The Amateur Ward: “Final Week, Final Playoff Push. Are You Man Enough?”
With the fantasy regular season wrapping up in many leagues this season, teams on the edge are jockeying to make it and the top teams are fighting for top position. Hopefully your team has fared better than my injury-plagued, 2-10 triage ward that started Adrian Peterson and Cam Newton, among other notable names this season. My defense, however, has been one of the better in the league and has many players that have a case for being a keeper. While I will enjoy the likely top pick in my pay league next season, I wish all playoff teams the best and leave some insight on some intriguing defensive seven players this week. You want to know which veterans to trust/bench and which hot players to start, I have the answers. Do you dare read below? Man up!
D’Qwell Jackson (ILB-IND)- Those teams destined for the playoffs are looking at their rosters, scrutinizing every lineup move. Linebackers are the backbone of most fantasy defenses, and what we all need come playoff time is consistency and explosiveness. Jackson, a household name is known for his down hill style and hard hitting. Unfortunately, this season he has not produced at his usual elite tackle clip, and with nary a sack threat, he derives all value from tackles or getting to runningbacks behind the line. Yes, OK, the Jets are on tap, but Matt Forte is not easy to get on the turf. This may lead to a week where Jackson could pile up the tackles. But those trying to sneak in the final week could have higher upside options.
Benardrick McKinney (ILB-HOU)- McKinney is well on his way to becoming a fantasy stud and a multi-year Pro Bowler. But the second year linebacker still has a lot to learn when it comes to dominating at the line of scrimmage and developing a move to defeat blockers. With the pass heavy Packers on tap, he could be in for a skinny week for fantasy owners as Rodgers, while he has not been his usual total dominant self, is a master of mind games and forces opposing defenses to show certain looks to try to stop him. Owners have relied upon the linebacker throughout the season, but he could be boom/bust this week versus the Packers.
James Harrison (OLB-PITT)- With a divisional battle ensuing with the Bengals, the longtime veteran, linebacker will do everything within his power to make sure the Steelers win this week. This week’s match with the Giants could be a shootout, but don’t forget, Harrison makes the game come to him and is a king of disrupting opponents’ game plans.
Ramik Wilson (ILB-KC)- Since being waived by his current team for their first five games of the season, Wilson did an admirable job of helping the Chiefs compete for the division lead as the Chiefs and Raiders will be neck to neck down the stretch. Wilson is not someone known for sacks, but he can get into the backfield and disrupt the run. With some guy named Justin Houston officially back, Wilson could find a few more chances at Matt Ryan playing behind an improved offensive line that looks like amateurs at time.
Justin Houston (OLB-KC)- Momma, there goes dat man again! Falcons fans are holding their breath that Ryan will make it off the turf in one piece as the Falcons offensive line has allowed Ryan to be sacked 27 times this season and has looked very inconsistent in their past two games. Houston is a no-brainer start and a force that teams will game plan for, albeit unsuccessfully, going forward.
Nick Perry (OLB-G.B.)- Nick Perry has developed into a dominant force for the Packers linebacker core this season, which has had questions in past seasons. Coming into this season, he had 12.5 career sacks through his first four seasons as a part-timer. This season alone he has eight sacks and has already set a career high in tackles heading into this week’s match with the Texans who have been questionable at best on offense. There is no reason to think that Perry will not impact the game in a big way and could be in for a huge game this week.
Michael Johnson (DE-CIN)- There is a saying in fantasy sport, “Ride the hot hand.” Over the past two weeks, Johnson has been one of the hottest fantasy defensive ends with a sack and a half and two hurried passes. With rookie QB in Wentz on tap and the Bengals vying for playoff position, look for Johnson to lead the Bengals this week and record at least a sack as Cincinnati continues to battle for division lead with Pittsburgh.
Mario Addison (DE-CAR)- With a Seahawks team that has allowed 26 sacks of Russell Wilson, Addison is a must start with five sacks and a forced and recovered fumble over the past two weeks for the Panthers. His six and a half sacks this season already match a career high. He has proven to be a key cog on a defensive unit that has struggled on the season.
Javon Hargrave (DT-PITT)- Hargrave, one of the best pure nose tackles in the 2016 Entry Draft has proved he is an emerging player for the Steelers over the past two weeks and should make noise versus the run-less Giants. While DTs are often overlooked, Hargrave could make a huge impact as he mixes upside with sack ability for a hungry Steelers defense.
Sheldon Rankins (DT-N.O.)- The Saints will search for any way to improve their porous defense, and Rankins, the twelfth overall pick was one of the better pass and run defenders in the 2016 Draft. The Lions are pass heavy, which could curb Rankins’ upside this week. But Rankins has shown over the past two weeks why he was taken by the Saints so highly. He is a rookie, which is always risky, but a smart gamble this week.
To all, it has been a pleasure providing fantasy advice this season and I hope all of you readers bring at least one to two of your buddies or friends to the site as we go forward over the next few weeks as we continue to grow as a community. Fantasy blogging would not be what it is today on this site without supporters and fans as we continue to learn and prosper as writers. As the playoffs ramp up, I will continue to be there for advice and support in these weekly columns, and please feel free to ask opinions on players or matchups as championship week nears.
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Bryan is the owner os Real Deal Dynasty Sports, a writer with MLFS, and a frequent guest on our radio shows.
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