Happy Veteran’s Day to all huddlers. Big thanks to Steve Gallo for pinch-hitting last week while I was busy losing money in Las Vegas. Week 11 sees a brief return to only two teams being on bye with Dallas and St. Louis getting the week off. Unfortunately for Sean Lee owners, the bye won’t be the only week that fantasy owners will be without Lee as their star linebacker. The former Nittany Lion suffered a hamstring injury during Sunday Night Football against the Saints and is reported to be unavailable for the next 3-4 weeks. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, this will keep Lee out of their lineup until the fantasy playoffs. Also on the injury front, Paul Poslusnzy reportedly suffered a concussion in the Jaguars’ win over the Titans. Finally, cornerback Charles Tillman is reportedly lost for the remainder of the fantasy football season with a triceps tear. Owners that are starting him regularly will need to find some help elsewhere.
For last week’s recap, it was a skinny week at linebacker. Andrew Gachkar did not get into the game as much as waiver wire watchers had hoped with Donald Butler finally returning to the starting lineup. Spencer Paysinger saw action against the Raiders but the only linebacker from the Giants that was really effective was Keith Rivers as far as IDP stats go. Paul Worrilow saved the week however, with a sparkling 19 total tackle performance (10 solo). I’d still consider adding him if he still happens to be available but temper expectations going forward. Worrilow isn’t scoring with splash plays at all and seems to be second or third to the ball often. This is resulting in multiple assisted tackles over the last two games (19). Down the stretch, those assisted tackles may be much more difficult to attain, especially on the road given the scorekeeper bias. However, despite that, the Falcons are imploding and getting run on weekly it seems. Worrilow should still have plenty of tackles to make; just don’t bank on 19 a game is all, especially with Weatherspoon coming back. If Worrilow loses 3rd down duty, his output will plummet.
Vincent Rey CIN LB – ILB 4-3
Vincent Rey has taken over at inside linebacker for Rey Maualuga who is out with a sprained MCL. Rey’s first game was serviceable with 5 solos in week 9 against the Dolphins but his week 10 outing against the Ravens was one of the best IDP games of the year for anyone. His line was 15 total tackles (10 solo), 3 sacks, 3 PDs and an interception. Those kinds of games won’t come every week but his inclusion into the Bengals nickel package is certainly helping his chances. Maualuga isn’t supposed to be back until after the week 12 bye so consider getting Rey into your lineup if you have the room for a one week showing. Afterwards, watch the injury report to make your next move.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to High-end LB3
Sean Weatherspoon ATL LB – WLB 4-3
Sean Weatherspoon is expected to be activated from the designated-to-return injured reserve list within the next few days. Weatherspoon is easily the best player the Falcons have on defense. His speed and knack for playmaking give him upside that few linebackers possess. In my opinion, his stats haven’t been as good as other similarly talented linebackers simply based on opportunity. In the best few years, the Falcons haven’t lost too many games and the few they have lost, they’ve lost through the air. That leads to fewer tackles in general for the LBs. However, this year, the Falcons have been presented for more than a couple games where they have gotten down early and been tread on over the second half. As a Falcons fan, I’m not happy to say this but I’m buying on Falcons LBs from here on out. The tackle opportunity will present itself down the stretch and Weatherspoon should be in position to capitalize on more than his fair share. My guess is that Joplo Bartu sees his snap counts drop but it’s anyone’s guess on how this will work.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB1 to Low-end LB2
Ernie Sims/Bruce Carter DAL LB – MLB/WLB 4-3
This is a buy-and-hold since Dallas is on bye but savvy owners will nab Bruce Carter and Ernie Sims who are in line for bigger role through to the fantasy playoffs with starting MLB Sean Lee out with a hamstring injury for 3-4 weeks. Carter is the faster LB by far and should see an uptick in stats over what he normally posts after regaining his starting weakside linebacker job after briefly being benched in past weeks. The Cowboys cannot afford to bench him again with Lee out. Journeyman Ernie Sims will likely draw starts at middle linebacker with Lee out. He is the deeper league play for owners struggling to find anyone with upside. Expect a 10 point mean with little upside for the former Lion.
Roster Recommendation: High-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Geno Hayes JAC LB – WLB 4-3
Geno Hayes isn’t a flashy pick. He won’t wow you with splash plays or blow up your statlines very often. Jacksonville offers opportunity, even in wins. Their defense is porous and can be run on. Throw in that starting middle linebacker Paul Poslusnzy is suffering from a concussion and Hayes represents some solid value over his already decent upside against the Cardinals who have found a run game as of late. Watch the injury report because Hayes is a much better play with Poslusnzy out.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Aldon Smith SFO LB – Big swing here given the matchup and the player history. Aldon Smith got little more than a dozen snaps in his first game back from a stint in rehab against the Panthers in week 10. He looked visibly upset with his usage after the game. The 49ers draw the Saints in week 11 and I have to figure that Smith won’t be spared heavy usage. Predicting big games against Drew Brees from a pass rusher is usually a losing proposition but I have a hunch that Smith finds a way to make an impact. Even if he crashes and burns, nabbing Smith for his juicy schedule isn’t a bad play.
Defensive Linemen Plays
It was a fairly pedestrian week for defensive lineman, there was a few 15+ performances but nothing earth-shattering. Your top 10 was littered with some of the usual suspects like JJ Watt, Robert Quinn, Carlos Dunlap, Chris Long and Lamaar Houston. On the downside, the big names that seem to disappear at times this year for their owners also populate the 5 points and under list (aka list of shame): Julius Peppers, Jared Allen and Mario Williams.
It was a skinny week on the defensive line side as well for the IDP report. Justin Tuck showed up with 2 solos and a PD but Brian Robison donutted despite 4 sacks being posted by the defensive line of the Vikings on the Redskins on Thursday Night Football. Cliff Avril nabbed the lone sack of the week to go with 2 solo tackles to save big play owners from a rough outing. It’s been tough sledding for defensive lineman roster churning all year given the lack of consistency shown on not only the middle and lower tiers, but the upper tiers as well.
Darnell Dockett ARI DE – DE 3-4
Dockett is often overlooked in a passrushing corps that features Calais Campbell and former Falcon John Abraham as well as some well accomplished inside linebackers who can rush the passer. Dockett is a quality run stuffer at the line of scrimmage and can sack the quarterback with the rest of them. The Jaguars are on deck for the Cardinals in week 11. Dockett is a high floor-low ceiling kind of guy that can get you a few points to get past a DeMarcus Ware or Robert Quinn bye week.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Robert Ayers DEN DE – 4-3 DE
If Manning can stay clean (big if), then I think the Chiefs get exposed in this game. Alex Smith’s flaws were on full display in an extremely shaky win against the rookie-QB led Buffalo Bills in week 9. I think that the Broncos beat up on the Chiefs in Denver. Von Miller is probably the biggest impact guy in this game but Ayers stands to pile up some tackles and a sack or two.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DL2 to Low-end DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Mathias Kiwanuka NYG DE – I don’t think that Scott Tolzien or Matt Flynn will like what the New York Giants will throw at them on Sunday night in week 11 in what is shaping up to be a much uglier game than schedule-makers thought this time last year. Neither QB will be prepared to handle a pass rush like New York will offer.
Defensive Back Plays
Another action-packed week filled the boxscores for defensive backs in week 10 with 14 different players scoring over 15 points. Odds are that half of those players are free agents (league depending) in your league, including the top scorer. It just goes to show you how variable this position can be.
MD Jennings was the play of the week with a solid 6 solo tackles. The GB-PHI was definitely a matchup to pick on with eight different DBs scoring at least 9.5 points. Unfortunately, the good news stops there with Rashad Johnson (3 solo) and George Iloka (2 solo, 1 assists) both disappointed.
Andrew Sendejo MIN S – 4-3 SS
Early indications were that Andrew Sendejo and Mistral Raymond were to split safety duties in week 10 but Raymond saw most of the work go to the former Rice Owl leading to a defensive back best for the week of 16 total tackles (8 solo). Watch the injury report to make sure that injured starter Jamarca Sanford does not return from his groin injury before throwing Sendejo into your lineup. Minnesota gets Seattle in week 11 so the opportunity might not be as high as last week but a solid 10-14 points is more than reasonable.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to High-end DB3
William Gay PIT CB – 3-4 CB
Teams in CB-required leagues might look at William Gay as a potential filler for injured start CB Charles Tillman. Gay has always been a cornerback that will make tackles, both in run support and after he’s beaten. Not the best NFL CB but a solid fantasy CB, Gay can be an excellent play in games where he is picked on. The Steelers get the pass happy Lions in week 11 who won’t be shy about forcing the ball into receivers regardless of coverage.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Rashean Mathis/Chris Houston DET CB – 4-3 CB
I envision the Lions-Steelers game being pass-happy despite the Steelers best effort to establish the run. The Lions defensive line will cause problems for the Steelers leading to a heavy screen game and lots of short, over-the-middle passing. Expect a long game with a high play count that should pay dividends to fantasy owners. Both Lions corners are no stranger to high tackling games.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Tarell Brown/Carlos Rogers SFO CB – I don’t think the SFO-NOS will be a shootout but Drew Brees and the Saints won’t win without passing the ball. I think Jimmy Graham will be clamped down on by a stingy 49er defense leaving the running backs and receivers to do the damage. Marques Colston and Kenny Stills against Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers will be an interesting matchup. I like Brown better than Rogers for what its worth.