Week One is in the books, and despite a last-second loss to the New York Jets, key Buccaneers fantasy stars showed that they are living up to the draft value they gathered in the offseason. One week does not a fantasy (nor an NFL, for that matter) season make, however. This week the Buccaneers host the New Orleans Saints in their home opener, and thinking back to last year, fantasy owners are salivating at the statistics that could come from this matchup.
1. A Potential Quarterback Shoot-Out
Josh Freeman got off to a slow start to his fantasy season this year with a 10-point showing against the Jets. However, history shows that he can turn that around against New Orleans. In 2012, he started the season with a 138-yard performance against the Panthers, not getting his statistics rolling until Week 6 against the Chiefs and especially Week 7 when he faced the Saints at home. F reeman ended that latter day second among quarterbacks in fantasy points with 420 passing yards and three scores. In only one game after that matchup would Freeman drop below 200 yards passing.
Last week, Atlanta's Matt Ryan threw for 304 yards and two scores against a Saints defense that finished last year with the second-most total passing yards allowed. The Saints secondary still looks to be a vulnerable one, so Josh Freeman has his chance to rebound from Week 1. He is a solid backup option this week in a game that could see a pitched quarterback battle.
Drew Brees had two high scoring games against the Buccaneers last season, but will get his first viewing of a secondary now boasting All-Pros Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson this week.
Last season in his first matchup with the Buccaneers, Brees threw for four scores and 377 yards. In their second meeting he added 307 yards and four more TDs. Even with Revis blanketing one receiver, Brees has a number of weapons that he can target at the wide receiver, tight end and even running back positions. With the Buccaneers defense so solid against the run, look for the Saints to get most of their dirty work done through the air.
With two quarterbacks trading yardage and scores, this game has the potential to live up to its predecessor, with a lot of points on both NFL and fantasy football scoreborads.
2. Points Through the Air
As mentioned, on paper, tomorrow's matchup has all the makings to be an aerial brawl. When the two teams met last season in Tampa, the quarterbacks combined for 797 yards and seven touchdowns. For the receiving corps on both teams, Week 2 should have some fireworks, leaving Bucs and Saints fantasy owners smiling all the way to a W.
Though WR Vincent Jackson didn't have a trip to the end zone in Week 1, his fantasy owners have to be pleased by his 154 yard performance. Despite not scoring, Jackson ended the week as the 15th highest scoring receiver in fantasy. With that many targets, receptions and yards, his touchdowns are bound to come. This week he is facing a Saints' secondary that looks much more questionable than the group he saw at MetLife.
In 2012, The Saints finished with the second most passing yards and touchdowns allowed. And Vincent Jackson, in his first year as a Buccaneer, had by far his best fantasy performance of 2012 when the Saints marched in to Tampa. On the field of Raymond James Stadium, Jackson hauled in seven passes for an astonishing 216 yards and a score, amassing 34 points in PPR leagues. Later in the year, he added 81 yards. He will certainly be making starts in likely every league in which he is owned, and those owners should play him with confidence based on his past performances against this Saints defense.
WR Mike Williams did find the end zone last week against the Jets, along with four catches and 52 yards, and took advantage of lining up opposite Jackson. Last week, Falcons' WR Julio Jones saw much of the attention with Roddy White ailing. Because of that, the Falcons' number two, Harry Douglas was able to gain 93 yards, leading his team. With his average draft position in the 10th round, Williams will be named a fantasy football sleeper in many games this season, and this matchup with the Saints is sure to be one of them.
The Saints come in with a number of skilled fantasy receivers of their own, and Drew Brees has shown an ability to spread the ball around, making them all dangerous. WR Marques Colston has compiled four consecutive season with more than 1,000 yards and has been a favorite of Brees for years. He is in for a much tougher matchup against the Buccaneers and Darrelle Revis, however. Revis was thrown at just four times in Sunday's game, allowing one reception for 13 yards. Colston must be viewed as a starter, but Revis Island is always a concern for visiting WRs.
Brees' three other leading receivers last week were a running back, tight end and rookie wideout. RB Darren Sproles has always been an incredible pass-catching threat and gained 88 yards last week. He is a must-start in PPR leagues, as always. TE Jimmy Graham had 45 yards and a score last week. He only saw five catches for 69 yards in his last matchup with the Bucs, missing one game in 2012 with an injury. However, he is a solid play as the Buccaneers allowed 79 yards and a score to tight ends last week.
WRs Lance Moore and rookie Kenny Stills are both interesting plays as well. The Buccaneers secondary did a good job against opposing receivers last week, giving up the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers. The Saints are a completely different team, with much more impressive passing credentials, likely being more of a test for the new-look secondary.
3. Ground Support
From quarterbacks to receivers, the next logical fantasy football step would be checking out the running games of both teams. The Buccaneers come in with one of the highest drafted fantasy running backs of 2013, while the New Orleans Saints boast a three-headed monster at running back with Darren Sproles, Pierre Thomas and Mark Ingram all capable of posting a big game at any time.
Last week, the Saints trio posted 16 combined fantasy points in standard leagues. Pierre Thomas was the leading rusher with 43 yards on nine carries, he also had four receptions for 16 yards. The highest fantasy points-earner was Darren Sproles with 88 yards receiving on six catches with 22 additional yards rushing. Mark Ingram added 11 yards on the ground.
The defense they face this week though in the Buccaneers should prove to be a tougher task. The Buccaneers ended 2012 as the top run-defending team of the year, allowing the fewest total yards and yards per carry. Last week, the Buccaneers only allowed 44 rushing yards to the Jets running backs. In last year's meeting in Tampa, the Bucs held the Saints to 81 yards rushing. In the Superdome, Mark Ingram had a big day with 90 yards on the ground and a score.
Should this game turn into a shoot-out, look for the Saints to stray from the run game, especially if they are having trouble getting through the Buccaneers' front seven. Darren Sproles is a good play in PPR leagues; however, all three may have a hard time getting anything going and finding the end zone on the ground.
Doug Martin quietly had a good game in Week 1, scoring once and carrying for 65 yards. He was quiet in the passing game, catching two but being held to -1 yard. Last season, in his first matchup against the Saints, Martin had 16 carries for 85 yards and a touchdown, adding 37 yards receiving out of the backfield. Later in the year he posted just a combined 35 yards against the Saints.
As a top-5 fantasy draft pick, Martin is a sure-fire starter week-in and week-out, but owners should be confident in his chances to add points this week. He is one of few workhorse backs in the NFL and should see a steady number of carries throughout the game. As the Buccaneers get more comfortable, look for Freeman to find Martin on more drop-down passes, allowing him to get his yardage two ways.
In summary, as any fantasy owner will tell you, you can't judge a player by one single week. The Saints are an entirely different team than the Jets and the Buccaneers are by no means similar to the Atlanta Falcons. If history is any marker, this game should see plenty of action and double-digit fantasy days for a number of NFC South stars.