The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are off to San Francisco this week, looking to build some momentum following a Monday Night win over the Panthers and coming out of their bye week. The 49ers are looking for their first win after the switch last week to Colin Kaepernick at quarterback. San Francisco is 1-5 overall and in danger of falling out of the playoff race. This game has great significance to both clubs, and two teams with a "must-win" mentality can translate into good things for fantasy owners.
However, the fantasy forecasts for these two clubs are far from similar. On paper, given the 49ers' recent defensive struggles, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers go into this one with a handful of apparent must-starts, plus a sleeper or two. Meanwhile, San Francisco has that recent QB change plus an injured lead back, leading to a lot of unknowns and some boom-or-bust fantasy candidates.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers Offense
Kicking off the Buccaneers must-start list is WR Mike Evans. He has paid off big for those who drafted him in the second or third round this year. His 13.2 standard fantasy points per game are the second most of all NFL wide receivers behind only Julio Jones (who got a whopping 36 of his 86 fantasy points in one game).
Yardage-wise, the 49ers are allowing just 215.5 yards per game, seventh-fewest in the league. However, they have allowed 12 passing touchdowns, 10 of them to wide receivers. Evans could be in line for another big day, which could translate into the same for his quarterback, Jameis Winston.
Only two teams are on bye this week, so there might not be many places to plug Winston in, but he does have good upside this week. The 49ers are allowing slightly more points to opposing quarterbacks than average. When Winston has been good he has been great, but the fantasy consistency that we saw last year has not shown up so far in 2016. He has games of 25, 3, 25, 10 and 14. If you don't like your quarterback matchup or are having a hard time finding a replacement for Ben Roethlisberger, Winston could deliver this week.
The other must-start for the Bucs wasn't even on the roster for the first game of the season: RB Jacquizz Rodgers. In his first game starting for the Buccaneers (Week Five against the Panthers), Rodgers had 35 touches, resulting in 12 standard fantasy points even without a touchdown. Based on his opponent, those numbers could go up even if his touches drop. The 49ers are giving up the third most points to opposing running backs and have allowed 30.75 points per game to that position over the last four weeks. The NFL average is 16.3. At only 32.5% owned, Rodgers is available in most ESPN leagues and is definitely worth the add. (Keep in mind, the Buccaneers follow up this week with games against the Raiders and the Falcons, who are giving up the fifth-most and ninth-most fantasy points to opposing RBs this year.)
San Francisco 49ers Offense
The only players on the 49ers averaging more than 10 fantasy points per game are RB Carlos Hyde and QB Blaine Gabbert. Hyde has already been listed as out for this game, while Gabbert was replaced by Kaepernick last week. Last week Kaepernick passed for 187 yards and a score, but was able to keep a clean game with no interceptions or fumbles. That, in addition to 66 rushing yards, helped him earn 17 fantasy points.
The Buccaneers are allowing slightly above average points per game to quarterbacks, but have yet to face a quarterback that doubles as a rushing threat. With just one start under his belt, Kaepernick is definitely a risky option this week, though if you're looking to save some salary cap in weekly leagues, he is a high-risk, high-reward start.
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The Buccaneers are allowing the seventh-most points in the league to opposing running backs, but without Hyde the 49ers do not have anyone trustworthy enough to fill in a starter fantasy lineup. Shaun Draughn and Mike Davis are the only other running backs to score any fantasy points for the 49ers this season and they have combined for just 11 through six games.
Opposing wide receivers have also had success against the Bucs, but again, there is no evidence to tell which 49er WR will lead the team. Jeremy Kerley has 41 fantasy points this year, ranking 37th in the league. However, with his first game with Kaepernick at quarterback, Kerley had just two receptions for 12 yards. WR Torrey Smith led the day with 76 yards and a touchdown, good for 13 points. But in the five games leading up to it, he managed just 15 fantasy points. There are going to be points to go around at wide receiver, it is just determining how they will be allocated that is the issue. Safest bet is to keep them on your bench. However, it is worth noting that Smith is listed as questionable, if he can not go, that could give fantasy owners a bit more confidence in Kerley for a flex spot.