DE Calais Campbell, ARI (4 solos, 2 asst 3 sacks)
Campbell has produced like an elite fantasy DE for awhile now, but he has typically relied more heavily on tackles than sacks. While he is still posting strong tackle numbers just about every week, his huge game this week brings him up to 6 sacks in 9 games. He missed some time last month, but is clearly back to form and looks ready to lead the push through the fantasy playoffs.
DE Chris Clemons, JAX (3 solos, 3 sacks, 1 FF)
This has not been a good year for Clemons and most players in Jacksonville, but he came up huge on Sunday. The Jaguars gave the Colts a scare led the 3 sacks and forced fumble effort from Clemons. That brings him up to 7 sacks on the year, but his 21 solo tackles show that you probably aren’t getting much from him if he’s not getting to the QB.
DE Jurrell Casey, TEN (3 solos, 1 asst, 1 sack)
There were some concerns over how well Casey would adapt to the new Titans defense, but he has been one of the few bright spot for them in 2014. He isn’t likely to match the 9.5 sacks he posted a year ago, but he has averaged about 6 tackles/game over the past 6 games while also contributing 3 sacks.
DE Jeremy Mincey, DAL (2 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack)
For a player who has averaged about 45 snaps/game, Mincey’s overall production this year (22 tackles, 3 sacks) is a disappointment. Look a bit closer, however, and you can see that he’s picked up all 3 of his sacks in his last 4 games. The pressure stats from Pro Football Focus also suggest that he’s been close to picking up more sacks all year, so he could be in for a strong finish.
DT Stephen Paea, CHI (3 solos, 2 sacks, 1 FF)
After 4 straight weeks of underwhelming production that likely led many fantasy owners to give up on Paea, he responded with his best game of the year. He dominated the Tampa offensive line and spent most of the game in the backfield. He’s up to 6 sacks on the year and has been one of the biggest surprises at the defensive tackle position this year.
LB Telvin Smith Sr, JAX (10 solos, 3 asst, 2 FR)
Smith had been a part-time player up until this week, but he played all 76 snaps on Sunday and looked like a future tackle machine. He was very active in the game as he piled up 13 tackles, and also showed good awareness with 2 fumble recoveries. Although undersized, Smith has great range and should be a key building block for the Jaguars defense.
LB Aldon Smith, SF (3 solos, 2 sacks)
The 49ers welcomed Smith back from suspension last week, and have given him a remarkably heavy workload the past two weeks. He saw 50+ snaps in back to back games, and has been able to generate lots of pressure on opposing QBs despite not being in peak form per his own standards. He came up empty a week ago, but picked up 2 sacks this week and will try to keep it going against Seattle on Thanksgiving.
LB Jelani Jenkins, MIA (9 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack)
The young Dolphins weakside linebacker put together another outstanding effort this week as he piled up 11 tackles and a sack in a high scoring matchup with the Broncos. While he doesn’t quite have the week to week consistency you’d like to see from a LB2, he’s getting better. Over his past 3 games, he has compiled 21 solos and 2 sacks. Look for another big outing next week against the Jets.
LB Sio Moore, OAK (7 solos, 5 asst, 1 sack)
The Raiders played on Thursday night, giving a national audience a chance to see the Raiders explosive young LB tandem. Rookie Khalil Mack continues to play better than his numbers suggest, but Moore has been extremely productive most weeks. He has averaged 6.5 solos and 2.0 assists over his last 7 games while also adding a pair of sacks.
LB Derrick Morgan, TEN (6 solos, 4 asst, 1 sack)
Morgan is a former DE who made the transition to OLB in the Titans new 3-4 front, and it looks like it took him some time to get comfortable. He posted 0 sacks in his first 6 games, but now has at least a partial sack in 4 of his last 5.
LB Bobby Wagner, SEA (2 solos, 6 asst)
Wagner returned to the starting lineup this week and played for the entire game. He wound up missing 5 games with a toe injury, but looks like he’s safe to put back in lineups. The game script didn’t give him too many tackle opportunities as the Cardinals struggled, and the Seattle crew gave him 6 assists on 8 tackles. He should be a focal point of the game on Thursday night when the Seahawks take on the 49ers.
S James Ihedigbo, DET (9 solos, 1 INT, 2 PD)
Ihedigbo has been the best fantasy safety in the league on a per game basis this year. That’s pretty impressive for a 30-year old veteran who hadn’t really made much of a name for himself before last year. What has really helped set him apart is his big plays. He has played just 8 games, but has put up 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and 2 interceptions in those games. He left the game briefly with a shoulder injury this week but was able to return.
S Micah Hyde, GB (4 solos, 1 sack, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Hyde is maybe the least-known member of the Packers secondary, but he has quietly been putting together a pretty impressive and consistent season. His playmaking has surged in recent weeks though, which could make him worth a look in deeper leagues. Over his last 3 games, he has 2 interceptions, a sack, and a punt return for a touchdown.
S Kemal Ishmael, ATL (7 solos, 4 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Ishmael just continues to put up better numbers each week. He was everywhere this week and finished the game with 11 combined tackles and an interception. It was his third consecutive game with an interception, and at this point it would probably be tough to keep him out of your lineups. The Falcons aren’t stopping anybody on defense, which is giving him plenty of opportunities.
CB Darryl Morris, HOU (7 solos, 3 asst, 3 PD)
Morris returned to the lineup this week after sitting out 5 weeks with an ankle sprain, and seeing limited action a week ago. He was claimed off waivers from the 49ers before the season began and has played well when given an opportunity. His next two matchups don’t look very favorable, but he’s worth monitoring.
DE Willie Young, CHI (0 tackles)
Young had perhaps the most impressive and surprising start of any pass rusher in the league this year when he posted 7 sacks in his first 6 games. Since then, however, he’s gone very cold. He picked up a sack last week against the Vikings but that was his only one in his past 5 games. It appears he was more effective as a pass-rush specialist, but the injury to Lamarr Houston has pushed him into more of a full-time role and he hasn’t taken advantage of the additional playing time.
DE William Gholston, TB (1 solo)
Gholston has seen a significant reduction in his playing time over the past couple weeks, coinciding with the emergence of Jacquies Smith. Given that Gholston hasn’t posted a sack since week 2, it probably makes sense that Tampa is looking to get more production out of their pass rushers. He’s still young and seeing regular playing time, but just not doing much with it.
DE Michael Bennett, SEA (1 solo)
The Seattle defense hasn’t been as dominant or as productive this year as we have come to expect from them, and Bennett is a clear example of that. Last year while playing primarily at DT, he used his quickness inside to create havoc and posted 8 sacks. He has moved outside to DE this year and even though he has generally played well, the numbers just haven’t followed. Bennett has 3 sacks on the year but only 1 in his last 9 games.
DT Domata Peko Sr, CIN (0 tackles)
The Bengals Nose Tackle has been surprisingly productive this year with 21 solo tackles and 20 assists. He was shut out this week, however, and it appeared that his playing time took a slight dip as well. That may have been due to the game situation, however, as the Texans were playing from behind almost the entire game and attempted 45 passes.
LB Malcolm Smith, SEA (0 tackles)
Smith saw a huge increase in playing time once Bobby Wagner went out with his toe injury. This week Wagner returned to the lineup and Smith wound up getting zero snaps on defense. He’s a solid backup linebacker who can play a variety of roles for Seattle, but doesn’t appear to be in their plans when everybody is healthy.
LB Jadeveon Clowney, HOU (1 solo, 2 asst)
Clowney obviously still has a very bright future ahead of him, but he has yet to make much of an impact in the NFL. It’s likely that his surgically repaired knee is still bothering him, whether it be physical or just mental, and it might not be until 2015 when we truly get to see what he and J.J. Watt are capable of playing together. Given his designation as a linebacker, there’s likely not many situations where he’d be startable now anyway.
LB Lance Briggs, CHI (3 solos, 3 asst)
This has been a rough season for Briggs as his level of play seems to have slipped dramatically. Things got even worse for him on Sunday as he left the game with a groin injury. With the Bears playing the early game on Thanksgiving, it might be asking a lot for him to recover in time to do much in that game. It’s unlikely anyone was counting on much from him at this point anyway.
S Quintin Demps, NYG (3 asst)
Demps got the start for the Giants this week, but he only played about half the snaps in the game against the Cowboys. The player he replaced earlier this year, Stevie Brown, actually finished the game with more snaps. That could be because the Giants preferred to use Brown against the Cowboys running game, but it doesn’t look like we can count on a full-time role for Demps going forward.
S Eric Berry, KC (4 solos, 1 asst)
Berry was placed on the NFL’s Non-Football Illness list on Monday and he’ll be lost for the rest of the season. The results of an MRI showed a mass in his chest that the team believes is lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Hopefully it can be treated, but he will be missed in the Chiefs secondary as they try to push for a playoff spot.
S Tashaun Gipson Sr, CLE (2 solos, 1 asst)
Gipson was leading the league with 6 interceptions this year, but he was carted off the field on Sunday with a torn MCL. He’s expected to miss 6 to 8 weeks, which likely keeps him out for the rest of the year. If the Browns don’t put him on IR, there’s a slight chance he could return for the postseason but that looks like a longshot at this point.
CB Antonio Cromartie, ARI (1 solo)
Cromartie has been a great addition for the Cardinals this year, but he has not been as productive as you might expect playing opposite Patrick Peterson. He has played 11 games and has just 23 solo tackles with 1 assist. Next week’s matchup with the Falcons could be his last chance to do much, as the matchups the rest of the way do not seem very favorable.
If you have any questions on any players that were not covered here, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.