The playoffs start this week in the vast majority of leagues, so it’s time to forget about the last three months and focus on the next three weeks. That can sometimes mean cutting bait on some players that carried you to a successful season, whether due to injury, tough schedule, or suspension. The latter unfortunately applies to Kwon Alexander, who will drop his appeal and serve his 4-game PED suspension over the last month of the NFL regular season. This is poor timing for owners that have benefitted from his unexpected LB8 production over the first 13 weeks, but all is not lost. The LB position is extremely deep right now, and Alexander’s replacement in Tampa’s lineup might be a good fit for your lineup as well. Bruce Carter has had an injury marred career, but when he’s on the field he has put up stats including 96 tackle season and an admittedly fluky 5 interception season. He’s already recovering from a concussion, so we’re not off to a great start health-wise, but if he’s cleared to play, I like him as a low end LB2. The same applies for Danny Lansanah if Carter can’t go either, but it appears that Carter will get the first crack at it.
Jason Pierre-Paul – JPP has already won my “most talked about player of the season” award, but until Sunday he hadn’t really done much on the field. That changed against the Jets, where he had by far his best game of the season with 6 tackles and a fumble recovery. He still hasn’t tallied a sack, but that is very likely to change against Miami and Ryan Tannehill this week. There’s a good chance that his owners have gotten tired of carrying him on their roster all year, so if he’s out there and you need a high-ceiling DL option, I’d make JPP your top waiver pickup.
Jerry Hughes – A similarly frustrating player, Hughes has been active all year but has only managed 4 sacks. That’s been a general theme in Buffalo, which is odd under Rex Ryan, so I expect some regression over the final month. That may have started last week, where Hughes had 6 tackles and a sack. He’s always going to be a boom/bust player, but the matchup against Philly looks good on paper, so I’m ranking him the highest I have since September.
James Harrison – The LB leaderboard for Week 13 was full of the usual suspects, as well as one blast from the past in Harrison. He racked up three sacks of Matt Hasselback (I never thought I’d be writing that in 2015), and had 7 total tackles. I know it can be tempting to try to grab a guy like Harrison while he’s on a “hot streak,” and I’ve fallen prey to it before with Harrison specifically, but try to resist. He’s extremely inconsistent on a weekly basis, and has a tough matchup this week to boot. Guys like the Tampa duo mentioned above, or Jake Ryan in Green Bay, are much better options in a do-or-die playoff game.
T.J. McDonald – Another member of the 2015 All Disappointment Team, I haven’t given up on McDonald yet. He’s definitely been hurt by the presence of the rangy linebackers in front of him, including pseudo-safety Mark Barron. But let’s not forget that McDonald was a top 10 DB on the year in 2014, so he has the ability to put up stats. He also faces off against Detroit in Week 14, by far the best matchup for safeties so far this year. So if someone has gotten rid of McDonald, he’s a top 5 streamer for me this week (Barron is likely to have a big day as well).
D.J. Hayden – Unless you’re in a CB-required league, Hayden likely hasn’t been on your radar. Outside of two huge games, he’s been difficult to start over most of the more consistent safeties out there. But when the matchup is right, Hayden can explode. And while Denver hasn’t been as pass-happy as usual with Osweiler under center, Hayden should still see plenty of targets. I don’t know that he’ll break 10 tackles, but 5 tackles and a few interception opportunities are definitely reasonable.