The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have landed in Oakland, looking to bring their record to .500 against the Raiders, who also sit at 3-4. Having gathered a lot of momentum during their last three games, the Bucs will look to keep it going as they travel to the West Coast for the first time this season. If they can, they may also be au underrated source of big points for your fantasy team.
The Raiders are coming off two of their best games, with consecutive wins over the Jacksonville Jaguars and Kansas City Chiefs. The Raiders defense was able to hold the Jaguars to 235 total yards and the Chiefs to a single touchdown.
However, Oakland has given up its share of fantasy points against some of the league's more high-powered offenses. On three different occasions this season, the Raiders have allowed an offense to score four or more touchdowns and break the 400-yard mark. Miami scored four touchdowns on the ground against them in Week Two, before Pittsburgh scored four through the air in Week Three. The Buccaneers are coming into this game with three consecutive games of more than 400 yards and four touchdowns.
Will the Buccaneers newfound firepower be enough to break through the Oakland defense like some of the NFL's biggest offenses have done this season? Or will Oakland stand strong as they have in their past two contests? As far as fantasy football is concerned, owners of Buccaneer players are likely expecting the former result.
1. Carrying October Through to November
The Buccaneers had the best October in all of football, leading the league in points per game, yards per game and yards per play. And their players' value continues to skyrocket in fantasy football leagues because of it.
QB Josh Freeman was one of six players to break 1,000 passing yards in the month, and the only one to do it in just three games. At 336 passing yards per game, Freeman was the NFL's most productive quarterback, adding nine touchdowns and just one interception. For those of you keeping score at home, that is 74 fantasy points over his last three games, enough to rocket him past Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Michael Vick, Tony Romo and Matt Schaub. (All players that are owned in more leagues than Freeman.)
RB Doug Martin is entering Sunday's game as Week Eight's highest overall fantasy point earner and October's Offensive Rookie of the Month. With 98.7 rushing yards per game in October, he ranks fifth among all NFL running backs. But Martin led all NFL players with 155 yards from scrimmage per game; the next closest contender was more than 25 yards behind that mark. He'll look to continue his stride in Oakland, coming off his two-touchdown, 214-yard performance in Minnesota.
WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams have been top-10 fantasy scoring receivers a combined four times in their three October games. In Week Six, they were ranked back-to-back at sixth and seventh. Vincent Jackson followed it up as the highest WR point-scorer in Week Seven, and then Mike Williams had his day during Week Eight. Together, they have 82 points in the last three games.
These fantasy dynamos will be going up against an Oakland Raider defense that is ranked 24th against QBs, 21st against RBs and 11th against WRs. Oakland is allowing about 250 passing yards per game and has surrendered 12 passing touchdowns. They're also allowing 102 per week on the ground, giving up six touchdowns. Despite the turning of the calendar, the matchup and recent history are solid evidence that all Buccaneers have a place in your starting lineup.
2. Containing Darren McFadden
Running back Darren McFadden has always been the X-factor for both the Oakland Raiders and the fantasy teams he plays on. Three times this season he has broken 100 yards from scrimmage. But also twice this year he has failed to break 40. And thus has been the story of his career.
McFadden's best season came in 2010 when he broke 1,000 yards for the only time in his career and averaged 5.2 yards per carry with seven rushing touchdowns. He played 13 games that season. Last year, in seven games, he boosted his yards per carry number to 5.4. But this year, his fantasy owners have seen a dropoff. In only one game this year does he have more than four yards per carry. In fact, he ranks 41st in the NFL in terms of yards per carry this year at 3.3.
He'll be facing a Buccaneers defense that has been stout against the run this year, ranking sixth in the NFL, allowing 85 yards per game. They are also tied for first in the NFL in yards per carry, holding their opponents to just 3.5 a try. Factor in that the Buccaneer defense leads the league in stuffs (tackles behind the line of scrimmage) with 36 on the year, just over five per game.
With all of these factors at play, McFadden owners might be in for another headache this week. If the Buccaneers can continue to corral running backs and create stops behind the line of scrimmage and if McFadden continues to struggle in his yards per carry, the Oakland running game will remain in the bottom three in the league.
3. East Meets West
So far this season, things have been pretty even record-wise when teams from the Eastern Time Zone make the trip to the Pacific. In nine games this season, the West Coast team has won five of them. So, as far as the game is concerned, there seems to be little more than any normal home field advantage.
However, statistically, it is not the same story. In the rushing game, East coast teams going west have only had a higher-than-average rushing output three of the nine times. The eight teams that have made the East-to-West trip (Buffalo has done it twice) have a combined 49 rushing touchdowns, and only five have been scored on the West Coast.
The more significant difference lies in the passing game however, where again, the visiting team has only recorded a higher-than-average passing output three times. Two of those performances were in shootouts: the New England Patriots loss to the Seattle Seahawks and the Miami Dolphins loss to the Arizona Cardinals in a slugfest where Ryan Tannehill walked away with 431 passing yards. There have also been 12 touchdowns thrown versus seven interceptions, with seven of the touchdowns coming in just two of the nine games.
So, chalk it up to home-field advantage or the three-hour time difference, but there does appear to be a statistical decrease when an Eastern team heads out west. Josh Freeman and company will look to come out on the positive side of the matchup and become the only Eastern team to go into the Pacific time zone and come out with above average stats in both passing and rushing categories.
We will, however, leave you with a fun fact: the only game in which the East-to-West team to had above-average passing yards and won the game was the Pittsburgh Steelers against – you guessed it – the Oakland Raiders.