Tampa Bay Buccaneers (8-3, 5-6 ATS) at Atlanta Falcons (5-6, 5-6), 1 p.m.
Brolley’s Buccaneers Stats and Trends
The Buccaneers won and covered 48-25 over the Falcons in mid-September as 13.5-point home favorites in a game totaled at 52 points.
Tampa Bay has covered 2-of-3 games in this series with Tom Brady involved.
The Buccaneers are 1-5 ATS in their last six road games.
Leonard Fournette is coming off a nuclear performance against the Colts last week, hanging 17/100/3 rushing and 7/31/1 receiving for 44.1 FP. He’s now posted 13+ FP and 16+ touches in seven of his last eight games. Fournette managed 11/52 rushing and 4/24 receiving against the Falcons in Week 2.
Tom Brady took a backseat to Fournette last week, completing 25/34 passes for 226 yards (5.9 YPA), one TD, and one INT. Brady has finished with fewer than 6.6 YPA in three straight starts and he has tossed six INTs in his last four contests, and it looks like he won’t get Antonio Brown back from his heel injury this week. Brady completed 24/36 passes for 276 yards (7.7 YPA) and five TDs in this matchup earlier this season.
Mike Evans is coming off a disappointing 3/16 receiving on five targets against the Colts, which ended his four-game run with six TDs. He’s now finished with three or fewer catches in four of his last six games. Evans feasted against the Falcons earlier this season, managing 5/75/2 receiving on nine targets.
Chris Godwin had a four-game run with 12+ FP and 6+ catches snapped last week with just 4/24 receiving on five targets. He owns a 17% target share in Gronk’s five full games compared to his 22% share in Tampa’s other six games. Godwin hung 4/62/1 receiving on five targets against Atlanta in Week 2.
Rob Gronkowski has recorded 4+ catches in each of his five full contests with 19+ FP in three of those contests and 8+ targets in four games He’s been the TE1 when he’s been on the field with 18.2 FPG. Gronk went for 4/39/2 receiving on five targets in this matchup earlier this season.
Brolley’s Falcons Stats and Trends
The Falcons and Buccaneers have played over the total in seven straight games and in 10-off-11 games in this series.
Atlanta is 1-4 ATS in its last five home games
The Falcons are 4-1 toward unders in their last five games.
Cordarrelle Patterson came into last week as a true game-time decision with an ankle injury that forced him to miss in Week 11, and he left Week 12 as the RB4 with 27.5 FP. He gave the Falcons’ offense a much-needed shot in the arm with 16/108/2 rushing and 2/27 receiving on three targets, which gives him 14+ FP in his last eight full contests. He started his current run and his fantasy breakout in Week 2 against this week’s opponent, the Buccaneers, by posting 5/58/1 receiving and 7/11/1 rushing.
Matt Ryan has fallen below 12 FP, 200 passing yards, and 30 attempts in four of his last five games with seven INTs over that span. He threw two pick-sixes to Mike Edwards the first time these teams played in Week 2, and he completed 35/46 passes for 300 yards (6.5 YPA) and two TDs overall.
Kyle Pitts has hit a major rough patch with 10 or fewer FP in five straight games, which includes three performances with 30 or fewer yards. The Jaguars were the latest defense focused on limiting Pitts’ contributions against the Calvin Ridley-less Falcons, holding him to just 2/26 receiving on six targets (21% share). Pitts has scored just one touchdown this season despite seeing the fifth-most red-zone targets at the position with 16 — just four of those targets have come in the end zone. Pitts looked poised for an incredible run after he posted 16/282/1 receiving in consecutive games in Weeks 5-7, but he’s now finished with 10 or fewer FP in 8-of-11 contests this season. Pitts managed 5/73 receiving on six targets in this matchup earlier this season with Ridley still around.
Russell Gage paced this pathetic passing attack for a second straight game in Week 12, posting 6/62/1 receiving on seven targets (24% share) for a season-best 18.2 FP. Gage has a rock-bottom floor with two goose eggs since their Week 6 bye, but he’s been a viable PPR option in his other four games in that span with a combined 22/242/2 receiving. He caught five passes for 28 yards when these teams played earlier this season with Ridley still in the mix.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 28.2 (19th)
Plays per game: 65.4 (7th)
Pass: 64.5% (6th) | Run: 35.5% (27th)
Pace: 28.4 (20th)
Plays per game: 58.4 (30th)
Pass: 61.9% (15th) | Run: 38.1% (18th)
All pace / play data is from the last eight weeks.
The Bucs’ are simple each and every week: They are going to throw the ball around at will for as long as this game is remotely close. Over their last eight games, Tampa is the most pass-heavy team when the game is close (68%), they are sixth in pass rate when trailing (71%), and fifth when leading (62%). Now, how long this game is competitive is another question. Atlanta’s offense has been exposed in recent weeks because they have no weapons other than Patterson and Pitts with Ridley out. The Falcons have scored fewer than 21 points in four of their last 5 games and hit four unders in this span as a result. We need Atlanta to show up offensively for this game to be a shootout, and I’m not at all confident in that happening with the Bucs’ getting healthier defensively.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Chris Godwin will work against untested 2021 second-rounder Richie Grant, a safety-to-nickel convert out of UCF. While Grant’s numbers don’t fulfill the parameters to be included among the 39 qualified slot corners, placing his metrics alongside those that do will undoubtedly draw your interest. His 1.35 YPCS would rank him 29th-best, the 0.42 FP/CS he’s allowed would rank dead last, and only four other qualified defenders at any position (all safeties) have permitted a TPR higher than his 141.8. Oh my. The Godwin Particle is going to skin himself a youngster come Sunday.
The health status repercussions of underappreciated superstar outside corner Jamel Dean affects extend beyond Atlanta’s wideouts. Without Dean, who is questionable, the Bucs could be forced to rely upon Sean Murphy-Bunting and Pierre Desir on the outside. Rather than using safeties Jordan Whitehead and Antoine Winfield Jr. to track the comings-and-goings of athletic phenomenon Kyle Pitts, they will need to devote quite a bit of their attention toward containing the Falcons’ WRs that, while underwhelming on paper, are more than capable of doing significant damage with Matt Ryan’s are at their disposal.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Bucs have been running the living daylights out of the ball and won’t get Antonio Brown back this week from a lengthy ankle injury, which is good news for the fantasy value WRs Chris Godwin and Mike Evans.
Antonio Brown doubtful for #Falcons game, per Bruce Arians. Some heel issues along with ankle, he indicated.— Joey Knight (@TBTimes_Bulls) December 1, 2021
Of course, even if AB were healthy … he wouldn’t be playing this week anyway. He lied about his vaccination status and is now out until at least Week 16. At least he has time to heal up!
#Bucs WR Antonio Brown and Mike Edwards have each been suspended without pay for the next three games for misrepresenting their vaccination status under the NFL-NFLPA COVID-19 Protocol. They have accepted the discipline and waived their right of appeal.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 2, 2021
Evans is hard to sit — despite catching more than 3 passes just twice in his last six games, he also has 6 TD over that span, so when he does make a play, he makes a big one. Atlanta has a deficiency in the slot, too, which makes Godwin a really tough guy to bench as well. But over the last two seasons, Godwin averages 15.3 FPG when AB plays vs. 18.4 FPG when he does. That’s roughly the difference between Terry McLaurin and Justin Jefferson this year. Another three weeks of Godwin with Jefferson’s upside is a good thing.
Meanwhile, AB was the WR13 on the season before getting hurt — between Evans (WR11) and Godwin (WR15). They were mixing the ball around very well, but there is likely to be some siphoning off at some point if and when he returns.
And that’s also not mentioning how much Tom Brady has been getting the ball in the hands of Leonard Fournette and Rob Gronkowski this year. Here’s Graham from Stat-Pack:
After Leonard Fournette saw just 11 touches back in Week 8 before the Bucs’ bye, HC Bruce Arians has effectively benched Gio Bernard and is only using Ronald Jones sparingly.
As a result, Fournette has seen a big increase in activity on passing downs since their bye.
Fournette was averaging a respectable 4.9 targets, 3.8 receptions, and 29.9 yards per game while running a route on 54% of passing downs in Weeks 1-8.
Since then, Fournette has been involved on 66% of the Bucs’ passing plays and caught 8, 6, and 7 balls in his last three outings.
Rob Gronkowski is averaging 18.2 FPG in his five full games – which would make him the TE1 over Travis Kelce (16.9 FPG) this season.
Gronk has seen at least eight targets in four of his 5 healthy games.
The Bucs are such a machine that starting all of their studs against a poor defense is likely the prudent approach — everyone sans perhaps Evans (CB AJ Terrell) has a positive matchup. But the old adage applies — there is just one ball. If AB doesn’t go, that’s one less mouth to feed.
The Falcons offense is so pathetic that it wasn’t able to score a single touchdown in two games without Cordarrelle Patterson. And with all due respect to Patterson, who deserves massive credit for turning his career around and becoming a legitimate high-end player, but it just shows how weak this offense is otherwise that he’s so important for them.
Here’s Graham, again from Stat-Pack:
If we remove the game that he left early with an ankle injury (Week 10 vs. Dallas), Cordarrelle Patterson is averaging 20.1 FPG in his nine full games.
That 20.1 FPG would make Patterson the RB4 – ahead of Alvin Kamara (19.8) and Joe Mixon (19.6).
Patterson has now finished as the weekly RB20 or better in eight straight healthy games and has five finishes of RB12 or better in this span.
Outside of his games against the Jets (26.9 FP) and Dolphins (23.3 FP) in Weeks 5 and 7, Kyle Pitts is averaging 6.4 targets, 3.4 receptions, 44.1 yards, and 7.8 fantasy points per game across his eight other games.
Yeah, that Kyle Pitts stat is alarming. Teams have just had too much success taking him away. For comparison’s sake, without his two spike games, Pitts would be averaging the same FPG as Gerald Everett. Pitts did put 5/73 on the Bucs back in Week 2 — in Patterson’s 2-TD breakout game — but remember, the Falcons still had Calvin Ridley in that game. Ridley’s loss has frankly made the Falcons’ passing game so simple to defend.