The hits just keep coming on the injury front, and there are six teams on bye this week. This will be a test of our league management skills for sure. No matter how weak your lineup may look, keep in mind that everyone else will have similar issues. This is the week that almost everyone is looking for someone to stream, so be diligent.
Do not look to the Cardinals for defensive back help this week. In fact, if you have any Arizona DBs, keep them on your bench if possible. Seattle is dead last in points allowed to opponents' corners and 26th in points allowed to safeties.
If you are desperate enough, K'Von Wallace and Andre Chachere look like the Cardinal starting safety tandem again. Budda Baker is close to getting back on the field and could practice at some point this week, but it would be a surprise if he were activated right away. If he is, we should not count on a normal workload right immediately. Jalen Thompson did not practice at all last week. The normal for players with sore hamstrings is to practice on a limited basis for a week and then get in some full practice sessions the following week before they return.
Injury woes continue in the Arizona secondary, with corner Antonio Hamilton coming up lame in week six. He is dealing with a sore/tight groin and is not practicing early on. Kei'Trel Clark could return to a full-time role if Hamilton is out against Seattle.
Krys Barnes was active for week six but never set foot on the field with the defense. Josh Woods has not been as fantasy-friendly as Barnes typically is, but he is the starter. The Cardinals had been using two linebackers roughly 80% of the time before week six, but Woods only saw a 60% play-share against the Rams.
Last week, I pointed out the great matchup for Atlanta's linemen and edge defenders. Calais Campbell took advantage, landing his 100th career sack. In all, four linemen accounted for five sacks versus Washington. Before you start thinking about going back to the well in week seven, be aware that the Buccaneers are as horrible a matchup as the Commanders were a good one, at least for edge defenders. Tampa Bay has allowed just five sacks on the season, with no more than two in any game, and has given up just two to the edge positions.
Kaden Ellis has been on the field for every defensive snap through six games. The playing time is there, but after a solid start that included double-digit points in the first three games, he has a high of 7.5 over the last three. With the Buccaneers ranking 28th in points allowed to linebackers, the chances of him getting back on track this week are slim.
Kyle Hamilton was ejected in the middle of the third quarter, but the bigger news is that he had just one tackle before the incident. With Marcus Williams likely back on the shelf for a while with a hamstring, Geno Stone becomes relevant again, at least for a minute. The Lions are a mediocre matchup for safeties, but with so many on bye, Stone might be an option.
Justin Madubuike blew up for the best game of his career in week six. Maybe we should have seen this coming, not so much for the average matchup, but because his production had been growing. Madubuike now has 20 combined stops and 4.5 sacks on the season, with at least eight fantasy points in five of six games. He is particularly valuable in those leagues that designate him as an interior lineman.
Patrick Queen beat the odds on a poor matchup and put up great numbers last week, while Roquan Smith had a below-average game at 4-5. The Lions have been a good matchup for linebackers, but they will be without David Montgomery this week so the ground attack could look much different.
Dorrian Williams did not look ready to play when he entered the week five game as the replacement for Matt Milano. That resulted in Tyrel Dodson stepping in to finish the game. The Bills threw us a curve by going back to Williams against the Giants and the results were much different. With a week to prepare, he looked like a different player both on the field and in the box score, where he finished 6-4 on 84% of the snaps. The improved play and production should be enough to keep Williams in the lineup going forward and make him a hot pickup for week seven.
Ed Oliver was shut out on Sunday night, which was a shock considering the kind of impact he has shown. But then, no one expected the Giants to play so well, either. Oliver handled his normal workload but showed up with a toe injury on the early week practice reports, so that might have been a factor. It does not look like an injury that will keep him off the field, but it could slow what has been the most statistically productive season of his career. For what it's worth, the Patriots are a slightly above-average matchup for interior linemen.
A.J. Epenesa had a career day against the Jaguars in week five. After adding another sack in week six, he now has four in the last four games. Before you plug him in against New England with similar expectations, be aware that Epenesa returned to his limited role when Greg Rosseau came back last week, playing 21 snaps against New York.
Frankie Luvu left Sunday's game with a hip injury and was replaced by Deion Jones. The Panthers are one of six teams on bye this week so chances are, we will not get much news on Luvu before week eight. If he is your guy, keep an eye out for possible options just in case the week off is not enough recovery time.
When watching the stats roll in on Sunday, I had to wonder, how does Jeremy Chinn not show up at all when the Panthers were without both starting safeties? It is puzzling enough that Chinn is not a full-time starter for this team. Upon learning that he played just 26 of 67 snaps in this situation, my initial reaction was that this helps to explain why the Panthers are the league's last winless team. Instead of playing their former second-round pick, the Panthers put journeyman Matthias Farley on the field to replace Vonn Bell.
On Wednesday, the news hit that Chinn will miss time with a quad injury, but that is not why his role was so small in week six. Chinn's role simply didn't change at all, and he remained a sub-package specialist. Dynasty managers might want to hold onto him if they can afford the dead roster spot. He will be a free agent at the end of this season, and either he or the coaching staff will be out of Carolina in 2024. Those in redraft leagues should already have moved on.
At 3-3-.5 with a forced fumble and a pass breakup, Jaquan Brisker finally showed up with a good bottom line. The question is, where have all the tackles gone? The answer, at least for the most part, is to the linebackers. The trio of Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards, and Jack Sanborn are a huge improvement over what Chicago had at the second level last year. Week six was Brisker's first game with double-digit points, and he barely reached the mark then. Five or six combined stops might be just who he is at this stage.
Eddie Jackson tried to go in week six, but his return was short-lived. He aggravated the foot injury and left after 14 snaps. Interestingly, Coach Eberflus called the injury minor and said that Jackson could have returned if needed. Umm, if needed? The final score was 19-13 Vikings, so he was probably needed. The bottom line here is that Jackson is a major risk until we see him make it through a game.
The Bears got Kyler Gordon back in time to face the Vikings. He finished 2-2 on 61% of the snaps but should be back in his normal, every-down role versus the Raiders.
The Bengals are off this week, but I'll leave you with one short note. Cam Taylor-Britt is pretty darn good. He had yet another strong outing on the field, including an impressive diving catch on an interception. On the stat sheet, Taylor-Britt was just as impressive, adding seven solo tackles and three passes defended. If your league starts corners, put him on your roster if you still can.
Talk about an unexpected game script. The Browns beat San Francisco with a backup quarterback? No one saw that coming, but if you read last week's edition of The Guru and The Godfather, you weren't totally surprised by Myles Garrett's lacking numbers. The Colts are a mediocre matchup for edge defenders, but that should be enough for a guy like Garrett to bounce back nicely.
The combination of strong defense and injuries to key players slowed the 49ers' offense and resulted in much lower-than-expected tackle totals for Browns defenders. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah collected a sack and a pass breakup to supplement his below-average tackle totals, while Anthony Walker left with a concussion after 23 snaps. The Colts are a pretty good matchup for linebackers so if Walker clears protocol, both of these guys might be worth a shot if you are in a pinch.
Leighton Vander Esch landed on IR late last week with his neck injury. That was expected, but there were questions about where the Cowboys would go to fill the void. The answer was Damone Clark, who played 72 of 73 snaps after not seeing 70% of the action in any previous game this year. Clark was solid on the field and the stat sheet, posting a team-high 7-1. There is hope within the organization that Vander Esch might return later in the season, but with his history of neck injuries, there is a good chance Clark will have the job the rest of the way.
Following the rest of the ripple effect from losing Vander Esch, Malik Jefferson was elevated from taxi to the 53-man roster, and the team kicked the tires with Rashaan Evans coming in for a visit. Against the Chargers, however, they turned to hybrid safety/linebacker Marquese Bell to fill the part-time role left behind by Clark.
The Broncos are not winning games and the offense is inconsistent at best, but this unit is playing good defense. Bradley Chubb is no longer in the house and Von Miller is long gone, but Jonathan Cooper and Nick Bonitto have stepped up, as has free agent addition Zach Allen. After getting to Patrick Mahomes II, possibly the toughest sack to get in the league, Cooper is 16-14-4 with a pair of turnovers on the year, while Bonitto is 14-4-5.5 with a forced fumble. We are seeing good things from these guys, but there may be no tougher schedule for pass rushers than that of the Broncos for the rest of the season.
We know that Alex Singleton produces when he plays enough. He was 10-1 versus the Chiefs, has now played every snap in three straight games, and is a must-start until/unless something changes. Meanwhile, Josey Jewell was a solid 7-2 on 76% but has not played 90% of the snaps in a game since week one.
Jack Campbell (3-4) outproduced Derrick Barnes (1-1) again, but the two have not yet swapped roles. Barnes logged 79% of the snaps in week six, to 52% for Campbell. At this stage, we should probably accept that Campbell will not be a major fantasy factor until 2024. That said, the Ravens are an excellent matchup for linebackers and have an offense that could allow the Lions to stay in their base, three-linebacker look more than normal.
Josh Paschal was designated to return from IR and is expected to practice this week. That's bad news for Romeo Okwara, who was limited to nine plays against the Buccaneers and could be on the roster bubble.
Tracy Walker went 4-1 with a pass breakup against Tampa Bay. He has been on the field full-time in four straight games, but the production is still not there. If you need a spot to add someone for the bye week, Walker's is an option.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers were a M.A.S.H. unit going into last week's bye, but good luck trying to figure out if many/any of those players will be available for week seven. Getting injury updates out of Green Bay is much like getting them from the Patriots; we don't. When last we saw the Packers, Eric Wilson and Isaiah McDuffie were the linebackers, and Jonathan Owens was at one of the safety spots. All three of these guys are fill-in candidates this week if they are still in the lineup.
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