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's little in the way of updates on playing time or unexpected IDP developments this week. Here are few items worth mentioning.
After Blake Martinez left Sunday’s contest, Giants linebacker Tae Crowder played 98% of the snaps. With Martinez out for the year, Crowder becomes the hottest linebacker pickup in the 2021 fantasy season to date.
Broncos linebacker Justin Strnad played only 76% of the snaps next to A.J. Johnson on Sunday, far less than what previous running mate Josey Jewell had managed. Is this just easing Strnad into a full-time role or is this the new normal? We will likely need to bench Strnad in the upcoming weeks and watch carefully to find out.
Titans linebacker Jayon Brown has been ailing and it has been David Long Jr wearing the dot and filling in admirably. There is speculation that when Brown comes back, Long may demand more playing time at Rashaan Evans’ expense. That will be a situation to watch. The actionable advice from this tidbit is to pick up Long in deeper formats to see if this indeed pans out.
$ INJURY SETTLEMENTS $
It was another week of widespread injuries on the defensive side of the ball, but this list is perhaps not as bad as last week’s list.
49ers corner Josh Norman was hospitalized after suffering a chest injury in the Sunday Night Football tilt against the Packers.
Bears edge rusher Khalil Mack’s status needs to be monitored in the upcoming week. He left the game with a foot injury but returned to play the remainder of the game. Often, foot and ankle injuries can swell and worsen in the days following their occurrence.
Buccaneers corner Jamel Dean hurt his knee in the first quarter and did not return to action.
Chargers’ safety Derwin James hurt his shoulder, but he returned to finish the game. Make sure he is able to fully practice this week before inserting him confidently into your lineup.
Falcons edge rusher Marlon Davidson hurt his ankle.
Giants linebacker Blake Martinez injured his knee and did not return to his contest. It was later reported that he suffered a season-ending ACL tear.
Green Bay’s linebacker Krys Barnes suffered a concussion during Sunday Night Football.
Packers cornerback Kevin King was unable to play due to an illness.
Seahawks edge rusher Kerry Hyder Jr was ruled out with a concussion.
Titans edge rusher Bud Dupree was seen on the sideline holding a heat pack on his surgically repaired knee. Recall that Dupree ended 2020 with a torn ACL. After the game, Coach Vrabel told the media that Dupree would have been available in an emergency situation. With the Jets and Jaguars on the schedule, the Titans may opt to play the long game and rest Dupree in the upcoming contests.
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Cleveland Browns Pass Rushers versus Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line
General managers who played Browns options last week at Chicago are likely happy with the results after Cleveland came away with a whopping nine sacks. The Vikings have not surrendered many on the season (five), but that is likely to change this week against stiffer competition. You do not need this article to tell you to start Myles Garrett every week, no questions asked. Jadaveon Clowney and Malik Jackson are the other two players with the best chance to capitalize on the matchup. Takk McKinnley is playing only a rotational role but would be worth a flier this week in especially deep leagues.
Carolina Panthers Pass Rushers versus Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line
The Panthers are currently sitting in first place in the NFL in sacks generated with 14 over three contests. Meanwhile, the Cowboys are missing Lael Collins due to suspension, which significantly cuts into their effectiveness as a unit. Brian Burns has become an every-week must-start player. Edge rusher Haason Reddick and defensive tackle Derrick Brown should also be given strong consideration this week.
Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Backs versus Trevor Lawrence
Lawrence is trying to find his pro game, which is expected for a young rookie; but in the meantime, he is tied with Zach Wilson for the lead in interceptions thrown. Mike Hilton and Eli Apple are in prime position to get an interception. Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III also have a decent chance of coming up with one in this clash.
Washington Football Team Pass Rushers versus Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line
The Falcons have given up nine sacks in three games and their offensive line is a bottom-third NFL unit. While Chase Young did not have a sack in the drubbing Washington received against the Bills, you can expect that to change this week. Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat are also quality starters at their respective positions.
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers versus Houston Texans Offensive Line
Through three weeks, Buffalo is averaging three sacks a game, and Houston is giving up an average of two a game. Two or three sacks in this contest sounds about right. Gregory Rousseau and Jerry Hughes remain the most consistent edge rushers in terms of playing time. Ed Oliver has yet to log a sack this year, but it very well could happen in this game.
New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers versus New York Giants Offensive Line
We are all starting to wonder if there will be anything left of Daniel Jones after the season. He has taken eight sacks and even more quarterback hits. Despite having a lot of injured pass rushers, the pass rush of the Saints marches on. Cameron Jordan and Tanoh Kpassagnon remain the safest options in terms of getting enough playing time to register on the stat sheet. Payton Turner is more of a high-risk, high-reward play for managers this week.
San Francisco 49ers Pass Rushers versus Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line
Seattle Seahawks Pass Rushers versus San Francisco 49ers Offensive Line
Russel Willson is great but remains one of the most heavily-sacked quarterbacks in the NFL today. The Seahawks have given up eight through three games. Meanwhile, Jimmy Garropollo’s play continues to be tentative, which results in a lot of mistakes.
Zach Wilson has been sacked a league-worst 15 times and Tennessee is finally starting to find a little bit of an edge rush between Harold Landry, Bud Dupree (when he plays), Denico Autry, and Jeffery Simmons. Even undrafted Ola Odenyi has found the quarterback 2.5 times in the last few games on limited snaps. All five of those guys have a shot at a big play, but the best fantasy plays from the group are Autry and Simmons, who have been very disruptive so far this season. This is also a matchup that could generate turnovers for the defensive backs on both sides of the ball. Zach Wilson is tied for the lead in interceptions thrown with seven through three games. Ryan Tannehill has had three but could have easily had more. Tannehill also has had a pair of costly fumbles. Janoris Jenkins, Kristian Fulton, and Kevin Byard are the most likely to come away with a Zach Wilson mistake. On the other side, Marcus Maye and Bryce Hall are not locks, but are better-than-normal plays this week.
Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers versus Denver Broncos Offensive Line
Denver Broncos Pass Rushers versus Baltimore Ravens Offensive Line
Due to the lack of quality along the Broncos’ offensive line, this promises to be a contest in which Baltimore increases their lowly sack total of five. Likewise, Denver can cash in on a patchwork Ravens line that has given up eight sacks in three games. For Baltimore, the best plays are rookie Odafe Oweh, Patrick Queen, and Pernell McPhee. For Denver, the only player that we can trust in our big play lineups currently is Von Miller.
Detroit Lions Pass Rushers versus Chicago Bears Offensive Line
After surrendering eight sacks to the Browns, we have to look suspiciously at the Bears’ offensive line, even against a pass rush that has been average so far this season. Romeo Okwara and Micheal Brockers are the only two players we can trust, despite the favorable matchup. Consider Jamie Collins Sr only if you need to take a moon shot at a sack in your lineup.
Indianapolis Colts Pass Rushers versus Miami Dolphins Offensive Line
Miami Dolphins Pass Rushers versus Indianapolis Colts Offensive Line
Despite the Colts having trouble getting after the quarterback this season, the Dolphins’ offensive line is bad enough that they could surrender a couple of sacks. The only trustworthy options of the group appear to be Al-Quadin Muhammad and DeForest Buckner. Kwity Paye’s injury means we likely cannot count on him in any capacity this week. On the opposite end of the contest, the Dolphins have also struggled to sack the quarterback. In fact, they have matched the Colts with only five sacks on the season. What might tip the scales is that Indianapolis is now missing Quenton Nelson with a sprained ankle sustained in Sunday’s loss. It still makes Christian Jones and Emmanuel Ogbah desperate plays. However, for general managers scraping the bottom of the barrel for production, they may be the best options on your waiver wire.
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Houston Texans Pass Rushers versus Buffalo Bills Offensive Line
The Texans have been able to generate six sacks, despite being a very patchwork group. This week, though, we should not be surprised if they are blanked in the sack column. The Bills have given up just four on the year and Josh Allen is playing well at present. Most general managers are not starting Whitney Mercilus, Jacob Martin, or any of the other rotational rushers anyway, but this is an especially bad week to consider that option.
Kansas City Chiefs versus Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
The Chiefs have not been able to generate much of a rush, especially missing Frank Clark. Couple that with the fact the Eagles’ offensive line remains a top-ten unit and you can probably rule out getting much more than a single random sack out of this game. Chris Jones is hard to sit, but you may want to consider it if you have better options this week.
Arizona Cardinals Pass Rushers versus Los Angeles Rams Offensive Line
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers versus Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
Both teams have been excellent at protecting their quarterback through the first three games of the season. The Cardinals have given up only five sacks, while the Rams have allowed just three. Aaron Donald is the only player from this game that simply cannot be benched. Chandler Jones, J.J. Watt, Markus Golden, Leonard Floyd, and Justin Hollins are unlikely to end up with big plays.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers versus Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Line
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers versus Green Bay Packers Offensive Line
Green Bay and Pittsburgh have given up sacks-- eight for the Steelers and six for the Packers. Unfortunately, both teams are missing their best pass rushers and have not been able to generate much without them. For the Steelers, they were also without Alex Highsmith in the last game. With both Zadarius Smith and T.J. Watt out for each respective side, we are unlikely to see many, if any, sacks in this contest.