As the season progresses it is hard to find those diamonds in the rough or that guy that no one has heard of. This week we are going to examine the plethora of injuries across the league and who the most likely successor is to that starting job as well as highlight some prime matchups as well as surprising performers to this point. This article will also highlight a few long-term and speculative players that could see their value rise over the course of the season.
Sean Lee (DAL)
The man of constant injury is finally back for the Cowboys. Lee has always been a very solid defender but never seems to be healthy. He only saw 10 snaps in his first game back, Lee should see an increase this week. Do not expect him to return to his every down role, but he should be a sneaky source of points down the stretch. He is a proven guy that has had bad luck with injuries. If you need to make a move outside the box in the final weeks, look to Lee to lead the way.
Austin Calitro (SEA)
After the season-ending injury to Mychal Kendricks, Calitro is stepping into an every-down role for the Seahawks. He led the team in tackles last week with eight (six solos) and should continue to see an increase for the rest of the season. There should be plenty of opportunity playing alongside Bobby Wagner and plenty of chances to rack up the tackles. Calitro should be a solid play for the rest of the season.
Lorenzo Alexander (BUF)
The Bills may be a disaster on offense, but they have always put up solid defensive numbers. Alexander should see a bump in playing time for the rest of the season due to the season-ending injury to Matt Milano. He has shown the ability to rack up the sacks over his career and is posting some of the best tackle numbers he ever has in recent weeks. Alexander is a high upside that is widely available across leagues. This would be a great addition to help you down the stretch.
Sam Hubbard (CIN)
It has been a very solid season for Hubbard. The rookie out of Ohio State produced another two sacks last week and has a great matchup against the Browns this week. His tackle upside is not huge, and the play will be highly sack-dependent. Hubbard has 6 sacks on the season and a great opportunity to add to that this week. Three solos and a sack are a very real possibility for Hubbard this week.
Maurice Hurst (OAK)
Hurst is having a very similar season to Hubbard. He does not have quite as high of a ceiling with sacks but has proven he can string them together in back to back games. He has a very similar skill set and has a chance at 3 solos and a sack this week as well. The rookie out of Michigan is playing for a team with nothing to lose. They can pin their ears back and get after the quarterback every play if they want. Look for Hurst to get more opportunity with the remaining two games.
Ricky Jean Francois (DET)
The Lions defensive line has been decimated by injury this season and there are not many left standing. Francois has a chance to step in and prove himself in the remaining games. He has not had a sack in several weeks but gets to face a Vikings offensive line that has struggled to protect Kirk Cousins all season long. He has a low floor of three tackles, but the matchup raises his ceiling considerably. The Vikings are trying to run the ball right now and the poor blocking should lead to ample opportunity for Francois.
Rasul Douglas (PHI)
Douglas is another case of a guy getting more playing time due to an injury in front of him. Over his last three games, he's posted stat lines of 6-1, 9-1 interception and 1 pass defended, and 11-3. He should continue to see plenty of opportunities this week against the Texans. The Eagles still have a very small chance of making the playoffs and they will need continued strong play from Douglas to keep that alive.
Anthony Harris (MIN)
After losing Andrew Sendejo to the Reserved/Injured list, this Vikings finally seem to have found their guy to play alongside Harrison Smith. Harris had a down game against the Dolphins last week but posted nine total tackles against the Seahawks and seven against the Patriots. The defense is starting to play well again at the right time and they have a matchup against a struggling Detroit team that should provide several opportunities for fantasy points this week.
Fabian Moreau (WAS)
The Washington defense has been the only consistent strong point for that team. They have had a rash of injuries unlike any other team and keep finding guys to plug in. Moreau has played well in recent weeks. He had an interception last week against the Jaguars and posted nine tackles and a forced fumble a few weeks ago against the Eagles. Washington plays a Tennessee team that has struggled on offense this year and he has a great chance to add to his numbers.
Todd Davis (DEN): 1 solo, 2 assists, 1 tackle for loss
It was an all-around poor showing for the Broncos this week and that included Davis. They ended any chance at making the playoffs and lost to the lowly Browns. The defense held the Browns to under 20 points, but it was not enough. Davis could not build off his productive few weeks and had one of his worst games of the season. The Broncos season is over, and so is any chance of starting Davis in the final two weeks.
Neville Hewitt (NYJ): 2 solos, 2 assists
After a brief blip of a good game last week, Hewitt reverted to his numbers from earlier this season. His 4 total tackles were his second-best output of the season, but that is not saying much considering he averaged under two tackles per game outside of the past two weeks. Hewitt was a huge let down this week and could not build on his success last week. Hewitt is not an option in the final 2 weeks.
Zach Cunningham (HOU): 2 solos, 5 assists
It would have been a much better game for Cunningham if he could have made more solo tackles. His total tackle numbers were good (seven), but over two-thirds of those were assists. He really needed to bring the ball carrier down on his own to have a better week. He may have been an average play depending on how your league is scored, but in the traditional sense, he was another let down at linebacker last week.
David Irving (DAL): 1 solo, 1 assist, 1 sack
The sack was the only saving grace for Irving this week. He was coming back from injury and on a snap count this week. It did not look like it would have mattered as the Cowboys were shut out this week on offense. If you were able to grab Irving, he is a great play for the rest of the season. Hopefully, you were lucky in that someone in your league abandoned him during the injury. The Cowboys have a lot on the line to play for and will need Irving and the defense to continue to step up in the coming weeks.
Trey Flowers (NE): 1 assist
What is wrong with the Patriots? This is the first time they have lost two games in December in over a decade and nothing seems to be going right. Flowers was unable to get to Ben Roethlisberger on the pass rush and no one seemed to be able to stop Jaylen Samuels. Flowers fell flat this week in a game where he had a chance to put up some real numbers.
Chris Wormley (BAL): 1 solo, 1 assist
The risk on Wormley did not pan out this week. The entire Ravens defense only managed a single sack against Tampa this week. They held that high powered offense to just 12 points, but they did not make many big plays while doing so. Wormley was a high risk move this week with the matchup and is not a viable option for the rest of the season. He does not see enough defensive snaps to make a difference.
Eric Berry (KC): 4 solos, 2 assists
It was not the triumphant return that we were all hoping for, but Berry made it through the game healthy and that is the important part. The Chiefs are known to collapse late in the season and they are going to need everyone on that defense to stay healthy and make plays. Berry has always been a high upside IDP play, and hopefully, someone abandoned him during his injury. If you were lucky enough to grab him, he is a solid play for the rest of the season and should be inserted back into all lineups.
Ronnie Harrison (JAX): Left game, knee injury
After a promising previous two weeks, Harrison had his game cut short after a knee injury against the Redskins. Harrison exited the game and did not return. He put up a goose egg in the stat sheet and may be done for the season depending on the severity of his knee injury. It was a tough blow to a struggling defense that was trying to evaluate some of its young talent.
Michael Thomas (NYG): 5 solos, 2 assists, 1 sack
It was one of the best games of the season for Thomas. He continued to trend upwards after 6 tackles and an interception against the Redskins. He added his first sack of the season and only the second of his career this week against the Titans. It was not the end result the Giants wanted this week, but Thomas was a solid contributor on defense.