Reading the Defense: Burfict beasting for Bengals

Vontaze Burfict's introduction to NFL fans wasn't a good one. The über-aggressive linebacker was known for a litany of personal fouls while at Arizona State. He went to the scouting combine and had a week to forget, which led to him going undrafted.

But since he landed with the Cincinnati Bengals, he's done what he did during his days in Tempe -- tackle people. Frequently. He led Cincinnati in tackles last season and through the first seven games this year, he's once again the Bengals' best tackler.

That ability to get his hat to the football has made Burfict an unsung IDP star. In 23 career games, he has just two sacks and one interception. His three fumble recoveries during that stretch are nice, but that's not what has endeared him to fantasy owners. Burfict's strength has been his consistency. He's scored 9.50-plus points in six of the first seven weeks. He's posted double-digit fantasy totals in four of those games. Some of that is owed to a defensive line that has kept opposing offenses busy.

This week, Burfict and the Bengals face a New York Jets attack that has generally played things close to the line of scrimmage. If the guys up front can continue to do their job, there's little reason to doubt Burfict can do a little Ground 'n' Pound of his own on Gang Green's running backs.

Carr alarm

I've spent a fair amount of time talking about defensive backs in this space. It's understandable in a league where teams pass the ball 59 percent of the time. The big names at the defensive back position have been pretty easy for most folks to rattle off.

Revis. Cromartie. Haden. Talib. Flowers. Carr.

Wait. Carr? What?

Over the past three weeks, few DBs have done such good work as Brandon Carr. In Week 5, he limited Demaryius Thomas to five catches for 57 yards. The following week, he locked down on Pierre Garcon, holding him to just 67 receiving yards. Last week might have been Carr's best performance this season, keeping DeSean Jackson to just 21 yards on three receptions.

Some of the credit certainly goes to defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and his decision to switch to more man coverage. Week 8 offers a huge test in the form of Calvin Johnson -- especially with a depleted pass rush. Carr could end up on the long list of corners victimized by Megatron, but if he's able to keep the game's top wideout in check, you can expect Brandon Carr to come flying off IDP waiver wires.

Four downs

» Brandon Meriweather has had his two-game suspension cut in half by the league's suspension hearing officer. Washington's safety was being punished for launching himself into defenseless players on two occasions in last week's win over the Chicago Bears. With Meriweather's repeated pattern of behavior, it's somewhat of a surprise that the ban was reduced. At this point, there's little reason to believe he'll change his style of play enough to prevent this from being an issue in the future. That mankes him too unreliable of an option for fantasy owners.

» According to Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, Cameron Wake is 100 percent healthy and should see his snaps double in this week's contest against the New England Patriots. Wake missed a game with a knee injury and has been slowly returning to form. Arguably Miami's best pass rusher, Wake has been looking for his first sack since posting 2.5 takedowns in Week 1. The Patriots have allowed 20 sacks this season, tied for ninth-most in the NFL. He'll have plenty of chances to get after Tom Brady.

» The Packers are getting help in their secondary. Casey Haywardappears set to make his 2013 debut after missing the start of the season with a hamstring injury. Hayward led Green Bay with six interceptions last season and joins a defensive backfield that is tied for second-fewest picks in 2013. If he is indeed back this week, he'll start by facing Christian Ponder and a Vikings offense that has a hard time executing the forward pass.

» Andre Carter is back with the Patriots. The veteran re-signed with the team Wednesday and hopes to fill some of the void left by injuries to Vince Wilfork and Jerod Mayo. IDP owners shouldn't expect Carter to be an impact player, but if he can provide quality snaps, it could take pressure off the linebackers and defensive backs.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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