Reading the Defense: Landon Collins' run tops Week 7

For the last few editions of this column, I've referred to the previous week as being "weird". Maybe it's just that the season as a whole is just plain weird. Week 7 was yet another one where it was hard to make sense of much ... including the IDP options. Forget trying to explain this all way. Let's just look at what happened and try to offer some clarity for Week 8. Whatever that means.

Game Balls

Defensive line: The Falcons haven't exactly been a fountain of fantasy defensive goodness this season, but Adrian Clayborn put on a show against the Chargers on Sunday. The veteran pulled off the superfecta for a defensive player (sack, fumble, fumble recovery returned for a TD) and even if it didn't all happen on the same play, it counts all the same. His 14 fantasy points are a huge number for a player who had scored 11.50 points in the first six weeks of the season.

Linebacker: The Bears have high hopes for Floyd after using the ninth overall pick on him in this year's draft. On Thursday, he pulled off the same superfecta as Clayborn -- except he did it all on one play with a strip sack of Aaron Rodgers leading to a recovery in the end zone. Floyd isn't playing enough snaps to be a legitimate IDP starter (he played just 41 percent of defensive snaps in Week 7), but at least for one week everything was great.

Defensive back: Even if Landon Collins didn't have the highest point total for a defensive back this week, he probably still deserved a game ball for the guano-crazy return that lead to a touchdown after the first of his two picks. If you somehow missed it (and I don't know how you could have) or want to watch it again, scroll back up and take a look. But in case that wasn't enough, Collins added another pick, eight tackles and a pair of passes defended. He was having a solid season already but with a combined 33 fantasy points in the past two weeks, Collins has ascended to the top of the DB ranks.

What went wrong

┬╗ During the Bills recently ended four-game winning streak, the linebacker corps was a big part of their defensive success. On Sunday, that group was mostly silent against the Dolphins resurgent running game. But a bigger issue might be a lack of playmaking from Jerry Hughes over the past couple of weeks.

For fantasy managers, Hughes' greatest value comes as a sack specialist. For the first few weeks of the season, it was all good. Lately, that tap has dried up as Hughes hasn't recorded a sack since the Week 4 win over the Patriots. The upside is that the next few games offer hope with matchups against the offensive line-challenged Seahawks, Bengals and Jaguars. Hopefully Hughes can get back on the good foot very soon.

Week 4 boomer

Jerrell Freeman, LB, Chicago Bears: One of the more amazing parts of the Vikings fast start to the season has been the team's subpar running game. Minnesota is averaging a league-worst 2.6 yards per carry and their offensive line problems were on full display in the Week 7 loss to the Eagles. As the Bears leading tackler, Freeman has a big opportunity to rack up a number of stops.

Week 4 buster

Telvin Smith, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Not much has gone right for the Jaguars this season, but it's hard to pin any of that on Smith. Once again, he's among the team's leaders in tackles. But this week's Thursday Night Football matchup with the Titans doesn't seem to be in his favor. Tennessee is averaging nearly five yards per carry. Unless Smith can put in a heroic effort against that strong running game, most of the work could end up in the Jacksonville secondary.

Week 4 sleeper

Muhammad Wilkeron, DL, New York Jets: You might have heard, but unlike Cleveland's baseball and basketball teams, things aren't great for the city's football team. Playing quarterback for the Browns is apparently one of the more dangerous things a human can do, which is how we've arrived at Kevin Hogan. Even if he's not the starter, the offense hasn't been the most efficient. That means it's time for the Jets defensive line to pin its ears back and come after the passer. This could be the week when Wilkerson rises up.

Four downs

First down: The Chiefs have been waiting all season long for Justin Houston to suit up and play. It looks like they're going to have to wait a little longer ... but it seems to be getting close. The Chiefs could certainly use him in the lineup. They've registered just eight sacks all season, tied with the Steelers for the fewest in the league.

Second down: Looks like the reasons for Mario Williams' lackluster play have been solved. According to Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, Williams is playing better because he has "played harder". Well thank goodness for that. Ignoring that his has been a frequent refrain from Williams' coaches and teammates during his career, I guess we now have to be on the lookout for the talented player to remain on Team Try Hard for the rest of the season before anyone can count on him. Not really a great place to be.

Third down:Joe Haden appears to be on track to play this week against the Jets. The Browns corner has missed the past two games with a groin injury. His return comes at an interesting time. Ryan Fitzpatrick will be back under center and will likely be slinging the rock in the direction of Brandon Marshall. It could be a busy week for Haden.

Fourth down: It hasn't been a good season for Bashaud Breeland. He spent the early part of the season in the spotlight giving up big plays to No. 1 receivers while Josh Norman lined up against secondary wideouts on the other side. Now the Washington corner is dealing with an ankle sprain that could limit him this week at Cincinnati. Keep an eye on this one as the week progresses.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG or on Snapchat at marcasg9.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Gamepass_vert_web_r

See all the Action

Replay every game all season.