Haasan Reddick has been rather quiet since week five but he is still playing full time. Trust the matchup and start both Reddick and Josh Bynes against San Francisco this week. When these teams met in week five it was the coming out party for both players. Reddick at 8-0-1 with a forced fumble and two pass breakups, and Bynes with a 9-2-1, a pass breakup and a fumble recovery for a score. Bynes and Reddick are not the only linebackers to put up good numbers against San Francisco. In week four it was Jatavis Brown 7-2-0 and a pass breakup. Weeks six and seven saw Blake Martinez at 9-3-0 and Cory Littleton 8-2-2.
Robert Nkemdiche played in week seven but did not have his normal role. His playing time was limited to fewer than half the snaps of the other five games he has played to date. With another week of healing, he should be back to a full workload.
Tre Boston was a scratch versus Denver with a sore shoulder and ribs. He should get back on the field this week but track the practice reports to be sure.
There are whispers about the Cardinals shopping Deone Bucannon who could end up in a better situation before next week’s trade deadline. He may not be a good fit in Arizona anymore but there are a lot of linebacker-needy teams out there that he could help. Cincinnati, Denver, Kansas City, Los Angeles (Chargers), New England, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, New Orleans, Seattle, and Tampa Bay could all use his help for one reason or another.
Foye Oluokun got the start at middle linebacker in week seven but was far from a three-down player. De'Vondre Campbell led the team’s linebackers with 53 snaps (84%) followed by Oluokun and 38 and Duke Riley with 26.
Jordan Richards got the start at safety but was on the field well short of half the time. The Falcons used Brian Poole at free safety in many situations. The bottom line here, other than Damontae Kazee the Falcons are just not going to give us much to work with on a consistent basis.
The Bills have been much better defensively than expected but they were completely shut out of the big play columns by the Colts. Next on the schedule is a meeting with Tom Brady and a Patriots offense that gives up few sacks and does not turn the ball over much. Factor in Trent Murphy’s sore knee and there is good reason to sit Buffalo’s pass rushers.
Mario Addison left the week seven game early on with a back injury. He had been hot with six tackles and a pair of sacks on his last 68 snaps going back to week six. Keep a close eye on his practice status if Addison is your guy.
Khalil Mack toughed it out and played against New England but was nearly invisible in the box score. His single tackle was probably a combination of a tough matchup and not being completely healthy. Another week of recovery and a matchup with a rookie quarterback should get Mack and the rest of Chicago’s defense back on track.
Roquan Smith had an increased role in week six but was back to 55% of the playing time in a two-down role versus the Patriots. That is great news for those of us looking to play Danny Trevathan on a regular basis.
The Bengals are a mess at linebacker right now. Nick Vigil is on the shelf for a few more games, Vincent Rey is battling a hamstring injury and Vontaze Burfict left Sunday’s game with a hip injury that has his availability in question for week eight. Burfict also got a scolding from the league in the form of a letter warning him that his next unsportsmanlike infraction will come with more than a fine. If Burfict is not able to play, Preston Brown will lead the walking wounded in week eight with Hardy Nickerson Jr. and Jordan Evans filling out the lineup on the second level. Tampa Bay is not a good matchup for linebackers but Brown may be worthy of a start based on the situation.
Shawn Williams blew up again in week seven giving him a pair of huge outings surrounded by a bunch of poor ones. That said, the situation at linebacker could mean a lot more opportunity for the strong safety. The Buccaneers were not a great matchup early on but they are a different offense with Jameis Winston at quarterback. Cleveland’s starting safeties combined for 18 solo tackles last week. Jessie Bates III has become a dependable every week play regardless of matchup. He is a must-start in this one.
Damarious Randall has been on a big roll for the past month, but keep an eye on the injury reports late this week. He may be fine but was banged up late in Sunday’s game causing him to miss a couple plays.
Emmanuel Ogbah has been making an impact on the field for the last few games and it finally started showing up in the box scores against Tampa Bay. He broke out for four tackles, an assist, a sack and a half, and a couple batted passes. The Steelers are generally a tough matchup when it comes to sacks but the Browns got to him four times in week one. One thing that is certain, Pittsburgh will pass a lot so there will be plenty of opportunities.
Sean Lee returned to action against Washington but the playing time breakdown was a bad sign for managers holding either he or Leighton Vander Esch. The rookie has played well enough to earn a significant role so it is hard to say if the timeshare of 63% for Lee and 35% for Vander Esch is going to be the norm going forward, or if it was just a way to limit wear and tear on Lee while giving the young gun an opportunity to contribute. With Dallas on a bye, Lee will have another week to get healthy so what we get in week nine is what we can expect the rest of the way; or at least until Lee goes down again anyway.
Demarcus Lawrence looked healthy and had a big game against Washington. He should be near 100% next time the Cowboys take the field. That may not be the case for Randy Gregory however. After seeing his playing time increase steadily, Gregory had a minor knee procedure heading into the bye. The organization hopes he will be ready by week nine but there is a chance he will miss that game.
Romeo Okwara has been a pleasant surprise for the Lions. He played little over his first two years in the league but has been huge since getting on the field as an injury replacement for Ezekiel Ansah. In three starts Okwara has nine tackles, two assists, four sacks, and a forced fumble. Some league management sites (MyFantasyLeague.com for one) have him listed as a linebacker which keeps his value down. Dynasty managers in those leagues may want to stash him for next year when he is sure to be an end.
The Lions got a big boost up from by acquiring Damon Harrison from the Giants on Wednesday. Harrison should see action this week but may not have a full-time role since he is new to the scheme. What he does up front will not require a lot of learning/thinking however so he should be right at home by the second game. This move could be a major boost to his fantasy value as it puts Harrison back in a 4-3 scheme similar to the one he excelled in over the past two seasons. Having him in the mix will have a positive ripple effect on those around him as well. Jarrad Davis gets a boost as do the defensive ends. In fact, the only guy in the front seven that will not benefit is Sylvester Williams who likely loses his starting job.
Green Bay Packers
The Rams are a great matchup for safeties so Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is a must play this week and Kentrell Brice is a strong candidate for anyone streaming defensive backs. In all seven safeties have reached or exceeded six solo stops against Los Angeles while three others have reached five.
There are mixed signals coming out of Indianapolis about Clayton Geathers. He practiced in full last Wednesday and was thought close to playing then his participation faded and he was pronounced out well before the Friday injury report. Between the upcoming bye in week nine and the solid play of Mike Mitchell in relief, it would be no surprise to see Geathers sit this week as well. For anyone waiting/counting on Geathers, it would be a good idea to grab Mitchell for a quality handcuff. In case you missed it, Mitchell was the Colts second-leading tackler against Buffalo with seven solo stops, adding a pick and a forced fumble for good measure.
Margus Hunt was quiet in the box scores Sunday but there is an interesting note here none the less. The Colts started Hunt and Jabaal Sheard as defensive ends with rookie Kemeko Turay also on the field as a pass rushing strongside linebacker. On some plays, Hunt moved inside while other situations had him at end with Turay as an additional edge rusher. This allowed the Colts to rush two players off the edge on the same side and resulted in a solid 3-0-1 with a forced fumble for Turay who is starting to turn heads. When all the totals were in, all three defensive ends logged more than 70% of the snaps accounting for six tackles and a pair of sacks between them.
Anthony Walker’s production has slumped since he was banged up early in week five. The good news being he is still seeing better than 80% of the playing time. Sit him this week against the Raiders who are without Marshawn Lynch, but keep Walker on your roster for the stretch run when the Colts face Jacksonville twice, Tennessee, Houston, Dallas, and the Giants.
Kansas City Chiefs
We have come to a point where we have to question if Eric Berry is going to play at all this year. There has however been a lineup change at safety with Jordan Lucas now starting over Eric Murray. Lucas had a pair of strong outings in weeks five and six, averaging 16.5 fantasy points in those games. He did not do much against Cincinnati but that was largely due to the Bengals stinking up the stadium and providing no opportunity. For those that like to plan ahead, the Chiefs play the Rams, Ravens, Chargers, and Seahawks between week 11 and week 16. Those are all quality matchups.
Los Angeles Rams
We are halfway through the fantasy season and Mark Barron has not yet made any significant contribution. In the three games, he has been active Barron has played between 60% and 80% of the snaps with a stat total of 6 tackles and 8 assists on 127. Maybe we should continue to be patient but the lack of increased playing time and/or production has me ready to move on. .
Eric Kendricks has averaged four tackles and two assists per game this year and has barely been worthy of LB5 status in most leagues. Get him into your lineup this week if you have that option. The Saints have been a solid matchup for linebackers all season but the return of Mark Ingram II makes them even better. In the two games, Ingram has played opposing inside linebackers have combined for 21 solo tackles and 11 assists.
Everson Griffen has returned to the team and is practicing this week. As of Wednesday evening, there has been no confirmation on his playing status for week eight but he is in good physical condition so there is a good chance he will go. How big his role would be after sitting out a while is a different subject. On the other hand, Griffen will have fresh legs which can be a big plus this deep into the season.
New England Patriots
Kyle Van Noy has given us solid production in two of the last three games. Considering he has played 94% of the snaps over that span, he has probably earned a place as the third starter in most leagues. The Bills have been a surprisingly decent match up on most weeks, especially for linebackers with some big-play ability such as Van Noy.
New Orleans Saints
Kurt Coleman was up to 71% of the snaps in week seven which was his biggest percentage in any game so far by a large margin. It was still not enough to provide any IDP value though. The team continues to shuffle linebackers as well. With the return of Manti Te’o none of them logged much more than 70% of the snaps.
The Saints traded for Eli Apple on Tuesday. He should eventually step in and start opposite Marshon Lattimore. This probably has little IDP impact but it goes a long way toward improving the New Orleans secondary.
New York Giants
The Giants shipped Eli Apple to New Orleans leaving them thin at corner. B.W. Webb should move into the starting role with corner Antonio Hamilton and safety Michael Thomas serving as extra defensive back in sub packages.
The trade of Damon Harrison might be seen by some as the second step of a fire sale but that may not be the case. The team saved a big chunk of cap money and picked up an extra fifth-round pick but this trade had a lot to do with rookie B.J. Hill who has earned the opportunity to start. The young man will already be on a roster in most tackle required leagues but take a look just in case. This guy could prove to be special.
New York Jets
Doug Middleton got the start at free safety in week seven but left the game with a shoulder injury that landed him on IR. Terrence Brooks is the next man up until Marcus Maye is able to return. Unlike Middleton and Maye, Brooks has never shown the least bit of fantasy potential over his five years in the league.
The Raiders are having a fire sale on expensive veterans. Karl Joseph or Gareon Conley may be the next to go if they can find a suitor. If no one is interested we can expect these guys to be released at the end of the season. The team already dumped Derrick Johnson which probably makes Marquel Lee a three-down middle linebacker the rest of the way.
Having too many players in the rotation has been seriously limiting the fantasy value of Philadelphia’s pass rushers. Derek Barnett heading to IR due to a shoulder injury may mean more opportunity for the remaining players. This news gives Brandon Graham a boost for sure and may make both he and Michael Bennett viable every week starters.
Bobby Wagner has been one of the biggest disappointments of the year on the defensive side of fantasy football. He has not yet reached five solo tackles in a game, recorded a sack or produced a turnover. If his name was not Bobby Wagner everyone would have dropped him already. The question is what happened to the real Bobby Wagner and will we see him at all this year? The answer to will we see him is a resounding maybe. As for what has happened there are a few issues in play. The main culprit is probably the groin injury that sidelined him in week two. Over the years we have seen a lot of players suffer a drop off in production for several weeks when dealing with these lingering injuries, especially players that rely a lot on speed and leverage. Then there have been poor matchups with the Cardinals and Raiders and a stingy home stat crew when he had good matchups versus the Cowboys and Rams which coincidently were his two most productive games so far.
The bye should go a long way toward Wagner being healthy and the game is on the road at Detroit this week. In years past the Lions have been a lousy matchup for linebackers but the recent emergence of a running game threatens to change that perception. Wagner should get his tag team partner K.J. Wright back this week as well which could help. All things considered, there is a feeling of cautious optimism surrounding him this week. After all his name is Bobby Wagner.
San Francisco 49ers
Reuben Foster left Sunday’s game in the fourth quarter after aggravating the shoulder injury that has been bothering him for the past couple weeks. Sit him this week even if he is able to go as the Cardinals continue to be a horrible matchup for almost everyone. Foster and Fred Warner each had three solo tackles when these teams met in week five.
Adrian Colbert went down with a serious ankle injury last week and is lost for the season. D.J. Reed took over at free safety and played pretty well. Managers in deep leagues may want to keep him on the radar.
Richard Sherman was close to playing in week seven so he should return from the calf injury.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers will be without Kwon Alexander for the rest of the season after he went down with an ACL injury about halfway through Sunday’s contest. If he were healthy Kendell Beckwith would be the next man up but Beckwith is still recovering from a broken ankle suffered in an auto accident back in April. Word is he will not be ready anytime soon. Beckwith could become a factor at some point, but for now, it will be Adarius Taylor in the middle. Taylor took over the three down role against Cleveland finishing at 5-2-1 on 42 snaps. He looked good and could put up numbers similar to what we have seen from Alexander in the past. Taylor is the hottest linebacker add this week hands down.
Adding to the team’s problems at linebacker, rookie Jack Cinchy also suffered an ACL injury after six plays at strongside linebacker. The Buccaneers signed Kevin Minter to fill the void. He may end up playing on the strong side right away but has no fantasy upside.
With the return of Wesley Woodyard, Jayon Brown went back to his less than full-time role as part of the three-man inside linebacker rotation that also included Rashaan Evans. Brown played 73% of the snaps in week seven seeing action is some sub packages. His production was still solid at 6-1-1 so Brown remains worthy as a third starter going forward.
Zach Brown got off to a fast start against Dallas and parlayed the strong matchup into his most productive game of the season. Brown led the team with eight solo tackles - which is impressive - considering his mere 35 snaps in the game. At 53 percent of the, action it was Brown’s lowest participation in any game this season by a significant margin.
Quinton Dunbar was a last minute scratch against the Cowboys with a calf injury. He should return this week against the Giants who have been an outstanding matchup for corners. In all nine corners have reached the five solo mark with this matchup with six of them posting at least seven.