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 about which 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 $
Dolphins edge defender Emmanuel Ogbah has become a force of nature. He has had at least a half a sack or more in eight straight games. He is an every-week start until further notice.
Rams edge rusher Leonard Floyd has also come alive in the last few games, logging five sacks over the last three contests. However, he is not an advisable start because of the matchup this week.
Baltimore’s linebacker Patrick Queen played 97% of the snaps this week. The Ravens tend to vary their playing time of certain players each week, so we will have to see if Queen is indeed becoming a full-time option or if this was just part of the game plan.
The Steelers’ linebacker situation needs to stabilize a bit before any of their options are startable. Avery Williamson played 17% of the snaps in his debut, enough to push Robert Spillane to just 69% of playing time.
Bengals edge defender Sam Hubbard was back this week and had decent playing time at 62% of the snaps. Look for that to trend upward as he gets healthier.
Saints linebacker Kwon Alexander was given only 61% of the snaps in his debut. Watch for that to continue to trend up, but until that point, he is not a startable option in most leagues.
It looks as if the Jaguars have replaced Josh Jones with Daniel Thomas at safety in order to get a better evaluation of their future at the position. If general managers need help, Thomas is a great pickup.
Justin Houston’s playing time continues to trend down into the 50% range for the Colts. The older veteran will need things to turn around in that department before he can be productive again.
$ INJURY SETTLEMENTS $
Thankfully, this was only a moderate week in terms of injuries to individual defensive players.
Ravens interior lineman Brandon Williams injured his ankle.
Saints interior lineman Malcolm Brown hurt his calf.
Bills defensive end A.J. Epenesa left Sunday’s action with a concussion.
Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II was knocked out of Thursday’s contest with a rib injury.
Broncos cornerback Davontae Harris was concussed.
Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson re-aggravated his turf toe injury.
49ers safety Jonathan Cyprien injured his hamstring.
Rams safety Taylor Rapp is believed to have suffered an MCL sprain and is day-to-day.
Seahawks safety Jamal Adams hurt his shoulder, left the game, but then re-entered later in the contest. It is not clear if this injury will sideline him next week.
Washington’s safety Deshazor Everett injured his ankle.
$ MONEY IN THE BANK $
Arizona Cardinals Pass Rushers versus Seattle Seahawks Offensive Line
Arizona Cardinals Defensive Backs versus Russell Wilson
Death. Taxes. The Seattle Seahawks hemorrhaging sacks. These are all things we can set our watches to and this week will be no different in that regard. While it is unlikely that Seattle gives up six as they did last week, it is almost a certainty that two or three will be registered in this contest. Haasan Reddick and Markus Golden are the best bets among this group to pick them up, but a blitzing Budda Baker also has an outside shot at picking up one here. Additionally, Wilson had been trending the wrong way in terms of throwing interceptions in his last two games. If that continues here, it is likely that Baker, Patrick Peterson, or Byron Murphy could benefit.
Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers versus Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Line
Jacksonville started the year strong in terms of protection but has fallen off the proverbial cliff, allowing 3.1 sacks a game. They gave up three in their last contest and three or more is a reasonable expectation from the most prolific sack unit in the NFL. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Bud Dupree, or T.J. Watt are the players with the best shot at a sack or other big play.
Houston Texans Pass Rushers versus New England Patriots Offensive Line
Houston should get one or two sacks here against an offensive line that is not holding up quite as well as when it played in front of Tom Brady. P.J. Hall, J.J. Watt, and Whitney Mercilus are the picks at their respective positions to come up with a big play.
Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers versus Tennessee Titans Offensive Line
Missing Roger Saffold and Taylor Lewan is killing this line, and it is bad luck for the Titans that the Ravens’ prolific defense is coming to town this week. It is harder with this team to predict who might end up with a sack because of variations in playing time, but Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee, and Matt Judon are better plays than normal this week.
Cleveland Browns Pass Rushers versus Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
Cleveland Browns Defensive Backs versus Carson Wentz
Myles Garrett has been a force of nature this year and he should continue his sack leader campaign against Carson Wentz and his struggling offensive line. Olivier Vernon, Sheldon Richardson, and Larry Ogunjobi also have an elevated chance to log a sack or other big play in this game. The defensive backs for the Browns have a chance to come away with an interception as well. Ronnie Harrison, Denzel Ward, and Terrance Mitchell are all good plays this week if general managers need the big play upside an interception can provide.
New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers versus Atlanta Falcons Offensive Line
The Falcons are a middle-of-the-road team in terms of allowing sacks this year, but the Saints have been better than average at producing them, so one or two in this contest are not out of the question. Cameron Jordan, Trey Hendrickson, and Marcus Davenport are the best candidates to notch a sack in this faceoff.
Washington Football Team Pass Rushers versus Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
The Washington offense may not work, but the defense continues to log sacks at an amazing clip. Jonathan Allen, Chase Young, and Montez Sweat are the best choices to start against a unit giving up 3.6 sacks a game.
Los Angeles Chargers Pass Rushers versus New York Jets Offensive Line
The Jets are coming off the bye, but that will not matter much in terms of stopping the bleeding. Even factoring in the bye, they have surrendered 2.9 sacks a game, a mark that puts them at 25th in the league in terms of protecting the quarterback. Sam Darnold or whoever is under center this week will be running away from Linval Joseph, Jerry Tillery, and Melvin Ingram III. Joey Bosa may play, so keep an eye on that situation. If he does go, he is also a recommended start this week.
Miami Dolphins Pass Rushers versus Denver Broncos Offensive Line
Miami Dolphins Defensive Backs versus Drew Lock
Drew Lock is playing some horrible football right now and Miami’s defense has really come on in recent weeks. Like many Belichickian defenses, it is hard to gauge who will do what from week to week, thus almost impossible to call who will end up with the big plays. Christian Wilkins (assuming he is off of the COVID list this week), Emanuel Ogbah, Shaq Lawson, Jerome Baker, and Kyle Van Noy are all decent options if general managers need to shoot for big-play upside this week. Also look at Xavien Howard, Byron Jones, Bobby McCain, or Eric Rowe to have a higher chance at getting an interception with the irresponsible turnover machine that Drew Lock has become in recent weeks.
Minnesota Vikings Pass Rushers versus Dallas Cowboys Offensive Line
Dallas Cowboys Pass Rushers versus Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line
The turnaround the Vikings have made without Danielle Hunter has been impressive and they have another favorable matchup this week. Ifeadi Odenigbo and D.J. Wonnum have a good shot at a sack in this contest. On the other side, start Demarcus Lawrence, Randy Gregory, and perhaps even Aldon Smith if you need to take a shot at registering a big play.
$ INSUFFICIENT FUNDS $
Detroit Lions Pass Rushers versus Carolina Panthers Offensive Line
Carolina Panthers Pass Rushers versus Detroit Lions Offensive Line
This contest pits two units against one another who traditionally give up sacks, but are not proficient in terms of themselves getting them. While a sack here or there may occur, do not start any of these players fishing for one.
Green Bay Packers Pass Rushers versus Indianapolis Colts Offensive Line
Indianapolis Colts Pass Rushers versus Green Bay Packers Offensive Line
Both offensive lines are among the top in the league in terms of protecting the quarterback, so expect very few sacks to come out of this contest.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Rushers versus Los Angeles Rams Offensive Line
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers versus Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offensive Line
This game also pits two top-tier offensive lines against one another, so play it safe and do not expect a sack out of any individual defensive player in this contest. Aaron Donald is the only player that a general manager must feel compelled to start, regardless of matchup.
Las Vegas Raiders Pass Rushers versus Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Line
Kansas City Chiefs Pass Rushers versus Los Vegas Raiders Offensive Line
It is unusual, but this is the third game this week in which two very good lines are squaring off and there is unlikely to be much sack production because of it.