One of the best things about fantasy football is that even a game drawing a limited share of the national TV market can turn into critical contest in the fantasy world. Case in point, potentially: the 1-4 Kansas City Chiefs coming into Raymond James Stadium Sunday to square off with the 1-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
More and more Tampa Bay Buccaneers are starting to turn fantasy football heads. WR Vincent Jackson has become a must-start in all formats. WR Mike Williams has proved to be a solid flex start in larger leagues after gathering his first 100-yard game of the season in Week Four.
RB Doug Martin is owned in all leagues and K Connor Barth probably should be, with his big leg and consistency.
And into Tampa come the Kansas City Chiefs, who offer up two big-name, weekly must-starts of their own in WR Dwayne Bowe and RB Jamaal Charles. One team is going to walk away with their heads up and a two-win record, but with the under-the-radar talent on both sides of the field, this game could very well lead to plenty of fantasy owners improving their record as well.
1. The Quarterback-Receiver Connection
The Buccaneers passing game showed noteworthy improvement in the team's Week Four matchup with the Washington Redskins. QB Josh Freeman tied his highest fantasy point total of the year, while Jackson and Williams both broke 100 receiving yards. With Freeman's attempt number growing every week, and his promising long-target numbers, the passing game of the Bucs is apparently on an upturn.
Jackson's numbers are the most impressive. In the Redskins game, he hauled in his second 100 yard game of the season and his second touchdown of the year. His six receptions might be the most promising stat of all, after he had just 10 total completions in the three previous games. If the Freeman-Jackson connection can continue to grow, he could be a dangerous receiver in this game and beyond, making him a valuable fantasy player.
The Bucs will be facing a Chiefs defense that ranks 23rd in giving up points to opposing quarterbacks. While they are holding teams to an eighth-best 205 passing yards per game, they have allowed 10 passing touchdowns, tied for seventh most in the league.
On the other side of the ball, the Kansas City passing game is largely unknown, due to a new quarterback taking the offensive reins. Following a Week Five concussion of QB Matt Cassel, second-string QB Brady Quinn will be making his first NFL start since 2009 with the Cleveland Browns. Through 10 contests that year, he averaged 133.9 yards per game, with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.
No doubt, Bowe will be on the receiving end of many of Quinn's targets Sunday afternoon. Bowe is on pace to break his career bests in receptions and yardage. Through five games, he is ranked 10th in the NFL with 31 receptions, 12th in yardage with 402 and second in times targeted with 57.
It is also worth noting that one of the two Quinn completions from their Week Five game was a 20-yard connection with Bowe. The two hooked up one more time on a 15-yard touchdown, but that play that was nullified by offensive holding.
With one team just hitting their stride, and another surrounded by the question marks of a back-up quarterback, the air game between these teams should be an interesting one for any Buccaneer or Chief fantasy owner.
2. On the Ground
Despite being held to just three yards rushing on six carries in Week Two, Chiefs' RB Jamaal Charles is still the NFL's leading rusher with 551 yards. Take away that performance against the Bills, and Charles is averaging 137 yards rushing per game. That is a better average than the ones boasted by 23 other NFL teams. Charles is the second highest scoring fantasy running back behind Houston's Arian Foster.
With fellow Chiefs' running backs Peyton Hillis and Cyrus Gray questionable, and primary backup Shaun Draughn probable with an ankle injury, the ground game should revolve almost exclusively around Charles. With a relatively inexperienced quarterback taking the Chiefs' snaps, the Buccaneer defense will surely focus heavily on Charles. The Bucs' defense ranks fourth in the NFL against the run, allowing fewer than 75 rushing yards per game.
For the Buccaneers, rookie RB Doug Martin got off to a strong start this season with a 95-yard performance against the Panthers followed by a 66-yard, one touchdown game against the Giants. Since, however, he has yet to find the end zone and has just 86 yards in two games.
He'll look to bounce back to his early-season numbers against a Kansas City run defense that is ranked 24th in terms of giving up points to opposing running backs. Martin will try to add to the 121 yards per game and four touchdowns that the Chiefs' defense has allowed this year. Having not broken a run of longer than 17 yards so far this season, Martin could see his first big break out this week against a Chiefs team that has allowed six runs of 20 or more yards so far this season.
3. The Power of the Turnover
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense has been holding their own so far this year, but with little fantasy glory to show for it. Their best fantasy numbers came in Week Three when they put up 13 fantasy points in a three-turnover performance against the Dallas Cowboys. So how do the Chiefs fit in? The Cowboys currently sit at a -7 turnover differential, meaning their offense has committed seven more turnovers than their defense has gained, a number tied for 30th in the NFL. The only team beneath them: the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Chiefs' differential is -15. Ten fumbles lost. Nine interceptions. In four of the five games that the Chiefs have played this year, the opposing defense has finished in the top 12 in fantasy points scored. In three of those games, the opposing defense tallied 12 or more points.
Defensively, the Buccaneers have six interceptions and have collected two fumbles. After a game against the Redskins that resulted in no turnovers and an entire bye week to prepare for the Chiefs offense, the Bucs are definitely hungry to add to their turnover total. While Kansas City could put up some points offensively, the potential for turnovers is enough to call the Tampa Bay defense a starting caliber one this weekend.
Oh, and did we mention that the Chiefs will be relying a quarterback who hasn't started a game since 2009?