As the season progresses it is hard to find those diamonds in the rough or that guy that no one has heard of. This week we are going to examine the plethora of injuries across the league and who the most likely successor is to that starting job as well as highlight some prime matchups as well as surprising performers to this point. This article will also highlight a few long-term and speculative players that could see their value rise over the course of the season.
- Sean Lee OLB (DAL): 9 solos, 8 assists, 1 tackle for loss, 94% defensive snaps
- Will Compton ILB (OAK): 10 solos, 2 assists, 100% defensive snaps
- Ryan Anderson OLB (WAS): 1 solo, 1 QB hit, 89% defensive snaps
- Josh Allen DE (JAX): 1 solo, 2 QB hits, 56% defensive snaps
- Maxx Crosby DE (OAK): 2 solos, 1 tackle for loss, 80% defensive snaps
- Shelby Harris DE (DEN): 1 assist, 1 pass defended, 78% defensive snaps
- Tyrann Mathieu CB (KC): 6 solos, 1 pass defended, 86% defensive snaps
- Jourdan Lewis DB (DAL): 5 solos, 71% defensive snaps
- Sam Beal CB (NYG): 5 solos, 1 assist, 93% defensive snaps, left with neck injury
Markus Golden OLB (NYG):
It has been a great stretch of rushing the passer for Golden in the past 6 weeks with 5.5 sacks total. He has 11 total sacks this season and will be taking on a Cowboys team that looks totally dysfunctional at times this season. The overall tackle numbers are not very strong for Golden, but the double-digit sacks and a divisional matchup at the end of the year makes him an intriguing option this week. He would be worth his value even with just a handful of tackles and a sack this week.
Harold Landry OLB (TEN):
We continue to highlight pass-rushing outside linebackers this week and Landry has one of the better matchups. The Texans have struggled to keep Deshaun Watson on his feet his entire career and this season is no different. They seem to be limping into the playoffs with injuries all over the place and would need help with a Chiefs loss to move into the 3rd seed in the AFC. The Titans are still fighting for the last spot in the AFC and need a win or losses by the Steelers and Colts. Landry has a great shot of adding to his sack total this week in a game that means everything for the Titans and almost nothing for the Texans.
Nick Vigil ILB (CIN):
The Bengals have already secured the top overall pick in the draft and really do not have anything to play for. However, they are playing a division in-state rival in the final week of the season and should want to give fans a reason to come back next year. Vigil played 100% of snaps a few weeks ago against the Browns, had an interception, and 2 passes defended to go along with 4 total tackles. He had a nice string of double-digit tackle games early in the season and has a good chance this week with how much the Browns like to run Nick Chubb. Look for Vigil to end the season on a high note against Cleveland.
Jordan Phillips DL (BUF):
Philips has come on as of late and a matchup against the Jets to close the season should do nothing but boost that. He had 2 sacks a week ago against Pittsburgh for a playoff-clinching win and has 3 solo tackles in each of his last 2 games. His defensive snap percentage has tracked in the right direction with 62% last week and the Jets have been terrible at blocking interior linemen. Philips has a great chance to match his tackle totals from recent weeks and could get home on a sack of Sam Darnold in a game that means nothing for the Jets.
DaRon Payne DL (Was):
There is nothing like a rivalry game at the end of the season to help boost your stats. The Redskins are not playing for anything except for a spot near the top of the draft order and Dallas needs a Giants upset of the Eagles if they want to sneak into the playoffs. Payne had 4 total tackles the last time this team met and has a realistic shot at somewhere between 4-5 this week and half a sack. His snap percentage is tracking in the right direction after it took a dip earlier in the season and Payne is expected to get the start this week to close out the regular season.
Chad Thomas (CLE):
It has been a very up and down season for Thomas, but that can be said about the entire Cleveland Browns team. They do not have anything to play for this week outside of the pride of Ohio, and that should be enough to get that defense going. Thomas has 4 sacks this year and will be chasing after a quarterback in Andy Dalton that is anything but mobile. The Bengals also have a renewed sense of rushing Joe Mixon and that should provide ample opportunity for tackles this week. Look for Thomas to have one of his better games of the season this week.
Kevin King CB (GB):
After thoroughly dismantling the Vikings on Monday Night, the Packers have officially won the NFC North Division. Now they are playing for seeding and trying to get that defense right. King came down with the interception of Kirk Cousins last week and will take on Lion’s quarterback David Blough this week. The Lions are a mess right now and the Packers defense should feast to close out the season. Kenny Golladay is not enough to scare any Packers defenders when Blough is under center. Look for King to have another productive day on the outside this week.
Eric Rowe CB (MIA):
It may seem like we are picking on the Patriots offense this week, but that is because of how they have played down the stretch this year. They do not have a viable receiver outside of Julian Edelman and Tom Brady is missing throws he has made look easy his entire career. Rowe has 7 games with 100% defensive snaps played and has 90% or above in all but 1 game this year. His sheer number of snaps should give him ample opportunity to make a few plays this week and most people are going to be afraid to start anyone on that Miami defense.
Erik Harris DB (OAK):
It is that time of year that we need some sort of big play to drive it all home and there is no one better than Harris. The last time he played the Chargers he had 2 interceptions, 3 passes defended, 115 return yards and a touchdown. He had a third pick in that game that was taken away or it would have been an even bigger game. More people may be on Harris this week if they remember what he did to Philip Rivers earlier in the year, but if you need a big play this week then Harris certainly has the track record to do it.