By Duncan Smith
Ho ho ho, Merry Championship week. Despite everything 2020 threw at us, we’ve made it, assuming no alien invasions, Cthulhu attacks, or the lizard people revealing themselves and enslaving us all, we’ve made it. We should all be very happy at that thought.
In fantasy football, it’s championship week and Christmas, Chrispionship week, or Champmas if you will. Normally a time for celebrating with friends and family, gloating endlessly to your league mates about your victory, or pretending you didn’t want to win anyway if you lose. You’re all about that 1.11 in 2021, it’s where the best players get drafted don’t cha know?
Well, that’s in a normal year, round my way we’ve been locked down for Christmas so my celebrations will be done with my cat and my gloating over zoom.
Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, stay safe, have fun, and remember the best thing you can do this Christmas is not risking the health of your loved ones.
Merry Christmas everyone, now it’s time for my festive snap decisions.
Haason Reddick followed up his blow-up game in week 15 with another strong showing against the Eagles. While not as impressive as his 5 sack monster game against the Giants, he did manage 1 sack, 4 combined tackles (3 solo, 1 for a loss), and 2 forced fumbles.
Fellow linebacker Dennis Gardeck has been making the most of limited opportunities, over the last 3 games he has recorded 5 sacks, 8 solo tackles, and a fumble recovery on only 35 snaps.
Unfortunately, Gardeck was carted off the field at the weekend and will be a game-time decision against the 49ers, although it would be a pretty gutsy call relying on him producing for you on such a low snap count anyway.
Deion Jones was Atlanta’s most productive player against Tampa Bay, he recorded 1 of Atlanta’s 3 sacks of Tom Brady, 10 combined tackles (5 solo, 1 for a loss), and 2 QB hits.
Sharrod Neasman started his second consecutive game at safety in place of Ricardo Allen, who remains in the concussion protocol. He turned this week’s start into a sack, 8 combined tackles (3 solo, 1 for a loss), and a QB hit.
Atlanta face Kansas City next and given a less than stellar performance against Tampa, particularly in the second half, it’s going to be hard trusting these guys against Patrick Mahomes and co.
Yannick Ngakoue finally had a fantasy-relevant game for Baltimore and of course, it came against Jacksonville, who he left via the Vikings to come to play for the Ravens. Ngakoue recorded 2 sacks, 3 solo tackles including 1 for a loss, a QB hit, and a forced fumble on the day.
With the Giants up next for Baltimore, there is a strong possibility that Ngakoue can record his second fantasy-relevant game hot on the heels of his first.
Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds has proven himself fantasy relevant since entering the league in 2018 and this year is no different. He had a team-high of 8 tackles, all solo against Denver at the weekend.
Buffalo has a week 16 matchup against division rivals New England, with Buffalo crowned AFC East champions they will look to emphasize that changing of the guard by turning the screw on a Patriots team that has been questionable at best this season on offense.
After my recommendation last week that rookie defensive tackle Derrick Brown could stay on waivers, it is of course entirely predictable that he saw his highest snap percentage of the season at 92% and turned that into his first career sacks. Two of them, against Aaron Rodgers of all people, sheesh. He backed that up with 3 solo tackles for his best IDP day so far.
The Panthers get Washington in week 16 to round out the fantasy season and Brown may be a sneaky play again in DL-required leagues, particularly if Washington has to rely on Dwayne Haskins. In a further update, Washington may be without Haskins due to suspension and Smith due to injury. If so they may rely on some combination of third-stringer Taylor Heinicke and wildcats with Logan Thomas.
Roquan Smith chose an unfortunate time to have a down game. Against Minnesota, he managed 6 combined tackles (4 solo) for his second-worst points total of the season. Only week 12 against Green Bay was worse.
Fellow linebacker Danny Trevathan led the team in combined tackles with 11, but only 4 of those were solo tackles.
Khalil Mack managed half a sack and 3 combined tackles, while Akiem Hicks managed 1 combined tackle and 3 QB hits.
Chicago rounds the fantasy season off with one of the easiest fixtures in football, a trip to Jacksonville. If you’ve been starting Bears players this long there is no point dropping them now.
It can’t be a coincidence that since Joe Burrow’s season-ending injury in week 11 that Vonn Bell and Jessie bates have seen their production levels drop. With Burrow no longer able to keep the Bengals in matchups, opposition teams are finding it easy to keep the score low and run the clock out.
Jumping out to a lead and surprise victory against the Steelers saw Pittsburgh have to open up their game and led to an uptick in numbers for the pair, with bell recording 7 combined tackles (5 solo, 1 for a loss), and a forced fumble. Bates recorded a pass defended and 5 combined tackles (4 solo).
If Ryan Finley can put the Bengals up against Houston, or at least keep them competitive then the pair can be productive, otherwise, it might be another down week for both.
Myles Garrett has completed a remarkable transformation, from being the villain of 2019 with his famous altercation involving using his helmet as a weapon against Mason Rudolph, to becoming Cleveland’s Walter Payton Man of the Year and this week being selected for the Pro-Bowl.
On the field, the second half of the season hasn’t been so great for Garrett. By his admission catching Covid-19 has had some longer-lasting effects and led to him struggling with breathing, even after being given the all-clear to return to work. He has continued breathing treatments and that seems to be paying off, against NYG he got back up to a 91% snap share for half a sack, 4 combined tackles (2 solo), and a QB hit.
If Garretts Covid issues are now behind him he has a very juicy match-up against the Jets. Sam Darnold is the ninth most sacked quarterback in the league, despite only playing ten games. If you add Joe Flacco’s 7 sacks through 4 games, this brings the Jets’ QB up to the fourth most sacked overall along with Matt Stafford and Daniel Jones.
Jaylon Smith recorded double-digit tackles for the third week in a row. Against the 49ers he recorded 10 combined tackles (5 solo), and a QB hit. He was the only Cowboy defender to play 100% of snaps and he will remain the best IDP option in week 16 against Philadelphia.
Rookie cornerback Trevon Diggs returned to action in week 15, he hadn’t played since week 9 due to a fractured bone in his foot. He logged a pass defended and 5 combined tackles (3 solo) on a 51% snap share. If he increases his playing time again he might be a surprise option against the Eagles.
This wasn’t a good game for the Broncos defense. Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen shredded them for 359 yards through the air for two touchdowns and 182 yards on the ground for three touchdowns.
In a disappointing week for the team, linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu recorded their only sack and forced the only fumble recorded by Denver. He backed this up with 4 tackles (3 solo). Attaochu has been a reliable if unspectacular play over the last few weeks but his snap share is concerning. Against Buffalo, he managed 45% but he normally hovers around the 30% mark. If he fails to log a sack in a game his IDP value will nose dive.
Last week I said that linebacker Jamie Collins was the only Lion you could reliably start against Tennessee. He rewarded that conviction with a disappointing 4 combined tackles (2 solo, 1 for a loss) on only 79% of snaps.
With Tampa Bay rounding off the fantasy season and Detroit struggling to stop opponents, they are now the most scored on team in the league after the Jets effectively contained the Rams, it’s hard to trust even him in such an important week.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Against Carolina, the Green Bay Defense Collective recorded 3 sacks, 1 each for Adrian Amos, Za’Darius Smith, and Preston Smith. Amos led the team on the week with his sack, 3 passes defended, and 7 combined tackles (6 solo).
It’s hard to trust any member of this outfit as a weekly play, while their ability to share the workload around is great for real-life football, it is terrible for fantasy. For example, Amos leads the team in solo tackles with 55, yet he has never recorded more than 6 in a game, and barring two games, he has played every snap available. If you want consistent scoring you’re going to struggle to find it in Green Bay.
Linebacker Tyrell Adams recorded his third double-digit tackle game in four against the Colts at the weekend. He recorded 11 combined ( 8 solo, 1 for a loss). Fellow linebacker Zach Cunningham recorded 10 tackles, all solo and 1 for a loss as well.
Despite the Bengals showing a bit of spark this week, both should still be good plays in week 16.
Defensive Tackle DeForest Buckner was able to shake off an injury that had limited him in practice all week to have a big game against Houston. Despite having his lowest snap share of the season at only 51%, he managed to sack DeShaun Watson 3 times and recorded 4 combined tackles (3 solo, 2 for a loss), with 4 QB hits and a forced fumble.
With a week of practice under his belt, Buckner can look forward to a matchup against a Steelers team currently on the ropes after losing three in a row.
Jags linebackers Joe Schobert and Myles Jack continue to be the best fantasy options on this terrible defense. Schobert recorded 12 combined tackles (7 solo, 1 for a loss), and Jack recorded 10 combined (7 solo), and a pass defended.
After the Jets’ surprise win, the Jags are now the worst team in football, that isn’t going to change in week 16 against Chicago and a rejuvenated Mitch Trubisky. Jack and Schobert will remain safe volume-based plays.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Drew Brees made his return for New Orleans in a narrow loss to the Chiefs, despite a slow start he managed to find some success through the air against this Kansas defense, throwing only 1 interception and getting sacked only once.
Both of those came at the hands of rookie safety L’Jarius Sneed, he also recorded 3 passes defended and 3 combined tackles (1 solo, 1 for a loss).
After an impressive start to the season in which he started the first three games before breaking his collarbone, Sneed was activated from IR in week 11. Over the next few weeks, he has built up his playing time and is now producing IDP relevant stats on a starters snap share again. He’s an interesting player moving into next season on a high powered team, keep your eye on him.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
Defensive edge Kendal Vickers recorded Las Vegas’s only sack of Justin Herbert on two total QB hits. Despite that Vickers only managed 2 total tackles and shouldn’t be trusted as an IDP option.
While Vickers snap percentages have been increasing recently, he is still playing under 50%, against LA he recorded 47%. His playing time on special teams is also increasing. If he can take advantage of his increased workload through the remainder of the season, however, he may become one to watch next year but at this point doesn’t need rostering.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Rookie first-rounder Kenneth Murray leads the Chargers in tackles. He added 8 combined (6 solo, 1 for a loss) against division rivals Las vegas to bring his season totals to 95 combined (60 solo, 5 for a loss). He looks like being a player worthy of his high draft pick and should be rostered everywhere.
Star defensive edge Joey Bosa only managed 22% of snaps before leaving the field with a suspected concussion. Make sure you have a suitable replacement if he is unable to suit up against Denver in championship week.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
It looks like Micah Kiser will remain sidelined for the Rams week 16 divisional match with Seattle. While this is bad news for the Rams it may be good news for those of you that have been relying on Troy Reeder in Kiser’s absence.
During LA’s shock defeat to the Jets, he led the team in tackles with 11 (7 solo), he also recorded a pass defended.
Aaron Donald did just enough to remain fantasy-relevant in DL required leagues. He recorded 3 combined tackles (1 solo, 1 for a loss), and a QB hit.
Remarkably he was unable to register a sack for the first time in 4 games against the ninth most sacked quarterback in the league, Sam Darnold. This week’s opponent Russell Wilson is the third most sacked, hopefully, Donald can get back to work for you in championship week.
Xavien Howard’s streak of interceptions came to an end against New England, despite his best efforts and coming very close to getting one, he was unable to pick off the quarterback for the sixth time in as many weeks. He did force a fumble and record 5 combined tackles (4 solo) to save his week.
Miami managed 3 total forced fumbles with 1 fumble recovery. Linebacker Jerome Baker led the team with one of those forced fumbles, a sack, 8 combined tackles (7 solo), and a QB hit.
Miami plays Las Vegas next, and with Derek Carr looking like he won’t play it could be a good matchup for the Dolphins against backup Marcus Mariota.
Todd Davis proved himself an able stand-in for the injured Eric Kendricks this week. Losing Kendricks has been a big blow to the Vikings and your fantasy team but his replacement is offering some IDP value.
Against Chicago, he recorded a pass defended, 1 sack, 8 combined tackles (4 solo, 1 for a loss), and a QB hit. If Kendricks is unable to go again or gets shut down then Davis stands to see another healthy workload against New Orleans.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Cornerback J.C. Jackson hauled in the Patriots’ only interception of Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa.
While the Patriots focussed on stopping Tua through the air, they struggled to contain the run, with Miami going for 250 yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. In the face of that run game, sophomore linebacker, Terez Hall led the team in tackles with 13 combined (11 solo) on a season-high 88% of snaps. However this is still a Bill Belichick ran team and one swallow does not make a summer, this may be a breakout performance or it could be a one-off, keep an eye on him over the remainder of the season.
Reigning defensive player of the year Stephon Gilmore is done for the year after tearing his quadricep, however, his real-life ability rarely translates into fantasy relevance so only the most ardent of Pats should be affected by this news at a fantasy level.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
A week after Patrick Mahomes suffered a multi-interception game at Miami it was perhaps a bit much to expect the same to happen again. The Saints failed to record an interception for the second week in a row but did manage to sack Mahomes three times, with defensive edge Trey Hendrickson recording two of them, taking him to 12.5 sacks on the season, half a sack from the lead.
Unfortunately, Hendrickson suffered a stinger during the game and is still questionable to suit up for a Christmas Day match with Minnesota. Given the low snap percentages often played by defensive linemen when healthy, he will likely be a risky play even if he is cleared by the team.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Defensive lineman Dexter Lawrence had his most productive game of the season on his highest snap share. He was on the field for 75% of snaps and recorded the Giants only pass defended, only sack and only QB hit, along with 6 combined tackles (2 solo, 1 for a loss).
Blake Martinez continued his solid IDP production with 10 combined tackles (5 solo, 2 for a loss). He should see plenty of volume again in week 16 facing off against Baltimore.
NEW YORK JETS
Neville Hewitt has become something of an every-week starter, since the Jets week 10 bye the linebacker has put up solid fantasy numbers every week. During NYJ’s surprise victory over the Rams in California, he registered 10 combined tackles (7 solo). Regardless of whether the Jets manage to win again against the Browns in week 16, he should probably be in your lineup. Cleveland has one of the league’s most dynamic rushing offenses in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Hewitt should see plenty of action.
Rookie fifth-rounder Bryce Hall took over the starters role at cornerback opposite Bless Austin after Pierre Desir got cut. He has put up solid if unspectacular numbers since, this week he recorded his first career interception, along with 3 tackles.
He’s not an IDP starter yet but if the Jets can improve going into 2021 he may show some fantasy relevance.
The Eagles secondary has been decimated by injury, going into their week 15 matchup with Arizona they were missing Avonte Maddox, Darius Slay, and Rodney Mcleod. Their replacements were veteran Nickell Robey-Coleman, undrafted rookie Michael Jacquet, and sophomore Marcus Epps. All three had an every-down role and if you did for some reason have them in your lineup all three came through.
Robey-Coleman recorded half a sack, 10 combined tackles (7 solo), and a forced fumble with recovery.
Michael Jacquet recorded 2 passes defended, half a sack, 7 combined tackles (4 solo), a QB hit, and a forced fumble.
Marcus Epps hauled in an interception, 2 passes defended, and 7 solo tackles.
You’re in a pinch if you need to start any of these guys at this stage of the season but against Dallas, in week 16 they just might work out if you do.
Despite the Steelers season suddenly appearing on the slide and heading via comedy straight to tragedy, T.J. Watt has kept up his great form. During the surprise loss to Cincinnati, he registered one of the Steelers’ two sacks, along with 4 combined tackles (4 solo, 3 for a loss), and a QB hit.
Watt now leads the league in sacks with 13, if he can get two more in the next two games he will beat his season record of 14.5. He gets the Colts next in his attempts to do that.
Those of you who, like me, rolled with Mike Hilton after two solid games in a row were left disappointed as his snap share dropped to 50%, which in real terms was around 30 fewer snaps than each of the previous two weeks.
With seemingly no injury concerns regarding Hilton, making the drop in snaps a play-calling decision, it may be hard to trust his opportunity in week 16.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Defensive Edge Arik Armstead recorded his first sack since week 4 of the season, he then immediately backed it up with another to bring his game stats to 2 sacks, 8 combined tackles (5 solo, 2 for a loss), and 2 QB hits. This brings his season total to 3.5 sacks which is significantly down on last season’s career-high of 10. With next week’s opponent Kyler Murray having been sacked 22 times so far this year there may be hope for Armstead to record another before the season finishes.
Rookie first-rounder Jordyn Brooks’s development had been progressing nicely leading to an 11 tackle (5 solo) game against the Giants in week 13 on a 77% snap share. Since then, however, he has seen his share fall away, he only saw 34% of snaps against the Jets and only 30% against Washington at the weekend, although this was more actual snaps than the previous game.
Against the Washington Football team he recorded 2 combined tackles, Brooks isn’t an IDP starter yet but he is a first-round linebacker on a good team. Watch for his relevance to increase next year.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
Sophomore linebacker David White blew up against Atlanta with a monster IDP game, he recorded 2 passes defended, 3 sacks, and 12 combined tackles (10 solo, 4 for a loss), and 3 QB hits.
No other player recorded a sack and only Shaquil Barrett managed another QB hit. Carlton Davis was next in tackling with 9 combined (7 solo).
Tampa faces off against Detroit in week 16, with Mathew Stafford the fourth most sacked quarterback and 12th most intercepted this promises to be a plus matchup for all of your Tampa players.
It’s now three weeks in a row that Tennessee has failed to record a sack of the quarterback. They did however manage to get an interception of Mathew Stafford. Kevin Byard hauled it in to go with 2 passes defended and 10 combined tackles (6 solo, 1 for a loss).
Sophomore David Long looks to have won out the job of replacing Jayon Brown for the remainder of the season. He backed this up with the first fantasy-relevant game of his career logging a pass defended and 12 combined tackles (6 solo).
Tennessee gets the high octane Green bay Packers next, which could make Long a value on volume alone. It is yet to be seen if he will retain any long term value once Brown returns next year.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
This was something of a disappointing week for the Football Team against Seattle. As a unit, they only recorded one interception, 3 passes defended, no sacks, 3 QB hits, and no forced fumbles.
Players like Chase Young and Montez Sweat performed at their floor, showing the swings that can occur with defensive linemen. Sometimes you have to take the lows with the dazzling highs.
All was not lost however as rookie breakout Kamren Curl again led the team in tackles, logging 8 combined (6 solo) on 100% of snaps.
Washington has a solid matchup against Carolina in week 16, I would roll my WFT players out again for this one.
Duncan Smith – IDP and Dynasty Writer
Ride or Dynasty