Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Still think the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren't any good? Clearly you were watching the World Series instead of NFL Network on Thursday night.
What you missed was the Buccaneers annihilating the Minnesota Vikings by a lopsided score of 36-17.
This Buccaneers win came on the heels of a thrilling last-second loss against New Orleans in Week 7 and a blowout win over Kansas City the week before that. Overall, Tampa Bay has racked up an absurd 102 points in those contests for an average of 34 points per game.
Thursday's win at the Metrodome was the real test. The Chiefs and Saints couldn't stop a pee-wee team but the Vikings came into Thursday's contest with the league's ninth-ranked defense in yards allowed. By the time the night was over, the Buccaneers had amassed 416 yards, the most given up by the Vikings all season.
What really stood out from Thursday's win was that one player accounted for over 50 percent of the team's offense. That player was Doug Martin, a sneaky- good running back who played his college ball in the bustling metropolis of Boise, Idaho. The former Boise State Bronco finished the evening with a career-high 135 rushing yards and 79 yards receiving. He also scored two of Tampa Bay's four touchdowns.
If it weren't for some guy named Robert Griffin III we might be talking about Martin as the favorite to win the NFL's Rookie of the Year award.
The dynamic quarterback and wide receiver duo of Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson has received most of the praise for Tampa Bay's offensive resurgence but Martin has been just as valuable. The 23-year-old Stockton, California, native has exploded for 467 total yards in his last three games. In that time Martin has flexed his muscles as both a runner and a receiver with 296 yards rushing and another 171 yards on the receiving side.
The three-game burst has allowed Martin to pass Trent Richardson for second in the NFL in rookie rushing yards (543).
From a receiving standpoint, Martin has been amongst the league's best. Darren Sproles of the Saints and Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens are the only running backs in football with as many receiving yards as Martin (224) through seven games.
Watching him on Thursday night, Martin looked like a man on a mission. During his 64-yard touchdown sprint at the beginning of the third quarter, Martin showed off his skill by juking not one, not two, but six defenders on his way to the end zone.
His 1-yard score later in the game was all about power running. The 215- pound Martin carried at least three Vikings with him on his way to the goal line.
Breakaway speed, lateral quickness, strength and vision are just a few bullet points on Martin's long list of strengths. Another one is ball security as Martin has yet to fumble on any of his 133 rushing attempts this season.
At 5-foot-9, Martin might be a little on the short side but that deficiency hasn't stopped halfbacks like Ray Rice or Maurice Jones-Drew from finding success in the NFL. If anything, Martin's low center of gravity allows him to duck under defenders in a way that a taller back like Adrian Peterson might not be able to.
Fantasy owners weren't sure what kind of workload Martin would receive this season with talented backup LeGarrette Blount waiting in the wings. Some feared the Tampa Bay backfield might be a timeshare, but luckily for Martin that hasn't been the case. Martin has been getting 19 carries per game while Blount is averaging fewer than five.
The tools for Martin to succeed are all right in front of him. Now he just needs to show more consistency.
After peaking in Week 1 with a 95-yard effort versus the Panthers, Martin slumped by totaling just 152 rushing yards over his next three games including a dismal 33-yard outing against the Redskins in Week 4. During his three-game slide, Martin caught just four passes for 30 yards.
Since then, Martin has run for at least 75 yards in each of his last three games. Upcoming dates against Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta should only increase Martin's already booming fantasy potential.
Martin, like all young players, is a work in progress. But when a player goes on a hot streak like this, you have to milk it for all it's worth. Until he cools off, Martin should be in your starting lineup every week.