This would be a good week to start Patrick Peterson or Marcus Cooper. Opponent’s corners have produced 11 or more tackles (as a group) against Miami in five of their last six games, and Ryan Tannehill tends to struggle under pressure. Arizona does a good job of making quarterbacks uncomfortable so there may well be a pick or two in this game to go along with the strong tackle opportunity.
The way Atlanta has teased us with their rookie linebackers all year we should take this with a grain of salt, but I thought it worth mention; in the two games since their bye, De'Vondre Campbell has played all but two snaps. It might be worth the risk to start him this week against the Rams who have been an excellent matchup of late. Since week six we have seen Tahir Whitehead go 7-2-0, Keenan Robinson 7-1-0 with a pass defended, Thomas Davis 10-1-1 with a forced fumble and an interception, David Harris 8-3-.5 with a PD, and Kiko Alonzo 6-2-0 with a forced fumble and a recovery.
Deion Jones has played 86% of the snaps over the past two games.
Last week I pimped C.J. Mosley as a strong start due to the quality matchup. If you listened to me, I apologize and hope you managed to pull off a win anyway. For the record starting him cost me a game and a playoff spot as well. The matchup with Miami was indeed a solid one but Zach Orr horded all the value going 10-3-0 on the day. Orr has consistently out produced Mosley and has emerged as the Ravens on field leader in the process.
I expected James Ihedigbo to see an increased work load in week thirteen. Instead he continued to play a bit over half the snaps while the Bills shuffled backup corners into the game in sub package situations. It looks as if that will be their approach going forward. Kevon Seymour started at corner and played every down.
Charles Johnson left the week thirteen game with what looked like a serious hamstring injury. If he is unable to go this week it will be Wes Horton and Kony Ealy as the starting ends with Ryan Delaire working as the third man in the rotation. Horton is a good player with the ability to put up good numbers though he has been very inconsistent as a pro. The Chargers are allowing 2.4 sacks per game since week six so those of you in deep leagues may want to roll the dice.
Shaq Thompson had a bigger role against Seattle though it is hard to say if it was all by design or partly a result of the blowout loss. A.J. Kline was out of most sub packages.
As expected Nick Kwiatkoski played every down for the Bears while John Timu worked on early downs. What was not entirely expected was Kwiatkoski's solid play on the field and quality production (9 tackles and 2 passes defended) in the box scores. Jerrell Freeman has two more games left on his suspension so Kwiatkoski has two more opportunities to impress. If he continues to play well there is a good chance he could open 2017 as a starter since Danny Trevathan is unlikely to be ready. This week's matchup with the Lions leaves plenty to be desired but Chicago has Green Bay in week fifteen. The last time these teams met Freeman and Trevathan combined for 16 solo stops.
The Bengals got Shawn Williams back for week thirteen and he had an immediate impact. Against the Browns this week however, there may not be a lot of opportunity. In fact the only Bengals worthy of starting consideration this week are the outside pass rushers (Carlos Dunlap & Michael Johnson) and possibly Vontaze Burfict. Burfict because he is an every week must play (he was 5-3-0 in the first meeting), and the pass rushers because the Browns are allowing 4.6 sacks per game since week six. Will Clarke might also be worth a shot in deeper leagues. He has seen a significant/increasing amount of playing time as the third end over the past month.
Even with the matchup I would shy away from Geno Atkins. Cleveland has done a good job against interior linemen allowing less than 2.5 tackles and .6 sacks per game to the defensive tackle position. Atkins was shut out in the first meeting.
Barry Church is back and made it through the first game with flying colors and a good point total. The Giants have been an average at best matchup for safeties on most weeks and I am still concerned with the potential of Church reinjuring the arm. If you are in a pinch he is worth a play but I suggest looking for better/more safe options. Nothing is worse than losing a player to injury early in a playoff game. If he makes it through this week I will feel a lot better about playing him in week fifteen.
Brandon Marshall has been fighting a sore hamstring since early November and was not able to finish Sunday's game. He is expected to miss week fourteen and possibly longer as the Broncos want to make sure he is healthy for the playoffs. In his absence we can expect Cory Nelson to take on the every down duty as he did when Marshall was out week eight. The Titans have been a quality matchup for linebackers on most weeks.
Devin Taylor was one of my favorite sleepers entering the season. He started strong but has not been the same since the ankle injury at the end of September. Taylor lost playing time to Armonty Bryant in week thirteen which is not a good sign.
With Tahir Whitehead sidelined against the Saints, Josh Bynes assumed the three down linebacker role. Whitehead was limited with a knee injury all last week before being inactive on Sunday. No one knows what is going on with DeAndre Levy at this point either. He has been practicing on a limited basis for a while now but continues to be inactive on game days. The Bears have become a quality matchup with the emergence of Jordan Howard so keep an eye on this situation as we get later in the week.
Green Bay Packers
Jake Ryan was back on the field to start in week thirteen but aggravated the ankle injury early in the game. As of Wednesday it looks like neither he nor Blake Martinez will be able to go in week fourteen. This leaves Green Bay exceptionally thin at inside backer with Carl Bradford and Joe Thomas the only healthy options. They could shift Clay Matthews inside as they have done in the past but he is struggling with a shoulder injury himself; not to mention both Kyler Fackrell and Nick Perry are hurt at the outside positions. The moral of this story is; play your Packers safeties this week.
Edwin Jackson has not been an every down player so far but I really like this guy. Watching him reminds me a little of Sam Mills. He's a ball of energy who really likes to hit people and has turned some heads in Indianapolis. With the four game suspension handed down to D'Qwell Jackson we may get a look at Edwin in a three down role going forward. The team's other options are Josh McNary or Antonio Morrison. Earlier in the season McNary got on the field long enough to prove he is not an NFL starter. After a few games he gave way to Jackson. Why the coaching staff refused to give Morrison a shot earlier was baffling. D'Qwell Jackson is not the long term answer here so it would be nice to get a look at Edwin and Morrison to see if they are the future.
Kansas City Chiefs
Ramik Wilson continues to impress, at least in the box scores. He played forty snaps in week thirteen, recording 9 solo tackles. I am not sure what the coaching staff does not like about this young man. Maybe his coverage skills are still a work in progress. I am stashing him in as many keeper leagues as I can just in case he gets a shot next year.
Things keep getting worse for the Dolphins at linebacker. Jelani Jenkins has been nursing nagging injuries all season and has missed two of the last three games. No Kiko Alonzo is on the doubtful side of questionable for week fourteen with a bad thumb. If neither of these guys are able to go Miami will be left with some combination of Spencer Paysinger, Donald Butler, Mike Hull and Neville Hewitt to man the positions. There is nothing to be excited about here in fantasy terms.
New England Patriots
In an interesting development it was Kyle Van Noy leading the Patriots linebackers with 41 snaps in week thirteen. Dont'a Hightower played 33 and Shea McClellin 39 of a possible 52. Van Noy is a fast and athletic linebacker who could prove to be a great fit in this scheme. Right now there is no defensive player in a Patriots uniform who can be trusted by fantasy owners.
New York Giants
Jason Pierre-Paul had surgery early this week to fix a groin/sports hernia injury. He could possibly return late in the NFL playoffs but is done for the fantasy season. Pierre-Paul had been on a major role and will be missed by his owners. He will also be missed by those of us who have Olivier Vernon. Offenses will now be able to tailor blocking schemes and give extra attention to Vernon until/unless someone steps up for the Giants. Kerry Wynn is the likely starter going forward with either Owamagbe Odighizuwa or Romeo Okwara seeing plenty of work on passing downs. Wynn is a solid run defender who offers little as a pass rusher. Okwara is an undrafted rookie out of Notre Dame. He played on Sunday because Owamagbe Odighizuwa was inactive with a knee injury. If he is able to return this would be a great opportunity for Odighizuwa who was a third round pick, to show his potential.
The Raiders may be without Karl Joseph this week as he nurses a toe injury. Coach Del Rio believes Joseph has a chance of playing but he was in a walking boot early in the week so it seems unlikely. Nate Allen will likely get the call against Kansas City. Joseph was 7-2-0 against the Chiefs in their first meeting but they have been an inconsistent matchup for safeties. Allen would probably not be a great option as a replacement if Joseph is not able to go.
The cameo by Corey James in week twelve apparently had more to do with Perry Riley's hamstring injury than the team leaning toward putting James back in the starting lineup. Riley was back as a three down starter in week thirteen while James played little. James is nursing a sore shoulder which may have contributed to his mere 5 snaps as well. The bottom line here being we really have no idea if the organization sees James as a potential future starter. All we really know at this point is that Riley is not likely to be a long term answer.
If you are a believer in history repeating itself, Rodney McLeod is a must start this week against Washington. In the week six meeting of these teams he was 11-2-0. The Redskins have been a strong matchup for safeties on some weeks and not so much on others. Against the Eagles last time McLeod was huge while Jalen Mills was 5-2-0 with a pass breakup and Malcolm Jenkins went 2-4-1 with a pair of passes defended. In week nine Cincinnati's Shawn Williams had 9 solo tackles (in 5 quarters). In week twelve Byron Jones had 7 tackles and PD. On the other side of the coin, Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix were 3-1-0 and 4-0-0 respectively in week eleven, Harrison Smith and Andrew Sendejo had 6 solo stops between them in week ten and the Lions trio of safeties totaled 8 in week seven. All things considered I like the upside of McLeod this week and will be starting him myself.
San Diego Chargers
Sit all your Chargers defenders this week with the possible exception of Melvin Ingram III in big play leagues, against a hapless Carolina offense. In their last four games only 3 players have recorded more than 4 solo tackles against the Panthers and no one has more than 6. In week thirteen Kam Chancellor was 6-1-0 against them while no other Seahawk was credited with more than 2 solo stops. In week twelve Khalil Mack had 6 tackles and a fist full of big plays. Malcolm Smith had 4 tackles while no other Raiders defender had more than 3. Corner Sterling Moore led the Saints in tackles week eleven at 4-1-0 etc. When the Browns provide a better matchup something is very broken in Carolina.
For many of us DeShawn Shead has been a regular starter in both corner required leagues and those lumping the positions together. Get him into your lineup this week against the Packers. Aaron Rodgers does not throw many picks but their opponent’s corner positions have produced 13.5 solo stops, 2 assists, 1.6 passes defended and .7 turnovers on average since week six. Being the corner opposite Richard Sherman means Shead has a big bull’s eye on his back every week but no quarterback/team is better at avoiding an opponent's strength than the Packers.
The loss of Earl Thomas was a huge blow for the Seahawks but he has been a marginal contributor in fantasy terms. Steven Terrell will get the call to start the rest of the way. On the field he will be a drop of but his box score production might actually be a little better.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When the Buccaneers resigned Major Wright last week many expected he would step right back into the starting lineup. That notion seemed a little strange to me but I went with the flow. It was not a surprise to see Wright on the bench while Keith Tandy got the call. Wright has not played a snap in months and is not a significantly better player than Tandy to begin with. Granted Tandy made the team over Wright based largely on special team’s contribution but I am not sure Wright is more than a backup going forward.
That does it for this week. Best of luck in your playoff games this week.