This may seem like an odd thing to write, but it's true nonetheless.
You don't want to read this article. Or, more appropriately, you don’t want to need to read this article.
As the fantasy football regular season nears its conclusion, there are three types of fantasy managers. There are the lucky ducks who have already locked up a playoff spot and seed. They are insufferable with their smiling and happiness. It's gross.
There are the folks who are just playing out the string. It's a rotten place to be, although in this writer's experience, one way to lessen the sting is to take as many opponents with you as possible. Misery really does love company.
Then there's the largest group—the managers for whom Week 14 is the biggest week of the season so far. Want to earn a first-round bye? Gotta win this week. Want to make the playoffs at all? Gotta win this week.
And if you're heading into a must-win week, the last thing you want is to be forced into relying on a matchup play.
With that said, overcoming adversity is a big part of success in fantasy football. Players get hurt. Players fail to meet expectations. The NFL, in its infinite wisdom, decides to schedule a six-team bye in Week 14. All are hurdles that IDP managers must clear to realize their goal of playing on into Week 15.
Now let's show adversity who's boss.
EDGE Josh Allen, Jacksonville (at Tennessee)
Allen entered the season with lofty expectations—playing opposite Travon Walker, the hope was that Allen would return to the heights that saw him log 10.5 sacks as a rookie. Instead, after three sacks over the first month of the season, Allen is mired in the longest sackless stretch of his career. It's a slump that head coach Doug Pederson said Allen knows full well has to come to a stop—now.
“He understands that he needs to get going; he knows that,” Pederson said via Gene Frenette of the Florida Times-Union. “Conversations that he’s had with the staff, on defense, and knowing that he’s a big part of that rush. He’s talented, too talented not to get there, and just got to make sure that he stays focused in and locked in on the rush plan and sticking to the technique that has made him a good pass rusher in this league.”
It's not that Allen hasn't been getting pressures and QB hits—his production in the latter is actually better than in 2021 when he had 7.5 sacks. For whatever reason, he just hasn't been getting home. The dam is bound to burst at some point, though, and Sunday's meeting with a Titans team surrendering the third-most fantasy points per game to defensive ends this season is as good a spot as any.
DE Chandler Jones, Las Vegas (at Los Angeles Rams)
When the Raiders gave Jones $17 million a season in the offseason, the plan was for the veteran to combine with Maxx Crosby for a formidable one-two punch up front. Crosby certainly held up his end, but over the first 12 weeks of the season, Jones managed just half a sack. However, per Vic Tafur of the Athletic, after his first huge game of the season, Jones said that he never lost confidence that the sacks would come.
“I’ve been having fun all season; it’s just that the quarterback is just starting to fall now,” Jones said. “Hopefully, we can make that a weekly thing. There was no sigh of relief. Honestly, I feel like earlier in my career, stats were a huge thing, but where I am now, it’s about winning. If I had zero sacks on the season and we went deep in the playoffs, that would be huge for me. The sacks are good to have, don’t get me wrong,” Jones said. “To walk off the field with three sacks … I could have had five.”
Those three sacks all came in the first half against the Chargers, making Jones the highest-scoring defensive lineman of Week 13. Chasing last week's stats can be problematic for IDP managers, but Jones has been known to go on multi-week hot streaks. He also faces a Rams team Thursday that leads the NFC in sacks allowed and leads the league in fantasy points per game allowed to defensive ends.
EDGE Jaelan Phillips, Miami (at Los Angeles Chargers)
When veteran edge-rusher Emmanuel Ogbah went down with a season-ending injury, the torch was officially passed to Phillips—it fell to him to carry Miami's pass rush the rest of the season. That means rarely leaving the field, but as Joe Schad wrote for the Palm Beach Post, Phillips made it clear to get him off the field you'll have to drag him off.
"You have that mental toughness because it's easy to quit," Phillips said. "It's easy when you're tired to tap out, say, 'Coach, replacement' or whatever it is, when the game's on the line. I feel like I need to be out there for my teammates. And so that's when you really just got to go to a dark place and just dig deep. That's where the passion and the love that I have from our teammates comes in moments where you know everything, your whole physiological being, is telling you to quit like your body is telling you to quit, but your mind you got to be stronger than that."
Phillips has only tallied five sacks for the season, but his pressure numbers have been outstanding. He's also been on something of a roll of late, with 12 total tackles and two sacks over the past three games. Add in a matchup with a Los Angeles Chargers team that had no answer at all for Chandler Jones last week, and Phillips appears set to keep rolling in Week 14.
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