Sunday's game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Washington Redskins is a battle of 1-2 teams, but that doesn't mean it will be an uneventful outing, particularly as it relates to fantasy football. The NFL is coming off the highest scoring three weeks to start a season in league history (2,827 combined points in 48 games), and there's reason to believe the scoring onslaught – and the big fantasy performances – could continue Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
That's particularly true because the Bucs-Redskins matchup appears to be one of extremes. Both teams tend to rank either very high or very low in some of the most important statistical categories. A prime example: Washington will bring the league's second-ranked rushing attack to town to face the Bucs' top-ranked rush defense. Undoubtedly, the theme of the Bucs/Redskins clash is this: Something's gotta give.
Here are three notes that may help you make your fantasy football decisions this week if you're the owner of any Bucs or Redskins:
1. All Eyes on RGIII
In standard fantasy football scoring, Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is averaging 26 points per game, the highest of any NFL quarterback. He'll be facing a Tampa Bay defense that has given up the most passing yards per game in the league, though that is almost exclusively due to one huge game by Eli Manning in Week Two. Fantasy experts are predicting him to again have one of the best fantasy performances in the league on Sunday.
While it is true that RGIII could perhaps see his highest yardage output of the year, the Buccaneers' defense is more than capable of holding opposing quarterbacks to anemic fantasy numbers. Fantasy-wise the Buccaneer defense is actually 12th best against quarterbacks: surrendering just four touchdowns and pulling in six interceptions and two QB fumbles. In fact, discounting the shoot-out against the Giants, the Tampa secondary has five turnovers and has allowed just one passing score.
Also, as RGIII is an absolute threat in the running game, fantasy owners must take into account the Buccaneers' biggest strength: stopping the run. With 209 yards, three rushing touchdowns and a fumble, RGIII has scored 36 of his 78 fantasy points with his feet. In Week 1, the Tampa Bay defense faced another well-known running QB, Cam Newton, and allowed him just five yards rushing.
If the Buccaneers can continue to keep opposing teams out of the end zone, and maintain their tenacity of keeping the quarterback from scrambling, they might just put an abrupt hold on the fantasy value of this dynamic rookie.
2. Can Freeman Find His Stride?
On the opposite sideline, Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman has passing statistics that have amounted to 29 fantasy points over three games, good for 29th at the quarterback position. Yet he will be facing a Washington fantasy defense that is tied for 30th against opposing quarterbacks.
As it is when the Redskins are on offense, we see a battle of extremes brewing here, as well: a Tampa Bay passing game that has yet to fully click and a Redskin defense that is allowing high fantasy numbers. Which team is going to take a positive step Sunday?
Freeman has yet to eclipse the 500 yards passing mark this year, but if he is going to start airing it out, this is the week to do so. The Washington secondary is 31st in passing yards allowed, and have given up 10 passing touchdowns. In the final half of Buccaneers' contest against the Giants, and their final drive last week in Dallas, it was evident that Freeman is finding his rhythm with receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Should these relationships carry over into this Week Four matchup, the Buccaneers could end up being this week's shocking offense.
3. Battle for Ground Game Dominance
And we cannot discuss extremes without pointing out what might be the most glaring struggle of all this Sunday: the Redskins running game against the fierce run defense of the Buccaneers.
The Washington run offense is second in the league with 180 yards per game and tied for first in the league with six rushing touchdowns. Both RB Alfred Morris and QB Robert Griffin III have more than 200 yards and three scores to their name. Factor in RB Evan Royster and WR Brandon Banks, and you have four Redskins averaging more than 4 yards per carry.
On defense, the Buccaneers are surrendering a league best 47 yards per game, and allowed just 10 rushing yards to 2011's third ranked rushing team, the Carolina Panthers.
The Redskins also have a top-10 run defense, allowing 92 yards per game and a score. The Buccaneers, meanwhile, have run the ball on 48.8 percent of their plays this season, one of the highest marks in the league. Doug Martin has taken the lion's share of the carries, but a rejuvenated LeGarrette Blount looks to be added to the mix and could begin posting numbers similar to his breakout 2010 campaign.