Emerging star linebacker Sean Weatherspoon will miss his second straight game for Atlanta this week due to an ankle sprain, and his absence is the biggest injury news heading into Week 10. Another prominent NFC linebacker is expected to be out this week, as Seattle's K.J. Wright suffered a concussion against Minnesota on Sunday and wasn't practicing as of Thursday. Akeem Dent will replace Weatherspoon, while Leroy Hill should see a snap increase if Wright is out.
Although his injury is less significant in IDP leagues than the ones suffered by Weatherspoon and Wright, the Cardinals are dealing with a bigger real life loss in outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield's season-ending ankle injury from Sunday's game against Green Bay. Quentin groves is expected to replace Schofield for Arizona.
On a more positive note, Baltimore outside linebacker Terrell Suggs continues to show good progress in his remarkable return from a torn Achilles' tendon. Although he didn't get a sack in Sunday's game against Cleveland - Suggs' second game back - he did add four more tackles to his season total, and he more importantly saw his snap count go to 54 after playing 44 in his season debut against Houston in Week 7. If Suggs stays on his current course, he'll be solid IDP gold for leagues in which he's eligible on the defensive line.
Owners of Charles Tillman heard some good news Thursday, as the star corner said that the upcoming birth of his daughter is expected to occur Monday rather than Sunday. Tillman previously indicated that he would miss Sunday's game against Houston in order to witness his child's birth, but for now it appears to be a non-issue. Tillman is in the midst of a simply astounding season, and his a mandatory inclusion on the riser list after forcing four fumbles against Tennessee on Sunday.
Wesley Woodyard, OLB, DEN
The Broncos puzzlingly seemed to keep Woodyard in a passing-down and special-teams role over the last few years, but a combination of suspension (D.J. Williams) and injury (Joe Mays) left the team too thin at linebacker to keep Woodyard off the field. It's been an apparent blessing in disguise, because the former passing-down specialist has emerged as a high-volume tackler with a surprising amount of playmaking ability. In addition to 75 tackles (46 solo) in eight games, Woodyard has three sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. It certainly doesn't hurt that Woodyard has elite disruptors like Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil clearing the lanes, but Woodyard has nonetheless proven that he can do the job the Broncos need him to, and it's difficult to see him falling out of the top tier of LB1s from this point.
Zach Brown, OLB, TEN
Injuries at defensive end have forced the Titans to move fellow linebacker Akeem Ayers to the defensive end position much of the time, and a gimpy ankle has middle linebacker Colin McCarthy playing rusty, leaving Brown as the Titans' most reliable snap-to-snap linebacker at this point, even if he's the least skilled of the trio. The second-round pick played 67 snaps against the Bears on Sunday, whereas McCarthy played 56 and Ayers played 41. The result was 10 tackles (seven solo), raising his season total to 51 tackles (34 solo) in nine games despite playing in a part-time role at various points. Brown is at least an LB3 as long as he maintains his current prominence in the Tennessee defense - something that's not difficult to imagine given McCarthy's length injury history.
Charles Tillman, CB, CHI
Tillman's career has been fairly memorable since its start, but the 2012 version of Tillman is just off the charts. The four fumbles he forced against the Titans on Sunday would in itself be a season total well above average, but he had three other forced fumbles heading into that game, giving him a seemingly impossible seven forced fumbles in eight games. Even though Tillman is probably the league's best at forcing fumbles in the secondary, the seven fumbles forced is already a career high for him, as his previous best was six in 16 games. He also has 43 tackles and two interceptions on the year, both of which were returned for touchdowns. The law of averages would predict a regression to the mean for Tillman, but do you really want to bet against him? He's playing out of his mind right now, and it looks like no ballcarrier is safe.
Bruce Carter, (3-4) ILB, DAL
Despite starting since Week 1 of this year, Carter posted very modest tackle totals while playing in the shadow of Sean Lee - Carter has just 46 tackles in eight games - but with Lee out for the rest of the year with a toe issue, Carter appears poised to step up his game. He had a big performance against the Falcons on Sunday, finishing with 10 tackles (nine solo) with a pass defended and two tackles for loss. Carter is one of the league's most impressive physical specimens at linebacker, and if his instincts sharpen with experience, he could emerge as a playmaking threat on a level only slightly lower than Lee. Despite his slow start to the year, it would disappoint if Carter doesn't finish the year with triple-digit tackles.
Akeem Dent, MLB, ATL
Dent is strictly a short-term option since the Atlanta defense plays a disproportionate amount of the time in the nickel formation - a look in which Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) and Stephen Nicholas play at Dent's expense - but as long as Weatherspoon is out of the lineup Dent can serve as a plug-in option in deeper formats. Dent played all of Atlanta's 57 snaps against the Cowboys on Sunday, finishing with seven tackles (four solo) and a pass defended, and he figures to be in for a similar workload against the Saints this week. It doesn't hurt that Nicholas, Dent's primary competition for tackles, tends to post modest tackle numbers - he has just 10 (seven solo) over the last two weeks.
George Wilson, S, BUF
After going roughly a month with Wilson as a full-time player at safety, Buffalo decided last week to start rotating Wilson with Da'Norris Searcy - an arrangement that existed briefly at the beginning of the season, as well. Wilson didn't even play 70 percent of Buffalo's defensive snaps against Houston on Sunday, and in such a role it will be very difficult for him to be a factor in leagues with less than 14 teams. There's no guarantee that the Bills will stick with this arrangement - they already abandoned it once - but at this point most of Wilson's owners can find better options. Although he has 53 tackles in eight games, he'll probably struggle to finish with 100 tackles as long as Buffalo keeps tinkering with the rotation.
Dwight Freeney, (3-4) OLB, IND
Freeney had a golden opportunity as an IDP this year, lining up as a 3-4 outside linebacker while maintaining defensive line eligibility in many formats. Playing at outside linebacker provides more tackle opportunities than a playing as an end in a four-man front, creating a big-fish-in-a-small-pond scenario if the player in question can capitalize. Unfortunately, Freeney has not capitalized, and at this point it looks as if he's simply a misfit in the 3-4. He has just two sacks in seven games, as well as a particularly embarrassing total of five tackles in that span. He can be dropped in all formats.
Kenny Phillips, S, NYG
Phillips will presumably get his starting role back once he's over the MCL sprain that's kept him out since Sept. 30, but his backup, Stevie Brown, may have played well enough to earn a part-time role even when Phillips returns. Phillips' history of knee troubles is a good reason in itself to limit Phillips' workload, but Brown's showings could give the Giants an extra incentive. Brown has been a major playmaker this year, intercepting five passes, including four in his five-game stretch as Phillips' replacement in the starting lineup. Phillips is in his fifth year in the league, yet he has just eight career interceptions.
Koa Misi, OLB, MIA
Misi started this year hot, totaling 37 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the first four weeks, but he has cooled off a great deal since then. In the last four games Misi has just 12 tackles and no sacks, and at this point it's difficult to believe that he could be worth owning as anything more than perhaps an LB4 in leagues of 14 or more teams. Misi plays third in a rotation that features Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, and he isn't getting enough work as a defensive end to offset his decreased snap count - he struggles to play 60 percent of Miami's defensive snaps. To make things worse, he's dealing with a calf injury that knocked him out of last week's game against the Colts.
Dan Connor, (3-4) ILB, DAL
It appeared as if Connor would take over as the starting inside linebacker next to Bruce Carter with Sean Lee (toe) out for the year, but the stinger that kept Connor from playing against Atlanta on Sunday might ultimately be responsible for locking him onto the bench for the rest of the year. The Cowboys signed former Lion and Eagle Ernie Sims to replace Connor, and he showed fairly well in his Dallas debut, making seven tackles (two solo). Sims offers much more athleticism than Connor, who is a bit rigid and would likely be limited to early-down work, anyway.