The team name Buccaneers of course serves as a reference to the pirate past of Florida's Gulf coast going back hundreds of years. Tampa still celebrates Gasparilla and that party theme carries over to every Buccaneers game day with the Busparilla parade, beads being thrown from the famous Raymond James Pirate Ship, and so on.
Thanks to a fairly successful movie franchise you've probably heard of, the days of associating pirates and Buccaneers with the actual events of the area, or even the old Errol Flynn movies, are over. Now, inevitably, the Buccaneers have a tie with Pirate of the Caribbean.
We only bring this up because Sunday's Falcons vs. Buccaneers game brings a certain scene from the blockbuster immediately to mind. Squared up with an enemy ship, on the brink of chaos with cannons at the ready, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush and Legolas all get uncomfortably tight close-ups and scream "NOW," "FIRE," "FIRE ALL!"
At their orders things get very noisy. Boat chunk are flying every which way, upsetting Johnny Depp quite a bit. A fork gets lodged in the fake eye of that one skinny guy who is now in Game of Thrones. I'm fairly certain there's even a Wilhelm Scream thrown in there, really driving the points home that it is going down.
Basically, what I'm saying is that when the cannons go off and the player introduction pyrotechnics are booming in Raymond James Stadium, you should take that as your cue to "FIRE EVERYTHING." Let's find some examples.
In our left column, we take a look at the average fantasy points per game at each position for the Buccaneers in all five games between these teams since 2012. The middle column shows the position fantasy points per game for the Falcons in that time frame. The far right column acts as our baseline, showing the average points per game of all teams this season.
Bucs (vs ATL 2012-14)
Falcons (vs TB 2012-14)
2014 NFL Average
Alright, so maybe we won't pull the trigger on tight ends (Seferian-Jenkins owned in 1.2% of leagues, Toilolo owned in 0.6%), but things are looking up in this matchup for players at all other positions. In addition to most all of those numbers being above the league average, all numbers in both the Bucs and Falcons column are well above their average points per game this year. For instance, 18.6 points per game for Bucs WRs over that span beats out the 11 points per game they have averaged this year.
Another extremely favorable stat pointing to a "Fire Everything" mentality is just how these teams' defenses are performing this season. Below we take a look at how many points per game the defenses are allowing to each position, again compared to the league average. Their ranking is in parentheses.
Bucs ppg Allowed
Falcons ppg Allowed
2014 NFL Average
Both defenses allowing higher than average again to every position but tight end. Fire everything.
We have a theme in place that you should keep in the back of your head when setting your lineups this week, particularly those increasingly popular weekly leagues. Now, let's take what we've learned and apply it to each team on a player-by-player basis.
Buccaneers on Offense
Josh McCown is back at the helm, taking over quarterback duties for the first time since he left in Week Three against the Falcons. In his three starts he has just two passing touchdowns, but did run two in. He posted fantasy totals of 13 and 17 in his two complete games this season. He has potential this week against a Falcons defense that has allowed 291 passing yards per game and seven total touchdowns over the last four weeks. He won't be making any 10-team rosters, but is a solid bye week filler for deep leagues or 2QB leagues. He'll come cheap in weekly leagues as well.
Doug Martin is doubtful at running back, making Bobby Rainey a must-start this week. Against Atlanta, running back has been by far the best position for the Bucs in the charts above. In fact, it was Rainey who did the heavy lifting last season against the Falcons at home with 167 yards and three touchdowns. The Falcons give up the most fantasy points to RBs, having allowed 13 rushing touchdowns and 128 rushing yards per game.
The only potential negative for Rainey's fantasy day would be RB Charles Sims who could see the first playing time of his NFL career. Listed as questionable however, he can't be relied on. Yet.
WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans have started to get things rolling. Jackson broke 80 yards for the second time this season in the last game and has a history of going bananas when playing the Falcons. He had a touchdown in their first matchup this year against Atlanta. Last season he has 303 yards and three touchdowns in his two matchups against them.
We watched Mike Evans have his fantasy breakout performance against Cleveland last week, posting 24 fantasy points. He has 14 points per game since returning from his injury in Week Six and has yet to catch fewer than four passes in a game this season. The matchup is again a good one and despite a bit of an unknown at quarterback, both big receivers should find your starting lineup.
As mentioned up top, the only position to avoid here would be tight end, but they do have wild card potential. Austin Seferian-Jenkins has shown flashes but is not a sure thing this early in his career. He is also questionable for this game. Brandon Myers could be interesting if Seferian-Jenkins does not play. Myers has been mostly silent all year, but had 13 of his 16 receptions this season when McCown was under center. Considering that Atlanta matches up well against tight ends, and that there have been no proven points at the position for the Bucs this year, keep them on your bench.
Falcons on Offense
Matt Ryan is averaging 20 fantasy points per game against the Bucs over his last three games against them. The Buccaneers have allowed just 13 and 16 fantasy points to their last two opponents, which could put a damper on Ryan's production if the defense can pressure him as many teams have done this season. Still, Ryan is the 13th highest-scoring quarterback in fantasy football this season and should start in all formats.
Just as they have against quarterbacks, the Bucs have tightened up in their points allowed to running backs, giving up just 10 and 12 since the bye week. Taking the tables above into consideration, a Falcons running back should have a good showing in this game. The issue is figuring out which one.
Steven Jackson leads the team in yards and touches by a good margin, but has been very inconsistent going 12, 2, 2, 12 over the last four games. Three other running backs have contributed this year, however. Antone Smith (questionable) has just 31 total touches this year, but 11.6 yards per touch and five touchdowns. He's an explosive player who can have a huge day with just one carry, but he has just one points over the last two weeks. Devonta Freeman and Jacquizz Rodgers also get playing time each game, but neither is a significant fantasy player here.
All that said, Jackson is a strong start this week assuming he still gets most of the work. Antone Smith is a home run hitter, but too unpredictable to be considered a safe play. Jackson gets the go-ahead while Smith should be left only to those looking to gamble.
At wide receiver, we have seen Julio Jones's fantasy pace drop as of late. He averaged 13.8 over the first five games, but only 5.3 in the last three. He has not had a touchdown since getting two against the Bucs in Week Three. Despite these numbers against him, he is still the 14th-ranked WR and an absolute must-start in this and every game. His 28 fantasy points against the Bucs in their first meeting is the fifth-highest single-game WR score of the year.
Roddy White should also be considered a FLEX starter in all formats this week. The Buccaneers have given up the most fantasy points to WRs this year and are without Alterraun Verner in this game, boosting White's stock. Devin Hester had a huge day in the first meeting, but has just five points over the last four weeks. Harry Douglas scored in Week Three, but is less than 100% with a foot injury that made him miss all but one game since that first meeting.
Both the Buccaneers and Falcons are full of potential this week with some high must-start caliber players and a list of guys who could come out as big sleepers when Week 10 is all said and done. With a possible high-scoring game, many fantasy owners should be tuning in to see how this one plays out. One last statistic to make our case: Combined, the Bucs and Falcons are allowing 58.2 points per game this year. In the last six games they have played against each other, the average final total was 58. Load'em up. Fire everything.