Making sense of week one is always a challenge. Just like every other week of the season, there were guys that unexpectedly put up eye-catching numbers and guys we had big expectations from that did little or nothing. Making the right call on these players can make or break your season.
The trend of situation-specific substitutions and big nickel sets featuring three safeties in the front seven continues to grow. It has gotten to the point where it is tough to find dependable three-down players both up front and at linebacker. If it continues, which seems likely, a dependable three-down linebacker may soon carry value similar to a three-down feature running back.
The Cardinals rolled out in week one looking much like they did in the third preseason game. Safeties Budda Baker, Antoine Bethea and Tre Boston all three put up excellent numbers against Washington and are likely to continue doing so. Boston played deep most of the time doing much of his damage via the big play (forced fumble and recovery), while Bethea led the team with 9 solo stops and Baker finished 8-3.
Arizona had two linebackers that also played nearly every snap and were productive. Deone Bucannon participated in every defensive snap finishing with a respectable 5-2 on the day, while Josh Bynes played 90% of the snaps going 8-3. Bynes is a player that will be available in many leagues and should be on the add list if you have a hole at linebacker.
Haasan Reddick’s 3-1-0 is impressive when taking into consideration he played only 14 snaps. If something happens to put him on the field full time, this guy could be a major IDP factor.
After a preseason scare, Robert Nkemdiche was healthy enough to make the start. Both he and Corey Peters logged 70% of the playing time with Nkemdiche landing his first career sack (3-0-1) and Peters going 4-1-0. Both are worthy of consideration for managers in tackle required leagues.
Injuries are the headlines in Atlanta this week. The team lost IDP studs Keanu Neal to a knee injury and Deion Jones to a foot. Both will require surgery with Jones having the possibility to return late in the campaign. Damontae Kazee will fill in at strong safety. Based on his play during the preseason Kazee should be high on your replacement list if you lost Neal or just need to bolster the position. Kazee was a beast during the warm-up portion of the season.
To cover for Jones the Falcons will probably shift Duke Riley from his two down role on the strong side to a three-down role in the middle. In preseason action Riley moved inside after the starters finished, serving as the play caller and three down middle backer with the second team. Riley displayed good production on a per snap basis as a rookie though he did not see a great deal of action. De'Vondre Campbell will also see a rise in his stock but he was already playing every down. Both of these linebackers should be on your short list of potential additions this week, especially if you had Jones.
Vic Beasley Jr left the game before halftime to be evaluated for a concussion but was able to return.
There is no reason to panic if C.J. Mosley is your LB1. The Buffalo offense provided little opportunity then the Ravens started pulling defensive starters early in the fourth quarter of the blowout win. Neither of those situations will occur this week in Cincinnati.
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