Kickoff: Sunday, January 8th, 2023, 1:00 PM ET
Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, Georgia
Betting Odds: ATL -3, 40.5 o/u total via Oddshark.com
Writer: Dustin Ludke (@TheDunit13 on Twitter)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady (Sit, QB2) Blaine Gabbert (Sit), Kyle Trask (Sit)
Tom Brady is one of two quarterbacks to play every snap this year so far. The other is Geno Smith. Will Tom Brady play? That’s a really good question. The Buccaneers have nothing to play for as they are locked into the four seed so they will get a home game. They could rest Brady who is 45 years old. I think he plays some but not the whole game. He seems like the type that doesn’t want the extra rest and prefers to stay fresh by playing. The wideouts and other skill positions are other things. The wideouts have been dealing with lingering issues all season and getting some of the depth guys’ time with Brady might be a good thing for the playoff run. The Falcons are giving up the twelfth most points to quarterbacks at 17.07 so not a cakewalk but not a pass-stopper. I’m sitting Brady unless I don’t have any other options. He can still get into QB2 range if he gets a half or full game but not counting on it. If news comes out that Blaine Gabbert or Kyle Trask starts I’m not rolling with either of them.
Rachaad White (Start, Flex), Leonard Fournette (Start, Flex) Ke’Shawn Vaughn (Sit)
The Atlanta Falcons are giving up the seventeenth-most points to the running back position so it’s a tough matchup for whoever is rushing the ball. Rachaad White had the slight lead in the backfield in Week 17 playing 50% of the snaps and getting 11 carries. Leonard Fourentte played on 46% of the team’s snaps and got 10 carries. It’s been a pretty easy split for the two rushers over the past few weeks. The Bucs have yet to work in Ke’Shawn Vaughn these past weeks. I don’t think they will bench both White and Fournette but I do expect Vaughn to see more carries. The lower volume means that White and Fournette are both only Flex plays this week. I’m sitting Vaughn. He has not shown me enough to make me excited about a possible opportunity to play more.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Chris Godwin (Start, WR2), Mike Evans (Start, WR1), Julio Jones (Sit), Russell Gage (Start, WR3), Cade Otton (Start, TE2)
The Bucs have come out and said they are going to play their starters to work on some of the issues they have had this season. That is a good sign for Mike Evans who is coming off one of the best games of his career with twelve targets, ten receptions for 207 yards, and three touchdowns. He will get a chance to go against A.J. Terrell, who rates at 60.4 in coverage. Rated as the 68th-best cover corner it’s a matchup that Evans can exploit. In the previous matchup this year Evans has eight targets. He only caught four of them but still had 81 yards. If he can catch a few more of those targets and find the endzone he can easily be a WR1.
Chris Godwin dealt with injuries earlier in the season but has been dominating in targets the past few weeks. Even with Evans getting twelve the past week Godwin still got nine and caught ALL of them for 120 yards. He has continued to play out of the slot which usually draws weaker coverage but this week he will get Isaiah Oliver who PFF.com rates at 71.9 in coverage. It’s a tougher matchup but Godwin should be able to find enough room to get opportunities. He only has three touchdowns on the year so if he can find that he will jump a tier but I believe he can be trusted as a solid WR2.
Julio Jones seems to have lost his job to Russell Gage. Julio hasn’t played on over 30% of the team’s snaps the past two weeks and at 33 years old it’s probably best for the team to rest him as much as possible. Gage has been playing on over 50% of snaps the past three weeks. His targets game down considerably to three this past week but with Evans and Godwin soaking up 21, it’s hard to find many more to go around. Gage would get Cornell Armstrong who rates at 47.8 in coverage. The Falcons as a whole are giving up the tenth most points to wide receivers at 34.68. It’s a good matchup for Gage who also has spent time practicing with the second team so could see a bump if someone other than Brady is under center. He is a sneaky WR3 play this week.
The Falcons are one of the worst teams against tight ends. They are giving up the fourth most points to them at 15.09. Cade Otton has come on lately seeing over 80% of the team’s snaps in the past two weeks and having over five targets in each game. He hasn’t been great at catching those targets so the Bucs’ coaching staff may keep him in most of the game to give the rookie some more experience. Given the matchup, the snap totals, and the targets he is worth starting as a solid TE2.
Desmond Ridder (Sit)
We know Desmond Ridder is going to play. When they made the switch from Marcus Mariota it was all about giving him as many reps in games as possible. The issue is that he hasn’t been very good. His completion percentage did go up to 73% this week but that was only on 26 attempts. The Falcons are a rushing team for now. Ridder hasn’t turned over the ball yet which is very encouraging as he is not hurting his team or your fantasy team if you for some reason played him. Tampa is giving up the fifteenth most points to quarterbacks at 16.03 so it’s not the best matchup for the rookie. You can’t start him until we see him throw a touchdown.
Cordarrelle Patterson (Start, RB2) Tyler Allgeier (Start, FLEX)
The Falcons have been, and continue to be, a run-first team. They have gotten great production out of ten-year pro, Cordarrelle Patterson. He has been splitting and even considering working with rookie Tyer Allgeier. I don’t believe that there is any fear of the Falcons changing things this week and they had nothing to play for this past week yet still ran both of them consistent with what they had been doing. That means we can expect both to play around 50% of the snaps. Tampa is giving up the fifth-fewest points to running backs at 19.02 so it could be tough sledding for the duo. Allgeier has seen more of the groundwork getting over 15 carries in each of the past three games and 55 total and only seeing 7 targets over that span. Patterson has seen only 31 carries but has seen 12 targets. With Tamps being such a stout rush defense the edge goes to Patterson to get into the RB2 category while Allgeier should be a solid flex with upside.
Wide Receivers/ Tight Ends
Drake London (Sit) Everyone Else (Sit)
Drake London is the only name in the receiving game that you would consider starting from the Falcons wideouts. Since their Week 14 bye he has seen 28 targets and never under seven in a week. He hasn’t gotten into the end zone since Week 11 which is concerning. Even more concerning is that the top three corners for Tampa rate out, by PFF.com as the 12th, 22nd, and 45th best corners in coverage out of 118 corners. With no other wide receiver to worry about the Bucs will be focusing on London. I wouldn’t trust him this week.
Every other wide receiver from the Falcons isn’t worth mentioning. None of them ran over 10 routes last week. That’s worst than most tight ends in the league. Tampa is giving up the eight most points to tight ends at 13.52. It’s just not enough opportunities to start for fantasy.