If you grabbed Haasan Reddick after his big Week 5 game, do not overreact to the 1-6-0 line he gave us in Week 6. Both he and Josh Bynes played every snap against Minnesota and the defense continued to play well in general. It is noteworthy that Bynes also had a strange line of 3-5-0. Both players should bounce back this week against Denver.
Marcus Golden returned to action in Week 6 and looked much better both on the field and in the box score where he was 2-1-.5 on just over half the snaps. We should continue to temper expectations for this season but it looks as if Golden could return to form in time for a stretch run.
Robert Nkemdichi was also back in action and looked healthy. His mark of 2-3-0 is not eye-catching but those are useful numbers for those in tackle required leagues. Most importantly he played nearly 70% of the game and came through healthy.
For a few weeks, we were able to capture a little value from both De'Vondre Campbell and Duke Riley. Both have fallen off over the last two weeks with a drop in playing time becoming a significant factor. Against Pittsburgh in Week 5 they each played about 85% of the snaps. Campbell saw a similar workload against the Buccaneers while Riley had his opportunity slashed to well short of half the playing time. Meanwhile, Foyesdade Oluokun has seen his role expand every week since the opener leading to a team-best in tackles with a line of 7-2-0 on 61% of the snaps in Week 6. If this trend continues he could soon claim a three-down role. At this point, we have to avoid the Falcons linebackers all together, but Oluokun needs to be on the watch list.
Managers should not get overly excited about the three-sack performance by ZaDarius Smith in Week 6, nor should anyone be concerned about the three solo outing by C.J. Mosley. Simply put the Titans offense was terrible in this game. They allowed more sacks (11) than they completed passes (10). Factor the meager 10 rush attempts plus 2 scrambles and it is hard to make an impact in the tackle column against an opponent that runs 24 offensive plays resulting in a tackle being awarded. There will be a much different script this week against the Saints who give up few sacks while providing as much tackle opportunity as any team in the league. Start Mosely with confidence and consider both Baltimore safeties as well.
The Bills continue to struggle offensively but the defense is playing much better than anyone expected. Buffalo enters Week 7 ranked eight versus the run and sixth against the pass. The defensive line is getting good pressure resulting in the best start for Jerry Hughes since 2014 while giving Trent Murphy some relevance in deeper leagues as well. On the back end, however, the opposite effect is happening as Micah Hyde continues to struggle. His 1-2-0 on 61 snaps in Week 6 was the last straw for the few who were clinging to hope after his one productive outing. The time has come to move on.
Thomas Davis returned to action in Week 6 and was right back in his familiar three-down role. He finished the day with five tackles, an assist and a pair of pass breakups on 89% of snaps. Shaq Thompson is in the fourth year of his rookie contract and may have to escape via free agency if he is to ever get on the field full time.
It looked more like the 2017 Bears in Week 6 with three defensive backs at the top of the tackle list including Adrian Amos who led the team at 7-2-0. Both corners Kyle Fuller and Bryce Callahan were 6-1-0 with Fuller adding a couple passes defended. There will be no doom and gloom prediction here but Chicago does face New England this week so the defensive backs could be busy again. If you find yourself streaming safeties during the bye weeks, Amos might make a good target here.
The Bengals not only came out of Week 7 with a disappointing loss, tbut hey were beaten up physically as well. Nick Vigil is expected to miss a few weeks with a sprained MCL, Darquez Dennard left with a shoulder injury that has his status in question for Week 7, and Shawn Williams is currently in concussion protocol. William Jackson, Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap were also forced out of the game for a few plays. All three returned but we need to keep an eye on the practice reports to make sure they are good to go.
Vincent Rey stepped in for Vigil, playing virtually every snap once he entered the game. Rey has a solid history of quality production whenever called upon. With Preston Brown continuing to come off in sub package situations (he played 70% of the snaps) Rey could be a nice short-term fill in as a third starter.
Vontaze Burfict left the game for a few snaps as well but by the time it was over he had logged 95% of the playing time.
The most important news out of Cleveland this week is the hamstring injury suffered by Joe Schobert. Early reports suggest he will miss a few games with the good news being Schobert should be back in plenty of time for the fantasy playoffs. Cleveland has a bye in week 11 making week 12 the most likely target for his return.
The ripple from Schobert’s injury will give Jamie Collins Sr a significant value boost. With Schobert out, Collins assumes full-time duties and will be paired with Christian Kirksey in nickel sub packages. He may well be a top-10 linebacker for the next month or so.
With James Burgess Jr also suffering a significant hamstring injury and then being released, the Browns are suddenly paper thin at linebacker. Rookie Genard Avery will step in at the third starter in base packages. It remains to be seen if he will get as much playing time as Collins was seeing in that role.
Damarious Randall has been a pleasant surprise for both the Browns and IDP managers. His move to free safety had been seamless and his production continues to get better as we get deeper into the season. The eight solo stops he recorded in Week 6 mark a career-best for Randall who now has double-digit fantasy points in four of six games, falling just short of that mark in another.
Larry Ogunjobi overcame a poor matchup to finish 3-1-.5 in Week 6. He is quickly earning every week must-start status for managers in tackle required leagues.
With only 33 plays resulting in a tackle opportunity, the Jaguars were a poor matchup in Week 6. Yet Leighton Vander Esch somehow managed to go 7-4-0 with a pass breakup, totaling 15 fantasy points. The return of Sean Lee is on the horizon, however, making it risky to count on Vander Esch down the stretch. Every week he makes a stronger case for keeping the job which may well happen. That said, if he is one of your starters it would be a good idea to have a plan.
Demarcus Lawrence managed to play through his sore shoulder again but it is clearly an issue that is affecting his production. Dallas has a bye in Week 8 so it might be a good idea to sit him until Week 9. Meanwhile, Randy Gregory has knocked the rust off and is starting to show production. He is 6-2-1 over the last two games and reached double-digit points in Week 6 for the first time this season. Gregory has not yet passed Taco Charlton for the starting job but that could happen at any time if he continues to produce.
With David Irving also working his way back into form, the Cowboys defense should be at full strength soon. Irving is a dominating interior lineman with the potential to be a top-12 guy down the stretch in leagues that lump the positions together and top-3 among tackles. Grab him now before he blows up.
The Lions hope to have Ezekiel Ansah back in action when they return from the bye this week. This is a situation we will be watching closely since DaShawn Hand and Romeo Okwara both played so well as starters leading up to the off week. With Kerry Hyder Jr also returning in Week 5, Detroit suddenly finds themselves with a good problem in having so many quality options to work with up front.
In what is probably a ripple effect from multiple injuries in the secondary, the Texans inside linebackers have come on of late. Zach Cunningham finished 9-4-0 against the Bills with Bernardrick McKinney coming in at 6-5-1 despite what had been a poor matchup for linebackers. For the second consecutive game, both inside backers played every snap in Week 6
The Colts continue to be quiet on the injury status of Clayton Geathers. With both he and Mathias Farley out, new addition Mike Mitchell made the start at strong safety in Week 6. Farley landed on IR with his hamstring, but there is reason for optimism with Geathers who returned to practice on a limited basis late last week. There seems to be more concern with him clearing concussion protocol than the neck injury so we may get him back for Week 7.
Calais Campbell battled through ankle and rib injuries to finish Sunday’s game. At 4-2-1 on the day, the issues did not seem to slow him down much in that contest. These injuries sometimes get worse once the soreness has time to set in so keep an eye on Campbell’s status as the week goes on.
Kansas City Chiefs
One silver lining in the loss to New England was the quality play of rookie outside linebacker Breeland Speaks. Standing in for oft-injured Justin Houston, Speaks was able to put pressure on Tom Brady several times, coming away with his first career sack and a forced fumble. This unit has some holes to fill in the offseason but they are going to be in good shape when it comes to edge rushers. Speaks production may have earned him a bigger piece of the playing time pie once Houston returns.
Los Angeles Chargers
Last week I talked about the Chargers not giving Jatavis Brown an opportunity to play full time. Shortly afterward news came out of his groin injury. Brown was limited in practice late in the week and inactive on game day so Adrian Phillips logged 88% of the playing time at weakside linebacker. Brown should be available this week and Kyzir White may try to practice some as well so this situation is no more clear than it was after Week 1.
Los Angeles Rams
Mark Barron returned to action in Week 5 playing over 80% of the snaps and leading the Rams in tackles. In Week 6 his playing time dropped to about 60% and he was invisible both on the field and in the box scores. He did not practice Thursday or Friday last week with the absence being tagged “not injury related”, and he was not on the injury report at all. For those of us that had Barron on our rosters last season, this is not a new story. In fact, it is a virtual replay of the final three games of 2017, after which it was disclosed he had indeed been battling an injury. The best thing we can do at this stage is keep him out of the lineup until he gives us playing time and production for a couple of consecutive games.
With both Cameron Wake and Charles Harris on the shelf last week, the Dolphins started Robert Quinn and Andre Branch at end with rookie seventh-round pick Jonathan Woodard contributing as the third wheel in the rotation. He was off to a strong start going 3-0-1 on 12 plays before leaving with a concussion. There is nothing to get too excited about here at this point but with Wake being ancient in football years, Woodard may be a player to keep on the radar over the second half of the fantasy season.
George Iloka started at strong safety for the injured Andre Sendejo in Week 6 and led the team with seven solo stops. That is an interesting note and a situation to track going forward but it does not matter who the Vikings have at the position this week since no safety has recorded more than four solo stops against the Jets this year. Even Harrison Smith should be on the bench unless you are rolling the dice in hope of getting a big play or two from him.
Stephen Weatherly struggled against Arizona but he played well enough to keep the Cardinals blocking scheme honest. As a result, Danielle Hunter went off at 3-2-2. There has still been no word on a possible return for Everson Griffin
New England Patriots
The bad news is Kyle Van Noy stunk up the box score at 1-2-0 against the Chiefs. The good news is he was on the field every snap while doing it. Despite their offensive prowess Kansas City has consistently been a poor matchup for linebackers. Van Noy should bounce back nicely versus a Chicago team at the other end of that spectrum. At least one linebacker has recorded six or more solo stops against the Bears in every game.
Trey Flowers has been quiet since the early injury but the signs are looking up for those managers showing patience with him. He had half a sack in Week 5 then managed two tackles and five assists against a Chiefs offense that has been among the worst matchups in the game for pass rushers. It is also worth mention that Flowers played 76% of the snaps in Week 6. It was the first time he saw more than 60% since the opener and is a good sign he is completely healthy. Look for a strong outing versus Chicago.
New York Jets
Marcus Maye has been a one-man M.A.S.H. unit this season but when he plays he is money. After missing the first three games with ankle and foot injuries he had a strong season debut with seven tackles, followed by a monster Week 5 with a total of 31 fantasy points. Maye was on track for another big game with five solo stops midway into the third quarter when a broken thumb ended his day. The injury is expected to keep him out multiple games and could virtually end his fantasy season.
Doug Middleton had three solid games at free safety to open the year including a 10 solo outing in Week 3, which was his final start. He has been battling a sore hamstring but was active in Week 6, which brings up the questions did Terrence Brooks replace Maye against the Colts because Middleton is not completely healthy, and who is going to get the call against Minnesota? If Middleton gets back in the lineup he could be a solid stream play over the next few weeks. Brooks, on the other hand, has never shown much box score potential.
Coach Gruden has mentioned Arden Key several times when talking about young guys the organization is counting on to step up. In Week 6 he flashed the potential the coach has been looking for with four tackles and a sack. For managers in redraft leagues, there may not be a lot to see here unless the rosters are really deep. Those in dynasty leagues, however, may want to make room on the end of the roster or taxi squad for this guy.
Daryl Worley was thrown right into the fire when he returned from suspension in Week 5 and had has put up two big games in a row. Against the Chargers he did it with seven tackles and an assist; last week it was five tackles, a pick, and a couple pass breakups. Oakland is on bye this week but looking ahead Worley could be a great addition for your playoff run. Over the next nine games he will face the Colts, Chargers again, then the Chiefs, Steelers, Bengals, and Broncos weeks 13 through 16.
The Raiders just parted ways with Derrick Johnson heading into the bye week. This probably means a three-down role for second-year man Marquel Lee going forward. He has been fairly productive as a two-down starter but has done nothing to make us think he will be a long-term answer. The sheer volume of opportunity could be enough to provide LB3 value and there is always a chance the young man will flourish with the additional opportunity. He certainly will not be any worse than an over the hill Johnson.
The Seattle defense limped into the bye week with a slew of injuries but they may be getting some healthy starters back in Week 8. K.J Wright and Rasheem Green are expected to practice next week and should be back on the field against Detroit. Dion Jordan could also be ready after carrying a questionable tag into Week 6 before being declared inactive. Having Wright back would be huge for the team and would give IDP managers another quality starting option. This might be the time to pick him up while the competition is looking somewhere else.
San Francisco 49ers
Many IDP managers are concerned with the lack of production from Fred Warner in recent weeks. Many of them will sit him this week on the heels of back to back three tackle outings. If you follow that line of thought you may be kicking yourself come Monday. San Francisco’s last two opponents were Arizona and Green Bay. The Cardinals have been hands down the worst matchup in the league for linebackers with no one reaching five solo stops against them since Zach Brown in Week 1. The Packers have not been much better with Reuben Foster the only linebacker to exceed five solos against them while three others have reached five. While the Rams have not been as great a matchup as one might think, they have been much better than the previous two. Expect Warner to break out of his funk this week and get back to double-digit points.
Jaquiski Tartt was back on the field against Green Bay and showed no ill effects of the shoulder injury. He is a must-start this week against the Rams who have been a stellar matchup for safeties. Marcus Gilchrist, Antoine Bethea, Derwin James, Bradley McDougald, Tedrick Thompson, and Darian Stewart have combined for 42 tackles, 9 assists and 3 interceptions against the Rams for an average of 15.8 points.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have struggled enough defensively but they may be without Gerald McCoy and Vinny Curry for Week 7. McCoy was helped off the field on Sunday with a calf injury and was not practicing early in the week. Curry also sat out Wednesday’s practice with a bad ankle.
This team used a lot of resources over the offseason in an effort to improve defensively. The frustration from a lack of improvement came to a head early this week with the firing of defensive coordinator Mike Smith. Linebackers coach Mark Duffner will step into the role for the rest of this season. Regardless who takes on the job, it is difficult to make a significant difference six games into a season.
Jayon Brown has been playing lights out as a three-down inside backer for the last few weeks. Those who picked him up will need to pay close attention this week as Wesley Woodyard is expected to return. Brown has clearly played well enough to retain the job but we all know that is not always how it works in the NFL. Brown never played more than 48 snaps (72%) in a game prior to Woodyard going down. He may well end up back in the part-time role for Week 7.
Zach Brown’s days as a three-down linebacker appear to be over but he still has enough value to be a solid third starter for most managers. If he is one of your options this might be a good week to get him in the game. Dallas does not have the offensive weapons to spread the field and will rely heavily on the run game. That means less nickel and more opportunity for Brown.
That does it for Week 6. Best of luck this weekend.