By Duncan Smith
And now the end is here, so we’ve faced the final curtain, and made the playoffs! Yay, well yay for those of you who made the playoffs. In the interests of full disclosure I did not make the playoffs in my IDP league, I finished the season at 7-6 but due to me not having 2 starting quarterbacks for two weeks due to COVID and injuries, and our wild card spots being decided by points for I missed out. I am however guaranteed a top 4 pick next year and I’m reaching a point where I feel really good about my team going forward, who knows maybe I’ll do a deep dive into my roster in the off-season.
For those of you still in the hunt for a championship we’ve got work to do, so let’s get on with it.
It’s time for my snap decisions.
Dennis Gardeck appears at the top of Arizona’s defensive list this week thanks to recording their only sack of Jared Goff, don’t let that deceive you though, he is a special teamer who averages around 10% of defensive snaps.
Out of Cardinals you want to roster and start, safety Budda Baker led the team with 12 combined tackles (10 solo, 1 for a loss).
Arizona has a nice playoff schedule run facing the Giants, Eagles, and 49ers in that order.
Linebacker Foyesade Oluokon continues to impress in his first year as a starter. Against New Orleans, he led the team in tackles with 13 (8 solo) and is currently second in the league for forced fumbles with 4.
Veteran Edge Steven Means has had a couple of nice games back to back, he recorded 2 sacks of Taysom Hill at the weekend, including a strip-sack.
Next up for Atlanta is a matchup against a Chargers side that got shut down in an annihilation at the hands of the Patriots.
Rookie linebacker Patrick Queen is firmly in the talks for rookie defensive player of the year. Against Dallas he added his career-first interception, a pass defended, and 5 combined tackles ( 3 solo) to his season stats of 1 interception, 2 passes defended, 2 forced fumbles, 2 recoveries, 1 touchdown, 2 sacks, and 84 combined tackles (55 solo, 5 for a loss), and 6 QB hits.
He’s a must-start every week with a great run in schedule, facing Cleveland this week before Jacksonville and the Giants to round the fantasy season off.
With the Bills not playing until Monday in week 13, it gave them time to activate Matt Milano from injured reserve and promptly kill A.J. Klein’s value. Against the 49ers he recorded 1 pass defended, 4 combined tackles and 1 QB hit on a 69% snap share, while Milano recorded 2 solo tackles and a QB hit on 31% of snaps.
Against Pittsburgh in week 14, I wouldn’t like to play either of these guys as they eat into each other’s workload. Moving forward A.J. Klein is likely to fade into obscurity again as Milano takes over the bulk of the work.
The Panthers look like they will be returning to action in week 14 with several players on the Covid list, on the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Yetur gross-Matos, defensive tackles Derrick Brown and Zach Kerr, and linebacker Shaq Thompson are all isolating.
Thompson is currently second on the team in defensive scoring behind rookie sensation Jeremy Chinn. He and other players may still play on Sunday if they isolating due to contact tracing rather than through testing positive, although I understand Gross-Matos tested positive and will be out.
After a 5-1 start to the season, the Bears have lost 6 in a row including this weekend’s loss to division rivals Detroit, which leaves them bottom of the division. Part of the Bears woe’s can be traced back to an underperforming pass rush. Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks in particular are failing to live up to expectations. This week Mack put up a goose egg while Hicks only managed 2 combined tackles.
Unfortunately for fantasy managers, their playoff schedule might just be too juicy to sit them, the bears get Houston, Minnesota, and Jacksonville to round the fantasy season out, you’re probably going to be unable to resist playing them but you should be prepared for disappointment when you do.
The Bengals haven’t recorded a sack since week 6 and have failed to record any in the last 2 weeks. They’ve also failed to record an interception in those two weeks. This outfit is struggling to be productive on both sides of the ball.
Safeties Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell are the two players on this side worth rostering at the moment. Against Miami at the weekend, Bates recorded 13 combined tackles (10 solo) and a forced fumble while Vonn Bell got 6 combined (3 solo), a QB hit, and a fumble recovery for 37 yards.
Against Dallas next, they should be pretty safe floor plays and always have the chance of one of them going off.
Myles Garrett returned to action against Tennessee with a sack, 2 solo tackles, a tackle for a loss, and a further QB hit. It wasn’t the best day he has had but he did only play 72% of the defensive snaps after being eased back from a 2-week Covid-19 absence.
Next up for Garrett and the Browns is a tricky home tie against Baltimore before they up sticks to New York for Christmas and a doubleheader at the MetLife against the Giants in week 15 and the Jets in week 16.
Team standout Jaylon Smith continues to do enough to justify your fantasy investment. He added another 12 combined tackles to his season total of 112 over 12 games. He is slightly down on last season but then so are the Cowboys in general.
He’s one of the safest floors in IDP and should be in your lineup every week.
Those of you that have been relying on Donovan Wilson over recent weeks were in the unfortunate position of him being ruled out for a Tuesday game, hopefully, you were able to get him out of your lineups before you ran out of options. With Dallas back in action again on Sunday keep an eye on his status towards the end of the week. If he can’t go Darian Thompson should be a reasonable fill-in.
Jeremiah Attaochu recorded Denver’s only sack of Patrick Mahomes, however, he only managed 1 solo tackle and 2 QB hits to go with that on a 23% snap share making him largely unplayable in fantasy.
Veteran cornerback Kareem Jackson had one of his better games of the season with a pass defended and 10 combined tackles (8 solo) on a 100% snap share. Jackson is a very hit or miss player who struggles to maintain relevance in fantasy formats.
Jamie Collins remains the most reliable fantasy asset on this side, the 31-year-old veteran added 10 combined tackles (4 solo, 1 for a loss) against Chicago at the weekend.
Outside of Collins Romeo Okwara has some boom or bust upside, he recorded a sack, 4 solo tackles, including 1 for a loss, and forced a fumble at the weekend.
Unfortunately for fantasy GMs with either of these players on their side, their playoff schedule is pretty brutal with Green bay, Tennessee, and Tampa Bay in that order. I would rather have other options than these two for my championship run.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Darnell Savage managed to shake off a back injury to face off against Philadelphia and as a result, managed to record Jalen Hurts first career interception, this accompanied 2 solo tackles and a QB hit.
Elsewhere Green Bay managed to sack the Eagles quarterback 7 times, Wentz 4 times, and Hurts 3 times. In typical Packers fashion, these were distributed amongst several players. Kingsley Keke got the most with 2 but until his snap count goes up he’s hard to trust every week.
Za’Darius Smith recorded 1.5 to bring him up to 10.5 on the season and is easier to trust in your lineups each week.
J.J. Watt hasn’t busted this season, he’s just not been J.J. Watt “destroyer of offenses and the reason people want to play idp”. Well that has changed over the last two weeks, after a big game in week 11 against Detroit he scored well again this week facing off against the Colts in a divisional loss. He recorded a sack, and 6 tackles (5 solo, 4 for a loss).
Watt has a good fantasy playoff run facing Chicago before the Colts again and then finishing with a championship week against the Bengals, right now only the Eagles would be a better match up for Watt in week 16.
Cornerback Kenny Moore led the Colts this week with an interception, 3 passes defended, and 8 combined tackles (6 solo). Veteran defensive edge Justin Houston had his best day of the season with 3 sacks, 4 solo tackles, and a forced fumble.
Neither player has lit it up with any consistency this year but at least Moore is the starter, averaging over 90% of snaps while 31-year-old Houston is hovering around 50%.
Minnesota had 38 rushing attempts for 145 yards in Jacksonville’s overtime loss so it’s perhaps no surprise that three Jaguars managed to record double-digit tackles. Joe Schobert, Myles Jack, and Josh Jones got 12, 11, 10 combined tackles respectively.
These three lead the Jags in defensive stats and are the only three you should have any interest in. Jones has only played 9 games this season and still sits third for the Jaguars, which tells you all you need to know about the rest of the defense.
Next up is Tennessee, expect plenty of tackling opportunities again here as the Jags offense struggle to stay on the field and the Titans ground and pound through Derrick Henry.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Safety Tyrann Mathieu lived up to his nickname of ‘Honey Badger’ against Denver as he caused chaos all over the field on his way to the best game of his season. Mathieu picked Drew Lock twice and got 7 tackles (4 solo, 1 for a loss). Mathieu now has 5 interceptions on the year which equals his best season so far, back in 2015. Mathieu would love to do at least one better than that plus get his name in the books as the first person to intercept Tua Tagovailoa when he faces off against Miami this week.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Defensive Edge Clelin Ferrell recorded his highest snap percentage of the season on his way to his best game of the season against the hapless Jets. Ferrell logged 84% of snaps and one pass defended, his first 2 sacks of the season, 6 combined tackles (4 solo), 3 total QB hits, and 2 forced fumbles.
Fellow Edge Maxx Crosby didn’t have as good a game, only recording 1 solo tackle, a QB hit, and a fumble recovery. However, both of these edges are 23 years old and only in their second season. Both should be rostered, particularly in DL required leagues. Just be aware they may concede work to each other making it tough to predict the big games.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Remarkably in a game where the Chargers allowed New England to score 45 unanswered points, an LA player had one of his best games of the season.
Rookie linebacker Kenneth Murray recorded the Chargers’ only sack to go with a team-high 14 combined tackles (12 solo, 2 for a loss). After being benched by Anthony Lynn in week 9 Murray has worked his way back into the starters role and played 100% of snaps this week. The first-round pick from Oklahoma will look to keep up this form against Atlanta in week 14.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Troy Hill had his second pick-six of the season against Arizona at the weekend, this accompanied by 2 passes defended and 4 solo tackles. Fellow Troy, Troy Reeder continues to be a solid play in Micah Kiser’s absence, this week he recorded 10 combined tackles (6 solo) and a pass defended.
With Kiser out for at least this week against New England before he is eligible to return Reeder remains a good option at LB, and will remain so if Kiser is shut down for the season as the Rams have excellent matchups against the Jets and Seahawks in the semifinal and championship games.
Xavien Howard was able to haul in his fourth interception in four games before being ejected in a feisty game against Cincinnati, this brings his season total to 8 and meant that despite his ejection he still performed for your fantasy team.
Given the soft nature of the ‘punch’, he threw it’s likely he won’t get a suspension however he now gets to face Kansas City looking to extend his run to 5 INTs in 5 games. Of the league quarterbacks who have started all 12 weeks guess who has the least amount of interceptions? Yup, Mr. Patrick Mahomes. You’re going to roll the dice here but don’t be surprised when you bust out.
In something of a week 13 disaster, star linebacker Eric Kendricks was ruled out of the Vikings game against Jacksonville after he tweaked a calf in the pregame. This likely happened too close to kick off for you to do anything about it, hopefully the goose egg hasn’t cost you, and if you did swap him out, well done Eagle eyes.
Veteran safety Harrison Smith and rookie corner Cameron Dantzler both recorded an interception. Smith recorded 2 passes defended, 0.5 sacks, 6 combined tackles (4 solo), and a QB hit while Dantzler added a pass defended, 4 combined tackles (3 solo), and a forced fumble with recovery.
Smith should already be on someone’s roster but in a year where the rookie hype is elsewhere, it’s maybe worth checking if Dantzler is available in your league.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
New England came to play in week 13. Emperor Belichick is famous for shutting down rookie quarterbacks and he certainly did that this week as the defense didn’t allow the Chargers a single point in a 45-0 thrashing.
Cornerback J.C. Jackson and defensive edge Chase Winovich both got an interception and pass defended, with 3 combined tackles each and 2 QB hits for Winovich.
Jackson is a little banged up and was limited to 68% of snaps against LA, the Patriots play again on Thursday so keep an eye on his status before that game, and remember don’t play him at flex.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Ordinarily, it would be foolish to try and predict when an individual player will record a sack, this week may be an exception. Edge Trey Hendrickson recorded a sack of Matt Ryan to bring him to 10.5 on the season, 0.5 behind leaders Aaron Donald and T.J. Watt.
Up next he gets a shot at the Eagles, Carson Wentz has been sacked 50 times this season already, including 4 on Sunday before he got benched. Now while a lot of that is on him it’s worth noting Jalen Hurts also got sacked 3 times when he came on. This Eagles line cannot keep anyone out of their backfield and Hendrickson against them might be the closest to a sure thing we’ll see this season.
NEW YORK GIANTS
If it wasn’t for events elsewhere, the Giants beating Seattle in a low-scoring affair might have made some news. As it is this one flew under the radar. True to form Seattle struggled to protect Russell Wilson as he got sacked 5 times, gave up an interception, and lost a fumble.
Rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes had the best day of his five career starts, hauling in that interception to go with 5 combined tackles (4 solo).
Defensive tackle Leonard Williams got in on the action with 2.5 sacks to go with 3 combined tackles (2 solo, 2 for a loss), and 5 total QB hits. Jabril Peppers and Blake Martinez also did enough to keep managers satisfied against a Seahawks outfit struggling to get anything going offensively at the moment.
NEW YORK JETS
Can we just ignore whatever the hell happened at the end of that game? Yes? Good. Linebacker Neville Hewitt is on a nice stretch of games since the Jets week 10 bye, against a Las Vegas team struggling to get much going on the ground he recorded a sack, 12 combined tackles ( 9 solo, 1 for a loss), and a QB hit. He now leads the team with 103 combined tackles on the season and should remain a good option against the Seahawks this week, assuming he doesn’t get cut for playing too well.
After a down week against Seattle in week 12, Alex Singleton got back to producing with 12 combined tackles (8 solo) against Green Bay.
Teammate Darius Slay did not, while I was right that Aaron Rodgers wouldn’t be afraid to target him, Slay couldn’t do much about it.
Slay allowed 8 completions on 9 targets for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns, leaving him with 1 pass defended and 2 solo tackles on the day.
Singleton didn’t fare much better in the passing game, allowing 8 completions on 8 targets for 93 yards and a score.
Not all days are as hard as facing Green Bay but in week 14 they may have the other problem of playing the Taysom Hill led Saints.
Slay could be in for a torrid time this week as he likely gets the job of shadowing Michael Thomas, while Singleton will probably get enough tackling work to make him fantasy relevant.
Cornerback Mike Hilton was on course for a fantastic season over the first five weeks before a shoulder injury in week 6 kept him out until week 11. As he battled back to fitness with limited snaps he struggled to remain fantasy relevant. It’s no surprise that his first fantasy-relevant game occurred on his highest snap share since week 5.
During the Steelers’ shock loss to the WFT, he recorded a pass defended and 6 combined tackles (5 solo, 2 for a loss) on a 79% snap share.
These aren’t fantastic numbers but they show he is on the right track ahead of a road game in Buffalo this week.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
If you played any 49ers this week you were probably left disappointed as three veteran journeymen with no real IDP value did the bulk of the scoring, Dion Jordan(30) recorded a sack, 3 combined tackles, and a forced fumble. Jason Verrett(29) led the tackling with 11 solo, plus a pass defended, and Dontae Johnson (29) had 7 solo tackles, a pass defended and a QB hit.
Meanwhile, actual fantasy starters such as Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and Kerry Hyder struggled to put up big numbers, although a fumble recovery for Fred Warner certainly helped his day.
Don’t go chasing the points here from one game, stick with your guys, sometimes in IDP you just have to ride out the volatility of the scoring.
Jamal Adams had another great week on your fantasy team against the Giants. He managed a sack and 11 combined tackles (8 solo, 1 for a loss). The high-profile off-season signing is hitting his stride at just the right time for a grudge match against former team and collective shambles, the New York Jets. If Adams isn’t in the conversation for best defensive performance this week I don’t know when he will be.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Hopefully, Tampa’s super late bye week didn’t cost you in a critical fantasy week. For those of you in the playoffs, you’ll be delighted to get your Buc’s studs back. Devin White, Lavonte David, Jason Pierre-Paul are all back after a week’s rest, although Pierre-Paul is still nursing a knee, and should be straight back into your lineups starting this week against Minnesota.
Tennessee struggled to deal with Cleveland in the first half of their week 13 match. They allowed the Browns to score on 5 out of 6 opening possessions, including 4 TD throws for Baker Mayfield.
The Titans failed to record an interception or sack of Mayfield. Malcolm Butler led the IDP scoring with 8 combined tackles, 7 solo, while Jack Crawford recorded 7 combined (6 solo), and a forced fumble of Baker. Of the two veterans, Butler should be started against Jacksonville in week 14, Crawford shouldn’t be on your roster, his season-high snap percentage is 62%, recorded back in week 9. He doesn’t have a solid enough floor to make him worth a spot on your team.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
Last week I said that the WFT might be the best run-stopping defense in the league right now, in a famous victory over Pittsburgh they held the Steelers to 21 yards and zero touchdowns all game.
Jon Bostic led the team in scoring, securing an interception from one of Montez Sweats’ three tipped balls while recording 10 combined tackles (4 solo).
Rookie safety Kamren Curl has secured a starting role in the second half of the season and is proving himself a key part of this defensive unit. He recorded 8 combined tackles (7 solo) against Pittsburgh.
The WFT goes again against a beat-up San Francisco team in week 14 and after the last two weeks, I expect this defense to find a lot of success in the Bay Area.
Duncan Smith – IDP and Dynasty Writer
Ride or Dynasty