The final week of the fantasy season has arrived. It seems like just last week, we were drafting and getting ready for Week 1. How time flies when you are having fun. If you are still with us, chances are, you are playing for a title. If you have been eliminated and are still reading, you are our kind of manager. This week's column will have a little something for everyone. Those that are looking for the best lineup to win the prize, and those already working on next year’s trophy.
Jalen Thompson was a stud last season and started off the same way this year. Three great games to start the season were followed by a few weeks of up-and-down scoring, then the bottom dropped out in Week 10. The production crash was largely due to a change of role that saw Thompson working the back end more as the deep safety.
After averaging fewer than three solo tackles over a five-game stretch, Thompson exploded against the Buccaneers, posting his best numbers of the year at 10-1 with a pass breakup. Much of his production in this matchup was due to the game script, and I would normally advise against chasing the numbers. This situation is different, though, because Budda Baker came out of the game with a fractured shoulder and will miss the final two games. So does Thompson move back to his old role for the last two weeks? Nothing is certain here. Chris Banjo will likely get the start for Baker and is another versatile safety that can play either spot. Considering the marginal matchup with Atlanta, it’s probably a good idea to avoid this situation unless you need to gamble.
A big part of the role change for Thompson over the last several games was a ripple effect of how Isaiah Simmons is being used. Simmons was moving around some from the beginning of the season but down the stretch, he started seeing time as slot corner and safety. The later in the season we went, the more time Simmons was seeing in the secondary. This also explains how the increased playing time for Ben Niemann who was 6-4 on 48% of the snaps last week.
As further confirmation that the Falcons have turned the page at inside linebacker, Troy Andersen logged 88% of the snaps in Week 16, while Mykal Walker played eight snaps.
The Bears could do nothing offensively last week and ran 57 total offensive plays. So unless we had Ed Oliver in a tackle-required league, our Buffalo defenders let us down. If you survived Jordan Poyer’s 1-0, Damar Hamlin’s 4-2, and Gregory Rousseau’s 1-0, we should get a much better result from this week’s matchup with the Bengals.
Jaycee Horn had surgery on his broken wrist this week and is done for the year. That makes C.J. Henderson the CB1 and Keith Taylor CB2 for the Panthers as they try to squeeze into the playoffs. T.J. Carrie is the third corner on the depth chart, but the team went with Myles Hartsfield as the nickel last week.
Brian Burns is a great example of why you stick with your starters in the playoffs. The Lions had not allowed a sack to an edge defender in almost two months, yet Burns went 2-0-2 with a batted pass against them last week. Maybe that was just because my opponent started him… Burns has another weak matchup on tap versus the Buccaneers but keep him in your lineup.
Nicholas Morrow led Chicago’s linebackers in points last week but only because he plucked an interception. Both he and Joe Thomas played virtually every snap and had similar tackle totals. If you need a linebacker in a pinch this week. Either of these guys should give you decent production against the Lions.
Trey Hendrickson is playing through his wrist injury but is working in a reduced role. Cameron Sample got the start for Sam Hubbard against the Patriots, going 3-3-1 on a 95% snap share. Joseph Ossai’s numbers were nothing to speak of, but he saw 63% of the action, while Hendrickson played 43%. Hubbard is recovering from a calf injury and is far from a lock to go this week. The Bengals face the Bills on Monday Night Football, so we may not know his status until late. If Hubbard is your guy, Sample would be a great safety net.
Logan Wilson is on a hot streak and is a must-play. He went 7-2-1 with a forced fumble in an average matchup last week and is 30-11-2.5, with a forced fumble, over the last three games.
I know he is coming off an injury and was shown the door by the Falcons, but there is no way you are going to convince me that Reggie Ragland is a better option than Deion Jones at middle linebacker. In Week 16, the Browns made Tony Fields II their lead man. He went 6-4 on 78% of the snaps. Ragland was signed off the street a couple of weeks ago but worked ahead of Jones, seeing 61% of the action while Jones played 39%. And the Browns can’t figure out why they can’t win games…
The Cowboys’ pass rush has been quiet lately. Demarcus Lawrence has no sacks since Week 11 and only eight solo stops. In fact, Lawrence, Micah Parsons, Dorance Armstrong, Donte Fowler, and Sam Williams have combined for 17 tackles, 22 assists, and 1 sack over the last month. Don’t look for any of them to get it going this week against a Titans offense that doesn’t like to throw the ball.
With Leighton Vander Esch on the shelf last week, the Cowboys had no linebacker on the field full-time. Damone Clark (2-2 on 69%) and Anthony Barr (4-3 FR on 77%) handled the linebacker duties. They have a plus matchup against the Titans this week, but it is hard to get excited about either guy in a part-time role.
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