This week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers take their show on the road to the Superdome to square off once again with the New Orleans Saints. Perhaps you recall the first meeting between the two teams, as you likely came out on top in your Week Seven fantasy football matchup if you owned a couple Buccaneers or Saints.
The damage: 971 total yards, nine total touchdowns, 790 passing yards, seven passing touchdowns. The game saw four players break 15 fantasy points, nine players with 10 or more points, and 12 with over eight. And if you had them in PPR leagues, the points went even higher.
Once again these two explosive offenses will meet, and based on the fantasy performances of both defenses, we should see a similarly point-packed matchup. Both offenses top 360 yards per game, with New Orleans cracking the 400 mark. They are also back-to-back at spots five and six in points per game, the Buccaneers with 27.2, the Saints with 26.8.
Defensively, the Buccaneers allow 390 yards per game, the fourth highest mark in the league. Interestingly enough, they remain as the best NFL defense against the run while their pass defense allows a league-high 312 per game. The Saints are one of three teams handing out more yardage than the Bucs, and they do so in pretty magnificent fashion at 450 yards allowed on average each week. In fact, we need to go all the way back to 1950 to find a team that has a higher mark than that. Good work, Baltimore Colts.
It doesn't take a highly-paid fantasy guru to predict high output from both sides in this game. So the simplest answer to the question, "Which players from this game should make my starting lineup?" is "Yes."
1. Chasing 2,000
Earlier this week, we discussed on the Captain's Blog just what it will take for Doug Martin to become the third rookie in history to crack the 2,000-yards-from-scrimmage mark.
Doug Martin will need 130 yards per game (as a combination of rushing and receiving yards) to reach 2,000. With the Saints, St. Louis Rams and Atlanta Falcons remaining on the docket, Sunday's game will be the most important, where the Dougernaut will set the pace for the rest of his season.
Earlier this season, Martin had a stretch of six games (including his first faceoff with the Saints) where he broke the 100-yard mark, two of them going over 200 yards. The streak was snapped against the Falcons in Week 11 and he also fell two yards short of the mark the next week in Denver. Last week, against the Eagles, Martin got back on track with a 132-yard performance.
No team in the NFL is giving up more fantasy points per game to running backs than the Saints. Opposing RBs have 2,405 yards (rushing and receiving) this season, which translates into a monstrous 185 yards and 22.3 fantasy points per game for running backs. With Doug Martin as the primary runner on the team (LeGarrette Blount remains as number two with 126 yards and just four carries since Week Eight), it should be expected that Doug Martin accounts for most of these yards. And as the Saints have given up 13 touchdowns to running backs this year, it only makes sense that Martin adds at least six points for finding the painted grass to all those that he will be gaining in the yardage category.
Needing 388 yards to reach the 2K mark, we should expect Martin to take a significant chunk out of that this week in New Orleans.
2. Point Blitz
The Saints traveled to play the Buccaneers in Week Seven, and the outcome was one of the most remarkable fantasy games of the season. As mentioned above, they combined to put up nearly top 1,000 total yards, 788 of them passing. There were nine touchdowns in the game, to boot.
Josh Freeman saw his highest fantasy numbers of the season, connecting on three touchdown passes and accumulating 420 yards through the air. His production tied him for first at the quarterback position with his opponent, Drew Brees, with 29 fantasy points that week. Brees had 368 yards passing with four touchdowns.
Along with the two quarterbacks sharing the top mark at their position, we saw Bucs WR Vincent Jackson land in the number-one spot for receivers with 27 points. Four other receivers joined him in cracking the top 25 in point production: New Orleans' Marques Colston, Lance Moore, Joe Morgan and Tampa's Tiquan Underwood. Doug Martin had a 17-point day, while Sproles put up 11. Even the tight ends got into the game – Dallas Clark had his breakout performance with 11 points, good for fourth that week, while Saints backup David Thomas had eight points of his own, good for sixth.
While we risk sounding like a broken record, it bears repeating: you should be expected to see more of the same. The two teams rank towards the bottom of the league in points, passing yardage and total yardage allowed this year. Fantasy-wise, the Saints are giving quarterbacks 20 points per game, where the Bucs are not far behind with 18.6, the two worst marks in the NFL. Both teams are in the top (or bottom, we suppose) three in points allowed to wide receivers, each giving up more than 25 per game.
If you own either quarterback, this is certainly the week to consider them a must-start. The same can be said for the number one and two receivers for both squads: Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams for Tampa Bay and Marques Colston and Lance Moore for the Saints. While it is certainly hard to guarantee points for anyone further back on the depth chart, if you are in a deep league, there is no reason to look past Tiquan Underwood for a repeat performance or Devery Henderson and Morgan on the Saints' side of the ball.
3. Meeting Jimmy Graham
One name that we have yet to mention is that of perhaps the most dangerous tight end in the NFL: New Orleans' Jimmy Graham. Graham was recovering from an injury in the first meeting between these two teams, so the Buccaneers have yet to face him this year. His replacement in the game, David Thomas, had a modest day with two catches for 27 yards but did find the end zone.
Despite missing two games this season, Jimmy Graham still finds himself in the top three tight ends in terms of fantasy points. He has reached double-digit fantasy numbers in five weeks, with his best performance coming against the NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons, where he put up 26 on 146 yards and two scores.
However, Graham has been held without a touchdown and under 60 yards in his last three outings, scoring just 13 points in the three weeks combined, and recently revealed that he's been playing with a wrist injury. He is never one to count out though, as he is a strong force in the red zone. The Saints have had some struggles passing the ball in recent games, but this matchup is a strong sign of revival, especially being played in the Superdome.
The Buccaneers offer a sleeper at the position in Dallas Clark. Clark will fondly remember the first meeting with the Saints as his breakout performance of the season. Prior to Week Seven, he had just nine receptions for 81 yards, good for seven fantasy points. But against New Orleans he caught five balls for 55 yards and his first score in a Buccaneers uniform.
Against the Saints' porous pass defense, Josh Freeman should have plenty of options to throw to, which could limit the action that Clark sees. But he has become a target that his QB trusts and could be a solid play with his chances of scoring.
Any way you slice it, this matchup should be a fantasy owner's dream. There are players at every position that are start-worthy, even some that don't crack the team's starting lineup. In the early stages of the fantasy playoffs, owners couldn't have asked for a better matchup if they own any offensive player here. Just be sure you are leaving the Bucs and Saints defenses in the free agency market: the only fantasy position that these teams didn't dominate in the first matchup was for starting defense, where they ranked 31st and 32nd, combining for -11 points.