You'll find even less uniformity among IDP leagues than you will on the offensive side of the ball. Defensive-player lineups come in all different sizes and many more fantasy players know little about the real players on this side of the ball.
The result: a wide variance in the kind of options available on the waiver wire. Keep that in mind as you read this. Not every player listed will make sense in your specific league. Feel free to fire any IDP add/drop questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now on to this week's picks ...
Ziggy Ansah, DE, Lions
Ansah suffered a pretty significant ankle sprain against the Cowboys back in Week 8 -- bad enough to cost him the 2 games following Detroit's Week 9 bye.
He returned Sunday, though, and immediately pushed the pocket. He notched 2 sacks in a home loss to Tampa Bay, a game in which Bucs QB Mike Glennon attempted only 21 passes.
The Lions will face the Packers on Thursday, with Matt Flynn quite possibly becoming Green Bay's 4th different QB starter of the season. Ansah registered the Lions' only sack in the last meeting with the Packers, back in Week 5. After that come the Eagles and Ravens, who each entered Week 12 among the league's 12 most sacked teams.
Olivier Vernon, DE, Dolphins
We've mentioned him in this space before, and Vernon might well be owned in your league already. But if he isn't, you should change that.
Vernon recorded a sack for the 2nd straight game Sunday against the Panthers. A pair of no-sack games before that followed a 4-game sack streak. Even in his empty games, Vernon registered 4 hurries in 1 and a hit and a hurry in the other.
He plays on a talented D-line with left DE Cameron Wake and interior rushers Jared Odrick and Randy Starks. Vernon also faces positive upcoming matchups in the Jets, Steelers and Bills. The other game features New England, which yielded a sack to Vernon in the 1st meeting.
Brad Jones, ILB, Packers
We've been wary of Jones since his return from injury because he has returned to a less-than-fulltime role.
Playing 55.8% of the defensive snaps in his 1st game back made sense, but Jones followed by playing just 77.4% and 77.6%. He played every snap in the 2 games before his Week 5 hamstring injury.
We don't yet know his snap count from Sunday's matchup with Minnesota, but we can't ignore his production over the past 2 weeks. Jones racked up 10 tackles (6 solo) and a sack in Week 12. That followed 13 tackles (11 solo) and a sack at the Giants the week before.
Jones belongs back in an LB3 role in most IDP leagues, beginning Thursday against a Lions team that allowed him 2 tackles for loss (including a sack) in their 1st meeting.
Wesley Woodyard, LB, Broncos
Woodyard likely still finds himself owned in many IDP leagues, but his mid-season scoring lull also got him dropped in plenty of places.
He followed 5 straight weeks of 4 or fewer solo tackles and no more than 8 total by racking up 11 stops (plus a pass breakup) against the Chargers in Week 10. Woodyard then delivered a career-best 15 tackles (7 solo) against the Patriots on Sunday and just missed a 4th-quarter INT.
The next 2 weeks bring neutral matchups against the Chiefs and Titans. But then come a pair of top 5 LB matchups in the final 2 weeks of most fantasy seasons: San Diego (again) and a Houston team that already seems to have quit on the season.
Woodyard has had a disappointing statistical year, but he retains cross-category scoring potential and plays on a team that's expert at building leads that pressure opposing offenses.
Philip Wheeler, OLB, Dolphins
Wheeler led Miami with 9 tackles and 8 solos in Sunday's narrow loss to the Panthers. That made for his 2nd largest solo tally of the season so far and just the 4th time he has surpassed 6 solos in a game.
Wheeler could be ready to add to that over the final stretch, though. Three of Miami's next 4 opponents rank among the 10 friendliest matchups to fantasy LBs, including the Jets and Steelers the next 2 weeks.
QB Geno Smith, in particular, adds IDP upside to every opposing defender right now. Wheeler defensed 3 passes against the Panthers on Sunday after 1 against the Chargers the week before. The Jets, meanwhile, have tossed 2+ INTs in 2 straight games, 3 of the past 4 and 7 times on the season.
Ernie Sims, LB, Cowboys
In his 1st start since Sean Lee suffered a hamstring injury at New Orleans, Sims corralled 10 tackles (8 solo) against the Giants on Sunday. That tied for 1st on the team in solos and ranked 2nd in total stops, with each number beating the other LBs.
Thanksgiving Day brings 1 of the league's friendliest LB matchups in the Raiders. Beyond that, we'll have to see if Lee is ready to take his job back. And if Lee sits out there on your waiver wire, go ahead and stash him in an available bench spot.
Jairus Byrd, S, Bills
Before his Week 12 bye, Byrd had nabbed 3 INTs over his past 2 games. That included 2 (plus a sack) against Geno Smith and the Jets in Week 11 and 1 off Ben Roethlisberger in Week 10.
After an injury-delayed start to his season, Byrd has started the past 4 games and steadily increased his playing time. He missed just 1 total snap over the past 2 games. Next up is Atlanta, whose QB tossed 2+ INTs in 3 of his past 5 games. After that comes rookie QB Mike Glennon, INT specialist Chad Henne and Ryan Tannehill, who tossed 2 INTs in his 1st crack at the Bills this year.
Byrd doesn't deliver big tackle numbers often, but he'll come with a high IDP ceiling the rest of the way.