Kevin Minter had by far his worst statistical outing of the season (1-1-0) in week four, but nothing has changed in terms of playing time or how he is being used. In fact he gave up no snaps to Sean Weatherspoon who never got on the field against the Rams. Minter joined Tyrann Mathieu, Deone Bucannon and Rashad Johnson as every down players. The Lions have not been a good matchup for our tackle producing linebackers so we should not expect much from him this week but there are some strong matchups on the schedule over the next few weeks. It may be a little early to look so far ahead but Arizona has the Vikings, Eagles and Packers during the fantasy playoffs.
Justin Durant lasted seven snaps against the Texans before leaving with an elbow injury. As of Wednesday afternoon his availability for week five is in question. Durant managed 1 tackle before being replaced by Joplo Bartu who totaled a mere 2-1-0 on seventy snaps. Washington was an excellent matchup over the first two weeks but their running game has been held in check over the past two. Bartu has never shown us much but if Durant sits it is a big boost for Paul Worrilow who will have much less competition for tackles. We should not give much thought about Worrilow's week four numbers. The Falcons starters were rested much of the second half due to the lopsided score.
I talked up Vic Beasley Jr last week based on the matchup. As karma would have it, he was on the field for only 24 snaps before the Falcons started putting their backups on the field. It is safe to put him back in our lineups this week keeping in mind the Redskins are not a great matchup either, having allowed 5 sacks to date.
There is nothing we should read into the strange box score of Daryl Smith at 10-3-1 and C.J. Mosley only going 3-3-0. Mosley did miss a handful of snaps but he has not been pulled out of any sub packages. This was simply a result of the Steelers offensive game plan. Mosley continues to be an every week must start. The big game for Smith puts him back on the radar after a slow start. Cleveland has been a solid matchup for inside linebackers with both Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Smith posting decent numbers in week three and Manti Te'o exploding for 13 solo stops in week four.
When Terrell Suggs went down the Ravens told us they would compensate by making Elvis Dumervil a full time player. He may wear down late in the season but so far Dumervil has stepped up. He is a strong start this week against the Browns who have allowed 9.5 sacks to outside linebackers to date.
Corey Graham is on fire! He was a no show in week one when he left with an injury after one snap. Since then Graham has gone 25-10-1 with a fumble recovery in three contests. Upcoming matchups against Tennessee and Jacksonville are not great but he is an every week play at this point. Graham left Sunday's game briefly late in the fourth quarter so keep an eye on the late week practice reports just in case.
Mario Williams has been blanked twice in four games and has not exactly blown up in the other two. This kind of inconsistency can drive fantasy owners nuts but do not be the owner who over reacts. Williams has a history of slow starts. He could get back on track this week against a Titans offense that has given up 12 sacks in their three games. Look for Williams, Jerry Hughes and maybe even Marcel Dareus to break out this week. Tennessee has given up 4.5 of those sacks to tackles and 3-4 ends.
Newly acquired Jared Allen started the week four game at end opposite Kony Ealy, but it was relative unknown Ryan Delaire who leapt off the stats sheet with five tackles and a pair of sacks. Delaire is an undrafted rookie who was signed from Washington's practice squad last week to help cover all the injuries. His big debut will have a lot of people scrambling to figure out if he is a one week wonder or a possible long term answer. At this early stage it is hard to say. We often see young players’ put up strong number early only to fade as the adrenalin wears off. Remember we saw Mario Addison with a two sack outing earlier this season. Owners in deep leagues may want to go ahead and grab Delaire just in case but I would not recommend putting him in your lineup until we see more of a trend. Carolina is off this week so we have to wait until week six to see what he does for an encore.
The fact Luke Kuechly has still not been cleared from his concussion is putting up some red flags. He was expected to meet with an independent doctor this week and the team hopes he will be back after the bye, but this is starting to look like it may be a more serious issue. There have been a fair number of careers ended by concussions recently. It happened to Nick Roach last season. For now the stock of Thomas Davis is high. It will skyrocket if Kuechly is not cleared by week six. It is also worth mention A.J. Klein was a three down player in week four.
Jarvis Jenkins has put together a couple of big games and has been a waiver target for many owners this week. The change of scenery from Washington to Chicago could be the trigger Jenkins needed but I am still less than optimistic he has suddenly emerged as a butterfly. He is already 10-7-3 on the young season after his three years as a starter in Washington produced a total of 40-34-2. I may be wrong but it will be a surprise if he does not turn back into a pumpkin in the next week or two.
Shea McClellin is 14-14-0 through 4 games and Christian Jones is 15-7-0. Those are not the numbers we would expect from a struggling team that has started 1-3. I still have McClellin on a couple of rosters at this point but it is more because there is no one worth picking up in those deep leagues than any hope or confidence I may still have. Of course now that I have said this, everyone needs to start him this week.
One Chicago standout who is probably not a mirage is Pernell McPhee. With 7.5 sacks in a part time role last year, he was a productive player for the Ravens when given the opportunity. McPhee is putting up the numbers we would expect from McClellin. He is 20-4-2 with an interception on the season and has been one of the few bright spots for the Bears. McPhee may struggle to keep up the tackle production but he has clearly emerged as a quality option for owners in big play based leagues at the least.
Antrel Rolle left the week four game with an ankle injury. He has not yet been officially ruled out for week five but it seems likely he will sit. Harold Jones-Quartey stepped in against the Raiders and is the likely starter against Kansas City. That said I would expect Adrian Amos to be the most productive of the Chicago safeties. The Chiefs have been a decent matchup for safeties so those looking for a bye week flier may want to consider Amos.
Vincent Rey continues to play well as the Bengals three down linebacker. He is coming off a huge 10 solo 5 assist outing and will have many owners looking to start him this week. Rey could be productive but keep in mind Alec Ogletree's 5 solo stops in week one are the best production by any inside or weak side backer against Seattle this year.
Safety Reggie Nelson is coming off his best game of the season at 6-3. He could be a sneaky good start this week against the Seahawks who have helped Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Micah Hyde, Antrel Rolle and James Ihedigbo all post at least 6 solo stops and reach double digit fantasy points over the past three weeks.
Shawn Williams got the start for an injured George Iloka in week four and may make a second start this week. He was more impressive on the field against the Chiefs than his 3-3-0 would suggest. Iloka is no more than an adequate player in NFL terms so this is Williams’s opportunity to make an impact on the coaching staff.
Michael Johnson finally made an impact going 4-0-1 with a forced fumble and a batted pass against the Chiefs. He could make it two games in a row with quality numbers against the Seahawks who have struggled to protect Russell Wilson. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins join Johnson as linemen with excellent week five potential. The Seahawks have allowed sacks on a league high 12.4% of their passing plays.
Adam Jones was banged up with a sore elbow entering week four. He left Sunday's game early after adding a groin injury to his ailments. The team has given us no sign to suggest he will go this week. Look for nickel corner and former starter Leon Hall to be back in the lineup with Darquez Dennard in the nickel role.
With Craig Robertson on the shelf Christian Kirksey became a three down inside linebacker in week four. Robertson has not been able to practice and could miss additional time. Kirksey was 4-1-1 against the Chargers in week four and could be a solid play against a Baltimore offense that has been a strong matchup for linebackers. Through four games, six inside or weak side backers have reached double digit fantasy points with this matchup.
Sean Lee lasted a little more than three games before going down with injury. What makes this concussion particularly serious; it is his third one since 2010. Hitchens second concussion was in 2013 and he was out all of 2014. The Cowboys are putting an optimistic spin on it saying he "could play in week five" but if you are a Lee owner it is time to start looking for a possible long term replacement. Anthony Hitchens could be that player. He took over the full time role when Lee went out, finishing at 8-3-.5 on 68 of 72 snaps in the game. Dallas will get Rolando McClain back this week so it will be no surprise to see Hitchens in a full time role on the weak side for at least one game and possibly beyond. McClain has been with the team during his suspension and is in good enough condition to assume whatever role the coaching staff gives him. Damien Williams (4-4-.5) and Andrew Gachkar (4-1-0) also had significant roles after Lee left in week four. Keep in mind Paul Posluszny was 14-4-0 against the Patriots in week three. Hitchens should be an excellent start.
Owners in tackle required leagues may want to look at Nick Hayden as a possible free agent add. He has gone 5-1-0 and 5-0-0 with a pair of batted passes over the past two weeks respectively.
Greg Hardy will be on the field this week for the first time in a Cowboys uniform. Unlike McClain, Hardy was not allowed to be with the team while serving his suspension. This means it has been almost two seasons since he took a live snap. Hardy will have a role this week but we cannot expect him to put up big numbers despite having fresh legs. When Dallas returns after their bye however, he should be a near full time starter with big upside.
Sit everyone except James Ihedigbo and maybe Ziggy Ansah this week against Arizona. The Cardinals are among the offenses providing the fewest tackle opportunities each week and they have allowed barely over a sack per game on average. Ihedigbo is an every week play regardless of matchup and Ansah is on the verge of stepping into that group if he has not already.
Green Bay Packers
We should consider sitting all our Green Bay defenders this week. The Rams have provided the fewest tackle opportunities in the league with an average of fewer than 40 a game. They have allowed only 6 sacks and Nick Foles has thrown 1 interception. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the only Packer worth consideration.
Jerrell Freeman was forced out of Sunday's game in the first quarter with a groin injury. Somewhat surprisingly it was Josh McNary and not Sio Moore who replaced him. Freeman will not play Thursday on the short week so D'Qwell Jackson's stock gets a significant boost. We can assume McNary will start but no one in the Colts organization has confirmed it. With a little time to prepare we could see Moore who logged 9 snaps against the Jaguars.
The Colts secondary has been a revolving door with injured players coming and going on a weekly basis. Jalil Brown left the week four game with a groin injury and Vontae Davis was in a boot on Monday. The good news is Greg Toler has been cleared for return and should suit up to start opposite Darius Butler with Josh Thomas working in the nickel. In his two starts this year Butler is 10-7-0 with a pair of forced fumbles. Owners in corner required leagues may want to consider adding him with the Texans this week followed by the Patriots and Saints in week six and seven, Denver in week nine and Atlanta in week eleven after the bye.
Paul Posluszny is likely to miss a few weeks with a high ankle sprain. The fantasy stud may be replaced by Thurston Armbrister who is listed as the backup on the team's depth chart, but do not be surprised if it is Dan Skuta who ends up at the position. Either player could produce decent numbers for us simply based on volume of opportunity but we know Skuta can get the job done. The sure box score winners here are weak side backer Telvin Smith Sr and strong safety John Cyprien who will now have substantially less competition for tackles.
Ryan Davis has 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the last two games but hold off on adding him in any but the deepest leagues. Davis is still seeing fewer than 20 snaps a game.
Kansas City Chiefs
Ron Parker led the Chiefs in tackles at 5-3 in week four with Eric Berry right behind at 4-1. Derrick Johnson was quiet, going 1-1 on the day despite holding his normal every down role. Cincinnati is simply not a great matchup without Jeremy Hill in the feature role. Expect Johnson to bounce back strong against a Chicago offense that continues to feed Matt Forte.
Ramik Wilson was impressive during the preseason but vanished once the real action started. He finally surfaced against the Bengals going 4-4 after replacing Josh Mauga on the fourth play of the game. Mauga has been dealing with a sore Achilles' which was likely the culprit. Wilson is a rookie who looked great while running as a three down player with the starters through the warm-up schedule. I believe he may emerge as the eventual replacement for the 32 year old Johnson. Now that he has broken the ice, it may be tough for the Chiefs coaching staff to get him off the field. Wilson was not in an every down role, seeing action on 38 of 51 possible plays. He is a player who should be on our radar going forward.
Marcus Peters exploded onto the scene with huge production in his first two games. Over the last two weeks however, he has done relatively little. This is not a player to give up on over a couple of average weeks. His performance on the field against Cincinnati was much better than the numbers would suggest and the coaching staff has shown no fear in matching the rookie up against opponent’s top receivers. He will continue to be targeted often and the numbers should continue to be solid.
On Sunday there were reports that Jelani Jenkins had left the game with a stinger and did not return. Those reports were only partly correct. Jenkins suffered the stinger very early in the game and missed 22 snaps which amounted to most if not all of the first half. During that time Spencer Paysinger replaced him. Jenkins returned to finish the game though his numbers were not very good. If you put Paysinger and Jenkins numbers together they were a solid 8-3-0. Miami has a bye this week and there is neither a reason to believe Jenkins playing status nor his production is in question going forward.
Brent Grimes may be a different story. He left early with a knee injury and was not able to return. With the team on bye and all the other drama in Miami, we are not likely to get an update on Grimes until at least early next week. If he is one of your starting corners it might be a good idea to start looking for a backup plan.
In season trades are somewhat rare but we have seen a few this year already. Chicago may be in fire sale mode which is understandable but the Vikings sending Gerald Hodges to San Francisco was completely unexpected. It does make some sense though. San Francisco was hurting at the position and the Vikings suddenly found themselves with an excess of talent. From a fantasy perspective this move could be huge. With Hodges gone the door is open for Eric Kendricks to step into the full time role. We will have to wait until week six to confirm this is the plan, but there is little chance they made the move to get Chad Greenway more involved. Kendricks should be a quality start the rest of the way.
New York Giants
We may get some use out of the Giants linebackers before the season ends but it does not look like it will be anytime soon. Devon Kennard has been the closest thing to a quality option thus far and even he has been no more than a marginal matchup based spot play. Kennard left the week four game with a hamstring injury and is questionable for week five. Jon Beason may be ready for an expanded role after playing a total of 60 snaps over the past two games but we cannot count on that until we see it happen. Jonathan Casillas has shown up in the box scores over the past two weeks but he too is working in a part time role.
The deeper we get into the season the more it looks like Jason Pierre-Paul is going to be a complete non-factor. The Giants have not been good at getting to the passer but they may still give us some useful defensive end options. Kerry Wynn is still looking for his first sack but he has produced 14 solo tackles and 6 assists over the past three games. At the least the second year pro is getting plenty of opportunity. He was on the field for 66 of a possible 75 plays in week four after playing 60 snaps in week three. Wynn had a sack and a half in limited action as a rookie so there is some potential. He could get his first this year against San Francisco who has allowed 12 sacks to outside rushers on the season.
Wynn is not the only player to look at here. Rookie Owa Odighizuwa made his season debut in week four, playing 46 snaps. He looked good during the preseason and it appears the Giants are going to give him an opportunity to make an impact, at least until Robert Ayers comes back from his hamstring injury.
The Raiders seem to be cursed at the safety position. Travis Carrie lasted just a few snaps into Sunday's game before leaving with a chest injury. As of Wednesday there have been no updates on the severity but the fear is a torn pectoral. He was replaced by Larry Asante who may have also been injured in the game. Neiko Thorpe may be the next man up if Asante is not able to go. There is a little good news with Charles Woodson finally looking healthy. For the first time since dislocating his shoulder in the opener he looked like the same aggressive player we have come to expect. It is time to put him back in our lineups.
The Raiders open week four in a 4-3 front with Khalil Mack at end and Aldon Smith at strong side linebacker. They shifted often between three and four man fronts with Smith posting a stat line of 6-0-1. Malcolm Smith was 9-1-0 with a forced fumble in Sunday's game and is now established as the best fantasy option of the group, though Curtis Lofton is still seeing near every down action and should also be productive on most weeks.
Mychal Kendricks was back on the field for a while in week four before aggravating his hamstring injury. He is now expected to be out at least a couple of weeks and may not try to return until after the team's week eight bye. This should make Jordan Hick a viable fantasy starter for at least the next couple of weeks.
Byron Maxwell left the game with a quadriceps injury that is not believed to be serious. Coach Kelly is optimistic Maxwell will be able to go in week five. If he is able to play Maxwell should be a quality start against the Saints. Not so much because the Saints are a high powered passing team as they once were, but more because Maxwell is not the player Philadelphia thought he was and has become a target of opposing offenses.
Steelers defensive line had a huge day against Baltimore. Cameron Heyward was 7-0-1 with a forced fumble and Stephon Tuitt went 10-0-2. I am always cautious of 3-4 linemen, especially in terms of consistency. As we like to say here at footballguys, one week is a fluke but two is a trend. Tuitt now has a sack in three straight games and is 17-4-3.5 over that span. With quality production from linemen at a premium, he should be on a roster in nearly all leagues. Both Tuitt and Heyward should be in our lineups this week against a San Diego offense that has been hammered by injuries and has struggled to keep Phillip Rivers upright.
Lawrence Timmons was 10-1-1 against the Ravens last Thursday and looks to finally be over the toe injury that slowed him early on. He is a viable starter this week against the Chargers but we should not expect such gaudy numbers from him with Ryan Shazier returning to action. Shazier is practicing this week and is expected to be ready.
Antwon Blake had another solid outing going 4-4 against Baltimore. With the Chargers and Cardinals next up on the schedule, he is a good pick up and play option for owners in corner required leagues. Through four games the Chargers have passed for more yardage than any other team. That has led to a league high of 16 tackles a week on average for the corner positions of their opponents. Individually there have been five corners with 6 or more solo tackles against them and six corners with double digit fantasy points.
San Diego Chargers
Donald Butler looked great early in the preseason. Since that time he has been invisible. He is not playing full time and is now losing snaps to rookie Denzel Perryman who lined up next to Manti Te'o on thirteen plays in week four.
Last week I mentioned Jordan Hill likely having a bigger role with Brandon Mebane out. He did indeed see a significant increase in playing time up 48 snaps from 30 in week three. Unfortunately it did not lead to bigger point totals for us. Hill finished with a strange box score of no tackle and 5 assists. Despite the low production I still believe he will be productive for us on most weeks. Besides, it is not like there are a ton of great options out there at tackle.
San Francisco 49ers
It will be interesting to see if the 49ers traded for Gerald Hodges with the intent to make him a starter next to Navorro Bowman. Hodges is a starting quality NFL player who was good enough to eke out a role in Minnesota despite the team's abundance of options. Michael Wilhoite has been adequate but in reality he is a backup level player. It will not happen this week it will be a surprise if Hodges is not in the lineup come November. Dynasty owners may want to move on him now. Redraft owners need to keep an eye on the situation at the least.
St. Louis Rams
Alex Ogletree had a great game for us before being carted off with an ankle injury. He will have surgery and will miss several weeks at the least. Chances are Ogletree will land on short term IR and he could be placed on season ending IR. Daren Bates is the next man up according to the depth chart. We will have to see what his role is going forward. Regardless of what they do with Bates, James Laurinaitis and T.J. McDonald are the guys who stand to gain the most. This injury should make Laurinaitis a solid top twenty linebacker the rest of the way. I have to wonder if the team will turn to more big nickel getting Mark Barron on the field in a near full time role. This would make a lot of sense as he has the skill set of an undersized weak side linebacker.
Trumaine Johnson and Janoris Jenkins have not only been excellent starters in corner required leagues, they have put up number making them quality options in leagues that lump the positions together. Jenkins has 5 or more solo stops in each of the four games to date, adding 4 passes defended and a pair of interceptions. Johnson was slowed by some minor injuries but has produced double digit points in the two full games he has played, including a mark of 7-1-0 with a fumble recovery and a pair of passes defended in week four.
Corner required owners may want to pick up Jason McCourty this week. According to coach Wisenhunt, McCourty is expected to be back in action week five after recovering from his groin injury. When healthy McCourty has been among the most productive and consistent options at the position over the past couple of years. Even if he does not play this week or does not play full time, McCourty will be back soon. Beat your opponents to the punch on this one.
That does it for the week five offering. Best of luck to you as we get into the meat of the bye weeks.
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