Injuries are a fact of life in football, whether it’s the NFL or the hobby we all enjoy so much. It’s a violent sport played by very large men in suits of armor crashing into one another as hard as they can. Guys are going to get hurt.
Still, when Jacksonville Jaguars middle linebacker Paul Posluszny suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle last week, it continued a staggering rash of injuries that have ravaged the linebacker spot dating all the way back to training camp.
Of the Top 20 fantasy linebackers by virtue of Average Draft Position at My Fantasy League in 2014, 11 have either missed multiple games, are injured now or have been ruled out for the remainder of the season. That’s over 50 percent.
Needless to say, these injuries have had a massive impact on IDP leagues. In “standard” fantasy formats they have left teams scrambling to the waiver wire, sometimes to replace their entire starting lineup.
In Fantasy Throwdown, it means that knowing which rocks to turn over in what games to unearth hidden defensive gems can make the difference between a win and a loss.
With that in mind, let’s get to it – before someone else gets hurt.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars
I know what you’re thinking, and no, I haven’t been drinking. Yes, the Dolphins and Jaguars aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts, and at first glance there doesn’t appear to be a ton of IDP talent either. However, dig a little deeper and you’ll find some very nice under-the-radar IDP options, from Miami linebacker Jelani Jenkins to Jacksonville defensive end Chris Clemons. The Dolphins and Jaguars have also both been extremely generous to defensive players in 2014. Both teams rank in the Top 10 in fantasy points allowed to IDPs (Fantasy Throwdown scoring), and the Jaguars lead the NFL both in sacks allowed and in fantasy points surrendered to IDPs.
Green Bay Packers at New Orleans Saints
Nothing beats having a player or two starting for your fantasy team in the week’s primetime tilts. One last player to cheer for. One last chance at that miracle comeback. Not only does Sunday night’s big duel in the Big Easy meet that end, but there’s IDP talent at every level of the defense, including two of fantasy football’s top defensive backs in Kenny Vaccaro of the Saints and Morgan Burnett of the Packers. Throw in a pair of high-octane offenses capable of both long, sustained drives and quick scores and you have the recipe for fat stat lines on both sides of the ball.
Now that we’ve looked at a couple of games that should interest fantasy owners in Fantasy Throwdown IDP games in Week 8, let’s start flipping over rocks and see if we can’t unearth a potential “sleeper” play or two.
Olivier Vernon – DE, Miami Dolphins
Batterymate Cameron Wake may get all the headlines, but Vernon’s hardly chopped liver himself. Yes, the third-year pro threw up the dreaded IDP doughnut in Week 7, but the week before Vernon tallied 7 total tackles and 1.5 sacks. That latter stat line is much more likely this week against the Jaguars, who have allowed the most sacks in the National Football League (29) in 2014 by a sizable margin.
Josh Mauga – ILB, Kansas City Chiefs
Mauga was thrust into the starting lineup for the Chiefs by the season-ending Achilles’ injury suffered by Pro Bowler Derrick Johnson back in September. Mauga, who leads the team in tackles heading into a matchup with a St. Louis Rams team giving up the second-most fantasy points per game to linebackers this year, told Matt Conner of SB Nation that starting has been an adjustment, but he has the hang of it now. “Each week,” Mauga said, “I feel I’ve gotten more comfortable and used to being on the field a lot more. I feel great.”
James Ihedigbo – SS, Detroit Lions
As Justin Rogers of MLive.com reported, after the Lions came back to defeat the New Orleans Saints in Week 7, Ihedigbo chided fans who left Ford Field early. “You know, people had the nerve to leave the stadium,” Ihedigbo said. “You’ve got to understand the type of football team you have here. You never leave the stadium. Never. We’re always going to fight and be resilient and we showed that today.” Meanwhile, I’m here to chide those who haven’t noticed that only two defensive backs have more fantasy points over the past four weeks than Ihedigbo.
Jelani Jenkins – OLB, Miami Dolphins
According to Ian Wharton of Bleacher Report, Jenkins has been a revelation for the Dolphins in 2014. “If Jenkins can continue his ascension and high-level play,” Wharton said, “he can be a solid building block moving into the next decade. For an organization that’s been plagued by mediocrity, Jenkins represents hope that the future will be brighter.” Jenkins has also been something of a revelation for IDP owners. Despite cooling off the past two weeks, Jenkins still ranks among the Top 20 fantasy linebackers, and a tilt this week with a Jaguars squad allowing the most fantasy points per game to linebackers this year should help the second-year pro shake off his recent mini-slump.
Have a question regarding a specific player or game? Hit me up on Twitter and I’ll do my best to help!
Gary Davenport is a Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks, an NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and Pro Football Writers of America. Gary’s work has been featured in a number of national print publications and on both satellite and terrestrial radio, and he was a finalist for the FSWA Web Article of the Year in 2013.