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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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An interesting playing time note came from the Cardinals’ blowout win, where Zaven Collins played significant time (57%) that cut into Jordan Hicks’ (64%) lock on the full-time role. Whether this will be a one-off occurrence due to the nature of the game script remains to be seen, but it could be the beginning of a worrisome trend for Hicks’ general managers and an encouraging one for Collins’ general managers.
Rams linebacker Troy Reeder’s playing time (81%) picked up significantly this week over Kenny Young (81%). Then the Broncos traded for Young on Monday, leaving things wide open for Troy Reeder to start going forward. Young will also fall into a situation where he is much needed, so both will end up being more valuable than if they had remained on the same team.
Kansas City linebacker Nick Bolton has been about the only semi-reliable option in Kansas City, but it was interesting to see Willie Gay Jr log a record high 68% of the snaps Sunday. It came in a blowout loss and with Anthony Hitchens out of the lineup, so it must be taken with a grain of salt. Still, it is something to monitor going forward.
Washington Football Team rookie linebacker Jamin Davis finally reached a season-high 98% playing time. If it sticks going forward, it makes him an extremely valuable IDP option to roster.
The Titans’ decimated cornerback group turned to Greg Mabin (whom they poached from Arizona’s practice squad) and he held up well opposite of Janoris Jenkins. Chris Jackson has been nothing special, so it is possible Mabin will keep the job, even when Jackson is healthy. In cornerback-required leagues, Mabin will have some value, especially when the game is more competitive.
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49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt left Sunday night’s contest with a knee injury.
Broncos linebacker Micah Kiser hurt his groin on Thursday and was placed on IR.
Panthers cornerback C.J. Henderson hurt his shoulder.
Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty sustained an abdominal injury.
Rams cornerback Robert Rochell did not return after suffering a knee injury.
Texans linebacker Christian Kirksey suffered a fractured thumb and it is unclear if he will be able to suit up for the next contest.
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San Francisco 49ers Pass Rushers versus Chicago Bears Offensive Line
The 49ers are coming off an embarrassing loss to the Colts and are not an especially active big-play unit this season. Look for this to be a game in which that changes as they face the Bears, who have allowed a league-worst 26 sacks. Nick Bosa is a no-brainer play. Arik Armstead has been quiet this year, but he could find his way into the big play column here. Javon Kinlaw is unlikely to be available with his knee issue, so D.J. Jones makes a nice desperation play this week in DT-required leagues.
Washington Football Team Pass Rushers versus Denver Broncos Offensive Line
Chase Young and Montez Sweat should be locks for your starting unit this week as they square off against a Denver Broncos unit that has given up 21 sacks over seven games. Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen also are not bad choices this week in DT-required formats.
Cincinnati Bengals Pass Rushers versus New York Jets Offensive Line
Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Backs versus Mike White
The Jets have been abysmal this year without Mekhi Beckton and have given up 20 sacks. It is looking like a late November return is the best-case scenario for Beckton. Trey Hendrickson and Sam Hubbard are the only two edge rushers to trust in this contest. Larry Ogunjobi and D.J. Reeder are both fine options in DT-required leagues. If Mike White remains the starter as is currently believed will be the case, we could see pressure lead to an interception or two among the defensive backs. Von Bell, Jessie Bates, Eli Apple, and Chidobe Awuzie could come up with a pick in this contest.
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers versus Miami Dolphins Offensive Line
The Bills had an inexplicable clunker of a game against the Tennessee Titans, but look for them to rebound against a subpar Dolphins front five that has surrendered 17 on the year and gave up a sack last week to the Falcons, one of the worst sack-producing units in the league. Start Gregory Rousseau and do not think twice. Jerry Hughes and Carlos Basham could also get a sack. Even the pass rushers not getting a lot of playing time such as Mario Addison, A.J. Epenesa, and Efe Obada are better-than-normal desperation plays this week.
New York Giants Defensive Backs versus Patrick Mahomes II
It feels weird typing that we should target defensive back interception matchups against arguably the best quarterback in football. Yet here we are! Football is a team sport and Mahomes’ offensive line and receivers are letting him down. The Giants were the benefactors of last week’s matchup with Sam Darnold. They possess a pass rush that is just good enough to force Mahomes into some hurried, errant throws. Adoree' Jackson, James Bradberry, Logan Ryan, Xavier McKinney, and Jabril Peppers (if healthy) once again have appeal this week.
Atlanta Falcons Defensive Backs versus Sam Darnold
Darnold threw another inexplicable interception against the Giants and was benched for P.J. Walker. He received the dreaded vote of confidence from Head Coach Matt Rhule. It does not seem to matter who Darnold faces-- so far, he has thrown interceptions in just about every contest. The Falcons secondary is pretty banged up. If A.J. Terrell and Erik Harris play, they are priority starts in big play, cornerback required leagues. Richie Grant is healthy (as far as we know), so he is the safest play of the group.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers versus Cleveland Browns Offensive Line
The Browns have been banged up along their front, which could mean the Steelers will take advantage of a team that has already given up 19 quarterback takedowns on the year. Nobody is benching T.J. Watt. Alex Highsmith and Melvin Ingram III become more attractive longshots this week. Cameron Heyward is also a viable week eight play. If Stephon Tuitt is back and a full-go, he also could be an acceptable start.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers versus Houston Texans Offensive Line
The Texans have been a surprise in that they have not been as bad as expected at protecting the quarterback this year, but they have still allowed 16 sacks. Tyrod Taylor is likely to be back in the lineup, but that does not do much to improve the outlook against a Rams team that is tied for second with 20 sacks of opposing quarterbacks on the year. Aaron Donald is an automatic start on any week, but especially this one. Leonard Floyd is also worth putting into your starting lineup. Terrell Lewis is an acceptable option if you need to take a flier on someone who could end up with a sack on more limited playing time.
Arizona Cardinals Pass Rushers versus Green Bay Packers Offensive Line
There are several factors that make this an attractive matchup to target. Green Bay will be without Devante Adams, which should make it harder for Aaron Rodgers to get the ball out. Also, Chandler Jones returns from the COVID list, making him a recommended start. J.J. Watt is a shakier play, having logged only one sack and ten tackles on the year. Zach Allen will also be back in this contest, but not knowing how many snaps he will get in his return makes it very risky to put him into your lineup.
Philadelphia Eagles Pass Rushers versus Detroit Lions Offensive Line
The Lions are creeping up the board and have allowed 17 sacks on the year, tied with five other teams for seventh place in sacks allowed. Fletcher Cox is an outstanding DT-required play this week. Dereck Barnett and Josh Sweat are the only two rushers getting enough consistent playing time that we can feel confident throwing them into the lineup.
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Seattle Seahawks Pass Rushers versus Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Line
Granted, the Jaguars have played one less game than everyone else, but their 10 sacks allowed on the year still is impressive. The Seahawks have had trouble getting to the quarterback anyway and this does not seem like the opportunity to turn that trend around. Bench Darrell Taylor, Rasheem Green, and any of the other Seahawks pass rush options you may be thinking of playing this week.
New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Rushers versus New Orleans Saints Offensive Line
Divisional tilts sometimes change the rules of engagement, but the trends this year have been that both these teams are great at limiting sacks of their signal-callers and subpar when it comes to generating sacks. It took the Buccaneers playing the Bears and getting four sacks in that contest to put them in the middling territory. Meanwhile, the Saints have only eight on the entire season. Just bench pass rushers on both sides of this tilt.
Denver Broncos Pass Rushers versus Washington Football Team Offensive Line
Denver, like Washington, has 15 sacks on the year; but unlike Washington, they do not have an excellent offensive line to mitigate them on the offensive side. Von Miller was injured on Thursday night against the Browns and it is unclear if he will play. Bradley Chubb also may not be back from injury. That leaves Malik Reed. So between injuries and trends, it is best to just avoid this group entirely, at least for this week.
Dallas Cowboys Pass Rushers versus Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line
Minnesota Vikings Pass Rushers versus Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line
It is difficult to bench Randy Greggory after his breakout game and to think about sitting Danielle Hunter is akin to fantasy blasphemy. However, general managers need to consider it if they have better options this week. Both offensive lines have been great, each allowing only nine sacks in six games. Micah Parsons and Everson Griffen should also receive diminished expectations from their general managers this week.