Reading the Defense: Reading the Defense: What can Zach Brown do for you?
Week 4 was one that belonged to the defensive players. Aside from a few notable performances (ahem, Julio Jones), there weren’t a ton of offensive skill position players who had huge weeks. Credit some of that to the defenses and the individual players making plays. Does it continue? That remains to be seen. But at least let’s celebrate the week that was across IDP fantasy football.
Defensive line: You could throw a dart at the Steelers roster and you’d be likely to hit someone who had a nice game on Sunday night. Cameron Heyward, particularly, was a one-man wrecking crew against the Chiefs offense. In addition to his six tackles, the veteran logged three sacks and a pass deflection. A game like this is a bit out of the norm for Heyward and isn’t likely to be revisited next week versus the Jets, who’ve allowed just nine sacks in the first four weeks.
Linebacker: It might be time to start talking about Zach Brown. The Bills linebacker hadn’t been known as much of a playmaker before this season, but he made his presence known on Sunday in the surprising win over the Patriots. The fifth-year player racked up 18 total tackles (including three for a loss) with one sack and a pair of forced fumbles — including a signature hit on quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Heading into the Monday night game, Brown was the NFL leader in tackles and has another plus matchup against the Rams and their anemic running game.
Defensive back: The headline for the Falcons win over the Panthers was undoubtedly Julio Jones’ 300-yard day but Robert Alford deserves kudos as well. The fourth-year defensive back only recorded three tackles but had three pass deflections and a pair of interceptions — including one returned for a touchdown. As the player across the way from Desmond Trufant, Alford is probably going to continue to see plenty of work. But starting him next week against the Broncos might not be the most advisable course of action.
What went wrong
» Last week, Derrick Johnson was a fantasy monster. This week … not so much. Not much went right for the Chiefs on Sunday night and Johnson was no exception. The linebacker was tasked several times with trying to cover Le’Veon Bell in the slot which is an unenviable task for anyone. By the final whistle, he’d only recorded five total tackles and wasn’t much of a factor at all. He’s too talented not to bounce back, but this week wasn’t great by any stretch.
» Sheldon Richardson isn’t a huge fantasy point producer from his defensive tackle spot, but getting just two points against a suspect Seahawks offensive line with a hobbled Russell Wilson wasn’t ideal. This week, he’ll get to chase around Le’Veon Bell and that’s not likely to be a lot of fun for him.
Week 4 boomer
Zach Brown, LB, Buffalo Bills: If you got this far, you probably read the part above where I wrote that Brown is a player that merits your attention. After a big performance in Week 4, he’ll head to Los Angeles to take on a Rams team that really, really wants to run the ball — even if they’re not good at it. Teams have stacked the box to prevent Todd Gurley from beating them and combined with an ungood offensive line, Brown should once again rack up a lot of stops.
Week 4 buster
Melvin Ingram, LB, San Diego Chargers: In what was expected to be a make-or-break year for Ingram, the Chargers linebacker has gotten off to a good start with three sacks in his first four games. Getting to the quarterback this week would be an accomplishment against the rival Oakland Raiders. Part of what has made the Raiders passing attack so good is that Derek Carr is getting time to throw. Oakland has allowed just two sacks through the first four games, which doesn’t bode well for Ingram getting face-to-face with Carr.
Week 4 sleeper
Brian Orakpo, LB, Tennessee Titans: Remember him? While the focus has been on the Titans awful offense, Orakpo is off to a fantastic start. There’s a very good chance that continues this week against the Dolphins wretched offensive line. Because Orakpo’s IDP value is dependent on him getting to the quarterback, he’ll need to pick up multiple sacks to have a real impact.
First down: NaVorro Bowman is headed to injured reserve after suffering an Achilles tear in Sunday’s loss to the Cowboys. It’s a devastating injury to a Niners defense that hasn’t been great but has held its own more often than not. It’s even more devastating to one of the league’s best linebackers. Bowman suffered a horrific knee injury in the 2014 playoffs and missed the entire following season. This year it appeared that he was back to being the same feared player he once was but now his NFL future could be in jeopardy.
Second down: Tom Brady isn’t the only Patriot expected back in Week 5. Linebacker Rob Ninkovich appears likely to play in Sunday’s game against the Browns in Cleveland. The linebacker has been dealing with a triceps injury that he suffered during the preseason while also serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. He should add some juice to a pass rush that has been pretty middle-of-the-road so far this season.
Third down: The Buccaneers defense hasn’t been good this season and losing Gerald McCoy and Noah Spence won’t help. Two of Tampa’s key defensive linemen aren’t expected to suit up this week against the Carolina Panthers. With the Panthers in disarray and the possibility of Derek Anderson starting in Week 5, this could have been a great chance for both players to make a fantasy impact.
Fourth down: It hasn’t been a great year for Darrelle Revis. The Jets cornerback has been beaten repeatedly, leading to plenty of Revis Island jokes and memes. Now it appears that he’s dealing with a hamstring injury that won’t keep him off the field but could limit his productivity. Week 5 offers a date with Antonio Brown and the Steelers, so the timing of this injury seems less than optimal.