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Buccaneers Fantasy Corner: Week 17

Posted Dec 28, 2013

A glimpse at the fantasy possibilities for the Buccaneers and Saints in the regular season finale, and a Buccaneers Fantasy Year in Review

  • If you're still playing fantasy football in Week 17, Bucs WR Vincent Jackson remains a must-start
  • The same is true for Saints QB Drew Brees, who is particularly productive in the Superdome
  • The fantasy season didn't go as expected for most of the Bucs' notables, but some good sleepers emerged
We’ve reached the end of the NFL regular season. For most, the fantasy season came to a close last week. Congratulations are in order for all of those who came out on top and we’ll see you again next year to all those who did not. However, there are still a handful of leagues that see things out to the bitter end, searching for championship glory amidst the chaos and confusion of Week 17.

The final week always brings questions of which teams could potentially sit their starters. Some teams are locked into their playoff spots, and in attempt to avoid injury, some week-to-week stars might just have a seat. And those games featuring two teams long out of playoff contention could see some of their younger players step up to see what the future will hold.

But in the Superdome this Sunday, it will be business as usual. The Buccaneers will look to spoil the momentum of an NFC South rival for the second season in a row and the Saints have everything to play for as their week could end with either a first round bye, a playoff berth as a six-seed or missing out on January football entirely.

So, let’s take a look at which Buccaneers and Saints in the regular season finale can seal your fantasy football supremacy this week before taking a look at the 2013 Buccaneers fantasy football season as a whole.

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers Outlook

This season, the New Orleans Saints defense has given players at every position a difficult time fantasy-wise. They rank in the top 10 in fewest points allowed against every position except tight end, where they are still below the league average.

- The Bucs hope to keep QB Drew Brees in check like they did in Week Two, but that will be a tall task in New Orleans
The Buccaneers offense, however, has had success against high-ranking opponents in the second half of the fantasy football season. On top of that, the Bucs (namely Vincent Jackson, the now-injured Doug Martin and the defense) performed well in Week Two in the first meeting against New Orleans and have the added bonus of being eager to play spoiler again this season.

Starting at quarterback, Mike Glennon’s fantasy football status remains as it has been all year long, a sleeper play that should not see many starting lineups outside of a two-quarterback format. He averages just 6.75 fantasy points per game over the last three, getting just four points last week, but counters that with seven starts with 13 or more points and only two NFL starts without a touchdown. The Saints are the fifth-ranked defense in fantasy points allowed to opposing QBs, averaging just 12.4 points allowed per game. It should be expected for Glennon to land near that number.

Despite modest fantasy play at that position, Glennon’s top target, Vincent Jackson, is a must-play. Since putting on a Buccaneer uniform in 2012, Jackson has been stellar against the Saints, averaging six receptions and 124.7 yards per game (ypg). He has hit double-digits in PPR leagues for four straight weeks and topped his career-best single-season reception total in the last game. Look for him to get a steady dose of targets, as always, and to come down with a big play or two.

TE Timothy Wright has faced an onslaught of tough matchups over the last quarter of the season, so the 12th-ranked Saints defense doesn’t look that bad for him. He put up 10 against eighth-ranked Buffalo and 21 vs. 10th-ranked San Francisco. He is still owned in just 2.3% of fantasy leagues, despite ranking 16th in fantasy points among TEs. As involved as he is in the offense, he is worth the slight risk in deeper formats.

Finally, RB Bobby Rainey faces an up-and-down Saints fantasy run defense. The Saints have surrendered the 14th-most rushing yards this season, but just 10 touchdowns to running backs. They have allowed four backs to break the 100-yard mark, one of which was Doug Martin in Week Two. Rainey averages 15.8 points per game since becoming a starter. The most telling stat in predicting his fantasy outlook this week is New Orleans’s 4.6 yards per carry allowed, fifth-most in the league. With Rainey’s workload, it seems likely that he is a candidate to rebound after two single-digit performances. He should be trustworthy as a flex if you need him.

2. New Orleans Saints Outlook

In Week Two, Drew Brees posted just 12 points, his third-lowest point total of the season, when he faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense. He threw 322 yards, but with just one touchdown and two interceptions. This matches a bit of a fantasy trend for him this season – he never broke 20 fantasy points in a single road game all year long.

However, this week, Brees is playing at home, and his fantasy points per game jumps from 15.25 when he is away from the Superdome to 27 points per game when he’s there. He has five games with 28 or more fantasy points. In the first meeting, the Bucs held Brees to his second-lowest completion percentage and lowest passer rating of the season, but it is hard to count Brees out when he’s in New Orleans. Of course, being the second-ranked QB in fantasy this season, he is a must start, but with four interceptions in the last two games, and versus a Bucs pass defense that has been very sturdy in the last three weeks (182 ypg, two passing TDs, seven turnovers), he could well perform under his inflated home average.

The only New Orleans Saint to have a big fantasy day against the Bucs this season was TE Jimmy Graham, who went off for 10 receptions, 179 yards and a score. The Buccaneers coverage of tight ends has improved greatly since then. They still allow plenty of receptions, but just 45.7 ypg and four TE touchdowns since that game. Like Brees, however, owned in 100% of leagues, it would be foolish to sit Graham, who’s 279 PPR fantasy points make him the NFL’s top tight end by 76 points and would rank him sixth among wide receivers.

WR Marques Colston is riding a solid three-game stretch with 22 receptions, 280 yards and three TDs. He has been strong at home all year, but will likely meet with Darrelle Revis throughout Sunday’s game, which could spell problems for his fantasy owners. The Buccaneers rank 14th in points allowed to opposing receivers and the majority of those points have gone to the team’s second option. In addition, the Buccaneers secondary has allowed just 18, 23 and 25 points to opposing WRs over the last three games, compared to the NFL average of 32.6 points per game. Colston should make your starting lineup because he has been that good this year, but receptions should be much harder to come by as they have in recent weeks.

WRs Kenny Stills and Lance Moore have been the second- and third-highest scoring receivers on the team. Stills had a solid stretch mid-season, averaging 16 points per game over four weeks, but hasn’t topped eight points since Week 11. Moore missed a stretch early in the season, but has not been a reliable fantasy option since returning. It is likely that one of these receivers steps up and has a sizable fantasy performance this week, but their recent performances make it a crapshoot to decide which one to roll with.

This brings us to the running backs, which is also a difficult situation to predict. Brees is well-known for his ability to spread the ball around, which can be a headache for fantasy owners, and the New Orleans running game mirrors that pain. In the last four weeks, only one of their three main running backs, Mark Ingram, has had 10 or more carries. Still, Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles are the more trustworthy scorers, with most of their points coming through the passing game. The Buccaneers are ninth against opposing running backs, which doesn’t help matters. Thomas would seem the most consistent, but is little more than a flex starter.

3. Bucs Fantasy Year in Review

Twists and turns and surprises over the last 17 weeks have shaped the Buccaneers fantasy football season. Going in, many thought that a Tampa Bay “Big Three” could emerge, and it showed in the average draft position (ADP). What we got instead was one stellar and consistent offensive star, a handful of unfortunate trips to IR and a whole lot of sleepers.

After the first 4,000-yard season in Buccaneers history, it was expected for QB Josh Freeman to fly off the boards a bit sooner than he did. Still he was drafted as a backup in the 14th round. After his big 2012 season, he sputtered in the first three games with 190 yards per game, two touchdowns and four turnovers, before sitting in Week Four for rookie quarterback Mike Glennon.

Glennon, needless to say, did not make any preseason ADP lists, but was the top Buccaneer sleeper as he rattled off six 15+-point performances over his first eight games. He threw at least one touchdown in each of those games, a rookie NFL record. Currently, despite not playing in three games, he sits as the 25th-highest point-scoring QB in fantasy, with the best completion percentage, passer rating and touchdown total of any rookie QB this season.

Doug Martin was the biggest Buccaneer story coming into the season after a phenomenal rookie season. He was the fifth player taken in most fantasy drafts and his owners had high hopes. He found the end zone in Week One, but wouldn’t again before ending his year in Week Seven with a trip to IR. He had three 12+-point fantasy performances and averaged 76 rushing yards per game. At that pace he would have rushed for 1,216 total yards, finishing ninth in the league.

He was briefly replaced by rookie RB Mike James, who had a remarkable 158-yard performance in Seattle in Week Nine, but James too suffered a season=ending injury in the very next game after putting up 41 yards on just five plays. He came into the year as little more than a Doug Martin handcuff, but proved that he has what it takes to run on some of the best defenses in the league, which could help his stock in 2014.

Bobby Rainey then took over and has turned some heads just as James did. Rainey will end the season with the most fantasy football success of the Bucs RBs with 91 fantasy points in his seven games as a Buccaneer, plus whatever he adds on Sunday for leagues still in play.

Wide receiver Vincent Jackson was drafted as a top 10 wide receiver, going in the fourth round of most drafts and has been a solid play all season long. Currently, he sits as the 14th-ranked receiver, averaging 15.1 points per game. A big-time 2012 sleeper, Mike Williams snuck up draft boards, being taken as the 36th receiver in the 11th round. With the slow Buccaneer start and early injuries, he ended the season with just 31 fantasy points before being sent to IR after Week Eight.

Closing out the sleeper theme, the Buccaneers and fantasy owners were introduced to rookie TE Tim Wright this season. Wright began the season far down the Bucs depth chart and broke onto the scene with his fellow rookie quarterback. He is currently the 16th tight end in fantasy scoring with six 15+-point games this year. He answered the Bucs tight end question early and should continue his sleeper status into 2014.