As we reach the quarter pole of the season, we are beginning to see some big names go down; Darrelle Revis and Adrian Clayborn are lost for the season. While some big names are set to return, Pat Angerer, Colin McCarthy are nearly back to full health and in a couple more weeks D.J. Williams will have served his suspension.
Lineups will continue to be altered by injuries and sleepers will continue to emerge from seemingly nowhere. Predicting sleepers is like riding a hummingbird; it is all over the place, but one heck of a fun ride. Let’s get to it…
Chase Blackburn, MLB, NEW YORK GIANTS, at PHILADELPHIA: The Giants have been using a heavy rotation at the linebacker position, utilizing six different players in week three. Blackburn has been a mainstay in the middle for the G-Men and that in and of itself, creates fantasy value. The Eagles have been a surprisingly good match up for linebackers and Blackburn will look to improve on the nine solo tackles he has to date, chasing down “Shady” McCoy and Brent Celek over the middle.
Calvin Pace, OLB, NEW YORK JETS, vs. SAN FRANCISCO: Pace leads all New York outside linebackers with fourteen total stops and the 49ers offer up plenty of tackle opportunities. They are a sweet matchup for linebackers in general and Pace will have the chance to pad his tackle numbers. The Jets are struggling mightily to get pressure on the quarterback and have only managed three sacks in the first three weeks of the season. Look for New York to utilize Pace in multiple blitz packages to generate pressure on Alex Smith in week four.
Vontaze Burfict, WLB, CINCINNATI, at JACKSONVILLE: Burfict has seen his snap count increase from 22 in week two, to 35 against Washington. He is being integrated into the Bengals LB rotation and faces the Jaguars in week four, who are allowing very nice fantasy numbers for linebackers. The trio of Allen, Posluszny and Bosworth combined for 25 tackles in week three against Jacksonville and Burfict will have a nice week four, fantasy wise.
Takeo Spikes, LB, SAN DIEGO, at KANSAS CITY: The veteran Spikes turned in an impressive, eleven solos and thirteen total tackles against the Falcons last week. The Chargers defense is going to be on the field a lot in 2012. Do not let let the 2-0-start fool you, San Diego’s offense will struggle and Spikes should continue to put up nice fantasy totals. The Chiefs and Jamaal Charles are up next, and so is another solid tackle total for Spikes.
Anthony Spencer, OLB, DALLAS, vs. CHICAGO: Spencer is off to a very nice start in 2012, he has two sacks, twenty one total tackles and a pass defended. He has been especially strong against the run, while adding another pass rushing option for the Cowboys defense. Jay Cutler has been sacked eleven times; the Bears are going to overcompensate for DeMarcus Ware and leave Spencer with ample opportunity to get to the quarterback.
Zach Brown, OLB, TENNESSEE, at HOUSTON: Brown is back on the sleeper list for the second week in a row, he put up three solos and four total tackles against the Lions. The most surprising thing about those totals is that he put them up while playing only six snaps. With Colin McCarthy looking to miss another start, Brown and all the Tennessee linebackers are in for a big week against the Texans. Houston is one of the top matchups for fantasy scoring at the linebacker position thus far in 2012.
Justin Houston, OLB, KANSAS CITY, vs. SAN DIEGO: Riding the hot hand here, as Houston racked up three sacks in the week three victory over New Orleans. That gives him four for the season and Tamba Hali is back to draw offensive line attention away from Houston. Look for Houston to get to Philip Rivers at least once, as the Chargers have allowed two sacks a game and Houston has four of the Chiefs five total sacks this season.
Leroy Hill, OLB, SEATTLE, at ST LOUIS: Hill is flying under the radar in Seattle, as K.J. Wright has really been shining for the Seahawks defense. Hill is a savvy veteran, rarely plays himself out of position and can occasionally post the big play with a sack or interception. The Rams are going to try and establish a rushing attack and their passing game rarely looks past fifteen yards down the field. With the action-taking place in front of him, as opposed to over the top or deep, Hill will put up above average fantasy production.
Brooks Reed, OLB, HOUSTON, vs. TENNESSEE: Reed leads all Houston outside linebackers in sacks and has five total tackles with a pass defended in the seasons first three weeks. The Texans defense hasn’t been on the field a lot this season so Reed needs to take full advantage of every snap. Jake Locker has been sacked just twice this season, look for Reed to get to him as the Titans focus on stopping J.J. Watt.
Brandon Spikes, ILB, NEW ENGLAND, at BUFFALO: Spikes has started slower than expected in the first three games, mainly due to some exotic defensive schemes the Patriots have employed. He’s trailing both Jerod Mayo and Donta Hightower in total tackles but has forced a fumble. The Bills will be looking to keep the Patriots offense on the sideline and try to establish a running game, whether it’s Spiller, Jackson or Choice in the backfield. He has too much talent to be kept at these low tackle totals for long, look for a surprisingly nice week four from Spikes.