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.
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Trysten Hill’s ACL injury might open up more playing time for rookie Neville Gallimore. Gallimore is one of the better interior rushers in this class, so some seasoning may not be a bad thing for his development.
The Bengals finally seem to have figured out who their best pass rusher is. Carl Lawson’s usage increased to 63% in week five and he figures to be more productive in future matchups when he is not playing a top NFL line.
Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence saw his usage come back up to 69% this week. He also recorded his first sack of the season. He may be useable going forward, which is more than we could say for him in weeks 1-4.
Calais Campbell saw a season-low usage of 51% against the Bengals and will be hard to trust going forward.
Colts linebackers Bobby Okereke and Anthony Walker both had excellent days against the Browns, each recording over seven total tackles and an interception. As long as Darius Leonard continues to miss time, both are startable options.
Ravens linebacker Patrick Queen continues to come through for fantasy general managers, despite not getting a full complement of snaps. He had six solos, three assists, and a sack.
Cardinals safety Budda Baker is playing with a thumb injury, but it has not slowed him down. He recorded eight solo tackles, two assists, and one sack in Sunday’s contest against the Jets.
Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton is on quite a streak in big play leagues. He either has a sack or interception in every game he has played this year. While he will be hard-pressed to continue this streak, he is still one of the more valuable corners to roster because of his propensity for big plays.
Falcons safety Ricardo Allen has taken the lead in terms of safety snaps in Atlanta. He played 97% of the snaps and is worth rostering because of the vast number of snaps this unit will see for the remainder of the year.
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Bengals interior lineman D.J. Reader left Sunday’s game with a knee injury.
Cowboys defensive tackle Trysten Hill is believed to have suffered a torn ACL.
Panthers interior lineman Kawaan Short injured his shoulder and did not return to Sunday’s contest.
Arizona pass rusher Chandler Jones is out for the season with torn biceps.
Chargers pass rusher Uchenna Nwosu was injured on Monday night and we are still awaiting details about his status.
Panthers pass rusher Brian Burns was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
Browns corner Greedy Williams will miss at least three games with a nerve problem in his shoulder.
Eagles corner Darius Slay is in the concussion protocol currently.
He has played well when he has been able to stay healthy, but Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson left the game against the Falcons with a toe injury.
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Baltimore Ravens Pass Rushers vs. Philadelphia Eagles Offensive Line
Baltimore Ravens Defensive Backs vs. Carson Wentz
The Eagles look to have lost Lane Johnson for a while with an ankle injury. This already depleted offensive line will allow the Ravens rushers to tee off against a struggling Carson Wentz. It is harder with this team to predict who might end up with a sack because of variations in playing time, but Calais Campbell, Jaylon Ferguson, Tyus Bowser, Pernell McPhee, and Matt Judon are better plays than normal this week. Chuck Clark, Marlon Humphrey, and Marcus Peters have an elevated chance of snagging an interception in this contest.
Los Angeles Rams Pass Rushers vs. San Francisco 49ers Offensive Line
Los Angeles Rams Defensive Backs vs. Jimmy Garoppollo or C.J Beathard
The 49ers could not ask for a worse time to face this aggressive pass rush than when they are struggling with quarterback play and also with protection for their signal caller. Aaron Donald, Leonard Floyd, and Michael Brockers should have their way with whomever the 49ers start. John Johnson III, Jordan Fuller, and Jaylen Ramsey are the likely benefactors of this great matchup.
Cincinnati Bengals Defensive Backs vs. Philip Rivers
Indianapolis Pass Rushers vs. Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
Rivers has been cavalier with the ball all season, but it finally caught up with him in a big way against the Browns. While the Bengals defense is not going to generate the same pressure off the edge that the Colts are capable of, there is enough from Carl Lawson, Sam Hubbard, and others that Rivers could throw some “YOLO” balls that end up in the hands of Vonn Bell, Jessie Bates III, or William Jackson III. On the other side of this tilt, Joe Burrow is taking incredible punishment each week and it should be no different here. Justin Houston, Deforest Buckner, and Denico Autry are the best plays for teams fishing for a sack.
Washington Football Team Pass Rush vs. New York Giants Pass Rush
Washington is having trouble winning games, but one thing that is clicking is their pass rush. Against one of the worst lines in football, we should see it click again. Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, Chase Young, and even Ryan Kerrigan all have an elevated shot at logging a sack.
Atlanta Falcons Defensive Backs vs. Kirk Cousins
Not much has gone right for this team this year, but on the bright side, they will face Kirk Cousins, who has been good for more than one interception a game. Ricardo Allen, Keanu Neal, A.J. Terrell, and Kendall Sheffield are the best bets to come up with one here.
Cowboys Defensive Backs vs. Kyler Murray
Murray has been throwing an average 1.2 interceptions a game, and the pass rush is just good enough to force Murray into another one or two here. Xavier Woods, Trevon Diggs, and Daryl Worley all get a bump here.
Lions Pass Rushers vs. Jacksonville Jaguars Offensive Line
The Lions are not a team you would often look to for pass rush production, but you could get it this week against an offensive line surrendering 3.4 sacks a contest. Trey Flowers, Romeo Okwara, and Jamie Collins Sr are the best choices to potentially earn a sack or other big play in this game.
New England Patriots Pass Rushers vs. Denver Broncos Offensive Line
Good luck knowing which one of Chase Winovich, Shilique Calhoun, Derek Rivers, or perhaps someone else will put the hurt on whichever quarterback Denver ends up playing. It’s almost assured given how badly the Denver offensive line has played paired with the inexperience of the signal caller. Of the defensive backs on the team, it’s either of the McCourty twins that have the best chance to come up with a pick.
Miami Dolphins Pass Rushers vs. Jets Offensive Line
Like the Lions, Miami is not usually a team to look to for sacks, but against a woeful offensive line, an exception may be made. Jerome Baker, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts are the best candidates to land one here if you need to swing for the fences.
Buffalo Bills Pass Rushers vs. Chiefs Offensive Line
The Chiefs lost Kelechi Osemele for the season, which is a major blow to their line. Martinas Rankin will not be available until after week seven. While Mahomes is still evasive enough to escape pressure, he will be more susceptible to a group that is generating lots of pressure on the interior of the line. Ed Oliver, Mario Addison, and Trent Murphy are the top candidates for benefiting from a big play.
Cleveland Browns Pass Rushers vs. Pittsburgh Steelers Offensive Line
Tennessee Titans Pass Rushers vs. Texans Offensive Line
The Titans have not had a strong pass rush this season, but against a very weak offensive line, Harold Landry and Jadaveon Clowney could cash in.
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Atlanta Falcons Pass Rushers vs. Minnesota Vikings Offensive Line
Jacksonville Jaguars Pass Rushers vs. Detroit Lions Offensive Line
Cincinnati Bengals Pass Rushers vs. Indianapolis Colts Offensive Line
Carolina Panthers Pass Rushers vs. Chicago Bears Offensive Line
The writer is lumping these matchups together because the problem is the same-- all these pass rush units have proven over the past five weeks to be the four worst in the league and all are going up against average or above-average offensive lines. Look elsewhere if you are needing sacks or fumbles this week.
Houston Texans Defensive Backs vs. Ryan Tannehill
The Texans remain the only defense without an interception in the NFL and are unlikely to break that trend this week against a quarterback who, as of this writing, has thrown only one interception all season.