With the onset of week 9, fantasy teams need to deal with the second of three weeks where 6 NFL teams have the week off. Those teams are Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay and Tennessee. As we get deeper into the year, pickings get slimmer and games get more important as wins and losses start to mean the difference in playoff spots. As an aside before I get into the meat of the article, can I mention how ridiculous it is that two IDPs have Gramatica’d themselves out of the season with sack dances? Lamarr Houston of Chicago will join Stephen Tulloch of Detroit on the sidelines; both suffering post-sack celebration knee injuries. How long before the No Fun League starts flagging for sack celebrations or owners demand no dancing? Enough soapboxing for now. Let’s get to it.
Week 8 was a pretty good week for the Free Agent report. Malcolm Smith piled up 8 total tackles and a forced fumble in a solid effort against the Panthers. Dont’a Hightower remains the Patriots LB to start with a 10 tackle, half sack effort in a beatdown on the Bears. Chad Greenway continued his return to form with 9 total tackles against the Buccaneers. Joplo Bartu only scored 5 solo tackles in London against the Lions. While his 5 solos means he scored double digits in most leagues, his tackle output had more to do with tackle scoring than anything else. No tackle assists were awarded in London. Will Compton’s usefulness evaporated when Perry Riley’s return to the lineup from a knee injury.
Mike Mohamed/Brian Cushing HOU LB – ILB 3-4
With regular starter Brian Cushing out with a knee injury, Mike Mohamed was the primary beneficiary in terms of tackles. He scored 8 total tackles (6 solo) against the Titans. The matchup is prime with the Texans hosting the Eagles in week 9. Watch the injury report and if Cushing is out again, get Mohamed in your lineup. On the flip side, if short benches saw Cushing get let loose, snap him up if he gets back to practice.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Mychal Kendricks PHI LB – ILB 3-4
Same game, different team. Mychal Kendricks returned to action last week after practicing late in the week. He ended up not playing as many snaps as fantasy owners would have liked and in general, no linebacker was very impactful in that game either. 3 solo tackles was the best game posted by a linebacker as the bulk of the tackles went to the defensive backs. With a visit to Houston up next, expect the snap count and tackle totals to rise for the former Cal Bear given the rushing and short pass game of their opponent.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to High-end LB3
James (JT) Thomas JAC LB – MLB 4-3
When Paul Posluszny was lost for the season with a torn pectoral, James Thomas was pegged to fill in. That said, there was significant doubt as to whether Thomas or veteran Geno Hayes be the one to benefit from the absence. Against Miami in week 8, Thomas filled in admirably with 6 total tackles and an interception. He has potential to score well down the stretch but he is a young player with little starting experience, the leash may be short and the usage may vary. He’s a stash player for me unless you are desperate or in the deepest of leagues.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Low-end LB3
Avery Williamson TEN LB – ILB 3-4
Avery Williamson has appeared in the Free Agent Report before but in the last few weeks, he has cemented himself as the player that Tennessee wants manning the middle of their defense. With rumors rampant that Wesley Woodyard is available for trade, you have to wonder if the little stats that Woodyard manages to scavenge from Williamson will be up for grabs as well soon enough. Since getting starter snaps, Williamson averages 6 total tackles. Don’t bank on him this week as the Titans are on bye but I doubt that you will be able to wait a week on him if there is room on benches in your league. Williamson logged 10 total tackles, 1 PD and a sack last week against the Texans.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to High-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Trent Murphy/Ryan Kerrigan WAS LB – This one is a bit of a reach but I’d take a shot at one of the OLBs for the Redskins against the Vikings. Teddy Bridgewater is nimble but not immune to mistakes. Trent Murphy, Brian Orakpo’s replacement after being lost to injury, ascended to full-time starter in week 8. The 2014 2nd round pick out of Stanford is the deep league option. Kerrigan is the shallow league option and the better bet to produce.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Those looking for monster numbers that we saw in week 7 were very disappointed. The sacks totals and impact performance numbers were not only down from last week, they were below yearly averages. That said, Robert Quinn made a case to be removed from the milk carton list with 2 sacks and a forced fumble against the Chiefs.
The free agent report did alright in week 7. Jeremiah Ratliff had a decent game but not for the reason I expected. He logged 7 assisted tackles against the Patriots. Chris Clemons scored 3 solo tackles and a PD. Ndamukong Suh got 3 solos against the Falcons and Ezekial Ansah put up a strip sack in that same game.
Cliff Avril/Michael Bennett SEA DE – DE 4-3
I think this is the game where Seattle shakes off all the things that have been plaguing them over the last few weeks. Oakland is not going to be able to compete with Seattle in week 9 and rookie QB Derek Carr will be under siege for the entire game. Start your Seattle pass rush. There isn’t much else to say.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to High-end DL3
Allen Bailey KCC DE – DE 3-4
Allen Bailey has 3 sacks in as many games for the Chiefs. All three sacks have been against mobile quarterbacks ; Colin Kaepernick and Austin Davis. The Chiefs get the Mike Vick-led New York Jets at home in week 9. I think this game is going to be ugly. Mike Vick can’t hold onto the football in good environments much less hostile ones so splash play potential is high. Bailey is under the radar is almost all leagues and should be available.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL1 to Low-end DL2
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Damon Harrison NYJ DT – I don’t think that Damon Harrison is a threat for a sack or splash play. I do think that Kansas Chief will both attempt to and have plenty of opportunity to run the ball on the Jets. Damon Harrison can stuff the run well and will put up tackles when given the opportunity.
Defensive Back Plays
Like week 7, week 8 defensive back production was largely tackle dominated but unlike week 7, there were three house calls by defensive backs on interceptions. Out of the top 19 DBs in week 8, only 5 were cornerbacks. Interestingly enough, the top 2 DBs are both safeties from Arizona and on top of that, Antonio Cromartie was also a top 10 play.
Week 8 was solid but unspectacular for the Free Agent Report. Everyone recommended did produce but few were DB1. The best play of the week was LaMarcus Joyner who appears to be the go-forward free safety for the Rams. He scored 10 total tackles against the Chiefs. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix logged 8 total tackles in a loss to the Saints on Sunday night football. Charles Woodson was solid as well with 6 total tackles and a PD against the Browns. Patrick Chung also posted 6 total tackles in a blowout win against the Bears. Bradley Roby only scored 4 solo tackles on the Thursday nighter against the Chargers but that is far from a complete disappointment.
Leon Hall CIN CB – CB 4-3
The Cincinnati Bengals host the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 9. Blake Bortles is shaping up to be an IDP matchup for owners looking to cash in on splash plays. Bortles has thrown 12 INTs so far this year (2 INT/game avg) and at least one of those picks has gone to a cornerback in each of his six games played including three returns of touchdown. Cincinnati shouldn’t have problems getting out in front early in this one in my estimation. Look for a decent tackle floor and the potential for a splash. Teams that needs to swing for the fence might look to Hall.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to Mid DB3
Deone Bucannon ARI FS – FS 3-4
Bucannon is a first round pick safety that I think has DB1 potential in future years. Arizona has historically been a great breeding grounds for stud IDP DBs and that is still holding true today. Bucannon has shown flashes early in his career but has lacked consistent opportunity to allow his owners to trust him enough to start. That might change in week 9 as DB1 Tony Jefferson is battling a concussion. There are no reliable reports to suggest how severe the concussion is but the matchup is great without Jefferson’s absence already. If Bucannon steps into full time snaps, he could have a DB1 kind of day. Watch the injury report here.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB1 to Mid DB3
Brandon Browner NEP CB – CB 4-3
Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady rarely fails to live up to the hype in terms of offense. In fact, the last four regular season meetings between Manning and Brady have averaged over 60 points a game including last year’s 34-31 Patriots win in overtime. Peyton Manning is still going to throw the ball as is Tom Brady. Really you could put in any defensive back that is liable to see a high snap count and it wouldn’t be a bad play. I think Browner might still be shaking off the rust a bit and perhaps Manning is able to exploit that as he attempts to stay away from Darrelle Revis a bit.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Kareem Jackson/Jonathan Joseph HOU CB – CB 3-4
One thing I am noticing about the Eagles as of late is their propensity to abandon the run much more than last year. Nick Foles is averaging 37 attempts per game this year and had a staggering 62 attempts in week 8 against the Cardinals. The Eagles have also allowed no less than 11 cornerbacks to score over double digits in their 7 games played thus far this year. When put into a situation where they are thrown at regularly, both Houston starting CBs have the ability to put up solid DB2 numbers with Joseph the more likely candidate to succeed.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Jerraud Powers ARI CB – Arizona takes on Dallas in week 9 and represents the most stout run defense that the Cowboys have faced to date. I think that Dallas struggles to run the ball as well as they have in previous games and Tony Romo is forced to throw it more to compensate. Jerraud Powers is a great corner but is arguably a better tackling corner than coverage corner.