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This isn't an easy article to write this week—and not just because it's the final week of a long season, and my wrists are about to fall off.
As Bills safety Damar Hamlin fights for his life in a Cincinnati hospital, it seems both ridiculous and offensive to write about players that some fantasy managers could ostensibly use to replace him in lineups. When Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin crumpled to the turf and Paycor Stadium and laid there motionless as paramedics tried feverishly to save his life, it was a reminder of just how violent this game we all love is. How fleeting life can be. And how totally unimportant fantasy football is in the grand scheme of things.
Lest it goes unsaid, the thoughts and prayers of both me and everyone here at Footballguys are with Hamlin and his family. Hopefully, his recovery will be as quick as it is complete, and he'll suffer no long-term effects from his harrowing experience.
It always comes off as callous to talk about fantasy football at a time like this, just as it seemed callous to do so in the midst of a global pandemic two years ago. Or following the horrific terrorist attacks on 9/11. But the reality is this is a fantasy site. I am a fantasy football writer (well, here, anyway). There will be games played this weekend. And for some IDP managers, this week brings the Championship Game.
For others, it has brought chaos with the postponement of Monday's contest between the Bills and Bengals—a game filled with fantasy-relevant talent on both sides of the ball. There's no one-size-fits-all fix for the impact that postponement has had on fantasy leagues. Some will hold out in the hope that the game is resumed at a future date. Others will use Week 18 scores for Week 17 players. Others still will chop pots and share championships.
Talk to your leaguemates. Be understanding. Be civil. And come to an arrangement that works for the managers in your league. And while you're debating and arguing and railing against the injustice of it all, keep something in mind.
This is fantasy football. It's just a game.
What we saw Monday night? That was life and death.
DE Morgan Fox, LA Chargers (at Denver)
The Chargers have been hot of late, and improved defensive play has played a part in that role. Fox has certainly held up his end of the deal—in his first season with the Bolts, Fox has established new career highs in tackles (37) and sacks (6.5). But while speaking to reporters, the sixth-year veteran was quick to credit his teammates for his success.
"It's awesome, but it's a product of everybody else," Fox said. "If I'm going to be proud of anything, it's a product of 10 other guys doing their job at a very high level. If I don't make the play, it's kind of like I'm doing a disservice to them. All the plays I've made this year have been because I have great guys around me."
Fox has been on a nice little run of late after logging four tackles and a sack last week—he has a sack in three of the past four games and 10 stops and three sacks over the last two weeks. This week the Chargers have a chance to lock up the AFC's No. 5 seed against a Denver Broncos team that has surrendered a league-high 61 sacks in 2022.
DE Brandon Graham, Philadelphia (vs. NY Giants)
Brandon Graham has done a lot of things in 13 NFL seasons. He has made the Pro Bowl. He has won a Super Bowl. But to date, he had never logged a 10-sack season. That changed last week against New Orleans, and veteran defensive tackle and longtime teammate Fletcher Cox told reporters he was glad to see Graham finally hit double digits.
“It’s so good for BG,” said Cox. “We talk about it all the time. Obviously, we’re locker mates, and we always talk about goals and things you want to get done in your career and what’s important. I always told him it’s just going to take time, and I get really emotional for him because I know how hard he’s been working and how hard so many people counted him out after coming back from that Achilles’ injury; it’s really big for a guy that’s in his 13th season.”
The Eagles didn't win last week, but the team did accomplish some history—against the Saints, the Eagles became the first team in league history to have four players log 10 or more sacks in a season. Philly has a whopping 68 sacks--the most by an NFL team since 1984. And back in Week 14, the Eagles logged seven sacks against the Giants—with Graham notching three of them.
DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, Houston (at Indianapolis)
There has been something of a carousel of edge-rushers in Houston this season. Each has seemingly had success in spurts, whether it was veteran Jerry Hughes earlier in the season or fourth-year pro Ogbonnia Okoronkwo in recent weeks. Per Mark Lane of Texans Wire, defensive line coach Jacques Cesaire talked up the energy level the 27-year-old has displayed of late.
“Ogbo (Okoronkwo) is just — he’s energy, pure energy,” said Cesaire. “If you look at him, he’s always got a smile on his face. He loves the game. You can tell he really loves the game. The way he rushes, the way he attacks the line of scrimmage. He’s not the biggest guy on the field, but he’s got the biggest heart. He’s a guy that you trust and rely on each play.”
Okoronkwo isn't just impressing the coaches in Houston—he's making a dent in the stat sheet as well. Over the past five games, Okoronkwo has amassed five sacks—more than in his first three seasons combined. And with a reeling Colts team next up that has allowed a whopping 58 sacks in 2022, Okoronkwo has an excellent chance to end the 2022 season on a high note.
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