- Jim McCormick, Fantasy Sports
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It's do-or-die time in the fantasy season. Well, maybe more like win-or-cry time, but you get it; if your team is still alive, then fantasy football glory is just a few weeks and wins away. Fantasy rosters are often patchwork collections of talents at this late stage in the season thanks to the erosion of the campaign. With significant defensive stars like Patrick Willis and Desmond Bishop felled by injury, to name a few, many owners are in need of some timely reinforcements for these crucial fantasy playoff weekends. With this in mind, we've put together some choice and widely available commodities to consider.
Linebacker: Green Bay Packers rookie D.J. Smith has capably produced in place of the aforementioned Bishop and should get at least another week with a starting gig. With Barrett Ruud hitting IR this week, Colin McCarthy becomes a trusted fixture in the middle of the Tennessee Titans defense and should continue to pay dividends for savvy investors. Sean Weatherspoon has emerged as a fantasy force in Atlanta and with a meeting with a run-heavy opponent could be busy chasing down Maurice Jones-Drew on Thursday night.
Defensive Line: The Detroit Lions' Cliff Avril's breakout season continued this past week with another dominant outing. With a new career best in sacks (9) and a share for the league lead in forced fumbles (6), he's an ideal addition at this shallow position and just happens to be widely available (owned in just under 30 percent of ESPN leagues). Thanks in part to the havoc that Terrell Suggs wreaks on a weekly basis, Cory Redding has enjoyed a breakout season with little fanfare. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Adrian Clayborn has recorded at least a share of a sack for four straight games. He is a strong play in deeper leagues and an ideal sleeper for 2012 drafts. The Arizona Cardinals' Calais Campbell is playing his best ball at the right time for an emerging Arizona defense.
Defensive Back: New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins has 33 total tackles in his past four games and with eligibility at both cornerback and safety in ESPN leagues, he's a versatile and valuable add for leagues that specifically distinguish these positions. The Cincinnati Bengals' Reggie Nelson has resurrected his career after being somewhat of a draft "bust" with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Houston Texas' Danieal Manning hates it when you spell his name wrong, but loves it when you add him to your fantasy roster. He's also coming on strong of late and merits consideration in even the shallowest of leagues.
Front Four: The weekly word on the world of defenders
Closing the Gap: Jared Allen might be able to make some good of the trying season in Minnesota as he pushed his league-leading sack total to 17.5 with another explosive outing this past week. His career sack total now looks like an FM station, sitting at 100.5, and there's more work yet to be done this season. With a strong finish, he could become just the eighth player in NFL history to top 20 sacks and with Michael "The Gap" Strahan's single-season record of 22.5 not impossibly off his pace, Allen could somehow help salvage this otherwise lost season for the Vikings.
The Worilds Is Yours: The Pittsburgh Steelers' James Harrison was hitting his stride as a menacing force after recovering for much of the fall from offseason back surgery, but his recent one-game suspension will keep him out of the mix Monday night versus the San Francisco 49ers. In steps Jason Worilds, who posted two sacks this past week versus the Cleveland Browns. With increased snaps in an aggressive role similar to Harrison's, Worilds --available in 100 percent of ESPN leagues -- makes for an ideal addition given that the 49ers have surrendered 18 sacks in the past three games alone.
Big-Game James: With James Harrison out of the mix this week, you'll need to turn to James Anderson if you want to employ a dominant fantasy force with this wonderful first name. But really, Anderson has been producing in Carolina at an elite clip for the past two seasons and merits more attention in both real and fantasy football.
Texas Twins: With Mario Williams going down early in the season many believed that the Houston Texans defense, and particularly the pass rush, would suffer greatly, but instead the duo of Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed have been revelations for the team. Add Barwin with confidence if you are seeking the risk/reward of a big game this weekend.
IDP Rankings Week 15: The Top 20 linebackers, linemen and defensive backs
So that we're working from agreed parameters, we'll use what many consider traditional scoring modifiers for an IDP league: Tackle - Solo (0.5), Tackle - Assist (0.25), Sack (3), Interception (3), Forced fumble (3), Fumble recovery (3), Touchdown (6), Safety (2), Pass defended (0.5), Blocked kick (3).
Jim McCormick is a fantasy football analyst for ESPN.com and high school football editor for ESPNHS.com. Contact him at JMcCormickESPN@gmail.com or @JMacPhillies on Twitter.