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.
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Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was added to the COVID-19 list and will miss week 12’s contest. Week 13 is also in question.
Dolphins linebacker Jerome Baker’s playing time slid to 31% this week. General managers have probably stopped playing him, but feel free to drop him if better options can be found on your waiver wire.
Linebacker Alex Singleton has been great for the Eagles, but it looks as if Nate Gerry might be ready to return soon. We will see if Singleton replaces Gerry in the lineup or if the coaching staff will give veteran preference to Gerry.
Could the Patriots be giving edge rusher Chase Winovich a bigger role? His playing time has increased over the past two games. While we know how variable the Patriots can be in terms of how they deploy defensive personnel from week to week, it is nice to see that Winovich may be starting to have a role that will be good for those needing to spot start him in leagues.
While Raiders linebacker Corey Littleton remains sidelined, Nicholas Morrow has been able to become a full-time player and do well with his opportunity. All bets are off when Littleton re-enters the lineup, but needy general managers can ride Morrow until Littleton is ready to come back.
Jayon Brown’s injury with the Titans opens up a great opportunity for either David Long Jr or Will Compton. While the Titans went with Compton in Week 11, it could very well end up being Long in Week 12, for he missed the contest while on the COVID list. Long is more athletic and better suited to play the roles that Brown was being asked to fill. Whoever ends up getting the full-time nod will have lots of tackle opportunities on a defense that has a hard time getting off the field and gives up sustained drives with regularity. Furthermore, Brown’s injury will make Rashaan Evans a full-time player. He has not been stellar this year, but perhaps increased playing time will make up for his average play.
This past week’s contest gave us clarity on the Steelers linebacker situation, but it was not the answer for which we were hoping. Snap counts from last week remained virtually unchanged, with Avery Williamson doing just enough to keep Robert Spillane from being a truly full-time player. Spillane is the one to play going forward if desperate, but really he should be relied upon only if the tackle matchup is favorable.
$ INJURY SETTLEMENTS $
Sadly, there were some very significant IDP injuries across the league this past week.
Texans defensive tackle P.J. Hall injured his chest and did not return to the game.
Los Angeles Chargers edge defender Uchenna Nwosu was knocked out of Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury. It is uncertain if he will be ready for Week 12.
The Eagles’ defensive end Derek Barnett injured his knee and did not come back into the game.
Jaguars defensive end Josh Allen left Sunday’s action with a knee injury.
The Titans’ linebacker Jayon Brown will miss the remainder of the season with an elbow fracture and dislocation.
Eagles cornerback Cre'Von LeBlanc injured his ankle.
Jaguars cornerback D.J. Hayden hurt his knee and did not return to the game against the Steelers.
The Browns’ safety Ronnie Harrison injured his knee.
Jaguars safety Daniel Thomas hurt his arm.
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Houston Texans Pass Rushers versus Detroit Lions Offensive Line
Detroit Lions Pass Rushers versus Houston Texans Offensive Line
The Lions are giving up 2.4 sacks a game and the Texans are giving up a whopping 2.9 sacks a game. That is reason enough to believe this could be a sack fest. P.J. Hall, J.J. Watt, and Whitney Mercilus are the picks on the Texans' side to come up with a big play. Jamie Collins Sr is the only one on the Lions side that can be recommended with confidence due to variable snap counts from week to week for the other defenders.
Dallas Cowboys Pass Rushers versus Washington Football Team Offensive Line
Washington Football Team Pass Rushers versus Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line
Both offensive lines are struggling and both should give up multiple sacks to their opponents in this contest. Jonathan Allen, Chase Young, and Montez Sweat are the best choices to start on the Washington side. For the Cowboys, start Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and perhaps even Aldon Smith if you need to take a shot at registering a big play.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers versus Baltimore Ravens Offensive Line
The Ravens line has been hit hard by injury and it is bad timing, as they are about to go up against the top pass-rush unit in the NFL. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree, or T.J. Watt have the best chance at bringing down Lamar Jackson.
Los Angeles Chargers Pass Rushers versus Buffalo Bills Offensive Line
Buffalo Bills Offensive Line versus Los Angeles Chargers Pass Rushers
Both teams are middle-of-the-pack in terms of protecting their quarterback, allowing on average about two sacks a game. That is about what we can expect of the pass rushers on either side of this contest. Linval Joseph, Joey Bosa, and Melvin Ingram III are the plays on the Chargers' side of the slate. The Bills’ Jerry Hughes, Ed Oliver, and Mario Addison are the most likely to pick up sacks.
Indianapolis Colts Pass Rushers versus Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
The Titans are spiraling and part of that spiral is because of all the injuries they have had along their starting offensive line. Playing backup-caliber players like Ty Sambrailo, Jamil Douglas, and Dennis Kelly is causing this earlier-solid unit to slide and allow more sacks, pressures, and quarterback hits. Justin Houston, DeForest Buckner, Denico Autry (if back from the COVID list), and Darius Leonard are the most likely candidates to end up with a sack or other big play.
Minnesota Vikings Pass Rushers versus Carolina Panthers Offensive Line
The Vikings have picked it up in the last several weeks and now face a team that is allowing 2.1 sacks a game and probably will be trotting out P.J. Walker once again this week. D.J. Wonnum and Ifeadi Odenigbo could very well end up with a sack or two in this scenario.
Cleveland Browns Pass Rushers versus Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Line
Sheldon Richardson, Larry Ogunjobi, and Olivier Vernon are the best bets to log a sack in this contest that pits one of the more prolific pass rush units in the league against a team giving up 3.1 sacks a game on average. However, not having Myles Garrett will hurt.
Miami Dolphins Pass Rushers versus New York Jets Offensive Line
One has to feel a little bit sorry for the Jets, who are going to get absolutely blasted by a surging Miami Dolphins team. Christian Wilkins, Emanuel Ogbah, Shaq Lawson, Jerome Baker, and Kyle Van Noy are all decent options if general managers need to shoot for big-play upside this week.
New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers versus Denver Broncos Offensive Line
New Orleans Saints Defensive Backs versus Drew Lock
Drew Lock or someone else? It does not matter. The Broncos line, giving up roughly 2.6 sacks per outing, will likely once again let down whichever signal-caller gets the start. Cameron Jordan, Trey Hendrickson, and Marcus Davenport are the best candidates to notch a sack in this faceoff. Also, look for one of Marcus Lattimore (if healthy enough to go), Janoris Jenkins, Marcus Williams, and Malcolm Jenkins to come up with a misplaced pass opportunity. Drew Lock has thrown a whopping 11 interceptions and is likely to be pressured into one or more in this contest.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers versus San Francisco 49ers Offensive
The banged-up 49ers face off against a pass rush that has been resurgent in recent weeks. No one needs to tell general managers to start Aaron Donald. Leonard Floyd is a recommended start and Michael Brockers is a nice upside play for managers who need a longshot to hit.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers versus Chicago Bears Offensive Line
Whether it is Nick Foles, Mitchell Trubisky, or Tyler Bray starting, this matchup is sure to produce some sacks between an offensive line giving up 2.5 sacks a game. Preston Smith, Zadarius Smith, and perhaps even Kenny Clark could get a sack in this faceoff.
Seattle Seahawks Pass Rushers versus Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
Seattle Seahawks Defensive Backs versus Carson Wentz
Only three Seahawks are likely to benefit from this juicy sack matchup-- Jarran Reed, Jamal Adams, and Carlos Dunlap. Adams is also likely to join Quandre Diggs, Shaq Griffin (if he is healthy enough to play), and Tre Flowers as defensive backs who have a greater chance than normal of coming away with an interception. Carson Wentz is throwing 1.4 interceptions a game on average, a mark that has been surpassed only by Denver’s quarterback stable.
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Kansas City Chiefs Pass Rushers versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Rushers versus Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Line
Do not expect many sacks to be traded between these two teams that have been excellent at protecting their quarterbacks this year. Kansas City is surrendering only 1.3 sacks a game and Tampa Bay is not far behind that mark at 1.4 sacks per game.