Game Preview

Monday Night Football Preview Week 8: Bucs at Giants

Week 8 MNF Preview

For the 25th time in his career, Tom Brady will be playing on Monday night, this time as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He will face a foe he is quite familiar with the New York Giants, a team that has bested him in some of the biggest games in his career. Time will tell if the Buccaneers will follow this same pattern or if they will be able to take care of business on MNF.

– Monday Night Football Preview –

Tampa Bay Bucs at New York Giants

Buccaneers (-13) at Giants | Over/Under: 45

Vegas Odds

Based on the nature of this matchup, the spread for Monday night has Tampa Bay favored by nearly two touchdowns; the second-largest spread in Week 8 outside of the 20.5 line in the Jets and Chiefs game. While a spread this large would give the Giants plenty of room to cover, based on the way these two teams are playing in recent weeks this should be a lopsided matchup, especially when you consider that Tampa Bay has had a margin of victory of +53 over the past two weeks against two teams with winning records. However, not everyone is offering the same line, if you read this article, some sportsbooks have better lines than others. I would bet on the Buccaneers and the points this week.

With the Over/Under, 45 is a relatively low line but when you combine it with the spread, Vegas is betting on Tampa Bay to get ahead early and keep New York’s score down. This line will depend solely on how much the Buccaneers will score and if they will add it to it throughout the game; and seeing as how they have one of the hottest offenses in recent weeks, I would take the Over for Monday night.

Quarterbacks

A major storyline from this past offseason was who would be the winner of the Tom Brady sweepstakes. It was unclear if he would return to his long-time home in New England or if he would move on to greener pastures. When he agreed to a two-year, $60 million contract with Tampa Bay, many wondered what that would mean for his legacy and his fantasy upside going forward. So far in 2020, he has proven that moving to a new team would be no problem. Through Week 7, Tom Brady is the QB6 (depending on scoring format) with 1910 yards, 18 touchdowns, and four interceptions on a 65.7% completion percentage. He started the season slow, ranking as the QB16 for Weeks 1-3 but has been able to get better connected with his new weapons and make up for lost time this offseason due to COVID-19 restrictions. Brady should be able to keep this momentum going on Monday night as he has a very favorable matchup. The Giants are ranked as the 15th best defense against fantasy quarterbacks through Week 7 (depending on scoring format) but have allowed the sixth-most passing yardage and are tied for eighth-most passing touchdowns allowed in that same timeframe, which is something Brady should be able to exploit on Monday night. Feel confident in starting Brady this week and expect a solid QB1 performance on Monday night.

As one of the youngest quarterbacks in the NFL, Daniel Jones has been given lots of playing time in his young career and has maintained a long leash from the Giants to form good habits and work through any issues (unlike his fellow cross-town quarterback Sam Darnold). Despite this, Jones has not shown enough upside for either New York fans and prospective fantasy owners to have a high amount of faith in his long-term future. Part of his rocky performance has had to do with the departure and multiple injuries to his star players, namely Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley, but he has also failed to show the proper amount of progress for a quarterback who has started 19 games. In fact, Jones has only had one start where he did not throw an interception or lose a fumble (though he did have a fumble in that game) and he has the lowest winning percentage of any quarterback who has started at least 19 games since the beginning of the 2019 season.

PlayerTeamStarts in 20192019 RecordStarts in 20202020 RecordCombined Starting RecordsWin Percentage
Daniel JonesNYG123-971-64-1521%
Matt RyanATL157-882-69-1439%
Philip RiversLAC & IND165-1164-29-1341%
Kyler MurrayARI165-10-175-210-12-143%
Derek CarrOAK/LV167-963-310-1245%
Baker MayfieldCLE166-1075-211-1247%

These issues will continue to be a problem for Jones on Monday night against Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers defense has been great against opposing quarterbacks so far in 2020. They are one of eleven teams to allow nine or fewer passing touchdowns through Week 7 and have a quarterback pressure rate of 27.4%, the fourth-best rate in the league. Monday night is looking to be another rough one for Jones, keep him on your bench/waiver wire this week.

Running Backs

In the Buccaneers’ backfield, their two lead running backs have had very different paths to Tampa Bay’s roster. Ronald Jones was selected 38th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft and has been one of the team’s leading rushers since joining the team. Leonard Fournette was released by Jacksonville in September after being a top-five selection in 2017 and signed with Tampa Bay shortly after, looking for a new opportunity to revitalize his NFL career. So far this season, both running backs have found fantasy success with Jones ranked as the RB12 through Week 7 and Fournette has had two weeks this season where he ranked as an RB1 (depending on scoring format). The Buccaneers offense seems to be clicking fully into place so it will be interesting to see how their roles grow for the rest of the season. One thing that we know for sure is their dynamic on passing downs.

If Bruce Arians keeps to his word, Fournette will have a lot of upside going forward, especially on Monday night against New York. The Giants have been one of the worst defenses against pass-catching running backs this year, tied for the fourth-most receiving yardage and tied for the second receiving touchdowns to running backs through Week 7. While they have been an above-average defense against the run (allowing an average of 86 rushing yards per game to the position), Jones has a large enough role in Tampa Bay’s offense that he will also be a good option this week. Start both Buccaneers running backs on Monday night.

For the Giants, they have had trouble finding consistency at the running back position since Barkley tore his ACL in Week 2. They signed Devonta Freeman before Week 3 but it has not made much of a difference. The Giants do not have a running back ranked in the top 50 fantasy running backs through Week 7. They will not have an easy time Monday night against a Buccaneers defense that is the ninth-best defense against fantasy running backs so far this season. New York will also be at a further disadvantage since Freeman will be out on Monday; leaving Wayne Gallman and Dion Lewis as the remaining running backs on the depth chart. Based on the matchup and the limited success of this group, I would stay away from this backfield for Monday night.

Wide Receivers

Despite being one of the league leaders in receiving touchdowns, Mike Evans is having one of the strangest fantasy seasons this season. He has two weeks as a top-five wide receiver but has failed to rank higher than WR24 in any other week this season, including Weeks 6 and 7 where he was the WR87 and WR68 respectively. Evans has been a stressful player to start, being so touchdown-dependent. Even with the struggles, Evans has had, it has been hard to find other consistent options in Tampa Bay. Chris Godwin has been dealing with injuries all seasons, including a finger injury that will keep him out of Monday night, and Scott Miller has also had very sporadic production throughout the season trying to connect with Brady.

This interesting dynamic will only get more complex with the addition of newcomer Antonio Brown this week. Assuming Brown is in game shape, he should be a welcome addition, especially for Monday night. Tampa Bay’s wide receivers should have a good matchup against the Giants, a secondary that has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points against wide receivers so far in 2020 (depending on scoring format). Evans and Miller will be solid options this week while Brown will be more of a risk. It is hard to expect that someone can go from suspended by the NFL and off an NFL roster to fantasy relevant in such a short time, especially when you consider the timeline Brown has been dealing with over the past year-plus. Expect WR2 level production from Evans and Miller this week and look for Brown to get on the field but remain fantasy irrelevant on Monday night.

Much like the running back group, New York’s wide receivers are having a tough time finding fantasy relevance in 2020. Darius Slayton is the highest-ranked fantasy wide receiver at WR28 in PPR scoring leagues but he is not someone who has had consistent enough numbers to start each week. Their other starting wide receivers, Golden Tate and Sterling Shepard are ranked very low and have not been startable in weeks. Shepard, who has been dealing with toe injury throughout the season, did have a solid performance in Week 7 with six receptions on eight targets for 59 yards and one touchdown. He looks like the best wide receiver option the Giants have if he is fully healthy, but we will see what kind of an impact he will have Monday night. Tampa Bay is ranked as the 13th best defense against fantasy wide receivers through Week 7. Based on this matchup and the trouble their signal-caller will be facing as well, it appears as though this will be another game to keep your New York wide receivers on your bench/waiver wire.

Tight Ends

Evan Engram is a player who has been intriguing in recent years as fantasy owners look to cash in on the potential he showed early in his career, posting one of the best rookie tight end seasons in NFL history in 2017 with 64 receptions on 115 targets for 722 yards and six touchdowns. Since then, however, Engram has failed to come close to that fantasy production, especially as someone you usually have to draft earlier than the tight ends he ends up finishing near at season’s end. This year has been no exception as Engram is ranked as the TE17 in PPR scoring formats with only two top twelve weekly finishes through Week 7. Engram did have one of his best games of the season last week with six receptions for 46 yards, so things could be turning around for him going forward but there were still things in that game that should worry prospective fantasy owners, including a crucial drop in one of the biggest moments of the game.

On Monday night, he will try to keep some of that momentum going against Tampa Bay, a defense who has been middle of the pack in terms of points allowed to fantasy tight ends (depending on scoring format). They rank as the 15th best team in the league in that category and have allowed two TE1 level performances within the last three weeks to tight ends, showing there may be some upside for Engram on Monday night. He will surely see targets on Monday night, especially if the Giants fall behind early but the matchup is just not favorable enough to expect a big outing from Engram. Look for Engram to have a TE2 level performance on MNF.

One of the season’s most notable fantasy draft busts to start the season was Rob Gronkowski, who only managed to get 12 receptions on 20 targets for 140 yards and zero touchdowns through Week 5 (including a Week 2 game that he started but scored zero fantasy points). This caused him to fall all the way to the TE31 and resulted in him being dropped to the waiver wire in many leagues, despite being one of the top ten tight ends drafted in those same leagues. However, he has caught fire in the last two weeks, shooting up the rankings to the TE1 for Weeks 6-7 with ten receptions on 16 targets for 140 yards and two touchdowns. While his end of season finish will surely be somewhere in between those two spots, it is encouraging that Gronkowski has been able to bounce back and show he can still play at an elite level despite missing last season. He will look to keep his hot streak going against the Giants, a defense who surprisingly ranks in the top ten against fantasy tight ends through Week 7 (depending on scoring format) but have allowed two straight TE1 level performances to tight ends in recent weeks. I would continue to play the hot hand in this matchup, start Gronkowski this week.

Defense/Special Teams

The Buccaneers D/ST is continuing to see the fantasy relevance and production it saw in 2019, ranking as the second-best unit through Week 7 (depending on scoring format). Tampa Bay has been mediocre in terms of points allowed (averaging just over 20 points per game) but has been exceptional in terms of sacks and turnovers, a major factor in making them a premier D/ST unit. They are second in the NFL with 25 sacks and are tied for third with 12 turnovers (nine of which being interceptions), making them one of the most advantageous in the league. Their matchup on Monday night against New York is one of the best this season so far. The Giants offense has been putrid in 2020 and will be pillaged once again this week; especially their offensive line, a group that has allowed Jones to get pressured on a league-leading 28.8% of his dropbacks. When you add in the turnover-prone Jones, Tampa Bay will be among the top D/ST units this week, if not the top one.

Despite being a unit in the midst of rebuilding, the Giants D/ST has been a solid option in some weeks this season, posting three double-digit performances through Week 7 (depending on scoring formats). While two of those games were due to a touchdown (which can’t be relied upon weekly), they have shown they can be used in certain circumstances with the proper matchup. This week will not be one of those cases, as the Buccaneers have been on fire in recent weeks and have not committed a turnover since Week 5. Keep the Giants D/ST on your bench/waiver wire this week

Prediction

After a stretch of fairly evenly matched teams playing on Monday night, this one is not shaping up to fit that mold. Tampa Bay has looked like a playoff contender so far in 2020 while New York has looked anything but. The only chance the Giants have in keeping this game competitive, let alone winning it outright, is if they can find a way to limit turnovers and win the time of possession battle. Keeping the ball out of Brady’s hands as much as possible is going to be one, of many, factors that will need to break in their favor for New York to win on Monday night; but that seems very unlikely. I have the Buccaneers winning by a score of 38-10 in this contest.

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