Should You Start Either Tampa Bay RB Against the Panthers?

No one expected the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be 6-8 and fighting for the playoffs when we were projecting this season. Fantasy football managers have endured a tough season from this Buccaneers offense as the unit has suffered a freefall to a bottom-five scoring unit. Tampa Bay has to get back on track against the Arizona Cardinals this week.

Two Buccaneers playmakers in the spotlight to produce are running backs Rachaad White and Leonard Fournette. We’re on top of all angles in this matchup for fantasy managers and bettors alike — let’s dive into whether you should start White or Fournette against the Cardinals.

Should You Start Rachaad White vs. the Panthers?

We never really want to start a playmaker from an offense that has scored more than 23 points once all season long. The Buccaneers boasted the NFL’s No. 2 scoring offense and No. 1 passing attack last year, with the ninth-most rushing touchdowns in the league. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich was a candidate for at least one head coaching job.

But this year, they’re 27th in scoring, fourth in passing yards, and dead last in every major rushing statistic. Losing Bruce Arians as head coach was just the tip of the iceberg this team has had to overcome, and their offensive line woes have robbed them of their promising season.

White, a third-round rookie, has been a small bright spot on the offense. He grabbed a bigger chunk of the available snaps in Week 10, earning 64% of the snaps and immediately getting the first 100-yard game of his career. White’s playing time and rushing totals have been inconsistent since, but he adds some value as a receiver.

MORE: Week 17 Fantasy RB Start/Sit Recommendations

White’s receiving upside is the key part of his fantasy value. Though Fournette was wonderfully productive as a receiver last year and has met expectations in 2022, he’s clearly not been as effective this season. Fournette’s not able to create when there’s no running room due to his linear nature, compared to the shiftier and more dynamic White.

The Panthers have the definition of an average defense against backs. They’re giving up 99 rushing yards, 25 receiving yards, and one total touchdown on 26 touches a game. White had only 32 yards on seven touches in his previous game against Carolina in Week 7.

While White seemed to grab the third down role with 20 receptions from Week 12 through Week 14, he had only six targets and five catches across Week 15 and 16. His snap count also dropped from 53% to 39% and 36% in that time. Fournette took advantage of his increase in playing time by catching 13 passes over two weeks.

With this in mind, take part in an Underdog Fantasy Best Ball league and throw White into your lineup to help separate yourself from the pack!

White is currently ranked as the RB31 in our Week 14 PPR fantasy football rankings. He’s a low-end starter with that ranking.

I’d shy away from playing White as Fournette has taken over as the primary back. If you start White, you’re hoping he logs his third receiving touchdown in five weeks, but he doesn’t get the volume or significant red zone chances I’d prefer to bank on.

Should You Start Leonard Fournette vs. the Panthers?

I thought Fournette might be phased out of the offense as the season progressed, but he’s still very relevant each week. He’s totaled at least 10 touches in every game this season, with his receptions spiking over the last four games. He had 20 carries and nine receptions in Week 16, marking his highest usage yet.

There’s no guarantee Fournette will continue to see that type of volume, but he’s suddenly regained his status as a must-start option for the majority of his fantasy managers. There aren’t more than a few backs who have a chance of getting 20 or more touches. Even if Fournette can’t be efficient, he’ll make up for it with volume.

The biggest boost Fournette can get is a touchdown. He’s been on a scoring drought since his last trip to the end zone in Week 10. With Tom Brady struggling to keep the offense in rhythm and advancing the ball downfield, it’s hard to know whether that fortune changes this week.

I think Fournette has a much more respectable game than his 26 yards on 10 touches against Carolina in Week 7. He could be a solid RB2 if the last two weeks are any indication of what’s to come.

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