Fantasy Football Week 11: Three WR/CB matchups to target and avoid

2T74YKH Houston Texans wide receiver Noah Brown (85) waits for the football during to an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2023, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Melissa Tamez)

• WR Noah Brown, Houston Texans vs. CB Garrett Williams, Arizona Cardinals: Brown’s excellent usage should yield WR3-or-better results against Arizona.

• WR Gabe Davis, Buffalo Bills vs. CB Sauce Gardner, New York Jets: Davis has been held to fewer than four receptions and/or 35 receiving yards in his past three games against New York.

• Dominate your fantasy league in 2023: For up-to-date fantasy draft rankings and projections, check out PFF’s fantasy rankings tool!

Estimated Reading Time: 10 minutes

Knowing when an NFL wide receiver has an advantageous or disadvantageous cornerback matchup is critical for fantasy football start-sit decisions. This article details six players to be started with confidence or avoided at all costs, thanks in part to their primary defensive counterpart for Week 11.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

3 Wide Receivers to Target

WR Noah Brown, Houston Texans vs. CB Garrett Williams, Arizona Cardinals

Update 11/17: Noah Brown has been ruled out for Week 11 due to a knee injury. 

Noah Brown (86.4 PFF receiving grade) faces Arizona’s shaky slot coverage unit this week, led by third-round rookie cornerback Garrett Williams (62.1 PFF slot coverage grade) and safety Jalen Thompson (72.0 PFF slot coverage grade). Brown is a borderline WR2 or WR3.

The game’s 47.5-point FanDuel over/under is Week 11’s highest. FanDuel implies Houston to score 26.0 points.

Houston’s offense ranks eighth in expected points added per play (0.039) and 12th in success rate (44.0%).

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Houston a 12.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, Week 11’s fifth-best edge.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart gives Brown excellent 85.8-plus receiving matchup advantage ratings against all three Arizona starting cornerbacks. His 53.6% pre-snap alignment slot rate provides him access to Arizona’s middling slot coverage unit, but his 25.3% wide-left and 21.1% wide-right rates provide ample opportunities against Arizona’s atrocious perimeter coverage.

Although the Cardinals have largely faced offenses featuring perimeter wide receivers since Williams entered the lineup in Week 7, Williams’ 30.3% targeted rate ranks sixth highest among 79 NFL slot defensive backs with at least 30 slot coverage snaps. Thompson ranks outside the top 35 in catch rate allowed (75.0%), yards allowed per coverage snap (1.44) and explosive pass plays allowed rate (3.9%).

Arizona has the league’s worst perimeter-wide receiver coverage unit, ranking dead last in both catch rate allowed (74.2%) and yards allowed per coverage snap (6.01). Their 26th-ranked 11.4% explosive pass plays allowed rate is only marginally better.

Noah Brown operated as a featured downfield playmaker in Weeks 8-10; he is one of just 19 NFL wide receivers to earn five or more splash-zone targets during that span. His 80.0% splash-zone catch rate ranks second among qualifying wide receivers, and his 75.0% explosive pass plays rate and 5.60 yards per route run on such targets rank or tie for 10th. The splash zone was first studied by then-Rotoworld analyst Hayden Winks in 2019 and named by Legendary Upside’s Pat Kerrane in Week 7 of 2023. The term refers to the area of the field both between the painted numbers and at least 10-plus yards downfield. Targets thrown into the splash zone yield more fantasy points, on average, than those thrown along the sideline at an equivalent depth.

Brown is also one of 36 NFL wide receivers to earn at least 12 first-read targets over the past three weeks, and both his 5.23 yards per route run and 93.5 PFF receiving grade on such targets rank first among qualifying wide receivers. The former average leads the pack by 1.00 yards.

Brown is a borderline WR2 or WR3 with top-12 positional upside.

WR Michael Wilson, Arizona Cardinals vs. CB Derek Stingley Jr., Houston Texans

Update 11/19: Michael Wilson (shoulder) reportedly suffered a setback in practice this week and will not play.

Rookie Michael Wilson (69.6 PFF receiving grade) is a half-PPR WR3 against Houston’s wide receiver-friendly secondary. Houston perimeter cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. (64.7 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) will be his primary coverage defender, but Wilson runs routes at just a 37.9% wide-right plurality, followed closely by 34.2% wide-left and 27.9% slot pre-snap alignment rates. The varied deployment allows Wilson to attack downfield from multiple angles. As detailed in Week 11’s “QB Matchups, Streamer of the Week, Rankings and More and Brown’s section above, the two teams' respective offensive firepower creates a high-scoring fantasy football environment.

With quarterback Kyler Murray (65.6 PFF offense grade) under center, Arizona’s offense ranked 13th in EPA per play (0.029) and tied for second in success rate (50.0%) among NFL teams in Week 10.

Houston’s cornerback unit returned to full health last week, but safety Jimmie Ward’s (67.8 PFF coverage grade) hamstring strain creates a centerfield runway for splash-zone targets.

Among 86 NFL perimeter cornerbacks with at least 45 perimeter-wide receiver coverage snaps, Stingley’s 4.2% explosive pass plays allowed rate ranks 36th and No. 2 perimeter cornerback Steven Nelson (75.5 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) ranks 49th or worse in catch rate allowed (67.9%), yards allowed per coverage snap (2.17) and explosive pass plays allowed rate (5.4).

Houston slot cornerback Tavierre Thomas (49.3 PFF slot-coverage grade) is having a down year following his 2022 breakout campaign. Among 31 NFL slot cornerbacks with at least 45 slot coverage snaps, Thomas ranks 26th or worse in catch rate allowed (79.0%), yards allowed per coverage snap (2.58) and explosive pass plays allowed rate (6.2%).

The 6-foot-2, 213-pound Wilson pummels defenders on splash-zone targets, ranking first in missed tackles forced per reception (0.6) among 66 NFL wide receivers with at least six splash-zone targets 80.0% explosive pass play rate on such targets ties for 17th, and his 83.3% splash-zone target catch rate ties for fourth.

Arizona head coach Jonathan Gannon has increased Wilson’s offensive involvement over the past four weeks. Despite missing Week 9 due to a shoulder injury, Wilson has earned 15 first-read targets, just four behind No. 1 wide receiver Marquise Brown (71.2 PFF receiving grade).

Among 60 NFL wide receivers to earn at least 30 first-read targets, Wilson’s 12 explosive first-read pass plays ties for 18th and his 16.0 yards per first-read-target reception ranks 12th.

The promising rookie is a half-PPR WR3.

WR Christian Watson, Green Bay Packers vs. CB Asante Samuel Jr., Los Angeles Chargers

Green Bay wide receiver Christian Watson (58.5 PFF receiving grade) carries sublime usage and agonizing results into a cakewalk matchup against Los Angeles’ inept cornerback corps. Watson is an extremely volatile half-PPR WR3.

The game’s 43.5-point FanDuel over/under is Week 11’s seventh highest. FanDuel implies Green Bay to score 20.25 points.

Watson missed Weeks 1-3 with a nagging hamstring strain and is one of 16 NFL wide receivers to have earned at least 10 splash-zone targets in Weeks 4-10, ranking third in splash-zone target rate (50.0%) and 15th in dropped catchable passes rate (25.0%). Watson’s 27.0% first-read target rate (27 targets) leads the five Green Bay pass-catchers with at least 10 first-read targets during that span.

Watson’s elite usage should bear results in a matchup against Los Angeles’ destitute secondary. His 38.3% pre-snap alignment wide-right plurality rate most closely overlaps with primary left cornerback Michael Davis (48.3 PFF coverage grade), but Davis’ Week 10 illness leaves his Week 11 status in question and elevates teammate Asante Samuel Jr. (73.1 PFF coverage grade, 44.0% left-side rate) as Watson’s primary Week 11 foe.

Watson frequently rotates between all three pre-snap alignments, though, giving him access to Los Angeles’ full cornerback group.

The table below ranks in parentheses the Los Angeles cornerback corps’ wide receiver coverage data among NFL teams.

Team CB Coverage vs. WR Los Angeles Chargers
PFF Coverage Grade 40.8 (No. 22)
Catch % Allowed 62.0% (No. 13)
Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap 6.51 (T-No. 29)
15-Plus-Yard Pass Plays % 13.7% (T-No. 22)

Watson is a volatile half-PPR WR3.

3 Wide Receivers to Avoid

WR Gabe Davis, Buffalo Bills vs. CB Sauce Gardner, New York Jets

New York perimeter cornerbacks Sauce Gardner (88.9 PFF coverage grade) and D.J. Reed Jr. (84.6 PFF coverage grade) have functioned as Buffalo wide receiver Gabe Davis’ (69.0 PFF receiving grade) Achilles’ heel over the past two seasons. Davis cannot be trusted to return top-36 half-PPR wide receiver value.

Davis bizarrely lines up both wide right and wide left on exactly 40.9% of routes, traveling to the slot at just a 17.7% clip. The deployment locks him into high-volume repetitions against the league’s premier perimeter coverage tandem.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart gives Davis respectively poor 5.9 and 10.2 receiving matchup advantage ratings against Gardner and Reed.

Davis’ historical struggles against the duo remove him from Week 11 fantasy consideration; Davis has never caught more than three passes and/or produced more than 33 scoreless yards against them. In his three games played against Gardner and Reed, his best fantasy performance yielded just 4.6 half-PPR points.

Davis remains a volatile producer, regardless of the matchup. He is averaging just 1.39 yards per route run to tie for 41st among 64 NFL wide receivers with at least 225 receiving snaps, via his 11th-ranked 14.1-yard average depth of target and third-ranked deep-target rate.

The table below ranks in parentheses The New York perimeter cornerback unit’s perimeter coverage data among NFL teams.

Team Perimeter CB Coverage vs. Perimeter WR New York Jets
PFF Coverage Grade 68.3 (No. 2)
Targeted % 43.5% (No. 8)
Forced Incompletion % 19.3% (No. 4)
Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap 3.22 (No. 6)
15-Plus-Yard Pass Plays % 7.6% (No. 8)

Davis should not be started in 12-team leagues.

WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals vs. DB Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore Ravens

Cincinnati slot receiver Tyler Boyd (65.0 PFF receiving grade) is the next player to face Baltimore’s elite slot-coverage tandem in defensive back Kyle Hamilton (77.2 PFF slot coverage grade) and slot cornerback Arthur Maulet (55.4 PFF slot coverage grade). Boyd’s outlook is shaky. Cincinnati’s Nos. 2 and 5 wide receivers Tee Higgins (66.9 PFF receiving grade, hamstring strain) and Andrei Iosivas (64.1 PFF receiving grade, knee injury) expected absences create opportunities for Boyd to fill the void, but the aging veteran’s declining play coupled with Baltimore’s slot-receiver erasure prevents him from rising past zero-floor half-PPR WR4 status.

Baltimore perimeter cornerback Marlon Humphrey (66.7 PFF perimeter-coverage grade, calf strain) is unlikely to play, clearing the way for Cincinnati No. 1 wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (85.6 PFF receiving grade) to hog targets.

Boyd runs routes from the slot at an 88.4% pre-snap rate.

The table below ranks in parentheses Boyd among 37 NFL slot receivers with at least 105 slot receiving snaps.

NFL Slot WR Receiving Tyler Boyd
PFF Receiving Grade 64.3 (No. 16)
Target % – YPRR 15.2% (No. 18) – 1.13 (No. 18)
aDot – Yards After Catch Per Reception 7.8 (No. 28) – 3.8 (No. 21)
Yards Per Reception 0.7 (No. 24)
Missed Tackles Forced Per Reception 0.06 (T-No. 22)
15-Plus-Yard Pass Plays % 11.1% (No. 31)

The table below ranks in parentheses the Baltimore secondary’s team-level slot coverage data among NFL teams.

Team Slot DB Coverage vs. Slot WR Baltimore Ravens
PFF Coverage Grade 47.6 (No. 24)
Targeted % 25.4% (No. 8)
Catch % Allowed 70.8% (No. 19)
Yards Allowed Per Coverage Snap 1.61 (No. 3)
15-Plus-Yard Pass Plays Allowed % 2.1% (No. 1)

Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow (77.1 PFF passing grade) could salvage Boyd’s day on a miracle play, but Boyd is no longer the must-start player he used to be when one of Chase or Higgins would miss time. He is a zero-floor half-PPR WR4 this week.

WR Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears vs. CB Brian Branch, Detroit Lions

Chicago quarterback Justin Fields (66.5 PFF passing grade) is expected to return from his Week 6 UCL sprain (thumb), but slot receiver Darnell Mooney (62.7 PFF receiving grade) remains just a borderline top-50 wide receiver. Breakout rookie slot cornerback Brian Branch (68.6 PFF slot-coverage grade) is already an elite coverage defender. Branch is backed up by capable safeties Tracy Walker III (60.6 PFF coverage grade) and Kerby Joseph (46.6 PFF coverage grade).

FanDuel implies Chicago to score just 18.5 points.

Fields’ return does not imply a 100% return to full grip strength at this time, which is problematic for the seam-stretching Mooney, whose 26.5% deep-target rate ranks 11th among 64 NFL wide receivers with at least 225 receiving snaps.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart gives Mooney a poor 17.7 receiving matchup advantage rating against Branch and projects him to face the rookie on 20 of his 30 receiving snaps.

Mooney was slowed by a Week 2 knee injury but has been free from the injury report since Week 4. Among 63 NFL wide receivers with at least 160 receiving snaps in Weeks 4-10, Mooney ranks outside the top 45 in both yards per route run (1.20) and explosive pass plays (five).

Among 33 NFL slot defensive backs with at least 60 slot coverage snaps, Branch’s 1.10 yards allowed per coverage snap ranks third and his 2.2% explosive pass plays allowed rate ranks ninth.

Among 62 NFL safeties with at least 100 wide receiver coverage snaps, Walker ranks in the top 15 in both yards allowed per coverage snap (0.39) and explosive pass plays allowed rate (0.7%), and Joseph’s 50.0% catch rate allowed ties for 11th.

Mooney is a very risky flex play in Week 11.


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