The Rams have consistently been a weak match up for our tackle producing defenders but there is some hope for those of us depending on Deone Bucannon and Tyrann Mathieu. In the week four meeting of these teams Bucannon was 7-1 while Mathieu recorded 6 tackles, defended a pass and forced a fumble. Calais Campbell had a huge game in week four with 10 solo stops an assist and half a sack. Owners in deeper leagues who may be riding Kevin Minter as a third starter will want to find a better option this week. He was 1-1-0 in the first meeting, although that was before Todd Gurley got going.
The fragile Justin Durant was knocked out of Sunday's game with yet another injury. This time it was an ankle sending him to the bench after eighteen plays. As we have seen previously, Phillip Wheeler took over and went on to lead the team in tackles with 6 solos and 5 assists. The Buccaneers have been a good match up for linebackers on most weeks but it is the state of the Falcons defense that makes Wheeler a quality play if Durant is out. Safety snap counts, Moore and Allen started.
Injuries will force the Bills to do some shuffling on defense this week. Alex Carrington started for a banged up Mario Williams in week twelve. Carrington also went down and was replaced by IK Enemkpali who appears to be in line for the start. The team also lost Nigel Bradham who is not likely to go this week with an ankle injury, and corner Ronald Darby who left with a concussion. A.J. Tarpley saw some action after Bradham left and may be the next man up at linebacker. If Darby is unable to go look for Leodis McKelvin to get back in the starting lineup at corner.
With Charles Johnson back in action the Panthers used a four man rotation at end. Kony Ealy and Jared Allen started with each playing 33 snaps. Johnson has 24 while Mario Addison played 28. Johnson could see his playing time increase as he works back into the starting role but Panthers may continue using all four players nearly equally. On a side note; Ealy had another sack in week twelve making his streak five games with at least one.
We are always saying one is a fluke and two is a trend. Adrian Amos has now put up big numbers in consecutive games. Coincidently Antrel Rolle has now missed consecutive games with an injury. I am not sure if these two items are necessarily related but the Bears coaching staff may be using Amos a little differently with Chris Prosinski at the other safety spot. Amos looked good during the preseason when he was moved up into run support role. A match up with the 49ers is not what we would like to see at this point but Amos certainly has our attention. If he can produce with this weak opponent it will send his stock soaring. Pick him up now if you have the room and see what happens.
How good is Vontaze Burfict? For the third straight game and the fourth time in five outings since his return, Burfict recorded 5 or more combined tackles assists. That is pretty impressive when we consider he has not played more than 40 snaps in a game this year. He is 13-2-0 on 75 plays over the last two games. As of Wednesday Emmanuel Lamur had not practiced this week and is in danger of missing Sunday's contest, which could translate to us finally seeing Burfict in a three down role. Burfict was 6-1 against a Rams offense that has been a horrible match up for linebackers and he did it in a game when Todd Gurley was a complete non-factor. Cincinnati has the Browns this week so the matchup is poor yet again. Even so we could do much worse for a third starter at this point of the season and he could post LB1 numbers if he plays full time.
Tramon Williams shadowed A.J. Green throughout most of the first meeting between the Browns and Bengals. In that contest he finished with a solid 6 tackles and an assist. It looks as if Joe Haden will miss another game due to concussions so chances are Williams will draw the same assignment.
The Cowboys were supposed to be such a different team with Romo back at the controls. So much for all the hype. Maybe now the media will find something else to talk about. Next to starting Romo over Russell Wilson last week (my fault for drinking to Kool-Aid), my biggest disappointment of week twelve was the goose egg from Greg Hardy. I have never seen such lackluster effort from a player going against a former team. If he could not get up for that game how can we expect him to play hard against anyone else? Hardy's numbers have steadily declined since his big debut way back in week five. In the past three weeks he has a total of 2 tackles and assist and half a sack. This guy is a complete head case and a player we need to bench or even cut.
When the Lions faced Green Bay in week ten there were a lot of surprises. Tahir Whitehead was an every down linebacker and finished 7-1-1. Isa Abdul-Quddus replaced James Ihedigbo at safety going 8-0-0 and the Lions rookie corner Nevin Lawson made his first start. Whitehead has not been a three down player in a game since. In fact he played fewer snaps than either Stephen Tulloch or Josh Bynes in week twelve. Neither Abdul-Quddus nor Ihedigbo were on the field full time against the Eagles. Abdul-Quddus started at strong safety and worked on 45 of 60 plays. Ihedigbo played only a few snaps before replacing a banged up Glover Quin midway through the first half. Quin is questionable for Thursday’s rematch so Ihedigbo may get a chance to redeem himself with the coaching staff and possibly regain his starting job.
The most interesting player in this mess is Lawson. You may remember watching Aaron Rodgers throw at him all night on Thanksgiving when the Packers kept getting him one on one with Davante Adams. Lawson ended up with 6 tackles an assist and a pass defended in that game. If Adams had caught half the ball that hit his hands, Lawson would have had 10 stops. It is a safe bet Lawson will continue to start and just as safe a bet Rodgers will target him again. The only difference this time is the Packers will probably try to get him to cover someone besides Adams.
Green Bay Packers
Start Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Morgan Burnett this week against the Lions. Since week five the safety positions of Packers opponents have averaged 13 solo stops, 4 assists, a turnover, almost half a sack and a little better than 1 pass defended. Clinton-Dix was huge in the first meeting going 9-2-0 with a pick, while Burnett turned in a solid 4 solos and 4 assists. It could just as easily be Burnett on the big end this time but both players have a high floor.
Kareem Jackson was a starting corner for the Texans before he missed time with an injury. While he was out rookie Kevin Johnson appears to have taken the job. Over the past two weeks Jackson has been working as the nickel corner while Johnson has been outstanding.
With 3 tackles and 3 assists Clayton Geathers production was not as impressive in his second start but he seems to be settling into the lineup on the field. Mike Adams has not yet returned to practice from his ankle injury so it looks as if Geathers will have another opportunity to shine. He has looked good thus far and is clearly in line to be the future of the position. If he continues to play well Adams may not get the job back.
Kansas City Chiefs
Eric Berry is back! He is starting to make the plays Ron Parker was making earlier in the year and the coaching staff is starting to move Berry up into the box more often. He has strong numbers in back to back games and a solid match up with the Raiders in week twelve.
Justin Houston will miss time with a knee injury. Frank Zombo will take his place in the lineup but no one will replace his production. Josh Mauga racked up 9 solo stops in week twelve but there is nothing to be read into it. He is still a 2 down player and there is no reason to believe he can produce with any consistency.
After another solid outing Kelvin Sheppard is high on a lot of free agent lists this week. It is hard to argue with anyone who picks him up but keep in mind Sheppard is not a three down linebacker when everyone is healthy. Starting him is somewhat of a risk with both Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins in and out of the lineup with injuries.
It was somewhat surprising to see Antone Exum ahead of Robert Blanton as the replacement for Harrison Smith. As it turned out Exum and Blanton worked together most of the game. Blanton replaced Andrew Sendejo who went down early in the game. Blanton went on to lead the team in tackles with 8 solo and an assist. As of Wednesday there have been no updates on either Smith (knee) or Sendejo (knee) but the feeling is both could miss the week thirteen match up with Seattle. The Seahawks have been a strong match up for safeties in recent weeks so keep an eye on the late week practice and injury reports. Blanton could have another big game if Sendejo sits.
New England Patriots
Donta Hightower is expected to miss time after limping off with a knee injury in week twelve. Jamie Collins is far from a lock to return from his illness though he is working on regaining his strength. As it stands now Jonathan Freeny will be the Patriots three down with Jerod Mayo seeing a much more significant role. It seems everyone in New England is capable of producing as the next man up. Freeny was an impressive 7-5-1 against Denver and has a strong match up with the Eagles in week thirteen. Mayo is also looking good but the team would still like to limit his playing time until he is all the way back from last year's serious injury. If you need a spot play at linebacker Freeny may be your guy.
New York Giants
It was somewhat surprising to see Jasper Brinkley start over Uani Unga at MLB and almost shocking to see Brinkley log more playing time than any other Giants linebacker (61 of 70 snaps). This may be a case of Unga not being all the way back. Either way we can safely say Brinkley is not a long term answer. He may however, be a decent match up based play against a strong Jets match up.
New York Jets
D.J. Hayden played five snaps in week twelve before being benched in favor of David Amerson. Coach Del Rio said it was more a case of Amerson winning the job than Hayden losing it. What does it say about Hayden when he was benched in favor of a player the team plucked off waivers mid season? Amerson played and produced well as a starter for the Raiders. He already has 19 passes defended including a whopping 10 in the past two weeks. The Chiefs have not been a great match up for corners but Amerson is a productive tackler who does not shy away from run support. I would still give him strong consideration as a CB2 even against the Chiefs.
It is tough to consider sitting Charles Woodson but consider since week five the safety positions have averaged fewer than 8 solo stops combined against Kansas City and the Chiefs are not giving up big plays. Alex Smith has not thrown interception since week three and the team has lost 1 fumble in their last seven games.
Byron Maxwell has been a solid play in corner required league most weeks but I am looking to get him out of my lineups against a Patriots team that simply has no receivers left. In the last two weeks no corner has recorded more than 2 solo tackles against New England.
San Francisco 49ers
Michael Wilhoite has not practiced as of Wednesday due to an ankle injury. This could open the door for Gerald Hodges. There is nothing to move on here just yet but Hodges is a guy with a good deal of long term upside. Dynasty owners will want to watch this one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers seem to be auditioning corners. Jonathan Banks, Keith Tandy, Tim Jennings, Mike Jenkins, and most recently Alterraun Verner have been cycled through as starters. In week twelve the team started Sterling Moore and rookie Jude Adjei-Barimah who promptly recorded 6 tackles and 3 assists. The rookie corner rule could be in play here if only we were sure the coaching staff would stick with him. At this point it is a situation to be avoided.
DeAngelo Hall started at strong safety against the Giants. At a glance his production of 4 solo stops was not impressive but it was enough to make Hall tied for the team lead in solo tackles. This could become a permanent situation for Hall who should prove to be an excellent safety with his skill set and willingness in run support.
That does it for the fantasy regular season. Hopefully everyone will be back for the playoffs. If you are not able to go all the way, be sure to check back in week seventeen for a look ahead to next season. It is never too early to start building next year's championship.