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Thursday Night Football preview: What to expect fantasy-wise from Buccaneers at Bears

Fantasy preview of Thursday Night Football.

NFL: OCT 04 Chargers at Buccaneers Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Both the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Chicago Bears are breaking in new quarterbacks at this point, albeit with a few more notches on the belt for Tom Brady and the Bucs. Both teams feature offensive and defensive units strong personnel scheming, but the biggest differentiator is the Bears’ middling run defense.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tom Brady is hot off of roasting the Chargers’ defensive by connecting with five different touchdown-makers, none of them being Chris Godwin who was out with a serious hamstring injury. Godwin’s availability is up in the air this week as well. The fact that he couldn’t make a single Week 4 practice is a bad, bad sign. Furthering the issue, Mike Evans also suffered an ankle injury in-game. He was able to play through it, but ankle sprains can easily get worse in the ensuing days after the injury because of swelling. Brady’s showing last week proved that he can still make magic with a lacking cast, but it sure would help to have one of his top two pass catchers ready to rock on Thursday night. Erring on side of caution, Brady’s been ranked as this week’s premier QB2.

Should Mike Evans play, he’d be an elite WR1 as he’d hoover targets all night sans Chris Godwin. Were Evans to sit, Scotty Miller would jump from a solid flex option to a high-end one, with WR2 upside. The fill-in slot man has proved a capable receiver in his short time in the league and Brady has sung his praises on more than one occasion. If in need of receiver help, look to Scotty.

Update 10/8/20: Chris Godwin is out. Mike Evans is a game-time decision but trending in the right direction. If active, Evans would be a target monster. Justin Watson is also out. Regardless, Scotty Miller has a flex-floor with a WR2 ceiling.

Justin Watson would be No. 3 in the wide receiver pecking order, and perhaps the man who’s fantasy outlook would vary the most; Mike Evans’ potential abandonment of 10+ targets will be felt all down the roster. Meanwhile, Tyler Johnson could go from zero to low-end flex option should Evans miss.

Up-and-down tight end O.J. Howard devastatingly tore his Achilles last week, vaulting Rob Gronkowski and Cameron Brate into fantasy relevance. Howard had been the team’s top dog at the position but Gronk has rights to the TE1 role now. Brate, the former touchdown-stealer in the Jameis Winston era immediately resumed his old role, hauling in his lone target for a 3-yard score. Consider Gronk a back-end TE1 in fantasy but keep an eye on the sneaky red zone devil, Brate.

Like Godwin, running back Leonard Fournette was completely unable to practice last week (ankle), which does not bode well for his short-week availability this Thursday. Making things thinner, passing game back LeSean McCoy suffered an ankle injury mid-game last week and has already been ruled out for Week 5. The runway is cleared for Ronald Jones to match, or even exceed his Week 4 performance: 20 carries, 111 yards rushing, catching six of nine targets for 17 yards. Against the Bears’ aforementioned average run defense, Jones could return serious RB2 value. 3rd round rookie back Ke’Shawn Vaughn finally got action last week, turning his five touches in 26 yards and a score. His passing game ability was always his most dynamic trait and with McCoy down for the count, Vaughn is suddenly on the streaming-flex radar.

Update 10/8/20: Leonard Fournette is doubtful and LeSean McCoy is out. Ronald Jones is a locked-in RB2 and Ke’Shawn Vaughn is a flex option, with albeit far safer viability in PPR formats.

Chicago Bears

Recently installed quarterback Nick Foles has his work cut out for him this week against a Bucs’ secondary that’s totaled the year’s 3rd-highest interception total (5), 3rd highest sack total (14), and the 5th-most QB hits (26). As such, Foles can’t be trusted as anything more than QB3 with Allen Robinson-upside.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson continues to put up unholy numbers, no matter his situation. He’s impossible to cover consistently and needs to be locked into lineups no matter what.

Perimeter rookie receiver Darnell Mooney and slot receiver Anthony Miller are in an all out battle for the No. 2 pass catcher role. Mooney’s got the edge in receptions and yardage while Miller’s ahead in the TD department. Against the all around stout secondary, it’s anyone’s guess as to which one returns flex value.

Tight end Jimmy Graham’s usage has been sporadic through four weeks, especially in the red zone. In Weeks 1 and 3, he lead the team in targets in scoring position. In Weeks 2 and 4, he didn’t see a single target from 20-yards, or fewer, out. Unsurprisingly, his production has depended entirely on his red zone usage. With the Bucs shutting down every position on the field, Graham is not a preferred TE option in Week 5.

David Montgomery led the backfield in both carries (10) and targets (6) last week and that should be the case again, moving forward. Against the Bucs front-seven, that has allowed the 2nd-fewest rushing yards (257) and just three rushing touchdowns, Montgomery can only be counted on as a flex option though. Keep an eye on Cordarrelle Patterson and monitor whether or not the team opts to bring veteran back, Lamar Miller, up from the practice squad to the active roster.