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.
Last Week’s Picks:
- LB Germaine Pratt (CIN vs PIT) 1 solo, 2 assists, 47% defensive snaps
- LB Tyus Bowser (BAL vs CLE) 2 solos, 2 assists, 1 tackle for loss, 3 QB hits, 1 pass defended, 1 sack, 95% defensive snaps
- LB T.J. Edwards (PHI vs NYG) 3 solos, 5 assists, 93% defensive snaps
- DE Robert Quinn (CHI vs DET) 4 solos, 1 assist, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, 1 forced fumble, 1 sack, 84% defensive snaps
- DT Armon Watts (MIN vs SF) 1 solo, 2 assists, 1 tackle for loss, 3 QB hits, 1 sack, 77% defensive snaps
- DE James Smith-Williams (WFT vs SEA) 2 solos, 1 assist, 77% defensive snaps
- S Eric Murray (HOU vs NYJ) 5 solos, 3 assists, 99% defensive snaps
- S Kareem Jackson (DEN vs LAC) 5 solos, 2 assists, 91% defensive snaps
- CB Logan Ryan (NYG vs PHI) Not activated from COVID list
This Week’s Linebackers:
LB Kamu Grugier-Hill (HOU vs IND)
With the injury to Christian Kirksey, Grugier-Hill has played well for the Texans. In his past 2 starts he has 13 solos, 6 assists, 1 tackle for loss, 1 sack, 2 passes defended, and an interception. Kirksey is up in the air this week as he is eligible to return from the thumb injury so that is still a situation to monitor. Indianapolis has leaned on Jonathan Taylor down the stretch and that should provide ample tackle opportunity for this linebacker group. Start Grugier-Hill as an LB2 option this week as long as Kirksey is still out.
LB Ja'Whaun Bentley (NE vs BUF)
His play has been inconsistent for the majority of the season, but Bentley is in the middle of a hot streak and has a plus matchup this week. HE is coming off a week 12 performance with 5 solos, 5 assists, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles and will look to do more damage against a Buffalo offense allowing the 14th-most fantasy points to linebackers. This will be one of the best matchups of the week and Bentley is poised to make noise on the biggest stage.
LB Joe Schobert (PIT vs BAL)
He finally seems to be settling into the Steelers’ defense as he has had 6 or more solos in 3 out of his last 5 games. Schobert is also coming off a strong 8 solo, 3 assist, and 2 tackles for loss in week 12 and has a plus matchup in week 13. The Ravens are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to opposing linebackers due to their run-heavy scheme. Deploy Schobert as an LB2 with LB1 upside this week.
This Week’s Defensive Linemen:
DE Jaelan Phillips (MIA vs NYG)
A recent surge has put Phillips in sole possession of second place for rookie sacks behind Micah Parsons. His 3-sack performance against the Panthers last week puts him at 6.5 on the season as he continues to surge into the home stretch. He has a great matchup against Daniel Jones and the Giants this week as Miami continues to try and push back into the playoff conversation. His tackle floor is not as high as we would like to see, but he is one of the hottest defensive ends that is widely available right now and he has a great matchup this week. Look for Phillips to add to his rookie sack total against New York this week.
DE Kwity Paye (IND vs HOU)
The 2021 first-round pick has started to turn things on in recent weeks. He has a sack in each of his previous 3 contests and added 2 solos and a tackle for loss in week 12. The week 13 matchup is against a Houston team that allowed Tyrod Taylor to be sacked 5 times last week and has struggled to move the ball consistently. Paye is rounding into form and is a great play this week for anyone fighting to get into the playoffs.
DE John Franklin-Myers (NYJ vs PHI)
Jalen Hurts showed this offense can be slowed down in what was his worst performance of the season last week. On the flip side, Franklin-Myers put up one of his best. He registered 3 total tackles, 2 sacks, and an interception last week against Miami. This brought his total to 6 sacks on the season and justifies the large contract extension he received in October. Deploy Franklin-Myers as a low end DL2 this week against a Philadelphia team that struggled mightily last week.
This Week’s Defensive Backs
S Jayron Kearse (DAL vs NO)
Kearse has been a consistent force for Dallas this season. He is coming off a solid 6 solo, 5 assist, 1 tackle for loss, and 2 passes defended week 12 and has a solid matchup against New Orleans. Taysom Hill is expected to make the start and we could see Kearse up around the line to try and stop the run. The Saints have struggled on offense all season and Dallas likes to leave their corners on an island and let the safeties play the run. Look for another solid week of production from Kearse against New Orleans.
S Keanu Neal (DAL vs NO)
Doubling down on what was said above, Neal is coming off his best game of the season with 12 total tackles and a tackle for loss last week against the Raiders. He has played 100% and 94% of defensive snaps over the past 2 contests and is producing at a high level. With Taysom Hill in run-first mode, there should be ample tackle opportunity for everyone in this defense.
S Will Harris (DET vs MIN)
There is not a lot that has gone right with Detroit so far this season. However, Harris has seen consistent playing time and is coming off 2 of his best games of the season. With 11 solos, 4 assists, 1 QB hit, .5 sacks, and a pass defended over the past 2 weeks he is starting to warm up. This week he will take on a Vikings team that is without their starting running back and facing a quarterback that will try and challenge the safeties with Justin Jefferson. Harris has had 90% or more of defensive snaps played in the last 3 weeks and should see that trend continue against the Vikings.