A week after S Deionte Thompson played 90% of the snaps against the Giants and seemed to take over the spot next to Budda Baker, the Cards went back to a split. Thompson played just 43% of the snaps in Sunday’s loss at New Orleans. Jalen Thompson claimed the other 57%. That means we can’t use either against the 49ers on Thursday night.
S Kemal Ishmael played just 30% of the snaps in Sunday’s loss to Seattle. Instead, Damontae Kazee moved over from the slot corner role he has played this year to the spot where he filled in for most of 2018.
According to Pro Football Focus, Kazee spent 41 of his 47 defensive snaps at FS against the Seahawks. Over the previous 7 games, he totaled just 12 snaps at that position.
The Falcons obviously need some help in their secondary after a 1st half that found them as 1 of the league’s worst pass defenses. So don’t be surprised if this change becomes permanent -- especially if outside CB Desmond Trufant returns after the Week 9 bye from the toe injury that cost him the past 3 games. Kazee grabbed 7 INTs as a safety last year. He has yet to even defense a pass as the slot CB in 2019.
If you play in a tackle-heavy format, then you might want to give SS Chuck Clark a look this week against the Patriots. New England has supplied the 4th most fantasy points per game to DBs so far, including the most solo tackles (2nd most per game, behind Dallas). Clark has played every snap for the Ravens the past 2 games.
Weak-side LB Matt Milano missed Week 7 and then remained questionable heading into Week 8. But he turned up active and played every defensive snap in the loss to the Eagles.
Strong-side LB Lorenzo Alexander, on the other hand, played just 42% of the snaps -- his smallest share since Week 3. Alexander played 72% in Week 5, when Milano left early, and then 96% in the game Milano missed. Now it looks like he’s back to a role that should keep Alexander out of IDP lineups.
DE/OLB Brian Burns played a season-low 33% of the snaps in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers. That continued a downward trend that began in Week 4, when Bruce Irvin returned.
Burns played 58%, 65% and then 75% of the snaps over the first 3 weeks. Then … 57%, 45%, 41% and now 33%.
The trend was easy to ignore as he was delivering sacks every week, but it needs to reverse before we can go on using him. Don’t bet on that, though, for the 250-pound rookie. We’ll how Burns can fare in this weekend’s upside home matchup with Tennessee.
LB Roquan Smith’s playing time fell to 69% in Week 7, amid a struggling stretch for the Chicago run D. He rebounded to 89% in Sunday’s loss to the Chargers. Smith managed only 5 total tackles (3 solo), but the Bears only collected 34 total tackles as a team (26 solo). Week 9 opponent Philadelphia hasn’t been a special scoring matchup for fantasy LBs (23rd most points per game).
DE Carlos Dunlap returned after missing 2 games with a hamstring injury to play 63% of the snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Rams. Dunlap has topped 2 total pressures in just 1 of his 6 appearances so far this season, though. And the next 3 matchups don’t present a lot of sack upside: Baltimore, Oakland and Pittsburgh.
The Ravens have allowed just 12 sacks through 7 games, and half of those came in the first 2 weeks. Pittsburgh and Oakland rank 1-2 in sack rate allowed.
Dunlap should see his playing time come up a little more, at least. He spent his first 4 games between 82% and 92%.
S Morgan Burnett re-emerged for 100% playing time and 8 tackles (6 solo) against the Patriots last Sunday, thanks to Damarious Randall sitting out with a hamstring injury. We’ll see if Randall can make it back for Week 9 at Denver. If not, consider Burnett an option.
With the Jamal Adams trade chatter dead, Xavier Woods and Jeff Heath can go on starting in peace. Both Cowboys safeties had nice fantasy days in the Week 1 meeting with the Giants, this week’s opponent. Heath notched 8 tackles and 2 pass breakups. Woods racked up 11 tackles and forced a fumble.
Woods has been the better tackle bet since, averaging 6.5 total tackles per game over his 6 outings vs. 5.1 for Heath (in 7 games). The Giants arrive supplying the 6th most fantasy points per game to DBs, including the 5th most total tackles per game.
LB Todd Davis left Week 8’s loss to the Colts briefly with a knee issue that limited him to 82% playing time. We’ll see about his status this week, but it doesn’t seem like we need to worry. And Davis has delivered consistent production since returning. He has finished 5 straight games with 6 or 7 solo tackles (and little beyond that).
Fellow ILB Alexander Johnson, meanwhile, rebounded from 69% playing time in Week 7 to 91% against the Colts. He supplied 8 tackles (4 solo), forced a fumble, broke up a pass and registered a QB hit. That’s 3 of those among his 4 starts. Cleveland presents big-play upside for Johnson this week.
S Tavon Wilson played 82% of the snaps in Sunday’s win over the Giants, the 1st game since Seattle traded starting S Quandre Diggs to Seattle. S Tracy Walker left the game in the 3rd quarter with a right knee injury, which undoubtedly helped rookie S Will Harris match Wilson’s playing time. We also saw S C.J. Moore play 31% and S Miles Killebrew play 12%.
Wilson should be a starter going forward. Harris looks like the next best bet if Walker misses further time. The Week 9 matchup with Oakland has been negative for DB scoring so far.
Green Bay Packers
S Darnell Savage returned to full playing time in Sunday night’s win over the Chiefs and tied for the team lead with 7 tackles. Savage had missed the previous 2 contests with an ankle sprain and still entered Week 8 questionable after just limited practices Thursday and Friday. Savage looks fine for normal use going forward. There’s nothing special about matchups with the Chargers and Panthers the next 2 weeks, though.
CB Gareon Conley not only started his 1st game with Houston following last week’s trade from Oakland. He stayed on the field for 55 of 56 defensive snaps. Lonnie Johnson saw the next most playing time at the position among Texans in the narrow victory over the Raiders … at just 59%. Johnson left early with a concussion. We’ll see about the various injury situations in the group heading into Sunday’s London meeting with Jacksonville.
Colts FS Malik Hooker returned from 3 games lost to injury for 85% of the snaps in Sunday’s win over the Broncos. That led all Indy safeties for the game.
Khari Willis -- who had been a full-timer in Hooker’s absence -- stayed on the field for just 30% of the time before leaving with a foot injury. Clayton Geathers started and played 60%, while George Odum played 48%.
Hooker has never been a big IDP contributor, and the playing-time levels make the rest of the crew impossible to trust. We'll see about Willis' foot and what the playing time looks like with everyone around.
The Jaguars went without Najee Goode and Quincy Williams -- their 2 weak-side LB starters this season -- for last Sunday’s game against the Jets. So Austin Calitro ranked 2nd at the position in playing time. He spent 82% of the snaps on the field after playing 1 total snap through the season’s first 7 weeks. We’ll see about the status of Goode and Williams this week.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs have figured out something in the pass rush lately. They started the season decently, with 3+ sacks in 3 of their 1st 4 games and 11 total sacks through that span. Then came empty outings against the Colts and Texans, followed by an explosion the past 2 weeks.
Kansas City racked up 9 sacks in the Week 7 win at Denver and then put down Aaron Rodgers 5 times in Sunday night’s loss. The latter (and 12 total QB hits) came against a Packers offense that had allowed just 7 total sacks over the previous 6 games. And the Chiefs did so with no DT Chris Jones and no DE Frank Clark -- plus no CB Kendall Fuller (K.C.’s lead corner).
One factor: The LBs are blitzing more. Here are the total pass-rushing chances foro Chiefs LBs by week this season …
Anthony Hitchens notched his 1st 2 sacks of the year against Denver 2 weeks ago. Damien Wilson delivered his 1st full sack of the season against Green Bay. Continued blitzing can only help the IDP outlooks for Hitchens and Wilson going forward.
Los Angeles Chargers
DE Melvin Ingram finally returned Sunday after a 3-game hamstring absence, and he stayed on the field for 81 of 82 snaps in the narrow victory over the Bears. Ingram still has no sacks or QB hits since the opener -- according to NFL stats -- and faces lackluster sack matchups in Green Bay and Oakland the next 2 weeks. He’ll still be worth playing in most cases, in leagues of at least moderate depth. We’ll see if we can get more of the Ingram from previous seasons.
Pro Football Focus has, at least, credited Ingram with 3+ hurries in each of his 4 full games.
Los Angeles Rams
S Taylor Rapp played full time for the 2nd straight game in the wake of S John Johnson’s season-ending injury and delivered a game-high 12 tackles in the win over the Bengals. Spending 83 snaps on the field certainly helped, but Rapp looks like a potential weekly starter in DB slots beyond the Week 9 bye.
Eric Rowe has spent the past 3 weeks playing mostly at safety, after spending the first 4 games almost entirely at corner. He has supplied 5 solo tackles each of the past 2 weeks, with SS Reshad Jones inactive. Rowe hadn’t previously topped 5 solos since the opener.
If Jones is ready to return this week, expect Rowe to return to CB.
DE Danielle Hunter is on pace to match Aaron Donald’s 2018 as the best DL fantasy campaign of the past 4 years. (Of course, the particulars depend on your specific scoring system.) Even the lone game so far in which he didn’t register a sack -- Week 4 against the Bears -- found Hunter tallying 7 total pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
Through 8 games, Hunter has amassed 51 total pressures. That’s just 16 shy of his total for 2018, and only 26 edge players collected 51+ for that whole season. Dee Ford led the league with 77 for the year. I’ll be curious to see where Hunter finishes 2019.
New England Patriots
DT Adam Butler delivered his second 2-sack game of the season in Sunday’s win over the Browns. The last came back in Week 2 at Miami. Butler followed with just a half-sack total over the ensuing 5 contests.
Butler’s 49% playing time at Cleveland marked a rise over the previous 2 weeks, but it didn’t get him back to the 60+% he hit 3 times from Week 2 through Week 5. He’ll need to get back to that level before we can strongly consider him for IDP lineups (at least outside of strongly positive matchups such as Cleveland).
That’s especially true because Butler hasn’t been racking up hidden pressures. He tallied 4 against the Dolphins and 4 against the Browns, according to Pro Football Focus. Butler has totaled just 7 across his other 6 games.
New Orleans Saints
Slot CB P.J. Williams spent Week 8 finishing his 2-game suspension. Rookie Chauncey Gardner-Johnson played in his place again, stayed on the field for 48 of 49 snaps and notched the defense’s only 2 pass breakups against the Cardinals. I’ll be curious to see if Gardner-Johnson can maintain a lineup spot even with Williams back after the Week 9 bye.
New York Giants
OLB Lorenzo Carter played a season-high 90% of the snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Lions. That marked his 2nd straight season-high in snap share. Carter also delivered his 2nd sack in 3 weeks and has finished just 2 of his 7 games with 0 QB hits.
Dallas doesn’t present him with a great sack matchup this week, but a Week 10 clash with the Jets carries more upside.
New York Jets
DE Kyle Phillips has quietly been decent over the past 3 weeks. The undrafted rookie has started 2 straight games and 3 of the past 4 while DE Henry Anderson has dealt with a shoulder injury. Phillips has cracked 60% playing time in 4 of the past 5 Jets contests and played at least 50% of the snaps in 5 straight. He has delivered 5+ total tackles each of the past 3 weeks, with 3+ solos in each.
Monday’s trade of DE Leonard Williams to the Giants should give Phillips a starting spot going forward -- even when Anderson’s ready to return. (He was questionable Sunday against the Jaguars.)
LB Nicholas Morrow joined Tahir Whitehead in playing 100% of the snaps in Sunday’s loss to the Texans. That marked his 2nd straight game of 100% playing time, and Morrow played 54 of 56 snaps the game before. He also managed only 5 tackles against Houston despite staying on the field for 83 defensive plays. Morrow has topped 4 solos just once so far.
CB Ronald Darby returned for Sunday’s win at Buffalo, seeing his 1st action since a Week 3 knee injury. Darby stayed on the field for 57 of the 62 defensive snaps and told The Athletic that he felt like he was “getting back to his roots” by playing more man coverage. Philly had previously been playing a lot of zone this season. We’ll see whether the man coverage continues in a secondary that struggled mightily before Sunday -- with and without Darby.
For IDP purposes, Darby ranks among the strongest weekly CB options around.
ILB Mark Barron returned Monday night after missing Week 6 with a hamstring injury. He played 67% of the snaps against the Dolphins. Barron had played all but 2 snaps of his previous 3 healthy games, but that came with ILB Vince Williams leaving Week 2 early and then sitting out weeks 3 and 4. Barron, of course, left early in Week 5.
Williams played 57% of the snaps against Miami after seeing 65% and 61% in the games Barron left and then missed. ILB Devin Bush, meanwhile, maintained his full-time role, playing every snap for the 3rd time this season.
San Francisco 49ers
Wondering what’s up with LBs Kwon Alexander and/or Fred Warner so far? Well, at least part of it is that their defense is too good for their own good.
San Francisco is averaging 2.1 fewer defensive snaps per game than any other team so far. Only 6 teams sit within 6 plays per game of the Niners.
The defense has also encountered the fewest tackle opportunities per contest so far. (I’m defining that as rushing attempts + completed passes.) The 49ers are averaging just 36.4 such chances per game. New England sits next at 37.4 chances per game. Then comes Baltimore at 40.7 per game and New Orleans at 42.3 per game.
These might seem like small differences, but the 5.9 per game that separate San Francisco from #4 New Orleans come out to 41 total chances Niners tacklers are missing across their 7 games to date.
That’s obviously not the only thing holding numbers down for the LBs. Patriots LB Jamie Collins leads the position in scoring at the moment. But it certainly ain’t helping.
With no Quinton Jefferson against the Falcons thanks to an oblique injury, DE Branden Jackson started opposite DE Jadeveon Clowney. Jackson played 2 fewer snaps, however, than DE Ezekiel Ansah, who played through a “questionable” tag after missing the previous game. Ansah notched a QB hit but otherwise added just 1 assist and a fumble recovery. DE Rasheem Green topped each of them by playing 52% of the snaps but tallied just a single solo tackle.
DT Jarran Reed topped 80% playing time once again (82%) in his 2nd game back from suspension. He also managed just a QB hit and an assist. The whole D-line faces an upside matchup with the Buccaneers in Week 9.
The secondary will carry upside into that matchup as well. We’ll see who’s starting at safety for it.
Bradley McDougald returned Sunday after missing the previous contest, but he didn’t start and played only 11 total snaps. With Quandre Diggs inactive (hamstring) just after arriving via trade from Detroit, rookie Marquise Blair started next to Tedric Thompson and racked up a team-high 11 tackles (9 solo).
If Blair manages to make his way into the Week 9 starting lineup, he’ll be in IDP-starter consideration against Tampa.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
EDGE Jason Pierre-Paul played 68% of the snaps in his 1st action of the season Sunday at Tennessee. All 3 of his tackles went for losses, including a sack. Seattle and Arizona present sack upside over the next 2 weeks. Really, though, a full-strength JPP is generally an every-week starter.
LB Jayon Brown returned to play 80 of 83 defensive snaps in Sunday’s win over the Buccaneers. LB Rashaan Evans dipped slightly to 83% but still delivered 12 tackles. That marked his 3rd straight game of 10+ total stops and 4th such game over the past 5 weeks.
There’s not much going right for Washington right now. (Unless you love baseball and hate football, that is.) But Jonathan Allen and Matthew Ioannidis certainly are.
Each player ranks among the top-12 DL scorers over the past 5 weeks, depending on your scoring format. Allen has delivered 4 sacks and 25 tackles in that span. Ioannidis has 28 tackles in that time, leading all D-linemen. And he’s supplied 2.5 sacks.
A Week 9 meeting with Buffalo presents opportunity for Allen and Ioannidis to keep things rolling. The Bills arrive as the 10th most friendly scoring matchup for the position.