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Buccaneers Fantasy Corner, Week Eight

Posted Oct 26, 2013

The only "advice" you’ll get regarding the Bucs’ matchup with Carolina will be of the hypothetical variety; instead we bring you a very useful look at what to expect during the fantasy stretch run

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Despite their struggles in the win-loss column, the Buccaneers retain some fantasy relevance, particularly during the stretch run
  • The Bucs’ primary tailback, whether it be Doug Martin or Mike James, will have some good matchups during the fantasy playoffs
  • The Week Eight Bucs-Panthers game mostly met fantasy expectations, with a few surprises
You've come to Buccaneers.com on Saturday to read our weekly "Fantasy Corner" article, hoping to get some insight on the Week Eight matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Carolina Panthers, and how you might use that game to the best advantage of your own team(s). That would be the Buccaneers-Panthers matchup…that happened on Thursday night.

So, yeah, not much insight into that particular game will be found here. And you knew that, of course. Fact is, you probably did not expect to see Fantasy Corner pop up this weekend because, well, what's the point?

The point is: there is still much fantasy football to be played. And while the Buccaneers have fallen to 0-7, that does not mean they have no fantasy football relevance. So in this edition of Fantasy Corner, we’ll take a two-pronged approach.

First, we take a glimpse into the crystal ball to the most pivotal weeks of your fantasy football season, showing you which Buccaneers will have the juiciest matchups leading up to and throughout the fantasy football playoffs in comparison to similarly performing players. Then, to bring things back to normal, we’ll toss around the names and grades of who we would have told you to play from Thursday. And boy were we accurate (kind of).

Your Buccaneer fantasy players are enjoying a restful weekend, so now we turn our attention to what you can expect from the key Tampa Bay fantasy players through those ever important double-digit weeks that decide your fantasy champion. This might help you decide whether to hold on to certain players, whether to potentially work out some trades, and whether the Bucs are going to be relevant in your upcoming title chase.

To do this, we will take a look at the “strength of schedule” of the key Buccaneer players as compared to similarly-ranked players thus far this season. In the vast majority of fantasy football leagues, the playoffs commence in Week 14, lasting three weeks until a champion is crowned after Week 16’s Monday Night Football match. If you are in a league with a Week 17 championship game, now might be the time to write an angry email to your commissioner or find a new group of friends, because with star players resting for the playoffs, the final week of the season is a nightmare. But we digress. For the purposes of this analysis, We will take a look at Weeks 12-16.  That covers the critical last two weeks for the playoffs as well as the fantasy postseason.

- Start your Bucs RBs with confidence down the stretch
To determine strength of schedule over this time frame, first we had to find the defensive rankings of all 32 NFL teams against the four primary positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end. A ranking of 1 signifies that they are the best team at defending against that particular position, in terms of fantasy points allowed. A ranking of 32 would mean that they surrender the most points to that position. All rankings are PPR.  Here are those rankings:

QB

RB

WR

TE

Atlanta

28

10

29

21

Arizona

19

6

4

32

Baltimore

16

1

20

22

Buffalo

20

12

31

2

Carolina

1

13

5

8

Chicago

18

27

19

25

Cincinnati

17

11

14

15

Cleveland

12

21

8

20

Dallas

31

20

18

29

Denver

32

24

30

23

Detroit

11

23

27

16

Green Bay

23

5

25

30

Houston

7

17

1

13

Indianapolis

10

8

17

11

Jacksonville

25

30

21

26

Kansas City

4

3

11

1

Miami

13

28

2

31

Minnesota

26

31

23

28

New England

9

18

9

14

New Orleans

5

19

12

7

N.Y. Giants

29

16

22

27

N.Y. Jets

14

7

13

18

Oakland

21

15

16

10

Philadelphia

27

14

32

6

Pittsburgh

3

25

6

3

San Diego

30

2

26

9

San Francisco

8

22

10

12

Seattle

2

4

7

4

St. Louis

15

29

24

5

Tampa Bay

22

9

15

17

Tennessee

6

26

3

24

Washington

24

32

28

19


There we have it. The Panthers are giving up the fewest points to quarterbacks, the Redskins are allowing the most to running backs, etc. And now, as this is called the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Fantasy Corner, let’s break down how the matchups look in the final five weeks of the season by looking at their strength of schedule (SoS).

Wk12

Wk13

Wk14

Wk15

Wk16

SoS

Bucs Player

@DET

@CAR

vs. BUF

vs. SF

@STL

Avg.

QB Glennon

11

1

20

8

15

11.0

RB Martin/James

23

13

12

22

29

19.8

WR Jackson/Williams

27

5

31

10

24

19.4

TE Wright

16

8

2

12

5

8.6


With 32 teams in the NFL, you can assume that the average strength of schedule for any player would be 16. So glancing at this list, we see a strong closing schedule for the Bucs’ RBs and WRs, while Glennon’s schedule looks a bit less consistent and Wright faces some dangerous matchups. But, to see how that really stacks up, let’s go one step further, by comparing each Buccaneers fantasy player with like-ranked fantasy players on other teams. First, the quarterback position. (Players are ranked by Average SoS.)

PPG

Quarterback

Average SoS

13.75

Mike Glennon

11.0

13.3

Geno Smith

12.6

12.3

Tom Brady

16.0

12.8

Ben Roethlisberger

16.2

15.3

Andy Dalton

17.3

13.6

Colin Kaepernick

18.2

14.7

Alex Smith

23.4


The first column shows the fantasy points per game of each quarterback on the same scoring tier as the Buccaneers’ starter. Glennon’s points per game through his four starts is actually higher than QBs Smith, Brady, Roethlisberger and Kaepernick. However, when looking at the strength of schedule, Glennon is in for the toughest test of all QBs measured. In this five week span, Alex Smith (scoring less than one point per game more than Glennon) faces four defenses in the top third of points allowed at the position. Glennon will face three top-12  defenses. So far, Glennon has shown his reliability, putting up good stats against Carolina on Thursday, despite their number one ranking, but based on schedule strength, he definitely has a test ahead of him.

From quarterback, we move along to running back, looking into the SoS of both Doug Martin and Mike James as compared to their tier players. Note that Mike James stat average is taken from his previous two starts, where he saw a majority of the playing time.

PPG

Running Back

Average SoS

10.8

Alfred Morris

14.2

10.2

DeAngelo Williams

16.4

12.7

Giovani Bernard

16.5

11.0

Chris Johnson

16.6

10.5

Doug Martin

19.8

9.6

Ray Rice

20.8

9.5

Eddie Lacy

21.8

PPG

Running Back

Average SoS

7.9

Trent Richardson

12.6

6.8

Lamar Miller

15.0

9.1

Bilal Powell

15.6

9.1

Andre Ellington

16.2

6.6

Green-Ellis

16.5

8.0

Mike James

19.8

7.0

Ben Tate

22.0


Here, the evidence is much stronger than it was for Glennon. Doug Martin’s 10.5 points per game before his injury have him ranked in the teens with some big-named company. And as the season closes, if he can make it back onto the field, he looks like an RB you want in your lineup. Importantly, in the final two weeks, your semifinals and championship game, Martin faces the 22nd and 29th ranked defense vs. running backs. Only Giovani Bernard’s schedule looks easier.

Mike James put up seven and nine points in his last two games, proving a capable replacement for those missing Doug Martin. Those who have the handcuff can look forward to the Bucs’ favorable schedule should he continue to see major playing time. On his tier, only Ben Tate’s final five-game schedule is weaker, as he faces the Jaguars in Weeks 12 and 14. Buying James now could pay off come playoff time if Martin misses an extended period of time.

At receiver, we look at Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Like the Buccaneer running backs, this duo faces a favorable schedule as the season winds down. Note that the SoS for Wes Welker is the same for WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, who also find themselves in the top-12 for receiver points per game.

PPG

Wide Receiver

Average SoS

19.0

Welker/Thomas/Decker

10.0

18.4

Demaryius Thomas

10.0

16.9

Eric Decker

10.0

18.7

Antonio Brown

13.8

19

A.J. Green

18.0

18.5

Vincent Jackson

19.4

18.8

Jordy Nelson

20.6

18.4

Brandon Marshall

21.0

18.7

Dez Bryant

22.0

PPG

Wide Receiver

Average SoS

9.1

Jeremy Kerley

10.2

9.4

Golden Tate

12.0

8.0

Tavon Austin

12.0

8.1

Riley Cooper

18.3

8.0

Vincent Brown

18.6

8.0

Mike Williams

19.4

9.0

Dwayne Bowe

23.4


Good news for a lot of fantasy owners with top-tier wide receivers. Five of the seven shown face an above average SoS over the five-week span. Vincent Jackson sits right in the middle of things with three great matchups in the even weeks, while he’ll face tougher tests in 13 and 15. Of the top-tier listed, Dez Bryant’s run through the playoffs is strongest, facing 19th, 25th and 28th ranked teams down the road for the fantasy championship. The Broncos’ trio faces three top-10 teams.

Mike Williams, who has been battling a hamstring over the past few weeks, is off to a slower start than his counterpart, having yet to find his rhythm with Glennon. Still, he sits among some viable names and has one of the top remaining schedules of those WRs teetering between Flex and Bench. In Weeks 12, 14 and Championship 16, Williams has the best matchup of all WRs surveyed. Should he garner more targets in the coming weeks, he could be a good buy-low candidate and someone to snag in a trade as his late-run schedule is among the best at his tier.

Finally, the Buccaneers newest fantasy head-turner, TE Tim Wright. Since Glennon went under center in Week Four, Wright has looked like a solid play in PPR settings, though a touch more consistency would be preferred. In the last four games, Wright averages nearly eight points per game, with nine-, 16- and 15-point efforts. His schedule, is the least fortunate of the Bucs skill positions.

PPG

Tight End

Average SoS

7.9

Tim Wright

8.6

7.3

Tyler Eifert

12.75

8.3

Dallas Clark

15.25

6.6

Brandon Myers

15.4

8.4

Coby Fleener

17

6.7

Jeff Cumberland

18.2

8

Scott Chandler

23.75


Wright faces the toughest test of Bucs fantasy stars, and certainly the toughest test of his tier, likely one of the hardest roads of any NFL team. With three top-10 matchups, two of them in the playoffs, a red flag is certainly raised. However, you must factor in his targets and activity in the red zone that we have seen throughout the past weeks. If he continues to show that he is on the same page as Glennon, that chemistry and his points-per-game could outweigh the matchup strength thrown at him.  Still, it’s good to know how tough his stretch-run road will be when making your roster decisions in the coming weeks.

Just to speak that last point one more time, fantasy strength of schedule is just a single factor in predicting the output of any player. Between now and season’s end, many players against top-ranked teams will have successful performances, and many fantasy stars going up against low-ranked teams will have bad ones. But, knowing what to expect can be the difference between setting your lineup in early December or logging out.

**

As promised, just for kicks, had we chosen to offer specific player advice on Thursday's game before it happened, here's what we would have recommended:

  • You can play Vincent Jackson with confidence. Yes, we know you weren't likely to bench a receiver who had 19 catches for 252 yards and four touchdowns over his previous two outings, not to mention about 500 targets. On the other hand, Carolina was bringing a very good defense into Raymond James Stadium, with a front four that had proven it could get to the quarterback alone, creating pressure while still leaving maximum coverage behind it. And the Panthers were sure to be paying close attention to #83. With all the previous targets, it seems clear that Mike Glennon is looking to Jackson first whenever possible, and Carolina's secondary, while not weak, is the weakest level of that defense. Advice Grade: B-. Jackson got the 13 targets, but just five catches for 79 yards, so either seven points or 12 in a PPR league. Not the worst possible outcome, but probably a little below average on your team this week.
  • If you're looking for an emergency QB start this week, you could do a lot worse than Mike Glennon. We would have been putting on our optimist's hat again for this one, considering once again the strength of Carolina's defense. We're not expecting that Glennon is a starter on many fantasy teams just yet, but there are six NFL teams on a bye this week, and if your league is deep there may not be many extra passers floating around. Given that Glennon threw more passes than any other rookie ever in his first three starts, and that he generally avoided interceptions, one could expect that he might put up decent fantasy points by sheer volume. Advice grade: A-. Glennon threw it 51 times, and ended up with 275 yards, one TD and no interceptions. That's 17 points in standard scoring which wouldn't have been bad at all for an emergency fill-in.
  • Start Cam Newton. Enough said. You probably didn't need this advice. Most teams that have Newton have him as their starter, and the Bucs' defense, while strong in many ways this season, had given up good fantasy points to Matt Ryan and Nick Foles in the past two weeks. At the same time, Newton has been red-hot, and he's scoring through the air and on the ground again. This is the Newton you paid a second-round pick for. Advice grade: Sorry, we can't really pat ourselves on the back for that one. Too obvious.
  • Bench Steve Smith if you have a better option. This looked like a game in which the Bucs would use Darrelle Revis on the Panthers' #1 receiver as much as possible. Indeed that's what happened, and Smith was held to four catches for 42 yards despite being targeted seven times. Advice grade: A, but you'll have to take our word for it that we foresaw the Revis-on-Smith matchup.
  • Have no confidence in the Panther tailbacks. The Buccaneers continue to do a good job of stopping the run, and going into Thursday's game not a single running back had scored a touchdown against Tampa Bay's defense this season. Furthermore, Carolina spreads their rushing attack around so much and with so little predictability that it makes a fantasy owner nervous to put in either DeAngelo Williams or Mike Tolbert (and just wait until Jonathan Stewart's impending return). Williams and Tolbert were risky plays; many fantasy teams are thin enough at RB at this point in the season that they have to rely on such risky plays anyway, but if you have another option, consider it strongly. Advice grade: D. Neither Williams nor Tolbert racked up the rushing yards, but they were both good fantasy plays. Williams had 43 yards and a touchdown, plus four catches, so either 10 points or 14 in a PPR. Tolbert had 35 rushing yards, 29 receiving yards and a touchdown catch among four receptions – 11 points, or 15 in a PPR.
  • Play Greg Olsen, the Panthers' tight end. With the emergence of players like Jordan Cameron and Julius Thomas, it's quite possible that you're carrying more than one good tight end on your roster, and you either can't or don't want to flex the one you don't start each week. If you're making that kind of decision and Olsen is one of your choices, ride with him this week. Bucs' S Dashon Goldson has a knee injury and may not play on Thursday (in fact, he did not) and fellow S Mark Barron is dealing with a hip issue. Tight end production has been up and down against Tampa Bay this season, but the Bucs won't be able to pay as much attention to Olsen as they did to Tony Gonzalez last week. Look for Olsen to put up good numbers. Advice grade: B-. It looked good early when Olsen caught a one-yard touchdown pass on Carolina's first drive, but that was about all he did.

And so on. We could continue to break down our hypothetical pre-Thursday advice by looking at Mike James, Mike Williams, the two defenses and a few other players but the charts have made this a long one. Enjoy your long weekend.