Week 6 is upon us and by this point; we can start to draw some generalities about this year. Two or three game anomalies start to become viable trends. Players who have disappointed this far are unlikely to break out now. So far, some things I’ve noticed are as follows. Chicago LBs can’t be trusted to deliver steady performances for IDP owners. St Louis LBs are cannibalizing each other’s value. Games like week 5 against the Eagles that would otherwise yield top 3 LB performances for either Alec Ogletree or James Laurinaitis yield LB2 results. Tampa Bay strong-side LB Danny Lansanah has the same amount of touchdowns as Matt Forte and Percy Harvin put together. Too bad that tackle vacuum Lavonte David is chewing up all of the other IDP stats in Tampa. Dallas’ defense is better than advertised, much to the chagrin of Justin Durant and Barry Church owners. There aren’t many rookie corners playing enough meaningful snaps to exploit the rookie corner rule. Kyle Fuller is the highest scoring rookie corner but it hasn’t been because he has been beaten thoroughly. Dynasty owners of Kiko Alonso and Navorro Bowman must be killing themselves having to spend roster spots on players that won’t be back until the playoffs likely. And finally, how times is Percy Harvin going to score a touchdown before his fantasy owners get credit for it?
Those who stuck with some past recommendations were greatly rewarded this week. Former sneaky play Josh Mauga logged 10 tackles against the 49ers in week 5. Kansas City joins New Orleans on bye week in week 6 so Mauga owners need to ensure that they have some replacements on their bench. DeAndre Levy got 13 total tackles against the Bills. As for last week’s recommendations, things went fairly well for the report. Prince Shembo is running with the starting ILB job alongside Paul Worrilow. He piled up 14 total tackles (7 solo) is a loss to the Giants last week. Look for the rookie to continue to be a solid start down the stretch. Kavell Conner put in 4 total tackles but most San Diego tacklers had weak IDP scores given the blowout against the Jets. Justin Houston scored 4 tackles and a sack against the 49ers whereas Tamba Hali missed, only logging 2 total tackles. Avery Williamson had a solid day with 7 total tackles and 2 PDs. He is going to be at his best in pass coverage. Dane Fletcher put up 5 total tackles but it was the other two Tamp Bay LBs that were the stars of the show, each posting top 5 LB games.
DeMario Davis NYJ LB – ILB 3-4
Deep leaguers will groan at me for this one but for many major fantasy providers, DeMario Davis is owned in less than 30% of leagues. That’s crazy to me for a guy who has 39 total tackles and 2.5 sacks through 5 games. The opportunity is only going to grow for him in the near future as David Harris is slated to miss some time with a sprained AC joint. The Jets defense is getting plenty of opportunity of late as their anaemic offense to making sure that the defense sees the field quickly after three-and-outs. Davis is the best cover LB on the Jets as well and is going to be tested against Peyton Manning and the Broncos in week 6. He is in line for a monster game.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Mid LB3
Jacquian Williams NYG LB – WLB/nickel LB 4-3
Jacquian Williams has been a bit of an IDP tease over the last year or so. He posts huge games when the nickel defense is dominant but could just as easy donut your team the next week. After four games this season, Williams is logging over 98% of the team’s defensive snaps. He is also easily the best cover LB on the team. Therefore, I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised that Williams posted 14 total tackles and a PD against the Falcons in week 5. The matchup gets juicier as Philadelphia high-tempo offense comes to town. Look for Williams to add to his yearly tackle total of 39.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Mid LB3
Danny Trevathan DEN LB – WLB 4-3
My twitter followers got this one late last week. Danny Trevathan returned from injury last week with reports that he would be eased in. While that was somewhat true, Trevathan played more than his replacement over the first three weeks of the season, Brandon Marshall. Trevathan is a lower end LB1 when healthy and presents a reliable starter on most any week when healthy. Snap him up if short benches or an impatient owner cut him loose. There aren’t many LBs I’d be playing over him most weeks if he stays healthy. Just make sure to temper expectations if the Broncos-Jets game turns ugly.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB1 to Mid LB2
Gerald Hodges MIN LB – WLB 4-3
With Chad Greenway unable to play with hand and rib injuries, second year LB Gerald Hodges is thrust into every-down duty. Hodges is playing nickel along with Anthony Barr whereas MLB Jasper Brinkley is a two-down LB. The former Nittany lion has the opportunity to produce well in the upcoming weeks while Greenway recovers but the production has been average so far with 16 total tackles through 3 games. Grab Hodges and sit tight. There is potential for big things from him but you may need to wait to see it materialize.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Casey Matthews PHI LB – Brother of Packer LB Clay Matthews, Casey Matthews is splitting time with Emmanuel Acho at inside linebacker, replacing injured starter Mychal Kendricks. Matthews got the better end of the production against the Rams in week 5 with 6 total tackles, 4 against the run. Look for New York to try to control the clock with their ground game. Matthews might be the recipient of some extra tackle opportunity as a result.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Week 5 had a few monster games that dominated the DL landscape. Buffalo’s pass rush from the defensive line got off in a big way putting Matthew Stafford to the turf 6 times. Marcel Dareus got 3 of those sacks, Jerry Hughes got 2 and Mario Williams had 1. 32 defensive linemen had at least half a sack this week but median scoring was up week over week with DL1 and DL2 up a point from last week.
Week 5 was half decent as far as DL selections go. Cedric Thornton almost made me eat my words when I said that he’d be a high floor play as he only posted 2 assists in his game against the Rams but he added 2 fumble recoveries and a touchdown to be a DL1 in week 5. Interestingly enough, Fletcher Cox also had a fumble recovery but only added a lone tackle with it. Depending on your scoring, that lone fumble recovery may have still made him a decent play. Vince Wilfork had a forgettable outing against the Bengals in a rout with a lone assist. Athyba Rubin logged 3 total tackles but it was fellow DE Armonty Bryant whose performance was the comment-worthy one. He scored 6 total tackles and a sack against the Titans.
Frostee Rucker/Kareem Martin ARI DE – DT/DE 3-4
Calais Campbell is out with a knee injury on what many seem to think was a dirty play; an illegal chop-block by Broncos TE Julius Thomas. The Cardinals will lose their best player in their front seven for anywhere from 1-3 weeks according to early reports. Kareem Martin and Frostee Rucker figure to split snaps on an already injury depleted Cardinals line. I think that Kareem Martin is the better run defender and as such, is the safer play. The Redskins in week 6 are a decent matchup in terms of tackle opportunity in run defense but don’t expect much by way of sacks. If you want sacks, look to the Raiders in week 7.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Ropati Pitoitua TEN DE – DE 3-4
Pitoitua returned from a knee injury that caused him to miss time in week 3 and 4. He is a solid tackle as a five-technique lineman and has some decent pass rushing chops to boot. Blake Bortles has proven much more difficult to sack than Chad Henne but I think that the rookie has a much more difficult time on the road in Tennessee. Give Pitoitua a look for some safe tackle numbers with upside for a sack.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Damon Harrison NYJ DT – Nose tackle for the Jets, the 350 lb Harrison is a mammoth of a man. He is a block vacuum and still manages to shed at times to make tackles at the line of scrimmage. Harrison made 8 total tackles in a blowout loss to the Chargers. Harrison might be called upon to make a few more tackles if the Broncos get their week 6 out of hand early.
Defensive Back Plays
As the league year takes shape, it becomes easier and easier to pick teams that constitute good matchups throwing the ball. Indianapolis, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Detroit appear to be those teams at least on the outset with matchup potential spurring from good/bad defenses as well. Those who are streaming IDP options at defensive back can even plan their attack based on those matchups to avoid competition on the players they like is the bench size is large enough to warrant it.
Week 5 saw a few hits and a few misses as well. Tyrann Mathieu was a non-factor in the game against Denver. The blowout in Green Bay saw both Minnesota cornerbacks limited to 7 total tackles between them. Josh Norman’s 3 total tackle performance was forgettable but Antoine Cason’s 6 total tackle, 1 FF and 1 PD effort saw some solid return. Quintin Demps’ tackle total of 5 did not come close to fellow safety Antrel Rolle who had 11 but Demps’ day was salvaged with an interception of Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan. Finally, Brandon Meriweather logged an impressive 7 total tackles and a sack in a slugfest on Monday night.
TJ McDonald STL S – SS 4-3
I really like TJ McDonald as a good up-and-coming safety in the NFL. He is a solid hitter and has better than average cover skills for an in-the-box safety. The 2nd year pro out of USC isn’t going to be a great source of splash plays but he is good to tackle the ballcarrier. McDonald plays over half of his snaps near the line of scrimmage and becomes a major asset in run support. He logged 11 total tackles against the Eagles in week 5 as the Eagles attempted to salt away an early lead. I see San Francisco attempting to do something similar to the Rams in week 6 on Monday night.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Kemal Ishmael ATL FS – FS 3-4
It wasn’t clear who the benefactor would be in the wake of William Moore’s shoulder injury that landed him on the short-term injured reserve list. Many (myself included) speculated that 3rd round rookie Dezmen Southward out of Wisconsin might slide into meaningful snaps and production. However, it was 2nd year pro Kemal Ishmael who went undrafted out of San Jose State who logged 14 total tackles against the Giants in week 5. The matchup only gets better with the Bears visiting the Falcons in week 6. Ishmael is not a long-term solution for the Falcons but he is a decent plug-in for owners streaming DBs for a few weeks.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Michael Griffin/George Wilson TEN S – FS/SS 3-4
Starting strong safety Bernard Pollard was lost for the season with an Achilles injury in Tennessee’s epic week 5 collapse. That injury opens the door for former Bills safety George Wilson to take the helm at strong safety. Deep leaguers might consider Wilson on a flier but he carries risk as it isn’t for sure that Wilson will get the job over Damien Stafford. For what it’s worth, Wilson made the stat sheet on Sunday and Stafford didn’t. Shallow leaguers will consider Michael Griffin who logged 14 total tackles (9 in run support), a sack and an interception. I think that Griffin (who has strong safety experience) will be the player to benefit most from the shake-up. The Jaguars visit Tennessee at home in week 6 which isn’t an ideal matchup but you won’t get Griffin if you don’t add him this week.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to Low-end DB2 (Griffin); High-end DB3 to Low-end DB3 (Wilson)
Antonio Allen NYJ CB/S – CB/FS 3-4
Allen is listed as a cornerback for as many providers as he is for safety so if you play in a cornerback-required league and he is listed as such, enjoy the bonus! Antonio Allen has been solid in all but one game this year, logging 5 tackles in every game he has played except one. The former Gamecock had his largest IDP production during a game against the Bears where Jay Cutler picked on him mercilessly. Peyton Manning and the high powered Denver Broncos passing attack visit the Jets in week 6. With the Broncos missing starting running back Montee Ball, one might expect the Broncos to use short passes and screens to avoid both the typical stingy rush defense and feared pass rush of the Jets. All of these things add up to a potentially big game for the 3rd year pro.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to Low-end DB2
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Jonathan Joseph/Kareem Jackson HOU CB – I have some serious doubts that Indianapolis, Houston’s week 6 opponent, will be able to run the ball well enough to move the ball. Look for the NFL’s top rated passing attack to continue the aerial assault in order to make things happen. As such, both of Houston’s cornerbacks figure to be busy. Joseph is a safer bet than Jackson on tackle count but is battling a knee injury. He played with the same injury on Sunday so he should be ok.