Budda Baker is on a major roll with 27 tackles, 10 assists, 5 pass breakups and a fumble recovery over the last three games. Sooner or later the wheels have to fall off, but chances are it will not be this week. He was 11-2-0 with three passes defended against the 49ers in week nine and gets that matchup again in week 11. One thing that could be a factor in the rematch, however, much of Baker’s production has come in coverage against backs and tight ends. A good number of his tackles in the first game were against George Kittle who may still be gimpy leading up to Sunday.
Joe Walker was the hot waiver pickup after week nine. Last week I expressed my concern about his playing time against the Buccaneers. As I feared, Haason Reddick saw 75% of the playing time as he continued to hold the sub-package role. Meanwhile, Walker recorded a mere one assist on his 24 base package snaps. If you have not cut Walker already, this week presents a good opportunity to play him again, with the same matchup that provided the big numbers two weeks ago.
We wanted the Cardinals to make a decision at safety and it looks like they may have finally done so. Deionte Thompson was inactive against the Buccaneers, while Jalen Thompson played 96% of the snaps and recorded six solo tackles. There are no guarantees the team will follow the same plan going forward, but if you are in need, the matchup is a great one.
Patrick Peterson left Sunday’s contest with a calf injury and was not able to return. What information we have heard at this point is not sounding good for his chances of playing on Sunday.
Atlanta had seven sacks over the first eight games, yet managed to drop one of the toughest guys in the league to sack (Drew Brees), six times. Without taking time to study the film, it is hard to say what changed over the bye week, but it is clear that something has. The question now becomes, can the Falcons sustain the pressure or was is a one week show? The Panthers have allowed 18 sacks over their last six games so if you need a sleeper with high upside, consider Vic Beasley Jr or Tak McKinley.
Outside linebacker Foyesade Oluokun led the team in tackles against the Saints, going 7-1-0. Don’t get caught chasing points though. His 30 snaps were only 43% of the playing time.
De’Vondre Campbell was hot for a long time but it looks like he may be running out of gas. His fantasy total was saved by a sack in week 10 but he has not recorded more than four solo tackles since week six. His playing time slipped to 70% against the Saints as well, with the 48 snaps being his lowest total of the season. Deion Jones had another down week as well, with a mark of 2-3-0. At least he played full time though.
Before the bye, Damontae Kazee had slipped into the role of full-time strong safety. He held the same job coming out of the bye which is good news for IDP managers. With three tackles, three assists and a pass breakup on 90% of the plays, his numbers were not eye-catching, but he has a great string of matchups the rest of the way. It starts with the Panthers this week then goes Buccaneers, Saints, Panthers again, 49ers and Jaguars with the last three during the fantasy playoffs.
Patrick Onwuasor had a nice stat line against New England in week nine despite the marginal opportunity. This week the low snap count caught up to him. In fact, none of the Ravens inside linebackers are getting enough playing time at this point. Onwuasor went 2-1 on 22 of 75 snaps, Josh Bynes 2-7 on 46, and L.J. Fort 2-3. 16. Surprisingly the team gave Fort a two-year contract extension last week. They must be planning to use him as a special teams’ ace. To compensate for their lack of quality play at linebacker, the Ravens have used a ton of nickel and dime sets over the last two games.
Michael Pierce left Sunday’s blowout of the Bengals with an ankle injury. It sounds like he could miss a bit of time.
The Browns used a lot of outside runs and short passes to Kareem Hunt in the flats to get by the Bills. The result was a slow day at the office for Tremaine Edmunds who finished at 1-2-1 with a pass breakup. The Dolphins are not as poor of a matchup as they were earlier in the season, but they are still not a good one; especially with Mark Walton suspended. If you have other solid options it might be a good time to give Edmunds a week off.
The other effect of Cleveland’s offensive approach was a lot of tackle opportunities for the corners. Levi Wallace racked up seven solo stops and an assist while Tre’Davious White went 6-0 with four passes defended. They are not going to have the same target-rich environment this week versus Miami, so don’t chase the points.
Kudos to the Packers for their game plan against Carolina. Their play design and blocking schemes neutralized two of the game’s most productive inside linebackers. Luke Kuechly at 1-3, and Shaq Thompson 3-1 is not something we have to worry about happening often, but they do not have a good matchup this week versus Atlanta.
Donte Jackson suffered a leg injury against the Packers and James Bradberry missed last week with a tight/sore groin. The Falcons have been a plus matchup for corners so keep an eye on the injury reports late in the week and play these guys if they are healthy enough to go.
Danny Trevathan recorded two tackles and an assist on 17 plays against the Lions before leaving with an elbow injury. As this is being written there have been no definitive updates on the severity of the injury but the potential for IR has been part of the conversation. Chances are Trevathan is going to miss some time even if he is not shut down altogether. That means Nick Kwiatkoski is in line to start for a while. So far this season Kwiatkoski has seen action in three games and played a total of 112 snaps. He has turned that opportunity into 21 tackles, 4 assists, a pair of sacks, and an interception. He came on and played full time after Trevathan was injured, which suggests he will land a three-down role going forward.
It was interesting to see that rookie Germaine Pratt played more than half of the snaps against Baltimore while Preston Brown saw action on 38%. It all made sense on Tuesday when the Bengals released Brown. It looks like they are finally going to give Pratt an opportunity. I expect him to get the start in the middle, but there is no guarantee he will play there or that he will play full time. On the other hand, the Raiders are a great matchup for linebackers. Pick him up if you can and play him if you need too, but it would be nice to stash him for a week to get some confirmation if you have that luxury.
So why would the team finally decide to make the change at linebacker now? Their safeties made 13 solo tackles in the Baltimore game. The rest of the team combined for 14.
The shakeup at safety in Cleveland may prove to be a great move for IDP managers. With Jermaine Whitehead cut and Eric Murray sidelined with injury, the Browns played both Morgan Burnett and Damarious Randall on every snap. Burnett showed he can still get it done in the box scores when his role allows by going 7-1, while Randall was the same productive player as before the injury posting 5-2. These guys have a solid matchup this week with the Browns facing Pittsburgh on Thursday night.
The Vikings are a great matchup for linebackers, so give Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson strong consideration this week.
Jarrad Davis (5-3) finally managed more than three solo tackles in a game but it may already be too late. After playing at least 88% of the snaps in all his previous games, Davis has his playing time drop to 77% versus the Bears. Meanwhile, Jahlani Tavai was 3-0-1 with a pass breakup on 67% of the snaps. Tavai has now played 60% or more in three of the last four games. He continues to impress both on the field and in the box scores.
Trey Flowers started slowly but is now red hot. After a season-best of 6-1-1 against Chicago, he is now 11-3-4 with a forced fumble over his last three games. That said, he has a tough matchup this week with the Cowboys who have one of the best offensive lines in the game.
Over the last two games, Tavon Wilson has established himself as the clear target at safety for IDP managers. He was 5-1-1 with a pass breakup against Chicago while Will Harris had two tackles and a pass defended while standing in for Tracy Walker. Walker has not yet returned to practice after injuring his knee, so it looks like the Lions will have the same pair of safeties versus Dallas.
The Lions have been banged up along the defensive line all year. They got Damon Harrison and Mike Daniels back in week ten but may now be without A’Shawn Robinson who left the Bears game with a thumb injury.
Strong safety Justin Reid had a sore shoulder that contributed to a stretch of poor outing leading up to the Texans bye week. The week off gave him some time to heal and a matchup with the Ravens could make him a great play this week. Tight end Mark Andrews is a focal point of Baltimore’s offense and a lot of teams will defend a strong tight end by putting their strong safety on him. Even if Reid does not shadow Andrews, there is going to be plenty of opportunity for tackles.
The safety-by-committee may finally be over in Indianapolis. Khari Willis logged 91% of the playing time at strong safety in the loss to Miami, finishing with seven tackles and an assist, while Malik Hooker played every snap at free safety. Marvell Tell III did not get on the field. George Odom saw little action and Clayton Geathers played all of six snaps. There is no guarantee the Colts will not go back to the musical chairs approach, but Willis has looked good on the field and put up quality numbers on a per-snap basis. It would be a bit risky to play him this week even though the Jaguars are a quality matchup, but this is the time to add Willis before he puts together two strong games in a row.
Anthony Walker has proven that he can produce with the right situation or matchup. Unfortunately, he is far too inconsistent to be an every-week starter at this point. In week nine he was 7-3-0 on 46 snaps against the Steelers. In week 10 he went 0-3 on 48 plays against Miami.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are really getting to the passer over the last few games but their pass rush took a hit when Emmanuel Ogbah suffered a torn pectoral that ended his season. Alex Okafor has missed a couple of games with an ankle injury and may not be ready for week eleven, which would make Tanoh Kpassagnon the starter opposite Frank Clark versus the Chargers. Kpassagon is a former second-round pick (2017) and had a huge game against the Packers a couple of weeks back when Clark was out. If you need a plugin starter this week, he could be your guy.
Whatever the Chiefs did to kick start their pass rush in recent weeks, has done wonders for Chris Jones. He exploded for a season-best 4-3-2 with a forced fumble in week 10, after going 2-1-1 in week nine. The Chargers usually protect Phillip Rivers well but have allowed seven sacks over the last two games.
Los Angeles Chargers
With Denzel Perryman out due to the knee injury, we were watching to see is someone would emerge as a full-time option at linebacker for the Chargers. Drue Tranquill was at the top of the watch list going into week 10. Coming out of it he is at the top of the waiver add list for many managers. Tranquill played every snap against the Raiders, going 6-8-0 on the day.
Tranquill is a great fit for what the Chargers want in a three-down backer. He is a former college safety that turned linebacker as a senior at Notre Dame. He has the cover skills and speed the coaching staff wants and at 234 pounds, has the size to stand up versus the run, which is something Kyzir White was lacking early in the year. There is no guarantee Tranquill will not go back to a part-time role once Perryman returns, and there has been no update on Perryman’s status for week eleven. If you have the room or a need, go ahead and pick up Tranquill while you can and then keep an eye on new coming out of Los Angeles later in the week.
Thomas Davis was also back in a full-time role for week 10. He finished at 6-5-0 on 98% of the snaps.
In the past, Melvin Ingram III has started hot but worn down late in the season. From this perspective, the three games he missed could be a plus. Ingram had an opportunity to rest and recover so he may have more in the tank for the stretch run; especially with a bye coming up after this week’s game. After going 12-1-3.5 with a turnover in the last three weeks and 7-0-2 with a pass breakup against Oakland, Ingram is a must-start going forward.
Jerome Baker has come on strong over the last three games, posting 20 solo tackles and four assists. He even broke into the big play columns against the Colts with a sack and a forced fumble. The Miami defense has played much better in recent weeks in general and Baker has been a big part of it. He has another quality matchup this week versus Buffalo and is deserving of strong consideration for your starting lineup.
New Orleans Saints
Heading into the week 10 games we were watching to see if Chauncy Gardner-Johnson would continue in the nickel role. The answer was no, P.J. Williams returned from suspension and went right back to receiving a lion’s share of the playing time as the slot defender. It stayed that way until Marshon Lattimore left with a hamstring injury, moving Williams into the outside role. It looks like Lattimore is going to miss some time, so if you picked up Gardner-Johnson, it might be a good idea for those in leagues with deep roster to sit on him for a game or two.
New York Jets
The Jets injury situation at inside linebacker has become ridicules. The latest casualty is Brandon Copeland who managed to finish Sunday’s game but is now dealing with a hip issue. Copeland is having an MRI on the hip this week, leaving his availability for week eleven in question as of Wednesday. If he is not able to go, recently signed Paul Worrilow would be next in line for playing time. Neville Hewitt practiced on a limited basis last week but was not really close to returning. There is some chance he could play versus Washington this week but chances are he will not return until at least week 12.
James Burgess Jr did not put up big numbers against the Giants, but his 4-3-.5 and a pass defended were respectable, especially considering how the Jets shut down the Giants running game. Burgess should make a decent LB3 option this week when the Redskins who have been relying heavily on Adrian Peterson and are set to get Derrius Guice back.
The Oakland secondary took a beating in week 10 with Karl Joseph and Lamarcus Joyner going down. Joseph landed on IR this week with his foot injury and Joyner is expected to miss time with a hamstring. To compensate, the team signed D.J. Swearinger Sr who spent the first four weeks of the season as a starter for the Cardinals. Swearinger has the talent to be an NFL starter but for some reason, he never stays with a team for long. He should serve as a solid short term fill in for the Raiders and is capable of decent fantasy production. Curtis Riley will also see significant playing time since the Raiders base defense often features three safeties. We will have to see if either new starter can make a fantasy impact going forward, but if you are desperate, target Swearinger first.
Clelin Ferrell had been quiet since week two. Apparently, he was saving all his production for the Chargers. He exploded for five tackles, three assists, two and a half sacks, and a batted pass against a Los Angeles offense that had not allowed more than one sack in six of their nine games. Hopefully this was the start of a great run by Ferrell who is probably licking his chops for this week’s matchup with the Bengals.
Maxx Crosby did not have the flashy box score that Ferrell did, but he was almost as disruptive. At 1-2-.5 with a batted pass, Crosby’s fantasy points were respectable but his impact on the game was much more significant. He had several pressures in the game and some big plays that were washed away by penalties. It looks like the Raiders may have found themselves an excellent pair of young bookends with these two rookies. If you have either of them or can pick one of them up, start him against a Cincinnati offense that has already allowed 30 sacks on the season.
It seems the Steelers are taking a page from the Patriots book on being unpredictable. After showing Mark Barron in Vince Williams in a timeshare early in the year, then again in weeks eight and nine when they were both healthy again, the team when way off the mark in week 11. Barron blew up for a season-high 10 solo tackles versus the Rams while playing 92% of the snaps. Williams was relegated to spot duty in the game, seeing action on 11 of a possible 77 plays. While that turn of events was a surprise, the real shocker was Devin Bush going 2-1-0 on only 35 plays. I have not yet had time to watch the entire game in search of an answer, but as of Wednesday afternoon, I have seen no word on a possible injury to Bush. This situation is certainly enough to make IDP managers gun shy for this week's games.
After playing 207 of a possible 218 plays over the previous three games, Marquise Blair never set foot on the field with the defense on Monday night. Quandre Diggs and Bradley McDougald were the full-time safeties with McDougald working as a traditional, often in the box, strong safety. The result was a solid line of six tackles and a pass breakup. Diggs was deep most of the game so he did not show up much in the tackle columns, but he did have a key interception. With everyone healthy for the stretch run, it is now safe to consider McDougals for your starting lineup on a weekly basis.
San Francisco 49ers
As anticipated, Dre Greenlaw stepped in for Kwon Alexander as the three-down weak-side linebacker against Seattle. He recorded three tackles, five assists and an interception for a good point total, and worked on 71 of 74 defensive plays. He is not Alexander by any stretch, but it looks as if Greenlaw could be a decent LB3 option for us the rest of the way.
For anyone unsure how much the addition of Alexander has impacted the production of Fred Warner this year, consider this; Alexander was limited to 31 snaps in week one as he returned from injury. In that game, Warner was 7-2-0 with a pass breakup. Warner did not record more than five solo tackles or reach double-digit fantasy point in any of the next seven games. Without Alexander on Monday night, Warner was 9-1-2 with a forced fumble and a pass defended. Granted the matchup was a contributing factor as well, but the fact is, Warner is an every-week starting consideration for us going forward, despite some less than stellar matchups.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Coach Arians was not happy with the play and/or effort of Vernon Hargreaves III against the Cardinals, so the former first-round pick was released on Monday. This is undoubtedly a decision that was not made solely on Hargreave’s one-game performance. In fact, it may have been brewing for a long time, dating back to the previous coaching regime even. He is a talented player that will not be unemployed for long. Hopefully, the young man will learn a valuable lesson.
What this means for the team going forward is a likely starting job for rookie second-round pick Sean Murphy-Bunting, and more opportunity for M.J. Stewart who could slide into the slot corner role. Tampa Bay corners have generally given us decent IDP value in recent years so there could be value here for the stretch run. Stewart came on when Hargreaves was benched and managed six tackles and two assists on 60% of the snaps against Arizona.
Hang in there if you have Devin White. He gave us just three tackles and three assists versus Arizona but those numbers are typical of inside linebacker production versus Arizona this year. Look for much better production from him this week against an angry Saints offense looking to take out last week's debacle on someone.