This article attempts to immediately highlight defensive players whose production was significantly better or worse than normally expected for the prior week of games. Note there is sometimes limited information available when this article is written, but I will try to give everyone an early look at players who are moving up or down in value among IDP circles. When warranted, I'll also call out some players under No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading. It’s difficult to give waiver advice for IDPs since there is such a wide variety of lineups and scoring systems, but hopefully, the information provided can help inform your waiver, trade, and upcoming lineup decisions. If you have any questions about specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via Twitter.
LA CHARGERS @ LAS VEGAS
DE Carl Nassib, LV (2 solos, 3 asst, 2 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
For reasons that aren’t quite clear, Nassib was a healthy scratch the past two weeks but he drew back into the starting lineup this week and had perhaps his best game of the year. He didn’t sack the quarterback but two of his five tackles were for a loss and he added a quarterback hit and pass deflection while handling 64% of the snaps.
DE Joey Bosa, LAC (2 solos, 2 asst)
Bosa posted 3 sacks back in Week 12 but has been kept in check with 0 sacks since then. He seemed on his way to a strong game this week but was forced to leave after just 17 snaps (22%) with a concussion. This is cause for some additional concern when you consider that he already missed two games with a concussion earlier this season.
DE Maxx Crosby, LV (0 tackles)
Crosby has regularly played 85+% of the defensive snaps for the Raiders this year, which is relatively rare among defensive linemen. While he was on his way to a strong year with six sacks in his first nine games, he has now gone cold with zero sacks over his last five games. Making matters worse is that he’s been relatively quiet against the run as well with just four solos and five assists in that same period, including zero tackles or quarterback hits on 61 snaps this week.
LB Kyzir White, LAC (2 solos)
One week after returning from the Covid list and playing 75% of the snaps, White was in the starting lineup but limited to just 42% of the snaps. The injury he appeared to be dealing with was not disclosed, but Nick Vigil took advantage of his increased playing time with nine combined tackles and a sack on just 46 snaps (61%).
BUFFALO @ DENVER
CB TreDavious White, BUF (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF, 2 PD)
White was an All-Pro a year ago but got off to a slow start this year with no interceptions and limited impact over the first eight games of the year. Over his last six games, however, he’s been an elite fantasy cornerback with at least three solo tackles in every game along with three interceptions, seven passes defensed, and a strip-sack this week that led to a defensive touchdown. He left the game late after suffering a stinger but the game was out of reach and he should be okay to face the Patriots next week on Monday night.
S Kareem Jackson, DEN (7 solos, 2 asst)
Jackson doesn’t have the prototypical size of Justin Simmons but plays a physical game and gives the Broncos an excellent safety tandem in the back of their defense. While Simmons has often led them in tackles, Jackson has seen a clear increase over the past three games with 22 solos and 4 assists. Compare that against 8 solos and 10 assists for inside linebacker A.J. Johnson in the same period.
LB A.J. Klein, BUF (2 solos, 2 asst)
Klein has cooled off over the past three games as Matt Milano has returned and started to carve out a larger role each week. Klein still played 60% of the snaps this week but he was ceding time in the nickel package to Milano when the game was still close. With just five solos and eight assists over his last three games, Klein’s value is minimal.
CAROLINA @ GREEN BAY
DT Derrick Brown, CAR (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Brown was drafted seventh overall this year so much is expected of him. While he’s often played very well, it hasn’t always shown up on the stat sheet but he broke out with two sacks against Aaron Rodgers this week. The potential is there for him to emerge as a fantasy force next year considering that he’s regularly played 80+% of the defensive snaps as a rookie, particularly for leagues that break out defensive tackles.
S Adrian Amos, GB (6 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 QH, 3 PD)
Amos had a quiet start to the season and likely spent some time on the waiver wire in most leagues. He’s been quite consistent since Week 7 though and appears to be trending up as we hit the most important weeks of the fantasy season. He’s posted six solo tackles in three of his past four games and should remain very active against the Titans next week.
TAMPA BAY @ ATLANTA
LB Devin White, TB (10 solos, 2 asst, 3 sacks, 4 TFL, 3 QH, 2 PD)
White was already an elite fantasy player but his huge game this week helps set him apart from the rest of the league. He now ranks as the top-scoring IDP overall and has put together an incredible season in his second year after being drafted fifth overall. This was his second three-sack game of the year to give him eight total, and he’s also on pace to finish nearly 100 solo tackles and 50 assists.
S Sharrod Neasman, ATL (3 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Neasman is a young reserve who had not seen much playing time this year, but he started at free safety for the second week in place of an injured Ricardo Allen. While Allen has collected just 18 combined tackles in 10 games played this year, Neasman finished with nearly half that many in this game alone and also added a sack on a first-half blitz.
CB Carlton Davis, TB (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 PD)
Davis has been one of the most productive cornerbacks in the league this year thanks to strong tackle numbers and 18 passes defensed with four interceptions. He had another busy game this week but unfortunately had to leave after playing just 40 snaps (62%) with a groin injury. Jamel Dean (6 tackles on 51 snaps) figures to replace him outside if Davis can’t play next week against Detroit.
JACKSONVILLE @ BALTIMORE
DE Dawuane Smoot, JAX (3 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF, 2 QH)
Smoot posted six sacks in 2019 as a pass-rush specialist so he’s capable of getting to the quarterback. The Jaguars lost a lot of the surrounding talent this year so he’s been asked to take on a bigger role. While he wasn’t very effective early on, he’s picked things up since Josh Allen has been out with nine solos, four sacks, and two forced fumbles over the past four games.
DE Yannick Ngakoue, BAL (3 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Ngakoue had been quiet of late with just two solos and no sacks over his prior three games but he terrorized his former team this week. The Ravens were without Calais Campbell but they got five sacks against the Jaguars, including two from Ngakoue to give him eight on the year in a strange season that has seen him traded twice. He also played 76% of the defensive snaps this week, which represented a season-high for him during his eight games as a Raven.
LB Matt Judon, BAL (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 2 QH)
The Ravens like to rotate their edge rushers and Judon remains a key contributor who also picked up a sack this week. It’s worth noting, however, that he played fewer than 50% of the snaps while Tyus Bowser handled 59%. Bowser is an intriguing young player who has collected three interceptions in his last five games.
SAN FRANCISCO @ DALLAS
DE Arik Armstead, SF (5 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Armstead has struggled for much of the year and came into the week with just 1.5 sacks in 13 games played. Without players like Nick Bosa and Dee Ford in the lineup, offenses were better able to key on Armstead in their blocking schemes. While many had likely moved on from him at this point, he showed off his potential for the future with a strong eight tackle, two-sack game against the Cowboys.
S Donovan Wilson, DAL (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Wilson sat out the last two games with a groin strain but returned to a full-time role this week and picked up where he left with another strong game. The injury to Vander Esch this week also could result in him spending more time in the box for added support.
LB Leighton Vander Esch, DAL (1 solo, 2 asst)
Vander Esch continues to have durability issues as he suffered an ankle-sprain this week that limited him to just 32 snaps (38%). Reports from an MRI indicated it was a high-ankle sprain, which suggests he could have trouble playing, much less being effective, in next week’s divisional game against the Eagles. Sean Lee filled in and posted three tackles on 27 snaps (32%).
HOUSTON @ INDIANAPOLIS
DT DeForest Buckner, IND (3 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 2 TFL, 4 QH, 1 FF)
In his first year with the Colts, Buckner has been an elite fantasy option at one of the league’s shallowest positions. He didn’t stand out as much as expected though given a lack of sacks as he collected just 2.5 sacks over his first 10 games. After sitting out week 12, however, he has come to life with 10 solos and 5 sacks over the last three games. Even more impressive this week is that he came into the game listed as questionable with an ankle injury but played through it and collected three sacks on just 35 snaps (51%).
CB Lonnie Johnson, HOU (7 solos, 2 asst)
The Texans have seen their depth depleted by injuries on both sides of the ball, and they wound up having seven defenders play 100% of the snaps this week. Johnson started at safety in place of the injured Justin Reid and spent considerable time in the box for some added run support. His 9 combined tackles ranked just behind both inside linebackers and he now has 18 solos with 5 assists over his last three games.
LB Anthony Walker, IND (5 solos, 1 asst)
Walker has remained a productive two-down linebacker at times and still collected six tackles this week, but it came on a season-low 22 snaps (32%). The Colts jumped out to an early lead, which meant more time in nickel packages and Bobby Okereke has overtaken Walker for that role. The matchup against the Steelers next week also doesn’t look very favorable for Walker given how much they like to throw the ball with 3WR formations.
NEW ENGLAND @ MIAMI
LB Terez Hall, NE (12 solos, 1 asst)
Starting middle linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley left the game with an arm injury after just 16 snaps (22%), which created an opening for Hall. He wound up playing a season-high 64 snaps (88%) and nearly doubled the next highest Patriot with 13 tackles as the Dolphins offense generated 42 rush attempts and 64 tackle opportunities overall.
DE Chase Winovich, NE (1 QH)
After a string of games where Winovich played more of an off-ball and full-time role, he appears to have been returned to playing as part of the edge rusher rotation. He played just 38% of the snaps a week ago and saw his playing time reduced even further this week to just 26%.
S Eric Rowe, MIA (3 asst)
Rowe has played very well for Miami in coverage this year and that strong play can lead to games like this where his involvement was minimal. He did just collect seven tackles last week in a matchup against Travis Kelce though so perhaps he’ll rebound next week against Darren Waller and the Raiders.
CB Stephon Gilmore, NE (2 solos)
Gilmore has continued to play at a high level for the Patriots this year but it’s been masked somewhat due to the struggles they have had on offense. Unfortunately, he suffered a partially torn quad in the game this week and will be lost for the rest of the season. Jason McCourty figures to take on most of his workload.
CHICAGO @ MINNESOTA
DE Bilal Nichols, CHI (1 solo, 6 asst, 1 sack, 3 QH)
Nichols has developed into a quality starter for the Bears and he’s currently providing the type of complementary pass rush they were hoping to get from Robert Quinn. He has five sacks on the year but is currently riding a three-game sack streak and regularly playing more than two-thirds of the defensive snaps.
DE D.J. Wonnum, MIN (2 solos, 3 asst)
The Vikings selected Wonnum in the fourth round of this year’s draft and he’s been a regular part of their defensive end rotation all year. He played a season-high 43 snaps (67%) this week though and showed off some of his potential with strong play against the run that helped him rack up five tackles.
DE Akiem Hicks, CHI (1 asst, 3 QH)
While Nichols is taking advantage of his opportunities, Hicks has not been so fortunate. Even though he was credited with three quarterback hits in the game this week, he went sackless for his 10th game in a row. The 31-year old may be starting to slow down but he continues to play a high number of snaps as he was on the field for 60 snaps (88%) this week.
DETROIT @ TENNESSEE
LB David Long Jr, TEN (6 solos, 6 asst)
Long further established himself as the team’s full-time linebacker as he played 64 snaps (98%) compared to 56 (86%) for Rashaan Evans. In addition to playing eight additional snaps, he also was credited with five additional tackles than Evans.
S Kevin Byard, TEN (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Byard has averaged 5.5 solo tackles and 2.3 assists over the past 10 games and finally picked up his first interception of the year this week. He has a very interesting matchup coming up against the Packers next week that should keep him busy.
SEATTLE @ WASHINGTON
LB Khaleke Hudson, WAS (4 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Hudson had only played one defensive snap before this week but a rash of injuries created an opening for him to play 28 snaps (49%) against Seattle. The rookie fifth-round pick was called on with Cole Holcomb and Kevin Pierre-Louis sitting out this week and then starter Shaun Dion-Hamilton went down with an injury that landed him on the Reserve/Injured list. Washington also signed Mychal Kendricks off the Seahawks practice squad, but Hudson is a developmental player to keep an eye on given the lack of talent on the depth chart above him.
S Jamal Adams, SEA (7 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Adams picked up another sack this week to give him 9.5 on the year even though he’s only played in 10 games since joining Seattle in a trade this summer. Adrian Wilson had previously held the record for most sacks by a defensive back with eight, although it has only been an official stat since 1982. Regardless, Adams is likely the top fantasy safety in the league and a top-10 overall IDP.
PHILADELPHIA @ ARIZONA
DE Zach Allen, ARI (6 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 PD)
A week ago, Hasson Reddick enjoyed a breakout game and this week it was Allen’s turn. He hasn’t played much this year but came into the game with just nine solos, eight assists, and one sack in 10 games played. Allen nearly doubled all those numbers this week as he played a season-high 74 snaps (89%) and led his team in tackles with 11 stops.
LB Dennis Gardeck, ARI (5 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Gardeck has primarily been a special teams player but has also been incredibly efficient as a pass-rusher this year. With two more sacks this week, he now has five over his last three games and they have come on just 35 total snaps. Throw in a two-sack game from Week 5 (on just 10 snaps) and that gives him seven sacks for the year on just 93 defensive snaps for a ratio of less than 8 defensive snaps per sack.
CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, PHI (7 solos, 3 asst, .5 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Robey-Coleman has been productive in the past as a slot cornerback but he’s been very quiet during most of his first year with the Eagles. A rash of injuries at the position has pushed him into a full-time role the past two weeks though and he’s seen a clear uptick in production as a result.
DE Brandon Graham, PHI (1 solo, 1 asst)
Graham is the best pass rusher the Eagles have and he looked great earlier this year when he collected seven sacks in the first eight games. Unfortunately, he’s failed to record even a partial sack in the six games since then. Making matters worse, his tackle numbers have fallen way off as he’s been credited with just three solos and one assist in his last three games combined.
NY JETS @ LA RAMS
DT Quinnen Williams, NYJ (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Unfortunately, Williams was forced to leave the game early after suffering a concussion but he gave the Rams all they could handle early on. While it took him a little while to adjust to the NFL and the surrounding talent is lacking, Williams is living up to the hype as a former third-overall draft pick. He’s now up to seven sacks on the year and four of them have come in his last five games.
CB Troy Hill, LAR (1 asst)
Hill has put together a very productive season with 52 solo tackles and a pair of defensive touchdowns while playing opposite Jalen Ramsey. He’s been a non-factor for fantasy teams the past two weeks, however, as he’s been credited with just one solo, one assist, and one pass defensed in those two games.
KANSAS CITY @ NEW ORLEANS
CB L'Jarius Sneed, KC (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 INT, 3 PD)
Sneed looked very good as a rookie starter early this season before missing six games with a broken collarbone. The Chiefs have been increasing his workload since he returned in Week 11 but he played 93% of the snaps this week and showed off his playmaking talent with a sack, an interception, and three passes defensed. Although he’s played just 362 snaps this year, Sneed has 3 interceptions and a sack and should have another favorable matchup coming next week against the Falcons.
LB Anthony Hitchens, KC (1 solo, 2 asst)
While many expected Hitchens to lose his grasp on a full-time job this year, it was projected to be the rookie Willie Gay Jr who took it from him. Instead, it looks like Ben Niemann is emerging as the preferred every-down linebacker as he’s played 90% and 85% of the defensive snaps the past two weeks. Instead of seeing an increase in playing time when Damien Wilson went out, Hitchens saw his playing time reduced and has just three solos with two assists over the past two games.
CLEVELAND @ NY GIANTS
S Karl Joseph, CLE (8 solos, 2 asst, 1 TFL, 2 PD)
Joseph hasn’t always played up to his potential but he showed up on Sunday night. He led the Browns with 10 tackles while also breaking up two passes, including one that prevented a touchdown to Evan Engram. The former first-round pick of the Raiders signed a one-year deal with the Browns so can earn a long-term contract if he’s able to play like this into the playoffs.