This time of year, teams fall into three categories; clear contenders, on the bubble and out of it. Hopefully your team is still in one of the first two but even if it isn’t, there plenty of merit in playing spoiler. Those with playoff spots locked up might start looking at some juicy playoff matchups to exploit now. Choices are becoming fewer and farther between as the season progresses so don’t shy away from completing your playoff lineup with a couple choice free agents. Big thanks to Kyle Holmes for putting up a couple quality columns while I was on the shelf for the last two weeks.
Of last week’s recommendations, Von Miller and Aldon Smith were big plays. Fantasy owners that were able to get Miller into their lineups were rewarded with 7 solo tackles, 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles as he tore apart the Chargers on Sunday. He’s a great play this week as well against Brady Quinn and the Chiefs this week. Aldon Smith got home for an unbelievable five sacks and a forced fumble against Jason Campbell and the Bears as well last week. Smith is up against the Saints next week so it’s tough to expect similar stats.
Thomas Davis CAR LB – WLB 4-3
It’s hard not to be intrigued by the Thomas Davis story. A Hybrid linebacker and safety converted to a fulltime weakside linebacker who struggles with injury to the point where he tore his ACL 3 times in the same knee. The first player, much less a productive LB, to return to the field from that injury scenario, Davis is showing the tackling ability that made him a top 5 option a few years ago when healthy. Over his last 5 games, Davis has posted 26 solos and 18 assists with 10 of those solos and 6 of those assists coming last week against the Buccaneers.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB1 to High-end LB3
Erik Walden GBP LB – OLB 3-4
If the Packers didn’t have bad luck with injury, they’d have no luck at all. Clay Matthews is injured with a hamstring problem. Rookie Nick Perry is already on Injured Reserve with a wrist injury. Walden is getting his opportunities because of attrition but to his credit, he is making the most of them, most recently with 6 total tackles and 2 sacks against the Lions. If that weren’t enough, he’s got a great playoff schedule with the Lions again in week 14 and the Bears in week 15. Big play leagues should pay attention to Walden, especially if Matthews misses more time.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
DeAndre Levy/Justin Durant DET LB – WLB/SLB 4-3
In my opinion, all three of the starting Detroit linebackers should be rostered. The Lions have Houston up next and the Texans will run outside the tackles. Look for some opportunities for Levy and Durant against the stretch play running game and multiple tightend looks that Houston presents.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB3 to Low-end LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
James Harrison PIT LB – Harrison has been pedestrian all year but showed a spark against the Ravens. The Steelers defense is going to need to come up big against the Browns to help third-string Charlie Batch get them a win.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Fletcher Cox was the best recommendation from last week, posting 7 solos, 1 assist, a sack and a forced fumble against Robert Griffin and the Redskins. VandenBosch and Liuget were pretty pedestrian but one out of three isn’t bad for late season DL waiver wire roulette.
If you don’t have matchup proof defensive linemen, look to make matchups work for you when you work the wire. This week’s recommendations are all about exploiting said matchups.
Greg Hardy/Charles Johnson CAR DE – DE 4-3
Hardy and Johnson are up against the porous Eagles offensive line on Monday Night Football. The Eagles are liable to again turn to rookie Nick Foles at quarterback. This is a matchup that I would look to exploit all day long. If either Panther end is available, get them into your lineup.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL2 to Low-end DL3
Robert Quinn STL DE – DE 4-3
Bobby Massey is still the worst right tackle in the league and the Arizona Cardinals resorted to 6th round rookie Ryan Lindley last week against the Falcons. With the Cardinals offering up 4.5 sacks a game to opposing defenses, it doesn’t really matter who is under center. Get St Louis pass rush into your lineup if you can.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL3 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Carlos Dunlap CIN DE – Dunlap has been a disappointment this season but a date against the pass-heavy Raiders who feature the statue-like Carson Palmer may be just what the doctor ordered.
Defensive Back Plays
Defensive back continues to be a position that can be churned and rotated in as matchups allow. The Green Bay – Detroit game was an easy one to exploit. IND – NE was another. Of last week’s recommendations, Devin McCourty (4 solos, 3 assists and 1 PD) and Jarius Butler (4 solos, 2 assists and a forced fumble) were the better plays to make.
I’m looking at the Colts – Bills game as well as the Giants – Packers game as having potential for big games from the DB perspective. If you have players from those teams on your roster already, think about getting them into your lineup. Otherwise, maybe some of these guys are available in your league.
Stephon Gilmore BUF CB – 4-3 CB
Gilmore is a solid corner but he’s still a rookie. As much as the Colts want to run, they are still a passing offense. Look for TY Hilton and Reggie Wayne to make some catches in the rookie’s face on Sunday. The tackle numbers should come with it. Gilmore is averaging 14.5 points against passing offenses this year. Expect similar numbers on Sunday.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Mid DB3
Reshad Jones MIA S – 4-3 SS
Reshad Jones put up monster numbers on Thursday night football against the Bills to the tune of 11 solo tackles, 3 assists, a PD and a forced fumble. I don’t particularly love his matchup this week against the Seahawks but his playoff schedule is good. With week 13 against the Patriots, Week 14 against the 49ers and week 16 against the Bills again, Jones could be a great playoff stash at safety.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to High-end DB3
Aqib Talib NEP CB – 4-3 CB
The New England Patriots are going to be thrown on. Teams will continue to fall behind on them and their secondary will be tested time and time again. Aqib Talib is a sure tackler and a very good cover corner. Bill Belichick wasn’t shy about playing the troubled cornerback as evidenced by Talib’s 86% snap percentage. Devin McCourty’s move to safety seems fairly permanent and Talib produced well against the Colts last week. If an owner gave up on Talib after his suspension, snap him up.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Kareem Jackson HOU CB – The Lions are going to throw and throw often. They like to throw is it is and Houston is boasting a very good run defense. Expect Calvin Johnson and Titus Young to be busy and the corners covering them will be as well.