But there's a lot of other stuff going on -- beyond the injury report -- that doesn't fit into those features. So here's a quick roundup of some items I picked up during the past week of IDP research:
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Packers
The 1st thing you need to know about this guy is that everyone should say his name like Samuel L. Jackson would: "Ha HA! Clinton-Dix."
The 2nd thing you need to know is that the rookie just became a starter in Week 7. It marked the 4th time this season that he has played at least 75% of the snaps but the 1st time that he played 100%. With Morgan Burnett battling a calf injury that has him iffy for Sunday night, now's the time to grab this guy and start him in a fruitful matchup (at least tackle-wise) with the Saints.
New England Patriots
So how does this team plan to make up for the loss of DE/OLB Chandler Jones over the next 4 weeks or so? Well, we're talking about Bill Belichick. So no one really knows. It appears that rookies Dominique Easley and Zach Moore will be part of the equation and probably see some more playing time. The Pats also traded for Titans OLB Akeem Ayers, a college DE who has been at his best in a Von Miller-type role in a 4-3 scheme. The committee approach will make it tough for any of them to realize much of an IDP boost, but we'll start to see Sunday exactly how the Patriots plan to treat the situation.
Lardarius Webb, CB, Ravens
This guy's back. He finally played 100% of the snaps last week for the 1st time all season and has performed well lately. Over 2 meetings with the Bengals last year, Webb defensed 8 passes, including a pair of INTs. This Sunday will provide his 1st shot at them this year.
Dion Jordan, DE, Dolphins
This guy's back, too, though not to the same extent as Webb. Jordan has returned to the Dolphins following his 2nd suspension of the season, and HC Joe Philbin seems to believe in positive change for the 2nd-year pass-rusher.
"We've talked numerous times," he told the Miami Herald. "It's about looking forward and moving forward in all aspects, professionally, personally. I'm excited about having him back."
That last part makes sense, considering this guy's pass-rushing upside and the positive summer he was enjoying before those darn urine tests had to get in the way. It's tough to see enough snaps to make Jordan an IDP factor right away, given Cameron Wake's and Olivier Vernon's entrenchments at the starting DE spots. But I'll be interested to watch Jordan the rest of the way on a D that has seemed to improve lately.
Cameron Jordan, DE, Saints
This guy's most certainly not back. I don't honestly know what Jordan's big issue is compared with last year, but if he can't play well against a sorry Lions O-line, I've got no use for him on my redraft team.
Tahir Whitehead, LB, Lions
Speaking of the Lions, their fill-in MLB has seen a recent decrease in playing time. Whitehead played every snap in his 1st start after Stephen Tulloch hit IR, and then he missed just 1 snap the next time out. The past 2 weeks have seen him play just 73.9% and 81.3%, however. The missed time was spread pretty evenly between run and pass plays last week after coming primarily in passing situations the week before. That could be because Week 7 brought the Saints to town, whose scheme encourages more passing sub-package play (whether they end up calling a run or a pass on a given down). Losing that slice doesn't kill Whitehead's fantasy prospects, but it certainly takes away some scoring potential if it continues. He's fairly risky against a pass-leaning Falcons offense this Sunday.
Telvin Smith, LB, Jaguars
This young LB's playing time should be moving in the opposite direction. Smith earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the win over Cleveland despite not even starting the game for the Jags. He racked up a sack, 2 pass defenses (including an INT) and a forced fumble to go with 4 tackles. That should have been enough to get coaches planning more playing time for the promising rookie, and then came the revelation that MLB Paul Posluszny will miss the rest of the year. Jacksonville could use playmakers on both sides of the ball and figure to work on getting Smith more snaps going forward. He's the best IDP target in the wake of Poz's injury.
Preston Brown, LB, Bills
Here's another rookie we should be able to use more going forward. Brown started and played 100% of the snaps in Week 7, the 5th time this season he has done so. But what made this time special was the fact that veteran strong-side LB Keith Rivers was healthy and available. It appears the Bills have finally pushed Brown ahead of the ever-limited Rivers on the depth chart. Of course, Buffalo has screwed with us on defenders' playing time plenty this season, so we'll keep watch. But Brown's worth owning in IDP leagues of decent depth.
James-Michael Johnson, LB, Chiefs
Forget about this guy delivering numbers in his starting opportunity. Johnson has played less than half the snaps in 2 of his past 3 games. That volatility alone makes him forgettable in IDP planning.
Jerrell Freeman, LB, Colts
Freeman interestingly missed 5 snaps in the Week 7 win over the Bengals, with 4 of those coming in pass defense. D'Qwell Jackson, meanwhile, played every snap after missing just 3 total over the previous 2 games. This is not anything worth getting alarmed about now, but it's worth keeping an eye on Freeman's playing time just to see if the Colts limit him at all in the wake of his early-season hamstring injury and Jackson's improved play.
Jeremy Mincey, DE, Cowboys
Looking for some mild sleeper appeal in your deep IDP league? Mincey has racked up 3 QB hits and 11 hurries over just his past 3 games. He earned his 2 best Pro Football Focus pass-rushing grades over the past 2 weeks. His matchup with Washington LT Trent Williams this week is tough, but we'll see if Mincey can do anything against Arizona LT Jared Veldheer the week after. Veldheer has been somewhat inconsistent in pass protection this season. The real focus, though, should be on Mincey's Week 10 matchup with his original team: Jacksonville.
Justin Smith, DE, 49ers
Smith started the season hot and played about 78% of his team's snaps in weeks 2, 3 and 4. But his production has slipped since, and so has his playing time. Smith played 69.2%, 60.5% and 62.3% of the defensive snaps over the past 3 weeks. In sheer totals, he played 49, 48, 54 and 47 snaps over the 1st 4 games, followed by 36, 46 and 38 the past 3 weeks. Keep in mind that this dude's 35 and in his 14th NFL season. We've seen injuries nag Smith a bit more in recent seasons than they used to, and the Niners decreased his playing time a bit late last year. Don't be surprised if the slowdown continues.
Who to Sack
Here are the 5 teams that have allowed the most sacks, and the 5 stingiest. You can find more depth on the positional and individual matchups and recent trends every week in the weekly rankings.
Sack Me (most sacks per game)
Buffalo and San Francisco (tied): 2.7
Go Away (fewest)
New Orleans: 1.0