Reading the Defense: Week 15 IDP fantasy preview

Real football isn't all about the offensive players. Why should fantasy football be any different? Every week here in Reading the Defense, we're looking back at the fantasy week that was and offering help for the week that's to come.

Game Balls

Defensive line: You'd think this would have been Khalil Mack after his one-man demolition of the Denver Broncos offensive line. But Khalil Mack didn't score a touchdown. Andre Branch did. The Jaguars lineman notched a pair of sacks as well as a forced fumble, scoop and score. That's a pretty full day. It was also more points (14) than Branch had in all of his other games combined (11). That tells you all you need to know for starting Branch going forward.

Linebacker: Tackles, tackles and more tackles. That was the modus operandi for Vontaze Burfict in Week 14. The Bengals linebacker had his best game in a frustrating season plagued by injury. When healthy, Burfict has been a consistent IDP producer at his position. Maybe this is the start of a late season run. Better late than never.

Defensive back:Trumaine Johnson isn't among the fantasy stars at defensive back, but he has had a couple of nice weeks. Still nothing this season has topped Johnson's 10-point outing against the Lions last week. Then again, most of that came on one play when Johnson intercepted a Matt Stafford pass and returned it for a touchdown. Whatever, we'll take it. Next week's game against the Buccaneers might not be so profitable.

What went wrong

» Stephone Anthony has had a fine rookie season, both on the field and in fantasy football. But he wasn't much of a force in Sunday's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. One week after a 12-point outing against the Panthers defense, Anthony followed up with just a pair of tackles and two points in Week 14. Not the kind of production you're looking for from a player who's been top 15 all season long. Next week's game against the Lions offers hope for a rebound.

» The Patriots are starting to get some familiar faces back in their lineup, but Malcolm Butler is starting to disappear. Last season's Super Bowl hero hasn't exactly been lights out for fantasy managers, but he had been picking it up in recent weeks. That's come to a halt. Butler has posted just two fantasy points in his last two games despite matchups that looked good on paper. Maybe a matchup with the ever-inconsistent Tennessee Titans is what he needs to get going again.

Week 15 boomer

Reshad Jones, DB, Miami Dolphins: Jones has put together one of the best fantasy defensive back seasons in the league this year. That's good news this week considering he's facing a Chargers defense that is trying to throw the football a ton despite a number of injuries along the offensive line and in the receiving corps. At the very least he should be able to add to his team-high tackle totals. At best he adds to his team-high interception totals against the offense that's thrown it more than any other in the NFL.

Week 15 buster

DeMarcus Lawrence, DL, Dallas Cowboys: There hasn't been a lot of fantasy fun to talk about with the Cowboys this season, but DeMarcus Lawrence has picked up his play in the last few weeks. The second-year pass rusher has notched five sacks in the team's past five games. But this week he could have a tough time getting to the quarterback. The Jets have allowed the second-fewest sacks of any team in the league, which will make getting any fantasy production an uphill battle for Lawrence.

Week 15 sleeper

Marcus Williams, DB, New York Jets: Williams has been picked on plenty this season and generally with pretty good results for the opposing offense. But this week the opposing quarterback is Matt Cassel. That means that if he tries to pick on anyone, he might not have the same results. Williams is tied for third among NFL players in interceptions. There could be more to come this week against the woeful Cowboys passing game.

Four downs

First down: The Panthers suffered a bad break with cornerback Bené Benwikere going down with a season-ending leg fracture. Over the past month, Benwikere had been playing quite well in place of the injured Charles Tillman. The good news is that Tillman appears close to returning from a knee injury. The team also added free agent corner Robert McClain to add depth. Either way, it's a big loss to one of the league's best defenses.

Second down:Kam Chancellor isn't expected to practice on Wednesday for the Seahawks, but the veteran safety is still hoping to suit up this weekend against the Cleveland Browns. Chancellor is dealing with a bruised tailbone suffered in last week's win over the Ravens. As a major contributor to both the Seahawks and fantasy teams, it will be key to keep an eye on Chancellor's progress as the week moves along.

Third down:Joe Haden is finished for the year after being placed on injured reserve as he continues to recover from a concussion. Haden missed seven of the last eight games while working through the concussion protocol. The upside is that doctors expect the talented cornerback to make a full recovery in time for the start of training camp next season. Still it puts a capper to what has the most furstrating season of Haden's six-year career.

Fourth down: Similarly, the season is over for Antrel Rolle. The Bears defensive back hasn't played since Week 10 because of a sprained MCL and was placed on injured reserve. He finishes the season having played in just seven games -- the fewest since his rookie season. But at age 33 heading into next season, there should still be plenty gas left in the tank for Rolle to be a productive player going forward.

In the latest episode of the NFL Fantasy LIVE podcast the gang talks fantasy playoffs in advance of Week 15. Who's on the waiver wire and which matchups do we like this week? Don't forget to subscribe and listen in HERE!

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG.

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