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Daily Fantasy Week 4: Sunday night picks for Buccaneers-Patriots

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By Matt Savoca, 4for4

Special to Yahoo Sports

Yahoo is expanding its daily fantasy football options in 2021 with a single-game offering. Yahoo has a roster construction of one "Superstar" that scores at a 1.5 multiplier, while the remaining four FLEX roster spots accumulate points at the normal rate. This is half-point PPR scoring and the "Superstar" salary does not change from the Utility. All scoring and rules can be found here.

In Week 4, we have one of the most highly-anticipated games of the entire season, with Tom Brady returning to his former team’s stadium, facing his old coach for the first time since his departure during the 2020 offseason.

Depending on the type of contest we’re creating rosters for, we’ll need to adjust our player selection strategy. If playing in a tournament with a huge amount of contestants, it will be vitally important to play something other than the optimal lineup based on projections. Differentiating yourself from the rest of the field is equally valuable. Once we understand the type of roster we need to be building for the specific contest you’re trying to take down, we can then focus on player selection, working to identify combinations of players that could all hit their respective ceilings together, based on specific game environments. Slow, run-oriented defensive battles often allow very different players to hit their ceiling score compared to when a game is fast-paced and pass-happy.

Vegas Total and Spread

The Buccaneers are favored to win by 6.5, with an implied total of 27.75 points. The Patriots have a Vegas-implied team total of just 21.25 points. That’s a somewhat bullish total for the Patriots, since the only time New England has scored 21-plus points this season was against the New York Jets.

Weather

Temperatures in Foxborough, MA could dip below 60-degrees, and we might see a bit of light precipitation, but winds seem minimal. The mediocre weather shouldn’t affect the flow of the game.

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Potential Game Flow Scenarios

The Buccaneers should come into this matchup extremely motivated after a surprise defeat in Week 3, where the Los Angeles Rams high-powered offense was able to outpace Tampa Bay in a 34-24 win at SoFi Stadium. Now, back in Foxborough for the first time since leaving after the 2019 season, quarterback Tom Brady ($35) should look to run up the stat sheet against his former coach Bill Belichick. Brady’s passing at an unprecedented rate this season, as the Buccaneers currently rank first in the NFL in team pace plays per game. Despite the volume, Brady has remained incredibly efficient, ranking top-10 amongst quarterbacks in adjusted yards per attempt, and top-12 in the NFL fantasy points per dropback.

That combination of volume and efficiency is perfect for an offense that hopes to sustain three viable receivers, making the superstar trio of Chris Godwin ($27), Mike Evans ($21), and Antonio Brown ($19) all viable in cash games or tournaments. The absence of Rob Gronkowski only further adds to the expected consolidation of the Buccaneers' ultra high-volume passing attack. At a steep discount in salary from Godwin, Brown and Evans stand out as quality value plays, with a nearly equal probability of a ceiling performance as Godwin.

INGLEWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 26: Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (14) celebrates with Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) after a touchdown during a game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Chris Godwin and Tom Brady could have plenty to celebrate on Sunday night against the Patriots. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The auxiliary Buccaneers’ weapons are tougher to figure out, especially with Giovani Bernard and Gronkowski out. Tyler Johnson ($13) filled in for the missing Antonio Brown a week ago but could be relegated to a sub-10% snap share in Brown’s return. O.J. Howard ($10) and Cameron Brate ($10) will see a boost in snap share and in routes run, but neither player has a particularly high ceiling, making them mediocre options in large-field tournament play. The Buccaneers running backs, especially in a game where their team is favored by 6.5, have a much higher ceiling, especially if one were to see a majority of the work due to the flow of the game. Leonard Fournette ($16) is the slightly preferred play over Ronald Jones ($14).

The Patriots’ Mac Jones ($23) hasn’t had the most consistent start to his NFL career, but there have been some promising moments. His 74% completion rate and 281 yards passing against Miami to begin the season was solid, but since then, he’s struggled, averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt and less than one passing touchdown per game since that point. The Patriots will need Jones to play at a much higher level if they are to have any hope of keeping pace with the high-powered Tampa Bay offense.

In that regard, Jones does have a few things going for him. PlayerProfiler ranks the Patriots as having a top-10 offensive line in protection rate, and the typically-conservative Patriots have allowed Jones to throw much more often, as he ranks seventh in NFL in pass attempts and fifth in air yards. Unfortunately, he also ranks near the worst of the league with five passes deemed interceptable. Turnovers in this contest could be absolute backbreakers.

New England does have a clear-cut primary receiving option in Jakobi Meyers ($17), who has 11 more targets than anyone else on the team and is the only Patriots skill player currently averaging a 90%-plus snap share. Beyond Meyers, however, the usage has been extremely variable week-to-week, and that trend in opportunity likely continues to shift with receiving-back James White placed on injured reserve earlier this week. Expect the quartet of Nelson Agholor ($17), Kendrick Bourne ($14), Hunter Henry ($15), and Jonnu Smith ($12) to all see between 10% and 20% of the targets. And if recent play is any indication, the Buccaneers have been susceptible against opposing passing attacks, currently ranks dead-last in the NFL in schedule-adjusted fantasy points allowed to opposing offenses, but ranking significantly worse against the pass than the rush.

The New England rushing attack has its work cut out for them, as Tampa Bay ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per carry allowed, but at the very least we can be certain that Damien Harris ($21) will carry a large majority of the ground attempts. Harris was quiet against an equally strong New Orleans rushing attack but displayed his big-play ability in his Week 2 performance against the New York Jets with a 27-yard run in which he carried multiple would-be tacklers and plowed his way into the end zone. Harris has a solid floor due to his built-in touches but isn’t a priority play due to the pass-funnel nature of the Buccaneers' defense.

[Play in Yahoo's $125K Single Game Baller for TB vs. NE]

Close, low-scoring game

  • Tom Brady

  • Mac Jones

  • Damien Harris

  • Chris Godwin

  • Mike Evans

  • Jakobi Meyers

  • Jonnu Smith

  • Patriots Defense

Close, high-scoring game

  • Tom Brady

  • Mac Jones

  • Chris Godwin

  • Antonio Brown

  • Mike Evans

  • Jakobi Meyers

  • Nelson Agholor

  • Hunter Henry

  • Jonnu Smith

  • Ronald Jones

  • Cameron Brate

  • O.J. Howard

Blowout for home team

  • Damien Harris

  • Mac Jones

  • Tom Brady

  • Jakobi Meyers

  • Jonnu Smith

  • Patriots Defense

  • Hunter Henry

  • Chris Godwin

  • Antonio Brown

  • Brandon Bolden

  • Kendrick Bourne

Blowout for away team

  • Ronald Jones

  • Tom Brady

  • Leonard Fournette

  • Buccaneers Defense

  • Mike Evans

  • Chris Godwin

  • Antonio Brown

  • Cameron Brate

  • O.J. Howard

Cheap/Unique Stack Option

Leonard Fournette ($16), Ronald Jones ($14), Buccaneers ($19)

It’s not typically advantageous to roster two running backs from the same squad, but with Tampa Bay being favored by such a significant margin, and a majority of the field expected to roster the Buccaneers passing attack, you can differentiate yourself by attacking the Tampa Bay rushing attack, hoping for a more conservative, ground-and-pound style victory. The Buccaneers Defense ($19) has a fantastic combination of high-floor and high-ceiling, facing a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones, and while the most likely game-flow involves one running back being more heavily involved than the other, it’s possible that both get significant opportunity, and make the most of it. They easily project for a combined 20-plus fantasy points, and the collective ceiling score of the two backs is nearly double that total.

Low Salary Volatile Plays

Tyler Johnson ($13)

With Antonio Brown inactive in Week 3, Johnson served as the de facto third wideout, playing on 46% of snaps, earning six targets and 71 total air yards, and converting that opportunity into a solid three catches for 63 yards. With Brown back this week, there’s a possibility Johnson will be relegated back to his sub-15% snap rate, making him extremely difficult to play. But with Gronkowski out, it’s not impossible to believe the Buccaneers spend more time in four-wide receiver sets, allowing Johnson extra opportunities. With fellow wideout Scott Miller placed on IR, Johnson is the no-doubt wide receiver option behind the Buccaneers’ big-three.

Cameron Brate ($10)

Brate has yet to log more than a 45% snap share this season, but should be in line for significantly more work with Gronkowski forced to miss this game. Brate had by far his most active game in Week 3, doubling his previous season-high in routes run, and turned five targets into four receptions for 35 yards. Week 3 was also the largest snap share Brate had received since Week 5 of last season, a strong indicator that he should be the primary beneficiary with Gronkowski out. Brate’s receiving yards ceiling is around 60 yards (a mark he hasn’t hit since the 2019 season), which makes him a less-than-ideal large field tournament play, but with a touchdown catch this Sunday, a 10-plus fantasy point performance is far from out of the question, which would make him an excellent value for cash games.

Brandon Bolden ($10)

Bolden, a staple of the New England special teams game for years, filled in as the primary receiving back once James White was ruled out with what turned out to be a season-ending hip injury. Bolden had just five total yards entering last week, but suddenly saw a spike in opportunity, getting three carries, and much more importantly, earning four targets on 16 routes run. While it’s always possible that with a week of reflection after the injury to White, Belichick decides to utilize scat-back J.J. Taylor ($10) or even preseason darling Rhamondre Stevenson ($10), Bolden’s 10x-increase in snap share is a solid indicator he could get the first crack as the passing-downs back behind starter Damien Harris.

Superstar Picks

Tom Brady ($35)

Brady will almost certainly be the highest-rostered player on the slate, and for good reason, as Brady’s stats look as good as ever, especially from a fantasy perspective. Brady currently ranks second or better among all quarterbacks in pass attempts, deep ball attempts, red zone attempts, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and fantasy points per game. He’s been phenomenal when pressured, ranking eighth in the NFL in completion percentage under duress, and his true passer rating (that factors out throw-ways) of 120.1 puts him in the top-five quarterbacks in efficiency, despite the immense volume. In cash games, it is absolutely ludicrous to leave this man out of your lineups. In tournaments, there are situations where fading Brady will make sense, but his probability of a dud performance is extremely low, and he’s a must-play in any rosters that include one of his pass-catchers at the Superstar position.

Antonio Brown ($19)

Brown spent 10 days away from the team on the COVID-19 list, but returned Thursday, and is expected to play this Sunday. But Brown has already displayed his fantastic connection with Brady this season, turning seven targets into five receptions and 121 yards against the Cowboys, en route to the 11th-highest wide receiver score of Week 1. Brown will likely only play on roughly two-thirds of Tampa Bay’s snaps, but that only makes his target share of 12% all the more impressive. The Buccaneers currently have no player earning more than 20% of the passes, but with Rob Gronkowski and Giovani Bernard out, the passing game should become uncharacteristically concentrated, which raises both the floor and ceiling projection for Brown this Sunday.

Jakobi Meyers ($17)

Meyers, the one bright spot of the New England passing attack, has made the most of Mac Jones’ inconsistent play over the first few weeks of the season, earning a team-high 24% target share, and he also leads the team in air yards with 287. Jones has shown a propensity to look for Meyers as New England approaches the goal line, as he’s tied for the team lead in red zone targets. With nearly double the receptions of any active player on the Patriots’ roster, Meyers becomes the best Superstar pick from the New England pass-catchers. If you're playing Meyers in tournaments, it makes the most sense to play him at the Superstar spot, which would help differentiate your utilization of him. Meyers is expected to be the highest-rostered Patriots skill player on the slate, but won’t see nearly as much utilization at the Superstar position.

Leonard Fournette ($16)

Fournette has played on less than 53% of the Buccaneers’ offensive plays for two straight weeks and has seen his opportunities steadily decrease since Week 1 as well. After getting 16 and 15 opportunities in back-to-back weeks, Fournette struggled mightily in Week 3 against the Rams, earning just 34 total yards, and carrying the ball just four times in a losing effort. But being part of a high-powered offense matters for running backs, and despite the inconsistent opportunity, Fournette currently ranks 11th amongst all running backs in receptions and in total red zone touches. Fournette also tends to see fewer defenders close to the line of scrimmage on his runs, as he’s seen six or fewer defenders in the box (the zone in which defenders, typically lineman and linebackers, position themselves to stop a running play) 63%, 17th-highest in the NFL. Playing a home-favorite running back (one favored by 6.5 points, no less), earning high-quality touches on a high-quality offense is more than enough to make a player with a $16 salary viable in any type of lineup. Fournette is a fantastic value at his mid-tier salary.

This article originally appeared in its full form on 4for4.com

A middling athlete who was offered his first sports analytics position in middle school, Matt has been working on NFL and fantasy football data science since 2017. With a particular passion for data visualization and dashboard building, he loves to make data accessible by using graphs and charts to communicate ideas that are difficult to explain with words alone.

More from 4for4.com: An expert's cheat sheet to Yahoo's Week 4 slate

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