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It would be nice if we could get more than one week into the fantasy season without things going sideways in IDP leagues. Of course, it would also be nice if I won the Powerball. But neither seems especially likely.
In fairness, compared to some other seasons, the first week of 2023 was relatively tame. There wasn't a torrent of injuries. Big names like Baltimore Ravens linebacker Roquan Smith and Pittsburgh Steelers edge-rusher T.J. Watt came roaring out of the gate.
In many respects, it was right on script.
Right up until it wasn't.
As is the case every year, there were players who didn't meet expectations, whether it was Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers on the edge, Miami Dolphins linebacker David Long, or Baltimore Ravens safety Kyle Hamilton. Long's dud was particularly concerning—after being talked up as a three-down player most of the offseason, Long played all of 17 snaps against the Chargers.
Then there were the injuries—just because there wasn't an avalanche doesn't mean it didn't snow. Pittsburgh Steelers defensive lineman needs surgery on his injured groin. Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Nakobe Dean landed on injured reserve with a foot injury. Houston Texans safety Jalen Pitre was hospitalized with a bruised lung.
Now, with some slow starters, patience is a virtue—for all the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing, we're still just one week into the season. But sometimes, IDP managers need to see the writing on the wall. Need to fill a hole due to injury. Whether it's from a player deeper down the roster or a guy who isn't even on the team yet, those managers need a matchup play.
It's time for them to start Living the Stream.
DE Montez Sweat, Washington (at Denver)
Despite logging a respectable 46 total tackles and eight sacks a year ago, Sweat has become something of the forgotten man on the Commanders' loaded offensive line—he's available in quite a few more IDP leagues than one would expect. Per Zach Selby of the team's website, Commanders head coach Ron Rivera said that far too many forget that Sweat was a first-round pick in his own right.
"He's a guy that's got some great explosion, play speed and quickness," Rivera said. "And you see it. You see it flare up when he's focused in and ready to roll. You see some good reps. You see some flashes of what his abilities really are."
Sweat's abilities were on full display Sunday against Arizona—he logged five tackles, two tackles for loss, and a pair of forced fumbles on the way to being one of Week 1's highest-scoring defensive linemen. Now, Sweat and the Broncos face a Denver Broncos team that allowed an NFL-high 63 sacks in 2022. Calling Sweat a "matchup play" may be pushing it, but the list of linemen I'd start ahead of the 27-year-old in Week 2 isn't especially long.
DT Zach Allen, Denver (vs. Washington)
Might as well stay in Denver—with a replacement for Heyward managers and one of the more underrated interior linemen in the league.
Allen parlayed a career year with the Arizona Cardinals into a fat contract with the Broncos as the replacement for the departed Dre'Mont Jones. And as Parker Gabriel wrote for the Denver Post, Allen didn't take long to make a positive impression on Broncos head coach Sean Payton.
"He's smart, he's in the right gap, he's consistent," Payton said. "We had a player — I'm not comparing him to this player (because) they play different positions — but we had a player in New Orleans, Trey Hendrickson, who just was a handful. With each snap, energy and effort. Zach is that way down in and down out. He's really, really consistent. It takes a lot of energy, especially when you're playing inside, to play that way. He's got really good stamina. I've been pleased with him."
Allen's Broncos debut was relatively quiet, although five total tackles and a tackle for loss is hardly a bad outing. But now Allen faces a Commanders team that gave up the second-most fantasy points to defensive tackles in 2022. Sack No. 1 comes against Washington—book it.
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