Week 12 Defensive Line Starts, Sits, Sleepers, and Matchups

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Welcome to the Week 12 roundup of Defensive Lines. Here we will look at must starts as well as sits based off matchups. Let’s take a look.


Defensive End Starts

J.J. Watt– Houston Texans

Season Statistics: 36 Tackles (28 solo), 12 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 4 forced fumbles

Matchup: Tennessee Titans

  • Ranked 27th in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 19.5%
  • Ranked Last in Pass Protection giving up 33 sacks at a league worst 11.2%

J.J. Watt is a weekly no brainer must start. This week though  is even more so. He faces the worst pass protecting Offensive Line this week in the Titans. More than one out of every ten dropbacks ends in a sack for the Titans. The Titans seem to be focused still on running the ball. They ran the ball 19 times last week even while being blown out. J.J. Watt plays the run exceptionally shown by his 12 tackles for a loss.

To make things worse they may be without starting QB Marcus Mariota. If Blaine Gabbert does make the sart then it will be all downhill for the Titans. With the worst pass protecting line Watt, Clowney and Mercilus should all make a living in the backfield. With how well the three safety tandem has been playing for the Texans, Gabbert will be reluctant to get rid of the ball. Because of this I could see Gabbert on his back a lot. Watch what happens when you hold the ball too long:

Prediction: 5 Tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 pass defensed

Khalil Mack– Chicago Bears

Season Statistics- 27 Tackles (22 solo), 6 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 1 interception, 5 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 Touchdown

Matchup: Detroit Lions

  • Ranked 21st in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 22.4 %
  • Ranked 17th in Pass Protection giving up 30 sacks at a rate of 7.3%

Khalil Mack is officially back after he played two games injured and missed two completely. He came back with a vengeance Week 10 where he had 5 tackles, 2 for a loss and 2 sacks. Oh yeah did I forget to mention…that was against the Lions. Watch here how Mack punished the Lions Offensive Line:

Kerryon Johnson is also out so I don’t see the Lions running the ball much. I expect Matt Stafford to be dropping back early and often. Because of the Bears Offense flowing with ease recently, teams have been playing catch up. The run will be abandoned early without a considerable effort from any running back. Khalil Mack’s Thanksgiving feast should be a marvelous and plentiful one…Amen.

Prediction: 4 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Demarcus Lawrence

Season Statistics- 44 Tackles (30 solo), 13 tackles for a loss, 8 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery

Matchup: Washington Redskins

  • Ranked 23rd in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 22.2%
  • Ranked 18th in Pass Protection giving up 24 sacks at a rate of 7.4%

The Cowboys play the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day. That means that the Skins are on a short rest and with a backup QB in Colt McCoy. Granted McCoy is a veteran and probably knows the game plan well, his arm is weak and inaccurate. To boot he doesn’t have enough talent at receiver to get open on their own. With the Cowboys’ secondary ranking among the top in the league this could prove to be an issue. McCoy will have to hold the ball longer than he likes which allows pressure off the ends.

Also, since McCoy is starting, Adrian Peterson should be touching the ball plenty on Thanksgiving Day. Lawrence is one of the best DE’s at playing the run. As a result of that he has 13 tackles for a loss. Washington is not great at running the ball up the middle. This shows with their stuff rate of 22.2% at the line. Because of this they should be swinging outside more often where Lawrence will be waiting. Watch here his speed and motor to cath the running back, Mmmmm run stuffed Turkey:

Prediction: 5 Tackles, 3 tackles for a loss, 0.5 sack

Defensive End Sits

Frank Clark– Seattle Seahawks

Season Statistics- 21 Tackles (18 solo), 8 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks, 1 pass defensed, 1 interception, 3 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery

Matchup: Carolina Panthers

  • 9th in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 16.7%
  • 13th in Pass Protection giving up 20 sacks at a rate of 6.7%

Don’t get me wrong, Frank Clark has had a great season. He is going up against the Panthers though. They feature a running back who hits the hole well in Christian McCaffery. He also is a magnificent receiver in general. Frank Clark doesn’t play the run great as he has only 21 tackles in. Since Cam Newton scrambles so much I can’t see Clark getting to him. If he is going to be sacked it will be by a linebacker or safety.

Prediction: 2 Tackles (1 solo), 1 tackle for a loss

Any Defensive End on Atlanta

Matchup: New Orleans Saints

  • Ranked 2nd in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 15%
  • Ranked 1st in Pass Protection giving up the least amount of sacks at 9 at a rate of 3.9%

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Do not start anybody on the defensive line if they are playing the Saints. This team has the best Offensive Line in the league ranking 2nd in both major categories. Brees has been sacked only once in his last 6 games. He needs to go down at some point but the Falcons don’t have the firepower to do it.

Prediction: Combined 3 tackles for DE’s

Defensive End Sleeper

Alex Okafor– New Orleans Saints

Season Statistics- 19 Tackles (14 solo), 3 tackles for a loss, 3 sacks, 1 pass defensed, 1 blocked kick

Matchup: Atlanta Falcons

  • Ranked 25th in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 26.2%
  • Ranked 16th in Pass Protection giving up 27 sacks at a rate of 7.2%

Alex Okafor has come on strong as of late. All 3 of his sacks have come in the last 5 games and has recorded one in two straight. It has been helpful that his team has been putting up 40 points a week on a regular basis. The Saints play from ahead so much that teams switch game plans and throw a lot. Okafor should be able to extend his sack streak to three games.

The Falcons are also terrible at running up the middle. They have the second worse stuff rate in the league at 26.2%. This means that whenever they do run the ball it will be to the outside. You better believe that they pick Okafor’s side as opposed to Cameron Jordan. This should open up more possibility for Okafor to make some tackles. Okafor also played the most snaps on the Saints Defense last week:

Prediction: 3 Tackles, 2 for a loss, 1 sack

Defensive Tackle Starts

Kenny Clark– Green Bay Packers

Season Statistics- 44 Tackles (30 solo), 7 tackles for a loss, 5 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries

Matchup: Minnesota Vikings

  • Ranked Worst in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 23%
  • Ranked 9th in Pass Protection giving up 26 sacks at a rate of 5.5%

Kenny Clark gets a mouth watering matchup this week against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings give up the most points to opposing DT’s. Akiem Hicks of the Bears just put up a 6 Tackle, 5 for a loss and 1 sack line against them. Clark has been one of the most productive DT’s this year. He is a monster in the run game up the middle and that and with that run blocking ranking Clark should rack up a number of tackles. With Dalvin Cook getting healthier the Vikings should look to balance their offense better and run more. Watch Clark here blast his way up the middle:

Prediction: 4 Tackles, 3 for a loss

Maurice Hurst

Season Statistics- 26 Tackles (24 solo), 3 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble

Matchup: Baltimore Ravens

  • Ranked 15th in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 20.9%
  • Ranked 5th in Pass Protection giving up 19 sacks at a rate of 4.6%

Maurice Hurst has been getting better and better as the year goes on. In his last two games he has 9 tackles, 2 for a loss and 2 sacks. The 9 tackles shows how well Hurst plays in the run game. The Ravens may be employing Lamar Jackson again this week who himself rushed 27 times. Add that to the attempts by the teams running backs and Hurst should be able to rack up some tackles. With Lamar Jackson looking to extend plays as well Hurst should be able to get to him a time or two. Hurst has been one of the most impressive rookie Lineman this season as this graphic shows:

Prediction: 5 Tackles, 2 for a loss, 0.5 sack

Fletcher Cox– Philadelphia Eagles

Season Statistics- 30 Tackles (21 solo), 5 tackles for a loss, 4 sacks, 1 pass deflection

Matchup: New York Giants

  • Ranked 30th in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 22.3%
  • Ranked 27th in Pass Protection giving up 36 sacks at a rate of 9.3%

The Giants have a horrible Offensive Line across the board. They also give up the 3rd most points to DT’s. The fact that Fletcher Cox not only run stuffs well, he is a good pass rusher up the gut. No QB has been sacked more than Eli Manning this year with 36 times. With decent pressure off the edge with Michael Bennett and Brandon Graham Eli will have to step up. There to receive said Manning will be Fletcher Cox.

Prediction: 3 Tackles, 3for a loss, 1 sack

Defensive Tackle Sits

Jarran Reed– Seattle Seahawks

Season Statistics- 34 Tackles (23 solo), 7 tackles for a loss, 5.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery

Matchup: Carolina Panthers

  • Ranked 9th in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 16.7%
  • Ranked 13th in Pass Protection giving up 20 sacks at a rate of 6.7%

Jarran Reed has made a nice leap during his Sophomore campaign in the NFL. He has more than tripled his sack total from his rookie season and is tackling at a higher rate. He unfortunately gets the task of trying to sack Cam Newton this week who does not normally step up away from pressure. Newton scrambles more to the outside leaving DT’s in the dust. The Panthers give up the 29th mots points to opposing DT’s.

Prediction: 2 Tackles

Any Defensive Tackle for the Falcons

Matchup: New Orleans Saints

  • Ranked 2nd in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 15%
  • Ranked 1st in Pass Protection giving up 9 sacks at a rate of 3.9%

I must sound like a broken record, DO NOT START ANY DEFENSIVE LINEMAN AGAINST THE SAINTS! Brees again has only been sacked once in his past 6 games and the Falcons just don’t have the firepower.

Prediction: 4 Tackles combined

Defensive Tackle Sleeper

Rodney Gunter– Arizona Cardinals

Season Statistics- 25 Tackles (16 solo), 5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble

Matchup: Los Angeles Chargers

  • Ranked 7th in Run Blocking with a stuff rate of 20.6%
  • Ranked 7th in Pass Protection giving up 16 sacks at a rate of 5.3%

Gunter has played very well his last three games. He has played around 72% of all snaps in those three games. In those three games he has 14 tackles (10 solo), 4 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. the matchup ins’t great for Gunter but the Cardinals will most likely be down big . This will cause the Chargers to run the ball more, allowing Gunter more chances at tackles. As a 4th round pick Gunter has a chance to make the All Rookie Team:

Those are my matchups this week. I know most of the starts are no brainers…that’s why they are starts. If you have any of those guys on your team this week than you are in good shape. Tune in next week for our Week 13 matchups.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @josephhaggan and @IDPGuys. Alos check out the podcast weekly for the most up to date fantasy info.


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I have played IDP 6 YRS, fantasy for 10. Writing for the greater good of IDP, if it's not IDP it's not fantasy football.