Crunch time cometh.
The month of November brings with it the stretch run in fantasy football leagues. It’s the time of year when playoff berths are truly won or lost, because for most fantasy owners at this point in the year, a spot in the postseason tournament is neither assured nor out of the question.
Maybe you’re 6-2 or 5-3 and trying to keep the good times rolling. Perhaps you’re 4-4 and trying to get hot at just the right time. Or maybe you’re 3-5 or even 2-6 and clinging to hopes of a playoff berth by the slimmest of threads.
If you’re in that last group, it’s important to remember that hope is not lost. I’ve started a season 1-5, snuck into the playoffs as a 7-6 sixth seed, peeled off three wins in a row and won a championship. My better half, who is playing fantasy football for the first time in 2016, started the year 0-4 in the Deathmatch IDP Showcase League here at Fantasy Sharks.
She has since won four in a row, and entering Week 9, her team sits in first place in her division.
Of course, even if you can get things turned around, a record like that leaves very little margin for error. Each additional loss could be a season-killer. Every lineup decision – every fantasy point – carries added weight.
It’s the final countdown.
You’re welcome — again.
That’s where IDP Studs and Duds comes in.
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).
Week 9 brings with it another six-team bye – Arizona, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, and Washington. It goes without saying (or at least it should), but make sure no one on those teams is in your lineup.
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
Cliff Avril – DE, Seattle Seahawks (vs. BUF) (2)
Avril was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for October, and as John Boyle of the team’s website wrote his phenomenal play of late drew raves from head coach Pete Carroll. “He has just been a huge factor in everything,” Carroll said. “He has just been a factor every time we go out there. Every game he plays the same—they’re just an extension of the last one. He’s playing like crazy. He’s very forceful and very obvious when he’s out there.”
Avril was an absolute nightmare for opposing quarterbacks over the last month, racking up an eye-popping 6.5 sacks while ascending to the No. 1 spot among defensive linemen. With a very favorable home matchup with the Bills on tap, there’s little reason to believe Avril won’t continue his hot streak.
WEEK 9 IDP STUDS
Jurrell Casey – DE, Tennessee Titans (at SD) (5): Casey’s been an up-and-down fantasy option in 2016, with his ups and down being largely matchup dependent. He draws a top-five one Sunday afternoon in sunny San Diego, landing the veteran five-technique well within the top 20 at his position. Don’t hesitate to start him.
Kony Ealy – DE, Carolina Panthers (at LA) (8): Ealy finally got into the big play column in Week 8, even if the young defensive end did it the hard way with an interception of Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer. Both he and batterymate Charles Johnson should make for serviceable fill-in starters in a top-10 matchup with the Rams in La-La Land.
Cameron Jordan – DE, New Orleans Saints (at SF) (7): As Michael Kaskey-Blomain of 247 Sports reported, San Fran head man Chip Kelly knows the Niners will have their hands full with Jordan in Week 9. “I think Cameron Jordan is one of the best defensive linemen in the league,” Kelly said. “He can cause a lot of problems. He should have our attention for everybody on our offensive line in terms of what he is and what he can generate.”
Kiko Alonso – ILB, Miami Dolphins (vs. NYJ) (3): Alonso’s playing as well as he has since his rookie year. He told Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News that’s because he’s as healthy as he’s been since then. “It took me a while to get to where I was fully back to 100 percent,” Alonso said, “but that’s football. Injuries happen and you’ve just got to bounce back from them. I feel as good as I’ve ever felt.”
Derrick Johnson – ILB, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. JAX) (4): Johnson was hit with a “limited” tag Wednesday, but Rotowire reported the veteran ILB will play Sunday against the Jags. “Johnson wasn’t known to have suffered an injury during Sunday’s game against the Colts,” they said, “so it’s possible the Chiefs simply opted to put a cap on the veteran’s practice reps.”
Jake Ryan – ILB, Green Bay Packers (vs. IND) (1): Ryan’s a great plug-and-play for fantasy owners in a bye week bind at the linebacker position. Sure, he leaves the field in some sub-packages – but Ryan should still see enough snaps in IDP’s best matchup for linebackers in 2016 to at the very least post LB3 numbers.
Antoine Bethea – S, San Francisco 49ers (vs. NO) (1): Bethea’s been as solid as they come among fantasy defensive backs for years – including top five numbers at the position heading into his Week 8 bye. Bethea should come out of that bye strong thanks to the fantasy bonanza in the defensive backfield that is the Saints.
T.J. McDonald – S, Los Angeles Rams (vs. CAR) (5): According to Jack Wang of the Orange County Register, McDonald said the Rams will play hard but clean when the Panthers come to town Sunday after Cam Newton complained about the hits he’s been taking of late. But the matchup still favors the secondary, making McDonald a decent DB2 play in Week 9.
Rodney McLeod – S, Philadelphia Eagles (at NYG) (4): Raise your hand if you thought it would be McLeod who ranks the highest at his respective position among all Eagles players at this point in the season. Now put your hand down you damn liar – and enjoy a top-five matchup with the Giants that should yield another fat stat line.