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Aerial Warfare in Tampa: Texans vs Buccaneers

Aerial Warfare in Tampa: Texans vs Buccaneers

Bottom rung pass defenses structured to allow aerial onslaught for both clubs

It is week 16 of the 2019 NFL season and the 9-5 Texans travel to Tampa Bay to face a red-hot Buccaneers team that now finds themselves at 7-7. As they are eliminated from playoff contention, the Buc’s can only hope to slow the Texans’ chances of clinching their 6th AFC South division title this decade.

The Texans are 3 point favorites, according to Vegas, in a match-up that is expected to produce an enticing 49.5 point over/under.

It may be an understatement to say Houston has not been good against the pass this season. They rank near the bottom of the league in multiple categories and the secondary has had a carousel of defensive backs swapping in and out of the lineup on a weekly basis. Houston has been using a plug and play approach in the secondary and have had trouble staying healthy at the position. The Texans have garnered a few former top draft picks that fell out of favor with their old teams throughout the course of this season, one of which is recently acquired Vernon Hargreaves III, who will be starting against his former team with the all too familiar revenge-game narrative looming over the match-up. Hargreaves was drafted 11th overall by the Buc’s in 2016.

Vernon Hargreaves III communicates coverage to the rest of the secondary vs the Patriots, a prime-time game the Texans went on to win rather easily

After a Patriots victory hangover, Drew Lock diced up the Texans at home just a couple of weeks ago to the tune of 300+ passing yards and 3 TDs in only his second career start. Houston’s Swiss-cheese like secondary is allowing the 5th most passing yards in the league and the 4th most fantasy points surrendered to opposing wide-outs over the last several weeks. Jameis Winston should feast against the lackluster secondary that may additionally struggle due to the absence of Bernardrick McKinney and Jacob Martin in the line-backing corps/pass rush areas.

Unbalanced Buc’s Will Throw No Matter the Consequences

Quarterback Jameis Winston cocks his arm before throwing downfield. Winston has been a huge fantasy asset as far as yardage and touchdowns this year, despite his high turnover rate

Fortunately for the Houston defense, hamstring injuries appear to be contagious in Tampa. The Buccaneers will be extremely depleted at the receiver position due to a multitude of leg injuries that have forced the league’s best WR duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin to the IR. Scotty Miller is the latest Buc’s receiver to succumb to the soft-tissue menace, meaning the likes of Breshad Perriman and Justin Watson will likely see an uptick in usage and in targets this week. Perriman should make for a great fantasy start yet again in an offense that rarely relies on the run game and loves to take multiple shots downfield, regardless of game script. Meanwhile, Justin Watson has now moved into flex consideration after Chris Godwin left the game last week with his hamstring. Watson will look to take on the role of the big-slot/possession receiver for quarterback Jameis Winston. Volume should be there for both Perriman and Watson as they step into the starting roles, fantasy owners can only hope that they do something with it.

Buc’s receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are out for the season with hamstring injuries

Both Jameis Winston and Bruce Arians have come out and said that tight ends Cameron Brate, OJ Howard and running backs Peyton Barber and Ronald Jones will be more involved in the passing game.

Breshad Perriman has stepped up as a huge fantasy asset since Mike Evans went down with an injury

Check the weather forecast on this game as there is a good chance for precipitation and gusts of wind that may affect the passing the game to some degree. Fantasy owners shouldn’t be to worried though, as both teams are setup to throw a ton in a game with a high expectancy of touchdowns. Being underdogs in a game with nearly a 50 point implied total, we can expect Winston to air it out, despite losing his top two receiving weapons over that last few weeks.

Texans Air Raid Set to Launch

The Texans are 1-2 this season versus NFC South opponents, taking losses to the Saints in week 1 and the Panthers in week 4 by a combined total of 8 points. Houston blew-out the lowly Falcons in week 5 by 21 points in game that saw Will Fuller score 3 touchdowns on 14 receptions while tacking on 217 receiving yards.

Watson is easily a top five fantasy option at the position this week versus a Tampa defense that is slightly worse against the pass in comparison to the Texans

Deshaun Watson and company should be expected to put up points versus a Tampa defense that is 26th against quarterbacks, 32nd versus wide-receivers and 29th against the tight end positions. Back in week 5 Will Fuller and DeAndre Hopkins were setup for big games against the Falcons and everyone, including yours truly, called it. We could see it from a mile away, and here we are again with another juicy match-up. The difference now is that Keke Coutee has been held to healthy scratch status to make way for Kenny Stills, who scored twice last week versus the Titans in Tennessee. Stills will eat into Fuller’s target share as they are able to do similar things on the field. Fuller had a TD overturned last week and the very next play Watson targeted Stills in the end-zone for the score. In fact, Stills has proven to be extremely versatile as both a possession receiver and a field-stretcher, earning him increased playing time and attention from Deshaun Watson. Watson will definitely take his shots downfield on deep bombs to all three of his wide-outs given the chance.

Hopkins has received tons of aerial support from teammates Will Fuller and Kenny Stills, making Houston a dangerous opponent through the air

Lightly touching on the run game in this match-up, neither Ronald Jones or Peyton Barber are appealing. HC Bruce Arians has not committed to either this season, seemingly taking a hot-hand approach with his running backs. Neither can be trusted starts in championship week for fantasy purposes. Trying to guess which one will have a better game like is like asking your girlfriend where she wants to eat, there really isn’t a straight answer. On the other side of the ball, Carlos Hyde has quietly surpassed the 1,000 rushing mark for the first time in his career. Tampa is truly a funnel defense as their defensive passing metrics suggest. At this point it is hard to decipher if they are great against the run, allowing 14.4 fantasy points to RBs per game, or just put up great numbers because they are getting torched everywhere else. Duke Johnson clearly has the edge in the passing attack for the Texans, but it would be wise to be cautious and not play any running back in this game unless absolutely necessary.

Fantasy Must Starts

Houston: Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins

Tampa Bay: Jameis Winston, Breshad Perriman, OJ Howard

On the Bubble Starts

Houston: Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, Darren Fells

Tampa Bay: Justin Watson, Cameron Brate

Sit ‘Em

Houston: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson

Tampa Bay: Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, Ishmael Hyman

For season long fantasy advice follow the author of this article, Miles Peacock on Twitter @FF_Peacock

Aerial Warfare in Tampa: Texans vs Buccaneers

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