The Amateur Ward: “How to Play Your Defensive Matchups En Route to the ‘Ship”
During this time last season, I was glued to the computer monitor and TV wondering if my team would advance into the Championship round. If not for a scoring correction just before the deadline, I would have made it. Instead, I lost by .0125 points and nearly took out all the windows in my room. Yes, as we approach the Championship round every last stat or half yard matters. We are all addicted to winning and proving our dominance over one another, but in the end, the men separate from the boys, leaving the rest of us to look up and stare. Do not be the unlucky one who is left out of the ‘Ship on a technicality. These rankings will help you advance and dominate. Your defense is often the link deciding whether you advance or go home in the playoffs. Now, step up your game, son!
Josh Bynes (SLB-DET)– Bynes has been very productive for the Lions over the past three games as they try to lock up their first division title since 1993. The Giants offensive line has done a good job protecting Eli Manning this season without a run game, and Manning seems to have found some chemistry with rookie wideout Sterling Shepard. Slowing the Giants offense could be tough, but Bynes has a knack for locking up tackles for loss and being helpful in coverage. He makes for a solid play in Week 2 of the playoffs.
Benardrick McKinney (ILB-HOU)– The Mississippi State inside linebacker has had his bumps this season, but he has transformed into a physical, athletic linebacker who lowers the boom and is hard to beat on plays. The Jaguars should present a soft opponent, and one McKinney should easily exploit. Once a favorite sleeper to make the playoffs, the Jaguars offense and offensive line have looked lost, with Bortles taking a step back after a promising 2015 season. Do not focus on the explosiveness of Allen Robinson as the Texans will double him. Owners need to bank on the Texans crowding the box, applying pressure on Bortles. This recipe should have McKinney produce his fifth sack of the season en route to a pleasant week for fantasy owners.
Zach Brown (ILB-BUF)– Fantasy owners should be drooling all over this matchup as the Bills get ready to take on the winless Browns. Known for getting behind and wreaking havoc, Brown should have a field day versus the skeleton thin Browns offensive line. Let’s face it, RGIII is not what he used to be, and while he showed promise early in the preseason, connecting with Terrelle Pryor, he is not 100% and Brown will capitalize on his rustiness and account at least for a tackle for loss and approach ten tackles.
Nick Kwiatkoski (ILB-CHI)– If you are an underdog in your playoffs matchup this week and are looking for a homerun play, Kwiatkoski is your guy. He racks up the tackles, is capable of getting into the backfield and makes for a dangerous option given his tackling propensity. True, the Packers seem to be clicking on all cylinders right now, even without a run game, but Kwiatkoski is by no means a one trick pony and makes for a solid third option for those deeper leagues starting 3 linebackers and an IDP slot. He is not the most well known name, but he is a tough kid who knows how to tackle and disrupt plays.
Ryan Kerrigan (OLB-WSH)– Kerrigan injured his knee on December 15th, but assuming it is nothing that will cause him to miss time, you better start him as you are playing for his sacks and ability to blow up plays. The panthers have looked better in recent weeks, but their offensive line is still porous and Cam still does not look comfortable. Kerrigan gets into the backfield with such ferocity that he has forced Qbs time and time again into forcing passes leading to incompletions or turnovers, or flat out throwing the ball away. This is a prime matchup for Kerrigan to boost your team’s chances of making the championship game, and you would be a fool to ignore him.
Andre Branch (DE-MIA)– The Dolphins boast one of the best defensive lines in the league, but they are very thin in the secondary. This could be a somewhat moot point versus a Jets team that starts a rookie at Qb and has a run-heavy approach. Matt Forte is questionable to play, but even if he does, Branch should be a must start. Branch is a high floor, nice upside play this week and should easily post double digit fantasy points in most leagues given the Jets conservative nature with a rookie at the helm.
Jadeveon Clowney (DE-HOU)- I do not like recommending stack playing versus any one opponent in the postseason, but you must play Clowney if you own him as the Jaguars do not have anybody to stop his explosiveness. Even if he does not produce a sack, he is behind the line, racking up tackles for loss and forcing bad decisions by the offense. He could be in on top DE honors for the week.
Joey Bosa (DE-SD)– If you are into playing high upside/low floor players in the fantasy playoffs. Bosa is your guy. Last time the Chargers faced the Raiders, Bosa posted two sacks and an additional tackle for loss in his NFL debut. The Raiders will remember this and bring help to his side, but with Carr showing signs of his dislocated pinky affecting his passing game, Bosa could rear back to make life extra hard on the passing game. He is boom/bust, but he could carry you into the next round.
Marcell Dareus (DT-BUF)– Leagues with DL slots where you normally play a DE need to slot in Dareus as the Bills defense is going to smother the Browns this week. Dareus is an elite DT when on the field, and this is too enticing to ignore. At least a sack is all but guaranteed.
Kawann Short (DT-CAR)– The Redskins boast a very good offensive line, but offensive lines can never ignore Short as he always seems to disrupt plays and has been an elite DT in fantasy leagues over the past two seasons. His threat of sack/tackle for loss makes it hard for you to bench him and, despite a slightly unfavorable matchup, Short is worthy of play in the DL slot as he seldom goes quiet and could kick into another gear with the Panthers looking to rattle off back to back wins. The NFC South is not settled by any stretch.
Good luck to all pursuing their first, repeat, or their 10th+ Ship this season, and remember trust your instinct and scrutinize every move. You know your team, now play it to its full potential and make wise decisions on the waiver wire.
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Major League Fantasy Football Show: Join Ej Garr, Corey D Roberts, and Coach Andy Macuga live Sunday December 18th, 2016 from 11am-12:30pm EST for episode #80 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. This is our 2016 Grand Finale show!
Andy is the Head Coach for Borrego Springs H.S. in Southern California, a 4 year veteran of MLFS leagues, and frequent guest on our shows.
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