With the exception of the pass rushers, all Cardinals defenders get a little boost in value from the loss of Carson Palmer. When the offense is not able to move the ball consistently it means more time on the field for the defense, and we know from the past that Drew Stanton is a considerable downgrade. The effect was seen immediately as three Cardinals defenders reached double-digit solo tackles against the Rams.
Karlos Dansby missed some time in Week 8 with a finger injury. He was able to return and finish the game but those injuries often become more painful in the days following. I expect he will play this week but his effectiveness could be lessened; especially if he plays with the hand wrapped up.
Nothing has changed in the secondary so we should not read anything into the recent production dip of Tyvon Branch or the big game by Antoine Bethea in Week 7. Bethea has averaged 50 plays per game this season but was on the field for 68 of the team's 80 against the Rams. We should not expect him to suddenly become an every week start but the recent turn of events could be enough to make Bethea a consideration on most weeks.
Tramon Williams is now starting ahead of Justin Bethel at the corner position opposite Patrick Peterson. Williams was one of the players with 10 tackles in the game. Obviously, we cannot expect that kind of production from him regularly but he does have a strong history of quality production. As a seven-year starter for the Packers Williams averaged 55 tackles, 15 passes defended and almost 6 turnovers per season. If he has another solid game when the Cardinals return from their bye next week, it will not be a fluke.
Week 8 saw De'Vondre Campbell play every down in a game for the first time this season; the result was an impressive 7-1-1 and a forced fumble. Campbell's full-time role was largely, if not completely, due to the knee injury suffered early in the game by Duke Riley. Riley is having his meniscus repaired this week and is expected to miss at least a month. While we never like to see a player get hurt, this is good news for fantasy owners in need of bye week help and maybe it will be the beginning of a trend. That said keep in mind the Falcons Week 9 matchup is a little shaky. Over the first month of the season the Jets were an excellent matchup for linebackers; in two of the last three games, no linebacker recorded more than 4 solo tackles against them.
Kemal Ishmael stepped in for Riley on calls that had all three linebackers on the field. His 7 solo tackles and 2 assists have a lot of people picking him up this week. Don't be one of the ambulance chasers. Ishmael was only on the field for 28 snaps so the quality numbers were simply a mirage.
Vic Beasley Jr looked healthy on the field and in the box score but he is still playing a little less than half the snaps. The 35 plays against New England represent his highest snap count on the season, but it was 47% of the pie. The lack of opportunity makes me nervous but the Jets have allowed at least 3 sacks in four straight games. With so many teams on bye this week, he may be worth the risk to many.
Patrick Onwuasor played 56 of a possible 66 snaps on Sunday and finished with a respectable 5-1-0. Of the 10 snaps he missed, I believe eight were dime sub packages with Mosley as the lone linebacker. His numbers are not spectacular but Onwuasor has produced at least 8 fantasy points in four of the last five games. With six teams on bye this week and next, he would make a solid LB3 option for many of us.
Marcel Darius got off to a slow start this season largely because he was hampered by an ankle injury. His first sack of the season came in Week 5 and he was 3-2-0 against Tampa Bay coming out of the bye week. Dareus has the ability to be a force on the field and in the box scores. He may be a little more motivated after hearing the Bills are shopping him and I have the feeling he is going to look more like the old Dareus down the stretch. I am looking to add him in all my tackle required leagues if he is available.
Looking at the defensive box scores from Week 7 would make us think Carolina had dominated the Bears. The Panthers defense was on the field for all of 38 plays and no one recorded more than 4 solo tackles. With Luke Kuechly and Kurt Coleman out and Thomas Davis possibly playing with broken ribs, it was not a surprise to see Shaq Thompson and David Mayo tied for the team lead in solo stops. There will be a lot more opportunity to go around this week against the Buccaneers - the trick being to figure out who will be playing.
Kuechly saw an independent neurologist this week and could be cleared to play in Week 8. Coleman was a game-time decision and a last-minute scratch against the Bears, so he has a good chance of playing as well. Both Thompson and Davis played every down last week but if Kuechly returns one of them will be bumped from sub packages. We still have no sure answer about who will join him in the sub packages going forward.
The Buccaneers have been a decent matchup for safeties on most weeks but they do a good job taking care of the ball. If Coleman is a go he should give us 4 or 5 tackles and solid overall numbers but his big play upside will be limited.
If not for so many teams being on bye I would suggest avoiding this mess all together until we can get a better read. As it is, I like Coleman if he is healthy and Thompson if Kuechly sits. Beyond that, they all scare me, including Kuechly who is one good hit away from a retirement announcement.
Kyle Fuller was less than impressive in his first two seasons as a pro and missed most of his third with an injury. Coming into 2017 he was considered a bust by many but Fuller seems to have found his place in Vic Fangio's scheme and is a big part of the Bears defensive success this year. With at least 4 solo tackles in every game so far he is quietly becoming a solid fantasy option in corner required leagues as well. Fuller left last week's game with an arm injury and there have been no updates on his status as of Wednesday afternoon. If he is able to go against the Saints this week it could be the most productive game of his season. New Orleans is an excellent matchup for corners with opponents averaging more than 12 tackles per game at the position.
Christian Jones had been fairly productive for a couple weeks leading up to the 9 solo breakout last Sunday. He is not playing every down but has averaged 61 plays over the past three games. Danny Trevathan is still going to be the more productive of the duo on most weeks but Jones has earned some consideration and belongs on a roster in most leagues. The Saints have been a solid matchup for linebackers, so we may see both of these players reach double-digit points this week.
Owners in tackle required leagues should jump on Eddie Goldman. It took him a couple games to get going after missing the first three but Goldman has 11 solo tackles an assist and half a sack in the last two weeks. He showed signs of quality production over his first two seasons and may be in the midst of a breakout season. With quality production from the tackle positions so hard to come by, Goldman is certainly worth adding.
New Orleans has allowed an average of .7 sacks per game so they are not a good matchup for pass rushers.
How Vontaze Burfict did not get suspended for kicking a Steelers player in the head is a mystery. Even being a Bengals homer I have no explanation. I have him in a couple leagues and actually made roster moves in anticipation of not having him for a while.
Kevin Minter left last week's game with an elbow injury and was not able to return. As of Wednesday afternoon, we are still awaiting an update. It seems likely Vincent Rey will get the start at middle linebacker against the Colts this week. This is a poor matchup and chances are Rey will have a two-down base package role. He is a strong pass defender though so having him on the field could lead to more base package calls. I would not consider him more than a desperation fill in.
Start Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins and maybe even Michael Johnson this week. The Colts have allowed at least 3 sacks in six of their seven games including 10 to the Jaguars in Week 7. Johnson continues to slide inside on passing downs and has been productive in that role.
Myles Garrett has been nothing short of impressive since getting on the field and has quickly become an every-week must start. If he is your guy, keep an eye on the practice reports late this week. Garrett complained of headaches on Tuesday and after being checked out was placed in concussion protocol on Wednesday.
It would sure be nice to know what to expect from the Dallas linebackers in Week 8. Sean Lee led the group in playing time with 79% of the defensive snaps in Week 7 while Anthony Hitchens led the team in tackles with 8 while playing 66% of the time. Lee probably would have played closer to every snap had he not missed some time with a thigh contusion. The injury is thought to be minor and the Cowboys expect him to play but it is hard to say if he will be at full speed or if he can make it through a full game
Hitchens actually started over Jaylon Smith in the middle with Smith logging 32 total snaps. This speaks volumes about where Smith is in his recovery, or at least how comfortable the team is with him playing a lot. The Redskins were an excellent matchup for linebackers early in the season but they have been average at best of late. If I had to play one of these guys it would probably be Hitchens for the higher floor or Lee for the higher ceiling.
David Irving had a big impact in his second straight game since returning from suspension. He was 2-1-1 with a forced fumble and a batted pass against Arizona. His average of 17 fantasy points is by far the most of any defensive tackle over the last three weeks. This guy is for real; go get him if you can.
Early in the season, Brandon Marshall looked a lot like the guy that finished with 91 solo tackles in 2014. Over Denver's last three games he has looked more like the player that was on pace for 56 solo stops before being injured late in 2016. Marshall has participated in 92% of the defensive snaps over the last three games and has not come close to double-digit points in any of them. Meanwhile, Todd Davis played about 62% of the snaps in those games, reaching double-digit points in each of the last two. Add in his 9-1-1 against the Bills in Week 4 and Davis has reached double digits in three of the last four games despite playing only in base packages. Maybe Davis's success comes because he is an outstanding run stuffer, or maybe it is because Marshall is not. The reality is probably somewhere in between with the bottom line being Marshall is not getting it done at all while Davis is becoming a player we can consider during these bye weeks if he is healthy. Health will be the issue this week as Davis left Sunday’s game with an ankle injury after going 7-3-0 on twenty-eight snaps. He was replaced by Zaire Anderson who proceeded to finish with 4 tackles on ten plays. Keep an eye on this situation late in the week if you have holes to fill at linebacker.
The hits just keep coming for the Colts who have now lost Malik Hooker for the season with a knee injury. The loss of Hooker means either Darius Butler or T.J. Green will get the call at free safety against the Bengals with both players likely seeing time. In fantasy terms, the winner here, for now, is Mathias Farley who probably takes on an every-down role for at least the next couple weeks. Other than the huge game by Josh Jones in Week 3, the Bengals have been a lousy matchup for safeties in general. There are however many prognosticators that feel Cincinnati will be able to get it rolling against a decimated Colts defense that has not stopped anyone.
Indianapolis will also be without their best pass rusher John Simon who will miss some time with a stinger and probably starting corner Rashaan Melvin who is currently in the concussion protocol. All the news is not bad for the Colts this week though. Clayton Geathers is inching closer to a return and is expected to participate in practice on a limited basis this week.
The Jaguars had a Sackfest in Week 7, posting 10 sacks in a game for the second time this season. Yannick Ngakoue was credited with 2.5 of them along with 7 quarterback hits in the game. If this guy could produce with any consistency he would be in the conversation with the fantasy elite at the position. Unfortunately, he is feast or famine with 63.5 combined fantasy points in games versus the Texans, Jets, and Colts, but only 8 total points in the other four games. The good news is a string of excellent matchups in the second half of the season, starting with the Bengals after the bye week and including the Browns, Cardinals, 49ers, and rematches with the Colts and Texans during the fantasy playoffs.
Los Angeles Chargers
Jatavis Brown opened this season as expected with 27 tackles and 14 assists in the first four games. Since that time he has battled an ankle injury that has caused his production to plummet. At least we think it is the ankle injury at the center of his slump, but I am starting to wonder if there is more to it. His playing time has dropped steadily over the last three games despite his practicing in full last week and being removed from the injury report. Brown was on the field for 18 plays against Denver with Korey Toomer seeing 15 snaps and safety Adrian Phillips lining up at linebacker in a lot of sub packages. It becomes increasingly hard to keep a roster spot during these bye weeks for a guy not producing. I plan to make a point of watching Brown this week to see if he looks healthy. Dynasty owners will want to give him more rope because he has been so productive in the past. Redraft owners may want to consider moving on unless his playing time and production start trending up very quickly.
Los Angeles Rams
We should not read much into the lack of production from Mark Barron and Alec Ogletree in Week 7. The defense was only on the field for 44 snaps and Barron only played 31. He was pulled when the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt to protect the thumb injury that had him listed as questionable leading up to the game. With the Rams on a bye this week Barron will have some time to heal up and should be close to 100% for Week 9.
Andrew Sendejo has been suspended for Week 8 due to an illegal hit on Mike Wallace. Of course, Sendejo will appeal the suspension but chances are Anthony Harris will get the start at strong safety against the Browns. Cleveland has been a poor matchup for safeties on most weeks so Harris is a desperation play at best even though he has been fairly productive in the past as a spot starter.
New England Patriots
Dont'a Hightower left the Week 7 game with a shoulder injury and Elandon Roberts was inactive with an ankle, so David Harris finally got on the field for a few plays. Hightower did not practice on Wednesday and Roberts was limited, so Harris could be in for a significant role against the Chargers who have been a strong matchup for linebackers in general.
Tackle Malcolm Brown is also in danger of missing Week 8 with an ankle injury. With Lawrence Guy also limited by a chest injury, the Patriots may have to lean on Alan Branch and Adam Butler on the interior of the defensive line.
New Orleans Saints
For the second straight week with Mitchell Trubiski at quarterback, Chicago threw virtually no passes toward receivers in Week 7. In fact, they had little offensive output in general while their defense dominated the game. It is hard to say if we will see the Bears offense that ran all over Baltimore in Week 6 or the one that watched their defense score almost all the points against Carolina last week. If the Saints defense continues to play as well as they have during their recent winning streak, Chicago will once again have a tough time moving the ball, especially if they are not able to throw some to loosen up the defense. If not for all the teams on bye this week I would say to avoid all New Orleans defenders including the pass rushers (The Bears threw 7 total passes last week). With the situation as it is A.J. Klein and Craig Robertson probably deserve consideration as desperation plays.
New York Giants
The Giants are a M.A.S.H. unit limping into the bye week. Landon Collins is gimpy with a bad ankle, B.J. Goodson left the Seattle game with an ankle injury, Olivier Vernon has not played since Week 4 due to an ankle, and Jonathan Casillas has missed the last two games with a sore neck. Chances are we will not hear much about these guys during their off week but if you are looking ahead to the Week 9 bye schedule, consider adding Keenan Robinson. He has been the most productive Giants linebacker over the past couple weeks and was 6-3-0 on 67 of 75 snaps in Week 7.
Navorro Bowman not only started, he wore the communications helmet despite being with the team for less than a week. There were some mistakes during his first game with the team but it was easy to see how much the veteran's presence helped in general. At the end of the day, Bowman led the team in tackles and had already established himself as a team leader. Next up is an outstanding matchup with the Bills that could leave Bowman as the tackle leader among all linebackers this week. It is not hard to figure out what we have in Bowman for the rest of the season. The question now becomes what do we have on Cory James once he is healthy and is he worth hanging onto? The answer to the first part of that question is hard to call. As for the second part, I think dynasty owners should try to hang onto James for the long haul. He was playing well before the injury and is a young player with a bright future. Redraft owners, on the other hand, need to move on if you have not already done so.
The Eagles have lost Jordan Hicks for the season with a torn Achilles. Najee Goode took over the middle linebacker role on Monday night, including sub packages. Goode played pretty well and finished the game with a respectable 5 solo stops. Goode also took over the every-down role when Hicks missed time during the preseason but I have to wonder if Mychal Kendricks will finally get his chance after playing so well recently. Kendricks was inactive for Week 7 due to a hamstring injury but he did play virtually full time in Week 6 when Hicks was banged up, recording 12 tackles and 5 assists in that game. Kendricks practiced in full on Wednesday and is on track to play. At this point, I would look to add one or both of these guys with Kendricks have significantly more upside.
Michael Bennett handled his normal workload (50+ plays) in Week 7 but would never know it by the box score. Maybe it was the sore foot but to be fair, Frank Clark did not do much more, with an assist and a fumble recovery to show for his efforts. Meanwhile, tackle Jarran Reed had the best game of his young career going 7-0-1 with a forced fumble. The Texans are not as great a matchup for pass rushers as a glance at their sacks allowed would suggest. After giving up 10 in the opener, Houston has allowed more than 2 only once in their last four games. With so many players off it will be tough for many of us not to start Bennett in this one. The good news here is he was not limited at all in practice on Wednesday
San Francisco 49ers
Jaquiski Tartt started at strong safety and played every snap in Week 7. Jimmy Ward did the same at free safety with Eric Reid as the third safety in most nickel packages. This is great news for those of us counting on Tartt. Adding to his rising stock is the fact San Francisco is beaten up at linebacker.
Reuben Foster was a three-down linebacker including dime packages but ended up missing some time after suffering a rib injury. I am already starting to wonder if the 49ers made a mistake in letting Bowman walk. Foster clearly has the talent and potential but it is starting to feel like his best comparison is Sean Lee rather than Ray Lewis. He simply has not been able to get or stay healthy and it has not been one injury he is struggling to overcome. Foster was limited on Wednesday but is expected to go in Week 8. If the Eagles get their power running game going he could have a huge game, providing, of course, he can stay on the field.
Ray Ray Armstrong is also battling injury. He tried to play through his sore shoulder against Dallas but was significantly limited. Armstrong ended up playing 27 snaps. With both Foster and Armstrong banged up, we could see a lot of Brock Coyle and/or Dekoda Watson against the Eagles.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There are some unhappy campers in Tampa Bay. T.J. Ward came out ripping the team this week because he "did not come here to rotate", and fellow free agent addition Chris Baker chimed in with something along the lines of; I know how you feel bro. We will have to see if the squeaky wheel gets the oil here. In Week 7 rookie Justin Evans played every down at free safety while Ward was on the short side of a timeshare with Chris Conte. If you need to add a defensive back this week Evans is a good player to target.
We were wondering what the Buccaneers would do with their linebackers one everyone was healthy. We found out against Buffalo when Kendell Beckwith started at strongside backer and they stayed in their base 4-3 for 53 of 68 snaps. It will be interesting to see if they continue to keep all three linebackers on the field against more prolific passing teams like the Saints, Falcons, and Lions in the next few weeks.
Vernon Hargreaves was bumped to sub-package duties as the slot corner in Week 7. He played just 36 of 68 snaps against Buffalo. The coaching staff has not commented on this being a temporary or permanent situation but we may want to avoid Hargreaves until we find out.
In a surprise move, the Buccaneers place Noah Spence on IR early this week. They have not yet announced what his injury is.
I am out of time so that is going to do it for this offering. Best of luck navigating the injuries and bye week.