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Bucs FANtasy Challenge Week Seven: The First W is the Sweetest

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Becky Hartman's Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge experience started out with a bang when she drafted Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans only to have Evans walk into the room an hour later and give her a hug of gratitude.

Becky was one of nine Buccaneers fans who won a contest to compete in a fantasy football league with three "Pros" from the team's website, and thus she took part in the live draft that was held in the very room at Bucs headquarters where the team conducts real NFL drafts. If one of the nine fans ends up as the league winner at season's end, he or she will earn not only bragging rights but a boatload of prizes, including Buccaneer game tickets. Unfortunately for Becky, about two months into the season it was starting to look like that Evans visit was going to be her peak experience in the league.

Perhaps not any longer. Becky is still going to have a difficult time joining the contenders for the league title but at the very least she has finally captured her first win of the season. And she took down a Pro in the process…though that distinction is starting to feel like it means a little bit less each week as the fans have started to dominate the top of the standings.

Even more impressively, Becky got the win while her team MVP, Evans, was enjoying a bye week and thus not available to pump up her point total. Fortunately for her "Ladies and Edelman" squad, the WR duo of Golden Tate (14.00 points) and Stefon Diggs (21.20) did just fine in Evans absence. Otherwise, Becky's team looked like it would dominate a game in 2012, with Tom Brady, Jimmy Graham and Adrian Peterson all putting up meaningful points. This was no fluke win; Becky's final 115.36-point total would have beaten either other teams in the league this week.

As it turns out, Ladies and Edelman didn't just beat its opponent, it utterly shellacked Pro competitor Carmen Vitali, whose "Bowles-room Blitz" team managed just 85.52 points. Phillip Lindsay, Alshon Jeffery, Jack Doyle and Damien Williams were all virtual no-shows in Week Seven, wasting good performances from Carmen's two best players, Michael Thomas and Lamar Jackson. Becky had Brady in her holster on Monday night and didn't even need his pedestrian 11.96 points. Carmen falls to 3-4 with the loss, which is still better than Becky's 1-6, but neither are in good shape for the playoff run.

Doesn't matter; Becky's feeling good this week! From the league's message board:

"Becky says: Whoop whoop! I just my first win and my qb hasn't played yet!!"

"Brandon says: Congrats Becky!"

"Christopher Hatton says: You might want to let Tom know that he doesn't need to suit up tonight."

"Becky says: lol right let me just tweet him haha."

Hey, it's worth a try, Becky. I mean, you met Mike Evans through this league; maybe Mr. Brady is next.

Anyway, it's at this point in the story when the nine fans in the Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge are saying, 'Hey, Scott, it's always all about you when your team wins. Why aren't we hearing the specifics of your painful and potentially crippling loss in Week Seven?' Alright, alright. I'm getting to it. I just wanted Becky to have her moment in the sun. It's been a long time coming.

In reality, my loss to Justin Beetz's "The Revolution" team was probably the most significant outcome of the week in terms of the standings. Christopher Hatton and the unstoppable Water Walkers won again to remain undefeated and Brandon Durfey's "Matt Gay 4 Trey" squad is still in second despite losing for just the second time. But two teams jumped me in the standings, both of them belonging to fans, who now control the top five spots, with my fingernails starting to slip off the ledge of a playoff spot. Had I won the game, I would be 5-2 and in second place thanks to my point total and The Revolution would be all the way down in sixth place.

What made this loss so painful. Allow me to let Matthew Berry, an actual fantasy football expert, explain:

To be fair, Mr. Berry is waaaaay more salty about this situation than I am. If you don't feel like listening to his rant, let me recap it for you. Arizona RB David Johnson didn't practice much in Week Six but he was able to play against Atlanta and he went off for 28.20 points, helping my team, among others, to a close win over Becky. Johnson's ankle was still a problem in Week Seven but he once again practiced on Friday and was active for Sunday's game against the Giants. Johnson even started the game and got a handoff on the second play from scrimmage, gaining two yards.

However, all was clearly not well with Johnson's ankle because he played three snaps and then was done for the day. This fact gradually dawned on horrified fantasy owners as backup Chase Edmonds – the only other running back the team had active – kept taking handoffs, catching passes and scoring touchdowns. Edmonds scored on runs of 20, 20 and 22 yards and racked up 35.00 fantasy points in our league.

This was an abject disaster for any team who had handcuffed Edmonds to Johnson but had chosen to start Johnson when he was cleared to play. Johnson's lack of production – 0.20 points – was also the difference in my 10-point loss to Justin, but I don't have as much room to complain. Edmonds' 35 points were languishing on the bench for Christopher Dombrowski and the "Risky Biscuits" team, nowhere near my team. I'm upset that Johnson was hurt worse than anticipated – or got hurt again on those three snaps – but my only option was Miami's Mark Dalton, who scored 6.80 points.

In fact, it was the lack of running back depth that was sure to be a problem when the bye weeks started that was my undoing, to no one's surprise. In addition to Johnson's inactivity, Pittsburgh's James Conner was on a bye, and even though I got a decent haul of 13.10 points from Jamal Williams, it wasn't enough. Justin got huge days from Matthew Stafford (28.56 points) and Dalvin Cook (27.90 points) and really only had one lousy performer in Evan Engram (1.60). The final was 122.66 to 112.36, and it's little consolation that I lost to the highest-scoring team of the week by a relatively small margin.

You know why it's no consolation? Because I wasted the greatest game of Aaron Rodgers' career! Rodgers threw five touchdown passes and ran for another and scored 43.76 points. To get 43.76 points from your quarterback in this league and still lose is nearly unforgiveable. Heap your derision on me, FANtasy Challenge fan-competitors. I deserve it.

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

Lineup Decision of the Week: Jason Swinford's and The Great Marpet Capers grab the New England defense off the free agent list.

I couldn't find one particularly great decision that made the difference in a team winning this week, and in fact Jason made a potentially disastrous move by leaving Golden Tate and his 43.30 points on the bench in favor of Michael Gallup. But Jason outlasted Pro Casey Phillips, 121.34 to 105.44, in large part because of a roster move he made earlier in the season.

Jason did pick a team defense in our original draft, going with Cleveland in the penultimate round. At some point after the season began, however, he dropped the Browns in favor of the New England defense, and that has proven to be an incredibly important move. I'm too lazy to look back through the transaction logs to find out when this move took place, but you can bet Jason is going to be riding New England the rest of the way.

Fantasy defenses are almost never reliable from week to week, but the Patriots are breaking that mold this year, in part because they have a very talented, ball-hawking defense and in part because they get to play quarterbacks like Sam Darnold-with-his-eyes-closed every week. This week, the Patriots' defense was good for 25.00 points while Casey got a more typical 9.00 from the Colts. That's a 16.00-point difference. Jason won by 15.90 points. Wow.

Otherwise, this game was tight. Jacoby Brissett outscored Russell Wilson by a lot in a mild surprise, but Casey got that back in the difference between Zeke Elliott and Melvin Gordon. Casey also got good outputs from Amari Cooper and Courtland Sutton, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Patriots' defense.

Lineup Blunder of the Week: Scott Smith's Plunder and Lightning team starts D.K. Metcalf in the flex over Corey Davis.

Hey, you know how I could have actually overcome the Johnson debacle and made Aaron Rodgers' huge day count? By making the right decision in the flex. I honestly had a tough time deciding whether to use Metcalf, Corey Davis or Phillip Dorsett in that spot…and if that sentence doesn't tell you all you need to know about my depth, nothing will. If I had gone with Davis, who is now playing with a new quarterback and was – we should remember – once the fifth-overall pick in the NFL Draft, I would have scored 10.70 more points and beaten Justin by 0.40 points. Now THAT I would have put at the top of this week's story, no matter who got their first win of the season!

Best Game of the Week: The Great Marpet Capers 121.34, Brate Scott 105.44.

The Revolution's win over my team and the victory by Campbell Sears' Minshew Magic over Justin Morris's depressing Deckerhoff the Halls team were actually closer, but not as dramatic. The NFL.com fantasy site includes a line chart with each game that shows which team was winning at any point from Thursday night through the end of Monday's game, and neither Justin nor I were ever ahead in our losses.

However, the Capers' win over Casey, which I've already detailed above, had multiple lead changes and could have gone the other way if Darnold and the Jets had actually done well on Monday night against the Patriots' defense. (Ha ha, yeah, never mind.) According to that chart, Jason's team didn't take the lead until Devin McCourty's interception in the first quarter, the first of roughly 62 picks by the Patriots' defense that night.

Standings Update: As I alluded to earlier, the big change in the standings was my drop from third to sixth, allowing The Revolution, The Great Marpet Capers and Risky Biscuits all to move up one slot. Those latter two teams share my 4-3 record but have better season point totals. The Water Walkers and Matt Gay 4 Trey are still holding on to the first two spots.

There are three 3-4 teams ready to snatch away a playoff spot from me, Justin D. and Jason, including Carmen. However, all three of those teams have significantly lower point totals than the three 4-3 teams and so would probably a couple more wins at our expense in order to move up. The big games this coming weekend pit the undefeated Water Walkers against the rising The Revolution team plus a showdown between the second-place Matt Gay 4 Trey team and the fourth-place Capers.

Additional Week Seven Results: I've already covered the wins by Becky, Jason and Justin B. Here's the rest of the action:

- Water Walkers (Christopher Hatton) 112.52, Kung Suh Panda (Nick Russin) 76.08

The Water Walkers remain the league's highest-scoring team so their spot in the standings is no fluke. Still, this was a relatively light week for Christopher's crew, so it was an added bit of fortune that he played an underperforming Panda squad. Nick actually won the quarterback battle between Josh Allen and Deshaun Watson in a bit of a surprise but the Pandas started three running backs – Devonta Freeman, Kerryon Johnson and Matt Breida – and got all of 12.40 points from them combined. Meanwhile, Christopher's Houston duo came through because DeAndre Hopkins had 25.60 points despite his quarterback's underwhelming fantasy performance. Also, the unorthodox move of starting a second tight end in the FLEX position continues to work for the double-Ws because Austin Hooper has been a surprisingly consistent play.

- Minshew Magic (Campbell Sears) 109.96, Deckerhoff the Halls (Justin Morris) 100.12

Justin's team has lost six in a row after an opening-week win, but it got close in this one. The Minshew Magic has had as many team names as victories this year but are thrilled to have Saquon Barkley back in action. Barkley and Leonard Fournette got a combined 33.50 points in a down week for many running backs and T.Y. Hilton was good for 19.40. Justin's team had six different players score between 10.50 and 17.80 points, but nobody really went off. All that said, it came down to the difference between the kickers, as Campbell's Greg Zuerlein scored 14.00 to the 4.00 put up by Justin's Adam Vinatieri. That's a 10-point edge and Campbell won by 9.84 points.

- Risky Biscuits (Christopher Dombrowski) 120.96, Matt Gay 4 Trey (Brandon Durfey) 96.14

These two message-board antagonists were close around when the 1:00 games were ending but the Biscuits took over from there. This is when Christopher's team depth is showing, because even with Edmonds on the bench he was able to slot Latavius Murray into the FLEX (in a week in which Alvin Kamara was out with an injury) and that was good for 32.00 points. Brandon's FLEX, Jamison Crowder, got 6.60. Now, we should acknowledge that Brandon's team was stung early by Patrick Mahomes' injury on Thursday night, but as it turns out Mahomes outscored Christopher's quarterback, Kyler Murray, 7.24 to 6.96. Bye weeks contributed to Ito Smith being in the starting lineup for the Trey squad, helping to render a 31.60-point outing from TE Darren Waller moot.

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

Justin_ says:_ Can’t believe I beat Aaron Rodgers this week! 😂 looking forward to reading the article this week Scott.... 

Editor's Note: That made one of us.

Campbell_ says:_ But honestly, who even needs points to win tho?

Editor's Note: How exactly did you win a spot in this league again?

Jason_ says:_ Well seems like i angered the fantasy deities with my arrogance last week. Haha

Editor's Note: Yes, for going without a kicker and losing because of it in Week Six. But it appears the gods forgave you before the weekend was over.

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