This article attempts to immediately highlight defensive players whose production was significantly better or worse than normally expected for the prior week of games. Note there is sometimes limited information available when this article is written, but I will try to give everyone an early look at players who are moving up or down in value among IDP circles. I've also added a section this year called No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading for some players. It’s difficult to give waiver advice for IDPs since there is such a wide variety of lineups and scoring systems, but hopefully, the information provided can help inform your waiver, trade, and upcoming lineup decisions. If you have any questions about specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
MIAMI @ BALTIMORE
DT Brandon Williams, BAL (4 solos, 3 TFL)
The Ravens run defense is significantly improved with Williams in the lineup. He came back last week from a foot injury and has posted 9 solo tackles with 4 tackles for loss in the previous two games. Although he doesn't add much as a pass rusher, he still saw 39 snaps (59%) this week while Baltimore played most of the game with a big lead, and should remain a reliable source of tackles going forward.
CB Xavien Howard, MIA (1 solo, 1 asst)
Howard has been playing through some injuries but the Miami coaches have been asking him to shadow opposing receivers at times this year. He has flashed some potential as a capable shutdown corner but the 2016 2nd round pick still needs to improve his overall consistency. Regardless, his numbers have been underwhelming of late with just 2 solos and 2 assists in the last two games combined with just 3 passes defensed on the year.
MINNESOTA @ CLEVELAND (in London)
LB Joe Schobert, CLE (11 solos, 1 FF, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Schobert continues to be one of the biggest breakout players this year on the defensive side of the ball. He wasn't expected to play a key role for Cleveland this year as Tank Carder was expected to start inside before suffering a torn ACL in August. Despite the presence of 3-down linebackers in Christian Kirksey and Jamie Collins Sr, Schobert continues to play every snap and looks like he could be a long-term fixture for the Browns defense.
DE Danielle Hunter, MIN (1 solo, 1 FF)
Unfortunately, Hunter continues to be one of the most disappointing fantasy players on the defensive side of the ball. He posted 34 solos and 12.5 sacks a year ago while averaging fewer than 40 snaps per game. This year, despite moving into more of a full-time role and averaging 50 snaps/game, he has just 9 solos and 3 sacks through 8 games.
DE Carl Nassib, CLE (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 2 PD)
Nassib had seen a significant reduction in playing time with the emergence of Myles Garrett in recent weeks. With Garrett not able to play this week while recovering from a concussion, however, Nassib got the start and played a season-high 57 snaps. He posted some great numbers in the game including a sack and a pair of tipped passes but is likely to return to a reserve role after the week 9 bye.
OAKLAND @ BUFFALO
DT Justin Ellis, OAK (5 solos, 1 asst)
The Raiders nose tackle has been seeing nearly 45 snaps per game over the past month with a season-high 47 snaps (68%) this week. He has seen a noticeable increase in his production as well with 12 solo tackles and 6 assists over his last 3 starts. For deeper leagues that require a starting DT or two, he's starting to look like one of the more productive run stoppers in the league.
LB Cory James, OAK (8 solos, 3 TFL)
James probably wasn't fully recovered from the knee injury that kept him out most of the past few weeks but he was healthy enough to start and play 49 snaps (71%). While the Bills were able to control things with their running game, James did make 3 of his 8 solo stops behind the line of scrimmage. Although Bowman will soak up most of the tackle opportunities here, James should continue to see a 3-down role and remain a viable fantasy starter.
LB Matt Milano, BUF (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 FR, 1 TD)
Milano hasn't filled up the box score since taking over for the injured Ramon Humber in week 4 with 11 solos and 6 assists in 4 games. He did see a season-high 52 snaps (80%) this week, however, and continues to come up with big plays. Last week he had an interception and this week he had an opportune fumble recovery that he returned 40 yards for a touchdown. The coaches have said that Humber will be the starter once he returns, but Milano is making their decision tougher with each game.
S Karl Joseph, OAK (DNP)
Joseph missed practice last week with a groin injury and wound up missing the game on Sunday as a result. He will likely remain a productive fantasy safety but the Raiders have clearly upgraded their linebacker group with the addition of Navorro Bowman and that may limit his upside slightly after he returns.
S Trai Elston, BUF (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Elston got the start at safety this week in place of the injured Jordan Poyer. He wound up leading the team in tackles and also added an interception for good measure. There were concerns the Bills didn't have any quality depth behind their starters but it looks like that may not be the case. In any event, he's likely to head back to the bench as early as Thursday night against the Jets if Poyer can play.
INDIANAPOLIS @ CINCINNATI
DE Henry Anderson, IND (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH, 1 BFG)
There aren't any clear shifts in playing time trends for Anderson, but he has certainly been making his presence felt a lot more the past two weeks. Last week he picked up a sack and forced a fumble against Jacksonville while this week he added 7 tackles with a sack and blocked field goal attempt. He is a capable interior pass rusher who has been slowed by injuries and it seems like he's finally starting to take advantage of the heavy workload he gets (was on the field for 88% of snaps this week).
CB Darqueze Dennard, CIN (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
The former 1st round pick was likely written off as a bust by many but he is making some significant contributions to the Bengals defense this year. He has been filling in for Adam Jones outside while also handling most of the slot corner duties and looks like a very capable starter. He had a pair of sacks earlier this season and now has 12 solos and 5 assists over his last 2 games. With Adam Jones now 34-years old, he shouldn't present a roadblock to a full-time role much longer.
S Matthias Farley, IND (0 tackles, 1 QH)
Farley played all 56 snaps this week but somehow managed to finish the game with 0 tackles. While the Bengals didn't generate a ton of tackle opportunities in the game (41), it was a disappointing showing considering all of the injuries in the Colts secondary. Now with Clayton Geathers returning to the lineup as early as this week, Farley could wind up seeing a reduction in his playing time as well.
DE Michael Johnson, CIN (1 solo)
Johnson had been playing well with 3 sacks in his last 4 games coming into this great matchup against the Colts. Unfortunately, he only lasted 24 snaps (32%) before leaving the game with a back injury. If he's unable to go next week against Jacksonville, the Bengals have plenty of depth to rely on with Chris Smith, Carl Lawson, and Jordan Willis.
LA CHARGERS @ NEW ENGLAND
LB Elandon Roberts, NE (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
With Dont'a Hightower on injured reserve and done for the year, there is now more of an opening for Roberts to hold onto a 3-down role. David Harris served as a 2-down player this week with just 21 snaps while Roberts played in the nickel and saw 40 snaps (71%). He sat out last week with an ankle injury and was listed as questionable coming into the game but he will now have the bye week to recover.
S Adrian Phillips, LAC (12 solos, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Phillips has been playing up as a linebacker due to injuries and has helped lead to some dramatic improvements for the Chargers defense. He's big enough to hold up against the run game when playing in the box but also has ideal range to drop in coverage as necessary. Although he missed most of week 6 with a concussion and is playing primarily in passing situations, Phillips has been very productive in the role with 24 solos and 6 assists over 3 games.
DE Melvin Ingram III, LAC (1 solo, 1 QH)
I wouldn't worry too much about Ingram's disappointing stat line this week. The Patriots offense generated an impressive 67 tackle opportunities in the game but Tom Brady is not an easy quarterback to sack. The most reassuring factor is that Ingram was on the field for 78 of 86 defensive snaps in the game. That being said, his numbers have cooled off a bit with just 6 solos and 1 sack over his last 3 games.
CHICAGO @ NEW ORLEANS
CB Marshon Lattimore, NO (3 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD)
The Saints pass defense has been dramatically improved and Lattimore is a huge reason why. The rookie corner is playing exceptionally well and grabbed his second interception in the past 3 games. While he didn't get many tackle opportunities against a Bears offense that only completed 14 passes, we may see him match up against Mike Evans next week.
S Eddie Jackson, CHI (1 solo)
Jackson followed up his huge performance last week with a clunker this week. New Orleans has relied more heavily on their running game of late and had 30 rush attempts compared to just 28 pass attempts. That left fewer opportunities for Jackson to make an impact. Unfortunately, he's likely to continue to have some weeks like this due to the nature of the position he plays (free safety).
ATLANTA @ NY JETS
DE Muhammad Wilkerson, NYJ (5 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Wilkerson came into the game pretty banged up and was listed as questionable on the injury report. He managed to play 54 snaps (82%), however, and finally picked up his first sack of the year. Unfortunately, head coach Todd Bowles said it's unlikely that he'll be able to play against the Bills on Thursday night, given the short recovery time.
DE Brooks Reed, ATL (0 tackles)
Reed got the start again this week but he was held to zero tackles while playing a season-low of 18 snaps. The Falcons like to rotate their defensive linemen but Vic Beasley Jr (38 snaps) and Adrian Clayborn (37 snaps) saw the bulk of time while rookie Takkarist McKinley made an impact (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF) in his 25 snaps.
LB Kemal Ishmael, ATL (2 asst, 1 FR)
Ishmael posted 9 tackles a week ago when he saw a spike in playing time, but he went back to the bench this week. He only saw 4 defensive snaps this week and earned most of his production on the 27 special teams snaps, including a recovery of a muffed punt return.
SAN FRANCISCO @ PHILADELPHIA
DT Leger Douzable, SF (5 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Douzable just signed in San Francisco a couple weeks ago and has already moved into a big-time role for the 49ers due to a rash of injuries up front. Douzable replaced Arik Armstead in the starting lineup at defensive end and he was on the field for 57 of 70 defensive snaps this week (81%). Note that Solomon Thomas also left this game injured with an MCL sprain so Douzable should continue to see a heavy workload.
S Jaquiski, Tartt, SF (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 QH)
Despite the return of Eric Reid to the lineup last week, Tartt has held onto the starting strong safety job. That trend continued again this week as the team used Reid as a nickel linebacker while keeping Tartt as the full-time strong safety.
LB Ray Ray Armstrong, SF (4 solos)
Armstrong looked great earlier this year while filling in for Reuben Foster, but he saw a drop in playing time this week. The coaches appear to have used him in a platoon with safety Eric Reid. When the 49ers were in their base defense, Armstrong was out there as the weakside linebacker but they brought in Eric Reid as part of their nickel packages. That left each of them without a clear full-time role.
CB Rashard Robinson, SF (1 solo on special teams)
Robinson was seen as a future #1 corner for the 49ers not too long ago but he was replaced in the starting lineup this week by Ahkello Witherspoon (3 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD). With just 16 snaps (23%), Robinson was well behind nickel corner Leon Hall (33 snaps) who just signed with the team.
CB Patrick Robinson, PHI (2 solos, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Robinson has been a bright spot in the Eagles secondary this year but he suffered a concussion and was limited to just 18 snaps this week. With the expected return of Ronald Darby soon, he may soon go back to being the team's nickel back which would make his fantasy value more matchup-dependent.
S Jimmie Ward, SF (2 solos, 1 asst)
Ward suffered a broken arm in the game and will likely be out for some time. He wound up seeing just 15 snaps (21%) and was replaced by Adrian Colbert (2 solos in 55 snaps).
LB Brock Coyle, SF (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Coyle was one of just two 49ers defenders to play all 70 defensive snaps this week and they both tied for the team lead with 7 tackles. The fact that he played almost twice the number of snaps as Ray Ray Armstrong is a positive sign for his value improving but there's also a good chance that Reuben Foster will be back next week and send Coyle to the bench.
CAROLINA @ TAMPA BAY
DE Mario Addison, CAR (3 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
Addison was productive in recent weeks despite not being able to handle a full workload. He came into this week with 2 sacks over his last 3 games despite seeing an average of under 25 snaps/game. This week, however, his playing time jumped back up to 46 snaps (69%) and we saw strong numbers as a result.
S Kurt Coleman, CAR (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 FR)
Coleman returned to action this week and played all 67 snaps for the Panthers. While he wasn't very productive earlier this season, he clearly made a big impact this week as he led the team in tackles and also recovered a fumble.
LB Kendell Beckwith, TB (1 solo, 1 asst)
Beckwith was reduced to a part-time role this week as he was only on the field for 34 snaps (52%). Despite facing what appeared to be another great matchup, he could not get enough opportunities to be a viable fantasy option. Definitely a long-term hold but it's likely he won't produce much as long as he's not playing in the nickel behind Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander.
S Chris Conte, TB (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Conte continues to share time with T.J. Ward at strong safety so don't overreact to the huge numbers he put up in this game. He was very active with 9 tackles and an interception on just 38 snaps, but that is not likely to continue as long as he winds up playing a little more than half the snaps.
HOUSTON @ SEATTLE
DE Michael Bennett, SEA (4 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Perhaps the toe injury wasn't as bad as some suspected as Bennett once again played a huge number of snaps (59 snaps, 83%) and had perhaps his best game of the season. He's now up to 5.5 sacks through 7 games and is well on his way to another great year.
LB Zach Cunningham, HOU (1 asst)
This was certainly a very disappointing stat line for the rookie, but fantasy owners should be somewhat reassured that he was on the field for all 69 defensive snaps. Sometimes the flow of the game goes away from a player, or perhaps they have a bit more trouble shedding blockers to make a play. In any event, he now has just 1 solo and 1 assist for his last 117 defensive snaps and that's not good.
DALLAS @ WASHINGTON
DE Tyrone Crawford, DAL (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 4 QH, 1 FF)
Crawford hasn't earned much attention thus far but he looked great this week while contributing a sack with a forced fumble along with 4 QB hits. He now has a 3-game active sack streak going and should certainly benefit from offenses often having to devote extra attention to Demarcus Lawrence and possibly David Irving (2 more sacks this week).
LB Anthony Hitchens, DAL (1 solo, 2 asst)
With Washington trying to spread things out as much as possible, the Cowboys spent quite a bit of time in their dime defense this week. That meant fewer snaps for Hitchens, who wound up seeing just 26 snaps (44%) while Jaylon Smith also was on the field for just 17 snaps. Also note that Damien Wilson got the start over Smith this week, although Smith wound up playing slightly more. Apart from Sean Lee, this group looks pretty crowded.
LB Mason Foster, WAS (DNP)
Foster sat out this week and was placed on injured reserve after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum. Martrell Spaight (38 snaps) and Will Compton (29 snaps) took his place but neither saw enough snaps to likely be considered a fantasy starter.
PITTSBURGH @ DETROIT
CB Artie Burns, PIT (8 solos, 1 asst, 1 TFL, 1 FR, 1 PD)
Burns has provided a clear boost to the Steelers secondary this year as they have become much tougher to throw against. While his production has lagged behind his level of play, they certainly seemed to catch up this week as he led his team in tackles with 9 while also adding a fumble recovery.
LB Jarrad Davis, DET (1 solo, 1 asst)
With the Steelers churning out 25 rush attempts for Le'Veon Bell this week, seeing just 2 tackles from Davis has to be considered a clear disappointment. Note that Bell was limited to just 3 yards per carry on average as the Lions run defense did a great job of keeping him in check. Davis remains a very promising young middle linebacker and he was on the field for all 64 defensive snaps, so this is likely an outlier.