Entering week nine we were watching to see if Zaven Collins’ playing time would continue to grow. He played four snaps against the Packers, but there is more to the story. Collins landed awkwardly on his shoulder while trying to make a play early in the first quarter. He walked off the field in obvious discomfort with his arm hanging and did not return. As of Wednesday morning, there had been no update on his situation. If Collins is not fully healthy, it would almost certainly slow his progress and might be a nail in the coffin of our hope for his fantasy value this year. Jordan Hicks went on to play every snap versus the Packers, posting a strong 7-5.
Safety Erik Harris is coming off his most productive game of the season. His 5-2 with two pass breakups are not eye-catching but as we get deeper into the season and injuries continue to mount, Harris might be a decent option to restock your roster. He has not fallen short of seven and a half points in any game thus far and has reached double digits in two of his last three. Combine that with a schedule that includes New Orleans, Dallas, New England, Tampa Bay, Carolina, and San Francisco over the next seven weeks, and we have a player worth some consideration.
The Ravens are coming out of their bye week but when last we saw them, Patrick Queen played 27 snaps and Josh Bynes 46 against Cincinnati. It is generally assumed this was a result of the thigh injury Queen suffered in week six, but it is enough to make many managers second guess the situation, especially when considering how Baltimore has split up playing time at inside linebacker. One thing that could help Queen’s cause, is the loss of Malik Harrison who landed on IR this week after being shot in the calf. I expect Queen to have a near every-down role against the Vikings but there could still be some rotation with Bynes and Chris Board.
Back in week five, it looked like the Bills might slowly be working toward a youth movement at defensive end. Since that time, Carlos Basham Jr has been inactive for consecutive games with Gregory Rousseau working as the third man at the position behind Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison. Barring an injury, we might have to wait until next season to get real value from these promising rookies.
Shaq Thompson returned to action in week eight after missing three games with a foot injury. The 22 points he racked up were his highest total since week one. While that is not particularly noteworthy, it is interesting that his 8-2 with a pick came on 35 snaps. Thompson came through the game healthy, so maybe the big game will serve to kickstart an otherwise disappointing season.
Eddie Jackson left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury and was replaced by DeAndre Houston-Carson. Houston-Carson stood in for Tashaun Gipson Sr in week seven, totaling 11 combined tackles, a fumble recovery, and a pass breakup for 19 fantasy points. He was not as impressive in relief of Jackson, but the five solo stops and a pass breakup were rather respectable. The Steelers are a strong matchup for inside linebackers and safeties, so Houston-Carson could be a solid stream for week nine.
It does not look like Danny Trevathan is going to regain his starting job, or even a significant role this year. He managed four combined tackles in week nine, despite logging just ten snaps on defense.
Cincinnati opened the week eight game in a hybrid 3-4 look with Larry Ogunjobi, D.J. Reader, and Josh Tupou inside. Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson were on the edge with Logan Wilson and Germaine Pratt as the inside linebackers. This is something I have not seen from the Bengals in the past, or at least have not noticed. It remains to be seen how much they will use it going forward, but considering they got their butts kicked by the Jets, we may not see it much.
Chidobe Awuzie has been nothing short of impressive for the Bengals over the last several games. He has quietly become an IDP factor as well. Over the last four games, Awuzie is 21-2 with an interception, 5 pass breakups, and an average of about 12.5 points.
If you like players with the extra incentive of revenge games, consider Larry Ogunjobi this week in his first game against the Browns. It doesn’t hurt that the Browns are a fairly strong matchup for interior linemen either.
John Johnson III left Sunday’s game with what is being called a sprained neck. He is day-to-day but is not likely to play this week. Grant Delpit is better suited to play free safety than Ronnie Harrison and is in line for the start. This means Harrison is in line to play full-time at strong safety. He has been a disappointment, for the most part, this year, but the opportunity will be there.
Malcolm Smith piled up nine solo stops, an assist, and a pass breakup against the Steelers. That gives him three games on the season with double-digit points. The problem is, Smith has a total of six points over the other five games combined. He is more than capable of putting up good numbers on a more consistent basis, but the opportunity has not been there with any consistency. Smith logged 40 of a possible 73 snaps against the Steelers, which was his biggest play-share since week four. Meanwhile, Anthony Walker has been on the field for every play over the last two games and is the only Cleveland linebacker we can count on as more than a desperation flier.
If you need to beat the competition to the punch, this might be the time to pick up Demarcus Lawrence. He is expected to practice either late this week or next and is eyeing a possible return against the Chiefs in week eleven.
Denver has gone into full rebuild mode. The most glaring sign is the trad of future Hall-of-Famer Von Miller to the Rams, but just as telling was Barron Browning making his first career start at inside linebacker. Browning not only started but also played 68 of a possible 69 snaps, going 5-3. Recently acquired Kenny Young played but was limited to just over half the snaps in a timeshare with Justin Strnad. There will be growing pains for Browning, but he could ultimately become the centerpiece of this defense into the future. In the short term, a matchup with the Cowboys this week will provide an opportunity for Browning to impress both on the field and in the box scores.
With Miller gone, Malik Reed becomes the full-time starter and is the team’s biggest pash rush threat until Bradley Chubb returns. In the meantime, Jonathan Cooper should get an opportunity to audition
Green Bay Packers
After two games with the team and an injury, the Packers have parted ways with Jaylon Smith. There are still a few teams out there in need of help at linebacker (the Lions come to mind immediately) but at this point, one has to wonder if Smith has digressed to the point he is no longer NFL worthy.
The broken thumb did not keep Christian Kirksey off the field in week eight, but it likely played a big part in his lacking tackle totals. Kirksey had his normal full-time role, going 2-3 on 95% of the snaps. The Rams were a mediocre matchup for linebackers while the Dolphins are marginally better. Playing Kirksey this week is going to be a risk with limited upside at best.
One interesting note with the Texans linebacker situation, rookie Garrett Wallow is beginning to see some action. He has been on the field for 59 plays over the last three games, which is more than Zach Cunningham over that span.
Jonathan Greenard added three tackles, a sack, and a batted pass to his resume in week eight. He now has seven sacks on the season with at least one in four straight games.
With Desmond King out, Vernon Hargraves got another start. As usual, he put up solid numbers. Miami tends to throw a lot, so Hargreaves could have another good game if King is unable to go again.
Khari Willis lasted 16 plays against the Titans before a calf injury ended his day. With the Colts playing on Thursday, he has been ruled out for week nine. George Odum came on to finish the game at strong safety, posting five solo stops, and is set to get the start against the Jets. If you believe New York’s week eight performance was a sign of things to come, you should note the Cincinnati safeties combined for 42 fantasy points last week.
Rookie Dayo Odeyingbo was activated from the PUP list last week and had a small role. This is a young man that comes with a high upside and big expectations. The Colts picked him up in the second round and he might have gone in the first if not for the Achilles injury he suffered in January. Odeyingbo had 32 combined tackles and 5.5 sacks in eight games as a senior at Vanderbilt. He might not get to full strength until next season, but this is a player to watch.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City has been struggling greatly on defense, so why not go with their duo of young linebackers. The Chiefs opened against New York in a nickel defense with Willie Gay Jr and Nick Bolton at linebacker. By the end of the game, however, Bolton logged 43 of a possible 60 plays, with Gay seeing action on 44 and Ben Niemann 38. Bolton continues to impress despite the missed snaps, reaching double-digit points in four straight games. Gay is working his way back from injury so the 44 snaps were his most extensive action of the season. With nine combined tackles and a pick, he fell just short of 20 fantasy points against the Giants and has an interception in back-to-back games. Once these two youngsters finally earn the trust of the coaching staff, they are both going to be fixtures in IDP lineups for years to come.
The Chiefs made a deal with the Steelers and landed Melvin Ingram III on Tuesday. It is hard to say at this point what his role will be in the long term, but chances are Ingram will work as the third man at defensive end initially. His presence could eventually allow Chris Jones to move back inside. Whatever the plan, this is a bad sign for those dynasty managers holding onto Michael Danna.
Los Angeles Chargers
With Asante Samuel Jr in concussion protocol and Mike Davis nursing a sore hamstring, the Chargers look to be shorthanded at the corner position this week. Slot corner Chris Harris Jr should take over one of the starting spots with Tevaughn Campbell at the other. This situation might have a lot of fantasy impact if Los Angeles were playing someone other than Philadelphia.
Drue Tranquill went 3-1-1 and Kyzir White 6-3 in a losing effort against the Patriots. Neither player was a full-time participant with Tranquill seeing 76% of the action and White 84%. On the field, Los Angeles desperately needs Kenneth Murray back from injury. In the box scores, both Tranquill and White have been productive enough to serve as third starters on most weeks.
Los Angeles Rams
It was no surprise to see Ernest Jones get the call after the Rams traded Kenny Young. The eye-opener is that Jones went from backup to the lead role, bypassing Troy Reeder. After seeing him play, it all makes a lot of sense now. Jones was the three-down inside backer, totaling nine combined tackles with half a sack, and an interception on 54 of a possible 59 snaps. With Tavin Howard landing on IR this week, there is no one to challenge Jones going forward. Reeder totaled 3-4 on 66% of the snaps and should remain in the sidekick role.
Jordan Fuller was limited to about half of the playing time in week eight, but there is no need to panic, at least not in the long term. He was banged up entering the game and was questionable with a sore knee on last week’s injury report. Fuller probably would have played more if the game were in question. Unless he suffered a setback with the knee that has not yet been reported as of Wednesday evening, he should be back in his usual role against Tennessee.
The Rams pass rush gets a huge boost with the addition of Von Miller. He did not play last week, presumably due to an ankle injury but if this trade was already in the works, Miller may have been a scratch to ensure his safety. Either way, he is expected to suit up for the Rams this week and will have a big role if the ankle is indeed healthy.
We got another curveball from the Dolphins last week when Duke Riley replaced Jerome Baker and played 92% of the snaps. Elandon Roberts took over when Baker went down in week seven. He had a major role but was not the three-down guy. Baker was limited in practice all last week which is a good sign for his chances of getting back on the field this week.
Brandon Jones joined Jevon Holland as the Dolphins’ full-time safeties for a second straight game. If they stay the course, both of these guys are going to have high potential and a lot of productive games going forward. Holland has been in a steady role for the last five games, but I am not yet convinced they will leave Jones alone. As we have seen with this team in the past, Jones could be relegated to 20-30 plays on any given week.
Minnesota took a major hit when they lost Danielle Hunter to a shoulder injury this week. Without Hunter on the field, expect Everson Griffen to struggle as opponents will not have to double D.J. Wonnum on the other side.
After trading Stephen Weatherly a couple of weeks back, the Vikings are left with Kenny Willekes and rookie third-round pick Patrick Jones II II as depth. Both of these young players have upside. Willekes had 228 combined tackles and 23.5 sacks in three seasons at Michigan State and was a high upside sleeper last year before suffering a knee injury just before the start of the season.
Jones has a similar resume, with 83 combined tackles over his two years as a starter at Pitt and 21.5 career sacks for the Panthers. We have seen enough of Wonnum to know he is nothing special. Maybe one of these young guys can turn it up and emerge for the team.
New Orleans Saints
At the expense of Pete Werner, Kwon Alexander saw a fairly significant increase in playing time in his second game back from injury. Alexander will need to take another big step before he will be relevant to IDP managers, but he made the most of his 27 plays against his old team, going 3-2-1 against the Buccaneers. After a pair of warmup games to knock the rust off, we might see Alexander in a near full-time role this week. With that in mind, this would be the time to add him, before the competition for his services heats up.
David Onyemata logged 27 snaps in his first action of the season. His only contribution to the box score was a fumble recovery, but he showed up bigger on the field when he was in the game. Onyemata was a solid option in tackle-required leagues last year and should be a factor for the rest of this season as well.
New York Jets
After piling up 10 solo stops in week seven, Ashtyn Davis came crashing back to earth in week eight. It was not for lack of playing time though as Davis was on the field for all but one play. A lot of the managers that added him after the big game, were quick to toss him back in the pool this week. Don’t be one of those owners. The Jets did not look like the Jets last week, but after that highly emotional game, they are still the Jets. This is a team in rebuild mode and they will have their share of struggles. Davis is not a great player but he is good enough to take advantage of a target-rich environment. Sit tight for one more game and see what happens.
With Jarrad Davis and Quincy Williams, we may have entered that zone every IDP manager hates. C.J. Mosley is going to play full-time. Davis was expected to join him as a three-down player until he was injured. With Davis out for six games, Williams got his chance and made the most of it. Now the coaching staff has two linebackers they like a lot. So what do they do now? Davis played 68% of the snaps against Cincinnati and Williams played 59%. Granted, it was the first game back for Davis, so he might have been held on somewhat of a pitch count, but I get the feeling they are going to use both guys enough to put a serious damper on the IDP value of both players. Let us hope I am wrong because it would be a horrible waste of a great situation if I’m not.
Does anyone know what the heck is going on with the wishy-washy Eagles? This team can’t figure out what they are doing on either side of the ball. Everyone is talking about Kenneth Gainwell getting his snaps in garbage time, but at least he got his snaps. Philadelphia left Eric Wilson as a healthy inactive in week eight. He had not been playing much anyway, so that was not as big a shock as their most productive linebacker, Alex Singleton, getting 21 snaps.
T.J. Edwards put up eye-catching totals with eight tackles and five assists. This has all the points chasers scrambling to pick him up this week. Don’t be a points chaser. Nothing has changed here except that it was his turn. Next week it might be Wilson or Darrell Taylor. All we have to do is look at the snap counts. Edwards played 41 of 62, Singleton 21, Taylor 39, and Genard Avery 16.
Josh Sweat 3-1-2, Milton Williams 4-0-1, and Derek Barnett 1-0-1, all got to the quarterback against the struggling Lions in week eight. These guys have been lacking in terms of consistency, but Sweat, in particular, is emerging as a decent DL2 option.
Fletcher Cox stirred the pot with his comments to the media last week, but it appears to have fallen on deaf ears. Despite his defensive coordinator saying that Fletcher had some valid points, I saw nothing different in the way he was used against Detroit.
San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco’s week eight plan was to use a lot of big nickel to compensate for their linebacker injuries. By the end of the game, they were trying to figure out how to compensate for injuries at safety as well. Jaquiski Tartt is out for a while so the 49ers opened with safeties Talanoa Hufanga, Marcell Harris, and Jimmy Ward on the field, along with Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and Fred Warner at linebacker. Ward left the game with a quad injury, joining Harris who missed time with a thumb. Harris was able to practice on Wednesday and the team hopes Azeez Al-Shaair can clear concussion protocol in time to face Arizona. All this adds up to a lot of tackles for Fred Warner.
Josh Norman has put together huge games in back-to-back weeks. He totaled 20.25 points against the Colts in week seven, going 7-3 with a pair of forced fumbles and a pass breakup. For an encore, Norman went 7-0 with a pick and a forced fumble, for 24.3 points against Chicago. I wrote the week seven game off as a mirage and have not had a chance to watch the week eight game yet, but there could be something interesting here. It might not be a coincidence that Norman’s big games come after the bye week. With all their injuries I am wondering if the 49ers are using Norman more like the Rams are using Jalen Ramsey. I plan to scoop him up in some leagues and will make it a point to lay eyes on him this week.
Rookie Monty Rice made his first NFL start in week eight, replacing a banged Rashaan Evans. Rice looked pretty good in general, totaling seven combined tackles and breaking up a pass on 65% of the snaps. The organization elected not to pick up the fifth-year option on Evans, so he is probably not in their plans beyond this year. We might see Rice hold onto the job the rest of the way.
Washington Football Team
Landon Collins was back to almost 90% of the playing time again in week eight, but he continued to see a lot of action as a linebacker. His snap count may vary significantly from week to week, but he remains productive even on down weeks. Collins has fallen short of eight fantasy points once since week one, has reached double-digits in five of the last seven games, and has exceeded 13 points in each of the last two. Washington is off this week but they have several quality matchups down the stretch, including the Cowboys in weeks 14 and 16.
Jamin Davis was a major disappointment last week, recording a pair of assists on 42 plays. I am going to write this one off as an outlier for now and keep a close eye on his progress when the team returns to action against the Buccaneers in week 10.
Attrition is taking its toll on our rosters. This is the time of year that will make or break your season. Stay on top of the quickly changing landscape. Best of luck in week nine.
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