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: In a week in which we expected the New Orleans Saints to go over, around and through the Buccaneers defense, it's a shock to see the top scoring IDP defenssive lineman come from the Tampa Bay roster. Jacquies Smith had a day against the Saints offense, recording three tackles, sacking Drew Brees three times and forcing a pair of fumbles. Smith has recorded four sacks in the first two games the season and now has 10.5 quarterback takedowns in his last 11 games, going back to last season. If his name isn't already on your radar, it should be.
Linebacker:Ryan Shazier was a monster on defense in Pittsburgh's blowout win over the 49ers. The second-year linebacker recorded a team-high 15 tackles (11 solo) with a sack and a fumble recovery. Shazier did leave the game late with a shoulder stinger, but it doesn't appear to be serious. It would be a shame for him to miss time after putting together the best game of his young career. There could be more where that came from this week against an inconsistent Rams offense.
Defensive back: In a week where Darrelle Revis reminded us why staying on The Island can be so treacherous, it was Cardinals safety Tony Jefferson who posted the best numbers among defensive backs this week. Jefferson made nine tackles and intercepted a Jay Cutler pass which he returned for a touchdown. This isn't likely to be the last time that we see a Cutler opponent scoring big fantasy points for IDP managers.
What went wrong
» It was assumed that the Rams defense would be able to manhandle the offense of the woebegone Washington Football Club. That wasn't the case as St. Louis was pushed around all day. Accordingly, James Laurinaitis wasn't much of a fantasy factor this week. The veteran linebacker was limited to nine tackles (four solo) and just 6.50 fantasy points. With Alec Ogletree coming into his own, Laurinaitis' days as an IDP stud could be ending.
» It's never easy facing the Packers passing game, but you would think Earl Thomas tends to be a fairly matchup-proof option. That hasn't been the case. Thomas had five total tackles (four solo) and went yet another week without an interception. Including last season's playoffs, the Texas product has just two picks in his last 33 contests. Not a good track record.
Week 2 boomer
Carlos Dunlap, DL, Cincinnati Bengals: Dunlap's name doesn't often get mentioned among the top NFL pass rushers, but the Bengals veteran is pretty adept at getting after the quarterback. In his first five seasons, Dunlap has averaged seven sacks per season. This week he has a favorable matchup against the Ravens, who have had a tough time protecting Joe Flacco in the first two games of the season.
Week 2 buster
Marcus Peters, DB, Kansas City Chiefs: Peters has made an early case to be the Defensive Rookie of the Year with pick-sixes in his first two NFL contests. This week, however, he could be tested by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay passing attack. Or -- even more likely -- the Packers avoid seriously testing Peters in favor of picking on the much more vulnerable Jamell Fleming. That was a successful formula for Peyton Manning and the Broncos in Week 2.
Week 2 sleeper
Jason McCourty, DB, Tennessee Titans: I know it's strange to think that someone of McCourty's caliber could be considered a sleeper, but the Titans defensive back has yet to play in a game this season and could make his 2015 debut this week against the Indianapolis Colts. Normally that would seem like a daunting task, but Andrew Luck and crew have been turnover machines this season. If the Titans can get pressure on the quarterback up front, McCourty and his teammates in the secondary could prosper.
First down: After missing all of last season with a knee injury, linebacker Kiko Alonso could once again be sidelined with a partial ACL tear. Alonso is seeking an second opinion and hoping that he won't be forced to miss the entire campaign, but that remains to be seen. Regardless, the Eagles are likely to be without one of their defensive playmakers for an extended period of time. As if things couldn't get any worse right now in Philadelphia.
Second down:Clay Matthews has made his IDP bones as a pass rusher, but that might be temporarily on hold. With Sam Barrington lost for the year with a foot injury, Matthews has taken over the inside linebacker spot. In the Week 2 win over Seattle, the USC product didn't play one snap at outside linebacker. The move is going to hinder Matthews' ability to get to the quarterback, but it is likely to boost his overall tackle numbers. Life is full of trade-offs and this one could work for fantasy enthusiasts.
Third down: The beleaguered Giants defense is awaiting word on the status of cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The defensive back is working through concussion protocols, so it could be a few days still until we learn whether he'll be available for this week's game against Washington. With the contest coming on Wednesday, things aren't looking good. Jayron Hosley could be asked to take on more snaps in Week 3.
Fourth down: There's some good news for the Giants in the form of Jon Beason. The veteran linebacker has been dealing with a knee injury, but says he's feeling better and could play this week. That's good news for Big Blue. As for fantasy managers ... it should come with limited expectations. Injuries have been a constant issue and Beason is a shadow of the player he once was. Watch to see how he performs this week before making any longterm roster decisions.