Sio Moore was on the field for all 84 snaps against New Orleans. The result in fantasy terms was positive with a team best 11 solo tackles and a pass breakup. On the field Moore looked pretty good individually but the team gave up a season high 48 points. I am not sure how this will reflect on the possibility of him earning a starting spot next year in Arizona, but it sure makes him an interesting prospect for week sixteen versus Seattle. Kevin Minter also had a season best against the Saints at 10-1-0 with a couple of pass breakups. With the linebackers making all the tackles there was not much left for the safeties on Sunday.
If you are wondering what happened to DeVondre Campbell in week fifteen; he left in the first half with a concussion. As of Wednesday morning there has been no update on his availability for week sixteen. It is hard to trust him anyway with the inconsistent playing time he has received over the past few weeks.
Adrian Clayborn returned to practice this week though it is unclear if he will return to game action right away.
After doing almost nothing for three games in a row C.J. Mosley broke out for his best point total of the season going 8-5-0 with a forced fumble against the Eagles. It was basically a role reversal from what we had been seeing from Mosley and Zach Orr. After averaging nearly 8 solo tackles a game in weeks eleven through fourteen, Orr gave us 2 assists versus Philadelphia. So how do we handle this situation in championship week? I would have to strongly consider starting either of them. In the first meeting with Pittsburgh, Mosley was 6-0-0 with a batted pass and Orr 8-2-0. The Steelers have been a strong matchup for tackle producing linebackers in general and they are a team that will not lock into one point of attack like some other offenses. This means everyone will have ample opportunity.
It sounds like there is a tug-o-war between Luke Kuechly who wants to play this week, and the head coach who is hesitant to let him. Ron Rivera continues to talk about the long term leading to speculation he would like to shut Kuechly down for the rest of an already lost season. Unless we can get some confirmation that he will not only start but will play the entire game; I would not trust him in my lineup.
The Bears will have Jerrell Freeman back this week for their matchup with Washington. He has averaged 7 solo stops a game this year with at least 5 in every game he has played, making Freeman a must start player. The question here is how much impact he will have on Nick Kwiatkoski who has been a solid option for us over the past month. When everyone was healthy and playing earlier in the year Freeman and Danny Trevathan were both on the field virtually full time. Kwiatkoski has been playing well in the three down role and has really turned some heads. I am not too worried about him staying on the field but there will be more competition for tackles. The Redskins have been a little inconsistent as a matchup but there should be enough opportunity for both inside backers to be productive.
Vontaze Burfict left Sunday's game with a dazed and confused look. He was checked out for a concussion and cleared to return but has since been placed in protocol. He has not practiced yet this week. Vincent Rey was not able to get back on the field after leaving with a hamstring problem and was limited on Wednesday. If either or both of these guys sit we will likely see a bigger role for Karlos Dansby on Christmas Eve against a Houston squad that has been a strong matchup for linebackers. We could also see more of rookie Nick Vigil who I expect to make a push for the starting middle linebacker spot next year.
David Irving looked like an all pro against Tampa Bay. His stat line of 2-0-2 does not begin to describe how big an impact he had on the game. While he was impressive in this game we should not get too excited about Irving. He has been playing a lot over the past several weeks but had done little with the opportunity prior to week fifteen. Irving is an interesting long term prospect worth keeping an eye on but Dallas expects Lawrence and hopefully Randy Gregory to be their long term answers at end. Irving should see plenty of action this week but is still no more than a desperation flier against the Lions who are middle of the pack in sacks allowed.
DeAndre Levy saw his playing time increase from 18 snaps in week fourteen to 30 last week. While that is clearly a good sign, it is far from a sure thing he will be on the field full time against Dallas. In fact none of the Lions linebackers played full time in week fifteen when Tahir Whitehead led the snap count with 46 of a possible 64 plays. This is bad timing for those owners who have been riding Whitehead to the championship game, and is even worse considering the Cowboys are an excellent matchup. Whitehead will continue to have a significant role even if Levy's playing time continues to increase but I would not want to gamble on either of them here in crunch time.
Darius Slay left Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. If he is unable to go look for Johnson Bademosi to start with Asa Jackson moving into the nickel role. Rafael Bush was also dinged in week fifteen though there has been no word of his status being in question as of Wednesday afternoon. If he does not play Tavon Wilson gets a boost as he will likely play full time.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers are finally getting healthy at linebacker. Jake Ryan was back to his pre-injury role playing 55 of 66 snaps against Chicago. Blake Martinez was also back in action in a limited role (14 plays) and rookie OLB Kyler Fackrell was active for the first time since week ten. Ryan had a solid 6 solo stops and an assist against the Bears and the Vikings have been an excellent matchup for linebackers. He should put up similar if not better totals against Minnesota.
Edwin Jackson continues to impress. He led the Colts in tackles again in week fifteen and has become a dependable every week start. Antonio Morrison had 4 tackles on 35 snaps against Minnesota. He has looked good versus the run but is getting no looks in sub packages.
Kansas City Chiefs
I have no idea what to expect when it comes to the future of Derrick Johnson but if he does not come back healthy in 2017 it will be a shock if Ramik Wilson is not the replacement. He has been highly productive with at least 6 solo stops in four of the last five games, and has passed the eye test with flying colors. Start him this week against Denver and/or stash him for next year if you can.
Los Angeles Rams
With Robert Quinn on IR there are fewer players in the rotation at defensive end. William Hayes has come on of late with a sack in each of the past two games. This week's matchup with San Francisco offers an excellent opportunity for him to extend his streak. The 49ers are allowing 3.1 sacks a game since week seven including 2.2 to outside pass rushers.
If you are streaming defensive backs this year take a hard look at Anthony Harris this week. In two starts as the replacement for Harrison Smith, Harris has 16 solo tackles, 6 assists and a pass breakup. A matchup with the Packers this week is a huge plus as they have been possibly the best matchup for safeties over the second half of the season. Since week seven there have been eleven safeties with at least 5 solo tackles versus the Packers.
New England Patriots
Kyle Van Noy once again played more than any other Patriots linebacker in week fifteen. He saw action on 51 of 62 plays posting a respectable 4-2-0 with a fumble recovery. Van Noy now has a forced fumble, a recovery, a sack and a pair of pass breakups in five games since joining the team. His tackle totals have not been impressive but they will come if the opportunity continues. The more I see of Van Noy in this scheme the better fit he seems to be. Grab and stash him for next year if you can.
New York Giants
After an impressive debut rookie Romeo Okwara came crashing back to earth in week fifteen. He played nearly every snap in week fourteen but split time with Owamagbe Odigihzuwa against Detroit. So much for his being the next great discovery for the Giants.
Janoris Jenkins was knocked out of Sunday's game after taking a knee to the back. The injury is just a bad bruise but the short week may make it an issue. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would start if Jenkins is out.
New York Jets
Darron Lee is banged up yet again. It is starting to look like this will be a regular event with the rookie. On the field he has struggled at times; especially versus the run where he has not been able to shed blockers. If the Jets can get him in a position where he can roam and pursue, Lee could become a major fantasy factor next year.
San Diego Chargers
Jatavis Brown was not on the field for every play in week fifteen but his time did increase greatly. He played 48 of 62 snaps which was one less than Denzel Perryman who was banged up in the game. I expect Brown back in the every down role for week sixteen though starting him against the Browns may not be a great idea.
San Francisco 49ers
Nick Bellore Sunday's game after the third play with an elbow injury that landed him on IR this week. If you managed to survive the near goose egg and need a replacement, look no further than Gerald Hodges who was a healthy inactive last week. Hodges was inactive for breaking team rules. Michael Wilhoite will be the other starter against the Rams. There is not much big play potential with these two but we know San Francisco's inside linebackers will give us good tackle totals. One other interesting note here; San Francisco signed Ray Ray Armstrong to a two year extension this week. Armstrong is on IR but is obviously in the team's plans for the future.
Martell Spaight stepped in for the injured Will Compton and had a big game. Both he and Mason Foster put up big tackle totals against Carolina. They have a much better matchup this week against Chicago. If Compton is out again, either of these guys becomes a viable starter for us.
That is going to do it for the 2016 season. Best of luck in the finals and we hope to have everyone back for another great year in the fall.