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 Jerome Baker (MIA vs NO) 5 solos, 1 assist, 2 tackles for loss, 3 QB hits, 1.5 sacks, 96% defensive snaps
- LB Germaine Pratt (CIN vs BAL) 5 solos, 1 assist, 100% defensive snaps
- LB Baron Browning (DEN vs LV) 1 solo, 8 assists, 100% defensive snaps
- DE D.J. Wonnum (MIN vs LAR) 1 solo, 2 assists, 1 QB hit, 93% defensive snaps
- DE Justin Jones (LAC vs HOU) 3 solos, 1 tackle for loss, 76% defensive snaps
- DE Arik Armstead (SF vs TEN) 2 solos, 1 assist, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, 85% defensive snaps
- DT D.J. Reader (CIN vs BAL) COVID List
- S Terrell Edmunds (PIT vs KC) 2 solos, 3 assists, 100% defensive snaps
- CB Tavierre Thomas (HOU vs LAC) 6 solos, 2 assists, 1 interception, 1 touchdown, 1 pass defended, 77% defensive snaps
- S Rudy Ford (JAX vs NYJ) 1 solo, 40% defensive snaps
This Week’s Linebackers
LB Jerome Baker (MIA vs TEN)
Baker was mentioned in this exact spot last week and he delivered with 6 total tackles, 2 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks against the Saints. He is still widely available and is performing at just the right time for the fantasy playoffs. He has 3.5 sacks in his last 2 games and is taking on a Tennessee team that has allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing linebackers. Throw in the injuries to the offensive line, no Derek Henry, and a nearly immobile in the pocket Ryan Tannehill and it is a recipe for another great game for Baker. He will not stay on the sleeper list for long if he continues to put up these numbers.
LB Jonas Griffith (DEN vs LAC)
Griffith has played extremely well for the Broncos while Kenny Young has been injured. This defense is allowing just 17.3 points per game (best overall) this season and has seen contributions all over the field. Griffith exploded for 13 total tackles and 3 tackles for loss last week and has a great matchup against a Chargers offense currently allowing the second-most fantasy points to opposing linebackers. Griffith is going to get an extended look from the Broncos and may even be viable when Kenny Young returns from injury.
LB Anthony Barr (MIN vs GB)
The Vikings are wasting an elite linebacker group right now with its lack of coverage on the back end. Barr is playing well at the right time and has a great matchup against Green Bay this week. He has 10 total tackles in their matchup back in Week 11 and is coming off a 7-total-tackle and 2-interception performance against the Rams last week. Minnesota is playing for the future after so many disappointing losses this season and Barr has a great matchup against a divisional rival that has already locked up the NFC North. Deploy Barr where needed this week.
This Week’s Defensive Linemen
DE Arden Key (SF vs HOU)
Key has been hot over the past 8 weeks with at least half a sack in 6 of those contests. He laid an egg against Tennessee last week but has another great matchup this week against Houston. The Texans are coming off a surprise win against the Chargers and seem to have found their running game. Look for ample tackle opportunity this week for Key as well as a porous offensive line that cannot protect David Mills. Key played just 29% of defensive snaps last week but should see his numbers creep back into the 40% range this week.
DE Carlos Dunlap (SEA vs DET)
Dunlap is a widely known name that fell out of favor earlier this season. However, that has quickly changed as he has 5 sacks over the past two games. He tallied 5 solos, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and a pass defended last week and somehow gets an even better matchup against Detroit this week. The Lions are playing better right now but look for Jared Goff to be running from a streaking Dunlap this week in what is one of the top defensive line matchups this week.
DE Marcus Davenport (NO vs CAR)
Davenport is healthy and finally living up to what the Saints thought he was. He has set a new career-high with 7.5 sacks this season after missing time due to injury. He is playing extremely well right now and has an even better matchup against a Carolina offense that does not have a quarterback. It does not matter if they start Cam Newton or Sam Darnold, Davenport has a great matchup and should be started without hesitation this week.
This Week’s Defensive Backs
CB M.J. Stewart (CLE vs PIT)
Stewart has worked himself back into a starting role for the Browns and is coming off two monster games. Stewart has 21 total tackles over the past two weeks and has played no less than 97% of defensive snaps. He is being deployed all over the field and put in the position to make tackles. This week he has a great matchup against a struggling Pittsburgh offense that was nearly shut out by Kansas City last week. If you need a corner, start Stewart this week with a huge upside in a plus matchup against the Steelers.
S Jordan Whitehead (TB vs NYJ)
With all of the injuries in Tampa Bay, Whitehead has stepped up immensely this season. He is DB10 in fantasy points per game over the past 8 weeks and has a great matchup against the Jets this week. He had 7 total tackles, an interception, and 3 passes defended last week and will get to try and exploit a rookie quarterback that has thrown a lot of interceptions this season in his matchup this week. Whitehead is still widely available and should be started with confidence this week.
S Jeremy Reaves (WAS vs PHI)
Reaves has been thrust into a starting role due to COVID and injuries in Washington. He has played nearly every snap over the past two weeks and racked up 22 total tackles in the process. He figures to remain the starter against a run-heavy Philadelphia team this week and has double-digit tackle potential again. Even without Miles Sanders, the Eagles have shown a commitment to running the ball. Look for big tackle numbers from Reaves again this week.