It was definitely a week of hits, whiffs, and missed opportunities. First, the good, all of which was found in the same game. The Colts and 49ers matchup wasn’t a lesson in offensive efficiency, but it did lead to good games for our linebackers. The 49ers’ Ray-Ray Armstrong had a big game with seven tackles and added a pick for the second week in a row. Across the field, Antonio Morrison tied for the team lead in tackles with seven.
Despite playing his most snaps of the season at 48, Jets linebacker David Bass failed to impress with only three tackles. Our two other recommendations just didn’t see enough snaps to be streamer-worthy this week. Lineman Allen Bailey played a season-low 37 snaps and tallied only three tackles. Meanwhile, Cowboys safety Jeff Heath was on his way to a high-tackle game, recording four despite suffering an injury that reduced him to a season-low 55 snaps.
But we’re back at this week with five IDP streaming candidates who are sure to tide you over another bye week.
Wolfe has never racked up a lot of sacks, but can still contribute to your fantasy team. As a major component of the Denver defense, Wolfe sees a lot of snaps, the most of any Denver lineman, and it puts him in good situations to fill the stat sheet. He was PFF’s 12th-ranked 3-4 end last year and ninth in 2015, and will be facing off against the New York Giants offensive line. You’d have to live under a rock to miss the Giants’ struggles this season, but Wolfe and the Broncos could make them even worse.
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For starters, Denver has PFF’s top-rated run defense so far, which they won’t need to deploy that much as the Giants run a league-low 20 times-per-game. But should Denver need to, Wolfe has the fifth-best run-stop percentage among 3-4 linemen, totaling seven tackles and four stops in just 37 rush snaps and he should see some tackle opportunities. As far as the pass game, this pick has much more to do with the matchup than the player. Wolfe has created just five quarterback hurries in 102 pass-rushes this season, but he faces off against a Giants offensive line that ranks as PFF’s fourth-worst pass-blocking unit, with PFF’s 67th-ranked tackle Bobby Hart and 35th-ranked guard John Jerry. And lest we forget this is a Giants offensive line that gives up sacks in bunches, like the Chargers did last week when they recorded five.
The Cardinals’ pass-blocking unit is truly the gift that keeps on giving. We’ve pounded Arizona in previous weeks but, with no end to their pass blocking woes in sight, there’s no reason to stop now. This week, the Tampa defensive line will get their chance at the statue known as Carson Palmer. Through five weeks, the Cardinals are still PFF’s worst-graded pass-blocking unit and are giving up 3.8 sacks per game including a stretch during Weeks 2-4 where they gave up 16.
The player we’re going to stream is the Bucs lineman who has been the most productive pass-rusher this season, Ayers. He’s seen the second-most pass-rushes among Tampa lineman at 125 and created the 11th-most pressures among all 4-3 lineman with 17. He also has a juicy matchup against the left side of the Cardinals offensive line, which currently includes duds John Wetzel (PFF’s 65th-graded tackle) and Earl Watford (a second-string guard on the worst run-blocking unit). If there’s any week Ayers ends his sack drought, it’ll be this one.
Sheard always seemed to be on the edge of breaking out, totaling 8.5 sacks his rookie year in Cleveland. However, that ended up being his career-high as he’s bounced around the league, trying to recapture his rookie magic. He’s now in Indianapolis, where the Colts continue to sign re-treads and reclamation projects in the hopes of piecing together a competent defense. And while that strategy has failed, it’s led to a few interesting IDP options, including Sheard.
Unlike prior Colts linebackers we’ve streamed this year, we’re looking to utilize Sheard’s pass-rushing skills rather than just his ability to be on the field a lot. Don’t get me wrong, it helps that Sheard has been on the field for 287 snaps, fifth-most among Colts defenders, but he’s actually turned on the jets the last two weeks, recording 2.5 sacks in that span to go with 13 tackles. On the season, he’s had 20 quarterback pressures, nine of which have come in his recent two-game tear. The Colts now face the Titans and possibly quarterback Matt Cassel. The downgrade from the more mobile Marcus Mariota was apparent as the Titans and Cassel was sacked six times last week against the Dolphins after being sacked only four times in the previous four games this season. Check the injury report but if Mariota can’t go, you can fire up Sheard.
With the spate of injuries hitting players on both sides of the ball, the Texans defense joined the club last week. They lost All-Pro lineman J.J. Watt and linebacker Whitney Mercilus, who played the second-most snaps for the Texans defense last season. Without Watt, Mercilus and the suspended Brian Cushing, there were several roles to fill that could potentially be IDP-friendly. One of those has gone to rookie Cunningham, who’s gone from playing just 28 snaps to open the season to a season-high 56 last week. Week 5 also saw him record a season-high nine tackles while adding a forced fumble.
To be clear, Cunningham has only proven to be a volume player for IDP purposes. He needs to be on the field in order to produce fantasy points, which he has since his career-debut, averaging 45 snaps-per-game over the last month. But he’s recorded at least six tackles in games this year that he had at least 40 snaps, something he should do from here on out. The Texans play Cleveland this week, which should only help Cunningham’s numbers as the Browns average a healthy 65 plays-per-game. Furthermore, while the Browns come into the game 23rd in rush attempts, they did run for a season-high 33 times last week, a game in which Kevin Hogan replaced DeShone Kizer. Hogan gets the start again this week and if last week was any indication, the Browns will be running more with Hogan under center. This is great news for Cunningham as he’s done quite well against the run, placing 12th so far in PFF’s run-stop percentage. His proficiency against the run should lead to more tackles this week.
Andre Hal, Houston Texans
After a relatively slow start to the fantasy season, Hal has filled the stat sheet the last three weeks with 17 tackles, four passes defended, two interceptions, one forced fumble and a partridge in a pear tree. It helps that Hal has seen the second-most defensive snaps for the Texans behind only linebacker Benardrick McKinney. But he’s not just a volume player — his tackle numbers have risen each year in the league from 21 to 36 to 48 to a pace of 80 this year, all while only missing three games over those four years.
He’s also a beast in the passing game, racking up seven passes defended last year with two picks and 10 the year before with four picks. This year, he’s already totaled four passes defended and two picks and is well on his way to career highs in both. You get the point — Hal can score some fantasy points. Hal now draws the Browns who, as an offensive unit, average the most giveaways of any team at 2.6-per-game. And the cherry on top is Cleveland going with former fifth-round pick Hogan at quarterback in his first NFL career start. A turnover-prone team with a quarterback making his first start is a great matchup for Hal.