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Reading the Defense: Week 14

A weekly look at IDP trends with a mix of metrics, film study, and matchup strategy

News and injury notes

***D'Qwell Jackson left last week's game with a concussion. He was then hit with a four game suspension for a violation of the PED policy. Edwin Jackson had already ascended through a messy depth chart to earn an every down role prior to D'Qwell Jackson's injury. Edwin Jackson should be at the top of your list this week if still available. You should also strongly consider adding safety Clayton Geathers, who has been productive when healthy.

 ***There are some conflicting reports on Jason Pierre-Paul early this week. At minimum, he has a groin strain that requires an in-person consult from a leading sports hernia orthopedic surgeon. At worst, he'll need surgery to repair the muscle tear sooner than later. For now, there's seems to be a strong current of optimism that Pierre-Paul won't need surgery this week.

***In addition to Pierre-Paul, there are multiple other key injuries to watch through midweek. Harrison Smith continues to fight through an early-season high ankle sprain. It's now being called a Grade 3 sprain. If true, that's a surgical condition and would likely end his season. More likely, there's an error in terminology -- but Smith may need multiple weeks to rehab in the hopes he'll be nearer full strength should the Vikings make the playoffs. Anthony Harris would likely replace Smith. Kiko Alonso had surgery on a broken thumb this week but early reports have him possibly playing this week. If not, Spencer Paysinger is the most likely every-down linebacker. It also appears Brandon Marshall will miss this week's game with a hamstring injury. Look to Todd Davis here; I don't think Corey Nelson will play in many subpackages with Marshall out.

***I'm anxious to see Wednesday's practice notes on Luke Kuechly and DeAndre Levy. Kuechly is more likely to return than Levy but the Lions continue to seem hopeful they'll have Levy back soon. If there's no Levy and no Tahir Whitehead again, Josh Bynes will play every down. I'm also hopeful to see Jatavis Brown return in San Diego, but should he return in Week 14 he's likely to be limited in his first week back.

***LB WAIVER WIRE FLOW CHART:  Nick Kwiatkowski >> Edwin Jackson > Dannell Ellerbe > Spencer Paysinger > Josh Bynes > Todd Davis

***The Raiders could get Mario Edwards back in the next 2-3 weeks. He's been cleared to return to practice and is reportedly giddy at the possibility of joining a line with Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin. A healthy Edwards -- though a rare sight -- was a productive two-way defensive end and will have a DL2+ expectation when he returns to a 40+ snap role.

Playoff Matchups

I won't note elite, matchup-independent players here, just those you might take an upside longshot with if you're an underdog this week. Remember, players with middling upside are not worth lineup spots in the playoffs unless they have a very safe floor and you're a significant favorite and want to maximize points. If you're likely to be chasing your opponent, a lineup bust doesn't hurt you. But a surprise stud performance can close the gap for you. Take chances if you can.

***Week 14 playoffs | Pass-rushing matchups to target: Cleveland (Michael Johnson), Indianapolis (Jadeveon Clowney), Arizona (Cameron Wake), Cincinnati (longshot Emmanuel Ogbah), San Francisco (Muhammad Wilkerson if healthy). Michael Johnson and Cameron Wake are the two high variance sleepers to target. Wake -- at home vs Carson Palmer -- is particularly attractive as a high variance waiver target.

***Week 14 playoffs | Tackle matchups to target: Dallas (Keenan Robinson), New Orleans (Lavonte David), Tampa Bay (Dannell Ellerbe, Vonn Bell), New England (Eric Weddle)

***Week 14 playoffs | Stat crews to target for added assists: New York Giants (upside for Sean Lee and Barry Church), Carolina (upside for Korey Toomer), New England (upside for Eric Weddle, C.J. Mosley), Buffalo (slight upside for PIT secondary).


EVERY-DOWN LINEBACKER PROJECTIONS 

Additions to the every-down column in BOLD. Injury situations to monitor this week in italics.

TEAM
EVERY-DOWN LB
75-100% SNAPS
INJ | SUSP
NOTES
ARIZONA
Deone Bucannon
Chandler Jones : Kevin Minter    
ATLANTA
DeVondre Campbell
Deion Jones
Sean Weatherspoon (IR)  
BALTIMORE
Zachary Orr : C.J. Mosley
 
 
 
BUFFALO
Preston Brown : Zach Brown
 
   
CAROLINA
Thomas Davis
A.J. Klein Luke Kuechly  
CHICAGO
Nick Kwiatkowski
Leonard Floyd : John Timu
Jerrell Freeman (susp thru W15),  Danny Trevathan (IR)   
CINCINNATI
Vontaze Burfict
 
 
 
CLEVELAND
Chris Kirksey : Jamie Collins
Emmanuel Ogbah
   
DALLAS
Sean Lee
  Justin Durant
Hitchens only 70% with Durant out
DENVER
none
Von Miller : Todd Davis
Brandon Marshall  
DETROIT
Josh Bynes
  Tahir Whitehead, DeAndre Levy  
GREEN BAY
Joe Thomas
Julius Peppers
Blake Martinez
 
HOUSTON
Benardrick McKinney : Whitney Mercilus
Brian Cushing
John Simon
 
INDIANAPOLIS
Edwin Jackson
Erik Walden
D'Qwell Jackson (susp thru W17)  
JACKSONVILLE
Paul Posluszny : Telvin Smith
     
KANSAS CITY
Derrick Johnson
Justin Houston : Ramik Wilson
 
 
LOS ANGELES
Alec Ogletree : Mark Barron
     
MIAMI
Kiko Alonso
 
Koa Misi (IR)
Look to Spencer Paysinger if Alonso out 
MINNESOTA
Eric Kendricks : Anthony Barr
     
NEW ENGLAND
none
     
NEW ORLEANS
Craig Robertson : Dannell Ellerbe
 
 
 
NEW YORK GIANTS
none
Keenan Robinson
   
NEW YORK JETS
David Harris : Darron Lee
  Erin Henderson (NFI)
 
OAKLAND
Malcolm Smith : Perry Riley
Bruce Irvin
Ben Heeney (IR)  
PHILADELPHIA
Jordan Hicks : Nigel Bradham
   
 
PITTSBURGH
Ryan Shazier : Lawrence Timmons
     
SAN DIEGO
Korey Toomer : Melvin Ingram
Denzel Perryman
Jatavis Brown, Manti Te'o (IR), Jeremiah Attaochu (IR)  
SAN FRANCISCO
Nick Bellore
Ahmad Brooks : Gerald Hodges NaVorro Bowman (IR)   
SEATTLE
Bobby Wagner : K.J. Wright
     
TAMPA BAY
Lavonte David : Kwon Alexander
     
TENNESSEE
none
Avery Williamson : Derrick Morgan : Brian Orakpo
   
WASHINGTON
Will Compton
Ryan Kerrigan
   

Subscribe to The Audible on iTunes or download our weekly IDP podcast here every Thursday for injury updates, player analysis, and matchup discussion. Follow and ask questions on Twitter @JeneBramel.