It’s a special time of year in fantasy football. A wonderful, special, maddening, frustrating, exciting time of year.
It’s the fantasy playoffs.
Of course, this is different from the situation that inspired Mora’s infamous rant. Unless you’re just playing out the string in an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) league with a 14-week regular season, either you’re already in the postseason or will be with a win.
From here out, one of two things will happen. With a win, it’s on to next round. With a loss, the season ends. No more fantasy football fun until next fall.
One could say it’s the final countdown.
Hey, it could be worse. I’ll probably hit you with Christmas music next week.
Anyway, now that every week is essentially a one-week season unto itself, lineup decisions become all the more critical. Every point matters. Every point can be the difference between a victory and a defeat — between the season moving on or coming to an end.
With that in mind, one caveat before we get to this week’s calls. Research is great. So is collecting the opinions of the many knowledgeable IDP pundits out there (even me, although “knowledgeable” may be pushing it where I’m concerned), but the final lineup decision is up to one person — you. You’re the only one who has to live with the consequences of who you start or sit. So if your gut screams at you that I’m wrong about one of these recommendations, listen to it.
It’s easier to bear being wrong than knowing you were right and chose to ignore it in favor of what someone else thought.
Each week during the 2018 season, I’ll point out some individual defensive players who could be set to exceed expectations this week (Studs), as well as some that for whatever reason are riskier plays than normal (Duds).
This isn’t necessarily to say that every “Stud” is a must-start (it depends on your other options) or that every “Dud” should be glued to your bench (just that the odds of a letdown week are greater than usual).
Numbers in parentheses denote ranking in fantasy points allowed to that position in 2018 in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
IDP STUD OF THE WEEK
EDITORS NOTE: Lee was SUSPENDED after the release of this article.
Darron Lee, ILB, New York Jets (at Buffalo) (1)
As Rotowire pointed out, Lee’s best game of the season came when the Jets hosted Buffalo in Week 10.
“Lee logged 11 tackles (five solo) during a 41-10 loss to (Buffalo),” they said. ”Lee posted his highest single-game tackle total of the season during the Week 10 loss, during which time the Jets defense was outmatched by Buffalo’s offense during all phases of the game. The 2016 first-rounder’s tackle volume and work in pass coverage keep him on the IDP radar.”
Lee has been an inconsistent IDP option this year, and the fact that less than half of his tackles in Week 10 were solos may give some IDP owners pause. But that game was in New York. This one’s in Buffalo against a team that leads the NFL in fantasy points allowed to linebackers, in from of arguably the most generous stat crew in the league.
WEEK 14 IDP STUDS
Cameron Heyward, DE, Pittsburgh (at Oakland) (1): Over the last few years, Oakland was regularly a Bottom 5 pass-rush matchup. That script has been flipped in 2018 — no team is surrendering more fantasy points per game to the position.
Matt Ioannidis, DE, Washington (vs. New York Giants) (3): Indications are that Ioannidis will play Sunday after missing Week 13 with a shin injury. He has a good shot at sack No. 8 against a Giants offensive line that had struggled mightily in pass protection this season.
Jabaal Sheard, DE, Indianapolis (at Houston) (2): With 36 tackles and 5.5 sacks, Sheard has been very, well, Sheard-like in 2018. Week 14 sets up well for a big game — Houston is third in the NFL in sacks allowed this season with 41.
Demario Davis, OLB, New Orleans (at Tampa Bay) (2): Davis had one of his best games of the season against Dallas last week, notching 11 total tackles. A favorable matchup with Tampa Bay should make for a second straight strong showing.
Todd Davis, ILB, Denver (at San Francisco) (4): The names have changed at running back for San Francisco, but the team’s commitment to the ground game hasn’t. That means tackle opportunities for Denver’s only every-down inside linebacker.
Eric Kendricks, ILB, Minnesota (at Seattle) (5): Kendricks has been hot, with 35 total tackles and an interception over his last three games — including 16 stops last week. A Monday night tilt with NFL’s most run-heavy team should keep the good times rolling.
Bradley McDougald, S, Seattle (vs. Minnesota) (4): After amassing nine stops (including eight solos) in last week’s win over San Francisco, McDougald’s positioned for another big box score on Monday night against Minnesota.
Jermaine Whitehead, S, Tampa Bay (vs. New Orleans) (13): Fantasy owners looking for a spot-start in the secondary should check out Whitehead, who had 11 tackles in his last start in place of the injured Justin Evans at strong safety.
Marcus Williams, S, New Orleans (at Tampa Bay) (2): Whitehead isn’t the only safety who could clean up in this game — there isn’t a team in the NFC that has allowed more fantasy points to defensive backs this year than Tampa Bay.