Real football isn't all about the offensive players. Why should fantasy football be any different? Every week here in Reading the Defense, we're looking back at the fantasy week that was and offering help for the week that's to come.
Defensive line: It's not often that a defensive tackle makes the top of the charts in an IDP league. But that was the case this week with Minnesota's Linval Joseph. The big Viking racked up 10 total tackles and one-half sack. Joseph's tackle numbers have increased in recent weeks as he has become a bigger part of Minnesota's run defense. But he's not on the verge of becoming a major IDP player. It was nice for one week, though.
Linebacker:Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks put forth his best game of the season with six tackles and a pick six. Unfortunately, it was also his final game of the season. Hicks suffered a pectoral injury that has landed him on season-ending injured reserve. That's a tough break for a player who had put together a few nice weeks playing in a defense that has outperformed many expectations.
Defensive back: The frisky Raiders have been full of suprises this season. Add D.J. Hayden to the list -- at least for this week. The young defensive back made 11 tackles in the shootout loss to the Steelers. But many of those likely came from trailing Antonio Brown, who seemed to have his hands on the ball in every Pittsburgh play. That might have to be a new IDP rule: Start any defensive back assigned to Antonio Brown. At least you know you'll get tackles.
What went wrong
» The Bears weren't certain that they'd have the services of Pernell McPhee for Monday's game against the Chargers. The linebacker missed practice all week with a knee injury, but did suit up to play. However San Diego made a concerted effort to prevent McPhee from beating them. The end result was just a pair of tackles. It was the second straight week that the veteran logged just a pair of fantasy points. Next week's game against the Rams could bring better production.
» Even after moving to a middle linebacker spot, Clay Matthews was still a very productive fantasy linebacker. But not even a man who looks like Thor can survive an accumulation of nagging injuries. Matthews was slowed the previous week against the Broncos and still didn't appear to be 100 percent on Sunday versus the Panthers. A game against the Lions could be just what the doctor ordered.
Week 10 boomer
Von Miller, LB, Denver Broncos: Because Miller is sack-dependant, it makes him a tough start on a weekly basis. But this week is one of the opportunities to have him in your lineup. The Chiefs have allowed the third-most sacks in the league and one of Miller's best fantasy performance came against this unit back in Week 2. After the Denver defense was roundly torched by the Colts last week, there could be more than a few Broncos looking to turn it up a notch or two.
Week 10 buster
Whitney Mercilus, LB, Houston Texans: Mercilus had a huge game in his last outing with 3.5 sacks in the Week 8 win over the Titans. This week, the task will be a little tougher against the Bengals on Monday night. Cincinnati has given up just 11 sacks this season -- tied for the fourth-fewest in the league. Andy Dalton has done a good job of getting the ball out quickly this year, which won't give Mercilus (or the rest of the Texans pass rush) much time to get home.
Week 10 sleeper
Bud Dupree, LB, Pittsburgh Steelers: Dupree has been an impact player in his rookie season, leading the Steelers with four sacks. This could be another week that sees Dupree get to the quarterback -- perhaps even multiple times -- in a crucial AFC North division game against the Browns who have given up 30 sacks this season. The only team that has allowed more this year is the Seahawks.
First down:Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly turned his ankle twice in Sunday's win over the Green Bay Packers. The good news is that head coach Ron Rivera doesn't expect his defensive star to miss this week's game against the Tennessee Titans. As long as Kuechly can suit up and play, his tackling ability alone makes him a must-start in most IDP leagues.
Second down: Things aren't looking quite as good for Sean Lee. The Cowboys linebacker suffered a concussion in last week's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and is "probably doubtful" for this week's contest against the Buccaneers, according to team owner Jerry Jones. Lee is an undisputed playmaker when he's on the field, but he's continued to battle injuries during his relatively short NFL career. His talent is worth waiting on, but you'll need another option for Week 10.
Third down: Once you get past all of The Waterboy/Captain Insano jokes, you realize that Aqib Talib really did try to eye gouge and opponent and is facing a one-game suspension. Nonetheless, the veteran defensive back lost his appeal and will have to sit out this week's game against Kansas City. That could mean more action for Bradley Roby and Kayvon Webster against a Kansas City offense that isn't likely to challenge anyone downfield.
Fourth down:Titans cornerback Jason McCourty has been dealing with a groin injury that has limited him to just four games this season. Now the veteran is seeking a second opinion on his injury, but there is some concern that the issue could be fairly serious. When McCourty is on the field, he's a game-changer, but after waiting so long for him to contribute, IDP owners are better off finding new options.