New Orleans Saints (6-7, 5-8 ATS) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-3, 7-6), 8:20 p.m., SNF
Brolley’s Saints Stats and Trends
The Saints beat the Buccaneers 36-27 as four-point home underdogs back in late October with Jameis Winston at quarterback.
The Saints have had different quarterbacks over the last two seasons, but they’re now 3-1 ATS and outright in four matchups against Tom Brady.
New Orleans snapped a three-game ATS losing streak and five-game outright losing streak with its victory over the Jets last week.
Alvin Kamara is one of the few running backs who move the needle, and he gave the Saints’ offense a much-needed injection of life in his first game back after a month-long layoff. He posted season-highs in carries (27) and rushing yards (120) on his way to his fifth game with 20+ FP in nine tries this season. The Saints’ roster is getting back to full health, and they’ll need to be at their best in a matchup with the Buccaneers this week. Kamara posted 19/61/1 rushing and 3/15 receiving when these teams met in Week 8.
Taysom Hill has been everything his fantasy owners were hoping for when they plugged him into their lineups starting in Week 13, and he’s hung 24+ FP in his first two games. He has needed some good fortune to get home in both games, though, with a 70-yard TD pass against Dallas’ prevent defense in Week 13 and two rushing TDs late in their victory over the Jets last week. Saints QBs Winston and Trevor Siemian combined 215/2 passing and 6/42 rushing when they played the Bucs back in Week 8. The Buccaneers just got gashed for 109/1 rushing by Josh Allen last week, and Jalen Hurts posted 44/2 rushing back in Week 6.
Marquez Callaway (24 routes) jumped ahead of Tre’Quan Smith (21) last week, but neither player did anything for fantasy with just 2/34 receiving and 3/33 receiving, respectively. TE Nick Vannett has actually been the most consistent fantasy receiver in this offense with 7+ FP in three straight games (yes, it’s that bad) after posting 3/44 receiving on six targets and 21 routes last week. The Saints didn’t have a single receiver reach 40+ yards when these teams met in Week 8, and Smith led the group in fantasy production with a receiving TD.
Brolley’s Buccaneers Stats and Trends
The Buccaneers have covered four straight games, and they’ve covered five consecutive games at home.
Tom Brady is now the odds-on favorite (-150) to win the NFL MVP with multiple touchdown passes in eight of his last nine games. He completed 31/46 passes for 363 yards (7.9 YPA) and two TDs in their victory over the Bills — he was the first QB to reach 300+ yards against Buffalo this season. Brady has struggled against DC Dennis Allen’s defenses in his first four games with the Buccaneers, posting eight TDs and seven INTs while averaging 255.5 passing yards per game.
Mike Evans ended his two-game scoring drought by catching all six of his targets for 91 yards and one TD against the Bills last week. He’s still one receiving TD behind Cooper Kupp for the league lead. Evans mustered 2/48/1 receiving on four targets when he locked horns with Marshon Lattimore in late October. He’s managed just 8/117 receiving in four games in this matchup with Brady at quarterback, but he does have three touchdowns.
Chris Godwin is on a heater with 25/248 receiving on 32 targets over his last two games, which gives him five performances with 19+ FP in the eight games since Antonio Brown left the lineup. Godwin paced the Buccaneers with 8/140/1 receiving on 12 targets when these teams met in Week 8 after totaling 13/154 receiving on 20 targets in three games with Brady in the fold last season.
Rob Gronkowski posted a ho-hum 5/62 receiving on nine targets against the Bills last week, which gives him 8+ targets, 55+ yards, and 11+ FP in each of his four games since returning to the lineup. Gronk tried to play against the Saints earlier this season but he quickly left with a back injury. The Saints wiped him out in all three games last season, limiting him to a combined 4/27 receiving on 14 targets.
Leonard Fournette is in a bit of danger of missing Week 15 with an ankle injury sidelining him in practice early this week. He’s posted 22+ FP in three straight games and 13+ FP in nine of his last 10 contests. He’s also recorded 6+ targets and 4+ catches in five straight games. Lenny had his second-worst game of the season against the Saints back in Week 8, managing just 8/26 rushing and 3/17 receiving on five targets. Ronald Jones would be in line to take over the majority of the work with Ke’Shawn Vaughn working behind him after Giovani Bernard landed on the injured reserve with a hip injury this week.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.2 (9th)
Plays per game: 65.8 (8th)
Pass: 37.3 (21st) | Run: 28.5 (12th)
Pace: 26.3 (3rd)
Plays per game: 65.6 (9th)
Pass: 66.7% (5th) | Run: 33.3% (28th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
The Saints need a win to stay alive in the NFC Wild Card hunt and they are going to have to open up their playbook a bit to grind out a W over the Bucs. Last week, the Saints went 66% run-heavy against the Jets and they certainly won’t be able to take a similar approach this week as massive road-favorites. There is good news, though. Tampa’s usually stout run defense has quietly cracked as of late and has given up 4.59 YPC to RBs over the last eight weeks, which is eighth-highest in this span.
Much has been made about how the Saints secondary has been Tom Brady’s kryptonite, but the fact of the matter is Tampa isn’t going to alter the game-plan at all here. Want further evidence? Look no further than last week, where the Bucs’ called 48 passes to 22 runs against the Bills stout secondary. Brady won’t be at all afraid to chuck it here.
Overall, this is the No. 1 game in the model between these two fast-paced attacks and I’m optimistic that the Bucs will be able to score, but we need Taysom Hill and the Saints to overcome losing HC Sean Payton for this game to be a shootout.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Dolan’s Vantage Points
Barring a quick and unexpected turnaround, the Saints will be without HC Sean Payton this weekend as he tested positive for COVID-19. He is fully vaccinated and could test out of the protocol if he is asymptomatic, but the Saints are not counting on that.
Defensive Coordinator Dennis Allen will assume the duties of head coach for the December 19th game at Tampa Bay.— New Orleans Saints (@Saints) December 17, 2021
Payton will return to coach the December 27th game against the Miami Dolphins.
“Hill is, at the very least, a mid-tier QB1 for as long as he’s the starter in New Orleans. In his 6 career starts at QB, Hill averages 21.9 FPG.
21.9 FPG, if extrapolated out for the full season, would rank 5th among all QBs, just behind Kyler Murray and just ahead of Matthew Stafford and Jalen Hurts.
And Hill’s floor is basically unmatched. He’s averaging 12.4 rushing FPG in his 6 career starts, which, if sustained for an entire season, would rank as the greatest fantasy QB rushing season of all-time, ahead of 2019 Lamar Jackson (10.8 rushing FPG).
Any fantasy team that’s still competing in the playoffs and doesn’t have a top-5 QB needs to consider Hill as a potential streaming option this week, if he’s available. His Week 15 matchup with Tampa Bay is fairly close to neutral, as the Buccaneers are giving up the 11th-most FPG to opposing QBs (18.8). But, New Orleans are 11.0-point underdogs, so Hill may be forced to throw more often than the Saints would like. With a PFF passing grade of just 44.6, Hill carries more risk of a downside performance than a normal week should he be forced to air the ball out, but I’d still gladly start him as a QB1 given the historically great rushing floor.”
By the way, the Saints will get RB Mark Ingram back from the COVID list this week, one week after Alvin Kamara set a career-high with 27 carries. The Bucs’ run defense is nasty, so Ingram is a low-end FLEX, but Kamara is a must-play RB1.
With the news that Leonard Fournette (ankle) will play on Sunday night, you know how to handle your Bucs. START ‘EM!
Of course, Mike Evans is the one guy you might consider sitting in this matchup given his draw with Marshon Lattimore. You probably don’t have that luxury, but the case is compelling, says Scott Barrett from Start/Sit:
“Now, I’m not actually recommending you to sit Evans (though maybe I am depending on your options), but I will suggest you strongly temper your expectations. Evans ranks 11th in FPG (16.8), but he’s just 22nd in our projections this week, in a brutal matchup against CB Marshon Lattimore’s shadow coverage.
Over the prior two seasons, a Lattimore shadow was typically worth a 19.3% reduction to a WR’s FPG average. Included in that figure are three shadow games against Evans, where he totaled a combined zero yards on five targets when lined up against Lattimore (71% of his routes). Lattimore has shadowed 4 times this season, against Davante Adams, Terry McLaurin, D.K. Metcalf, and Evans. If we ignore just one play (a non-called OPI where Lattimore fell down on the play), he’s held them all to a combined 8.9 FPG on 6.4 targets per game. Of course, Evans had the best outing of the bunch (12.8 fantasy points), but only because he salvaged his day with a touchdown. But he caught just 2 passes for 48 yards on 43 routes run (1.12 YPRR). And that’s sort of how I’m viewing him this week; as a low-end WR2, but more touchdown-or-bust than that ranking implies.”