Last updated: September 19th at 1:45pm ET
Team Totals: Bucs 27.5, Giants 20.5
With the Eli Manning era mercifully brought to an end, Daniel Jones will make his first NFL start on the road against Bucs DC Todd Bowles’ overachieving defense, which held Jimmy Garoppolo to Week 1’s QB29 finish and Cam Newton to last week’s QB23 result via improvements in discipline and tackling. Per PFF, only the Patriots have missed tackles (3%) at a lower rate than Bucs defenders (8%) two weeks in. Although Jones is only trustworthy in two-quarterback leagues initially, his superior arm talent and athleticism to Eli’s petrified remains should upgrade fantasy outlooks for skill players around him. And I wouldn’t write off Jones as a DFS-tournament play in stacks with Saquon Barkley and/or Evan Engram. The No. 2 SPARQ-rated quarterback in this year’s draft, Jones averaged 36 rushing yards per start and scored 17 rushing TDs as a three-year starter at Duke. … Volume and big-play ability make Barkley one of fantasy’s most matchup-proof commodities, but Tampa Bay’s run-defense dominance is notable after holding Panthers and 49ers backs to 46/107/0 (2.33 YPC) combined rushing in Weeks 1-2. The Bucs are without top-five-pick ILB Devin Smith (MCL), however, and Barkley is a 30-touch candidate so long as this game stays close. With Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara diminished by quarterback woes, it’s fair to say Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott would be the top-two season-long picks if we re-drafted today.
Second among NFL tight ends in targets (22), Evan Engram should see more big-play chances via Jones’ stronger arm. The Bucs have been most vulnerable in tight end coverage, yielding 8/54/0 receiving with two touchdowns called back to George Kittle in Week 1 and 6/110/0 to Greg Olsen last Thursday night. Eli’s short-area passing style limited Engram to an anemic 6.0-yard aDOT in Weeks 1-2; he should jump into the 8.0-yard range alongside Kittle and Zach Ertz. … Outside WRs Cody Latimer (concussion) and Bennie Fowler (hamstring) are questionable at best to play. Jones did flash an on-field rapport with next-man-up T.J. Jones this preseason. … Sterling Shepard is the Giants’ third-best Week 3 fantasy option behind Barkley and Engram. Due back from his concussion, Shepard caught 6-of-7 targets in New York’s opener and offers fringe WR3 viability in PPR leagues against Tampa’s unimposing slot coverage.
Back home after last Thursday night’s upset win at Carolina, the Bucs host a Giants “defense” that gave up Week 1’s QB2 finish to Dak Prescott and Week 2’s QB7 result to Josh Allen with a top-ten blitz rate that isn’t getting home under DC James Bettcher. Patient and poised in Week 2 after his trainwreck opener, Jameis Winston committed zero turnovers at the Panthers and offers Week 3 DFS-tournament appeal versus a nonexistent Giants pass rush that finished second to last in 2018 sacks and ranks 27th in sacks two games in. … Coach Bruce Arians has made it clear he will rely on a “hot-hand” strategy when determining week-to-week running back playing time. Even though Ronald Jones was Tampa’s most-efficient Week 1 runner, Jones managed four touches on a backfield-low 12% of last week’s offensive snaps. Peyton Barber controlled the position group with 24 touches on a 67% playing-time clip, and Dare Ogunbowale remained Tampa Bay’s lightly-used third-down specialist. This is clearly a backfield to avoid whenever possible, but Week 2’s usage shift and Week 3’s projected game script with the Bucs favored at home support Barber as a flex option. Jones and Ogunbowale are season-long RB5/6s at best.
Winston’s target distribution: Chris Godwin 15; Mike Evans 13; Breshad Perriman 9; Ogunbowale 7; Barber and O.J. Howard 5; Cameron Brate 4; Jones 1. … Godwin’s year-three breakout is in full motion. He’s played 93% of Tampa’s offensive snaps, run 53% of his routes inside, and on Sunday draws a Giants defense relying on diminutive second-year UDFA Grant Haley (5’9/190) at slot corner to handle plus-sized Godwin (6’1/209). Cowboys slot WR Randall Cobb beat Week 1 expectations (4/69/1) against the G-Men, and Bills receivers piled up 9/89/1 receiving on slot routes versus New York last week. … His Week 1 sabotaged by the stomach flu, Evans rebounded for eight Week 2 targets and popped in Josh Hermsmeyer’s Air Yards Model as Week 3’s No. 4 buy low. Evans is also among season-long fantasy’s most-obvious buy lows entering a Week 3 date with the Giants, who’ve already been touched up by fellow perimeter WRs Michael Gallup (7/158/0), Amari Cooper (6/106/1), and John Brown (7/72/0). Brown’s Week 2 would have been much bigger had Josh Allen not missed him for a wide-open 52-yard TD. … Following last Thursday’s ugly win at Carolina, Arians and OC Byron Leftwich had extra days to evaluate Howard’s usage coming off a game where Howard’s lone target was nullified by his own offensive pass-interference penalty. Howard also allowed a sack in pass protection after losing a Week 1 end-zone fumble and dropping a pass that became a Jameis pick. Howard has played 85% of Tampa Bay’s offensive snaps but deservedly lacks the coaching staff’s trust. Arians did make it sound this week like Howard may receive squeaky-wheel treatment, although his short-term floor has obviously lowered.
Score Prediction: Bucs 28, Giants 23