We’re back again to discuss start/sit options in IDP leagues. It’s Week 14, and if you’re reading this article then that hopefully means you’re in the fantasy playoffs. If so. Congratulations are in order and now things get real.
The fantasy playoffs are no place for a nervous person. It’s the time to make decisive moves that put out teams in the best position to win. It’s the time of year to ride our stud players and perhaps make that “swing for the fences” move if faced with a tough matchup in your league.
In this week’s piece there are some names that fall into the latter category as well as some solid floor options to anchor IDP rosters at this crucial point in the season.
This is a case of riding the hot hand against an offensive line that struggles to pass protect. Defensive linemen have accounted for 11 sacks in the past three games against Cleveland. They’ve also put up 52 (35 solo) total tackles along with four forced fumbles and a recovery in that time. The Packers pass rush came to life last week, putting up seven sacks with the defensive line accounting for 3.5 against Tampa Bay. In his past three games Daniels has amassed 13 total stops along with 1.5 sacks. This is a great matchup to roil out the Packers defensive end.
The second-year defensive end has had a breakout season, racking up 6.5 sacks as well as a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He’s been in a bit of a mini slump with just half a sack in the past three weeks, but has registered five quarterback hurries and a pair of hits in that time. The Buccaneers offensive line lost both starting center Ali Marpet and tackle Demar Dotson for the season due to knee issues prior to last week and struggled mightily. Tampa Bay gave up seven sacks (as mentioned earlier) and will be hard-pressed to keep Zettel away from quarterback Jameis Winston.
The Giants will be happy to see Eli Manning return this week, but not nearly as happy as the Cowboys were to see offensive tackle Tyron Smith back in the lineup two weeks ago. In the two games Smith was out the Cowboys allowed 11 sacks to defensive linemen and were a great matchup. In the two games that Smith has been back at left tackle Dallas has given up just a pair of sacks to defensive linemen. Vernon has battled through both ankle and shoulder issues this year managing just 3.5 sacks in eight games. This is not the matchup to expect a bounceback performance from the Giants defensive end.
Don’t do it. Do not fall into the Dunlap trap after he managed to put up a sack last week and now has 3.5 in his last three games. Keep in mind that Dunlap has just two sacks in the other nine games and a total of 37 tackles. Even with the sack against Pittsburgh on Monday night Dunlap failed to crack the top 25 in weekly scoring due to putting up just two total tackles. The Bears held the 49ers defensive front to zero sacks last week and have given up just three to the position in the past three games.
Any time there is the chance to start a three-down linebacker against an offense that just gave up double-digit solos to a pair of linebackers in a game we take it. Yes, the 49ers allowed the duo of Danny Trevathan and Christian Jones to hit 10 solos each and 24 total tackles. Jones also threw in a sack for good measure, making it a very good day to be a Bears linebacker. McKinney is coming off a seven-total-tackle game and notched his third sack of the season against the Titans. This is a prime matchup for the third-year linebacker to post top-10 fantasy totals.
The injury to Ryan Shazier will alter the linebacker position moving forward and all signs point to Williams benefitting the most. With Shazier’s immediate backup Tyler Matakevich also leaving the game with an injury, Williams finished the Monday night game with nine total tackles and a sack. The sack was the seventh of the season for Williams and IDP owners love that big play ability. They also love a matchup against a Baltimore offense that has allowed 50 solo tackles to linebackers in the past three weeks.
It may surprise some folks to see Hitchens land here after a 12-solo, 15-total-tackle performance last week in a win over Washington. But if you are keeping up with the news out of Dallas it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Sean Lee is on track to return from the hamstring issue that has sidelined him for basically the last four games (he played eight snaps in Week 10). That is likely to relegate Hitchens back into a rotational role. Due to injuries to both players (Hitchens was out until Week 5 with a knee issue), Lee and Hitchens have played in just two full games together, in Weeks 8 and 9. In those games Hitchens totaled only 54 snaps and had seven total tackles.
It’s time to flip the script here, as last week David was listed as a start option and disappointed with just seven total tackles. The last three weeks have had an eerily similar feel to the down season that David had in 2016 when he became a big-play-dependent linebacker. David has failed to post a big play in the last three games and put up just 19 total tackles. Those are not numbers owners can trust at this crucial point in the season. The Lions have allowed just two linebackers to post double-digit tackles all season and an average of just 1.6 big plays to the position over the last three games.
The veteran Chung has been on a nice run of late, having carved out a near every-down role in the Patriots secondary. Over the last three games Chung has been playing 93 percent of the defensive snaps and has posted nice fantasy numbers. In the past three weeks he has racked up 23 total tackles and recovered a pair of fumbles. Those are top-10 totals, and now Chung has a very nice matchup against Miami. Just two weeks ago in the game between these teams Chung finished with 10 total tackles (nine solo) and a fumble recovery.
After a bit of a hiccup in Week 12 when he managed just four total tackles, the rookie rebounded last week with nine tackles (eight solo) and a pass defended. Baker is just the type of player IDP owners can ride down the stretch as he’s lining up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage 70 percent of the time on run snaps. He’s also shown big-play potential with two forced fumbles, a sack, and a fumble recovery over the last three weeks. The Titans have given up 52 solo tackles to defensive backs in the past three games along with six interceptions.
When the Lions placed Tavon Wilson (shoulder) on IR, it was widely assumed Killebrew would step in as the safety to replace him. The youngster had already logged 329 defensive snaps at strong safety and flashed solid tackling skills as well as some big-play potential as he entered last week having put up 30 tackles with a forced fumble and interception returned for a score. Last week, Killebrew played a total of seven defensive snaps. Seven. It’s the second time in the past three games that he’s logged fewer than 10 snaps and simply can’t be trusted to see the field enough to produce. Pass on him this week.
Devin McCourty, New England Patriots (at Miami)
After starting the season on fire, McCourty’s production has fallen off drastically from a fantasy perspective as the aforementioned Patrick Chung has stepped up. McCourty has not put up double-digit tackles since Week 5 and had more than five tackles in a game just once since then. There’s been a lack of big-play production as well with just a single interception (back in Week 6) posted by the veteran over his last six games. Even in a juicy matchup against these same Dolphins two weeks ago McCourty disappointed with just four total tackles.