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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Bills linebacker A.J. Klein has played much better later into the season. Filling in for injured Matt Milano, he played 100% of Sundays snaps and put up a whopping 14 tackles to go with 1.5 sacks on the day. As long as he continues to play for Milano, he is startable.
We had hoped for more clarity on the linebacker situation in Tennessee following Jayon Brown’s season-ending injury, but we got very little confirmation this week. Will Compton and David Long Jr virtually split snaps while Rashaan Evans remained at about 80% of the snaps. Will this be how it is going forward or will David Long Jr’s time increase as he reconditions after his bout with COVID? It is hard to know. General managers should avoid using either option unless absolutely desperate. Increasing COVID cases across the NFL could push one to have to start Compton or Long. At least the matchup this week with Cleveland is good for linebackers.
This column discussed Texans linebacker Tyrell Adams a few weeks ago. The perfect storm of a Benardrick McKinney injury and increased playing time over Zach Cunningham have made Adams a hot commodity in IDP leagues. Will it last into next year? It is tough to say how much of it is the coaching staff trying to get a better look at some of the younger talent on the roster and how much of it is Adams potentially outplaying Cunningham. The writer is betting on the former and not expecting it to last into next year with a new regime incoming. However, general managers can take advantage of it this year.
Raiders’ linebacker Cory Littleton came off the COVID list and was able to start Sunday. While his snaps were at only 58%, it is presumably because he is being eased back into action. Do not start him until you see a game of full-time work, but this is a promising development if you are his general manager.
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Giants’ pass rusher Kyler Fackrell hurt his calf.
Chargers’ linebacker Denzel Perryman hurt his back and did not return.
Chiefs’ linebacker Dorian O’Daniel was banged up on Sunday night. He twisted his ankle during play and did not return.
Freshly returned from injury, it was not long before Jets’ linebacker Blake Cashman injured his hamstring and exited the lineup once again.
49ers’ cornerback Jamar Taylor was carted off with a knee injury.
Saints’ cornerback Janoris Jenkins also hurt his knee and did not return.
Browns’ safety Ronnie Harrison injured his shoulder on the first play of the game.
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New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers versus Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line
The Falcons are definitely looking like a team that is mailing it in. Nowhere is that more true than along the offensive line where they have slipped to allowing 2.5 sacks per contest. Expect Matt Ryan to once again be dragged down by the likes of Cameron Jordan, Trey Hendrickson, and Marcus Davenport.
Minnesota Vikings Pass Rushers versus Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Line
Ifeadi Odenigbo and D.J. Wonnum have not exactly been on fire the last few games, but their luck could take a turn for the better against a unit that is allowing 2.7 sacks a game and turning over quarterbacks seemingly every couple of weeks. Play them if you need a sack in your lineup this week and do not have superior options.
Cleveland Browns Pass Rushers versus Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
The Titans have held it together pretty well with their patchwork offensive line, but they will probably see David Quessenberry’s deficiencies exposed in this game if he is matched up with Myles Garrett. Olivier Vernon is also a decent play this week who might benefit from all the attention Garrett is getting on the other side of the formation.
Miami Dolphins Pass Rushers versus Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
Most teams facing the Bengals got a favorable pass rushing matchup before Joe Burrow was injured. Without him, Ryan Lindley is getting crushed and making mistakes with the football typical of an inexperienced fringe starter. Christian Wilkins and Emmanuel Ogbah are the best bets among the group, but Shaq Lawson, Jerome Baker, and Kyle Van Noy also could get in on the big play fun.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers versus Washington Football Team Offensive Line
Colts Pass Rushers versus Houston Texans Offensive Line
The return of Laremy Tunsil did not help the Texans much-- they still gave up two sacks in their last contest. Assuming that the Colts get Denico Autry and DeForest Buckner back, this will be a favorable matchup for their pass rushers. The aforementioned options and Darius Leonard should be started this week. They will face a unit giving up 2.5 sacks a game.
Seahawks Pass Rushers versus New York Giants Offensive Line
The Giants could be without Daniel Jones, which would be even better for the opposing pass rush. Carlos Dunlap and Jamal Adams are automatic starts. Rasheem Green and Benson Mayowa are desperation plays that could work out but could just as easily produce a goose egg for fantasy general managers.
Los Angeles Chargers Pass Rushers versus New England Patriots Offensive Line
Joey Bosa had a monster week in his last outing and should continue to build upon that as he faces a unit that has been trending downward in recent weeks. The Patriots allowed Newton to be sacked three times in his last game and have averaged giving up two sacks over the last three weeks.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers versus Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
Green Bay Packers Defensive Backs versus Carson Wentz
Preston Smith, Zadarius Smith, and perhaps even Kenny Clark could have a good day against the NFL’s most sacked quarterback. Wentz is also the interceptions leader for the current season. If Wentz remains the starter, expect one or more of Adrian Amos, Raven Greene, Kevin King, or Jaire Alexander to have a pick in this game.
Kansas City Chiefs Pass Rushers versus Denver Broncos Offensive Line
It is questionable whether any of Denver’s regular quarterback stable will be recovered in time for this game. It may not matter, even if Drew Lock does make it back to play this week, as Denver is giving up 2.2 sacks per game and facing a top-ten pass rush unit this week. Chris Jones, Frank Clark, and Tanoh Kpassagnon could all benefit from the plush matchup.
Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers versus Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line
Dallas Cowboys Pass Rushers versus Baltimore Ravens Offensive Line
Assuming Baltimore’s COVID troubles are put behind them quickly, expect Matt Judon, Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser, and Pernell McPhee to be better than normal plays against a line that is decimated with injuries. On the other side of the ledger, DeMarcus Lawrence, Aldon Smith, and Randy Greggory have a good shot at bringing down Lamar Jackson, whose line is surrendering an average of 2.4 sacks a game.
San Francisco 49ers Pass Rushers versus Buffalo Bills Offensive Line
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers versus San Francisco 49ers Offensive Line
Both teams are struggling to protect their signal callers but are having no problem generating pressures at a prodigious rate lately. On the 49ers side, look to Kerry Hyder Jr, who has been playing particularly well as of late. On the Bills side, Jerry Hughes and to a lesser extent, Mario Addison are who we should think about starting this week in hopes of getting a big play or two.
Arizona Cardinals Defensive Backs versus Jared Goff
Jared Goff’s ball security has been an issue as of late and he has also been tossing a few interceptions to boot. Budda Baker is a must start each week anyway, but he, Patrick Peterson, and Dre Kirkpatrick are excellent plays this week if you are fishing for a big play.
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Chicago Bears Pass Rushers versus Detroit Lions Offensive Line
Detroit Lions Pass Rushers versus Chicago Bears Offensive Line
While both offensive lines are bottom-third ranked units, Chicago ranks 23rd in sacks while Detroit ranks 22nd. That does not seem like a recipe for a sack-laden game. On Chicago’s side, potentially being without Akeim Hicks again does not help in terms of being able to generate pressures.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers versus Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
Aaron Donald and the defense had a good game last week, but could not do enough to overcome the blundering offense. Unfortunately, they may have a little trouble getting after the quarterback this week. Kyler Murray is being sacked only 1.9 times a game, which is in the top ten among teams. Do not bench Donald, but also do not go out of your way to play the Rams edge rushers and interior options in this one.
Oakland Raiders Pass Rushers versus New York Jets Offensive Line
New York Jets Pass Rushers versus Oakland Raiders Offensive Line
Neither team is having much success generating edge pressure right now. The Jets also have the misfortune of not having a very good offensive line to boot. Neither team should generate or allow many, if any, sacks this week.