“Amateur Ward” Time to Lower the Boom, Defensive Plays for Week 5
Week 4 Recap: I told you specifically to avoid Bucs LBs Kwon Alexander and Marcus Peters, and hopefully you listened to me as Alexander posted four tackles, while Peters posted three tackles. If you watched last week’s Bears-Raiders game, you would have seen Pernell McPhee have a nice day with eight tackles and a pick, and my favorite secondary option pickup from last week, Bruton Jr., laid a goose egg with four tackles.
Last week was not bad by any measure, but I am still bad at the ones I missed on. Remember, when looking for IDPs, it is all about matchups and consistency. While matchups provide more in the way of upside week-to-week, consistency is ideally what you will be looking for. That is if you do not have a JJ Watt, Aqib Talib, or Harrison Smith. From experience, I will tell you it is those owners that are best able to leverage matchups and scour the waiver wire for solid plays that win most weeks in IDP leagues. Hopefully, by this point in the season, you have your key defensive cogs and are looking to merely bolster one or two defensive positions with depth.
Walter Thurmond (S-PHI)- The former Seahawk and Giant has made an immediate impact on what was a soft Eagles secondary, and he is proving his worth already. What Thurmond brings to the table for Philadelphia is a fast, instinctual free safety who can cover ground quickly. Through the first four weeks of the season, Thurmond already has a career high in interceptions (two) and should continue to be a difference-maker for the Eagles this season. He is an underrated ballhawk who gets great breaks off the snap and can get into the backfield, if necessary, with his speed. This week, temper expectations versus the Saints, as we all know what caliber quarterback Brees is and how explosive the Saints offense can be at any given moment. If he is asked to eye Brandin Cooks all day, he could see some opportunities for a pick, but could also be burned by the receiver’s speed. (Photo courtesy of usatoday.com)
Bobby Richardson (DE-NO)- With Akiem Hicks traded to the Patriots this week, Richardson seems poised to assume the vacancy left. His main asset is his ability to quickly shed blockers and get to the ball carrier. He is a tad undersized for your ideal defensive end (6’3″), but he is athletic and hard for blockers to take one-on-one, meaning he could be an emerging threat for the Saints. He will see his second career start versus the Eagles this week, and he could be a sneaky play for a sack. But do not be over zealous in starting him, as Bradford has only been sacked seven times. Even with starting running back Demarco Murray looking horrible in the early going, the Eagles have a strong offensive line, and Ryan Mathews is also a sizable threat if Murray struggles out of the gate in Week 5.
Trumaine Johnson (CB-StL)- Johnson is a rangy, physical corner who is a tease for the Rams and fantasy owners alike. Last season, before a knee injury wrecked his season before it even started in the third preseason game, he was on track to start for the Rams, with Gaines backing him up. With his injury in 2014, Gaines stepped in and excelled, and was expected to start this season before a foot injury sidelined him for the season during this past preseason. The gig is now once more Johnson’s and he has had a good bit of success in the early season, with five passes defensed, a recovered fumble, and a pick. Johnson will need to rely on his defensive line this week to pressure Aaron Rodgers so he can focus on stopping Randall Cobb and the Packers pass attack. If you are looking for a shear volume of opportunities for tackles and some passes defensed, Johnson is your man. But expecting him to post big stats versus an explosive offense would not be wise.
Adam ‘PacMan’ Jones (CB-CIN)- Leagues that receive points for kick return yards will definitely want to start Jones, but he is in a tough matchup. While the Seahawks do not have any true downfield threats, Russell Wilson and Jimmy Graham seem to get more in sync every week, and Tyler Lockett is essentially a Swiss army knife with his repertoire of weapons. The upside with Jones on defense is he is a tough corner who can jar the ball loose. The downside is that more physical and fast receivers can get the best of him. It is just a question of whether or not you feel lucky with him starting versus a run heavy team. (Photo courtesy of tmz.com)
Jaye Howard (DT-KC)- If you start Howard this week, you are likely desperate for a defensive tackle, but that’s alright because Jeffery is still questionable to return this week and the Bears are not the most complete team. Yes, there is potential here for a decent game for Howard versus the Bears, but bear in mind, the Chiefs have been absolutely torched through the air thus far this season, allowing eleven touchdowns already to opposing QBs. If Howard can apply pressure on Jay Cutler (hamstring), fantasy owners could have a nice day from this wire pickup.
Kevin Minter (LB-ARZ)- Minter has quietly been the Cardinals best linebacker this season, and he is just beginning to tap into his upside.With four tackles for loss and three and a half stuffs, it is only a matter of time before Minter registers his first sack of the season. Known for his play against the run when he came out of LSU in 2013, expectations were high for him to take over for the departed Karlos Dansby. After a pectoral muscle tear derailed his 2014 season, Minter has stated he is ready to take the next step forward and contribute. Playing against a weak-rushing attack in Week 5 means the Lions will be heavily reliant upon Stafford’s arm. This could open up opportunities for sacks if he is not careful versus an aggressive cardinals secondary, headed by Tyrann Mathieu and patrick Peterson. Minter is definitely a good start this week, and monitor his progress going forward. (Photo courtesy of azcentral.com)
Johnathan Cyprien (S-JAX)- Cyprien has battled nagging injuries this season, but when healthy, he is a very physical safety. He was supposed to be a cornerstone in Gus Bradley’s defense, but he has yet to live up to the billing since being drafted in the second round of the 2013 Draft. This year could be do or die for Cyprien as the jaguars are looking to improve and show signs of having an emerging defense behind Telvin Smith and Paul Posluszny. When Jacksonville plays the Bucs on the road this week, they will get their first glimpse of rookie quarterback, Jameis Winston. Cyprien has always been a solid tackler, but can he start adding in big plays and be the difference maker in the jaguars secondary? Cyprien will have his share of opportunities this week versus a young team with a weak run game.
Jabaal Sheard (DE-NE)- Jabaal Sheard is going to have a huge game for the Patriots versus the Cowboys this week. Brandon Weeden is a decent fill in for a week or two, but the Saints exploited his weakness late in the game Sunday Night; He cannot scramble and makes poor decisions under duress with the game on the line. Sheard has never been much of a sack or big play threat since his phenomenal rookie season with Cleveland in 2011, but he will force a fumble and have a sack this week. Guaranteed! Leagues counting stuffs favorably could have a sleeper DE on their hands if he continues to produce like he has in 2015 (two sacks to date).
Vic Beasley (LB-ATL)- I was a firm believer in Beasley before the falcons selected him in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. And now, I am even more of a believer. Through four games, he has two sacks and a forced fumble, and with a favorable matchup versus the offensively challenged Redskins on tap in the Dome in Week 5, do not be surprised if he continues his emergence as Atlanta’s top pass rush threat, in a big way. He is quick, explosive, and uses his hands well: all things Kirk Cousins struggles against.
Aldon Smith (LB-OAK)- One has to wonder how many more opportunities in the NFL someone with a rap sheet longer than his arm will get. Oakland signed Smith just prior to the beginning of the season after the 49ers cut him following his fifth arrest since 2011. If he could stay on the field, he would be one of the elite, NOT just premier, pass rush threats in the league. Though he is likely to face a suspension stemming from his recent 2015 arrest, while he is on the field, he is very productive for the Raiders, and fantasy owners should invest, albeit cautiously. The Raiders are an improving unit and Peyton Manning is slowing down, so this week’s matchup could get very interesting real soon, as the raiders have the pieces, including Smith, to frustrate Manning and Co.
Cardinals @ Lions- Arizona’s defense will cause all sorts of problems for the Lions from the get-go, but keep an eye on rookie RB David Johnson. Currently Arizona’s kick returner, he is dangerous in that role and has already taken one to the house for 108 yards. Add his explosiveness, the emergence of Kevin Minter, and an incredibly nasty secondary, and Detroit is in huge trouble in Week 5.
Broncos @ Raiders- This could be a lower scoring game for a couple of reasons on both sides of the ball; The Broncos offense is stalling with a lack of a running presence and the Raiders defense is solid, yet inconsistent. This week, the edge goes to the Broncos because they are absolutely crushing the opposition’s pass game by allowing a meager 185.3 yards/game to opposing signal callers. With the raiders offense centered around Derek Carr opening up the run game, if he struggles versus this aggressive Broncos secondary, it could be a long day for Latavius Murray and the Raiders offense.
Hopefully, this advice serves you well this week and you continue to dominate as we are entering the weeks that are paramount to any playoff run. Slow starts can be overcome, you just have to act swiftly and catch your opponent off guard with smart, timely acquisitions. If battles are truly won in the trnches as they say, your IDPs are the trenches of your team.
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