This article attempts to immediately highlight defensive players whose production was significantly better or worse than normally expected for the prior week of games. Note there is sometimes limited information available when this article is written, but I will try to give everyone an early look at players who are moving up or down in value among IDP circles. I've also added a section this year called No Change that tries to explain why the stat lines may be misleading for some players. It’s difficult to give waiver advice for IDPs since there is such a wide variety of lineups and scoring systems, but hopefully, the information provided can help inform your waiver, trade, and upcoming lineup decisions. If you have any questions about specific players or situations, feel free to email me or reach out via twitter.
DENVER @ INDIANAPOLIS
LB Antonio Morrison, IND (4 solos, 8 asst)
Jon Bostic has been the only true 3-down linebacker for the Colts but he suffered a knee injury in the second half this week. Morrison should move into that role despite some struggles in coverage. He led the team in tackles this week while also seeing a season-high 65 defensive snaps.
LB Jon Bostic, IND (1 solo, 4 asst)
Bostic has been productive this season by virtue of the opportunity he was given, but he's the type of player that can be easily replaced. He went down with a knee injury in the second half this week and was replaced by rookie Anthony Walker (4 assists in 29 snaps). It certainly makes sense for the Colts to give more playing time to Walker in the last two games to see what he can do.
LB Shane Ray, DEN (2 solos, 1 QH)
The former 1st round pick posted 8.5 sacks last year and was headed for a full-time role after the retirement of DeMarcus Ware. Unfortunately, he suffered a wrist injury early in training camp and had to miss the first 6 games of the year. Since returning to the lineup in week 8, however, he has not been able to generate much pressure with just 10 solos and 1 sack in 8 games.
CHICAGO @ DETROIT
LB Lamarr Houston, CHI (3 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
Houston has been remarkably productive since re-joining the Bears a few weeks ago. With 2 more sacks this week, he's up to 4 in the last 3 weeks and has a great matchup looming against the Browns.
S Eddie Jackson, CHI (7 solos, 1 asst, 1 FR)
Jackson did get beaten by Marvin Jones on a jump ball for a 58-yard gain but he also led the team in tackles while coming up with his 3rd fumble recovery of the year. Although a rookie, he has provided a steady presence in the back of the secondary and is a natural playmaker who the team can build around.
CB Darius Slay, DET (5 solos, 2 INT, 3 PD)
Slay left the game early on to be evaluated for a concussion, but only wound up missing 3 snaps. He was dominant after returning, however, as he picked off two more passes to give him 3 in the past 2 weeks and 7 for the season. He's often been an underrated corner playing on a bad team but is finally starting to get some help from the players around him and it's paying off.
L.A. CHARGERS @ KANSAS CITY
LB Jatavis Brown, LAC (7 solos, 1 asst)
Denzel Perryman was carted to the locker room during the game on Saturday, which created an opening for Brown. Despite not showing up on the injury report in recent weeks, Brown had only seen a handful of defensive snaps in recent weeks. He only played about half the snaps this week but was very productive with 8 tackles on 33 snaps. Brown has always been productive when he plays and it looks like Perryman could miss some time.
CB Marcus Peters, KC (3 solos, 2 INT, 3 PD, 1 FF)
Peters was suspended by the Chiefs last week and made up for it in a huge way this week. He was everywhere in the game and almost single-handedly won it as he picked off two passes and forced a fumble. As one of the league's best corners, what sets Peters apart is his knack for big plays as he's now posted 19 interceptions in just 44 regular season games.
DE Chris McCain, LAC (0 tackles)
McCain looked great early this season when he posted 5 sacks over the first 7 games. In the 6 games since then though, he has 0 sacks and just 4 solo tackles. There hasn't been a noticeable drop in his playing time or usage, but it certainly looks like that early success was a mirage at this point.
LB Denzel Perryman, LAC (0 tackles)
Perryman helped solidify the Chargers run defense since returning from injured reserve in week 10. He was carted off the field after just 23 snaps this week, however, and was later diagnosed with a strained hamstring. Initial reports speculated he could have trouble returning this season, which would open up more playing time for Jatavis Brown.
MIAMI @ BUFFALO
DE Ryan Davis, BUF (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Davis saw regular time as part of a defensive end rotation all season but didn't have much to show for it. The injury to Shaw Lawson created more opportunities, and he came up with a critical sack last week in the snow against Indianapolis and followed it up with another one this week. With the Bills protecting a lead, he saw 48% of the snaps this week and now has 6 solos, 3 assists, and 2 sacks in past two games.
CB Xavien Howard, MIA (4 solos, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
The Dolphins took Howard in the second round a year ago and believe he has the talent to be their #1 corner for a long time. He was inconsistent earlier this year but has really started to showcase his potential in the past few games. Howard came into the game with 4 interceptions in the past two games, including 2 against Tom Brady last week, and then added a sack this week.
LB Lawrence Timmons, MIA (2 solos, 2 asst)
After playing a full-time role earlier this year, Timmons has been disappointing and has seen a drop in playing time as a result. He's averaged fewer than 50 snaps/game the past 3 weeks and has just 9 solos and 6 assists to show for it. It appears the Dolphins will likely look to upgrade the position in the offseason, so they are taking a look at some of their younger linebackers like Stephone Anthony who was on the field for a third of the snaps this week.
CB E.J. Gaines, BUF (2 solos, 1 PD)
Gaines has been an effective corner for the Bills this season but he left the game early this week with what could be a serious knee injury. Leonard Johnson saw a season-high 63 snaps as a result and finished with 8 solo tackles while mostly matched up against Jarvis Landry.
GREEN BAY @ CAROLINA
CB James Bradberry, CAR (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD, 1 FF)
The Panthers young corner has been solid for most of the year with an average of 4 solos per game, but he has stepped up his game the past few weeks as the importance of games has increased. Over the last 3 games, he has 12 solos, 7 assists, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble.
LB Jake Ryan, GB (0 tackles)
Ryan came into the game with a knee injury that limited him in practice last week. Although he was active, the team only used him on special teams while coverage linebacker Joe Thomas got the start next to Blake Martinez. Ryan has had a disappointing season and the emergence of Martinez has left him with minimal fantasy value.
LB Joe Thomas, GB (4 solos, 5 asst, 1 TFL)
Jake Ryan was limited in practice last week and only saw time on special teams in the game. That meant a promotion for Thomas, who is better in coverage and should have matched up better with Christian McCaffrey. He saw 59 snaps (79%) and tied for the team lead in tackles but the Packers still gave up 73 yards on 6 catches to McCaffrey.
BALTIMORE @ CLEVELAND
LB Matt Judon, BAL (4 solos, 2 asst, 1 sack, 3 TFL, 3 QH)
Judon continues to make plays for the Ravens as he added another sack this week to give him 5 in his last 6 games. As the strongside outside linebacker in the Ravens 3-4 defense, he often has to deal with the tight end so won't get as many tackle opportunities but he does have 4+ solo tackles in 4 of his last 6 games. Given that Terrell Suggs has 6.5 sacks in his last 6 games as well, this Raven pass rush is playing well and gets a great matchup against the Colts this week.
DE Myles Garrett, CLE (1 solo, 1 asst, 2 PD)
Garrett posted 4 sacks in his first 3 games this season before missing a game with a concussion. Since he returned to the lineup in week 10, however, he has just 1 sack in 6 games. It may not be a coincidence that he much of his slump has come without Emmanuel Ogbah in the lineup. Without a complementary player opposite him, it's easier for offenses to double-team Garrett. Obviously, the game scripts for a winless team have also been unfriendly as well, but he remains a very promising fantasy option in dynasty and keeper leagues.
HOUSTON @ JACKSONVILLE
DE Calais Campbell, JAX (5 solos, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH, 1 PD)
Campbell added 2 more sacks this week to bring him up to 14.5 on the year. It's probably hard to find a better free agent signing than Campbell this year as he's just .5 sack behind his former teammate Chandler Jones for the NFL lead.
LB Paul Posluszny, JAX (0 tackles)
The Jaguars dominated this game so their defense only faced 37 tackle opportunities and many of those came with the game well out of reach. With Telvin Smith back in the lineup, Posluszny was only on the field for 22 snaps (35%) and was shut out completely from the box score. That's not surprising considering 3-down linebackers Telvin Smith and Myles Jack each finished with 3 tackles despite playing nearly 30 additional snaps but it suggests Posluszny may need a change of scenery or another injury to re-establish his value.
CINCINNATI @ MINNESOTA
DT Geno Atkins, CIN (3 solos, 1 asst, 2 sacks, 2 TFL, 2 QH)
After playing just 12 snaps a week ago, Atkins was up to 29 snaps this week (43%) and was the only Bengals player who seemed to show up. He posted 4 tackles and 2 sacks to bring him up to 9 sacks on the year. Despite the disappointing season for the team, Atkins remains very reliable and will likely remain an elite fantasy defensive tackle for the next several years.
LB Carl Lawson, CIN (0 tackles)
Lawson has had a strong rookie season with 7 sacks but he has been very one dimensional with just 8 solos and 3 assists. That means he only has 4 tackles all season that haven't come from a sack. Despite injuries to Nick Vigil and Vontaze Burfict, he still only saw 19 snaps this week as the Bengals were blown out by the Vikings. Perhaps a new coaching staff will lead to him being reclassified as a defensive end next year.
S Harrison Smith, MIN (1 solo, 1 asst, 1 TFL)
This was the second low output game for Smith in a row. The Vikings are capable of playing suffocating defense, which can limit the opportunities for all of their players and he plays free safety so won't always be around the ball. While his tackle numbers on the year are down slightly, he often made up for it with big plays. Those have dried up of late, however, and he has been little more than a DB3 at best in the second half of the season.
N.Y. JETS @ NEW ORLEANS
S Jamal Adams, NYJ (6 solos, 2 asst, 1 FF)
Adams hasn't made the impact he was expected to after the Jets drafted him 6th overall but that's not unusual for rookies. He led the team in tackles this week with 8 as the Jets front seven had few answers for the Saints dynamic running back tandem. Adams remains a very promising fantasy prospect who should develop into a reliable starter next year.
DE Leonard Williams, NYJ (3 solos, 2 asst, 1 INT, 1 PD)
Williams hasn't been very good this year but had shown signs of pulling out of the slump of late. He picked off a pass this week and seemed headed for a huge game before leaving early with a head injury. Even if he can clear the league's concussion protocol in time to play, he'll have a tough matchup against the Chargers.
S Vonn Bell, NO (2 solos)
Sonny Vaccaro was able to return quickly from his injury, which left the Saints with a healthy secondary and Bell was the odd man out this week. He was only on the field for 18 snaps (24%), which points to a role as a #3 safety in dime packages only. The Saints may use him more against more pass-heavy opponents in the future but he's more of a fantasy hold than buy at this point.
PHILADELPHIA @ N.Y. GIANTS
CB Eli Apple, NYG (7 solos, 2 asst)
Apple hadn't played since week 10 and was not on great terms with the team due to some off-field issues. They activated him this week and let him play most of the game after sitting out the first four defensive plays. He didn't have a great game but did lead the team in tackles and the former 1st round pick is still just 22 years old so it's likely premature to write him off.
CB Ronald Darby, PHI (5 solos, 1 INT, 3 PD)
Darby has been an elite fantasy corner since returning to the lineup in week 11. In just 5 games, he has been credited with 27 solo tackles, 2 interceptions, and 7 passes defensed. He should also remain active next week with an expected matchup against Michael Crabtree.
S Landon Collins, NYG (1 asst)
Collins tried to play through his ankle injury but aggravated it in the second quarter and left after just 18 defensive snaps. There was speculation last week they would shut him down for the year but he pushed back and wanted to keep playing. Even if he plays, he's clearly too risky to rely on for fantasy purposes. His replacement Andrew Adams saw 50 snaps (74%) in the game and finished with 6 solo stops.
ARIZONA @ WASHINGTON
LB Zach Vigil, WAS (6 solos, 2 asst, 2 PD)
With Zach Brown sitting out this week and possibly the rest of the season, a different Zach led the way for Washington. Vigil has looked impressive since replacing Martrell Spaight in the starting lineup and he now has 13 solos and 4 assists in the past two games.
LB Karlos Dansby, ARI (2 solos, 1 QH)
Dansby is 36 years old so it's remarkable he has been able to remain durable and effective this late in his career. Unfortunately, he suffered a calf injury this week and left the game after just 12 snaps. Josh Bynes filled in for him but also suffered a leg injury in the game. This could open up more chances for young linebackers like Scooby Wright or Haason Reddick in the last two games.
L.A. RAMS @ SEATTLE
LB Robert Quinn, LAR (2 solos, 2 sacks, 1 TFL, 1 QH, 1 FF)
Quinn is quietly putting together a solid season under new coordinator Wade Phillips. Plagued by injuries, he missed 8 games in each of the past two seasons but still put up 9 sacks in the 16 games he played. Thanks to an impressive stretch of 6 sacks in his last 4 games, Quinn now has 8.5 sacks in 13 games this year and looks like a viable fantasy option.
LB Mark Barron, LAR (0 tackles)
Barron has been effective for the Rams this year although his production has seemed to tail off considerably in the second half of the season. He only lasted 3 snaps this week, however, before leaving with a knee injury. Cory Littleton replaced him and posted 4 tackles on 54 snaps.
NEW ENGLAND @ PITTSBURGH
DT Lawrence Guy, NE (4 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 1 TFL, 1 QH)
Guy has seen a spike in playing time the past two weeks and it has shown up on the stat sheets as well. He played 54 snaps a week ago and 49 snaps (73%) this week after averaging 30 snaps/game for the prior 6 weeks. With 8 solos, 4 assists, and a sack over the past 2 weeks, he has been one of the most productive defensive tackles in the league.
TENNESSEE @ SAN FRANCISCO
DT DeForest Buckner, SF (7 solos, 2 asst, .5 sack, 1 QH, 1 PD)
Buckner went 7 straight games without recording even a partial sack before picking one up last week against the Texans. He followed that up with perhaps his best game of the year this week as he led the 49ers in tackles and added another half sack. The 49ers offense has found new life under Jimmy Garappolo and that should result in more pass rush opportunities for Buckner and company on the defense.
LB Wesley Woodyard, TEN (7 solos, 3 asst, 1 sack, 2 TFL, 1 QH)
Woodyard has been one of the most reliable fantasy linebackers all season long and now seems clearly headed for a top-10 finish in most scoring systems. In addition to already setting a career high in tackles with 79 solos, he has also recorded 3 sacks in his last 4 games and figures to see a heavy dose of Todd Gurley next week.
DALLAS @ OAKLAND
S Jeff Heath, DAL (6 solos, 1 PD, 1 FF)
Heath came up with the game-saving play at the end of regulation as he chased down Derek Carr and forced a fumble that went through the end zone. While he hasn't been considered a strength of the Cowboys secondary in the past, he has been playing very well for them of late. In his last 3 games, he has 18 solo tackles with 2 interceptions and a forced fumble.
LB Anthony Hitchens, DAL (1 solo, 5 asst)
Hitchens had posted 29 tackles in his prior two games and was on way to another solid outing before suffering a knee injury. He wound up playing just 34 snaps (49%) in the game and it certainly seems like his status is in doubt for next week's game against the Seahawks.