Remember my Curve from last week? Well, if you don’t, go back and read it as it will provide insight to the playoff versus non-playoff teams. At this point in the season, it is logical to assume there are teams centered around the .500 mark, and those fading into oblivion. The question is, which of those teams will you be? One that rises to the occasion and separates itself from the pack, or fades. Of course, there are the teams that stand pat and finish about .500, then complain about missing the playoffs, but those are merely restricted to the teams conceding to mediocrity. Are you one of those teams that, in the face of injuries and adversity, gives in to adversity? Thought not. You’re a hardcore fantasy owner!
Desmond Bryant- Bryant is a player to keep an eye on this week, as he could provide a cheap sack versus a team that is not only without star tailback Le’Veon Bell, but also team captain Ben Roethlisberger for up to a month. Bryant is a grind it out, fight for every play defensive end, and it will be interesting to see how young Landry Jones fares versus a subpar Browns defense that ranks 30th overall and tied for 15th in sacks. (Photo courtesy of cbssports.com)
Cliff Avril- Talk about a resurgence. Avril has had one of his best statistical years thus far, and is currently on pace for 60 tackles, seven sacks, and has already tied a career high in passes defensed with five. Don’t get me wrong, the Cardinals are a very competent and complete football team, but Avril should land a sack and a stuff, at least, versus Carson Palmer and Co. Look for him to key in on Chris Johnson and hit him behind the line of scrimmage, because as Johnson has shown, do not let him get going or you are not bringing him down.
Caraun Reid (DET)- Part of the reason why the Packers have dropped two straight is because Aaron Rodgers has been sacked a combined 8 times and committed two fumbles. Granted, Reid may not be the most explosive nor dangerous pass rusher, but with the Packers reeling, Rodgers showing his offensive line has vulnerabilities, and Lacy (groin) still recovering, Reid could be a high risk/reward option for owners in Week 10. He may have only one solid game under his belt, but he could provide fantasy owners with a surprisingly solid stat line. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)
Whitney Mercilus- Stay away from Mercilus this week. Trust me. This matchup has disaster written all over it for the Texans and their inability to move the ball, especially now without Arian Foster the Texans defense will need to keep this a low scoring affair. Mercilus is an emerging sack threat on the Texans defensive line, but will have trouble stopping the run game and getting to Andy Dalton this week. Cincinnati simply has too many weapons to be stopped right now. If a team shuts down the run game, Dalton goes crazy through the air.
Brian Cushing- Unlike teammate Mercilus, I would start Cushing because he plays inside linebacker, not outside, and will be able to get tackles and apply more immediate pressure on Dalton. Texans and fantasy fans all remember what Cushing can be when he is fully healthy, and he would arguably be a top linebacker had he not torn his ACL (2012) and PCL (2013), causing him to miss 11 games between those two seasons. Now that he is healthy from those injuries, in addition to a concussion, Cushing seems to be showing signs of his own beastly-self where he racks up the sacks and applies a ton of pressure. He may not rattle Dalton every snap this week, but he will, for sure, have Dalton on the lookout on the inside.
Aldon Smith- Love him or hate him, he is a premier pass rusher in the league, and he should get some pretty clean looks versus the Vikings on Sunday. I am aware there is a man named “All Day” on the Vikings, but the fact of the matter is, if a pass rusher gets into the backfield, there’s a high probability Bridgewater is eating the turf. Bridgewater has been sacked 20 times on the season, and given Smith’s elite ability to create the sack (as long as he is on the field), he should be a lock for a solid day versus Bridgewater who lacks a true #1 receiver threat (no WR has more than 28 recs on the season).
Trumaine Johnson- From what Jay Cutler showed on Monday Night, he is no longer forcing throws into tight windows and is taking his chances only at opportune times. While the problem with Cutler has been his propensity to be sacked and be too reliant upon Jeffery in the past, he has matured this season and given fantasy owners something to look at for bye week fillers. Even with the loss of Matt Forte (MCL) for the foreseeable future, Jeremy Langford has proven to be efficient both out of the backfield and as a receiver, leaving corners at a loss. Johnson is a must bench for the simple reason that he will not have many opportunities to make plays in the pass game and that Cutler is being very smart with his play selection and passes. The Rams defense has been a force this season, just be wary this week with Johnson, as his upside is limited. (Photo courtesy of rantsports.com)
Ladarius Webb- Webb has been quiet lately, but that is going to change versus a Jaguars team that will be looking to throw to Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson, given the continued learning curve of rookie runningback T.J. Yeldon. With ten interceptions on the season, chances are good that Bortles will toss another one or two this week versus a Baltimore team that is hungry for a win. With shutdown corner Jimmy Smith being avoided, Webb is in line to see a heavy dose of targets his way, leading to passes defensed and hopefully a pick, for fantasy owners. He may not be the player he has been in the past, but Webb is a solid start this week.
Will Allen- In only the second week after a five week absence due to an ankle injury, Allen is a must start given the opponent and dearth of depth at the position. He is not an ideal defender at strong safety, but so long as he is on the field, he will continue to provide the Steelers with tackles and hopefully passes defensed. The Cleveland offense is one to exploit at any given time, so Allen is worth a flier.
Glover Quin- Avoid Quin versus the Packers, simply because no quarterback throws his way. He is a ballhawk waiting to grab any errant pass Rodgers may throw without his top tailback and a seemingly weak offensive line. Rodgers is an elite quarterback, but without ample time versus a versatile, turnover-creating corner, he will not throw unnecessary passes. From a fantasy perspective, Quin has faded this season. (Photo courtesy of freep.com)
Standard Leagues D/ST
Vikings D/ST- The Vikings defense and special teams is a must start because their special teams returners are some of the most explosive in the league (Cordarrelle Patterson, Marcus Sherels) and have been playing hungry for the playoffs the past three games. Derek Carr has had a nice sophomore season, but the Vikings are on a roll and looking to make a statement versus Oakland in Oakland this week.
Jaguars D/ST- Remember when the Ravens were Super Bowl Champions? With their play these days, that seems like a distant memory, and the Jaguars are on the rise, which spells TROUBLE for the Ravens. Telvin Smith and Paul Posluszny are key cogs in a rebuilding Jaguars defense, and one that should create all sorts of issues for an anemic Ravens offense this season. Neither team is great this season, but the Jaguars defense will win this one because they will make more impact plays at the line of scrimmage.
Tune in next week for Pivotal matchups, defensive style for the IDPs that could make or break your playoff run. If you have any question, concerns, comments, or lineup questions; email@example.com is your answer for all IDP needs. Thanks.
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@brandonziman You are more than welcome Brandon. You were a fantastic writer and a joy to work with. As we move through a very big transition for us hopefully we can continue to work with one anither.