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Buccaneers Fantasy Corner, Week 17

Posted Dec 30, 2012

Though the majority of fantasy leagues now wrap their seasons up in Week 16, some still use the last weekend of the NFL's regular season, and that brings with it some specific challenges

It’s the final week of the NFL regular season, for players and fantasy football GMs. The lucky ones are able to kick back and enjoy the games while basking in the glow of the championship trophy, having won it in Week 16. But for some, last week was just another playoff game on the road to glory, and the game for all the marbles comes in Week 17.

 

Each year, more and more fantasy leagues hold their version of the Super Bowl in Week 16, avoiding the stressful unknowns that Week 17 is destined to have. Last season, many fantasy football owners made it to the championship game on the back of Aaron Rodgers only to be left without a starting quarterback since the Packers had clinched.

 

The Buccaneers and Falcons have done a whole lot of fantasy scoring this year. Doug Martin has taken the fantasy world by storm alongside Vincent Jackson, who had the best season of his career after putting on the red and pewter. Next year’s draft boards will most certainly have Martin in the first round, and Jackson not far behind him as a top receiver. And of course, you can’t mention fantasy football receivers without throwing in Roddy White and Julio Jones.

 

In their first matchup in Week 12, Julio Jones led the way with six receptions for 147 yards and a score, resulting in 20 fantasy points. Doug Martin put up 18 points of his own with two touchdowns on the ground. Vincent Jackson didn’t reach the end zone, but nearly cracked 100 yards on five grabs.

 

While the Buccaneers will look to get back on track and finish the season on a high note against their division foe, the question still remains if the Atlanta stars will be showing up, or if their fantasy owners will be smacking their heads like the unfortunate souls with Packers players last season. 

 

1. The Week 17 Conundrum

 

This week, as the Buccaneers travel to Atlanta to face the Falcons, we see the possibility of a similar situation shaping up. Though they are facing division rivals, and a division victory under any circumstance is highly prized, the Atlanta Falcons have already clinched first place in the NFC, a first-round bye and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.  

 

With all of that in their pockets, it doesn’t seem like the Falcons stars really have a reason to be on the field.  While they could play the entire game, it seems more likely based on history that they may only suit up for a couple of possessions before allowing backups to come in and finish out the game. Or maybe, to avoid killing their momentum, the Falcons will play the game straight up, from whistle to whistle.  The point is, there's no way to be sure.  Though there has yet to be an announcement of playing time, the risk of starting Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Roddy White and Michael Turner seems to heavily outweigh the reward.

 

While Matt Ryan has been one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL, putting up 17 fantasy points each week, the chances of him not playing are too great to consider him a starting caliber quarterback this week, despite his statistics and the strength of his matchup. Especially with so much riding on his Week 17 performance in your championship game, the effect of him not playing an entire game could drastically reduce your score and send you home with nothing more than second place. This week, it would be wise to consider a backup. Though their ceiling may not be as high as Ryan’s, they are still going to put up a certain number of guaranteed points. With all of the question marks surrounding Ryan, the luxury of guaranteed points is gone.

 

Roddy White is coming into this week with a questionable tag and has been a limited participant in practices throughout the week. Because there is really nothing on the line for the Falcons in this game, it is smart to assume that the Atlanta coaching staff will err on the side of caution and keep him on the sidelines rather than risk further injury.

 

RB Jacquizz Rodgers would be the standout player to start this week. He does still come with some risk if the Falcons opt to play Michael Turner the entire game. But even with the limited time that he has been seeing, Rodgers has had his fantasy bright spots this season. He has yet to have more than 12 rushing attempts in a single game, but is putting up 3.8 yards per rush. He has also caught 45 passes this year, bringing his yards from scrimmage total to 686. Rodgers also had his strongest fantasy performance of the season against the Buccaneers in their first meeting, rushing the ball for 49 yards and a touchdown while adding 30 receiving yards on two catches. Of all Atlanta Falcons players, it is this second-string running back who seems to be the safest fantasy start this week, especially if he ends up getting first-string reps.

 

2. Record-Setting Day

 

We have seen a number of Buccaneer franchise records broken already this season. For example, Doug Martin has set the single-season rushing yardage and touchdown records for Tampa Bay rookies. With the last game of the season upon us, even more 2012 Buccaneers are in line to put their names in the books.  Josh Freeman, for instance, already has the team's single-season passing-yardage record but also has a 4,000-yard season well in his sights in Week 17.

 

While you might not think that these records have a huge fantasy football implication, your fantasy team could certainly benefit from the sliver of additional motivation. Recently, when asked about the milestones that could be reached by the likes of Freeman, Jackson, Martin and Mike Williams, Head Coach Greg Schiano said that, while his focus is to win games, he is aware of those possible achievements and will take heed if possible.

 

“If we are in a game, I always have people that make me aware of stuff – 'Hey, Vince needs one more catch to break it, or Vince needs 10 more yards to break it,’" said Schiano. "So certainly I am not opposed to getting that done if it can be done within the confines of winning the football game. Over my years as a head coach I have had guys, that whether it is a rushing title, or whatever it is, you try to get them. If it falls within [trying to win], never at the cost of it, though.”

 

Vincent Jackson needs 89 receiving yards to become the team’s single-season record-holder. His average yards per game: 89. If it is within the confines of the game, you can expect that Jackson, along with Freeman and Schiano will do what it takes to see Jackson’s name in the Bucs annuls.

 

Josh Freeman is just one touchdown away from 27 TD passes, which would be the most in Buccaneer history, breaking Brad Johnson’s single-season mark. He is also just 157 passing yards shy of being the first Buc to break the 4,000-yard mark. In his 15 games so far, Freeman has thrown touchdown passes in 13 and hasn't been held under 157 passing yards since September. With those records on his mind, the passing game could perhaps open up just a bit more.

 

Mike Williams needs 69 receiving yards to get over 1,000 for the first time in his career. If he does so, he and Vincent Jackson will be the first pair of Buccaneers receivers to each put up four-digit yardage numbers in the same season. Williams is averaging 62 yards per game, but has gone over 90 yards in four games this season, twice in the team’s last four games.

 

Doug Martin needs 134 yards from scrimmage to gain 1,900 on the season. While that seems like a large number, Martin is averaging 117 yards per game. It is not a huge stretch to see him and the team reach to go just 20 yards beyond that to help him reach the milestone. He is also two touchdowns shy of a Buccaneer single-season record of 13. It seems a little further out of reach, but Martin has scored two or more touchdowns in three games this season, one of them against Atlanta.

 

3. Looking Ahead

 

The Buccaneers will look to close the season strong in Atlanta, in the process capping off what might be the best fantasy football season in team history, across the board. In fact, many major players for the Buccaneers this season will end the year with a higher ranking than their original average draft position (ADP) indicates, which is a great sign for what the future may hold.  Check out this end-of-year comparison between where the Bucs' key fantasy players were drafted, where they were drafted among their own position and where the currently rank in fantasy points at that position.  The difference – that is how much higher their end of year rank is than their ADP rank – is positive in every case, occasionally by a huge margin.

 

Player

Avg. Pick

Avg. Pick by Position

Current Rank by Position

Diff.

Josh Freeman

120.4

18

14

4

Doug Martin

65.7

25

3

22

Vincent Jackson

57.4

19

5

14

Mike Williams

141.4

53

17

36

Dallas Clark

Undrafted

26

21

5

Connor Barth

Undrafted

21

8

13

 

Doug Martin will certainly find himself jumping from a sixth-round selection to one of the top eight players taken next August. Vincent Jackson was a fifth-rounder in most leagues, the first Buccaneer off the board. Expect him to jump to a second-tier wide receiver, bringing Mike Williams up at least seven rounds as well. Josh Freeman should go from a late round backup to a mid-round potential starter as well.

 

With the first-year of a coaching staff, a number of first-year players, and a slew of injuries to the offensive line, the Buccaneers still made their name as one of the biggest playmaking groups in the NFL. We don’t know what the future will hold next season, but we can predict that Buccaneers will be flying off the board earlier than they did this past summer.

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