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Fantasy Football Weekly: Bucs-Packers

Posted Dec 1, 2017

Jameis Winston returns to game action this Sunday. Should he return to your fantasy lineup right away?

If you're in a 12-team league and it's set up right, this is your last week before the playoffs. Hopefully you have something on the line – a playoff spot, a first-round bye or even the top overall seed. If so, your lineup decisions this week are going to be critical. If you choose wrong, there may be no tomorrow.

As it turns out, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' game in Green Bay on Sunday contains some significant fantasy implications. Jameis Winston is returning for the Buccaneers, and he was on the verge of being a top-10 fantasy passer before he suffered his shoulder injury. Mike Evans and Davante Adams – who, coincidentally, have nearly identical numbers this year – are good fantasy performers who very easily could break out into something bigger this week. Both backfields have injury questions. Green Bay's reserve quarterback, Brett Hundley, is coming off his best game since taking over for Aaron Rodgers; even if he doesn't make himself particularly fantasy-relevant his performance could impact what you do with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

And so on. There's a lot to unpack here, so we've chosen a few specific topics to address below in our latest Three Burning Questions. First, however, we continue with tradition and review the advice from last week.

**

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. Here's a recap of what I covered last week, along with self-assigned letter grades for each piece of advice:

Advice #1: While it's tempting to put Doug Martin back in the lineup in place of a comparable RB option, I suggest caution for at least another week because the Bucs' run-game problems go beyond Martin.

Review: B. Waiting on Martin, who had 33 rushing yards and no touchdowns in Atlanta, was the right move, but I don't deserve too high of a grade for two reasons. One, it wasn't a particularly deep thought, given those ongoing struggles in Tampa Bay's ground game. And, two, Martin was actually running quite well and might have finished with a nice day had he not suffered a concussion. Given that Peyton Barber scored twice on short runs in the second half, those could have easily gone to Martin if he was still in the game.

Advice #2: Don't give up on Cam Brate on your roster yet despite his recent run of low-scoring fantasy games, but you should probably go with another viable option this week if you have one.

Review: B. Again, not starting Brate was the right decision, as he had just one reception for the fourth straight game. Still, we won't know how comprehensively good my answer was for a few more weeks. I suggested in the longer write-up last week that Brate would still have a couple more good fantasy performances before the season is over. We'll see.

Advice #3: If you're streaming kickers (maybe because you had an injured Dan Bailey), Patrick Murray would be a good choice in Week 12.

Review: B-. If you're like me, you just want your kicker to be a solid play every week who doesn't hurt you and eventually has a big game. Murray has been solid the last three weeks, with point totals of 9, 12 and 8. That said, Phil Dawson was almost as widely available as Murray on the waiver wire this past week, and he had an 18-point game, so that would have been a better choice.

So, a solid performance on the heels of a very good effort in Week 11. I'm sort of chugging along here in the second half of the year, respectable but nothing earth-shattering. Let's see if I can finish strong.

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Three Burning Questions: Buccaneers at Packers

1. Jameis Winston is returning to action this Sunday. I was starting him early in the year and I kept him while he was hurt, without another overwhelmingly good option at quarterback? Should I stick with my middling replacement (e.g. Tyrod Taylor) or go immediately back to starting Winston?

If I'm in this position, I'm rolling the dice and going right back to Winston.

As always, these answers are relative to a particular fantasy team's roster. You're not putting Winston in over a Carson Wentz or a Russell Wilson. If you were rolling with Winston early – and he did indeed give you some pretty good value, particularly related to his ADP, in the early weeks – but tried out a guy like Jared Goff after Winston's injury diminished and then stalled his performance, you're probably going to stick with Goff. But the hypothetical question above addresses teams that haven't found a QB alternative they love on a weekly basis but have kept Winston on the bench during his absence.

The important thing to note is that Winston's throwing shoulder is in its best shape now since before he first injured it in Week Six. He didn't play long enough in that game in Arizona to make a fantasy impact, but in the two weeks before that injury and the one after, he was performing at a high level. In a standard Yahoo! scoring system, Winston ranked 7th among all QBs in scoring in Week Four, 10th in Week Five and seventh in Week Eight. In Week 10 he reinjured the shoulder in New Orleans and hasn't been a fantasy factor since.

Now he's back, he's motivated to finish the season strong and he has all the same weapons in play that were there in the season's first two months. You could even say that O.J. Howard has developed into more of a weapon in the last month or so, although from a fantasy standpoint that has come at the expense of Cam Brate's numbers.

It appears that the Buccaneers will get fairly favorable weather in Green Bay, so that shouldn't be an issue. The Packers' defense could be without Kenny Clark, the talented nose tackle, and Clay Matthews, one of its top edge rushers. Green Bay has only allowed the 17th-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season, but that's a bit misleading. Their 16.7 points allowed per game is just 1.5 points per game less than what Dallas (18.2) has allowed, and the Cowboys have given up the seventh-most points.

The red flag in this situation is the recent trip to injured reserve made by both Demar Dotson and Ali Marpet. Buccaneer quarterbacks have enjoyed pretty good protection this year – seventh in the league in sacks allowed per pass play – but there will be shuffling this week. The Buccaneers do have experienced O-Line depth, so they believe they can weather those losses. If you don't believe they can, then you might want to disregard my advice, because I'm telling you to put Winston back in your fantasy lineup this week.

2. If Doug Martin can't play on Sunday due to his concussion, is there a Buccaneer back worth giving a spot start to this weekend? I'm a little light in the backfield.

I would probably only advise this if you really have no other viable options. If Doug doesn't play, I think the Buccaneers will try to get their ground-game production through a combination of contributions from Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims and Peyton Barber. Hopefully they succeed in doing so, but in the end you will probably end up with three guys who all have uninspiring fantasy numbers. The thing that would change that is if any one of the three found the end zone, but I personally think that's too hard to predict to feel confident in any of the three (from a fantasy standpoint).

However, if you're determined to try to get fantasy points out of the Bucs' backfield this week, I think I would go with Barber. Call it a hunch, but if Martin is out, this seems like a good opportunity to get a longer look at the young, largely untested back, as opposed to Rodgers, who is pretty much a known commodity at this point. Sims continues to be more of a pass-catching back and usually gets a carry or two per game between the two tackles.

Barber did score twice in the second half last week, after Martin left with his concussion. That would seem to be an indication that, if the Bucs get in goal-to-go situations in Green Bay, Barber would be the first choice to try to punch it in.

Green Bay's defense has been susceptible to opposing backs this season, ranking seventh in most fantasy points allowed to that position. Tampa Bay largely hasn't taken advantage of such opportunities this year – Buffalo's defense has allowed the third-most points to backs but the Bucs had only 69 rushing yards and no rushing touchdowns in that game – so it's still hard to make a solid endorsement of any back this weekend based on that. Again, however, if you want to choose one of the three, I'd go with Barber.

3. Julio Jones had an enormous day against the Buccaneers in Week 12. Davante Adams is clearly the Packers' number-one option in the passing game, particularly with Brett Hundley under center? Should I expect gigantic things from Adams, too?

Note that I did not frame this question as a sit/start debate on Adams. Since his ADP was something like the end of the fourth round or the beginning of the fifth, if you drafted him he was probably supposed to be one of your two or three WR/FLEX starters. With 702 yards and seven touchdowns, he hasn't disappointed; in a standard Yahoo! PPR league he ranks ninth in season scoring, just behind A.J. Green.

And yes, given that the Falcons' number-one receiver just torched Tampa Bay for 253 yards and two touchdowns, you're probably anticipating good results from the next opponent's number-one. That's clearly Adams, who is the only one of the Packers' receivers who hasn't seen his numbers dip noticeably since Brett Hundley replaced Aaron Rodgers. He's their best pass-catcher right now, for sure.

That said, I wouldn't expect Julio-type numbers from Adams this weekend. Well, okay, that's obvious – you would never expect 250 yards and two touchdowns from any receiver in a particular game. But I'm not sure I'd even expect triple digits from Adams. Remember that Jones had a much more accomplished passer (Matt Ryan) delivering him the football, one that made the right decision and the right throw nearly every time as the Buccaneers rolled through 14 different coverage strategies trying to stop him.

Adams has been more consistent than explosive, fantasy-wise. That's actually a good thing, but the question here is whether he's primed for a huge game. He's only had one 100-yard game this year, and that was when the Packers were getting blown out by Baltimore two weeks ago. Otherwise, he's usually been good for somewhere in the 60 to 80-yard range, and he's scored in six of 11 contests. If you get 80 yards from Adams this week but don't get the touchdown, that's a pretty average fantasy day for a receiver. Essentially, that means I'm betting the Bucs keep him out of the end zone.

With Aaron Jones returning to practice this week in Green Bay, the Packers could have a nice 1-2 backfield punch this week with him and Jamaal Williams. Hundley is coming off his best game last Sunday night in Pittsburgh; maybe he's turned the corner, but I still would expect the Packers to lean on the rushing attack if it is solid from the start to keep the pressure off their young substitute passer.

Finally, while Tampa Bay has given up the most fantasy points to wide receivers this season, the Bucs have not been horrendous against opposing number-one receivers (last week notwithstanding). According to Football Outsiders, Tampa Bay ranks 18th in the NFL in defending number-ones, and that's after the big Julio day. They've actually struggled more against number-two receivers (24th), "other" wide receivers (28th) and running backs (22nd). Given how obvious it is that Adams is the Packers' best weapon right now, I would expect the Buccaneers to focus on stopping him first.

And if you're calling me crazy for this take, I don't blame you. In fact, someone who knows fantasy football a whole lot better than I do has a very different view on the matter. We'll see!