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Bucs FANtasy Challenge Week 10: Order Is Restored

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If Week Nine shook things up a little bit in the Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge, Week 10 allowed them to settle. And with three weeks left in the regular season, the playoff race picture is coming into focus.

Christopher Hatton's mighty Water Walkers, who last week absorbed their first loss of the season, got right back into the 'W' column, albeit with a lackluster performance that was just barely enough to get past Pro Casey Phillips. At 9-4, their playoff ticket is punched; now it's just a matter of getting a first-round bye.

The suddenly frisky Ladies and Edelman team guided by Becky Hartman, which had followed up an 0-6 start with three straight wins continued to perform much better but still went back to its losing ways against the team I personally tabbed last week as the favorites to win it all. That's Jason Swinford's The Great Marpet Capers, which is so loaded it can survive blah days from usual fantasy stars Drew Brees and Tyler Lockett. At 7-3, the Capers are sure to garnish their season (get it?) with a playoff appearance, too.

Meanwhile Brandon Durfey changed his team name to "Fluke McCown," no doubt a reference to the season-long storyline that his team generally overperforms its raw scoring by drawing the right matchup most weeks. McCown's win was no fluke this week, as Brandon's team scored the highest point total in the league, but it's true that he is in third place despite having the sixth-most points in the league overall. No matter – it's the wins and losses that matter and Fluke McCown also seems destined for the playoffs.

And then we get to the scrum. There are five times with records of either 6-4 or 5-5, and with three weeks to go those standings could be thrown into the spin cycle several times over. As one of the three Buccaneers.com insiders – the "Pros" in league parlance – who are trying to keep the nine fan participants from winning the first-ever Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge league, I'm hoping my 6-4 team can stay in the top six to get a playoff ticket.

That looked a lot more likely last week after my Plunder and Lightning team was the first one to topple the Water Walkers. Things are quite a bit shakier now, however, after I found a way to break the eight-game losing streak that had pushed Justin Morris's Deckerhoff the Halls team to the very bottom of the standings. Beat the first-place team one week and lose to the last-place team the next week? As Jason Swinford told me in an email exchange, "That pretty much describes fantasy football."

While my team was absolutely imploding and scoring a league-low 80.72 points, the once-soaring Risky Biscuits team managed by Christopher Dombrowski was underperforming as well, leading to a second straight loss and a drop to sixth in the standings. The Biscuits were flattened by another one of our Pros, Carmen Vitali, who ran away like Lamar Jackson (thanks to Lamar Jackson) to nearly match Fluke McCown's league-high point total. That's significant because it pulls Carmen into a tie with Christopher at 5-5, though at the moment the Biscuits hold the last playoff spot due to a better point total. And with Justin Beetz's The Revolution losing to fall to 6-4 and Nick Russin's Kung Suh Panda winning to rise to 5-5, we have a real pile-up on the highway to the postseason.

Christopher Hatton, Jason Swinford and the rest of the non-Pros in the FANtasy Challenge won a contest to participate in a fantasy league with those three insiders – Carmen, Casey and me. The draft for the league was held at the AdventHealth Training Center in the very room where Jason Licht and company conduct actual NFL drafts every spring. If that experience wasn't worth it on its own, the eventual league winner – should it be one of the nine fans – will also get a championship belt, bragging rights and a treasure chest full of prizes, including game tickets.

Can one of the Pros stop that from happening. Casey, probably not. Her loss this week, while a close one, was her fifth in a row and she now occupies last place all by her lonesome. However, Carmen is on the cusp of joining me in the playoff field, and if we both make it, watch out fans! (Talking big after an 80-point week might be inadvisable, but I'm not known for wise decisions. Just ask my league mates about the last 12 rounds or so of the draft.)

Now let's take a closer look at how the rest of Week 10 unfolded in our league.

Lineup Decision of the Week: Nick Russin's Kung Suh Panda adds O.J. Howard and puts him right into the starting lineup.

In the original FANtasy Challenge draft, Buccaneers tight end O.J. Howard felt like a potential steal as a mid-fifth round pick, a rising star with real breakout potential in his third season. However, the middle of a fantasy football season, with all of its bye weeks and injuries, makes for hard decisions sometimes and Howard's original owner had to expose him to the waiver wire in order to fill some other needs. Howard's hamstring injury, which came on the heels of a bye week, had kept him from being a starting option for almost a month.

Howard wasn't available for long. Nick swooped in to pick him up last Wednesday and inserted him directly into the lineup. It was a smart play, not only because Howard seemed like he might be primed for a second-half breakout but because the Cardinals' defense had been absolutely torched by tight ends all season. With no other option but the Jets' Chris Herndon, Kung Suh Panda went with Howard and it paid off to the tune of a touchdown and 14.70 fantasy points. Nick won his matchup with Campbell Sears' Team Kareem by 13.56 points. Howard scored exactly 13 more points than Herndon, so perhaps the Panda would have won anyway, but it would have been a nail-biter.

Nick needed Howard's points because his running back duo of Devonta Freeman (7.80) and Matt Breida (4.50) didn't do much to support a fine day by QB Josh Allen (25.44). It also would have been a shame to squander the huge contributions from Ravens WR Marquise Brown (18.00) and the Baltimore defense (24.00). Team Kareem also got a big day from its QB, Dak Prescott (25.88) but lost the kicker/defense battle by 24 points.

Lineup Blunder of the Week: Casey Phillips' Brate Scott team gets the WR coin flip wrong.

I hate to pick on a fellow Pro here, but one decision was the difference between beating the first-place team and dropping to last place in the standings.

With the surprisingly effective Courtland Sutton on a bye and both Brandin Cooks and Sterling Shepard dealing with concussions, Casey's usually decent receiving corps was scraping the bottom of the barrel. Amari Cooper got one spot, obviously, and was good for 31.70 points, so that's good. With RB James White also on a bye, Casey had exactly three choices to fill the second receiver spot and the FLEX spot: Demaryius Thomas (against the Giants), Marquise Brown (against the Bengals) and Auden Tate (against the Ravens).

Casey went with Brown and Tate, leaving Thomas and his 14.40 eventual points on the bench. Had she chosen Thomas over Brown (2.70), she would have scored 11.70 more points and beaten the one-loss Water Walkers by about four points. Had she started Thomas over Tate (6.60), she would have scored 7.80 points and beaten her opponents by 0.36 points.

Instead, Cooper's big day and another bounce-back performance by Joe Mixon were wasted. Brate Scott still had Russell Wilson going on Monday Night Football but the Water Walkers had Tevin Coleman and Wilson couldn't close the gap. In a week in which nobody on Christopher's team really did anything remarkable – no individual player scored more than 14.10 points – it was the 25.00 points from the Steelers defense that carried the day. As Fluke Scott wants us to know, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

Best Game of the Week: The Great Marpet Capers 138.48, Ladies and Edelman 124.38

In terms of drama, it was probably the Brate Scott-Water Walkers game, since that came down to Monday night and an eight-point difference, but I've already covered that one. This one was good because it featured a recent upstart going against a team that has been performing well all season, and they both had good weeks. Jason's team never trailed according to the line chart on the league's web site, but it also never had much more than a 10 to 15-point lead.

Neither team got much out of its quarterback (Kyle Allen for Becky, Drew Brees for Jason) and the defense matchup was nearly a wash, with the Capers getting 19.00 from the Rams and L&E countering with 18.00 from Seattle. The big performers for Jason were (of course) Christian McCaffrey (26.10) and Mark Andrews (23.30) while Becky got 25.50 from Golden Tate and 17.80 from Greg Olsen.

Standings Update: The whole intro was about this, so no need to rehash it. Though there's no indication on the site, I base my claim on Water Walkers having clinched a spot on the fact that he can finish at 9-4 at the worst and only four other teams have a chance to finish with just four losses.

If the playoffs started today…I would be happy because my impending collapse wouldn't knock me out. But also, if the playoffs started today The Great Marpet Capers would get the other bye due to a more than 200-point edge over Fluke McCown.

Additional Week Seven Results: I've already covered the wins by The Great Marpet Capers, Kung Suh Panda and Water Walkers. Here's the rest of the action:

- Deckerhoff the Halls (Justin Morris) 105.28, Plunder and Lightning (Scott Smith) 80.72

Justin's team didn't exactly leap out of the cellar, amassing a point total that would have beaten only two of the other 11 teams this week. Fortunately for him, he was playing me and I need a word better than 'pathetic' to describe my performance. Ultra-pathetic? XXTreeeme™ Pathetic? Whatever. Aaron Rodgers forgot to throw touchdown passes, David Johnson was swallowed up by the Bucs' defense, Jonnu Smith was a bad pickup with George Kittle injured, Sammy Watkins couldn't recapture his early-season magic, et cetera. If it could go wrong, it did and I had only one player score more than 15 points. Meanwhile, Justin got a 33.10-point haul from Derrick Henry and that was almost enough by itself. Le'Veon Bell (16.80) and Hunter Henry (13.00) were also helpful.

- Bowles-room Blitz (Carmen Vitali) 145.02, Risky Biscuits (Christopher Dombrowski) 108.56

It was a rough week for the usually high-scoring Biscuits, perfectly encapsulated by the fact that Cooper Kupp didn't catch a single pass even though, a) he played 71 of a possible 77 snaps of offense; b) Brandin Cooks was out with a concussion, and; c) Kupp had been averaging 7.3 receptions per game and hadn't previously been held below four. Christopher still get huge days from Kyler Murray (26.76), Aaron Jones (27.30) and Travis Kelce (20.50) but rest of the supporting cast took the week off. That was unwise against a Blitz team that really hit its stride. Lamar Jackson (33.42) and Michael Thomas (28.20) were the stars – and that's sustainable down the stretch – but almost everyone else was solid, from Chris Carson to Jack Doyle to Curtis Samuel.

- Fluke McCown (Brandon Durfey) 145.44, The Revolution (Justin Beetz) 123.66

The highest-scoring game of the week. According to the line chart, Brandon got off to a big early lead behind Jarvis Landry (24.70 eventual points) but Justin stormed back later on Sunday afternoon with the help of Dalvin Cook (31.30 eventual points). The Revolution also got 33.00 huge points from Tyreek Hill but Brandon made that up with his DEF/K combo of San Francisco and Harrison Butker, which was good for 33.00 points compared to the 6.00 that Adam Vinatieri and the Cowboys gave Justin. The real difference, though, was at quarterback, where being the one to jump on Patrick Mahomes in the third round paid of this week with 29.85 points, while emergency Revolution starter Brian Hoyer got just 6.16. Matthew Stafford's aching back might have been the real reason The Revolution lost this week.

Tales from the Message Board: Some of this week's discussions within the Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge league:

Jasonsays: You're lucky Disney + goes live tonight or i'd be frustrated having to stay awake to keep an eye on your D. haha

Editor's Note: Priorities, man!

Brandonsays: It was great to see Jamel Dean redeem himself this week. Great game for the rookie.

Editor's Note: Talk about REAL football on our fantasy board? Okay, I'll allow it in this case.

Justinsays: My Sunday FanDuel entry this week: D. Jones, McCafferey, A. Jones, Kirk, Slayton, Parker, Hockenson, D. Henry, Colts D. [That] and a win over Scott this week makes 2-8 a little more bearable!

Editor's Note: Yes I edited that one a little bit, as we don't need all the details. But I'm glad beating me was only his second-best football accomplishment of the weekend.

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