The offense is getting most of the credit and attention but Arizona’s defense has been playing well over their three-game win streak. Against the Giants, the Cardinals pass rush got home for eight sacks, including four by Chandler Jones, who added a forced fumble and a recovery for what was possibly the best game of his career. Jones is a guy we have to start every week in many formats, but we should be reasonable with expectations this week. The Saints are allowing less than two sacks per game since week two and have held three of their last five opponents to one or fewer.
The Cardinals coaching staff may have made a decision on the former timeshare at strong safety. Against the Giants, it was Deionte Thompson logging 90% of the playing time (64 snaps) Jalen Thompson got table scraps amounting to seven snaps. There was not a lot of box score production from the position in this game, but it is a situation that could pay dividends down the stretch.
Byron Murphy started and played every snap opposite Patrick Peterson. Murphy had a solid five solo tackles in the game while Peterson reminded everyone he is one of the best in the game with seven tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. Dan Jones just learned a valuable lesson about throwing at Peterson. Most other quarterbacks already know better so look for Murphy to have increased opportunity the rest of the way.
De’Vondre Campbell’s numbers came crashing back to earth last week, but we should not overreact to his 3-3-0 against the Rams. Campbell was still on the field full time, seeing 95% of the snaps. It was inevitable that Deion Jones would eventually step up and have some big games, this was one of those games as he went 9-2-0 on 90% of the defensive plays.
Both Damontae Kazee (6-2) and Kemal Ishmael (6-1) put up good numbers against Los Angeles, but nothing else has really changed here. Kazee saw action on 54 of 76 plays while Ishmael worked on 38 of them.
The Ravens took a considerable injury-hit when Pernell McPhee suffered a torn triceps. He landed on IR with Jaylon Ferguson looking like the guy see an increased role, or at least that is how it went during the game. Tyus Bowser could also see more action going forward.
L.J. Fort is one of those journeyman type players that can never hold a starting job for long but always seems to put up good numbers when he gets the opportunity. He played 78% of the snaps against Seattle, going 5-1-1 on the day. Meanwhile, Josh Bynes was 3-5-0 75% of the action. Neither of these guys is going to be dependable enough to play every week, but they could be worthy of spot consideration with some big bye weeks coming up.
Shaq Thompson has become an every-week starter for most IDP managers but if you find yourself having to make a decision on him this week, consider that since week three, four inside linebackers have racked up seven or more solo stops against San Francisco, with a couple more getting to five.
On the other end of that spectrum, the 49ers have not been a good matchup for corners. Opposing corners, including sub-package and backups, have combined for 21 solo tackles over their last four games. Four of the six starters in their last three games have produced two tackles with none of them exceeding four.
I am not sure what is going on in Chicago, where Roquan Smith has been losing snaps. He played 92% of the time in week three, did not play week four due to personal issues, saw 89% of the action in week six, then dropped to 69% against the Saints. He still managed good numbers versus New Orleans but this is a situation to keep an eye on.
After being out of action since early in the summer, Darqueze Dennard started against Jacksonville and somewhat surprisingly, played 85% of the snaps. Dennard is a solid tackle producer dating back to last season and picked up right where he left off with five solo stops and a pair of pass breakups. He is set to be the Bengals number one corner again this week and is a quality start versus a Rams offense that has seen five corners reach exceeded 6 solo stops against them over their last five games.
Germaine Pratt did not see an increase in playing time against Jacksonville, despite Preston Brown having his time reduced to 60%, which was by far his lowest of the season. Pratt once again worked only in three linebacker sets, and once again looked like the team’s best linebacker when he was on the field.
Dallas gets the week off and it could not have come at a better time for Robert Quinn and Leighton Vander Esch. Quinn left Sunday’s game with a rib injury and Vander Esch with a neck stinger. Neither are thought to be serious so they should be ready when the team returns in week nine.
Sean Lee showed us that he still has it when called upon. He played full time once Vander Esch left, going 6-1 with a pass breakup.
After back to back strong outings, A.J. Johnson’s numbers crashed in week seven. He was on the field for 42 of a possible 61 snaps, playing in most nickel sets, and leaving the field in dime package and short-yardage situations. Johnson was around the ball a lot in pursuit but was a step late to the party all night. In the passing game, he seemed to always be covering the back that went away from Travis Kelce, taking Johnson out of the play. At around 70% of the playing time, there is some concern, but I did not see anything to make me think about dumping Johnson back in the pool just yet. We should probably sit him this week just to be safe, but for now, we can chalk this up to stuff happens.
Justin Simmons was assigned to cover Kelce over most of Thursday’s game. This was a serious contributor to Simmons’ strong numbers of 7-1-0 with a pair of pass breakups. The big game has a lot of managers looking to pick him up this week. The guy has reached double-digit fantasy points in five of the last six games so it is hard to argue against adding him but be aware that he had not exceeded four solo tackles in any of the previous four games. I get really nervous about counting on guys whose production depends heavily on big-play production.
There is a lot of news surrounding the Lions this week. Damon Harrison (groin) and Darius Slay (hamstring), left Sunday’s game early and are in danger of missing week eight. Slay had a hamstring issue heading into last weekend’s game so it will be a big surprise if he is able to go. Justin Coleman and Rashaad Melvin are the probable starters at corner against the Giants, who have been a fairly strong matchup for corners. With Mike Daniels and Da’Shawn Hand still recovering from their injuries, John Atkins is in line to start at tackle.
Jarred Davis has been adequate on the field but a considerable disappointment for IDP managers. In four starts since returning from injury, he has not yet recorded more than four solo tackles in a game, nor has he reached double-digit fantasy points in one. This is not all that unusual for Davis who supplemented his marginal tackle totals with half a dozen sacks and a couple of turnovers last year. Hopefully, some of those will come as we head into the second half of the fantasy season. I have Davis in a few leagues and am strongly considering moving on from him.
In news related to the IDP value of Davis, Jahlani Tavai played 85% of the defensive snaps in week seven, which is the most action he has seen in a game this season. Tavai looked pretty good and parlayed the opportunity into a solid five tackle outing. Considering he was drafted by the current coaching staff, we could see the rookie in a much bigger role going forward.
Detroit contributed to the fireworks as we approach the trade deadline. With Quandre Diggs sent to Seattle, Tavon Wilson or rookie third-round pick Will Harris are set for a promotion. Wilson got the call when Diggs missed time earlier in the season but Harris saw a few more snaps than Wilson in week seven. Whoever comes away with the job is going to have some IDP value, providing of course, that they do not end up in a timeshare.
Green Bay Packers
Will Redmond is 5’11” and 182 pounds but has done a solid job at free safety since Darnell Savage has been out. In two of his three games in the lineup, Redmond has at least seven solo stops and has made a significant impact. In the other game, he had one tackle and a pass breakup on 97% of the snaps. The one tackle game is a reason for concern, but a matchup with the Chiefs trumps it, even without Patrick Mahomes II. Remember that Justin Simmons just had a big game with this matchup last week.
The Raiders have become a surprisingly strong matchup for linebacker over the past few games. In week three Eric Wilson was 7-4-2 against them and Eric Kendricks 6-1-0, In week four Anthony Walker was 7-3-1 and Bobby Okereke 7-0-0, In week five it was Danny Trevathan with 11 tackles and Roquan Smith with 9. Last week Blake Martinez was 8-8-0 with a forced fumble and even B.J. Goodson managed a 5-1-0. If you have either Bernardrick McKinney or Zach Cunningham, this would be a good week to have them in your lineup.
I am not sure what the Colts were doing at strong safety in week seven. George Odom started week seven and played the first 28 snaps before Clayton Geathers took over to finish the game. If you remember back to the first few games of the season before Malik Hooker was injured, Geathers was seeing the majority of the playing time at strong safety but was losing some snaps in a timeshare with rookie Khari Willis. It appears the coaching staff might be looking for someone to step up and replace Geathers all together. With Hooker set to return this week, it would be a good idea to avoid the Colts safeties all together. Hopefully, we will get some clarity one way or another.
As expected, with the return of Darius Leonard, Anthony Walker and Bobby Okereke went back to splitting time at middle linebacker. Walker led the two with 52% of the playing time while Okereke was less than 40%. Unless the coaching staff settles on one of these guys getting a lion’s share of the playing time, neither are worth the roster space in redraft leagues.
It took a while for Justin Houston to get rolling but he is certainly getting it done now. He was 3-0-2 in week seven, giving him four sacks on the season and a mark of 6-1-3 over the last two games. It may be more than just a coincidence that Houston’s recent surge coincides with the return of Jabaal Sheard who is 8-1-1.5 in three games including a line of 4-0-1 against the Texans last week. Both of these guys belong on rosters at this point and are strong start candidates this week against a Broncos offense that has allowed 19 sacks over their last five games.
Najee Goode replaced Quincy Williams as the starter late in the week five game. Williams got back on the field early in Sunday’s contest when Goode suffered a foot injury. Late in the game against Cincinnati, Williams was forced out with a hamstring issue, leaving the Jaguars paper-thin at weakside linebacker. This week the team signed former Seattle, Oakland and San Francisco starter Malcolm Smith to fill the void. He put up strong numbers with the Raiders in 2015 and 2016 before missing all of 2017 with injuries. Smith was not the same player with the 49ers in 2018 and was released this summer. He could be a good fit for the Jaguars and has the potential to put up quality numbers. Keep a close eye on this situation over the next couple of weeks.
Tre Herndon replaced Jalen Ramsey as Jacksonville’s starting corner. He was thrown at often by the Bengals but came up short in the box scores because no one in orange and black could catch a pass. Look for Herndon to be a focal point of some other team’s passing games as well over the rest of the season.
Kansas City Chiefs
The good news for anyone that played Anthony Hitchens last week, was his stellar production (5-1-2 with a forced fumble). The bad news is, he only played 32 snaps in the game and left just before halftime. Hitchen has been dealing with a groin injury and may have aggravated the injury. Ben Niemann came on to finish the game, adding five tackles and an assist in the second half. The Packers are a solid matchup for linebackers so keep an eye on this situation as we draw closer to game day.
Los Angeles Rams
Rookie Taylor Rapp replaced the injured John Johnson III at strong safety in week seven and played all 54 defensive snaps against Atlanta, finishing with five tackles and an assist. He is not going to have a lot of opportunity against Cincinnati this week but has a string of excellent matchups down the stretch, including the Ravens, Cardinals, Seahawks, Cowboys, and 49ers starting in week 12.
The Dolphins started Eric Rows at safety in week seven but it was basically a safety by committee with several players seeing time at the positions. It is befuddling how a team so bad could continue to give us almost no quality fantasy production. The only exception at this point is Taco Charlton who is 9-7-3 in four games since coming to the team, including a 3-1-1 against Buffalo. Sit him this week against Pittsburgh though. The Steelers have done a great job of protecting their young quarterbacks and have given up three total sacks over their last four games.
Think twice about starting Harrison Smith against Washington this week. Washington has been a poor matchup for safeties in general with only two of them exceeding three tackles in a game since week two. The Redskinns are not much better as a matchup for linebackers so look at options other than Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr as well.
New England Patriots
Jamie Collins Sr, Donta Hightower, and Kyle Van Noy all played at least 86% of the snaps against the Jets on Monday night. The problem is, New England was so dominant on defense that there were only 49 plays run against them. Collins gave us a stinker for the first time this season, which had to happen at some point. Keep him in the lineup this week against the Browns who have been giving the ball away almost two and a half times per game since week two.
New Orleans Saints
Kiko Alonso got a jump in playing time up to 60% against Chicago, while A.J. Kline dropped to under 50%. That is interesting at a glance but we should not get excited about it. Most of Alonso’s action came in the second half of a lopsided score when he and Craig Robertson were the linebackers for much of the second half and the entire fourth quarter.
With P.J. Williams suspended for two games, Chauncy Gardner-Johnson worked as the extra defensive back in all nickel sub-packages. That left him with 91% of the playing time which led to his best production of the season by far at seven tackles and two passes defended. Gardner-Johnson should have the same role this week against Arizona and is worthy of consideration as a sneaky sleeper start.
New York Giants
The David Mayo bandwagon did not last long. He was limited to less than half the snaps in week seven, with safety Michael Thomas working at linebacker depth for much of the game. The team signed Deone Bucannon this week and could look to get him into the lineup in short order.
New York Jets
The Jets teased us with the return of C.J. Mosley on Monday night but it was just that, a tease. Mosley was obviously not healthy during the game and the injury was worse on Monday. He will undergo more tests to make sure there are no additional problems and it sounds like he will be on the shelf for a while longer.
A bit of good news for the Jets, Neville Hewit is improving and was a limited participant on Wednesday. He may be available for week eight. Meanwhile, Blake Cashman saw 90% of the playing time against New England and as the best healthy inside linebacker on the team, is a solid starting option this week versus Jacksonville
When players are traded or cut, they look forward to facing their previous teams. Gareon Conley will not have to wait long. After playing for the Raiders in week seven, he is getting ready to play against them in week eight.
Oakland is much improved this year but by trading Conley at this point they seem to be acknowledging that they are still a year away from competing for a playoff spot. With Conley gone, Daryl Worley takes over as the top corner with rookie second-round pick Trayvon Mullen likely to slip into the number two role. It will be interesting to see how the Oakland secondary matches up with Houston’s receivers this week. Worley is a big physical corner so he could travel with DeAndre Hopkins, which would likely mean good production for both players.
We went into week seven with an eye on the Eagles linebacker situation. What we saw was Nate Gerry on the field for every snap, with a team-leading seven tackles and four assists. Gerry looked good and as he should be, is a hot waiver addition this week because of it. That said, one week does not make a trend. Kamu Grugier-Hill also played a lot, logging 84% of the snaps. His production was much less impressive at 2-2-0 but that does not mean the two will not swap numbers in week eight. Gerry looks like the guy to have at this stage but much of the story has not yet been written. If you already picked up Grugier-Hill, I would not be in too big a rush to drop him, but it might be a good idea to grab Gerry and roster them both for a week or two if you have room.
Both Jalen Mills and Ronald Darby were active against Dallas. Surprisingly, Darby did not play a snap while Mills, who has not played in a game since week eight of last year, started and played virtually every snap, going 4-4 with an interception. Both of these guys are quality fantasy contributors when healthy. Darby should join Mills as the starters against Buffalo with Rasul Douglas working as the slot corner.
The Dolphins are a horrible matchup for anyone that does not rush the passer, but we will be looking to see if Mark Barron is able to play in this game after missing the week six contest with a hamstring injury. As is normally the case, we got no update from the Steelers during their bye and their Wednesday practice report was not available as I write this.
Seattle traded for safety Quandre Diggs this week with the expectation he will solidify the secondary. Speculating where he fits in before this week’s game, however, is somewhat of a challenge. Did they go get Diggs as an upgrade over Tedrick Thompson or because there is a concern with Bradley McDougald’s back issue? Coach Carroll told reporters after last week’s loss, that he believes McDougald will be ready for week eight. Keep an eye out for clarification on this as the week moves along but we should not expect to see much beyond watching Mcdougald’s practice participation. Starting anyone here is going to be a risk as it stands as of Wednesday evening.
San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco defense has been so good this year that there has not been a lot of opportunity for Kwon Alexander and Fred Warner. Warner has given us a couple of five solo tackle games in the last three weeks but has not reached double-digit fantasy points since week one. Alexander came close against the Redskins but he too has reached double-digit points once, that back in week two. The low numbers have left both players as no better than part-time LB3 options but they could both give us good numbers this week against the Panthers. Carolina has been riding Christian McCaffrey hard, making them arguably the best matchup in the game for linebackers at this point.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jason Pierre-Paul officially returned to practice this week though he is still expected to be a week or two away from being fully cleared. Getting him back would be a huge addition and should go a long way toward taking some pressure off Shaq Barrett.
Jeffery Simmons made a big impression in his rookie debut with four tackles and a sack. The numbers are even more impressive when considering he played 21 snaps against the Chargers. One game does not make a trend but managers in tackle required leagues should have this guy on the radar.
Jayon Brown missed last week with a groin injury and may be out a while longer. In his absence, both Rashaan Evans and Wesley Woodyard were near every-down players. Evans is a sure start against the Buccaneers this week while Woodyard should get some consideration as an LB3.
The weather had a big influence on the stat lines when Washington faced San Francisco. Much of the game was played in a torrential downpour, so passing was all but non-existent. As a result, Washington’s front three accounted for an absurd 20 tackles and 3 assists.
Montae Nicholson left the game early with an ankle injury. He was replaced by 2018 fourth-round pick Troy Apke who went on to finish with five tackles, an assist and a pick on 35 plays. Nicholson was not able to practice on Wednesday and may not be able to go. Whoever gets the call in this game will be a solid starting option for IDP managers. Since week three, the safety position has averaged nearly 13 tackles, 3.5 assists, 1.6 pass breakups and just under a turnover per game against the Vikings.