Years ago, when Deone Bucannon introduced himself as a “money linebacker” on Sunday Night Football, the audience had a good laugh. The term was a reference to his defensive responsibilities but conjured images in the minds of viewers of the huge game checks that Bucannon was earning at that time. Memes popped up in the following days of Bucannon on top of piles of money and gold coins. Hopefully, following the guidance given in this column will have your rosters overflowing with a wealth of IDP riches. We will primarily focus on edge rushers but will also hit on some of the other players and situations that are likely to impact teams in big play leagues. We will cover risers and fallers in the format, injury situations fantasy general managers need to know, and upcoming matchups to target.
Note: The defensive player injuries covered in this column are not an exhaustive list, but an attempt to cover the situations most likely to impact big play IDP squads. For more extensive coverage of injury situations, see Jene Bramel’s latest Injury Rounds column.
$ STOCK UP AND BANKRUPT $
Though it did not show up on the stat sheet in a big way, Jarran Reed returned to action and played 85% of the team’s snaps. Quinton Jefferson’s snaps plummeted to 29% usage. The Seahawks cannot count on Ezekiel Ansah to stay healthy, so we should see Reed return to his dominant ways soon.
Miami defensive end Taco Charlton continues to inspire hope that he will be a contributor for Miami in the future. With an impressive three sacks in four games, we can see a potentially bright future for the former first-round pass rusher.
Broncos A.J. Johnson has been phenomenal, despite getting only part-time work in the last contest. While it is always a risk that the coaching staff will continue the linebacker rotation, Johnson’s play may dictate a full-time role next to Todd Davis.
Bears linebacker Roquan Smith played just 69% of the snaps in their contest against the Saints. It remains to be seen if this was just a one-off game plan type of change or if the change will become more permanent. Stay tuned, and if you are a general manager with Smith on your team, you might consider benching him until we have clarity.
The Chiefs eased Anthony Hitchens back in after he returned from rehabbing a groin injury. Expect his 48% snap share to rise in the coming weeks as he gets healthier.
The Raiders made an interesting trade, sending Gareon Conley to the Texans for a third-round pick. Conley will probably be targeted often opposite Jonathan Joseph, making him of value.
Taylor Rapp appears to be the replacement for an injured John Johnson III, at least in terms of usage. He had 98% of the snaps in week seven and held up pretty well in game action. He will not be as valuable as Johnson was, but he will be useful.
We thought that safety Kemal Ishmael would be very valuable as an every-down player with Jonathan Cyprien’s injury. Instead, Jamal Carter rotated in with Ishmael 50% of the time. It does not look like we can trust anyone in this situation going forward.
$ INJURY SETTLEMENTS $
Thankfully, the injuries impacting defensive fantasy rosters were not as many this week, but there were a few situations that occurred.
Defensive tackle Damon Harrison injured his groin in the week seven loss to the Vikings and his status is up in the air for the Lions’ game against the Giants.
Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch hurt his neck on Sunday night and did not return to the game. Sean Lee came off the bench and played well in his stead. Lee is not the same player that he was a few years ago, but he could have value for us for the rest of the way if Vander Esch’s neck injury is serious.
Injuries continued to pile up for the Lions as star corner Darius Slay hurt his hamstring. General managers in corner required leagues will need to monitor his status closely for the upcoming tilt with the Giants.
$ MONEY IN THE BANK $
Minnesota Vikings Pass Rushers vs. Washington Offensive Line
The Washington line has been a problem all season and we saw it give up sack after sack against San Francisco. We would not dream of sitting Danielle Hunter or Everson Griffen anyway, but this matchup is particularly juicy for the pair of them.
Seattle Seahawks Pass Rushers vs. Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line
The Falcons are falling apart and giving up sacks at an alarming clip. Against the Rams, they surrendered a whopping five sacks, bringing their average over the last three games to three sacks a game. The Seahawks just got Jaraan Reed back and he and Jadaveon Clowney could make this another particularly nasty day for Atlanta.
Chicago Bears Pass Rushers vs. Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Line
The Chargers are likely to get Russell Okung back for this tilt, but they just lost Forrest Lamp to a season-ending injury. Khalil Mack is an obvious must-play and Leonard Floyd is also someone to strongly consider given the matchup.
Detroit Lions Pass Rushers vs. New York Giants Offensive Line
The Giants surrendered eight in their last game and are averaging 2.9 sacks surrendered on the year. That should lend itself to A’Shawn Robinson, Tre Flowers, and Devon Kennard all having an increased chance of coming away with a big play here.
Jacksonville Jaguars Pass Rushers vs. New York Jets Offensive Line
It seems like Jacksonville is on the list every week. They have had some great matchups this year and get another one this week. They will go against the team that has given up a league-worst five sacks per game on average. There is no reason to hesitate in starting Yannick Ngakoue, Calais Cambell, and Josh Allen.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
Los Angeles Rams Defensive Backs vs. Cincinnati Bengals Passing Attack
This Bengals line cannot seem to catch a break and draws another tough matchup against a resurgent Rams pass rush. Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers should be in line for excellent performances against a group that is a bottom-five unit in sacks surrendered on the year. Cincinnati also leads the league in terms of interceptions thrown. Taylor Rapp, Eric Weddle, Jalen Ramsey, and Troy Hill become more likely to come away with one.
Tennessee Titans Pass Rushers vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line
Tennessee Titans Defensive Backs vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Attack
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Rushers vs. Tennessee Offensive Line
Tennessee just got a big boost on the interior from adding Jeffery Simmons to the mix. He recovered from his ACL injury in record time and will provide much-needed disruption on an already stout unit that includes Cameron Wake, Harold Landry, and Jurrel Casey. Consider also that the Buccaneers are surrendering an average of 4.2 sacks per game. The Titans have been generating almost an interception a game and Jameis Winston is one of the most irresponsible quarterbacks with the football. Kevin Byard, Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, or Adoree' Jackson (if he plays) have a decent chance of coming up with a turnover. Tennessee is also among the league leaders in sacks surrendered with 4.4 a game. The already thin unit lost Jack Conklin and Nate Davis and may not have them available for this contest. Ndamukong Suh, Carl Nassib, Shaq Barrett, and Jason Pierre-Paul (assuming he is back from injury) could get on the stat sheet in the big play category in this game.
Indianapolis Colts Pass Rush vs. Denver Broncos Offensive Line
The Colts have been rolling over opponents defensively. Conversely, the Broncos are giving up 3.4 sacks a game and Joe Flacco continues to be immobile in the pocket. Justin Houston and Jabaal Sheard are more likely to end up in the sack column after competing with the Broncos.
New England Patriots Pass Rush vs. Cleveland Browns Offensive Line
New England Patriots Pass Rush vs. Cleveland Browns Passing Attack
As usual, it is hard to know how the Patriots will deploy their pass rushers from week to week. What we do know is that the Browns offensive line is suspect and that Baker Mayfield continues to turn the football over at an alarming frequency. Jamie Collins Sr Sr, Kyle Van Noy, and Dont'a Hightower are boom-bust plays here because we never know how Bill Belichick will use them from one week to the next. The McCourty twins both could come up with a turnover in this contest.
Steelers Pass Rushers vs. Miami Dolphins Offensive Line
“Tank for Tua” should continue to be in full effect here with Miami headed into hostile Pittsburgh. Fresh off the bye, we should expect Bud Dupree, TJ Watt, and Cameron Heyward to have their way with the Dolphins.
$ INSUFFICIENT FUNDS $
New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers vs. Arizona Cardinals Offensive Line
Earlier in the year, this would have been a matchup to target, but the Cardinals have started to figure things out in terms of giving up sacks. Kyler Murray and company have surrendered only an average of one sack over the last three games. We know that Cameron Jordan and Marcus Davenport have proven to be extremely disruptive, especially against inferior lines. They are not necessarily to be avoided in this matchup, but to expect multiple sacks from these Saints defenders would be folly.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rush vs. Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Line
It may be tempting to play the Packers pass rushers, who have been excellent this year, especially considering the fact that the backup quarterback for the Chiefs is in. However, we need to lower expectations for Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith if we play them because the Kansas City line has been excellent this year, surrendering only 1.3 sacks a game. Part of that is the mobility of Mahomes, but the line has obvious cohesion and remains one of the top-five units, even without their starting signal-caller.
San Francisco Defensive Backs vs. Carolina Panthers Passing Attack
The Panthers have not given up many interceptions and are unlikely to do so in this contest as they play conservatively against a tough opposing defense. The 49ers are among the better teams in the league at generating aerial turnovers, but do not expect Richard Sherman, Akhello Witherspoon, or Jaquiski Tartt to come up with one here.