Last week was notable for a couple of reasons; There were overtime games galore between CLE-BAL, WSH-ATL, and CIN-SEA, but arguably the biggest news was the loss of Jamaal Charles to a season ending torn ACL. That’s part of the fun, and risk, with any position in fantasy sports. They can ignite your team, as soon as wreck it, with one huge injury. The key is learning how to adapt and improve in the wake such an injury. The Panthers (4-0) have found a way to keep winning without Kuechly (concussion, back Week 6) and Charles Johnson (out indefinitely), and so can your team. You just have to find the right piece for your team and style of defense. Some defenses are built around tackle heavy players, some sack, and some interception/passes defensed heavy players, while some try to employ a mixture of all. In reality, the mixture is he hardest to attain because you have to cover so many bases on defense, but it is possible. For the rest of us, if we were to suffer the injury to Kuechly, we would have been likely to grab one of the hot starters. It is all about your team and your strategy.
Last Week’s Recap
Walter Thurmond: 2 picks 22.4 pts LOSS
Bobby Richardson: DNP LOSS
Trumaine Johnson: 1 pick, 26.9 pts LOSS
Adam ‘PacMan’ Jones: 1 pick, 1 sack, 27.2 pts LOSS
Jaye Howard: 0.5 sack, 1.5 stuffs, 14.1 pts LOSS
Kevin Minter: 9 tackles, 1 pass defensed, 20.2 pts WIN!
Jonathan Cyprien: 5 tackles, 4.5 pts LOSS
Jabaal Sheard: 2 sacks, 18.5 pts WIN!
Vic Beasley: 2 tackles, 1.5 pts LOSS
Aldon Smith: 4 tackles, 0.5 sack, 6.7 pts LOSS
Calais Campbell (DE-ARZ)- Campbell’s value this week will be entirely reliant upon his ability to get the elusive Michael Vick on the turf and stop Le’Veon Bell. If last week’s winning drive versus the Chargers is any indication of how Vick is capable of orchestrating the pass game to open up the run game, the Cardinals defensive line will be guessing all day. With only half a sack on the season, avoid Campbell for this week. (Photo courtesy of footballsfuture.com)
Uani Unga (LB-NYG)- No, I am not out of my mind when I say Unga is going to decline the rest of the season. He got off to a hot start and was a ‘sexy’ pickup at linebacker, but I would temper expectations going forward. First off, he needs to show more consistency from week-to-week before fantasy owners can trust him. Second, his conditioning will be key going down the stretch as he was a walk-on at BYU before being picked up as an undrafted free agent by the Giants in 2014. When he stepped in for the injured Jon Beason, his snap counts at the pro level had been limited, and it is unclear whether or not he can handle a full workload. Philadelphia is a team that loves to play fast and stretch the field. And while Unga has filled in admirably for Beason at middle linebacker thus far, he has limited speed and will be challenged to produce versus an Eagles offense that just annihilated the Saints last Sunday. Fantasy starter or Unga, beware.
Stephon Gilmore (CB-BUF)- I like Gilmore a lot in fantasy, but not this week. The Bengals offense is clicking on all cylinders and looks unstoppable in the pass and run game. While Gilmore is a very reliable press corner and matches up well versus opposing team’s WR1s, AJ Green will prove too much for him this week. Gilmore’s upside is astronomical from in real life and fantasy given his physical play, but he will not be that active in the breaking up passes aspect of this week’s matchup. His ceiling is eight or nine points this week. If you look back, Gilmore struggled versus Brady in Week 2, and with another elite passer (at least this season) on tap, expect more of the same in Week 6
Brandon Williams (DT-BAL)- Depending on the health of Alshon Jeffery, the Bears may deploy a run heavy attack versus the Ravens. The Ravens secondary, outside of Jimmy Smith, has been extremely generous to opposing wideouts this season, yielding nine scores and 298 yards per game versus only three interceptions. The defensive line of Baltimore has been better, allowing four rushing scores and fifteen sacks. He may not be a stat stuffer, but the Baltimore nose tackle Williams does a good job of clogging the middle, hurrying passes, and getting into the backfield. If the Bears offensive line cannot protect Cutler, Williams could be in for a nice day for a DT. However, the presence of Jeffery would hurt his value. (Photo courtesy of baltimoreravens.com)
Everson Griffen (DE-MIN)- The Chiefs offensive line is so bad, a blade of grass could sack Alex Smith. He has been sacked 22 times already this season: tied with Russell Wilson, surprisingly, for the most in the league. Jamaal Charles is finished for the season with a torn ACL, meaning the Chiefs will look to air it out more to their receivers led by Jeremy Maclin, and include more underneath passes to the speedy DeAnthony Thomas. Jamaal Charles was the engine that made a bad Chiefs offense go, and now they have lost their engine. Coming off a bye week, Griffen should be in line for a two sack day, as well as contribute a stuff or two.
Micah Hyde (S-GB)- The Packers-Chargers could develop into a shootout, but I also envision Rivers throwing a pick or two. The addition of Antonio Gates back into Rivers’ weapons repertoire certainly helps, but he no longer stretches the field as he used to. The Chargers may look to challenge Morgan Burnett’s replacement, Hyde, but it might not be advisable as Hyde is very good in coverage and is a surefire tackler. Last season, when the Packers were ushering in Clinton-Dix, the Packers converted Hyde from corner to safety to provide security for Clinton-Dix, and he saw a good deal of time at safety and in the slot where he excelled. Hyde is more than capable of playing safety, corner, and slot, and wherever he lines up while Burnett is out, the Chargers will need to lookout for him because he is a ballhawk. Leagues that count punt return yardage get an added boost as the Packers return game is solid, and he is a key part of it.
Eric Kendricks (LB-MIN)- With the trade of Gerald Hodges to the 49ers, it is time to put stock into Kendricks’ ability as a middle linebacker. I do not think it is any coincidence that the Vikings were easing Kendricks into a starting gig to start the season. But now that the starting gig is apparently his, watch out. His ridiculous UCLA numbers speak for themselves, and he is exactly as I advertised in my linebacker rankings: a stud in the making. My bold prediction for this week’s matchup versus the Chiefs: Kendricks goes for 10 tackles, one-and-a-half sacks, and a forced fumble. Wagers? (Photo courtesy of nfl.com)
Navorro Bowman (LB-SF)- With how horribly the 49ers are playing on offense and defense, they still have a few bright spots. Bowman is one. While he may not seem like a high upside play this week, I beg to differ as he has racked up 27 tackles the past three weeks and is beginning to shows signs of his old dominant self, since that horrific knee injury in the 2013 AFC Championship Game versus Seattle. The 49ers face a decent Ravens offense this week, but an offensive line that has struggled to keep Flacco upright the past two weeks, surrendering five sacks. This sets up nicely for the 49ers middle linebacker, and could be the beginning of Bowman taking bigger strides in re-kindling the old nastiness he used to have on the field.
Jerraud Powers (CB-ARZ)- As highly as I praise Vick for leading the Steelers on that game winning drive last Monday Night versus the Chargers, he will find windows closing rapidly with one of the most complete secondaries on tap this week. Antonio Brown is going to be blanketed by patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu, and Martavis Bryant will have some rust coming off a four game suspension to open the season, leaving the defensive focus to shift onto Le’Veon Bell. Playing alongside two stud ballhawks, Powers will be shadowing a rusty Bryant all day, leading to a fair number of opportunities for a pick or big play. Bryant can be a handful in the red zone, but Powers has proven tough this season and should be respected by Vick.
Donte Whitner (S-CLE)- The Browns defense was supposed to be good this season, but to date, they are at the bottom of the barrel, ranking 30th in total defense and surrendering ten passing scores with the Broncos on tap. The good news is this is not your father’s version of Peyton Manning. This is the slowing down, fused-neck, struggling-offense Manning. In other words, while the browns defense has stunk this season, they could potentially right the ship this week after an uplifting win over the arch rival Ravens in Baltimore last week. Whitner is a rangy, hard-hitting safety in search of his first turnover this season. It could very well occur this week versus Peyton and a lackluster running offense. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)
Standard League D/ST
Vikings @ Chiefs- In case you didn’t notice, I would start the Vikings defense above all else this week, as the Chiefs are going to be running around like headless chickens without Charles this week. The Vikings defense is loaded with young talent, and with speedster Cordarrelle Patterson returning kicks, this unit could have an added boost this week as he is always a threat to take one to the house.
Dolphins @ Titans- The Titans defense has been very solid this season, including tenth overall versus the run, and will take on the thirty-first ranked run game this week. Tannehill has some weapons in the passing game at his disposal, but will also be facing the league’s top passing defense in a horrible matchup for the Dolphins all around. Do not expect this to be a high scoring affair, but the titans will create enough pressure on Tannehill and the Phins run game to create and capitalize on turnovers, while contributing a little in the return game.
Remember, you play to win the game. Hope this list helps you dominate once more this week as we are getting into full swing for bye-weeks. If you need any immediate advice, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave it here.
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@brandonziman You are more than welcome Brandon. You were a fantastic writer and a joy to work with. As we move through a very big transition for us hopefully we can continue to work with one anither.