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Week twelve was a strange one. There are always a few guys that either underperform or overperform. Week twelve gave us more than usual of each, with a boatload of linebackers coming in well shy of their normal/expected production and a bunch of defensive backs putting up big points. For those of you who always feel this stuff only happens to you, in four of the nine IDP leagues I play, my opponent had at least two of those defensive backs with touchdowns.
It raised an eyebrow when Kei'Trel Clark showed up in the box score at 5-4. Then we learned that Clark got the start over Marco Wilson, who was benched. The Cardinals are doing what a lot of teams without postseason hopes are doing: they are looking at options and changing up personnel to see what they have. Clark was highly productive for us early in the year and picked up right where he left off when he was replaced by Antonio Hamilton Sr. in week five.
If the Cardinals had played well on defense and won last week's game, there might be a reason to think they would go with the same lineup again. Not only were they killed on the scoreboard, but the Cardinals lost some guys to injury as well. The bottom line here is that we will likely see a different lineup in week 13, so don't chase the numbers.
With Kyzir White on IR, Krys Barnes got back on the field. Unfortunately, it was in a far lesser role than many of us were hoping for. Barnes managed seven combined stops on 27 snaps. Josh Woods has taken over the lead role at linebacker, but his production does not exactly match up to the role. He was 4-1 on all 67 snaps against the Rams, giving Woods ten tackles and two assists in his two starts combined.
Jesse Bates III turned in one of those monster performances, going 7-5 with a forced fumble and a long interception return for a score. Tip of the hat to the Godfather, Gary Davenport, for playing him against me this week in the Huddle Experts league. Both Gary and I had top-5 scores. Unfortunately for me, he was number one.
The Falcons were high on DeMarcco Hellams all summer and throughout training camp. Then we didn't hear much about him for a while. Atlanta is not yet on to next year, but they are walking the razor's edge. Their shuffle at safety is more about trying something to hopefully make the team a little better for the final push. To that end, Hellams and Richie Grant platooned at safety. With some overlap when both were on the field in three safety looks, Hellams played 53% and went 4-3, while Grant was reduced to 75% of the action and finished 3-1 with a pass breakup. It is hard to say where this is going or how quickly it will get there. One clue might be that Hellams was the strong safety at some key moments late in the game, and he held up well in those situations.
A ripple effect of the safety situation is that Nate Landman's snaps were reduced to 74%. That was his lowest share since taking over the starting job in September. Likewise, the three tackles and one assist matched Landman's lowest production since inheriting the job.
Unlike the Cardinals' experiment, this one seems to be a success, so we might see more three safety looks and a lot more of Hellams going forward. Atlanta plays the toothless Jets this week so we don't want to start any of these guys if we can keep from it. That will give us a chance for another look.
Patrick Queen left Sunday's game for a few plays to have his shoulder looked at. He returned to finish the game and looked fine, but a linebacker with a sore shoulder is like having a receiver with a broken finger. It can be a problem. The bye comes at a good time for Queen.
Despite playing in the rain against an Eagles offense that ran the ball 32 times, Terrel Bernard was one of those linebackers who let us down. The interception salvaged the day to some extent, but we all expected more than three tackles and two assists. The good news is Bernard is fine and played his normal role.
Coaching changes are the main topic of discussion when it comes to the Panthers this week. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, those changes were all about the offense and should not have much of an effect on the defense.
What likely will affect the defense, is the shoulder injury that took Vonn Bell out of Sunday's game. With all the other news to focus on, we may not get an update on Bell's status until later in the week but be prepared for bad news.
With C.J. Henderson and Jaycee Horn still out, David Long Jr. became the seventh player to start a game at corner for the Panthers this season. He went 5-2 and performed well in a close game. That might be enough to get him another look If Henderson is not back this week.
Unlike Terrel Bernard, Frankie Luvu did not bail out his managers with a splash play. His 1-1 was a mega-bust for a guy who has not fallen short of seven combined tackles since week four. Tennessee has allowed the fifth-fewest points to linebackers on the season so the poor matchup can be blamed to some extent. The good news is that Luvu also played every snap as usual. This week's matchup with the Buccaneers is not a particularly good one, but it's not a reason to sit Luvu.
Deion Jones was seeing a steady increase in playing time, but that came to an end in week twelve when he logged 11 snaps.
After he was the most targeted corner in the game through the first eleven weeks, a lot of managers were burned by Tyrique Stevenson's absence on Monday. He showed up late in the week as questionable with an ankle and was inactive. To pour salt in the wound for those managers that either didn't catch his questionable status or elected to gamble on the plus matchup with Minnesota, his replacement, Terell Smith, recorded eight solo stops.
Logan Wilson was sidelined for the last few plays of Sunday's loss with an ankle injury. The update from Zac Taylor on Monday is reason for optimism. Taylor said Wilson is day-to-day, but the injury is not considered serious. Cincinnati plays Jacksonville on Monday, so Wilson will have an extra day to heal. If you gamble on him playing, it might be a good idea to pick up Akeem Davis-Gaither for insurance.
Myles Garrett suffered a shoulder injury in week twelve. He said something popped and left the stadium with his arm in a sling. After being checked out thoroughly, the Browns on Monday reported no structural damage and Garrett might be available for week 13. It feels like this story is not yet over. Keep an eye on his practice status as we move through the week.
It was a banner week for Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, who played his biggest role (90%) and recorded his best production of the season against Denver. Owusu-Koramoah had seen no more than 82% of the playing time in any previous game, and 7-5-1 with a forced fumble is among the best single-game numbers of his career. The big game might influence some managers to start him this week. Before making that decision, be aware that Denver is the number one matchup for linebackers, while this week's opponent, the Rams, have allowed the third-fewest points to the position.
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