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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Cowboys rookie defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa is someone that we all need to roster immediately in DT-required formats. He has been a terror along the line and made his presence felt again against Carolina with two tackles, an assist, and half a sack. He has 15 pressures through four weeks, second only to teammate Micah Parsons. Also on that team, we are seeing career backup safety Jayron Kearse get his first shot at starting and doing well with it. He played 96% of snaps, primarily from the box. He seems like the safety to roster in Dallas going forward.
Take it with a grain of salt, but Titans linebacker David Long Jr played 98% of his team’s snaps with Jayon Brown playing only 31% in his return. Brown will likely ease back into full-time work, but it is worth noting that Long is still staying over Rashaan Evans (70%) in playing time. This likely signals that Brown and Long will be the two full-time linebackers here. It will be Evans who becomes the odd man out.
Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks is just not getting the snap volume we had hoped for this season. After eclipsing 80% of the snaps in the first two games, he dipped below 70% of the snaps in the last two games. He still might be worth playing, but only in formats in which four or five linebackers must start for your fantasy team.
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- Bears defensive tackle Akeim Hicks left his contest with a groin strain.
- Bills linebacker Matt Milano exited against the Texans with a hamstring issue.
- Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain II did not return after suffering a chest injury.
- Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray sat Monday night with a knee injury. He later was placed on IR and is out at least for the next three weeks.
- Dolphins defensive back Byron Jones suffered a quad injury.
- Lions' edge rusher Romeo Okwara tore his Achilles and is out for the season.
- Giants safety Jabrill Peppers could not finish the game after sustaining a hamstring injury.
- The Packers lost cornerback Jaire Alexander and edge rusher Preston Smith to shoulder injuries.
- Texans defensive lineman Jonathan Greenard suffered a chest injury against Buffalo.
- Vikings cornerback Bashaud Breeland (illness) and defensive tackle Michael Pierce (elbow) were not able to finish their game.
- Washington Football Team linebacker Jon Bostic exited with a pectoral injury. The fear is that he suffered a torn pectoral and will miss the remainder of the season.
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Las Vegas Raiders Pass Rushers versus Chicago Bears Offensive Line
The Bears cannot seem to get their protection scheme in order, even with a more mobile Justin Fields at the helm. They have given up a whopping 16 sacks on the year. Maxx Crosby is a great start this week. Jonathan Hankins and Yannick Nkagoue could be worth starting depending on the depth of your league.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers versus Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line
Seattle has given up 11 sacks in four games, which is pretty typical of the patchwork line they have allowed Russell Wilson to play behind for the last few years. You were never benching Aaron Donald anyway, but this is definitely not a week to consider that possibility. Leonard Floyd is also worth gambling on in leagues in which you start three or more edge rushers.
New York Jets Pass Rushers versus Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line
The Jets pass rush came alive in Tennessee, registering seven sacks against a woeful Titans line. It might be another sack fest against Atlanta, although seven would be a bit too many to expect against a much better and less-injured offensive line. Still, Quinnen Williams, John Franklin-Myers, and Bryce Huff are worth giving a chance in leagues where you need to take a stab at upside.
New England Patriots Pass Rushers versus Houston Texans Offensive Line
New England Patriots Defensive Backs versus Davis Mills
Houston has given up two sacks a contest and New England ranks among the top ten in pass rush, so there could be a couple of big plays in this one. Matt Judon and Dont'a Hightower are the best choices here. If Juwan Bentley remains sidelined, it also could be Kyle Van Noy getting in on the big play fun. Additionally, the defensive backs of this game have a favorable matchup in terms of facing a rookie quarterback who is prone to turning the ball over. J.C. Jackson and Jalen Mills are likely the two benefactors, but Devin McCourty or Adrian Phillips could just as easily come away with one.
Minnesota Vikings Pass Rushers versus Detroit Lions Offensive Line
Detroit has given up ten sacks over four games and is facing off against a Vikings team that ranks fourth in sacks. Danielle Hunter is a no-brainer in this one. Where it gets harder is determining who else might be worthy of starting consideration. Based on play, it has to be Everson Griffen. Griffen is being outnsapped by D.J. Wonnum, but has vastly outproduced him in sacks, quarterback hits, and pressures. There is some risk with playing Griffen, but it is worth taking in deeper formats or in games in which you are the underdog and need to take risks on big plays to even the playing field.
Cowboys Pass Rushers versus Giants Offensive Line
The Giants have been good for at least two sacks a game and the Cowboys pass rush has been coming to life in recent weeks. Micah Parsons (if he is counted as an edge in your format) is a decent play. Randy Greggory is a high-risk, high-reward play.
Jacksonville Jaguars versus Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
Between all the injuries to Tennessee and frankly just bad play by Taylor Lewan and Nate Davis, Ryan Tannehill has been taking a beating. The Titans gave up seven sacks to a Jets team that had not had more than six combined in the three prior contests. It points to a Jaguars pass rush that also has struggled to date possibly finding its legs in this game. Josh Allen is of course the obvious choice. Dawuane Smoot is worth consideration in deeper leagues.
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New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers versus Washington Football Team Offensive Line
Surprisingly, Washington’s line has held up very well this year, allowing just four sacks in four games. It is likely that trend will continue against the Saints, who are struggling to get to the quarterback, with only six sacks in four games. Cameron Jordan and Peyton Turner are likely the only players you are thinking of playing anyway, but both need to find a spot on the fantasy bench.
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers versus Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Line
Kansas City Chiefs Pass Rushers versus Buffalo Bills Offensive Line
Buffalo has had an effective rush this season, but the quality of the Chiefs line coupled with the mobility of Patrick Mahomes II gives us pause when considering starting Greggory Rousseau or any of the other rushers in this contest. On the other side, the Bills have been just as excellent keeping Josh Allen upright. Chris Jones is hard to bench, even given the poor matchup, so just lower expectations. Mike Danna (who has been filling in for the injured Frank Clark) should be firmly on your bench.