So there's the Watusi and the Waltz. The Tango, the Twist. You might remember the Humpty Dance. And in fantasy football, there's the Dance of the Recently Eliminated. Not familiar with that one? Meet me in Tampa Bay, where Tom Brady and Mike Evans put on a clinic against Carolina on Sunday.
Brady’s been a middling fantasy option for most of the year, sitting at QB13 entering this week. His efficiency metrics are down, but the league’s busiest passing game has given him some buoyancy. Brady wasn’t driving managers to the championship, but you could squint and see his secondary value.
Evans, meanwhile, has been a fantasy loss, especially in the second half of the year. He posted just 215 yards in four mediocre December games. Evans was sitting as the WR27 entering Week 17, and his no-show at Arizona last week (3-29-0) probably knocked a lot of fantasy managers out of the playoffs. It was his 11th straight game without a touchdown, a shocking slump for a receiver who will eventually garner Hall of Fame support.
So much for that slump.
Evans rocked the house for 10 catches, 207 yards and three touchdowns Sunday, all of them suitable for framing, as Tampa Bay rallied past Carolina, 30-24. Evans posted 43.7 points in Yahoo's standard half-point PPR scoring, the best wide receiver score of the year. Football is lovely, isn't it? Evans loses his way for a few months, then breaks football on New Year's Day.
If your league has bonus points for distance scoring, Evans really smashed the calculators. His touchdowns came from 63, 57 and 30 yards out. The undermanned Panthers secondary couldn’t mark him.
Back to the dance intro. I call this type of game "The Dance of the Recently Eliminated" because it seems to be a fairly common occurrence. Often, an NFL player goes on a scoring binge the moment it's too late to help fantasy managers. Maybe it's confirmation bias, perhaps it's selective memory. If you advanced to your final in spite of Evans and still dialed him up Sunday, I'm thrilled for you.
Of course, I might feel a little bad for your opponent, too.
It’s the third time Evans has turned the hat trick in his career. He had three spikes against the Bears in Week 7 last year, and there was a three-touchdown party against the Giants in Week 3 of 2019. He also pushed over 1,000 receiving yards for the campaign, his standard. He’s made it in all nine of his professional seasons.
The Buccaneers did most of their scoring late, par for the course. Carolina raced out to a 14-0 lead and still led 21-10 early in the fourth period before Brady locked in, throwing two scoring passes to Evans and tacking on a quarterback sneak for another score.
Brady now has 24 touchdown passes for the year, and most of them are beat-the-clock specials. Thirteen of the touchdowns have been in the final period; only one has come in the first quarter. The Buccaneers need to figure out how to replicate their fourth-quarter urgency into first-half outcomes. Brady's final count was 432 passing yards and four total touchdowns, nudging past Daniel Jones on the Week 17 leaderboard.
It will be interesting to see how the Bucs handle Week 18’s game against Atlanta. Tampa Bay clinched the NFC South title Sunday but can’t advance past the No. 4 seed. It will host a playoff game — and likely be an underdog — in the first round of the tournament. Brady’s posted a winning record in every professional season, a streak he’d probably like to continue. The Bucs are now 8-8. But getting any key personnel hurt in a meaningless game wouldn’t make much sense, would it?
This could be the Last Dance for Tampa Bay's fantasy offense. There are rumors that Brady will play somewhere else next year, and heck, he turns 46 in August — maybe he'll finally retire for good. Evans steps into his age-30 season. Leonard Fournette turns 28. A cliff season could come for any of these guys at any time.
Those are problems for another day, I suppose. Tampa Bay doesn’t look like a primary Super Bowl contender, but the Buccaneers aren’t dead yet. Brady, Evans and friends will be making another appearance in the NFL playoffs, after putting their stamp on the fantasy ones.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Stay tuned for more Week 17 fantasy winners and losers.