This game features a Buccaneers team that has a bottom-four pass rush grade from Pro Football Focus and a bottom-half coverage grade, against a Giants team that has the worst coverage grade and the worst pass rush grade in the league.
This game also features the installation of Daniel Jones under center for the Giants(!), after he looked excellent in the preseason, dominating in the short areas of the field (especially the short middle), and also working downfield with success. There are sure to be growing pains for the number six overall pick, but Jones is an upgrade to expectations for all players in this offense.
“This offense” will, of course, consist of Evan Engram, Saquon Barkley, and — assuming he returns from concussion this week (as expected) — Sterling Shepard.
We’ll start with Shepard, who has been used in more of a Stefon Diggs role in this offense than in the “strict possession role” most seem to picture him having — with plenty of short throws to get the ball into his hands, but also with plenty of downfield looks. If Shepard does indeed return to the field this week, he should be a focal point, with eight or more targets a fair bet to make (and with a few of these targets coming 15+ yards downfield). (Note: If Shep misses, Cody Latimer is also expected to miss — leaving Bennie Fowler as a legitimate threat for seven or more targets, and making him intriguing in large-field tourneys, especially as the Giants showed last week that they are willing to attack downfield with him, giving him three targets of 20+ yards that all went incomplete, as part of 10 targets in all.)
In the early going this season, the Bucs defense has been hit by both Gorge Kittle and Greg Olsen, and Engram should be heavily involved once again this week after seeing 14 and eight targets through his first two games. Although Engram is used primarily in the shorter areas of the field, there were a few spots last year in which Pat Shurmur chose to unleash him downfield, and the chances of that happening are heightened with the switch under center.
Saquon has the toughest matchup against a Bucs D that has sold out to stop the run so far this season (ranking seventh in Pro Football Focus’ run defense ratings, and ranking first in DVOA) — though it is still early enough for the Bucs’ run defense magic to prove fluky, and Saquon is a matchup-buster who may see a drop in ownership after the Christian McCaffrey dud last week in this matchup. This is the rare week in which Saquon’s floor is a bit shy of Tier 1 at his price; but his ceiling doesn’t go away.
This game is a celebration of concentrated offensive distribution, as the Bucs have only two guys they are throwing to often enough to matter (Mike Evans has 13 targets through two games; Chris Godwin has 15; Breshad Perriman has also seen nine looks, though as this has led to two catches for 10 yards so far, it seems likely his role starts to dwindle). Volume for Evans and Godwin has been lower than we expected heading into the year, but if you want to bet on Daniel Jones having a strong start to his career, it stands to reason that the Bucs will attack with these two at some point — with seven to nine targets a comfortable projection for each guy in this pristine matchup, and with room for those targets to grow from there.
Behind Evans and Godwin, it isn’t crazy to bet on some squeaky wheel treatment for O.J. Howard, who has played 110 snaps to 46 for Cameron Brate, but who has only one more official target than his less-heralded teammate. With how ultra-talented Howard is, he’s a solid upside bet in tourneys, as he has slate-breaking potential in this spot if things come together for him. His usage has been a topic of conversation around the team this week.
This pulls us into the least attractive spot in this game: the Bucs backfield — where Peyton Barber seemed to take over as the lead back once again last week after being outperformed by Ronald Jones in Week 1. The Giants have been less of a weak link against the run, and it’s generally a profitable approach to just avoid the Tampa backfield altogether; but you could touchdown-chase in this spot and hope Barber pushes in a couple scores for a bit of cheap, large-field upside.
JM’s Interpretation ::
With so much to like on this slate, my early-week practice builds and large-field builds largely ignored this game outside of Engram. But as I move through the second half of the week, I’ll be incorporating some more looks from this game to see how these guys stack up against the rest of the slate for me. Right now, it’s looking like Shep // Engram will make a push for Tier 1, while Godwin // Evans will be borderline-1. The quarterbacks look viable in tourneys (though with floors unnecessarily low for cash), while Saquon is viable in tourneys for the upside (duh), and Howard looks like an intriguing Tier 3 option — with his apparently low floor taken into account, but with his slate-breaking ceiling taken into account as well. There’s plenty to like in this game in all; and while both offenses are inconsistent, and both carry some question marks, it’s looking +EV to have a bit of focus placed on this game.
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