Sunday’s matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers has a lousy 41.5-point Vegas total. It is expected to be a low-scoring game, mainly due to the fact that both teams are starting rookie quarterbacks. While the low point total may raise caution to using players in this game in fantasy football, there are certain matchups within the context of the game that call for fantasy football production for specific players.
Mariota’s preseason was very encouraging for Tennessee Titans fans. He looked comfortable in the pocket and executed the offense. That said, he didn’t produce too many numbers and didn’t run like many thought he would. Still, that was preseason and now there is the chance that the offense will open up a bit. There are rumors that Ken Whisenhunt was saving many offensive tweaks for the regular season. Mariota will begin with a great matchup against a pass defense that was among the worst in the league last season and hasn’t done much in terms of improvement. Some rushing stats will boost his fantasy production even more. If you aren’t sure about your starting quarterback’s matchup for this week, give Mariota a look as a streaming, starting option.
Winston’s matchup isn’t as easy, but with top cornerback Jason McCourty out and Perrish Cox questionable, there is room for a big game to start his NFL career. The Titans were middle of the pack last season in pass defense and added Da’Norris Searcy to solidify the strong safety position and Brian Orakpo to the pass rush to help out the secondary. Those two additions may not be enough to offset the losses of McCourty and Cox. With a bevvy of tall, athletic pass catchers in his arsenal, Winston might have a top-10 fantasy quarterback scoring week.
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All signs this offseason have pointed to the Tennessee Titans not being committed to Sankey as their feature running back. They drafted David Cobb in the fifth round, have incorporated Antonio Andrews into the first-team offense, and just traded for Terrance West. Sankey will begin the season as the starter, but his performance alone will dictate if he keeps the job for very long. His Week 1 matchup looks good on paper, but the Buccaneers ranked 8th on Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA. I wouldn’t touch the Tennessee backfield in fantasy football until some clarity is established, but if you must, treat Sankey as a low-end flex.
Like I said with Sankey, the Titans backfield is a situation to avoid in fantasy football. Andrews is the short-yardage (possibly goal-line) back and will sprinkle into the first-team offense more often than expected. He’s also a very fluid pass-catcher and will get a good amount of PPR points for deep leaguers.
He looked rejuvenated in preseason and will be the early-down back for the Bucs. The Titans rush defense last year was second-worst in the league, with not too much of an improvement expected. The Bucs’ offensive line is a mess, but if Martin can recapture some of his 2012 form he should have a very good day on the ground against this defense. Treat Martin as a solid RB2 for this week.
Sims is the third-down back, but that’s about it. Though he may catch a good amount of passes, he has been rather underwhelming when he’s been on the field for the Buccaneers. Like Andrews, I would only use him in deep PPR leagues.
Wright is the Titans go-to receiver. His mediocre year last year was very much a result of awful quarterback play. With Mariota in Tennessee, Wright is a prime candidate for a bounce back year. Reports are that Wright is Mariota’s favorite receiver to throw to, and that should become apparent as soon as the season begins. Kendall will be better in PPR leagues, but even in standard leagues he is a solid WR2/3.
The Titans are only keeping four receivers on their active roster, which means they are placing a lot of trust in unproven youngsters Dorial Green-Beckham and Justin Hunter. Hunter has shown us very few flashes of his potential and many flashes of his low floor. DGB has looked dominant in preseason and should be able to carve out a big role in the Titans offense very soon. He has a prime matchup against a weak, short secondary. Look for him to be targeted in the red zone, with a touchdown a very real possibility. He’s a bit of a dart throw if you start him in fantasy football, but he may return great value (high risk/high reward).
Evans practiced on Friday for the first time in a while. There are doubts about whether he is going to play, but signs are pointing to him taking the field. You shouldn’t feel totally confident about a not-100% Mike Evans, but you have to start him. Even at less than full strength, he is a threat to score a touchdown at any moment, especially against this Titans secondary. If he is active, start him as a high-end WR2.
Jackson has been a little undervalued this year after he only came away with two touchdowns last season. He’s still a good receiver and should benefit greatly by the switch from Josh McCown to Jameis Winston. With Evans not fully healthy, this may end up being VJax’s best game of the year. Whether Evans plays or not, Jackson is a solid WR2 (bump him up even more if Evans is out).
Walker is the 1B to Wright’s 1A as the Titans go-to guy. It’s very common for a team’s tight end to be a safety blanket for young quarterbacks, and Delanie showed last year that he can be more than just a safety valve. Walker possesses big-play ability from the tight end position, as well as a reliable option in the red zone. The 8th-best fantasy football tight end last year, Delanie Walker is a mid-range TE1 for this week and for this year.
Another monster in the Bucs pass catching corps, his height will be tough for Titans linebackers/safeties to deal with. ASJ was very inconsistent last year, but he is expected to take a big leap forward soon. As mentioned with Delanie Walker, tight ends are usually safety blankets for young quarterbacks. He should have a good enough game to make him a decent streaming option.