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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Seahawks defensive end Jadaveon Clowney has a core muscle strain that kept him from playing in week 12. In his place, Ezekiel Ansah played almost 50% of the snaps and logged a sack and a half. The Vikings matchup is not great for defensive ends, but there are better ones down the stretch. If Clowney misses those, it might be worth picking up Ansah and plugging him in if you need help and he is available.
Jaguars linebacker Quincy Williams is back to playing 100% of the snaps and is on the weak side, the most valuable spot for tackles in this scheme. If he is out there, he is a recommended addition to your teams and will be a solid LB3 for the rest of the way.
It sounds as if Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch could miss the rest of the fantasy season for his general managers. While Sean Lee played only in part-time capacity against the Patriots, one has to imagine he will see more snaps going forward. He has a good matchup in the upcoming week against the Bills and can be a solid fill-in option if you are hurting at the position.
As predicted, when Eagles linebacker Nigel Bradham returned from injury, he played a full-time role while Nate Gerry dipped to a paltry 54%. Gerry can be tossed back to the wire and will be rosterable again only if Bradham gets reinjured.
Giants safety Jabrill Peppers suffered a transverse process fracture in his back and will be out for the remainder of the season. It is a shame, as he had been having a good year for his fantasy general managers.
Washington edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan is currently in the concussion protocol.
Dontari Poe, interior defensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers, has a significant quad tear that will sideline him for the remainder of the season.
Cornerback Jason McCourty of the Patriots strained his groin and is questionable for the upcoming week.
The Jaguars’ Ronnie Harrison sustained a concussion in the Titans game, leading to more playing time for Tre Herndon and Andrew Wingard. We will see if he clears the protocol in time for the upcoming contest against Tampa Bay.
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Chicago Bears Pass Rushers vs. Detroit Lions Offensive Line
The Lions have been in the middle of the pack this year in terms of sacks surrendered, but are starting to come unraveled. They gave up six to Washington, who do not have a particularly strong pass rush at present. We know that the Bears are stronger in that category and will probably get to Jeff Driskel a good bit on Sunday. Expect Khalil Mack, Leonard Floyd, and interior lineman Roy Robertson-Harris to embarrass the Lions this week.
New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers vs. Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line
After having a solid outing against the Panthers, the Falcons regressed and gave up six sacks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The team is slumping and it is fair to expect the Saints to do some damage against a unit that is giving up 2.8 sacks a game on the year. For the second week in a row, Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport need to be in your lineups.
Indianapolis Colts Pass Rushers vs. Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
Surprisingly, the Titans gave away just one sack to the Jaguars and the game got out of hand quickly for Jacksonville in the opening minutes of the second half. The Colts are a more disciplined team and we know that the Titans’ offensive line that has surrendered an average 3.9 sacks a game is not suddenly going to turn it around for the remainder of the season. Jabaal Sheard and Justin Houston are above-average plays this week.
New York Jets Pass Rushers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
Cincinnati Bengals Pass Rushers vs. New York Jets Offensive Line
This is a matchup in which both offensive lines have been suspect for most of the year. The Jets do not have an especially fierce pass rush, but the Bengals just gave up four to the Steelers and continue to be generous in terms of sacks allowed to each team they face. The Jets actually did a good job of mitigating the red-hot Raiders pass rush, but that will prove to be a one-week wonder. Jordan Jenkins is not a must-play, but he is a better option than normal here. Safety Jamaal Adams leads the teams in sacks and could come up with another one here. On the Bengals side, one has to like the idea of playing Carlos Dunlap and Sam Hubbard here.
Cleveland Browns Pass Rushers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Line
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers vs. Cleveland Browns Offensive Line
The Steelers have been among the better units in the league this year, giving up only 1.6 sacks a game to opponents. However, we need to consider that they are missing their center due to suspension and that they just surrendered three sacks to the Bengals in their last contest. It is a good idea to play Olivier Vernon (assuming he plays) and Chad Thomas if you have them. On the other side of this contest, it is smart to play T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Cameron Heyward. They will benefit from going up against a line that is better than it was at the season’s beginning but still ranks in the bottom half of the NFL in terms of protecting its quarterback.
Philadelphia Eagles Pass Rushers vs. Miami Dolphins Offensive Line
Derek Barnett, Brandon Graham, and Fletcher Cox need to be in our lineups this week against football’s worst offensive line in terms of protecting its quarterback. The Dolphins are now the only team averaging over four sacks a game on the year.
Washington Pass Rushers vs. Carolina Panthers Offensive Line
If Ryan Kerrigan is able to suit up, you might think about playing him against a Carolina Panthers offensive line that just gave up four sacks to the Saints and has been reeling on the year, allowing 3.5 sacks a game on average. Matt Ionaidas and Jonathan Allen also are better considerations at their respective positions than normal.
Jacksonville Jaguars Defensive Backs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Attack
Jacksonville Jaguars Pass Rush vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line
The Jaguars looked demoralized on defense against the Titans on Sunday and it certainly has hurt their pass coverage to lose Jalen Ramsey. Still, chances are good for any defensive back facing Jameis Winston in a given week because of his propensity to turn over the football once or twice a game. AJ Bouye and Jarrod Wilson are the most likely beneficiaries, but Tre Herndon and Andrew Wingard (assuming Ronnie Harrison is out) could also get one here. Also look out for Calais Campbell, Josh Allen, and Yannick Ngakoue to make big play impact in terms of potential sacks or forced fumbles against a team that is giving up 3.3 sacks a game on the year.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers vs. New York Giants Offensive Line
It has been a while since Green Bay has appeared in this part of the column, in part because of unfavorable matchups. That will not be the case this week. Za’Darius and Preston Smith should splash in this one against a Giants line that is giving up over three sacks a game on the season.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers vs. Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
Aaron Donald, Dante Fowler Jr, Clay Matthews, and Michael Brockers all have an excellent chance of getting a sack in this divisional matchup. The Cardinals, though prolific on offense, are giving up 3.3 a game on average, including four in their last contest before the bye.
New England Patriots Pass Rushers vs. Houston Texans Offensive Line
It is tough to figure out which ones it will be, but Jamie Collins Sr, Kyle Van Noy, and Dont’a Hightower all have an elevated chance of sacking Deshaun Watson this week. The Texans gave up just one sack in their last contest against the Colts; but one has to believe their line, which is surrendering three sacks a game on average, will decompensate again against one of the better defenses in football.
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Dallas Cowboys Pass Rushers vs. Buffalo Bills Offensive Line
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers vs. Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line
For the second week in a row, Dallas gets a bad draw in terms of facing a team that does not often give up sacks. Conversely, the Bills, who have had favorable pass-rushing matchups for a month straight, will run into a brick wall here. This game is not one in which to expect sacks for Demarcus Lawrence, Robert Quinn, Jerry Hughes, Trent Murphy, or Shaq Lawson.
Panthers Pass Rushers vs. Washington Offensive Line
Though Washington has been bad, Carolina is not getting home against quarterbacks as much as they would like and they have lost some bulk along the interior of the line that will hurt their outside rushers. Do not expect much from Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin, Mario Addison, or Brian Burns this week.
Raiders Pass Rushers vs. Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Line
The Raiders hot pass rush went cold against the Jets last week and they will continue to cool against Patrick Mahomes II and a bye-week-rested line that has given up only 1.7 sacks a game. Sit Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrel this week.