Years ago, when Deone Bucannon introduced himself as a “money linebacker” on Sunday Night Football, the audience had a good laugh. The term was a reference to his defensive responsibilities but conjured images in the minds of viewers of the huge game checks that Bucannon was earning at that time. Memes popped up in the following days of Bucannon on top of piles of money and gold coins. Hopefully, following the guidance given in this column will have your rosters overflowing with a wealth of IDP riches. We will primarily focus on edge rushers but will also hit on some of the other players and situations that are likely to impact teams in big play leagues. We will cover risers and fallers in the format, injury situations fantasy general managers need to know, and upcoming matchups to target.
Note: The defensive player injuries covered in this column are not an exhaustive list, but an attempt to cover the situations most likely to impact big play IDP squads. For more extensive coverage of injury situations, see Jene Bramel’s latest Injury Rounds column.
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The Raiders defensive end situation is of interest. Arden Key heading to the season-ending injured reserve has opened up opportunities for Benson Mayowa. Mayowa capitalized on this on Sunday when he recorded a sack and a half. He has a plus matchup with Cincinnati on tap for this week, which may help extend the hot streak.
Steelers linebacker Devin Bush is not a safe start for managers until further notice. He logged only 42% playing time against the Rams. The coaching staff may be teaching him a lesson because Bush missed some critical tackles in their contest against the Colts.
The Detroit linebacker situation has become more interesting as the weeks wear on. Jahlani Tavai’s playing time continues to climb while Jarrad Davis’ continues to fall. This could be trending toward Tavai taking Davis’ playing time.
Drue Tranquill is a name we need to keep on our radar. Denzel Perryman continues to have problems staying healthy and Tranquill put up massive production (14 tackles) on full-time snaps in his absence. While a healthy Perryman cuts into his playing time, if a time ever comes when Perryman is sidelined for the rest of the year, Tranquill will become extremely valuable to roster.
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Nick Kwiatkoski becomes an interesting name once again after Danny Trevathan’s gruesome arm injury. On only 78% playing time, Kwiatkoski picked up ten tackles, a sack, and an interception. While he will not do that every week, he can be serviceable for the rest of the way for fantasy general managers.
Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch appears to be over his neck ailment and got back to full time against the Vikings. Sean Lee once again goes back to part-time work and may be worth rostering only as insurance in the event Vander Esch gets hurt again.
Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph appears to have suffered a knee injury. It is unclear currently if it will be something that causes him to miss games or if he will play through it.
Saints corner Marshon Lattimore hurt his thigh against the Falcons and will probably not play in week 11.
Cardinals corner Patrick Peterson has a left calf ailment that makes him doubtful for the upcoming contest and perhaps beyond.
The safety group in Oakland is very banged up. Lamarcus Joyner (hamstring) and Karl Joseph (foot) are likely to miss extended time. They are working out Jermaine Whitehead, who was recently cut from Cleveland. If he signs, he may be worth taking a look at in leagues where general managers need safety help.
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Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers vs. Cleveland Browns Offensive Line
These AFC North divisional tilts tend to be bloody battles won in the trenches. It will help a rallying Steelers team to face off against an offensive line that has improved slightly but is still surrendering an average of 2.8 sacks per game. That could mean that T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Cameron Heyward spend a lot of time roughing up Baker Mayfield in this game.
Washington Pass Rushers vs. New York Jets Offensive Line
The Jets are still surrendering the most sacks in the NFL on a per-game basis and will play a rested Washington pass rush unit. Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Matt Ioannidis, and Jonathan Allen are not auto-play options by any means but have more appeal in this matchup than they would normally.
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers vs. Miami Dolphins Offensive Line
Buffalo Bills Defensive Backs vs. Miami Dolphins Passing Attack
The Bills make the list for the third straight week because they are playing a unit that surrendered 3 sacks in their last contest and are averaging 3.9 on the year. Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, and Shaq Lawson all will likely be making Ryan Fitzpatrick’s day a lot harder in this one. Additionally, the Bills secondary is getting another quality matchup against a team that throws a whopping 1.4 interceptions on average, second-worst in the league. Jordan Poyer, Micah Hyde, Tre'davious White, and Levi Wallace are all good options at their respective positions.
Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers vs. Houston Texans Offensive Line
For the second week in a row, Baltimore pass rushers have a favorable matchup against a bottom-third of the league offensive line. Even with the bye factored in, Houston is giving away nearly three sacks a game. It is difficult to know how the Ravens will deploy their linebackers in terms of playing time from week to week, but Matt Judon is probably the most likely of the group to benefit, as he is most consistently on the field. Patrick Onwausuar, Tim Williams, and Tyus Bowser also have an increased likelihood of getting to the quarterback this week.
New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line
New Orleans Saints Defensive Backs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Attack
Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport are good plays this week against a Buccaneers group that both gives up sacks and turns the ball over fairly frequently. Tampa Bay gave up four during their last game and is averaging 3.8 on the season. Jameis Winston also continues to turn the ball over. He threw two interceptions in his last contest with Arizona, bringing his yearly average to a league-worst 1.6 per game. While Marshon Lattimore is probably out, Patrick Robinson, Eli Apple, PJ Williams, and Vonn Bell all stand a better chance than normal of coming away with a pick.
San Francisco 49ers Pass Rushers vs. Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
Arizona gave up only two sacks last contest, but then again, they were not playing a unit quite as formidable as the 49ers. This matchup yielded good results for the 49ers a few weeks earlier as well. Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford are worthy plays.
Oakland Raiders Pass Rushers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
Chicago Bears Pass Rushers vs. Los Angeles Rams Offensive Line
Fantasy general managers may be licking their chops to play their Chicago assets against a team that just surrendered four sacks in their last contest and will be missing their center Brian Allen for the remainder of the year and Rob Havenstein for this upcoming contest. Despite the Rams being in the top half of the league in sacks allowed all year, they should yield a few in this one. It is virtually impossible to sit Khalil Mack. Consider playing Leonard Floyd and interior lineman Roy Robertson-Harris here as well.
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New England Patriots Pass Rushers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
The Patriots as a unit have been great this year, but it has been hard to predict their individual deployment in Bill Belichick’s positionless football scheme. It is also not a particularly good matchup, as Philadelphia is a team that sits right on the edge of the top half of the league in terms of surrendering sacks. Play Jamie Collins Sr, Kyle Van Noy, and Dont'a Hightower if you must, but know that you may end up with a goose egg because of the nature of the matchup combined with unpredictable usage.
Kansas City Chiefs Pass Rushers vs. Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Line
The Chiefs pass rush has been hot lately, but they may be stymied here for two reasons. First, they just lost team sack leader Emmanuel Ogbah for the year. Secondly, despite uncharacteristically surrendering five sacks in the last game, the Chargers have been among the better teams in the league about allowing them this year, despite significant offensive line injuries. We need to have pause when considering playing Frank Clark or Alex Okafor.