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It is hard to believe that Week 11 is upon us already. Around this time every year I like to take a minute to preach a little about integrity. Most of those who are reading this are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, but there are many who have been hammered by the combination of injury, bad luck and a number of other issues that can contribute to a failed season. It is important that we all continue to at the very least, put our most competitive lineup in the game each week. Ever for those who are eliminated, your matchups will have an effect on the league. There is little that is more annoying than scratching and clawing for a playoff spot and having your competition play an owner who has thrown in the towel and is not even starting a complete lineup. Take a little pride in your game and suck it up. I am not suggesting that you spend hours, but take 20 minutes to look at the injury report on Friday or the inactive list on Sunday morning and put the best players you have on the field. Be a spoiler if you can but most importantly, show enough integrity to not be a quitter.
Kemal Ishmael has been a solid fill in for many of us since William Moore went down early in the season, but it may be time to get off that horse. Moore is eligible to come off the short term IR soon and may be back on the field in a couple of weeks. The bigger and more immediate concern here is that Ishmael lost some snaps to rookie Dezmen Southward in week ten. Ishmael saw action on 54 of the Falcons 74 defensive snaps. As of Wednesday evening I have seen no report of an injury so we have to assume that this was a performance related situation or that the coaching staff wants to get a look at Southward. Until we can get a read on this one it is a good idea to sit Ishmael. That should not be too hard this week considering that the Panthers are not a particularly strong matchup anyway.
Fantasy owners may want to look for a different linebacker option than Paul Worrilow this week as well. After a strong start to the season, Worrilow has a total of 12 solo tackles over the past three games. Then there is the matchup. Over their last five games only Vontaze Burfict has posted respectable tackle numbers against the Panthers and that took overtime. Other players have not fared so well. Curtis Lofton went 1-6, K.J. Wright 2-5, A.J. Hawk 3-2, and Lance Briggs 1-3 versus Carolina.
Get your Buffalo defensive linemen in the lineup this week. The Dolphins have allowed 4 or more sacks in three of their last four games and they just lost left tackle Brandon Albert for the season. Marcel Dareus, Jerry Hughes and Mario Williams are must starts in this one in any format and Kyle Williams should be in the lineup in tackle required leagues at the least. He was 3-1-1 in the first meeting.
With most of the bye weeks behind us fantasy owners will have more options going forward. If you are a Thomas Davis owner, he is a guy you want to play against the Falcons. Atlanta has been a particularly solid matchup for 4-3 WLB. In their last 4 games versus 4-3 schemes Jacquian Williams has gone 9-4 with a pass defended, Khaseem Greene was 6-2, DeAndre Levy 7-0 and Lavonte David 10-4.
Geno Atkins started quickly on Sunday before leaving with a hyper extended knee. He was credited with a single solo tackle but it should have been a sack. Atkins was on Brian Hoyer so fast that the score keepers apparently ruled that the tackle was while Hoyer was on the way to the handoff. It sure looked like a play action pass to me as the ball was pulled away from the running back just as Atkins made contact. Hopefully that one will be in the stats changes on Thursday. The important point here is that while Atkins did not play after tweaking the knee, it was not a serious injury. He has been practicing and is expected to go this week.
The Bengals started Nico Johnson at middle linebacker against the Browns with Vincent Rey moving outside. As expected it was Rey and Emmanuel Lamur in the nickel packages. Rey Maualuga is practicing this week on a limited basis and is close to getting back on the field. If that does not happen this week, look for the Bengals to change up something at the second level after being flattened by the Browns running game on Thursday. One way or another I expect something to be different this week.
One player that has benefited in the box scores from the struggles in the front seven is George Iloka. Over the last two games he is 12-1-0 with a pick and 3 passes defended. The Saints have been an above average matchup for safeties in general and could make Iloka look good on the stats sheet if the linebackers continue to struggle and Mark Ingram gets things rolling. I see a high floor for Iloka this week at worst.
The Cowboys get a much needed bye this week. That should help both Rolando McClain and Bruce Carter to get healthy. It is hard to say what this unit will look like at linebacker in week twelve, but it is noteworthy that Anthony Hitchens has led the team in tackles in three of the four games that he has started. If all three of these guys are available in week twelve, I expect Hitchens to be the team's three down weak side linebacker. I like what he has shown us thus far.
Brandon Marshall Was highly productive for us as a three down weak side linebacker. With the injury to Nate Irving, Marshall was shifted to the middle in week ten. The result was a career high 11 solo tackles despite the poor matchup with a Raiders. Irving has not been ruled out for the season but is not expected to be back in action for a while. It will be interesting to see what Marshall can do against a Rams offense that has been a rather solid matchup. The bottom line here is that Marshall should be in your lineup.
I have not been a big fan of Ezekial Ansah in the past but that was more a reflection on the Lions and their history with defensive ends. The last high quality fantasy option at this position in Detroit was Robert Porcher. That said, I am all for giving credit where is due and Ansah has earned it. His 6-0-1 with a forced fumble in week ten represents the best tackle numbers of his young career. Make a spot for me on the bandwagon.
One Detroit bandwagon I am getting off of it Tahir Whitehead. After looking so promising early on he has seen a steady declining in playing time and has now been removed from all sub packages. We may well see a lot more 2-1 outings from him like the one he turned in on Sunday. Cut your losses and move on if you still have Whitehead on your roster.
Kyle Van Noy finally got on the field in week ten albeit only for a few snaps. This is a player the Lions have big expectations for. It may take another week or two for Van Noy to get into playing shape, but I expect we will see a lot of him down the stretch and into our playoffs. Keep a close eye on his progress over the next couple of weeks.
Green Bay Packers
The biggest IDP news that came out of week ten was the Packers moving Clay Matthews to inside linebacker. This guy is an animal at that position and proved that he is the best player on that defense. He played the run well, was solid in coverage and was still a factor in the pass rush. Green Bay looked like a different defense against Chicago. Matthews 9-2-1 in the box scores have me crossing my fingers in hope that this move will be permanent. Matthews impact on the field and the outcome of the game have me feeling optimistic that it will be.
On a lesser note; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is now seeing time at strong safety. He was the only Packers safety to play every snap in the game. Morgan Burnett missed only a handful of snaps while seeing the majority of his playing time at free safety. This is not a huge surprise as Burnett is more than capable of playing either position and has worked extensively at free safety in the past. What it does mean for us however, is that Clinton-Dix may emerge as one of the fantasy game's best defensive backs down the stretch. His numbers against Chicago were rather marginal, but that was a product of the team's domination in the game. That will not happen very often.
I am not sure what to think of the situation with LaRon Landry in Indianapolis. He was not activated immediately after being reinstated from the suspension and was inactive in week nine. Coming out of the bye week it was expected by most that he would be back in the lineup but it was reported Wednesday that Landry will "come off the bench" as the team's third safety behind journeymen Mike Adams and Sergio Brown. Something smells fishy here. Landry is clearly the team's best safety. I have to wonder if this is some sort of further punishment for letting the team down with the suspension or if there is something else going on behind the scene. If he is on your roster I would suggest sitting tight for a week to see what happens here. My gut feeling is that if the team were struggling Landry would be in the lineup. Just because he is not starting does not mean he is not playing in a significant role. Nor does it mean he has been benched permanently. The fact is, we really do not know exactly what it means at this point.
Kansas City Chiefs
Ron Parker has been all over the Chiefs secondary this year. He played so well at safety while Eric Berry was out that he was moved into a starting role at corner when Berry returned. At 6'0" and 206 pounds, Parker is a big physical defensive back that fits the mould Andy Reid wants at corner. In fantasy terms Parker had some solid games as a safety but he has really stepped it up of late. Over the past three games he is 16-3-1 with an interception, a forced fumble and 5 passes defended. Matchups with Seattle this week and Oakland twice in four games after that are not particularly promising, but Kansas City has Denver in week thirteen and Pittsburgh in week sixteen. Both have been strong matchups.
Finally Jelani Jenkins has a quality outing for us. I have been preaching patience with this guy during a streak of weak matchups and a fluke blowout of the chargers. Those of us who kept the faith were rewarded with his 7-0-1 against Detroit. Jenkins has another quality matchup this week against Buffalo on Thursday night. He was 8-5-0 when these teams met in week two and seven other linebackers have recorded at least 6 solo stops against Buffalo in their six games since. Plug him in again this week.
New Orleans Saints
Kenny Vaccaro has not been a complete bust but he has certainly fallen short of expectations. In fact, Rafael Bush has emerged as the more dependable fantasy option in New Orleans. Bush has turned in 6 solo stops in each of the past three games and is on pace to reach 80. He has not shown much big play ability but then neither has Vaccaro who is on pace for roughly 68 tackles. Neither of these guys should be in our lineups this week against a Bengals offense that has not allowed more than 4 solo tackles to a safety all season.
On the other side of the ledger is Cameron Jordan who should be in our lineups this week. Jordan has 4 sacks in the Saints last three games and is facing a Cincinnati offensive line that may be without left tackle Andre Smith again in week 11. Smith missed last week's game and has been limited in practice this week. Three of the Bengals last four games have been against 3-4 defenses. In those games they have allowed 6 sacks to defensive ends.
New York Giants
Stevie Brown may be back in at free safety for the Giants. He replaced Quintin Demps in the second half against Seattle. As of Wednesday evening I have seen no news of an injury to Demps so this appears to be another performance based move. San Francisco has been a good matchup for safeties in general but putting either of these guys in your lineup this week is a gamble, simply because the Giants have not confirmed who will start. If you are in a bind and willing to gamble, go with Brown.
There are some Giants we do want to start this week. Jason Pierre-Paul is 13-3-2 with a forced fumble and a pass defended over the Giants last three games while the 49ers have allowed 13 sacks in their last three games. I like Jonathan Hankins in this game as well as San Francisco has allowed a sack to an interior lineman in three straight games.
Jacquian Williams is going through concussion protocol this week but if he plays both he and Jameel McClain are worthy starters for us. Eight linebackers have reached double digit fantasy points against the 49ers in their last six games.
New York Jets
Jaiquawn Jarrett got the start at free safety against the Steelers and had a career day. His 7-3-1 with a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble certainly got the attention of fantasy owners. This will have a lot of owners ambulance chasing. Jarrett has been in and out of the NFL for four years. If he were a starter quality player, someone would have given him the opportunity long before now. At least he gets to enjoy his big game over the bye week before turning back into a pumpkin.
The Raiders Larry Asante was 8-2 against the Broncos as Oakland went to a big nickel with three safeties as their base package. This may have had more to do with all the injuries at corner than any proffered design by the coaching staff. Asante was on the street just a couple of weeks ago and will be back there as soon as the Oakland secondary gets some guys back from the trainer’s room.
The Chargers laid an egg heading into their bye week but they have been a quality matchup for safeties in general. When these teams met in week six Charles Woodson and Usama Young combined for 11 solo tackles. After stewing over the butt whipping they took from Miami, San Diego should come out firing in this one. At worst Woodson has a high floor this week and he could have a huge game. Get him in your lineup.
Sio Moore and Miles Burris are also guys we want to lean on this week. Moore has become an every week must for most of us with Burris on the fringe in many leagues. The Chargers expect to have Ryan Matthews back this week which makes them an even better matchup. Consider that even without him, ten linebackers have posted at least 6 solo stops against San Diego to date.
Malcolm Jenkins is a player who should get strong lineup consideration this week. In the Packers nine games, five safeties have posted 8 or more solo stops against them and several others have put up at least 5. Even Nate Allen is worth a shot if you are in a pinch
San Diego Chargers
Oakland has been a poor matchup over much of the season but over the past two week K.J. Wright and Brandon Marshall have each posted double digit solo tackles against them. When these teams met in week six Donald Butler was 7-2 with a pass defended.
San Francisco 49ers
Chris Boreland had a second straight game with double digit solo tackles in week ten. This guy has been nothing short of impressive. With Patrick Willis going on IR and NaVorro Bowman still having pain in the knee, it is looking like Boreland is secure as the 49ers starter for at least the rest of this season. San Francisco has an embarrassment of riches at this position. If Boreland continues to play at this level, the team is going to have a big decision to make come next year.
Byron Maxwell is being eased back into action. He played about 40% of the defensive snaps last week and came through fine. There is some risk with plugging him in but I expect he will return to the every down role opposite Richard Sherman this week against the Chiefs. Kansas City is not a big passing team so we would not think of them being a quality matchup for corners, but their short passing game with Jamaal Charles and a lot of off tackle stretch runs tend to put opposing corners in the action often.
St. Louis Rams
We entered week ten with an eye on the Rams safety situation. Mark Barron had an increased role and finished at 5-0-1 in the game but it was still T.J. McDonald (9-0-1) as the starting/every down strong safety and Rodney McLeod (5-1-0) as the full time free safety. I have a feeling we may see a lot of big nickel from the Rams going forward, with all three of these guys on the field. McDonald is a must start this week against Denver and the other two are worth some consideration as well. To date ten safeties have posted 6 or more solo stops against the Broncos.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After last week's games there was some concern about the role of Dashon Goldson. In week ten he finished with a modest 4-2 while playing 62 of 68 defensive snaps. Most significantly, he out produced Major Wright who had a huge week nine. This pretty well confirms that the week nine snap counts and box score totals were a bit of a mirage. It is safe to go back in the water with Goldson this week against Washington. In each of their last four games a safety has produced more than 12 fantasy points against Washington.
That is a wrap for the Week 11 offering. Best of luck to you all as we enter crunch time.