Arizona placed two defensive starters on the COVID list Monday. With corner Byron Murphy out, Dre Kirkpatrick starts opposite Patrick Peterson, with Kevin Peterson likely playing over the slot in nickel situations. Kirkpatrick has a history of solid IDP production for a corner and had 10 solo tackles in Week 7, but Miami is far from a quality matchup at this point.
Devon Kennard tested positive on Monday so unless further testing provides a different result, he will not play against the Dolphins. This opens the door for Markus Golden to start opposite Haason Reddick. Unless the Cardinals can get out to an early lead, Miami is not going to pass a lot with their rookie quarterback, and they are only giving up a sack-and-a-half per game since Week 4.
Indianapolis has been a mediocre matchup for corners but this would be a good week to start safety Chuck Clark. In the Colts last four games, opponents starting strong safeties are a combined 27-6-0 with two passes defended.
Matt Judon was ejected from Sunday’s contest for contacting an official. No further disciplinary action is expected as of Tuesday afternoon.
Tremaine Edmunds was down on the field for a minute on Sunday. He missed three plays before coming back, suggesting all is well, but keep an eye on the practice participation reports this week just in case.
Matt Milano was limited all last week with the pectoral injury that he has been battling since Week 4. He has played in the last two games, but only on a limited basis. At this point, we have no way to be sure it is the injury keeping Milano from his usual full-time role, but those in redraft leagues should be scanning the waiver wire for other options. A.J. Klein has been seeing most of the action in recent weeks.
When healthy, Donte Jackson is one of the corners IDP managers can depend upon for both production and consistency. His numbers have been erratic at best this year, mostly because he is playing through a toe injury. He has been in and out of games, and not at full speed when on the field. Jackson is not going to be someone we can count on this season, but as we come out of turn three and near the stretch run, dynasty manager might want to think about stashing him for 2021.
Rasul Douglas missed the last two games, presumably due to COVID, but he will be back in action against Kansas City. The Chiefs are a strong matchup for corners and Douglas is a guy that tends to make a lot of tackles. He had 19 solo and six assists in the four games prior to Week 6.
Danny Trevathan has provided more good weeks than bad lately, and the Titans would seem like a quality matchup for linebackers. Vince Williams had a big game versus Tennessee in Week 7, but he and Tyrell Adams are the only inside/weakside linebackers to reach double-digit fantasy points against Tennessee since Week 3. Roquan Smith is an every-week start regardless of matchup, but managers may want to think twice on Trevathan.
Olivier Vernon has been playing a lot of snaps and getting good pressure on opposing quarterbacks since Week 4. His efforts finally showed up in the box scores when he was 3-1-2 against the Raiders last weekend. Cleveland has a Week 9 bye, but their next seven games include matchups with the Texans, Eagles, Jaguars, Giants, and Jets. All those teams are in the top third of the league in sacks allowed.
Week 8 confirmed that Ronnie Harrison has taken over the starting strong safety spot from Karl Joseph. Harrison finished 2-8-0 with a pass defended on 97% of the snaps against the Raiders and should be a solid option for us going forward.
Mack Wilson was up to 72% of the playing time in Week 8, going 4-2-0 as his role continues to grow slowly.
It would be nice if the Cowboys would make up their mind on Donovan Wilson. He is coming off another strong statistical performance of 5-0-1 with a forced fumble and a recovery in Week 8. The problem is, those numbers come on the heels of a 1-2-0 in Week 7. The trend here is strange. Since becoming a starter in Week 4, Wilson is 18-6-2 with a forced fumble and a recovery over three games played on even-numbered weeks. In two games on odd-numbered weeks, he is a combined 2-3-0. Adding to the oddity, on even-numbered weeks, he has been on the field about 91% of the time. On odd weeks it is 64%. He is a boom or bust guy and this is an odd-numbered week. On the other hand, if you are not superstitious, the matchup with Pittsburgh is strong.
Where has Aldon Smith gone? After going 12-8-4 over the first three games of the season, Smith is 10-5-1 over the last five. What we need to keep in mind, this is a player that was out of football for a few years. No different than a rookie player hitting the proverbial rookie wall around what would be the end of the NCAA season, Smith may be wearing down some. The return of Randy Gregory may help lighten the load a little, so hopefully, Smith will get a second wind. That said, the Steelers have given up less than a sack and a half per game on the season.
Malik Reed has been outstanding since getting into the starting lineup. In three games since the team’s Week 5 bye, Reed is 7-4-5 with at least one sack in each game. Jeremiah Attaochu is healthy and back in the rotation, but it does not look as if he will get the starting job back. The team hopes to get Von Miller back late in the season, but the way Reed is playing will allow them to be patient, even if they fight their way back into contention.
The Lions placed Trey Flowers on IR with a wrist injury this week. This is a significant loss but Flowers is expected to return in a few weeks. Meanwhile, the Lions have plenty of reinforcements to get them through. Romeo Okwara has quietly come on strong with 15 tackles and five sacks over the team’s last five games. He should be on a roster by now but is still available in a surprisingly big number of leagues.
Then there is Everson Griffin who was acquired in a trade from the Cowboys last week. Some believe the soon to be 33 years old, has lost a step, but he had two and a half sacks in a part-time role with Dallas over the first seven games. With DaShawn Hand seeing early-down snaps, Griffen may be cast as somewhat of a pass-rush specialist, but he could provide value in deeper leagues.
Green Bay Packers
Adrian Amos has been a decent IDP option over most of his career, but not so much this season, at least not until after the team’s Week 5 bye. Amos totaled 10-6-0 over the first five games combined but has gone 11-3-1 with a turnover in the last two. The difference is in how he is being used. Early on the Packers kept Amos off the ball in a deep safety role. With their recent struggles at inside linebacker, he has been working up near linebacker depth much more often over the last couple of games. If this continues, Amos should be at least a quality DB3 the rest of the way.
The saga continues at Green Bay’s inside linebacker positions. Krys Barnes nearly vanished from the box scores in Week 8, despite playing 94% of the snaps against Minnesota. Kemal Martin lined up at the other ILB spot on 81% of the snaps but fared no better. To emphasize Green Bay’s struggles here, Dalvin Cook had more touchdowns rushing than Barnes and Martin combined, had solo tackles.
San Francisco is a solid matchup and they have no Cook to tote the ball, so Green Bay’s inside backers should fare better this week. The risk is, as poorly as they played last week, we have no idea if the coaching staff will try something different. Ty Summers saw no defensive snaps in Week 8 but that could change.
Darius Leonard returned to the lineup with the usual bang, going 7-2-1 and playing virtually every snap. The other linebackers shifted back to their previous roles as well, with Bobby Okereke going 6-1-0 on about 80% of the playing time, while Anthony Walker was back below 50% of the snaps.
Colts defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis played about a dozen snaps per game over the first five weeks of the season but has seen action on 46 plays over the last two games. While that is not enough playing time to provide consistent IDP value, it is worth mention that he is 5-3-2.5 with a batted pass in the last two games. This is certainly enough to grab the attention of managers in tackle required leagues, and it may be enough to earn an increased role going forward. With quality production at the interior line positions so hard to come by, adding Lewis could be a good move. That said, playing him this week against Baltimore might not be a great plan. Other than Chris Jones back in Week 3, not many interior linemen have done much with this matchup.
The Jaguars are starting to get some guys back from injury, at least on the defensive side. Josh Allen played in Week 7 and coming out of their bye week, the team could get both linebacker Myles Jack (ankle) and safety Jarrod Wilson (hamstring) on the field in Week 9. Jack has been limited in practice early the week, but expectations are that he will suit up.
Las Vegas Raiders
Rookie corner Damon Arnette has been activated from the COVID list and will be back on the field in Week 9 if his thumb is deemed ready. He started and was productive in the first two games of the season before breaking the thumb, including a seven solo game in Week 2. The Chargers are a middle of the road matchup and we have little to go on with Arnette, but he looked good before the injury.
Nick Kwiatkoski logged 98% of the playing time in Week 8, which was his highest snap total of the season. Unfortunately, he was only able to parlay it into four tackles, an assist, and a forced fumble. It is hard to put a finger on why neither he nor Cory Littleton has put up the kind of numbers we expected going into the season, but we have now seen more than enough to know those numbers are never going to come.
Maurice Hurst left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury that is considered minor. He will be limited this week but may be able to go against the Chargers. Las Angeles could also get David Irving on the field some in this game. This is a unit desperately looking for some pass rush from their front four. It might take some time for Irving to knock the rust off, but he is capable of providing that boost if he is the same player we last saw with the Cowboys. If your league starts interior linemen, make sure to have this guy on your watch list for the next couple of weeks.
Los Angeles Chargers
Reyshawn Jenkins was mentioned in last week’s column and right on cue, he had another solid outing. Adding in the 6-1-0 from Week 8, Jenkins now has 20 tackles and 4 assists over the last three games. He also has a solid matchup with the Raiders in Week 9. It could be a particularly busy day for Jenkins if he is matched up with Darren Waller.
Just when we thought it was safe to swing away with Kyzir White, the Chargers threw us another screwball. White played at least 97% of the snaps in each of the four games leading up to their Week 6 bye. There was a warning sign when his portion was cut to 81% in Week 7, then White was limited to 57% against Denver as the team began working in Jahleel Addae as a third safety, sending White to the bench. The Raiders are a good matchup for linebackers, but unless you have Kenneth Murray, you probably will not be able to take advantage of it.
For anyone in tackle required leagues that might be wondering what happened to Linval Joseph last week, this was my fault. I picked him up and started him on a couple of leagues but IDP karma refuses to let me have any points at that position this year. Joseph played his normal 70% plus, is not hurt, and should be just fine against the Raiders this week. Las Vegas has possibly been the best matchup for interior linemen this year, with the position as a whole averaging 6.2 tackles, 2.8 assists, and over half a sack/turnover.
Los Angeles Rams
Other than Aaron Donald, no Rams defender gave us much in Week 8. On one on the team recorded more than three solo tackles including Micah Kiser who managed to lead the team in total tackles on the strength of five assists. This situation was partly due to the game script as Miami attempted to run the ball 23 times but completed just 12 passes. In all, the Dolphins ran 35 plays that should have resulted in a tackle being recorded. That brings us to the other issue, which is the stats crew that credited 29 total solo stops. Simply put, that is not enough opportunity, nor does the math add up. It would sure be nice if the NFL would institute some sort of uniform system for keeping defensive stats. Until then we just need to remember what stadium crews are stingy. Put Miami on that list.
Danielle Hunter is not coming to the rescue and the Vikings traded Yannick Ngakoue, so there is going to be a youth movement at defensive end for the rest of this season. I have talked about Ifeadi Odenigbo and D.J. Wonnum before. Both are young players with good long term potential. One of them will probably bookend with Hunter next year, but these guys could help us down the stretch this year as well. In Week 8, Wonnum got his second sack in the last four games. What makes this special is that it came against Aaron Rodgers who is one of the hardest guys in the league to sack. Odenigbo did not do much against Green Bay but had two and a half sacks in the two games before the Viking’s Week 7 bye. I bring this up because four of Minnesota’s next five games are against the Lions, Bears, Cowboys, and Jaguars. All those teams are allowing at least two and a half sacks per game. Dynasty managers should look at getting one of these guys onto your roster before the season ends, and they could be an answer right now for anyone in a pinch.
New England Patriots
As if things were not already bad enough for the Patriots, they may be without a pair of starting defenders for the next few weeks. Tackle Lawrence Guy left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury, and linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley exited early with a groin. The loss of Guy will hurt some managers in tackle required leagues, but the loss of Bentley will have a further reaching effect.
Bentley has not been a great IDP option but he had been playing close to full-time and was on a string of four consecutive games with, or near, double-digit fantasy points. The Patriots have no obvious replacement that would allow them to plug an play, so chances are we will see some different loo9ks from them while Bentley is out.
Interestingly, the loss of Bentley happened to coincide with the first game of the season in which Adrian Phillips played every defensive snap. I have not yet watched this game in full to see if Phillips’ role changed after Bentley left, but there is a good chance Phillips will have the most to gain in terms of production from this situation.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have grand expectations for Marcus Davenport but he had fallen well short of them heading into this season. It is great to see what a little competition can bring out in a player sometimes. While Davenport was on the shelf for the first four games, Trey Hendrickson took advantage of the opportunity and played well (11-0-3). Now that Davenport is back, the two are splitting time virtually equally. The arrangement is working out well for the team with Hendrickson adding another two and a half sacks over the last three games, and Davenport landing one and a half in the last two outings. The timeshare is just enough to keep either player from being a reliable fantasy option, but two games against Atlanta and one versus the Eagles over the next six weeks could be enough to make either of these guys decent spot starts down the stretch.
The big news with New Orleans is the trade that brings Kwon Alexander to town. When healthy, he is a considerable improvement over Alex Anzalone in the middle, but can also play on the weak side, giving the coaching staff the option to shift Demario Davis back inside. Regardless of how they line up, this is a big boost for the Saints defense and an opportunity for IDP managers to get more from the New Orleans defense. Alexander will be on the commissioner's exempt list this week as he goes through all the COVID drills. He was close to returning from IR in San Francisco and should be ready to play in week 10
Sheldon Rankins has been a disappointment throughout his young career, mostly due to a run of injuries. It looks like he could miss, or at least be limited in, a few more games. Rankins made an early exit on Sunday with a knee injury that is not believed to be serious but could cost him some time.
New York Jets
The Jets managed to ship off another veteran defender ahead of the trade deadline, sending Avery Williamson to Pittsburgh. They gained a little draft capital and shipped some salary at the same time, but I have to believe part of the decision was made to get Blake Cashman on the field. This is a young man the organization is excited about. He played well when called upon as a rookie last season while reaching double-digit fantasy points in three of the five games he started. Most managers will not think to grab Cashman until after this week’s games. Go get him now and beat them to the punch. That said, don’t expect big things right away. Remember that no Rams defender had more than three solo tackles against Miami last week, and the Dolphins will be without Miles Gaskins.
Ashtyn Davis got the call and played every snap at strong safety in Week 8. He was just 3-1-0 versus the Chiefs but the sheer volume of playing time, along with a matchup against New England, is enough to earn the rookie some consideration as a DB3 in this one. Against the Patriots, seven safeties have put up at least five tackles and an assist over their last four games.
The stars aligned for T.J. Edwards in Week 8. He came off injured reserve just as middle linebacker Nathan Gerry was injured, which opened the door for Edwards to get right back into the mix. Against Dallas, Edwards, Duke Riley, and Alex Singleton all saw action on between 70% and 78% of the snaps, but Edward was the one that stood out. At 6-7-1 with a forced fumble, Edwards reminded those in the organization why his playing time was on the rise before he was hurt. He looked quick, decisive, and physical while making plays all over the field. With Gerry on the shelf for at least two more games, this is the chance Edwards needed to prove himself. The Eagles are off this week then finish up with the Giants, Browns, Seahawks, Packers, Saints, Cardinals, and Cowboys. There are a lot of strong matchups on that list.
Robert Spillane had a quiet debut in Week 7 but more than made up for it with a monster game against the Ravens. He played 87% of the snaps, going 10-1-0 with a fumble recovery, an interception, and a score. The Steelers then went and traded for Avery Williamson who will likely be the starter once he jumps through all the COVID hoops.
Williamson is not the sideline to sideline playmaker the Steelers had in Devin Bush, but he is a solid veteran starter with the savvy to handle the situation, the experience and skill set to play all three-downs, and the ability to put up quality tackle totals for us. I would not be in too big a hurry to dump Spillane though. He should get one more start before turning over the reins and another game like the last one might make the coaching staff think twice about pulling him off the field. Stranger things have happened.
Over the last couple of years, Cameron Heyward has been the standout at defensive end for the Steelers, while Stephon Tuitt has been good when healthy, but has been banged up a lot. This year the two seem to have swapped roles. Heyward has been banged up and is playing through some nagging issues while Tuitt is currently on pace for 40 tackles and 13 sacks.
After playing virtually every snap early on, Terrell Edmunds playing time has slowly gone down from 100% in Week 3, to 74% in Week 8. Not surprisingly, his production has followed the same path and Edwards has not given us useful totals since Week 5. The time has come to move on if you have not done so already.
San Francisco 49ers
The trade of Kwon Alexander not only frees up some cap room, but it also clears the way for Dre Greenlaw to keep the every-down role. Greenlaw reached double-digit points in eight of the nine games he started to close out last season and has picked up right where he left off. As a 23-year-old, second-year player, Greenlaw is set to team with Fred Warner as three-down linebackers in San Francisco for the next several years. Be sure to start Greenlaw this week as Green Bay has been a stellar matchup for linebackers
The next question is, how does Kiko Alonso fit into the picture? In New Orleans, a healthy Alonso would have been one of the two best linebackers on the team. With Warner and Greenlaw set as the starters, Alonso will have a tough time earning more than a base package role at the strong side position. It was a great move for both San Francisco and New Orleans, but those of us hanging onto Alonso can throw in the towel. That ship has probably sailed.
Both the 49ers and IDP managers got a scare when Fred Warner was down for a minute in Week 8. It looked as if he might have suffered a neck or shoulder stinger the way the training staff was checking him out, but he was back on the field for the next series. All seems well but keep an eye on San Francisco’s practice reports this week just in case.
How weak is the Titans pass rush? The one win Bengals have given up more sacks than anyone in the league and had a bunch of backups playing on the offensive line, but Tennessee still failed to get to Joe Burrow for a single sack or force a turnover. On Monday the team traded for corner Desmond King and on Tuesday they announced that both corner Jonathan Joseph and defensive end Vic Beasley Jr would be released.
Washington Football Team
The last time we saw Washington, Jon Bostic was ejected, Landon Collins suffered a season-ending injury, and Cole Holcomb led the team in tackles, produced a sack, and intercepted a pass on just 39 snaps. Kamren Curl is expected to replace Collins and is a strong waiver candidate. Holcomb is also a candidate to be added and is at the very least a player of interest to keep an eye on in Week 9.
That’s all I have for this round. May the funny shaped ball bounce your way in Week 9!
Enjoy this article? Find more from John here.