Week 16 brings the fantasy championship for many leagues. Week 15 was filled with general craziness; including incompletions that might have been touchdowns, fumbles of game-winning scores, index cards leading to first downs and the most crazy of all, the Jaguars clinching a playoff spot. Hopefully your team managed to survive it all and is still playing meaningful fantasy football. Saturday games started to enter the fray in week 15 and will continue into week 16 with the Colts/Ravens and Vikings/Packers in addition to dual Monday night games on Christmas day. Make sure that you are setting your lineup early to avoid any impact to your squad as well as planning for Monday night questionable tags.
Sean Lee led the way for last week’s recommendations with 10 total tackles in a critical win over the Raiders. He remains a quality LB1 as long as he can stay healthy. Matt Milano disappointed fantasy owners against the Dolphins as he logged 51 snaps but only scored 3 total tackles. Contrasting that with Ramon Humber, who logged only 24 snaps and 5 total tackles, owners who started Milano can’t help but feel a little cheated. The Broncos pass rushing LBs failed to make much of an impact against the Colts. In fact, the lone sack that Denver scored came from a cornerback. Matt Judon put forward a quality performance against the Browns with 6 total tackles and a sack. Michael Wilhoite didn’t end up starting over Bobby Wagner at MLB for the Seahawks but Wagner (68% usage) wasn’t able to play every snap and Wilhoite (35% usage) stepped in for him at times. Wilhoite still managed to score 4 total tackles and an interception. Terence Garvin did end up starting for KJ Wright and played heavily, missing only 3 snaps. He finished second on the Seahawks with 9 total tackles and a pass defensed.
Nick Kwiatkoski CHI LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3/Dynasty Stash
Christian Jones has been an afterthought in the Chicago Bears defense since his 13 total tackle, 1 sack effort in week 13 against the 49ers. Since then, he has only been on the field for 19 snaps, good for 16% of the Bears’ defensive snap over those two weeks. Nick Kwiatkoski has been the benefactor of those snaps, sporting an 84% usage rate over those same weeks. Against the Lions in week 15, Kwiatkoski tied for the team lead with 8 total tackles. The Browns, who face the Bears in week 16, have been fairly generous to opposing ILBs lately with an average of 13.5 fantasy points earned over the last two weeks. Especially if Jones has been a part of your LB rotation, Kwiatkoski should be owned for both this year and next given Danny Trevathan’s injury history and Jerrell Freeman’s inability to stay eligible to play.
Telvin Smith JAC LB – 4-3 WLB Value: LB1 – LB2
After two weeks missed with a concussion, Telvin Smith returned to the Jaguars lineup in time for their week 15 blowout win against the Texans. Smith did not light up the scoresheet with only 3 total tackles on 82% usage but the score did not really reflect a linebacker-heavy scoring type of game. Prior to his injury and weak re-entry into the lineup, Smith was posting 5.7 solo tackles, 1.8 assists and close to one splash play per game average. It’s possible that given the timing of his injury, that an owner may have been forced to give him up in shallow bench leagues. The 49ers have afforded an average of 32.4 fantasy points per game to starting linebackers in their last four games including a whopping 21 total tackles and 3 sacks to Titans’ ILBs in week 15. Smith will bounce back into top fantasy production and should be back in lineups.
Jatavis Brown LAC LB – 3-4 ILB Value: LB2 – LB3/Dynasty Stash
Inconsistency due to poor play or injury has marred the middle of the Chargers’ defense all year and just when it seemed like Hayes Pullard and Denzel Perryman were starting to lock things down for them, things change once again. The remainder of Perryman’s season is in jeopardy after a severe hamstring strain caused him to leave week 15 early against the Chiefs. The prognosis isn’t good for a return in the next few weeks either. Perryman logged 35% of the Chargers’ snaps before his exit with no stats gained. Jatavis Brown saw most of his work after Perryman’s injury and despite logging only 50% of the snaps, he scored 7 solo tackles and an assist in only 32 minutes of football. Brown’s abilities as an athlete have never been in question for the Chargers; his health and instincts as a linebacker have been. Brown is a risk given his inconsistency this year but the Chargers need to play someone in the middle of their defense and Brown might be it.
Sneaky play of the week – Cory Littleton LAR LB
Mark Barron left the Rams’ week 15 blowout win over the Seahawks in the 1st quarter with a knee injury and did not return. No details on the severity of the injury have been released yet but it stands to reason that if he cannot suit up against the Titans in week 16, then Cory Littleton will start in his stead. Littleton lead the Rams in snaps among linebackers with 54 and logged 6 total tackles in that effort. The Titans have allowed an average of 26.3 total fantasy points to the top two scoring ILBs (or MLB/OLB) in their last five games. The variance on those games is remarkably small as well with the lowest output at 22.5 fantasy points and the highest output at 31 fantasy points. Littleton should be unowned in almost every league but should see plenty of opportunity if Barron remains out. Check the injury report on this one.
Defensive linemen plays
Another week has gone by with yet another week of struggling defensive lineman pickups. Getting quality free agents from the waiver wire on the defensive line continues to be one of the most difficult things to do in IDP fantasy due to scarcity of production and rotations leading to limited opportunity for many players. Both Matt Ioannidis and Shelby Harris managed only two total tackles each despite high usages of 68 and 57% respectively.
Anthony Lanier WAS DE – 3-4 DL Value: DL2 – DL3
It turns out that I had the right team and the wrong player. Despite higher usage entering week 15’s tilt against the Cardinals, Anthony Lanier and not Matt Ioannidis was the player to start in a juicy matchup. Lanier scored 2 sacks, 3 passes defensed and a forced fumble on 54 snaps played for 68% usage; the highest snap count of his career. Lanier now has 5 sacks in his last 5 games and remains a decent matchup against the Broncos who visit Washington in week 16. The Broncos has given up 3.2 sacks per game in their last 5 games with very little variance over that timeframe. Lanier has been among the most productive Redskins lately and his week 15 snap count has matched his production. Give him a look if he’s a free agent in your league and you need a plugin.
Adam Gotsis DEN DE – 3-4 DE Value: DL2 – DL3
Different week but another Bronco defensive end. Adam Gotsis has seen his usage climb from 42% in week 10 to a season-high 75% in week 15. Over his last three weeks which have seen his highest usage of the year, Gotsis has scored 12 total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and a pass defensed. While those aren’t eye-popping numbers, Gotsis has found himself in the DL2 conversation in two successive weeks because of it. Washington is an above average team for providing sack opportunity with a season average of 2.7 sacks allowed per game, good enough for a top 10 matchup. Additionally, his tackle floor based on usage puts Gotsis in a decent spot for a spot start if you need one.
Defensive back plays
Michael Mitchell posted an acceptable 5 total tackles in a thriller against the Patriots in week 15. The disappointing part of that statline is that of the 4 most utilized defensive backs that the Steelers used, Mitchell scored the least number of tackles. While Shawn Williams did return to the Bengals lineup, Clayton Fejedelem played a key role on defense as George Iloka left the game with a shoulder injury. Fejedelem logged a total of 54 snaps (81% usage) and turned in 9 total tackles against the Vikings in a week 15 loss. Vernon Hargreaves failed to suit up in the Monday night game against the Falcons as he continues to battle a hamstring injury.
Adrian Phillips LAC S S – 4-3 SS Value: DB2 – DB3
The Chargers have used Adrian Phillips as more of a hybrid linebacker as of late and given the injury to Denzel Perryman, I think that Phillips’ production will see a big uptick. Phillips’ usage has been between 83% and 98% over his last four games and while tackle production has been inconsistent, his opportunities to score have been. The Jets host the Chargers in week 16 and are coming off a loss against the Saints where they offered up 35 fantasy points of production to Saints’ safeties who are also using three safety looks for a large portion of their defense.
Rodney McLeod PHI S – 4-3 FS Value: DB2 – DB3
The Philadelphia Eagles, partially due to the quality of opponent lately and partially due to some struggles in other areas, have been needing to make a lot more tackles than previously seen in the year. Case in point, Rodney McLeod’s three game average of 6.7 total tackles per game vastly outshines his 2017 average of 3.4 total tackles per game. Those numbers include a season-high 11 total tackles against the surprisingly tough Giants in week 15. Up next for the Eagles are the Oakland Raiders who are providing 14.8 fantasy points per game over their last five games since their bye week. The Raiders might be out of the playoffs but I doubt that they go down without a fight next week.
Darian Thompson/Andrew Adams NYG S – 4-3 FS/SS Value: DB2 – DB3
With stud strong safety Landon Collins having to leave the Giants’ week 15 games against the Eagles with a reaggravation of an existing high ankle injury, Andrew Adams stepped into significant snaps (50 snaps for 74% usage) and was able to turn that usage into 6 solo tackles. Free safety Darian Thompson was also busy, playing every snap and turning in 9 total tackles and a pass defensed. The Giants linebacking corps was already one of the weaker units in the league but it has been ravaged by injuries over the past few weeks leaving many runs and passes over the middle ending up in the secondary due to poor play inside. This is unlikely to change with two weeks to go in the season. The Giants visit the Cardinals in week 16 who are allowing an average of 26.4 fantasy points per game to starting safety pairings over their past seven games since the bye week. Adams is virtually unowned whereas Thompson shouldn’t be much better in terms of ownership.