Fantasy Football Week 8: Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. Minnesota Vikings
One of the new wrinkles set up for 2012 is that every week of the season, two teams are called upon to cram a week's worth of planning into three short days so they can suit up and play on Thursday night.
My guess is that most of the players/coaches don't like it, but it certainly spices up the week for the majority of fans—especially those who play fantasy football.
Not every owner will have a player from the game on their team, but there are usually a few fantasy-relevant players that might be going against you, so every game is worth reading up on.
With that in mind, here is the analysis of each of those players and what they might do for (or against) your fantasy team this Thursday night.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quarterback
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Freeman has strung together a few nice games now and is starting to be talked about around the fantasy water cooler.
While he certainly looks better than he did in his first three games, a closer look at the numbers and facts needs to happen before anointing Freeman a viable fantasy option.
Josh has thrown for 1,047 yards, seven TDs and just two interceptions during these last three games. Not too shabby at all.
However, despite the nice TD:INT ratio, his accuracy was still pretty bad, coming in at 58.9 percent. A completion percentage like that won’t bring in usable fantasy numbers against good defenses, which by the way, Freeman has NOT faced during this latest streak (Was, KC and NO are all in the bottom seven). Not only that, but all three games were in Tampa Bay as well.
Basically what I’m saying here is that Freeman, like most other QBs, can be plugged into fantasy lineups if optimal circumstances are presented, but that's about it.
Freeman will NOT be working under the best-case scenario this Thursday night, as the Vikings possess a very unforgiving defense this year and an especially unforgiving home crowd.
I simply cannot see Big Josh’s hot streak continuing in this game, particularly on a shortened week where the Bucs will have less time to prepare a solid game plan.
He’s a low-end QB2 this week with not a lot of upside.
Minnesota Vikings: Quarterback
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You have to hand it to him—when Christian Ponder wants to put up a stinker for your fantasy team, he really can suck with the best of them.
His performance against the Cardinals last week was almost Gabbert-esque in terms of suckiness, but to his defense, the Vikings didn’t really need him to throw the ball to win that game.
In fact, Ponder’s three worst fantasy performances this season have all come during Minnesota wins.
Tampa can be absolutely crushed through the air if need be; I just don't believe the Vikings will need it so much this Thursday.
I’m expecting Minnesota to try and climb on Peterson’s back for the win this week, but Ponder will still have to do a little work here, especially around the red zone, as the Bucs have allowed just four rushing touchdowns to RBs this season.
Their pass D, however, has allowed the second-most yards per game (323), so with the majority of Tampa’s attention being focused on stopping AP, Ponder could end up doing a little damage in this one as a mid-tier QB2.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Running Backs
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It’s taking him a little time to get used to the speed of the NFL, but Doug Martin may finally be in a rhythm now after back-to-back weeks posting double-digit fantasy points.
He’s averaged 126.5 total yards from scrimmage the past two games and put up his second rushing touchdown of the year against the Saints last weekend, but I don’t believe his ascent will continue this Thursday night against the Vikings.
Minnesota has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points per game to RBs this season, giving up just two rushing TDs and 3.2 yards per carry to them in the process.
Even with Martin maybe taking on all red-zone opportunities going forward after LeGarrette Blount proved once again that he’s not the goal-line back you would think he should be, Martin won’t be more than a low-end RB2 this week against this stifling Vikings rush D.
If he puts up 75 yards of total offense this Thursday night, I’d consider it a minor victory for both Martin and his fantasy owners.
If there’s one thing you’d expect a 250-pound running back to be able to do, it would be to gain one yard on three carries from the opponent’s 1-yard line.
However, LeGarrette Blount has defied this type of logic throughout his career and may never get another chance to prove the theory.
Just when he was starting to gain some momentum putting up TDs in his previous two games, LeGarrette came out last Sunday to rush for negative-two yards on five carries against an awful Saints defense that was allowing over five yards per carry on the season.
Not good to say the least.
Minnesota was going to be tough to run on in the first place, but now that he’s in the doghouse and likely to see just a handful of carries this Thursday (if that), you can’t expect Blount to be a legitimate option for your fantasy team unless it’s as a flex in a 16-team league.
Minnesota Vikings: Running Backs
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Peterson has had 20 or more touches in five straight weeks now and just put up his most total yards in a game last Sunday with 159 (153 rushing, six receiving).
He’s also been running with some serious ferocity lately and seems to be getting better and better every week.
Like I said before the season, every time Purple Jesus feels his domination as a running back is being questioned, he responds by taking the collective feet of the questioners and shoving it straight back into their collective mouths.
As for this week’s game, the Buccaneers have been surprisingly effective against the run this year, much like Arizona was before AP dismantled them last weekend.
With the way Peterson is running right now, fantasy owners shouldn’t be worried about the Bucs' game-planning against him.
Look for the Vikings to run Peterson as much as possible until they gain enough of a lead to get him some rest.
However, because Tampa’s pass defense is so inept, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Christian Ponder tossing the pill around a bit, so AP may not go totally ballistic in this game.
He’ll put up RB1 stats for sure, as he’s averaged 102.5 yards and a touchdown against the Bucs throughout his career, but I expect him to be more in the mid-range grouping as opposed to the high end.
Gerhart has been a relative non-factor this season with Purple Jesus on a mission to prove himself to the world. In fact, he’s received just two carries (for two yards) over the last two games.
He’s unplayable at this point.
That being said, I do believe he’ll get around eight to 10 touches in this game whether it be in mop-up duty with a Vikings win well in hand or simply to give AP intermittent rests throughout the game due to the shortened week.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Wide Receivers
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Last week, I stated that if there’s one thing Vincent Jackson does well, it’s that he takes full advantage of poor pass defenses.
Well, he did just that last weekend, as he tore the New Orleans Saints pass defense apart to the tune of seven catches, 216 yards and one touchdown.
This week will prove to be a bit different with the Vikings pass D playing real well against the opposing team’s WR1. In fact, Minnesota came out to say that its game plan last week was centered around stopping Larry Fitzgerald, which it did very well.
They did the same thing to Calvin Johnson back in Week 4 and accomplished their goal in that one, too.
If I had to guess, I’d say the Vikings will apply the same game plan as last week to Vincent Jackson this Thursday, which could be bad news for V-Jax owners.
With Jackson already showing to have trouble scoring fantasy points against better defenses, I wouldn’t expect much better than low-end WR2/flex numbers this week, if that.
After two straight 100-yard games, Mike Williams was brought back down to earth last weekend, grabbing four of his eight targets for just 36 yards.
This week could be a little different, however, with the Vikings looking to shut down the man opposite him, Vincent Jackson.
Williams will see one-on-one coverage all game long and should see a slew of targets because of it.
The Vikings defense tends to give up a bunch of fantasy points to their opponent’s WR2, in this case, Mike Williams.
Last week, Andre Roberts (the Cardinals WR2) caught seven passes for 103 yards and one TD. In prior weeks, Kendall Wright and Donnie Avery each caught nine passes while Cecil Shorts put up 74 yards and a TD.
Don’t be shocked to see Williams put up solid WR2 numbers (with upside) in this game and out-perform V-Jax in the process.
Despite being targeted six times in Week 7, Tiquan could only pull down two receptions for 35 yards, but one of those catches went for a 13-yard touchdown to lead off the Bucs' scoring.
The Bucs have been searching for a third wide receiver for quite a while now, and they just may have found that guy in Underwood.
His playmaking ability has been on display lately, and it seems Big Josh has noticed, with Underwood's targets increasing by the week.
With Vincent Jackson drawing double-teams and Mike Williams stealing attention of his own, Underwood will see one-on-one coverage throughout the game and has a chance to put up some decent numbers.
In deeper leagues or if you have receivers on a bye, he might actually be worth a risk as a flex play this week.
Minnesota Vikings: Wide Receivers
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Harvin received the fewest touches he’s seen all year last week against the Cardinals, yet was still able to put up double-digit fantasy points thanks to a second quarter, red-zone TD reception.
The coaches had actually been talking about using him more in the red zone, so it wasn’t surprising to see him come away with his three-yard score.
The Vikings didn’t really need Percy all that much, though, with Adrian Peterson running around like a man possessed out there, but he figures to be a bigger part of the game plan against the Buccaneers this Thursday with the Tampa D likely to be focused on Purple Jesus all game.
Look for the Vikings coaching staff to get Harvin’s multi-faceted talents involved a ton this game, as they’ll want to give Peterson a bit of a break playing on such a short week.
I expect him to see double-digit targets and put up a good eight to 10 catches, as well as receiving at least a few carries out of the backfield.
With that kind of action, Percy should be good for some solid WR1-type numbers.
After sitting out Week 6 with a lower leg/back issue, Simpson returned to the starting lineup last week, but saw just one target, which was turned into an eight-yard gain.
His season, otherwise, has been underwhelming, as he continues to try and find a way into the flow of this Vikings offense.
This week could be the chance Jerome has been looking for to make an impression upon the coaching staff.
The Bucs allow the fourth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers, with a bunch of them going to the opposing team’s WR2.
He’s a risky flex play, even in deeper leagues, but Simpson is no stranger to big games when you least expect it and could be primed for a decent one this Thursday.
With Jerome Simpson back in the lineup, Jenkins falls back to the WR3 spot, where he’ll see little to no action within this run-first offense.
You never know against a pass defense as bad as Tampa's, but I still wouldn’t take the chance here.
With a whopping 10 catches on the season and zero targets in last week’s game, Aromashodu is definitely letting off some sort of aroma…
…and it’s not the flowery kind.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tight End
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Clark finally had a game worthy of his years spent back in Indianapolis, putting up five catches for 51 yards and a TD last week against the Saints.
How he did it, I have no idea because if there’s one thing the Saints could actually do on defense this year, it was cover the tight end position.
Does this make Dallas Clark worthy of being picked up and used on fantasy teams this year?
Nah, but it was nice to see one of the old-timers put up some numbers again.
The Vikings defense hasn’t been very good guarding tight ends this year, as they’ve allowed the seventh-most fantasy points per game to them thus far.
Clark could be used in desperation if your normal TE1 and TE2 happen to be on a bye, but don’t expect too much, even in a pretty decent matchup for him.
Minnesota Vikings: Tight End
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Wow! I’m having a bit of trouble trying to figure this kid out and how he fits into the Vikings offense, especially after his zero-catch/zero fantasy points day this past Sunday.
I realize the Vikings didn’t need to pass the ball at all in order to win the game, but a season-low four targets can’t make fantasy owners feel very optimistic.
This week, he’ll face off against a Bucs pass D that is merely so-so against tight ends, so we’ll see if Kyle can have himself a bounce-back game.
Just a couple of weeks ago, the Vikings were talking about getting their big, sure-handed tight end more involved in the offense.
I’m going to choose to believe their sentiment still holds water and say that Rudolph is worth playing this week against the Bucs, but I’m not exactly confident that he’ll put up anything more than high-end TE2 numbers.
With his prowess in the red-zone, however, he definitely has the upside of a TE1.
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