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.
DE Montez Sweat (WAS vs PHI):
Sweat has been solid across from Chase Young this year. To this point, he has recorded 40 tackles and 8 sacks. He has fallen off in recent weeks with just two sacks over his past five games, but he has a great matchup against an Eagles team allowing the second-most sacks this season. Jalen Hurts may be more mobile than Carson Wentz, but the offensive line is still in shambles and there is a good chance Sweat can sneak in for a sack While everyone is paying attention to Young on the other side.
DT Jarran Reed (SEA vs SF):
We talk about how it is hard to trust a defensive tackle unless required to start one, but Reed has been on fire lately. He had two sacks last week and three over his past three games. He will also be taking on a run-heavy offense in the 49ers and should have plenty of tackle potential this week. The 49ers have had no rhythm on offense and Reed should be able to feast on run-stopping up the middle and getting after the quarterback this week. Look for him to add to his sack total against the 49ers.
DL Justin Houston (IND vs JAX):
You may be wondering why you would start Houston this week when it has been all DeForest Buckner and Denico Autry doing the damage for the Colts. Houston has been hovering just over 60% of defensive snaps played in recent weeks, the Colts are in a must-win game to make the playoffs. Jacksonville will be without James Robinson and will have to throw the ball. Houston is a great candidate for a cheap sack along your defensive front in Week 17.
LB Willie Gay Jr (KC vs LAC):
It is going to be hard to predict what the Chiefs do this week. They are expected to rest several of their starters but that should not include Gay. The first-round pick needs some seasoning and what better time than at the end of the year when the game does not mean anything. He topped 40 defensive snaps for the first-time last week and this week should be an extended audition for the playoffs and going into next year. While most people may want to avoid the Chiefs landmine of a roster this week, Gay should be a starter on defense.
ILB Jarrad Davis (DET vs MIN):
Jamie Collins Sr missed last week with a neck injury and is questionable again this week. While filling in, Davis had nine total tackles in a game that Detroit was throttled by Tampa Bay through the air. If Collins is out this week, Davis would be a top play against the run-heavy Vikings in what could be one of his final games with the Lions. There is double-digit tackle upside here if Collins is ruled out this week.
ILB Joe Thomas (DAL vs NYG):
It is the final week of the season and it may be time to go all in. Leighton Vander Esch has been hurt off and on this season and is currently battling an ankle injury. Thomas filled in admirably earlier this year and could do so again as Dallas fights for their playoff lives. Thomas still has some upside if Vander Esch plays, but it should be all systems go if he is ruled out. Watch the practice report this week and stash Thomas in preparation for Vander Esch being ruled out.
FS Darnell Savage (GB vs CHI):
We highlighted Adrian Amos here last week and he did not quite live up to those expectations. This week we turn to Savage who has been on a tear the past 3 weeks. He has 19 tackles, a sack, an interception, and four passes defended during that stretch. He also gets a great matchup with the Bears who love to check it down to running backs and throw short passes across the middle. There should be plenty of tackles to go around for the second- and third-level defenders for the Packers this week.
SS Duron Harmon (DET vs MIN):
Harmon will be a free agent after his game against the Vikings this week. He is likely playing for a new deal and wants to finish the season strong. With 15 total tackles over his past two games, he will need to do more to warrant a new deal. He has a great matchup against the Vikings and their mid-range passing attack and could approach double-digit total tackles this week. Look for Harmon to have a big send-off from his Lions career.
FS Julian Blackmon (IND vs JAX):
It may be hard to trust Blackmon looking at his tackle numbers so far this season. He has 37 total tackles and 2 interceptions so far, but what is most important is he has started 13 of 14 games he has played and has played more than 80% of defensive snaps in all but two games. Blackmon gets a Jaguars offense that has nothing to play for this week and will have no qualms about airing it out. He has a great chance to secure his third interception and or have one of his higher tackling games of the season. It is the last week of the year and Blackmon may be that Hail Mary play you need.
- DE Isaac Rochell (LAC vs DEN): 3 solos, 1 assist, 82% defensive snaps
- DE Dawuane Smoot (JAX vs CHI): 1 solo, 1 QB hit, 78% defensive snaps
- DT Denico Autry (IND vs PIT): 1 solo, 2 assists, 71% defensive snaps
- LB Todd Davis (MIN vs NO): DNP vs Saints, ruled out with rib injury
- LB Terez Hall (NE vs BUF): 4 solos, 33% defensive snaps
- LB Josh Bynes (CIN vs HOU): 3 solos,1 assist, 77% defensive snaps
- S/CB Lonnie Johnson (HOU vs CIN): 6 solos, 5 assists, 100% defensive snaps
- S Donovan Wilson (DAL vs PHI): 5 solos, 1 assist, 100% defensive snaps
- S Adrian Amos (GB vs TEN): 4 solos, 1 assist, 1 pass defended, 95% defensive snaps