In weeks 12 and 13 it was Gerald Hodges putting up the better numbers for Arizona while Haason Reddick turned in mediocre production. In Week 14 the two switched places with Reddick blowing up for double-digit solos while Hodges went 3-2-0. This turn of events, along with a marginal matchup against the Falcons, makes giving either of these guys a playoff start a shaky proposition. Avoid them both if possible.
When it comes to long-term potential Reddick is an interesting prospect. He struggled greatly as a rookie and has been far from stellar this season, but he has shown some flashes of big production. Year three could be a breakout for Reddick so dynasty managers looking for a futures stash may want to give him serious consideration.
Defensive end Markus Golden is another player to target for next year. Look beyond the 2018 numbers and remember he just returned from a serious knee injury. Golden will be fully healthy for 2019 and has top-12 potential on a team that should be much better.
Robert Nkemdiche is another young player who showed considerable potential this season; at least in the few games he has been healthy. Injuries have been a major issue over his first two seasons and now it looks as if the trend will continue into 2019. Nkemdiche was placed on the Reserve/Injured list this week with an ACL injury. Such an injury this late in the season is all but certain to carry over into next year.
Damontae Kazee has been limited in the tackle columns since early in the year but has proven himself a considerable big play threat. If you find yourself in need of a defensive back with big play upside he could be worth the gamble this week against the Cardinals who have a struggling rookie quarterback that has thrown an interception in virtually every game he has started.
Matt Milano left Sunday’s game with a broken fibula that will end his season. The injury happened late in the game so we were not able to get much of a look at how the Bills might replace him going forward. The two most likely options would seem to be former safety Rafael Bush, who has been seeing work at weakside linebacker over the past couple seasons, or Julian Stanford, who had a strong outing at middle linebacker in Week 9 when Tremaine Edmunds was sidelined. There is a reasonably high chance the two could share duties. The Lions have been a solid matchup for linebackers in general but unless we get some confirmation from the coaching staff, this is another risky situation to avoid.
If injuries have you looking for a stream play at linebacker this week, keep a close eye on the Bengals practice reports. Vontaze Burfict remains in concussion protocol as of Wednesday and is so far showing no sign of playing against Oakland. Hardy Nickerson Jr. started at middle backer last week as is in line to get the call again. He did little in the box scores versus the Chargers but piled up eight tackles and three assists against Baltimore in a previous start back in week 11. The Raiders have been a middle of the road matchup for linebackers for the most part but then everyone has run on the Bengals run defense that ranks 31.
Add defensive end Sam Hubbard to the futures list. He has shown flashes of greatness as a rookie and is in line for a much bigger slice of the pie in year two. The Bengals may part ways with Michael Johnson or possible slide him inside as a full-time tackle.
Terrance Mitchell was activated last week and thrown right into the starting role at corner in his first game back. The Broncos are not much of a matchup for corners and Cleveland plays Cincinnati in Week 16, so he is not likely to help anyone this season. If however, you are in a dynasty league that requires corners, this is a guy to target for next season. He is the team’s starter opposite Denzel Ward when everyone is healthy and Mitchell was off to a great start with 18 tackles, 4 takeaways, and 3 pass breakups before the injury in Week 4. . .
For most managers with Damarious Randall on the roster, he is an every-week must play. If you are in a position that makes you think twice for some reason, consider at least one opposing safety has recorded six or more solo stops against Denver in every game since Week 7.
Larry Ogunjobi is going to play through his biceps injury but will not be full strength.
Sean Lee has been a limited participant in practice this week and seems headed toward playing. Jerry Jones has already stated Lee would be a starter when healthy so there is a serious possibility he could eat into the playing time of rookie sensation Leighton Vander Esch. The last time Lee was healthy enough to play a full game the snaps were split 38 to 21 in favor of Lee. This is a tough call if you have been riding Vander Esch most of the season. We love Sean Lee but it would sure be nice if the Cowboys would rest him a couple more weeks so he can be 100% for the playoffs.
Dallas could also have David Irving back in action this week. He has the ability to be a difference maker but chances are he will be eased into game action having played just two games this season. Both he and Randy Gregory are on the short list of dynasty targets to stash
Ezekiel Ansah finally landed on IR with the shoulder injury he has been fighting all season. He is at the end of his contract and there is speculation he will not be back in Detroit next year.
With Da’Shawn Hand likely to sit this week due to a knee injury, the Lions are thin up front. Look for Rickey Jean-Francois to see most of the base package action with strong side linebacker Devon Kennard stepping in as the rush end in nickel situations.
Green Bay Packers
Josh Jones is another young player on the futures list as this season nears an end. After a solid rookie campaign, he was once expected to take over a starting spot this season. Instead, Jones has spent most of 2018 in the Packers doghouse. Heck, they even picked up Ibraheim Campbell of the street earlier in the season and started him ahead of Jones a couple weeks later. Jones is a former second-round pick and is a talented young safety. The Packers will have a new coaching staff next year which means a fresh start.
The good news for fantasy managers sitting on Zach Cunningham is, he returned to a full-time role last week going 7-2-0. The bad news, he has a mediocre at best matchup with the Jets this week. New York has been a wildly inconsistent matchup with a few players doing well here and there while a lot of good players have turned in well below average production against them.
Anthony Walker has spent the season in the shadow of rookie sensation Darius Leonard but he has been a quality fantasy option in his own right. Both of these players, as well as Clayton Geathers, are must-starts this week against a Dallas offense that has been a money matchup over the last several games.
A matchup with Washington could help the Jaguars pass rushers get back on track but it is not a good matchup for Myles Jack, Telvin Smith Sr or new starting safety Ronnie Harrison. The Redskins have not moved the ball much in recent weeks, are riddled with injuries including offensive line, and will be starting a quarterback that has been with the team for less than two weeks.
Kansas City Chiefs
Kendall Fuller has a quality matchup this week against the Chargers. Los Angeles likes to move Keenan Allen around so Fuller may not get that matchup every play, but the Chiefs will likely try to get that matchup as often as possible.
Eric Berry is expected to make his season debut this week but we should not expect him to play a lot.
Los Angeles Chargers
The big question with the Chargers is who will cover Travis Kelce? Adrian Phillips is a converted safety who has been playing linebacker nearly full time since the injury to Denzel Perryman. Meanwhile, Derwin James has been the do it all Swiss Army Knife in the back seven. Neither player did much in the first meeting of these teams but much has changed since week one. One of these guys could go off while there is plenty of opportunity for both to have a high floor.
New England Patriots
The Steelers have been pass happy all season and injuries at running back may mean even more of the offense will go through the quarterback and receivers. Since Week 7, opponents' corner positions have averaged better than 15 solo tackles per game. That means a lot of opportunity for Stephon Gillmore and Jason McCourty this week.
New York Giants
Anyone looking for a defensive back to stream, may want to consider Michael Thomas. Not so much for the matchup or skills set, but rather for the situation and opportunity. Thomas has been plugged into the Landon Collins role. That means a lot of time up near the line in run support. Tennessee has been a marginal matchup for safeties most of the season but we should not overlook their last two games. In week 13 Jamal Adams went off for 10-1-1 and a forced fumble from the strong safety spot. Last week rookie Ronnie Harrison totaled five solo stops and an interception.
New York Jets
News broke late last week of Darron Lee’s suspension for the rest of this season. Journeyman Nevin Hewitt got the starting nod, playing 82% of the snaps and finishing as the Jets' second-leading tackler at 5-3-.5. The Texans have been a feast or famine matchup for linebackers. That said, if we see the anticipated game script with Houston getting out to an early lead, there is a good chance it will be time for a box score feast for New York's tackle producers.
Rasul Douglas is coming off a career day with nine solo stops and is currently the Eagles number one corner. Dallas went after him last week with success so the Rams are likely to follow suit.
It is rare but not unheard of for an NFL journeyman to bounce around for several years, unable to land a starting job or even a long-term roster spot before suddenly finding his perfect situation. L.J. Fort has a long way to go before being one of those few but he may be worth keeping an eye on. Fort had a strong statistical outing in Week 13. He fell short in the box scores against Miami but did log 79% of the snaps which was considerably more than either Vince Williams or Jon Bostic's numbers in week 13, Fort started again and led the Steelers inside linebackers in snaps at 79%.
So much for Mychal Kendricks having an impact on the fantasy playoffs. He left the week 14 game with a leg injury that was later found to be a broken fibula. He was placed on IR, opening the door for Austin Calitro to continue in the starting role. Kendricks is not going to help us this season but he is near the top of the futures list at linebacker. He is a 28-year-old proven veteran that has played well wherever he has gone. His treatment in Philadelphia is still a head-scratcher because the guy can play. Kendricks has already served his suspension so unless he ends up doing time, he will be available as an unrestricted free agent. His off-field situation was not violent and there are a lot of linebacker needs teams that could use him.
San Francisco 49ers
Fred Warner has a great matchup this week with a Seattle offense that is running the ball more than anyone in the league. Unfortunately, he may have hit the rookie wall hard. Warner has three or fewer solo stops in three of the last four games including a 2-6-0 versus Seattle two weeks ago. Granted that game was in Seattle where the stat crew is a little out of whack. In San Francisco, it may well have been a 6-2-0. Warner has been off the field for about half a dozen plays all season. It is safe to say his 854 snaps are far more than he ever played in a college season. It is hard to overlook the matchup but the rest of the situation makes it tough to start him with confidence.
Elijah Lee played every down last week while Malcolm Smith did not get on the field due to a sore Achilles. Smith played every down against this old team in week 13 but it is hard to say how much that had to do with the opponent. One of these guys could be a solid LB3 this week but it is hard to trust either unless Smith is out.
Tennessee has been killing us with their three man rotation at inside linebacker. That situation is likely to change before next season. Wesley Woodyard is under contract through next year but he has no guaranteed money, will cost almost four million dollars and will turn 33 this summer. The Titans have a pair of young studs in Jayon Brown and Rashaan Evans. The organization would be silly not to give those guys the reins. Dynasty managers may want to go after one of them in a trade early in the offseason.
After playing over 90% of the time and producing like it was 2017, Zach Brown’s role was reduced greatly to 44% of the snaps in Week 14. This was probably not by design but rather because he had been fighting an illness all week. Brown has an excellent matchup this week with the Jaguars so keep an eye out for some confirmation on what is going on here. It is worth mention that Brown split time with rookie Shaun Dion Hamilton who was rather impressive. Hamilton ended up leading the team with six solo tackles and a pair of assists despite getting on the field for 28 snaps.
That does it for Week 15. Best of luck in those playoff games and we hope to see you back here next week gearing up for a championship!