What was predicted to be a high-scoring affair between two strong NFC South offenses in Week 14 turned into quite the defensive struggle. Buccaneers fans rejoiced for the fifth straight victory and an attention-getting defensive performance; fantasy owners were a little less than thrilled.
In the very first week of the fantasy football playoffs, Buccaneers and Saints players put up the following point totals in the first Bucs vs. Saints matchup, with a comparison to their season average included below.
Defenses, kickers and one Doug Martin (the game's only touchdown scorer) all exceeded their season averages, the rest of the position players were not as rewarding for their fantasy owners.
So what do we expect in the Week 16 matchup that just so happens to fall in the fantasy football championship week in most leagues? Will we see a game like the experts' originally predicted with plenty of yards and points to go around? Or will it be more of the defensive struggle of two week ago?
But that's the fun, isn't it? No matter which outcome is true, the Buccaneers and Saints have certainly shown on the field that this will be a game to watch. Playoff implications, a division rivalry, and the potential for either an offensive shootout or a low-scoring struggle… This is a football game!
Still, that is not why you're here. So of course we have to take our best guess in this all-important fantasy football week. And with so much on the line – in an always exciting matchup – we're going with,"Start 'em."
New Orleans Saints
If you were lucky enough to squeeze by in Week 14 with Drew Brees as your starter, then chances are you still have him to thank for getting you this far (four touchdowns last weekend). And you always start your starters. The Buccaneers defense had his number in the first meeting, intercepting him three times and holding him without a touchdown, but Week 16 is a new week. Brees has just three games with fewer than 14 fantasy points this season.
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The Saints only ran the ball 16 times in the last game, with Mark Ingram having seven totes to Tim Hightower's six. Ingram has just 13 fantasy points in the last three games combined. Hightower is still getting fewer carries than Ingram, but he did score on two of his 11 last week against the Cardinals. The Buccaneers allowed 26 running back fantasy points last week. Ingram should be a fantasy starter this week, while Hightower is a much riskier play, but still a flex option in a pinch.
The Saints should have all three healthy wide receiver options and, as we wrote last time, any one of them could have a big game. Brandin Cooks was heavily involved last week, putting up 186 yards and two scores for 30 fantasy points. Michael Thomas returned to action and had 11 points. They are the most reliable options at receiver for the Saints. Willie Snead has had an up-and-down season, but did lead the team in receiving points against the Bucs last time. Despite being the number-three receiver, he is still worth a flex play.
TE Coby Fleener had no points last time against the Bucs with just one catch for six yards. He had just one fantasy point last week against the Cardinals despite the Saints putting 48 on the scoreboard. The Buccaneers have given up points to productive tight ends in the past, but it is hard to trust Fleener with more reliable options at the position.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After a number of Buccaneers players started the season off hot, they have cooled down in recent weeks, even as the team has kept winning. QB Jameis Winston had posted seven straight games with at least 15 points before facing the Saints, where he scored just eight. He had nine points last week against the Cowboys when he had two touchdowns and 247 yards countered by four turnovers. Still, only one team has allowed more passing yards per game this year than the Saints. A number of top quarterbacks are facing good lineups this week, but Winston could still be a more high-reward option than players like Mariota, Roethlisberger or Dalton.
Doug Martin found the end zone last time against the Saints, who have allowed 17 touchdowns on the ground this season. In eight career games against the Saints, Martin averages 94 yards from scrimmage per game and has three touchdowns. With a lot riding on this game for the Bucs, expect Martin to be the workhorse and start him as usual.
A look back at all of the match-ups between the Buccaneers and the Saints.
Mike Evans has games of five, four and five fantasy points over the last three weeks, which is certainly frustrating for fantasy owners, but he also has double-digit scores in eight of the 11 games before that. Evans is ripe for a "welcome back" type of game and will be Winston's top target if the matchup turns into a shootout. Evans remains a starter.
Other targets for Winston are WR Adam Humphries, who could be a flex option as a high-risk, high-reward type of player (see his 42-yard touchdown reception from last week). TE Cameron Brate has actually led the team in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns over the last three weeks. He has been a top NFL tight end during the fantasy playoff run and should be a starter in all formats.