? I have decided to jump off that boat completely.
Everson Griffen had plenty of incentive when facing the Vikings last week. Unfortunately, he did not have enough opportunity. Instead of taking a three-down starter's role, he ended up in rotation opposite Romeo Okwara. As a result, Griffen played 24 snaps and finished 1-2-0 with a batted pass. It looks as if Griffen may be destined to split snaps with DaShawn Hand going forward.
Jeff Okuduh left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury. He was not able to return to the game, but there have been no updates on his status as of Wednesday morning. Assume he will be out until we hear otherwise.
Green Bay Packers
Krys Barnes saw his playing time drop to 41% participation in Week 9 and has now played fewer than half the snaps in two of the last three games. Oren Burks (4-1-0) and Ty Summers (3-1-0) each played 61% of the week-nine game, Kamal Martin played a lot in Week 8 but missed Week 9 while on the COVID list. Barnes was added to that list on Saturday as well, which means he could be unavailable for Week 10.
Regardless of the shuffle at linebacker, Adrian Amos continued to see time in the box and turned in a third consecutive game with at least five solo stops. Jacksonville has been a quality matchup for safeties all season, so Amos has a good shot at making it four in a row.
Jaire Alexander suffered a concussion early in the Thursday night game. The extra days before playing might be enough to get him cleared, but have a Plan B in place.
It is hard to say if we should read anything into this, but Zach Cunningham has played fewer than 80% of the snaps in each of the Texans’ last two games, and three of the last four. Meanwhile, Tyrell Adams has been on the field for 90% of the snaps in three of the last four, and every play in each of the last two. It has not been unusual in the past for Cunningham or Bernardrick McKinney to play more snaps on any given week, and you could not tell by his numbers that Cunningham has been missing any time. The most interesting twist here is how well Adams has played and if there is a chance he could keep the job once McKinney is healthy.
Justin Reid has been a solid DB3 on most weeks, but think twice about playing him against the Browns. Despite their solid running game, no safety has more than four solo tackles against Cleveland since Week 4. That also happens to be the last time we saw Nick Chubb in the Browns backfield. If Chubb is activated it changes the matchup considerably.
The Colts stats crew is rather generous whenever the Colts play at home, but in Week 9 the numbers just didn’t add up. The Ravens ran 53 offensive plays that did not end in a score, but 58 solo tackles were awarded. Maybe that helps to explain the 13 solo tackles Darius Leonard was credited with on Sunday.
The Colts are at Tennessee this week so they will not get that home-field edge, but that is not the only concern with this matchup. The Titans offense has gone into hibernation over the last two games. In matchups with the Bengals and Bears, only safety Jesse Bates and linebacker Roquan Smith have reached double-digit fantasy points.
Beware starting DeForest Buckner with this matchup as well. Tennessee has not allowed a sack to an interior lineman all season.
Josh Allen is back to his full-time role and played a full 89% of the snaps in Week 9. The statistical result was two tackles, two assists, and half a sack, but Allen was more disruptive than the numbers suggest. Normally this would be a good reason to start him the following week, but a matchup with the Packers suggests keeping him on the bench. Green Bay is giving up about a sack and a half per game.
Las Vegas Raiders
The big game by Nick Kwiatkoski (10-3-0) in Week 10 may prove to be a mirage but maybe there is some substance to it. If we look at his season, Kwiatkoski had a mediocre week on at 4-2-0, but he was injured in that game. He returned in Week 4, with a total of four tackles and an assist in the first two games back. Since that time, however, Kwiatkoski’s point totals have steadily risen. He was 3-4-0 in Week 7, 4-1-1 in Week 8 when he played virtually every snap for the first time this season, followed by last week’s tackle explosion. He could fall flat on his face against Denver, but maybe he is just getting fully healthy. There were high expectations for the Raiders linebackers entering the season.
The Raiders have been excited about rookie fourth-round pick Isaiah Johnson all along, but he had not been able to get on the field much over the first seven games. That changed when Trayvon Mullen came up lame with a hamstring last week. Johnson finished the game, making a strong impression. Statistically, he was solid at 3-3-0 with a pair of pass breakups on 50 snaps (63%). On the field, he was a difference-maker with a pair of potentially game-saving plays. The team could be getting Damon Arnette back from his thumb injury soon. It may not be long before the Raiders are starting a pair of rookie corners.
Defensive tackle David Irving has been on the Raiders roster for three games but even with Maurice Hurst sidelined, Irving has not yet played a single snap. He could be a great addition to both the Raiders and IDP managers when/if he gets back to form, but we are heading into Week 10 and are out of time for patience.
Los Angeles Chargers
Kenneth Murry lasted 26 snaps in Week 9 before being benched in favor of Denzel Perryman. Head coach Anthony Lynn said the move was due to communication issues. What he did not clarify is how temporary the move was. Murray is a first-round pick so surely the team is not giving up on him, but we cannot say for certain he will start against the Dolphins, or what his role might be if he does. The Dolphins without their lead running back, are a mediocre matchup anyway, so it might be a good idea to sit Murray until we know more.
Kyzir White was back up to 88% of the snaps in Week 9, but at this point, it is hard to trust him, or any other Chargers linebacker for that matter, in our lineups.
Los Angeles Rams
Strong safety Jordan Fuller was placed on IR after suffering a stinger. He was designated to return on Monday and if there are no issues in practice this week, could be active against Seattle. Fuller was the starter when healthy and is likely to return to that role at some point, but it is hard to say if that will be this week. If Fuller is active, starting either he or Taylor Rapp will be a considerable risk.
Eric Rowe is not going to have many big games like the one against the Rams in Week 8, but he has at least five solo stops in five of the last six games and has become a dependable contributor for IDP managers. We could do a lot worse than Rowe as an every week DB3 but he gets a boost for Week 10 due to a solid matchup with the Chargers. Over the last three weeks, four safeties have reached at least six solo stops against Los Angeles, and five safeties have reached double-digit fantasy points.
Maybe it is too early to talk about the potential for Eric Wilson to keep the starting job next year when Anthony Barr is back, but on the heels of Wilson’s stellar week-nine outing, seems like a good opportunity. Wilson has done a quality job against the run but his splash play production has been outstanding to the tune of a sack and a half and six turnovers in eight games. To get a better view of Wilson’s value both on the field and in IDP terms, look at his total body of work. Over the last three seasons, he has been on the field for 1254 plays with totals of 96-59-6.5, a forced fumble, 2 recoveries, and 3 interceptions. A three-down linebacker will usually play somewhere around 1000 snaps in a season, so a little math shows that Wilson’s per snap averages projected over a full season of play would look something like 77-47-5 with 4-5 turnovers.
New England Patriots
With Ja’Whaun Bentley sidelined, Adrian Phillips did indeed lineup as a linebacker often against the Jets in Week 9. Phillips logged 89% of the snaps and put up a solid line of 7-1-0 in the game. The annoying factor here is that Phillips had six solo stops in the first quarter, then nearly vanished for the rest of the game. As much as I like to bash coach Belichick for ruining the IDP value of his players, this one is on the Jets. New York basically abandoned a running game that was working, even though they had a lead. Nothing emphasizes the poor coaching decisions of this team than a deep pass that was intercepted in the fourth quarter on first down when the most important thing to do was get time off the clock. This is not a mistake the Ravens will make in Week 10. Even if Bentley returns, Phillips will have a key role and could end up as a spy on Lamar Jackson. I like his chances of another strong outing.
New Orleans Saints
Kwon Alexander sat out last week as he jumped through all the COVID hoops. He joined the team early this week and will be active against San Francisco this week. The irony of facing his former team in his first game with the Saints is not lost on Alexander, and we know how motivating that can be. What we do not know for certain, is what role he will have in his first game. All things considered, I expect it to be a big one and will not be at all surprised if Alexander starts and plays nearly every snap. The other thing we will be watching is where he and Demario Davis line up.
New York Giants
James Bradberry has not been putting up many tackles but made up for it with 12 pass breakups and 5 turnovers through eight games. He was blanked in Week 9 when Washington refused to throw in his direction. Bradberry was matched up on Terry McLaurin for much of the first half, and McLaurin did nothing. In the second half, Washington moved McLaurin around to get him away from Bradberry, and the receiver started making plays. The difference with this week’s matchup against Philadelphia is, Carson Wentz is not afraid to throw at anyone, and he turns the ball over a lot. The moral of this story, don’t hesitate to play Bradberry this week in corner required formats.
New York Jets
Blake Cashman was still nursing a hamstring injury, so after trading Avery Williamson last week, Harvey Langi got the start at inside linebacker. The Jets are off this week, giving Cashman more time to recover. He is believed by many to be a long term solution as one of the starters on the inside. Hopefully, he will be ready to go when the team returns to action.
Robert Spillane’s Week 10 was not as impressive as his Week 9, but he still had a strong outing. Spillane played 93% of the snaps, including a lot of nickel, finishing with six solo stops. The question now becomes, will he hold onto the job or even a role going forward? Avery Williamson cleared all the COVID hurdles and joined the team early in the week. He will be active against the Bengals and it is believed he was brought in to start, but Spillane’s quality play could have the coaching staff re-thinking their position. Unless we get some clarity on this situation before kickoff, it is probably a good idea to sit both of them.
One option no one is considering might be to play both Spillane and Williamson, sitting Vince Williams a little more than usual. I bring this up due to the matchup with Cincinnati. The Bengals throw the ball a lot, and Williams is not a great option in coverage. I don’t see it as a long-term thing, but could see Williams getting on the field a bit less than usual this week.
Talk about turning things around. The Seahawks were one of the leagues worst pass rushing teams over the first eight weeks. They bring in Carlos Dunlap and suddenly break out for seven sacks against Buffalo. Granted, there is more to it than just the addition of Dunlap, but he adds a dimension the team was missing. Dunlap played nearly 70% of the snaps, which tells us he is going to be a three-down player for Seattle. He was 3-2-1 against Buffalo, which tells us the guy can still get it done. We should not expect another seven sack outing versus a Rams offense that is allowing just over one per game since Week 4, but I like Dunlap’s chances of getting his second as a Seahawk.
The presence of Dunlap helped keep the Bills offensive line honest and opened up some opportunity for Jarran Reed who had a great game as well. Reed was 3-1-2.5 versus Buffalo which was a flashback to 2018 when he finished the season at 36-15-10.5. With upcoming games against the Eagles, Giants, and Jets over the next four weeks, Reed is a guy we want in our lineups in tackle required leagues, and maybe even in those that lump the positions together.
Jamaal Adams returned and played every snap against Buffalo, sending Ryan Neal to the bench. There was some speculation Neal’s solid play might earn him a role, but he played just four snaps.
San Francisco 49ers
Jaquiski Tartt was a surprise active on Thursday night. He was having a great game at 3-4-0 with a pass breakup in the first half before leaving with a turf toe injury. This has been the story of Tartt’s career. When the team is good, his opportunities are fewer and his number mediocre at best. When the team is struggling, Tartt has a short string of productive games, then gets hurt. The only difference here is that his shoulder is usually the problem. If Tartt is not able to go this week, Marcell Harris will get the call against the Saints. New Orleans has been a solid matchup for safeties in general, making Harris a potential stream play for those in need.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Lavonte David may be a little gimpy this week with a hyperextended knee he suffered in Week 9. The injury is not believed to be serious but keep an eye on the injury reports just to be sure. Carolina has been a solid matchup for linebackers with or without Christian McCaffrey in the lineup.
The Titans released Johnathan Joseph and traded for Desmond King last week. Most onlookers expected King to immediately take over the starting job, but that is not how it played out. Instead, second-year man Breon Borders got the call opposite Malcolm Butler, with King working as the third corner on 70% of the snaps. King spent much of his career with the Chargers as a slot corner, so that could his role with the Titans going forward as well. Borders accounted for seven tackles and two assists in his first start of the year. He is not a rookie, but the former undrafted free-agent will be seen as an inexperienced young player which could lead to a lot of action against the Colts this week.
Another interesting note with the Titans, backup/nickel safety Armani Hooker was 6-3-0 on 49% of the snaps against Chicago. Much of his playing time bump came at the expense of inside linebacker Rashaan Evans who saw his snap total drop below 70% for the first time since Week 1. Evans was already having a disappointing season. This turn of events could be the final straw for anyone still hanging onto him. That said, Tennesse’s next four games are against the Colts twice, Ravens, and Browns. All teams with power running games that are good matchups for linebackers.
Washington Football Team
When I talked about Kamren Curl last week, not many people knew much about him. After he went 6-5-1 in his first career start as the replacement for Landon Collins, he is getting a lot of attention on waiver wires. Curl is a capable young player who should give us Collins like production from the position, and he has a great matchup with the Lions this week. How good is the matchup? In Week 5, all three of the Saints safeties recorded five solo stops or more against the Lions. In Week 6 Josh Jones was 8-2-0. In Week 7 it was Keanu Neal at 10-1-1, followed by Khari Willis at 5-1 in Week 8, and Harrison Smith at 7-3-0 with a pick last Sunday. If you picked up Curl last week but were too uncertain to start him, make him a starter this week. If you didn’t make the move last week, good luck with this week’s waivers.
Updating an ongoing story, Cole Holcomb was 3-4-0 in Week 9 but he was on the field for 90% of the defensive snaps. If the numbers from this game are a concern, consider that Jon Bostic was 2-5-0 and played full-time. He is not LB1 material but Holcomb is worthy of a roster spot in leagues starting three or more linebackers. With the Lions, Bengals, Cowboys, Steelers, 49ers, Seahawks, and Panthers remaining on the schedule, Holcomb should make a solid LB3 on most weeks the rest of the way.
That’s it for the Week 10 offering. Best of luck as we turn the corner and begin the sprint to the finish.
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