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DE Robert Quinn, STL (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 PD, 1 TD)
After a break during the team’s bye, Quinn picked up right where he left off with another dominant week. He continues to pile up the numbers as he added his 13th sack of the year and helped put the game away with a strip sack that he picked up and returned for a touchdown. He’s right with J.J. Watt among the most valuable defensive ends in the league this year.
DE Cameron Jordan, NO (3 solos, 3 asst, 2.5 sacks, 1 PD)
Jordan recently had a couple of quiet weeks but he put up his second strong game in a row this week to get his breakout season back on track. Although 3-4 defensive ends generally have trouble putting up great fantasy numbers, Jordan’s 2.5 sack effort on Thursday night put him just a half sack from double digits with 5 games left to play.
DE Ezekial Ansah, DET (2 solos, 2 sacks)
After missing most of the past month with an injury, Ansah made a solid impact in his return to the lineup as he posted 2 sacks in a loss to the Buccaneers. The rookie remains a very promising young player to watch in dynasty leagues, but with 5.5 sacks in 9 games he looks capable of contributing in the fantasy playoffs this year as well.
DE Ricky Jean-Francois, IND (5 solos, 2 sacks, 1 PD)
Jean-Francois had a surprisingly productive day in an ugly loss to the Cardinals this week. While not the type to normally put up splashy numbers, he posted 5 solo tackles along with the first multi-sack game of his 5-year career. Don’t look for similar numbers from him going forward as the Cardinals have been a great matchup for a lot of players.
LB Von Miller, DEN (6 solos, 2 asst, 2 sacks, 1 FF, 1 FR, 1 TD)
After a less than impressive outing against the Chiefs last week, Von Miller blew up against the Patriots on Sunday night. He returned a fumble for a 60 yard defensive touchdown to start the game and took advantage of a depleted Patriots offensive line with a pair of sacks as well. This performance just lends more support to the idea that you need to keep him in your lineup every week.
LB Audie Cole, MIN (11 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack)
Making a surprise start for MLB Erin Henderson, Cole filled in admirably as he was credited with 13 combined tackles and a sack. The young player was a late round pick last year’s draft but most of his playing time has come on special teams.
LB Nick Roach, OAK (7 solos, 3 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 FF)
While Roach hadn’t shown much in his playing time prior to this season, he is getting a great opportunity to play a full-time role in the middle of the Raiders defense. And he’s making the most of it. He continues to put up strong tackle numbers in most weeks but is also showing a playmaking side to his game of late. He had 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble this week and picked off a pass last week. At 28 years old, he may be able to stick around in Oakland for a little while as a reliable LB3 type.
LB Mike Neal, GB (5 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack)
Neal has been a starter at OLB for the Packers most of the year but he has only recently started to show signs of life. He posted a sack for the second straight week and also added 7 tackles in 5 quarters of work.
S Jeff Heath, DAL (5 solos, 1 asst, 1 FR, 1 TD)
The rookie was inserted into the starting lineup about a month ago and he’s seeing plenty of action in a defense that has struggled to get off the field. He was credited with 9 combined tackles in the last game before the bye and added 6 more this week along with a defensive touchdown on a fumble recovery. With Sean Lee out injured, we can likely expect pretty consistent tackle opportunities for both him and Church (who had 13 combined tackles in the game).
S Troy Polamalu, PIT (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack, 2 FF, 1 FR, 1 PD)
It appears the reported demise of Polamalu was exaggerated as he looked like his old self on Sunday in a big win over the Browns. The big play ability is what always helped set him apart from most other players and it was on full display as he finished with a sack, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. If the Steelers are going to make a run at the playoffs, they’ll need more games like this from their star safety.
S Duron Harmon, NE (7 solos, 4 asst)
The rookie 3rd round pick has been starting in New England for the past 2 weeks so he’s worth a mention here. His 11 combined tackles were certainly helped by the 90 snaps he faced in a crazy overtime game against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Veteran Steve Gregory could be close to returning but keep Harmon on your radar.
CB Jonathan Joseph, HOU (7 solos, 1 asst, 2 PD)
The former Bengal cornerback continues to see plenty of action each week in one of the league’s better pass defenses. He has always been a physical tackler who is willing to come up in run support but he’s also getting his hands on a lot of balls this year. With 2 more passes defensed this week, he’s up to 13 on the year. The interceptions haven’t been there but he’s clearly getting chances.
DE George Selvie, DAL (1 solo)
Selvie has been surprisingly productive at times this year with 5.5 sacks, but he continues to struggle even with DeMarcus Ware back in the lineup opposite him the past two games. Over the past 4 games, Selvie has managed just 5 solo tackles, 2 assists, and one sack with a forced fumble.
DE Jason Pierre-Paul, NYG (1 solo)
The former star IDP looks like he’s playing at well less than 100%. He has only been playing about half the snaps for the past few weeks and a fluky interception return for a touchdown last week has helped mask some really underwhelming production. Since posting a sack in the season opener, he has just 1 sack in the 10 games since then and he’s only posted more than 2 solo tackles in a game twice in his last 8 games.
DT Ndamakong Suh, DET (1 solo, 2 asst)
Suh obviously demands a lot of attention each week, but it seems that he has been taken out of games far more often than we are used to seeing this year. He has 4 sacks on the year but just 1 in his last 4 games and he’s only been credited with 4 solos and 2 assists in that same span. Even in DT-required leagues, he’s not the reliable everyweek starter we were expecting to see.
LB Colin McCarthy, TEN (DNP)
McCarthy can be a really productive player when he’s in the lineup but he has always had troubles staying healthy. With Moise Fokou back healthy this week, it looks like the Titans gave him his starting spot back and that put McCarthy back on the bench. Perhaps that could change again but it seems like the Titans are happy with the reliable play they get from Fokou in the middle of their defense. The change also seemed to benefit Zach Brown.
LB Tamba Hali, KC (1 asst) and Justin Houston, KC (1 solo)
Hali and Houston were both forced to leave their game with the Chargers early this week. An MRI for Hali revealed he had just a mild ankle sprain that will not keep him out for long but could limit his effectiveness if he’s able to play. Houston is a bigger concern as he suffered a dislocated elbow and it seems likely that he’ll miss the big matchup coming against Denver.
LB Dont’a Hightower, NE (1 solo, 2 asst)
In a game that saw the Patriots defense on the field for 90 snaps, one of their best linebackers somehow only managed 3 combined tackles. The reason is because he became just a part-time player as the Patriots went with more nickel and dime packages to try and slow down Peyton Manning. The Broncos responded by running the ball early and often. Pay close attention to matchups when deciding whether to use players like Hightower or Spikes.
S Michael Mitchell, CAR (1 solo)
Despite starting at strong safety and playing every snap for the past two games, Mitchell has been a non-factor due in great part to the great play of the Panthers front seven. He was credited with just 1 solo and 1 assist over the past two games despite being an everydown player. With guys like Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis in front of him, there don’t seem to be many tackle opportunities left.
CB Brandon Browner, SEA (BYE)
It was announced on Monday that Browner will be suspended for a full year due to a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. He was already sitting out injured and hadn’t played up to his normal level this year, but it looks like any chance he has to return to action will be a long time from now. Seattle also lost Walter Thurmond to a 4-game suspension and were reportedly trying to lure Antoine Winfield back.
CB Darrelle Revis, TB (3 solos)
Revis had a huge matchup with Calvin Johnson this week but was forced to leave early due to a groin injury. He was scheduled for an MRI to determine the severity but you may want to look elsewhere as the matchup with Carolina coming up doesn’t look too favorable anyway.