DE Julius Peppers, CHI (8 solos, 3 asst, 2 sacks)
Although he wasn’t quite as dominant as the stat line indicates, I’m sure fantasy owners won’t complain with an 11 tackle/2 sack game in a game that was delayed for over an hour due to weather. While the first half of the season was mostly a waste for Peppers and he’s not the player he used to be, he is showing signs of a resurgence lately (21 combined tackles and 3 sacks in his last 4 games combined) and should be able to contribute for the fantasy playoffs.
DE Michael Johnson, CIN (2 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 INT, 3 PD)
Johnson and the Bengals defense got plenty of opportunities to rush the passer this week and made the most of it. In addition to the sack and forced fumble, he also added an interception and used his height and wingspan to bring his pass defensed total up to an impressive 8 for the year. After a disappointing start to the season, Johnson has put up solid numbers for 3 straight weeks and goes into the bye playing well.
DE J.J. Watt, HOU (5 solos, 2 sacks)
Watt continues to show why he was considered the clear #1 IDP going into the season. He posted his second 2-sack game of the year against the Raiders this week and also caused plenty of disruption against the run as well. He’s posted 5 sacks in his last 4 games and will get a chance to take out his frustrations on the Jaguars next week.
DE Akiem Hicks, NO (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack)
Hicks has started every game for the Saints this year but is more of a run-stopper so he gets the bulk of his playing time on early downs. He was dominant against the 49ers and helped keep their normally great running game in check as he collected 7 combined tackles and a rare sack. He’s worth a look in matchups against run-heavy offenses, and the Saints have games against Seattle and the Panthers coming up soon.
DT Gerald McCoy, TB (4 solos, 1 asst, 3 sacks, 1 PD)
In a lost season for Tampa, McCoy is one of the few bright spots as he is finally emerging as the dominant interior pass rusher they were expecting him to be when they took him 3rd overall back in 2010. He blew up the Falcons offense with 5 tackles, 3 sacks, and a pass deflection. His sack numbers have just started to come but he’s been generating consistent pressure all year.
LB Brad Jones, GB (11 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack)
The Packers missed Jones during his time out of the lineup, but he looked to be back in top form this week with 13 combined tackles and a sack against the Giants. If he can stay healthy, he figures to play a lot of snaps and could potentially post LB2-type numbers the rest of the year.
LB Sean Weatherspoon, ATL (7 solos, 2 asst)
While Paul Worrilow continued to impress with 16 tackles this week (including 13 solo stops), the bigger story was probably the return of Weatherspoon. He’s been on IR since week 2 but returned to action this week and able to play the entire game. His presence obviously didn’t hurt Worrilow’s production but it did send Akeem Dent to the bench.
LB Shaun Phillips, DEN (7 solos, 3 asst, 1.5 sacks, 2 PD)
In a game where Von Miller was basically invisible, Phillips was the exact opposite. He was very active chasing down plays all over the field and helped keep Alex Smith and the Chiefs offense in check with a great all-around performance. The veteran has come up big for the Broncos this year with 9 sacks and the return of Miller seems to be helping him.
LB Bobby Wagner, SEA (6 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Some fantasy owners were likely frustrated by the disappointing numbers Wagner was putting up earlier this year, but he’s been on a tear of late. Including his dominant game this week in an easy win over the Vikings, he’s been credited with 21 solos, 8 assists, 2.5 sacks, and an interception over the past 3 games. Two of those games also came at home with a stat crew that had been rather stingy early on so it looks like Wagner is back to LB1 status.
LB Danny Trevathan, DEN (6 solos, 5 asst, 1 FF)
Last year it was Wesley Woodyard who seemed to come out of nowhere to put up great numbers for the Broncos, but Trevathan has outplayed him this year. For a team who has had to deal with a suspension to Von Miller and some other injuries, Trevathan has been a huge help. What’s most impressive is his remarkable consistency from week to week for a player who is still just 23 years old.
S Jairus Byrd, BUF (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 INT, 2 PD)
When Byrd plays like this, it becomes more apparent why he believes he should be one of the highest paid safeties in the league. He missed the first 5 games of the year and wasn’t 100% for awhile after that, but he’s now picked off 3 passes and added a sack in the past two games. The Bills front seven isn’t leaving as many tackle opportunities for him to clean up this year, but he’s getting plenty of playmaking chances.
S Andrew Sendejo, MIN (6 solos, 5 asst)
Sendejo continues to start at strong safety for the Vikings and post impressive tackle numbers. Going up against the Seahawks this week, Sendejo was very active and added 11 combined tackles to the 16 he picked up a week ago. Even in balanced scoring systems, that type of tackle production is hard to ignore from a safety.
CB Corey Graham, BAL (9 solos, 1 sack, 1 PD)
Graham stepped up in a big way late last year and helped the Ravens go on their incredible run to win the Super Bowl. He struggled in coverage earlier this year but seems to turning things around of late. Even though he’s playing limited snaps as the team’s nickel corner, he’s been very productive. He posted 8 tackles a few weeks ago and then came through with a 9 tackle, 1 sack game this week against Chicago. With Ladarius Webb and Jimmy Smith both playing well outside, teams are taking their chances over the middle more and more.
CB Tramon Williams, GB (8 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The Packers linebackers have been pretty banged up this year, but Williams is doing his part to help keep things together in the back end. He hasn’t been the most consistent option, but has been extremely productive ever since Aaron Rodgers went down as that is keeping the defense on the field more often.
DE Chris Clemons, SEA (1 asst, 1 PD)
Clemons has always been a low tackle, big play option at DE so he can be a drain on a lineup when he’s not getting much pressure on opposing QBs. He had a stretch of 3.5 sacks in four games earlier this year, but has gone sackless in the 4 games since then. Making matters worse, he’s only been credited with 1 solo and 3 assists in that time period so he’s pretty much boom or bust and all bust of late.
DE Darnell Dockett, ARI (2 solos)
Although he blew up with a 3-sack game earlier this year and added another in a big game against the 49ers, Dockett has been a disappointment in most other weeks. If you want a guy who can give you a baseline of 2 or 3 tackles each week, he’s a fine option but there just isn’t much pressure coming from him in most weeks.
DE Robert Ayers, DEN (1 solo)
Ayers was a productive starter at the beginning of the season as he posted 4.5 sacks in the first 5 games. He’s seen a big drop in playing time since then, however, and his numbers have tanked as well. With 0 sacks and just 4 solo tackles in his last 5 games, it looks like he’ll need an injury to get back into the mix.
DT Ahtya Rubin, CLE (1 solo, 3 asst)
Rubin has seen a noticeable drop in playing time over the past couple week and it has coincided with a decline in his production as well. Known as more of a penetrating interior defender in a 4-3, he’s not going to add much of a pass rush while lining up as a 3-4 DE. With 6 solos, 4 assists, and 0 sacks in his last 4 games it looks like his fantasy value is going to be limited the rest of the year.
LB Von Miller, DEN (1 asst)
For whatever reason, Miller was a non-factor this week in a huge game against the Chiefs. It’s pretty clear the Chiefs game planned around him to try and prevent him from taking over the way he can, but all that seemed to do was give Shaun Phillips an opportunity to dominate. He’s obviously still a player who you have to keep in your lineup for most scoring systems, but this was a surprising clunker from the star.
LB Craig Robertson, CLE (1 solo, 2 asst)
Robertson has shown some flashes at times this year but a lot of his production has primarily been due to him seeing a lot of snaps. He left the game early this week with an injury so he only managed to put up 3 tackles and it sounds like he is undergoing an MRI for a knee injury. Tank Carder appeared to take over for him at inside linebacker and added 7 tackles in relief.
LB Zach Brown, TEN (2 solos, 1 asst)
Times have changed in Tennessee as Brown no longer appears to be playing in the team’s nickel package, but Colin McCarthy is. That’s surprising considering how much speed Brown brings to the table, but McCarthy is the better run defender. The lack of snaps has reduced Brown to little more than a depth player for right now, but he’s young and obviously worth holding in most dynasty and keeper leagues.
LB Akeem Dent, ATL (1 asst)
With the return of Sean Weatherspoon to the lineup this week, Dent went from being a 2-down MLB to a no-down linebacker. His fantasy value was always pretty limited to begin with, but Paul Worrilow is proving that there was plenty of opportunity there for someone to emerge. Dent just couldn’t take advantage of the situation he was in.
S Dashon Goldson, TB (2 solos, 1 INT, 1 FF, 2 PD)
Goldson hasn’t earned much praise for his play but his production in Tampa this year has mostly been in line with preseason expectations. However, he warrants a downgrade here for the simple fact that he was suspended for an illegal hit on Roddy White this weekend. He plans to appeal it but has a reputation as a dirty player that will be tough to get away from and will likely lead to more suspensions in the future.
S Antonio Allen, NYJ (1 solo)
When the Jets picked up Ed Reed midweek and placed him in the starting lineup right away, it was a bad sign for Allen. He had looked good at times this year and seemed to be a player the Jets were grooming for a bigger role down the road. He still may be of course, but Reed is a favorite of Rex Ryan and it says a lot that he was cut by one team and cleared waivers but was still given almost a full load of snaps with the Jets just a few days later.
S Troy Polamalu, PIT (1 solo, 2 asst)
There was some speculation lately that this will likely be the last year for Polamalu with the Steelers as they are expected to release him to create some needed cap space. He’s generally been a shell of his former self and that has contributed to the demise of the formerly dominant Steelers defense.
S Rahim Moore, DEN (2 solos, 1 PD)
Despite playing on a defense that sees a ton of pass attempts most weeks thanks to the explosive Broncos offense, Moore’s numbers have been rather underwhelming. He doesn’t seem to have the ball skills necessary to breakout as an elite fantasy safety. Making matters worse, Moore was diagnosed with a serious condition in his leg this week that could put him on IR for the rest of the year. Mike Adams is expected to replace him in the lineup.
CB Patrick Peterson, ARI (1 solo)
Peterson is the type of shutdown corner that opposing QBs want no part of and that tends to limit his fantasy value. He hasn’t picked off a pass in 5 games now and has no passes defended in the last 3. The Colts come to town next week so he could see a lot of T.Y. Hilton, but it’s just as likely the Colts will try to avoid him.