The audience is again halved. To half of you that were playing in week 15 that remain in the dance, I say congratulations. To the other of half of owners who played in week 15, better luck next year. Week 16 represents the championship game for a large majority of you. With any luck, you don’t actually need any of my recommendations this week which is probably a good thing because at this point, the waiver wire is about as picked over as it is going to be all year.
Once again, the linebacker position was strong in terms of how recommendations delivered in week 15. Devon Kennard continued his solid play as he put forth 7 solo tackles, a PD, a forced fumble and half a sack. The rookie was an LB1 will that performance. Will Compton filled in nicely for injured Keenan Robinson with 9 total tackles. Sam Barrington continued his solid fantasy numbers after being promoted to the starting lineup as he logged 10 total tackles (9 solo). Danny Trevathan returned to the starting lineup against the Chargers in week 15 and looked to be returning to fine form with 4 total tackles early. However, Trevathan once again suffered a leg injury and his season is now over. With three successive leg injuries this year, watch closely to ensure that these injuries don’t threaten Trevathan’s career if you are a dynasty owner. Tamba Hali and Justin Houston rewarded sack hunters with identical stat lines; 3 solo tackles and a sack.
Nick Moody SFO LB – ILB 3-4
Chris Borland has been a great add in redraft leagues producing monster tackle numbers (100 total tackles; 79 solo) since being promoted to the starting lineup in the wake of Patrick Willis being deactivated due to injury. Unfortunately, the rookie out of Wisconsin injured his ankle in the 49ers week 15 game against the Seahawks. It’s tough to gauge Moody’s ability to impact the game given his limited snaps and experience as the former Seminole was a 6th round draft pick last year. That said, Patrick Willis’ spot in the 49er defense is built to score. Even if Moody isn’t a future hall of famer, the opportunity should be there if Borland can’t go. Watch the injury report to make sure that Borland remains out.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB1 to Mid LB3
Kelvin Sheppard/Jason Trusnik MIA LB – MLB/WLB 4-3
Sheppard and Trusnik drew starts against the Patriots in week 15 given the injuries to regular starters Jelani Jenkins (foot) and Koa Misi (knee, hamstring). Both linebackers had solid outings with Trusnik logging 10 total tackles, 2 PDs and an interception and Sheppard scoring 10 total tackles and a forced fumble. The Dolphins draw the Vikings in week 16 which isn’t the best matchup but given the difficulty of finding a starting MLB or WLB this late in the season, beggars might not be able to be choosers. Neither Misi nor Jenkins was matchup-proof when they were healthy but both were startable of fantasy most weeks. Trust that someone on the Dolphins needs to make tackles.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end LB2 to Low-end LB3
Gerald Hodges MIN LB – OLB 4-3
Gerald Hodges has been a solid replacement for injured Anthony Barr (knee) over the last couple games. His statline reads 17 total tackles, 4 PDs and a pick six over those last two games. It’s been difficult to trust Hodges as his usage on third down and sub-packages wasn’t clear. Basically, the Vikings are using him in run support in base downs and coverage in sub-packages rather than blitzing that Barr used to. The utilization has been good from a fantasy perspective so running him out again for the Dolphins’ short passing game seems like a decent decision. Barr has yet to practice in an attempt to return from his knee injury but watch the injury report anyways to make sure that Hodges isn’t trivialized by a last minute return by Barr.
Roster Recommendation: Mid LB2 to Mid LB3
Sneaky Linebacker Play
Terrell Suggs/Pernell McPhee BAL LB – This recommendation assumes that Elvis Dumervil and his 17 sacks belong to another team. The Houston Texans, Baltimore’s week 16 opponent, are down to their 4th quarterback after Ryan Mallett, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Savage all fell to injury. Baltimore is coming off of 8 sacks against Jacksonville. You have to expect that no matter whether Thad Lewis or Case Keenum takes the snaps, the Baltimore Ravens will get some sacks. Suggs is the safer play, McPhee is the deeper dig.
Defensive Linemen Plays
Plenty of multi-sack games powered much of the defensive lineman scoring this week. 8 players had at least 2 sacks but only two of those players were players that were likely started; JJ Watt and Jason Pierre-Paul. Players like Jonathan Hankins and Jordan Hill were bad for their respective teams but cannot be counted on week over week.
The free agent report rebounded with a much better record at defensive line than in week 14. Jacquies Smith followed up a solid week 14 performance with 4 total tackles and a half sack. Damontre Moore turned his extra snaps into production with 5 total tackles and a half sack. Jason Babin was the lone disappointment with only 3 total tackles but at least left owners with something.
Chandler Jones NEP DE – DE 4-3
Cue the dynasty leaguers groan, Chandler Jones makes the list simply because redrafts or short bench leagues would have needed to drop Jones due to a 6 week absence from a hip injury. Jones returned in week 15 despite a questionable tag like he never left the field with 7 total tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble. You also have to expect a similar output given the week 16 opponent for the Patriots, the New York Jets. If there’s a chance that Jones hit your waiver wire for whatever reason, he needs to be owned now. Outside of JJ Watt, I’m not sure that there’s anyone I’d rather have for this week.
Roster Recommendation: High-end DL1 to High-end DL2
Frostee Rucker ARI DE – DE 3-4
Frostee Rucker has put together a few solid games in a row in both run support and pass rushing (7 solo tackles, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble and a PD) but the opponent that the Cardinals host in week 16 isn’t the Chiefs or the Falcons this time. The surging Seattle Seahawks visit Arizona with designs of first place in the NFC West. I like Rucker in this matchup as a decent tackle play given his run support ability with some pass rush upside.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DL2 to Mid DL3
Sneaky Defensive Linemen Play
Kerry Wynn NYG DE– Kerry Wynn got an awful lot of snaps on running downs in week 15 and he responded with 7 total tackles. With the Giants visiting St Louis in week 16, don’t be surprised if Wynn gets the opportunity to rank up a few more tackles.
Defensive Back Plays
More tackles dominated the landscape for defensive backs but the DB1s were the players that scored high tackles and paired those up with splash plays. Both players who logged touchdowns were top 10 options at DB and four of the top six DBs in my balanced league had interceptions. When trying to play a defensive back, look for high floor tackles first then weigh the likelihood of a splash play for upside.
It was a big of a miss in terms of defensive back production for the week 15 recommendations. David Bruton’s production in week 14 was a mirage and he returned to earth with a pedestrian 3 total tackles. Marcus Gilchrist logged 3 solo tackles and took a back seat of fellow safeties Jahleel Addae and Eric Weddle who each out-tackled Gilchrist by a fair margin. The cornerbacks in Minnesota were largely avoided as Detroit didn’t need to throw as often as I anticipated. Both Corey Graham (8 total tackles, 1 PD) and Aaron Williams (9 total tackles) were great starts against a Green Bay team who struggled to move the ball. The Houston CBs were a little less value than I’d have hoped but Kareem Jackson was solid with 6 total tackles and a PD. AJ Bouye contributed 3 solo tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery as well.
Bradley McDougald/Major Wright TBB S – SS 4-3
With Major Wright out with a rib injury in week 15, undrafted sophomore Bradley McDougald started at strong safety against the Panthers. All he did was rack up 15 total tackles (11 solo) in that start. With the Packers rolling into town in a must-win game to keep their shot at a first-round bye, expect that the Packers will come out firing to get things rolling in their favour. The Packers offense has been very generous to opposing safeties fantasy outputs and I expect week 16 to be no different. The only question for me is whether Major Wright can shake a rib injury in time to get back into the lineup. Watch the injury report on this one as I think that the starter carries DB1 upside.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB1 to Low-end DB3
George Wilson TEN S – SS 3-4
A few weeks back there was some confusion over who the starting strong safety was going to be in Tennessee with Bernard Pollard going down. A few candidates emerged but each managed to cannibalize each other’s stats in a time change situation. The only candidate who has proven the ability to generate DB1 numbers given the opportunity is George Wilson. It wasn’t very long ago that George Wilson was an undisputed DB1 in fantasy when he was in Buffalo. It seems that Wilson is running away with the lion’s share of snaps for the Titans at strong safety and the tackle production seems to be following it. Wilson is still fairly under-owned given the high floor tackle potential and big play upside he represents. Give Wilson a shot to make a big play against the Jaguars in week 16.
Roster Recommendation: Mid DB2 to Mid DB3
Andrew Sendejo MIN S – SS 4-3
Robert Blanton was been a solid tackle option for fantasy owners this year (94 total tackles over 13 games) but he missed week 15 with knee and ankle injuries. Andrew Sendejo filled in for Blanton with 6 total tackles against the Lions. Sendejo is no stranger to piling up tackles as he did so as a starting safety last year. Minnesota gets Miami in week 16 and I like Sendejo’s chance to log more tackles against a short passing team like the Dolphins.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Kemal Ishmael ATL S – S 3-4
Atlanta visiting New Orleans in week 16 is going to be a great game to watch. I don’t think that either win will be able to win without throwing the ball. Historically, it’s been tough to gauge which corners get picked on by Drew Brees but the safeties have been easier to predict. I think Kemal Ishmael is set up to be the big beneficiary of the tackles to be made in the passing game over the middle of the field. Atlanta doesn’t really have much to lean on in terms of bench depth to take Ishmael off of the field much.
Roster Recommendation: Low-end DB2 to Low-end DB3
Sneaky Defensive Back Play
Coty Sensabaugh TEN CB – With Blidi Wreh-Wilson out for the year, the Titans need to lean on Sensabaugh and veteran Jason McCourty to hold the secondary afloat. The Jaguars under Blake Bortles are averaging just under 35 attempts per game with a majority going to the wide receivers. Give the 3rd year man out of Clemson a shot to make a big play along with a few tackles.