Budda Baker has put together a string of four games with at least 16 fantasy points. With the Cardinals on bye this week, he will have some time to cool down, but the biggest reason not to expect the streak to continue in week 13 is the run of matchups Arizona will return to. Their last four games of the fantasy season are against the Rams, Steelers, Browns, and Seahawks who are all mediocre matchups.
As a followup on last week’s column, Haason Reddick played 45% of the snaps against San Francisco and did virtually nothing in the box score, while Joe Walker finished with four tackles and an assist on 56% of the playing time. Avoid this situation going forward.
Jalen Thompson has played 158 of a possible 162 snaps over the last two games, putting up 11 solo tackles and an interception for two solid fantasy scores in those games. Deionte Thompson was out with an injury in week 10 but saw no action despite being active on Sunday. It would appear he has laid claim to the full time starting gig at safety.
What a difference the bye week can make. Atlanta had eight sacks over their first eight games and struggled greatly on defense through the first half of the season. In two games after the bye, they have been a completely different unit. In the last two games, the Falcons have collected 11 sacks, including six against the Saints who generally protect their quarterback well. The biggest box score winners for Atlanta have been the pass rushers, and they have another good matchup this week against a Buccaneers offense that has allowed 18 sacks over the last five games.
This turn of events makes Vic Beasley Jr an interesting option for week 12, along with whoever is healthy enough to start opposite him. Takkarist McKinley left Sunday’s game early with a shoulder injury. Adrian Clayborn came on and played well, notching his third sack since the bye before suffering a groin injury.
Managers in corner required leagues may want to give Desmond Trufant some consideration this week. He is coming off a big game with six tackles, an assist, and a pick, and should draw Mike Evans most of the time this week.
DeVondre Campbell was back to a 92% share of the playing time in week eleven, suggesting his low snap count from week 10 was an outlier.
This is a good week to plug James Bradberry into your lineup. The Panthers have been using Bradberry against their opponent’s best receiver on most weeks and we know how much Drew Brees likes to target Michael Thomas.
Nick Kwiatkoski turned out to be a major tease. When Danny Trevathan went down, Kwiatkoski came on and played virtually every snaps the rest of the game. With a week to prepare, the Bears elected to use him as more of a two-down base package guy. The result was a marginal stat line of 3-1-0 on 36 of a possible 55 snaps. If you picked him up, throw him back even if Trevathan is not ready to return.
Speaking of Trevathan, the Bears have been rather quiet about his elbow injury. Judging by the awkward way he landed when the injury happened and the gruesome way his arm bent, it is a surprise he was not placed on IR already. If Trevathan is able to return, it will probably be too late for IDP managers to get any help from him.
For those dynasty managers already starting to look to the future, Germaine Pratt is a guy you might want to stash. He is still not playing full time but his role has grown in recent weeks. With the release of Preston Brown, Pratt logged almost 70% of the playing time against Oakland. He was 2-4 in the box score but was a clear improvement over Brown on the field. Pratt has five more games to audition and convince the organization he can be the starting middle linebacker.
The fallout from Thursday night’s debacle is going to leave the Browns defense short-handed for the rest of the season. Starting from the secondary and moving forward, the team lost Morgan Burnett to an Achilles injury that landed him on IR this week. With Damarious Randall ejected for a bad hit on Diontae Johnson, Cleveland finished the game with corners Justin Burris and Travis Carrie playing safety.
Randall’s punishment will likely consist of time served (ejection) so he should be on the field this week. Burris is the likely candidate to replace Burnett with Carrie serving as the fifth defensive back in sub-packages. It will be interesting to see if Randall shifts over to strong safety the rest of the way. He is already a player that should be on a roster in most leagues. As a strong safety, he could be an every-week must start going forward.
With Olivier Vernon nursing an injury and inactive again, Chad Thomas made a second consecutive start in week 11. The suspension of Myles Garrett will keep Thomas in the lineup going forward. Thomas has made a strong showing so far with a combined five tackles and two sack in those two starts. If your waiver wire is thin and you lost Garrett, Thomas is a good target for a replacement.
Word out of the Browns organization suggests Vernon may be close to getting back on the field. He is far from a lock to go this week and if he does play, it will likely be at less than 100%. If Vernon sits one more week, look for Chris Smith to start opposite Thomas.
Larry Ogunjobi is appealing his one-game suspension but chances are he will be watching from the couch this week with Garrett. This is a big loss for the Browns and for IDP managers in leagues requiring interior linemen. Devaroe Lawrence has been the third man in the rotation at tackle for much of the season. Look for him to make the start next to Sheldon Richardson this week.
Demarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn are the clear starters at end for the Cowboys but Michael Bennett is making an impact. He was 2-1-2 against the Lions on Sunday and is 7-1-3 on more than 60% of the snaps in three games with the Cowboys. Versatility, and particularly the ability as an inside pass rusher, allows Bennett to stay on the field a lot. He can spell the starters on the outside and has seen a lot of action from the tackle position. The bottom line here being, Bennett is a good player in a great situation and is getting enough opportunity to be a quality contributor for IDP managers down the stretch.
Tracy Walker was back on the field in week 11 but he only lasted 23 plays before aggravating the sore knee that kept him out of the two previous games. Other than the fact he was held out of practice on Wednesday, there has been no update on his expected availability for week 12. Even if Walker plays, he should not be counted on for much. Will Harris would get the call to start again but he has been far less productive than Walker at the position. knee injury. knee
Trey Flowers left Sunday’s game to be evaluated for a concussion. He looked fine at the time but check out the team’s practice reports later in the week just to be safe.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay’s linebackers and safeties have a juicy matchup this week against San Francisco. Blake Martinez could be the fantasy game’s top linebacker with this matchup and Adrian Amos is a must-start; especially if George Kittle returns as anticipated. Darnell Savage is also a solid play in this one. Heck, even B. J. Goodson could have a decent game. Most opponents have used a lot of base defensive sets against the 49ers, so at the least Goodson is likely to be on the field more than normal.
Brennan Scarlett had done little with previous opportunities, but he has really stepped up recently. He does not play defensive end but is 13-5-3 with a forced fumble over the last three games with J.J. Watt out.
Justin Reid has been bothered by a sore shoulder for much of the season. He has battled through it but it has clearly had a negative effect on his production. This week he adds another injury or two to the list. On Monday Reid was listed as a non-participant due to a hamstring, then on Tuesday, he showed up on as did not practice with a concussion/shoulder. The bottom line here is that Reid is far from 100% heading into this week’s matchup with the Colts. In fact, managers in re-draft leagues should go ahead and move on from him if you have not already done so.
The soap opera continues at the Colts safety positions where Marvell Tell III and Malik Hooker were the full-time guys in week 11. They may have played three safeties on virtually every snap had Khari Willis not been forced out with a concussion in the second half. In all, five safeties played at least 24 snaps against the Jaguars.
Many of us were caught by surprise when Darius Leonard gave us almost nothing in week 11. There is nothing to see here other than a fluke week for linebackers. Leonard played all but two snaps in the game and there has been no word of an injury. He just had an off game like a lot of other top-20 linebackers.
Rock Ya-Sin was well on his way to a huge game against the Jaguars before leaving with an ankle injury. On 29 plays he had five tackles, an assist, and an interception. The rookie has given us solid numbers since week five, with at least five solo stops in four of the last six games. If he has found a spot in your starting lineup of late, keep an eye on his status later in the week and be prepared for him to sit. Keep an eye on Pierre Desir also. He is practicing on a limited basis the week and may be able to go against Houston. If both Desir and Ya-Sin are available, Ya-Sin likely returns to slot duties where he worked early in the season.
Los Angeles Chargers
The situation surrounding Drue Tranquill is confusing. He had a role in every game from week four on, including playing every snap in week ten. Tranquill looked solid in his first start, putting up good numbers. He missed some practice time last week with a calf injury leading up to the Monday night game but was not on the Friday injury report before being a surprise inactive against the Chiefs. As of Wednesday early afternoon, there has been no explanation from the team on this turn of events. Maybe the calf tightened up in warmups? For dynasty managers that picked up Tranquill last week, I suggest you sit tight, until we get more information. Unfortunately, we are not likely to hear much while the team is on bye.
What we do know is Jatavis Brown finally got back on the field for the first time since week six and had a significant role for the first time this season. He played 72% of the snaps against Kansas City, with the second-highest snap count among chargers linebackers behind Thomas Davis. Denzell Perryman returned for this game but had a small role with 21 snaps. Hopefully, the team will give us something to help sort out this mess before this week’s games.
Adrian Phillips has been designated to return from his forearm injury. He should practice this week with the potential to be activated for week 13.
Los Angeles Rams
Before you go looking for something to explain the missing numbers from Cory Littleton’s week 11 box score, he is not hurt. Littleton is just another victim of the fantasy karma that struck at the linebacker position. And no matter how bad it seems on Monday morning, someone else always has it worse. For example; you could have played Littleton, Darius Leonard, and Jamie Collins Sr as I did in a seven-point loss.
The Dolphins have shut down Bobby McCain and Reshad Jones for the year, placing both safeties on injured reserve Wednesday. Eric Rowe has been working at safety for a while now and will continue to do so full time going forward. With Xavien Howard and Ken Webster also sidelined, Jomal Wiltz and Nic Needham are the starting corners with Steven Parker next in line to see the majority of the action at the other safety spot and Ken Crawley in the nickel role.
Needham and Wiltz are guys worth taking a look at, especially in corner required leagues. Needham has produced quality numbers in three consecutive games with a total of 17 tackles, 4 assists, a sack, a forced fumble, five passes defended and an interception in those three games. Wiltz is 16-6-0 with a pick and an additional pass breakup over that same span of games.
Both Minnesota starting safeties are nursing injuries heading into the bye week. Anthony Harris missed last week with a groin injury and Harrison Smith left during the second half of Sunday’s game with a hamstring issue. Andrew Sendejo and Jayron Kearse would fill in at strong and free safety respectively if the bye week is not enough to get Harris and Smith healthy.
New England Patriots
Jamie Collins Sr was on fire over the first half of the season, culminating in a 12-1-1.5 performance against his former team (Cleveland) in week eight. In two games since he has three tackles, an assist, and a pass breakup. Over the first half of the season, Kyle Van Noy was sporadic at best with a couple of strong games and several near goose eggs. In the last two games, it seems the linebackers have changed roles with Van Noy turning in a pair of productive outings. He has five tackles and either a sack or turnover in each of those games. Dallas is a strong matchup for linebackers in general. Unfortunately, there is no rhyme or reason with the production of these two, so starting either of them is a boom or bust gamble with a high ceiling and a bottomless floor.
New Orleans Saints
As we approach the end of our regular season, the time has come for dynasty managers to start looking for gems to stash. Kiko Alonso is one of the guys to target in this situation. This guy is a starting-caliber player and a guy that can play all three downs. The Saints have not yet moved him into a full-time role but an offseason with the team could change their approach. In fact, his role might be considerably bigger before the end of this season. Alonso has now played more snaps than A.J. Klein in two of the last four games, including week 11 when he saw action on 45 plays compared to Klein’s 29. Alonso has also shown good production in his limited action going 5-1-0 on 35 snaps against the Falcons in week 10 and 6-0-0 with a pass breakup against Tampa Bay, despite the fact they ran the ball all of six times.
New York Jets
The Jets have not yet placed C.J. Mosley on IR but with six games to go in their season and him still not practicing, that decision seems right around the corner. There was some good news for Jets fans as Neville Hewitt returned in week 11. It now looks as if he and James Burgess Jr will remain the starters for the duration. Both are viable starters on any given week and are particularly inviting prospects with this week’s matchup against Oakland. The Raiders have been a great matchup for both linebackers and safeties over the last several weeks.
If you read this column every week you know I have been beating the drum for Maxx Crosby for a while now. I even suggested starting him last week against the Bengals. Anyone following that advice was rewarded with a monster game. I also mentioned Clelin Ferrell as a starter with last week’s matchup. That did not go so well but the important point here is the Raiders have a duo of young edge defenders that are going to do special things over the next several years. So far they have basically taken turns posting good numbers. This may be the week both guys contribute. The Jets are playing better as a whole but they are still a strong matchup for edge defenders.
D.J. Swearinger Sr went from the street to playing a big role for the Raiders in just a few days. He finished 5-2 on 60% the snaps as the team moved away from using three safeties against Cincinnati. Instead, they had corner Nevin Lawson work as the fifth defensive back while Swearinger and CurtisRriley shared the free safety position. Injuries at safety and Swearinger being new to the team limited their options for that game but they may well go back to using three safeties now that Swearinger has been in the system for a full workweek. This is a player that has been relatively productive at times and could provide DB3 value down the stretch.
The Raiders have been making due at middle linebacker but no one is mistaking Nicholas Morrow for an NFL starter. Thus the signing of Preston Brown, after he was recently released by the Bengals. Getting the boot by an 0-10 team is never a good sign, but Brown at has starting experience and at the least is as good as Morrow. We will have to see if the team elects to make a change at the position as they push for a playoff birth.
Over the offseason, Kamu Gugier-Hill was touted as a three-down starter and the Eagles' best linebacker. Now that he has been back for a few games, clearly that is not the case. He played 40 of a possible 74 snaps in week 11, which was his lowest percentage since week six. Now there is talk about Nigel Bradham getting back on the field soon. In fact, Bradham was a full participant in practice on Wednesday and may be available this week.
Nathan Gerry has proven to be the team’s best and by far most productive linebacker. So how will the playing time break down when Bradham returns? As well as Gerry has played it is hard to see his role being reduced. I would expect Bradham and Gerry to play every down or very near to it with Grugier hill getting scraps, but who knows. The only thing we can safely expect is a big role for Bradham in the coming weeks. If you are hurting at the position, this is the time to grab him.
The Bengals are 0-10 heading into this week’s matchup but they have actually played decent football in recent weeks. One big reason they have kept games closer is a renewed commitment to the run game. As a result, Cincinnati has not been the same horrible matchup for safeties and linebackers that they were early in the season. With all the injury and suspension issues Pittsburgh is dealing with at this point, it could actually be a rather competitive game at Paul Brown Stadium this week.
While the matchup is less likely to be a negative factor, there are some issues creating serious distrust with the Steelers inside linebackers. The fact is, we simply cannot trust them at this point. Over the past three weeks, Devin Bush has played 94%, 45%, and 80% of the snaps, while Mark Barron has seen 75%, 92%, and 70% of the action. Vince Williams remains the third wheel at 39%, 14%, and 46%. Williams is not an option at all while both Bush and Barron are just too inconsistent to be depended on unless you are short on options.
San Francisco 49ers
In both NFL and fantasy terms, Dee Ford’s impact has fallen well short of expectations. Thus the hamstring injury he suffered in week 11, which is expected to keep him out a while, is not going to be much of a factor for Ford’s value. Having both he and Ronald Blair III out of the rotation, however, could be a plus for Arik Armstead who has seen about 86% of the playing time over the last two games.
Dre Greenlaw has more than 43 fantasy points in three games as an every-down player. With matchups against the Packers, Ravens, and Saints over the next three weeks, he is very close to a must-start along with Fred Warner.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Devin White has come on of late, posting 13 or more points in three of his last five games including a season-best of 11 tackles against the Saints last week. It is tough to consider benching such a hot player but the Falcons are not a good matchup for linebackers at this point. Throw out the week 10 game with New Orleans and we have Cory Littleton posting three tackles against the Falcons in week seven, Bobby Wagner going 1-5 in the tackles columns in week eight, with Luke Kuechly and Shaq Thompson combining to go 6-7 last week. Between the matchup and the competition for tackles from Lavonte David, There may not be enough opportunity for either linebacker to shine.
The bye week allowed the Titans to get healthy on defense. Both Jayon Brown and Jurell Casey are practicing in full this week and should be back in action against Jacksonville. Groin injuries always make me nervous because they are so easily aggravated, but it is hard to overlook the matchup for Brown, especially if you believe the noise about the Jaguars being more committed to the run going forward.
DaRon Payne suffered an ankle injury in week 11 and is unlikely to go against Detroit. Trevon Hester is the next man up at nose tackle for the Redskins.