Both teams have been gifts to fantasy football players over the last few weeks. The Buccaneers offense seems to have found its groove, putting up at least 20 points in five of the last six contests and 30 points per game (ppg) in their home winning streak. Over the last month, San Francisco has also seen a significant fantasy rebound with exciting play from WR Anquan Boldin (19 ppg over the last four), the return of WR Michael Crabtree, stellar performances from TE Vernon Davis (four straight games with a TD) and signs that RB Frank Gore is on the cusp of returning to his mid-season form.
With the aforementioned firepower of the 49ers and the consistent sleeper success of the Bucs playmakers, plenty of fantasy footballers will be watching closely in the hopes of advancing to the next (and possibly final) round of their playoffs. Perhaps the most interesting and confounding matchup in this battle belongs to the quarterbacks, Tampa Bay’s
The two are having very similar years from a statistical standpoint. Kaepernick holds a 2.4 ppg edge over Glennon. Kaepernick has 191.3 passing yards per game with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions (over 13 games), while Glennon has 205.2 passing yards per game, 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions (over 10 games). Kaepernick’s point edge comes from his dual-threat ability to run the ball. He has 407 yards on the ground this year with three rushing TDs.
With an average draft position as the sixth-highest taken quarterback, Kaepernick’s stats have not always met expectations, but he has still shown bursts of fantasy prowess with three 20+-point performances. He faces a 23rd-ranked Buccaneers defense that has allowed five 20+-point passers but held Buffalo’s E.J. Manuel to just one point last week. Glennon’s early consistency has fallen in recent weeks as he has just 10 points over the last two games, and is a risk against the 3rd-ranked 49ers defense, but he has thrown a touchdown pass in nine of his first 10 NFL games and leads all NFL rookie QBs in most statistical categories.
With fantasy playoff implications on the line, it may be wise to look past either quarterback in this one if you have other viable options. But there are plenty of players elsewhere to place among your starters. Let’s take a look at them now.
1. When the Bucs Have the Ball
- RB B. Rainey faces a tough challenge in San Francisco's defense
Buffalo ranked ninth against running backs; Rainey posted 21 points. Underwood found the end zone against the #1-ranked Seahawks. Vincent Jackson has 154 yards in two games against Carolina’s sixth-ranked unit. Tim Wright had 10 points against fifth-ranked Buffalo, 15 vs. 10th-ranked Detroit and 11th-ranked Seattle and 16 against fourth-ranked Philadelphia. Against tough defenses all year long, the Buccaneers’ offensive group has shown their ability to put up consistent points week-in and week-out.
WR Vincent Jackson is the must-start in the group. He has four straight 60-yard performances and has developed quite a downfield rapport with his quarterback. He could also see a lot of time facing a cornerback that he is familiar with in former Buccaneer Eric Wright. With Jackson getting extra attention all year, room should open up for WR Tiquan Underwood. He has a great two-game road performance in Weeks 12 and 13, putting up 33 total points, but was shut out last week against Buffalo. Glennon continues to throw passes his way and he should rebound here.
TE Tim Wright has the toughest matchup. Before last Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, the 49ers had allowed just one team’s TE group to get 60+ yards. They have allowed eight points or fewer in seven games this year. However, last week, Seattle’s Luke Wilson was able to post a three-catch, 73-yard, one-TD performance, which shows that they can be beaten by a tight end. With the way Wright has been targeted by Glennon all year, he has sleeper potential if you need him.
Finally, at running back, Bobby Rainey is a solid starting option at RB2 or Flex. In the last five games, he has five total touchdowns, all of them coming at home. The 49ers have not allowed a single 100-yard rusher all season or 100 yards to a RB group since Week Six. But they have allowed three rushing touchdowns in the last five games. With Rainey carrying the ball 21 times per game since becoming a starter, and with the holes the offensive line has been able to open up in recent weeks, the ground game could get going again for the Buccaneers inside Raymond James.
2. Fantasy Weapons for San Fran
The highest-ranked 49er at any particular position is TE Vernon Davis, who has posted 14.75 fantasy ppg this season, third-most among tight ends. After being held to just a single catch for two yards by Carolina in Week 10, Davis has four consecutive games with a touchdown catch, equating to four straight games with 10 or more fantasy points. Only Jimmy Graham has more touchdown receptions this season than Davis among tight ends. He has found the end zone 11 times this season, one time for every four receptions.
He will go up against a defense that performed well against tight ends recently. After giving up an alarming 54 fantasy points to TEs over their first two games, the Bucs defense has cracked down against the position, allowing only 9.3 ppg, well below the 12.3 ppg NFL average. In non-PPR leagues, they allow fewer than 5.5 ppg, two under the average. Owned in 100% of leagues, and with his hot streaks, Davis remains a must-start, but could cool down against the Bucs.
Since the 49ers’ bye week, RB Frank Gore has struggled to get much going, averaging just 62 yards per game over that span with one touchdown. His best performance since came a week ago against the Seahawks, when he ran for 110 yards. Like the Seahawks, the Bucs boast one of the best defenses against RBs in the league, allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points. He should start in the vast majority of leagues, but could face tough times against a group that has allowed just two rushing TDs this season and average just 76 yards allowed on the ground in the last three games.
When it comes to predicting the wide receiver position, things get a little messy. Anquan Boldin has dominated defenses over the past four weeks with 26 receptions, 341 yards and three TDs. WR Michael Crabtree returns from injury for his third game of the season. Crabtree was undoubtedly Kaepernick’s favorite target at the end of last season when he averaged 6.9 catches and 102.9 yards over the last eight games. One of these receivers will face Darrelle Revis.
Whether Revis covers Boldin or Crabtree or both, it is worth nothing the progression of the rest of the Buccaneers secondary, particularly rookie CB
3. Speaking of D/ST
In three of the last four weeks, the Buccaneers defense has finished in the top five in scoring defense. In Week 11 they put up 15 vs. Atlanta, in Week 12 it was 20 against the Lions, and last week (without even a touchdown, mind you) they tore through the Bills’ offense to the tune of 23 points.
Over the last five weeks they have put up 69 points. Not only does no other defense top that number over that time span, it’s higher than the season total of five NFL defense. In that five week span, the Buccaneers defense has 13 interceptions, seven more than the next highest team. And, of course, in those five weeks, the Bucs have four wins.
The 49ers offense ranks ninth in points allowed to opposing defense, so they present a challenging matchup for the Buccaneers defense. San Francisco has allowed just eight interceptions this season, tied for the fourth-fewest in the NFL and also rank in the top 12 in fewest sacks allowed and points per game. Only three defenses have posted double-digit games against the 49ers.
So, while the 49ers may not be the easiest of matchups, it is hard to count out a Buccaneers defense accounting for 13.8 fantasy points per week over the last month. They can almost certainly be picked up this week, as they are owned in less than 10% of ESPN leagues.
The 49ers defense has been a solid start all season long. Their 133 points over the season ranks them as the sixth-highest scoring in fantasy leagues. Owned in 99.9% of ESPN leagues, they are certainly a trusted group and have shown consistency all year. However, the Bucs have proven to be one of the least turnover-prone teams in the league, giving up the ball just 16 times all season, tied for fifth. Over that same five-week span we mentioned earlier, the Buccaneers offense has averaged 24 points per game. With the set-it-and-forget-it approach often employed for fantasy defenses, San Francisco should start in most leagues, but with the recent offensive bursts of the Buccaneers, they are less of a sure-thing in Week 15 than some might think.