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Fantasy Football Weekly: Bucs-Bills

Posted Oct 21, 2017

Jameis Winston's shoulder, Adam Humphries consistent catch totals and a matchup with Bills RB LeSean McCoy are the sources for this week's burning fantasy questions

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came relatively close to pulling off the greatest comeback in team history last Sunday in Arizona, rallying from a 31-0 deficit to lose by just five points, 38-33. Very little of that was satisfying to Buccaneer players, who were angrily focused on the part of the game in which they got behind by five scores.

In fantasy football, however, silver linings are more tangible. If you're main interest in Mike Evans is what he can do for your fantasy team, than his 41-yard touchdown catch with just over two minutes left gave you a nice little 13-point day, 16 points in a PPR league. Cam Brate, Doug Martin and DeSean Jackson all finished with pretty good fantasy numbers, as well.

Clearly, the Buccaneers' offense is a legitimate source of week-to-week fantasy standouts his year, perhaps more so than ever before. If you're a Bucs fan who also gets to confidently start Cam Brate every week at this point, that's a lot of fun.

Here in our weekly fantasy round-up, however, we try to find some more nuanced questions so our advice isn't week isn't limited to, 'Start Mike Evans.' This week, it's the Buccaneers offense against a tough Bills defense, and some brand-new uncertainty at quarterback. That has led us to our latest Three Burning Questions, which you'll find below.

**

Accountability Section:
This season, each Fantasy Football Weekly article is going to include a review of the previous week's advice to see if it was actually helpful. So far, I've had more hits than misses, but this "accountability" thing has reminded me how tough fantasy football can be (as has my 2-4 record in one league).

Advice #1:
Yes, Cameron Brate has progressed to the point where he's a reasonable every-week fantasy starter, but if you've got options, this might be one week for concern.

Review:
D. Doubt not Cameron Brate. He was marvelous against the Cardinals, especially in a PPR league, in which he would've been good for 19 points. I was worried about Arizona's versatile DBs and their good track record against tight ends, but Brate is just so good in the red zone that defensive particulars probably shouldn't be considered when deciding whether or not to put him in your lineup.

Advice #2:
Mike Evans is a no-doubt starter for most fantasy teams. But if you happen to have crazy depth at that position, the fact that Evans was going against shutdown corner Patrick Peterson was a fact worth considering. I suggested starting Evans anyway.

Review:
B. All's well that ends well and Evans had 95 yards and yet another touchdown, so the advice was solid. I don't want to take too much credit, though, because this was going to be a disappointing fantasy day before Evans hauled in a 41-yard touchdown bomb with just about two minutes to play.

Advice #3:
After recommending the Bucs' defense as a streaming option in Week Two, I hadn't mentioned it again. Against Arizona, I thought it was a pretty good option among the teams that were most likely on your waiver wire.

Review:
D. Ugh. Lavonte David's fumble-return touchdown helped but obviously this was not a great day for the Bucs' defense.

At this point, I'm like the 2017 Oakland Raiders. I started the season out hot but things have taken a downward turn since. Let's see if I can get back on track with Three Burning Questions regarding Sunday's Bucs-Bills matchup in Buffalo.

**

Three Burning Questions: Buccaneers at Bills

1. I own Jameis Winston, he's my number-one quarterback and I probably would have started him this week before his shoulder injury. Should I pick up Ryan Fitzpatrick, then wait until Sunday and start whichever one is in the lineup?


Well, it's not the worst strategy in the world if you don't have an attractive alternate already on your team for this week, and if your league's waiver wire is a little thin. If you had psychic powers and started Fitzpatrick last week, you would've been rewarded with about 17-23 points, depending upon your league's scoring system. That's pretty good for two-and-a-half quarters of play. Remember, when Fitz is in the game, he has that Mike Evans-DeSean Jackson-Cam Brate-Adam Humphries-O.J. Howard-Doug Martin-Charles Sims all-you-can-eat buffet surrounding him, just like Winston would.

This week, specifically, I might suggest caution, however. If you really have no other good option besides Winston, and Fitzpatrick is available, then yes, go get him so that you're covered. But either QB would be a bit of a risky play this week. If Winston starts, wouldn't you be a bit worried that he would open the game but prove ineffective enough due to his shoulder that he is subsequently replaced by Fitzpatrick? And if Fitzpatrick starts but Winston is also active, won't you be wondering if a slow start by the former makes the team turn to the latter?

I would imagine the Buccaneers will go with one or the other with the belief that he is ready to play the entire game and the intention of doing so. I'm sure that's what the coaches will say, and I'm sure they will mean it 100 percent. As your average fantasy football player, however, it's hard not to worry about those above scenarios. I don't know if that risk is real or perceived, but it would certainly give me pause.

Also, if the particulars of this week's matchup are important to you, then keep in mind that Buffalo has allowed a league-low two touchdown passes this season. Now, we're talking about a Tampa Bay passing attack that is averaging almost exactly 300 yards per game this year, so I'm not sure you have to wring your hands too much about any particular matchup, but it's fair to say this is not the best one. Buffalo has picked off eight passes in just five games. If you're on the fence on this issue, that could push you to the "don't-start" side.

There's also the opportunity cost of whatever player you would have to cut to pick up Fitzgerald. If it's just another quarterback you weren't planning to play anyway, other than in an emergency (like, say, Jacoby Brissett) then you probably don't mind. But if covering your bases on Winston means giving up a more established fantasy backup (maybe Philip Rivers or Eli Manning), then it's tougher to justify. Even if Winston misses this week's game, he likely won't be out long, and when he returns you won't get any fantasy value out of Fitzpatrick. Maybe you can just pick Rivers or Manning back up, but maybe some other QB-needy team snaps them up before you can get them back.

Your best bet is to keep a close eye on the news coming out of One Buccaneer Place. If it seems like the team is fully confident Winston is ready to go, just stick with him. If there is any doubt, and both he and Fitzpatrick are going to be active and potential options on game day, you should probably go with a lower-risk, lower-reward option on your waiver wire.

2. With the big bye weeks approaching, things could start to get thin at a few positions. Is it worth picking up and stashing Adam Humphries for receiver depth if I'm lacking at that spot?

Look at you, fake-question asker, looking ahead in order to be prepared. Good job!

This is a valid point. Only two teams are on byes this week but there will be six clubs each sitting out in Weeks Eight and Nine. Among the receivers taking a rest in that two-week span are such fantasy A-listers as Antonio Brown, Jordy Nelson, Davante Adams, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, Larry Fitzgerald and Adam Thielen. Chances are you might need some help in one or both of those weeks. At the very least, it would be nice to have a couple options from which to choose, depending on specific matchups.

So, should you take a look at Humphries, the Bucs' slot receiver? The good news is, he's probably available in your league. He's owned in only 8% of Yahoo! fantasy leagues and 2.8% of ESPN leagues. And you can probably guess where I'm going with this; would I have brought this topic up just to say, 'No, don't bother?'

Here's the thing: You should only consider Humphries if you are in a PPR league. He has not been a good source of touchdowns (three scores in 33 career games) and he has just one 100-yard performance in his three years. That means his value is tied up almost completely in his volume of catches. In a PPR league, a six-catch, 50-yard game – which is practically an Adam Humphries staple at this point – is an 11-point fantasy output. That's not superstar level, but it can help you get through thin weeks and not let one really bad spot in your lineup ruin a potential win.

Humphries just seems to keep getting better and better. After catching 27 passes as a rookie and 55 last year he's on pace for 73 this year. He has at least six receptions in three of his five games this year and at least 50 yards in four straight outings. Again, he's not likely to give you one of those fluky huge fantasy games, but he also isn't likely to completely disappear.

I think Humphries, in addition to just naturally getting better as his career develops, is seeing the benefits of all the weapons around him. When you've got Evans and Jackson on the outside and Brate firing off the line and down the seam, you can't devote too much attention to the guy in the slot. Humphries is a great route-runner and he gets his opportunities to beat a nickel corner one-on-one to find some open field. He's also adept at the quick tunnel screen. That's going to be at least a point in PPR leagues, and often he'll add 10 or 20 yards for another couple points.

In my Yahoo! PPR league, Humphries is the fifth-highest scoring receiver still available who is not injured (that caveat eliminates Odell Beckham). It's nearly the same story in my ESPN PPR league, in which he is the sixth-highest scoring option out there. If you're contemplating adding Humphries you're probably choosing between him and the likes of Ted Ginn, Kendall Wright and Robby Anderson. Ginn is more likely to give you a big play and he's part of New Orleans' high-powered offense, but he's also not as consistent from week to week. Kendall Wright has a profile similar to Humphries but is playing with a questionable quarterback situation in Chicago. The same is true of Anderson, who also is dealing with an ankle injury.

You probably don't need Humphries this week, and he's playing against a Buffalo defense that has done a very good job against slot receivers this year. But if you're in a league with a waiver system, a late-week addition can be a smart idea when looking ahead. You can grab Humphries now without affecting your waiver position, hold onto him for a couple weeks and see if he's got a matchup you like when the heavy-bye weeks thin out your receiving corps.

3. I have three good running backs because I'm one of the smart people that took Kareem Hunt late in the third round, and I've gotten good returns from late pick Duke Johnson. The only problem is, my third "good" running back hasn't been all that good yet. It's LeSean McCoy, and he was my first pick! I got him in the late first round. I'm going to start Hunt and Johnson in my two RB spots this week, and I could still put McCoy in the flex spot, but I have a couple decent WR options for that position. This is a non-PPR league. Tell me what to do.

Man, these fake questions are getting specific!

I had to flesh that out a little bit in order to create some actual conflict. When it comes to fantasy football, I'm of the opinion that you stick with your high picks as long as you can stand it. You don't want to bench them in the week they finally come around. (I'm getting to the end of my rope on Martellus Bennett, however.)

McCoy was a common late-first-round pick this year. The problem is, he has yet to score a touchdown of any kind, and that has really hurt his value, comparatively. Doug Martin has been back for two weeks and already has two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. If you had them both and could only start one, it would sure be tempting to choose Martin over McCoy. As this question was set up, the McCoy owner is in a non-PPR league, so McCoy's excellent total of 27 catches (for 189 yards) hasn't really helped all that much. In a non-PPR league, he's been worth about nine points a game. It's reasonable to think an extra receiver on your bench might do better.

This week, McCoy is up against a Buccaneers team that just gave up 160 yards to Adrian Peterson and the Cardinals, and he's coming off a refreshing bye week. Kwon Alexander may be back for the Buccaneers, but Lavonte David has been limited in practice this week. It's clear that the Bills' offense runs through McCoy, and that will undoubtedly remain true this weekend. All of Buffalo's wideouts combined have 24 catches so far this year.

However, I don't think the Bucs' rushing defense has been as bad as it looked last week, when that group was plagued by mental errors, blown gap assignments and missed tackles. The Buccaneers have held three of their five opponents to 3.4 yards per carry or worse. The middle of the defense remains stout if the players regain their gap integrity. I don't see McCoy having his big breakout game this week like Peterson did last week.

Add it all up, though, and I still put McCoy in that flex spot. I hope this proves to be bad advice and the Buccaneers shut him down, but the truth will probably be somewhere in the middle. McCoy is going to score at some point, and if he gets into the end zone even once the rest of his numbers should be enough to make him a solid flex play, even in a non-PPR league. In a PPR league, this isn't even