With the holiday and early start time for games this is a short week of preparation for us all. I guess it is no different than an NFL team playing on four days rest/prep. The only difference here being we are all in the same boat. The short study time makes it tough to thoroughly investigate some of the injuries from last week as well as some of the box score anomalies from week eleven. This week's column will be a little short but I am passing along what I know (or at least think I know) as of Wednesday morning. This week more than any other it will be up to you as the owner to follow up with late week events in order to put forth your best lineup. I will be updating projections as usual on Friday and again on Sunday morning after the inactive lists come out.
In an interesting move the Cardinals added free agent Sio Moore this week. Moore is not likely to contribute right away and may not be a factor at all. On the other hand we know he is a player capable of making big plays which is something the Cardinals have been lacking from their inside linebacker positions. Moore is a player we have talked about often both in our weekly columns and on the IDP roundtable podcast. He has been a journeyman since coming into the league but his play on the field has been rather good in most situations. There seems to be something about Moore behind the scene that makes teams sour on him. If he can find the right situation however, this is a player with big fantasy potential. Maybe the Cardinals will be the right fit; they could certainly use the help on the field.
Word is Tyrann Mathieu will suit up and go in week twelve. This is great news for the Cardinals but mixed for fantasy owners. If he is fully healthy Mathieu can have an impact both on the field and in the box score. My fear being he is pushing a return more because the team needs him and less because he is fully healthy. It would be great to have him for the playoff run but plugging him back in our lineups this week is a huge risk even with a solid matchup. The other played effected by this situation is D.J. Swearinger who could see less opportunity with Mathieu back. Swearinger was hot for a game or two after Mathieu went down but has faded back into mediocrity over the past few weeks. He too should have a seat on the bench this week if not cut all together.
Heading into week ten I was pimping Adrian Clayborn as a hot player to pick up and a guy with long term potential. He repaid my kind words with a goose egg in week ten and then a long bye week for us to think about it. As I mentioned in last week's column, it might be a mistake to give up on Clayborn and throw him back already. Before making that decision I want to see what he does against the Cardinals in week twelve. Arizona has allowed 3.2 sacks a game since week four including 4 to the Vikings last week when Carson Palmer was under duress all day.
If you have Zach Orr and/or C.J. Mosley they are probably strong starting considerations each week. If you have a decision to make with them this week, put them in your lineup. To date the Bengals have been no more than a mediocre matchup for inside linebackers but the injury to Giovani Bernard changes the entire dynamic of the Cincinnati offense. Going forward we should see a lot more of Jeremy Hill and a power run game. Rex Burkhead will be the backup and so called third down back but the last time Bernard missed games, Hill saw 80+ percent of the carries and the Bengals offense looked much better.
The Bills are likely to be without Robert Blanton this week due to a foot injury. The next man up at safety is recent free agent addition James Ihedigbo who has shown a good deal of box score potential at previous stops. Jacksonville has been a better matchup for linebackers and safeties than one might expect given the struggles of their offense. Zach Brown is a must start in this game with Preston Brown and Ihedigbo being a couple of players with good upside. Over their last three games opponent’s safeties have accounted for 36 solo tackles against the Jaguars.
Last week I pointed out how Mario Addison's recent success seemed to have led to a much bigger part of the playing time pie. He was off to a great start against New Orleans with a pair of sacks in the first half before leaving with a foot injury. As of Wednesday morning there has been no update on the severity of the injury or Addison's status for week twelve. Even if he is able to go we would probably be best served to sit him. Not only for the injury concerns but also for the fact Oakland has given up barely over a sack per game on average.
Luke Kuechly left Sunday's game with his second concussion in two seasons. He missed three games in 2015 and is reportedly out indefinitely with this one. Owners scrambling for a replacement may need to look no further than his teammate Shaq Thompson who is likely to take on an every down role going forward. The organization has grand expectations for Lawson who was expected to put hard for a full time job in 2017 anyway. The Kuechly injury gives Carolina an opportunity to fully evaluate Thompson. So far there has been little to dislike about him. Thomas Davis will likely shift inside and get a big value boost as well.
With 18 tackles, 6 assists and a pass breakup, Danny Trevathan has been on fire over the past two games. The suspension of Jerrell Freeman for the next four games means even more opportunity for Trevathan just when we need him to stay hot. Matchups with the Titans, 49ers, Lions, Packers and Redskins between now and our championship week are not particularly great but there are other factors to consider here as well. Jay Cutler is done for the year and Alshon Jeffery will be watching games with Freeman while they are both serving suspensions, and the team's leading receiver Zach Miller just landed on IR. The Bears offense will be hard pressed to move the ball meaning the defense will be on the field a lot. Despite the questionable matchups Trevathan will likely be a top 10 linebacker the rest of the way. Nick Kwiatkoski should be the replacement for Freeman over the next month though it is unclear what the coaches will do in sub packages.
One other interesting note out of Chicago; rookie Deon Bush started ahead of Harold Jones-Quartey at safety last week. Bush had mediocre numbers in his first start as a pro but he and Adrian Amos could find themselves in a target rich environment going forward.
Vontaze Burfict left the week eleven game briefly to be checked for a possible concussion. He was able to return after a few plays and went on to post a big stat line. With Rey Maualuga inactive, Nick Vigil got in the game for eleven snaps and made a couple of tackles. If you are in the unfortunate position of looking toward next year, Vigil is a guy you may want to pick up and stash. He has been impressive every time he has been given an opportunity to play and there is a buzz about him within the organization. If/when the Bengals drop another game or two; it will be no surprise to see Vigil get on the field for a few games at the end of the year. Cincinnati has the Steelers and Texans in weeks fifteen and sixteen so we might even get some play out of him this year in crunch time.
Rookie safety Miles Killebrew is another of those players we might consider stashing for the future. The Lions have been average at best at the safety position over the past several years. They have long been in need of a player to step up and become a long term answer. Killebrew looked good during the preseason giving the Detroit faithful hope for the future. When he popped up in last week's box score at 4-1-0 I thought the coaching staff may have decided to give him a shot down the stretch. A closer look reveals he was in for only eleven snaps so it may be a false alarm. On the other hand, 4 tackles and an assist on eleven plays may be enough to earn the young man more opportunity. He is clearly a player to have on our radar.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers will be without Jake Ryan for a few weeks due to an ankle injury suffered in week ten and then lost Blake Martinez to a knee injury in week eleven. With their two young players sidelined the team is left with Carl Bradford and Joe Thomas as their only healthy inside linebackers. There is talk about having Clay Matthews shift back inside until someone is able to return. Thomas was the every down ILB in week eleven but once again came up short in terms of fantasy value. The only players I see benefitting from this mess are the safeties.
Edwin Jackson showed up once again in the Colts box scores. I am seeing owners move to pick him up in several of my leagues. If you are among those considering such a move, be aware he is working in a two down role only. Jackson was on the field for 49 of 71 defensive plays in week eleven.
Clayton Geathers is currently in concussion protocol and has not practiced this week. With the Colts playing Thursday it does not look good for his chances of suiting up. T.J. Green will likely get the call.
Kansas City Chiefs
Week eleven saw Ramik Wilson out produce Derrick Johnson in terms of fantasy points for the third consecutive game. This is a great sign of Wilson's potential as the eventual replacement for the 34 year old Johnson, but be aware Wilson is still not working in a three down role. Against Tampa Bay Johnson was on the field for all 77 plays while Wilson worked on 44. I for one have seen more than enough of Wilson to warrant snapping him up not only as a third starter for now but a potential stud in the future. Let us not forget however, Wilson looked great for a spell last year but failed to make the 53 man roster coming out of camp this summer. Apparently we like him more than the Chiefs coaching staff. Hopefully they will see the light and give the young man a real opportunity.
Kansas City was happy to get Justin Houston back in week eleven. Unfortunately it was just in time to replace Dee Ford who is now down with a hamstring injury. It was rather surprising to see Houston on the field so much (55 plays) after being out so long. Apparently Andy Reid only believes in easing a player back into action when it is not one of their stars.
With 12 tackles and 2.5 sacks over the past four games Andre Branch is quietly becoming one of the league's excellent defensive ends. Cameron Wake has been on fire as a pass rusher with 7.5 sacks over the past eight games as well, and Ndamukong Suh has been stepping up with the team now playing well. All three of these guys need to be in our lineups this week when they face a San Francisco team that has given up nearly 4 sacks a game since week four. The 49ers have allowed at least 3 sacks in five of their last six games.
New England Patriots
In week eleven Bill Bilichick and the Patriots gave us yet another lesson in why IDP owner can trust few of their players. One week after being inactive Eric Rowe was back in the starting lineup. One week after playing 58 snaps Elandon Roberts worked on 11. One week after playing all 70 defensive snaps Donta Hightower was on the field for 77% of the plays. On and on it goes with this team on both sides of the ball in many cases. At this point the only Patriots defenders worthy of any consideration are outside pass rushers Rob Ninkovich and Trey Flowers. Jabaal Sheard now appears to be firmly entrenched in the Patriots doghouse. So deeply in fact that he was inactive for the week eleven contest. So we should not be shocked if he starts this week I guess. I am ready to throw in the towel and cry uncle with this team.
New York Giants
Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul had 4 sacks between them going into week eleven but seem to be hitting their stride at the right time. The pair has been posting solid tackle totals pretty much all year and currently has 37 QB hurries. Vernon added a sack in week eleven and is now on a streak of three games with one. Pierre-Paul had 1.5 going into the Chicago game where he added 2.5 along with a forced fumble as part of a 24 point day. Both players should add to their big play totals this week against a Cleveland offense that is struggling. The Browns have allowed 3.5 sacks a game on average since week four.
New York Jets
David Harris is a player who should get a lot of consideration as a starter this week against New England. The Patriots are likely to make this a lopsided score early on but even if they are not able to pull away, the Jets will see plenty of LeGarrette Blount. I like Darron Lee in this one as well, providing we get some sort of confirmation he is healthy and ready for a return to the starting role. Lee got back on the field for a few plays before the bye and should be good to go with the extra rest.
Corey James blew up over a stretch of games earlier in the season but was eventually sent to the bench in favor of veteran free agent Perry Riley. James began to inch his way back onto the field after the bye week, taking part in 31 plays (of a possible 76) against the Texans. The one thing we know for sure here is Riley will not be a long term answer. In fact it would be no surprise to see James reclaim the job all together over the next couple weeks. Oakland has Carolina this week which is not a great matchup but after that it is Buffalo, Kansas City, San Diego, and Indianapolis for our playoff run. If he can get back on the field, those teams will make for an excellent string of matchups.
This would be a good week to sit Nigel Bradham and Jordan Hicks. Not only have the Packers been a below average (sometimes horrible) matchup for linebackers, most teams have used nickel and often dime packages as their base defense against them. Both Bradham and Hicks have been on the field in sub packages over the past several weeks but if the Eagles shift to a dime we have no idea who will be the odd man out. It could be Philadelphia will continue to run with both guys on the field and stick with that as their base package but I would not be willing to bet on it. Simply put there is too much risk for too little reward.
There were three Steelers who played all 66 defensive snaps in week eleven; the two inside linebackers and Sean Davis who has apparently replaced Robert Golden at strong safety. Davis did little in terms of fantasy production last week but then the Browns provided little opportunity. He was 5-1 against Dallas the week before on 66% of the snaps while still sharing time with Golden. I have no grand expectations for Davis this week either as the Steelers face a Colts team without Andrew Luck, but Pittsburgh has the Giants, Bills, Bengals and Ravens over our playoff stretch. Davis could be a pretty good player for us in December.
San Diego Chargers
We need to keep a close eye on the Chargers practice reports this week to see if Jatavis Brown and/or Denzel Perryman will be back. Both players missed time leading up to the bye week and there has been no word from the team about their progress as of early Wednesday. Either or both would be worthy of strong starter consideration this week with the Texans being a solid matchup for linebackers. Brown is a must start if healthy.
The Seahawks lost a pair for defensive backs to hamstring injuries in week eleven. Deshawn Shead and Eric Thomas were both forced out of the game early Thomas is expected to miss a week or two with his injury but there has been no follow-up on the status of Shead. Steven Terrell stepped in for Thomas and will likely get the start this week. Jeremy Lane shifted from nickel corner to full time with Neiko Thorpe taking over the sub package role at corner. The Buccaneers have been a strong matchup for defensive backs in general on most weeks so Terrell and/or Lane could have some value as spot starts in deeper leagues.
San Francisco 49ers
Thing went from bad to worse for San Francisco as they lost safety Eric Reid for the season with a torn biceps and corner Jimmy Ward likely for at least this week with a concussion. Jaquiski Tartt is a player I have talked about off and on including last week when I mentioned him as a potential stash player for next year. With the loss of Reid we will not have to wait. Tartt will move into the starting lineup this week. The only question being what his role will be. He could simply replace Reid at free safety but chances are we will see Antoine Bethea slide over so Tartt can work at strong. Regardless how these two line up, they are both going to have plenty of opportunity. Tartt averaged slightly over 11 points over a seven game stretch as the starter last season. He is one of those supersized hybrid safeties the league is turning to. I believe he will be the team's starting strong safety in 2017.
Unless you are counting on sacks or turnovers from your Titans defenders, keep them on the bench this week against a Chicago offense in disarray. It will be a shock if the Bears offense is on the field for more than 45 snaps this week.
S'ua Cravens played 60 of 67 snaps against Green Bay but start Mason Foster this week against Dallas. As is normally the case Washington used their nickel as a base package against the Packers so Foster was on the field for a total of seven snaps. Dallas is the anti-Packers when it comes to offensive approach. They rarely use more than three receivers and will most often line up in double tight ends with two wide outs. This week Foster should be on the field 80-90% of the time with a high snap count and plenty of opportunity. When these teams met in Washington back in week two he had 10 combined tackles and assists. I expect a big game from Donte Whitner as well.
That does it for this week's offering. Enjoy your Thanksgiving and try not to fall asleep on the couch while the games are going on.