Last week the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted the Atlanta Falcons, with the visitors coming out on top, 24-23. That two-team total of 47 points is actually the lowest-scoring game that the Buccaneers have been involved in since Week Six. Needless to say, that means their games have been translating into a lot of double-digit fantasy scores.
No one expects that trend to slow down on Sunday in Denver. The high-powered Buccaneer offense will be going up against the Broncos, who are no strangers to putting points on the board either. Both teams are averaging more than 28 points per game this season, ranked third and fourth in the NFL in that category. And since Week Six, they have 42 offensive touchdowns between them and are each averaging more than 400 yards per game.
With the firepower on both sides, the history of high point totals and the emergence of fantasy superstars on both teams, Sunday afternoon's game will undoubtedly be watched by many fantasy owners as they make their playoff push.
With the fantasy playoffs just around the corner, many owners are fighting for that final spot. If you have been complacent this year, getting by with a mediocre amount of points from a tight end or a flex, now is the time you might want to mix things up for your final playoff push. It's fair to assume that both the Buccaneers and Broncos will get some big fantasy numbers this Sunday, and for both teams, those points have occasionally been coming from some unexpected places. Benching your underwhelming starter for a sleeper from this matchup could be all you need to claim your spot in the playoff field. Think about putting the following men straight into your lineup.
For the Buccaneers, that player would be tight end Dallas Clark. In recent weeks, as the Bucs offense continues to thrive, Clark is beginning to make his presence felt on the football field. Nearly one third of his catches and targets have come in the last two games, on top of that, he has scored in two of his last three games.
Because defenses are focusing heavily on running back Doug Martin and concentrating on the league-leading big-play game of Josh Freeman and his receivers, Clark has been able to find openings in the defense and add a new dimension to the offense. He has three double-digit PPR fantasy games this year, and was a top three PPR fantasy tight end against Carolina. Better news for Clark – the Denver Bronco defense allows the most fantasy points to tight ends, 10.2 per game.
For the Broncos, many fantasy owners went out and jumped on RB Ronnie Hillman after they lost Willis McGahee for the season. But it was fellow backup running back Knowshon Moreno that ran away with the game last week. After his performance against Kansas City (111 total yards), Moreno's stock has jumped. He went from being owned in about 5% of leagues to being owned in nearly 45%.
Some might shy away from starting Moreno this week, as the Buccaneers remain the NFL's top-ranked defense against the run, allowing just 81.5 yards per game on the ground. But despite giving up just 773 yards to running backs all year long, the Bucs have allowed them to pick up 571 receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. In Moreno's career, he has a history of being a good receiver out of the backfield, with 724 receiving yards and six touchdowns. While the Buccaneers could very well stop the running attack of the Broncos, Moreno could come across some fantasy points by catching the ball.
2. IDP Heroes
With the year winding down we start thinking about all the NFL awards: MVP, Rookie of the Year, Pro Bowl voting, etc. On the defensive side of the ball, each team has a handful of players in the middle of stellar years. Each of the names in this section will certainly be recognized by those in individual defensive player (IDP) leagues, and you can rest assured that each of these players will likely continue their high-scoring efforts on Sunday.
The Denver Broncos boast the best pass-rushing tandem in the NFL. Together, LB Von Miller and DE Elvis Dumervil have sacked opposing quarterbacks 22 times. Miller has put himself in the conversation for Defensive Player of the Year with his 47 tackles, 14 sacks and four forced fumbles. Josh Freeman has been sacked just 16 times this year despite being behind a patchwork offensive line, but there is little doubt that Miller and Dumervil will make their presence felt in some way. Miller has a sack in six of his last seven games and the duo has at least one sack in every game this season.
For the Buccaneers, rookie LB Lavonte David has been climbing up the stat leaders list all year long. He leads all NFL rookies with 80 solo tackles. He is also fourth in the league in stuffs, or tackles behind the line of scrimmage on running plays, with 10.5. He is among the most consistent performers at the linebacker position. Over the past four weeks he has had at least eight total tackles. He also has three double-digit solo tackle performances this year.
With the running game of Moreno and the short passing game from Peyton Manning to his tight ends and WR Eric Decker, look for David to have another big day alongside fellow rookie, safety Mark Barron. Barron's 50 tackles put him at 15th among safeties in the NFL while he is tied for first in stuffs for his position.
3. Full of Surprises
It seems that at virtually every position, players on both sides of the ball in Sunday's game have performed well above expectations at the beginning of the season. When comparing the average draft position (ADP) to where they currently stand in their position rankings, there is a drastic gap.
At quarterback, many were shying away from drafting Peyton Manning, expecting the worst after his season off due to injuries and surgery. The usual fantasy football front-runner was the seventh quarterback picked, with an ADP of 39th. Buccaneer QB Josh Freeman fell even further and was occasionally even undrafted. He was the 18th quarterback picked in most leagues.
Fast-forward to Week 13 and each of these players are among the leaders at the position. Manning is now the fifth highest point-scorer at quarterback, passing three of those who were drafted well before him. Freeman has jumped to the 11th best fantasy quarterback, and darts even higher on the board if you look solely as his statistics after the Week Five bye.
Martin may be the biggest surprise of all. Many were high on him coming into the season, but still he was the second rookie running back picked behind Trent Richardson and had an ADP of 69, the 25th running back taken of the board. An impressive 1,050 rushing yards and 10 total touchdowns later, he is the second best fantasy running back in the NFL as he uses his power and vision to burst through running lanes set up by his O-line. He has put up 11 or more points every week since the Week Five bye and has the highest single game total in the NFL this year after his 251-yard, four-touchdown performance in Oakland.
At receiver, each team packs two big movers. Denver's Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker had ADPs of 60 and 77.7 respectively, and were the 20th and 28th WRs chosen in the average draft. Currently, they are the highest-scoring fantasy wide receiver duo in the NFL with 238 combined points. Thomas is the fourth ranked receiver in terms of scoring while Decker is not far behind with 111 at spot 14.
The Buccaneers' Vincent Jackson was the 19th WR taken off the board in fantasy drafts this year and currently sits at fourth in wide receiver scoring with 134 points. Mike Williams, whose ADP was 141st, the 53rd receiver selected, currently ranks 27th with 87 fantasy points. He went from being largely undrafted to owned in more than 90% of fantasy leagues.
Had this matchup occurred in the first quarter of the season, it would have gone largely unnoticed. People would have tuned in to watch Peyton Manning's return to the field, but from a fantasy standpoint, there wouldn't be many high hopes as owners tuned into Patriot, Packer or Cowboy games. However, in Week 13, the week before many fantasy football playoffs begin, there will be plenty of TVs tuned in to watch the battle at Mile High and all the fantasy points that come with it.