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.
$ STOCK UP AND BANKRUPT $
Browns defensive end Olivier Vernon returned from injury, but hopefully, you did not start him. Aside from the poor matchup, he was in for only 12 snaps. We cannot trust him again in our lineups until we see a game of full usage.
The Chiefs’ defensive end Tanoh Kpassagnon played 85% of the snaps, even with Alex Okafor returning to action to play for 67% of the time. This may have been a function of Frank Clark leaving due to injury, but it is certainly something to monitor.
Despite a great matchup in which his team pounded the opposing quarterback for six sacks, Colts’ defensive end Justin Houston had a relatively quiet day. This was accounted for by his playing time falling to 55%. It is possible that there is an injury situation that we are not aware of or that age is catching up to the veteran, but general managers might want to make other plans at the position where possible until this resolves one way or the other.
Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquil appears to have taken Denzel Perryman’s job for the time being. He played 74% of the time compared to Perryman’s 26%. However, the Chargers tend to change their playing time for linebackers, so start Tranquil only if you need an upside play.
Titans linebacker Rashaan Evans’ playing time has dipped slightly in the last two weeks to the point he is no longer what we would consider a three-down player. He has played well, but it just seems to be the preference of the coaching staff to not deploy him in this way. He has basically become a play that general managers can make with confidence only when the matchup is good.
It appears Julian Love is the new strong safety for the Giants after Jabrill Peppers’ injury. He played 97% of the snaps and will have plenty of opportunity on a team whose defense will often see the field for the rest of the year.
Chargers safety Derwin James was surprisingly able to return from IR and play a nearly full-time role on Sunday with 98% of the snaps. He is safe to start from here on out if you have managed to hold on to him all year or can get him off waivers.
Kansas City Chiefs’ defensive end Frank Clark suffered a shoulder injury Sunday and did not return to the game. His availability for week fourteen is unknown.
Dallas’ defensive end Michael Bennett has been playing well for his new team, but hurt his foot in their tilt with the Bills. It is uncertain if he will be able to suit up this week.
Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe suffered an elbow dislocation against the Chargers. It is unlikely he will play this week and might be done for the season.
Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker hurt his chest and did not finish the game against Philadelphia. He has a questionable designation to play in the upcoming week at this time.
Jamal Adams played on a hurt left ankle, which was probably the reason he managed just one tackle on the day. He is doubtful for week fourteen.
Cleveland cornerback Greedy Williams strained his hamstring and it is unknown if he will be healed up in time to play this week.
$ MONEY IN THE BANK $
Raiders Pass Rushers vs. Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
The Titans may still be producing on offense and winning games, but their pass blocking unit is getting mauled. They gave up six sacks to the Colts and have now tied the Miami Dolphins in terms of sacks per game average. Maxx Crosby and Clelin Ferrell were sit recommendations last week, but not this time. Get both into your lineups where you have space.
Dolphins Pass Rushers vs. Jets Offensive Line
Jets Pass Rushers vs. Dolphins Offensive Line
This could be a game with a great many sacks, as Miami is the worst unit in the NFL in terms of sack rate and the Jets are a not-too-distant third. For the Jets, Jordan Jenkins is not a must-play, but he is a better option than normal here. On the Miami side, Taco Charlton and Christian Wilkins make for interesting plays.
Carolina Panthers Pass Rushers vs. Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line
Atlanta Falcons Pass Rushers vs. Carolina Offensive Line
Atlanta and Carolina are both sliding teams that cannot seem to protect their quarterbacks right now. Atlanta gave up an eye-popping nine in their last game, while the Panthers were not far behind with seven surrendered. Gerald McCoy, Bruce Irvin, Mario Addison, or Brian Burns are worth thinking about if you need to fill a space in your lineup. To a lesser extent, Atlanta’s rushers and interior linemen are also worth a gamble. Grady Jarrett has been great all year statistically, so start him with confidence. Vic Beasley Jr, Adrian Clayborn, and Takk McKinley are less appealing, but they are high-upside options.
Colts Pass Rushers Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line
The Buccaneers did not turn the ball over as much as they did against the Jaguars but still gave up four sacks. That trend should continue here. As mentioned above, be careful with Justin Houston due to playing time, but he at least has a good matchup. Jabaal Sheard is a strong play this week.
Minnesota Vikings Pass Rushers vs. Detroit Lions Offensive Line
It should be a no-brainer to start Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen most days anyway, but you will especially want to start him in this matchup against a sagging team with little for which to play.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers vs. Washington Offensive Line
Washington just gave up five sacks to the Panthers, sending their sack rate to 3.3 per game on the year. Consequently, Za’Darius and Preston Smith are great plays this week.
Steelers Pass Rushers vs. Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
The Steelers’ defense has carried them this year and they are likely to come up with a big day against Arizona, a team that just surrendered six sacks to the Rams and is giving up 3.5 a game on average. Play T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Cameron Heyward without hesitation.
Philadelphia Eagles Pass Rushers vs. New York Giants Offensive Line
The Eagles as a team are slumping, but this divisional matchup is such that we cannot ignore the potential of Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, and Derek Barnett to add to the 2.9 average that the Giants have already accumulated this season.
$ INSUFFICIENT FUNDS $
Denver Broncos Pass Rush vs. Houston Texans Offensive Line
New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers vs. San Francisco 49ers Offensive Line
San Francisco 49ers Pass Rushers vs. New Orleans Saints Offensive Line
This one looks to be a pass-rushing stalemate between two units that are among the top ten in keeping their quarterbacks upright. It is hard to sit Cam Jordan on the New Orleans side and Joey Bosa on the San Francisco side, but you may think about it if you have better options. The other pass rushers on these respective teams should find the bench.
Kansas City Chiefs Pass Rushers vs. New England Patriots Offensive Line
New England Patriots Pass Rushers vs. Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Line
Like the matchup above it, these two teams are within the top ten in terms of allowing sacks each game. New England did uncharacteristically give up three last game, but they usually bounce back strong with their follow-up performances after a bad game. Chris Jones may be the only player we think about playing here because there are still tackle opportunities against a team that likes to run the ball. Frank Clark is injured and should sit on general managers’ benches even if he suits up. Emmanuel Ogbah and Tanoh Kpassagnon should sit. On the other side of the contest, Jamie Collins Sr, Kyle Van Noy, and Dont’a Hightower are also not appealing this week.