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: After years of showing potential, Fletcher Cox put together the best individual game of his career. The veteran defensive end lived in the Saints backfield, sacking quarterback Drew Brees three times while racking up six tackles and forcing a pair of fumbles (recovering one). It was a welcome performance for a defense that has been struggling with consistency. Hopefully the recent emergence of the offense will help keep this defense fresh for four quarters against the Giants offense in Week 6.
Linebacker: For all of the attention given to the Legion of Boom, Bobby Wagner is just as integral to Seattle's defensive success. Such was the case in a losing effort this week when Wagner notched seven total tackles and recovered a fumble. The bad news is that the Utah State product suffered a pectoral injury and it's unknown whether he'll be available for this week's game against the Panthers.
Defensive back: On the whole, the Cardinals defense made mincemeat of the floundering Lions offense. But Tony Jefferson particularly had a field day with 11 total tackles and a pair of forced fumbles. As long as Matthew Stafford is struggling to figure things out, look for opposing secondaries to continue to feast. Jefferson and the Redbirds could once again be productive against the Steelers in Week 6 if Mike Vick is once again under center.
What went wrong
» There's no doubt that the Raiders offense is much improved from years past, but the Broncos still dominated them both in fantasy and on the actual field. It's just that Aqib Talib didn't get to join in the fun. He had just two total tackles (one assisted) in the win over Oakland. Since a fast start to the season in Week 1, Talib has suffered a slow and steady decline in production. Hopefully next week's game against the Browns is the start of a resurgence.
» C.J. Mosley has been one of the top IDP linebackers in 2015, but in Week 5 the Cleveland Browns forced the second-year playmaker into pass-coverage ... and it didn't end well. Whether it was Duke Johnson out of the backfield or Andrew Hawkins in the slot, Mosley was on skates most of the day. The good news is that he shouldn't have a lot of those problems this week against the 49ers.
Week 6 boomer
Telvin Smith, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars: Recently we've been hyping some offensive Jaguars but now it's time to shift this lovefest to the defense. You might not realize this, but Telvin Smith is third among fantasy linebackers this season and leads the NFL in tackles through the first five weeks. The second-year player is becoming one of the cornerstones of Gus Bradley's defense and should rack up plenty of stops against a Houston Texans offense struggling to find consistency..
Week 6 buster
Eric Weddle, DB, San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have been good against opposing passing games this season and Weddle has been part of their success. But they haven't faced a group like Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. Plus, do you really believe Rodgers is going to have back-to-back games with two interceptions? I wouldn't bank on it. Weddle might have a few tackles, but he could struggle to line up any big plays.
Week 6 sleeper
Malik Jackson, DL, Denver Broncos: The Broncos are facing the Cleveland Browns, who have allowed the third-most sacks this season. That's the good news. The bad news is that they'll do it without DeMarcus Ware (back injury). Expect the Browns to focus on slowing down Von Miller and Shane Ray, leaving less attention to Jackson who is tied for second on the club in sacks.
First down:Denver Broncos pass-rushing specialist DeMarcus Ware is expected to miss the next two weeks after suffering a back injury in last week's win over the Oakland Raiders. The loss will take a big chunk out of the Denver defense since Ware is tied for third in the league with 4.5 sacks in the first five weeks. The loss means that more snaps should be available for rookie pass-rusher Shane Ray in a very good matchup against the Cleveland Browns.
Second down:Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney missed practice Monday as he deals with a right ankle sprain. Clowney was not in a walking boot after last week's loss to Indianapolis, but head coach Bill O'Brien says the former No. 1 overall pick is "day-to-day." Clowney is still looking for his first NFL sack but he has been stronger in run support than originally anticipated. The Texans 32nd-ranked fantasy defense could certainly use the help.
Third down:Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly has been released from the NFL's concussion protocol and was back on the practice field Tuesday. Kuechly hasn't played since the first half of Carolina's season-opening win over the Jacksonville Jaguars yet racked up seven tackles and a sack in less than two full quarters. His return will be welcomed by Panthers and fantasy fans alike.
Fourth down: The Arizona Cardinals and pass rushing veteran Dwight Freeney agreed on a one-year deal. After being one of the most feaared sack masters in the league for nearly a decade with 94 sacks in his first nine seasons, Freeney has recorded just 17.5 quarterback takedowns since the start of the 2011 campaign. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact he can make, but that will be best watched from the waiver wire for now.