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.
KANSAS CITY @ LA CHARGERS
LB Nick Bolton, KC (10 solos, 4 asst, 1 QH, 3 PD)
The Chiefs have long favored a rotational approach at linebacker and no linebacker had seen more than 86% of the snaps since Anthony Hitchens handled that workload in week 2. This week, however, Bolton played 79 out of 80 snaps (99%) and filled up the stat sheet with 14 tackles and 3 passes defensed. This was a departure from his role in prior weeks when he played less than 50% of the snaps for 5 games in a row, but the absence of Willie Gay Jr (Covid) created an opportunity and he took advantage.
S Derwin James, LAC (2 solos, 1 asst)
James sat out last week with a hamstring injury and came into this week as a game-time decision. He was deemed healthy enough to start but aggravated the injury and was pulled after just 28 snaps (39%). Even if he’s back in the lineup for the Chargers next week, he likely carries an elevated risk for a re-aggravation so keep that in mind when setting IDP lineups.
NEW ENGLAND @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Jamie Collins Sr, NE (2 solos, 3 asst, 1 TFL, 2 PD)
There weren’t too many IDP standouts in this game for the Patriots, but Collins warrants a mention due to his elevated workload. He was on the field for 71% of the snaps this week after topping out at 27% since joining the Patriots in week 5. The most likely reason for his spike, however, was Ja'Whaun Bentley was not at 100% and played just 11 of 52 snaps (21%).
S Khari Willis, IND (5 solos, 4 asst, 1 TFL)
The Colts safety was very active with 9 tackles on 67 snaps and continues to be a productive player whenever he’s in the lineup. For comparison, he was credited with 9 combined tackles in the game while linebacker Bobby Okereke only had 3 and both played the entire game.
DE Deatrich Wise Jr, NE (2 solos, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Wise has just 3 sacks on the year and one of them came this week, but his productive outing hides the fact that he saw just 4 snaps on defense. While much of that likely had to do with the matchup against the run-heavy Colts offense, it was quite a departure considering he regularly plays about half the game.
CAROLINA @ BUFFALO
DE Yetur Gross-Matos, CAR (2 solos, 3 asst, 2.5 sacks, 1 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Gross-Matos was a high pick a year ago but hasn’t shown much while playing a limited role since then. So, this felt like a breakout game for him as he took advantage of a depleted Bills offensive line and picked up 2.5 sacks plus a forced fumble. His short-term upside figures to be limited while playing behind Brian Burns and Haason Reddick but is worthy of holding in dynasty and keeper leagues.
DE Gregory Rousseau, BUF (1 solo, 1 QH, 1 PD)
The rookie came on strong to start this season with 3 sacks by week 5. Unfortunately, he hasn’t registered another sack in the 9 games since then. While he’s held up well against the run, he has not been able to generate any consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That has forced the Bills to rely more heavily on veterans Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison.
ARIZONA @ DETROIT
DE Charles Harris, DET (7 solos, 5 asst, 1.5 sacks, 3 TFL, 2 QH)
Harris led the way in a huge upset over the Cardinals this week. His playing time was up to 90% last week and he played a healthy 85% this week so he’s emerged as an integral part of the Lions defense after failing to do much in Miami or Atlanta.
LB Markus Golden, ARI (8 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Most of the offseason attention in Arizona was around their inside linebackers or the combination of J.J. Watt and Chandler Jones on the edge. Golden started out under the radar but has emerged as the best pass rusher on the team. He picked up his 11th sack of the season this week while also registering 8 solo stops after putting up just 2 assisted tackles in the prior two games.
HOUSTON @ JACKSONVILLE
LB Garret Wallow, HOU (6 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
The rookie fifth-round pick has been playing a part-time role for most of the year and finally got a chance to start this week while Christian Kirksey and Kamu Grugier-Hill sat out due to Covid protocols. He made the most of his opportunity and was credited with 11 tackles and a sack on 66 snaps (94%) alongside Neville Hewitt (4 solos, 5 asst).
S Rayshawn Jenkins, JAX (0 tackles)
Jenkins hadn’t made any big plays but was often a steady source of tackles in the Jaguars secondary. Unfortunately, he lasted just 15 snaps (25%) this week before leaving with a broken ankle that will end his season. He suffered the injury while covering a kick and his absence will open up more playing time for young players like Andre Cisco and Daniel Thomas.
NY JETS @ MIAMI
DT Christian Wilkins, MIA (2 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL, 1 PD, 1 TD)
Wilkins made all the highlight reels this weekend, but it was primarily for his contribution on offense as he caught a touchdown pass. He was still productive on defense as well, however, with 7 tackles and a pass deflection. While the Dolphins defense didn’t always play up to its potential this year, Wilkins has produced like an elite fantasy defensive tackle.
S Elijah Riley, NYJ (3 solos, 3 asst, 1 PD)
Riley has been coming on strong for the Jets but was forced to leave the game early this week in a scary incident. He was taken off the field on a stretcher but reports later confirmed he avoided a serious injury and was placed in the concussion protocol. Sharrod Neasman replaced him and would be in line to start the next game if Riley isn’t cleared in time.
DALLAS @ NY GIANTS
CB Trevon Diggs, DAL (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 2 PD)
The remarkable season for Diggs continues as he picked off his 10th pass of the year and also increased his passes defensed total to 19. With two more games to play, he has a chance to reach 11 interceptions for the first time since Everson Walls did it in 1981.
S Xavier McKinney, NYG (0 solos, 3 asst)
The young safety appeared well on his way to a breakout season a couple of weeks ago but he’s gone cold the past two games. He was credited with just 3 tackles against the Chargers last week, went on the Covid list during the past week, and then came back in time to suit up against Dallas. He remains a promising playmaker but Logan Ryan has provided a lot of competition for tackles (19 combined over the prior two games).
TENNESSEE @ PITTSBURGH
S Minkah Fitzpatrick, PIT (12 solos, 2 asst, 1 FR)
Fitzpatrick had already established himself as an elite playmaking safety over the past few years but his tackle production has spiked this year and made him one of the elite fantasy safeties and top IDPs overall. He was all over the field this week and picked up 14 tackles on his 80 snaps as the Titans offense generated an impressive 69 tackle opportunities.
LB Jayon Brown, TEN (0 tackles)
Zach Cunningham got his first chance to play with the Titans this week and he was in the starting lineup over Brown. They wound up splitting snaps in the game, but Brown played just 33% and was shut out while Cunningham picked up 6 tackles on 33 snaps.
CINCINNATI @ DENVER
LB Germaine Pratt, CIN (9 solos, 6 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH)
Pratt had an uneven year track record as a starter the past two years and had trouble establishing himself as a full-time player. The emergence of Logan Wilson this year helped push him out of the spotlight, but he is taking full advantage of Wilson’s injury now. Over the past three games with Pratt handling all but 2 snaps, he has been credited with 16 solos, 17 assists, plus a half-sack and a forced fumble with recovery.
CB Kyle Fuller, DEN (0 tackles)
With Patrick Surtain II and Ronald Darby handling the outside corner duties in Denver, Fuller had been playing out of the slot until Bryce Callahan returned to the lineup this week. Callahan played 94% of the snaps this week in his first action since week 8 and that pushed Fuller back to a very limited role with just 6 snaps. The pending free agent will look for a new opportunity in the offseason and hopefully regain some of his fantasy value.
ATLANTA @ SAN FRANCISCO
LB Fred Warner, SF (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 QH, 1 PD, 1 FR)
Warner did not miss any playing time last week but suffered an ankle sprain that left his status for this week in question. He was healthy enough to play all 60 snaps, however, and appeared to be back to his normal self as he led the 49ers with 9 tackles while adding a pass deflection and a fumble recovery.
LB Azeez Al-Shaair, SF (DNP)
Al-Shaair was not able to play this week after suffering an elbow injury a week earlier. Additionally, the 49ers have a short practice week before they take on the Titans on Thursday night so his status for week 16 is also in doubt. Marcell Harris replaced him in the lineup this week but only collected 3 tackles on his 60 snaps (100%).
GREEN BAY @ BALTIMORE
LB Patrick Queen, BAL (11 solos, 2 asst)
Queen is a very difficult player to figure out as he has the talent and potential to be one of the best fantasy linebackers in the league but he’s also very inconsistent. Last week, he was credited with just 2 combined tackles on 55 snaps against what appeared to be a strong matchup against the Browns. This week, he picked up 13 tackles on 53 tackles against another strong matchup. His production overall has been trending up of late though and he’s still only 22 years old so we should see more games like this in the future.
CB Rasul Douglas, GB (9 solos)
The Packers have been without their top cornerback in Jaire Alexander since week 5 but have gotten huge contributions from Douglas and rookie Eric Stokes. Stokes was a first-round pick so many expected him to be good eventually but Douglas has been a very pleasant surprise after the Packers picked him up off the Cardinals practice squad. He’s been a very good player who earned his starting role and now has 44 solo tackles with 3 interceptions in 9 games played.
NEW ORLEANS @ TAMPA BAY
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (5 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 3 QH, 1 FF)
Jordan missed last week’s game while placed on the Covid list but returned and led the Saints to a shutout win over the league’s top passing offense. He sacked Brady twice and forced a fumble to bring him up to 6 sacks on the year. While it hasn’t been a great year for him, he’s still showing that he can be a productive fantasy option at 32 years of age.
LB Lavonte David, TB (8 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
David had an incredible game with 11 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble but that was spoiled at the end when he left the game with a foot injury. He played 56 of 61 snaps (92%) but his status for next week’s game against Carolina is uncertain.
LB Kwon Alexander, NO (1 solo)
Alexander had a very quiet night on the stat sheet but he still played a normal workload with 80% of the defensive snaps. Tampa’s offense just wasn’t able to sustain much and generated only 21 rush attempts and 51 tackle opportunities overall. He should be able to bounce back next week against Miami.