Is Saquon Barkley playing tonight vs. the Buccaneers?

With Monday Night Football set to kick off in just a few hours, is Saquon Barkley playing, and should he be in fantasy lineups tonight?

With one game left in Week 11 before heading into the Thanksgiving slate, fantasy football managers head into Monday Night Football hoping for a miracle. The big question heading into the New York Giants vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers matchup is whether or not Giants RB Saquon Barkley is playing tonight. What is the latest news regarding Barkley and his game-time status, and what can fantasy managers expect as he takes on the vaunted Buccaneers run defense?

Update 11/22/2021: Saquon Barkley is officially active for the New York Giants tonight against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Is Saquon Barkley playing tonight?

Ideally, we would get to see players reach their full potential. Then, all we have to talk about is the talent on the field. The last thing you ever want is for a guy to end up in the dreaded “what if” column where injuries robbed them of their prime. I am not saying we are there yet, but Saquon Barkley has been about as injured as anyone since joining the NFL in 2018 as the No. 2 overall pick.

Barkley is once again the talking point heading into a Giants game due to injury. Although in this case, we have some positive news which has been rare for an offense plagued by injuries. Jordan Raanan of ESPN reported on Monday [November 22] that Barkley (ankle) is expected to suit up and play on Monday Night Football.

Barkley missed New York’s last three games after suffering his ankle injury against the Cowboys on October 10. His injury has taken longer than initially anticipated. And a false positive COVID-19 test ahead of the Giants’ bye week did not help matters. 

Following a full week of practices, Barkley was listed as questionable heading into Monday night. The Giants desperately need him back in their lineup as they sit at 3-6 and in the basement of the NFC East. During Barkley’s absence, the franchise has gone 2-3. Do you know who else desperately needs him? Fantasy football managers who are trying to get into the playoffs.

Can Barkley be the player you thought you were drafting for your fantasy team?

That’s a bit of a loaded question, as it depends on the draft capital you spend and expectations you had coming into the season. We knew Barkley would likely come out of the gates slow following his ACL tear suffered in Week 3 of 2020. But the thought process was that if you wait out the first few sluggish weeks, come midseason, you would have an elite top-five RB to ride into the fantasy playoffs. 

And I honestly believe we were on that trajectory at the start of the season. In weeks 1 and 2, Barkley struggled and was in a committee. But we expected that. He played on 48% of the snaps in Week 1 while recording 27 yards. Yet, he ramped up in Week 2 with an 84% snap share and 59 yards on 16 touches. 

Then, Week 3 and 4 hit. Against the Falcons and Saints, Barkley looked, well, like Barkley. In those two weeks, he played on 87% of the offensive snaps, rushing 29 times for 103 yards with 2 TDs. Additionally, he generated 117 yards and another score on 11 receptions (13 targets). In those two weeks, Barkley was the fantasy RB2, averaging 25.5 PPR points.

This was supposed to be the start of the momentum that pushed him into the rest of the year. Yet as we all know now, his Week 5 injury derailed all of that and left us with a massive hole in our rosters and questions to answer.

Don’t give up on the Giants’ star RB

Maybe I am that sucker who is born every day they talk about, who knows. But I think it might still happen. Two years ago, I was in this same chair talking about nearly this identical topic.

Barkley had struggled with injuries and was heading into the final stretch of the season. Nevertheless, I said he would end up being your playoff MVP. He did just that, rattling off 721 yards and 5 TDs over his next five games.

We face a similar scenario this year. Assuming Barkley can remain healthy, he has a phenomenal chance to succeed. His rest-of-season schedule is highly favorable. Starting in Week 12, five of his remaining seven games are against teams ranked in the bottom half of points allowed to RBs, including three contests (Eagles twice and Chargers) vs. bottom nine opponents.

I would not be shocked if Barkley goes on a tear to end the season. If your trade deadline has not passed already, he would be a target of mine. But what about Week 11?

If Barkley struggles in Week 11 vs. Tampa Bay, don’t overreact for fantasy

Odds are Barkley could and likely will struggle tonight. For one, he has missed the last four games. It takes time to get back into the groove, and I would expect the Giants to rein in his touches and/or snaps as they ease him back into the game.

Also, there is the matchup. I would think after 10, nearly 11 weeks of football, we should all know the Buccaneers have a great run defense. They’re No. 1 in rushing yards allowed and have surrendered just 4 touchdowns all season. But they’re No. 18 in overall points allowed to RBs at 23.09. How is that so?

It’s receiving work. As teams abandon the run, they use the passing game to manufacture touches for RBs and try to get them in space. In fact, a league-leading 64.3% of their fantasy points allowed (14.8) come via the air, where they allow 1.78 points per reception.

If you have held out all week believing Barkley would play, you have to give him a shot in your roster. There is potential he bombs if they rotate him and Devontae Booker more than expected, but Barkley still comes in as a mid-to-low RB2 this week. Barkley could exceed expectations if the Buccaneers’ massive run stuffer, Vita Vea, misses the contest.

Tommy Garrett is a Fantasy Analyst for Pro Football Network and is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here, listen to him on PFN’s Fantasy Football podcast, and check out his contributions in PFN’s free fantasy newsletter. Give him a follow on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.

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