Reading the Defense: Robert Quinn returns to form

We've now entered the back half of the NFL schedule and playoff races have taken shape in all types of fantasy leagues. That means it's time for your IDP starters to show up each and every week. And while we won't weigh in on how big of a deal it is that Jadeveon Clowney missed yet another game for the Texans, we will talk about some of the guys who did step in and play well for their teams and yours.

Not that long ago, I wondered aloud (in print?) about what was going on with Robert Quinn. The final analysis was that Quinn was too talented for his struggles to last all season long. Turns out, that was exactly the case.

After being shut out for the first five games of the season, Quinn has racked up five sacks in his last three contests. The rest of the Rams defense has come alive with him -- including a dominant eight-sack peformance against the San Francisco 49ers last week. Hopefully you remained patient with Quinn. If so, you were rewarded.

The good news is that Quinn and his cohorts look like they're getting back into the form that made them such a formidable defensive front last season. The bad news is that the back half of their schedule is loaded with teams that haven't given up a lot of sacks this season. Two matchups with the Cardinals plus games against the Broncos and Raiders could pose a challenge.

It all adds up to another situation where IDP fantasy managers could be forced to decide between playing matchups and waiting to see if talent will weigh out. Considering Quinn's performance against San Francisco's once-stout offensive line, I'm willing to lean toward the latter.

Golden Griffen

When it comes to IDP defensive linemen, no one's touching J.J. Watt. But since there's only one of him -- and you likely didn't get him -- you've had to find someone else to plug into your starting lineup. If you decided that Everson Griffen is that person, you're not doing too badly. If you haven't ... well it's something you should take a look at..

Griffen is second among fantasy defensive linemen in scoring. Granted, there's a pretty wide chasm between him and Watt, but there's one thing he has over the Texans star; Griffen leads all defensive linemen in sacks and is second to only Kansas City's Justin Houston among all players in that category. Griffen has already set a new career-high with his nine quarterback takedowns as well as his 29 total tackles. He's a big part of the reason the Vikings have the NFL's 10th-ranked pass defense and leads the league in sacks.

The last portion of the schedule sets up well for Griffen. Three games against pass-happy division foes and contests against the scuffling Panthers and moribund Jets equal plenty of chances for the former USC standout to get after the passer. The only downside is that you will have to wait a week with the Vikings on a bye. If you have the depth on your roster, he's worth a pick up and stash. However, with six teams having the week off you might not have that luxury.

Four downs

» A bad season for the New York Giants just got worse. Cornerback Prince Amukamara is lost for the season with a torn biceps. It's a huge blow to a secondary that has been troubled all year long. It's also a big loss to IDP fantasy managers to lose a player who was among the top 10 at his position and tied for fifth in the NFL with three interceptions. It could be up to some combination of Zack Bowman and Jayron Hosley to fill the void, though neither has been particularly great this season.

» The season has also come to a premature end for Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans. The veteran was placed on injured reserve after suffering an ankle injury in Sunday's win over the Houston Texans. Philadelphia's defense has been opportunistic this season, making it the top team D/ST in fantasy this season. The problem is that much of that production has come from special teams, which is how Ryans can be among the team's top defenders yet not make a big IDP splash. He'll be replaced on the roster by Chris Prosinski, but fantasy managers are better off looking elsewhere for help.

» The Colts will get some help in their secondary with the return of LaRon Landry. The veteran safety was activated Tuesday after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances. With Vontae Davis essentially locking down one half of the field for Indianapolis, that should allow Landry more room to roam the secondary and once again be a playmaker. He's worth an add after the Colts bye in Week 10.

» It feels like we write about Ryan Shazier weekly. But he's back on the shelf for another week with an ankle injury. It will be his fifth missed game of the season. This week, Shazier will have company with Troy Polamalu also ruled out for the Week 10 game against the Jets. Those absences could put extra pressure on linebackers Lawrence Timmons and James Harrison. Even against the Jets' mess of an offense, missing key pieces will eventually take a toll.

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

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