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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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Carolina Defensive end Brian Burns started the year hot, but he cooled to the point that he saw only seven snaps, hitting a season-low on Sunday. We have to think that better days are ahead, but they will be in 2020 and beyond.
Speaking of future potential, Devin Bush played 83% of the snaps this past week, signaling that the Steelers may be ramping him up for greater responsibility next year.
If you need an edge-rushing linebacker for your championship matchup, consider adding Washington’s Ryan Anderson. Ryan Kerrigan was placed on IR weeks ago and Anderson has been filling in. In that span, Anderson has four sacks and five forced fumbles in five games. He has a favorable matchup against the Giants at home so that hot streak could very well continue.
49ers cornerback Emmanuel Moseley might be someone to grab if you need corner help for your championship game. He is filling in for an injured Richard Sherman currently and recorded seven solo tackles in a great matchup on Sunday. He will have another favorable one coming up against the Rams.
Seattle Linebacker Bobby Wagner injured his ankle and his status for week 16 is currently up in the air.
Seattle free safety Quandre Diggs sprained his ankle and is most likely unavailable for the upcoming contest.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Rushers vs. Houston Texans Offensive Line
Houston Texans Pass Rushers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line
Houston Texans Defensive Backs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Attack
This is a tilt in which both sides have been among the worst in the league at protecting their quarterback all year, but each team did a reasonable job of it in their last contest. I expect both offensive lines to come unraveled here and be more like they have been all season. Whitney Mercilus, DJ Reeder, and Brenan Scarlett are worth a look on the Texans’ side of things, while Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett are the only two on the Buccaneers’ team we should think about slotting into our lineups. Also, it would not be a Buccaneers football game without Jameis Winston throwing at least one interception. We can look for Bradley Roby, Tashaun Gipson, or Justin Reid to have an increased chance of catching one of those.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers vs. New York Jets Offensive Line
The Jets did hold up better than expected against the Ravens; but then again, the Ravens jumped out to a big lead early and played prevent defense for the rest of the contest. The Steelers do not have that kind of offensive firepower, so they will have to rely more on their defense to get this done. T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, and Cameron Heyward are all strong plays this week.
Indianapolis Colts Pass Rushers vs. Carolina Panthers Offensive Line
The Panthers’ line has been hemorrhaging all year and Greg Little landing on injured reserve cannot help as Carolina prepares to deal with a pass rush that has been opportunistic in getting to the quarterback this year. The Colts get the added bonus of going up against rookie quarterback Will Grier. Justin Houston is an auto-start this week. Jabaal Sheard and Denico Autry should also be strongly considered.
Cincinnati Bengals Pass Rushers vs. Miami Dolphins Offensive Line
The Bengals have not been winning, but their pass rush has been on something of a hot streak. Last week, they managed two sacks against the Patriots, which is surprising given how good New England’s protections have been this year. Against a much weaker offensive line, we should see Sam Hubbard and Carlos Dunlap get into the sack column yet again this week.
Ravens Pass Rushers vs. Cleveland Browns Offensive Line
The Browns seem to be unraveling and that is the perfect script for a big game from an opposing pass rush. Matt Judon is probably the most likely of the group to benefit, as he is most consistently on the field. Tyus Bowser is a fine desperation play and got to the quarterback last week, despite playing less than half the time.
Jaguars Pass Rushers vs. Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line
The Jaguars may be a mess on offense, but their defense continues to be fairly prolific in terms of generating sacks. Yannick Ngakoue and Calais Campbell are safe plays against an Atlanta defense that is giving up over three a game on average.
Washington Pass Rushers vs. New York Giants Offensive Line
Broncos Pass Rushers vs. Detroit Lions Offensive Line
The Broncos have been coming on defensively for the past two weeks and are red hot just in time for a matchup with a team headed in the opposite direction. Von Miller is worth starting here and Shelby Miller is worth consideration if you are desperate for help and need to take a stab at a high-upside play.
Seahawks Pass Rushers vs. Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
The Cardinals did not allow a sack last game, but that has been an outlier this year. I expect a team surrendering an average of 3.4 a game to regress against a better pass-rushing unit than they faced last week. Jadaveon Clowney, Jarran Reed, and Rasheem Green are solid plays at their respective positions this week.
San Francisco 49ers Defensive Backs vs. Los Angeles Rams Passing Attack
Though they have not been allowing sacks, the Rams have given up plenty of pressure and Jared Goff has not dealt optimally with that, throwing 15 interceptions on the year. The 49ers may not sack Goff, but expect a lot of pressure and possible turnovers. Emmanuel Moseley, Akhello Witherspoon, and Jimmy Ward all have an elevated chance of getting a turnover here. Assuming Jaquiski Tartt cannot play with his rib injury, Marcel Harris continues to be a solid start as well.
Baltimore Ravens Defensive Backs vs. Cleveland Browns Passing Attack
The Ravens have been in the middle of the pack in terms of generating sacks, but they are getting pressures. I expect Baker Mayfield to add to his 17-interception total, meaning that Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Earl Thomas, and Chuck Clark all have a better chance at snagging one this week.
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Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers vs. New England Patriots Offensive Line
The Bills will spend the second straight week in Insufficient Funds on a bad matchup with the Patriots offensive line that still ranks among the top ten despite giving up two sacks to the Bengals last week. Jerry Hughes needs to find the fantasy bench unless you have no better options. It does not help that Shaq Lawson and Trent Murphy seem to be in a timeshare that makes both unstartable in this matchup.
San Francisco 49ers Pass Rushers vs. Los Angeles Rams Offensive Line
In what looks like a lost season for the Rams, they will want to play tough against their divisional foe and they have been one of the best units in the league at preventing sacks, despite having a banged-up line most of the way. It’s hard to bench Nick Bosa, but it would be a wise move. Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner are not recommended here either.
Philadelphia Eagles Pass Rushers vs. Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line
The Eagles pass rushers have been stone cold the past two weeks and they will have to face a team that is the best in the NFL in terms of not allowing sacks. It is notable that the Cowboys held Aaron Donald and company to no sacks last week, too. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, and Derek Barnett are inadvisable options this week.