Kickoff: Saturday, December 26th at 1:00 PM ET
Location: Ford Field, Detroit, MI
Betting Odds: TB -9.5, 54 total via Oddsshark
Network: NBC, NFLN
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady (Start, QB1)
I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with the statement that Tom Brady is playing with the best collection of receivers he’s had to this point in his career. Pairing that with “No Risk It, No Biscuit” HC Bruce Arians and expectations were arguably at an all-time high for Brady. The lack of an offseason delayed the chemistry between Brady and his receivers but we are starting to see the hype come to fruition. Brady has thrown two or more TDs in each of the last five games and had a season-high 390 yards last week against a defense only slightly worse than Detroit’s. Tampa Bay can still win the NFC South with two victories the next two weeks and losses by the Saints in their two remaining games, so don’t expect Brady and company to let up in this one. Detroit has allowed three or more passing TDs in three of their last four games and Brady should have no trouble reaching QB1 status this week.
Leonard Fournette (Start, borderline RB1/RB2), Ke’Shawn Vaugh/LeSean McCoy (Sit)
As of this writing on Wednesday, it appears as if Ronald Jones will not be eligible to return from the COVID-19/Reserve list in time to be activated for the matchup with Detroit which means Leonard Fournette will once again be tasked with shouldering the lead RB duties for Tampa Bay. Last week, Fournette salvaged his fantasy day with two short TDs but mostly struggled, amassing just 49 yards on his 14 carries. Fournette did still see a handful of targets in the receiving game so, barring injury, there doesn’t appear to be any threat to his playing time. Detroit is among the league’s worst rush defenses, so a surplus of opportunities combined with a poor run defense should make Fournette a very solid option for Week 16. Fournette is right on the RB1/RB2 line for me this week and which side he’ll end up on might be determined by how quickly the Buccaneers build an insurmountable lead.
Both Ke’Shawn Vaughn and LeSean McCoy saw snaps last week but not enough to make a dent on the fantasy scoreboard. Neither is an option this week.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Chris Godwin (Start, WR3/Flex), Mike Evans (Start, WR2), Antonio Brown (Sit), Rob Gronkowski (Start, TE1)
Before the season began, analysts everywhere tried to decipher which of Tampa Bay’s WRs would be the best fit with Brady and his playing style. Most pointed to the lack of deep passes and Brady’s penchant for targeting the slot WR and therefore Chris Godwin would be the best fantasy option for the season. As it turns out, Brady’s arm is just fine and he’s not had an outside WR with the skills of Mike Evans since Randy Moss and it has been Evans who has been the best fantasy, and real-life, WR this season. Evans is leading the team in all statistical receiving options with 57 receptions on 93 targets for 779 yards and 11 TDs. Evans is in the midst of what looks like will be the worst yardage season of his career but he’s made the most of it with nearly a career-high number of TDs. Despite being the #1 WR for Brady this season, his weekly performances generally land him in the WR2 area for fantasy purposes and that’s where I expect he’ll finish this week as well.
On to the subject of Godwin, his fantasy profile would look a lot better if he had been able to stay healthy this season. In six fewer games than Evans, Godwin is just two receptions and 156 yards behind Evans but has been more affected by the presence of Antonio Brown than Evans has. In the last two games, Godwin has seen just a combined eight targets, catching six for 61 yards and one TD. Godwin has yet to record a 100-yard game this season and there is a good chance this game will turn run-heavy if Tampa Bay builds an early lead. Godwin is a solid WR but looks to be no better than a WR# or flex option for fantasy managers looking to secure a championship this week.
Brown showed that he still has elite talent last week by hauling in a perfectly thrown pass from Brady for the game-winning 46-yard TD, completing the comeback over the Falcons. Unfortunately for fantasy managers, Brown is seeing the field on fewer than half of the team’s offensive plays and his usage is not quite there to confidently to project him to accrue enough fantasy points to cut in championship week. Fantasy managers looking for a potential “boom” from their flex position might consider Brown given the matchup and his late-game performance last week, but I wouldn’t trust him otherwise this week,
Rob Gronkowski is no longer the set-and-forget TE he once was but he is an integral part of Tampa Bay’s passing offense and is second on the team in targets with 71. For fantasy managers, there aren’t a lot of set-and-forget TEs this season and the matchup with Detroit pushes Gronkowski near the top of the TE list this week. Detroit has allowed four or more receptions to TEs in six of their last seven games and has allowed seven TDs to the position this season. Gronkowski likely won’t threaten for the overall #1 TE this week but he looks to be in line for a solid TE1 week for fantasy managers in Week 16.
Matthew Stafford (Sit, low-end QB2)
There was some concern heading into last week that Matthew Stafford might not be able to play given the torn rib cartilage and torn ligaments in his thumb but Stafford suited up and had a typical Stafford game despite sitting out part of the fourth quarter once the game was out of reach. The Tampa Bay defense is susceptible through the air as they currently sit 27th in the NFL in passing yards allowed at 264 yards per game, but the majority of that can be explained by their incredible rush defense. Stafford has flashed his QB1 upside as recently as in Week 13 as Detroit battled to a come-from-behind victory over the Bears in which Stafford eclipsed 400 passing yards and tossed three TDs. Unfortunately for fantasy managers, those games are few and far between and Stafford just doesn’t have enough weapons to reliably be recommended as anything other than a sit-in championship week.
D’Andre Swift (Start, RB1), Adrian Peterson (Sit)
It may be surprising to see D’Andre Swift in the RB1 conversation this week, especially given Tampa Bay’s #1 ranked rush defense, but Swift is an integral part of the passing game as well which is why he sees such a high recommendation. Swift has seen his opportunities increase as the season has progressed and it looks as if the team trusts him near the goal line as both of his rushing TDs last week came from within the 10-yard line. Swift is also nearly a lock for five targets as he’s hit that number exactly in each of Detroit’s last four games. Fantasy managers shouldn’t expect high-end RB1 production, but a finish in the RB8-10 range seems reasonable and Swift is a solid option for Week 16.
Adrian Peterson has slowly seen his workload decrease as Swift has become the primary option and is simply not involved enough now to trust him in fantasy lineups. Peterson will one day end up in the NFL Hall of Fame, but for fantasy managers chasing a championship this week, look elsewhere for your RB help.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Marvin Jones (Start, borderline WR1/WR2), Mohamed Sanu (Sit), Danny Amendola (Sit), T.J. Hockenson (Start, TE1)
The absence of Kenny Golladay has resulted in a nice boost for Marvin Jones as he is poised to have one of the best statistical seasons of his career. Jones has been peppered with targets the last four weeks, getting 12 in three of them and 8 in the other and turning those increased opportunities into 28 receptions, two 100-yard games, and two games with a receiving TD. Stafford has shown the trust he has in Jones on multiple occasions and will sometimes even force throws into tight coverage for him. The increase in targets makes Jones an intriguing option against a defense that has shown the tendency to struggle against the pass and makes Jones a WR2 with WR1 upside for fantasy managers this week.
Mohamed Sanu has drawn the start opposite Jones recently but that opportunity hasn’t translated to fantasy production yet. Sanu has been consistent, totaling between 32 and 38 yards in each of his four games with Detroit but that doesn’t make any impact on fantasy rosters. Sanu should be avoided by fantasy managers this week.
Much like Sanu, Danny Amendola is better for the Lions than for fantasy managers as Amendola loses a lot of opportunities to T.J. Hockenson. Amendola has yet to find the end zone this season and I don’t suspect that ends this week. Amendola is not an option this week.
Hockenson has been a bit up and down this season but gets a favorable matchup this week against a Tampa Bay defense that has been susceptible to TDs to the position this season. Tampa Bay has allowed eight TDs to TEs on the season and Hockenson is easily one of Stafford’s top receiving options. Hockenson is second to Jones in all the statistical receiving categories on the team and should benefit from a game script that looks like the passing game will be featured in the second half. The TE landscape is pretty barren beyond the top few guys, so Hockenson should find himself squarely in the TE1 tier this week for fantasy managers.
Snap counts courtesy of Fantasy Data.
-Bryan Sweet (@FantasyFreakTN on Twitter)