To those still in it, this week is likely your fantasy league Superbowl (or maybe it’s your semifinal if you have a week 17 final). You need every edge you can get and when it’s this late in the year, the waiver wire is the only place to shop. For those who are out of it but play in a dynasty or keeper league, this is the time when you can start thinking ahead to potential breakout candidates. I’ll do my best to sprinkle in an option or two for you guys as well. To those who are in redraft but are out of contention, sorry about your luck and I’m glad to have had you read the article for the season. Hope to have you back next year.
Ray Lewis failed to make his triumphant return from his triceps injury when the Ravens did not activate him in time to allow him to start. Say what you will about the veteran but if I can land a guy who was averaging 7.5 solos and 2 assists before his injury this late in the year with injuries (Donald Butler, Brian Urlacher et al.) and/or inconsistency (Daryl Washington, Curtis Lofton et al.) mounting, I’ll add the guy. Keeper leagues may consider him for next year as well as week 16/17 although I’m sure that the odds of Lewis being an FA in keeper leagues are much slimmer. Watch the injury report and if Lewis is starting, get him in there. Otherwise, look to Danelle Ellerbe if he is healthy or Josh Bynes/Brendan Ayanbadejo if he isn’t. Both were quality options last week.
Nick Roach was the play of the week last week at LB with 5 solos, 1 assist, 1 PD and a fumble recovery. Roach filled in admirably for injured MLB Brian Urlacher; limiting the Packers rushing attack to 3.5 ypc. Roach remains a decent but not spectacular play as Urlacher will likely remain out this week but the Bears play against the Cardinals which could be a game that gets out of hand.
Alex Albright DAL LB – ILB 3-4
Attrition is the main reason that Albright has his current opportunity but the Cowboys do like the second-year UDFA out of Boston College. He is rangy and better in coverage than Dan Connor. Piling up 6 tackles (1 on special teams) against the Steelers, I expect Albright to be pressed into a starting role next week against the Saints as Ernie Sims went down with a concussion. Albright got most of his work in against the backs catching passes out of the backfield. Not many teams do that more than New Orleans so the ceiling should be high here. As far as past this year, I wouldn’t recommend Albright for long term prospects simply because when healthy, the Cowboys ILB duo of Sean Lee and Bruce Carter might be the best combination of talent and youth in the league.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Low-end LB3
Pat Angerer IND LB – ILB 3-4
More than a few owners have likely cut bait on Angerer after his less-than-triumphant return from a preseason foot injury. However, fantasy owners should bear in mind two things. One, Angerer is not fully healed and will likely not be until next year. Two, he has been splitting time with Kavell Conner which has limited his production. Conner was out last week with a hamstring problem and Angerer responded with 5 solo tackles. He’s not going to be the Pat Angerer of 2011 but then again, you wouldn’t be able to find a player like that on the waiver wire this late. While Jerrell Freeman has been spectacular this year, it stands to reason that Angerer could regain a full-time role when healthy next year. That potential is enough of warrant a keeper spot if you can spare the room for a flier.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Keenan Robinson WAS LB – ILB 3-4
I like the rookie Texas product as a potential heir apparent for London Fletcher. He was playing fairly well against the Cowboys when he suffered a pectoral injury, landing him on injured reserve. Injuries are starting to catch up with London Fletcher as well with ankle and head issues. Fletcher will be 38 by the time the 2013 season starts, Robinson stands to be the benefactor when Fletcher eventually does pack it in.
Roster Recommendation: Dynasty Stash (Potential LB starter)
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Tim Dobbins HOU LB – The Houston Texans are playing the Minnesota Vikings this week. The Vikings offense isn’t much past Adrian Peterson so I expect another 25 attempts from AD. Tim Dobbins is probably the best run-stuffing LB on the team.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Desmond Bryant was the best play of the week with a 2 tackle and 1 sacks statline. It’s tough to recommend him this week against Cam Newton and the Panthers however. Week 14 DL recommendation Brandon Graham seems to be flourishing in a standard 4-3 as opposed to Jim Washburn’s wide-9. He posted 6 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble to be one of the top 3 DLs of the week.
Corey Wootton CHI DT/DE – DT/DE 4-3
With injuries to Shea McClellin and Henry Melton, Corey Wootton moved to fulltime DE and Israel Idonije moved to DT. The personnel worked as Julius Peppers and Corey Wootton each snagged 1.5 sacks on Aaron Rodgers. The Bears have the Cardinals this week and I think there will be blood in the water. Corey Wootton could be in for another big game.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL1 to Low-end DL2
Derek Wolfe DEN DE – DE 4-3
Wolfe is probably the third best pass rush option for the Broncos but that’s never a bad thing given that many times, it isn’t the man providing the pressure that necessarily gets the sack. The former Bearcat has been solid this year in his rookie season and I like him as a DL option against Cleveland this week as well as a good dynasty hold option.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL2 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Kroy Biermann ATL DE – I expect that the Lions-Falcons will be a passing exhibition and the Falcons pass rush will benefit from Matt Stafford’s numerous dropbacks.
Defensive Back Plays
This week was rough on fantasy owners as far as DBs go. Some everyday starters left their owners hanging when they needed them most. Reggie Nelson (0 pts), Antrel Rolle (1 pt), Buster Skrine (0 pts), Madieu Williams (4 pts) and Kam Chancellor (4 pts) all left fantasy owners hoping for more. Coincidentally enough, the predicted shootouts were largely anything but.
Charles Woodson GBP S – 3-4 SS
Charles Woodson broke his collarbone on October 21 and seemed poised to return against the Bears last week. Unfortunately team doctors wanted him to rehab another week before clearing him. If Woodson is cleared, he’s a rock solid DB option for the Packers who are set to play the Tennessee Titans this week. Woodson has made no mention of any retirement talk so I’d wager he is a solid hold option in keeper leagues as well.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Danny McCray DAL S – 3-4 FS
Danny McCray has been fairly solid in his last three games; averaging over 12 points a game. He’s not a ballhawk and he won’t make many big plays. He will, however, log some tackles as defenses completed passes in the soft zones and crossing patterns over the middle. With the New Orleans Saints due up, I expect McCray to get more than his fair share of work.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Javier Arenas KCC CB –3-4 CB
The return specialist is the most beatable corner that the Chiefs have. In addition, the corner can tackle a bit, posting 6 total tackles and 1 PD averages over his last 7 games. The Colts are next on the schedule for the Chiefs and they will throw the ball. Expect Arenas to hit double digits with ease. Any special teams points that your leagues reward are bonuses.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Kelvin Hayden CHI CB – Taking over for Tim Jennings, Hayden has been a solid fill-in. He has always been a quality cover-2 corner with good tackling skills. Expect him to get some work tackling some short routes as Arizona feebly tries to recover in what I think will be an ugly game.