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In some weeks, IDP matchup plays are more valuable than others.
This is one of those weeks.
Injuries are a constant in the NFL and fantasy football, and Week 7 is no exception. Whether it's defensive backs like Jalen Thompson and Budda Baker of the Arizona Cardinals, linebackers like Anthony Walker of the Cleveland Browns and De'Vondre Campbell of the Green Bay Packers, or edge-rushers like Joey Bosa of the Los Angeles Chargers and T.J. Watt of the Pittsburgh Steelers, plenty of players are either banged up or on the shelf.
But this week also brings the Byepocalypse—a six-team bye week. The Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, New York Jets, and Tennessee Titans are all off this week.
That means no Brian Burns of the Carolina Panthers, Sam Hubbard of the Cincinnati Bengals, or Micah Parsons of the Dallas Cowboys on the defensive front. No Logan Wilson of the Cincinnati Bengals, Quincy Williams of the New York Jets, or Azeez Al-Shaair of the Tennessee Titans at linebacker. No Jayron Kearse of the Dallas Cowboys, Jalen Pitre of the Houston Texans, or Kevin Byard of the Tennessee Titans at defensive back.
There are holes galore in IDP lineups this week. And whether it's off the bench or the waiver wire, plenty of fantasy managers are looking for ways to fill them.
DE Samson Ebukam, Indianapolis (vs. Cleveland)
Defensive tackle DeForest Buckner may be the biggest name on the Colts defensive line, and edge-rusher Kwity Paye is the rising young star outside. But fellow edge-rusher Samson Ebukam has become a consistent force in his own right, and while talking to reporters, the 28-year-old credited Gus Bradley's "Wide Nine" front for allowing him to just cut it loose and wreak havoc.
"It's easy. I don't have to think, I just kind of go," Ebukam said. "If you eliminate the thinking out of the game for the D-linemen, they play a lot better, play faster, and we can just mess things up in the front and whoever's in the back can clean it up. It might not add up on the stat sheet for me, but I know that it's going to help us win the game. And if I can help win the game, that's what I'm all about."
Actually, Ebukam has done a pretty good job stuffing the stat sheet as well—in just six games, Ebukam is already just one sack off his career high, and he has reached the quarterback in four of the last five games. The Cleveland Browns have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points per game to defensive ends this year, so there's a good chance the seventh-year veteran ties his career high in sacks in Week 7.
DE Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Tampa Bay (vs. Atlanta)
In his first two seasons in Tampa, Tryon-Shoyinka showed the occasional flash of the talent that made him a first-round pick back in 2021, but eight sacks over his first two seasons was something of a disappointment. While addressing the media, Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles said that talent wasn't the issue with Tryon-Shoyinka—it was a matter of refining his technique.
"For me, Joe has to finish at the top of the rush," said Bowles. "He beats linemen, and he either slips down or falls off the quarterback because he's launching too early and not running through the quarterback. He has to take those extra two steps. He left a lot of sacks out there last year; not that he didn't get back there, but he didn't finish the play. Finishing at the top of the rush is just as important as beating the guy initially off the line of scrimmage. Me and Joe talked about this, and he understands that; he's working towards that, and that's what we need to see from him."
Tryon-Shoyinka appears to have taken Bowles' words to heart—after taking down Jared Goff last week against the Detroit Lions, Tryon-Shoyinka is already just one shy of tying his career-best for a season. He's also playing 64 percent of the team's defensive snaps this season and draws a plus IDP matchup in Week 7 with an Atlanta Falcons team that has surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points per game to defensive ends this season.
LB Derrick Barnes, Detroit (at Baltimore)
Over the summer, just about every IDP pundit (this one included) believed that Alex Anzalone and rookie Jack Campbell would be Detroit's top two off-ball linebackers. But after an impressive camp and preseason, it has been third-year-pro Derrick Barnes alongside Anzalone. It's a development that surprised many—but not Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn.
"Just like I told you. I was excited about the player and what he showed on tape, what he did in the game, exactly who he is," Glenn said via Benjamin Raven of MLive. "And everybody's different. Every player is different, and sometimes it takes a player a year, sometimes you can come off the box ready to go, and sometimes it may take you three years. The thing is we saw a player in Barnes, and that's starting to show up in the games."
Barnes isn't an elite talent. He's also not a true three-down linebacker, although he did play 79 percent of the team's snaps last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But his per-snap productivity has been solid, and this week, he faces a Ravens team giving up the second-most fantasy points per game to linebackers. At a position where viable fill-in starters are hard to come by, Barnes is a fine bye-week play.
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