This is it. The end of the line.
In many fantasy leagues, Week 13 brings with it the finale of the regular season. And for more than a few IDP owners in these leagues, the task at hand is a simple win. Win, and the season continues. Lose, and they won’t have to worry about setting a starting lineup for a good long while.
Now, in this most pressure-packed of weeks, the last thing anyone wants to be doing is scouring the waiver wire for a starter. But sometimes things don’t go according to plan. For instance, a friend of mine missed the draft in an IDP-only league I’m in due to an unfortunate set of circumstances involving a car and the word impact. He was fine, but the team that was auto-drafted for him was not.
Since then it’s been a constant, weekly struggle to try to field a competitive lineup. And he’s done a fine job. He isn’t really a legitimate contender for a championship, but entering Week 13 his team is 6-6 and has a real shot at making the playoffs – an achievement in and of itself given what he’s accomplished to get even that far.
So, whether you’re Mark’s Funky Bunch (don’t look at me – I didn’t name the team) or in a similar predicament, here’s a look at some players who can help IDP squads in Week 13 – beginning with a name familiar to fantasy owners.
IDP PICKUP OF THE WEEK
Justin Houston – OLB, Kansas City Chiefs
As Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star reported, Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton believed Houston would rapidly round into form as he works his way back from an ACL tear. “I think the number-one thing is your reaction time becomes faster and quicker the more you’re out there and the more you experience it,” Sutton said. “It’s just the ability to hit those things and accelerate and do all those things that he probably wants to do and maybe can’t do them quite as fast as you normally do. That’s going to happen to any player that hasn’t practiced, that had to sit, he’s going from completely shut down to full play. That’s a big jump.”
Sutton wasn’t kidding even a little. Houston was an absolute terror against the Denver Broncos Sunday night, piling up 10 tackles, three sacks a forced fumble and a safety. Houston’s a relative rarity – a rush OLB who has shown the ability to not just post big stat lines but make it a weekly habit. It looks like he’s back to being himself, and if that’s the case he should absolutely be rostered for the postseason.
WEEK 13 IDP WAIVER WIRE TARGETS
Marcell Dareus – DT, Buffalo Bills
Bills head coach Rex Ryan told Mark Inabinnett of AL.com that the Bills badly need to get Dareus going down the stretch. “We needed to get the big dude going,” Ryan said after last week’s game. “He might not be 100 percent right now, but he’s healthy. We need him to get healthy in that sort of shape, that football shape. Guys know he gets as good as it gets inside, and having that big guy in there for us was huge.”
Dareus did just that in Sunday’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, registering his second multi-sack game this season. Dareus was on the sideline late in the game with an abdominal issue, but he told the Buffalo News he expects to be fine moving forward. “I’m going to talk to my doctor and see what’s going on,” he said. “I know I’m going to be OK. There’s a bunch of mini car wrecks in a football game. Of course I’m going to be sore.”
Dareus also added eight tackles in the game – the sort of production up front that many fantasy squads with underperforming linemen desperately need as the playoffs draw near.
Malik Jackson – DT, Jacksonville Jaguars
As ESPN’s Mike DiRocco wrote, Jackson was critical recently regarding the Jaguars’ fan base. “I kind of saw there was more Oakland fans last home game and that was very disappointing,” he said. “It sounded like there were more people in the pools than cheering for the game. We need to, as fans, everybody, to pick their stuff up. We need to cheer louder, make teams uncomfortable, because that’s a huge gain for us, and start winning these games.”
Of course, those fans would likely counter than Jackson hasn’t given them much to cheer about since coming over in free agency. In Sunday’s loss to Buffalo, however, that wasn’t the case – the 26-year-old amassed five total tackles (including four solos) and two sacks. It was easily Jackson’s best game since he joined the Jags, and an effort that got him back on the IDP radar.
Nick Kwiatkoski – ILB, Chicago Bears
Bears DC Vic Fangio admitted to the Chicago Sun-Times that the Bears aren’t exactly sure what they have in Kwiatkoski. “His first game in the regular season wasn’t so good [he started but only played 18 snaps against the Cowboys]. But the snaps since then have been good,” Fangio said. “He’s been getting practice time. I think he’ll be ready to go. Prior to the injury he was struggling learning everything, fitting it all together. I think he’s gotten past that point now. He’s got a better understanding of what we’re doing and what he needs to do. We’ll find out.”
Oh, they’re going to find out, all right. In addition to Jerrell Freeman‘s four-game suspension, the Bears watched Danny Trevathan fall prey to a season-ending knee injury in Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans. That leaves the rookie and perennial disappointment Christian Jones as the last men standing at inside linebacker in the Windy City. Someone’s gotta make tackles.
Darron Lee – ILB, New York Jets
Per Joe Lacalandra of Jets Wire, Lee saw his most extensive action of the season in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots. “With the season slipping away,” he said, “it’s time for New York’s rookie class to get a bigger opportunity to shine. One rookie in particular, Darron Lee, stood out against the Patriots. For the first time since very early in the 2016 season, Lee started and played a prominent role on defense for Gang Green. Lee was all over the field, proving that his speed is a difference-maker for New York both in the run game and in coverage.”
The Jets came up short on the scoreboard, but this was easily Lee’s best effort of the season, with the former Ohio State standout piling up 11 total stops against the Pats. With Lee now locked into an every-down role the rookie has the potential to emerge as a surprise LB3+ for fantasy owners in the postseason. Call it an early Christmas gift.
Mike Mitchell – S, Pittsburgh Steelers
Cornerback Russ Cockrell told Ray Fittipaldo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Mitchell is a tone-setter at the back end of the Steelers defense. “Mike is our enforcer,” Cockrell said. “He’s our punisher. He’s our finisher. When you have a guy back there who is really coming downhill I think it is something that you have to take note of. I don’t know what they were thinking, but Mike Mitchell is a hard hitter, and I’m glad he’s on my team. When he’s out there making plays and knocking people on the ground and catching interceptions — that’s the Mike Mitchell we know and love. And that’s what we expect from him.”
Mitchell was certainly a force on Thanksgiving night against the Indianapolis Colts, making a number of bone-crunching hits en route to a seven-tackle evening. The eighth-year veteran also chipped in an interception, and with another favorable IDP matchup looming Sunday in a big game with the New York Giants Mitchell’s a solid matchup play in Week 13.
Tavon Wilson – S, Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions have taken to using a lot of three-safety packages to compensate for their deficiencies at linebacker. And as Andrew Kato of SB Nation wrote, that’s meant plenty of time in the box for Wilson. “One interesting thing to note about this (Glover) Quin-(Rafael) Bush-Wilson big nickel defense was that Quin sometimes aligned as a single high safety and Bush sometimes did as well, but Wilson never did so,” he said. “Wilson always set up either in the box or on the line (occasionally blitzing) like a linebacker, or over a receiver (usually in the slot).”
Of course, in the box is exactly where IDP owners want a safety like Wilson, and it’s showed in his statistical production of late. Over the past three weeks Wilson’s averaging seven total tackles a game, and almost all of those stops (19 of 21) have been solos. Those aren’t squad-carrying numbers, but they aren’t dog food either – Wilson’s become a serviceable high-floor DB2 for those willing to eschew a bit of upside in favor of relatively low risk.