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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.
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Broncos linebacker Josey Jewell has settled in next to A.J. Johnson as a full-time starter. He may be out there in your leagues and is worth a pick-up on a high-volume defense.
Cleveland linebackers B.J. Goodson and Jacob Phillips split playcalling responsibilities at points in the game against the Cowboys. A rotation is not a good thing for either’s fantasy stock. Mack Wilson is working his way back from injury, so that may be part of the equation. Until this situation sorts itself out, it may be best to bench all Browns linebackers.
The Chargers coaching staff has settled on Kyzir White in a full-time role for two weeks running. It’s safe to insert him into fantasy lineups.
With both Bobby Okereke and Darius Leonard banged up, Anthony Walker is worth your consideration this week. He has a good matchup and is almost certainly going to see a full compliment of snaps with the other two linebackers ailing.
A poor matchup and a season-low playing time of 70% are responsible for Jerome Baker’s poor output Sunday. Baker was one of the few IDPs managers could trust, but that may be starting to change.
Jets linebacker Avery Williamson’s playing time slipped down to 44%. This will need to be monitored and Williamson’s playing time will need to dramatically increase again before fantasy general managers can feel confident plugging him back into their lineups.
Raiders linebacker Nick Kwiatkowski returned from injury this week and played 87% of the snaps. Nicholas Morrow was demoted and played only 18% of the time. He is droppable in all but the deepest of leagues.
Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright is starting 100% of the time once again. He has a great matchup this week against the Vikings if your squad needs a plug and play linebacker with big-play upside.
Lions’ safety Tracy Walker seems to be a safe play again after having back-to-back weeks of 100% of the snaps.
Rams safety Jordan Fuller is probable to return from injury this week and replace backup Taylor Rapp.
$ INJURY SETTLEMENTS $
Titans’ defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons was diagnosed with COVID-19 and it is unclear how long he may miss.
Colts linebacker Darius Leonard limped to the locker room with a groin injury in Week 4 and did not return. His availability this week is in serious doubt.
Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards was knocked out of Sunday night’s contest with a hamstring injury.
Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack suffered an ankle injury that kept him from coming back to Sunday’s contest.
Packers linebacker Christian Kirksey was placed on IR and will be out a minimum of three games.
Rams linebacker Micah Kiser exited Sunday’s game with a groin injury and did not return.
The Falcons backup safety Damontae Kazee suffered an Achilles injury on Monday Night Football and was carted off the field.
Jaguars defensive back C.J. Henderson injured his shoulder against the Bengals and did not return.
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Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Rushers versus Chicago Bears Offensive Line
It’s not that the Bears line is necessarily horrendous. They are a middling unit in terms of sacks allowed per game. However, Nick Foles tends to lack awareness and eat a couple of sacks per game. Against a decent pass rush, we can expect two or three here. Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett, and Ndamukong Suh have been called out as good plays at their respective positions for the past two weeks in this column. Their hot streak should continue into this week.
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers versus Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
The Titans may be without Taylor Lewan, along with many other players due to their COVID outbreak. The Bills also historically have the edge, winning the last two contests in the past two years and abusing the Titans offensive linemen in the process. Ed Oliver, Mario Addison, and Trent Murphy are the best bets to log sacks here, but other interior linemen and defensive ends in their rotation are worth a desperation play this week.
Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers versus Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
It’s harder with this team to predict who might end up with a sack, but Calais Campbell, Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee, and Matt Judon are better plays than normal in a week they face a team giving up 3.8 sacks a game, second-worst in the NFL.
Arizona Cardinals Pass Rushers versus New York Jets Offensive Line
The Cardinals didn’t come through for us last week, but that could change against the Jets, who are giving up approximately three sacks per game. Hasaan Reddick, Corey Peters, Devon Kennard, or Chandler Jones can bounce back this week.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers versus Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
Pittsburgh Steelers Defensive Backs vs. Carson Wentz
You have to feel sorry for the Eagles, whose depleted offensive line will have to contend with a rested Steelers pass rush. Carson Wentz has also been questionable in terms of decision-making this season, so this could be an absolute bloodbath. Start T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt, Cameron Heyward, Mike Hilton, and Joe Haden with confidence.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers versus Washington Football Team Offensive Line
Los Angeles Rams Defensive Backs versus Dwayne Haskins
The doomsday clock will probably strike midnight for Haskins, who Ron Rivera has threatened to bench. Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, and Michael Brockers should be started here because of the strong probability of sacks. John Johnson and Troy Hill are the most likely to pick Haskins. Jalen Ramsey could also come up with an interception in this one.
Dallas Cowboys Pass Rushers versus New York Giants Offensive Line
The Giants gave up five sacks in the last contest and even though Dallas’ defense is struggling, they have been pretty solid in terms of sack production, averaging two a game. Aldon Smith and Everson Griffen might hit home in this one. Could Demarcus Lawrence end his cold snap and get his first sack of the year? It’s possible.
New England Patriots Pass Rushers vs. Denver Broncos Offensive Line
New England Patriots Defensive Backs vs. Brett Rypien
Good luck knowing which one of Chase Winnovich, Shilique Calhoun, Derek Rivers, or perhaps someone else will put the hurt on Brett Rypien. It’s almost assured given how badly the Denver offensive line has played paired with the inexperience of Brett Rypien. Of the defensive backs on the team, it’s either of the McCourty twins that have the best chance to come up with a pick.
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Jacksonville Jaguars Pass Rushers vs. Houston Texans Offensive Line
On paper, it’s a great matchup, but even Josh Allen has struggled to generate sacks for a depleted Jaguars defense. Houston also may play with more spunk the week after the firing of Bill O’Brien.
Carolina Panthers Pass Rushers vs. Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line
Atlanta’s line is solid and Carolina is the league’s worst pass rush unit through four games, averaging less than a sack a game. Don’t count on Brian Burns or anyone else to come through for your fantasy squad in terms of sacks or other big plays.
Oakland Raiders Pass Rushers vs. Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Line
Las Vegas is only averaging a sack per game and going up against the best team in the NFL in terms of protecting their quarterback. Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell, and anyone else on this pass rush unit is out of luck.