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Bucs FANtasy Challenge Week Nine: Giant Slayer

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In the pantheon of posts that age quickly and terribly, in the hall of horrible assumptions, in the freezer where the freezing cold takes are stored, there is this lede from last week's Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge wrap-up, in which I essentially declared the Washington Nationals dead in the water.

The Houston Astros' apparent chokehold on the World Series – going back home up 3-2 after massacring the Nationals' home field advantage – was compared to the apparent inevitability of the best teams in the FANtasy Challenge league rising to and staying at the top. The whole thing concluded this way:

"(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.)"

Well, one of those things did happen and instead of scrubbing that massively mistaken take from Buccaneers.com history I'm going to own it. The Nationals are World Series champs and the Buccaneers FANtasy Challenge is far, far from over. The best evidence of that: For the first time, the mighty Water Walkers, Christopher Hatton's seemingly invincible squad, have fallen.

Christopher is one of nine fans who won a contest to participate in the Challenge, competing against three in-house "Pros" from Buccaneers.com in a fantasy football league. Those three Pros are me, Team Reporter Casey Phillips and Staff Writer Carmen Vitali. If any of the nine fans ends up winning the league, and thereby besting all the Pros, he or she will win a treasure chest of prizes, including game tickets and a championship belt. The draft for the FANtasy Challenge was conducted live at Buccaneers headquarters, in the very room in which Jason Licht and company conduct real NFL drafts for the team, and that championship currently lives at the AdventHealth Training Center. But for how long? Will Christopher or one of the other eight fan participants take it home?

Not if I can help it. Now that I've eaten the requisite helping of crow for my World Series assumption, it's time to reverse field and start bragging. See, the Water Walkers didn't just lose for the first time this season…they lost to me.

Or maybe Christopher just lost to inevitability, the inevitability of luck running out. Starting a fantasy football season 8-0 takes a good and deep roster, but it also takes a decent amount of luck. The Water Walkers' start was no fluke; they have been and remain one of the highest-scoring teams in the league. But they've also logged three wins by seven points or less, all against the other high-scoring teams in the league. In some weeks, they've been just good enough.

This week, Christopher's squad was just good enough to get beaten, and it all came down to pretty much the only play that went right for Green Bay in Los Angeles. With just over six minutes left in the Chargers-Packers game at (I had to look this up) the Dignity Health Sports Park, the previously red-hot Packers were losing 26-3. The only thing more surprising than NFL teams playing at something called the Dignity Health Sports Park is Aaron Rodgers going almost 60 minutes without throwing a touchdown pass. That was a terrible development for my team, which has been riding Rodgers' high fantasy scores in recent weeks.

But thank goodness for garbage time TDs, because there was Rodgers throwing a touchdown pass, and not to Davante Adams or Marques Valdes-Scantling or even Jimmy Graham. This one found running back Jamaal Williams who, upon further review of the FANtasy Challenge rosters, was also starting for my team! Just the touchdown on that play was worth 10 points, and my team won by 6.4 points.

It was a weird game, to be honest. With both David Johnson and James Conner – my first two picks in the draft – sidelined by injury, I was forced to start Williams and Miami's Mark Walton, and that went about as well as you would expect apart from that one touchdown. Rodgers did almost nothing and Keenan Allen, in that same game, contributed only 7.00 fantasy points. But Kenny Golladay, George Kittle and D.K. Metcalf went off, and that was enough. The Water Walkers got a big day from Zach Ertz but just an average one from Deshaun Watson and virtually nothing from Week Eight stud Tevin Coleman. Neither team's kicker or defense did much. But hey, a win's a win. I'll take it.

I'm sure everyone else in the league appreciates the undefeated giant being slain, but the far more significant development was the continued rise of Becky Hartman's Ladies and Edelman team, which this week took down an arguably even better team in Christopher Dombrowski's excellently-named Risky Biscuits. The Biscuits are the highest-scoring team in the league, and until three weeks ago Becky hadn't won a single game. So, of course, this matchup goes to Ladies and Edelman, 126.00-107.00.

Becky can thank the supernova-hot Mike Evans for dragging her out of the cellar and into honest-to-goodness postseason contention. At 3-6, the Ladies and Edelman are just two games out of the last playoff spot, with four regular-season weeks to play in the FANtasy Challenge. Evans's 36.00 points certainly helped, but Kenyan Drake, the much-maligned first-round draft pick, took well to Arizona with 28.20 points as well. More significantly, the Biscuits' RB duo of Aaron Jones and Royce Freeman flamed out, producing just 6.30 combined points, and nobody else picked up the slack apart from kicker Brett Maher on Monday night. Kirk Cousins, Odell Beckham, Chris Godwin, Travis Kelce and D.J. Moore were all…fine? That's a murderer's row some weeks.

So while Becky climbed the standings, Christopher fell, all the way from third to sixth, as the four other 5-3 teams all won to go to 6-3. The Biscuits built their team on depth and have the points to prove it worked, but in Week Nine they needed a superstar and didn't have one.

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

Lineup Decision of the Week: Justin Beetz and The Revolution sticking with Emmanuel Sanders.

Two weeks ago, Sanders was traded from the sinking Denver Broncos to the soaring San Francisco 49ers, and his fantasy owners rejoiced. Sanders was going to a great team that was really only lacking one thing: A number-one receiver. He could step right in as Jimmy Garoppolo's number-one target and start rolling fantasy 7-7-7s. However, his first game with the Niners was lackluster, and just barely salvaged by a touchdown. Sanders was targeted just five times and finished with four catches for 25 yards.

Justin could have seen that and sent Sanders to his bench in favor of a number of other reasonable if unexciting WR options: Danny Amendola, Randall Cobb, Phillip Dorsett or Darius Slayton. If Robert Woods hadn't been on a bye, maybe he would have gotten the call over Sanders. But Justin stuck with the new Niner and it paid off in a big way, as he scored 24 points in a 151.4-129.52 win over the Brate Scott squad run by Pro Casey Phillips. Tyreek Hill also had a huge day, Matthew Stafford continued to quietly provide big fantasy output and the Cowboys defense made life miserable for Daniel Jones and fun for Justin Beetz.

Casey's team went into Monday night needing a big but not impossible combined output from Zeke Elliott, Amari Cooper, Sterling Shepard and Jason Witten. Cooper and Witten did their parts and Elliott underperformed but still got 13.90 points. Shepard, however, played as if he had Daniel Jones as his quarterback and finished with a shiny goose-egg.

Honorable mention to Jason Swinford of The Great Marpet Capers for starting, well, pretty much any running backs he wanted to. The choices of Christian McCaffrey (37.60) and Josh Jacobs (24.00) were very good, but he could have also comfortably gone with Melvin Gordon (25.90), David Montgomery (22.60) or Devin Singletary (23.00). As the owner of a team that is desperately trying to scratch together four healthy RB legs every week, I curse you for your depth at the position, Jason. One of those other backs could have been a better choice for the FLEX but it didn't really matter in the Capers' easy win over the FORtuNETTE team run by Campbell Sears, which is quickly becoming relevant only for its weekly name changes.

Lineup Blunder of the Week: The Buccaneers finally put RoJo in the starting lineup. Justin Morris and the floundering Deckerhoff the Halls team did not.

It's been a rough fantasy season for Justin, who I can confidently say is not going to win the league. The Deckerhoff squad has had an up-and-down season in terms of scoring but a down-and-down season in terms of luck, here dropping its eighth straight despite scoring enough points to beat eight other teams this week. If Justin had started running back Ronald Jones, like the Buccaneers did on Sunday in Seattle, he would have had enough points to beat 10 other teams, including the one he faced.

Instead, Justin is looking at a 135.32-130.96 loss to the Bowles-room Blitz team run by Pro Carmen Vitali. It's not as if Justin chose poorly from his running back stable; Le'Veon Bell and Derrick Henry scored a combined 45.00 points and both outscored Jones. However, the 16.20 points that Jones did score would have looked better in the FLEX spot than Cole Beasley's 9.30. Those seven points would have made the difference in this week's outcome. Probably not in the Deckerhoff the Halls' season, though.

So this wasn't particularly egregious but there wasn't much to choose from this week. Most teams are starting the players they have to start thanks to injuries and byes.

Best Game of the Week: Bowles-room Blitz (Carmen Vitali) 135.32, Deckerhoff the Halls (Justin Morris) 130.96.

This was the closest game of the week and it also was back and forth throughout Sunday. Some big plays by the Henry brothers (Derrick and Hunter) got Justin off to a pretty good lead by late afternoon but Carmen stormed back with Lamar Jackson in the evening and took the lead on his first-quarter touchdown run. A big catch by Julian Edelman got Justin back even, though Edelman's fumble a bit later didn't help. Justin still had the lead as late as five minutes into the fourth quarter on Sunday night, and neither team had a player going on Sunday so this was it. Fortunately for our house Pro, Jackson was able to pull it out in the end.

Standings Update: I mostly summarized this above. The Water Walkers took their first loss but still have a two-game edge in the overall standings and it would be a major shock if they don't make the playoffs. The four 6-3 teams all are entering the stretch run in good shape, though for my money Jason Swinford's The Great Marpet Capers are the best of the bunch. In fact, I consider that team the favorite to win the whole league at this point. Matt Gay 4 Trey got back in the win column after a mini-slump and is also 6-3. It was a bummer of a week for the Risky Biscuits but with Christopher's point total it wouldn't take much for him to jump back up the standings. His loss was good news for Carmen's team, which is now just a game out of the playoff picture.

And, as noted, Becky Hartman is rising up the ranks with her three-game win streak. She's up to 10th, with Pro Casey Phillips sliding into 11th. Ouch.

Additional Week Seven Results: I've already covered the wins by my team, Ladies and Edelman, the Revolution and Bowles-room blitz. Here's the rest of the action:

- Matt Gay 4 Trey (Brandon Durfey) 115.26, Kung-Suh Panda (Nick Russin) 64.50

Remember that luck factor I noted early, and how it's been almost all bad for Deckerhoff the Halls? Well, the opposite is true for Brandon's team, which once again drew an opponent having a terrible week. Nick's team had a chance to pull into a tie for sixth (record-wise) but virtually everyone on that squad took an unscheduled week off. Shady McCoy (1.90), JJSS (1.90), the banged-up Cam Brate (0.00, only 11 snaps played), Robby Anderson (5.30), the Jets defense against Miami (6.00) – it was just a disaster. Josh Allen (17.60) and Matt Breida (11.20) were mildly better but not nearly enough to stave off that embarrassing final score. Nobody on the bench was appreciably better. Brandon had picked up Jaylen Samuels with everybody else in Pittsburgh hurt, and while Samuels only ran for 10 yards he caught roughly 150 passes and ended up with 21.30 points. Nobody else really went off but almost everybody else did well enough, from Derek Carr to Mark Ingram, to Jarvis Landry to DeVante Parker, all between 15 and 20 points.

- The Great Marpet Capers (Jason Swinford) 136.16, FORtuNETTE (95.08)

What I told you above about all of Jason's running backs is probably description enough, but the Capers also got 40.20 points from Tyler Lockett, who is looking like an absolute steal as a fifth-round pick. All of that made up for the fact that Jacoby Brissett got hurt early and only scored 2.76 points. Don't cry for Jason, though, Drew Brees is back and coming off a bye, so that was probably Brissett's last start of the fantasy season, anyway. As for Campbell Sears' increasingly whimsically-named squad, its hard-luck season was encapsulated by the performance of Dolphins WR Preston Williams, who gave him a huge 24.20 chunk of change but also suffered a season-ending ACL tear. Dak Prescott was good, too, but nobody else really went off. This team desperately needs for the RB duo of Saquon Barkley and Leonard Fournette to get hot down the stretch to have a chance.

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

Beckysays: It was so quiet this week….

Editor's note: Well put. Becky's note above was one of just four posts all week, another of which was Brandon wishing everyone a Happy Halloween. So Tales from the Message Board is also taking this week off.

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