It appears the Cardinals have turned the corner when it comes to Isaiah Simmons. When he played more than De’Vondre Campbell in Week 14, it was hard to tell if it was a coaching decision or if Campbell was just hot healthy. Campbell may still not be 100%, but he was out-snapped by Simmons 63 to 35, or 76% to 42%, in Week 15. It would be a risky call to roll with Simmons in Week 16 based solely on playing time but the 49ers matchup is a solid one as well. If you have quality options I would probably stick with them, but if you are in a pinch, Simmons has good upside.
Calais Campbell might sit out one more game with his calf injury before getting back on the field. He badly wanted to suit up against his old team but in the end, it was decided that having him healthy for the playoff was far more important. Yannick Ngakoue, however, was able to carry the torch for both former Jaguars. He lit up their former employer for three tackles, two sacks, and a forced fumble. The motivation will not be as high for this week’s matchup with the Giants, but New York has allowed an average of three sacks per game since week nine, including nearly two per game to edge defenders.
Matt Milano showed signs of life in Week 15, at least in the box scores where he finished 5-1-0. The important factor here is that A.J. Klein (2-2-0) still played more snaps (36) than Milano (25). This week’s matchup with New England is a strong one for linebackers, but the current situation makes it impossible to trust anyone besides Tremaine Edmunds here. Interestingly, Tyler Matakevich spelled Edmunds for 15 plays in Week 15, going 5-2-0 in the limited opportunity.
Brian Burns has 33 tackles, 23 assists, and 8 sacks on the season, including a 4-0-2 mark against the Packers in Week 15. Washington has allowed an average of more than two sacks per game to edge defenders since week eight, and their opponent's defensive ends tend to show up strong in the tackle columns. All those points add up to Burns being a strong start against the Football Team this week if he is healthy enough to go but check the injury reports before you plug him in. Burns tweaked his knee against Green Bay and is not a lock to play.
Last week I mentioned that Logan Wilson only played eight snaps in Week 14. As it turns out, his low play count was due to an ankle sprain. Wilson did not suit up versus the Steelers and is not likely to go against the Texans. Unfortunately, the loss of Wilson did not result in another linebacker playing full time. Germaine Pratt picked up a few snaps, as did Akeem Davis-Gaither, but no Cincinnati linebacker has been on the field for more than 78% of the snaps in a game since Josh Bynes in Week 11.
Other than their safeties, there are not many Cincinnati defenders worthy of IDP consideration on a weekly basis. That said, both Carl Lawson and Sam Hubbard can get after the passer, and the Texans have allowed 17 sacks over their last three games.
Sheldon Richardson left Sunday’s game with a neck injury. Coach Stefanski said it is not serious and there are no long term implications, but Richardson’s availability for Week 16 is in question. If he is able to play, Richardson is a must-start. Not only are the Jets a favorable matchup in general, but this is also another instance of a player facing a former team. The Jets drafted Richardson in 2013. Vincent Taylor and rookie Jordan Elliot would likely share playing time at tackle if Richardson is out.
Since the beginning of this season, both the Browns and IDP managers have been waiting for one of the team’s young linebackers to step up. Mack Wilson was an early favorite of many onlookers. As we enter Week 16, veteran journeymen B.J. Goodson and Malcolm Smith are the Browns’ two best linebackers, and Wilson was a healthy scratch in Week 15. Rookie Jacob Phillips got a bump in playing time with Wison inactive, managing three assists on a season-high 22 snaps.
When Donovan Wilson broke into the starting lineup in late October, consistency was a problem in IDP terms, but he quickly earned the trust of the coaching staff. As the season moved along the consistency issues vanished. Wilson missed a pair of games before getting back on the field against San Francisco, but in each of his last three starts, he has at least eight combined tackles. This week's matchup with Philadelphia is a solid one, making Wilson a good play for those vying for a title. Surprisingly, he is still available in some leagues. This guy looks like a long-term answer for the Cowboys at strong safety so dynasty managers might want to target him as a stash option.
Leighton Vander Esch left the Week 15 game with an ankle injury and is not expected to play this week. Sean Lee should see more action as will Joe Thomas, but no one will get enough snaps to make much impact.
Without watching a few old games it is hard to put a finger on why, but safety Kareem Jackson has been on a major roll over the last three games. This is a player that has provided good IDP value at times during his career, both as a corner and a safety. Through the first seven weeks of the season, his numbers were mediocre. In weeks eight and nine Jackson combined to go 14-4-0, followed by three below-average games. Against Kansas City, Carolina, and Buffalo, however, he combined for 22-4-0 with a pass breakup, notching at least seven solo tackles in each game. The Chargers are a strong matchup for safeties, so whatever triggered the surge in production by Jackson, he will be a quality start in Week 16 if it continues.
Jayon Kearse took over the starting job at safety in week nine and has produced decent numbers on most weeks since that time, despite seeing action on about 70% of the snaps in many of those games. Kearse finally claimed a full-time role in Week 15, playing 67 of a possible 68 snaps against the Titans and recording a respectable 5-2-0 with a pass breakup. While the volume is finally there for Kearse, this week’s matchup with the Buccaneers is average at best.
Tracy Walker was relegated to 13 plays against the Titans. His lowest snap total in a non-injury game this season.
Green Bay Packers
Dynasty managers looking toward next year might want to consider slipping Krys Barnes onto your roster as one of your end of season waiver claims. Barnes has seen spotty playing time as a backup to Christian Kirksey over most of the season but his production has been strong on a per-snap basis. He has only played more than 50 snaps once, but in that game, Barnes went 7-3-0 on 57 plays against Tampa Bay back in week six. In all, he is 36-23-1 with a forced fumble, on 312 plays. Project those numbers over a 900 snap season, which is about normal for a three-down linebacker, and Barnes has numbers in the area of 103-66-3.
Another reason to consider Barnes is that Kirksey has been somewhat of a disappointment even when healthy. He missed five games with an injury, then played every snap from Week 10 through Week 13 while Barnes was relegated to special teams. However, over the last two games, Kirksey has lost playing time to Barnes. In those two games, Kirksey is 6-7-0 on 95 plays while Barnes is 9-0-0 with a forced fumble on 71. Most importantly though, Barnes has looked better on the field. It’s all about speculation at this point but I would not be surprised to see Barnes in a starting role next season.
J.J. Watt is no longer the force he once was. His production has been hit or miss over the last couple of seasons. This year he has reached double-digit fantasy points in 5 of 14 games with an average of about six points over the other nine contests. If he is on your roster, there may never be a better time to play him than this week against the Bengals, who have allowed the second-most sacks in the league.
The Steelers have given up two sacks since week nine, so unless you have DeForest Buckner, who is an every-week must start, sit your Colts linemen this week, and temper expectations for Buckner. Unless you have Darius Leonard, who is an every-week must start, sit your Colts linebackers and safeties, and temper expectations for Leonard versus a Steelers team that has not run the ball well and has been a poor matchup for tackle producing defenders. The one Indianapolis defender we need to have in our lineups this week is corner Kenny Moore. Moore is currently on a run of five games over which he has totaled 30 tackles, 3 assists, and 3 turnovers. Match that with a Steelers offense that has helped opposing corners combine for an average of 17 combined tackles, 3 assists, and just shy of a turnover per game as a team since week five.
Josh Jones returned to action last week from his shoulder injury but did not move back into his every-down role, suggesting he may not yet be 100%. Jones split time with Andrew Wingard at a rate of 35 to 28. That may have been the Jaguars’ way of easing him back into action so there is a chance he is full-time against the Bears, but there is no guarantee.
If you listened to the Audible IDP podcast last week, you already heard my take on defensive end, Dawuane Smoot. The 2017 third-round pick has been stuck behind a lot of good players since coming into the league. He is getting a chance to shine now and is taking advantage of the opportunity. Smoot is 9-1-4 with a pair of forced fumbles over the last four games and is making a strong case to be the starter opposite Josh Allen in 2021. He is a solid three-down end that is better than Yannik Ngakoue versus the run and has the potential to be a 10 plus sack guy. Snap him up if you have room for a dynasty stash or even if you need a starter for this week. The Bears are not a particularly strong matchup, but Smoot has been playing well enough to be worth a shot in a pinch.
Kansas City Chiefs
LJarius Sneed did not make a lot of tackles against the Saints but he more than made up for it in the big play columns. This guy has played 70% or more of the snaps in five games this year and over 90% in three of them, including the Week 15 matchup. In four of those games, he has at least 13 fantasy points, including all three of the 90% games.
Chris Jones has been on a rollercoaster ride of inconsistency this season but give him some consideration this week against Atlanta. The Falcons have been a plus matchup for interior linemen who have put up strong tackle numbers and almost a sack per game on average against them since Week 10
Las Vegas Raiders
Productive defensive tackles are a rare and valuable commodity, thus this is a position where many of us find ourselves streaming matchups often. If your starter has a bad situation and you are looking for some help. Check out Johnathan Hankins or Maurice Hurst against Miami. Both are solid if unspectacular contributors with some pass-rush potential and the dolphins have allowed averages of 6.5 tackles, 4 assists, 1.2 sacks against opposing defensive tackles since Week 10
Los Angeles Chargers
Kyzir White has been back on the field for the last two games but his days as an IDP factor appear to be over once again. After seeing 75% of the action in Week 14, White (42%) lost snaps to Nick Vigil (61%) in Week 15. Once again Vigil proved that when he gets on the field, he can be productive, going 6-3-1 on 46 plays.
Joey Bosa entered concussion protocol on Monday and his status for Week 16 is in doubt as of Wednesday morning.
Los Angeles Rams
The Jets upset over Los Angeles turned what was a horrible matchup on paper into a solid day for Troy Reeder who unexpectedly bounced back nicely (7-4-0) after a poor Week 14. This week Reeder has a much better matchup going in. The Seahawks have been a stellar matchup for inside linebackers over the last several weeks, including the Week 10 game when Micah Kiser went 10-2-0 against them before the injury that made Reeder the starter.
Neither Troy Hill nor Jalen Ramsey did much in the first meeting of these two teams, but the Seahawks have also been a strong matchup for corners on most weeks. Since week nine, TreDavious White, Dre Kirkpatrick, Darius Slay, James Bradberry, and Blessaun Austin have all reached double-digit points against Seattle.
With all the shuffling we have seen from the Miami defense throughout this season, it is hard to trust any of their linebackers in a championship game. On the other hand, these guys have put up some big numbers recently, so if you are an underdog looking for a high upside target, Jerome Baker might be your guy. He has played all but one snaps over the last two games while combining for 12 tackles, 4 assists, 3.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in those two games. It doesn’t hurt that Las Vegas is a strong matchup either.
In weeks 12 and 13 it was Kyle Van Noy playing a lot of inside backer and putting up the big numbers. He was out Week 14 then spent most of last week working on the edge due to the return of Elandon Roberts, who logged 84% of the playing time next to Baker on the inside. I remain skeptical when it comes to Roberts and Van Noy but Baker’s upside is hard to overlook if you have him.
New England Patriots
Ja’Whaun Bentley left Sunday’s game with an arm injury and was not able to return. We are still awaiting an update on the nature and severity of the injury, but we should not wait to add Terez Hall. Hall is an undrafted rookie out of Missouri who has been rather impressive in limited action. His first appearance was in week nine. Since that time he is 30-16-0 with a pair of passes defended on 224 plays. Hall has stepped in for Bentley on two occasions now. In Week 10, he played 83% of the snaps, including most nickel situations, and went 8-2-0. He was on the field for 88% of the plays against Miami last week, finishing with 12 solo stops and an assist. Hall collected 151 tackles with 6 sacks and 2 turnovers as a two-year starter for the Tigers, so solid production is not a new thing for him. He has good size and is faster than Bentley so there is a chance he could emerge as a starter down the road. Even if he doesn’t pan out long term, Terez looks like the starter for this week in a strong matchup situation against the Bills.
New Orleans Saints
Last week I called out Malcolm Jenkins as a player to start. That worked out pretty well, so I’m going to stick with him again this week. There is no Travis Kelce on the Vikings roster but they have still been a quality matchup for safeties on most weeks anyway. Over Minnesota’s last three games they have seen Josh Jones go 7-3-0, Antoine Winfield 10-2-1 with a forced fumble, and Eddie Jackson 5-2 with a pass defended.
New York Giants
Xavier McKinney missed the first 10 games of his rookie season so he never had an opportunity to make an impact. He is getting a little experience down the stretch, which will help in 2021 when he is all but assured to take over as a starter. The Giants picked up Logan Ryan to hole down the fort and he has played well, but Ryan is playing on a one-year deal.
Josh Sweat was forced out of Sunday’s game after a handful of snaps with a wrist injury. Vinny Curry will slide into Sweat’s spot in the rotation but the loss should also mean a few more snaps for starters Derek Barnett and Brandon Graham. Barnett saw the most significant increase against Arizona.
Safety Rodney McLeod landed on IR last week and was replaced by Marcus Epps in Week 15. The second-year pro made a good showing both on the field and in the box scores, putting up seven solo tackles and an interception. The Cowboys are a middle of the road matchup for safeties but Epps has a lot to play for. Jalen Mills is set to be a free agent at the end of the season, so Epps has two more games to show the organization his worth.
There is a lot of speculation about what is wrong with the Steelers’ offense but it is not hard to figure out why the defense has not been as dominating in recent weeks. Their starting inside linebackers against Cincinnati were Avery Williamson who has been with the team for about a month, and backup safety Marcus Allen, with rookie Alex Highsmith starting at outside linebacker opposite T.J. Watt. Williamson is a good dependable veteran player but he is not a guy that makes splash plays on a defense that depends on them. Highsmith has now started three games with a total of six tackles, five assists, and no sacks. The team could get Vince Williams back from the COVID reserve list this week, which will help, but they are not going to be the same defense we saw early in the year.
In IDP terms, this week’s matchup with a Colts team that has recently discovered a power running game is a positive for Williamson who has put up good tackle totals (19-8-0) over the last three games. Indianapolis has been a quality matchup for safeties and a steady matchup for corners as well.
The Seahawks have been very careful with Carlos Dunlap in his recovery from a sore foot. He was active in Week 14 but did not play and had to lobby on the sideline to get on the field in a crucial situation last wee when he was on a limited snap count. This week’s game with the Rams is not a do or die situation but it is an important game in that if Seattle wins, they clinch the division. The matchup is not great for Seattle pass rushers but we are now three weeks removed from when Dunlap was hurt so he is closer to 100%. I believe we will see him on the field a lot more in this one.
San Francisco 49ers
There has been an Arik Armstead sighting in San Francisco! After posting double-digit sacks and getting a big payday in 2019, Armstead has been virtually invisible in 2020 with a sack and a half through Week 14. His 5-3-2 against Dallas was a real head-shaker for me, not only because he finally made some plays, but because I cut him ahead of kickoff in order to activate Rashaad Penny from IR in our staff dynasty league. Yes, things like that happen to everyone.
So the question is, has Armstead suddenly come out of his funk, or was last week a mirage? This guy can play and his big game was a breath of fresh air for the 49ers who paid him all that money, but one game is not enough to win back anyone’s confidence. Not to mention that the Cardinals are a below-average matchup for edge rushers.
Last week I talked about Fred Warner’s slump and why we should keep him on the bench for that game. After going 3-2-0 versus Dallas, Warner has accounted for four or fewer solo stops in five consecutive games.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
There are not many teams that provide a quality matchup across the board as the Lions do. Opposing inside linebackers, corners, and safeties have all put up solid tackle totals against them since week nine, they are allowing over two and a half sacks per game, almost two turnovers, and over four passes defended. The moral of this story is, start all your Tampa Bay defenders this week except maybe Charlton Davis who is questionable as of Wednesday with a sore groin.
Looking for a solid linebacker add that will help you this week and possibly carry over to next year in dynasty leagues? Take a hard look at David Long Jr./a> who had 12 combined tackles in Week 15. Long had 252 career tackles and assists in 31 starts at West Virginia, is solid in coverage and can get to the passer on a blitz (eight sacks as a junior in 2018). Johnson replaced the injured Jayon Brown in Week 13 and quickly moved past Rashaan Evans into the three-down linebacker role, which makes him a solid starting option this week versus Green Bay. With Brown set to become a free agent. Johnson has two more games left on his audition for the job. So far he has made a good impression.
Washington Football Team
Washington has taken a beating at inside linebacker in recent weeks. Cole Holcomb (concussion) and Kevin Pierre-Lewis (ankle) were inactive for Week 15 and the team lost Shaun Dion Hamilton to an elbow injury. Surprisingly, it was not Thomas Davis but Khaleke Hudson who replaced Hamilton against Seattle. Hudson put up a respectable 4-4-0 and would appear to be in line for the start this week if none of the others are able to return. One sign that they may not be getting anyone back, the team signed Mychal Kendricks this week for insurance.
That is going to wrap Week 16 and the 2020 season. Best of luck to those with a shot at this year’s title. For everyone else, it is never too early to start working on next year.
Enjoy this article? Find more from John here.