Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-1, 3-4 ATS) at New Orleans Saints (4-2, 3-3), 4:25 p.m.
Brolley’s Buccaneers Stats and Trends
The Buccaneers beat the Drew Brees’ Saints 30-20 in the Divisional Round of the playoffs as 2.5-point road underdogs after the Saints won and covered both games in the regular season.
Tom Brady posted 211/4 passing in a lopsided victory over the Bears last week, and he threw for his 600th career touchdown. He’s now posted 24+ FP in five of his seven games, but he’ll go against a Saints’ defense that’s allowed just one quarterback (Daniel Jones) to reach 20+ FP this season. Brady averaged just 215.7 passing yards per game, he completed 58.9% of his passes, and he threw for just four TDs against the Saints in three contests last season.
It’s Mike Evans versus Marshon Lattimore Week! Evans is coming off a three-touchdown performance against the Bears last week, which is his third game with multiple TDs this season. Lattimore allowed an 84-yard touchdown in a chippy matchup against D.K. Metcalf last week. Evans managed receiving lines of 1/2/1 (Week 1), 4/64 (Week 9), and 1/3/1 (Divisional) against Lattimore and the Saints last season.
Chris Godwin didn’t kill it with Lattimore locking up Evans last year, but he did better with receiving lines of 6/79 (Week 1), 3/41 (Week 9), and 4/34 (Divisional) last season. He’s coming off his best game of the season with Antonio Brown (ankle/foot) on the sidelines, posting 8/111/1 receiving on 11 targets. He’s scored 14+ FP in five of his seven games this season.
Tyler Johnson flopped last week with just 2/16 receiving with AB out of the lineup, but he did run 28 routes on a season-best 67% snap share. He could be more active this week if Evans has his hands full against Lattimore.
Rob Gronkowski is trending toward finally returning to action from his rib injury, which has kept him out the last four weeks. He managed 4/55 receiving on seven targets the last time he played in Week 3, which snapped his run of two touchdowns in each of the first two games. The Saints have yet to allow a touchdown to a tight end this season, and they limited Gronk to a meager 4/27 receiving on 14 targets in three games last season.
Leonard Fournette is squarely in the RB1 picture every week with 16+ FP in four straight games after posting 15/81/1 rushing and 2/9 receiving last week against the Bears. He gets one of the toughest matchups in the league against a Saints’ defense that’s allowing the third-fewest FPG (18.3) to RBs. Playoff Lenny went for 17/63 rushing and 5/44/1 receiving in the Divisional Round against the Saints.
Brolley’s Saints Stats and Trends
The Saints are 7-2 toward unders in their last nine games.
New Orleans is 1-7 ATS in its last eight games against teams with winning records.
Alvin Kamara accounted for 58.9% of New Orleans’ total yards (179 of 304), 52.6% of Jameis Winston’s completions (10 of 19), and 57.8% of the passing yards (128 of 222) in their ugly victory over the Seahawks in Week 7. New Orleans traded for his pal Mark Ingram this week, who has just 92/294/1 rushing (3.2 YPC) in a bad Houston offense. Kamara should continue to own most of the backfield touches moving forward after averaging 23.2/110.0 scrimmage per game with five touchdowns through the first six games. Kamara totaled just 21/56 rushing and 10/60 receiving in two regular season games against the Buccaneers before posting 18/85 rushing and 3/20 receiving in the Divisional Round.
Jameis Winston has attempted 30+ passes in two straight games after topping out at 23 attempts in his first four games. He looked shaky on any passes that didn’t go to Kamara last week, completing just 9/24 passes for 94 yards (3.9 YPA) without a score on his non-Kamara attempts last week against the Seahawks. The Buccaneers’ pass defense has turned a corner, and they’ve held three of the last four QBs they’ve faced to under 18 FP. The Buccaneers’ defense has limited their last four opponents to 14.8 points and 279.8 yards per game during their four-game winning streak.
Marquez Callaway is the closest thing to a fantasy relevant receiver in this offense, and he’s coming off a 3/32 receiving performance against the Seahawks in Week 7. He exploded for 4/85/2 receiving on a season-high eight targets back in Week 5, but he’s fallen below 10 FP in 5-of-7 games. Tre’Quan Smith returned to the lineup last week, and he disappointed with just an 11-yard catch on three targets and a 55% snap share. The Buccaneers’ secondary hasn’t allowed an opposing WR to reach double-digit FP in three straight games.
Barfield’s Pace and Tendencies
Pace (seconds in between plays): 27.8 (14th)
Plays per game: 71.3 (8th)
Pass: 66.7% (3rd) | Run: 33.3% (30th)
Pace: 29.2 (22nd)
Plays per game: 61.7 (30th)
Pass: 48.9% (32nd) | Run: 51.1% (1st)
It is no secret what the Buccaneers want to try and do. Tampa Bay is the most pass-heavy team in the league in neutral situations (68.5%) and the third-most pass-heavy offense when leading (62.9%), and I have to figure that could spike even higher here against this elite Saints front-seven. New Orleans is allowing just 2.93 YPC (fewest) and 61.8 YPG (second-fewest) to enemy RBs. In their three meetings with the Saints last year, the Bucs’ went 64% pass on early-down, non-red-zone plays and, this season, that figure is sitting at a league-high 67%. So, yeah. Expect another pass-heavy day from Brady on Sunday.
On the flipside, the Saints’ identity couldn’t be more different. They are the seventh-most run-heavy team in neutral scripts (game within a score in 1st-3rd quarter), and they lead the league in run rate when both trailing and leading. Jameis Winston has been throwing a bit more in their last two games – but the downside to that is that he’s completed just 52% of his passes. Still, Tampa Bay is the definition of a “pass funnel” defense and the numbers behind that are eye-popping. Opponents are throwing a whopping +16.7% above-expectation in neutral situations, which leads the league by a massive margin. Washington (+7.6%) is being thrown on at the second-highest rate and it’s still less than half of what Tampa is facing. Unreal. The two factors behind this are straight-forward: 1) it’s very hard to run on the Bucs’ and 2) you have to keep up the scoring pace with Brady – passing is the easiest way to do it. I’m skeptical that the Saints are going to abandon the run here since it’s at the core of what they do, but they ultimately need their defense to deliver a similar performance vs. Brady that we saw in their three meetings last year.
Huber’s Key Matchup Notes
Whenever we see “Tampa Bay Buccaneers” the brain instantly takes our imagination towards expecting loads of FPG everywhere. Be that as it may, we have three examples of the teams facing off from the ‘20 season. Of course, the monumental difference being the Saints are now led by Jameis Winston instead of Drew Brees. Within each of those matchups, we saw a nearly identical New Orleans defense opposing a 100% identical Buccaneers’ offense. And the results for each of those games undercut floor value for nearly every offensive skill across the board.
The singular exception was provided by Leonard Fournette in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. With Ronald Jones II dealing with nagging injuries, Fournette took the backfield lead. He flipped 23 touches into five receptions, 107 total yards, and a six-yard receiving TD that served as the go-ahead points. With Fournette promoted to lead back, packing a similar workload, this game is setting up as eerily reminiscent. Fournette circumvented a tough New England run defense with his receiving skills in Week 4. He would’ve repeated that result last week had the Chicago offense managed to get going. Do not count on Fournette eclipsing 100 yards on the ground, but three-to-six receptions, 100 total yards, and a TD is entirely on the table.
It appears Richard Sherman will take the field for Tampa Bay this week. A TB defense getting healthy just in time for this playoff caliber face-off is going to ruin everything for Jameis Winston’s first game against his former team and HC Bruce Arians. Without Michael Thomas, Famous Jameis just doesn’t have the horses in the stable to attack the Buccaneers vertically. If you want my honest opinion, Winston would’ve already been replaced by Taysom Hill if he wasn’t dealing with lingering concussion symptoms.
Dolan’s Vantage Points
The Bucs are a pretty cut-and-dry fantasy team, and it’s certainly tough to sit any of their heavy hitters with one of them — Antonio Brown — out with an ankle injury.
The Bucs go on bye in Week 9, so it’s possible AB is back in Week 10. Meanwhile, Rob Gronkowski is returning from a four-week absence with a rib injury. The Saints really shut him down last season, so he’s a middling starter this week.
“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. He ranks 11th in FPG (18.4), but we have him ranked just 22nd on the week, in a brutal matchup in shadow coverage against CB Marshon Lattimore.
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 three times this season, against Davante Adams, Terry McLaurin, and D.K. Metcalf. And, if we ignore just one play, he’s held them all to a combined 7.2 FPG (7.7 targets per game).”
The Saints are just a miserable fantasy team. I don’t know what else to say. I think their entire offense is Alvin Kamara — in the passing game this week, of course. We’ll see how much Mark Ingram works in after the trade, but I doubt it will be too much, especially given Kamara’s role in the passing game.
Here’s Graham from Stat-Pack:
Outside of the one blip in the radar in Week 2 where he had 8 carries for 5 yards, Alvin Kamara has very much been the guy we drafted him to be.
Kamara’s weekly finishes so far: RB10 > RB39 > RB10 > RB26 > RB5 > RB1.
Kamara has a 22% target share – which leads all RBs.
So, what did future HOFer Drew Brees think about watching his successor Jameis Winston on last week’s Manningcast? Well…