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Hold your family close. Make peace with thine enemies. Repent thy wrongs.
The Byepocalypse is here—again.
For the second time this season, six teams are on a bye in Week 13—the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, and New York Giants are off this week. To say that punches holes in IDP lineups is an understatement.
Fantasy managers will be without the services of Maxx Crosby of the Las Vegas Raiders and Danielle Hunter of the Minnesota Vikings on the defensive line. Roquan Smith of the Baltimore Ravens and T.J. Edwards of the Chicago Bears at linebacker. Jordan Poyer of the Buffalo Bills and Xavier McKinney of the New York Giants in the secondary. And that’s without considering injuries that hit the likes of Miami Dolphins edge-rusher Jaelan Phillips and Detroit Lions linebacker Alex Anzalone last week.
At least this isn’t an absolutely critical week on the fantasy calendar—a must-win for many fantasy managers trying to keep their postseason hopes alive just before the playoffs start.
Then we’d really have a problem.
EDGE Andrew Van Ginkel, Miami (vs. Washington)
Phillips didn’t just get hurt last week against the New York Jets—he suffered a season-ending Achilles tear. It’s a crushing blow to a defense that only recently got defensive back Jalen Ramsey back. While speaking to reporters, Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel admitted that there’s no replacing the team’s best pass-rusher—but the team does have players capable of stepping into the void.
"You don’t necessarily replace Jaelan Phillips," McDaniel said. "But you can have guys that are fully capable to step up and kind of get his production through different ways. We are fortunate enough to have some depth."
We’ve already seen this movie—when Phillips missed time earlier this season, Andrew Van Ginkel kicked from inside linebacker to the edge. The fifth-year pro peeled off 17 total tackles and four sacks over a four-week span subbing for Phillips earlier this season, and Sunday the Dolphins face a Washington Commanders team that has surrendered a whopping 55 sacks in 2023.
EDGE Byron Young, LA Rams (vs. Cleveland)
The Rams overhauled their defense in the offseason, jettisoning high-priced talent like linebacker Bobby Wagner, defensive back Jalen Ramsey, and edge-rusher Leonard Loyd in favor of cheaper, younger players. One of those players is rookie third-round pick Byron Young, who told Stu Jackson of the team’s website that he’s had to mature in a hurry after being pressed into a prominent role.
“Now it's more like, I'm acting more like a pro,” he said. “And I'm taking that approach as a pro. And I know the position I'm in right now. And that, you know, my teammates depend on me, you know, the coaches depend on me, so I gotta, I gotta definitely, I had to learn faster; I'd say, you know, in the spring, I will come late taking baby steps. Now, it's like more, they need me to step up and play a bigger role.”
Young has had the sorts of ups and downs common among first-year edge-rushers, but he’s also been quietly impressive—his 45 tackles and five sacks rank among the top-30 defensive linemen, and his pressure numbers have also been solid. This week, he and the Rams face an injury-ravaged Cleveland Browns team that has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to defensive ends this season.
LB Derrick Barnes, Detroit (at New Orleans)
The Lions have been struggling defensively of late, and things aren’t going to get any easier with leading tackler Alex Anzalone nursing a wrist injury that is expected to cost him time. That injury likely means an expanded role (and possibly play-calling duties) for Derrick Barnes, who told reporters that he feels he’s finally truly coming into his own in his third professional season.
"I know that my ceiling is high and that I can continue to grow from where I am now," he said. "Hopefully, I’m here for a long time. I love Detroit, man. It’s done nothing but been good to me, even through the rough times. I feel like, personally, I will continue to get better and become what I want to become and what God wants me to become."
Barnes has already surprised to an extent this season, holding off rookie Jack Campbell to be the No. 2 inside linebacker opposite Anzalone this season. This week, the Lions take on a New Orleans Saints team decimated by injuries at wide receiver that ranked 12th in fantasy points per game allowed to linebackers when they had some semblance of offensive balance. With a run-heavy game script likely in Week 13, Barnes could be a surprise star this week at a position where IDP managers can benefit greatly from one.
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