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WR/CB matchups for fantasy football – Week 6

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Fantasy football is all about the matchups, especially when it comes to WR vs. CB. Remember when fantasy matchup analysis used to be “Team A gives up the most fantasy points to wide receivers”? Well, we’ve moved from analog to digital and now look at matchups on an individual level. 

Each week, I dig through the FTN Data to identify the actual coverage tendencies for all 32 NFL teams and compile this information in the WR/CB Matchups Tool. The information is then distilled down to give you the biggest upgrades and downgrades this week.

Before we get into this week’s information, we should note a few things about shadow coverage. For starters, shadow coverage is relatively rare in the NFL. In fact, so teams don’t use it at all and instead just let their corners play their sides. We track all shadow situations in our Shadow Index.

A shadow situation occurs when a corner travels with a wide receiver around the formation. Shadows can occur for an entire game or only part of the contest. A shadow situation do not mean the corner is on the receiver 100% of the time. This isn’t backyard football. Receivers move around and occasionally will avoid the shadow. Also, a shadow situation is not always a bad thing for receivers. If the corner is not particular good, the receiver could actually benefit from the shadow.

 

 

Matchup Upgrades

Stefon Diggs vs. Tennessee

Stefon Diggs hasn’t had a signature game this season, but he has seen a healthy 47 targets at a solid 13.3-yard average depth of target. If there’s a game for that big performance to come in, it’s this one. Diggs has lined up on the right 42% of the time this season, which means he’ll see plenty of Janoris Jenkins. On the season, the jackrabbit has allowed 20-of-22 catchable targets to be caught with opposing wideouts getting at least a step of separation on 86% of his targeted routes.

Tyreek Hill vs. Washington 

Kameron Curl isn’t going to know what hit him when he has to face Tyreek Hill in the slot. Curl has allowed two scores on eight catches. Hill also gets a favorable matchup on the outside when he’s against William Jackson. The veteran has only allowed a 47% catch rate, but looks are deceiving here. Jackson is also seeing a massive 15.2-yard average depth of target with receivers finding pay dirt three times against him already this season.

DJ Moore vs. Minnesota

The Panthers wideout came back to earth last week, thanks in large part to a shadow from Darius Slay. DJ Moore won’t have anyone traveling with him this week and will instead get to square off against Bashaud Breeland, Patrick Peterson and Mackensie Alexander. That trio has already allowed five scores on the season with receivers catching 10-of-12 contested targets in their coverage. Moore bounces back in a big way this week.

Ja’Marr Chase vs. Detroit

Ja’Marr Chase has asserted himself as the alpha in Cincinnati, catching five scores through the first five games. He’s also seeing a hefty aDOT of 15.5 yards, which is nearly double that of Tee Higgins (8.3). Last week, the Lions actually used Amani Oruwariye in shadow coverage against Justin Jefferson, which went well for Jefferson. Oruwariye could travel with Chase, but even without a shadow, Chase figures to see Oruwariye on nearly half of his routes, as he lines up on the left 46% of the time. Oruwariye is allowing 16.0 yards per catch with opposing receivers coming down with 4-of-6 contested targets.

Other Matchup Upgrades

  • DK Metcalf vs. Pittsburgh – Yes, Metcalf is a downgrade with Geno Smith under center, but this matchup is appealing. Metcalf is on the left 58% of the time, which means he’ll see more of James Pierre than he will of Joe Haden. Receivers average 15.1 yards per catch with an 83% catchable target reception rate against Pierre.
  • Cooper Kupp vs. NY Giants – Kupp has been excellent this season with at least a step of separation on 87% of his targeted routes and a healthy six end zone targets. He’ll avoid James Bradberry out of the slot and will instead see Julian Love. The Notre Dame product has played just 46 snaps this season and allowed a reception on all five catchable balls thrown into his coverage.
  • Terry McLaurin vs. Kansas City – Get your popcorn ready for this contest. McScorin’ gets to face a putrid Chiefs secondary that has already allowed nine scores on the season. McLaurin will have his way with Mike Hughes, who has allowed 17 receptions on 21 catchable targets.
  • Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool vs. Seattle – With JuJu Smith-Schuster out for the season, Johnson and Claypool will dominate the target share. D.J. Reed and Sidney Jones have both allowed two scores on the outside with Jones also given up 16.8 yards per catch.
  • Keenan Allen vs. Baltimore – The Ravens may not seem like a plus matchup, but Allen gets the best of this one. In the slot, Tavon Young has managed tight coverage on just 6% of his targeted routes.
  • Allen Robinson vs. Green Bay – It’s been ugly for Robinson over the first five weeks of the season, but he’s a very sneaky options this week. With Jaire Alexander on injured reserve and Kevin King banged up, the Packers are scraping the bottom of the barrel at corner.
  • Brandin Cooks vs. Indianapolis – Cooks got the star treatment with a shadow from J.C. Jackson last week, but he won’t in this one. Veteran Xavier Rhodes has allowed three scores on the season with opposing wideouts averaging a massive 19.7 yards per catch against him.
  • DeVonta Smith and Jalen Reagor vs. Tampa Bay – Injuries have ravaged the Bucs secondary, forcing them to start Richard Sherman and Ross Cockrell along with Jamel Dean. Sherman has been rusty since getting back on the field, allowed 12 receptions on 12 catchable targets with tight coverage on just 13% of his targeted routes. Look for the Eagles to exploit this matchup.
  • Jaylen Waddle vs. Jacksonville – Injuries have thrust Waddle to the top of the pecking order in Miami. While he’s getting very low-aDOT looks (4.6), there’s still upside here. Jags slot corner Tre Herndon has seen seven targets and allowed seven catches on the season.
 

 

Matchup Downgrades

A.J. Brown vs. Tre’Davious White (expected shadow)

While Julio Jones could be back on the field this week for the Titans, look for the Bills to prioritize A.J. Brown with Tre’Davious White in shadow coverage. White remains one of the league’s top cover men. He’s been in tight coverage on 33% of targeted routs with opposing wideouts catching just seven balls in 15 contested situations. He’s also holding opposing pass catchers to a 59% catch rate with just 10.3 yards per catch.

Mike Evans vs. Philadelphia

We saw the Eagles use shadow coverage for the first time in 2021 last week with Darius Slay traveling with D.J. Moore. Slay was excellent in the process with two picks on five targets. If Philly does decide to shadow again, Mike Evans in the most likely target based on what teams tend to do, but this is a downgrade for him regardless. In addition to Slay, Steven Nelson has been rock-solid with tight coverage on 40% of his targeted routes.

Kadarius Toney vs. LA Rams

He’s one of the hottest names in fantasy right now after his breakout Week 5 performance, but let’s not get too crazy here. So far this season, Kadarius Toney has lined up in the slot on 56% of his routes run. On the other side of this contest, Jalen Ramsey has manned the slot 63% of the time. You likely already know how good Ramsey is at what he does, but it’s still worth quantifying. He’s been in tight coverage 38% of the time, which is one of the highest rates among every-down corners in the league. He’s also made a play on 19% of the balls thrown into his coverage with one interception and four pass break ups on 26 targets.

Other Matchup Downgrades

  • A.J. Green vs. Cleveland – The Cardinals do not move their receivers around, so Green has lined up on the right 87% of the time. That means he’ll almost exclusively see Greedy Williams. The Browns corner has been excellent this season, allowing just six catches on 12 catchable targets.
  • Tim Patrick vs. Las Vegas – Patrick played well last week and saw nine targets in the process. But he’s a fade against a tough Raiders secondary. Casey Hayward has held opposing receivers to just 5.5 yards per catch with tight coverage on a massive 50% of his targeted routes.
  • Adam Thielen vs. Carolina – Over the last two weeks, Thielen has just five catches on six catchable balls for 86 yards. That decrease volume plus a tough matchup against Donte Jackson has him trending down.
  • Marvin Jones and Laviska Shenault vs. Miami – Both players were out-targeted by Jamal Agnew last week and run into a rough one here. Xavien Howard has managed a play on 18% of the balls thrown into his coverage and has been in tight coverage on 50% of his targeted routes coverage. Byron Jones has been no slouch there either with tight coverage 35% of the time.
  • Hunter Renfrow vs. Denver – Renfrow has emerged as Derek Carr’s preferred wide receiver target, but this matchup is rough. Renfrow will see plenty of Bryce Callahan in the slot. Callahan has allowed just seven catches on 12 catchable targets this season.
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