Join the Footballguys Daily Update
Start your morning with our roundup of the most important stories in football - with the fantasy insight you need to make league-winning decisions. Delivered straight to your inbox, 100% free.
DE Jared Allen, MIN (3 solos, 2 sacks)
While it hasn’t been a year to remember for Allen and the Vikings, he is at least trying to salvage things with a strong finish. His 2 sacks this week give him 4 in his last 3 games, and leaves him just a half sack short of posting double digit sacks for the 6th year in a row.
DE Brian Robison, MIN (2 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks)
Just like with Allen, Robison was mostly a disappointment to fantasy owners early this year but he has been on a tear since the midpoint. While he adds almost nothing in the way of run defense, Robison is turning into a sack machine. Over the past 7 games, he has posted at least 1 sack in 6 of them and has 8 total during that stretch. Amazingly, he only has 9 solo tackles and 5 assists in that same span so he’s reliably one dimensional.
DE William Gholston, TB (5 solos, 3 asst, 2 PD)
Gholston is a rookie 4th round pick who has started to emerge as a key piece of the defensive line rotation in Tampa. Although he typically plays less than half of the snaps, he’s managed to post some respectable numbers of late. After posting 4 tackles and 1.5 sacks a week ago, he added 8 tackles and batted down a couple of passes. Could be in line for a bigger role in 2014 as he continues to develop.
DE Andre Branch, JAX (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
Branch was an early 2nd round pick for the Jaguars last year who showed almost nothing as a rookie. Many fantasy owners likely gave up on him as a result, but he’s been showing signs of life of late. With a sack against the Bills this week, he’s now picked up a sack in 4 of 5 games and he’s also been posting some pretty steady tackle numbers as well. Might be a player to keep tabs on heading into his 3rd year.
LB Brian Orakpo, WAS (6 solos, 2 asst, 1.5 sacks, 1 FR)
Orakpo is headed into free agency this offseason at 27 years of age and he figures to be one of the more highly sought after players thanks to the great year he’s having. With 1.5 sacks this week, he’s now up to 10 on the year and has 7 in his last 6 games. He missed almost all of 2012 with an injury, but has been among the more consistent 3-4 OLBs since entering the league in 2009.
LB Mychal Kendricks, PHI (5 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Kendricks has been an everydown player for the Eagles this year and has shown steady improvement, which is what you generally expect from a young player in his first year as a starter. The Philadelphia crew has been among the toughest when it comes to handing out tackles, but he’s still managed to put up decent numbers there while also adding a pair of sacks and interceptions.
LB Frank Zombo, KC (7 solos, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The former undrafted free agent has stepped in for Justin Houston over the past few weeks and has looked pretty good. He posted a sack and forced a fumble a week ago, and then led the team in tackles this week while also adding an interception. Some may recall that Zombo actually had a good game in the Super Bowl when the Packers beat the Steelers so he is a quality backup who can produce when given an opportunity.
LB Dekoda Watson, TB (10 solos, 2 asst)
Tampa hasn’t typically played a lot of their base defense this year, but a matchup with the 49ers meant a lot of additional snaps for their young strongside linebacker Watson. He responded with his best game of the year as he picked up 12 tackles. The little-used player is headed for free agency this year, but he’s probably played a little better than his numbers suggest given the low snap count and the fact that Lavonte David steals all the attention.
S William Moore, ATL (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 PD)
Moore is quietly putting together a pretty impressive season with the Falcons this year. He has always seemed to be on the verge of becoming an IDP stud and he’s probably closer now than he’s been over the past few years. What has helped him stand out of late more than anything is the big plays. Over the past 3 weeks, he’s picked up 1 sack, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. Good to see that Atlanta isn’t just playing out the string given the year they’ve had.
S T.J. McDonald, STL (4 solos, 1 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
The highly regarded rookie out of USC missed about half the year with a broken leg, but he has looked pretty good since returning to action a month ago. Over that time, he’s been credited with 20 solo tackles and he also added the first interception of his career this week. The Rams have been looking for someone to take over their strong safety position and hold onto it for awhile now and McDonald has a great chance to be that player.
CB Zackary Bowman, CHI (1 solo, 2 INT, 2 PD, 1 TD)
Bowman has done a great job filling in for the injured Charles Tillman over the past month or so. He didn’t have a big day in terms of tackles this week but more than made up for it with a pair of interceptions and a TD return on one of them. With 24 solo tackles over the previous 4 games, he’s obviously more than capable of filling up the stat sheet that way as well. News also came out on Monday that Tillman would not be able to return for the playoffs either so it looks like Bowman will potentially get some added exposure if the Bears make a playoff run.
CB Sam Shields, GB (5 solos, 1 INT, 3 PD)
The Packers corner has mostly been a nickel player prior to this year but he has been a starter all season and has held up very well opposite Tramon Williams. He doesn’t have great size but is very fast and has WR skills when it comes to catching the ball as he showed on Sunday night when he helped complete a comeback victory with a huge interception late in the game.
DE Shea McClellin, CHI (0 tackles)
The former 1st round pick looked like he had finally figured things out with a 3-sack game back in week 9 against the Packers. Since then, however, he’s only managed to pick up 1 solo tackle, 3 assists, and 0 sacks in 4 games played. The Bears are really struggling to stop the run right now so the defenders aren’t getting a ton of pass rush opportunities, but he’s certainly played a role in their struggles up front.
DE Chris Clemons, SEA (0 tackles)
Although he hasn’t typically been listed on the team’s injury report most weeks, Clemons has been getting days off to rest and doesn’t look like the same player he has been in previous seasons. Apart from a 4-game hot streak earlier this year, he’s mostly been a complete non-factor. He’ll try to turn things around next week as the Cardinals travel to Seattle.
DE DeMarcus Ware, DAL (1 asst)
As the Cowboys season continues to sink to lower depths, Ware somehow remains an invisible man most weeks. He was a non-factor once again this week as he finished the game with just a single assist and was rather helpless to slow down the Packers comeback effort as they pulled off an amazing 4th quarter win. Ware insists he’s healthy but he’s been remarkably easy to shut out this year following the move up to defensive end. It will be interesting to see what the Cowboys do with their coaching staff this offseason given the struggles they’ve had on defense under Monte Kiffin.
DT Jared Odrick, MIA (1 solo)
Odrick has been a valuable member of the Dolphins defensive line rotation all year but his production has dropped off considerably of late. Despite playing a high number of snaps over the past few games, all he could manage was 2 solo tackles and 2 assists.
LB LaMarr Woodley, PIT (0 tackles)
Woodley came into the year as the Steelers best outside linebacker and he lived up to expectations with 5 sacks in the first 6 games. He suffered a left calf injury that forced him to miss a few games since then, however, and then left the game this week with a right calf injury. Tough break for a quality player, although his fantasy value was generally limited in all but big play leagues.
LB Sean Weatherspoon, ATL (1 asst)
Weatherspoon is a former 1st round pick and perennial disappointment. He sometimes can miss as many tackles as he makes, but has also had difficulty staying healthy. He returned to the lineup a month ago after missing much of the year on short-term IR, but hasn’t really done much with his playing time. To make matters even worse, he suffered a knee injury this week and finished the game with just a single assist. The rookie Paul Worrilow has been much more impressive playing in the same defense.
LB Dannell Ellerbe, MIA (2 solos)
The Dolphins made news this offseason when they released Karlos Dansby and signed Ellerbe from the Ravens to a big deal to be his replacement. Things probably haven’t gone as well as they were hoping as Dansby is putting up Pro Bowl numbers in Arizona while Ellerbe has generally been pretty mediocre in Miami. While the Dolphins are holding up ok, Ellerbe has mostly been a non-factor for fantasy owners with just 58 solo tackles on the year despite only missing one game.
LB Zach Brown, TEN (2 solos)
It seemed that Brown had turned things around since a benching earlier this year, but there were warning signs last week when he played only about a third of the snaps against the Broncos. Then this week, he started the game but only lasted 6 snaps before giving up a big gain to RB Andre Ellington and finding himself on the bench again. Rookie Zavier Gooden replaced him in the lineup and posted 7 tackles in relief.
S Charles Woodson, OAK (3 solos)
The 37-year old veteran helped bring some stability and leadership to a young Raiders defense this year, but how much does he have left at this point? He left the game early with a rib injury this week and even though he said he wants to play another year, you have to wonder if he can continue to be effective at that age playing that position.
S Nate Allen, PHI (2 solos, 2 asst)
Allen continues to play just about every single snap for the Eagles defense, but he’s not exactly doing a whole lot of good for them. The Vikings passing game had their way with the Eagles secondary this week and Allen could only manage 4 tackles. Obviously anyone playing as many snaps as he is will have value, but his stats seem to be due primarily to situation and opportunity more than talent at this point and he could very likely be replaced in the offseason.
CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, DEN (0 tackles)
Rodgers-Cromartie ranks as one of the best corners in the league this year according to Pro Football Focus, but he’s been injured or unproductive for the past month or so. Over the past 5 games, he has been credited with just 1 solo tackle and 3 passes defensed.