With bye weeks aplenty in week 8, many fantasy squads were scrambling for help to fill out their lineups. The bye week blues were compounded by some marquee names putting up pedestrian numbers at best in a week where their owners needed them the most, in stark contrast to some of the video game-like numbers posted by receivers like Calvin Johnson and Marvin Jones. Jon Beason, AJ Hawk, Rey Maualuga, both KC OLBs and most of all, David Harris, left their respective fantasy owners in the lurch with none of them scoring more than 7 fantasy points in their respective week 8 matchups. The bye week blues won’t get any easier in week 9 with 6 more teams getting the week off. Owners with starters from Arizona, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, New York (Giants) and San Francisco will need to have other options. Now is also the time to consider playoff push additions. Can you add a Lance Briggs and sit on him until he returns for playoffs? Have a look at your roster and see if now is the time to capitalize on other players especially if bye weeks are largely over and done with for the majority of your players.
For last week’s recap, both linebackers from New England, Donta Hightower and Brandon Spikes, were both quality starts. And as I expected, Hightower (5 solos, 5 assists and a sack) was marginally better than Spikes (4 solos and 5 assists). Jamari Lattimore was serviceable against the Vikings with 3 total tackles and a sack. Wesley Woodyard returned to the Broncos lineup with a passable 5 total tackles. Connor Barwin and Trent Cole disappointed massively, generating no sacks on the Giants. Barwin did score three pass defenses to go along with an assist so depending on how your league scores PDs, he may have been ok.
David Hawthorne NOS LB – ILB 3-4
At the start of the year, Hawthorne was an afterthought in the Saints’ defense under new DC Rob Ryan. The Saints were frequently rolling out 3 safety looks which kept Hawthorne off the field frequently. While the Saints are still rolling out that three safety look, injuries to Roman Harper, Malcolm Jenkins and potentially Kenny Vaccaro, Hawthorne has seen the field more often. In that time, Hawthorne hasn’t failed to impress fantasy owners with three double digit fantasy scores in three consecutive playing weeks including an 8 solo, 1 sack performance against the Bills in week 8. The Saints get the Jets on the road in week 9 so the upside isn’t the largest but Hawthorne is a great play down the stretch, especially if any of the big three safeties continue to miss time.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Darryl Sharpton/Joe Mays HOU LB – ILB 3-4
Some repeat here from last week but the pickings are slim and these guys represent the best opportunity to add a real contributor for more than just a week. Brian Cushing suffered a broken leg and torn LCL in week 7 and will be out for the year. Darryl Sharpton remains as the other ILB and Joe Mays likely takes the lion’s share of the snaps at the other ILB spot with Tim Dobbins also out. Neither are league winners but someone in Houston needs to make tackles. Consider adding either of them against Indianapolis in week 9.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Chicago LBs – LB 4-3
I will also beat this drum for owners in shallow leagues that could not add a LB going into their bye week. Chicago’s linebackers will be markedly different from three weeks ago. Starting MLB DJ Williams is out for the year with a torn pectoral. 2nd round rookie Jon Bostic will be a fulltime starter at MLB in his stead and represents some excellent upside. On the weakside, team leader Lance Briggs is out with a shoulder injury. 4th round rookie Khaseem Greene will be given first crack as replacing the injured veteran. I expect that Greene’s leash will be shorter with Blake Costanzo and Larry Grant as potential fallbacks should the rookie struggle. Finally, James Anderson figures to be in on tackles more with a large amount of inexperience at the other positions for linebacker as evidenced in week 7 with his 8 total tackle, 1 sack effort against the Redskins. Greene is your deep league option, Bostic is your shallow league/dynasty option and Anderson is a defensive flex play. Acquire accordingly.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Bobby Wagner SEA LB – MLB 4-3
When Bobby Wagner was diagnosed with an ankle sprain, he was slated to miss 4-5 weeks. He played (surprisingly) in Monday Night Football against the Rams in week 8. Wagner is a no-brainer player to have on your squad no matter how shallow your league is. If he was dropped due to the injury, now is it time to snap him up.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB1 to Mid LB2
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Paul Worrilow ATL LB – The Falcons’ season is going from bad to worse and it wouldn’t surprise me if Atlanta completely folds up. Worrilow and the Falcons were run on by Andre Ellington and the Cardinals in week 8. Carolina is a much better running team than the Cardinals and everyone remembers what the Panthers did to the Falcons last year. This one could get ugly.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Robert Quinn may be the best defensive end in football. He completely dominated in Monday Night football, once sacking Russell Wilson on back to back plays on his way to 5 solo tackles and 3 sacks in the first half alone. He now has 10 sacks through 8 games and is a must-start for his fantasy owners. Watching him on MNF was a treat. Chris Long also got 3 sacks but one of them was handed to him and while he was effective, he wasn’t dominant like Quinn was.
After a week of struggles at defensive line, the IDP free agent report comes back strong with a solid week. Chris Jones and Cedric Thornton were both top 10 options at defensive line. Jones continued his strong play with 7 total tackles and a sack against the Dolphins. Thornton posted 6 solos in the Eagles’ loss to the Giants. Avril nabbed a sack (should have had two but one was negated on penalty) on Kellen Clemens but not much else. Clemons gained pressure all night but didn’t gain any sacks.
Art Jones BAL DE – DE 3-4
Art Jones has been inconsistent lately but with backup QB Jason Campbell coming to town with a weak rushing team, Jones could be in for a bigger day. Jones has a great schedule for a pass rusher down the stretch including great playoff matchups against the Vikings and Lions. If you have room, consider adding the former Orangeman.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL2 to Low-end DL3
Lamarr Houston/Jason Hunter – DE 4-3
Another inconsistent pair of ends, Houston and Hunter have varying degrees of ownership percentages. If they are available, consider adding one of them. Oakland is up against the Eagles in week 9. The Eagles may be starting 3rd round rookie Matt Barkley at quarterback and he has proven to be very sackable and shaky with ball security.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to High-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Cory Redding IND DE – I’m banking on the Colts handling Case Keenum and the Texans in week 9. The rookie may be under siege from an underrated Colt pass rush. Redding is an under-the-radar option that should benefit from all-world pass rusher Robert Mathis.
Defensive Back Plays
It was a blast from the past type of a weekend for defensive backs. Hard luck former cornerback turned safety Terrell Thomas led all defensive backs with 11 total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a PD. Adam “Pacman” Jones had a monster game with 7 total tackles, 2 PDs and a pick six. Finally, DeAngelo Hall was rock solid with 4 solo tackles, 3 PDs and 2 interception including 1 for a TD.
After a solid week last week, this week was a terrible one for the IDP free agent report. Injury pulled Sanford from a juicy matchup against the Packers. He left with 2 total tackles. Reed Doughty couldn’t suit up for Redskins, David Amerson got the start. Stephon Gilmore was avoided all afternoon and only managed one assist. The lone quality play was Brandon Carr who was abused by Calvin Johnson all day on Sunday with 9 total tackles, 1 PD and 1 fumble recovery.
Jairus Byrd BUF S – 4-3 FS
Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd is back from his foot issues. He was brought in slowly so he is still under the radar. It appears as though his snaps will come at the expense of Da’Norris Searcy and not Aaron Williams. A healthy Byrd is a quality IDP option for both tackles and splash plays. Snap him up if you have room on your roster. Buffalo gets Kansas City in week 9.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to High-end DB3
Tashaun Gipson CLE S – 3-4 FS
Tashaun Gipson has been a solid tackle option from the safety position all year. He is still fairly under the radar and thus should be available in a handful of leagues. Baltimore is on deck for the improved Browns defense in week 9. Expect that Baltimore will continue to try to move the ball through the air which should lead to some tackle opportunity.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Xavier Rhodes/Josh Robinson MIN CB – 4-3 CB
Rhodes and Robinson are built in the mold of previous Viking IDP stud cornerbacks Cedric Griffin and Antoine Winfield. They can both tackle well and score well in IDP leagues because of it. The Vikings are up against a Dallas squad in week 9 that will either bounce back strong from a crushing defeat in week 8 at the hands of the Lions or fold up shop as they can do at times. Either way, it will happen through the pass. Robinson is the better play because he will be matched up on Bryant but both are decent starts.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Chris Conte CHI S – I like everyone in the Bears secondary against the Packers in Green Bay on Monday Night Football. That said, Jennings, Tillman and Wright are all likely owned in your league. Conte is an underrated option for your fantasy team.