The Cardinals are moving LB Haason Reddick back outside after his shift inside this season apparently failed to work out.
It’s a sensible move for a guy who was a pass rusher in college. Reddick won’t turn 26 until next September, so he remains interesting. He’s clearly not going to be a factor for IDP owners again this season, though.
S Ricardo Allen collected half of his 6 passes defensed for this season in the Week 11 visit to Carolina, including his lone INT. Don’t bet on another 50 pass attempts from Panthers QB Kyle Allen in the rematch, though … unless the mostly struggling Falcons reclaim whatever defensive magic they conjured in weeks 10 and 11 to build a huge lead once again.
CB Marlon Humphrey has been limited in practice this week by a thigh issue, but there’s no indication that will threaten his game status. Humphrey has spoken this week about how he’s excited to go up against former teammate WR John Brown in “live-game reps.”
DE Shaq Lawson and DT Ed Oliver have each seen their playing time and production rise in recent weeks.
Lawson has topped 50% playing time in 3 straight contests and 4 of the past 5 after reaching 50% just once through his first 7 games. Lawson has also delivered a half-sack or more in 3 straight contests, with 3.5 total sacks and 7 QB hits in that span. The 7 QB hits match his total for the season’s first 9 games.
Oliver’s playing time dipped to 34% and 33% after a mostly unproductive first 7 games. But he has rebounded to 51%, 43% and 51% over the past 3 weeks. That’s still down from where the 1st-round pick began the season, but it might be helping his effectiveness. Oliver has tallied 8 total pressures over the past 3 games, according to Pro Football Focus, after notching just 6 over his previous 6 outings. He enters Week 14 off 2 straight games with a sack.
Unfortunately for Oliver and Lawson, the upcoming schedule of Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New England doesn’t present a lot of sack upside. Oliver looks like more of a fantasy factor the rest of the way, by virtue of playing at a shallower position and lining up closer to the ball. But neither is likely to key your championship run.
Each player, however, presents upside for 2020. Lawson’s will likely come with a new team. Buffalo declined the 5th-year option on his rookie deal, which will make the former 1st-rounder a free agent in March. He’ll still be just 26 when next season begins.
If you own Luke Kuechly, then you might have noticed that he hasn't been delivering big tackle numbers lately. So what's up? Well, he might just be starting to decline.
Kuechly remains a highly graded defender by Pro Football Focus numbers, but his 2019 marks are down vs. his own lofty standards.
That seems to be showing up in his tackle tallies. This chart shows Kuechly's weekly tackle shares vs. the team totals for combined tackles, solos and assists, as well as the percentage of snaps on which he has made a solo or assisted tackle.
Now let's take a look at the team tackle totals by week. You might notice that the numbers trend down here as well, but the trends aren't as steep for the team totals as they are for Kuechly's rates.
The 28-year-old Kuechly certainly isn't crashing by any means. And maybe he trends back the other way in 2020. The veteran still has 2 more years on his contract that the Panthers likely can't dump.
But be aware as you set your lineups these final few weeks that Kuechly hasn't been the lock we've come to expect.
The Bears believe LB Roquan Smith suffered a season-ending pectoral tear in Thursday night’s win over the Cowboys. That pressed Kevin Pierre-Louis into duty. He wound up playing 63% of the snaps, following Smith’s 23%. It’s a little late in the year for most of us to bet on Pierre-Louis staying in the 80-90% range and producing going forward, though.
The big IDP winner here should be Nick Kwiatkoski. He racked up a season-high 10 tackles against Dallas and topped 90% playing time for the 3rd straight week. Kwiatkoski now looks like a solid IDP starter vs. the Packers and Chiefs the next 2 weeks.
Smith’s exit could soften Chicago’s run D, but the Bears expect to get DL Akiem Hicks back in the lineup for Week 15. He’s been out since Week 5 with an elbow injury.
Rookie LB Germaine Pratt dipped back below 50% playing time in Sunday’s win over the Jets. He remains intriguing for 2020 and beyond, but it’s time to give up on anything meaningful happening this year.
EDGE Carl Lawson, on the other hand, nearly matched his season high by playing 74% of the snaps. That marked a big jump from 46%, 37% and 46% the previous 3 games. Lawson supplied just a QB hit, but he also collected a season-high 5 total pressures (4 hurries), according to Pro Football Focus.
The 3rd-year pass rusher still remains well below his pass-rushing grades from the previous 2 seasons, though.
HC Freddie Kitchens won’t say why he decided to leave Damarious Randall home when they traveled to Pittsburgh for last week’s game. But the Browns expect to have him back in the lineup this week. S Juston Burris is the starter next to him, in the Morgan Burnett/Jermaine Whitehead role.
LB Leighton Vander Esch missed his 2nd straight game Thursday night because of a neck issue that has now cost him 3 games this season. It’s reportedly not believed to be a career-threatening injury, but Vander Esch did carry questions about the neck at draft time last year. And he said this week he has to factor long-term preservation into current weekly decisions on whether to play.
“I want to be able to play 10 to 12 years; not four,” he told David Moore of the Dallas Morning News.
Make sure that you head into weeks 15 and 16 expecting LVE to sit. I wouldn’t drop him, though, unless you play few IDPs or with limited reserve spots.
Both starting OLBs have injuries we’re watching this week. Von Miller missed last Sunday’s win over the Chargers with a knee issue. He put in limited practices Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Malik Reed came away from the Chargers game with ankle and shoulder issues that kept him out of Wednesday’s practice. He returned to a limited Thursday workout, though.
S Tracy Walker played 80% of the defensive snaps in Detroit’s Thanksgiving loss to the Bears, leading the team with 7 tackles. Better yet, he doesn’t even appear on this week’s injury report. Fire him up the rest of the way.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers managed a surprising 0 sacks in Sunday’s win over the Giants. But they did register 7 QB hits. Five of those came from OLB Za’Darius Smith. He and Preston Smith both carry big pass-rushing upside this week against Washington.
Pro Football Focus has Dwayne Haskins at a 37.9% sack rate but just a 34.9% pressure rate. That suggests the rookie hasn’t been particularly good at managing the pocket and his reads.
OLB Brennan Scarlett had posted 3 straight nice fantasy outings and 5 straight usable lines since entering the starting lineup, but he missed the Sunday night win over the Patriots with a shoulder injury. That issue kept him limited through this week’s 1st 2 practices. He also put in limited workouts all last week, so we’ll have to watch Scarlett’s status into -- and perhaps through -- the weekend.
In Scarlett’s absence, Jacob Martin saw his playing time jump from 36% to 52% against New England. He capitalized with 1.5 sacks and 3 QB hits. It was Martin’s 2nd straight game with a sack. That’s not quite enough to make him startable in most IDP outfits -- especially if Scarlett returns this week -- but the schedule presents sack upside the rest of the way: Denver, Tennessee, Tampa Bay (plus Tennessee again, if you play through Week 17).
DE Justin Houston has seen his 2 smallest playing-time shares within the past 3 games and gone 2 straight weeks without a QB hit for the first time all season. Worse, those came in upside sack matchups with Houston and Tennessee.
Perhaps the nearly 31-year-old veteran is wearing down near the end of his 1st season as a DE. (Houston played OLB in Kansas City’s 3-4 front.) A check of Houston's weekly Pro Football Focus grades agrees with a downturn in his play the past 2 weeks ...
Immediately before that, though, came Houston's 4 highest-graded games of the season. So perhaps we're just looking at a 2-game blip that will prove to be an outlier by the end of the year.
An upside matchup with the Buccaneers this week keeps Houston in lineups and should tell us whether we can keep him there against the Saints and Panthers the next 2 weeks.
LB Donald Payne racked up 13 tackles as Myles Jack’s fill-in against the Buccaneers last Sunday. That’s 4 more than Jack has delivered in any game this season. Now that Jack has landed on IR, Payne looks good for remaining matchups with the Chargers, Raiders and Falcons.
Kansas City Chiefs
CB Kendall Fuller returned Sunday for the 1st time since suffering a thumb injury in Week 6. But the team’s former top corner played only 17 snaps (28%) in the win over the Raiders, though. He doesn’t belong on lineups in most IDP leagues at this point, barring a big change in Week 14.
Los Angeles Chargers
S Derwin James played 57 of 58 defensive snaps Sunday in his 1st game of the year, coming off the foot fracture that landed him on IR. S Adrian Phillips returned as well but found only 40% playing time. He’s not a fantasy option the rest of the way unless James goes down.
In front of James, LB Drue Tranquill took over Denzel Perryman’s starting gig in Week 13 and led the position group with 74% playing time. The rookie also contributed a game-high 7 solo tackles, including 3 for losses. That should make Tranquill a nice Week 14 option against the Jaguars. Keep your fingers crossed that his playing time stays up in what has been a volatile situation for years.
Los Angeles Rams
Don’t read too much into any of the Rams’ defensive numbers from last week. Their blowout win at Arizona led to no defender playing more than 83% of the snaps. And only slot CB Nickell Robey-Coleman topped 67%.
LB Raekwon McMillan played 72% of the snaps in last Sunday’s win over the Eagles, collecting his 2nd largest snap total of the year (51). That actually marked a dip from his 88% share the week before, but the trend reveals a Week 9 share of 45% as the outlier. Count on McMillan falling in the 65% to 80% range.
This week’s matchup with the Jets is nothing special for LB scoring. Clashes with the Giants and the Bengals the following 2 weeks look better.
New England Patriots
DE John Simon played 61% of the snaps in Sunday night’s loss to the Texans. That marked the 1st time he cracked 50% in consecutive outings since weeks 3 and 4. Simon has now topped 50% playing time in 3 of the past 4 games.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints amassed an enormous 93 defensive snaps in their Thanksgiving night victory over the Falcons. So factor that into any of the defensive numbers you might be looking at from that game. Just make sure you don’t count it against LB Demario Davis, who has been on a tear lately.
New York Giants
HC Pat Shurmur said last week that both Michael Thomas and Julian Love factored into the replacement plan for injured S Jabrill Peppers. Love played 65 of 67 snaps in the loss to the Packers, though. Thomas played just 7. All you need is Love.
New York Jets
The Jets managed only 2 total QB hits in last week’s loss to the Bengals, who have allowed the league’s 10th-highest sack rate for the season. It certainly won’t help that they lost their best pass rusher, S Jamal Adams, to a shoulder injury in that game. We’ll see how long Adams will be out, but you should at least bet on him missing Sunday’s rematch with the Dolphins.
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill passed LB Nathan Gerry in playing time against the Dolphins last week. Neither guy cracked 60%, though. That leaves Nigel Bradham as the only Philly LB we can consider for IDP use.
San Francisco 49ers
If you’re in a tackle-friendly league and S Jimmie Ward is available, consider him for matchups with the Saints and Falcons the next 2 weeks. San Francisco’s been up over 60 total defensive snaps for 4 straight weeks after spending the 1st half of the season well under that number.
Ward hasn’t supplied big stats but is working on 5 straight games of 6+ total tackles, with 5 solos in 3 of them.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
CB Jamel Dean made it through just 7 snaps in last week’s win over Jacksonville before leaving with a shoulder injury. But he put in full practices Wednesday and Thursday and looks like he should be fine for Sunday’s game against the Colts. Indy has been a top-10 scoring matchup for DBs on the year -- with increased turnover upside in recent weeks.
Rashaan Evans has dipped to 67% and 76% playing time the past 2 weeks. He had spent most of the season between 83% and 98% playing time, including each of the past 6 games. Evans also delivered his 2 smallest tackle totals of the season the past 2 weeks: 3 and 2.
ILB Cole Holcomb disappointed with just 4 tackles (2 solo) in Sunday’s win over the Panthers. But he played 76% of the snaps. That marked his largest share since Week 5 and his 3rd most total snaps of the season.
Christian McCaffrey’s mere 14 carries -- tying his season low -- certainly didn’t help. Holcomb has made 54 of his 78 total tackles this year on run plays.