Reading the Defense: Week 9 IDP fantasy preview

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.

Game Balls

Defensive line: You want to know how badly things are going in Houston? We hadn't mentioned J.J. Watt's name in this space since Week 1. He returned to the top of the weekly charts in the Week 8 win over the Tennessee Titans, aka Ken Whisenhunt's Swan Song. Watt looked like his usual dominant self with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. With a bye coming in Week 9, we hope to see a rested and energized Watt back in action in Week 10 against the Bengals.

Linebacker: Yep, it was a big week for the Texans defense. While Watt was wreaking havoc up front, Whitney Mercilus was doing damage from the linebacker spot. Mercilus logged 3.5 sacks in his best performance of the season playing in relief of an injured Jadeveon Clowney. It was nice to see, but don't get used to it. Once Clowney is ready to go again, Mercilus will see another reduction in snaps.

Defensive back: The Steelers might have come up short against the Bengals last week, but it wasn't because of Antwon Blake. The fourth-year cornerback continued a solid season with eight tackles and an interception. Blake has now posted eight or more fantasy points in half of Pittsburgh's eight games this season and should see plenty of action this week against the Oakland Raiders.

What went wrong

» Paul Worrilow was a revelation two seasons ago. Last year, he started to become a more regular IDP option. This year has been a struggle as Worrilow has battled injuries. After a very quiet game against the Buccaneers, the Falcons linebacker has posted just three combined fantasy points in the last two weeks. It certainly didn't help in Week 8 that Atlanta's offense kept putting its defense in bad situations, but you'd still hope that Worrilow could be more of a playmaker.

» All season long, Thomas Davis has been a great sidekick to Luke "Captain America" Kuechly. But on Monday night, Davis was missing in action with just one solo tackle. It's been a pretty amazing season for the veteran linebacker and you certainly won't hear him complaining after the Panthers survived to reach 7-0, but let's hope that Davis doesn't start to make a habit of this.

Week 9 boomer

Cameron Jordan, DL, New Orleans Saints: Jordan had been on a hot streak with five sacks in back-to-back games. That came to an end last week against the Giants in a game that featured 91 pass attempts. This seems like the perfect week to get back on track. The Titans have allowed the third-most sacks in the NFL and are now dealing with the chaos that comes from a coaching change. Now is the time for Jordan to strike.

Week 9 buster

Eric Kendricks, LB, Minnesota Vikings: Ever since forcing his way into the starting lineup, the rookie linebacker has been a playmaker on the field and in fantasy. But now he deals with a Rams running game that has found plenty of life in recent weeks. It's no coincidence that said turnaround came when Todd Gurley stepped on the field. St. Louis isn't exactly a juggernaut, but they make for poor IDP days for linebackers. Temper your expectations here.

Week 9 sleeper

Vontae Davis, DB, Indianapolis Colts: It might seem strange to put such a high-caliber player in this spot. But IDP veterans know that top-tier cornerbacks generally don't provide a lot of fantasy production. This week, he faces an apparently rejuvenated Peyton Manning who threw just one interception in last week's win over Green Bay. Perhaps lost in those numbers is that Manning got away with a few questionable throws -- much like the rest of the season. If he makes any mistakes in Davis' area, it could be going back the other way.

Four downs

First down: A back injury forced Jadeveon Clowney out of Sunday's win over the Tennessee Titans, but the good news for the young linebacker is that there doesn't appear to be any structural damage. For the time being, Clowney is listed as day-to-day and with Houston entering its bye week, there's a chance for the former No. 1 overall pick to get completely healthy for the Texans late season playoff push. Stop snickering.

Second down:Chargers safety Eric Weddle has sat out the last two games with a groin injury -- his first two games missed since 2009. But the veteran believes he'll be ready to play this week against the Chicago Bears. In his absence, the San Diego secondary has had its issues against both the Raiders and Ravens. Weddle's return would certainly be welcome against Jay Cutler and the pass-happy Bears offense.

Third down: The Giants could be getting Prince Amukamara back for Week 9. The cornerback had an MRI done on an injured pectoral muscle and the results were described as "encouraging". With Big Blue just having been torched to the tune of seven touchdown passes by Drew Brees and the Saints, Amukamara's return can't come soon enough.

Fourth down: The Cowboys made a change in their secondary last week, with rookie Byron Jones playing all of the team's defensive snaps in place of J.J. Wilcox. It wasn't the most productive week for the first-round pick in the loss to Seattle, but as long as he continues to log high snap counts, he's at least worth considering based on the matchups.

In the latest episode of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast the gang discusses injury fallout with Le'Veon Bell, Matt Forte and Keenan Allen, then looks ahead at Week 9 waiver wire targets. They also discuss the top RB handcuffs to add and some sell-high candidates before the trade deadline. Don't forget to subscribe and listen in HERE!

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

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