Big Play Payday: Week 4

Helping IDP fantasy general managers prepare for the upcoming week in big play formats.

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 $

Browns defensive end Carl Lawson delivered two sacks on only 52% of playing time. His general managers have to hope that the team sees how productive he has been in limited work and increases his playing time.

It is time to bench Cowboys’ defensive end Demarcus Lawrence until further notice. He is being asked to play from a 2-point stance, something he has not done prior to this year and it seems to be uncomfortable for him. He is also playing through a knee injury and his playing time was severely limited to just 41% of snaps this past game. These are not good things for his fantasy production.

Cowboys defensive end Aldon Smith is familiar with Mike Nolan’s scheme and is the benefactor of the new system. He recorded a monster game against Seattle and moved into the lead as the NFL’s sack leader with four. This column recommended adding him weeks ago. He should be a priority addition if he is still inexplicably on your waiver wire.

Coming back from injury, Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds logged a healthy 68 snaps and finished with five total tackles. His managers should be pleased at his return-to-action performance and expect gradual improvement going forward.

Chargers linebacker Kyzir White was the most productive of the bunch for the second week running. He had eight total tackles, six of them solo tackles. Hopefully, the situation has stabilized so that general managers can count on White.

Avery Williamson of the Jets is finally healthy enough to play and logged 95% of the snaps next to Neville Hewitt. Williamson is on a bad team that cannot sustain its offensive drives. He is worth picking up if he is out there on your waiver wire.

Filling in for the injured Packer Christian Kirksey was Ty Summers. While he missed a tackle that led to a long Alvin Kamara touchdown, he was very productive with nine total tackles, six of them solo tackles. If Kirksey misses the game against the Falcons, Summers is someone to target as a pickup, especially in tackle-heavy formats.

Panthers linebacker Tahir Whitehead’s snaps dipped suddenly in week three to 64%. While a productive tackle situation, it is risky to count on a part-time player to come through for general managers each week. We will see next week if this was a temporary situation or if Whitehead is going to be used in this capacity going forward.

Kevin Pierre-Lewis and Jon Bostic have settled in as the every-down linebackers for the Washington Football Team with Thomas Davis coming off the field in third-down situations. Both Pierre-Lewis and Bostic should have LB3 value for the remainder of the year.

Saints cornerback Chauncey Gardner-Johnson’s playing time had been variable the last few weeks but soared back to 97% against the Packers. He saw mostly slot work, which will keep him as one of the more valuable cornerbacks in corner-required formats.

$ INJURY SETTLEMENTS $

  • Broncos defensive end Jurrel Casey tore his biceps and is out for the year.

  • Washington Football Team defensive end Chase Young left week three’s contest with a groin injury and did not return. His counterpart, Matt Ionnadis has a torn biceps and is out for the season.

  • Packers linebacker Christian Kirksey left Sunday night’s tilt with a shoulder injury and did not return.

  • Seattle safety Jamal Adams has a grade-one groin strain and is day-to-day. He is likely to miss the next game.

  • Tampa Bay cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting suffered a hamstring injury against the Broncos and did not return to action.

$ MONEY IN THE BANK $

San Francisco 49ers Pass Rushers versus Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
San Francisco 49ers Defensive Backs versus Carson Wentz

The Eagles Offensive line has taken an injury beating and the remaining members just cannot protect Wentz. Carson Wentz has always ridden the line between daring and reckless anyway, but scrambling for his life has brought out the more reckless side of Wentz’s game. Kery Hyder, Arik Armstead, Jimmie Ward, and Jaquiski Tartt are the most likely to log a big play or two this week. Monitor who gets to start at corner -- they are also a good bet to get an interception. Hopefully, Emmanuel Moseley will be healthy enough to go here. Ahkello Witherspoon is a good start in leagues in which you are fishing for a big play.

Pittsburgh Steelers Pass Rushers versus Tennessee Titans Offensive Line

The Titans have been better about surrendering pressure this year, giving up only one sack a game. One of the reasons for this is that the Titans have not played a team with a particularly formidable pass rush yet. That is about to change as they meet the most prolific pass rush unit in the NFL, a group averaging five sacks a game. The Titans will also potentially be missing important left tackle Taylor Lewan, who exited against the Vikings with a shoulder injury. T.J. Watt, Bud Dupree, Stephon Tuitt, and Cameron Heyward are the best bets to pick up one or more sacks in this game.

Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers versus Washington Football Team Offensive Line
Baltimore Ravens Defensive Backs versus Dwayne Haskins

Washington’s line remains one of the more suspect in football, especially with Brandon Scherf on Injured Reserve last week. The Ravens should take full advantage of that in their matchup. Calais Campbell, Derek Wolfe, Tyus Bowser, and Pernell McPhee are not locks for a sack, but there is an elevated chance of one here for all of these guys. Haskins got very sloppy under pressure against the Colts and we could see that dynamic play out here. Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, and Chuck Clark could end up snagging one in this tilt.

Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers versus New York Giants Offensive Line
Los Angeles Defensive Backs versus Daniel Jones

Aaron Donald ate Dak Prescott alive and it should be more of the same against the Giants, who are currently hemorrhaging three sacks a game. Though less likely, Micheal Brockers could record one here as well. Additionally, Jones has been somewhat irresponsible with the ball and tied for fourth place with four interceptions thrown. John Johnson III and Troy Hill are the most likely of the bunch to pick Jones off in this contest in which he will face pass rush heat often.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pass Rushers versus Los Angeles Chargers Offensive Line

The Chargers’ injuries continue to mount, especially along the offensive line. Brian Bulaga and Trai Turner are both uncertain for week four against a pass rush that is really clicking right now. Tampa Bay romped against the Broncos and should continue the massacre against this depleted team. Jason Pierre-Paul, Shaq Barrett, and Ndamukong Suh are once again excellent plays at their respective positions this week.

New Orleans Saints Pass Rushers versus Detroit Lions Offensive Line

This feels like the game in which Cam Jordan could record his first sack of the season, one in which he will be facing a bottom-eight unit in terms of pass protection. Trey Hendrickson has been taking advantage of those Jordan double-teams and he also could get another sack here, provided that Marcus Davenport is not back from his elbow injury and eats into Hendrickson’s playing time.

Arizona Cardinals Pass Rushers versus Carolina Panthers Offensive Line

The Cardinals have not been able to generate consistent pass rush pressure since the Bruce Arians days, but that is beginning to change. They have averaged 3.7 sacks per game and have been spreading the wealth among their group. Against an offensive line that is giving up 2.7 sacks a game, we should see Hasaan Reddick, Corey Peters, Devon Kennard, or Chandler Jones come up with a couple of big plays.

Denver Broncos Pass Rushers versus New York Jets Offensive Line
New York Jets Pass Rushers versus Denver Broncos Offensive Line

Denver’s defense is just as banged up as the Jets’ offensive line, but it is not hard to imagine Bradley Chubb could find success against an offensive line that is surrendering roughly two sacks a game and is likely to be missing Mekhi Becton during this contest. On the flip side, Denver’s line continues to be an issue to the point they are surrendering four sacks a game on average. They surrendered a whopping six against the Buccaneers. Quinnen Willaims has been fantastic at producing interior pressure this season and could end up with a sack. Even Marcus Maye could produce one here as he continues to play the Jamal Adams role in the Gregg Williams defense.

Houston Texans Defensive Backs versus Kirk Cousins

Cousins’ line is better at run blocking than pass blocking. That said, Cousins is not helping matters by trying to force throws that someone of his arm strength has no business making. Justin Reid, Eric Murray, and Bradley Roby are the most likely to come up with one of Cousins' gifts.

$ INSUFFICIENT FUNDS $

Minnesota Vikings Pass Rush versus Houston Texans Offensive Line
Minnesota Vikings Defensive Backs versus Deshaun Watson

Normally, the Vikings would be enjoying this matchup and Danielle Hunter would have one of his more productive outings of the year with Yannick Ngakoue also joining the feeding frenzy. Unfortunately, Hunter will not recover from the disc herniation in his neck in time to make it back for this contest. Ngakoue needs a complementary rusher taking pressure off if he is going to be expected to turn pressures into sacks. Pressures also generate opportunities for defensive backs. Not only do the Vikings not have pass-rush pressure, but their cornerback group also is banged up and having to start inexperienced options to field a complete team. Do not expect any Vikings to do much in terms of big plays.

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