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Jalen Thompson was back on the field in week eight after missing two games. His numbers were modest at 4-2 with a pass breakup, but the most important factor is that he played all but one snap in the game. A lot of managers have written Thompson off. Don't be one of those managers. This player has been a top-shelf option for us for the past two seasons. Yes, he was light on numbers in week one and again in week four. In the two games in between, Thompson combined for 10-5 with a pick, 2 pass breakups, and over 31 fantasy points. Yes, he was 3-0 versus the Bengals in week five, but don't overlook that Thompson left the Cincinnati game after scoring 7.5 points in less than two full quarters.
Grady Jarrett went down with a knee injury early in the week eight game. On Tuesday, it was confirmed that he will miss the remainder of the season. The team traded for Kentavius Street to fill the void on the depth chart, but don't be surprised if Calias Campbell sees more action at tackle going forward.
Jordan Poyer had a down year in 2022 and looked no better through the first six weeks of this season, but there might be reason for hope. He went 5-5-1 with a forced fumble and almost 18 fantasy points against the Patriots in week seven, then followed up with eight combined stops, a pair of pass breakups, and over eleven points versus the Buccaneers. The numbers alone might sprout some optimism. It's why he put up those numbers that is most interesting. Poyer is seeing more work at linebacker, or at least linebacker depth.
While snaps at linebacker are great for Poyer's fantasy value, this is not good news for Tyrel Dodson, who was on the field for just 62% of the action versus Tampa Bay. It was only one game, so we will need to see if the Bills continue to use this approach, but it might be a good idea to sneak Poyer onto your roster now, just in case.
Ed Oliver was able to play with his sore toe but his role was limited to roughly half of the snaps. It was the first time Oliver saw less than 70% of the action since week three. His snap count this week will tell us more about where he is with the injury.
Frankie Luvu has fewer than eight points in four of seven games and has frustrated his managers. While the bad news is that he has reached double-digit points just three times, the good news is that two of those three were weeks seven and eight and include his season best of 7-5-1 with two passes defended in week eight. There are good matchups on the schedule, including this week against the Colts, so maybe Luvu is back on track.
There is a lot to talk about in Chicago this week, starting with the acquisition of Montez Sweat via trade. This could be huge for the Bears in the long run. They finally have a quality three-down defensive end and a premium pass rusher. I say, in the long run, because this is not a unit that was one player away. Sweat is in the final year of his contract, so Chicago will need to sign him to a new deal or tag him next year if they can't get that done. Providing he is there for more than half of a season, Sweat gives the Bears a cornerstone to build on, but don't expect things to turn around right away for the team nor expect the same kind of production from Sweat that we were getting previously.
In fantasy terms, this is horrible news for those of us with Sweat. Before this story broke, I had penciled into my notes that he had become matchup-proof and was an every-week must-start. That was when he was surrounded by talent on one of the league's best defensive lines. In his new situation, Sweat will be the focal point of opponents blocking schemes, and until/unless he proves differently, he is not even startable.
Tremaine Edmunds left Sunday's game after taking a shot to the top of his knee. It's hard to tell if the injury was a contusion at the point of impact or the hyper-extension it may have caused. Edmunds returned to the game for a short time before coming out, so there is good news in that it is not structural or season-ending.
Injury creates opportunity in the NFL, and many will remember the monster numbers put up by Jack Sanborn when opportunity knocked last season. For anyone wondering if he can do it again, Sanborn went 7-1 on 32 snaps versus the Chargers. At this stage, we have no idea how much time Edmunds will miss. It could be just a game or two or it could be several. I would not recommend waiting to see before moving on Sanborn. Don't just pick him up; start him this week against the Saints.
The Bears threw us a curve at the safety positions in week eight. Eddie Jackson practiced all last week on a limited basis, so when he was active on Sunday, we assumed he would play. I'm sure there were plenty of choice words muttered when Duron Harmon took the field, and it was too late to change lineups.
At least we had a little warning with Jaquan Brisker. He didn't practice all week with what was called an illness and was declared inactive. The surprise came on Monday when he entered concussion protocol over a week after taking a hit late in the game against Las Vegas. The question heading into week nine is, will we see Jackson and Brisker or Harmon and Elijah Hicks again? Brisker remains in protocol as of Wednesday, and Jackson is no longer limited in practice.
It seems we have an answer to last week's question about Kyler Gordon. His workload increased a little more, to 83% in his third game back from injury, but it looks like the team will roll with Jaylon Johnson and rookie Tyrique Stevenson as their one and two corners with Gordon as the nickel.
The rookie corner rule is in full display with Stevenson, who exploded for 10-2 with the fantasy game's top matchup for corners. The big game was the third in the last four that Stevenson put up at least 12 fantasy points.
Trey Hendrickson was helped off with an ankle injury early in Sunday's game. He returned after having it taped but was marginally effective the rest of the way. Ankles tend to get worse a day or two after the fact, so if Hendrickson is your guy, keep a close eye on his status. Joseph Assai was the immediate replacement, but we should expect a timeshare between him, Cam Sample, and rookie Myles Murphy if Hendrickson is sidelined.
It looked like there might be some hope for Anthony Walker after he played every snap and put up double-digit points in week seven. The mirage faded quickly, however, when he went 2-2 and was back under 75% participation in week eight. As The Who would say, we won't get fooled again.
In a deep and highly competitive league where you need to identify potential before it shows up on the stat sheet? Take a look at Rashaan Evans. Damone Clark's 83% play share probably had more to do with the score than the quality of his play, but he has not been all that impressive since stepping into the lead role. Evans was promoted from the taxi squad for week eight and saw a handful of snaps. Call it a gut feeling, but I could see more time for Evans in the coming weeks and will not be surprised if he is starting within the next two or three games.
Markquese Bell saw an increased role, logging 73% of the snaps and going 5-1 against the Rams. He looked better than Clark on the field and in the box scores. This is a situation to avoid, but keep an eye on for the next couple of weeks.
To say that the game between the Chiefs and Broncos followed an unexpected game script would be an understatement. So what can we take away from Denver's upset of the Chiefs? What I see is a Broncos team that is much better than we thought a couple of weeks ago, especially on defense. Kansas City has allowed ten sacks on the season. Five of them have come in two games against Denver.
Jonathan Cooper has a sack and a half in those two games and has emerged as a solid fantasy option for us. The surprise from week eight's big win is the emergence of Baron Browning, who was an impressive 4-0-2 with a forced fumble. I'm not sure if Browning has passed Nik Bonitto on the depth chart yet, but Browning played more snaps against Denver. One game doesn't make a trend, but even dating back to last season, Browning has been impressive when healthy. If we wait for confirmation that he is more than a one-game-wonder, it might be one game too late.
Aliem McNeil shined in the Monday Night spotlight at 2-2-2 and a batted pass, but it was not the first time he has shined. Defensive tackle is a hard position to find consistent production. McNeil is 9-5-4 with a forced fumble and a batted pass over the last six games, with at least eight points in four of them. After this week's bye, Detroit plays Chicago twice, Green Bay and Denver among their next six opponents. All of those are good matchups.
Jerry Jacobs had a disappointing two tackles in the Monday Night game. It's frustrating, but don't rage-cut him. To be productive, corners need an opponent that can throw the ball. Simply put, the Raiders couldn't. Las Vegas completed all of ten passes in this game, and Jacobs made the tackle on two of them.
Green Bay Packers
DeVondre Campbell returned with a bang, going 10-4 on a 93% share of the snaps. The Rams are a so-so matchup for linebackers, but it's safe to put him back in our lineups.
Preston Smith had a huge game against the Vikings, going 2-3-2 with a forced fumble, a batted pass, and four quarterback hits. That was against a Minnesota offense that had been among the five worst matchups for edge defenders. He has a sack in three consecutive games and a much better matchup versus the Rams this week.
Green Bay made a move just ahead of the trade deadline, sending Rasul Douglas to Buffalo. With Eric Stokes on the shelf, Carrington Valentine will step into the lineup. He or Keisean Nixon will start opposite Jaire Alexander, with the other working as the nickel.
If you happened to catch it, the Texans told us late last week about their latest shuffle at the linebacker positions. Henry To'oto'o has been struggling in coverage so Houston moved him to a part–time role on the strong side. Denzel Perryman went back into the lineup at middle backer, and Blake Cashman shifted to the weak side. The result was good both on the field and in the box scores for everyone but To'oto'o. Perryman went 6-3-.5, and Cashman 4-1-1, including two tackles for loss.
Before you decide to put Perryman in your lineup this week, though, there is something you need to be aware of. While the numbers were good, he only played 32 of 67 snaps. If his snap count continues to hover around 50%, the strong production will not be sustainable.
Things continue to look up for Shaquille Leonard. His 83% participation in week eight was the most since week two, and the 6-5 is Leonard's best production to date.
Kwitty Paye came out of the gate on fire, with a sack in each of the first three games. He has not gotten to the quarterback since. Paye was banged up before he could make a play in week four, missed week five, and did virtually nothing in week six. He had no sacks in the last two games but was a solid 4-1 and 4-2 in weeks seven and eight respectively. Look for Paye to get back in the sack column this week against a Panthers offense allowing over three and a half per game and has surrendered at least three in five of seven games.
Kansas City Chiefs
Earlier in the season, Kansas City was working four linebackers into three positions. They lost Nick Bolton to injury in week seven and might be without Willie Gay Jr in week nine. Gay landed hard and suffered a tailbone injury in Sunday's game. On Wednesday, Andy Reid updated Gay's status, stating that he is not expected to go on IR, but there is no timeline for his return. A bruised or broken tailbone is an exceptionally painful injury to deal with, so it sounds like Gay will miss at least a game or two.
With Bolton on IR, Drue Tranquill played all but one snap against Denver and will be an every-down stud for us for the foreseeable future. If Gay misses time, look for Leo Chenal to have a nearly every-down role as well and be highly productive. Chenal was 6-4-1 versus Denver on a 69% snap-share.
Las Vegas Raiders
Trevor Moehrig has quietly become a dependable starting option for us. Over the last five weeks, he is 24-7-1 with a pair of picks. Moehrig has at least nine points in each of those games with an average of over 13. Moehrig's 7-3 against Detroit was not a fluke, but the nine solos put up by Marcus Epps probably were. Epps had more than six fantasy points in just one of the Raiders' first seven games.
It's getting thin at the linebacker position for Las Vegas. Luke Masterson replaced Divine Deablo in the starting lineup against Detroit but didn't last long, leaving with a concussion. Amari Burney stepped in to go 4-2 on 39 snaps after Masterson left.
Maxx Crosby has already turned in some big games this year, but this week's matchup with the Giants could be his best. New York only attempted 14 passes versus the Jets. They gave up a sack on four of those attempts. With Daniel Jones expected to return, it's a safe bet that the Raiders pass rushers will have more chances this week.
Los Angeles Rams
Safety Quentin Lake has seen a growing role in recent weeks as the third safety in some big nickel packages. His snap count was up to almost 50% in week eight after Cobie Durant left the game with a neck injury.
Jalen Ramsey is a fast healer. He was expected to be out until late November. Not only did he make it back for week eight, but he played 92% of the snaps. Ramsey picked off Mac Jones but otherwise did nothing on his 49 plays. Ramsey's role and IDP value were question marks entering the season, to begin with. His lack of production, despite the healthy snap count, is a big concern. If you had him on IR with the hope that he would pick right up where he left off last year, you will have to make a decision quickly. We can't have dead space on our rosters at this vital stage of the season. Ramsey is on a short rope for me. It's a put-up or shut-up week.
Jaelan Phillips is showing us what fresh legs can mean to a talented player in the middle of a season. He's played three full games to date. In those games, Phillips is 18-8-2.5 and has 37 points in his two post-injury starts. He has a tough matchup with the Chiefs this week, but then his last two matchups with the Eagles and Patriots have not been good ones either.
With Phillips back in action, Andrew Van Ginkel was limited to 14 snaps in week eight.
New England Patriots
At 4-2 on 20 snaps, Ja'Whaun Bentley was having a game before leaving with a hamstring injury. Jahlani Tavai moved into the lead role when Bentley left, going 3-4 with a pass breakup on a 94% play share. Assuming Bentley will be out until after the team's bye in week eleven, Tavai could be a decent stream for the next two weeks with matchups against the Commanders and Colts.
When the Patriots drafted Christian Barmore in round two back in 2021, a lot of scouts and draft experts said he had the potential to become a force at the pro level. He had shown signs of greatness over his first two seasons but lacked consistency. Barmore started slowly this year as well but has stepped up his game of late. His first sack came in week three and over the last three games, Barmore is 9-4-2 with a pair of batted passes. He now has double-digit points in four of the last six games, including each of the last three.
New Orleans Saints
It's looking like déjà vu with Marcus Maye, who once again can't stay healthy. He gave us a couple of strong games to start the season, then missed two with a hamstring and has been useless since. Maye was on the injury report all last week with the hamstring but was supposedly expected to play. He was active against the Colts but never set foot on the field. The word is that he was sick. The bottom line here is that Maye has done nothing since week two. History tells us that once he comes up lame, his season is virtually over, at least in IDP terms.
Jordan Howden got the call at strong safety against the Colts, working ahead of Jonathan Abram and going 4-4 with a pass defended.
Carl Granderson is quietly closing in on star status. He has at least 11.5 points in six of eight games and is currently on pace to go 42-28-11 with 4 turnovers. This week's matchup with the Bears could provide his best production of the season. Chicago managed to keep their quarterback upright against the Chargers last week, but it's been a sack-fest for every other opponent thus far.
I'm at a loss about what's wrong with Pete Werner. It's almost as if offenses are game-planning to avoid him, or the Saints' defense is game-planning to keep him away from the point of attack. Whatever it is that's killing his IDP production, Werner is a much better player than his numbers suggest. Managers in dynasty leagues might want to target him as a buy-low candidate.
New York Giants
The Giants shipped Leonard Williams to Seattle as the trade deadline approached. The move doesn't project to have much fantasy impact for New York. A'Shawn Robinson should move into the starting lineup. If he gets the same 80% plus play share that Williams was seeing, Robinson could have value as a DT2.
New York Jets
Last week's matchup with the Giants provided an odd game script. The early injury to Tyrod Taylor and the Giants' inability to protect their third-string QB led to an incredible 52 rush attempts versus just 14 passes. It was enough opportunity for Jermaine Johnson to capitalize with a 3-3-2 mark and for safety Tony Adams to put up his first good numbers of the season at 7-3, but the game pretty much cut D.J. Reed out of the action after his three weeks off. If you have Reed, this week's matchup with the Chargers is one you don't want to miss out on.
When the Eagles traded for Kevin Byard, it left IDP managers in limbo as we waited to see the plan. I made an educated guess in last week's column and came pretty close. Reed Blankenship remained the every-down strong safety, going 7-2 with a pick. Byard was full-time as well, working at free safety and posting 4-3. Sydney Brown only worked on 56% of the snaps, but his role as a box safety/nickel linebacker netted him seven tackles and an assist. With no linebacker seeing more than 51 of 72 snaps, we could see the big nickel as Philadelphia's base defense going forward. That could make all three safeties fantasy factors.
Nakobe Dean finally showed up big with eleven tackles and an assist, but surprisingly, he was on the field for just 69% of the snaps yet again. This one is a real head-scratcher, but until we see him consistently get 80% or more of the playing time, Dean will remain a high-risk start.
Washington finally figured out how to keep their QB upright. The only sack they gave up was to Haason Reddick, adding to his current streak of four games with at least one.
Jalen Carter left Sunday's game with a back injury, but the Eagles are optimistic he can go in week nine.
Minkah Fitzpatrick lasted eight defensive snaps before going down with a hamstring injury. It didn't take the Steelers long to count him out for the Thursday night game, and it will not be a surprise if he misses more. With Fitzpatrick out, Damontae Kazee played full-time at free safety, posting five solo stops and a pick. Keanu Neal finished the contest as a full-time strong safety, totaling 7-1. Both of these guys are good stream candidates for as long as Fitzpatrick is out, especially if they are both still playing full-time when the Steelers meet Cleveland in week eleven.
Cole Holcomb has been on the field for 90% of the snaps in four of the last six games. With a season-best of 7-4 and a fumble recovery for 17.5 points in week eight, Holcomb is slowly emerging as a three-down leader on the field and is inching toward being the every-week starter IDP managers thought they were getting entering the season. Color me optimistic.
Last week, I called attention to Boye Mafe replacing the injured Uchenna Nwosu and assuming the lead role among Seattle's edge defenders. Mafe responded to the promotion with his best game of the season at 3-5-1 with a fumble recovery on a 74% play share. That gives him a sack in five consecutive games and makes Mafe a prime waiver candidate. By the way, he faces the Commanders in week ten.
As expected, Darrell Taylor also got an uptick in playing time to about 60%. He, too, has come on strong after the injury to Nwosu. With his 2-1-1 versus Cleveland, Taylor has two and a half sacks and 26 fantasy points in the last two games.
The jury is still out on the Julian Love saga. After playing over 90% of the snaps in week seven, his share slid back below 70% in week eight. Love salvaged the day to an extent with an interception, but his low tackle total and snap count is a red flag. The interesting twist here is that Jamal Adams had his playing time cut by almost 20% as well. With week nine coming up, we are quickly running out of time for patience.
The addition of Leonard Williams could be huge for the Seahawks. He should step into a starting role next to Jarran Reed, giving Seattle a three-man rotation on the inside that rivals virtually any in the league. Williams can be a beast, though his recent play with the Giants has been somewhat inconsistent. Hopefully, the change of scenery will motivate Williams and lead to the kind of production he's had in recent years. Williams was 29-27-11 in 2020 and 34-48-6 in 2021.
San Francisco 49ers
Nick Bosa turned in another stinker against the Bengals, going 1-1-.5. His production has been terrible for a guy who totaled 18 sacks a year ago. On the upside, Bosa led the league in quarterback hits going into week eight so he has been very close often. Part of the problem has been the lack of a bookend to keep offenses honest and take some pressure off Bosa. No one on the roster was stepping up so San Francisco made the trade to bring Chase Young to the mix. Unlike his former teammate, who was stuck with the Bears, Young joins a trio of starters that was just one man short and has a strong supporting cast. Young was playing and producing well for the Commanders. It might take a week or two for him to get acclimated, but this could be a great move for everyone with a dog in the race.
Dre Greenlaw seems to move from one injury to another, always showing up on the injury report with some ailment. The latest is a sore shoulder. With a week off to heal, he should be fine in time for the plus matchup with Jacksonville in week ten, but once again, we will need to monitor his status.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
I recently had someone ask what I think is wrong with Devin White, who is currently LB 43. It's hard to put a finger on it, but I think the scheme is a factor. His most productive years came when he was in the middle of a 4-3. Now he's in a 3-4 where he might not be such a good fit. The other part is that he simply doesn't seem as hungry to me. White requested a trade in the offseason. Maybe his play/production is a reflection of his being unhappy. The edge just doesn't seem to be there. Unfortunately, with the trade deadline past, I see no reason to think anything will change in the coming weeks.
Going into last week's game, we wondered what the Titans would look like at safety with Kevin Byard gone. Amani Hooker stayed put at strong safety, putting up another solid game at 7-0 with a pass breakup. Terrell Edmunds saw a little action as a third safety in some nickel looks, but it was Elijah Molden getting the start at free safety. Molden is a converted corner and could be the answer for the remainder of the season. He played every snap against Atlanta, finishing a modest 2-5 on the day.
Harold Landry is starting to put it together. With a mark of 5-0-2 versus the Falcons, he now has five tackles and at least one sack in consecutive games. This is likely not a fluke but rather a return to form for Landry, who missed all of last season with an injury. Between 2019 and 2021, Landry averaged 46-24-9. If you can get him on your roster, he could be a difference-maker.
Jamin Davis had a great matchup with the Eagles in week eight but was not able to capitalize, totaling a weak 3-1. The silver lining for those of us rostering him is that he played all but one snap in the game. With the every-down role, the numbers will come.
David Mayo fared better statistically, going 6-3 on 87% of the action. If he continues to see that workload, Mayo can be a decent third starter for us on most weeks. My fear with Mayo is that his playing time will vary with the matchup from opponent to opponent.
No one in Washington can be happy about the trade of the team's starting defensive ends, and there is no way to spin the moves as a positive for anyone on the roster outside of James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill, who will likely become the starters for the remainder of the season. The organization has sent a clear message that they are giving up on 2023 with an eye on the future. Can the coaching staff keep the players from doing the same?
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