The regular season is over more and more people, including myself, are extending their fantasy football experience by playing in playoff fantasy football games. If you are one of the hardcore few who have IDP players included, then this article is going to help you get the right players this week.
If you’re a match-ups guy there are some clear choices for your defensive line picks this week. Looking at our Pass Blocking Efficiency data, which uses a weighted formula to rate the number of sacks, hits and hurries their QB faces based on passing snaps, it’s easy to identify which team’s players to target. Cincinnati (3rd), Detroit (=4th), New Orleans (=4th) and Houston (7th) are all very good at keeping their QB clean, while Atlanta (11th) have improved dramatically since abysmal Sam Baker was benched in week 7. At the other end of the spectrum the Steelers (20th), Broncos (31st) and Giants (32nd) have struggled, between them allowing their collective QB to be disrupted on nearly 1-in-3 pass plays. Looking at just sacks allowed Cincinnati (1st), New Orleans (=6th) and Houston (=6th) still rank highly, while the Giants (26th) and Steelers (29th) do poorly. So with that being said, it’s clear that the pass-rushers we should target are Broncos and Falcons, and to a lesser extent Steelers because they play a 3-4 defense which limits the fantasy value of their DEs.
The player I particularly like this week is Elvis Dumervil who earned a Pro Bowl berth based on his play over the second half of the season. Since week 9, Dumervil has recorded 12 sacks and even showed his versatility with 8 solo tackles in week 17. The loss of Rashard Mendenhall with a torn ACL will put more emphasis on the Pittsburgh passing game leaving Doom the opportunity to put Roethlisberger in the dirt. By the same token, OLB Von Miller is also a very attractive play this week at linebacker, especially in big-play scoring systems.
Despite a quiet season aside from a 4-sack game in week 15, John Abraham has been our 2nd best pass-rushing 4-3 DE (+31.7). Even if you take away that one game performance from his cumulative grade, he’d still rank as the 4th best blitzer, so be prepared to put him in your line-up this week as he gets a juicy match-up against the leagues poorest pass-blocking O-Line.
Other than Von Miller, you should avoid your pass-rushing LBs this week. This includes Connor Barwin even though he has 10 sacks in the past 8 weeks as the Bengals O-Line has only allowed 10 sacks of Andy Dalton all year. Concentrate on your three-down middle linebackers facing teams that are likely to run the ball a lot, namely Rey Maualuga. Since returning from injury Maualuga has averaged 6 total tackles a game, but most notably had his biggest game of the season against his wildcard week opponents, the Texans, just a few weeks ago. He forced two fumbles and recovered one on top of his 6 total tackles and will look to have a similar impact again.
When it comes to pure tackle numbers there are few linebackers that are as effective as Curtis Lofton. With 112 solo tackles to his 2011 resume, no linebacker playing this week has more. This is in part because Lofton is the most thrown at ILB in the NFL with 81 targets, but that belies his consistency as he has only once fallen below 6 total tackles in a single game this year.
Primarily you want to target run-stopping safeties that can accumulate tackles because they’re the most dependable statistic, and on that basis Antrel Rolle is a strong play. Rolle has 83 solo tackles on the season (=3rd among safeties) and continues to be a liability in coverage having allowed 57/76 (75%) passes to be completed for 3 TDs. If not trying to bring down Michael Turner he’ll be covering a wide receiver duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones, who both rank in the top 20 of wideouts based on Yards per Route Run.
Danieal Manning also appeals this week. Our most efficient tackling safety sees the return of his week 14 opponent, the Bengals, whom he recorded a season high of 10 solo tackles against when they played.
If you play in cornerback required leagues then Brent Grimes (+16.0) makes for an interesting play this week. We often talk about how being an ‘elite’ cornerback can prevent a player from being targeted, but despite his excellent play, Grimes continues to be thrown at. The diminutive Grimes has only played 72 snaps since week 11 and will surely be tested often and early by a Giants team that passes frequently to its pair of WR1s.
Questions and comments are welcome – @PFF_RossMiles