While last week was arguably the most difficult bye week to swallow for fantasy owners from an offensive standpoint with the likes of Green Bay, Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago out, this week might be the most difficult for fantasy owners to deal with on the defensive side of the ball. With Houston, Indianapolis, Washington, Minnesota, New England and San Diego on bye, owners will need to find replacements for every week starters like JJ Watt, Chad Greenway and D’Qwell Jackson. The fantasy regular season is winding down and every game counts. Owners can’t afford to miss a beat even with stud IDPs on bye.
In week 9, there was a fair amount of success for the recommendations made. Mike Mohamed ended up starting for Brian Cushing who sat again with a knee issue. Mohamed logged 9 total tackles but only 2 solo against the Eagles. In that same game, Mychal Kendricks posted a monster game with 12 total tackles (5 solo), a sack and a forced fumble. With that performance, Kendricks was a top 3 LB play for last week. JT Thomas was solid against the Bengals with 8 total tackles, 2 PDs and an interception. Trent Murphy paid off for deep leaguers with 4 total tackles and a sack against the Vikings whereas Ryan Kerrigan was disappointing with 3 solo tackles.
Avery Williamson TEN LB – ILB 3-4
A repeat recommendation from last week but the play is still strong. Williamson has become the leader of this Titan defense at LB and remains the only startable LB from Tennessee. With the Titans coming back from the bye in week 10, leagues with shallow benches might see Williamson still a free agent. Wesley Woodyard’s snaps have regularly been in the 55-75% range whereas the former Wildcat’s snaps are in the 85-95% range. The Titans get the Ravens in week 10 in Baltimore coming off of their bye. Give the rookie a look for decent LB2-LB3 production with upside for keeper/dynasty leagues.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to High-end LB3
Patrick Willis/Chris Borland SFO LB – ILB 3-4
Shallow leaguers need only apply here as no keeper/dynasty league should see Patrick Willis as a free agent. Willis left the 49ers week 6 game against the Rams with a toe injury and has missed every snap since. Borland has been remarkable since replacing Willis as he has logged 26 tackles and a sack over 2 games. Willis was questionable in week 9 and narrowly missed the 49ers’ second game against the Rams. With San Francisco taking on New Orleans in week 10, the matchup is good for whichever linebacker gets the start. I expect that Willis is the play after being close this week to playing, however with toe injuries, you need to watch the injury report.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB1 to High-end LB2
Telvin Smith JAC LB – MLB 4-3
One of two new starting LBs for the Jaguars, Telvin Smith is another 5th round pick rookie getting meaningful snaps inside on a defense for a bad team. The redraft as well as the dynasty league potential is huge. Smith is averaging over 13 fantasy points a game over the last three weeks. He has shown he can tackle and he has shown that he can make the odd splash play with some pass rush ability and a nose for the ball. Smith isn’t the number one MLB on the team if Paul Posluszny is healthy but that has rarely been the sight over the former Nittany Lion’s career. Pair in the fact that Posluszny’s hefty 2015 salary ($7.45M) might see him get cut and you have potential for a keeper in Smith.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Low-end LB3
Casey Matthews PHI LB – ILB 3-4
Veteran starting linebacker DeMeco Ryans was just lost to the Eagles for the season with an Achilles injury late in their week 9 game against the Texans. Casey Matthews seems to be the next man up for the Eagles at middle linebacker as the former Duck took over for the recently returned Mychal Kendricks in previous weeks. The Eagles get the Panthers in week 10 and the Packers in week 11. Both are decent matchups and the Eagles typically provide solid opportunity for their own LBs to score.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Anthony Hitchens DAL LB – Dallas is not just struggling with injuries at QB; they also are struggling with injuries at LB. Starting weakside LB Justin Durant was lost for the season with a biceps injury and starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain is now nursing a knee injury. If rookie Anthony Hitchens get meaningful snaps, he could make some hay in London against the Jaguars.
Defensive Linemen Plays
It was an uneventful week overall for defensive linemen in general. There were no breakout performances and the players populating the top of the leaderboard were the usual suspects. Robert Quinn, JJ Watt, Everson Griffen and Cam Jordan were the players you expect to score well and they did.
The free agent report was ok in week 9. Cliff Avril produced for his owners with 3 solo tackles, a sack and a forced fumble against the Raiders. Michael Bennett disappointed in that same game with only 3 total tackles. Allen Bailey was unremarkable with 4 total tackles as was Damon Harrison with the same stat line in the same game.
Haloti Ngata BAL DT – DT 3-4
I think that the Ravens try to shake off the big loss to the Steelers by putting the boots to a rookie-led Tennessee Titan squad in Baltimore. I think that the Ravens are able to confuse rookie Zach Mettenberger with multiple looks and at least a couple Ravens are able to get to him. Ngata has had a handful of quality games this year but has been far from his DL1 days. Give the veteran a shot in week 10.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to High-end DL3
Sen’Derrick Marks JAC DT – DT 4-3
The Jaguars are quietly putting together a quality defensive line under head coach Gus Bradley. Marks has been one of the best for the young team with 4.5 sacks from the three technique. The Jaguars play the reeling Cowboys in week 10. While a fully expect the Cowboys to figure things out enough to beat the Jaguars, I expect one of two things to happen. One, Romo plays but he’s not as mobile and eats a few more sacks than necessary. Two, Weeden starts but the offense isn’t as effective and the Jaguars are able to get one or two hits on Weeden that a healthy Romo would normally avoid.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Cam Jordan/Akiem Hicks NOS DE – The San Francisco 49ers has sustained 14 sacks over the past 2 games and appear to be having major issues on the offensive line and protection schemes. Cam Jordan is easily the better play here but is also more likely to be owned. Akiem Hicks is the sneaky option for deeper leagues. Bank on New Orleans continuing to success at home and bank on San Francisco’s protection schemes continuing to struggle.
Defensive Back Plays
Similar to defensive line in week 9, defensive backs didn’t produce the big numbers that we saw last week. Only three DBs were 20 point DBs compared to nine DBs the week before. Look for the Saints-49ers game, the Bears-Packers game and maybe the Bucs-Falcons game for streaming defensive backs as I expect plenty of throwing in those games.
It wasn’t a great week in week 9 for the Free Agent Report. Leon Hall underwhelmed on his way to a 5 total tackle effort before leaving the game with a concussion. Deone Bucannon logged 4 solos and a PD. Both Kareem Jackson and Jonathan Joseph left the Texans-Eagles game early with injuries and watched their backups combine for 15 tackles and 3 INTs. Jerraud Powers was underwhelming with 4 solo tackles. Brandon Browner scored an interception but only managed 2 tackles as the majority of the tackles made in the secondaries went to the safeties.
Major Wright TBB S – SS 4-3
The big winner of the Mark Barron trade in terms of IDP production appears to be Major Wright. A favorite of head coach Lovie Smith going back to his Chicago days, Wright slid into the starting safety job after Mark Barron was traded to St Louis. All he did for the Buccaneers was put up 13 total tackles for them in his first start as the unquestioned starter. The matchup is good with the Atlanta Falcons in town in week 10 as well. Wright has potential to be a top 10 safety down the stretch with sheer tackle opportunity.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to High-end DB3
Rafael Bush NOS FS – FS 3-4
Rafael Bush is averaging 8 total tackles (6 solo) per game over the last two games for the New Orleans Saints. He gets a lot of his production in run support, the short passing game to the backs and shallow crossing routes. I see San Francisco attempting to do similar things to New Orleans as Carolina tried (and failed) to do in terms of stretch runs, screens and crosses. Look for Bush to have a big game again if that’s the case.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
DJ Hayden OAK CB – CB 4-3
After returning very recently from injury, former first round pick DJ Hayden is seeing a heavy snap count due to injury to Carlos Rogers. Hayden has picked on by Seattle a bit in week 9 and his tackle numbers are reflective of that with 7 total tackles and 2 PDs. With Peyton Manning in town in week 10, it won’t get any easier for the former 12th overall pick out of Missouri. I expect that Hayden should see the ball more than his fair share. Just hope that the Raiders can keep it somewhat close and stop the run when needed to keep Manning throwing the ball.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
EJ Gaines STL CB – CB 4-3
The Rams, fresh off of a huge win against the 49ers, get the Arizona Cardinals in week 10. I think that like the 49ers game, this game will be won on defense with the victorious team being able to throw the ball to move down the field. I think the Carson Palmer and the Cardinals find a way to do that against the Rams if they can hold off the pass rush. The rookie EJ Gaines was picked on a bit by the 49ers in week 9 which allowed him to score 6 solo tackles. In fact, Gaines has logged 20 tackles over his last 3 games. Watch the injury report to see how Janoris Jenkins is progressing. I don’t think that Gaines starts if both Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson are healthy.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Sam Shields/Davon House GBP CB – Chicago wins when they can get their big wideouts involved in the game. Most corners, not just Green Bay’s, will have difficulty dealing with Alshon Jeffrey and Brandon Marshall due to their sheer size. Shields did an admirable job in week 4 when the Packers and Bears met for the first time in the season, posting 3 tackles, 3 PDs and an interception. Watch the injury report to see if Shields returns from his nagging knee injury. If he can’t suit up, Davon House makes a great play in his place.