For quite a few teams in quite a few Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues, it all comes down to this week. Twelve weeks of lineup decisions and waiver claims and second-guessing and third-guessing and the throwing of remote controls all comes down to Week 13. Win in this final week of the regular season, and it’s on to the fantasy postseason. Lose, and it’s all over but the crying.
This is it.
If that gets stuck in your head, you’re welcome.
Lucky Week 13 is without question the most pressure-packed week of the regular season (well, unless your league has a 14-week regular season — and even then, this is a big week). Every lineup decision is absolutely critical. Every point can be the difference between winning and losing — between moving on and calling it a year.
Injured players become that much bigger a problem. There’s also the matter of under-performers — do you dare risk rolling out Atlanta inside linebacker Deion Jones at the tail end of a poor statistical season, even after a nine-tackle effort? Or do you consider going to the bench or even the waiver wire?
It’s a week where IDP owners need players who can help right now. And as it happens there just might be a few — on the same team in Southern California.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers
James was one of the first big-name IDPs to be felled by a serious injury in 2019 — he didn’t even make it to Week 1 before suffering a foot injury that required surgery. However, before the Chargers went on a bye in Week 12, James told the NFL Network he was aiming to return soon.
“I’m feeling well, feeling better, getting better every day,” James said. “Just taking it day-by-day. It’s real close, real soon. I can say that. So just taking it day-by-day. Working hard to get back out there.”
Apparently, it wasn’t just idle talk. Coming out of the bye the Chargers designated James for return, and head coach Anthony Lynn said that James could play as soon as this week’s trip to Denver.
“If we got healthy players as good as DJ, if he can play, he’s gonna play,“ Lynn said. “We’re not tanking, guys. We’re 4-7. Last time I checked we have five games left.”
It’s by no means certain that James will play in Week 13. And even if he does there will be rust and a snap count. But we’re also talking about a Top 5 fantasy defensive back when healthy. This is the kind of add that can win championships if James heats up in time for the playoffs.
WEEK 13 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Matt Ioannidis, DE, Washington
Ioannidis doesn’t get the publicity that linemates Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne do, despite a quietly solid season in which the fourth-year pro has piled up 49 tackles and 5.5 sacks. However, as Chris Roling wrote for (Washington) Wire, Ioannidis has earned the respect of star safety Landon Collins.
“He’s always willing to work, he admits his wrongs and his faults and corrects them and learns from them,” Collins said. “When you see that in a player, you’re gonna get a lot of great things from him, you’re gonna get a lot of building, you’re gonna get a lot of consistency from him.”
Ioannidis tallied a sack last week against Detroit — the third time in his last four games that Ioannidis has reached the quarterback. With an average of four-plus stops and half a sack per game and a Top 10 IDP matchup with Carolina on tap, Ioannidis is a solid pickup for teams with a hole on the defensive front.
Jabaal Sheard, DE, Indianapolis
There may not be a player I’ve gone to the well with more in waiver wire and sleeper pieces this year than Indianapolis defensive end Jabaal Sheard. And for the most point, I’ve been disappointed — Sheard has just 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks in eight games this year. Still, I stand by what I wrote about Sheard last week for The Athletic.
“In his first season with (Indianapolis), Justin Houston has piled up 28 tackles and eight sacks — numbers that slot the 30-year-old inside the Top 10 in fantasy points among defensive linemen,“ I said. “Sheard hasn’t been nearly as productive, but the ninth-year veteran draws Top 5 fantasy matchups for his position in three straight games starting Thursday in Houston.”
Sheard admittedly wasn’t able to capitalize on last week’s favorable matchup with Houston. But this week’s tilt with Tennessee is even better — only Miami has surrendered more sacks than the 43 Tennessee have surrendered in 2019.
Cole Holcomb, ILB, Washington
As is the case with many rookie linebackers, the 2019 season has been an up-and-down affair for Holcomb. But after a career-best 13 tackles and a sack in a Week 12 win over Detroit, Holcomb drew the praise of interim head coach Bill Callahan according to Zach Selby of the team’s website.
“Cole played well,” Callahan said. “His tackle points led our team and he had the sack as well. There are so many aspects where he can read, react. He works hard, he’s diligent, studies, he’s intuitive – he has all the traits that you want out of a linebacker.”
Holcomb only played about 67 percent of the defensive snaps for Washington — he hasn’t topped 70 percent in a game since all the way back in Week 5. But in Week 13 Holcomb may not need to play every down to fill up the stat sheet — Washington faces a Carolina team that ranks second in the NFL in fantasy points surrendered to the position.