Haason Reddick is coming off a career day that saw him pile up five sacks and three forced fumbles against the Giants. Looking at the overall numbers would suggest he could turn in an encore performance against the Eagles this week. After all, Philadelphia has given up 53 sacks on the season which is seven more than Cincinnati with the next highest total. Philadelphia gave up at least two sacks in 11 of their first 12 games, but that streak ended in week 14 when the Saints failed to get to Jalen Hurts. Last week I made the statement that it was a different quarterback but the same offensive line, but Hurts sure made that Eagles line look better. While I would not argue against playing Reddick who now has 10 sacks on the season, the matchup has lost much of its appeal.
This is not the week to have a grey area with one of our starters, but if you have been counting on De’Vondre Campbell to get you this far, you have one. Isaiah Simmons has been impressive, especially in recent weeks when his playing time has been expanded. The predicament is that Simmons played 27 snaps in week 14 while Campbell played 22 of a possible 47. The grey area comes from not knowing if this timeshare was a result of Campbell’s sore ankle, or because the coaching staff realizes they have to get Simmons on the field more. Campbell did not practice all last week and was questionable right up to game time. He will practice some this week but there is still plenty of reason to be nervous about Campbell’s play share.
Most managers that have Deion Jones or Foye Oluokun have been starting them every week. If you are lucky enough to have other quality options, consider them strongly this week. No opponent has had an inside or weak-side linebacker post more than five solo tackles against the Buccaneers since before week nine and none have more than four since week 10.
Calais Campbell has been a major disappointment this season but if you are looking for an upside sleeper this week, play him against his old team. The Jaguars are not a particularly great matchup for defensive linemen, but we should never underestimate the extra motivation a player gets when facing a team that he played for previously, especially when that team made little effort to keep him.
Marcus Peters left the Monday night game for a short bit due to what looked like a lower leg or calf injury. He finished the game but appeared to be bothered by the issue for the rest of the game. Keep an eye on the team’s practice reports later this week just to be safe.
A.J. Klein gave us strong production when he replaced Matt Milano over a six-game stretch starting in week six. His numbers included five sacks, three turnovers, and two games with double-digit solo stops. When Milano returned to action in week 13, the two shared playing time with Klein seeing the majority of the action. Unfortunately, the time-share continued in week 14, although with a more even split in snaps. This could be the week Milano regains his near every snap role, or the two could continue sharing the job. Either way, this is another high potential position we have to avoid due to uncertainty.
We are at the time of year when teams that are not in contention, begin to look at some of their younger players. The Panthers are using this opportunity to give Jermaine Carter a look at middle linebacker. Carter played 20 total snaps before week nine when he began sharing time with Tahir Whitehead. Since that time Carter has seen action on 174 snaps over five games, including 80% of the playing time versus Denver. His numbers have not been eye-catching, but Carter is good enough to be an IDP contributor if he can earn a full-time role. He is a player we will want to keep on our radar as we close out the season.
Logan Wilson had no stats because he played just eight snaps against the Cowboys. This year is a was for dynasty managers that drafted Wilson, but there remains hope for the future. He has produced well considering the lack of consistent playing time and has shown plenty of potential. The other important factor to consider is that current starter Josh Bynes will be a free agent at the end of this season. Hopefully, that will open the job for Wilson in 2021.
The Browns have come a long way in 2020 but before this defense can take the next step, they need a difference-maker at linebacker. The question is, do they already have that player on the roster? B.J. Goodson has done a solid job of holding down the position but he is not the answer if this unit is ever going to be special. Goodson is a free agent at the end of the season, leaving the door open for one of the young players. Mack Wilson, Sione Takitaki, and Jacob Phillips all had their chances, unfortunately, none of them have impressed thus far. It will be interesting to see if the team elects to add a top-shelf free-agent or early draft prospect to the competition. If they do not, we could see the committee approach continue.
Myles Garrett left Monday’s game for a while with an elbow injury. He was able to return and finish the game but keep an eye on his status this week. Some injuries are worse once the soreness has a chance to set in.
Olivier Vernon has seven sacks over the last six games. The problem is, they all came in three matchups with the Raiders, Eagles, and Ravens. If he could show a little consistency, Vernon would have a lot more IDP value. As it is, we have to get lucky and guess when he is going to show up. That said, this might be one of those weeks. The Giants have allowed 13 sacks over their last four games and the number would be higher had they not played the Bengals in one of those contests.
Leighton Vander Esch was back up to 90% of the snaps against Cincinnati, but his tackle totals were no better for it at 3-4-0. Some of that can be blamed on Cincinnati’s inept offense and game flow, but Vander Esch should have been able to do more with 65 plays. He is just not the same player we have seen in the past.
Aldon Smith rewarded those that gambled on his matchup with the Bengals when he had a scoop and score in week 14. Now it is time to put him back on the bench. Smith has but one sack since week three and an average matchup at best with the 49ers next on the schedule.
One Cowboy that would be a solid start this week if healthy, is Donovan Wilson. He has missed the last two games with a groin injury but the fact Wilson was questionable leading up to Sunday’s game, could be a good sign for his availability to face San Francisco. Consistency has been an issue for him but Wilson has reached double-digit fantasy points in five of his last eight games, and three of the last four. The matchup with San Francisco is a strong one. Over their last four games, six safeties have recorded at least seven combined tackles and assists, with five of those players reaching double-digit points.
Rookie Michael Ojemudia was a call out to start in week 14 and posted a solid line with five tackles and a pass breakup. Give him another shot against Buffalo this week. In fact, if you have any of Denver’s starting defensive backs on your roster, they are worth some consideration this week. Since week nine, opposing secondaries have averaged 24 tackles, 8 assists, 1.5 turnovers, and 3 pass breakups when facing Buffalo.
Green Bay Packers
It might be week 15 but teams are still throwing us curve balls. When Christian Kirksey returned to action after missing five games, he was right back in an every-down role. He did not miss a snap in four straight games before playing 46 of a possible 68 plays against the Lions. I have not yet had a chance to review the entire game but have seen no mention of an injury that would explain why Kirksey would suddenly be sharing time with Krys Barnes. If Kirksey is your guy, keep an eye out for some explanation later in the week. If we don’t get one, think twice about playing Kirksey
Justin Reid suffered a torn ligament in his thumb late in Sunday’s game and is headed for IR. A.J. Moore had been seeing some action as the third safety in recent weeks and is now the favorite to take over as the starter. Moore was 2-2-1 on just 11 snaps when the Texans played Indianapolis in week 13, while Reid went 7-1-0 in that game. Plucking someone off waivers and blindly plugging them into your lineup is a big gamble, but if Reid was your starter, Moore might be the best option available in deeper leagues.
Darius Leonard and Xavier Rhodes left the week 14 game with back and knee injuries respectively. Both injuries are considered minor and both players have a chance to go in the rematch with Houston. If Leonard misses the game, move Bobby Okereke and Anthony Walker into the LB3 conversation for the week.
Kenny Moore II is the corner to have in this matchup regardless of Rhode’s availability. Moore has been rock solid over the past month, including a season-best of 6-2-0 with an interception and three passes defended against the Texans.
Josh Jones suffered what was called a minor shoulder injury early in Sunday’s game. He was initially tagged as probable to return, but Jones was not able to get back on the field. Andrew Wingard finished the game at strong safety. Jones has a great matchup against the Ravens if he can play. As of Wednesday morning, there was no update on his status.
Kansas City Chiefs
Consistently productive corners are a rare and valuable commodity but rookie L’Jarius Sneed is showing strong signs of being one. He won a starting job at the beginning of the season, recording eight tackles, an assist, and two interceptions in the first two games before suffering a shoulder injury in week three. Sneed returned to action after the Chiefs’ week-10 bye but was eased back into action. In week 13 he was back to 73% of the playing time as the third corner, then last week he saw the second-most snaps at corner behind Bashaud Breeland. He is not yet back to an every-down role but has 11 tackles, 2 assists, and a pass breakup over the last two games. There might be more proven options available for this week’s playoff game, but the Saints have been a surprisingly solid matchup for corners with Taysom Hill under center. In all, six corners have recorded at least five solo tackles against the Saints since week 11, with at least one in every game except the Denver matchup. In week 14, all three Eagles starting corners had five. If you are not ready to trust him yet, Sneed is still a guy to stash in corner required dynasty formats.
Another Kansas City rookie to keep an eye on is defensive end, Michael Danna. His 4-0-1 against the Dolphins was an eye-catcher but it was not his first solid production of the season. Danna played 93 snaps over the first three games of the season, recording 6-2-1 in limited action. He was injured early in week four, missing three games but has worked his way back into the rotation. On the season Danna has played 234 snaps with a stat line of 14-9-2.5, including two games with double-digit fantasy points. Alex Okafor and Taco Charlton are free agents at the end of this season and Tanoh Kpassagnon has one sack this year, with seven total since 2017. The Chiefs need a pass rusher and Danna might be that guy.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders could be rather short-handed on defense for their Thursday tilt with the Chargers. Clelin Ferrell is questionable with a shoulder while Damon Arnette, Nicholas Morrow, and Johnathan Abram are all in concussion protocol. All four were out of practice on Tuesday and with the short week, are in danger of missing the game. The secondary is riddled with other injuries as well. Look for Eric Harris to line up at strong safety with Lamarcus Joyner shifting from the slot/nickel role to free safety, and rookie Isaiah Johnson to play the nickel. This shift, if it is indeed what they do, should make Harris a decent fantasy target for the week if you are desperate enough to roll the dice on him.
Vic Beasley Jr has been on the active roster for the last two games and could see significant action this week. The Raiders also designated Tak McKinley to return from his groin injury, though he is unlikely to suit up this week.
The situation with Josh Morrow is interesting in that it should put Cory Littleton back in an every-down role. I jumped off the Littleton bandwagon a while back but the recent turn of events has me feeling a little optimism about his future with the Raiders. Littleton was never going to be an IDP giant in Paul Guenther’s defense. The Raiders are not going to change much over the final three games, but there will be a different defensive coordinator in place come 2021. The potential that he will be used differently and his shining track record with the Rams is enough to keep Littleton on my dynasty rosters until next season, but his leash will be short in September.
Los Angeles Chargers
Kyzir White returned to action in week 14 after missing three games on the COVID list. He went right back to the same workload he was seeing before missing time, which was between 75% and 85% of the playing time. Meanwhile, Kenneth Murray played virtually every snap for the third consecutive game but came crashing back to earth after his 12 solo performance in week 13. The Raiders are a solid matchup for linebackers on most weeks, but the Chargers linebackers are impossible to trust at this point.
One Charger we can trust is Rayshawn Jenkins who has at least five combined tackles and assists in nine straight games. In seven of those games, he has at least five solo stops, including each of the last four. He should be a solid contributor this week as well and could excel if he gets matched up with Darren Waller.
Los Angeles Rams
Troy Reeder was supposed to have a big game against New England last week but instead, it was Kenny Young going 6-2-1 with a pick-six while Reeder gave us a mediocre 4-3-0. This was not the fault of Reeder whose numbers were hurt by the Patriots' offensive game plan. It seems that Cam Newton is no longer able to do anything that takes the ball to the left side of the field. Thus the vast majority of offensive plays, run or pass, went in Young’s direction.
While it was unexpected, it was not hard to figure out why Reeder’s numbers were mediocre last week. It is also rather easy to make an argument for benching him this week. Again, this is not a knock on Reeder, but the Jets are a horrible matchup for linebackers at this time. Since week nine, opposing defenses have averaged less than 33 solo tackles as a team versus the Jets with Bobby Wagner’s 5-1-0 last week being the best tackle numbers of any opposing linebacker during that span of games. Reeder should put up similar numbers and has a little big-play potential, but his ceiling is seriously limited.
Bobby McCain left the week 14 game with an ankle injury. As of Wednesday early afternoon, we are still looking for an update on the severity. If McCain is not able to go, rookie Brandon Jones is likely in line for the start. Jones has shown flashes of quality box score production but like most Miami defenders, he has not seen enough snaps to sustain any value.
Just a few weeks ago I would never have thought to write the words, Mitchell Trubisky is providing a spark for the Bears passing game, but that is how wacky this season has become. What this does for IDP managers is to make opposing corners relevant. In the last three games with Trubisky in the lineup, opposing corners have accounted for 49 combines tackles with 43 solos. He has not thrown an interception to a corner since regaining the starting job, but then Jeff Gladney’s IDP value has not come from big plays anyway. His 53 solo tackles are second only to A.J. Terrell’s 54 among rookie corners.
New Orleans Saints
Kwon Alexander played every snap in week 14. His numbers were not particularly impressive at 4-3-0 with a forced fumble, but they were better than Demario Davis who finished 3-3-0 against the Eagles. We should not put much emphasis on the numbers here as they were the product of a poor matchup and an Eagles offense that only handed the ball to a running back on 17 plays. The most significant point here is the 100% snap share for both players, which is pretty much what we expected when the Saints traded for Alexander. We can expect better tackle numbers from both linebackers this week against the Chiefs.
New York Giants
The Giants are still in the hunt for a division title but they continue to make changes on defense and are looking at a lot of young players. At linebacker, rookies Tae Crowder and Carter Coughlin have each been on the field for over half the snaps over the past two games. Both players were seventh-round picks and both are showing some promise.
Crowder went 6-4-0 with a fumble recovery against Washington in week six before missing several games with an injury. He was back on the field for a few plays against Cincinnati in week 12 then went 6-1-1 on 39 snaps against Seattle in week 13. He is working as the weak inside linebacker next to Blake Martinez and is a player with a lot of fantasy upside if he can earn a full-time role next season.
Coughlin logged 81% of the snaps in week 14 as the outside linebacker opposite Jabaal Sheard. Caughlin’s opportunity comes mostly because the team is decimated by injuries on the edge. Unlike Crowder who has a good shot at starting next year, Coughlin is probably a place holder at a fairly solid and deep position.
New York Jets
The Jets secondary has been a goldmine of IDP production this season. The only problem being, it has also been a revolving door for players. The only player in this secondary that has not missed a game is Marcus Maye. May will be joined at safety this week by Matthias Farley. The starting corners should be Blessaun Austin who returned from injury last week, and rookie fifth-round pick Bryce Hall. This is important to know because the Rams are the best matchup in the game for defensive backs over the past month. Since week nine, opposing secondaries have averaged more than 26 solo and almost 7.5 assists per game against the Rams. Austin has 22 tackles and 3 assists in his last three starts while Hall is 22-1-0 over his four starts.
The Eagles pulled off an upset against New Orleans but their secondary took a beating in the process. Darius Slay (concussion), Rodney McLeod (ACL), and Avonte Maddox (knee) all went down and are either done for the season or in danger of missing time. Marcus Epps is the likely starter next to Jalen Mills at safety, though he could share time with K’Von Wallace. Nickell Robey-Coleman could step up as the number one corner if Slay is not cleared, with Kevon Seymour also seeing an increased role. The Cardinals are a plus matchup for defensive backs but it is hard to tell who, if anyone, will be productive outside of Mills
Entering week 14 we were not sure which of the Steelers inside linebackers would hold the most value for the rest of this season. The answer was Avery Williamson in week 14 by default after Vince Williams hit the COVID list late in the week. It is unclear if Williams will be cleared in time to play against Cincinnati this week, so Williamson is the early favorite for week 15 as well. That said, the Bengals have been a poor matchup for linebackers since the loss of Joe Burrow and Joe Mixon. Avoiding the situation altogether might be the best plan.
San Francisco 49ers
The good news for those of us with Fred Warner is that he has been cleared from concussion protocol. The bad news is, he remains questionable for this week with neck and shoulder injuries from a stinger. No one ever wants to see a player injured, but if Warner is out this week, it might be a blessing in disguise for IDP managers. Warner’s numbers have been down for much of the season. He recorded more than 4 solo stops once since week six, has one splash play in the last six games, and has reached double-digit fantasy points once in the last seven games. Add in the mediocre matchup with Dallas and the injury may simply push us into a decision we should already be making anyway.
If Warner is not able to play, Azeez Al-Shaair would get the start at middle linebacker, with Dre Greenlaw the most enticing IDP prospect.
Washington Football Team
The snap counts for both Cole Holcomb and Jon Bostic have been somewhat erratic over the past month but they were both on the field full-time in week 14. This does not necessarily mean they will play every down against the Seahawks this week, but it is a reason for optimism. The other reasons to be optimistic about Holcomb in particular, are his solid production, reaching double-digit fantasy points in three consecutive games, and a plus matchup. In their last six games, nine linebackers have hit double-digit points against the Seahawks with five of them exceeding 15.
That does it for week 15. Best of luck to you as we all try to get one step closer to a championship!
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