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 viewers' minds 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 some of the other players and situations that will likely 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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There is very little to report at this time of the year when playing time has largely stabilized and new developments (good and bad) become more injury-dependent.
With David Long Jr out, it was Monty Rice playing 70% of the snaps next to Jayon Brown. Rashaan Evans is droppable in all but the deepest of leagues and dynasty leagues. Rice is serviceable as long as Long remains sidelined, but expect his usage to plunge when Long is able to return to the lineup.
For the second week in a row, T.J. Edwards was the lead linebacker in Philadelphia with a 93% snap share. Their linebacker usage has shifted throughout the year, but it tends to stay stable for weeks at a time. Edwards is safe to trust as a fill-in or in deeper leagues where 3-4 linebackers are starting each week.
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Broncos linebacker Baron Browning hurt his ankle. He did not return against Philadelphia.
Browns cornerback A.J. Green was evaluated for a concussion.
Buccaneers cornerback Richard Sherman missed on Sunday when he experienced pregame calf cramps.
Chiefs cornerback Charvarius Ward exited the game on Sunday night with a stomach illness.
Jets cornerback Brandin Echols left his contest with a thigh injury.
Steelers cornerback Joe Haden exited Sunday’s contest with a foot injury and is day-to-day. The team also lost pass rusher T.J. Watt to a hip and knee injury. His injury is week-to-week according to the team. Cornerback Minka Fitzpatrick has been added to the COVID-19 list.
Titans pass rusher Bud Dupree left the game with an abdominal injury and did not return.
Washington suffered a big blow when pass rusher Chase Young was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
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Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers versus Chicago Bears Offensive Line
Chicago’s line is so bad that even after a bye week, it still leads the league in sacks allowed. Outside of Calais Campbell, Tyus Bowser, Justin Houston, and Jayson Oweh are the only three pass rushers to think about playing outside of bye week emergency situations. The playing time of Pernell McPhee and Jaylon Ferguson is just too low to take a chance on either of those guys, despite the juicy matchup.
Cleveland Browns Pass Rushers versus Detroit Lions Offensive Line
Despite the team’s struggles in Week 10, they will get a plush pass-rushing matchup to help bolster them in Week 11. Myles Garrett is unbenchable anyway, but especially this week. Jadavenon Clowney has not been great on his own in a long time, but he can possibly ride Garrett’s coattails to a sack in this one. He is a fine boom-bust play this week.
Arizona Cardinals Pass Rushers versus Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line
The Cardinals are without J.J. Watt now, but Markus Golden seems more than capable of stepping in opposite Chandler Jones and being productive. Russel Willson will be back, but it has not really mattered who was under center in terms of allowing sacks. Even after the bye week, Seattle is tied for fourth in sacks allowed with 28. Expect Golden and Jones to add a few more to that total.
Cincinnati Bengals Pass Rushers versus Las Vegas Raiders Offensive Line
Las Vegas Raiders Pass Rushers versus Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
Las Vegas Raiders Defensive Backs versus Joe Burrow
The Raiders have managed to have a middling record in spite of all the controversy surrounding their team, but also have been middling at protecting Derek Carr. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has been one of the more effective defensive units in the league. Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, and Larry Ogunjobi are all recommended options this week. On the other side of the matchup, the Bengals are tied for sixth in sacks allowed with 25 in nine games, while the Raiders have been reasonably productive in generating them with 21 on the year. Maxx Crosby and Yannick Ngakoue should be started in almost all leagues without hesitation this week. Rushers like Solomon Thomas, Clelin Ferrell, and Carl Nassib are viable emergency plays, but their much lower playing time makes them very risky bets. Burrow is also a prime candidate to throw an interception or two. Casey Hayward, Brandon Facyson, Jonathan Abram, and Trevon Moehrig are the most likely to come down with one of those.
Philadelphia Eagles Pass Rushers versus Denver Broncos Offensive Line
The Eagles have been very average in terms of getting after the quarterback, but the matchup is one of the most appealing this week. It is favorable enough that the writer believes Josh Sweat, Fletcher Cox, and Derek Barnett have an elevated of cashing in with a big play in the upcoming week.
Tennessee Titans Pass Rushers versus Houston Texans Offensive Line
Are the Titans actually a viable pass rush now? They have surged to fourth in the league after they registered five sacks against the Rams and three against the Saints. Most of their pressure has been coming from the interior from Jeffery Simmons and Denico Autry. Harold Landry also has continued to stay hot, as he has for most of the season. With Tyrod Taylor back in the mix, we saw Houston allow five sacks to the lowly Dolphins pass rush before the bye. General managers should bank on the trends continuing.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Rushers versus New York Giants
Of the plus matchups, this is the one the writer feels least confident in, but there are recent trends to suggest it is the right call. Tampa Bay has started to finally get on the stat sheet and has moved from a bottom pass rush unit to a middling one, notching 22 sacks in nine games. On the other hand, the Giants, who had been protecting Daniel Jones better than expected this year, are now trending more toward the middle-of-the-pack. Ndamukong Suh, Vita Vea, Shaquil Barrett, and Jason Pierre-Paul all make quality starts at their respective positions this week.
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Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers versus Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line
Minnesota recently moved into the top spot in terms of quarterback protection. They have allowed just 12 sacks in nine games. Despite missing arguably their best pass rusher in Zadarius Smith, Green Bay has managed to stay relevant (24 sacks in ten games) with the contributions of Preston Smith, Rashan Gary, Dean Lowry, and Kenny Clark. Potentially missing Clark and Gary due to injury hurts, and when you add that to the effectiveness of the Vikings line, it seems logical to sit the other options mentioned this week if you have better choices.
New England Patriots Pass Rushers versus Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line
The Patriots are a middling sack-producing unit at present, which is why the writer believes they will struggle to pick up more than a single sack in this game. General managers are probably sitting everyone other than Matt Judon and Kyle Van Noy at this point anyway due to variable playing time, but this is a week to sit all Patriots pass rush options.
Indianapolis Colts Pass Rushers versus Buffalo Bills Offensive Line
This call could burn the writer, especially since the Bills showed cracks in the foundation by giving up a multi-sack and multi-turnover game to one of the worst pass rush units in the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars, a mere two weeks ago. However, prior to this nightmare game, the Bills had been protecting Josh Allen well and are currently still a top-five unit with fourteen sacks allowed in nine games. The writer expects that a rebound will occur and DeForest Buckner, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Kwity Paye, and Kemoko Turay will find themselves without a sack. Buckner is still playable due to tackle production, but the others probably should be left alone.