It’s hard to believe that we are already in week eight! With seven weeks down, it means that we are at the halfway point of the regular season. Do we have seven more weeks of this in us? Probably not! But we will try anyway. Speaking of “not having it in you” and “trying anyway,” Tom Brady plays on Thursday Night Football! The scuffling Buccaneers take on the inconsistent Ravens on Thursday Night Football. This one is full of fantasy football goodness, so let’s dive in to figure out who we should start and who we should sit for this week eight tilt!
Baltimore Ravens (4-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-4)
45 O/U, Baltimore -1.5 favorites (per Caesars Sportsbook)
Implied final score: 23.25-21.75
If you bench these folks, you’re drastically overthinking things!
Lamar Jackson (QB), Leonard Fournette (RB), Mike Evans (WR), Chris Godwin (WR), Mark Andrews (TE)
Thomas Edward Patrick Brady (Week 7: 32/49, 290 passing yards, 0 TD, 0 INT)
Tom Brady hasn’t had a good season, both from a real-life perspective and a fantasy football perspective. Granted, Mike Evans dropping a 60-yard touchdown that was literally in his hands all alone didn’t help matters, but Brady is outside the top ten in a ton of efficiency stats on Player Profiler. Most concerning for an aging and increasingly statuesque Tom Brady: he’s 12th in protection rate on Player Profiler, after ranking first last season. This is his first time outside of the top ten on the Buccaneers, and it’s showing on the field. Brady has the second-shortest pocket time in the NFL because he either needs to throw it or get sacked thanks to the subpar offensive line, which makes his #32 pressure rate a real testament to Brady doing the best with what he has.
Brady is also worst in yards per attempt, tied with Kirk Cousins for the ninth-lowest among starting quarterbacks. His touchdown rate (2.7%) is also about half of what it is for his career prior to this season (5.5%). So, things just aren’t going well for Brady. Despite this, the Buccaneers just keep throwing the ball. Brady is second in pass attempts per game among current NFL starters and is first in total air yards. The Buccaneers are also first in pass rate, with two-thirds of their plays coming as passes. The Ravens are a team to get right against, as they’ve allowed at least 300 passing yards and/or multiple touchdowns to every quarterback to play against them this season except for Jacoby Brissett, and they yield the eighth-most fantasy points to quarterbacks this season. Brady only has two games inside the top 12 this season, but he should make that three after this week, meaning you should start Tom Brady.
Gus Edwards (Week 7: 16 carries, 66 rushing yards, 2 rushing TD, 1 target, 0 catches)
Kenyan Drake (Week 7: 11 carries, 5 rushing yards, 1 target, 0 catches)
Justice Hill (Week 7: 5 carries, 26 rushing yards, 1 fumble, 1 fumble lost)
The Ravens put J.K. Dobbins on IR following his arthroscopic knee surgery that cost him the next 4-6 weeks and turned to the backups. Gus Edwards had the most carries last week, and he’s likely to get the most carries this week, as well. But, he gets the stout Tampa Bay defense this week, who usually limits the opponent’s ability to run the football. But, the Panthers made the god bleed last week, with both Chuba Hubbard (9 carries, 63 yards, and a touchdown) and D’Onta Foreman (15 carries, 118 yards) torching them on the ground. I believe what happened was that the Panthers broke the mythology of the Tampa Bay rush defense. Most teams just abandon it after being somewhat good at it, with only one running back getting more than 15 rush attempts this season (and it was Clyde Edwards-Helaire who had over 20 PPR points that week). On a per-carry basis, they are essentially a neutral proposition, allowing 0.56 fantasy points per carry for the season. The Ravens won’t abandon the run, and they won’t throw to their running backs (2.8 targets per game, the third-lowest in the NFL). You can start Gus Edwards this week as a flex or an RB2, though I’m sure there are a lot of other running backs you could start ahead of him who have popped up lately, like Dameon Pierce, Raheem Mostert, and Travis Etienne.
Gus Bus toot tooted his way back into our lives last week, kicking down the door on the Cleveland Browns’ defense en route to an 18.6 PPR point day. Granted, two-thirds of that came on touchdowns, but who else in this backfield stepped up to steal his touches? Nobody, that’s who. Kenyan Drake was rushing at less than 18 inches per carry last weekend, and Justice Hill fumbled 20% of his touches (at a critical juncture, too). Sit Kenyan Drake and sit Justice Hill unless you are exceptionally desperate, as the Buccaneers’ rush defense is still among one of the best in the league.
Rachaad White (Week 7: 6 carries, 24 rushing yards, 2 targets, 1 catch, 8 receiving yards)
I’m seeing a lot of buzz about picking up Rachaad White, given that he had more rushing yards than Leonard Fournette last week. You can do that as a stash, but there’s nothing right now to indicate that you should start Rachaad White, and with only Clyde Edwards-Helaire and Austin Ekeler out this week, you shouldn’t be desperate enough to do anything but sit Rachaad White.
Russell Gage (Week 7: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 39 yards)
Julio Jones (Week 7: Inactive, knee injury)
One downside to Tom Brady’s downturn is all the people who drafted Russell Gage watching their investment sink faster than Brady’s marriage. He has just one game inside the top-50 at wide receiver, which was back in week three when the Buccaneers were without Julio Jones, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, and Gage had 13 targets. Since that game, Gage is averaging 5 targets for 2.5 receptions and 26 yards per contest. Unless you feel like going deep on a touchdown-or-bust play against one of the more preyed-upon secondaries in the NFL, you should sit Russell Gage and sit Julio Jones, mostly because Julio can’t be trusted to finish the game, even if he plays.
UPDATE: So I got caught with my hand in the cookie jar again, writing this early. Russell Gage is OUT for this game.
Rashod Bateman (Week 7: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 42 yards)
Devin Duvernay (Week 7: 3 targets, 2 receptions, 42 yards)
The Ravens’ duo has been up and down this season, as most of the Ravens’ passing game outside of Mark Andrews has been. This mostly stems from the Ravens throwing the ball just 49% of the time for 28 pass attempts per game. 9 of those go toward Mark Andrews, which means that Bateman, Duvernay, Isaiah Likely, Josh Oliver, Tylan Wallace, and the running backs all share 19 targets per game. This explains not only their limited target volume (Bateman averages 5.4 targets per game and Duvernay averages 4 targets per game), but also their big play usage (both have an average depth of target of more than 12 yards downfield) and over 14 yards per reception.
The Buccaneers’ defense is good, but not good enough to prevent a 20+ yard reception. In fact, they allow 2.6 20+ yard passing plays per game, which ranks as the eighth-lowest, but also leaves them open to that reception. One of these two guys will have a decent game, but unless you’re looking for 7 PPR points and hope at a touchdown, I would sit Devin Duvernay. As for Bateman, he’s the #2 weapon in a game where the Ravens are likely going to be throwing to keep up with the Buccaneers and the Bucs have an extremely beat up secondary. I would start Rashod Bateman, but it’s a borderline recommendation around WR35. You could have better options than him, but I prefer him to a lot of other guys.
Cade Otton (Week 7: 5 targets, 4 receptions, 64 yards)
Cameron Brate (Week 7: Inactive, neck injury)
Whoever starts for the Buccaneers, you should start. The tight end position, whoever the leader might be, is getting some of the highest target loads in the NFL. Since Cam Brate is beat up I would recommend that you start Cade Otton this week. Brate and Otton have combined to average over 7 targets over the last four weeks (and the math is messy because Brate suffered two injuries in that span), and the Ravens are a defense you want to throw on. They’ve given up double-digit fantasy days to tight ends in three-straight games, and two of those games were Daniel Bellinger and Hayden Hurst. Through seven weeks, only boom-bust Dawson Knox and the two-headed New England Patriots attack failed to return a double-digit tight end day against the Ravens.
UPDATE: Cameron Brate is OUT for this contest. Fire up all your Cades Otton, you Travis Kelce managers.