It wouldn't seem right to open this article without at least a brief overview of the epic performance that Doug Martin put on last week for both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and all of his fantasy football owners. Those who started Martin on their fantasy teams in Week Nine enjoyed one of the greatest point avalanches of the last few decades and, in most cases, probably racked up the Ws.
Against the Oakland Raiders, Doug Martin became the second fantasy player this season to eclipse the 35-point mark, joining Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers. Martin didn't stop churning until he racked up 51 fantasy points, and in his last two games he's put up an astounding 83 points. The next closest performer in all of football in that span: Adrian Peterson, with 47.
So, can we expect Martin to do it again in Week 10? Coming of a two week total of 486 all-purpose yards and six touchdowns, he would be hard pressed to match these numbers, of course, especially since he will be facing the best run defense he's seen in a number of weeks. That's why most of your fantasy experts are predicting a return to earth for Martin in Week 10. Still, if you happened to witness his performance in Oakland last Sunday, you'll probably agree that anything is possible with the Bucs' breakout rookie.
Obviously, that is one of our main topics of discussion this week in the Buccaneers Fantasy Corner.
1. "The Muscle Hamster" vs. San Diego
It's no secret that Martin is not fond of the nickname that followed him from Boise State to the pros. He has appealed to the fans for a new moniker but, truth be told, the Bucs would be happy to call him "Bambi" as long as he keeps producing like he has over the last month.
Martin has 17 or more fantasy points in all of his last three contests. In those matchups he faced the New Orleans Saints (then ranked as the 31st rushing defense in the NFL), the Minnesota Vikings (12th), and the Oakland Raiders (11th).
This week, Martin is faced with his toughest task to date. San Diego is allowing only 84 rushing yards per game, the 4th best total in the league. And, while it obviously didn't hurt him in Oakland, Martin is moving forward without the services of his two Pro Bowl offensive guards, Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph, both now on injured reserve.
Those are notes of caution, obviously, for fantasy owners who have Martin on their rosters. Still, given his recent production, and the fact that Tampa Bay's offense as a whole has been the league's best over the last four weeks, Martin seems to have risen to the status of must-start in all fantasy formats.
2. Battle of the Quarterbacks
The first four games of the 2012 season were quite similar for Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman and Chargers QB Philip Rivers. After four weeks, Freeman had yet to break 800 passing yards and Rivers had managed just 897, which ranked 24th in the NFL. Rivers' six touchdown passes at that point were just one higher than Freeman, and each had thrown four picks.
Fast-forward through Week Nine, and Freeman's game has taken off. His current yardage totals rank 14th in the league, up from the 28th spot he occupied after Week Four. His five touchdowns have turned into 16 and he has thrown only one interception in his last four contests. For his part, Rivers now sits with 12 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Freeman is currently 40 fantasy points above Rivers on the season in standard formats.
Rivers will look to find the end of his tunnel against the Buccaneers last-in-the-league pass defense, but his recent track record is not promising. Rivers' high over the past three week was 14 fantasy points, which he met last week against Kansas City. In those three contests, he faced the Kansas City Chiefs (ranked 26th in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks), Cleveland Browns (24th) and the Denver Broncos (13th). The Buccaneers secondary is ranked 25th against quarterbacks. But, with Rivers averaging just 10 points against the Browns and Chiefs, it doesn't look promising that he will turn many heads in Week 10.
3. Can the Buccaneers Defense Rebound?
The Buccaneers' defense has been rather consistent in its inconsistency, from a fantasy standpoint. Twelve points in Week One, two points in Week Two, 13 in Week Three, negative four in Week Four. And since the bye week, that trend has continued…Weeks 6-9 went 15, -6, 9 and 4. So, based purely on pattern, the Buccaneers seem to be a decent play this week.
Luckily, the evidence supports this trend against the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers are allowing 8.6 points per game to opposing defenses, the ninth highest total in the NFL. This number comes largely from a lack of rhythm that has resulted in 17 turnovers in the first eight weeks.
While the Buccaneers have shown that they can indeed be thrown on, they come down with some catches of their own against opposing passers. Their 13 interceptions on the year are second in the NFL. With eight forced fumbled added to that total, the likelihood of turnovers in this showdown is a good one.
The key for the Buccaneers defense will be keeping the Chargers out of the end zone. In their best performances, against the Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs, the Buccaneers allowed just 12 points per game. In their three lowest-scoring games, they've allowed 33 points per game.
With the Chargers putting up just over 20 per game, it really could go either way. But as long as the Buccaneers can keep them out of rhythm, continue to force turnovers and have the pattern on their side, their defense could put up double digits again.