This article immediately highlights defensive players whose production was significantly better or worse than normally expected for the prior week of games. Note there is sometimes limited information available when this article is written, but I will try to give everyone an early look at players who are moving up or down in value among IDP circles. When warranted, I'll also call out some players under No Change to explain why the stat lines may be misleading. It isn’t easy to give waiver advice for IDPs since there is such a wide variety of lineups and scoring systems, but hopefully, the information provided can help inform your waiver, trade, and upcoming lineup decisions. If you have any questions about specific players or situations, please email me or reach out via Twitter.
DALLAS @ NEW ORLEANS
DE Demarcus Lawrence, DAL (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 QH, 2 PD)
Lawrence returned to the lineup this week for the first time since suffering an injury in week 1. He was able to play 37 snaps (53%) and should give the Cowboys pass rush a boost in the weeks ahead.
S Jayron Kearse, DAL (8 solos, 1 asst, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Kearse is enjoying a breakout season in his 6th season on his 3rd NFL team. With 55 solos and 30 assists through 12 games played, he’s on pace for 120 combined tackles. He’s also been posting his best numbers in recent weeks with 18 solos, 7 assists, 2 interceptions, and 4 passes defensed over the past 3 weeks.
LB Keanu Neal, DAL (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Neal put up impressive numbers this week but they could mask a concerning trend. With Demarcus Lawrence back in the lineup this week, Parsons saw more time at linebacker and that pushed Neal’s playing time down to just 23 snaps (33%).
S Malcolm Jenkins, NO (3 solos, 1 asst)
Jenkins was a top-10 fantasy safety through the first 8 weeks of the season, but his production has fallen off considerably since then. He averaged 5 solos per game over his first 6 games but just 2 solos per game over his last 6 games. Given that he’s about to turn 34 years old, it’s reasonable to wonder how much time he has left as a full-time player with fantasy relevance.
TAMPA BAY @ ATLANTA
DT Ndamukong Suh, TB (2 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Suh posted 10 sacks as a rookie back in 2010 but has never been able to replicate that type of production. While his tackle numbers this year are still quite low (20 total in 12 games), his sack numbers are worth taking note of. Including a 2-sack game this week, he now has 5 over his last 5 games.
S Erik Harris, ATL (2 asst)
Harris has been a pleasant surprise in Atlanta this year but he had a disappointing week. While he played close to a full workload with 60 snaps (86%), he was credited with just 2 assists. It was even more disappointing when you consider that Tampa’s offense generated 38 pass completions in the game.
ARIZONA @ CHICAGO
LB Jordan Hicks, ARI (9 solos, 4 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
With a huge game this week, Hicks clearly established himself as a fantasy LB1 and may wind up as a top-10 overall IDP. Given what he has been doing, it’s even more confusing why the Cardinals felt the need to spend a 1st round pick on linebacker Zaven Collins. The narrative here, however, seems to be that pick helped motivate Hicks and he’s been proving his value ever since.
LB Alec Ogletree, CHI (1 solo)
Roquan Smith bounced back from an injury last week and managed to play all 53 snaps this week. Ogletree was in the starting lineup next to him but wound up seeing a season-low 43% of the snaps while Joel Iyiegbuniwe (42%) saw a season-high workload.
LA CHARGERS @ CINCINNATI
LB Germaine Pratt, CIN (3 solos, 6 asst, 1 FF, 1 FR)
Pratt has disappointed in the past but he appears to be the next man up in Cincinnati to take over as a 3-down player. Logan Wilson went down with a shoulder injury this week and Pratt saw his playing time jump from 74% last week to 97% this week. If Wilson misses time as expected, Pratt should be in line for a heavy workload the next couple of weeks against the 49ers and Broncos.
DE Joey Bosa, LAC (1 solo)
Bosa was mentioned in this space a week ago thanks to his impressive consistency this year. Unfortunately, his 4-game sack streak came to an end this week as he left the game after just 9 snaps with a head injury. He was later cleared though so it appears he’ll be able to practice and play in next week’s game against the Giants.
LB Logan Wilson, CIN (1 solo, 2 asst, 1 TFL)
Wilson has been a big part of the Bengals turnaround this year and a focal point of their defense. While his overall production had dropped off in recent weeks, he also left the game early with a dislocated shoulder this week that is expected to keep him out for a week or more. The biggest benefactor here appears to be Germaine Pratt, who saw his workload increase to 97% with more work in nickel packages.
MINNESOTA @ DETROIT
DE Charles Harris, DET (2 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 4 QH, 1 FF)
Harris has been a pleasant surprise for the Lions this year and he came up big for them this week as they landed their first win of the year. He was credited with 2 sacks and 4 quarterback hits in the game. The former 1st-round pick of Miami now has 6 sacks on the year and is still just 26 years old.
LB Nick Vigil, MIN (9 solos, 6 asst, 1 QH)
LB Blake Lynch, MIN (6 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF, 1 FR)
The Vikings were missing their top-2 linebackers this week in Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr, which created a great opportunity for Vigil and Lynch. Vigil was a tackling machine in the game as he finished with 15 tackles on the 55 opportunities generated by the Lions offense. Lynch has not played much this year but he was highly productive as well, with 9 tackles plus a pair of sacks while playing all 72 snaps.
INDIANAPOLIS @ HOUSTON
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, HOU (10 solos, 10 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH)
The Texans welcomed back Christian Kirksey to the lineup this week after a 3-game absence and also sat Zach Cunningham for disciplinary reasons. That helped Grugier-Hill play 62 of 64 snaps and post one of the biggest IDP stat lines of the weekend.
S Khari Willis, IND (5 solos, 1 PD)
The Colts safety returned to action this week for the first time since week 8 when he suffered a calf injury. Despite missing all or parts of 6 games this year, he’s been very productive when he’s been healthy enough to play. His 5 solos this week didn’t stand out but they were second-most on the team in a game where the Texans offense only generated 34 tackle opportunities.
LB Zach Cunningham, HOU (DNP)
While Cunningham has been in and out of the doghouse in Houston this year, he was benched again this week for disciplinary reasons. The injury to Christian Kirksey gave him a reprieve the past few weeks but it looks like the Texans will probably try to part ways in the offseason. A fresh start elsewhere could be the best outcome for him, provided he has a clear path to a 3-down role again.
NY GIANTS @ MIAMI
DE Quincy Roche, NYG (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Roche was a 6th-round pick of the Steelers who didn’t make the initial roster and was picked up by the Giants. He’s emerged as a key edge rusher for the Giants since week 8 and has 12 solos, 7 assists, and 2 sacks over the last 4 games.
LB Jaelan Phillips, MIA (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
The rookie edge rusher followed up a 3-sack game a week ago with 2 more this week. That gives him 8.5 sacks on the year with 7 of them coming over his last 5 games. He still needs to show improvement against the run as he’s averaged a little more than 50% of the defensive snaps each week, which limits his upside if the sack numbers start to fall off.
PHILADELPHIA @ NY JETS
LB C.J. Mosley, NYJ (11 solos, 2 asst)
As the best linebacker on a bad team, Mosley gets more opportunities than most IDPs in the league. He’s been productive this year but hasn’t always played up to his true potential. This was a great matchup for him, however, and he took advantage to finish with 11 solo tackles to mark his second game of the year with at least double-digit solo tackles.
S Rodney McLeod, PHI (1 solo, 2 asst)
This has mostly been a forgettable season for McLeod, who has posted underwhelming tackle numbers with no big plays. He saw a drop in playing time to 64% this week while reserve safety Marcus Epps saw his playing time spike to 58% and picked off his first pass of the year.
CB Steven Nelson, PHI (0 tackles)
The veteran corner hasn’t made much of an impact in Philadelphia this year but he’s shown some flashes. He was shut out this week, however, as he left the game in the first half with a shoulder injury and did not return.
JACKSONVILLE @ LA RAMS
LB Ernest Jones, LAR (5 solos, 4 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH, 1 PD)
A week after being out-snapped by Troy Reeder, the rookie linebacker saw a season-high 97% of the snaps this week. Meanwhile, Reeder was a disappointment with just 3 assists on 29 snaps (50%). Jones still needs to improve his consistency but the 3rd-round pick has the potential to become a highly productive long-term starter here.
DE Josh Allen, JAX (2 asst)
Allen has put together a strong season but he has also cooled off lately. He’s been a below-average fantasy starter in 3 of the last 4 games and has gone without a sack in all 4 of them.
LB Von Miller, LAR (1 solo, 1 TFL, 1 PD)
Miller was expected to upgrade the Rams pass rush following a trade from the Broncos, thanks in part to the fact that Aaron Donald draws so much attention. He’s failed to register a sack through 3 games with the Rams and actually hasn’t been credited with as much as a partial sack since week 4.
WASHINGTON @ LAS VEGAS
CB Nate Hobbs, LV (4 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The rookie continues to impress as the Raiders nickel back and looks like a steal from the fifth round of the draft. He has held up well in coverage, been a sound tackler, and picked off the first pass of his career this week.
LB Cory Littleton, LV (3 solos, 3 asst)
Littleton has settled into his role as the #2 linebacker behind Denzel Perryman. Unfortunately, he was limited to just 34% of the snaps this week as he suffered a stinger in the game. The Raiders also lost Nick Kwiatkoski in the game so rookie Divine Deablo (8 solos, 3 asst) filled in and had a very productive day on 38 snaps. Denzel Perryman suffered an ankle injury late after another strong outing and appears day-to-day.
BALTIMORE @ PITTSBURGH
LB T.J. Watt, PIT (5 solos, 1 asst, 3.5 sacks, 3 TFL, 6 QH, 1 FF)
Watt went on the Covid list early last week with a positive test but was able to clear in time to suit up on Sunday. He came up huge with 3.5 sacks and 6 quarterback hits in a big win over their division rivals. This marks his second 3-sack game in the past 4 and 6th multi-sack game of the season. With 16 sacks on the year and 4 more games to play, the record of 22.5 could be in reach.
CB Marlon Humphrey, BAL (3 solos)
Humphrey came into the year as perhaps the top-ranked fantasy cornerback and was starting to heat up in recent weeks after a slow start. Unfortunately, he suffered a torn pectoral this week and will be lost for the rest of the season. The injury came very late in the game as he still played 58 of 60 snaps, and the Ravens will now likely turn to Jimmy Smith who returned to action this week.
SAN FRANCISCO @ SEATTLE
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, SF (11 solos, 5 asst, .5 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Fred Warner missed the game with an injury, which made Al-Shaair the centerpiece of the 49ers defense. He played 68 of 70 snaps in the game and filled up the box score with 16 tackles with a partial sack and forced fumble.
S Jamal Adams, SEA (2 solos, 2 asst)
Adams has had a rough season at times with his struggles in coverage but remains a highly productive box safety. Unfortunately, he was limited to just 27 snaps (47%) this week after suffering a shoulder injury so his status for next week’s game against Houston remains in doubt.
DENVER @ KANSAS CITY
LB Baron Browning, DEN (7 solos, 1 asst)
The rookie 3rd-round pick has played a full-time role in 3 of the last 4 games and has averaged 7.5 combined tackles in those games. He has room to grow but looks like a solid piece for them to build around.
CB Charvarius Ward, KC (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
Ward missed 4 games earlier this year but he has helped the Chiefs turn things around for their maligned defense. He has played a full-time role in 4 of the Chiefs' last 5 games and has 19 solos and 8 assists in those games, making him one of the rare fantasy corners who you can rely on for consistent production each week.