Can you feel that? The heaviness in the air? The electricity? That force pressing on your chest as you begin preparations for Week 12.
It's the stretch run for the IDP playoffs, and the pressure has been cranked up to 11.
Sure, maybe you are the fortunate (or prescient) sort who invested a draft pick in Las Vegas Raiders edge-rusher Maxx Crosby. Used another on Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Foyesade Oluokun. Snagged Houston Texans safety Jonathan Owens off the waiver wire early in the season.
If so, you have plenty to be thankful for when sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner. Bully for you. You're probably also the kind of monster that insists on lumpless mashed potatoes.
However, for a lot of IDP managers, the next few weeks will determine if the season continues into the playoffs or ends in disappointment. And whether it's as the result of mounting injuries or players just not meeting expectations, there are holes in the lineup—both in Week 12 and moving forward. How those holes are (or are not) filled will go a long way toward determining if the regular season gives berth to the playoffs. Whether the regular season is a success or a failure.
Like I said, man—all the way to 11.
DE Dorance Armstrong, Dallas (vs. NY Giants)
At this point in the season, the number of consistent, every-week producers available along the defensive line usually just about matches the number of winning Powerball tickets I have purchased. Players like Jerry Hughes of the Texans, who have come from nowhere to become weekly starters, have been snatched up by teams looking to replace disappointments like Chandler Jones of the Raiders.
I don't mention Jones out of bitterness. Nope. Not me. Not mad even a little.
At this point, if you're looking to fill a hole up front, it's probably going to have to be with a matchup play—preferably one that has demonstrated recently that he can step in a favorable matchup and make some hay. Dorance Armstrong of the Cowboys is just such a player—there's a reason that he has appeared in this column more than once already this year.
After dropping Kirk Cousins twice in last week's sack-a-thon blowout of the Minnesota Vikings, Armstrong has already set a career-high with seven sacks. In the second of the three games on Thanksgiving, Armstrong and the Cowboys host a Giants team that has allowed 30 sacks this season—including five in the first meeting between these teams in Week 3.
Guess who had one of those sacks?
(It's a rhetorical question).
EDGE Lorenzo Carter, Atlanta (at Washington)
When Lorenzo Carter signed with the Falcons in free agency, it barely made a ripple—in NFL or IDP circles. To say that no one cared implies that someone noticed. As the season has progressed, however, people have started taking notice of the fifth-year veteran. Per Jeremy Brener of the Henry Herald, Falcons linebackers coach Frank Bush said they are just noticing what he and the Falcons saw in Carter all along.
"We knew when Lorenzo came in that he was a talented young football player that was still developing. I think what we see now is a kid that's developing confidence," he said. "He goes out, he makes plays, he's confident, he's a great teammate - probably one of the better people you want to meet. All those things are starting to come to fruition, and he's doing a good job for us. He's just a big, tall guy with long arms that eats up a lot of space and takes up a lot of room, and he makes plays. So, I'm glad we have him."
Carter hasn't made an especially big dent in the sack column—just 3.5 for the season. But he's coming off back-to-back games with five total tackles, and Carter tallied one of those sacks against the Bears last week. In Week 11, Carter draws another excellent pass-rush matchup with a Commanders team that has surrendered 32 sacks and the eighth-most fantasy points per game to Carter's position.
DE Frank Clark, Kansas City (vs. LA Rams)
Fresh off his best game of the season against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 7, Clark drew a two-game personal conduct suspension related to an offseason arrest on weapons chargers. Sunday night's AFC West showdown with the Chargers was Clark's first game back, and while defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo allowed to reporters that there could be rust to knock off, he also made it clear the Kansas City defense was better with Clark on the field.
"We like Frank (Clark)’s juice,” Spagnuolo said. “He gives us something off of the edge, and I kind of thought that he was finding a groove before he hit the suspension. I just hope that he can get back into that. Sometimes, you’ve got to knock a little rust off. Hopefully, there won’t be a lot of rust.”
Clark didn't do a ton against the Bolts, logging two total tackles, a quarterback hit, and a fumble recovery. But the biggest takeaway from the game was Clark's snap share—a whopping 80 percent. If he plays anywhere near that many snaps on Sunday against a Rams team that leads the league in fantasy points per game allowed to defensive ends that will more likely than not be starting a backup quarterback.
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