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Reading the Defense: Justin Houston breaking through

If you aren't up on the Kansas City Chiefs defense, you haven't been paying attention. Through the first three weeks of the season, the Chiefs have been arguably the league's top unit -- both on the field and in fantasy football.

And they've done it with a handful of household names like, um...

Chances are football fans know guys like Eric Berry, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Brandon Flowers. But they certainly aren't moving the meter when it comes to IDP leagues. Yet it's possible that Kansas City's biggest impact player is possibly its most overlooked.

Justin Houston announced himself to a national audience by roughing up the Eagles for 4.5 sacks last Thursday night. That puts the third-year linebacker at 7.5 for the season -- just 2.5 away from the career-high he set last season.

This is nothing new for the former Georgia Bulldog. Houston logged 5.5 sacks as a rookie in 2011 and has simply built from there. Maybe it's because he's played for a team that has been pretty dreadful for the first two years of his career, but Houston is frequently omitted when people consider the top pass-rushing linebackers.

That's likely to change this season. Now that the Chiefs are the talk of the league, with a defense that's leading the way, people are going to start to recognize that Houston ... he is a problem.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Beason a backup?

There was a time when Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason was as good as anybody when it came to individual defensive players. But it looks like that time might be at an end.

Beason played just one snap in Carolina's Week 3 blowout win over the New York Giants and has struggled to find consistency since tearing his Achilles tendon in the 2011 season opener. Now there are legitimate questions as to whether he'll regain his starting job.

But that doesn't mean his replacement is going to be the go-to guy for IDP owners. If anything, it probably strengthens the fantasy value for Luke Kuechly -- even if Kuechly hasn't been the IDP stud he was last season.

Four downs

» 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith has entered a treatment facility and could miss the next month or more of the season. While certainly the No. 1 goal is to help Smith work out any addiction issues from which he might be suffering, on the field San Francisco will have a big hole to fill. Fifth-year linebacker Dan Skuta is slated to fill Smith's spot in the lineup, but with 15 career tackles, IDP owners are better off seeking help elsewhere.

» Meanwhile, Smith's teammate Patrick Willis is dealing with a groin injury that could keep him out of Thursday's game against the St. Louis Rams. For his part, Willis is hopeful that he can play this week. Willis isn't quite the IDP option that fellow linebacker NaVorro Bowman is, but if the former Ole Miss star can't go, it becomes a little easier for St. Louis to focus on neutralizing Bowman.

» The Dolphins are hoping defensive lineman Cameron Wake will be ready to go for Monday night's game gainst the New Orleans Saints. However, it doesn't look good with reports of Wake having suffered a mild MCL sprain in his left knee. That means a pair of young players -- Dion Jordan and Derrick Shelby -- will have their chance to make an impact this week. Shelby already has a pair of sacks but could have a tough time getting to Drew Brees in Week 4.

» The Dallas Cowboys have placed defensive end Anthony Spencer on injured reserve with a knee injury, ending Spencer's season. The veteran had yet to make an impact, having played just a handful of snaps this year. However, it should have the effect of allowing George Selvie to get comfortable at the left defensive end spot. Selvie has played well in 2013, notching a pair of sacks. At this point, he should be the man on the end of the defensive line for Dallas.

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

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