Between mounting injuries and six teams on bye, nearly all of us are looking to fill holes in our lineups this week. This is particularly evident in leagues with deep rosters or more than 12 teams where the picking is already thin. Let us see if we can dig up some help for your defense.
We are still awaiting that monster game from J.J. Watt, but it may be right around the corner. In week five he had a season-high three solo stops (two for loss) and a pass breakup. Watt followed that with his first double-digit point production of the season, going 1-4-1 with a forced fumble and a batted pass versus Cleveland. Just as he is getting warmed up, Watt gets a matchup with his former team when the Texans travel to the desert. Nothing motivates a player like facing his old team and it doesn’t hurt that Houston has allowed at least two sacks and turned the ball over on a fumble in each of the last four games.
Arizona got Jordan Phillips back from IR in week six, which is not a bad thing either. He did not make much of an impact, posting a pair of assists on 21 snaps, but Phillips is a talented player that can make a much bigger splash once he has knocked the rust off and reclaims a bigger role.
Budda Baker had a slow day at the office against Cleveland, which is very rare for him. The good news is, he played every snap and there is nothing reported as of Wednesday morning to suggest something is wrong.
If you need a defensive end to stream, take a look at Donte Fowler. He has contributed a pair of sacks to the resurgent Falcons pass rush and the Dolphins are allowing almost three per game on average.
Patrick Queen suffered a thigh injury early in Sunday’s game. He returned for a short time but ultimately lasted just 19 snaps before giving way to Josh Bynes who took over the lead role. There have been no updates on Queen as of early Wednesday, so if he is your guy, keep an eye on his status. The Bengals are a solid matchup, so if Queen is not able to suit up, Bynes might be a decent fill-in.
Shaq Thompson missed his second straight game in week six. In the absence of Thompson, Jermaine Carter has been Carolina’s every-down linebacker. He was not able to do much statistically against the Eagles, which may have been more of a game flow issue than an indictment of Carter, but he had a good statistical game against Minnesota, going 7-3. The Giants are not a great matchup without their star running back, but the shortage of options may force many of us to settle for someone that will at least be on the field a lot. Thompson did not practica at all leading up to week six. There is a chance he will be able to go this week though. Follow the practice reports late in the week.
Sean Chandler and Jeremy Chinn also had good numbers against Minnesota. Chandler finished at 7-3 with a forced fumble while Chinn went 7-2 and broke up a pass. Chandler seems to have settled in well as the starting strong safety, missing just three plays over the last two games. He is available in most leagues and will continue to have the play volume. New York has been a fairly good matchup for safeties.
Keith Taylor replaced Rashaan Melvin as the nickel/slot corner a couple of weeks ago. The Vikings went after him often, resulting in a huge statistical game with ten solo tackles, three passes defended, and a forced fumble. The Giants could have a completely different approach, but we can be certain the coaching staff noticed how many passes were completed against him.
Danny Trevathan played ten snaps in week five and nine in week six. Either the coaches are intentionally bringing him along slowly, or they are not planning to have him re-claim his starting role. Alec Ogletree started and played 75% of the snaps at the inside linebacker position.
Robert Quinn was placed on COVID IR on Tuesday and is not likely to be available for week seven. With Jeremiah Attaochu on IR, the Bears are shorthanded at the position. They will probably use Joel Iyiegbuniwe and Christian Jones to fill the void.
As a two-down, base-package contributor, Germaine Pratt has been wildly inconsistent. He has been on the field for at least 60% of the snaps in three games, and less than 45% in the other three. With the Bengals getting out to an early lead against Detroit, Pratt played little, especially in the second half. He should be on the field a lot more this week against a Baltimore offense that tends to move the ball on the ground much of the time and does not use a lot of three and four-receiver looks. This is a golden opportunity for Pratt to have a good game.
In a season that started with grand expectations, the Browns have been cursed by the injury bug. While it is the offensive losses that are getting the most attention, the linebacker group has been crippled as well. They just recently got Anthony Walker back and have now lost Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah to a high ankle sprain that landed him on IR. He should be able to return later in the season but we may not see him until after the team’s week-13 bye. Malcolm Smith missed last week with an abdominal strain but returned to practice on Tuesday. He is the favorite to step into the starting role for the foreseeable future. Smith has a history of solid production when playing anywhere near full-time.
Walker had a good outing against the Cardinals, going 6-3 and breaking up a pass on 79% of the snaps in his second game back. He left the field for one snap in the opener and should be back in the every-down role going forward.
Dallas is on bye this week but there are a couple of quick notes. Randy Gregory was a goose egg in week five but proved his two-sack performance against Carolina in week four was not a fluke by going 3-0-2 with a forced fumble against the Patriots. Dallas is playing good defense right now and will get a boost when/if Demarcus Lawrence can return in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, if Gregory is available, grab him.
Donovan Wilson was back on the field in week six but saw action on only 14 plays while Jayron Kearse played every down at strong safety. This is another situation where we have no way of knowing for sure that he will regain the starting job, especially considering Kearse has done a fine job at the position.
The Broncos have taken a beating at the inside linebacker position as well. Alexander Johnson’s torn pectoral has him joining Josey Jewell on injured reserve. As if that were not enough, backup Barron Browning suffered a concussion on his fifth defensive snap, leaving Denver with Justin Strnad and Micah Kiser as the expected starters against Cleveland. Starting either of these guys would be a desperate move, but at least we know Kiser has been a three-down starter in the past.
It appears Kyle Fuller has been benched. Patrick Surtain II Jr. and Ronald Darby were the starters versus Las Vegas with Fuller playing two snaps. As of Wednesday morning, I have seen nothing to suggest Fuller is injured.
After a couple of good games, Alex Anzalone has turned back into a pumpkin. He was on the field for every defensive snap against Cincinnati accounting for three tackles and four assists on 72 plays. Meanwhile, both Derrick Barnes (6-3 and a pass defended), and Jalen Reeves-Maybin (6-1), outproduced him. Barnes and Reeves-Maybin split playing time nearly equally with both players on the field fewer than 35 plays.
Trey Flowers played but it is apparent he is not 100%. Flowers was seen limping on the sideline during the game. He was not the same player on the field either, getting little pressure as a pass rusher.
Julian Okwara saw the most playing time of his young career, going 3-0-1 on 33 snaps. We might see his role expand in the coming weeks. At the very least he has carved out a piece of the action as a rush specialist.
Tracy Walker was relatively quiet in the box score, going 3-1 with a pass breakup against the Bengals, but it is noteworthy that he has played about 85% two weeks in a row.
Green Bay Packers
Jaylon Smith did not get the start against Chicago, but he played enough to get hurt. Smith left the game with an oblique injury. Try as they might, the Packers just can’t keep Krys Barnes off the field. Unfortunately, they will still not give him enough playing time to be of use to us.
The Packers signed Whitney Mercilus to offset injuries to Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. Mercilus has spent most of his NFL career as an outside linebacker in a 3-4, so he should be able to contribute right away.
The Texans continue to struggle but seem to have found at least one piece of their future in defensive end Jonathan Greenard. He added another five tackles, one assist, and two sacks to his resume in week six, bringing his season total to 10-3-4 with a forced fumble on 119 plays over four games.
One player that does not seem destined to be part of their future, is Zach Cunningham. He finished with three tackles and an assist versus the Colts, which is somewhat impressive considering Cunningham was on the field for 14 plays. To put this into perspective, Neville Hewitt played 22 snaps. Cummingham is a good player but simply may not be a good fit in the new scheme. If you are sitting on Cunningham in a dynasty format, I suggest patience, at least up to the trade deadline. The Texans don’t need or want him, but there are a lot of teams out there that would love to have such a quality player due to injuries.
Kamu Grugier-Hill played every snap but only managed to go 4-2.
An injury to Desmond King put, recently benched, Vernon Hargreaves III back in the lineup in week six. Hargreaves may have struggled in some situations on the field, but the guy usually makes a lot of tackles when he plays.
So much for any concern about Khari Willis not getting his job back. He saw 97% of the action in week six, totaling 5-3-1 with a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
Even with Miles Jack out, Damien Wilson saw just a 73% share of the playing time in week six. That said, he certainly made the most of it, totaling nine tackles and three assists. Shaquille Quarterman (17 plays) and Dakota Allen (28) picked up most of Jack’s playing time. With the Jaguars on bye, Jack will have a week to heal. The team hopes he will be able to go in week eight but it is far from a sure thing.
Kansas City Chiefs
Anthony Hitchens was questionable with a sore knee entering the week six game. He lasted 19 plays before leaving with an elbow injury. Ben Niemann picked up the majority of Hitchens’ playing time, but once again it was rookie Nick Bolton making more plays. Bolton finished at 7-2 on 66% of the action while Willie Gay Jr was invisible on 18 snaps. If you have been hesitant about Bolton because his playing time is light, this is the week to get him into your lineup. He could have a bigger piece of the pie but even if he doesn’t, there is no better matchup in the game for an inside/weakside linebacker than the Titans.
Daniel Sorensen was demoted from the starting safety job in favor of Juan Thornhill. Sorensen went from playing virtually every snap over the first five games, to 19 of a possible 59 in week six. He was at his best in years past when playing the third safety/nickel linebacker role for the Chiefs. With Hitchens possibly set to miss some time, Sorensen might find his way back on the field in that role.
Las Vegas Raiders
Those that kept the faith in Maxx Crosby, were heavily rewarded in week six. He exploded for a mark of 2-4-3 with a batted pass and might have deserved more if not for some questionable judgment by the stats crew. Now we just have to hope he doesn’t vanish for two or three games before he shows up again. The Eagles are a mediocre matchup for edge defenders but they do have some banged-up offensive linemen. Crosby will be in my lineups this week.
Nick Kwiatkoski suffered a foot injury against Denver and his availability for week seven is in doubt.
Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers have the bye week to lick the wounds from their blowout loss to Baltimore. There were several contributing issues to that disaster, not the least of which being the injuries at linebacker and struggles of Amen Ogbongbemiga, Nick Niemann, and Kyzir White against the Ravens running game. There has been no word of a return from IR for Kenneth Murray, but the Chargers hope to at least have Drue Tranquill available for week eight.
Los Angeles was also without a key part of their secondary in week six with Nasir Adderly out. They compensated with a committee approach, using Alohi Gilman, Tevaughn Campbell, and Trey Marshall in the free safety role. Adderly could be ready after the bye.
Los Angeles Rams
IDP managers have been looking for someone to claim an every-down role at inside linebacker but the Rams are not willing to cooperate. Instead, they went the other way in week six with Ernest Jones and Travin Howard joining the rotation. The defense faced 71 plays. Kenny Young played 42, Troy Reeder 22, Jones 26, and Howard 10. Young had his shot earlier in the season and the coaching staff knows what they have in Reeder, so if he were going to get a shot it would already have happened. The player of interest now is Jones. The rookie third-round pick looked pretty good, going 3-2 on his 37% share. Keep an eye on him going forward to see if his playing time increases.
Nick Vigil is battling an ankle injury but that is probably not the main reason he was on the field so little in week six. Anthony Barr played every snap for the second consecutive game, while Vigil barely got on the field (nine snaps). This is simply a confirmation of what we saw coming last week.
New England Patriots
Ja’Whaun Bentley had a huge game against Dallas at 12-1 with a forced fumble. Imagine what his totals would have been if he played more than 45% of the snaps. This time it was not all on the coaching staff as Bentley left the game after taking a hit to the ribs, and was not able to return. Jamie Collins Sr and Kyle Van Noy shared duties at the position for the rest of the game.
Collins has been relegated to backup duties through two games with the team. He could have a role against the Jets this week if Bentley sits, but it does not look like Collins will have any IDP value unless the Patriots have some linebackers miss time.
It took him a while to get going but Kyle Dugger may have finally arrived on the IDP scene. Over the last three games he is 19-6 with an interception, and double-digit fantasy points in each of those games. The Jets are not exactly a golden matchup but after this week, New England faces the Chargers, Panthers, Browns, Titans, and Bills before their week 14 bye.
New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans defense gets some reinforcements this week with Kwon Alexander and Marcus Davenport designated to return from IR. With the recent emergence of rookie Pete Werner at linebacker, Davenport might have a more significant impact. That said, a healthy Alexande would be tough to keep off the field for long. If you picked up Werner it would be a good idea to sit tight for a game or two and see what happens, especially with Alexander’s injury history.
New York Giants
James Bradberry started the season hot but has faded quickly. He has no more than two tackles and an assist in any of the last four games. There are likely several contributing factors to his slide. The list includes opponents not throwing his direction in recent games, and opponents playing with a lead and not throwing as often. Regardless of the reason, the bottom line is Bradberry is no longer getting it done in the box scores.
New York Jets
The Jets are among many teams getting players back from injuries this week. New York is expected to have Marcus Maye and Jarrad Davis available. It is a safe bet that Maye will step right back into his role as a productive, every-down strong safety. The return of Davis leaves a lot of managers wondering what will happen to Quincy Williams, who has played well and produced great numbers. When deciding on Williams, keep in mind the team was high on Davis before the injury. If you have a need at linebacker, keep in mind that whoever has lined up at the position for the Jets over the last three seasons, has put up strong numbers.
Linebacker Alex Singleton has proven over and over that he does not need a full ration of snaps to put up good numbers. In week six he totaled 15 combined tackles on 47 of a possible 75 plays. Unfortunately, none of the Eagles’ other linebackers have been able to overcome the shortage of opportunity with any consistency.
The time has come to move on from Eric Wilson. Yes, he is more than capable of big numbers and will likely have a few more good games, but he has done virtually nothing since having his role reduced in week five. Wilson has seen the field on 52 total plays since week four.
While Wilson is trending down, Davion Taylor has seen his playing time increase in three straight games. He played more than Wilson and Genard Avery in week six and is a player the Eagles are high on. Keep an eye on him going forward.
I would love to explain why Joe Schobert is putting up horrible numbers, but unfortunately, I have nothing. The matchups have not been great but they have not been that bad. The system is a little different than what he has worked in previously, but he is versatile enough that he should not be a poor fit. Maybe the Steelers should have traded for Zach Cunningham instead?
The only thing I can say about Schobert is, Devin Bush has struggled as well. My father used to say "If, is the biggest word in the English language," but if not for two sacks and a fumbler recovery, Bush’s numbers would be no better than Schobert over the last three games. The only Pittsburgh inside linebacker that seems capable of good tackle numbers, is Robert Spillane whose 7-5 in week two represent the most tackles in a game by a Pittsburgh inside linebacker this year. Unfortunately, he is a backup.
San Francisco 49ers
When the 49ers placed Dre Greenlaw on injured reserve after week one, the expectation was that he would miss four to six weeks. Six weeks would put Greenlaw’s return next week, but the recent signing of Mychal Kendricks might be a bad sign. Azeez Al-Shaair has been an adequate replacement but the 49ers need better play at the position. If he can stay healthy, Kendricks is a good player and a proven starter. The organization has been mum on the progress of Greenlaw so far but this is a situation we need to watch closely.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
What’s wrong with Devin White? He has certainly fallen way short of expectations after his monster 2020 campaign. Unlike Joe Schobert, I have some observations and a theory here. When an offensive coaching staff puts together a game plan, they often start by trying to neutralize the opponents’ best player. Sometimes that means committing extra blockers, sometimes it means designing plays that attack other areas of the field. What I saw in the Thursday night game was an offense that had figured out what White is keying on and/or his responsibilities versus certain formations. If you watch closely, most of the time there was some action either pre-snap or at the inception of the play, that had White moving away from where the ball was going. Counter-action where the running back takes a false step, motion, play fakes, etc. often had White moving the wrong way on his first step, buying the ballcarrier an extra second. We know the NFL is a copycat league so once one team does it and it works, other teams will follow the example. I have not gone back to watch earlier games but have a feeling I would see the same thing going on earlier in the year. If the Buccaneers want their star back as the IDP community does, they need to change things up a little and be less predictable.
Tennessee activated Amani Hooker ahead of the Monday night game and he jumped right back into the fray. There were big fantasy expectations for Hooker leading into the season. He had six solo stops on 36 plays before the injury in week one and was 6-3 with a forced fumble on 86% of the snaps versus Buffalo in his second game of the season. If this guy is available, try to get him on your roster.
Washington Football Team
There is some marginally good news for those of us sitting on Jamin Davis. His eleven tackles (five solos) were a season-high for the rookie, as was his 56% share of the playing time. He is still not seeing enough action to be an every-week start for us, but a plus matchup with the Packers on a week where many of us are scrambling to fill our lineups makes him a viable option for week seven.
Best of luck this week and keep in mind nearly everyone is missing players. These are the kind of weeks that will test our management skills and can make or break our season. In short, this is why we play the game!
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