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Fantasy Football Weekly: Bucs-Vikings

Posted Sep 23, 2017

Is this a good week to start Buccaneers WR DeSean Jackson, even with Tampa Bay facing a very talented Minnesota defense?

Hurricane Irma took out one of my fantasy football leagues.

Due to scheduling conflicts, that league wasn't scheduled to draft until Friday, September 8, a day after the NFL's 2017 schedule began in New England. That's not ideal, but it was only night we could all do it. Or so we thought. With Irma bearing down on Florida, league members were scattered understandably focused on matters of greater importance. We had no choice but to shut down the draft, and nobody really wanted to try to reschedule.

Now, please understand: This is not a complaint. In the grand scheme of things, canceling a fantasy league was probably about the 46 millionth most important effect of Hurricane Irma. That might even be overstating it. But it happened, and as a result my buddy and I were left with an open Friday and a league-sized hole in our fantasy lives. So we hastily hatched a plan to join a public Yahoo league together and that night spent a couple hours drafting online with a bunch of people we don't know.

And you know what? That might be the best team I drafted this year. (And, yes, that is partially a knock on my other draft efforts.) Like the Buccaneers' own season, that league didn't start until the NFL's second week. Like the Buccaneers, I adjusted. Like the Buccaneers, I dominated my first game. Fantasy football is a game of non-stop adjustments. If you don't keep up with what's going on from week to week, you're probably going to fall behind. I'm hoping I can help you with that – albeit from a narrowed, Buccaneers-only perspective – with this year's Fantasy Football Weekly series. So let's get down to this week's issues, and see where we might need to adjust

**

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. Just like the Buccaneers probably won't win every game this season, neither do I expect to have a perfect record of advice-distribution. That said, we're both off to good starts.

Advice #1:
Unless you don't have a better option, it's probably better to wait a week or two before starting Cam Brate or O.J. Howard. Of the two Brate was probably a better play.

Review:
Nailed it. Each tight end played a lot of snaps (65% for Howard, 54% for Brate) but each was also targeted only three times. Brate had the slightly better line, with two catches for 24 yards.

Advice #2: Yes, you should pick up and start the Buccaneers' defense against Chicago as a streaming option.

Review:
Double-nailed it. The Buccaneers forced four turnovers, had a pick-six (the Holy Grail of Team Defenses in fantasy) and only allowed nine points. The single sack was a bit of a disappointment, but it didn't stop the Bucs from being the highest-scoring fantasy defense in Week Two by standard Yahoo scoring.

Advice #3: Be hesitant about starting Jacquizz Rodgers against Chicago even though it's one of only three games the Bucs will have without Doug Martin.

Review:
Not great. My saving grace here is that I wasn't totally against it, I just advised caution. And that probably would have been good advice based on Rodgers' 67 yards and his 19-10 carry split with Peyton Barber. However, Rodgers did score a touchdown, so that turned into a nice 12-point day.

Okay, let's see if I can at least bat .667 again in Week Three. (Admittedly, it helps when you pick your own questions to answer.)

**

Three Burning Questions: Buccaneers at Vikings

1. Given that the Buccaneers only allowed 20 rushing yards to a good running team in the Bears, should I consider sitting Minnesota's Dalvin Cook this week?


Let's be clear: I'm not trying to give myself a softball with this question. Based on what Cook has done in the first two weeks, most fantasy owners with him on their team are going to start him every week. This question is aimed more at those fantasy owners – which are probably in the minority – who have enough running back depth that there is a reasonable option to Cook on a week-to-week basis. In other words, if you have the option to be cautious with Cook this week, should you be?

READ: Scouting Report: Minnesota Vikings

Well, no offense to the Buccaneers' great run defense, but I think not.

First, consider the quarterback situation in Minnesota. The Vikings may get starter Sam Bradford back, but since he's limited in practice this week one could reasonably assume he won't be at his most mobile on Sunday. In that case, the Vikings would likely take great pains to try to establish the run to keep the heat off Bradford. If he can't go, the backup is Case Keenum, and while Keenum has a very good track record against the Buccaneers, he is presumably somewhat less effective than Bradford or he would have been the Day One starter. The Vikings would probably like to lean on the running game with Keenum in there, as well.

There is also a chance that the Buccaneers' starting middle linebacker, Kwon Alexander, will miss Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. Rookie Kendell Beckwith filled in very well for Alexander after the veteran was hurt against Chicago, but the Bucs would surely be better off if both Alexander and Beckwith were on the field for run downs (Beckwith started on the strong side before moving to the middle).

And you know what teams do when their rookie running back starts out the season hot, fulfilling all of their hopes that they have added a dynamic new weapon to the offense? They ride him. Think Cadillac Williams in 2005. Cook has averaged 17 carries per game so far. Last year, Dallas rookie Ezekiel Elliott averaged 20.5 carries in his first two games, then 24 per game over the next four outings, all 100-yard performances. Jordan Howard looked so good in spot exposure in his first two games for Chicago last year that the Bears then gave him 54 carries over the next three weeks, which included two 100-yard games. The Vikings have to love what Cook has done so far and they will want to do everything they can to keep him in a groove.

So Cook is going to get his touches. That's nearly a guarantee, barring injury. Will he be able to do anything useful against the Buccaneers' defense? Well, keep in mind that 20-yard rushing-defense games are real outliers. The Buccaneers could have a very good day against Cook and the Vikings offense as a whole and still give up 80 or 90 yards to the rookie back. A good example: The Buccaneers swamped Chicago last year, 36-10, but Howard still gained 100 yards. If I owned Cook and if (this is a REALLY big if) I wasn't rooting for the Buccaneers in a real-life sense, I would start him, expecting him to get a decent-but-not-great yardage total and hoping he could score at least once to put him over the top, fantasy-wise. Personally, I am definitely NOT hoping for that, and if I had Cook on any of my teams I would sit him this week on principle. But that doesn't mean you should.

2. I drafted DeSean Jackson in the seventh round as my third receiver, and I started him last Sunday in my flex position over a third running back. That only got me six points (in a PPR league). Should I double down and start him this week, too?

Boy, these fake questions are getting long-winded. Anyway, I chose the seventh round for that question because Jackson's ADP in Yahoo fantasy has him at about a ninth-rounder, and I figured Buccaneer homers would probably draft him a few rounds before that. Even if you got two very good receivers in the first six rounds, adding Jackson as your third pass-catcher gives you another option for the flex spot and for bye weeks.

The issue, however, is that Jackson has always been something of a boom-or-bust fantasy option because a lot of his value is tied up in his big-play touchdowns. He has always been better at creating those than any other receiver in football, but they don't happen every week. In his first game as a Buccaneer, Jackson was the target on two relatively long touchdown passes, but both were near misses. Even one of those would have turned his Week Two fantasy production from lackluster into very helpful.

So in some ways, starting and sitting Jackson is always going to involve some guesswork, unless you simply leave him in the lineup and take the good (fantasy) games with the bad. My guess for this week: Boom.

Minnesota has a talented secondary with two Pro Bowlers in Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes. However, through two games the Vikings have allowed 534 passing yards and three touchdown tosses and haven't picked off a pass. That has something to do with facing Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, but Jameis Winston is another dangerous passer with a good array of weapons. Minnesota's rush defense is excellent, and I think this may be a game in which the run game will need to take to the air to keep the chains moving.

WATCH: Buccaneers Gameday Preview, Week 3

Rhodes is the Vikings' top corner, and he's 6-2, so it's reasonable to believe he'll be following Mike Evans around all afternoon. That would leave Jackson on Trae Waynes, another good corner who doesn't quite have the same Pro Bowl pedigree as his teammate. And as good as Smith is at the safety spot, his best trait is stopping the run. The Vikings defense has already allowed six completions of 20 or more yards in two games.

Jackson got seven targets in his first game as a Buccaneer, and a lot of those were, surprisingly, underneath throws. While Jackson is always a threat to turn a short catch into a long run, I believe the Buccaneers' ideal game plan will be to send him farther downfield more often. I'm counting on a concerted effort to do so in Jackson's second game, and thus a good chance he comes up with one of those big plays. No matter what else happens, if Jackson catches, say, a 50-yard touchdown pass, that's already a good fantasy day.

3. Is Nick Folk becoming a viable fantasy kicker option? Should I hurry to pick him up before the other Bucs fans in my league do?

Well, Folk was certainly a good option in Week Two, his first game as a Buccaneer. He made all three of his field goals and added two extra points against the Bears. If your league gives four points for FGs in the 40-49 range and five for field goals over 50, that was good for 14 points. By that scoring method, only three kickers were better in Week Two: Pittsburgh's Chris Boswell, Tennessee's Ryan Succop and Miami's Cody Parkey.

You know who enjoyed those 14 fantasy points? Practically no one. Folk is owned in just 2% of Yahoo fantasy leagues. Two percent! San Diego's Younghoe Koo is owned in 4% of leagues, and he's made exactly one of his four attempts.

Just about any kicker can be a valid streaming option in any given week, unless his team's offense is absolutely putrid. So this question is more about whether or not you should give up on the kicker you drafted and try rolling with Folk for all or most of the season. There's probably no need to do that if you drafted someone like Matt Bryant, Dan Bailey or Stephen Gostkowski. But maybe you're worried about somebody like Blair Walsh or Adam Vinatieri because their teams' offenses have struggled, or maybe you're one of those 4% who still owns Koo. I'd say Folk is a fine replacement option. I don't think we know enough yet to believe he's the best available option.

One thing in Folk's favor: You're not going to have to worry about a bye week. The Bucs are playing straight through, baby! Also, Tampa Bay's offense moved the ball well but struggled in the red zone in the preseason, and that was pretty much the case against Chicago, too. The Bucs had five red zone trips and ended up with two touchdowns. That's pretty much the recipe for a lot of field goals. Banging home a 50-yarder was also a positive sign for Folk. That should give Dirk Koetter confidence to use him in long-range situations.

I'm just not sure if all of that adds up to a need to rush and beat your league-mates to sign Folk. As with the Brate/Howard situation last week, I would suggest waiting a little longer to see how it plays out. It's entirely possible that the Buccaneers become a very efficient red zone team, which would make Folk a little less valuable.