Hopefully everyone had a very enjoyable Thanksgiving, and if you’re lucky you might have grabbed a few Black Friday deals as well. It’s the start of the holiday season, and more importantly the fantasy playoffs are either here, or just around the corner. We’ll keep it to ourselves that what we all really want this year is to win our primary fantasy league, but I’m sure a few deep playoff runs across the board would be very welcome too. If you’re in need of some start/sit or trade advice, don’t be afraid to drop me an e-mail…
Week 12 Observations
James Ihedigbo saw more snaps last week (41-of-60) after playing just 15 snaps in the previous two weeks combined. He still hasn’t won back the starting job from Isa Abdul-Quaddas (46 snaps), but this is worth monitoring, especially if someone dropped Ihedigbo… Michael Kendricks suited up for 64-of-72 snaps, while Kiko Alonso, who started, only played 41 snaps. Alonso is being worked back into the lineup slowly. Kendricks is a top-end LB2 with LB1 upside when the matchup is right, while Alonso needs more playing time to be considered any more than a LB3… Kurt Coleman continues to tear it up, and is the second highest scoring defensive back over the last five weeks. He isn’t getting much respect in the IDP community despite six double-figure fantasy scores this year, including four in the last five games (the other being a 9.5 return). His interceptions (five) have played a role in his high scoring, but he still deserves DB2 consideration… Another defensive back who continues to be a point-scoring machine is Tyrann Mathieu. The Cardinals cornerback charted 13 total tackles (11 solo) last week, as well as an interception and a tackle for loss. His lowest score of the season is 7.5, and he’s averaged 15.9 points a game, making him the fourth highest scoring defensive player in the league… Deone Bucannon only played 41-of-58 snaps rather than his usual every-down role, but this is seemingly linked to the concussion that limited him in practice. Keep an eye on his status this week, but I expect him to be a full go in Week 13… Jaquiski Tartt has been an every-down safety for the last four weeks and is someone worth adding in all dynasty formats… Another player putting up a year-best performance this week was Anthony Barr. The Vikings linebacker had a sack and two forced fumbles on top of eight total tackles (seven solo). He’s had seven games this year with six or more tackles, including the last four and is cementing himself as a weekly upside LB3… 13 linebackers recorded double-digit tackle weeks, several of which were expected from LB1s and LB2s, but Jonathan Freeney (12 total tackles), Phillip Wheeler (11), Shea McClellin (10) and Devon Kennard (10) are more surprising names to find on the list. If you need some LB depth McClellin would be the first one to target, and I’d rank Wheeler second… Saints safety duo of Kenny Vaccaro and Jairus Byrd both had decent fantasy weeks. Vaccaro’s 13 total tackles and a fumble recovery led to his fifth game of the year of ten or more points, while Byrd had an interception and seven total tackles to record his fourth straight double-figure score. Vaccaro is a low-end DB2 and Byrd is an upside DB3… Their rookie teammate Stephone Anthony has gotten better as the season has progressed and his scoring is perhaps being lost in the dismal Saint’s defensive displays as he doesn’t seem to be very highly ranked on a weekly basis. Since Week 4 he has averaged 12.85 ppg and been the 13th highest scoring fantasy linebacker. Last week he had ten total tackles (his second double-digit tackle performance of the year) and recorded his fifth tackle for loss. I like Anthony as a dependable LB2 for the rest of the season… Rolando McClain has been a great addition for those who snapped him up when he returned in Week 5. Since then he’s averaged 12.5 ppg, his is more than Thomas Davis, James Laurinaitis and Paul Worrilow, and should be considered an upside LB3… Jelani Jenkins started in Week 12 but could only manage 37-of-79 snaps, with Kelvin Sheppard playing 67. If Jenkins isn’t a full go in practice this week he’s a very risky start this week.
Week 12 Pass Rushers
No-one had a bigger week than Lions DE Ziggy Ansah who had a career-game on Thanksgiving, recording 3.5 sacks, a forced fumble and recovery. Ansah now has 11.5 sacks on the season and is bridging the gap between himself and the big four defensive lineman (Watt, Quinn, Jones and Hardy)… Cowboys defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford was another Thanksgiving performer who hit it big, blocking a field goal as well as recording a sack. Crawford is just a fringe starter in DT-required leagues still… J.J. Watt looks well on his way to win his second defensive MVP award after two sacks, six hits and three hurries last week. Watt now has 29 hits on the season and 18 in the last four weeks! For comparisons sake only one defensive end, Muhammad Wilkerson (19), has more quarterback hits in the entire season… Aaron Lynch is quietly having a pretty impressive season for a struggling 49ers. His two hits and six hurries last week take his season tally to 6.5 sacks, 12 hits and 35 hurries and he’s an intriguing player looking forwards. His LB designation makes him only really viable in big-play formats, but as a second year player he still has scope for improvement… Week 12 marked Greg Hardy’s third game in the last five without a sack. He’s still been an edge-threat recording six hits and 12 hurries in those five games so keep him in your lineup. He’s still one of the games’ most dangerous fantasy defensive lineman… Derek Wolfe has had a sack in each of the last two weeks, and because of his high tackle floor this has made him fantasy relevant in recent weeks. Don’t get carried away though, Wolfe is a upside DL3/4 because he’s a part of the Broncos’ pass rush unit, but his upside is limited… The Bengals made short work of the Rams last week, and although he may not have notched up a sack, Carlos Dunlap had four hits. Teammate Wallace Gilberry had three hits and three hurries himself while it was Geno Atkins who hit pay dirt with a sack, two hits and four hurries… Few players are as hot as Olivier Vernon right now, who recorded a sack, three hits and four hurries against one of the toughest matchups for defensive lineman in the Jets. That’s now two sacks, 12 hits and seven hurries in the last three weeks…
Guys I Like
Olivier Vernon vs Ravens
It shouldn’t be a surprise based on the previous paragraph, but Vernon is a player I’d be starting this week no matter who the Dolphins are playing against! Since Week 6, and despite a zero point return in Week 7, Vernon has been a DL1 and posted double-digit scores in the other six games, and I like him to post another top-12 score this week.
Dunlap is in the race to lead the league in sacks this season and will be looking to break his streak of three games without one against the best matchup for edge rushers. I like him as a top-five defensive lineman this week, while teammate Michael Johnson gets a bump to be a borderline DL2/3.
C.J. Mosely vs Dolphins
I’ve been quite down on Mosely this year, but he seems to have turned a corner in recent weeks and posted some good scores. In fact he’s averaged 14.9 ppg over the last seven weeks and is returning to his 2014 matchup-proof scoring that made him such a desirable player this season. Miami is a poor matchup generally speaking but I’m willing to trust Mosely based on his recent performances.
The Ravens are the No.1 matchup for linebackers but which Dolphins’ linebacker to start in Week 13 is unclear. Jenkins is the every-down option when healthy, but he wasn’t healthy enough to play that role last week. If that’s the case again Sheppard will see the majority of snaps and makes him a sneaky LB2. If Jenkins can practice in full all week I like him as a low-end LB1.
Shea McClellin vs 49ers
Back in an every-down role and facing a top-three matchup for linebackers, McClellin is a great play if you’re struggling this week. He’s had 24 total tackles in the three games since he returned from injury and his first double-digit sack game of the year last week.
Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Morgan Burnett vs Detroit
Clinton-Dix and Burnett are generally considered as borderline DB1s, but this week they’ll be looking to mix it up with the big four (Jones, Barron, Matthieu and Graham) as they face the league’s most favorable matchup for safeties. It’s a Thursday night game so be sure to get them in your lineup early!
Michael Griffen vs Jaguars
Another of those under-the-radar players who are performing at a higher level than you probably realize is Griffen. He’s scored ten or more fantasy points in five of his last six games and although the one game he didn’t was against the Jaguars just two weeks ago, the Jags have been one of the better matchups for safeties. I’m willing to treat that one down game as a coincidence in being the Jags rather than a trend, and see Griffen as a mid DB2 this week.
Guys I Don’t Like
Jason Pierre-Paul vs Jets
While I’m a fan of JPP’s and have added him in several leagues and would happily recommend him still, this week’s matchup against the Jets is worrisome. Pierre-Paul has yet to record his first sack of the year (although he does have three hits and 12 hurries) and if you’re in a must-win situation this week I’d suggest you look elsewhere if possible. I’ll be downgrading JPP to outside the DL1 tier.
Fletcher Cox vs Patriots
The Eagles are a team reeling right now and facing a Patriots team who are angry about their loss to Denver doesn’t bode well. New England are a bottom-five matchup for edge rushers and Cox generally ranks as a top-end DL2, so I’ll be knocking him down to the middle of the DL2 ranks instead.
K.J Wright vs Vikings
Wright has been having a good year, but is not a player you’ll want to lean on in a crunch week as the Vikings are one of the toughest matchups. I’m willing to play Bobby Wagner still, considering him a mid LB1, but Wright, who is typically a LB3, gets downgraded to a risky LB4.
Justin Houston vs Oakland
The Raiders are a so so matchup for edge rushers and a poor one for linebackers, which backs the boom-or-bust scoring Houston a risky play this week. Further to that he suffered a PCL strain that may keep him out this week. Even if he does suit up, he’s a player you need to bench.
Charles Woodson vs Chiefs
The ageless Charles Woodson slips outside the DB1 tier in my rankings this week thanks to a matchup with the Chiefs, or more notably an Andy Reid and Alex Smith led-Chiefs. The result, as seen over the last few seasons, is a conservative offense that rarely pushes the ball deep, keeping it away from opposing safeties. Woodson is still a solid play, but he lacks his usual upside this week.
Eric Weddle vs Broncos
Be very careful with Eric Weddle this week. He’s scored less than four points three times in his last five games and Week 13 brings the toughest possible matchup for safeties in the Broncos. He’s a very difficult player to bench knowing what you paid for him in draft equity and considering his career history, but I’ve knocked him down to a mid DB2 this week I’m that concerned.