With four games to go in the fantasy regular season, it’s becoming crunch time. Take a second to evaluate where you are and what you need to do in order to progress towards your goal of winning the championship. Depending on how many teams make the playoffs in your league, you’re going to need between seven and nine to make it. So if you are sitting at 3-6 or 4-5 right now, your playoffs begin now. Every game becomes a must-win. Understanding that, you need to be ruthless in your roster management. You need to make cuts of guys that you wouldn’t dream of cutting in week 1 because every point matters now. A loss likely means the end of your season so pull out all the stops. Conversely, if you are 8-1 or 9-0, you can scour the waiver wire for players currently on bye or are injured in hopes that a soft playoff schedule can be exploited to send you off to victory.
This is the most likely week to exploit a desperate owner who needs to drop someone of actual value as week 10 has the distinction of being the only week in this year’s schedule that has six teams on bye week. Denver, Houston, Jacksonville, New England, Philadelphia and Washington all have the week off. Make adjustments accordingly.
Outside of Austin Calitro, who yielded the starting Jaguars WLB role back to a returning Najee Goode, it was a good week for recommendations. Patrick Onwuasor scored very well on the Sunday nighter against the Patriots with 8 total tackles, a sack and a forced fumble on 42% usage. The contest was Onwuasor’s first game action since week 5 as the fourth-year pro has missed time with an ankle injury. Hopefully, the lower usage was the Ravens easing their linebacker back into the lineup. Matt Milano was also solid in week 9 against Washington with 7 total tackles in full-time duty.
Brandon Copeland / James Burgess NYJ LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB1 – LB3
Hoo boy. Things are coming apart at the seams for the Jets. They sport a 1-7 record and are coming off of a loss to a Miami Dolphins team that many thought was the worst in football by far. Projected starting ILB Avery Williamson tore his ACL in the offseason. High-priced free agent signing ILB CJ Mosley might be out until December after re-aggravating his groin injury in week 7. Replacement ILB Blake Cashman is out for the year with a torn labrum. Replacement ILB Neville Hewitt has missed the last three contests with a neck as well as a knee issue. All of that leaves converted OLB Brandon Copeland and street free agent James Burgess as the last men standing at ILB for the Jets. Both men were pressed into action against the Dolphins and both scored well while playing every snap. Copeland finished with 9 total tackles and a sack whereas Burgess scored 6 total tackles and a rare safety. If both players are getting 100% of the snaps going forward on a bad team, then both need to be priority adds for almost any IDP squad. The Jets face the Giants in week 10.
Joe Walker ARI LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB3
Joe Walker has taken over starting duties at inside linebacker over Haason Reddick for the Cardinals. While the former Eagle only logged 57% of the snaps versus Reddick’s 45%, Walker scored 11 total tackles to lead all linebackers in the game. He’s worth a speculative add, especially if you were counting on Reddick to be an LB2/LB3 play for your squad. Arizona faces Tampa Bay in week 10 which has been a great matchup lately for opposing off-ball LBs. Over the past three weeks, the top two off-ball LBs in snap count have split an average of over 32 fantasy points per game against the Buccaneers.
Fred Warner / Dre Greenlaw SFO LB – 4-3 MLB/WLB Value: LB1 – LB3
Desperate times call for desperate measures. For the second year in a row, Kwon Alexander’s season ends with major injury as the free-agent acquisition will land on injured reserve with a torn pectoral. Fred Warner figures to get a slight bump in tackle opportunity but he’s likely to be heavily owned already. 2019 fifth-round rookie Dre Greenlaw figures to be first in line to take on a significant role of defense in Alexander’s absence. Greenlaw is coming off of the best game of his young career with 4 solo tackles and a sack on 47% usage. Greenlaw saw the most snaps in week one when Alexander was ejected early in the game and is my bet to elevate in snap count again. The Seahawks are a pretty good matchup in week 10 as well.
Defensive Lineman Plays
Jason Pierre-Paul proved to be at least somewhat recovered from his injuries as the former Giant scored 3 total tackles, a PD and a half sack on a whopping 96% usage. Bruce Irvin disappointed with only a lone assist despite 67% usage and an above-average matchup. Defensive Linemen options continue to be a struggle at this point in the year.
Justin Houston / Jabaal Sheard IND DE – 4-3 DE Value: DL1 – DL2
This one is a simple play of the percentages. Indianapolis host the Dolphins in week 10. Miami is 3rd worst in the NFL in pass protection at an average of four sacks allowed per week and they are losing their top RB to a suspension. Houston and Sheard are the Colts’ top two options at defensive end in terms of both production and usage. Depending on the degree of ownership of defensive linemen in your league, one or both might be available. Houston has a larger chance of a splash play and as such would be my preferential pickup.
Quinnen Williams NYJ DE – 3-4 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
For those trying to look for some kind of bright side to the Jets season, third overall pick Quinnen Williams has been coming along nicely. The former Crimson Tide has logged 1.5 sacks over his last two games on an average usage of 65%. With Leonard Williams out of the picture after his trade to the Giants, Quinnen Williams should become the focal point of a Jets defense that might be on the field more than they’d like. The Jets face the Giants in week 10. Hopefully, Williams can get a few stops against the run as well as get in Daniel Jones’ face.
Defensive Back Plays
For last week’s recommendations, Morgan Burnett wasn’t as strong as I’d have liked at 4 total tackles on 100% usage. Burnett’s usage is likely to be strong going forward as long as he remains healthy as running mate Jermaine Whitehead not only had a rough game, he managed to social media himself out of a job afterward. Tavon Wilson had a strong game with 8 total tackles on 94% usage against the Raiders to lead all Lions’ defensive backs. He remains a solid option going forward. Andrew Adams and Jordan Whitehead both had strong games benefiting from overtime with 5 solo tackles on 75% usage and 7 solo tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 PD on 89% usage respectively. It’s worth noting that Mike Edwards got the other 25% that Adams wasn’t in on. I don’t have any information about whether that was injury-related on a split of playing time. Downgrade Adams accordingly.
Erik Harris OAK SS – 4-3 SS Value: DB1 – DB2
Erik Harris has been mentioned before in this column but his ownership percentage across many platforms is still chronically low given that he has only missed two snaps over the last five Raider games. Over those five games Harris has logged 33 total tackles, 4 PDs and a pick-six. Those numbers include a season-high 11 total tackles against the Lions, a mark that paced the team in that category. Harris was struggling with an illness but never missed a snap. That illness seems to be still dogging him as he was limited in practice on Monday. I would be surprised if he doesn’t suit up versus the Chargers on Thursday which should be a plus matchup for him.
Taylor Rapp / Marqui Christian LAR S – 3-4 S Value: DB1 – DB3
Taylor Rapp has been mentioned before but he has avoided ownership inexplicably in many leagues. Rapp would get my vote as DB1 from here on out based on a number of factors. If he’s available, get him regardless of your roster. Third safety Marqui Christian has gotten between 75-81% usage in two weeks since Rapp’s promotion to full-time work. He’s a good deeper league add for those in need. The Rams visit Pittsburgh in week 10. While the Steelers are an average matchup at best for opposing safeties, Los Angeles’ schedule down the stretch of Bears, Ravens, Cardinals, Seahawks, Cowboys and 49ers represents pretty good matchup plays into fantasy playoffs. Rapp is probably matchup-proof, Christian would be more of a flex play with a good matchup.
Jaylen Watkins LAC SS – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
Former recommendation Roderic Teamer missed week 9 with a groin injury. Given that he entered the game against Green Bay with a doubtful tag and no practice time, I’d be surprised if he’s back for week 10. Jaylen Watkins suited up in Teamer’s stead. Watkins played every snap but one and logged 4 solo tackles. While that tackle number isn’t very inspiring on its own, Green Bay hasn’t exactly been a boon to opposing safeties. Oakland, the Chargers week 10 opponent, has been, however. Top scoring safeties have logged an average of 14 points per game against the Raiders this year, including week 9 recommendation Tavon Wilson. Watkins is virtually unowned and should be a cheap add.