If the NFL oddsmakers are correct, the Saints vs. Buccaneers game on Sunday could mean big points for fantasy owners in the first week of their playoffs. Sunday's game at Raymond James Stadium is the only game of the week predicted to have more than 50 points scored, which could be fantasy gold for those who have Buccaneers or Saints players in their lineups.
Both teams' fantasy defenses have picked it up in recent weeks. Though the Saints defense did not have any fantasy points last week, they had 23 points total in their previous three matchups. The Buccaneers defense has been on fire during their four-game win streak, with performances of 25, 5, 18 and 12. It is not often that a defense can secure you a victory in any particular week, but those who rolled with the Bucs DST during the road to the playoffs were rewarded.
This week though, it could be best to keep both on the bench. The Saints offense has given opposing fantasy defenses negative point totals in four games this season. The Buccaneers offense has been great at limiting defensive points all season long, with eight of their 12 games resulting in five points or fewer for opposing fantasy defenses.
But of course, the reason we're here is to look at the skill players on each team and try to figure out just how the day's fantasy points will be divided. So, without further ado, let's take a look at the lineups.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
QB Jameis Winston has the 11th-most points of any fantasy quarterback, breaking the 200 mark on the season last week with another 15-point performance. He has at least 15 points in every game since the bye. He should be in for another big one this week as the Saints average 17.2 points per game to opposing QBs. The Saints allow the 2nd-most passing yards per game in the NFL, making Winston a very strong option as a starting quarterback this week.
A look back at all of the match-ups between the Buccaneers and the Saints.
RB Doug Martin has put up strong performances since coming back from injury. Last week he had 68 total yards and a rushing touchdown for 12 fantasy points. The Saints allow 19.2 points per week to opposing running backs this season, three points more than the league average. They've tightened up in recent weeks, having not allowed more than 16 points over the last five games. With Jacquizz Rodgers and Charles Sims potentially in the mix, Martin could have a lightened workload. Still, Martin and Sims have proved they can both be effective when sharing the backfield. Martin finished third in the NFL in running back fantasy points last year, while Sims was 22nd, with 115 points of his own. Martin should be in your lineup if you have him.
Even with offenses game-planning specifically for him, WR Mike Evans has the second most points of any fantasy wide receiver this season, and will face the defense that is allowing the 13th-most points to receivers. Of course, Evans should be in your starting lineup.
Things get interesting after Evans though for the Bucs' pass catchers. The Buccaneers lost WR Cecil Shorts to IR last week and Adam Humphries has been ruled out for this game. That leaves TE Cameron Brate, WR Russell Shepard, WR Freddie Martino and WR Josh Huff with great opportunities to stack up fantasy points.
Pictures of Cameron Brate during the Bucs' game against the Chargers.
Last week, Brate had a 14-point game, making him the sixth-highest scoring tight end in the league this year. Shockingly, he is still available in nearly 35% of ESPN leagues. If you're in the playoffs and not happy about your tight end situation, look for Brate, who could make all the difference in the coming weeks. He has six touchdowns this season, tied for the most among TEs, and he led the team in receptions and yardage last week.
Starting any other Buccaneers receiver is certainly rolling the dice, but the Saints should be paying extra attention to Evans, leaving a lot of one-on-one opportunities for the Buccaneers' other weapons. Shepard leads the aforementioned group of receivers in points this season with 30. Freddie Martino had five last week. While none are safe choices for standard leagues, either could be used as a very inexpensive option in daily fantasy formats.
New Orleans Saints
With 21.3 fantasy points per game, Drew Brees is an obvious starter each and every week. He was held to just seven points last week, his lowest total of the season, but he has at least 24 points in six games this year. It is worth noting that while the Buccaneers have allowed 17.1 points per game this season to opposing quarterbacks, it has been a different story during the win streak, where they are holding QBs to just 12 points per game.
RB Mark Ingram comes into this game with a questionable designation. He was listed as questionable last week as well and saw just 12 touches for four fantasy points. He could potentially split carries with Tim Hightower, which would lessen his stock, so keep an eye on his status going into the game.
The wide receiver position for the Saints has been frustrating for fantasy owners this season. Three receivers are owned in more than 80% of ESPN leagues and predicting which one will have a big day has been a headache for fantasy enthusiasts all season. Michael Thomas had 22 points in Week 12 while WR Brandin Cooks was shut out and Willie Snead had nine points thanks to a 50-yard passing touchdown. The Lions' defense held all three in check last week, with the trio scoring just a combined 14 fantasy points. Of course, ranked 11th at his position, Thomas should be in your starting lineup if you have him. Same for Cooks, who trails Thomas by just three points this year. Snead has just three games with double-digit fantasy points this season, he is an unpredictable flex option.