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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Only one note this week…
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49ers linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair left the game with an elbow sprain and is day-to-day.
Buccaneers cornerback Jamel Dean couldn’t finish the game due to an illness.
Roquan Smith left the Bears’ Sunday night tilt with a hamstring injury and did not return.
Chargers safety Derwin James sat out Sunday’s game with a hamstring issue.
(calf) also exited early without returning.
Giants defensive lineman Leonard Williams hurt his elbow and the team fears it may be season-ending.
Jets defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (shoulder) exited early.
Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone exited with an ankle injury.
Ravens defensive end Calais Campbell hurt his thigh.
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Browns Pass Rushers versus Las Vegas Raiders Offensive Line
The Raiders line had been more stout earlier in the year, but are starting to fade down the stretch. They allowed 3.5 to the Chiefs last week, a team that had struggled to generate pass rush for much of the year. Myles Garrett is a lock. Jadaveon Clowney and Malik McDowell could also capitalize on this matchup.
Dallas Cowboys Pass Rushers versus New York Giants Offensive Line
It’s especially unfortunate timing for the Giants that Randy Greggory, Micah Parsons, and Demarcus Lawrence are all healthy and on the field together. Those three promise to give Mike Glennon a very bad day.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers versus Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line
Aaron Donald managers are usually smiling anyway, but this matchup just in time for the fantasy playoffs is going to make them grin ear to ear. Leonard Floyd and Von Miller are also solid starters this week in leagues where they are counted as edge defenders instead of linebackers.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers versus Baltimore Ravens Offensive Line
Baltimore without Lamar Jackson is going to be problematic for their line. Even with Jackson’s elusiveness, he was the most sacked quarterback in the NFL behind this group. It’s going to mean that Rashan Gary and Preston Smith are very good bets to get one or two here this week.
Arizona Cardinals Pass Rushers versus Detroit Lions Offensive Line
Cincinnati Bengals Pass Rushers versus Denver Broncos Offensive Line
General managers have to like Larry Ogunjobi, Sam Hubbard, and Trey Hendrickson more than normal this week due to the tasty matchup against a very non-mobile Teddy Bridgewater and a suspect offensive line.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers versus Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
The Titans surrendered four sacks to a miserable pass rush on Sunday. The offensive line seems to give up multiple sacks in spite of opponent as of late. We’ll see if T.J. Watt is healthy enough to play, but if he is, he will be a great play this week. Alex Highsmith is sounding doubtful with his knee injury. Cameron Heyward is an obvious start. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess as to which rusher might strike paydirt.
Miami Dolphins Pass Rushers versus New York Jets Offensive Line
Miami Dolphins Defensive Backs versus Zach Allen
Start all your Dolphins pass rushers and defensive backs this week! In all seriousness, the Jets look much like the Bengals did in year one of their rebuild and are a matchup to target for almost every defense facing them. Christian Wilkins, Emmanuel Ogbah, Jaelan Phillips, Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Jevon Holland, and Eric Rowe are the best bets for big plays in this matchup.
Houston Texans Defensive Backs versus Trevor Lawrence
Between a lack of skill position help and pressure finally collapsing the Brandon Linder-less line, Trevor Lawrence is turning the ball over with much more regularity. He threw a whopping four interceptions against the Titans. Terrance Mitchell, Desmond King, Justin Reid, and Eric Murray are the best bets to come away with a Lawrence turnover.
Minnesota Vikings Pass Rushers versus Chicago Bears Offensive Line
It’s a great matchup with a Bears team that is third in the NFL in sacks allowed. Sadly, D.J. Wonnum is probably the only option who can take advantage of this stellar
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Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers versus Carolina Panthers Offensive Line
Carolina Panthers Pass Rushers versus Buffalo Bills Offensive Line
The Panthers are a plus matchup, but the Bills seem to be falling off from their early-season pace. They’ve descended to fifth-from-the-bottom in sacks generated. Meanwhile, on the other side of this contest, you have another pass rush that has cooled down significantly but is also facing a top four unit in sacks allowed. All in all, it’s best to just sit your interior and pass rush options for this contest if you are counting on them to generate big plays.
Philadelphia Eagles Pass Rushers versus Washington Football Team Offensive Line
Washington Football Team Pass Rushers versus Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
Both teams have struggled to find their pass rush chops this year. Washington’s reason is easily understood when considering arguably their best two rushers have spent most of the year injured. The Eagles have fewer excuses. Other than the loss of Brandon Graham, there really hasn’t been a great explanation for their drop-off.