It was a storyline filled week in the NFL in week 7. The controversy that Colts owner Jim Irsay stirred up over comments made on Twitter regarding former QB Peyton Manning fuelled an already interesting matchup of old guard versus new guard. On the IDP slant, that storyline overshadowed yet another game where Robert Mathis was a major difference maker. Mathis has 3 forced fumbles and 11.5 sacks through 7 games, including 2 sacks on Manning Sunday night. He was the difference in that game in my opinion and has to be the early favourite for defensive player of the year. Another storyline was the always interesting Jets versus Patriots storyline. Rex Ryan usually makes those matchups interesting and he didn’t disappoint this time either. Factor in Geno Smith versus Tom Brady, the return of Rob Gronkowski and the running back carousel for both teams and this one was chock full of juicy reads. On a similar IDP slant, overshadowed was Donta Hightower stepping in and filling a leadership role at LB for the Patriots left vacant by Jerod Mayo, who was placed on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle. This week is the first week that features 6 teams on bye week this week. If you have been counting on starters from Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Indianapolis, Tennessee or San Diego, you will need another option. Brian Cushing owners will be need a more permanent option as the star ILB went down with a broken leg and torn LCL on Sunday. Lance Briggs owners will not see him take the field for 4-6 weeks due to shoulder problem.
For last week’s recap, it was a skinny week in terms of successful recommended waiver wire pickups. Colin McCarthy was the top option with 8 total tackles (6 solo). JoLonn Dunbar’s 4 solo tackles didn’t wow anybody but then again nobody’s tackle numbers were stellar outside of James Laurinaitis and Trumaine Johnson. Keep him in your lineup if you can justify it with the run-heavy Seahawks in town next week. Mario Harvey was a non-factor after Jerrell Freeman was able to shake off a concussion suffered in week 6. Von Miller was the biggest disappointment, offering nothing more than 2 solo tackles in his return from suspension.
Paris Lenon/Wesley Woodyard DEN LB – MLB 4-3
With Wesley Woodyard out with a neck injury and Von Miller back in the lineup, I had wondered whether the Broncos were going to give Nate Irving a shot at MLB. However, with the signing of Paris Lenon, it appears as though Irving won’t be counted on for anything past spot duty. He can safely be dropped in all redraft formats. Lenon can be counted on for tackle stats but not much more than that. With Washington coming to town, the opportunity for those tackles should be high. In the off chance that Woodyard was made available due to an impatient owner struggling with bye weeks, snap him up. He should be returning soon. Watch the injury report here and make moves accordingly.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3 for Lenon; Low-end LB1 to Low-end LB2 for Woodyard
Donta Hightower/Brandon Spikes NEP LB – SLB/MLB 4-3
With Jerod Mayo’s pectoral injury, the duty to lead the Patriots (both in playcalling and tackles) falls to these two former SEC linebackers. The bump in value is more significant to the versatile Hightower but Spikes’ snap counts and situational usage should increase as well as evidenced by 11 total tackles registered by both young linebackers against the Jets on Sunday. Both players are fringe plays in shallow leagues but have some upside this week against the Dolphins in a bye week heavy week. I personally like Hightower better than Spikes but either is a good choice.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Jamari Lattimore GBP LB – OLB 3-4
Jamari Lattimore appears to be the player that has emerged from the mess of the 3-4 OLBs. Mike Neal was originally thought to be the man to step up but a shoulder injury appears to have limited him. He played against the Browns but didn’t see the field very much. Lattimore racked up 9 solos, 3 assists, a sack and a PD against Browns. The Packers get the struggling Vikings next and it could be a field day depending on who is behind center. Get Lattimore into your lineup as a third or fourth LB.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Darryl Sharpton Joe Mays, Jon Bostic, Khaseem Greene and James Anderson – All five of these guys are guys that will see significantly more snaps due to injury to regular starting LBs. Brian Cushing’s season-ending injury leaves a hole at ILB that I expect Sharpton and Mays to fill. Jon Bostic will be taking over full-time MLB duties from DJ Williams who was placed on injured reserve with a pectoral problem. Khaseem Greene figures to get playing time at WLB with Lance Briggs out with a shoulder fracture and SLB James Anderson will likely see most situational opportunity as a result. The downside on all of these guys is that you will have to wait a week on them as all five are on bye.
Connor Barwin/Trent Cole PHI LB – If the Eagles can’t sustain pressure against the Giants as home, they can’t sustain pressure against anybody. Barwin is the better play, especially for sacks, but Cole has been ok with tackle numbers and forced fumbles also this year.
Defensive Linemen Plays
This week was a better week for the top end of defensive linemen. JJ Watt, Chandler Jones, Mario Williams and a remarkably active Calais Campbell populated the top of the scoring leaderboard. The difficult part of the game is deciding whether you dance with the girl who brought to the dance or cutting bait. Typically the quality (read: consistency) of the waiver wire of the defensive line makes that decision for me.
Mike Neal and Michael Brockers both donutted; one because of injury and one because of inconsistency but Olivier Vernon was serviceable with 3 solo tackles and a sack. Tough week overall.
Chris Jones NEP DT – DT 4-3
The stopgap for the loss of Vince Wilfork is performing admirably with 3.5 sacks over the last 3 weeks. He isn’t the run defender that Wilfork was given the lower tackle numbers but the pass rush chops he has displayed make him a quality option especially in big play leagues.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to High-end DL3
Cedric Thornton PHI DE – DE 3-4
Thornton is not a big play threat for the Eagles; he only has 1 sack this year. That said, Thornton might be the best run defender on their defensive line. He is averaging more than 4 solos a game over his last 5 games. You could do much worse than a high floor tackle option like Thornton.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL2 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Chris Clemons/Cliff Avril SEA DE – Seattle is up against the Rams who are either starting Kellen Clemens or a street free agent. Playing the percentages here; Kellen Clemens was beat up by Carolina. Seattle will be much worse.
Defensive Back Plays
Similar to defensive line, defensive back saw the leaderboard largely populated with household names with some out-of-nowhere guys sprinkled in. TJ Ward, William Moore, Reshad Jones, Charles Tillman and Antoine Bethea were all top 10 options this week. It gives you a little better feeling when the guys who are supposed to score for you actually are.
The top recommendation for last week was Michael Mitchell who posted a mammoth statline of 8 solo tackles, 2 forced fumbles and a sack to clock in as the 2nd best DB of the week. No member of the Eagles secondary got less than 3 solo tackles with Earl Wolff scoring the most with 5 solo tackles and a interception. George Iloka was a solid option with 6 solo tackles and an assist and Chris Harris was serviceable as the sneaky play with 7 total tackles (5 solo) and a PD. All in all, a great week for defensive back for the article.
Jamarca Sanford MIN S – 4-3 SS
The loss of Harrison Smith (turf toe) is devastating to the Vikings secondary but also provides ample opportunity for others to step up. Jamarca Sanford looks to be the guy to benefit the most from Smith’s absence. Sanford is a tackle heavy guy with poor coverage skills and lack of big play ability. He will be an asset in tackle heavy leagues.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Reed Doughty WAS S – 3-4 FS
I’m banking on Doughty being decent for a spot start or two against the Broncos and Chargers in the next two weeks. Doughty isn’t the most consistent guy in the world and isn’t great in run support but he racks up tackles on slot routes and tight ends. Both the Broncos and the Chargers will feature plenty of both.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Stephon Gilmore BUF CB – 4-3 CB
Gilmore will be a stream play against New Orleans in week 8. Gilmore is a decent tackling corner as is but add in the opportunity and he should be a solid option. If Jimmy Graham is hurt, expect Gilmore to be an even better play as Brees will be forced to go to his wide receivers more with seam routes to the safeties and OLB than normally go to Graham not an option.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Brandon Carr DAL CB – Matthew Stafford got back to his usual “throw it into triple coverage to Calvin Johnson” ways on Sunday and I expect that a tough test against Dallas will see him behave similarly. Brandon Carr will likely get the unenviable task of handling Johnson on Sunday. Carr is good but he won’t shut a healthy CJ down.