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The Cardinals face off with the Falcons in week ten. Managers who put in the effort to look closely at matchups and make lineup decisions accordingly need to throw out all the data from weeks one through eight and start over. Atlanta is a completely different offense with Taylor Heinicke under center. He is mobile enough but is much more of a gunslinger than Desmond Ridder. It will likely take another couple of weeks to get a fix on the Heinicke effect, but I expect better numbers for opposing defensive backs and possibly pass rushers.
The Falcons were a top-five matchup for safeties even before Heinicke took over. That's good news for anyone considering slipping Jalen Thompson into their lineup this week.
Heading into week six, I called out the great matchup for Calais Campbell with the Commanders. That was a good call, but it's what he's done since that is intriguing. Campbell seems to have forgotten that he is 37 years old. He now has at least twelve points in three of the last four games, including week seven, when he overcame a bad matchup with the Buccaneers. At 9-4-3 with a pair of turnovers, Campbell has become an every-week start for those of us who can play him as an inside defensive lineman. After putting up sacks versus the Buccaneers and Vikings in weeks seven and nine, a mediocre matchup with Arizona might turn juicy.
Since becoming a starter in week four, Nate Landman has outproduced Kaden Elliss in five of six games. Landman played more than 82% of the snaps in week nine for just the second time since week four. He left the field for one play against the Vikings. The result was his most productive game of the season as Landman went 5-5-1 with a pass breakup. I'll stop short of calling him an every-week must-start, but we could do a lot worse than this guy as a regular third starter.
Those of us who started Roquan Smith (3-2), Kyle Hamilton (2-1 PD), or Geno Stone (1-0 Int.) in week nine were met with disappointment. Blame this on a Seattle offense that was simply horrible. Yes, the Ravens played great defense in this game, but they have been playing great defense all year without such issues. Heck, Smith was 8-3 against the Cardinals in week eight. With the Browns, Bengals, Chargers, Jaguars, 49ers, and Dolphins all on the schedule between now and week 17, lack of opportunity is unlikely to be an issue going forward.
Jayson Oweh went 2-0-1 versus Seattle, giving him a sack in two of three games since returning from injury. Kyle Van Noy is stepping up as well, with four sacks in the last three games.
Terrel Bernard was forced out of Sunday's game after 30 snaps with a concussion. Tyrel Dodson stepped up to the occasion with eight tackles, two assists, and a pair of tackles for loss. Dorian Williams entered the game and went 3-1 after Bernard left. Bernard has not been ruled out yet, but the team is preparing for Dodson and Williams to be their linebackers versus Denver. The see-saw ride continues with Williams, who could give us a string of quality starts if he stays in the lineup. The Bills have Denver, the Jets, and the Eagles leading up to their week thirteen bye.
In week seven, we saw a slight shift in how Jordan Poyer was being used. It was a move back to a role more like the one he had a couple of years back when he was an IDP stud. Over the last three games, he has seen more time as a box safety, lining up at linebacker depth on a good number of snaps each week. As a result, Poyer has averaged nearly 14.5 points in those games. Three weeks is a trend, and this one seems unlikely to end soon.
Ed Oliver was killing it over the first five games but has not been the same player since injuring his toe in week six. Oliver is 2-2-1 over the last two games but there is reason for optimism heading into this week's matchup with Denver. After missing most of week six and all of week seven, Oliver had a limited role in week eight. He was nearly back to his normal role in week nine, seeing action on 64% of the plays. He should be back to his normal 75% plus role this week, just in time to face a Denver team that has allowed the sixth most points to interior defensive linemen.
Brian Burns and C.J. Henderson left their week nine game with concussions. It will be a surprise if either clears protocol in time to play on Thursday. With Yetur Gross-Matos already on IR, D.J. Johnson, Nick Thurman, and Amar'e Barno project to be the edge rotation. Troy Hill and DeShawn Williams should see more action at the corner position.
Xavier Woods was also knocked out of Sunday's game with a thigh injury that could keep him out on a short week. Alex Cook got the start at strong safety against the Colts, sending Sam Franklin back to the bench. There is a little good news for the Panthers, though. Vonn Bell practiced on a limited basis last week but was inactive. This week he is practicing in full and is expected to return. Don't hesitate to play him against a Colts offense that is an above-average matchup for safeties. It's unclear if it will be Franklin or Cook at the other safety spot.
As expected, Montez Sweat was an immediate starter for Chicago. He managed a pair of tackles and batted a pass on a 65% share of the playing time. Unfortunately, the Bears recorded no sacks in the game, which is not unusual for them. Also, as expected, Jack Sanborn played 98% of the snaps, posting eight tackles and two assists.
The Bears got Eddie Jackson back in week nine. Despite missing virtually all of those seven games, Jackson was in his usual every-snap role. Carolina is a top-ten matchup for safeties, so Jackson is a viable starter in week ten.
Tyrique Stevenson left the week nine game with an ankle injury, but he was able to practice without limitations on Tuesday. Despite their offensive struggles, Only the Giants have allowed more points to corners than Carolina entering week ten.
Mike Hilton had a huge game on Sunday Night. His ten solo stops were largely due to his role in covering Dalton Kincaid, who was featured in the Bills offense and had ten receptions. There is nothing to see here other than a game script that will not be repeated.
Initially, I thought the poor numbers for Taylor Britt were just a game flow issue. He missed a few snaps after having his leg looked at by the medical staff but was able to return. That doesn't fully explain his 57% play share, though. Cincinnati is deep at corner with four starter quality players at the position. We saw a similar breakdown in playing time in week four, with Taylor-Britt seeing the fewest snaps of the four. It might be nothing, but it makes us think twice about starting him this week.
Cleveland's linebackers have a great matchup this week against Baltimore. The question is, will the Browns' players be able to take advantage of it? Anthony Walker and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah have each reached double-digit points twice this year. When these teams met in week four, Walker was 6-3 with 11.25 and Owusu-Koramoah 6-2 for 10.5. Neither of these guys have more than an LB3 ceiling, but if you're in a pinch…
The Cowboys had two linebackers on the field for over 80% of the snaps against the Eagles. It was the first time this season that has happened. Converted safety Markquese Bell has at least five solo stops in each of his three games as a starting linebacker. It's hard to say if his 94% participation in week nine will continue. On the other hand, it never hurts to have a three-down linebacker you can start at safety. I'm picking him up in several leagues this week.
Last week, I mentioned Rashaan Evans as a potential waiver gem. He was activated again in week nine but did not play any snaps on defense. Meanwhile, Damone Clark had possibly the best game of his young career, both on the field and statistically, at 8-3 on a 92% play share.
Donovan Wilson laid an egg despite the great matchup. If he can't produce versus the Eagles, he's not roster-worthy.
When last we saw the Broncos in action, Barron Browning impressed with a pair of sacks. The Bills are a tough matchup for edge defenders. Considering Buffalo held Sam Hubbard and Trey Hendrickson to a single tackle between them, this might not be a good week to gamble on Browning as a starter.
Jerry Jacobs started the season on fire, with double-digit points in each of the first five games. He had a slow week six before being injured and did little with a horrible matchup against Las Vegas in week eight. This week's matchup with the Chargers will tell us if he will be a player for us or if his fast start was a mirage. For what it's worth, I'm starting him against a Los Angeles offense that's the fifth-best matchup for corners.
Green Bay Packers
Rudy Ford and Quay Walker were inactive for week nine, so Anthony Johnson played every snap at safety and Isaiah McDuffie 93% at inside linebacker. If not for an interception, Johnson had virtually zero statistical impact. As of Wednesday afternoon, there has been no update on the status of either Ford or Walker for week ten. I've not yet had time to look closely at last week's game, but I believe the Packers shifted Jonathan Owens into Ford's role and had Johnson at free safety. Whatever his role, Owens had a strong outing at 5-3-1 with a forced fumble. The bottom line here is that if Ford and Walker are out again, Owens and McDuffie are viable starters for us.
Kenny Clark left Sunday's game with a shoulder injury. He was not able to return, but there has been no update on his status for week ten either.
The game of musical chairs continued for Houston's linebackers in week nine. Blake Cashman led the way statistically, with ten combined tackles (two for loss), but even he was not immune to coming off the field. His 82% play share was the most of the group with Denzel Perryman going 3-3 on 65%, Christian Harris 4-1 with a pass breakup on 62%, and Henry To'oto'o 2-3 with a forced fumble on 13 plays. Cashman is the only one we can count on at this point, and even he is a bit risky, especially against a Cincinnati team that is allowing the second-fewest points per game to linebackers.
Kenny Moore had a once-in-a-lifetime game in the win over Carolina. His 7-1 was solid in the tackle columns, but his two scores on interceptions were special. He will never top that production, but a matchup with the Patriots could provide a good encore. New England has allowed the third most points to corners on the season.
Jaylon Jones had a solid week nine, going 5-0 with a pass breakup while standing in for JuJu Brents. As of Tuesday, Brents had not practiced since injuring his quad in week seven. Whoever gets the start this week has a fairly high floor, if there is any such thing for a corner.
When last week's numbers rolled in and Shaquille Leonard showed up at 7-3, I was ready to plug him back into my lineup going forward. Then I looked at snap counts and started talking to myself incoherently. With Zaire Franklin sidelined by a sore knee, Leonard played 53% of the snaps. Huh? That would mean a big share for E.J. Speed, right? Nope, Speed finished 3-0 with a forced fumble on a 44% share.
So what gives, you say? Ever heard of an undersized, former undrafted player out of San Diego State named Segun Olubi? Neither had I. He wasn't even a starter in college. His numbers were not eye-catching in this game at 4-1 with a pick, but the guy played 97% of the snaps. Put him at the top of the list when we crank out the IDP version of "That helps no one". Franklin is dealing with a sore knee. With the team on bye in week eleven, it seems likely he will sit out one more.
Las Vegas Raiders
Maxx Crosby was a game-winner for many managers last week with his monster 6-2-3 performance. Lost in the excitement of Crosby's big game was rookie Tyree Wilson coming to life. Wilson finished 3-1-.5 against the Giants, giving him a sack and a half over the last three games. Just as importantly, he logged over half of the snaps in a game for the first time in his young career. What a difference a good coach makes. There are some tough matchups on the horizon, including a game with the Dolphins in week eleven and a pair of matchups with the Chiefs in weeks 12 and 16, but Wilson could add to his growing numbers this week against a Jets team that has surrendered 21 sacks over their last four games.
Injuries at the linebacker position had the Raiders starting sixth-round rookie Amari Burney in week nine. He made a fairly good impression on the field and put up decent numbers for the playing time he got at 3-3. That said, keep an eye on the free agent Las Vegas signed off the street last week. Jaylon Smith had not played since last year but recorded two tackles on 25 snaps despite having been with the team for less than a week. His playing time could expand substantially with a week to learn the defense.
Los Angeles Chargers
Speaking of the Jets matchup, what a game the Chargers pass rushers had on Monday night. Los Angeles has settled into a three-man rotation on the edge, with Chris Rumph picking up a few scraps of playing time along the way. In this game, Khalil Mack was a 70% participant, rookie Tuli Tuipulotu 62%, and Joey Bosa 57% with all three seeing at least 46 snaps and all three landing at least two sacks. It's easy to get excited after a game like that and find yourself chasing the points. Last week is over, and they are not going to repeat the performance against a Detroit team that has allowed more than two sacks just twice on the season.
Los Angeles Rams
What are the numbers 4, 3, 3, 5, 9, 8, 4, and 5? Those are the rounded-off point totals of Kobie Turner before his 22 in week nine. Turner is a good player who could have a little value as depth or even a marginal second starter in tackle-required leagues, but he's not the next Aaron Donald. So don't be an ambulance chaser.
Byron Young blew up in this game as well, going 8-2-2 with a forced fumble. The difference is that Young now has five sacks on the season and has given us double-digit points in more than half of his games. If you are looking to make a trade ahead of this week's deadline in many leagues, Young might be a good target. He's been a little up and down but has matchups with the Cardinals, Browns, Commanders, and Giants between now and week seventeen.
Jalen Ramsey was in the game for all 60 defensive snaps against the Chiefs. After all the anticipation and expectations, he totaled a disappointing four solo stops in the game. Ramsey played a big part in shutting down Travis Kelce but I remain skeptical when it comes to his IDP value in Miami. The sample size is very small but so far we are not seeing the kind of role that made him a stud in what seemed like every game last year.
New Orleans Saints
Paulson Adebo's week nine numbers were a fluke in that he created three turnovers in one game and four if you count the forced fumble and the recovery as two. What is not a fluke, is his consistently solid production. Paulson missed a couple of games early in the year. He has nine or more fantasy points in five of the other seven and has developed into quite the ball hawk. He had four turnovers in six games leading up to last week's 33-point blowup.
New York Giants
There were a lot of IDP managers disappointed with the production of their Giants defenders last week. How can a team (the Raiders) run the ball 34 times in a blowout win and only one defender be credited with more than four solo stops? Maybe we could start by asking Bobby Okereke how much he missed working behind Leonard Williams who was traded to Seattle. Okereke had double-digit points in every game this year leading up to week nine. A matchup with the Cowboys, who have given up the fifth most points to linebackers, makes Okereke a must-start this week in a game with strong bounce-back potential.
New York Jets
Quincy Williams has at least five solo tackles and no fewer than seven combined stops in every game this year, except last week when he was 2-1 against the Chargers. There is nothing to see here when it comes to Williams, who is not injured and should return to form this week against a Raiders team that re-discovered the run in their first game post-Josh McDaniels.
The other take from this situation is a reminder not to play your linebackers against the Chargers if you can keep from it. The week nine game moved Los Angeles ahead of Cincinnati as the worst matchup in the game for linebackers.
Nakobe Dean had his breakout game in week eight, with eleven solo stops and a pair of assists. He was headed toward another strong outing last week, going 1-2-.5 in the first 21 snaps before leaving with a foot injury. We often get no updates on player injuries when they head into a bye, and when we do get them, it's usually not good. That is the case with Dean, who was placed on IR Wednesday with a season-ending Lisfranc injury.
Zach Cunningham put up three or fewer solo tackles in five of the six games leading up to week nine. He went 9-4 in week four, so his 8-2 versus Dallas was not a complete surprise, especially once the word of Dean's injury came out. The question is, will we get more five to seven-point games from Cunningham going forward, or will he step up his game and make more plays? The early returns say Cunningham will shift into the lead role with Nicholas Morrow as the other starter going forward. If Cunningham is available, snap him up.
Cole Holcomb suffered an ugly, friendly-fire injury that ended his season early for the second straight year. The question now becomes, how will the Steelers compensate for the loss? It would seem a simple case of more snaps for Kwon Alexander and Elandon Roberts. Unfortunately, nothing is that simple in the NFL these days.
Without sitting down like a scout and breaking down the entire game, this is what I think they did for the rest of the game against Tennessee. Alexander saw an expanded role. His 86% play share was by far the most he's seen this year. Roberts saw a few more snaps, reaching 50% participation for the second time this season. It looked like they covered the rest with a shuffle in the secondary. Keanu Neal got some work at linebacker depth with Darius Rush coming off the bench to fill the hole at safety.
With a week to prepare, the coaching staff could come up with a completely different plan going forward. The only thing I am confident about here is that Alexander will benefit the most statistically.
Cameron Heyward was back in action for the first time since week one. After a seven-week absence, he hit the ground running, going 4-2 on 41 snaps (55%). Once he knocks the rust off, which may be as soon as this week, Heyward will be on the field at least 70% of the time and possibly 85-90% as he has in years past. He's getting long in the tooth, but a well-rested, healthy Heyward should be a top-ten tackle the rest of the way.
The Seahawks took a beating at the hands of the Ravens. If there is a silver lining to this situation, it's the continuing emergence of Boye Mafe, who now has a sack in six consecutive games. In the first three, he made no significant contributions beyond that one sack. Over the last three, Mafe started making tackles to go with the sacks. In the last two games, he is a combined 8-6-2 with a forced fumble, two recoveries, and over 20 fantasy points in each.
The trade to Seattle might rejuvenate Leonard Williams a bit, but his days of playing 75-80% of the snaps could be over. Williams was plugged into a solid three-man rotation in his first game with the team. Jarran Reed saw the most action at 63%, followed by Williams at 54%, and Dre'mont Jones with 47% of the snaps.
The time has come for re-draft managers to cut ties with Julian Love. His 30 snaps in week nine were a measly 39% share, and he's played fewer than 70% in three of the last four games. Dynasty managers might want to hold onto him if you can afford the dead weight. Love is far too good a player to be stuck in this situation for long. Unfortunately, he is under contract with Seattle through next season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers are one of those teams making changes to shake things up and hopefully find the combination to make themselves better. Ryan Neal has been good for IDP managers but has struggled in coverage on the field. Against the Texans, he was pulled in passing situations, leaving him with just 20 of a possible 72 snaps. The good news for those of us who have him is that the team was just as poor, if not worse, versus the pass with Dee Delaney at safety, so maybe they will go back to Ryan this week. We will have to see how that goes, but for now, keep him on your bench and start looking for other options at the position.
It just feels like Calijah Kancey is ready to break out. His playing time hovered around the 60% mark in each of his first three games back from injury. He looked good on the field in those first few games, but his contributions were not showing up on the stat sheet. Last week, his snaps jumped to 82%, and he had the first big statistical game of his young career, going 4-0-1 with three tackles for loss. I think we will understand why Kancey was a first-round pick by the time this season is over.
Jamel Dean was on a roll in recent weeks. A concussion early in the week nine game brought that to a screeching halt. If Dean is not cleared in time for week ten, look for more snaps and possibly the same kind of production from Zyon McCollum.
The Commanders recorded no sacks versus New England. That's what happens when you trade both of your stud defensive ends. Casey Toohil, James Smith-Williams, Efe Obada, and Andre Jones combined for 2-3 with a batted pass.
David Mayo was a hot waiver addition over the last couple of weeks. He put up strong numbers in those first two games before turning back into a pumpkin this week. Mayo continues to see a good share of the playing time, so there is hope for a bounce back against the Seahawks on Sunday.
Jamin Davis remained a bit light in the tackle columns at 4-5 with a batted pass, but he played every snap again versus New England.
That does it for this round. Best of luck as we start into the home stretch of our regular season.
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