There are a lot of fantasy teams out there hovering around the .500 mark. For those owners the playoffs basically start this week. It is easy to get burnt out after a long summer, training camp and eleven weeks of regular season. No one knows this better than those of us here at Footballguys. You may be struggling but hand in there a couple more weeks. Just like the NFL, anything can happen when you squeak into the playoffs.
Beware starting your Cardinals defenders this week against San Francisco. The 49ers are so crippled they have simply not been able to sustain much on offense in recent weeks. Just look at week eleven when no Seahawks defender recorded more than 3 solo tackles. There is a good chance some of these guys will bail us out with big plays but counting on a big play at such a critical point in the season is not where we want to be. The only Arizona defender who is a sure start this week is Callais Campbell. San Francisco is giving up nearly three sacks a game and they should be in pass mode early this week.
This one does not have a lot of fantasy implications but it was interesting to see Charles Godfrey splitting snaps with William Moore at strong safety. Moore missed a couple of games after being injured in week seven so this may be a case of easing him back into action. The fact he was not an every down player is noteworthy but is not a reason to panic for those who have Moore rostered. We should wait to see what his role is this week before rushing to a decision. The surprising point of the time share was Kemal Ishmael not being part of it.
The Panthers activated Charles Johnson this week as expected. He will see action against the Cowboys on Thursday and should be on the pickup list of many IDP owners. After such a lengthy absence we should not count on a normal role for Johnson right out of the gate. On the other hand he is a proven pass rusher and the fresh legs can certainly be an advantage at this late stage of the season. For all their talent, strengths and hype the Cowboys offensive line ranks in the bottom half of the league in sacks allowed at 2.2 per game. With Kony Ealy stepping up (he has a sack in four straight games) it will be interesting to see if he or Jared Allen will lose the most playing time to make room for Johnson.
Adrian Amos had a breakout game in week eleven with 7 solo stops and a sack, but we should not read too much into it. This was his first game with more than 4 tackles since week one and other than Antrel Rolle sitting out; there were no significant changes in the defensive game plan that would explain the big game. If you are hurting at safety in a deep rostered league and grasping at straws, consider that the Packers have been a quality match up for safeties on most week and Amos was 5-1-0 against them in week one.
Vontaze Burfict stepped up with 7 tackles and an assist against the Cardinals but be careful sticking him into your lineup this week. This is another situation where nothing has changed. Just like week ten Burfict, A.J. Hawk and Rey Maualuga were the base package linebackers with Vincent Rey and Emmanuel Lamur in the sub packages. As a result Burfict was on the field for 37 snaps. While his stat line was even more impressive considering the lack of opportunity, we cannot be comfortable playing Burfict until/unless he regains an every down role. On the other side of that coin the Rams have been a much better opponent for our linebackers in recent weeks. Early in the season no one was putting up good numbers against them. Over the past four games Navorro Bowman, Shea McClellin, Chad Greenway and C.J. Mosley have all put up at least 6 solo stops and double digit fantasy points.
On Tuesday coach Pettine confirmed Joe Haden has still not been cleared from his concussion. There has been no mention of Donte Whitner's availability so at this point we have to assume he too has not been cleared. Kwaun Williams started ahead of Pierre Desire at corner and Jordan Poyer was the strong safety when last we saw Cleveland in action. Baltimore has not been a strong match up and their offense will really be hurting with the loss of Justin Forsett and Joe Flacco, but the Browns defense may allow this to be a close game anyway.
It is hard to imagine anyone with Greg Hardy not playing him every week. If you are so stacked at the position that it is a tough choice, I would not miss the opportunity to start a guy with so much potential when he is facing a former team. This is particularly true when the player left under ugly circumstances as Hardy did. It would be no shock to see him with a multiple sack game and his best point total of the season in this one.
T.J. Ward has been a decent option for us on most weeks but is not an every week must play. If he is on your roster this is a week to put him in your lineup. The Patriots have been a quality match up for strong safeties in general, which has a lot to do with the presence of Rob Gronkowski. I anticipate the Broncos using Ward to cover Gronkowski much if not most of the time, especially when he works over the middle which is usually a big part of the Patriots game plan.
The situation with James Ihedigbo remains a mystery. He was active for week eleven and played a few snaps but was far from full time. Ihedigbo was not on last week's injury report and there are no signs that he will be on the week twelve report. Until/unless we hear something different there is nothing else to do but assume he has been benched by a coaching decision. Isa Abduhl-Quddus started and was on the field for roughly 75% of the Lions defensive snaps in week eleven. With neither player in an every down role we are better off to avoid this mess all together until there is some clarity. This is a shame since the Lions strong safety position has been a goldmine of fantasy production.
Clayton Geathers played 102 total snaps through the Colts first nine games. With Mike Adams still on the shelf, the coaching staff used the bye week to get Geathers ready for a starting spot. The rookie is a 6'2" 215 pound bruiser in the mold of Kam Chancellor. There are some questions about his ability in coverage but with Adams being 34 years old, Geathers is seen by many as the future of the strong safety position in Indianapolis. With 7 solo tackles and a pair of assists on 63 plays, fantasy owners hope the future starts now. Adams may miss more time with the ankle injury but when/if he returns it will probably push Geathers back to the bench for the rest of this season. Colts fans and coaches alike have to be pleased with what the young man has shown thus far.
Second year corner Aaron Colvin has quietly been having an excellent season both on the field and in the box scores. Since week three the first year starter has averaged roughly 5 solo tackles and an assist. While those numbers alone are enough to make him a quality option in corner required leagues, most people fail to realize Colvin leads all defensive backs with 4 sacks. No other DB has more than 2. Colvin could get another one this week against a struggling and injury riddled San Diego front line. Even if he does not get to Phillip Rivers, Colvin should have plenty of opportunity to continue the solid tackle totals against the pass happy Chargers who have been an excellent match up for corners.
Kansas City Chiefs
Eric Berry has looked better and better as the season has progressed and his numbers have steadily improved right along with his play. His total of 8 solo stops against the Chargers were by far his best of the season but Berry also has a pair of picks and 5 pass breakups over the past four games. He has double digit fantasy points in three of those four games.
With Cameron Wake on IR the Dolphins have turned to Derrick Shelby to fill the void. Like Wake, Shelby is an undersized end who earns most of his living by chasing quarterbacks. With a mark of 5-2-2 and a forced fumble in the past two games combined, Shelby is starting to garner some attention from fantasy owners. If you could use some help at the position, consider Shelby will be facing the Ravens, Giants, Chargers and Colts starting in week thirteen. The Giants are not a great match up for pass rushers but the Chargers and Colts have allowed plenty of pressure on their quarterbacks.
Koa Misi was not listed as inactive for the week eleven game but he did not play. For those of you who started him, I feel your pain. I too started Misi in a couple of leagues. One of them I lost by about 4 points. Kelvin Sheppard not only started but held and every down role and posted huge numbers (11-4-0). Both Misi (abdomen) and Sheppard (hamstring) were limited participants in Wednesday's practice. When/if Misi returns to the lineup it will likely cut into Sheppard's opportunity. It could happen as early as this week so be careful if you are considering Sheppard.
New York Giants
Jonathan Casillas has six or more solo tackles in three of the Giants last four games. The solid numbers have a lot of owners adding him and thinking about plugging him into their lineups. Washington has not been a particularly strong match up of late but there are bigger reasons to be concerned with Casillas. His role increased greatly after Jon Beason went on IR and while Uani Unga was out with a sore neck. Unga has been a full participant in practice this week and is expected to play against the Redskins. He looked pretty good and was showing improvement with experience before the injury. There is a pretty good chance Unga will have a major role in week eleven. If this comes to pass it will be at the expense of Casillas.
The linebacker carousel continued in Philadelphia last weekend. One game after DeMeco Ryans led the group in snaps; he was the third wheel against Tampa Bay with Mychael Kendricks on the field for 56 plays and Kiko Alonso 54 while Ryans worked on 40. This is great news for Alonso owners as it was the most action he has seen in a game all year. There is still no one here I could trust as a starter but Kendricks has clearly remained the most productive and consistent.
For the second week in a row Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright have a poor match up. With or without Ben Roethlisberger, regardless of the running back or their success on the ground, the Steelers have somehow managed to keep all opposing linebacker to 5 or fewer solo tackles in nine of their eleven games. Some players have made up for the weak tackle production with big plays and the Seattle linebackers are certainly capable of that as well, but we should not count on big tackle totals from these guys.
A couple of weeks back I was concerned Bashaud Breeland would go back to a part time role once DeAngelo Hall returned to action. There is still a possibility that could happen but there is reason for optimism with both players. Hall has seen limited action in each of the past two games as he is being eased back onto the field after a toe injury. Most interesting here is the fact Hall is seeing time at free safety while Breeland continues to play every snap at corner. The 32 year old Hall has an excellent skill set to fit at free safety and may be the next veteran corner that prolongs his career by moving to the middle of the field. This would make a lot of sense for the team with the Redskins hurting at safety and Breeland playing well on the corner. We will have to keep an eye on Hall to see how well he transitions if the coaching staff elects to continue the experiment. Meanwhile it looks safe to continue starting Breeland who has a solid match up this week against the Giants.
That is all I have for this week. Have a great Thanksgiving and try not to fall asleep during the games when you are feeling fat and happy.