In what was one of the more strange situations of week five, Cardinals defenders were on the field for about 90 plays in a blowout win. Multiple turnovers gave Arizona short field opportunities which they capitalized on. Detroit moved the ball up and down the field fairly well providing a lot of tackle opportunity on top of all the big plays. We should rein in our expectations in week six when the Cardinals face a Steelers team in the bottom third of the league in terms of providing tackle opportunities. That said, I like what I have seen from Kevin Minter as the sole inside linebacker for Arizona.
With Justin Durant nursing an elbow injury and out of action, Paul Worrilow was the only three down linebacker for the Falcons in week five. No other backer was on the field for more than 40 of the team's 61 defensive snaps. As of Wednesday afternoon there was no word of Durant returning to practice so chances are he will miss Thursday's game as well.
Ricardo Allen was back on the field in week five but he did not return to the every down role he held before the injury. Allen saw action on just over half (34) of the snaps with Kemal Ishmail getting on the field for 12. It is hard to tell if this was a case of being eased back into action or if the coaching staff is going to give Ishmael some snaps going forward. New Orleans has been a fairly strong matchup for safeties but we should probably pass on Allen this week until we can confirm what is going on here.
New Orleans has allowed the 5th most sacks on the season which bodes well for Vic Beasley Jr. What concerns me is Dan Quinn seems to have brought his mass substitution approach with him from Seattle. This could have a similar affect on Beasley as it did on Michael Bennett last year; which is to say it could hold Beasley's numbers down considerable. Bennett is playing about 90% of the snaps this season and has been much more productive. In comparison Beasley played about 60% if the time in week five.
I gave Elvis Dumervil some love last week so of course he went down on Sunday with a groin injury. As of Wednesday afternoon there have been no updates on the severity of the injury but being a groin, it is a good bet he will not be in action this week or will be limited if he does play.
Lardarius Webb left Sunday's contest early with a thigh injury. He was on the sideline with helmet in hand later in the game but did not return to action. Kyle Arrington stepped into an every down role and would be in line to start this week if Webb does not go. Arrington tends to be fairly productive when given enough opportunity. San Francisco has been a feast or famine matchup for corners with the position accounting for 13 or more solo tackles in three games and 5 or fewer in the other two.
Neither Mario Williams nor Jerry Hughes have exactly been lighting it up and this is not likely to be the week they break out. Despite the talented pass rushers and supposed big play producing scheme, the Bills mere 9 sacks ranks in the bottom third of the league. A matchup with the Bengals who are tied for the third fewest sacks allowed with six, is not what fantasy owners need to see. Between the general lack of options and bye weeks most of us have to start these guys if we have them, but if you have another solid option consider it strongly.
Coming off the bye Carolina will get Luke Kuechly back from his week one concussion. This is a player who has to be in our lineups if he plays but I am a little nervous about it. The long absence tells us the concussion was a pretty bad one. We have seen a lot of players over the year come back from hits like that only to suffer another one in short order. This was Kuechly's first so hopefully he will be fine. I will feel much better when he is still on the field in three weeks.
Ryan Delair had a big NFL debut when we last saw the Panthers. Many of us are wondering what he will do for an encore. With Charles Johnson still out and Jared Allen battling a pinched nerve in his back causing numbness in his foot, Delair is all but certain to have plenty of opportunity. He and Kony Ealy are both worth some consideration this week based on opportunity and matchup. Seattle is tied for worst in the league having given up 22 sacks already. The fact Delair is coming off such a big game is a major plus as well.
Shea McClellin was taken off on a cart with a knee injury. He is week to week as of Wednesday and is doubtful to go in week six. Former Jaguar Laroy Reynolds was the replacement on Sunday but it does not necessarily mean he will be the starter this week. Former Bronco Lamin Barrow could get a shot and the team promoted Jonathan Anderson from the taxi squad this week. There is some speculation he will get a shot. The other reason for promoting Anderson may be the expectation of McClellin being out for a while.
Harold Jones-Quartey started for Antrel Rolle as strong safety in week five. His numbers were not flashy (4-0) but were good enough to be tied for second on the team. He played pretty well in general against Kansas City and is a strong sleeper start if this week if Rolle misses another game. Roughly 35% of the solo tackles recorded against the Lions this year have been credited to safeties and there is a good chance Detroit will turn the ball over a couple of times as well.
Vincent Rey, Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins are all players we want in our lineups this week. The Bills have been an excellent match up for tackle producing linebackers with six inside or weak side backers putting up at least 6 solo stops over the last four games. For the pass rushers; Buffalo has allowed the seventh most sacks at 14 while Cincinnati has produced the seventh most with 15. Michael Johnson is worth a flier in this one as well if you are looking to cover a bye week. He was a major disappointment with a great matchup in week five but the potential is there if you are in dire need.
Even with Craig Robertson out, Christian Kirksey did not get three down snaps in week five. Instead he surprisingly split time with backup Tank Carder. This speaks volumes about what the coaching staff thinks of Kirksey.
It was not a surprise to see Anthony Hitchens role reduced with the return of Rolando McClain and a healthy Sean Lee. It was however, somewhat of a shock to see Hitchens play only 10 snaps. Redraft owners have to decide if they want to hold onto Hitchens in case Lee goes down again (which seems likely to happen at some point) or go ahead and dump him now. I would let your waiver wire make that decision. If there is someone out there you like or need, make the move. Dynasty owners may want to find room to keep him. Lee is a glass linebacker, McClain is a head case and we have seen how productive Hitchens will be when he finally gets his chance to be the starter.
Danny Trevathan is still not seeing action in all sub packages but his snap count percentage is slowly growing. He played about 80% of the snaps against Oakland. I have not yet had a chance to look at this closely and see if it was a case of matching up with the Raiders offense or a growing role for Trevathan. The fact he was on the sideline for 13 snaps in week five after sitting out no fewer than 21 in any previous game, has to be considered a good sign.
DeAndre Levy started on Sunday but was not able to stay in the game long before reinjuring his bad hip. Word out of Detroit has the organization considering season ending IR for him at this point. Josh Bynes and Travis Lewis have been splitting time at the position but Lewis was also banged up in week five when he played through a sore ankle. Keep an eye on the late week practice reports. If Lewis is out Bynes and/or Stephen Tulloch would almost have to be a three down guy against a Bears team featuring Matt Forte and Martellus Bennett as their main offensive weapons.
James Ihedigbo is a must start regardless of matchup and Glover Quin may soon join him. Chicago has not been a particularly strong matchup for safeties but the state of the front seven in Detroit may trump nearly any match up going forward.
Green Bay Packers
Looking for a short term fill in at safety for week six? See is Mycah Hyde is available. With Morgan Burnett out, Hyde has averaged 6 tackles a game and the Chargers have been among the best match ups for safeties. Burnett may be listed as questionable this week so we will need to be aware of the Sunday inactive list. With a bye in week seven there is a good chance Burnett will sit.
Brian Cushing has been relatively quit this year and is coming off a very strange week six box score which included no solo stops and 8 assists. How those numbers come about is a mystery but we should not let them keep us from starting him this week. Jacksonville has been a surprisingly dependable matchup with six linebackers putting up at least 6 solo stops against them and three backers with 8 or more.
Josh McNary replaced Jurrell Freeman when he was hurt in week four. With a week to prepare it was Nate Irving and Sio Moore splitting snaps in the base packages while safety Clayton Geathers as the second linebacker in most nickel situations. This is not the news fantasy owners wanted to hear as it basically leaves us without anyone worth picking up. What is does do is give us and the Colts organization a chance to evaluate Moore and Geathers who could figure considerable into the future plans of the team.
We expected Thurston Armbrister to get the start on Sunday but were unsure how the Jaguars would compensate for the loss of Paul Posluszny in sub packages. As it turned out is was Armbrister in most of those situations. He saw action on 62 of 67 plays. Armbrister finished his first NFL start with a respectable 5 solo stops. Owners desperate for a bye week or injury plug in may want to take a look at him this week and possibly next. If you do consider him, be aware the Texans have not been a good matchup on most weeks. Buffalo will be a much better matchup in week seven and the team hopes to have Posluszny back after their week eight bye.
The week five bye gave both Jelani Jenkins and Cameron Wake an opportunity to get closer to healthy. Tennessee is not a great matchup for Jenkins but I am comfortable calling him an every week must start for most owners. Wake on the other hand, is on the bubble if he has not already been cut. The Titans are among the top third of the league in sacks allowed with 14. If Wake fails to show up this week it will be time for redraft owners to find a better use for the roster spot. He has continued to be limited in practice this week but it may be the team is simply giving him as much time as possible to recover. Dynasty owners will need to think hard on this one. While we do so, consider Wake will be 34 in January.
It would be nice to have a better matchup for Eric Kendricks in what is expected to be his first game in an every down role. Everson Griffen is a must start and Brian Robison a strong sleeper against a Kansas City squad tied for the most sacks allowed on the season (22). The Chiefs have been an inconsistent matchup for linebackers however. In week four Vincent Rey was 10-5-0 against them. In weeks one and two Brian Cushing and Danny Trevathan were 6-4 and 7-0 respectively. In weeks three and five no linebacker exceeded 3 solo tackles. All things considered including the loss of Jamaal Charles, both Kendricks and Anthony Barr will be in my lineups this week. The running style of Charcandrick West may prove to be a better matchup for linebackers in general.
New England Patriots
Dont'a Hightower left the week five game with a rib injury. What was surprising here is Jerod Mayo did not assume an every down role in Hightower's absence. Mayo did see an increase in action but he shared time with Jonathan Freeney. This development spells out rather clearly the fact Mayo is not fully recovered from the injury. Hightower practiced Wednesday and should be back in action this weekend.
New Orleans Saints
Owners looking for a sleeper to start at corner this week should consider Brandon Browner and/or Devin Breau. Atlanta has been the most consistent match ups for corners this year. In all five of their games the opposing corner positions have accounted for at least 11 solo tackles with eight players reaching at least 5. There have not been many big plays made against Matt Ryan but I will be happy with 5-6 tackles from a corner every time.
New York Giants
Jon Beason lasted seven snaps before leaving with a concussion. At this point it seems as if he will never be able to sustain any value for us. Youngster Uani Unga continues to play well in relief from a physical perspective while he is gaining a lot of much needed experience. He is putting up quality numbers for us when given enough opportunity and is starting to look like he may be the future of the position. I am snapping him up in most of my dynasty leagues. There has been no update on Beason's status for week six. If he is out, do not hesitate to plug in Unga. Paul Worrilow, Sean Lee, Demario Davis and Stephone Anthony have all put up season high numbers against the Eagles.
The Raiders on bye this week but owners need to know Curtis Lofton was once again relegated to a two down role (or less) in week five. Rookie fifth round pick Neiron Ball replaced him on 36 of a possible 58 snaps. Ball had looked good in a very limited role previously. Those in deep drafted or dynasty leagues may want to make a pre-emptive move and grab the youngster. It is obvious the coaching staff is looking to get Lofton off the field.
If you picked up Jordan Hicks a couple of weeks back, get him in your lineup this week against the Giants. New York has been a great match up all season but over the past three weeks in particular, Preston Brown, Nigel Bradham, Navorro Bowman, Michael Wilhoite, Will Compton and Keenan Robinson have combined to go 55-20.
Will Allen suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter on Monday night and was immediately ruled out for the remainder of the game. The team has not yet announced the results of the MRI but it feels like this could be at least a few weeks injury. What was really strange here is Robert Golden replaced Allen ahead of Shamarko Thomas.
San Diego Chargers
Jahleel Addae was back on the field in week five but he was not in the starting strong safety role. Instead he worked in some but not all sub packages. This could be a case of easing Addae back into action but Jimmy Wilson has played well.
Bobby Wagner finished Sunday's game with a strained pectoral that was obviously bothering him considerably. When he scored the touchdown he was protective of the injury when teammates came running to him for celebration. All we have head thus far is the team has no timeline for a return. That statement came out before the end of the game. Were they talking about that game or in the future? My guess is once the soreness sets in it may be at least a game or two before we see Wagner again. If he misses time bump K.J. Wright way up into high end LB3 range.
Unlike last season under Dan Quinn, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are both playing a lot of snaps. They were on the field for 72 and 68 respectively out of a possible 85. This explains the considerable jump in production for both players over last season. It also suggests the bump in value is going to continue.
St. Louis Rams
Last week I suggested the loss of Alec Ogletree might mean a lot more opportunity for Mark Barron. Against the Packers this was the case. Barron was on the field for about 80% of the Rams defensive snaps. This may be an approach based on the match up as most teams will use a nickel base defense against Green Bay. I would not necessarily go all in on Barron against Cleveland when the Rams return to action in week seven, but it may be a good idea to get him on your roster now if you have room. If he plays 80% or more of the snaps going forward, Barron will put up good numbers on most weeks. Keep in mind the Rams like to turn him lose to blitz often. He could add several big plays to supplement the tackle numbers.
Zach Brown was putting up respectable numbers heading into the Titans week four bye. Coming out of the bye he is no longer a starter. Brown logged 15 snaps of a possible 53 in week five while Avery Williamson went 7-2-1 on 47 plays and Wesley Woodyard was 6-3-0 on 29 plays as a starter. I have not yet had time to confirm it but I believe Williamson was shifted into Brown's role. I am still not a fan but this development and the numbers Williamson put up have grabbed my attention. He did not practice on Wednesday due to a sore hamstring so keep an eye on the late week injury reports before making him a desperation play. Miami has been a poor match up for linebackers this season with Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith Sr the only backers to exceed 4 solo tackles against them.
Corner Jason McCourty was back in full time role against Buffalo. While his numbers were modest, it was good to see him play full time right away. As a match up for corners the Dolphins are average at best. In weeks seven, eight and nine however the Titans face Atlanta, Houston and New Orleans. Those of us in corner required leagues may want McCourty in our lineups those weeks as well as weeks fourteen through sixteen when they play the Jets, Patriots and Texans. Buffalo.
Other than his one big game against the Giants Keenan Robinson has been a complete bust. He was 10-3 in the week three contest and has gone 11-7 in the other four combined. The Jets have been a less than desirable opponent for linebackers to date so there is no reason to expect a breakout by Robinson this week. Get him out of your lineup if you can but I would not give up on him completely yet. He has a string of excellent match ups down the stretch starting with the Giants again in week twelve and including the Eagles in week sixteen.
That does it for week six. Best of luck this weekend.