And then there were four.
In the vast majority of IDP leagues, Week 15 brings with it the playoff semifinals. Whether your IDP league started with 10, 12, 14 or even 16 teams, at this point a quartet of clubs remain. Those teams all share a couple things in common, not the least of which is the fact they’re just two victories away from fantasy glory.
Of course, those teams also share in common a level of success this season. Every team you roll up against at this point in the season is a good one. There are no easy outs. Every fantasy point can be the difference between advancing to the championship game and calling it a season.
And that makes every lineup decision absolutely critical.
Now that I mention it, that’s a lot of pressure. Now I’m starting to get a little freaked out. I can’t breathe. The walls are closing in.
OK, I’m better now.
A quick word of advice before I get to this week’s recommendations. Yes, I’m (allegedly) an IDP “expert.” I’d like to think I’m right more than I’m wrong. The amount of success I have in leagues would appear to back that up. And I put a lot of time and effort into what I do.
But I don’t have to live with your starting lineup this week – you do.
If you’re convinced a player in a bad matchup (like Vontaze Burfict of the Cincinnati Bengals) will buck that matchup and have a solid day, start him. If you think Minnesota Vikings linebacker Eric Kendricks won’t be able to take advantage of his primo matchup in Week 15, then sit him. It’s your team.
If you’re wrong you’ll get over it. But if you start/sit a player based on a recommendation you aren’t buying and it turns out you’re right, you’ll spend the next four months vacillating between being angry at me and yourself.
I get plenty of hate mail already – no need to add to the pile.
With that in mind, let’s try to be right together.
Each week during the 2016 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 2015 in Fantasy Sharks Default IDP Scoring.
IDP START OF THE WEEK
Eric Kendricks – ILB, Minnesota Vikings (vs. IND) (1)
Kendricks has quickly developed into a defensive leader for the Vikings as an every-down player and defensive signal-caller for the Vikings. As John Holler of Scout wrote, head coach Mike Zimmer lauded Kendricks’ progress in Year 2 of his NFL career.
“He’s played good,” Zimmer said. “When he’s in there, he makes a lot of plays. He’s good in coverage. He’s progressing good.”
Kendricks has been an up-and-down IDP option most of the season because of that “When he’s in there” part – he’s missed a not insignificant amount of time with injuries. However, Week 15 sets up well as an “up” week, Not only do the Colts allow the most fantasy points per game to linebackers, but that’s been the case most of the season.
WEEK 15 IDP STUDS
Marcell Dareus – DT, Buffalo Bills (vs. CLE) (2): It isn’t just a matter of the Browns allowing the most fantasy points to defensive linemen in the AFC. Dareus will spend much of the day blowing past Browns center Cameron Erving, who appears to be trying very hard to land a post-football career as a matador. “OLE!”
Cameron Jordan – DE, New Orleans Saints (at AZ) (1): As ESPN’s Mike Triplett wrote, Jordan’s “down” numbers in 2016 aren’t as bad as they look at first glance. “Although Jordan has “just” 5.5 sacks,” he said, “his 17 quarterback hits, 12 tackles for loss and four batted passes put him in the top eight in the NFL in each of those categories.”
Stephon Tuitt – DE, Pittsburgh Steelers (at CIN) (6): Want to know why the Bengals are going to miss the playoffs for the first time in six years this season? Look no farther than offensive line that’s gone from being one of the team’s strengths to arguably it’s biggest weakness – a line that has allowed 36 sacks in 13 games this season (fifth-most in the NFL).
C.J. Mosley – ILB, Baltimore Ravens (vs. PHI) (4): Mosley’s fantasy owners are probably leery of rolling him out in the playoffs after what’s been a massively disappointing statistical season. Having a short memory might not be such a bad idea this time – over the last month no team has allowed more fantasy points per game to linebackers than the Eagles.
Corey Nelson – ILB, Denver Broncos (at NE) (3): Among the many problems facing the Denver Broncos right now are injuries to both their starters at inside linebacker. Given that and the Broncos’ issues stopping the run in 2016, it’s a fair bet that Nelson and the Denver defense will be receiving a lot of Blount force trauma in Beantown Sunday.
Lawrence Timmons – ILB, Pittsburgh Steelers (at CIN) (2): This has been a typical season for Timmons, in that he’s been a solid, if unspectacular IDP LB2. However, this week’s AFC North tilt should provide the sort of matchup that will result in more from the veteran – the Bengals have really picked up the pace where fantasy points allowed to linebackers are concerned of late.
Vonn Bell – S, New Orleans Saints (at AZ) (2): Sunday’s battle of playoff also-rans is a bonanza for fantasy defensive backs, featuring the two most generous teams in terms of points allowed to the position. Add in Kenny Vaccaro’s suspension, and the table is set for both Bell and Jairus Byrd to have a productive afternoon.
Quintin Demps – S, Houston Texans (at JAX) (3): Demps isn’t going to be confused with Landon Collins anytime soon. He’s probably closer to Carol Burnett than Morgan Burnett. But he is an every-down strong safety playing in a top-five fantasy matchup with the Jaguars. As spot starters go, you could probably do worse.
D.J. Swearinger – S, Arizona Cardinals (vs. NO) (1): From a situation perspective things don’t get much better than Week 15 for Swearinger. Not only have the Saints allowed the most fantasy points per game to defensive backs in 2016, but most of his competition for tackles will be spending the afternoon watching the game in street clothes.