Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Denver Broncos
It was a messy performance from the Broncos that saw Jeff Driskel pulled from the game in favor of Brett Rypien, while Tom Brady finally began to find his old friend in Rob Gronkowski in the passing game. Both of these teams have some things to sort out, like the Buccaneers running game and the Broncos offense as a whole, but we gained a little more clarity after the Bucs’ 28-10 win in Denver.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady: 25/38, 297 yards, 3 TD’s, 0 INT, 2 Sacks | 5 carries, 0 yards
Tom Brady started his first drive in the red zone and quickly capitalized with a cool and calm touchdown throw to Chris Godwin. Denver’s defense had a good stand against Brady and the Bucs on the second drive and kept up against Brady with another stop in the first quarter. Still, Brady performed well, leading his team to points on three of his first four drives. Brady continued his characteristically efficient play into the second half, playing a bit of cat and mouse with the Denver defense. There were times Brady got the best of the Broncos, but credit where credit is due, Denver held their own against Brady pretty well considering how much time they spent on the field.
Ronald Jones II: 13 carries, 53 yards | 4 targets, 2 receptions, 20 yards
Leonard Fournette: 7 carries, 15 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 7 yards
LeSean McCoy: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 24 yards
Ronald Jones II got the first carry for the Bucs but had mostly mediocre efficiency in the first quarter. Jones picked it up in the second quarter and received more snaps and targets than Fournette in the first half. Still, it only amounted to about 2.5 fantasy points in the first half. Jones eventually broke ahead of Fournette on carries in the second half. Ronald had an impressive catch on the sideline where he turned up the field to gain a first down in the third quarter, and the Bucs kept giving him the ball to run out the clock at the end of the game.
Leonard Fournette had a fumble during the exchange with Brady near the end of the first quarter. Fournette had a great Week 2 after Jones fumbled during a handoff with Brady. It wasn’t immediate, but this week was similar to that situation. Tampa Bay trusted Fournette on the next drive in the red zone, which was encouraging, but he still wasn’t very productive in the first half fantasy-wise. Eventually, Tampa trusted Jones, and Fournette didn’t get much work at all in the second half.
LeSean McCoy was barely the mix with a catch in the first half and third quarter. He isn’t getting enough work to warrant any fantasy attention.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Mike Evans: 4 targets, 2 receptions, 2 yards, 2 TD
Chris Godwin: 6 targets, 5 receptions, 64 yards, 1 TD
Scotty Miller: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 83 yards
Rob Gronkowski: 7 targets, 6 receptions, 48 yards
O.J. Howard: 4 targets, 3 receptions, 49 yards
Chris Godwin had a great start to his day with a 10-yard touchdown on his first catch. Godwin went out and under the defense, then stretched into the end zone. Godwin was targeted again when Tampa found themselves in the red zone midway through the second quarter. Godwin had great efficiency but went down with an injury with about a minute to go in the third. It seemed to be a non-contact hamstring injury, and Godwin was quickly ruled out. Not a good sign for an offense that seemed to be finally settling in to full health.
Mike Evans began his day with a very short one-yard touchdown slanting inside. Evans then had another one-yard touchdown, very similar but to the outside this time. Mike only had two catches for two yards and two touchdowns. He had a bad drop that was right in his hands early in the third quarter and didn’t do anything else noteworthy for the rest of the game.
Scotty Miller looked great to begin his day. He had a 47-yard reception with a defender all over him on his second target. Miller had 57 yards on his first three targets but had a drop on a tough attempt in the third quarter. He was a big part of this offense and could be valuable if Godwin misses time.
Contrary to earlier headlines claiming otherwise, Rob Gronkowski began the game looking like more of a pass-catching tight end with two catches in a row on the Buccaneers’ second drive. Gronk had a wide-open target in the end zone, but Brady overthrew him by just a little too much. Brady targeted Rob again on that same drive and connected this time to get Tampa to first and goal. Gronk continued to get consistent targets through the third quarter and was easily the most productive tight end on the Buccaneers.
O.J. Howard had a fantastic one-handed catch with a few minutes left in the first half where he took his defender down with him. He had two catches for 38 yards heading into halftime but didn’t do much else besides that.
Jeff Driskel: 17/30, 176 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 5 sacks | 3 carries, 14 yards
Brett Rypien: 8/9, 53 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, 1 sack
Jeff Driskel got the start this week and looked composed in his first drive. Still, the Broncos couldn’t quite click and eventually had to attempt a punt that was eventually blocked. Driskel was a bit worse in his second series, nearly throwing an interception on third down. Denver struggled for most of the remainder of the first half until their last drive. Driskel had six completions in a row to help the Broncos drive downfield before the half. Driskel’s luck wasn’t much better in the second half. He took a sack for a safety with about three minutes into the third quarter and began the second half 0-for-4. Once Tampa knew they were in Driskel’s head, they brought the pressure relentlessly.
The Broncos eventually went to Brett Rypien who looked good until he threw an interception in the red zone, ending his day.
Melvin Gordon III: 8 carries, 26 yards | 6 targets, 4 receptions, 12 yards
Royce Freeman: 2 carries, 4 yards | 2 targets, 2 receptions, 31 yards
Melvin Gordon III began the game with poor rushing efficiency and couldn’t get much done through the air to start the game. With few options left on offense, the Broncos continued trusting Melvin with mixed success. Gordon got little work in the second half mainly because he was scripted out of the game. The Broncos were playing from behind for most of this game, so Gordon simply didn’t get enough work. He may have this problem going forward if Denver keeps finding themselves behind this year. He needs Drew Lock back soon, as does the rest fo this offense.
Royce Freeman didn’t do much of anything until there were five minutes left in the third when he had a big catch-and-run for 28 yards. Gordon is the top dog in this backfield while Phillip Lindsay is out.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Jerry Jeudy: 8 targets, 5 receptions, 55 yards
KJ Hamler: 5 targets, 3 receptions, 30 yards | 1 carry, -2 yards
Tim Patrick: 4 targets, 4 receptions, 43 yards, 1 TD
Noah Fant: 10 targets, 5 receptions, 46 yards
Jerry Jeudy began his day with a 15-yard catch near the beginning of the second quarter. Juedy was peppered with targets here and there but didn’t make much of them with three catches in the first three quarters. He ended the day with plenty of targets, but if he’s the only guy on this team and just another guy is throwing him the ball, it will be tough to find fantasy relevance.
Noah Fant was the most reliable Broncos receiver in the first half or so with more than 10 yards on each of his first three targets. He didn’t have a drop until a highly contested catch in the third quarter. Fant continued to get targets even when the throws were suspect decisions by Driskel. He was mainly used in short-yardage situations in this one, and if he doesn’t get many red zone opportunities, he may become pretty irrelevant this year while the Broncos struggle.
KJ Hamler looked pretty good on his two catches in the first half, but with the Broncos struggling on offense, he didn’t get many looks. His 30 yards on three catches took place over the first three quarters, and Hamler didn’t do anything else in the fourth.
Tim Patrick averaged 17 yards on each of his two catches in the first half but only had the two targets with Denver struggling on offense. Patrick was surprisingly efficient today, but I doubt he will be a serious waiver wire pickup this week. This offense is not looking good at all.
-Ryan Kruse (@ryanpkruse on Twitter)