After breaking out for 9-1-1 in Week 11, Isaiah Simmons has been back to less than 40% of the snaps in each of the last two games. He went 3-3-1 on 16 plays in Week 12 and is 7-3-1 on 48 snaps over the last two games. At this point, it is hard to figure out what the coaching staff is waiting on. Simmons is a playmaker and should be on the field in every situation.
De’Vondre Campbell has not seen every snap in a game since he was banged up in Week 10, but he has been on the field for at least 86% of the plays in each of the last two games. Jordan Hicks continues to play virtually every snap, but his numbers, while decent, have not been what most managers expected when they drafted him. The sic solo stops he posted in Week 12 are the most he has recorded since Week 5. We should not expect big numbers from Hicks this week either, but the Giants have been a solid matchup over the last month.
Dre Kirkpatrick moved past Byron Murphy into the starting role in Week 11, with Murphy serving mostly as a nickel corner. Kirkpatrick has an interception and has averaged five tackles per game since taking over the job.
The Falcons have been desperate for pass rushers over the last few seasons. They have invested both draft capital and a lot of money on free agents without much return. One player giving the team a flicker of hope over the last two games is Steven Means. He was drafted by the Buccaneers in 2013 (round five). Means had 14 combined tackles and 3 sacks in his career before this year. Through 12 games he is 19-14-3 with 2 forced fumbles on the season, but Means is 9-4-3 with 2 forced fumbles in the last three games. The remaining schedule does not bode well for him as someone to pick up this year, with games against the Chargers, Buccaneers, and Chiefs over the next three weeks, but managers in deep dynasty leagues may want to consider picking him up, just in case his recent surge is not a mirage.
Many of us drafted Patrick Queen with the expectation that he would be a tackling machine. That has not been the case with Queen totaling more than five solo tackles just five times to date, but he has been a big play contributor, accounting for five turnovers and a pair of sacks. His third-best fantasy total of the season came against the Browns in a Week 1 blowout, when Queen finished 4-4-1 with a forced fumble. The rematch projects to be a much closer game on the scoreboard and the Cleveland running game will provide a lot of tackle opportunities. Call it a gut feeling, but I like Queen this week.
Matt Milano was activated from IR ahead of the Week 13 game and played 19 snaps against San Francisco. The question is, what will his role be in Week 14? A.J. Klein has played some of his best football since replacing Milano and logged 42 plays in Week 13. So are they just bringing Milano back slowly after being out for a month, or will the two continue to share the position? Chances are, Milano will return to his full-time role at some point in the near future, but for this week, managers might want to avoid this situation altogether.
As we head into Week 14, the Panthers have several defenders on the COVID reserve list, including starters Derrick Brown, Yetur Gross-Matos, Zach Kerr, and Shaq Thompson. As of Wednesday early afternoon, it is unclear which, if any of these players will be cleared in time to face Denver. If none are cleared, look for rookie Bravion Roy, along with veterans Marquise Haynes and Tahir Whitehead to see a lot of action.
It is a shame the Bengals linebacker situation is such a mess but at least we can get good value from their starting safeties going forward. Brandon Allen moved into the starting quarterback role for a bit and was not as horrible as Ryan Finley, but Allen was knocked out of Sunday’s game with what looked to be a possible concussion. If Finley gets the start against Dallas this week, look for Ezekiel Elliot to have a big day and for Jesse Bates and Vonn Bell to have bid tackle totals.
Ronnie Harrison was knocked out of the Week 12 game with a shoulder injury on the first defensive snap of the game. The injury landed him on IR last week. Karl Joseph took over and played every snap the rest of the way in that game, but the team altered their approach in Week 13 when Joseph shared time with Sheldrick Redwine. It does not look as if we will get any value from the spot during our playoffs. That said, dynasty managers should hang one Harrison for next season. He made a good showing over his three-game stretch as a starter.
Leighton Vander Esch has seen over 70% of the playing time just once over the Cowboys’ last four games. He played 38 snaps against Baltimore and looked bad on most of them. It is hard to tell if he is bothered by some lingering injury or is just not a good fit for the scheme, but something is not right. This is a player that was a physical, run-stopping machine in previous seasons. Against Baltimore, he looked more like a blocking dummy. Vander Esch was slow to react, did not get off blocks, and seemed lost/tentative at times. I would not trust him in a playoff situation against anyone at this point, and the Cowboys play Cincinnati this week to boot.
Between the injuries to Bryce Callahan and Essang Bassey, and A.J. Bouye facing a six-game suspension, the Broncos are going to be very shorthanded at corner for the rest of the season. This makes them a juicy matchup for Teddy Bridgewater and the Panthers receivers this week but it also makes rookie Michael Ojemudia Denver’s number one corner. He was 6-1-0 as number two in Week 13 and it is a safe bet he will be tested often going forward.
Even with Matt Patricia gone, the Lions can’t figure out what they are doing at the strong safety position. Jayron Kearse has seen the majority of the playing time at the position over the last five games but has exceeded 70% of the snaps just once in the last three. He continues to put up good numbers, with at least six combined tackles in four of his five starts, but not playing full time and a mediocre matchup with the Packers are good reasons to pass on Kearse in round one of the fantasy playoffs.
There is a ton of potential at the Lions’ corner positions this week if we can guess correctly who the Packers will go after and/or who will cover Davante Adams. With Desmond Trufant nursing a hamstring, rookie Jeff Okudah could be the guy if he can go. Okudah has missed two games with a sore shoulder. If Okudah is not ready, the Lions are looking at Amani Oruwariye, Justin Coleman, and Darryl Roberts as their starters.
Tyrell Adams is building a strong case for keeping a starting job next season. There will be a lot of change for the Texans who will be bringing in a new coaching staff. At this point, we have no way to know if they will even be in a similar defensive scheme. What we do know is the new regime is not married to Bernardrick McKinney, or even Zach Cunningham for that matter, and they are going to see a lot of good tape on Adams. He has been a great in-season pickup for us this year and dynasty managers will want to sit tight on Adams until we see what happens with this defense going forward.
The Colts defense has been missing pieces in recent weeks. They got DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry back against the Texans and hope to be at full strength this week if they can get Bobby Okereke (ankle) and Khari Willis (back/quad) back in action. Both Okereke and Willis missed practice all last week and are not sure to return. If Okereke is not able to play, look for Anthony Walker to have a solid outing. If Willis sits, Tavon Wilson will get another start.
Over the first four games of the season, Justin Houston was 9-2-3.5 and looked to be heading for a good year. Then he all but vanished for five games. Over the last three weeks, he has shown up big again going 8-1-4 with a forced fumble. There were no reported injuries during his hiatus, though Houston did not practice much during that time while being listed as non-injury on practice reports. It is hard to get excited about him this week against a Raiders team that has allowed less than two sacks per game since Week 7, but the Colts get another shot at the Texans in Week 15.
Jacksonville is another team that is likely to have a new coaching staff come 2021, so there could be a lot of turnover on the roster. One position the team may not need to address is defensive end where a healthy Josh Allen will start on one side and this year’s first-round pick K’lavon Chaisson is projected to play the other. Chaisson has not impressed so far though, possibly opening the door for their 2017 third-round selection, Dawuane Smoot, to have a shot. Smoot has shown flashes of quality play since joining the team including six sacks last season and a mark of 4-1-3 over the last two games with Allen out. Dynasty managers looking for young talent to stash may want to consider Smoot.
Josh Jones returned to action in Week 13 and picked up right where he left off with a strong 7-3-0. He, along with Myles Jack and Joe Schobert, are must starts this week against the Titans. Tennessee was embarrassed last week and will be looking to take it out on someone. I expect a lot of touches for Derrick Henry and a busy day for the middle of Jacksonville’s run defense.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders' secondary is riddled with injuries. Travon Mullen left Sunday’s contest with an abdominal injury, Damon Arnette is currently in concussion protocol, Isaiah Johnson is nursing a groin, and Johnathan Abram is in danger of missing more time with a sore knee. Mullen may be able to go against the Colts with Nevin Lawson starting opposite him. Jeff Heath has been impressive in recent weeks and is in line for another start next to Eric Harris. This is significant because the Colts have been a plus matchup for both corners and safeties with averages of 24 tackles, 7 assists, and just shy of one turnover per game by opposing secondaries since Week 7. Mullen (if healthy) and Heath are the guys to target here if you have a need.
Cory Littleton continues to be a major disappointment both on the field and in IDP terms. So much so in fact, that he is currently losing snaps to Nicholas Morrow on the field, and even dynasty managers are throwing him out. After missing weeks 10 and 11 with injury, Littleton has been on the field for 58% and 55% of the snaps over the last two games respectively, while Morrow has played every snap over the past four games. If you are still clinging to hope with Littleton and have not yet dumped him, take a look and see if Morrow is still available. He has averaged almost 14 points per game over the last month.
Clelin Ferrell entered Week 13 looking for his first sack of the season. He has shown flashes as a run defender this season before going off for 4-2-2 with a forced fumble and a batted pass against the Jets. Yes, it was the Jets so we need to temper any excitement, but the big game and his early first-round draft expectations are enough to get him on the list of possible dynasty stashes for next season. It is not unusual for young edge defenders to put it all together in year three, and Ferrell is a talented young man at age 23. We should not be too quick to give up on him.
Los Angeles Chargers
With Denzel Perryman suffering a back injury and Kyzir White still dealing with COVID, the Chargers' options at linebacker were limited in Week 13. The result was a 12-1-1 from Kenneth Murray who finally had the kind of game expected from a first-round linebacker and a 91% play share for Nick Vigil. With the Falcons, Raiders, and Broncos remaining on the schedule, the expectations for these two are not particularly high, but for those of us that used an early pick on Murray in our rookie drafts, the big game provided a ray of hope.
Vigil is now 9-8-0 with a forced fumble and a pass breakup in a little more than a game and a half of action over the last two weeks. For managers in deeper leagues, he could prove to be a solid addition until/unless Perryman or White return.
Los Angeles Rams
Jordan Fuller won the starting safety coming out of camp, putting up 10 tackles and 7 assists in the first two games. In the five games since returning from the injury, his best tackle production is a four solo outing against Tampa Bay in Week 11. Fuller added three interceptions in those games to save the day for the managers that started him, but he does not appear to be attacking the run game with the same ferocity as early on. This is typical of a player with a shoulder that is still not 100%. The low tackle totals are enough to keep him out of our lineups for the rest of this season, but dynasty managers should think twice before letting him go.
If anyone is still wondering what happened to Eric Kendricks. He came up lame after aggravating his calf strain during pre-game warm-ups and did not suit up. Todd Davis got the start and had a decent day at 3-8-0. Keep a close eye on this week’s practice participation to see where he is for Week 14. The matchup with Tampa Bay could be a good one if the Buccaneers stick with the run game, but last week was enough to make me a little gun shy.
Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler are good options in corner required leagues this week. Tom Brady loves to pick on rookies and he completed a lot of short passes, which leads to a lot of tackle opportunities.
New England Patriots
Adrian Phillips is a must-start this week with Kyle Dugger also worthy of strong consideration. The Rams have been a plus matchup for both safeties and linebackers on most weeks. For example, when they played the Cardinals last week, Arizona’s starting safeties accounted for 19 tackles and 3 assists while the inside linebacker positions produced 16-3-1. Phillips is a hybrid who plays both positions and Dugger has seen a major jump in playing time at strong safety over the last month, including 93% participation in Week 13.
If we could count on Ja’Whaun Bentley to be on the field, he too would be a solid start. Unfortunately, Bentley has been nursing a groin injury that limited him to 25 plays against the Chargers. Had the game been close he may have been able to stay on the field, but the coaching staff took the opportunity to get Terez Hall, Anfernee Jennings, and Josh Uche some game experience. Hall is an interesting prospect in that the undrafted free agent out of Missouri has played 160 snaps over the last five games, recording 18-15-0 with a pair of pass breakups in what amounts to about three games worth of action. He went 8-2-0 on 55 plays versus Baltimore and 6-2-0 on 30 snaps against Arizona.
New Orleans Saints
Kwon Alexander’s snap percentage rose steadily from 61% in Week 10 to 90% in Week 12 but dropped sharply down to 48% versus the Falcons this past week. He may have a bright and productive future in New Orleans but so far Alexander has not managed more than three solo stops in a game with the Saints.
New York Giants
Blake Martinez missed a few snaps in Week 13 with a back injury. On Monday it was reported that he is experiencing some soreness, but the injury is not serious and he is expected to be fine. Keep an eye on the situation as we get closer to the weekend just in case it tightens up.
New York Jets
Blake Cashman was back on the field in Week 12 and was on pace to play a lot before aggravating his hamstring injury. Cashman was subsequently placed on IR and is done for the season. A few weeks ago I talked about hos the Jets like Cashman and were possibly grooming him to start in 2021. His inability to stay healthy may throw a wrench into that plan. Another factor that could come into play is the steady improvement of Neville Hewitt who continues to play well and is making a case to be the guy next to C.J. Mosley next year. The coaching staff recently discovered that Hewitt can rush the passer. As a result, he is a combined 12-6-2 over their last two games. The Jets are another team that could have a new coaching regime come January, so who knows what Gang Green will look like.
One thing we do know is that Quinnen Williams will be a big part of the plan for whoever is coaching this team going forward. It took him a while to get going but Williams now has four sacks over the last six games and four or more combined tackles in four of them. This guy is going to be a corner piece for the Jets and could become a top-shelf IDP target once this team turns the corner.
Ashtyn Davis has looked good at times since taking over the strong safety position in Week 8, but his audition appears to be over for now. He left Sunday’s game with a foot injury that is expected to end his season. Mathias Farley is the next man up.
The Eagles keep getting thinner at linebacker. T.J. Edwards left Sunday’s game with a hamstring, followed shortly by rookie Davion Taylor with a knee. Both are considered questionable for Week 14, leaving Alex Singleton, Duke Riley, and rookie Shaun Bradley as the top three at the position. Singleton has become an every-week must-start and Riley could have some value this week against the Saints, who have been an even stronger than usual matchup since Drew Brees went down.
Robert Spillane left the Week 13 game early with a knee injury. There is no structural damage, but he is expected to miss some time. Vince Williams put on the communications helmet to finish the game against Washington and is likely to continue calling plays until/unless Spillane returns. This injury, however, opens the door for Avery Williamson to contribute more. He had six tackles and three assists on 38 plays versus the Football Team and could once again be a fantasy factor during our playoffs.
Against the Giants, Seattle took a page out of their old playbook from years past. They kept all three starting linebackers on the field for over 75% of the defensive snaps with Jordan Brooks gong 5-6-0 on 77% playing time. The outcome of the game was not in their favor, but it was not because the defense failed to stop New York. With the secondary hurting and Brooks possessing great speed and strong cover skills, it would not be a surprise to see Seattle continue with this approach. That said, the Seahawks face the hapless Jets this week, so other than Jarran Reed, Carlos Dunlap, Bobby Wagner, and Jamal Adams, starting any Seattle defender is a serious risk.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers get Jamel Dean back after he cleared concussion protocol. Both he and Carlton Davis are solid starting options this week. Tampa Bay Corners have given us good value on most weeks. Their matchup with Minnesota should be no different. With many offenses, we are left to guess which corner will draw coverage on the number one receiver. With Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson, it doesn’t matter because both corners will have their hands full.
When Jayon Brown was lost two weeks ago, it was generally anticipated that Rashaan Evens would take over the lead with Will Compton stepping into the secondary role at inside linebacker. In Week 13, Evans played every snap in a game for the first time this season, so that part is holding true, however, David Long Jr Jr. appears to have slipped past Compton. Both players saw action in a near-even split in Week 12, but Long garnered 76% of the playing time in Week 13.
Washington Football Team
Washington continues to run without an every-down linebacker, but that has not stopped Cole Holcomb from providing some value. He has been on the field more than any other Washington linebacker since the team’s Week 8 bye, though Jon Bostic has not been far behind, at least not in terms of playing time. Neither player is lighting up the box scores though Holcomb has 10 tackles, 9 assists, and half a sack over the last two weeks. With their stable of running backs healthy, San Francisco is a quality matchup, making either Holcomb or Bostic a possible LB3 option this week.
Kamren Curl was banged up and missed a few plays in Week 13 but was able to get back on the field. Keep an eye on the practice reports this week just in case.
That’s a wrap for this week’s offering. Best of luck in those playoff games and I hope you are back for more in Week 15.
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