Week 16 IDP Free Agent Focus

Andre Branch, DE, Jaguars

The 2nd-round pick from last year has enjoyed a wonderful finish to his 2nd season.

He notched 4+ tackles and a sack for the 3rd straight game Sunday, giving him sacks in 5 of his past 6 outings.  A Week 17 matchup with the Colts pits him against LT Anthony Castonzo, who carries a negative pass-rushing grade from Pro Football Focus for the season.

Look for Branch to hold down a starting job from the beginning of next season.  He'll carry high upside in HC Gus Bradley's defense that proved friendly to edge rushers in Seattle.

Sylvester Williams, DT, Broncos

The 1st-round pick has seen his playing time increase the past 2 weeks and has responded with 5 tackles and a sack in each game, plus 2 other tackles for loss at Houston on Sunday.

The season finale brings a matchup with the Raiders, who actually have presented a negative matchup for D-linemen on the season.  But there's enough upside in the individual matchups inside for Williams to make sense in deeper IDP leagues.  Only snag him, though, if you have DT-specific lineup spots to fill.

Akiem Hicks, DE, Saints

Hicks' nice day against the Panthers in Week 16 provided his 3rd game among the past 6 with at least 5 tackles and a sack.  That span has provided 3.5 of his 4.5 total sacks for the year.

Week 17 brings to town a Bucs team that surrendered 7 sacks to the Rams on Sunday.  That's the 4th opponent among the past 5 to tally at least 4 sacks.  Hicks didn't go for a sack in the 1st meeting back in Week 2 but did register a QB hit and a hurry amid a positive PFF game grade.

The rematch figures to put more pressure on the Tampa pass offense in the Superdome, where Drew Brees and his crew have played much better than they have on the road.

Jon Beason, MLB, Giants

Beason delivered 11 tackles in Sunday's OT win at Detroit, his 3rd game among the past 4 with at least 9 total stops.

That span began in the 1st meeting with Washington, which produced season highs in total (17) and solo tackles (13).  Washington enters the Week 17 rematch as the league's 2nd friendliest matchup for fantasy LBs.

Bruce Carter, OLB, Cowboys

A season that started terribly for Carter is at least winding to a decent close.  His 11 tackles at Washington on Sunday marked Carter's 2nd largest tally of the year.  Same for his 7 solos.  It was the 4th time in 5 weeks, though, that he notched at least 6 solos.

Carter managed almost nothing stat-wise in the 1st meeting with Philadelphia, despite playing nearly every defensive snap.  But the Eagles ran a goofy game plan behind a gimpy Nick Foles and then Matt Barkley after Foles left with a concussion. 

MLB Sean Lee hopes to return from his neck injury in Week 17 -- and the importance of the game will help his motivation.  He notched 11 tackles (9 solo) in that 1st meeting with Philly.  If Lee's out, Carter should remain the primary tackle guy.  And even if Lee returns, he's no guarantee to be near 100% -- especially with the hamstring to accompany the neck.

Philip Wheeler, OLB, Dolphins

Wheeler posted a season-best 14 tackles at Buffalo on Sunday, his 1st double-digit tackle tally since Week 5.

That followed 3 straight weak fantasy outings, but Wheeler has defensed 7 passes on the year to go with the tackle-collecting potential that he has flashed sparingly.  Both of those factors should be at play Sunday when Miami finishes the season against the Jets.

New York comes in as a top 8 matchup for fantasy LBs and presents as much turnover upside as any offense.  Wheeler managed just 7 tackles (4 solo) in the 1st meeting and is no guarantee to pop off this week.  The potential is there in a LB3 spot, though.

Will Hill, S, Giants

Hill racked up 11 tackles vs. Detroit on Sunday and returned an INT for the game-tying 4th-quarter TD.  That was the 3rd turnover Hill has created in the past 5 games.

Week 17 brings a rematch with Washington.  In his 1st meeting, Hill tallied a solid 7 tackles and forced a fumble.  The rematch will feature QB Kirk Cousins and his 3 INTs over the past 2 weeks (5 for the season in very limited action).

Quintin Mikell, S, Panthers

Too bad Mikell can't play the Saints more often.  He twice collected 7 tackles, a sack and a pass breakukp against them over the past 3 weeks.  The 1st meeting also included a forced fumble, and Mikell has now defensed passes in 3 of his past 4 games.

Week 17 doesn't bring another Saints rematch, but it does hold the Falcons.  Atlanta heads into the Monday night game as a top 12 matchup for fantasy DBs over the previous 5 weeks.  Matt Ryan has endured 3 multi-INT games since mid-October, including 3 picks in his 1st meeting with Carolina.  The Falcons enter this meeting having surrendered 18 sacks over the past 5 games.

T.J. McDonald, S, Rams

The rookie has enjoyed a solid return over the past 5 games after landing on short-term IR with a broken foot.

McDonald produced 6 solo tackles and his 1st sack of the year against the Bucs on Sunday.  That followed his 1st career INT vs. Drew Brees the week before, and season highs in total (8) and solo (7) tackles the previous week.

Week 17 finds him finishing his 1st season against the Seahawks, who entered Week 16 as the 8th friendliest matchup for fantasy DBs over the previous 5 weeks.