The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' bye week is a good opportunity to take a look forward at the remainder of the season and take stock of what might be in store for the team's most prominent fantasy football figures.
In real life, the Bucs' Week Five bye is a chance to recuperate physically and mentally from the first month of action. In those four weeks, the Buccaneers have posted a 1-3 record. A win against the Carolina Panthers to open the season looked like a pace-setting game for the rest of the year. The next two weeks, the Bucs travelled into the houses of two NFC East heavyweights, going shot for shot with both teams before falling in a pair of tight decisions. Then a gut-shot, last-second field goal in Week Four against Washington closed out the first quarter of the season.
But this is fantasy football. It doesn't have much use for real-life wins and losses. We like statistics, we like numbers, we like progress. And while 1-3 is the bottom line for the Bucs in the real NFL, what they were able to accomplish in four weeks should give fantasy owners something to think about in the remaining 12.
1. Josh Freeman
With every passing game, you see Josh Freeman building chemistry with his receiving corps, and lately that has translated into some big shots downfield. In Week Four, Freeman hit on 61% of his passes, more than his previous two games, and saw his highest completion and yardage totals of the year. His increase in these numbers is promising for the team, and for Freeman and Tampa Bay receiver owners in the fantasy realm.
Freeman's next contest will be against the Kansas City Chiefs, who have allowed 10 passing touchdowns this season. The following week, they take on the New Orleans Saints, who are ranked 24th in pass coverage. And to raise spirits even higher, the Chiefs and the Saints rank second and fourth, respectively, in opposing quarterback rating. If there was ever a two-week span to give Freeman's statistics a hike, and to entice fantasy owners to put him in the lineup, it will be the upcoming fortnight.
2. Doug Martin
Martin's first NFL game saw him run the ball 24 times for 95 yards. He followed this up with a 20-touch, 66-yard performance where he found the end zone for the first time this season. His current total of 247 rushing yards has him on pace to be just shy of the 1,000-yard mark by season's end. Many believe, though, that Martin can exceed that mark when the big-play element emerges in his game. His longest carry to this point is 17 yards, and that's not likely to last.
With the passing game looking like it is about to take a turn for the better, the Tampa Bay offense should easily see a higher number of offensive plays. If it happens that way, Doug Martin will in turn get more touches and more opportunities to show his already proven quick feet and tackle-breaking ability.
3. Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams
The Bucs' two starting wide receivers both had excellent games in Week Four against the Washington Redskins. In fact, it was the first time since 1992 that two Buccaneer receivers eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the same game.
Vincent Jackson recorded his second 100-yard performance of the year in the Washington game, while adding his second touchdown of the year. The biggest worry for Jackson owners was that his reception number was just 10 through three games. However, with the offensive shift, Jackson saw six receptions in Week Four. So far, Jackson looks as if he is a solid starting play just about every week of the season.
Mike Williams is averaging just a hair under 20 yards per reception, fourth highest in the NFL for receivers that have 10 or more receptions. He has also found the end zone two times. With the confidence of Josh Freeman growing, and the big play ability that Williams has already shown this year, he makes a solid Flex position option in many leagues, as he has eclipsed 10 fantasy points in two games already this season.
With both Jackson and Williams averaging more than 19 yards per catch, it seems certain that the Buccaneers' low third-down conversion percentage is destined to rise, resulting in more offensive plays. That, in turn will result in more touches and more yards for these two receivers.
4. Buccaneers Individual Defensive Players
While the Buccaneer defense as a whole has not yet proven that they are a strong fantasy starting option, there are many Buccaneer defensive standouts making waves in individual defensive player (IDP) leagues.
The Buccaneers' defense has three players, LB Mason Foster, LB Lavonte David and S Mark Barron all on pace to break 100 tackles this season. All three are in the top 45 in the NFL for tackles. All three are also in the top 20 for their given position. In addition, six Buccaneer defenders have notched an interception this year. CB Eric Wright returned his for a touchdown and has also tallied a fumble recovery.