The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went into their Week 5 bye looking, at least statistically, like a team with a respectable defense. The Bucs were (and are) winless, sure, but that was mostly about the ineptitude of the offense. Tampa Bay's D held the Jets to 18 points, New Orleans to 16, New England to 23, and Arizona to 13. Nothing shameful about those totals.
But after the bye, things have fallen apart. The Bucs have allowed 31 points to opponents in back-to-back weeks. The defense made us all briefly think that Nick Foles was the answer in Philly (296 pass, 4 TDs), and that Harry Douglas was a suitable replacement for both Roddy and Julio (149 yards, TD). Tampa has given up four touchdowns to wide receivers over the past two weeks, two to running backs, plus the rushing score to Foles.
So we've reached the point where this D is no longer on the avoid list, if it ever was. Darrelle Revis spending half his day in zone? That seems like a favor to the fantasy community.
Let's get to this week's fliers, both of 'em Panthers...
Mike Tolbert, RB, Car (18 percent owned) — Look, this is a brutal week at running back, with very few no-doubt options outside the top-8. In a week like this, the goal line vultures get interesting. Tolbert has been exceedingly useful recently, seeing double-digit touches in consecutive games, breaking the plan three times. Over the past two weeks, he's had five carries inside the 5-yard line, the second highest total in the league (Marshawn has six). If you think the Panthers can pile up yards and points against the Bucs — and there's no obvious reason to think otherwise — then you have to assume the Kool-Aid Man will get a chance or two (or more) to find the end zone.
Brandon LaFell, WR, Car (23 percent) — LaFell has seen 31 targets over his last five games, catching 18, so he'll have his opportunities. And, again, Tampa's defense has been uncommonly generous to receivers lately. Cam Newton certainly isn't a liability, having completed 35 of 43 throws in the past two weeks (81.4 percent). I've ranked LaFell as a top-36 option at WR for Week 8 — these things happen when six teams are on bye — so he's clearly in the starting discussion, at least for me.