Eyes of the Guru - Week 8
Updated 10/29 by John Norton, Exclusive for Footballguys.com
After re-injuring his hamstring last week the Falcons elected to shut down rookie William Moore who was placed on IR this week. With Thomas DeCoud playing lights out there was little chance that Moore was going to be a factor anyway. In fact, the way both DeCoud and Eric Coleman are performing, Moore's dynasty stock may be crashing as well. At best it's going to be very difficult for Moore to crack the lineup at any point in the foreseeable future.
New Orleans Saints
When Sedrick Ellis left the week seven game with a sprained knee it opened the door for Tony Hargrove to play on an every down basis. The result was a 4-0-2 for Hargrove who looked very quick and explosive. As of Wednesday afternoon the Saints have been mum on the extent of Ellis' injury so we won't know until later in the week if Hargrove is going to start. What we do know is that his play warrants a bigger role and if Will Smith doesn't start producing, Hargrove is very capable of playing DE. Some leagues (MyFantasyLeague for example) have Hargrove classified as a DT. If you can play him as a tackle it might be a good idea to take a long look here.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As anticipated the trade of Gaines Adams made Greg (Stylez) White an every down player in week 7. White didn't exactly explode in the box scores but his 3-2-.5 were not bad. Tim Crowder worked on a limited basis spelling the starters who were both on the field for roughly 80+ percent of the defensive snaps. Good news for those of us who grabbed him last week and more writing on the wall for those in leagues where he may still be available.
Heading into last weekend we were told that Thomas Davis would likely play against the Bills despite missing practice all week with a hamstring injury. Apparently the hamstring is worse than everyone thought. Thomas was inactive and Landon Johnson got the call in his place. The Panthers and fantasy owners alike could really use Thomas this week against the Cardinals as he is excellent (for a linebacker) in coverage. That said, we need to keep a close eye on Davis this week to see if he practices without limitations. If that doesn't happen, starting him this week will be a huge gamble. Especially when you consider how easy hamstrings are to aggravate.
Bob Sanders made his 2009 debut in week 7 but unfortunately it was a short one. After making a play early in the contest he got up limping slightly and soon after made his way toward the locker room and never returned to the field. As of Wednesday afternoon the club has not updated his condition but it doesn't look good at this point... Anyone who has been chasing the Colts defensive tackles in search of production can tell you first hand not to get excited over the 7-0-.5 put up by Daniel Muir against the Rams. Week one it was Antonio Johnson, week two Ed Johnson, week 3 Raheem Brock, week four Eric Foster etc. Week 7 was simply Muir's turn to shine. In fact he could be on the street by this time next week, just ask Ed Johnson. The bottom line here is that the Colts run too many players in and out of the lineup at DT and while they all have the potential to post decent numbers on any given week, none of them is going to show any consistency.
Defense was what made the Titans a contender over the past couple of years and it's defense that has let this club down thus far in 2009. Injuries in the secondary and a lack of big plays from the pass rush seem to be the key factors. You can point to the loss of Albert Haynesworth as many are doing but I believe the problem has much more to do with how the coaching staff has gone about things this season. Specifically I feel they are trying too hard to get everyone involved instead of deciding who their best players are and putting them on the field. When Jevon Kearse was finally pulled from the lineup there was an opportunity to let William Hayes and Kyle Vanden Bosch work full time with Jacob Ford spelling them. Instead the club simply moved Hayes into the starting role and replaced Kearse in the rotation with Dave Ball. Likewise we are still seeing four players with nearly equal playing time on the interior. Maybe, just maybe, this will have changed over the bye week. At 0-6 something has to give. If the Titans would just start KVB with Hayes at end and Jason Jones with Tony Brown inside, this unit might begin to show some fire and cohesion. Not to mention they would provide us with 4 starter quality linemen. Wishful thinking? Probably so but there is always that chance.
Justin Durant burned a lot of us when he was a last second scratch in week six due to a sore hip. The bye week couldn't have come at a better time for Durant who should be good to go this week versus Tennessee. That said, the Titans have not been a great match up for linebackers this season. Only DeMeco Ryans and Bryan Cushing have managed more than 6 solo stops against them. Durant was a respectable 6-1 with this match up in week four. Its not as if we need to bench Durant this week even if he's healthy, we should however weigh the odds if we have other quality options.
Greg Ellis has not been inactive for a game this season but he may as well have been. He was off to an outstanding start before suffering the sprained knee in week five. Since the injury Ellis has just a single tackle in each of the past two games. Jay Richardson has shown up in the box scores a little more as has Trevor Scott but its noteworthy that in week seven rookie Matt Shaughnessy led all Raiders DEs with three tackles. Shaughnessy is an interesting long term prospect that dynasty owners should keep an eye on. The Raiders love Trevor Scott as a pass rusher but his struggles versus the run could prove a fatal flaw when it comes to his fantasy potential. Meanwhile Shaughnessy is bigger and more stout against the run. If he can develop a more complete game he could be the heir to Ellis' starting job in the next year or two. If Ellis can get healthy none of this will matter this season as he and Richard Seymour are locked in as every down players. That said, I wouldn't expect a lot out of Ellis until at least week 10. The Raiders have a bye in week nine and hope he will be back to 100% when they return.
San Diego Chargers
Starting inside backers Kevin Burnett and Stephen Cooper are both fighting injuries. Burnett is likely to miss at least a couple more games with his bad ankle. Cooper was active and started against the Chiefs but was clearly hampered and slowed by his sore knee. As a result Tim Dobbins racked up 11 solo stops and a pick in place of Burnett while Brandon Siler stepped in to relieve an ineffective Cooper. Neither of the starters are going to be 100% anytime soon so Dobbins is likely to continue being productive over the next few (maybe even several) weeks. Siler is less far certain but could have a quality game or two as well. Keep in mind however, that the Chargers get a Raiders squad this week that has been a horrible match up on most occasions. If you have a need at the position Dobbins can't be counted on through our playoffs but he could help you get there.
St. Louis Rams
The Rams gave us some very interesting stat lines in week seven. Not the least of which being the 7 solo stops posted by new starting DT C.J. Ah You. What you need to know here is that the Rams came out with a strange approach to this game defensively. Their normal 4-3 scheme was out the door. Much of the game was spent with nickel and dime packages on the field even when the Colts were not in multiple receiver sets. Ah You was officially a DT but he lined up in a two point stance at times, dropping into coverage and often reacting more like an inside linebacker. We had anticipated Paris Lenon being paired with Lauriniatis in nickel packages but it was safety Craig Dahl who lined up at LB ahead of Lenon. I could go into some detail here but the only thing that really matters is that this was very likely a one time game plan that obviously didn't work. There are however, a few notes we can take from the game. James Butler returned to the SS position. Even though he didn't make an impact in the box score in this game, he played full time and suffered no set backs. Butler could be productive the rest of the way... It wouldn't be a big surprise if Dahl continues to see action as the nickel LB and possibly even an early down WLB at times. If you have Dahl on your roster, don't be in too big a hurry to let him go until we see what his role becomes... Corner Bradley Fletcher was lost to a knee injury which puts Jonathan Wade in the lineup as a starting corner. Fletcher put up 16 tackles in three starts at this position and Wade could pick up right where Fletcher left off. At worst he will be picked on often and could prove an excellent addition for owners in corner required leagues... One last note here, With James Hall battling a sore groin, Chris Long got the start against Indy. He didn't get to Manning but then very few people do. Hall was limited in practice Wednesday and is questionable for week eight against Detroit. Having spent most of his career with the Lions, Hall will be motivated to play but if he doesn't Long would be a sneaky sleeper start in this game. Only two clubs have allowed more sacks than the Lions this season.
After his monster game earlier in the year David Hawthorne was a hot pickup when Lofa Tatupu was lost for the season. A lot of owners will have him in their lineup against Dallas this week and rightly so. However, all those owners need to watch and see how the playing time breaks down in the nickel with Leroy Hill expected to return. Having been out for so long it's unlikely that Hill will jump right back into an every down role but he is probably the best (or at least most experienced) pass defending LB the Seahawks have at this point. It's very likely that he will be an every down guy within the next game or two. The way Aaron Curry is playing, chances are those snaps will come at the expense of Hawthorne.
As anticipated Adrian Wilson had a strong outing versus the Giants, and as expected he did much of his damage via the big play. It's obvious that the 80+ tackle seasons Wilson once produced with regularity, are a thing of the past. Wilson clearly remains worthy of a roster spot in most leagues but we can expect his current state of inconsistency to be the norm going foreword. Play him when the match ups are good.
After a 10 tackle game versus the the Bucs in week four and a 7-1 against the Chiefs in week six, Reed Doughty was once again replaced in the starting lineup by Chris Horton in week seven. This position has been incredibly productive all season. If only the Redskins would go ahead and make their coaching change, maybe one of these guys would finally settle in as their starter.
It didn't take long for Will Witherspoon to make an impact. His 6-2-1 with a pick and forced fumble landed Witherspoon among the top fantasy linebackers of week 7. This guys has long been known as a playmaker and the Eagles couldn't have landed a better fitting player for their scheme. He can cover, he can blitz, he can be physical versus the run and he's smart. Don't be surprised if Witherspoon is a top 10 LB the rest of the way... Another player who seems on the verge of emerging in Philly is Sean Jones. He's been seeing an increased role over the last few weeks, starting with his inclusion in the nickel packages. Against the Redskins Jones saw additional playing time when Victor Harris was knocked out of the game for a couple of series. Nothing is imminent at this point but it will come as little surprise to see Jones capture an every down role before the season ends. The question being, at who's expense? Quintin Mikell has been playing pretty well and making an impact in the big play columns but his tackle numbers have been sub par to say the least over the past four games. Dynasty owners in particular may want to quietly slide Jones onto your roster in the next week or two.
After seeing time in the nickel packages in the two previous weeks, Keith Brooking returned to his two down role in week seven. This is obviously bad news for those of us who made moves to pick him up after his strong outings in back to back weeks. Brooking will still have some productive games the rest of the way but he will be match up dependent and not a guy who can be starter every week.
New England Patriots
Everyone has heard about Adalius Thomas being benched. While that news in itself has very little fantasy impact, the ripple effect of that decision has been very interesting. Over the past two games the Patriots have turned to a scheme somewhat reminiscent of the so called big nickel package the Raiders used a few years back. What they have basically done is taken Thomas out and replaced him with rookie safety Patrick Chung. Against the Bucs, the Patriots base defense included three linemen, Gary Guyton and Jerod Mayo at ILB, Tully Banta-Cain at OLB with 5 defensive backs. Brandon Meriweather covered centerfield while Chung and Brandon McGowan both played up close to the line with one of them blitzing often. The result being a 5-0 with two passes defended for McGowan and a 4-0-1 for Chung. The Patriots are very good at putting their best players on the field and apparently this is what they have come up with. It's great news for those of us who have been sitting on Chung who now has gone 8-4 with a sack and a pick over the last two games. This could be viewed as a fad that will soon pass but before we dismiss it as such we should probably consider that the Pats have given up seven points in the last two games.
No DB has been hotter over the past few weeks than rookie Jairus Byrd. He's undoubtedly at the top of many free agent lists this week but be careful, he just may turn back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight. The Bills have long been searching for big play production from the safety position. Byrd's five picks over the past three games have certainly given them that. However, IDP owners shouldn't overlook the fact that he had just 8 solo tackles in those three games. It's way too early to start comparing this kid to Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, and there is no way he's going to continue racking up picks at that pace. When you start him and he fails to make a pick, those two or three tackles are going to be very disappointing. We can always hold out hope that Bryan Scott returns to the lineup in the next few weeks but the way Byrd is producing big plays, it will be tough for the coaching staff to justify taking him off the field.
Jonathan Fanene was the official starter at DE replacing Antwan Odom, but Frosty Rucker played a significant number of snaps in this game and made much more of an impact. Rucker had been battling injury most of the season and came back just when the team needed him. It's unclear if Rucker will eventually take on a nearly full time role or if the Bengals will continue to shift players around as they have done thus far since the loss of Odom. Rucker's presence seems to have curved expectations that rookie Michael Johnson will have a significantly increased role. Rucker however, has had a lot of trouble staying healthy during his career so Johnson may yet get his shot.
As expected Kaluka Maiava got the start for D'Qwell Jackson at ILB. I didn't get to watch any of this game so I'm unsure what turn of events led to it, but I can relay that Maiava posted 4 of his 5 tackles in the first quarter. I'm unsure if he was replaced or phased out due to situational substitutions. Either way he should have posted much better numbers in a game that saw the Packers rush the ball a whopping 37 times.
Just when we started to get comfortable enough to put Lawrence Timmons in our lineups, he goes down again with the ankle injury. What really hurt here is that he was on a roll before the injury and Keyaron Fox who replaced him went on to post a pick six. I don't know how many of you were hurt by that turn of events but had Timmons finished that game with the 3-1 Fox totaled in the tackle column, it would have won me a close game.
Green Bay Packers
Nick Barnett is a must start versus the Viking this week. He's back in a full time role and has been productive of late in his own right, including a 7-3 the first time these teams met. If that's not enough simply look back at the Vikings recent opponents where the numbers speak volumes. Farrior 9-6-1 PD, Lewis 7-1-1, Gooden 8-0, Lauraniatis 6-0 INT. Lawrence Timmons was 5-2 before leaving with the ankle injury and his replacement Keyaron Fox added 3-1 with a pick six.
Hunter Hillenmeyer is back in action but with Pisa Tinoisamoa lost for the season, Hillenmeyer returns to his old SLB position while Nick Roach will continue at MLB. Roach will also remain on the field with Lance Briggs in the all important nickel packages... Gaines Adams was active in week 8 and saw some action against the Bengals. It's unclear if there is any immediate plan to expand his role but Adams could sure help himself by making a few plays when he gets the chance. He was 0-2 with a PD.
There have been some whispers about Larry Foote possibly loosing snaps in the nickel packages once all the Lions linebackers are healthy. While this is something we clearly need to be aware of and keep tabs on, at this point there is no reason to suspect he will loose a significant number of opportunities. Foote has sat out a few nickel snaps in previous games but those were more of a breather than anything designed by the coaching staff.
I hope that all of you have been using our IDP match up tool to help with those tough lineup decisions. If any of you are not you really need to check it out. Best of luck to everyone this weekend!