Good news for IDP gamers this week, as the linebacker injury saga is resolving itself to a fair degree, with Luke Kuechly, Paul Posluszny and Sean Lee all returning, while DeAndre Levy has opted for further surgery and is now out indefinitely, rather than week-to-week. We also saw the Miami defensive line wake from its slumber and terrorise the Titans which will particularly please the owners of Cameron Wake. There were some surprising last minute inactives though, including Everson Griffen and James Ihedigbo, so it wasn’t all smooth sailing…
Week 7 Injury Update
Bobby Wagner’s pectoral strain kept him out of Seattle’s Week 6 game, but he has already returned to practice in full and is expected to play on Thursday night against San Francisco. I’d have no hesitation in starting him as a LB1 this week.
With Vontaze Burfict already out, Vincent Rey (ankle) going down to injury is worrying for the Bengals defense. Cincy fans will be hoping that a Week 7 bye will give both players enough time to get healthy, but if not they will turn to rookie Paul Dawson. Dawson is under-sized and was productive in college, so it would be interesting to see him on the field. Burfict is rumored to potentially return in Week 8, while there is little news on Rey’s status, but being carted off the field isn’t usually a good sign.
After DeMarcus Ware went down with a back injury in Week 5, and missed Week 6, while team-mate and fellow OLB Shane Ray (knee) is now expected to be out as long as six weeks with a MCL sprain. Ware should be fine to play in next week after the Broncos bye, but it will be Shaq Barrett backing him up rather than Rey.
As mentioned in the introduction, DeAndre Levy (hip) is out indefinitely, but it’s James Ihedigbo missing Week 6 with a quadriceps issue is concerning. Ihedigbo has been a DB1 this season and being inactive was a surprise, so keep an eye on his status in practice this week.
Morgan Burnett missed another game last week, but appears close to a return. The Packers remain tight lipped about his health, but I’d expect him to return in Week 8 after the Green Bay bye.
Despite an illness leaving him questionable for Week 6, J.J. Watt played 80-of-82 snaps. It’s hard to imagine an illness keeping a man-mountain such as Watt from the field, so proceed as normal.
Everson Griffen however was unable to go, in what looked a plum matchup, due to his own illness. A real shame for his fantasy owners who were expecting one of the league’s top pass rushers to make mincemeat of the league’s more porous offensive line.
Colts safety Mike Adams continues to post DB1 numbers in the twilight of his career, but left Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. He’s considered day-to-day, so sounds like he’ll be good to go for his owners in Week 7.
Dont’a Hightower (ribs) didn’t play in Week 6, and as is typical with the Patriots, we’re unsure as to when he will return. Rib injuries are often more of a pain-management issue, so Hightower could return as soon as next week. His status in practice this week is the best guide to whether he’ll play on Sunday.
Jon Beason was active on Monday night, but only played 39 snaps versus Uani’ Unga’s 43. Unga also started as the team’s MLB. Be wary of starting either in all but the deepest of leagues if both are active in any game week as they are sharing duties.
Mychal Kendricks (hamstring) and Kiko Alonso (knee) both missed Week 6 as expected. Alonso remains out indefinitely while Kendricks is week-to-week. I wouldn’t play Kendricks in any lineup until I’ve seen him get several full practices under his belt.
Steelers HC Mike Tomlin has come out and said he expects Ryan Shazier to play this week. Shazier has missed a month with his shoulder injury so is a welcome return for Pittsburgh. A potential LB1 when healthy, I’d almost be tempted to cash in quickly on Shazier if he plays a few games and scores well, simply because I think he’s an injury prone player. Think a poor man’s Sean Lee.
A groin injury suffered in Week 6 may cost DB1 Eric Weddle a start against Oakland this week. Weddle sounded optimistic when asked about the injury, but as always, keep an eye on practice reports in the latter half of the week before inserting him into your lineups. Team-mate Manti Te’o (ankle) missed the game, giving rookie Denzel Perryman a chance to shine in a two-down role. Te’o hasn’t been as good as advertised, so keep an eye on Perryman if given more opportunities in coming weeks.
Week 6 Pass Rushers
Cameron Wake burst into life last week, posting four sacks, one hit and seven hurries, causing two forced fumbles. Clearly back to full health, Wake returns to DL1 status moving forwards… His teammate Olivier Vernon added a sack, a hit and a hurry himself, and remains a DL2... Another DL1 who has started sluggishly from a sack perspective (just one before last week) was Cameron Jordan, but three sacks, one hit and six hurries made him one of Week 6’s highest scorers… Chandler Jones has his second three-sack performance of the season, but his owners are probably wishing he hadn’t posted zero sack returns in his other four games. He also added a hit and seven hurries… Rob Ninkovich couldn’t record a sack, but did Carlos Dunlap’s two sacks and two hurries means he leads the league in sacks (6.5) on an aggressive front four that will continue cause troubles for people all year, as Michael Johnson and Wallace Gilberry combined for four hits and three hurries… My deeper sleeper last week, O’Brien Schofield failed to record a sack, but did manage four hurries. Annoying… Despite not recording a sack, Ziggy Ansah record a season high for hits (2) and hurries (6) against the Bears. He’s looking every bit of the DL1 we hoped he could be… With Everson Griffen out, rookie Danielle Hunter got the matchup against the Chiefs O-Line, managing to generate four hurries in his first chance with significant playing time… The Buffalo duo of Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes could only muster two hurries each. That’s concerning considering their lack of production so far… On the face of it J.J. Watt not recording a sack may have been illness related, but a closer look shows he had four hits and nine hurries, both season-highs, so it was just one of those days for the Defensive MVP... Fletcher Cox couldn’t reach the heights of his three-sack performance in Week 5, but did post a sack and three hurries. He may not be an elite edge-rusher, but he belongs in the DL1 conversation… Sheldon Richardson looked dangerous in his return, recording a sack and six hurries, while Muhammad Wilkerson chimed in with a sack, one hit and three hurries of his own. I’d have a hard time picking the league’s No.1 unit between the Jets, Bengals and Rams right now… Talking of impressive duos, the Steelers pairing of Stephon Tuitt and Cameron Heyward were unable to record a sack, but did combine for two hits and seven hurries. These two are solid DL2s thanks to their tackle floors, and will post DL1 weeks when they can record some sacks… The Denver pass rush is much more than a duo these days, but their top pass rusher, Von Miller, drew a blank on Sunday, managing only three hurries. DeMarcus Ware’s replacement, Shaq Barrett notched up two sacks and five hurries. Barrett has shown himself to be a very capable pass-rusher in this scheme when on the field. Malik Jackson’s run of games with a sack continued, snagging the one along with three hurries. He’s terribly underrated right now considering his production… Although his high profile teammate, J.J. Watt couldn’t register a sack, Whitney Mercilus recorded two, along with one hit and five hurries, playing 81-of-82 snaps in his highest snap count of the year. Monitor his playing time next week…
Guys I Like
Greg Hardy vs Giants
In his Week 5 return after a long suspension, Hardy wrought havoc and destroyed the Patriots offensive line to record two sacks and three hits on Tom Brady. That’s foreboding for a Giants team coming off a poor Monday Night display against the Eagles, including three sacks (one from the RE Fletcher Cox, one from ROLB Brandon Graham). I make Hardy a top-five defensive lineman this week.
Stop me of this sounds like a broken record, but the Chiefs O-Line isn’t that great. The Vikings only managed two sacks last week, but that was down their star edge-threat. Both Tuitt and Heyward are healthy, and playing well, particularly when rushing the passer, so I’d nudge both up to being borderline DL1s this week.
Preston Brown vs Jaguars
Brown has been posting points for fun in the first third of the season, sitting comfortably in the top-ten fantasy linebackers. He’ll be looking to solidify that status this week in a matchup with the Jags, who have been a boon for opposing linebackers so far this year. Consider Brown a low-end LB1. It’s worth adding even when not at home the Bills are also a good matchup for linebackers, so Paul Posluszny and Telvin Smith have plus-matchups this week too.
D’Qwell Jackson vs Saints
Another player scoring points for fun is Jackson, who has had nine or more total tackles in every game this season. Jackson should score as a top-five linebacker this week in one of the better matchups for ‘backers in the league against a New Orleans team that hasn’t got the same stretch the field mentality as in years gone by.
Harrison Smith vs Detroit
The Lions have been the best matchup for safeties so far this season, which bumps Smith from DB1, to my No.1 DB this week. He’ll be looking to bounce back from a poor 2 solo tackle performance against the Chiefs, a notoriously bad matchup for safeties, in Week 5. Smith had been stellar until that game, so I have no qualms about him posting a big score this week.
Deone Bucannon vs Ravens
I’ve been very impressed with Bucannon this season, and despite only having one splash play, a forced fumble to his name, he currently ranks as a DB1 after six weeks. 42 total tackles (37 solo) is an impressive tally considering he isn’t always an every-down player in the Cardinals schemes. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that he’s racked up these numbers while only playing one run play within eight yards of the line of scrimmage. I’ve Bucannon as a solid DB2 this week.
Guys I Don’t Like
Robert Quinn vs Browns
Browns LT Joe Thomas hasn’t allowed more than two sacks in a season since 2012 (when he allowed a whooping three), and is annually considered among the league’s elite. We’re talking about a guy who went fishing with his father rather than be in New York for his guaranteed top-five selection on Draft Day. Bad ass. It should be an excellent battle between two of the league’s top players at their respective positions, but my takeaway is that owners need to lower their expectations for Quinn this week.
Damontre Moore vs Cowboys
I’m a fan of Moore’s, and think he’s been pretty productive on a very limited snap count, but that’s half the problem, he’s not on the field enough to be a fantasy play. Add in he’ll have one of the league’s best pass blocking tackles to beat, Tyvon Smith, and it looks like a week to keep Moore firmly on your bench.
I wanted to list Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes as recommended sits this week due to their poor form, but the Jags O-Line has conceded 11 sacks this season, so I’ll give them a pass this week, in the belief they will get something done…
Keenan Robinson vs Buccaneers
Robinson continue to be a fantasy disappointment this season, despite what initially seems like an impressive ten total tackles last week. Unfortunately only three of them were solos. Of Robinson’s 41 total tackles, just 24 are solos, and ten of those came in one week… his only decent fantasy game. Every other week he has failed to produce double-digit points, so he slides out of LB2 consideration until he can turn this slump around.
Ryan Shazier vs Chiefs
Shazier may be back, and I do like him as a potential LB1, however, the Chiefs are a horrible matchup at both linebacker and safety (but excellent for defensive lineman). Add in concerns about the health of his shoulder considering it’s taken him a month to return, and Shazier is a player I’d want to swerve this week.
Barry Church vs Giants
One huge season back in 2013 (107 total tackles) had everyone very excited about Church’s IDP value, but since then he hasn’t delivered. He’s been consistently average this season so far, recording between six and nine total tackles every game, with no splash plays. This week sees the Cowboys face the toughest matchup for opposing safeties in Eli Manning (I know, wow!) which makes Church’s mediocre numbers a must-avoid in Week 7.
Da’Norris Searcy vs Falcons
When you are waiting on sleepers to break out, you have to pick your spots to play them, Searcy is one of those players we’re waiting on, but this isn’t the week. The Falcons have been a tough matchup for opposing safeties, and as Searcy has yet to light up scoreboards, it’s a safer bet to leave him on your bench this week.