Over the last four games, Markus Golden has consistently been seeing around 60% of the playing time. Over the past three games, he has been making an impact. In those three contests, he has a total of 14 tackles, an assist, and a sack. He has good matchups in weeks 13 and 14. Dynasty managers looking to stash players for next season may want to check on Golden’s availability as well.
Pierre Olsen got the start at tackle for Robert Nkemdiche but Rodney Gunter made much more impact both on the field and in the box scores. For those in tackle-required leagues, Gunter is a worthy consideration if Nkemdiche continues to miss time. Gunter is 10-4-1.5 over the last three games.
Budda Baker missed week 11 with a sore knee and his status for Week 12 remains unknown as of Wednesday morning. Bene Benwikere stepped into Baker’s role last week finishing at 6-2-0. There is a good chance he will work in that role again versus the Chargers. Managers that can play him as a corner have the most to gain from this situation but even if defensive backs are all the same he is a worthy start.
Deion Jones was limited in practice early in the week and will likely carry a questionable tag into the matchup with New Orleans. Coach Quinn said earlier Jones would not return until 100% but the pivotal matchup this week could challenge that statement. This is a stellar matchup if Jones is a go
Damontae Kazee missed a few plays after a hard hit to the shoulder last week but was able to return. He too has been limited early this week so keep an eye on the injury reports and have a backup plan.
Jacksonville got Leonard Fournette back last week, so throw out all the matchup stats from earlier in the season. Look for the Jaguars to ride their power running game and take pressure off Blake Bortles. This makes Tremaine Edmunds a must start and Matt Milano a strong LB3 consideration.
Carolina faces off the Seahawks this week which means a ton of tackle opportunity. Seattle is among the league leaders in rushing attempts per game. Luke Kuechly is an every-week must start while Thomas Davis, Mike Adams, and Eric Reid also get a boost from the matchup.
The Bears and Lions game has a lot of moving parts that make it hard to call. Kerryon Johnson is out for the Lions and Mitchell Trubisky will not go for Chicago. With these two out the complexion of the game could change considerably. Theo Riddick and LeGarrette Blount will have to carry the Lions running game; which means there may not be one. Riddick is more of a third down change of pace guy while Blount is a between the tackles pounder. If Blount gets going and the game stays close, Chicago’s linebackers could be huge. If the Bears stout run defense forces Matthew Stafford to put the game on his shoulders, there will not be much opportunity. The moral of this story, Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan are feast or famine starts this week.
Hardy Nickerson started at middle backer for the Bengals last week, wore the communications helmet and was the only Cincinnati linebacker to play every snap, finishing 8-3-0 on the game. The Bengals put Preston Brown on IR this week and Nick Vigil has not yet returned to practice, making it possible if not likely Nickerson will have that role the rest of the fantasy season.
Vontaze Burfict suited up for week 11 but played just 46% of the snaps. Burfict has played in four contests this season seeing more than 65% of the snaps in only one of them. His playing time could ramp up this week against Cleveland but he cannot yet be counted. With Burfict back on the field in week 11, Jordan Evans was relegated to 48% of the snaps and Vincent Rey 28%.
Dynasty managers looking to stockpile players for next season should try to fit Sam Hubbard on their rosters. He has shown a ton of potential this year including a mark of 5-0-1 against Baltimore.
The Bengals have been a somewhat inconsistent matchup for linebackers and safeties in recent weeks but that has been mostly due to lopsided losses at the hands of the Saints and Chiefs. The struggles continued against Baltimore’s stingy defense but we can throw out the recent stats when it comes to the battle of Ohio round one. Joe Schobert played in week ten and should be full go coming out of the bye week. Meanwhile, Cincinnati could have A.J. Green back on the field making their potent offense near full strength for the first time in a month or more.
The Cowboys started Tyrone Crawford at defensive end opposite Demarcus Lawrence in week 11 but Randy Gregory still saw his normal workload that included 61% of the snaps. Gregory has a sack in each of his last three games excluding week seven when he left with an injury. Washington is allowing 2.6 sacks per game since week five. Call it a gut feeling but I like Gregory’s chances of getting to Colt McCoy on Thursday.
With Mitchell Trubisky out for Thursday’s game, the Bears should rely more heavily on their running game. Considering Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks had 12 solo stops against Chicago last week and opponents inside linebackers have averaged 7.2 since week five, Jarrad Davis is a must start this week.
Green Bay Packers
Green Bay’s injury woes in the secondary got worse in week 11 with safety Raven Green leaving early due to an ankle injury and corner Bashaud Breeland aggravating his groin injury. The Packers finished Josh Jones and Tramon Williams at safety, rookies Josh Jackson and Jaire Alexander on the corners. Undrafted rookie Tony Brown and recent free agent addition Ibraheim Campbell were the fifth and sixth defensive backs.
Minnesota has been an excellent matchup for corners so keep a close eye on Breeland’s status. He or Jackson would be worthy of the start in corner required leagues as would Alexander. Both Williams and Jones played virtually every snap in week 11 and should do so again against Minnesota.
Mike Daniels will miss some time with a foot injury. Montravious Adams should get the call in Daniels absence.
With most of their secondary healthy, the Texans opened in a nickel featuring Justin Reid at strong safety, Tyrunn Mathieu at free and Kareem Jackson opposite Jonathan Joseph at corner. Shareece Wright was the fifth/nickel defensive back. Jackson, Mathieu, and Reid all played at least 96% of the snaps. Both Mathieu and Jackson put up excellent tackle numbers (8-1-1) while Reid returned a pick 101 yards for a score. The only concern with Reid for this week is matchup and the expected return of inside linebacker Zach Cunningham from injury. Tennessee has been a horrible matchup for safeties with both opponents starting position averaging less than eight tackles combined, and the presence of Cunningham on the field could cost Reid a few snaps.
With the emergence of rookies Kemeko Turay and Tyquan Lewis up front, Margus Hunt has been playing inside much more often in recent weeks. He left the week 11 game early with a knee injury, opening the door for Lewis to log 79% of the snaps against Tennessee. Hunt started the season on a tear but has fallen upon mediocrity over the last several games. His 15 minutes of greatness may have passed.
Mike Mitchell was active against Tennessee but the Colts started Pierre Desir at free safety. The opportunity resulted in six tackles and an assist for Desir who ended up splitting time between free safety and corner. This may have been due to Mitchell being less than 100% so we should not count on a repeat.
Kenny Moore II had quietly been among the fantasy games most reliable corners with double-digit points in three of the last four games. His 9-1-.5 line in against Tennessee caught a lot of manager’s attention. With the Dolphins, Jaguars, Texans, and Cowboys on the schedule over the next month, Moore may be pressed to keep up the pace. All those teams are marginal matchups for corners.
Kansas City Chiefs
Sometimes we prognosticators get caught up in our own fantasy teams and the every evolving fast pace of the NFL, causing us to overlook a player. For me, that guy is Chris Jones who slapped me in the face this week when his career-best 6-0-2 on Monday’s shootout cost me a close game. Jones now has nine sacks on the season with at least one in each of the last seven games and four in the last two. He has fallen short of double-digit points once since a week four goose-egg. He will not be overlooked going forward.
Los Angeles Chargers
As anticipated Jatavis Brown played every snap in week 11, finishing a solid 7-1-0. The Chargers have thrown us curveballs before when it comes to Brown but this time they are rather short on alternate options. Arizona is still not a great matchup for linebackers but they are much better now than earlier in the season, making Brown a quality option as your LB3 this week.
Joey Bosa played a little more than half the defensive snaps in his first game back from injury. If he follows the normal formula we should see him near his normal full-time role versus Arizona.
Everson Griffen’s goose-egg against the Bears undoubtedly hurt many of us in week 11. We should not let this fluke keep us from starting him this week though. Griffen was 3-1-1.5 against Detroit the week before and nothing has changed with his role. He played 59 of a possible 74 snaps (80%) against Chicago and the Packers are allowing nearly three sacks per game.
Outside linebacker Eric Wilson has played and produced well over the last two games but Anthony Barr is expected to return against Green Bay.
New Orleans Saints
Alex Anzalone was looking good for a few weeks. He even started in the middle and logged more snaps than any other Saints linebacker in week ten. Maybe it was due to how the game played out but Anzalone saw 42% of the action against Philadelphia and was not on the field in nickel situations. If you grabbed him off the wire last week, go ahead and throw him back.
Injuries continue to mount for the defending champs who lost three more defensive backs and their middle linebacker in week 11. Avonte Maddox and Rasul Douglas are currently day to day with sore knees, Sidney Jones is week to week after aggravating his hamstring and Jordan Hicks is expected to miss time with a calf strain. The Eagles may be down to Cre’Von LeBlanc, Chandon Sullivan and De’Vante Bausby as their top three corners against the Giants. Start your New York pass catchers but stay away from Philadelphia’s corners in this one.
Look for Nate Gerry to get on the field in place of Hicks. The injury happened so late in the game we did not get a look at who would play in nickel situations. Nigel Bradham is the best IDP option among the linebackers while Kamu Grugier-Hill is the early favorite for the other nickel snaps.
Safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Corey Graham were each 7-2-0 against the Saints. The Giants are a much less stellar matchup but with all the injuries, both are likely to see plenty of opportunities this week.
In six games before the Steelers bye, Sean Davis averaged about 6.25 points. Since the bye, he has averaged nearly 10, including double digits in two of the last three games. It is hard to say for sure if this is a coincidence or if there has been some subtle change with the defense. What we do know, there are three strong matchups for safeties on the Steelers schedule over the next five games including the Broncos and Charger this week and next, and a fantasy championship matchup versus the Saints who may be the most favorable opponent in the fantasy game for safeties.
Bradley McDougald was a top 10 defensive back with double-digit fantasy points every game through week five. He has not reached double digits in a game since. At least it is easy to determine where the blame lies for his production slump. McDougald suffered a knee injury in the week eight game and has struggled ever since. Last week was the first time he handled a full workload of snaps since the injury but even then he was limited in practice leading up to the game. The full workload is a good sign McDougald is getting close to 100% so this is not the time to give up on him. Weeks 13 through 16 feature matchup with the 49ers (twice) and the Chiefs. Kansas City is an obviously strong matchup while many managers do not realize the safety position has averaged better than 12 tackles, 3 assists, a pass breakup and a big play (sack or turnover)against San Francisco since week four.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers should have both Reuben Foster and Jaquiski Tartt back for this week’s matchup with Tampa Bay. Tartt’s shoulder injury has been an issue much of the season and makes playing him a risk. When he plays, however, there are not many defensive backs with better production. There is also the consideration of an excellent matchup. Dating back to week seven, Damarious Randall 11-1-0, Jabrill Peppers 7-1-0 pass defended, Shawn Williams 5-2-0 interception and three passes defended, Jessie Bates III 4-2-0 with an interception and three pass breakups, Mike Adams 5-1-0, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix 8-0-0 fumble recovery and a pass defended, and last week Giants safeties combined to go 13-7-0 with a pair of picks. If Tartt plays we almost have to start him.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
With the Buccaneers hurting at linebacker and starting free safety Justin Evans on the shelf with a toe injury, safeties Jordan Whitehead (7-1) and Isaiah Johnson (7-3) had strong numbers against the Giants. With the previously mentioned 49ers coming to town this week, figuring out who will be on the field for Tampa Bay could prove vital. This is what we know as of Wednesday afternoon; the team has given up on Kendell Beckwith for the season and do not expect him to play at all. Lavonte David was not able to practice on Wednesday due to his sore knee. David was joined on the sideline by Evans and Jordan Whitehead who is currently in the concussion protocol. It seems unlikely we will see David or Evans while Whitehead may be questionable right up to game time.
Adarius Taylor has not been particularly impressive but he played 98% of the snaps in week 11 so the matchup and sheer volume of opportunity make him a viable option. Devante Bond logged 81% of the snaps last week and might also be an option for desperate owners in deeper leagues.
Johnson seems set to make another start at safety and is a super sleeper option. Whitehead remains the wildcard. If he is cleared to play consider him a strong stream option. If Whitehead is out, Johnson becomes an even more attractive option. Andrew Adam will be the third safety if Whitehead goes or the starter if he is out.
Between Sunday’s loss and all the significant injuries, vultures are starting to gather around this team. While that is heartbreaking for Washington fans, it is an opportunity for IDP managers. Last week’s game saw Ha Ha Clinton-Dix go 11-2-0, Mason Foster 9-1-0 and Zach Brown 3-5-0. All three of these players should be in fantasy lineups on Thursday when they face Dallas. The Cowboys have rediscovered their best weapon in Ezekiel Elliot and have been a great matchup over the last two games. Foster and Clinton-Dix have become every week starters for most managers while those of us still sitting on Brown must pick our spots to play him. This is one of those spots. The Cowboys power running game and multiple tight end sets mean less nickel and a bigger chunk of the action for Brown. There has never been any doubt about his production potential.
Enjoy the turkey and extra football this week. May the funny shaped ball bounce your way.
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