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The Jaguars have been a horrible matchup for the most part this season but they have shown some life in recent weeks. As I mentioned last week Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby and Tyrann Mathieu have become matchup proof every week starters. That said, they are not likely to have big games with this matchup. Yeremiah Bell was a major disappointment against the Texans and deserves little consideration against Jacksonville.
Weak side linebacker Paul Worrilow has blown up in each of the last two games and has a lot of fantasy owners scrambling to pick him up this week. I cannot suggest that anyone pass on him but keep in mind that Sean Weatherspoon is the Falcons starting WLB when healthy. Weatherspoon is expected to be activated this week though it is not clear how soon he will return to the lineup. It may be a good idea to grab both guys if you have the room and then watch for news on the situation later this week.
Tackle/end Jonathan Babineau has also put together big games in two of the last three weeks. I have not been able to identify any noticeable change in his role that would explain the sudden surge of production but anyone looking for help at tackle should be giving him a hard look; especially when we consider that Randy Starks and Jared Odrick combined for 9 solo stops against Tampa Bay on Monday night.
Daryl Smith was able to play against Cincinnati despite being limited with a thigh injury last week. In what has become typical for the stats crew in Baltimore, he was credited with another backward box score of 3 tackles and 6 assists. The Bears have been an excellent matchup for linebackers and the game is in Chicago where the statistics are generally recorded more favorably.
James Ihedigbo is coming off the best statistical game of his career but he was far from flawless against Cincinnati. Keep in mind that he had put up no more than 3 solo stops in three of the previous four games. Chicago is an average matchup for strong safeties so there is no reason to get excited about Ihedigbo.
In former Colts first round pick Jerry Hughes the Bills seem to have found an answer to one of their outside linebacker positions. Hughes has 5.5 sacks over the past six games with 4 of those sacks in the last three weeks. Like most 3-4 outside backers marginal tackle production leaves Hughes with consistency issues. He is however, becoming a factor for owners in big play based scoring systems. It is also worth mention that this week's opponent is the Jets who have allowed the fourth most sacks this season at 31.
Last week Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy overcame a horrible matchup to post excellent numbers. This week they get a Patriots team that is middle of the pack in sacks allowed. The Panthers have been playing stellar defense in general over the past several games so there will surely continue to be plenty of pass rush opportunity. Going forward these guys are every week starters for us.
The loss of Charles Tillman for the rest of the season is a huge blow to a Bears defense that has already been riddled by injuries. Zackary Bowman will replace Tillman in the lineup. Bowman is not the same big play threat but he is a dependable cover corner who has been fantasy productive in the past. As a starter in 2009 he finished at 54-7 with 5 picks and a forced fumble. If you are scrambling for a starting corner to replace Tillman or just to fill a need, Bowman would be a good target. Since week five Brent Grimes, Micah Hyde, Cortez Allen, Christopher Owens and Terence Newman have all put up quality numbers against the Ravens.
Jon Bostic continues to work in an every down role but continues to disappoint in the box scores. He was unable to take advantage of a quality matchup in week ten and should receive little consideration this week against a Baltimore club that has been a below average matchup for tackle producing IDPs.
Much has changed with both the Bengals and Browns since the two teams met in week four. In that game Geno Atkins had a sack and a half and Rey Maualuga finished at 4-7. Those guys will be replaced in this meeting by Brandon Thompson and Vincent Rey. Thompson is a big step down for the Bengals in terms of pass rush but is a strong anchor versus the run. Rey on the other hand, was nothing short of impressive against Baltimore in week ten. Impressive enough in fact that I have to wonder if he may have earned himself a bigger role even after Maualuga returns. Rey led the club with 10 solo tackles, adding 3 sacks a pick and 3 passes defended for good measure. His play on the field was nearly as impressive as the box score. Maualuga has played well this season but will miss at least a few more games. If Rey can prove that his week ten play was not a fluke, the team will certainly feel no need to rush Maualuga back. At the least Rey is a must start this week in the rematch.
Vontaze Burfict was not a high draft pick because he was unable to control his emotions on the field during his time at Arizona State. He had been a model citizen for the Bengals until the past couple of games. Burfict has come very close to being flagged for his overzealous play in each of the past two games and probably should have been penalized at least once versus the Ravens. He then became a pill for the medical staff when they tried to get him off the field after a big hit late in the game. Hopefully he will get a reality check from the coaching staff this week but I am concerned about his potential to blow it. It is also noteworthy that Burfict is sitting out practice early this week with a sore knee. Keep an eye on his status.
My how things can change from week to week in the NFL. The week eleven bye will help with the recovery process of Sean Lee, but the hamstring injury he suffered early against the Saints is going to take a while to get over. Bad as it looked, my guess is that Lee will miss the rest of the fantasy season and likely most of our playoffs as well. The irony here is that heading into week ten we were all looking to rid ourselves of a disappointing Bruce Carter who was losing playing time to Ernie Sims. Now we will all be scrambling to pick him back up. With Lee going out so early in the game, the Cowboys coaching staff had time to try a few combinations of players at linebacker. Initially it was Sims replacing Lee in the middle. When that failed they moved Carter inside and Sims on the weak side. Adding to the issue was an injury to Justin Durant who is also expected to miss multiple weeks. By the end of the game it was Sims on the strong side, Kyle Bosworth at weak side and Carter in the middle. While is is clearly subject to change, that is the alignment I expect we will see when Dallas returns to action in week twelve. Dallas has the Giants, Raiders, Bears, Packers and Redskins as their next five opponents. All of those teams are above average matchups for our tackle producing IDPs. He may not be a long term answer for the Cowboys but if you can get your hands on Carter for the stretch run he could be a big plus for your championship hopes. This whole situation also adds gas to the Barry Church fire.
If there is any good news for the Cowboys it is that the bye week will allow DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, J.J Wilcox and Morris Claiborne some time to heal up. Ware played against New Orleans but was obviously limited. Hatcher was a late scratch with his sore neck but should be a go in week twelve.
After trying to play through the sore ankle earlier in the season, Duke Ihenacho was somewhat of a surprise scratch coming out of the bye week. With Denver in a great position to make the playoffs, it only makes sense that the team wants to get him completely healthy for their post season. When healthy Ihenacho has proven to be an excellent option for us. It is hard to say however, when he will be healthy enough to return to action. He was a limited participant in practice on Wednesday which makes his status clear as mud. Until he practices fully we simply can not count on him. Hopefully there will be some word on his status this week that will help us to decide if he is worth hanging onto. Until we learn otherwise I suggest finding some way to keep him on your roster.
Looking for help at defensive tackle? Terrance Knighton now has a sack in three consecutive games. He is not much when it comes to tackle production but with the lack of quality options at the position, he may be worth a shot.
For those trying to decide which interior linemen to start, consider that the Steelers have allowed 8 sacks to defensive tackles on the year and over the past four games six interior linemen have posted at least 3 solo stops against them. Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley should both be in for a good day in this one.
Green Bay Packers
Morgan Burnett has put up more than 3 solo stops in only two of his six starts this season. On the other hand his best numbers have come in two of the past three. This week's matchup with the Giants will tell us a lot about how much we can trust him down the stretch. Over the past four games Major Wright and Jamarca Sanford have each reached double digits in solo stops while three other safeties have totaled 5 or more. The Giants have been a different team in recent weeks. I plan to start Burnett in a couple of leagues but if he fails to get it done in this one I will be ready to move on.
In what probably should not have been such a big surprise, the Texans parted ways with Ed Reed on Tuesday. The eyeball test told us weeks ago that at age 35 Reed simply has nothing left in the tank. He has played sparingly since returning from the injury and his comments after the team's week ten loss were the last straw for the organization. Houston will go with Shilo Keo at free safety and D.J. Swearinger Sr at strong for the rest of the season. So far Keo has been the more productive of the two but I still believe that Swearinger will eventually step up for both the Texans and fantasy owners.
Now that Pat Angerer is healthy and has settled back into an every down role, he has once again become a dependable option for us. With all their struggle it would be easy to dismiss the Titans at a glance as a poor matchup. A closer look however, would suggest otherwise. In their last three games Tennessee has helped Patrick Willis, James Laurinaitis, and Geno Hayes to each log at least 8 solo stops. In those games Navarro Bowman, Alec Ogletree and Paul Posluszny also turned in decent production. The moral to this story is; get both Angerer and Jerrell Freeman in you lineups this week. Safeties however, have not fared so well against the Titans. For Antoine Bethea and LaRon Landry the matchup is average at best.
Paul Posluszny left the field late in the week ten contest with a concussion. He will go through the protocol this week and may not be in the lineup against Arizona. If Posluszny is out, look for Russell Allen to shift inside and join Geno Hayes in the sub packages with John Lotulelei getting the call on the strong side. Hayes has put up at least 5 solo tackles in each of his past four games and five of the past six. He is coming off what was by far his most productive game of the season and should be a dependable LB3 option for us down the stretch even if Posluszny plays.
Kansas City Chiefs
Eric Berry has been a disappointment this season but a couple of matchups with the Broncos over the next three weeks may well wake up his box score production. Denver has been among the game's best matchups for safeties this season. Over their last four games we have seen Barry Church with a monster game, Bacarri Rambo go 8-1 and Antoine Bethea put up double digit fantasy points. I believe Berry's struggle have been due in large part to the lack of quality opponents and the success of the Chiefs front seven. Look for Denver to give the Kansas City secondary plenty of action.
The Chargers continue to be an excellent matchup for both middle and weak side linebackers. In fact they are probably the game's best matchup for weak side backers in particular. We can go back and start in week five when Kevin Burnett went 12-2-1 with a forced fumble, followed by Mario Harvey's 9-1, then Paul Posluszny at 13-1, London Fletcher 7-6, and last week it was Danny Trevathan going 9-2. In that same string of games Nick Roach, Jerrell Freeman, Geno Hayes, Perry Riley and Wesley Woodyard also put up quality numbers. The bottom line here is that both Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler need to be in our lineups this week.
Safeties have been a bit less consistent with the Chargers matchup but there has been a good amount of quality production from that position as well. Enough to make Reshad Jones and Chris Clemons strong considerations this week as well.
On the other side of that coin, only three teams have allowed fewer sacks than the Chargers 16. In most instances that would be enough to make me think about sitting a guy like Cameron Wake. I am however, still chaffed from a couple of weeks back when I suggested we wait and let Wake prove that he is back before starting him against a stingy Bengals offense. In that game he blew up for multiple sacks. It will be no surprise if Wake were to struggle against the Chargers, but he will be in my lineup every week the rest of the way regardless of the opponent.
With Jamarca Sanford on the shelf due to a groin injury, Andrew Sendejo shifted from free to strong safety for the Vikings in week ten. His 8 tackles and 8 assists versus the Redskins pretty much confirms that it is the scheme/situation more so than the players that has made the Minnesota strong safety positions so fantasy friendly this year. That spot has consistently given us double digit fantasy points and a matchup this week with the Seahawks is unlikely to break the trend. What we need to do now is figure out who will be lining up there. Sanford participated in a walk through early this week but as of early Wednesday it remains unclear if he is really close to getting back on the field. Groin injuries can be easily aggravated, but we simply can not overlook the fact that Sanford has at least 7 solo tackles in each of his four complete games at the position while Sendejo has 13 in his two opportunities. We may not know for certain until late in the week who will line up there and there will be some risk if it is Sanford. Keep an eye on the late week practice reports and take advantage of this opportunity if you can.
New England Patriots
The Patriots hope that last week's bye will have allowed some of their banged up players to get healthy. Aqib Talib went down early in week six with a hip injury and has been inactive on game days since. Bill Belichick is tight lipped when it comes to injury status of his players. He will give us as little information as the league will let him get away with, but there is speculation that Talib may return this week against Carolina. Early in the season a matchup with the Panthers was a good reason to sit all corners anyway, but over the past month (since they started winning) Carolina has been a totally different animal. Twice in that four game span an opposing corner has recorded 8 solo stops against them. When healthy Talib has been a solid start in corner required leagues. If he is back in action this week it would be a good idea to get him into your lineup.
Another player that was happy to see the bye come would be Rob Ninkovich. He was nursing a sore foot after the week nine game and may have been unable to go had the Patriots played in week ten. As of Wednesday afternoon we are still awaiting word on his practice participation and/or the likelihood of his being on the field against Carolina. The Panthers are in the bottom third of the league with 26 sacks allowed so if he plays Ninkovich should be a solid start. If he sits look for Andre Carter to get the call. Carter is an antique in football terms but is a good player with fresh legs. It would be no surprise to see him post good numbers if called upon to fill in.
New Orleans Saints
After earning his way back into the fantasy conversation with productive outings in three of the Saints last four games, David Hawthorne was nearly a goose egg against the Cowboys. If you picked him up however, do not be in too big a hurry to throw him back. Hawthorne reportedly injured his pinky toe by accidentally kicking a bed post last week. It is hard to imagine a big tough football player being sidelined by a pinky toe, unless of course you have ever done something like that yourself. It is a painful injury and makes it very difficult to push of when changing direction. Before week ten Hawthorne had recorded double digit fantasy points in consecutive games and had been working as a three down player. Once healthy he is likely to resume a significant role. It is also noteworthy that the Saints have a favorable schedule the rest of the way that includes the 49ers, Seahawks, Rams and Panthers twice.
New Orleans is still hurting at the safety position. Kenny Vaccaro was able to go against the Cowboys but was knocked out of the game with a concussion. He is a long shot to play against San Francisco. Roman Harper teased us by practicing in full late last week only to be a scratch for the Sunday night contest. He has been limited early this week which means nothing at this point. The Saints play at 4:25 on Sunday so be sure to have a backup plan if you want to start him. If Harper is a go he should give us quality numbers.
With Malcolm Jenkins unlikely to go, the only New Orleans safety that seems certain to start is Rafael Bush. San Francisco has been a decent matchup for safeties but Bush has not been particularly impressive. Unless Harper plays I would avoid this situation all together.
Rookie outside backer Sio Moore is a player we were excited about during the preseason. An injury limited his play early in the season and slowed the learning curve, but Moore has seen his role increase steadily over the past month. He is still not seeing action on a full time basis but the 48 (of 63) snaps he saw against the Giants were by far his most of the season. The result was a mark of 8-2-1 with a forced fumble which were his best statistical production of the by far as well. Moore is an impressive player from a talent perspective but he is raw. I do not see him being a consistent fantasy factor this year but dynasty owners should certainly take notice.
Mychal Kendricks and Earl Wolff were both knocked out of Sunday's contest with knee injuries. They are not practicing this week and are not likely to suit up against Washington. Wolff will be replaced by opening day starter Patrick Chung who has been battling a shoulder injury most of the season. Chung has a lot of fantasy potential if he is completely healthy. Unfortunately shoulder injuries have slowed him often in the past, rendering him useless in fantasy terms.
It was Najee Goode replacing Kendricks against the Packers. Goode played 71 of 80 snaps in the game. He was not particularly impressive on the field and was horrible in the box scores. With a week to look at their options it would be no surprise to see Casey Matthews get a shot against Washington.
San Diego Chargers
Donald Butler returned from his groin injury in week ten and shows no ill effects. He jumped right back into his every down role and led the team in tackles with 7. At this point in the season it is tough to sit any quality player regardless of matchup, but consider that since week two no linebacker has exceeded 6 solo tackles versus Miami and only two linebackers have put up more than 5. take a hard look at your other options before plugging Butler in this week and temper expectations if you have to play him.
The groin injury suffered by Brandon Browner is expected to keep him out for a while. Until he returns nickel corner Walter Thurmond will be the starter opposite Richard Sherman. Thurmond is a good cover man but is a considerable step down from Browner. What that means to fantasy owners is that Thurmond will be seen as a weakness by opposing offensive coordinators. The Falcons wasted no time going after him and the result was 17.5 fantasy points. If you are looking for a corner with upside for the next few weeks, Thurmond is a good option.
Through week nine Earl Thomas has been among the best defensive backs in the fantasy game. His 1 tackle against Atlanta may well prove to be a fluke, but I can not help noticing that it happened to coincide with the season high 9 solo stops by Bobby Wagner. One week is not a trend but it is hard to overlook the fact that Thomas has already out produced his previous career best in total tackles and fantasy points. Call it a gut feeling but I will not be surprised if he comes crashing back to earth down the stretch.
San Francisco 49ers
Eric Reid suffered what looked like a pretty bad concussion that took him out of the week ten game. It was surprising to learn that he is participating in practice this week albeit in a non-contact manner thus far. This could be important for us considering that the Saints have been among the games best matchups for safeties. To date nine of them have put up 6 or more solo stops versus the Saints. In more than half of their games, both safeties have recorded at least 5. Keep an eye on Reid's status later in the week and plug either he or Donte Whitner into your lineup if possible.
Aldon Smith was limited to a dozen snaps in his first game action. I would expect him to see a full workload this week against the Saints. Keep in mind however, that New Orleans is among the best at keeping their quarterback on his feet.
Colin McCarthy continues to play and produce well. The week ten matchup with the Jaguars saw his tackle production slip to only 4-3, but McCarthy's new three down role helped him to step up in the big play columns with a forced fumble and an interception. I looks like he is tightening his grip on the job. The only thing I do not like when it comes to McCarthy is that the Titans do not have a particularly strong schedule of matchups down the stretch. They have the Colts twice, Cardinals and a rematch with Jacksonville in week sixteen.
That is going to do it for the week eleven edition. Many of us are already in mathematical must win situations. Meanwhile very few have anything locked up. Either way, keep your foot on the gas and leave no stone unturned in your effort to Just Win Baby!