By Duncan Smith
We’ve finally reached the Thanksgiving point of the season, a holiday that as a Scot I don’t really understand. What I do understand is that it’s the week I get to watch non-Sunday football without staying up until about 3 am. The Detroit game kicks off at 5.30 pm local time for me!
Worth noting, if you don’t already know is that the Ravens and Steelers game has been pushed back to Sunday, so remember to monitor covid and injury designations with those extra couple of days.
It’s also worth reminding you that with two games still playing early this week that it is especially important to move any players you have going on Thursday out of your flex spots and into designated roles, a lot can happen before Sunday and you don’t want to be stuck.
With all that said I hope you enjoyed your turkey and since it’s St Andrews day on Monday if you want to wash it down with a wee dram be my guest.
Let’s get to my snap decisions
Veteran linebacker De’Vondre Campbell went into the Thursday night game against Seattle with a calf issue. While he was cleared to go he was limited in his role, only taking the field for 39% of the snaps.
This opened up an opportunity for rookie Isaiah Simmons. He made a solid claim for a regular spot in the side with his first career sack and 10 combined tackles (9 solo and 2 for a loss) on 68% of snaps.
All of the build-up around the Falcons game with New Orleans focussed on QB/TE hybrid Taysom Hill and his first career start at quarterback. While Atlanta did a good job of stopping Hill through the air it was never likely to be the main focus of a Hill led offense.
Sure enough, Atlanta gave up 3 rushing touchdowns including 2 to the man himself. Atlanta also failed to log an interception but did manage to record 3 sacks of Hill. That includes one for Deion Jones, with the linebacker leading the team with 3.5.
This week the Falcons face off against Las Vegas, Derek Carr has a 19:3 TD: INT ratio on the year so perhaps temper expectations of any picks this week.
Defensive tackles Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams were unable to suit up against Tennessee in week 11. Further to that Williams has been placed on the Covid reserve list as a close contact of JK Dobbins and Mark Ingram, which means he misses the Thanksgiving game against Pittsburgh this week.
In the absence of Campbell, linebacker Matt Judon was able to record a sack and 5 combined tackles (4 solo, 1 for a loss). This ties the two up at 4 sacks on the season.
Pittsburgh is not an easy game for anyone but will be especially difficult on a short week and Ben Roethlisberger has only been sacked twice in the last 5 weeks, both by Baltimore in week 8.
Keep an eye on Campbell’s status as well as the Covid status of the Ravens as a group.
Buffalo returns to action against the Chargers on Sunday. Safety Jordan Poyer leads the defense with 83 combined tackles (63 solo, 4 for a loss), 2 interceptions, 2 sacks and 4 passes defended.
The Buffalo defense currently ranks 28th in the league in rushing, allowing 135 yards and 1.5 touchdowns per game on the ground, while ranking 16th in passing, allowing 239 yards and 1.5 touchdowns through the air. If Austin Ekeler is good to go on Sunday, opponents LA may try to dominate through their run game and keep the Bills offense off the field.
A week after being gored by Tampa Bay the Carolina defense needed to show improvement and did so with a shut out of Detroit. The Lions were without stars D’Andre Swift and Kenny Golladay meaning it was easy to bottle them up. Sophomore linebacker Brian Burns had a monster day with 2 sacks, a pass defended, and 5 combined tackle (2 solo and 1 for a loss).
Next up for Carolina is a stern test in the shape of Minnesota and Dalvin Cook. The Panthers limited the Lions to 40 yards on the ground but Cook is a very different prospect to Kerryon Johnson and Adrian Peterson. Since returning from the Viking’s bye week Cook is averaging 145 yards on the ground and 1.5 rushing touchdowns.
The Bears return to action on Sunday night with a tough matchup at Lambeau Field against Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. It’s a tough game for the Bears against a Packers team averaging just over 30 points a game.
For those of you with Roquan Smith on your roster, you get to welcome him back to your lineup. Smith currently ranks third in the league for tackles with 96 combined and leads the league in tackles for a loss with 15.
Elsewhere, after leaving the Week 10 game with a hamstring issue defensive tackle Akiem Hicks is still questionable going into this game, he wasn’t present at training on Monday which may point to him sitting again, he’s worth monitoring as he’s a great play in DT required leagues.
Veteran safety Vonn Bell is a mainstay of the Bengals defense, he has played every snap this season. For fantasy purposes he has been steady if not fantastic, he leads the team in combined tackles with 74 and has 5 passes defended on the season.
Fellow safety Jessie Bates III has played almost as many snaps and recorded 3 interceptions, 13 passes defended, and 68 combined tackles.
The pair face off against the Giants at home and with Joe Burrow out for at least the remainder of the season, the offense may struggle to stay on the field. This will give both plenty of opportunity against Daniel Jones, a quarterback who has been sacked every game this season and thrown 9 interceptions. Both should be solid plays this week.
In a blow to Cleveland and fantasy players with him on their roster, defensive edge Miles Garrett missed a great matchup against the league’s worst o-line, belonging to the Philadelphia Eagles, after testing positive for Covid-19. In Garrett’s absence, his teammates managed to sack Carson Wentz 5 times, with Olivier Vernon recording 3 by himself, meaning he has 5 over the last 3 games.
Miles Garrett is already ruled out for week 12 as he tested positive rather than was identified as a close contact. With Jacksonville next, Vernon has a great opportunity to continue to put up good numbers in Garrett’s place. Jacksonville has just announced veteran journeyman Mike Glennon will get the start for this one and have yet to record a zero sack game regardless of who is under center this season while only managing one 1 sack game, in week 6 against Detroit.
Despite being ranked as the 31st run defense in the league, Dallas is having more success stopping the run than they are stopping opponents passing over recent weeks. They held Minnesota to 29/125/1 on the ground while allowing Kirk Cousins a stat line of 22/314/3 through the air with no interceptions in a tight win.
Linebacker Jaylon Smith continues to be a solid play however, this week he logged a sack and 7 combined tackles (3 solo) in a narrow victory over the Vikings. His week 12 opponent Washington is the last team Smith logged double-digit tackles against back in week 7 when he got 12 during a bad loss. In that game, Dallas gave up 194 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground, this week they will hope to reduce that number and force Alex Smith to air the ball out more often.
A week on from failing to record many meaningful stats against Las Vegas, the Bronco’s defense managed to get to Miami rookie Tua Tagovailoa so much he ended up benched in the fourth quarter. As a unit, they recorded 6 sacks of Tua, 8 total QB hits, and picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick when he came into the game in the fourth quarter.
Safety Justin Simmons led the team with an interception, 2 passes defended, and 7 combined tackles, while DeShawn Williams got 2 of the team’s 6 sacks.
Next is a tricky tie against the Taysom Hill led Saints. If Denver wants success here they will need to stop Hill on the ground and force him to air it out.
Detroit enters their traditional Thanksgiving home game having failed to stop former XFL quarterback PJ Walker on his NFL debut. Walker was able to lay the smackdown on Detroit with 258 yards and a touchdown through the air, although Detroit did manage to pick him off twice with cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Amani Oruwariye both getting their first of the season.
Linebacker Jamie Collins again led the team in tackles with 9 combined and a pass defended. Collins is the most reliable start in this Lions side although with six sacks on the season DE Romeo Okwara may be worth a punt in the hope he can get to opposition quarterback Deshaun Watson and add to the 26 sacks he has taken already this year.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Another week, another boring display by Green Bays’ defense. While they might be getting the job done on the field they are doing little for your fantasy side. Against Indianapolis it was the turn of linebacker Christian Kirksey to lead the team, scoring an interception and 11 combined tackles (6 solo). That interception meant that Kirksey is the fifth Packer to get an interception this year, with no one having more than one.
Now that Kirksey appears to be back to full health, he and fellow linebacker Za’Darius Smith look to be the safest options on this team. Outside of them you are probably best taking a flier on Darnell Savage who has logged 5 passes defended this season but has yet to have an interception.
Against New England, linebacker Zach Cunningham became the first player to go over 100 tackles in the league this season as he recorded 9 combined (7 solo) to bring his season total to 101 combined (65 solo). Curiously he reached this milestone on a season-low snap percentage playing only 64%.
Looking at his season stats this is nothing to worry about as his snap percentage has gone up and down from 100% all year long and regardless of game time he still gets the job done. Against a Detroit side that just got shut out, he should be a great play.
Cornerback Kenny Moore was able to shake off a rib injury to suit up against Green Bay and helped himself to 10 solo tackles on the day.
The Colts last faced off against week 12 opponents Tennessee back in the mists of two weeks ago, in a game that saw Moore suffer the rib injury in question, allowing him only 51% of snaps and 1 solo tackle.
With the Titan’s short passing offense, he might find himself somewhat out of the game for long stretches but if teammate Darius Leonard can push up and get at the running backs as they get targeted by Ryan Tannehill, he may have a nice day.
Strong safety is proving to be a bit of an issue for the Jags. Starting safety Josh Jones has missed the last two weeks after being placed on IR with a chest injury, he will miss at least this week against Cleveland before being eligible to return. The next man up is rookie Daniel Thomas, who started against Green Bay and Pittsburgh, securing 7 combined tackles against the Pack and an interception against the Steelers before his injury forced him out. Head coach Doug Marrone indicated he could miss an extended period of time with an arm injury.
As the Jags don’t have another player listed as strong safety on their depth chart sophomore free safety Andrew Wingard will likely be given a shot as the starter at the position. With the Browns very much a run-first team at the moment Wingard will need to get involved in tackling Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt for fantasy relevance.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
For the second time this season the Chiefs defense struggled to contain the Las Vegas Raiders. While star quarterback Patrick Mahomes rescued a victory for the team, they only forced Vegas to punt twice all day and had one interception by safety Daniel Sorensen. No Kansas player managed to record over 6 combined tackles either.
Next up is another tough game against Tampa Bay. The good news however is that unlike Derek Carr who is 34th in the league in interceptions, Tom Brady has shown some questionable decision-making leading to 9 interceptions, 2 of which have been returned for touchdowns this season.
I like Sorensen in particular to have a good week as well as fellow starting safety Tyrann Mathieu to bounce back from a game he only registered 4 combined tackles in.
LAS VEGAS RAIDERS
While the Chiefs defense struggled to contain an efficient Derek Carr spreading the ball about, so too did the Vegas defense struggle with Patrick Mahomes. Like the Chiefs, they failed to record a sack on the day and only succeeded in picking Mahomes once. Cornerback Trayvon Mullen hauled that one in along with 6 combined tackles (5 solo).
With Cory Littleton still on the Covid list for week 11, Nicholas Morrow managed 8 combined tackles (6 solo) and a pass defended. With Littleton likely to return against the Falcons this week it will be interesting to see how the snap counts work out between highly paid Littleton and Morrow, who has impressed in his absence. Keep an eye on this before a juicy week 13 match against the Jets.
LOS ANGELES CHARGERS
Ah, playing the Jets, one of the great moments in life when you’re a defensive player. Your time in the spotlight. This week it was cornerback Tevaughn Campbells turn to shine as he became the first Canadian to score defensive points for the Chargers when he returned a Joe Flacco interception 8 yards for a touchdown.
Unfortunately for Campbell, he doesn’t get to play the Jets every week, next up for the 27-year-old who has spent most of his NFL career on the practice squad is a much more difficult game against Buffalo. Although with veteran Casey Hayward continuing to disappoint and suffering a groin injury against the jets, Campbell may continue to see plenty of action as one of only two healthy CB’s on the roster.
LOS ANGELES RAMS
For the second week in a row stud defensive lineman, Aaron Donald crapped out for your team, this week he put up a goose egg against Tampa. It’s not all Donald’s fault though, he is seeing the league’s highest amount of double coverage on pass rushes and feels he doesn’t get a lot of holding calls in his favor. He’s also still a hugely disruptive force on the field, however, that doesn’t put points on your table. You can’t sit a player like Donald, so all you can do is hope he gets back in amongst the scoring against San Francisco’s beat-up line this week.
An injury concern to pay attention to is that of linebacker Micah Kiser, he had logged 6 combined tackles on Monday night before suffering a knee injury that looks like keeping him out of week 12. If Kiser misses then Justin Hollins and Troy Reeder are likely to mix in in his place, neither is likely a great option.
Opposition quarterback Drew Lock threw an interception for the sixth week in a row and it should come as no surprise it was cornerback Xavien Howard who hauled it in. Howard now holds the joint lead in the league with New Englands J.C. Jackson, with 6 interceptions each.
Next up for Miami and Howard is a divisional matchup against New York. The Jets are so bad that it shouldn’t matter if Sam Darnold or Joe Flacco starts, there’s every likelihood that Howard can get his seventh pick of the year.
Linebacker Eric Kendricks got back to winning ways against Dallas despite the Vikings coming up short. He logged an interception, 2 passes defended, and 7 combined tackles (2 solo) during the game. Despite his stat line Kendricks has dropped to seventh overall in combined tackles, with 94, and third in solo tackles, with 63. Up next he gets to face the Carolina Panthers, who look like getting Teddy Bridgewater back but not Christian McCaffrey.
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Against Houston your Patriots had a down week, they barely laid a glove on Deshaun Watson as they failed to record a sack or interception and only recorded 2 QB hits. Safety Adrian Phillips led the team on the day with a pass defended and 7 combined tackles (4 solo and 1 for a loss).
Week 11 was the first time this season that the Patriots failed to record a sack while also being the first time Deshaun Watson avoided being sacked. With week 12 opponent Kyler Murray currently nursing a shoulder injury, it will be interesting to see if the Patriots can force him outside the pocket and make him scramble.
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Veteran cornerback Janoris Jenkins had his first big IDP week since week 1 of the season. Against Atlanta he recorded an interception, 5 passes defended and 5 combined tackles, 4 solo.
Next up for Jenkins and the Saints is a trip to Denver. Bronco QB Drew Lock has 11 interceptions on the year, the same as Kirk Cousins and only Carson Wentz has more with 14.
All of Lock’s interceptions have come since Denver’s week 5 bye, with 3 of the 6 games being multi-interception games. It would be a good bet to assume that New Orleans will record at least a pick this week against a struggling quarterback.
NEW YORK GIANTS
The Giants return from their bye week to face a Cincinnati Bengals team that has just lost their star player, Joe Burrow, for the season. Backup QB Ryan Finley has to be ready to go behind an o-line that has allowed 36 sacks so far this season, while the Giants have logged at least 2 sacks every week and 10 sacks the last 4 weeks.
Defensive tackle Leonard Williams leads New York with 5 sacks over 8 starts and is an excellent option this week, while linebacker Blake Martinez should have plenty of opportunities to add to his tackles, he only needs 5 to go over 100 combined on the season.
NEW YORK JETS
We should have seen this coming, after the Jets having some fantasy-relevant players in their secondary over the first half of the season the whole thing has come tumbling down. As mentioned before, Pierre Desir was cut, Brian Poole and Bless Austin have had their seasons finished by injury and now the Jets have 3 rookies, Bryce Hall, Lamar Jackson (don’t be silly), and Javelin Guidry, along with a guy who almost exclusively played special teams, Arthur Maulet, and a guy who arrived at the Jets a week ago, Corey Ballentine.
I could reel off some stats about how they did but come on, you can do better than this, of the group Maulet is most experienced with a whopping 7 starts but if you must take one of them, grab Bryce Hall and stick him on the end of your bench.
Alex Singleton has taken over at linebacker for Philly, on the back of his second game in a row that he played 100% of defensive snaps, he recorded a sack, 12 combined tackles (4 solo, 1 for a loss), and a fumble recovery.
With the injuries to other Eagles linebackers this season and Singleton’s excellent performances when given the chance it is probably worth checking your free agency for the former CFL player (this week’s second).
In what should be a surprise to no one Pittsburgh spent Sunday battering Jake Luton and the Jags. Linebacker Bud Dupree and cornerback Stephon Tuitt both got a sack, bringing them up to 8 and 7 respectively on the season.
Elsewhere safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and Terrell Edmunds both hauled in 2 interceptions.
Next up is Baltimore and while the Ravens will prove a stiffer test than Jacksonville, they did give up 9 QB hits, 4 sacks, and 2 interceptions in week 8 to the Steelers at home. In Pittsburgh, there is no reason to not play your Steelers as they look to put a divisional rival to the sword.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
The 49ers return to football action this Sunda,y down the coast in Los Angeles against the Rams.
The last time these two met was in week six where San Francisco did a good job of keeping the Rams in check while putting up solid if unspectacular numbers in a 24 – 16 win for the 49ers.
Linebackers Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw lead the team in defensive scoring and will both be good plays this week, while Kerry Hyder continues to lead the team in sacks with 5.5 in the absence of Nick Bosa.
As a slight aside, Takk McKinley who I spoke about last week failed his second physical since being waived by the Falcons. He’s now at the Raiders where he will presumably fail his third medical before the Browns finally get him at the fourth attempt.
Since joining Seattle from Cincinnati in week 8 defensive end Carlos Dunlap has recorded 3 sacks, including 2 this week against Kyler Murray. While Dunlap doesn’t put up huge tackle numbers he is a nice sack-dependent boom or bust player on your roster. With Seattle facing Philadelphia, the Giants, and the Jets over the next three weeks I like him to boom on your roster all the way to the championship.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
The Bucs managed to hold week 11 opponents the Rams to only 37 yards total rushing offense, but unfortunately gave up 376 yards and 3 TD’s through the air while allowing 2 different Rams receivers to get over 100 yards in the game.
Despite Tampa being dominated by the opposition quarterback for the second time in three weeks they still had plenty of fantasy-relevant players. Safety Jordan Whitehead and defensive edge Jason Pierre-Paul both logged an interception while the teams leading tacklers Devin White, Lavonte David, and Antoine Winfield all recorded 9 combined tackles.
White, David, and Winfield are weekly starts regardless of the opponent but Whitehead is an interesting risk/reward play. He is struggling in pass coverage, allowing 68.8% of passes to be completed. He may find himself targeted often by Kansas quarterback Patrick Mahomes which could lead to volume-based opportunity but if he struggles Kansas may jump out early and shut their passing game down while managing the Bucs offense.
The Titans suffered a big blow during their week 11 overtime victory over the Ravens as linebacker Jayon Brown was lost for the rest of the season with an elbow injury. Brown leads the team with 76 combined tackles up until this point, adding another 3 plus 1 for a loss before leaving the game just before half time. David Long should have been the next man up for Tennessee but is currently on the Covid list so William Compton found himself with a role in the second half that he turned into 6 combined tackles. The veteran was only called up from the practice squad on Saturday and with the Colts next and Long likely back, he isn’t a good replacement for Brown.
WASHINGTON FOOTBALL TEAM
It feels a bit dirty to talk about the number of times the Washington defensive front was able to get at the Cincinnati quarterback in light of the horror injury sustained by Joe Burrow but it needs to be said. The Bengals atrocious O-line allowed 12 total quarterback hits, 4 sacks, 5 total tackles for a loss, and an interception of Ryan Finley.
Rookie safety Kamren Curl impressed again with 9 combined tackles (5 solo) and a QB hit. With Dallas next up on Thursday, your Football players should be good this week but you might need to fade them in week 13 against the Steelers.
Duncan Smith – IDP and Dynasty Writer
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