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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 TEN) 6 solos, 1 assist, 1 tackle for loss, 1 QB hit, 1 sack, 100% defensive snaps
- LB Jonas Griffith (DEN vs LAC) 5 solos, 7 assists, 1 tackle for loss, 100% defensive snaps
- LB Anthony Barr (MIN vs GB) 5 solos, 4 assists, 100% defensive snaps
- DE Arden Key (SF vs HOU) 1 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 4 QB hits, 1 sack, 37% defensive snaps
- DE Carlos Dunlap (SEA vs DET) 1 solo, 1 tackle for loss, 24% defensive snaps
- DE Marcus Davenport (NO vs CAR) 2 assists, 1 fumble recovery, 62% defensive snaps
- CB M.J. Stewart (CLE vs PIT) 4 solos, 2 assists, 2 passes defended, 99% defensive snaps
- S Jordan Whitehead (TB vs NYJ) 4 solos, 100% defensive snaps
- S Jeremy Reaves (WFT vs PHI) 2 solos, 1 pass defended, 56% defensive snaps
This Week’s Linebackers
LB Dre Greenlaw (SF vs LAR)
The 49ers currently have a 61% chance of making the playoffs and have a big matchup against the division rival Rams this week. Greenlaw has been injured and missed several weeks but he is slated to return this week. The Rams have leaned on running Sony Michel and there should be plenty of opportunities for tackles to go around. Greenlaw would be a much-needed boost to this defense as it pushed for the playoffs. Greenlaw had 7 total tackles in their final meeting in 2020 and that would be a safe floor for him if he is able to go this week.
LB Jonas Griffith (DEN vs KC)
Griffith was mentioned last week and put up another double-digit tackle performance against the Chargers. This week, he does not have the best matchup against Kansas City, but the players have been vocal they want to play to win for coach Vic Fangio. The Chiefs failed to run out the clock after building a lead against the Bengals last week and could focus more on the ground game if they jump out against Denver this week. Griffith should see plenty of opportunity for tackles depending on the game script against the Chiefs this week.
LB Divine Deablo (LV vs LAC)
Deablo has seen a steady increase in playing time for the Raiders and it has started to pay off. He has at least 9 tackles in 3 out of his past 5 games and is playing at a level that warrants more attention. He will take on a Chargers team that leans on Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson to run the ball when healthy and there should be plenty of tackle opportunity across the middle. He also has the athletic ability to cover tight ends and the running backs out of the backfield making him a dual threat. Deablo is a great stream option this week and should be considered going into next season.
This Week’s Defensive Linemen
DE Josh Sweat (PHI vs DAL)
Sweat has been playing extremely well over the past 4 weeks. He has 4 sacks, 7 solos, and a forced fumble in that time and is walking into a great week 18 matchup. The Cowboys have allowed at least 3 sacks in each of their past 4 games and are starting to show some weaknesses down the stretch. Sweat recorded 4 tackles and half a sack in their last matchup and is poised to have another strong outing.
DE Leonard Williams (NYG vs WFT)
Williams has not recorded a sack since Week 8, but that could all change this week. The Washington front has been decimated by injuries and COVID in recent weeks and that will open things up for this Giants’ defensive line. Williams is coming off a game with 8 total tackles last week and will be facing a line that has allowed the most point to opposing defensive linemen over the past 5 weeks. They have also allowed 11 sacks in that same time frame and should be taken advantage of this week.
DE Jadeveon Clowney (CLE vs CIN)
Clowney has been mentioned in this article before and has produced mixed results. He is talented and playing on a very good defensive line right now. Last week he tried to spoil Ben Roethlisberger’s final home game with 6 tackles, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. This week he is going to be playing for a new contract and will be taking on a Bengals offensive line that has allowed the most sacks over the past 5 weeks. Cincinnati has shown they want to throw the ball and that is going to give Clowney plenty of time to get after Joe Burrow.
This Week’s Defensive Backs
CB KWaun Williams (SF vs LAR)
Williams has been a steady producer with at least 4.5 tackles per game over the past 5 matchups. In that same time, he has added a sack and a forced fumble to his resume. This week he will primarily be matched up against Cooper Kupp who has averaged 11.5 targets per game this season. Williams is going to be targeted heavily this week and should in turn have a very high tackle ceiling. If your league requires a corner, Williams is a great start this week.
CB M.J. Stewart (CLE vs CIN)
Stewart was mentioned last week and finished with 6 total tackles and 2 passes defended on 99% of defensive snaps played. He has played extremely well over the past 3 weeks with 27 total tackles, 3 passes defended, and a forced fumble. This week he will take on a Cincinnati team that loves to throw the ball and challenge opposing corners. They also still have an outside chance at the #1 overall seed with a Kansas City loss and will be playing to win this week. Stewart will be heavily targeted this week and is an easy start in any league where you need a corner.
CB Mackensie Alexander (MIN vs CHI)
The Vikings have shown their weakness on defense all season and have deployed countless cornerback configurations. Alexander has been one of the most heavily targeted corners opposite Patrick Peterson and that has allowed for ample tackle opportunity. Chicago has struggled in the passing game but will be looking at what they have for the future in what is most likely Matt Nagy’s last game as head coach. Look for Alexander to produce 5-8 total tackles this week and be a steady contributor to any team that needs a corner in the season finale.