Matt Schauf of RapidDraft.com stops by once a week to talk individual defensive players, “IDPs” for those in the know.
At this stage, I think we’re all just looking for some lineup help. Sticking to one main topic here just didn’t seem right, so I’ve decided to glance over a bunch. On that note, I implore you to get outcha seat and jump around …
Stud finder: Jared Allen
I’m pretty sure that the mere desire to mullet precludes one from fitting the traditional definition of “stud” – which includes an equine transformation and the best possible retirement – but there’s a reason that certain players achieve fantasy-stud status.
Allen came away from the season’s first seven games with all of one sack to his name. That’d be more than enough to earn a waive for Jared Odrick or Jared DeVries or that annoying Subway dude, but Allen has shown any owners who quit on him then why they shouldn’t have. With at least one sack in each of his past six outings, plus good tackle numbers, Allen has rewarded the patience of IDP owners who clung to him (not that there’s anything wrong with that) or grabbed him when another gave up.
Any “stud” who hasn’t delivered through 13 games no longer fits the category, but keep this lesson in mind as you worry about the star lineman who has had two sluggish games and next year when your “stud” lingers in the pasture.
Jets could use pills: No Woody this week
This could be another good week to have LaMarr Woodley, and not just because the presence of two “Wood” names in the same segment multiplies the potential for locker-room jokes. Pittsburgh’s LOLB (and I ain’t laughing out loud, buddy) is coming off a two-sack game and faces a Jets offense playing without right tackle Damien Woody. With a hobbled Woody (ouch) in the lineup last week, Miami sacked Mark Sanchez six times.
Finnegan begin again
Another rematch with the Texans: good week for Cortland Finnegan, right? Well, there’s always the chance that he matches up with Andre Johnson a fair amount and puts up some solo tackles, but don’t be fooled. In his past three meetings with Houston, Finnegan has been punched in the face (three) several more times than he has broken up a pass (zero). He also produced just 14 solo tackles total in that stretch: four, six and four. My initial reaction was to bet on Finnegan seeing plenty of action this week, but recent history tells us that we can’t count on it.
Wake good enough to get a sack on a Friday?
As I write this, the Dolphins are in the process of trying to get a “team” sack in the victory over the Jets credited to Cameron Wake alone. That would bump his league-leading total to 15 with a couple of upcoming matchups that would seem likely to add to the total.
The Bills and Lions, however, have actually fared much better in pass protection than anyone could’ve expected. Each offense carries a sacks-allowed total among the 12 lowest in the league. Combine Detroit’s number with the large tally of pass attempts, and the Lions rank fourth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate. Of course, I mention those numbers just to impress you with my research (well, that and to point out that Buffalo and Detroit aren’t the pushovers you might automatically think for pass rushers).
Wake has produced at least one sack in four straight games and hasn’t had back-to-back no-sack outings all year. He had a sack and two pass breakups in the first meeting with Buffalo this year. Clay Matthews (perhaps the most similar comparison around for Wake) had a sack in each meeting with the Lions this year.
Goombas send Mario to IR
Mario Williams’ standard modest tackle totals likely mean that his departure for injured reserve this week isn’t crushing too many IDP owners, but the three sacks over his final three games might leave you looking for a starting replacement. Don’t let that guy be Williams’ real-life replacement, Mark Anderson, who has just one sack in his past four games and 12.5 total sacks in four seasons since the 12-sack rookie year in which he obviously fooled us all by paying Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila to wear his jersey.
Here are some guys you can use, though, who might be available:
John Abraham, Atlanta: He’s probably not out there in most leagues because Abraham – like Wake – hasn’t seen consecutive sack-free games all year (except when watching Kroy Biermann). If he is available, though, grab the guy with five sacks in his past four games, including a pair of two-sack outings. Seattle and New Orleans await … nervously.
Charles Johnson, Carolina: If I asked you to guess which D-lineman has led the position in tackles over the past five weeks, would you choose Johnson? (You’d be fairly ignorant not to, since the question is posed in Johnson’s entry.) Add that to a four-game sack streak and you have a guy fixin’ to cash in as a free agent … you know, whenever another NFL season actually happens.
Jeremy Mincey, Jacksonville: The Jaguars have had a crappy pass rush for a while now, and the season-ending injury to Aaron Kampman didn’t figure to help things. However, Mincey has stepped up with sacks in three of his five starts, including four over the past four games. The Colts don’t exactly present the greatest matchup for sackers, but Mincey actually notched his first sack of the season against Indy despite limited playing time at that point. Week 16 brings a Washington offense tied for most sacks allowed in the league over the past five weeks.
Already without Jim Leonhard, the Jets will also head to Pittsburgh this weekend without Eric Smith at the back of the defense. James Ihedigbo is apparently expected to start in his place but wasn’t healthy enough to practice doing so on Thursday. On the other side, the Steelers don’t expect to have Troy Polamalu – ostensibly because he lost his cleats in his hair while shooting the most recent Head & Shoulders spot.
All of those injuries would seem to make testing the deep coverage attractive for a couple of struggling pass offenses. That could mean some deep sleeper value for players such as CB Ike Taylor, S Ryan Clark, S Brodney Pool and S Ihedigbo, who has three sacks this season. Just remember that “deep sleeper” means, “hey, I’m hurting at DB, why not take a chance on that guy?” as opposed to “I just read about this dude in an IDP column; I’m starting him over Yeremiah Bell.”
Light the matchups
Finally allow me to offer up some basic, context-free matchup numbers. I’ve chosen to combine the 10 most generous offenses in terms of fantasy points allowed over the past five weeks with the 10 teams that have simply yielded the most solo tackles to each position group. The resultant groups below comprise those teams that appeared among both top 10s. I figure that accounts for high scoring while also filtering out teams that have seen numbers inflated by a few big plays. Do with it what you will …
DB – Indianapolis, Houston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Cincinnati
LB – N.Y. Jets (No. 1 in both fantasy points and solo tackles allowed), Buffalo, Detroit, Tampa Bay, Cleveland – Cincinnati and Oakland, for what it’s worth, yielded a sizable number of sacks and pass breakups to linebackers recently.
DL – Washington, Jacksonville, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Dallas – These teams have allowed 10 sacks or more to linemen over their past five games: Washington (12), San Francisco (12), Chicago (11), Pittsburgh (10.5), Miami (10), Baltimore (10)
Matt Schauf is the senior football writer for RapidDraft.com and the brains behind (or would that be inside?) the “Suit” character in their free fantasy football game. Draft against him and 10 other fantasy Pros in RapidDraft Weekly every week (hence the name).