REDSKINS // BUCCANEERS OVERVIEW
This week, the first-place, 5-3, injury-wrecked Redskins will travel to Tampa to take on the bad-but-entertaining 3-5 Buccaneers in a matchup of extremely contrasting styles of play. The Bucs play at a top eight pace while Washington plays at a bottom five pace. Tampa ranks sixth in pass play rate while Washington ranks 22nd. And the Buccaneers’ offense is built around downfield passing, while the Redskins try to avoid downfield passing at all costs. This week, Washington lost both of their starting guards for the season, while Paul Richardson was put on Injured Reserve with his lingering shoulder issue. Starting left tackle Trent Williams missed Sunday’s game, and Washington’s lone true playmaker in Chris Thompson has played only one game since Week 5.
The good news for Washington, of course, is that they are taking on a Tampa team that ranks 28th in drive success rate allowed, and that is dealing with injuries of their own that have led to them being susceptible on the ground these days, in addition to their well-documented issues through the air.
Washington’s goal in this game will be to control the game on the ground as much as possible — slowing down the pace and hopefully taking a lead that can force Ryan Fitzpatrick into mistakes as he becomes more and more aggressive.
Tampa’s goal will be the opposite. They will try to jump out to an early lead that will put pressure on Washington to become more aggressive than they typically like to be. This will be a truly intriguing pairing of styles — and while the uncertainty introduced by this type of setup may prove to be too much for this game to be heavily considered in cash games, we will likely find some strong tourney options that emerge from this spot.
You know the drill by now: Tampa is one of the most aggressive offenses in the NFL — and while this has led to them giving the ball away 21 times (the second most giveaways in the league), this has also led to them ranking seventh in the NFL in points per game and second in the NFL in yards per game. Furthermore, the Bucs cannot run the ball (29th in yards per carry; 23rd in rush attempts on the year), which has led to them piling up the most passing yards per game and the second most passing touchdowns in the NFL. Tampa plays at a fast pace and ranks sixth in pass play rate, which has allowed them to run the fourth most plays per game while still allowing a middling number of opponent plays per game. And with all of this, the Bucs have allowed the most points per game and the fourth most yards per game in the league, while allowing the second most yards per pass attempt in the league and giving up 22 passing touchdowns to only one interception. Frankly, it is a shame (and a waste) that Washington will likely try to lean on the run early in this game. This may give Washington their best shot at a win, but it will limit opportunities on what is routinely one of the best DFS spots on any given slate.
From a DFS perspective, an optimal scenario would call for the Redskins to fall behind early — which would lead to Smith pushing toward 40 pass attempts. This happened in Week 2 against Indy (46 pass attempts), in Week 5 against New Orleans (39 pass attempts), and in Week 9 against Atlanta (46 pass attempts). Atlanta — with their high-powered offense, and with their below-average aDOT but high catch rate allowed on defense — is the closest cousin of the Bucs, and the Redskins’ Week 9 game against the Falcons provides a convenient blueprint of how they are likeliest to attack in this spot if Tampa takes a lead.
After falling behind against Atlanta last week, Washington threw the ball 46 times, with only three of these passes traveling more than 20 yards downfield. Smith had another seven throws that traveled 15 to 20 yards, and he went one of seven on these attempts. In all, he completed two of his 10 passes that traveled 15+ yards (with one interception), while completing 28 of his other 36 passes. If Washington scores an early touchdown and figures out how to run the ball behind their beat-up offensive line, this entire passing attack will go into the tank. But if the Bucs jump out to a lead (or if Washington fails to get anything going on the ground), we should once again see a good 22 to 28 short completions from this offense — creating an interesting situation for targeting volume-based upside.
In last week’s high-passing affair, targets on the Redskins looked like this:
The targets to Doctson and Richardson (which may now be Doctson and Michael Floyd, with Richardson out) are largely wasted, as Smith is uncomfortable pushing the ball outside the numbers. He has yet to produce more than 63 yards to either of these guys.
Harris is a non-pedigree player, but he has provided reliable value for Smith across his last four games, catching 18 of 21 passes while providing a body over the middle and toward the sidelines on the short routes Smith prefers to take (and that the Bucs prefer to give). Harris’ relevance is dependent on two things: 1) The absence of Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder, and 2) the Bucs jumping out to a lead. We’ll know before kickoff if CT and Crowder are playing. You can then guess if you think Washington will be forced into pass-heavy mode.
Smith rarely attacks up the seam, which has left Reed flattening out his routes and seeing most of his work on sideline-breaking routes within five yards of the line of scrimmage. This has been enough to provide respectable floor but poor ceiling. A bet on Reed at this point is a bet on extreme volume or a change in role. Reed has not topped 43 yards in five consecutive games.
Davis has cracked 43 yards in two of his last four games, as Washington has been using him on routes that get his momentum moving upfield while refusing to do the same for Reed. For whatever reason, Gruden’s designs have Reed running lower-upside routes — and while it is true that these trends can change, this has been a consistent theme throughout the Redskins’ season. Davis played 31 snaps last week to 38 for Reed and should be involved once again if Washington is forced to lean toward the pass.
When Thompson is out, the backs are barely involved in the pass game. A bet on Peterson is a bet on 1) The Redskins opening holes with their backup guards, and 2) The Redskins’ defense keeping Tampa’s aggressive attack in check.
If Thompson returns, he will immediately become an important part of this offense, and he will be the likeliest piece to soak up valuable targets if the Redskins fall behind.
BUCCANEERS RUN OFFENSE
Although Washington has not been particularly dominant against the run, teams are simply choosing not to attack this front — in the same way teams around the league avoid the run defenses of the Panthers and the Eagles. On the year, the Redskins have faced the fourth highest opponent pass play rate in the league, which has led to them facing the second fewest rush attempts in the NFL. The Bucs, on the other hand, have the 10th fewest rush attempts in the league, and only two teams have fewer rushing yards. Peyton Barber has yet to top 85 rushing yards in a game, and outside of an outlier game against the Falcons (24 receiving yards), he has yet to crack double-digits in yards through the air. Regardless of game flow, we should expect the Bucs to lean on the pass.
BUCCANEERS PASS OFFENSE
Washington’s defense tries to capitalize on forcing short throws (they have forced the third lowest aDOT in the NFL), while tackling well after the catch — but with a league-average catch rate allowed and a league-average YAC/R rate allowed, opponents are managing to keep drives going, and to pile up yards through the air, creating an average to slightly-above-average matchup for opposing wide receivers. The issue for us as DFS players, of course — in targeting Tampa pass catchers — has little to do with the matchup and much to do with the often-reiterated “too many mouths to feed on this offense” problem. Targets on this offense across the last four weeks look like this:
Because each pass catcher in this offense has clear and consistent responsibilities, we can often narrow things down a bit based on the way the matchup sets up. For example: against Atlanta, we liked Godwin and Howard the most, and each guy topped 50 yards and scored a touchdown. And last week, we liked Howard at tight end and “Humphries and/or Godwin” as salary savers with solid floor and sneaky potential for upside. Howard (4-53-2) and Humphries (8-82-2) proved to be true difference-makers on the slate, but Godwin (2-40-0) played only 37 snaps and posted a dud. This is the concern when targeting these three pieces on this offense: any of these three can disappear on a given week. This week, the matchup sets up no better for any one over the other, but Howard has shown true and consistent playmaking ability (he genuinely ranks as a top five tight end in the league right now, in my estimation — and PFF actually has him rated out as the number one pass-catching tight end, just ahead of Kelce and Kittle), while Humphries is seeing far more consistent time on the field than Godwin. Of course, along with that comes the fact that Howard has (terrifyingly) topped four targets only three times all season, while Humphries has only two targets inside the 10-yard-line (compared to nine for Godwin — the third-most in the NFL). There is risk on all these guys, but there is potential for reward as well, in one of the most bankable high-scoring offenses in the league.
The safest bet on this offense is Evans, who is a clear bounce-back candidate after failing to a 1-16-0 line last week on a whopping 10 targets (a poor followup to his spectacular 6-179-1 line the week before). Through eight games, Evans has posted three disappointments, two solid scores, and three elite scores. He has seen double-digit looks in five of his last seven games. This matchup sets up no better or worse for him than it does for anyone else on this offense.
The highest point-per-dollar bet is Jackson, whose role is also clear, with only three games all year north of five targets, but with zero games below four targets. Jackson will get his deep shots, and he will either hit or not. If he hits, he becomes one of the more valuable pieces on the slate. If he misses, he disappoints. Further analysis is largely wasted, as the truth is as simple as “he hits or he doesn’t,” though this does seem like a spot in which DJax is less likely to see a spike in targets, as Tampa is facing a non-aggressive opponent.
Washington’s side of the ball probably requires too much guesswork for me to want these guys near my Main Team on a week with plenty to like in other spots, but I do think that Harris and Davis make for interesting pieces if building with the belief that Tampa will be as successful through the air as they have been for much of the season. Throwing Harris and/or Davis onto a roster with Evans and/or DJax could be a fun way to capture quite a bit of upside if Tampa can strike early. Harris has a respectable aDOT of 9.0, which gives him at least some shot at upside.
As is the case almost every week: I like Tampa’s passing attack, though I’m not quite sure where to go on it this week. Evans’ price stands out this week across all three sites, as his inconsistency popped up last week, but we were reminded of his ceiling just the week before. Especially in tourneys, this is a strong play — but I’ll also have Main Team consideration here. Away from Evans, I’m not sure I could pull the trigger on anything for small-field stuff, but Howard and DJax are always in play for their upside. I’ll likely take a stand against Humphries this week in the belief that last week was ‘Humphries Week,’ and that those who chase will see him land in his lower range; but that’s simply a game theory play, as there is nothing in this matchup to suggest Humphries is any more or less likely than normal to hit.
Naturally, I will also have interest in Ryan Fitzpatrick. Sometimes for better (Week 6 against Atlanta; Week 9 against Carolina), sometimes for worse (Week 4 against Chicago, Week 8 against Cincy), you can always tempt me with a Tampa quarterback this year. Patrick Mahomes is the only quarterback in the NFL with more passing touchdowns than “Tampa QB,” and no quarterback in the league has more yards than what Fitz and Jameis have combined for. It’s not always pretty, but they continue to play aggressive football and get the DFS job done.