The Cardinals have settled on Josh Bynes as their every-down middle linebacker. He has always been a smart, dependable linebacker that tackles well and rarely makes mistakes. What Bynes has not been over the course of his career is a playmaker. Entering his eighth season in 2018, Bynes had career totals of three forced fumbles, two interceptions, with a sack and a half. Granted he has been a backup for much of his career but Bynes played enough to have 172 solo stops in those six seasons. With an average of better than six and a half solo tackles and two assists per game this season, Bynes is already established as a trustworthy starter. The box score explosion of nine tackles, two assists, a sack, forced fumble, pass breakup, and a score in week five, could be a sign of bigger things to come.
The team continued to experiment at their other linebacker spot in week five, finally giving Haason Reddick his shot at the job. Reddick played every snap against San Francisco and his response to the opportunity points to the Cardinals finally having a long-term answer. The 2017 first round pick rolled out a stat line of 8-0-1 with a forced fumble and two pass breakups. Those are impressive numbers but his impact on the game may have even been bigger as Reddick seemed to be everywhere. He should be at the top of this week’s free agent list for anyone in need of help at linebacker. That said beware starting Reddick this week unless we hear something from the team to confirm they saw the same game everyone else did. The Vikings have been a positive matchup but the Cardinals coaching staff has not been able to make up their minds. In their defense, no one else has grabbed the spotlight like this.
Robert Nkemdiche continues to struggle with one injury after another. He managed to play through a sore knee for a few weeks before missing week five with a foot problem. Rodney Gunter stepped in and played 78% of the snaps against San Francisco, posting a respectable line of 2-3-0 with a forced fumble and a batted pass. The player to keep an eye on here, however, is Pierre Olsen. After missing a couple games with a toe injury, Olsen was part of the tackle rotation in week four. In week five his playing time doubled to 52% of the snaps. Olsen was a hot commodity down the stretch last year, finishing 22-8-5.5 on the season. If Nkemdiche continues to miss time, Olsen could work his way into a starting role over the next couple weeks.
Markus Golden sat out week five due to a flare up in his surgically repaired knee. It is apparent he will not be anywhere near full speed this season, at least not in time to help fantasy managers. Dynasty managers will want to hold tight if possible. Once he returns to full health Golden is going to be a good one.
Brian Poole followed three great games to start the season with a pair of stinkers. The only good reason not to cut and move on from him is this week’s matchup with the pass-happy Buccaneers, and that may not even be enough. After seeing some time at safety in week four, Poole was a slot corner against the Steelers, garnering 61% of the snaps. Meanwhile, Isaiah Oliver went back to a minor role with Jordan Richards making the start at safety.
Sit your Atlanta linebackers in week five. Shear volume will carry these guys on most weeks but both De'Vondre Campbell and Duke Riley are coming off stinkers against the Steelers, and the pass-happy Buccaneers are next. Linebackers have struggled versus Tampa Bay with only one reaching five solo stops against them.
Tre’Davious White is quickly becoming one of the league’s premier cover corners. As such some teams will look to avoid him. The Texans are not going to be one of those teams. White is likely to shadow DeAndre Hopkins who is currently the league’s top receiver. White will have plenty of opportunity in this one.
With both Micah Hyde and Rafael Bush sidelined by injuries, the Bills turned to undrafted rookie Dean Marlowe at strong safety. Lack of offense by the Titans limited Marlowe to 3-1-0. He will have a lot more opportunity against the Texans if neither Hyde nor Bush can return to action.
Jerry Hughes continues to be highly productive in the Bills surprisingly strong defense. With a 4-0-1 against Tennessee, he now has four consecutive games with double-digit fantasy points. The Texans are allowing 3.6 sacks per game which is yet another good reason to play Hughes this week.
Corner Teron Johnson left Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury.
James Bradberry has been shadowing opponents best receivers this year. He traveled with Odell Beckham Jr Jr. who was targeted a whopping 14 times on Sunday. The result was a big game for Bradberry who finished at 7-1 0 with a pair of passes defended. Washington has no clear-cut number one receiver when everyone is healthy. With Josh Doctson and Paul Richardson Jr Jr. both banged up, Bradberry will likely be assigned to Jamison Crowder this week.
Eric Reid got the start and played full time at strong safety, but did nothing to warrant any IDP consideration.
The game book lists Vontaze Burfict and Preston Brown as the starters when Cincinnati opened in a nickel set. On the first third down of the game, Burfict left the field with Zach Vigil joining Brown. In the end what we had was basically a three-player rotation in sub packages. All three saw time on passing downs over the course of the game with Vigil leading the way at 73% of the snaps on the day.
It is safe to expect Burfict’s playing time to increase in his second game back and there is no reason to believe he will play less than full time going forward. Unfortunately, we still have no clear view of who will handle the other three down duties. In a worst case scenario, we could have a continued timeshare.
After their strong safeties blew up the box scores in the first two weeks Cincinnati’s strong safeties have fallen flat over the last three games. With a total of seven tackles in the last three contests, it is time to part ways with Shawn Williams.
Cleveland took a page out of last year’s defensive book in week five; playing all three linebackers in most situations. Both Joe Schobert and Christian Kirksey were three down guys with Jamie Collins Sr also seeing about 80% of the snaps. The result was strong numbers by all three. With his big-play ability, Collins has proven he can be productive in a slightly less than a full-time role. One game is not enough to go on, but if the Browns continue giving him more than 75% of the playing time, Collins will be at least a quality third starter for IDP managers.
Larry Ogunjobi was on fire to start the season but has cooled considerably over the last two outings including a goose egg in week five. This could be a sign that he is wearing down a little, but more likely it is simply a case of bad matchup. No interior lineman has more than two tackles against Baltimore since week one and Ogunjobi is not the only starter to be shut out by the Ravens. Unfortunately, the Chargers have not been much better. Over the last four weeks, Kyle Williams, Ndamukong Suh, DeForest Buckner and Maurice Hurst have combined for 6 tackles, 2 assists and a sack with this matchup. In fact, we should temper expectations for all Brown’s defenders this week against the Chargers. They are giving up less than a sack and a half per game, have committed four turnovers in five games and only six players have exceeded five solo stops against them.
Randy Gregory finally showed up in the box score in week five. His 3-2-0 was not eye-catching but putting it into perspective, Demarcus Lawrence and Taco Charlton combined for all of two assists in the game. Gregory’s playing time percentage has increased every game thus far and he was on the field for half the snaps against Houston. The trend could continue this week with Charlton battling a thumb injury.
Da’Shawn Hand continues to impress with a huge game against Green Bay. Since shifting to end he is 7-0-2 with a pair of forced fumbles and a recovery in two games. The Lions could have Ezekiel Ansah back when they return from the bye week but it will be hard to put the Jeanie back in the bottle. Expect Hand to pair with Ansah as the starters going forward.
The Lions have to be pleased with the play of Romeo Okwara as well. In the last three games, he has totaled 6-1-3 with a forced fumble including a 3-0-2 against the Packers in week five. He should continue to see a lot of time as the third end once everyone is healthy.
Green Bay Packers
Oren Burks was in the starting lineup week five but there is no sign suggesting he will return to the three down role he held during the preseason. Likewise safety Josh Jones was active for the first time after recovering from his ankle injury. He played six snaps against Detroit, most of which came in garbage time.
Kavon Webster played two snaps before suffering a quad injury that landed him on IR Tuesday. As a result, Kareem Jackson went back to corner on a regular basis and Justin Reid took over at strong safety. With all the injuries at corner, there is a good chance we have seen the last of Jackson as a safety for a while. The quality play of Reid could make that decision easy for the coaching staff. He had six combined tackles and an interception against the Cowboys.
Zach Cunningham and Bernardrick McKinney both played every snap in week five and were productive.
Colts are so banged up they had to keep Nate Harris and Darius Leonard on the active roster for Thursday’s game because they had no inactive spots available. As of Wednesday afternoon, IDP managers are awaiting news on several players. So far we have heard Darius Leonard is likely to play week six and Clayton Geathers is not, but even those are speculation and did not come from the organization.
Word on Geathers is particularly critical considering he missed 18 games due to a neck injury suffered in week nine of 2016. After the big hit on Thursday, it was initially reported Geathers was in concussion protocol. It was not until later that we learned of the possible neck issue. Compounding the loss for Indianapolis, backup Mathias Farley left the game in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury. With both safeties in danger of missing this week, the Colts added free agent Mike Mitchell early in the week. The veteran may be thrown right into the fire even though he has not played since last year. As a fantasy prospect, Mitchell is worth keeping an eye on. If indeed he will be starting for a while there is some potential for production.
Other casualties from Thursday’s game are Anthony Walker who is currently in concussion protocol, Denico Autry who left with a hamstring after returning from an ankle injury in week four, and Margus Hunt who returned after having his knee looked at early in the game but was not effective. The long week could help some of these guys get back on the field so we need to watch the practice reports late in the week.
Barry Church has been inconsistent at best in fantasy terms this season but could prove a strong start this week. Dallas is a good matchup for safeties and there is the added factor of a player facing a former team which often leads to them having a good game.
Kansas City Chiefs
Put Chiefs inside linebacker Terrance Smith on the watch list this week. He has been working in a limited role as a nickel linebacker, averaging about 26 snaps a game before playing 64% of the time in week five. Smith out snapped Reggie Ragland 53 to 24 and finished with a respectable 4-1-1 on the day. This may have been nothing more than a result of game flow with Jacksonville passing 61 times. On the other hand, Ragland has not been playing particularly well and the Chiefs are looking to improve defensively in general.
Jordan Lucas took over at safety when both Eric Murray and Armani Watts were forced out of Sunday’s game early with leg and groin injuries respectively. Lucas took advantage of the opportunity with a strong statistical outing of 5-2-0 and an interception. Safeties have put up quality tackle totals against New England in four of the previous five games so Lucas could be a sneaky good stream play if neither Murray nor Watts are available.
Justin Houston is not expected to play due to a hamstring injury.
Los Angeles Chargers
After playing 97% of the snaps and leading the team in tackles week four, we were tricked into thinking Jatavis Brown would be a three-down player until Kyzir White returned; shame on us for being so gullible. Against Oakland, the Chargers went back to the previous arrangement and simply had Adrian Phillips stand-in for White as the nickel linebacker.
Melvin Ingram III broke out in week five after a slow start. If the big game is not enough to get him back into lineups this week, consider the matchup. Cleveland has allowed the second most sacks in the league thus far, including 11 in the three games with Baker Mayfield under center.
Los Angeles Rams
Mark Barron returned to action week five and immediately made his presence felt. Barron led the team in tackles despite missing 20% of the snaps. He came through the game healthy and should be back in an every down capacity this week.
For those in corner required leagues, Marcus Peters has a great matchup this week. Through five games there have been 10 corners with at least five solo tackles against Denver, and the position is averaging 3.2 passes defended per game.
Does anyone else wonder if NFL coaches see the same games we do sometimes? When Jerome Baker played 80% of the snaps in week four it seemed the Miami coaching staff had finally realized what most of us have known since early in the preseason; Baker is clearly one of the teams two best linebackers. Yet in week five they went back to playing Raekwon McMillan on 43 plays with Baker getting 33. Baker still managed to lead the team in fantasy points on the strength of six tackles, an assists and two sacks.
Stephen Weatherly showed up in the box score again in week five with two tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. With no updated on Everson Griffen, we have to assume he is not close to coming back. Weatherly was a goose egg in week four but has a sack in two of the three games he has started. He is a solid player in a good situation and is a worthy addition if you have a need at end.
On a different note; sit every defender in a Vikings uniform this week with the exception of Danielle Hunter and possibly Weatherly. In the last four weeks, only two defenders have reached five solo stops against Arizona and no one has more than six. Even the pass rushers have a bad matchup in this one with the Cardinals giving up less than two sacks a game on the season and one in each of the games Josh Rosen has started.
New England Patriots
Trey Flowers is about the only New England defender we can safely start every week. This week we may want to consider keeping him on the bench as well. Patrick Mahomes is a highly mobile that seems to have eyes in the back of his helmet. He senses pressure and has the mobility to escape. As a result, the Chiefs have only given up six sacks on the season. Combine that with an already suspect Patriots pass rush that may be without John Simon as he recovers from a shoulder injury, and there may not be any sacks in this game.
New Orleans Saints
Marcus Davenport has not yet secured a starting job but his play suggests he may be getting close. He has two sacks and a forced fumble in the last three games and is becoming a disruptive force on a New Orleans defense that has come on in recent weeks. Alex Okafor is clinging to the starting job but so far has not been the contributor he was before the Achilles injury. The Saints are on a bye which could provide an opportunity to make the change. It will be no surprise if Davenport is a starter when they return in two weeks.
The bye could not have come at a better time for Marshon Lattimore who left Monday’s game with a concussion. The team hopes to have him back for week seven.
New York Jets
Anyone in need of help at safety should have Marcus Maye high on the waiver list this week if he is still available. He has scored double-digit points in both games since returning from injury. Maye lit up the box score in week five with six tackles, two assists, half a sack, a forced fumble, and an interception. If his two-game production is not enough to convince, remember that backup Doug Middleton was 19-4-0 with a pair of pass breakups at the position over the first three games.
The Jets secondary took a hit when Buster Skrine suffered his fourth concussion in three years. He is not likely to go week six and may have to think seriously about continuing his playing career. If Trumaine Johnson is not back from his quad injury, Darryl Roberts would start opposite Morris Clayborne with Parry Nickerson working in the nickel.
The numbers have not yet started to show but the Raiders seem to have a lot of confidence in rookie Arden Key. He has seen better than half the snaps in four of five games and played a season-high 77% of the defensive plays in week five; which was more than any other lineman in the last two games.
Ronald Darby banged up his shoulder in week five but returned after missing a few plays. The Eagles will probably match him up with Odell Beckham Jr Jr. in this game which could make Darby the fantasy game’s top corner in week six. James Bradberry drew that duty in week five and finished 7-1-0 with a couple pass breakups.
After losing Corey Graham to a hamstring injury the Eagles were left scrambling at the safety position. Corner Avonte Maddox picked up the slack on Sunday and may be the starter against the Giants on Thursday.
With Vince Williams out nursing a bad hamstring, the Steelers were a three-headed dog at inside linebacker against Atlanta. Jon Bostic and Tyler Matakevich were the starters but L.J. Fort also had a significant role. Fort turned the opportunity into six tackles and a sack but there is nothing to see here in fantasy terms. Fort is a seventh-year journeyman backup who has flashed here and there but has never been able to sustain production or even a starting job. Most of his career has been spent on special teams.
Sean Davis is averaging well under four tackles per game on the year and it is not going to get much better. The shift to free safety means his fantasy value will depend largely on big play production. Unfortunately, that has not materialized either. If you have not already done so, it is time to move on from Davis.
Meanwhile, Terrell Edmunds is coming off the most productive game of his young career in terms of tackle totals at 5-2-0 and has a great matchup with the Bengals. Four strong safeties and five safeties in all have recorded at least six solo stops versus Cincinnati.
Instead of playing Shaquem Griffin or Austin Calitro the Seahawks went with a nickel base defense against the Rams, featuring Bobby Wagner and Barkevious Mingo as three-down linebackers. Mingo performed surprisingly well in the unfamiliar role so we may see it again this week versus Oakland. He finished a respectable 6-1-0 on the day and was tied for second on the team in tackles.
Tedric Thompson got the start at free safety and had a strong outing (6-1-0 with a pick). On paper, it looks as if the Seahawks will continue to struggle defensively so Thompson may be a quality waiver target.
San Francisco 49ers
No San Francisco defender recorded more than three solo stops against Arizona in week five. The Cardinals are simply a horrible matchup at this point so there is no reason to start doubting Fred Warner, Reuben Foster or Jacquiski Tartt. On the other hand, the 49ers schedule is littered with less than favorable matchups the rest of the way, starting with this week against the Packers who do not run the ball well. They have the Rams and Raiders in the next four weeks but also face Arizona again, Seattle twice, the Giants and Buccaneers. Managers in redraft leagues may want to consider moving Warner or Foster after their next good game.
Jayon Brown has been outstanding in the absence of Wesley Woodyard both on the field and in the box scores. Two games as the team’s three down inside backer have seen him produce 14 tackles, six assists and a pair of sacks. Unless the Titans coaching staff is looking through the same glasses as the staff in Miami, Brown has to get strong consideration for the job even after Woodyard returns from the shoulder injury. Woodyard was a limited participant on Wednesday and is likely to sit one more game unless he realizes his job is in danger.
Zach Brown played 88% of the defensive snaps on Monday night which was by far his biggest percentage in a game this season. The question is, was the playing time matchup driven in an effort to slow the Saints run game early on, and later in the game when New Orleans was eating the clock with a big lead? This is good news and reason for optimism but let’s see another game with near every down playing time before we relax and count on Brown again.
That’s a wrap for the week six offering. Best of luck in this week’s games.
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