Happy Thanksgiving to you and welcome to the last round of regular season games. It is perfect for us that week thirteen falls on Thanksgiving weekend since we have a great opportunity to watch multiple games. This is a big week for many as a lot of us are in must win situations. For those who have already claimed a post season entry, kick back and enjoy the games. The many who are basically in playoff situations will be watching with a little more intensity. Let’s get to it and hopefully we can all survive to fight again next week.
The Cardinals take on an Atlanta team that has been an above average matchup for all IDP positions. The Falcons have been a particularly strong matchup for inside/weak side linebackers and pass rushing defensive linemen. Over their last seven games, nine linebackers have recorded at least 6 solo tackles against Atlanta. Larry Foote has limited upside regardless of the matchup but he should be a solid LB3 for us this week. With Arizona using safeties in linebacker roles all season, Deone Bucannon could be in for a good day as well and Rashad Johnson is a must start.
Calais Campbell is an every week play for nearly everyone but if you have a decision to make with him, consider that Atlanta has faced three teams this season that run a 3-4 scheme. In those games they have allowed 4.5 sacks to defensive ends.
William Moore returned to practice this week and is expected to be back in the lineup as soon as this week. This probably sends Kemal Ishmael back to the bench but I would not be in too big a hurry to dump him. He has played pretty well in general and is coming off the best game of his season at 7-4-0 with an interception. There is at least some chance that it will be Dwight Lowery who heads to the bench instead of Ishmael. There is also the fact that Moore was far from impressive before he was injured. Even if we knew what the coaching staff has in mind here, the matchup with Arizona is not a good one. Pick up Moore if you have room and sit on Ishmael for a week if you can. Atlanta has the Packers, Steelers and Saints over the next three weeks and all three are quality matchups.
The Bills pass rush has been outstanding this year and Mario Williams is a matchup proof starter. It would even be tough to seriously consider sitting guys like Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Jerry Hughes, but consider that the Browns have allowed only 6 sacks to defensive linemen over their last seven games.
Charles Johnson has been one of the few bright spots for Carolina this year. If his 5 sacks in the last seven games are not enough to get him into you lineup this week, consider that the Vikings have allowed 22 sacks to defensive linemen this year and 6 more to outside rush linebackers.
With Lance Briggs and Kyle Fuller in doubt for this week due to injuries, the already depleted Chicago defense could be starting youngsters Christian Jones at weak side linebacker and Damontre Hurst at corner against the Lions. Jones is a player we have talked about before and is a guy that has good long term potential. He was 4-1-0 after replacing Briggs in week twelve and the Lions have been an excellent matchup for linebackers.
Hurst is a second year player who was already seeing plenty of action as the Bears slot corner in nickel packages. He moved into the full time role when Fuller went down roughly halfway through last week's game and finished at 5-1-o with a forced fumble. Detroit has been an average matchup for corners in general but I have to think Hurst will be a target of the Lions passing game if he starts. The rookie corner rule would be in play.
Jared Allen has been a disappointment for us this year but this could be a good week to get some production from him. He only has 2.5 sacks on the season but the Lions have been more than generous to outside pass rushers. To date Detroit has allowed 18 sacks to 4-3 ends and 3-4 linebackers.
Bengals defenders escape the stingy home stats crew again this week but the Buccaneers have been a mostly average matchup across the board for our defensive players. Carlos Dunlap is a must start as is Geno Atkins in tackle required leagues. Vincent Rey should have a decent day as an LB3 but beyond those guys I would look hard for other options.
Craig Robertson was the Browns full time linebacker against Atlanta. He finished at 7-2 on 71 snaps. Christian Kirksey was a two down player seeing time only in base packages. The injury to Karlos Dansby was is not as serious as was initially thought but it remains to be seen if he will get back on the field this week. If not, Robertson looks to be a strong play against a Bills team that has been a quality matchup when Fred Jackson is in the lineup.
Teshaun Gipson was carted off Sunday with a knee injury that will cost him some time. The team is optimistic that he could return in time to play if the Brown make the post-season, but he is likely done for the rest of the regular season. Jim Leonhard is the favorite to see most of the action at free safety going forward but he could share some snaps with Jordan Poyer. Unless you are in a very deep league, the best idea here is to stay away all together.
Anthony Hitchens worked as a three down weak side linebacker in week twelve and was the lone linebacker in dime packages over Rolando McClain. This bodes well for those who are in a pinch this week but keep in mind that the Eagles have not been a good matchup for linebackers. Dynasty owners may want to look hard at stashing Hitchens for the future. Whenever this guy has gotten an opportunity, he has played some good football. Dallas is going to have some questions at linebacker next year but Hitchens seems likely to be a factor.
The Eagles have not been much of a matchup for defenders in the front seven but defensive backs are a different story. in Philadelphia’s last six games, seven corners have recorded 5 or more solo tackles and corners have combined for 8 interceptions. The matchup for safeties is even better. Starting in week six Quintin Demps was 9-1, Tony Jefferson 10-1 with a pass defended, Rashad Johnson 9-1 with 4 pass breakups, D.J. Swearinger Sr 6-2, Thomas DeCoud 8-0, Morgan Burnett 7-2-0, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 5-2 and Michael Griffin 11-1. Barry Church is a must start this week with J.J. Wilcox being a high upside sleeper. For those in corner required leagues, Brandon Carr could be in for his best game of the season.
One more note on this matchup; Dallas faces off with the Eagles again in week fifteen.
Brandon Marshall left last week's game with concussion symptoms and his week thirteen status is in question. As of early Wednesday the team has given no indication that they do not expect him to go, but this is certainly a situation to keep an eye on. The Chiefs have been a strong matchup for tackle producing linebackers and Marshall has been a box score beast for us.
Danny Trevathan was expected back at practice this week and may be able to play week 14. If he can stay healthy and that is a big if, Trevathan could be a big playoff run addition for us. Denver has Buffalo, San Diego and Cincinnati on the schedule during the fantasy playoffs. All three of those teams are quality matchups for linebackers.
Green Bay Packers
In week twelve Clay Matthews had his first poor outing since moving into his new role. I would not let this scare you off. He is still working in the same hybrid role and should continue to have a lot of opportunity for both tackles and big plays. What I am a little concerned about is that it seemed like he was the focus of Minnesota's game plan. In this copy cat league, other offenses could adopt the Vikings approach and make it tough on Matthews. If he makes you nervous as he does me, sit Matthews this week against a Patriots offense that has been an inconsistent matchup for linebackers. The Packers have a strong run of matchups over the next three weeks so I would not be in too big a hurry to let him get away.
Safeties situation in Houston continues to be muddied. Danieal Manning started again against Cincinnati but once again D.J. Swearinger Sr played more snaps. That and a couple of poor matchups over the next three weeks is plenty of reason to avoid this mess altogether. One guy who could provide some opportunity for us however, is corner Darryl Morris. He opened the game as the Texans slot corner before replacing rookie A.J. Bouye in base packages in the second half. Morris was on the field for about 75% of the team's defensive snaps. He was impressive both on the field and in the box scores going 7-3-0 with 3 passes defended. Kareem Jackson was not close to returning in week twelve so Morris may be in line to start the next few games. Tennessee is a lousy matchup across the board so the only Houston defended to have in your lineup this week is J.J. Watt, but Morris is a guy to keep an eye on.
LaRon Landry was not back in the starting lineup in week twelve but he certainly made an impact coming off the bench. On only nineteen snaps he went recorded 3 tackles, 2 assists with a sack and a half. It is hard to say if Landry has earned his starting job back but it is clear that we need to sit tight on him, especially owners in dynasty leagues. I am wondering if this is a situation similar to the one that happened in Kansas city a few years back when Derrick Johnson was benched by Todd Haley for a few games. Upon return Johnson went from a decent LB3 to a borderline elite while his play on the field improved just a much.
For the first time in his young career Telvin Smith Sr was used as a three down weak side linebacker against the Colts in week twelve. The young man responded by going 10-3-0 with a pair of fumble recoveries. Smith is undersized for the role which is why it took so long for him to get the shot at it, but we have seen undersized guys excel in the past. It is unclear if he will continue in that role this week against the Giants, but if he does we could see another quality box score from him as the Giants have been a quality matchup when Reshad Jennings is in the lineup. Both Smith and J.T. Thomas are worth of strong starting consideration this week as is defensive end Chris Clemons. The Jaguars record says that they are not a good football team but that is not an accurate reflection on their defense which has played well. Clemons is clearly all the way back from the knee injury that hampered his final year in Seattle. Clemons 3 sack outing against the Colts was the best of his career and puts him at 7 on the year. Call it a gut feeling but I like his chances off adding another one against a Giants offense that has been a decent matchup for pass rushers this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
The big story of the short week is Eric Berry being diagnosed with lymphoma. This news hits particularly close to home for me since I have fought that battle myself. My thoughts and prayers go out to Berry as I pray he is as fortunate as I was. As for the impact in football terms; when Berry missed time earlier in the season it was Ron Parker who stepped in at safety. Parker has since been moved into a starting role at corner. It is hard to say at this point if Parker will go back to safety or if the Chiefs will promote Kurt Coleman to the starting job. Coleman has seen an increased role in sub packages over the past few weeks and has plenty of starting experience, so he is a viable option. Regardless of the role, Parker has been and should continue to be highly productive for us. He is a must start this week against Denver. The loss of Berry may have more of an impact on Husain Abdullah who could be a solid DB3 this week if Parker stays at corner. In weeks fourteen and fifteen the Chiefs play Arizona and Oakland who have been weak matchups for safeties.
After averaging less than 3 solo stops a game through week nine, Louis Delmas has blown up for 19 over the last three games. Some of this can be related to matchups but he was irrelevant despite some good matchups over the first half of the season. Interestingly the surge of production for Delmas coincides with a drop off in numbers by Reshad Jones. I have not been watching these guys very closely in recent weeks but the numbers would suggest a role reversal of some sort. I will be watching closer this week to see if I can pick up on something. This is not going to have much impact over the next two weeks as both the Jets and Ravens are poor matchups for safeties, but Miami has New England in week fifteen and Minnesota on championship week. Both of those teams are quality matchups.
Everson Griffen has become an every week start for most of us but if you have options, consider that Carolina has allowed 19 sacks to 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebackers over their last six games. Even Brian Robison could get one this week. On the other side of that coin, only one inside or weak side linebacker has totaled more than 4 solo stops against the Panthers over that same span. I like Anthony Barr in this matchup based on his potential to land a sack but we should temper expectations for Chad Greenway in this one.
New Orleans Saints
Injuries have the Saints in dire straits at the safety position. Undrafted rookie Pierre Warren got the start against Baltimore on Monday. His box score totals looked pretty good with a mark of 5-2-0 with a forced and a recovered fumble, but warren was much less impressive on the field. He could get another shot this week against the Steelers who are a quality matchup for safeties, but I could see the team looking to veteran Jamarca Sanford instead. Sanford was just signed a couple of weeks ago but he has starting experience with the Vikings over the past couple of years.
After a strong of productive starts at corner, Corey White was replaced in the lineup by Patrick Robinson in week twelve. surprisingly he was not even shifted to the slot and was on the field for only 4 snaps against Baltimore.
New York Giants
Quintin Demps got the start again last week but for the second time in three weeks he shared time with Stevie Brown. Jacksonville is an average at best matchup for safeties but even with a quality opponent we simply cannot trust this situation.
In a case of the movable object meets the stoppable force, we might want to start our Giants defensive ends this week against Jacksonville. The Jaguars have given up 21 sacks to outside pass rushers on the season.
The Raiders spent most of Sunday's game in a nickel package with three safeties on the field. Larry Asante finished at 6-1 while working at free safety while Brandain Ross was used as the slot corner due to injuries. Oakland may get corner Travis Carrie back this week so look for Ross to be back at safety. The Rams have been an average matchup at best for defensive backs but they have been gold for linebackers. Since week seven we have seen Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright combine for 17-3-0 with a forced fumble, Chris Boreland 15-3-0, Larry Foote 6-1-0 and Brandon Marshall 13-2-0. The San Diego inside linebacker committee was 10-4-0 with a fumble recovery and a pass defended in week twelve. The moral of the story is get Sio More or Miles Burris into you lineups this week.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers seem intent on using all their inside linebackers in some sort of committee. Donald Butler played only 23 snaps in week twelve while Manti T'eo led the group with 43. Who knows what is going on here but if you have watched the San Diego defense lately, it is not working. The time has come to move on from Butler.
Bobby Wagner not only returned to action against Arizona, he was right back in his every down role. The Seahawks domination of the game led to modest production (2-6-0) for Wagner but the important point is that he made it through the game with no setbacks. It is highly unlikely that Seattle will dominate San Francisco like that this week and the 49ers have been a good matchup for linebackers. It is safe to put Wagner back in your lineup this week. In fact it is probably a good idea to do so. and made it through the s to an every down role and has a solid outing despite the poor matchup.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers have been looking for someone to step up at defensive end and second year pro Jacquies Smith is answering the call. We did not give him much thought when he recorded his first career sack against Cleveland in week nine. He started getting a little attention with his 2 sack outing against Washington in week eleven, but even then we were reluctant to put much thought into him. Apparently the coaching staff has been giving him a lot more though. Smith not only played a significant role in week twelve, he was the starter opposite Michael Johnson against Chicago. Smith now has 4 sacks in four games and has become a late season pickup candidate. A matchup with the Bengals this week is not favorable but Tampa Bay has Detroit, Carolina and Green Bay on the schedule during our playoffs. All three teams have been quality matchups for outside pass rushers.
With Lavonte David out last weekend due to a hamstring, Danny Lansanah was shifted into the weak side position where he was a three down player. Both he and Mason Foster posted solid numbers going 6-1-0 and 7-1-0 respectively. As of early Wednesday David has not yet returned to practice leaving his status for this week's meeting with the Bengals in question. Since the emergence of rookie running back Jeremy Hill the Bengals have been an excellent matchup for our tackle producing linebackers. With David in the lineup, Foster is worth some consideration as an LB3 this week. If David is out Foster becomes a low end LB2 and Lansanah a solid LB3 option.
Major Wright totaled 16-10-0 in three games as a starter leading up to week twelve. He left Sunday's game early with a shoulder injury that has him questionable as of Wednesday afternoon. The Bengals have been a horrid matchup for safeties anyway so hopefully the team will elect to sit him this week to get healthy. If Wright does play and you are thinking about starting him, consider that Darryl Morris was the first defensive back to put up more than 4 solo tackles against the Bengals since week six.
One quick note on Washington. Those of you who have been reading my column know that I have been high on second year safety Phillip Thomas. Injuries have destroyed his career thus far but the young man just keeps fighting back. Thomas got on the field for fifteen snaps against San Francisco. He did not make an impact in the box scores but if he can ever manage to stay healthy, this guy can become a factor. As we near the end of the fantasy season, owners in dynasty leagues that are looking for a roster stash for next year may want to give him some consideration.
That does it for this week's offering. May you all have a week thirteen win to be thankful for and I hope you are still with us next week. Enjoy the holiday, family and the football!