This season was my worst by far overall. My defense was good, but Adrian Peterson and Cam Newton tried their best to kill my team, and they did to the tune of a 2-11 record. Yes, beyond everything I am PISSED, but that cannot keep me from helping YOU in winning your league with defensive rankings. While “start your studs” is the rule of thumb during the season, the playoffs are a complete crapshoot, and defensive players are notorious for making/breaking playoff runs. These rankings are specifically geared towards the fantasy playoffs first week, accounting for player trends and NFL opposition. You may scratch your head or wash out your eyes at some of the names I recommend starting/sitting, But trends and likelihood of solid/great weeks versus duds are also accounted for as you seek another (perhaps first) fantasy football championship!
Dannell Ellerbe (WLB-N.O.)– Ellerbe is a half sack away from tying his career high in sacks, four and a half, and has only played in five games this season. The Saints defense can use all the help it can get this season, and Ellerbe has been an under valued linebacker since he joined the Saints defense after missing the first eight games due to a quad injury. Jameis Winston and the hot Bucs are a tall order, but Ellerbe is a strong start this week and in the playoffs.
Anthony Barr (SLB-MIN)– Barr started the first half of the season at a snail’s pace,. But he has shown signs of life of late, hinting at some of the playmaking ability he gave us all glimpses of last season. He is a risky play, but that risk is curbed by the fact that the opposition is the Jaguars offense that has virtually no run game. Bortles can get the ball down field in a hurry, but he can also be inaccurate and is prone to careless mistakes. It is worth the gamble this week if you have room to play Barr or are in a league that rewards tackles for loss or deflected passes.
Kwon Alexander (MLB-T.B.)– Sit Kwon Alexander this week. No, you don’t need to get your momma to come slap me because this is a bad matchup for the Bucs’ leading linebacker. If you look over the Bucs past five games in MLFS and most standard leagues, Alexander has struggled to post double digit fantasy points posting a mere 22 tackles one and a half stuffs, one sack and zero passes defensed. He got off to a blistering start, but is in a bit of a funk, and why risk starting him in the playoffs versus one of the least sack prone QBs in Drew Brees? No sense.
Vic Beasley(SLB-ATL)– Beasley is he second leading fantasy linebacker behind only Vontaze Burfict. He gets to tee off on the anemic Rams offense and Jared Goff as the Falcons look to keep their divisional lead over the Bucs. The Falcons secondary is suspect at best. But the Rams will keep it conservative with Goff and no run game. Beasley is going to be in for an insane week.
Derrick Morgan (OLB-TEN)– Starting Morgan can be playing with fire until you realize that since October 9th, he has only two games in which he has not recorded a sack. The Broncos have played it conservatively with Siemian and rookie Lynch this season. But, the offensive line still has some major holes which opens up the possibilities for the Titans and Morgan. He is a solid, steady start this week as he should be a lock for a sack or at minimum a tackle for loss or two.
Ryan Shazier (ILB-PIT)– Although he has been quiet the past two weeks, Shazier is a must start this week as the Steelers take on the Bills. The Bills have allowed 34 sacks and present a limited pass offense, which could open the playbook for the Steelers front seven and Shazier. While the Bills are very run-heavy and possess dangerous weapons in Taylor and McCoy, if the run game is stumped, it will be Steel Curtain time for the Steelers defense. Shazier is a solid play this week as a sack is virtually certain for the Steelers’ backer.
Joey Bosa (DE-S.D.)– Like all rookies, Bosa has experienced ups and downs this season. Still, he is a must start this week for the Chargers as Cam Newton and the baffling Panthers are on tap. The Panthers offensive line is an embarrassment and Bosa is sure to make them pay.
Jerry Hughes (DE/OLB-BUF)– I hate telling owners to bench defensive ends in the playoffs, but you simply cannot trust Hughes as he has exactly one sack over the past five games and zero over their last three. At this point if you have not dropped him, now is the time to do so.
Kony Ealy (DE-CAR)– I am hesitant about starting him in the playoffs. But Phillip Rivers’ has thrown for over 300 yards only once in the last fie games and has struggled versus some suspect defenses over that stretch. Ealy’s value could be tied directly to sacks. Still, he is worth a gamble this week as the Panthers look to show any signs of life down the stretch.
Malik Jackson (DT-JAX)– I swear, as soon as I dropped him in my pay league he decides he wants to play for real and produce. Since their bye week, the Vikings offensive line has been horrendous and Bradford has been suspect as well. Yes, Jackson is hit/miss this season, but versus the Vikings, he has a solid shot at being a productive DT this week.
With owners being very scrutinizing of their defensive and offensive plays the next 2-3 weeks, I will be back to provide the most sound, hopefully most helpful advice as every player becomes more crucial this fantasy season. Please feel free to pose any questions or comments directly to my email, or leave them in the comments below.
(Click the RED link below to listen)
Major League Fantasy Football Show: Join Ej Garr, Corey D Roberts, and Coach Jeff Nelson live Sunday December 11th, 2016 from 11am-12:30pm EST for episode #79 of Major League Fantasy Football Radio. This is a live broadcast and we take callers at 323-870-4395 press 1 to speak with the hosts. We will be breaking down key matchups, discussing fantasy start/sit, some DFS, and handicapping as well.
Jeff is the defensive coach for Freedom H.S. in PA, an 8 year veteran of Major League Fantasy Sports, and 3 time champion.
You can find our shows on I-Tunes. Just search for Major League Fantasy Sports in the podcasts section. For Android users go to “Podcast Republic,” then download that app, and search for “Major League Fantasy Sports Show”