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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Eagles defensive end Derek Barnett’s playing time continues to climb. He was on the field for almost 90% of the snaps against the Patriots. It is fair to say that Barnett is breaking out this year and will be a bigger part of the IDP landscape in years to come.
Bengals linebacker Germaine Pratt got his first start but played just 69% of the snaps against the Raiders. With Preston Brown gone, we can expect that number to climb as he eases into the starting role.
49ers linebacker Dre Greenlaw has been a full-time player and has eight and 10 tackles respectively in his last two contests. He may still be out there in your league and is worth grabbing if he is.
Chicago linebacker Roquan Smith finally had the breakout game for which his general managers have been hoping. His 11 tackles and one interception was his highest output in a game this year. With a good tackle-generating matchup on tap with the Giants, we will see if this becomes a trend.
Speaking of Chicago linebackers, it turns out that Nick Kwiatkoski may not be the full-time fill-in for Danny Trevathan that we had anticipated. Playing only 65% of the time was not what general managers imagined when they picked him up. Hold on to Kwiatkoski, but he needs to be benched to determine if this was a one-off game plan to deal with the Rams, or if this was how the Bears intend to go forward in Trevathan’s absence.
Jets linebacker Neville Hewitt returned after a long time away rehabbing a neck injury. He was a full-time player against Washington. The other full-time linebacker was James Burgess Jr. It was Brandon Copeland who was the odd man out, registering just 15 snaps on the day. Copeland is droppable, while Hewitt and Burgess will continue to be serviceable for general managers.
Rams safety Taylor Rapp’s playing time was down to 80% against the Bears, but he still managed eight tackles and a pass defended. Hopefully, the playing time was matchup related and not an indication of how Los Angeles intends to deploy Rapp from here on out.
Washington safety Montae Nicholson is back from an ankle injury and played full-time snaps against the Jets. He should be back in consideration for those who need help at the position.
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Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence hurt his left shoulder and we are awaiting more information. He is questionable for week twelve.
49ers defensive end Dee Ford strained his hamstring and is doubtful for the upcoming week.
Dolphins corner Bobby McCain is banged up with an AC joint sprain and looks doubtful to play this week.
Steelers corner Artie Burns hurt his knee. His status for the upcoming game against the Bengals is questionable.
Texans corner Lonnie Johnson went down with a foot injury. It is unknown if he will be able to suit up against the Colts this week.
Vikings star safety Harrison Smith hurt his hamstring. He will have the bye week to rest it but might be out for a longer period of time, given the injury.
Texans safety Justin Reid injured his right shoulder and is unlikely to be available for week twelve.
Cleveland safety Morgan Burnette tore his ACL and is out for the season.
Detroit safety Tracy Walker hurt his knee in week eleven and it does not appear he will go in week twelve.
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Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
Cincinnati surrendered five sacks in their last game and is averaging 3.6 per game on the year. Expect T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Cameron Heyward to spend a lot of time teeing off on Ryan Lindley in this one.
Indianapolis Colts Pass Rushers vs. Houston Texans Offensive Line
Houston just gave up an astounding seven-sack game to the Ravens and managed to get Deshaun Watson’s ankle twisted in the process. While Watson should play this week, we can expect more of the same from a putrid offensive line surrendering 3.2 sacks per game. One has to like the chances of Jabaal Sheard or Justin Houston getting to Watson this week.
Cleveland Browns Pass Rushers vs. Miami Dolphins Offensive Line
While the Browns no longer have Myles Garret for the remainder of the season, that should not matter against a team that is surrendering a league-worst 4.2 sacks a game. Olivier Vernon (if healthy enough to play) and Chad Thomas are respectable plays this week.
Lions Pass Rushers vs. Washington Offensive Line
The Jets were able to light up Washington for six sacks, although three of those came from safety Jamal Adams. It is difficult to predict where pressure will be coming from in Matt Patricia’s multiple-front defense, but suffice it to say that Trey Flowers and Devon Kennard probably have the best chance of the bunch to register a sack against this weak group.
Oakland Raiders Pass Rushers vs. New York Jets Offensive Line
The Jets surprisingly gave up only two sacks against Washington, but they should become more generous against a Raiders pass rush that seems to be really coming into its own. The Jets have given up 4.1 sacks per game on the year. Maxx Crosby, Benson Mayowa, and Clelin Ferrell’s chances of getting sacks are elevated.
Chicago Bears Pass Rushers vs. New York Giants Offensive Line
The Giants hemorrhaged six sacks in their last contest and are probably in line to do the same against the Bears’ above-average pass rush. Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, and interior lineman Roy Robertson-Harris should all be in your lineups wherever you have them.
Saints Pass Rushers vs. Carolina Panthers Offensive Line
Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport need to be priority additions to your lineups. Carolina gave up five sacks against Atlanta, a pass rush that had done little outside of the last two weeks. The Panthers are ranked 27th in the league in terms of sacks allowed with 3.4 a game. That is a recipe for success for a more accomplished group of Saints pass rushers.
Atlanta Falcons Pass Rushers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line
Atlanta Falcons Defensive Backs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Attack
A resurgence of the defense and a good matchup make your Atlanta Falcons pass rushers worth consideration, but they are not auto-starts if you have better options. That means Vic Beasley Jr and Takkarist McKinley stand to benefit from this favorable contest in which they face off against an offensive line giving up 3.6 sacks per game. Additionally, Jameis Winston cannot seem to stop throwing interceptions and leads the league by a mile with a whopping 18. Desmond Trufant, Isaiah Oliver, Kemal Ishmael, and Ricardo Allen all get a bump in probability this week of coming up with one.
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers vs. Denver Broncos Offensive Line
The Bills pass rush has been in the column for a solid month, riding a slate of good pass-rushing matchups. This one is not quite as tasty as their last one, but it is still good enough to get a mention. Facing a team that is giving up 3.2 sacks a game on the year should propel Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, and Shaq Lawson to another good day.
Jacksonville Jaguars Pass Rushers vs. Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
Jacksonville will go back to being Sacksonville in a game featuring the Titans, who possess the second-worst offensive line in the league and are giving up sacks at a rate of a whopping 4.2 per game. Calais Campbell, Josh Allen, and Yannick Ngakoue are all worthy to be among your starting lineup.
Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers vs. Los Angeles Rams Offensive Line
Los Angeles continues to slide in the sack categories after losing its starting center for the year and being without its starting right tackle for a few more games. 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.
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Dallas Cowboys Pass Rushers vs. New England Patriots Offensive Line
On top of the fact that the Patriots just do not surrender many sacks, it is concerning that Dallas could be without its best pass rusher if Demarcus Lawrence sits with a shoulder injury. If you have other choices, sit Lawrence and Robert Quinn for this week.