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Reading the Defense: Posluszny to find fantasy flair

Lucky Week 13. At least for some of you. If you made the playoffs in your fantasy league, congratulations. If you're on the outside looking in, condolences. Nonetheless, the world keeps on turning and yet another week is upon us. Reading the Defense doesn't take a week off. At least not yet. Let's get to it.

Game Balls

Defensive line: In a sloppy, snowy game in Chicago, it's not a surprise that a Bear would find a way to succeed. Akiem Hicks did a little bit of everything against the 49ers in Week 13, logging eight tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. Hicks hasn't been much of an IDP force this season, but he's started to become more of a presence in recent weeks. As Chicago turns an eye toward next season, Hicks could get more of a chance to make plays.

Linebacker:Vontaze Burfict continues to be the player that everyone loves to hate. A lot of times it's because he tends to push the extreme boundaries of the rules. Other times it's because he's laying waste to your favorite team's offense. Such was the case in Week 13 when Burfict wrecked the Eagles offense to the tune of 10 tackles, two picks and four passes defensed. So often, the linebacker's antics overshadow how good of a football player he can be. This week, we got a glimpse of the good Burfict.

Defensive back: Few things can perk up a defensive back's day like facing Blake Bortles. Count Bradley Roby among that number. The Broncos corner scored the 11th pick-six of Bortles' career as the highlight to a 13-point fantasy day. Roby doesn't get the same level of attention as teammates Chris Harris or Aqib Talib, but the former first-round pick showed that in the right circumstances he can be every bit their equal.

What went wrong

» Last week in this space, we feared that teams would stop throwing in the vicinity of Marcus Peters thereby devaluing his fantasy value. This week, we're expressing the same concern about Casey Hayward. The Chargers corner added to his league-leading interception total, but that was his only real fantasy contribution in last week's loss to Tampa Bay. In reality, Hayward was too effective for his own good as he had a large hand in holding Mike Evans -- the NFL's third-leading receiver -- to a season-low in catches and yards. We'll see if teams stop picking on Hayward.

Week 14 boomer

Paul Posluszny, LB, Jacksonville Jaguars Once a staple at the top of IDP linebacker rankings, Posluszny has expereienced the decline that befalls all of us eventually -- especially as Telvin Smith has become a rising star. But this week's contest against the Vikings and their wretched offensive line should offer plenty of chances for the tackle-dependent player to regain his former glory. For this week, at least.

Week 14 buster

Preston Brown, LB, Buffalo Bills: The Bills linebacker trio that had been the talk of the town earlier this season hasn't been nearly as prolific lately. You know what's not going to help that? Facing a Steelers offense that has been running the ball nearly at will with Le'Veon Bell. It won't be fully up to Brown to try to stop Bell, but it still doesn't bode well for his fantasy prospects this week.

Week 14 sleeper

Whitney Mercilus, LB, Houston Texans: Mercilus hasn't jumped off the page in many IDP leagues this season as the Texans linebacker has been fairly sack dependent. Good thing for him that the Texans get a look at the Colts, who have allowed 39 sacks -- second-most in the NFL this season. If there's a week for Mercilus to get looks in IDP lineups, this is the one.

Four downs

First down:Seahawks safety Earl Thomas is finished for the season after suffering a lower leg fracture in Sunday night's win over the Carolina Panthers. As for Thomas' cryptic tweet about considering retirement, there's is some speculation that they were put out by an emotional player in the immediate moments following a devastating injury. We'll keep an eye on any of Thomas' plans in the offseason. In the meantime, Steven Terrell is the next man up in Seattle's secondary.

Second down: Anyone watching the Packers recently can easily see that Clay Matthews' injured shoulder is clearly bothering him. Yet, the dominant linebacker isn't showing any signs of wanting to take time off in a critical stretch for the team. Nor does defensive coordinator Dom Capers seem eager in taking Matthews out of the lineup. It does pose an interesting dilemma for fantasy managers. Matthews can be a big playmaker when he's at his best, but if last week was any indication, the snaps could be limited. Beware.

Third down: The Giants received some preliminary good news on Jason Pierre-Paul. It looks like the defensive end did not suffer a sports hernia in last week's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The team is waiting on further information but there is concern that he could be out for multiple weeks. That would put his availability for the remainder of the fantasy season in serious jeopardy, removing one of the top players at his position from competition.

Fourth down: The Panthers don't have a clear idea of when star linebacker Luke Kuechly could return from his concussion, but it doesn't look like they plan to shut him down anytime soon. With Carolina quickly fading from playoff contention, it's fair to wonder when or if Kuechly will play again this season.

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for NFL.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarcasG or on Snapchat at marcasg9.

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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) rushes during an NFL football game between the between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

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