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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 about which 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 $
Cardinals’ linebacker Isaiah Simmons’ time to shine may be coming soon. His usage jumped to 52% this week, the highest involvement he has had in a game in his young career. He made the most of it as well, registering four solo tackles.
The Chargers’ linebacker situation is one to avoid for the rest of the season purely because of variable usage that changes from week to week. Do not plug in Kyzir White, Denzel Perryman, or Kenneth Murray unless absolutely desperate.
Jaguars’ linebacker Myles Jack was able to return to duty and he picked up where he left off in terms of productivity. Start him if you have him!
Raiders’ linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski had a big day on Sunday, but do not be fooled. His 13 total tackles came on 78% playing time. He was far less productive with 98% of the snaps last week. Variable playing time and inconsistent output is not a recipe for success in IDP lineups.
Continue to monitor Washington linebacker Cole Holcolmb and perhaps even preemptively stash him on your roster if you have space. His playing time has increased the past three games and was at 90% this past contest. He has also managed at least five total tackles in each of those three contests.
Chiefs’ safety Daniel Sorensen has been a fantasy mirage before. However, at 95% playing time over three of the past four contests and a third straight game of nine total tackles, it may be time to take him seriously in leagues in which safety help is needed.
Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead has become more of a worthy play over the past several weeks. He has played over 70% of snaps in the last four games and put up decent statlines in the last two. If help at safety is what you need, Whitehead might be a viable fill-in at a point in the season when it is hard to find help on the waiver wire.
$ INJURY SETTLEMENTS $
Thankfully, there are not many this week…
Ravens’ defensive end Calais Campbell suffered a calf injury in the first quarter against the Colts and did not return. Head Coach John Harbaugh said later that the injury does not appear to be serious.
Chiefs’ defensive end Taco Charlton fractured his ankle and will be placed on injured reserve.
Texans’ edge rusher Brenan Scarlett suffered a forearm fracture and will presumably be headed to injured reserve.
Lions’ cornerback Jeff Okudah suffered an ankle injury.
$ MONEY IN THE BANK $
Indianapolis Colts Pass Rushers vs. Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
The Titans’ line had been one of the better units in the league, but losing Taylor Lewan and now Roger Saffold has taken its toll. The Titans allowed five sacks to the Bears Sunday and should be generous about allowing them on the short turnaround on Thursday Night Football. Justin Houston, Al-Quadin Muhammad, DeForest Buckner, Denico Autry, and Darius Leonard are the most likely candidates to end up with a sack or other big play.
Cleveland Browns Pass Rushers vs. Houston Texans Offensive Line
A week of rest should be a nice boost to a unit that is averaging 2.5 sacks a game. They will play a team that is giving up three sacks a contest and just gave up two sacks to one of the worst pass rush units in football. Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi, Myles Garrett (if healthy), and Olivier Vernon are the best bets to log a sack in this contest.
Washington Football Team Pass Rushers vs. Detroit Lions Offensive Line
Detroit Lions Pass Rushers vs. Washington Football Team Offensive Line
Both teams rank among the worst in the league at protecting their signal-caller. Washington is a much more aggressive pass rush that just came off a five-sack game. Jonathan Allen, DaRon Payne, Montez Sweat, and Chase Young have a great likelihood of adding to their totals. On the Lions side, Danny Shelton, Romeo Okwara, and Jamie Collins are the best choices to plug in if you need to shoot for a sack.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Rushers vs. Carolina Panthers Offensive Line
Coming off a game in which Tampa was humiliated against the Saints, they will seek to take out their frustrations on the slumping Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have consistently been allowing two sacks per game on average and gave up two in their last contest against the Chiefs. Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul, William Gholston, Devin White, and Shaquille Barrett all have an elevated chance of getting a sack or other big play this week.
Philadelphia Eagles Pass Rushers vs. New York Giants Offensive Line
New York Giants Pass Rushers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
If one likes games full of defensive big plays, this contest promises to be one of interest. Daniel Jones should have his hands full contending with interior lineman Fletcher Cox and pass rushers Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, and perhaps even Vinny Curry. Jones ranks third in interceptions thrown and the constant pressure should cause Jones to toss one or two here to Rodney McLeod, Jalen Mills, or Avonte Maddox. On the other side, Carson Wentz will likely be hitting the turf in the arms of Dalvin Tomlinson, Leonard Williams, or Blake Martinez. James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, Julian Love, and Jabrill Peppers are the most likely to pick one off the NFL’s leading interception producer.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Line
A starting rookie quarterback and an offensive line that has continued to decline as the season has worn on are good reasons to play Packers pass-rushers this week. Kenny Clark, Preston Smith, and Zadarius Smith are the Packers with the best chance to sack Jake Luton this week.
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers vs. Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
Arizona Cardinals Pass Rushers vs. Buffalo Bills Offensive Line
The Bills have been hot lately, especially Jerry Hughes, who has four sacks over his last three games. Hughes, Ed Oliver, and Mario Addison are the most likely to pick up another against Kyler Murray. On the other side of the contest, Arizona is likely to capitalize as well. Their 2.8 sacks per game pair well with the fact the Bills just gave up a whopping seven sacks in their last contest. Corey Peters, Hasson Reddick, and Markus Golden are the most likely Arizona defenders to take down Josh Allen.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers vs. Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
Steelers pass rushers are usually a weekly auto start, but they will be especially effective this week against a team surrendering 3.5 sacks a game. Expect one of Cameron Hayward, Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree, or TJ Watt to get a big play or two in this one.
New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers vs. San Francisco 49ers Offensive Line
Facing a backup quarterback and a depleted offensive group, the Saints pass rushers are in for a good week. Marcus Davenport, Cameron Jordan, and Trey Hendrickson are all recommended options this week.
Minnesota Vikings Pass Rushers vs. Chicago Bears Offensive Line
Chicago Bears Defensive Backs vs. Kirk Cousins
For a pass rush missing Danielle Hunter, the Vikings have done well to put one together that consists of primarily Ifeadi Odenigbo and DJ Wonnum. They will be the two most likely to log a sack against an immobile Nick Foles and a struggling offensive line group. On the other side of the matchup, expect the Bears to be able to apply enough pressure to make Kirk Cousins throw one or more interceptions. Tashaun Gipson, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller, and Jaylon Johnson are the most likely of the group to find themselves snagging one.
$ INSUFFICIENT FUNDS $
Las Vegas Raiders Pass Rushers vs. Denver Broncos Offensive Line
Despite the Raiders getting two sacks in their last contest, do not count on this lacking pass rush repeating that against even a miserable Denver offensive line giving up an average of 2.6 sacks a game.