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Bucs FANtasy Challenge Week Eight: The Cream Rises

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Remember when the Washington Nationals won the first two games of the 2019 World Series – in Houston – and went back home dreaming of the most improbable championship sweep since the Reds blanked the Bash-Brother Athletics in the 1990 World Series?

Ah, yes, memories. The good old days of…October 23. The heavily-favored Astros had their backs against the wall and the Nationals were going to close out there first championship right at home in DC. How's that looking now?

In the six days since the cream has risen to the top, as it tends to do given enough time, and the Astros are now right where everyone though the Astros would be: On the verge of a dominant World Series victory. Sure, the Nationals could reverse the series tide one more time, but it would probably be unwise to bet on that outcome right now.

Similarly, the cream has risen to the top in the Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge, a fantasy football league pitting nine contest-winning fans against three Buccaneers.com insiders, or the "Pros" as we optimistically titled ourselves. Should one of those nine fans win the league, he or she will walk away with some coveted prizes and some pretty nifty bragging rights. Eight weeks into the league's 13-week regular season, three fans in particular are in good position to claim those prizes, with one of the three Pros still lurking as a real threat.

More to the point – or the points – the top of the standings now mirror the points-scored leaderboard. We've all been in fantasy leagues in which some lucky player keeps winning low-scoring games and is near the top of the standings despite being seventh or eighth in scoring. But that's hard to sustain over time. When it comes down to it, the best way to win a fantasy football league is to score large amounts of points every week. I know that's a very complicated concept. I'll pause here to give you time to digest it.

Good? So, as far as the Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge goes, the four highest-scoring teams are now also the top four teams in the standings. It's not quite in perfect order, as the second-place team, "The Great Marpet Capers" run by fan Jason Swinford, has a couple more points than the first-place team, fan Christopher Hatton's undefeated "Water Walkers," but it still feels right.

There are six 5-3 teams chasing those bulletproof Walkers, but the two teams that had been in second and third – Justin Beetz's "The Revolution" and Brandon Durfey's "Matt Gay 4 Trey" – lost this week and dropped below Swinford's squad as well as Justin Dombrowski's "Risky Biscuits" and my own "Plunder and Lightning" team. There's a fairly big gap in the points scored totals between fourth and fifth place.

We might also extend this "cream rising" concept to one of the teams that remains a long shot to make the playoffs, because Becky Hartman's previously downtrodden "Ladies and Edelman" crew suddenly seems like one of the more interesting teams in the league. Which counts for something, I guess. Hartman had a curious draft and then started the year with six straight losses, seemingly destined for the cellar. But now L&E have won two in a row, and neither was fluky. Sure, her two victims were the two teams joining her in the bottom quarter of the standings – Justin Morris's "Deckerhoff the Halls" and Pro Casey Phillips's "Brate Scott" – but Becky scored enough points both times to beat the majority of the teams in the league. Prior to that, in Week Six, my team had to post the highest point total of that week in order to barely beat Ladies and Edelman.

Becky's team is most notably anchored by Mike Evans, whom she took in the second round of a live draft held at the Buccaneers' AdventHealth Training Center in the very room the team uses to conduct real NFL drafts. About an hour after Becky's pick, Evans himself came into the draft room and gave her a hug of thanks. This past Sunday, Evans did that one better, scoring a monstrous 42.80 fantasy points to push Ladies and Edelman to a 131.46-107.34 victory over Deckerhoff the Halls.

Evans is joined by Stefon Diggs (21.30 points this week) in what suddenly looks like one of the most dangerous WR duos in our league. Golden Tate also put up 16.50 points in the FLEX, old man Brady was as consistent as ever (18.36) and Adrian Peterson was fine (12.30). This squad's first-round albatross, Kenyan Drake, might even be worth playing after being traded to the Arizona Cardinals. Meanwhile Deckerhoff the Halls was reduced to playing Mason Rudolph with a slumping Philip Rivers facing the Bears (it was the right choice) and a big day by Julian Edelman (27.50) was wasted by another Le'Veon Bell flameout and an underwhelming day by Todd Gurley.

This coming week, Ladies and Edelman plays the Risky Biscuits, who just put up a league-best 166.30 points in Week Eight. That sounds like it could turn into a heaping helping of reality (with a side of biscuits) for Becky's squad, but this matchup at least seems a lot more interesting than it did three weeks ago.

Meanwhile, if you are one of those people (probably of a certain advanced age) who loves to grumble that "defense wins championships," you'll love how Christopher Hatton's team remained undefeated. After the dust had settled on Sunday, the Water Walkers were trailing the Revolution by 8.62 points, but they did have the only starter still in play in the Monday night game between Pittsburgh and Miami. James Conner? JuJu? Um…Fitzmagic, maybe? None of the above. It was the Steelers defense, which Christopher chose to play over a Panthers defense facing the 49ers. The 49ers, you may recall, scored 51 points on Sunday, so yeah, good move.

It didn't look great early as Miami jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead. But the Steelers shut out the Dolphins after that and collected four sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries for a total of 13.00 points. In our league, a team defense scores two points per turnover and one point per sack, and the Steelers here also got one point for holding their opponent to between 14 and 20 points. WW won by 4.38 points, one of which was provided by that Miami final score of 14. Counting back through the sacks and turnovers in the final game book, then, we find that the play that finally put Christopher ahead was the strip-sack of Ryan Fitzpatrick and fumble recovery by T.J. Watt with seven minutes and 13 seconds left in the game…and in the entire fantasy week. That's how close it was. That was surely one of the tougher Beetz that Justin has had to endure in fantasy football.

But wait, there's more to this story. Digging through the league's transaction log I found that Christopher made the acquisition of the Pittsburgh defense not this past work week but on October 20. Casey Phillips had dropped the Steelers two days earlier, and you know why? Because Pittsburgh was on a bye that week. October 20 was actually the Sunday of Week Seven, and Christopher made the move at 2:11 in the afternoon, according to the log. And that means that even while he was tracking how his fantasy team was doing in the middle of the Week Seven games, Christopher was already looking ahead to the following week, when the Steelers would return from their bye to play a home game against the barely-twitching roadkill that is the Dolphins.

That's a championship move right there, ladies and fellas.

And that's why Mr. Hatton, as we should probably start calling him, remains undefeated. And it's the consistent week-to-week scoring that has finally dragged the four top producing teams to the top of the standings. Order has been restored.

(If, a week from now, all of the teams at the top have fallen and the standings are jumbled again, this article will quietly disappear from the archives and I'll be writing about how wide-open the last month of the regular season will be. And maybe by then the Washington Nationals will be World Series champs for the first time. But I wouldn't count on either of those things happening.)

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

View photos of Tampa Bay's Week 8 matchup against Tennessee.

Lineup Decision of the Week: Jason Swinford's The Great Marpet Capers has no fear in putting Drew Brees back into the starting lineup.

I probably would have chosen Christopher's sneaky signing and start of Pittsburgh if I hadn't already written about it above. I understand that it is not exactly a sign of genius to start Drew Brees over Jacoby Brissett in a fantasy football league. One could argue that Brissett has been pretty good, however, and a more cautious owner might have waited a week to see if Brees really could throw the ball well with his barely recovered thumb. Isn't there a parallel universe in which Brees tries it out, finds his grip fading early in the game and the Saints turn back to Teddy Bridgewater for the rest of this game and maybe another week or two? It's not like they were struggling with Bridgewater.

Brees scored 24.92 points in his return, in an easy win over the Cardinals. McCaffrey started slow against the 49ers great defense but still finished with 28.50. Chark put up another 19.90. Most of this was unnecessary as the Matt Gay 4 Trey team didn't have a single human put up more than 11.90 points (the 49ers defense got 17.00). Jamison Crowder disappeared – or has maybe never appeared in the first place – and the FLEX position got 4.70 points from a certain B. Johnson. That is apparently Minnesota Vikings' wide receiver Bisi Johnson. I'm not going to lie: I've never heard of Bisi Johnson and I had to look that one up.

Anyway, I'm not really trying to convince you that starting Drew Brees was a stunning move. I picked it more because I wanted to point out how loaded Jason's lineup looks with the return of his top quarterback. Jason has the one player most likely to score big points every week in Christian McCaffrey, and Josh Jacobs isn't a bad RB caddy to go with CMC. David Montgomery, who broke out big this week, and Devin Singletary are on the bench for us in a pinch or in the flex, and Melvin Gordon is there too, waiting to hit his stride. In-season addition D.J. Chark is the real deal. Tyler Lockett is now Russell Wilson's 1A and is producing very consistently. And guess who I haven't mentioned yet: the Patriots' defense. No fantasy team defense should be an every-week difference maker. The Patriots are and it's very, very irritating.

It took a lot of good moves to get a roster this stacked. Too bad Jason also gave a game away by not starting a kicker one week.

Lineup Blunder of the Week: Justin Beetz and The Revolution choosing Robert Woods and Marques Valdez-Scantling as two of its three receivers over Emmanuel Sanders and Auden Tate.

Tyreek Hill was the obvious play in one WR spot and he got a respectable 14.10 points. Justin then selected two more wideouts, putting one in the FLEX. Faced with the choices of Woods vs. Cincinnati, MVS vs. Kansas City, Sanders vs. Carolina and Tate vs. the L.A. Rams, I can't say I would have done differently. Still, there had to at least have been some thought to seeing if Sanders would show up big in his first game for the Niners.

If Justin had started either Sanders (12.50) or Tate (11.50) over either Woods (6.20) or Valdes-Scantling (1.40), he would have beaten the mighty Water Walkers. Not both moves…just one. That's gotta hurt just a little.

Best Game of the Week: Water Walkers 124.56, The Revolution 120.18

This could be the game of the year so far, and I've already covered it at length above. Every other game was essentially a blowout, with an average margin of victory of about 42 points.

Standings Update: Yes, I probably overplayed the idea that the top four teams have taken control, particularly since six teams make the playoffs and then anything can happen. My team, for instance, has to play the Water Walkers next week with a M.A.S.H. unit at running back, so I may not be enjoying that top-four perch for long.

As noted above, there are five 5-3 teams chasing the Water Walkers. Just on the outside looking in is Nick Russin's Kung Suh Panda team, at 4-4. That team has the league's lowest scoring output, however, so it doesn't seem like a huge threat at the moment. Campbell Sears' Minshew Magic needs to conjure up a bit of a winning streak to get back into it from its 3-5 spot, but actually has a better point total than the teams in fifth and sixth place.

And, Ladies and Gentleman, Ladies and Edelman is out of last place! That now belongs to Deckerhoff the Halls, which won in Week One and has yet to taste victory again.

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

- Plunder and Lightning (Scott Smith) 159.80, Bowles-room Blitz (Carmen Vitali) 115.54

A matchup of two Pros, and it wasn't particularly close. Conner's 24.00 points on Monday night were totally unnecessary, but nice for my total points bottom line in the standings. Aaron Rodgers stayed hot (27.10) and when he made that ridiculous back-corner lob to Jamaal Williams I doubled up because I had Williams (18.60) in the starting lineup, too. That was a nice moment. George Kittle finally did something (14.60) and D.K. Metcalf hardly needed any actual receiving yards to put up 16.30. The Jaguars play against the Jets paid off well, too (15.00). Also fortuned for P&L: I faced Carmen with Lamar Jackson on a bye week. Actually, Jameis Winston scored quite well in his stead (23.34) and Michael Thomas enjoyed Brees's return (27.30). But Mohamed Sanu was not a sudden revelation in Foxboro and the Texans defense lost J.J. Watt and didn't even muster up a single point.

- Kung Suh Panda (Nick Russin) 110.16, Brate Scott (89.78)

Nick's team would have lost against eight other opponents but managed to draw Casey's team, which has dropped three straight after looking as if it was finally figuring things out. Julio Jones (25.20) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (21.30) carried the day and made up for a bad debut in the lineup by recent pickup Ty Johnson (4.80). Ty McLaurin and Gerald Everett didn't do much, either, but Josh Allen got 19.26 and Devonta Freeman scored 18.20. Nobody got more than 17.70 for Casey, although that total belonged to Joe Mixon, which is a good sign for what has proved to be one of the most disappointing picks of the first two rounds. Brandin Cooks got hurt and didn't score at all.

- Risky Biscuits (Christopher Dombrowski) 166.30, Minshew Magic (Campbell Sears) 111.86

The injury to Alvin Kamara has been an absolute boon for Chris, who owns Latavius Murray. Murray got 36.70 this week to complement the gigantic 220-yard, 35.00-point outing for Cooper Kupp. Oh, and Aaron Jones put up a modest 41.60 points in that wonderful Packers-Chiefs shootout. That was more than enough to make up for the awful performance of the Cardinals duo of QB Kyler Murray and RB Chase Edmonds (14.40 points combined). The Minshew crew was top heavy, getting 25.96 from the man himself plus 20.60 from Leonard Fournette and 28.30 from Saquon Barkley. But the supporting case was bad, particularly T.Y. Hilton, Eric Ebron and the Bears defense.

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

Beckysays: Whoop whoop 2na win!!

Editor's note: Uh, what's that again. Tuna win?

Beckysays: Whoop whoop second win of the year!

Editor's note: That's better.

Campbellsays: Why is your name not "The Beckyneers"

Editor's note: That's a solid suggestion, Becky. However, might be best not to change anything now that you're rolling.

Nicksays: I need 0.92 points from Juju to beat Casey...I can't believe I'm saying this but I'm actually a little nervous.

Editor's note: That's ONE catch, Nick. One. I mean, Mason Rudolph is going to put at least one football within a few feet of JJSS.

Jasonsays: Back to back high scoring bench trophy??? I'm thinking maybe

Christopher Hattonsays: Hold my beer...

Editor's note: Not actually, Christopher. But he did have to hold my beer, and the other Christopher's beer.

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