In most IDP leagues, there are only a couple of weeks left in the regular season. From here out, every game takes on that much more importance.
Some fantasy managers have already earned a seat at the table in the playoffs, but there's still seeding at stake. Making the postseason might be the primary goal every season, but once that has been achieved, shortening the path to championship glory certainly isn't a bad idea.
For many more, though, the only thing certain is that nothing is certain. A 7-5 team can be derailed at season's end by a late skid. A 5-7 team can squeak into the playoffs and get hot (I actually won a title in 2020 with a team that was 3-7 10 games in.) A 6-6 team can either head to the postseason tournament with a head of steam or falter at the worst possible time.
That's the thing about the end of the regular season—for many teams, the playoffs start before the playoffs actually start. Get a win, and you move on. Take another loss, and that's that—time to get a jump on Christmas shopping.
Now, if you're 10-2 and cruising toward a first-round bye, odds are you don't need a matchup play. Having Las Vegas Raiders edge-rusher Maxx Crosby or Seattle Seahawks linebacker Jordyn Brooks definitely has its advantages. But if you're teetering on the brink and can't afford a Week 13 dud or just lost Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson to an injury, then here are some players with the potential to come up big just when IDP managers need it the most.
DE Dorance Armstrong, Dallas (vs. Indianapolis)
Yep. That's right. This guy again. There's a reason why Armstrong keeps making appearances in this column, and it isn't because I lack creativity.
OK, it isn't just because I lack creativity.
By the time the dust settles on the 2022 season, the Cowboys will probably have two players with 10-plus sacks for the first time since 2012. But it won't be Demarcus Lawrence joining Micah Parsons. It will be Armstrong, who continued his career season by notching his eighth sack of the season on Thanksgiving after making his 11th appearance of the season in this column last week.
For the record, it hasn't been 11. That would be excessive.
Despite those eight sacks and a top-25 ranking in fantasy points in some scoring systems, Armstrong remains available in quite a few IDP leagues. And as was the case with the New York Giants last week, Armstrong draws an excellent matchup in Week 13—this time against an Indianapolis Colts team that leads the league in sacks allowed with 43 and leads the AFC in fantasy points per game allowed to defensive ends.
EDGE Preston Smith, Green Bay (at Chicago)
It has been a rough season for the Green Bay Packers, and the pass rush hasn't been immune to the bumps in the road. Za'Darius Smith is having one of the best seasons of his career, but he's doing so for the Minnesota Vikings. Rashan Gary was lost for the year after tearing his ACL. That leaves eighth-year veteran Preston Smith as the anchor for the pass rush.
There's just one problem—Smith is much better suited to being a complementary player than a go-to guy. He's topped 10 sacks just once in his career and isn't the sort of player who can beat double-teams with any consistency. This isn't to say that Smith's 5.5 sacks are a bad number necessarily. But he still trails Gary, despite playing in three more games.
However, Smith has shown signs of heating up. Over the past two weeks, the 30-year-old has tallied 11 total tackles and two sacks. He also gets an excellent fantasy matchup this week with a Bears team that was allowing a lot of fantasy points to edge-rushers before Justin Fields got hurt. He's just a one-week rental ahead of Green Bay's Week 14 bye, but Smith's a good bet to finally pass Gary this week.
DE Josh Sweat, Philadelphia (vs. Tennessee)
Sweat is either underrated or overpaid, depending on who and when you ask. All the physical traits appear to be there with the 6'5", 265-pounder, and he gets paid like a difference-maker. But he has yet to record an eight-sack season, and he tends to disappear at times. However. Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson told reporters recently that when he faces Sweat in practice, he sees a star in the making.
"Good get-off, long, strong. Long, lean, quick twitch, good burst," Johnson said. I remember like two or three years ago, I think, I was telling y’all, I think this guy’s going to be a good player if he keeps up his consistency. [Sweat] just has that quick twitch and that burst. A lot of the good pass rushers have power and can set up things off that, and he does that."
Sweat numbers are once again relatively modest (33 total tackles, 4.5 sacks), but that's due in part to the depth and rotation along the offensive line in the City of Brotherly Love. Still, Sweat has been riding a hot streak, with sacks in two of the past three games. And Sunday, the Eagles host a Tennessee Titans team that has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points per game to defensive ends this season.
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