Eyes of the Guru - Week 6
Updated 10/15 by John Norton, Exclusive for Footballguys.com
Week five was one of injury and change on the defensive side of the ball. As such there are decisions to be made and a lot of opportunity for us to make moves.
Mike Peterson had a down week in the blowout win over San Francisco but don't let that scare you out of starting him this week versus a Bears team that has one of the leagues premier backs. The Bears got their running game back on track right before the bye and should continue to feed opponents a heavy dose of Matt Forte. In fact, even though the Bears running game was off to a slow start, every team that have faced has had at least one LB post 7 or more solo stops. You might remember Mike Hawthorne's 15-1 in week three.
New Orleans Saints
With the new look of the Saints defense under DC Gregg Williams, Charles Grant and Will Smith seem to have been reborn. As you know I am high on the prospect of these guys for the remainder of the season. That said however, it might be a good idea to think about sitting them this week against a Giants squad that has given up an average of just .6 sacks per game. In this match up I like Grant a little more than Smith simply because Grant is more productive in the tackle columns.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After being called out by his coach, Gaines Adams stepped up for one game but faded back to normal in week five. In his defense Adams is banged up a bit but with Jimmy Wilkerson's breakout game at 6-0-3 with a forced fumble, it may not matter. Especially when you consider that Wilkerson has posted 15 tackles and 5 sacks over the past four games. He has probably entrenched himself in the starting lineup ahead of Adams at this point and should be at the top of the list for anyone in need of DL help... We have seen the production of Sabby Piscitelli slowly decline over the last three games but don't panic just yet. Over the past two weeks the Bucs have faced Washington and Philly. Neither of those teams represent a very good match up, but if you look down the schedule there is a lot of reason for optimism. Tampa gets Carolina this week followed by the Patriots, Packers, Saints, Falcons, Panthers again and then the Jets and a week 16 meeting with the Saints again. I have a feeling Piscitelli is going to have a very busy season the rest of the way.
Chris Harris had a very solid seven solo stops in his first action of the season. With Tampa Bay, Buffalo and Arizona on the schedule for the next three games, he could be a hit or miss start. However, once you get past those three games the schedule is very favorable and includes New England, Minnesota and the Giants in weeks 14-16. He's on the waiver wire in a lot of leagues but don't wait too long to grab him. You don't want to be playing against him in week 16 with that match up.
It's still unclear what the Colts coaching staff was doing with their linebackers in weeks three and four when Clint Session was used sparingly. What matters at this point is that Jordan Senn was waived and Session returned to his every down role at WLB in week five. The result was a strong 6-3 with a PD for Session. This is the kind of production we had expected from him and barring some strange turn of events, is what we can expect the rest of the way.
When the Titans were playing well and winning last season, the snaps lost by Stephen Tulloch not playing in the nickel packages were enough to make him a mediocre at best fantasy option. With the team struggling so badly this season, opponents have been playing with a lead and it hasn't been an issue. I didn't catch if Tulloch was working in the nickel packages against Indy but it's obvious that until/unless the Titans can somehow turn their season around, Tulloch is going to be very good to us on most weeks. Along that same line of thinking; you may remember a few years back when Keith Bulluck was a perennial top 5 stud. We all wondered where his production went. Way back then I pointed out that as a team the much improved Titans were credited with over 100 fewer tackles in 2007 than in 2006. Now that they are struggling Bulluck is once again on pace for 90+ solo stops.
Last week there were concerns that Kirk Morrison was loosing snaps in the nickel package. It was something I had planned to take a hard look at. The situation however, resolved itself early in the game when Ricky Brown was carried off the field with a nasty looking ankle injury. It will be at least a month before he plays and the way it looked, may be much longer than that. The new concern for Morrison owners is the beating he took from tackling Brandon Jacobs so many times. His status for week 6 is in question due to a sore knee. No more news is available as of Wednesday afternoon so keep an eye on this one. Jon Alston replaced Brown at SLB and will likely get the call until Brown returns... One last Raiders note, those of you starting Tommy Kelly in your tackle required leagues may want to look for another option this week. Only one interior lineman has put up more than 2 solo tackles versus the Eagles.
Kansas City Chiefs
Derrick Johnson was once again a healthy scratch in week five. He was active for the game but Corey Mays and Demorrio Williams were the starters while Johnson failed to show up in the box scores if he played at all. With the NFL trade deadline quickly approaching there are rumblings that the Chiefs may be trying to move him. I wonder if they have the Bills on speed dial?
San Francisco 49ers
Michael Lewis has been pretty productive for us since going to San Francisco but anyone with him on their roster needs to start looking for an alternative option. Lewis left Sunday's game with another concussion (his third since training camp) when he took a hard shot from a teammate while making a tackle. The Niners are strongly considering shutting him down for the season. Mark Roman would be the replacement. Roman is a veteran with starting experience but is nothing special and unlikely to make a fantasy impact. You might want to look at Dashon Goldson though. He's reached at least 5 solo stops in each of the past three games including a 7-0-1 versus the Rams in week four.
St. Louis Rams
Craig Dahl replaced an injured James Butler in week three and has put up quality numbers in two of the past three games. With the Rams struggling as they are, the safeties are going to have a great deal of opportunity. Butler may try to return from the sprained knee in week six so keep an eye on this situation. Butler will very likely have some value when he's healthy.
Seattle expects to get Leroy Hill back in the next week or two. The question now becomes, does he regain his every down role or does Aaron Curry continue to work in the nickel? Hill may not be 100% right away so chances are Curry will keep the every down job for at least a while. This is of particular interest when you consider that Curry was a solid 6-1 in weeks three and four then had a huge breakout game in week five with a 9-1-1, forced fumble and a pass defended. It will be hard for the Seahawks coaching staff to justify taking him off the field for anyone at this point.
New York Giants
Most of us can't really afford to sit Justin Tuck or Osi Umenyiora, but don't look for big games from them this week. The Saints have given up just four sacks in four games on the season and Brees is a master of unloading the ball when pressure gets close.
The Skins threw us another curve on Sunday when Reed Doughty started at SS and ended up splitting the box score production dead even with Chris Horton. This on the heels of Doughty's 10 solo tackle effort the week before. Both of these guys have put up big numbers when given a full time role but we have no way of knowing from one week to the next if they are going to share time. There is a ton of potential at the Redskins SS position but until they settle on either Chris Horton or Reed Doughty as their guy, it's best that we avoid the situation all together. Maybe that will finally happen when Jim Zorn is canned after Washington looses to the chiefs this week.
It looks as if the Eagles plan to throw Jeremiah Trotter out there as the starting MLB once he's played his way into condition. He saw a few plays in week 5 and looked like the same old physical run stuffing beast we all remember. That said, there is no way he will be more than a two down player so his value/potential will be limited. Trotter has posted decent numbers in this role in the past but I still have to believe there was a good reason he was unemployed when the Eagles called. Unless you are in a very deep league, don't get too excited about him... With the exception of the pass rushers, we should look to avoid all Eagles defenders this week against Oakland. The Raiders have given up an average of 2.6 sacks per game but have averaged just 38 offensive plays ending in a tackle being recorded. They can't run and they can't pass so opponents are getting very little opportunity.
I didn't get to watch a lot of the Dallas/Kansas City game (couldn't pull myself away from my Bengals) but I did get a look at the Cowboys nickel package. After the nine solo performance in week four I wasn't at all surprised to see Keith Brooking working with Bobby Carpenter in the nickel. That makes Brooking 17-3-1 with a PD over the last two games and it's not a fluke. He was an IDP stud in this same situation earlier in his career. Don't hesitate to grab him if you can. The flip side of this is that it will take a toll on Bradie James production. Trade him if you can before everyone else catches on.
The Bills are running out of players. We can add Kawika Mitchell and Marcus Buggs to the ever lengthening list of guys assigned to the teams mash unit. Both were placed on IR Tuesday with knee injuries. Keith Ellison moved to MLB during the game on Sunday and could remain there but the more likely scenario is that newly signed Chris Draft will get the call. Draft was with St. Louis until a couple of weeks ago so he's in playing condition and ready to go. He's a solid player who has been very productive for us anytime he's landed in a good situation. He posted 103-20-3 with the Falcons back in 2003 and 83-28-6.5 with the Panthers in 2006. He's versatile enough to play on the outside and could end up at WLB when Paul Posluszny returns, but is best suited for the middle. If you have a need at LB I suggest that you not wait to see how he produced before picking him up. It was reported that Posluszny participated in practice on a limited basis Wednesday but that doesn't necessarily mean he's ready to play in game conditions. In fact history tells us that rarely does a player suffer a broken forearm and come back successfully in the same season. What usually happens is that they suit up for a game or two then re-break the arm and go on IR. On a lesser note, the Bills also added veteran safety Todd Johnson. He will most likely provide depth at the positions until Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott come back in a couple of weeks.
For the first time in his career Rey Maualuga led the Bengals in tackles on Sunday with a 6-2. The fantasy owner in me is still clamoring for him to move inside but the Bengal fan in me says that they have a good thing going so don't mess with it. Barring an injury or a collapse, it looks like Maualuga will stay at SLB for this season. Even so he is roster worthy for those owners in 14 team leagues and a likely #3 starter for owners in 16 team leagues. The future is bright... Chinedum Ndukwe has another solid game against Baltimore. This guy is simply a playmaker. That said, be careful, he's still not playing on every down yet.
Ed Reed is one of the most dynamic big play safeties who ever played the game. The problem for fantasy owners over the years has been a lack of tackle production and consistency. Much of that comes from playing behind a perennially strong front seven. The Ravens have dropped two straight and in those games Reed was 4-1 and 6-0 with a FF, a PD and a pick. I'm seeing owners in several leagues making moves to pick him up. While I can't argue with this from a potential standpoint, I'll use the words of Bill Parcells and Sterling Sharp; when a players shows you who they are, believe them. The Ravens have lost a couple of games but they aren't about to fall apart. Reed may look like a chariot right now but he'll soon turn back into the same pumpkin who went 1-0 against the Chargers in week one and 2-0 with a pick in week two versus the Browns.
Cleveland entered week 5 with D'Qwell Jackson listed as doubtful. Not only did Jackson play but he went off with a 9-4. I wonder how many owners out there sat Jackson who was doubtful and started Justin Durant who was probable but didn't play? Jackson came through the game with flying colors, Eric Barton however, did not. We are still awaiting word on what ails him but Barton was unable to finish the game. David Bowens finished at ILB with Jason Trusnik moving into the OLB spot. I bring this up because I'm wondering, has anyone seen David Veikune or is his picture on a milk carton somewhere?
Ryan Clark has been posting solid tackle numbers over the past couple of games but that could come to a halt with the return of Troy Polamalu who is expected to play this week. While anyone who has been sitting on Polamalu for the last month is anxious to get him in your lineup, I strongly suggest that we let him play a game and see if he's healthy enough to play his style of game before making that move. Knee sprains tend to linger and slow players for a while after they return to the field. So much of Polamalu's game is speed and great agility. Both could be affected if he's not 100%... Speaking of 100%, Lawrence Timmons went 5-1-1 in week five and looked much more comfortable. He may finally be past the ankle injury and we should see his production spike over the next few weeks.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers expect to get Atari Bigby back in week six. He was having a pretty strong game before being injured in week one and Aaron Rouse posted a 7-2 from the SS position in week two before the team decided to start playing some weird single safety package in week three. The bottom line here being that with their starter back the Packers will likely go back to a more traditional 4 DB base defense. We know that historically the SS in 3-4 schemes can be pretty productive. If you are in a highly competitive league and need to grab players before they produce to beat the competition, Bigby would be a good target this week.
The Bears were hoping to get both Hunter Hillenmeyer and Pisa Tinoisamoa back this week. It looks like Tinoisamoa will make it but Hillenmeyer is still not practicing. That means Nick Roach could get another start in the middle.
Injuries have forced the Lions into using Cliff Avril as an every down end. He's looked pretty good in his two starts and is making a case for retaining the role once everyone is healthy. He'll have more time to show his wares with the injury to Jason Hunter who has not practiced this week with an ankle injury. Dewayne White returned to practice Wednesday and may be able to go this week. If he doesn't it will likely be Bryan Copeland as the starter with Turk McBride seeing some action... DeAndre Levy has played well in relief of Ernie Sims and has impressed the coaching staff. Last week there were reports and speculation that Sims could permanently be the odd man out. In an article in the Detroit News this week coach Schwartz is quoted as saying that when healthy Sims would return to his starting role. We've heard that kind of banter before and it's meant nothing when the replacement player out plays the supposed starter. It's hard to say how this one will end up but one thing is certain, the Lions aren't going to rush Sims back into action until he's healthy.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers announced on Wednesday that they have released starting safety Clinton Hart. Hart had been sharing time with Steve Gregory who will now take on the job full time. The two players had combined to go 22-11 on the season to date. With all the production going to Gregory he could have decent value for us the rest of the way.
Once again, best of luck to everyone in week 6.