Editor’s note: Tampa Bay WR Mike Evans has been ruled out
Game Overview ::
- Between COVID and injuries, the Bucs are going to be hit hard on the offensive side of the ball this week, as Mike Evans (questionable), Chris Godwin (IR), Leonard Fournette (doubtful), Giovanni Bernard (IR), and Breshad Perriman (COVID) are either out or have yet to practice this week.
- DJ Moore has also yet to practice this week due to his hamstring injury, while CMC remains out, and defensive tackle Derrick Brown is on the COVID list.
How tampa bay Will Try To Win ::
While we can’t say we know how the Bucs will approach this game with any degree of confidence, we should be able to discern the fact that Bruce Arians is more likely than not to keep the game in Tom Brady’s hands. The team is expecting Antonio Brown back from injury/suspension, Rob Gronkowski is one of the more trusted members of this pass-catching corps, Breshad Perriman is tentatively expected to return from the COVID list this week, and the sole remaining healthy running backs are Ronald Jones (last week was his first game since Week 2, to have over a modest 19% snap rate) and Ke’Shawn Vaughn (a single touch in only three games this season). All of that doesn’t even mention why Ronald Jones has fallen out of favor with Arians and Brady, which has been primarily due to incorrect routes, missed blocking assignments, and fumbles (mental errors). The no-nonsense ways of Arians and Brady don’t take too kindly to mental lapses. I would almost throw matchup out the window here and instead look to available personnel in our quest to predict how the Bucs approach this game.
As alluded to above, although Ronald Jones excelled without Leonard Fournette last season, there is quite a bit more uncertainty and risk now than last year. The matchup tilts to the ground (24th in DVOA against the run, eighth against the pass), but you’re truly playing with fire when it comes to mental lapses (see Mecole Hardman, pre-2021 Marquez Valdes-Scantling, etc). The spot is theoretically a good one against the run-funnel Panthers defense, so I’ll try and keep the tone more neutral until we get to the end of this section, where I will cover the likelier outcome (in my mind). Leonard Fournette had worked his way into a workhorse role over the previous three weeks, playing a minimum of 80% of the offensive snaps over that time frame, meaning his absence opens up a massive opportunity for the only remaining healthy backs on this roster (Ronald Jones and Ke’Shawn Vaughn). The matchup yields a robust 4.535 net-adjusted line yards metric behind the league’s most efficient run-blocking offensive line, against an opponent yielding just 20.2 fantasy points per game to opposing backfields. Shifting gears again, that’s about where the positives end for RoJo. The Bucs are currently tied with four teams at 10-4 in the NFC, all sitting one game back of the Packers for the lone conference playoff bye. With a beat-up team, numerous players on one-year deals, and Tom Brady not getting any younger (the man doesn’t get older so maybe he just stays the same age?), expect this team to view every contest as a must-win affair down the stretch. As such, I expect Bruce Arians and Tom Brady to keep games in Brady’s hands until each victory is assured.
Dare I say, we might even see an increase to the 67% overall pass rate we’ve seen from this team this season, should this game play close throughout. The problem is (as we’ll cover below), this game playing close throughout means one of two things – either the Panthers are keeping pace in a tough spot, or the Bucs fail on offense. Expect Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski to act as the primary pass-catchers, with Breshad Perriman likely thrust into a near every-down role (assuming he makes it back from the COVID list and assuming Mike Evans can’t go), while Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller split reps on the perimeter, and Cameron Brate and OJ Howard soak up situational duties at tight end. The matchup is a difficult one on paper, as the Panthers rank 11th or better in fantasy points allowed to all of running back (third), wide receiver (ninth), and tight end (12th).
How carolina Will Try To Win ::
Carolina would clearly prefer to maintain a run-balanced approach on offense, but they have largely been unable to do so over the previous month of play (with Cam Newton as the starting quarterback). That has led to the eighth-highest overall pass rate during that time frame (61%). Their pass rate with the score within seven points over that same timeframe, you ask? 42%, second-lowest in the league! So yea, expect the Panthers to begin the game attempting to run the football into a brick wall, and then adopting a more pass-heavy approach once they fall behind. What could be a saving grace in this spot is the propensity of the Bucs defense to give up rushing production to opposing quarterbacks (third-most rush attempts faced and fifth-most yards allowed). Finally, keep an eye on the status of DJ Moore, who has yet to practice this week (as of Thursday afternoon).
The running back situation on the Panthers is a veritable mess. Ameer Abdullah has out-snapped rookie Chuba Hubbard each of the past three games played but has failed to crack a modest eight running back opportunities in any game over the span. Hubbard’s high in running back opportunities over that same time frame is 10. Against the pass-funnel Bucs defense, don’t expect a heavy workload for either back here. Speaking of the matchup, the Panthers are left with a deplorable 3.95 net-adjusted line yards metric against a defense facing the fewest rush attempts per game in the league.
Cam Newton has looked downright atrocious passing the football this season, leading to a paltry 54.9% completion rate, low 6.8 intended air yards per pass attempt, and silly-low 5.5 completed air yards per completion. Add in DJ Moore’s hamstring injury and the fact that he has yet to practice this week (of note, we don’t know if he aggravated the injury last week or if he is being held out of practice as a precaution), and we’re left with not a ton to love from this pass offense outside of the potential for a concentrated offense should Moore miss. Moore’s skillset and route tree mesh better with Cam’s late-career “skill set.” Should Moore miss, we’re likely to see Brandon Zylstra step into a near every-down role alongside Robby Anderson, with rookie Terrace Marshall, Jr. regaining his standard slot role (Zylstra has primarily been filling this role of late). Should Moore play, expect Marshall to be the odd man out. Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble have been splitting snaps almost down the middle since the team’s Week 13 bye. Either way, things do not set up well for this pass offense this week, outside of concentration.
Likeliest Game Flow ::
This one likely comes down to Carolina’s ability to put points on the board, which has been no small task with Cam Newton at quarterback and without Christian McCaffrey (16.5 points per game over Cam’s four starts). This is of particular concern when we consider the fact that Carolina would prefer to run the football until otherwise forced, and the matchup against an extreme pass-filter defense does not bode well for that game plan. That leaves us with three potential likeliest outcomes as far as game flow goes:
-Tampa Bay shuts down the Panthers, muting the upside of their own offense along the way. Slight boost to Ronald Jones.
-The Panthers are able to keep pace, in which case the Bucs passing game gets a significant boost for heavy expected volume.
-Both the Bucs and Panthers offenses fail, in which case volume is the only thing that matters to us.
This is important to understand because we have such concentrated offenses on each side of this game. We’ll go over some of the plays that matter to each individual scenario below.
TOP PLAYS OF THE WEEKEND
SORTABLE GREEN ZONE TOUCHES
TEAM & PLAYER DK POINTS
DFS+ Interpretation ::
By LexMiraglia10 >>
- Cam finally played the full game despite the big loss to BUF, though Darnold may play at some point in this game apparently
- Cam passing since return: 189:2 // 92:0:2 // 178:0:1 // 156:1:1
- Cam rushing since return: 46:1 // 5:1 // 47:1 // 71:1
- QB rushing vs TB: Dak (4:13) // Hurts (10:44:2) // Fields (8:38) // Winston (4:40) // Heinicke (3:15) // Dimes (3:10) // Wentz (3:21) // Allen (12:109:1) // Taysom (10:33)
- TB has allowed 2+ TDs to 8 QBs; 3+ TDs to 5 QBs
- Cam has scored 2+ TDs in both of the games he’s played in full without a benching
- Cam vs Bowles TB Def in 2019: 333:0, 0 rush yds
- Cam has just three 300 yd pass games in the last three seasons (though he’s played less than 1.5 of them)
- Moore has between 7-13 tg in every game, including 10+ in three straight
- Moore’s first 4 games (DK pts): 15.4 // 21.9 // 23.5 // 34.9
- Moore’s last 10 games (DK pts): 8.8 // 11.9 // 13.3 // 9.9 // 7.6 // 6.4 // 16 // 17.3 // 14.4 // 12.8
- Even at his decreased price, he’s only reached 3x his current salary once in those 10 games
- Moore scored 3 TDs in first 4 games, but has just 1 TD since
- Robby since Darnold was benched: 4:37:1 // 5:30 // 1:15 // 7:84:1 // 3:29
- TB has allowed 12 WRs of 60+ yds; 5 WRs of 100+ yds
- Moore has 8 games of 60+ yds, but half came in the opening month
- Moore has the 4th most unrealized air yds, in large part due to an 83rd ranked catchable target rate (per PlayerProfiler)
- Moore career vs Bowles TB: 9:89 // 7:73 // 8:120 // 4:96:1
- Hubbard’s rush att as starter: 13 // 24 // 16 // 12 // 24 // 10 // 8
- Hubbard’s targets as starter: 2 // 6 // 3 // 5 // 2 // 0 // 1
- Hubbard’s yds as starter: 71 // 134 // 65 // 56 // 91 // 33 // 41
- No team has allowed fewer RB rush yds than TB in 2021; No team allowed fewer yds than TB in 2020, with the next closest team allowing nearly 200 yds more; 2019 TB allowed the fewest by 100+ yds as well
- In 20 games last season, Kamara, CMC, & Cook were the only RBs to break 20 DK pts vs TB, and AK & CMC both needed 2 TDs to get there
- Gurley & AK were the only two RBs to break 20 DK pts in 2019 vs TB, and they combined for 17 rec in those 2 games
- TB has allowed four 20+ DK pt scores to RBs in 2021
- Patterson, Gaskin, Herbert, combined for 20 rec
- Patterson, Gaskin, Gibson all scored 2 TDs
- The four RBs: Patterson (7:11:1, 5:58:1) // Gaskin (5:25, 10:74:2) // Herbert (18:100, 5:33) // Gibson (24:64:2, 2:14)
- TB allowed the most RB rec in 2020 and are allowing the 2nd most RB rec in 2021 (6th most RB rec yds)
- Abdullah targets: 5 // 5 // 4 // 0 // 6 // 4 // 4
- Abdullah total yds: 66 // 30 // 51 // 6 // 24 // 33 // 55:1
- CAR ranks 8th in def pass DVOA and has allowed the 4th fewest QB DK pts/g
- CAR has held eight QBs under 200 pass yds, and the others have thrown for 258, 373, 206, 230, 210
- Brady has passed for 250+ yds in 10/14 games (7/14 over 300yds)
- Just 6/14 QBs have multiple TDs vs CAR
- Brady has scored multiple TDs in 11/14 games
- Godwin is out for year, Evans is questionable, AB is expected to return
- Brady vs Snow’s CAR D in 2020: 217:1:1 // 341:3, rush TD
- CAR has allowed the 6th fewest WR DK pts/g (31.9)
- McLaurin is the only WR since 2020 (30 g) to reach 100 yds vs CAR without 7+ rec to get there (Evans, Keenan, Ridley, Julio, Tyreek, Cooks, Thielen, Waddle)
- CAR’s only 20+ pt WRs allowed in 2021: C Davis (5:97:2) // Cooks (9:112) // Thielen (11:126:1) // McLaurin (5:103:1) // Waddle (9:137:1) // G Davis (5:85:2)
- TB WRs vs CAR in 2020: Evans (7:104:1 // 6:77:1) // Godwin (DNP // 6:92) // Brown (DNP // 7:69)
- Godwin was averaging 10.1 tg/g in the 8 since AB got hurt
- AB’s tg to start year (Evans/Godwin played in all): 7 // 3 // 11 // 8 // 13
- AB had 90+ yds in three of his five games before injury: 121:1 // 124:2 // 93:1
- CAR has allowed the 8th lowest success rate to WRs
- Gronk in 2021 (full games): 8:90:2 // 4:39:2 // 4:55 // 6:71 // 7:123 // 4:58:2 // 5:62 // 2:29
- Gronk has just one game below 8 tg all season (5), (8, 8, 8, 10, 8, 9, 11)
- CAR has allowed the 9th lowest success rate & 5th lowest yds/att to TEs
- Notable TEs vs CAR: Schultz (6:58:1) // Goedert (2:28) // Conklin (3:71) // Engram (6:44) // Pitts (2:13) // Henry (2:19:1) // Ertz (4:46) // Gesicki (3:17) // Pitts (5:61) // Knox (4:38)
- TEs to score vs CAR: Jarwin, Schultz, Herndon, Henry, Hurst
- Brate & Gronk both scored vs CAR in 2020
- TB RBs vs CAR in 2020: RoJo (7:23:1 // 23:192:1) // Fournette (12:103:2 // 8:19)
- RoJo’s only games with 7+ att in 2021: 10:63 // 8:33:1 // 7:37:1 // 8:63
- Only RBs with 75+ yds vs CAR: Zeke (143:1) // Cook (143:1) // Stevenson (106), Bolden (81) // Gibson (95) // Davis (86) // Singletary (96:1)
- Fournette vacates 19.1 touches per game, however RoJo has never been as heavily targeted as Fournette was (Vaughn will likely soak up some tg without Gio healthy)
- CAR has allowed the 3rd fewest RB DK pts/g (20.2)