BUCCANEERS // BENGALS OVERVIEW
Buccaneers // Bengals sets up as a fun game between two teams that started the season hot and now need a win in order to maintain a straight shot at a playoff berth, with the 3-3 Bucs traveling to take on the 4-3 Bengals. The Bengals are the better all-around team and have been installed as early-week 4.5 point favorites, but offense should be a factor on both sides of this game. The Bengals rank sixth in drive success rate on offense, while the Bucs rank fifth. These teams rank 30th (Cincy) and 28th (Tampa) in drive success rate allowed. Each defense has also been poor in the red zone, with Tampa allowing the highest red zone touchdown rate in the league, and with Cincy allowing the eighth highest. The Bengals rank second in red zone touchdown offense (the Bucs rank 13th).
These teams are also generous in yards allowed per game (Tampa ranks 29th; Cincy ranks 31st) and points allowed per game (Tampa :: 32nd // Cincy :: 28th). Tampa has piled up the most yards per game in the league (the Bengals surprisingly rank 25th in this category — due primarily to them ranking 27th in plays per game, compared to ninth for the Bucs), and each team ranks top 12 in points per game.
This matchup should yield plenty of sustained drives with some splash plays mixed in (each team ranks in the top eight in “most rush plays of 20+ yards allowed” and “most pass plays of 20+ yards allowed”), to go with very few punts and a good chunk of scoring.
BUCCANEERS PASS OFFENSE
The Buccaneers will take on a Cincinnati pass defense that excels at nothing and is poor at nothing — ranking middle of the pack in aDOT, catch rate allowed, and YAC/R allowed. The Bengals have allowed the sixth most receptions and the sixth most yards to wide receivers (driven largely by the Bengals allowing the third most plays per game), but they have allowed only seven touchdowns to wideouts — an average of one per game. The Bengals typically rush only four guys, hoping to get pressure while the extra bodies in coverage clog up the back end, but too often quarterbacks are finding time for a receiver to peel open through the zone, with Cincy ranking 19th in adjusted sack rate. The Bucs’ line has held up fine this year, ranking 13th in adjusted sack rate. Jameis Winston (first in the NFL in average intended air yards) should have enough time throughout this game to look downfield to his lethal quartet of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, DeSean Jackson, and O.J. Howard.
Ryan Fitzpatrick started this year with three straight 400-yard passing games, and since the game against the Bears in which Fitz and Jameis split time, Jameis has contributed yardage totals of 395 and 365. Five of seven teams have passed for 300+ yards against the Bengals this year, creating plenty of room for optimism in this spot for the visiting offense.
For the third consecutive week, Howard and Godwin run the routes that match up best against the opposing defense. Across the last two games, these guys posted the following stat lines:
:: Godwin — 6-56-1 // 5-59-0
:: Howard — 4-62-1 // 5-67-0
These lines don’t stand out against what Godwin and Howard have done in other matchups this year, but this matchup should solidify floor for each player, even in this pass attack that has four guys who genuinely command targets (with two additional guys — in Cameron Brate and Adam Humphries — who are better than most people realize, and who have a not-sexy-for-DFS, but valuable-in-real-life role in this offense).
The other two who command targets are Jackson and Evans. Only five teams have allowed more pass plays of 20+ yards than the Bengals, which bodes well for each of these guys — with Jackson boasting the fourth deepest aDOT in the NFL, and with Evans joining Jackson with eight receptions of 20+ yards (tied for 13th most in the league). Jackson has seen target counts on the year of 5 // 4 // 5 // 8 // 9 // 5, and he has maintained a respectable floor even in the games he has failed to hit — with only one dud on the year. It is genuinely impossible to know for certain the spots in which DJax will hit; but this is an average to above-average spot for him, and he pairs his respectable floor with above-average ceiling.
Evans is usually a tough sell for me, as I prefer to pay up for guys who can provide fantasy points in multiple ways (i.e., yards after the catch — which Evans does not provide, annually ranking near the bottom of the league in YAC per reception), but as a “yardage and touchdown” guy, this is as good a spot as any for him to hit. This shapes up as a high-volume spot for the Bucs’ passing attack as a whole, which will give Evans a chance to push for double-digit looks. As always, he carries multi-touchdown potential — which is primarily what we are targeting when taking a shot with him.
Humphries has seen more downfield looks with Jameis under center, but he is still the “short route” guy in this offense, giving him the least upside of the bunch. Brate is heavily touchdown-dependent, with three touchdowns on the season, but with zero games above four targets.
BUCCANEERS RUN OFFENSE
Peyton Barber missed practice on Wednesday with an unspecified injury — though our assessment of this spot shouldn’t change much from one back to the other (Ronald Jones looked like he was in way over his head in the preseason, and we should remember that this is a high-round draft pick that the Bucs have every incentive to get onto the field — and he has still not been able to leap-frog Barber).
The Bucs’ big issue in the run game has been their offensive line, which ranks 31st in adjusted line yards, leading to Barber averaging 3.5 yards per carry on the year (and Jones averaging 2.6). This is a disappointment, as the Bengals rank 28th in adjusted line yards and 29th in yards allowed per carry. Only five teams have allowed more yards on the ground to running backs — and while these backs are not really equipped to take advantage, only five teams have allowed more yards through the air.
Of course, these backs have had good matchups before, including last week against Cleveland. Barber’s range is somewhere between what he did against Cleveland (3.0 fantasy points) and what he did the week before against Atlanta (20.6 DraftKings/FantasyDraft points; 18.6 FanDuel points). It goes without saying that the lower score is more likely for guys in this backfield, but don’t discount the touchdown-driven upside in large-field tourneys.
BENGALS PASS OFFENSE
The Bengals’ pass offense has been up and down lately, with Andy Dalton failing to crack 250 yards his last three games, after topping 330 in back-to-back games. It may be a stretch, but it is worth noting that both of the games in which Dalton truly struggled (KC // Pit) came against defenses that essentially force quarterbacks to attack downfield. Tampa is allowing a league-average aDOT, and their zone defense is designed to keep the ball short. Of more concrete importance: Tampa ranks 24th in adjusted sack rate this year. Dalton has a long tradition of playing better when he is not pressured, and so far this year he has a 74.4 quarterback rating when pressured and a 97.0 rating when not pressured.
As noted every week: the Bucs tackle well (shaving over 6% off the league-average YAC/R rate), and they don’t allow a lot of downfield passes, but they cannot prevent teams from completing passes, ranking 32nd in catch rate allowed. This leads to drives continuing, and it leads to yards (and receptions) piling up. This is a great setup for A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd — each of whom has a locked-in workload in this offense.
Green is currently riding one of the workload spikes he has seen from time to time throughout his career, with target counts in his last three games of 10 // 12 // 14, up from 8 // 9 // 8 // 8 in the first four games of the season. (These spikes always tend to come in bunches. Incredibly, Green has never, in his entire career, seen double-digit looks in four consecutive games — a personal record he’s in good position to finally break this week.) Green is priced up for his name, but he has the ceiling to justify the price if the targets are there. (Even when the targets don’t spike, Green can sneak in some upside with his red zone role, as evidenced by his five-catch, three-touchdown game against the Ravens.)
Boyd saw his targets dip last week in a poor all-around game for the Bengals, but before that game he had seen target counts on the year of 5 // 9 // 7 // 15 // 7 // 9. He projects for seven to nine looks in this spot, giving him a solid floor, while his own end zone prowess (three touchdowns on seven red zone targets) gives him a solid ceiling.
Behind these guys, C.J. Uzomah has seen erratic usage. Last week, a floundering Bengals team sold out to target Green, leaving behind Uzomah in a good tight end matchup. This is another good matchup for tight ends, so as long as the Bengals spread the wealth the way they did against Pittsburgh in Week 6, Uzomah will have a chance to pick up another respectable game.
BENGALS RUN OFFENSE
The Bucs have a genuinely strong run defense, ranking third in adjusted line yards and 10th in DVOA, while allowing only 3.56 yards per carry to running backs. The Bucs also rank middle of the pack in receptions allowed to running backs. But as noted last week: they do allow a lot of touchdowns to running backs (nine in all so far), as opponents spend a lot of time near the goal line against this Bucs defense that cannot stop drives. Joe Mixon carries only a moderate yardage projection in this spot (lowering his floor), but you could bet on the touchdown upside, hoping for a multi-score game from a back who gets regular touches in the red zone, for a team that projects to punch in three to five scores in all.
As exciting as the Bucs’ passing attack always is, there is no getting around the fact that they spread the ball around to six different guys — making it difficult for any one guy to post a monster score. I would hand out the following summaries to each guy:
Evans :: Tougher for him to hit slate-breaking ceiling than it is for some of the names priced around him, but he carries a solid floor and a strong ceiling
Jackson :: Great upside, and the floor is…not great, but not back-breaking, either
Godwin :: He has established a reliable range this season, and this matchup sets him up to land in that range once again
Howard :: People are underrating Howard; he is consistently involved with high-upside targets, and this is a good matchup for tight ends (Cincy has allowed the most receptions and the third most yards to the position)
Brate // Humphries :: These two are nothing more than spoilers in this offense, but they could reasonably be added to one or two teams in a multi-entry game stack approach, in case lightning strikes
My favorite play on this side of the ball is Jameis, as he’s the surest bet on the slate for a 300-yard game, and there will be plenty of scoring opportunities. I would be fine playing Jameis without a stacking partner, and in tournaments I would feel comfortable playing him with multiple stacking partners. This offense spreads the wealth enough that no one is guaranteed to hit; but this offense also piles up enough volume that all of these guys carry solid floor, and one or two should hit for ceiling.
On the Bengals, I don’t love the price on Green or Boyd — but realistically, each guy is appropriately priced, rather than overpriced. I’ll have both guys on my early-week list, though on my Main Team, I’ll probably be looking to grab some truly “underpriced” guys instead. I could see playing Dalton (though I like Jameis more), and Mixon carries a lower floor than normal, but his ceiling remains intact with the multi-touchdown potential in place.