The 2021 fantasy football playoffs have become quite the obstacle course lately — with hazards, hardship and monkey wrenches hitting you in the face at every turn. Even after you escaped Week 15 with a victory, celebrating became a near impossibility as you got hit with immediate injury and COVID-19 news that hinder your next steps toward a championship.
If it makes you feel any better, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians can sympathize, and being your fantasy league’s version of Arians will be your ticket to success in Week 16.
The Buccaneers lost in more ways than one last week when the Saints came to Tampa Bay and left with a 9-0 win. Leonard Fournette pulled up lame with a hamstring injury and has since been placed on injured reserve. Joining him are wide receivers Chris Godwin, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL, and Mike Evans whose hamstring injury wasn’t as serious, but is severe enough to keep him out for this week.
Even with Tom Brady at the helm, defending a Super Bowl title becomes a daunting task when three of your top players are out. Fortunately for the Bucs, positional depth has been a strong suit and help is on the way.
The natural pivots for fantasy are Antonio Brown, who returns from his three-game suspension this week, and, of course, Rob Gronkowski. However, both are also going to draw the toughest coverage, as Brown will likely be shadowed by Stephon Gilmore and Gronk will see extra coverage from linebacker Jermaine Carter and free safety Jeremy Chinn. That means Arians and Brady will have to be more creative.
Running back Ronald Jones and back-up tight end Cameron Brate will be integral parts of the game plan, but the value is in the receivers. Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller will both step into more prominent roles this week, and keep your eyes out for Breshad Perriman, who is expected to be activated form the reserve/COVID list this weekend. All three could play significant roles.
If searching for a target pecking order, Johnson seems to be the primary asset. He saw the greatest number of snaps and targets, filling in for Godwin both on the outside and in the slot. Miller and Perriman would likely split the third-receiver role, with Miller working as a chain-mover while Perriman uses his size inside the red zone, much in the way Evans would do. If any of the three are available, adding them just might help you escape your Week 16 matchup and get to the promised land.
Howard Bender is the VP of operations and head of content at FantasyAlarm.com. Follow him on Twitter @rotobuzzguy and catch him on the award-winning “Fantasy Alarm Radio Show” on the SiriusXM fantasy sports channel weekdays from 6-8 p.m. Go to FantasyAlarm.com for all your fantasy football advice.