With the Vikings matchup Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger Sr are a couple of players who should be in our lineups this week. Looking all the way back to week four we have seen Landon Collins at 9-1, Rodney McLeod 7-0-1 with a pair of turnovers, Glover Quin 8-1-0, Tavon Wilson 8-0-0 and Donte Whitner 6-2-0 with this matchup. A couple of others reached 5 solo stops as well over that span of games. Simply put the Vikings are not able to run the ball so they are using tight ends and running backs in the short passing game as long handoffs. Safeties are often responsible for these routs giving them plenty of opportunity to make plays.
Here we go again with the Falcons linebackers. In week ten both De'Vondre Campbell and Deon Jones found themselves back in time share situations. Campbell played 52 of 79 defensive snaps while Jones was on the field for 59. If I didn't know better I would swear Bill Belichick was coaching this defense. As we get deeper into crunch time I am wondering if we can trust either of these guys in our lineups.
Last week I called out Adrian Clayborn as a hot player to add and start. Right on queue he took a nose dive in the box score leaving us with a goose egg. This is the ebb and flow of the NFL. A player gets hot for a couple of weeks so offensive coaches watching game film say "we need to stop this guy". They come up with a game plan to do just that but in the process have to divert resources from other areas, leaving an opportunity for someone else to exploit. The good sign for Atlanta is Vic Beasley Jr was able to step up. His 2 sacks and forced fumble will have the next coaching staff to look at Falcons game film much less likely to double team Clayborn the way Philadelphia did. The moral to this story is, be patient with Clayborn if you picked him up. It is easy to get frustrated and dump him after the let down but I think the Falcons are onto something here defensively. Sit him for a game if you have other quality options but be careful giving up too quickly as we could see a strong rebound when the team returns from bye next week.
As one might expect from an offense hitting on all cylinders, the Cowboys are an excellent matchup for our tackle producing linebackers and safeties. Over their last six games, eight linebackers have reached double digit points against them. Zach Orr and especially C.J. Mosley have been marginal starters for us on most weeks this year. If you have one of these guys on your roster this week is the time to get them in you lineup along with Eric Weddle who should have a busy day.
Mario Addison has seen his opportunity increase over the three games since the Panthers bye week. In each of those three games he has seen action on at least 35 snaps. After landing 3 tackles, 2 sacks and knocking down a pass in week nine, Addison seems to have moved past Kony Ealy in the pecking order. Wes Horton was on the field for the first play in week ten but against the Chiefs Addison played a season high 41 snaps while Horton played 21 and Ealy 23. The result was more impressive on the field where Addison had several pressures and was generally disruptive all day, than in the box score where he finished at 1-0-1. It will be interesting to see if his playing time continues to be that of a starter going forward. I expect it will and expect his numbers to perk up as well.
Michael Johnson has been somewhat of a disappointment this year though we really had limited expectations for him to begin with. That said I like his matchup this week with Buffalo. The Bills have given up an average of 2.3 sacks per game to outside rushers and are among the league's best matchups for defensive ends in terms of tackles as well. Call it a guy feeling but I believe Johnson will have his best game of the season in week eleven.
For those looking to the future I would suggest picking up Will Clarke as a futures stash option. His playing time is on the rise already with 73 snaps over the past two games, and he has more than passed the eyeball test pretty much all season. I will be surprised if he does not replace Johnson as the starter opposite Carlos Dunlap in 2017.
The Browns finally scrapped the safety rotation in week ten with Ibraheim Campbell getting 64 of a possible 82 snaps at strong safety while Ed Reynolds worked 74 plays at free. Both finished with 5 solo stops against the Ravens. If Cleveland will settle on someone to play full time there will be some value here. I would not put too much weight on one game though.
It took a few weeks for Demarcus Lawrence to get up to speed but his breakout performance in week ten (4-1-1 with a forced fumble) is right in line with what we expected of him this year. He was red hot down the stretch in 2015 and it will be no surprise if he repeats the hot streak to end the season. Next up is a battle with the Ravens who have allowed an average of 1.8 sacks per game to outside rushers. Baltimore has struggled in the running game so Lawrence should have plenty of opportunity to rush the passer in week eleven.
Brandon Marshall was in and out of the lineup in week ten. He had a sore hamstring going into the game and looked to be having problems with his shoulder as well. Marshall participated in 30 plays with Corey Nelson spelling him on the other 21. Denver has a bye this week so Marshall will have some time to heal up. Even so I would be prepared with another option for week twelve just in case. Shoulders and hamstrings are the kind of injuries that tend to linger and a linebacker with a bad shoulder is rarely productive.
Green Bay Packers
Jake Ryan left the week ten contest right at the outset with an ankle injury. As of Wednesday morning there has been no update on his condition but the fact he was not able to return to the game is a bad sign for his chances of going this week. With Ryan out the Packers used Joe Thomas in an every down role. He played all 60 snaps finishing with a modest 3-3-0 on the day. Meanwhile Blake Martinez moved up the pecking order and saw action in nickel situations where he would have left the field previously. In all he played 44 snaps and finished with a team leading 7-3-0 mark. Washington has been a below average matchup for linebackers on most weeks so I do not have big expectations for either of these guys this week. On the other hand, if you are in need of a player who will at least have good opportunity you can find that here.
Start your Texans corners this week against Oakland, including A.J. Bouye if he suits up. The Raiders have been among the best matchups for corners all year in terms of tackle production. In their last three games, five corners have recorded 6 or more solo tackles against them. Bouye was a last hour scratch in week ten due to his sore ankle but should be a go this week. He is officially the team's third corner but they have used the nickel as their base scheme against several opponents this year and the Raiders are likely to use a lot of three receiver sets. I would expect Bouye on the field for 80+ percent of the snaps this week. In his two starts this year he has 14 tackles, 2 assists and 3 passes defended.
Kansas City Chiefs
Derrick Johnson had a sore hamstring entering week ten but he was able to play. While this more or less explains the low numbers of 1-4-0, there is more to the story. Johnson played 54 of a possible 72 snaps while Ramik Wilson was on the field for 67. I have seen no word of Johnson aggravating the injury but I have a hard time believing they would have pulled him from such a close game just for rest. We need to keep an eye on the Chiefs practice reports late this week and see if something sheds some light on the situation. Meanwhile it may be a good idea to slip Wilson onto your free agent pickup list, especially if Johnson is one of your linebackers. As I have mentioned before, Wilson may be in the plans as a long term replacement at the position. He is on my short list of young players to stash for future upside.
Los Angeles Rams
We knew there was something going on with Robert Quinn and our suspicions were confirmed when he checked into a local hospital this week. No one is saying what the illness is/was but Quinn was released and returned to the team after a couple of days. He was back at practice on Wednesday and appears on track to play this week. Quinn played 50 snaps in week ten but was nearly invisible finishing with an assist and a couple of batted passes. He battled a shoulder injury over much of the first half of the season and has been nothing short of a huge disappointment for fantasy owners. With Eugene Sims possibly out with a concussion this week the Rams need Quinn to have a significant role. We need him to be the productive guy we drafted.
Eric Kendricks made the start against Washington and lasted 11 plays before exiting. It is unclear if he suffered a setback to his hip injury or was simply not able to play through the pain. These types of injuries can linger so chances are we will see a lot of Chad Greenway over the next few weeks. He was 3-4-0 in a full time role (58 snaps) against the Redskins and should be productive in a three down role versus Arizona this week.
If Captain Munnerlyn is out this week as expected, Trae Waynes is also a good start versus the Cardinals. When he has had a significant role Waynes has been the most productive of the Vikings corners and Arizona is among the best matchups for the position. On average opponents are getting 13.7 tackles from their corner positions against them.
New England Patriots
The Patriots traded Jamie Collins Sr right before their bye week leaving us guessing what they would look like at linebacker going forwards. We know with Bill Bilichick nothing is ever certain from week to week but against Seattle it was Dont'a Hightower on the field for all 70 snaps at middle backer with Elandon Roberts on the weak side for 58 plays. Shea McClellin worked on the strong side in some three linebacker sets with Rob Ninkovich also lining up at the position at times. History tells us the team does not like to use Hightower in sub packages all the time so this could be a week to week situation. In the long term I believe Roberts will be the player to have here but for now Hightower is the better prospect.
Jabaal Sheard continues to get deeper and deeper into the dog house. He was on the field for all of 16 snaps against Seattle and has lost his starting spot to Trey Flowers coming out of the bye week. Flowers played 61 of a possible 70 snaps in week ten and is 7-1-4 in last two games. He is available in most leagues and should be at the top of the wish list this week for free agent additions. Ninkovich finally had decent game in week ten as well going 3-3-1.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints defense was horrible early in the season but now that they are getting healthy this is a different team. Sheldon Rankins played 49 snaps in week ten and landed his first sack as a pro. Nick Fairley has been playing well all year and was 3-1-1 against Denver. This duo is just getting started but may prove to be the best pass rushing tandem of inside pass rushers in the league by the end of the year.
The team also has their best corner back on the field. Delvin Breaux made some nice plays against Denver, finishing with a solid stat line of 5-1-0. The numbers are decent but do not full represent the difference he made on the field. If they can somehow keep Dannell Ellerbe healthy the rest of the way, the NFC South crown may become a realistic possibility.
One other note; the Saints have moved on from James Laurinaitis who is expected to be released sometime this week. This means Nate Stupar will continue to have some role and could be a significant fantasy prospect if/when Ellerbe is lost again.
New York Giants
Olivier Vernon was a slow starter this year but those who showed patience with him are finally seeing the reward. Over the past three games he is 13-7-2 with a forced fumble. The sore wrist that bothered him over the first half of the season seems to be in the past and he is showing the pass rush explosiveness the Giants expected when they gave him the huge contract. If he happens to be available in your league Vernon would be a great late season addition.
New York Jets
Darron Lee got back on the field in week ten but the ankle looked to still be bothering him. He participated in only thirteen plays on the day and was not particularly effective. The good news is he did not suffer a set back and the bye week will help greatly. When the Jets return to action in week twelve Lee will likely be back to full speed or at least very near it.
Neither Nigel Bradham nor Jordan Hicks did much in week ten but there is no reason for panic here. Both linebackers played in their normal three down roles against Atlanta. The low numbers resulted mostly from the dominating play of Philadelphia's defense in general. They managed to shut down the Falcons run game limiting them to 13 rushes while Matt Ryan completed only 18 passes. Both players should fare better this week against Seattle but that does not mean we should expect big things from them. Remember the Seahawks home stats crew is among the few who are stingy with solo tackles and overly generous with assists. At linebacker's stat line that should read 7-3-0 will often be backwards at 3-7-0.
Nolan Carroll left last week's game with a concussion and has not practiced as of early Wednesday. Rookie Jalen Mills stepped in against the Falcons and would be the likely replacement if Carroll is not cleared in time.
There may be a change in the works at strong safety in Pittsburgh. When Sean Davis was drafted it was generally assumed he would eventually be the Steelers strong safety. Davis was initially cast as a slot corner in sub packages. In week ten however, he played 43 snaps with a fair number coming from the strong safety position. Robert Golden was the official starter at the position but when the count was in he had participated in 29 of the team's 65 plays. Davis has the physical tools to be both a successful NFL starter and a productive fantasy option. He had five tackles and an assist against Dallas despite playing less than 65% of the snaps.
San Francisco 49ers
Gerald Hodges put up good numbers once again in week ten but owners should be aware he played 45 of 79 snaps in that game. In fact Hodges has posted strong fantasy totals in each of the past two games despite being on the field just over 61% of the time. Nick Bellore continues to work as the 49ers lone three down linebacker. He is coming off a down week in terms of box score production but there is no reason to believe he will not rebound this week against New England.
This is the time of year that some owners find themselves looking to the future. If you are in that position consider adding Jaquiski Tartt as a stash player with big upside. Tartt put up quality numbers as a rookie last season during a stretch as an injury replacement. Antoine Bethea is set to count five and a quarter million against the cap in 2017 which is the final year of his contract. None of that money is guaranteed. It will be no surprise at all to see the team go with the younger player and save a lot of money; especially considering how well Tartt has played when given an opportunity.
The Titans matchup with Indianapolis this week presents some opportunity for a sneaky strong start. Jerrell Casey is one of the better pass rushing 3-4 ends in the game and the Colts are allowing 4 sacks per game since week four. I like Casey's chances of getting to Andrew Luck for a sack. With an average of 2.7 sacks credited to outside linebackers or defensive ends, those in big play based scoring will want to give strong consideration to Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan as well.
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