Unlock More Content Like This With a Footballguys Premium Subscription
"FBG is the best fantasy football advisory service anywhere."
Nigel Eccles, Co-Founder, FanDuel
The sprint to the finish is on. For the many of us hovering around .500, these next three weeks will make or break our season. This is the time of year when league champions often pick up that late bloomer or injury replacement that will push them over the top. The problem is, those guys don't come with big neon signs telling us who they are, and they are usually the players we would least expect. That said, a few targets this week could evolve into one of those guys. May karma shine on you when it comes to making the right decisions.
Jalen Thompson turned in a disappointing 2-1 performance in week ten. That, despite facing a Falcons offense, which is a top-five matchup for safeties. It is hard to imagine his numbers not being better against anyone going forward, but there are no grand expectations for this week, either. The Texans are giving up the fourth-fewest points per game to safeties. That doesn't bode well for Budda Baker, but he is virtually matchup-proof.
The Cardinals use too many players in their edge rotation for anyone to emerge as a consistently productive option for us. That said, B.J. Ojulari has seen his playing time increase from scraps early in the season to a team-high 52% in week ten. The rookie second-round pick has responded with ten tackles, four assists, and three sacks over the last three games, including a 4-4-2 versus Atlanta. The surge in production is enough to land Ojulari a roster spot in many situations, but don't get excited about him this week. Since week four, the Texans have allowed 1.3 sacks per game, with just over half a sack per game to the edge position.
The Falcons are off this week, but for those looking ahead, see if Richie Grant is available. His solid 7-2 against Arizona makes it four consecutive weeks with at least 12 fantasy points for Grant. Between weeks 12 and 17, he has matchups against the Saints, Panthers, Colts, and Bears, who are all in the top half of the league in terms of matchups for safeties.
Roquan Smith had a huge game against the Browns last week, racking up 21 total stops with 14 solo. He is matchup-proof in terms of being in our starting lineups, but lower your expectations considerably when the Ravens face Cincinnati this week. Only the Chargers are a worse matchup for linebackers.
Jadeveon Clowney went 2-4-2 and has a pair of two-sack games over the last five weeks. Jason Oweh was 4-0-1 with a forced fumble against Cleveland, giving him a sack in three of four games since returning from injury. That is enough for both players to garner some consideration as a starter on most weeks. This year's Bengals, however, are not the same team that has struggled to protect the quarterback in recent years. Clowney had a sack against them in the first meeting, but that was when Joe Burrow was a stationary target due to the calf injury. Since week four, the Bengals have allowed one sack per game to the edge positions and have given up the sixth-fewest points to the position.
Kyle Hamilton was wildly inconsistent early in the season. He continues to have ups and downs, but the downs are less frequent these days. Hamilton has reached double-digit points in three of the last four games, with a season-high of nearly 29 against Cleveland. He didn't do much in the first meeting with the Bengals, but Cincinnati has become a much stronger matchup for safeties since Burrow has been healthy.
Marlon Humphrey is dealing with an ankle injury that will keep him out in the short week. With a bye in week 13, he might not play against the Chargers next week, either.
Derrick Brown put up 21 fantasy points in week one and 19 in week ten. In between, he reached double-digit points just once. We don't want to get in the habit of chasing points, but this time, the matchup suggests we do. Dallas has given up the sixth most points to interior linemen.
Vonn Bell was rather quiet (2-2) in his return from injury last week. The good news is that he played every snap versus the Bears, who are simply a poor matchup for safeties without Justin Fields under center. Look for much better production this week against a Dallas offense that has allowed the tenth most points to the position.
With Brian Burns inactive last week due to a concussion, the Panthers became the first team to record no sacks against the Bears this year. Dallas allowed at least three in five straight games leading up to last week, so the matchup is good if Burns clears protocol in time to play. He practiced in full on Wednesday, so his chances of suiting up are good.
Deion Jones is quietly seeing both his playing time and production increase. He went 4-1 with a pass breakup on 33 snaps against the Bears. The other player we need to watch for this week is Blake Martinez, who came out of retirement to sign with the team on November 6th. It's been a while since he played, but if Martinez can be the player he was before the injury in 2021, this kind of late-season addition can put a fantasy team over the top. The 29-year-old Martinez is currently on the Panthers practice squad, so we might not see him this week.
The Bears fielded at least five defensive backs on every play in week ten. Jaquan Brisker turned in a strong game after missing two weeks with an injury. He played every snap, going 5-4 with a pass breakup. The player that caught my eye, though, was Kyler Gordon. He was one of three corners who never came off the field, but more importantly, he worked in a role very similar to those that have made fantasy studs out of several players in recent years. Gordon worked in the slot much of the time but was moved around the formation, including a good number of plays right in the thick of the action along the line. He was around the ball all game, with the final result being a strong 7-1 with a pass breakup and a pair of tackles for loss. I like him this week against a Lions offense that has given up the seventh most points to corners.
Montez Sweat did not show up on the stat sheet last week, but his presence was felt on the field. The team had a season-high three sacks in the game, while Sweat was credited with seven QB pressures. When this trade first went down, I commented that Chicago was more than one player away. While I still stand by that statement, the addition of Sweat seems to have drawn them a lot closer than I initially expected. Granted, the matchup had a lot to do with it, but consistent pressures will eventually turn into sacks.
It was a slow day at the office for Jack Sanborn, who finished 3-4 with a pass breakup. His low production is easy to understand, though. Carolina running backs carried the ball just 13 times for 25 yards in the game. That is not going to happen to the Lions this week.
It looks as if the Bengals might have to rely on their young edge defenders this week. Sam Hubbard was inactive for week ten with a sore ankle and has been ruled out. Trey Hendrickson had to be helped off the field late in Sunday's game with a hyperextended knee. He is considered day-to-day but is trending toward playing. The good news here is that neither injury is considered serious. The bad news is the Bengals have a huge game on Thursday against the division-leading Ravens. We should see Cameron Sample make his second straight start with Joseph Ossai and rookie first-round pick Myles Murphy also seeing more action.
Cam Taylor-Britt has a strangely low snap count in week nine. I have still not figured out what that was all about, but he returned to his normal full-time role, playing 95% of the snaps against Houston. Taylor-Britt missed a handful of snaps with a finger injury but returned to finish the game at 7-2 with an interception and a pair of passes defended. It's hard to take a guy out of your lineup after a game like that, but be aware that the Ravens are a poor matchup for corners.
Cleveland managed a win on Sunday, but their secondary took a beating in the process. Safety Juan Thornhill left early with a calf strain, and corner Denzel Ward could not finish with a sore neck. Martin Emerson should start opposite Greg Newsome at corner, with Mike Ford likely to handle the nickel duties. Rodney McLeod would make the start at free safety if Thornhill can't go.
It's puzzling how the Browns can take a great matchup like the Ravens and somehow keep their linebackers from having fantasy value. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah led Cleveland's second-level defenders with just under ten fantasy points (4-3-.5 PD), while Anthony Walker managed to avoid making more than two tackles on 40 snaps. Sadly, it is not going to get much better.
Continue reading this content with a ELITE subscription.
An ELITE subscription is required to access content for IDP (individual defensive players) leagues. If this league is not a IDP (individual defensive players) league, you can edit your leagues here.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE