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Week 12 WR/CB mismatches and shadow coverages to leverage in DFS & fantasy football leagues

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) celebrates a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Green Bay Packers at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Week 12 is here! I'll be breaking down the WR/CB matchups all season long with a focus on figuring out who could be facing shadow coverage as well as the best and worst overall situations. We'll also briefly touch on each team's tight end group.

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The following tables denote every player’s: most frequent alignment, height (inches), weight (pounds), 40-yard dash (seconds) and yards per route run/coverage snap. Note that wide receivers regularly move all around the formation; these are just their primary alignments. Additionally, shadow matchups almost never feature a true 100% matchup rate; general practice in fantasy land is to start your studs as opposed to overweighting a perceived tough matchup.

CHI @ DET | LV @ DAL | BUF @ NO | TB @ IND | PHI @ NYG | TEN @ NE |

Chicago Bears @ Detroit Lions

Bears Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Marquise Goodwin 69 + 180 4.27 1.21 Amani Oruwariye 73 + 205 4.47 1.15
R Damiere Byrd 69 + 180 N/A 0.23 Jerry Jacobs 71 + 203 N/A 1.33
S Darnell Mooney 71 + 175 4.38 1.61 AJ Parker 71 + 178 N/A 1.34

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Allen Robinson (hamstring) is expected to miss another week, leaving Darnell Mooney locked in as this passing game’s undisputed No. 1 option. Nobody had more air yards than Mooney in Week 12, and he actually wound up with the week’s third-most unrealized air yards despite turning in a more than solid 5-121-1 effort. This is largely thanks to him receiving a whopping 16 targets; there’s too much fantasy-friendly volume here to treat Mooney as anything other than a WR2 in fantasy land despite the underwhelming situation under center.

Further helping matters is a Lions defense that simply hasn’t been able to slow down wide receivers this season. The following numbers denote defensive metrics against the position:

  • Yards per attempt: 9.47 (No. 28)
  • Explosive pass play rate: 23.3% (No. 28)
  • QB rating: 98.2 (No. 17)
  • Contested target rate: 16.3% (No. 29)

Mooney is my WR21 on the week ahead of guys like DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Williams. Nobody else from this passing game deserves serious fantasy consideration; Marquise Goodwin’s big Week 11 was largely just due to a late-game blown coverage.

TE breakdown: Cole Kmet continues to play a near every-down role, but he was out-targeted by Jimmy Graham three to two in Week 11. Graham, who has a no-trade clause, is enough of a thorn in Kmet’s side to render the talented second-year option as nothing more than a low-end TE2 at the moment. Kmet is the preferred option on DFS slates, but he slides in as my TE19 on the week behind guys like Gerald Everett and Tyler Conklin.

Lions Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Josh Reynolds 75 + 196 4.52 0.89 Jaylon Johnson 72 + 195 4.5 1.18
R Kalif Raymond 68 + 182 N/A 1.24 Kindle Vildor 71 + 180 4.44 1.3
S Amon-Ra St. Brown 73 + 195 N/A 1.14 Duke Shelley 69 + 180 N/A 1.84

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Josh Reynolds didn’t record a reception in his debut with the Lions, but he’s probably the best DFS dart here thanks to his fantasy-friendly 19.3 yard average target depth. Amon-Ra St. Brown has caught at least three passes in six of his last seven games; that’s not a high floor relative to most players, but this is Detroit we’re talking about here, people. Kalif Raymond has goose-egged in two of the last three weeks despite usually looking like the best wide receiver on this squad.

Avoid this entire wide receiver room like the plague in season-long land; I’d rank this group as Reynolds, Raymond and St. Brown in terms of DFS darts. Even then: meh, this passing “attack” has thrown for just 77 yards in back-to-back weeks. Good luck finding too much success against the Bears’ eighth-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers.

TE breakdown: T.J. Hockenson rebounded well enough from his Week 10 goose-egg with a 6-51-0 receiving line on eight targets against the Browns. Up next is a Bears defense he’s found plenty of success against in past matchups, hanging 5-56-1, 7-84-0 and most recently 4-42-0 lines against the Lions’ NFC North rival. There are only a handful of tight ends in the league favored to function as their passing game’s No. 1 option during any given week, and Hockenson is one of them. He’s my TE5 on the week behind only Darren Waller, George Kittle, Mark Andrews and Kyle Pitts.

Las Vegas Raiders @ Dallas Cowboys 

Raiders Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Bryan Edwards 75 + 215 N/A 1.38 Trevon Diggs 74 + 207 N/A 1.81
R Zay Jones 74 + 200 4.45 1.17 Anthony Brown 71 + 196 4.33 1.55
S Hunter Renfrow 70 + 184 4.59 1.8 Jourdan Lewis 70 + 195 4.54 0.92

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Carr has turned in his three worst performances of the season in PFF passing grade in back-to-back-to-back weeks without Henry Ruggs in action. It’s rather easy to see that this passing game has become a shell of itself without the services of the field-stretching ace:

  • Carr in Weeks 1-8: 90.2 PFF passing grade (No. 4 among qualified QBs), 8.5 yards per attempt (No. 6), 9.2 yard average target depth (No. 7)
  • Weeks 9-11: 51.7 PFF passing grade (No. 34), 7.2 yards per attempt (No. 16), 7.3 yard average target depth (No. 22)

This is just a small sample size, and DeSean Jackson should help matters down the stretch as long as he can remember where the end zone is. Still, things are so much easier for everyone involved in this Raiders offense when the opponent has to respect the deep ball; reduced efficiency could become a more constant occurrence for this passing game during the second half of the season.

Renfrow is the only realistic season-long option from this group. He’s worked as the WR29 in PPR points per game on the season and posted back-to-back WR11 finishes in Weeks 9-10 before last week’s WR53 dud. This Cowboys defense ranks 29th in explosive pass play rate allowed to targets aligned from the slot; don’t be surprised if Renfrow works as the Raiders’ most-productive receiver this Thursday afternoon.

Bryan Edwards has goose-egged in two of his last three games and has more than five targets just once all season. Zay Jones should fully lose his starting spot to D-Jax sooner rather than later. None are realistic season-long options until Carr gets his act together; Jackson is my favorite DFS dart in the hopes that this is the week he receives a full-time role.

TE breakdown: Darren Waller is starting to come around with 7-92-0, 4-24-0 (with a nullified touchdown) and 7-116-0 receiving lines since the Raiders’ Week 8 bye. He’s set up well against a Cowboys defense that didn’t exactly slow down the likes of Rob Gronkowski (8-90-2), Tyler Conklin (5-57-0), Travis Kelce (5-74-0), Evan Engram (4-55-0) and Zach Ertz (4-53-1). Nobody should be ranked higher than Waller at the position this week with Kelce on the bye; consider getting contrarian in Turkey Day DFS games by putting Waller in the FLEX to create some two-TE lineups.

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Cowboys Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Noah Brown 74 + 225 N/A 1.17 Casey Hayward Jr. 71 + 192 N/A 0.43
R Michael Gallup 73 + 198 4.51 1.34 Brandon Facyson 74 + 197 4.53 1.5
S Cedrick Wilson 70 + 183 4.48 1.34 Nate Hobbs 72 + 195 N/A 0.71

Projected shadow matchups: Michael Gallup vs. Brandon Facyson

WR/CB breakdown: It remains to be seen if CeeDee Lamb (concussion) will be cleared by Thursday. He’ll be locked in as a must-start top-10 option if active. Amari Cooper (covid, IR) won’t be back until Week 13 at the earliest.

This leaves Gallup to potentially work as the Cowboys’ undisputed No. 1 pass-game option. He might benefit from this potential shadow date against Facyson (PFF’s third-worst graded cornerback in coverage) if it means seeing less of Nate Hobbs (PFF’s sixth-highest graded cornerback in coverage) and Casey Hayward (12th). Still, Facyson has held up reasonably well against Ja’Marr Chase (3-32-1) and DeVonta Smith (5-61-0) on the two occasions that he’s been asked to track the opponent’s No. 1 receiver this season.

Ultimately, Gallup should be locked into fantasy lineups if Lamb is ruled out, while low-end WR2 treatment is probably still deserved even if the Cowboys’ ultra-talented second-year receiver manages to suit up. A lot of the Cowboys problems against the Chiefs and Broncos was due to the absence of all-world LT Tyron Smith (ankle), who appears to be on track to suit up this week. Credit to the Raiders for allowing the sixth-fewest PPR points per game to opposing wide receiver groups, but just about nobody is capable of shutting down Dak Prescott and company when they’re clicking.

Cedrick Wilson is the preferred dart over Noah Brown; just realize Prescott has been content to distribute the ball to his running backs and tight ends in addition to complementary receivers throughout the season. Neither should be relied upon as realistic starting options in season-long fantasy.

TE breakdown: Dalton Schultz should continue to be treated as a mid-tier TE1 as long as Blake Jarwin (hip, IR) is sidelined. Targets should be even easier to come by with Lamb and Cooper potentially out of action. Only the Eagles and Chargers have allowed more fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends this season, as the likes of Mike Gesicki (19-86-0), Noah Fant (9-97-1), Travis Kelce (8-119-0) and Jared Cook (6-70-1) each balled out in style against this group. Schultz is my TE6 on the week; I love the idea of playing him and Darren Waller in the same DFS lineup this week.

Buffalo Bills @ New Orleans Saints

Bills Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Emmanuel Sanders 71 + 180 4.4 1.46 Paulson Adebo 73 + 190 N/A 1.44
R Stefon Diggs 72 + 191 4.46 2.23 Marshon Lattimore 72 + 192 4.36 1.96
S Cole Beasley 68 + 174 N/A 1.62 P.J. Williams 72 + 196 4.57 0.65

Projected shadow matchups: Stefon Diggs vs. Marshon Lattimore

WR/CB breakdown: Get your popcorn ready for this one. Lattimore hasn’t completely shut down every receiver he’s faced, but the ultra-talented 25-year-old has at least made a truly elite group of receivers work for every yard.

Obviously Diggs earned matchup-proof WR1 treatment a long time ago; just keep expectations for a true blowup performance a bit more in check than usual.

Perhaps the Bills will look to feed Cole Beasley more than usual in an effort to avoid the Lattimore matchup. Beasley was back to his usual full-time role in Week 11 and is set up rather brilliantly in the slot against a Saints defense that has struggled with the assignment through 11 weeks:

  • Yards per attempt to receivers aligned from the slot: 8.49 (No. 25)
  • Explosive pass play rate: 20.2% (No. 27)
  • Pass yard after the catch per completion allowed: 5.2 (No. 24)

Slot-heavy types like Jakobi Meyers (9-94-0), Chris Godwin (8-140-1) and Russell Gage (7-64-0) among others found plenty of success against this defense; fire up Beasley as a high-floor WR3 with confidence in this potential sneaky-blowup spot.

Sanders has fallen off a bit in recent weeks after a hot start to the season but still possesses weekly boom potential thanks to his status as the WR15 in total air yards. Perhaps there will be some added motivation ahead of this Turkey Day revenge game; he’s my PPR WR32 on the week and overdue for a bounce-back week of sports amidst this five-game scoreless streak.

TE breakdown: Dawson Knox might have dropped three passes last week, but his 6-80-0 receiving line on 10 targets was another example of the ceiling here for pretty much any full-time member of this Bills’ pass-happy offense. Credit to the Saints for functioning as one of just nine defenses to allow fewer than 10 PPR points per game to the position; Knox has earned weekly TE1 treatment regardless of the matchup thanks to his true every-down role and demonstrated receiving upside. He’s my TE11 on the week ahead of guys like Dan Arnold, Noah Fant and Tyler Higbee.

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Saints Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Marquez Callaway 74 + 204 4.55 1.37 Tre'Davious White 71 + 192 4.47 0.79
R Deonte Harris 66 + 170 N/A 3.26 Levi Wallace 72 + 179 4.63 0.86
S Tre'Quan Smith 74 + 210 4.49 1.11 Taron Johnson 71 + 192 4.5 0.6

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Trevor Siemian has transformed from arguably the worst quarterback in the league during the first 45 minutes of the game to one of the best during the final frame:

  • PFF passing grade 1st-3rd quarters: 50.3 (dead last out of 46 QBs)
  • PFF passing grade 4th quarter: 92.3 (1st)

The “problem” is that the journeyman has spread his targets out awfully evenly since the Saints lost Jameis Winston (ACL, IR) for the season. Siemian’s top six targets while under center have been as follows:

Smith seems like the most-likely candidate to carve out something resembling a consistent role for the rest of the season. The former third-round pick has had his targets and snaps increase in three consecutive weeks, posting season-high marks in targets (8), receptions (5) and yards (64) alike in Week 11. A date with the Bills’ league-best defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers is hardly ideal, but Smith is a solid enough low-end WR3 moving forward as the expected No. 1 target in this passing game more weeks than not.

Callaway and Harris are both fine lineup fillers for Turkey Day DFS slates, but neither possesses a high enough floor to warrant serious fantasy consideration in this brutal matchup.

TE breakdown: Trautman (knee, IR) is expected to miss four to six weeks, meaning the likes of Juwan Johnson and Nick Vannett will have to pick up the slack. Garrett Griffin should also be involved. It’d make sense if Johnson plays far more than usual and inherits a lot of Trautman’s leftover targets, although Vannett should be considered the favorite to work as the starting inline option. Ultimately, each is too thin of a play to warrant realistic season-long attention, while I’d favor Johnson as the DFS dart thanks to his demonstrated red-zone excellence.

Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals

Steelers Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Diontae Johnson 70 + 183 4.6 2.12 Chidobe Awuzie 72 + 202 4.43 1.04
R Chase Claypool 76 + 227 4.42 1.86 Eli Apple 73 + 203 4.4 0.86
S James Washington 71 + 213 4.54 0.75 Mike Hilton 69 + 184 N/A 1.05

Projected shadow matchups: Diontae Johnson vs. Chidobe Awuzie, Chase Claypool vs. Eli Apple

WR/CB breakdown: Johnson is the WR10 in PPR points per game this season. His streak of eight consecutive games with at least 50 receiving yards trails only Cooper Kupp (11). Volume is a helluva drug — and Johnson has plenty of it. The following list denotes the only receivers averaging double-digit targets per game this season.

Awuzie is PFF’s 10th-highest graded cornerback in coverage this season and is hardly a pushover; just realize Johnson is an every-week upside WR2 at worst with this type of volume and should be started in fantasy lineups of all shapes and sizes in full-PPR formats.

Oct 10, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) celebrates with wide receiver Chase Claypool (11) during the first quarter at Heinz Field. Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

And then there’s Claypool, who caught nine of his 15 targets for 96 scoreless yards against Apple when they squared off in Week 3. The talented second-year receiver is playing a near every-down role and locked in as the passing game’s No. 2 option with JuJu Smith-Schuster (shoulder, IR) out of the picture. There’s a floor here, but Claypool has flashed a ceiling with WR16, WR12 and WR26 finishes in three of his last six games. Fire him up as a boom-or-bust WR3 that has the potential to do a lot of the former when his elderly quarterback has a good day.

James Washington has more than three targets in just one of his last five games and isn’t a recommended fantasy option. Perhaps his role will increase with Ray-Ray McCloud (covid, IR) potentially sidelined; either way we’re talking about a low-floor WR5 at best here.

TE breakdown: Eric Ebron (knee) is expected to miss some time, setting up Pat Freiermuth as an upside TE1 the rest of the way. The rookie is more of a touchdown-dependent TE2 when Ebron is active, as evidenced by his TE15 and TE14 finishes over the past two weeks. Luckily, the ceiling is the roof for Freiermuth without Ebron is sidelined; he ripped off TE3 and TE2 finishes in Weeks 8-9 as the Steelers’ full-time tight end. I have him ranked as my TE7 on the week and that feels low. This Bengals defense is hardly impenetrable against a good tight end, as Darren Waller (7-116-0) demonstrated last week.

Bengals Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Ja'Marr Chase 73 + 200 N/A 2.69 Cameron Sutton 71 + 188 4.52 1.05
R Tee Higgins 76 + 215 N/A 1.86 James Pierre 72 + 185 4.59 1.52
S Tyler Boyd 74 + 203 4.58 1.47 Arthur Maulet 70 + 190 4.62 1.12

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Ja’Marr Chase has finished outside fantasy’s top-24 receivers in four of his last five games. The rookie hasn’t finished outside of the position’s top-31 options during this span; he’s hardly been a liability even during this relative down stretch. Still, the monster games that were a near every-week occurrence during the first half of the season have been missing in recent weeks.

Here’s to hoping this week’s re-rack against the Steelers gets Chase grooving again. He needed just five targets in order to rack up 65 yards and a pair of scores against this group back in Week 3, looking awfully dominant along the way.

It’d also make sense if the Bengals’ complementary receivers really get going sooner rather than later as well. Tee Higgins has been active for eight games this season. The following Bengals have at least 10 targets in those contests:

Ultimately, the Bengals’ slow-moving offense hasn’t rung up enough plays for each of the Bengals’ top-three receivers to consistently provide high-end fantasy production, but they’re still each set up fine enough against the league’s 11th-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing receivers. Both Chase (my WR8) and Higgins (WR26) are recommended starts in most fantasy formats, while Boyd (WR38) has settled in as more of a high-floor WR4 these days as the clear-cut No. 3 option in Burrow’s pecking order.

TE breakdown: Uzomah is the definition of a touchdown-dependent TE2. He’s reached five targets in a game just twice all season and isn’t a recommended fantasy start if you can help it. Overall, Uzomah comes in as my TE23 on the week, behind guys like Austin Hooper, Cole Kmet and Jared Cook. Gross.

Carolina Panthers @ Miami Dolphins

Panthers Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Robby Anderson 75 + 190 N/A 0.68 Xavien Howard 73 + 192 4.58 1.21
R D.J. Moore 71 + 215 4.42 1.9 Byron Jones 72 + 205 4.49 1.2
S Brandon Zylstra 74 + 215 N/A 2.19 Justin Coleman 71 + 190 4.53 1.17

Projected shadow matchups: Robby Anderson vs. Xavien Howard, D.J. Moore vs. Byron Jones

WR/CB breakdown: Cam Newton featured Christian McCaffrey (8 targets) as the offense’s No. 1 pass-game option last week, while Moore (7) and Anderson (5) were the only other players on offense with more than even two targets.

The Dolphins might boast two of the bigger-name outside corners in the game, but they join the Colts, Football Team, Vikings and Titans as the league’s only five defenses allowing at least 40 PPR points per game to opposing wide receiver rooms. Don’t be surprised if both Anderson and Moore win at least a handful of reps in their respective shadow dates; good offense beats good defense in today’s NFL.

The presence of something resembling adequate play under center elevates Moore (my WR13) back to borderline WR1 status, while Anderson (WR52) remains a tough sell despite his relative improvement in recent weeks. Despite the presence of Newton, this offense is still implied to score just 21.75 points this week. Don’t get too carried away, but at least each of CMC and Moore appear set up well to return some consistent fantasy production down the stretch.

TE breakdown: Tommy Tremble and Ian Thomas regularly split snaps and targets alike, rendering each as a non-viable fantasy asset.

Dolphins Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Preston Williams 76 + 210 N/A 0.84 Donte Jackson 70 + 180 4.32 0.98
R Albert Wilson 69 + 186 4.43 1.09 Stephon Gilmore 73 + 202 4.38 0.63
S Jaylen Waddle 70 + 182 N/A 1.43 Myles Hartsfield 71 + 211 N/A 0.32

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Jaylen Waddle has played five full games with Tua Tagovailoa under center:

  • Week 1: 4-61-1 on 5 targets, PPR WR26
  • Week 6: 10-70-2 on 13 targets, WR4
  • Week 7: 7-83-0 on 8 targets, WR16
  • Week 8: 4-29-0 on 11 targets, WR60
  • Week 11: 8-65-0 on 9 targets, WR11

He has emerged as a low-end WR2 with this sort of volume; top-12 production is a consistent possibility down the stretch if the speedy rookie can ever bust open a big play or two.

This week’s matchup against the Panthers’ quick-footed outside corners might not render too many opportunities for big plays down the field, but Waddle should again have every opportunity to rack up receptions in the underneath areas of the field. Overall, the Panthers rank just 26th in contested target rate on passes to targets aligned out of the slot.

Waddle is my PPR WR23 on the week ahead of guys like Mike Williams, Chase Claypool and Tee Higgins. None of the offense’s additional receivers have secure enough target shares to warrant fantasy consideration in their much tougher matchups against Donte Jackson and Stephon Gilmore.

TE breakdown: Mike Gesicki has played more than five snaps as a traditional inline tight end in just one game all season. Alas, he’s considered a tight end in fantasy land, so we’ll roll with it. Like Waddle, Gesicki has generally balled out with Tua under center this season, posting 8-115-0, 7-85-1, 3-48-0 and 5-50-0 in his last four games with the Dolphins’ second-year quarterback. He’s my TE10 on the week; it’s not everyday that you get a chance to roster a team’s No. 2 pass-game option as a tight end.

Philadelphia Eagles @ New York Giants

Eagles Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L DeVonta Smith 73 + 175 N/A 1.82 James Bradberry 73 + 212 4.5 1.02
R Jalen Reagor 71 + 195 4.47 0.63 Adoree' Jackson 71 + 185 4.42 0.75
S Quez Watkins 74 + 190 4.5 1.61 Darnay Holmes 70 + 198 4.48 1.16

Projected shadow matchups: DeVonta Smith vs. James Bradberry

WR/CB breakdown: Smith has returned PPR WR2, WR8 and WR34 receiving lines over the past three weeks. The latter performance deserves some extra leniency since it came at the hands of ace shadow corner Marshon Lattimore.

The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner has generally been as advertised this season, displaying borderline elite route-running goodness already in addition to some of the surest hands you’ll find.

Unfortunately, the Eagles’ run-first offense lowers the ceiling at hand. Smith is tied with Ja’Marr Chase for the highest air yard share (45%) in the league; the problem is the Eagles haven’t afforded their 2020 first-round pick more than six targets in a game since Week 7.

TE breakdown: Dallas Goedert had some awfully bad luck in Week 11, first seemingly rolling into the end zone but being ruled just short, before later scoring a touchdown only to have it come off the board due to a questionable offensive pass interference call on Smith. The important thing is that he continues to play a near every-snap role and remains one of the league’s few tight ends expected to work as a top-two option in his passing game more weeks than not. The Eagles’ extreme run-first offense renders Goedert as more of a low-end TE1 as opposed to the top-six option he could be with more consistent volume; either way, he remains a recommended start for more fantasy rosters than not.

Giants Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Kenny Golladay 76 + 213 4.5 1.74 Darius Slay 72 + 190 4.36 0.79
R Darius Slayton 73 + 190 4.39 1.35 Steven Nelson 71 + 194 4.49 1.07
S Kadarius Toney 72 + 193 N/A 2.44 Avonte Maddox 69 + 180 4.39 0.85

Projected shadow matchups: Kenny Golladay vs. Darius Slay (concussion)

WR/CB breakdown: The Giants’ decision to fire Jason Garrett leaves some mystery surrounding the target share in this offense moving forward. This will be doubly true once Sterling Shepard (quad) is healthy enough to return to action.

Ultimately, the hope is that rational coaching wins out and the Giants feature Kadarius Toney to the fullest extent allowed by the law. No wide receiver has broken more tackles per touch than Toney through 11 weeks. 61 receivers have at least 40 targets this season, and the Giants’ electric rookie finds himself on the short list of the group’s most-efficient players on a per-route basis:

Alas, this target share is too muddled to treat anybody involved as more than a low-end WR3 until we have a better idea as to what the newfound pecking order will look like as well as who will be the odd man out with Shepard back. I’ll be answering most close start/sit questions involving a Giants wide receiver with the other guy, particularly in a far from easy matchup against the league’s second-best defense in fewest PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers.

TE breakdown: Evan Engram’s usage is also up in the air due to the change at offensive coordinator. He’s the potential No. 5 pass-game option in this offense during any given week; careful about firing him up as more than a touchdown-dependent TE2 even in this week’s prime matchup against the Eagles’ league-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position. There are simply too many mouths to feed and not enough overall upside to warrant serious fantasy consideration here; Engram is my TE18 on the week behind guys like Hunter Henry, Gerald Everett and Tyler Conklin despite his pristine matchup.

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Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots

Titans Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Nick Westbrook-Ikhine 75 + 215 N/A 1.41 Jalen Mills 72 + 191 4.61 1.02
R A.J. Brown 72 + 226 4.49 2.3 J.C. Jackson 73 + 198 4.46 1.36
S Chester Rogers 72 + 184 N/A 1.01 Kyle Dugger 74 + 220 N/A 0.69

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: It remains to be seen if A.J. Brown (ribs) will be healthy enough to suit up this week. Marcus Johnson (hamstring, IR) is done for the year).

Recently signed veteran WR Golden Tate could find his way into starting three-WR sets sooner rather than later if AJB is ultimately sidelined. The highest-projected option in an AJB-less offense would be Nick Westbrook-Ikhine; just realize the present edition of this Titans offense doesn’t exactly look all that capable of putting up high-end numbers against the Patriots’ league-best scoring defense.

The following table denotes the Titans’ EPA/play and rank with and without Henry on pass and run plays as well as overall:

Titans Overall Rank Pass Rank Run Rank
Weeks 1-8 0.037 8 0.071 15 -0.003 2
Weeks 9-11 -0.188 26 -0.154 23 -0.237 27

Obviously, continue to start Brown as a borderline WR1 whenever healthy enough to suit up. Yes, this is true even though “Bill Belichick completely takes away every team’s No. 1 option.” For whatever reason this “fact” only applied to Kyle Pitts in Week 11, not CeeDee Lamb (9-149-2), Keenan Allen (6-77-1), Austin Ekeler (124 yards and 1 TD), Alvin Kamara (118 yards and 1 TD) or Christian McCaffrey (106 yards) earlier in the season.

Aside from AJB, try to avoid relying on anybody involved in this offense as long as they continue to function as one of the league’s true bottom-10 units.

TE breakdown: Geoff Swaim (concussion) was sidelined in Week 11; that didn’t stop the Titans from featuring four tight ends in his absence. Anthony Firkser (5-26-0 on 7 targets) is the preferred dart, but he’s the thinnest of TE2 options and shouldn’t be counted on as anything more than a desperate DFS-GPP dart.

Patriots Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Nelson Agholor 72 + 198 4.42 1.19 Kristian Fulton 72 + 200 4.46 0.96
R Kendrick Bourne 73 + 203 4.68 2.19 Chris Jackson 72 + 186 N/A 1.27
S Jakobi Meyers 74 + 203 4.63 1.44 Elijah Molden 70 + 190 N/A 1.37

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Mac Jones is playing efficient real-life football; just realize he hasn’t had to throw more than 26 passes in a game since October. This offense is designed to run the ball and attack defenses in the short/intermediate areas of the field. Still, showing some semblance of ability to stretch the field will eventually be needed for them to reach their full potential. Only Jimmy Garoppolo, Tyrod Taylor and Jared Goff have a lower adjusted completion rate than Jones (34.2%) when throwing at least 20 yards downfield.

Jakobi Meyers hasn’t cleared 50 receiving yards in a game since Week 5. Kendrick Bourne has more than four targets in a game exactly once during that same stretch. Nelson Agholor found the end zone in Week 11, but it was the result of a busted coverage. He hasn’t surpassed 60 yards in a game since Week 1.

Try to avoid starting any of these receivers if you can help it; the Patriots’ ideal game plan consists of Jones throwing fewer than 20 passes. Meyers is your best bet as a low-ceiling WR3; even then I’d largely roll with the other guy in most close start/sit questions.

TE breakdown: Hunter Henry is the preferred fantasy option over Jonnu Smith, but the reality that he’s had fewer than five targets in six straight games demonstrates the low floor here. Triple-H is the definition of a touchdown-dependent TE2, particularly in this week’s matchup against the league’s fourth-best defense in total receiving yards allowed to the position (356).

Atlanta Falcons @ Jacksonville Jaguars

Falcons Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Tajae Sharpe 74 + 194 4.55 1.11 Tyson Campbell 74 + 185 N/A 1.89
R Olamide Zaccheaus 68 + 190 N/A 1.03 Shaquill Griffin 72 + 198 4.38 0.94
S Russell Gage 72 + 184 N/A 1.04 Rudy Ford 71 + 204 N/A 0.97

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Tajae Sharpe hasn’t scored or reached 60 receiving yards in a game all season. Olamide Zaccheaus also hasn’t reached 60 yards in a game even once this year. Russell Gage has at least managed to hit that mark twice, but 70 has remained out of reach, and his goose-egg in Week 10 demonstrates the low floor here even for him.

This Falcons offense has scored *three* points in their last eight quarters of football. The passing attack flows first and foremost through Kyle Pitts and Cordarrelle Patterson (ankle); none of these receivers are recommended fantasy starts in leagues of all shapes and sizes due to their general lack of upside despite the winnable matchup against the league’s seventh-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to the position. Gage is the best dart of the group against the league’s third-worst defense in yards per attempt allowed to target aligned from the slot; even then we’re talking about a low-end WR4 at best.

TE breakdown: Pitts has scored just once all season, and that happened in London when the Jets decided it would be a good idea to cover him with a defensive lineman on the goal line. The 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 4 overall pick posted blistering 9-119-1 and 7-163-0 receiving lines in Week 5 and Week 7 but hasn’t reached five receptions or 65 yards in a game since. This matchup certainly qualifies as a get-right spot; just realize nothing is guaranteed inside the presently putrid edition of the Falcons offense. Pitts remains locked in as a top-five tight end; just realize the floor here is a bit lower than most anticipated back in August.

Atlanta Falcons tight end Kyle Pitts (8), makes a catch over Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard (25), late in the fourth quarter against the Miami Dolphins during NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday in Miami Gardens.
Jaguars Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Laquon Treadwell 74 + 215 N/A 0.62 Fabian Moreau 72 + 200 4.35 0.95
R Marvin Jones Jr. 74 + 198 N/A 1.29 A.J. Terrell 73 + 190 4.42 0.34
S Laviska Shenault Jr. 74 + 220 4.58 1.29 Richie Grant 72 + 194 N/A 1.54

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: The absence of Jamal Agnew (hip, IR) *should* lead to a more full-time role in the slot for Laviska Shenault; Week 11 marked the first time since Week 4 that Viska spent more time lined up in the slot compared to out wide.

This is rather great news ahead of a matchup with Richie Grant, who is PFF’s second-lowest graded cornerback in coverage among 122 qualified players. Overall, Grant has allowed 10 of 12 targets into his coverage to be caught for 112 yards and a pair of scores this season. Shenault has been awfully busty all season long, but this week’s combination of 1.) great matchup against the league’s fifth-worst defense in explosive pass-play rate allowed to slot receivers, and 2.) potential for an influx of targets with Agnew out of the picture, lands the second-year YAC-beast as a borderline WR3 that is worthy of some enhanced DFS exposure.

Ultimately, Trevor Lawrence hasn’t thrown for even 175 yards in a game since October; there’s a low floor for any pass-catcher involved in this offense. Fire up Viska with just a little bit more confidence than normal, while Marvin Jones isn’t a recommended start since he’s expected to spend most of his afternoon across from A.J. Terrell — PFF’s third-highest graded cornerback in coverage this season.

TE breakdown: Yes, Dan Arnold goose-egged in Week 11. Also yes, he posted PPR TE2, TE12 and TE8 finishes in the previous three weeks. Everyone other than James Robinson carries a scary-low weekly floor in this offense; that doesn’t mean Arnold doesn’t remain worthy of borderline TE1 treatment as a top-two pass-game option more weeks than not.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Indianapolis Colts

Buccaneers Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Mike Evans 77 + 231 4.53 1.67 Xavier Rhodes 73 + 218 4.43 1.7
R Tyler Johnson 74 + 200 N/A 1.32 Rock Ya-Sin 72 + 192 4.51 0.79
S Chris Godwin 73 + 209 4.42 1.92 Kenny Moore II 69 + 190 N/A 1.42

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Keep an eye on the statuses of Mike Evans (back) and Antonio Brown (ankle). Each of Evans, AB and Chris Godwin are locked in as upside WR2 starts when everyone is healthy, while the absence of one receiver would elevate the other two into top-12 territory in fantasy formats of all shapes and sizes.

Only the Titans, Vikings, Dolphins and Football Team have allowed more PPR points per game to opposing wide receiver rooms than the Colts; start whichever of the big-three receivers are healthy with confidence. Even if there’s a fire.

Usually we could feel at least OK about Tyler Johnson in the absence of Evans or Brown, but suddenly that’s more up in the air with Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden and Scotty Miller all candidates to rotate. Avoid these complementary options; Tom Brady is usually content to simply feed his existing starters more opportunities as opposed to elevating normal backups.

TE breakdown: Rob Gronkowski returned to a near full-time role for the first time since Week 3, looking healthy enough on his way to catching six of his eight targets for 71 scoreless yards. Like Godwin, Gronk could benefit mightily from the absence of Evans and/or Brown. Only the Eagles, Chargers, Raiders and Ravens have allowed more PPR points per game to opposing tight ends than the Colts; fire up Gronk as an upside TE1 as long as he’s healthy. There is only one ball to go around in Tampa Bay, but the potential for extra usage has Gronk sitting as my TE8 this week ahead of guys like Dallas Goedert, Mike Gesicki and Dawson Knox.

Colts Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L T.Y. Hilton 70 + 183 4.34 1.38 Jamel Dean 73 + 206 4.3 0.69
R Michael Pittman Jr. 76 + 220 4.52 2.02 Sean Murphy-Bunting 72 + 195 N/A 2.26
S Zach Pascal 74 + 219 4.55 0.94 Mike Edwards 70 + 205 N/A 0.79

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Michael Pittman has essentially only busted once during his short career when afforded an even halfway decent number of targets. Overall, he’s had at least eight targets in seven career games:

  • 7 receptions-101 yards-0 TD (8 targets)
  • 2-28-0 (9)
  • 5-90-0 (10)
  • 8-123-0 (12)
  • 6-68-0 (12)
  • 6-59-0 (8)
  • 10-86-2 (15)

The latter performance came in Week 8. Pittman sandwiched that game with 4-105-1, 5-64-1 and 5-71-0 receiving lines on a combined 15 targets. When Carson Wentz throws the ball to Pittman, the two most likely scenarios are 1.) he catches the ball, or 2.) some poor cornerback is forced to commit pass interference.

Obviously there will be times like last week when the Colts are able to run the ball to their heart’s desire and not care about the passing game, but this week’s spot against the Buccaneers’ league-best defense in yards before contact allowed per carry *could* present the sort of environment where they’re forced to throw the ball a bit more than normal. Throw in the reality that no matchup has a higher game total than Buccaneers-Colts (52.5), and I’m back in on Pittman (my WR16) as an upside WR2 recommended start who should be in far more starting lineups than not.

T.Y. Hilton doesn’t have more than five targets in a game this season, while Zach Pascal hasn’t scored or reached 60 yards in a game since Week 2. Neither are recommended options in an offense that regularly keeps all its running backs and tight ends plenty involved in the passing game.

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TE breakdown: Mo Alie-Cox would be a weekly fantasy TE1 with this job all on his own, but the continued presence of Jack Doyle and Kylen Granson renders all three parties as non-viable fantasy options regardless of the matchup.

New York Jets @ Houston Texans

Jets Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Elijah Moore 69 + 185 N/A 1.3 Desmond King II 70 + 200 N/A 1.68
R Corey Davis 75 + 209 N/A 1.93 Terrance Mitchell 71 + 191 4.63 1.07
S Jamison Crowder 69 + 177 4.56 1.19 Tavierre Thomas 70 + 205 N/A 0.41

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Elijah Moore is starting to look like the next big thing at the wide receiver position.

The rookie has ripped off PPR WR36, WR26, WR1, WR27 and WR3 finishes in his past five games. The latter performance marked the first time since Week 1 that Moore played at least 80% of the offense’s snaps; the Jets are finally using the 2021 NFL Draft’s 34th overall pick as a full-time player. What a wild concept.

Fire up Moore as an upside WR3 at worst moving forward; he’s my WR27 on the week ahead of guys like Brandon Aiyuk, Hunter Renfrow and Jerry Jeudy. The biggest potential problem is the presence of Zach Wilson under center in place of Mike White (covid, IR) and Joe Flacco (covid, IR); either way, there should at least be enough volume on the table moving forward to produce enhanced consistency compared to what we saw in the earlier parts of the season.

Expecting more than one consistently viable fantasy option from this passing game is probably wishful thinking, but both Corey Davis (WR35) and Jamison Crowder (WR46) also find themselves firmly inside my top-50 options of Week 12. Here’s to hoping Wilson can take advantage of the Texans’ 24th-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers, although Vegas doesn’t seem to think that likelihood is too high considering the Jets are implied to score just 20.75 points this week.

TE breakdown: Ryan Griffen is playing a near every-down role these days; he’s still scored just once all season and has yet to reach even 40 yards in a game. C’mon, people: Find a better streaming option..

Texans Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Nico Collins 76 + 218 N/A 1.25 Isaiah Dunn 72 + 193 N/A 2.72
R Brandin Cooks 70 + 183 4.33 2.03 Bryce Hall 73 + 200 N/A 1
S Danny Amendola 71 + 190 4.58 1.12 Michael Carter II 71 + 190 N/A 1.27

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Nico Collins sure looked like he came down with a short touchdown last week, but he was ultimately ruled out of bounds. That was essentially the highlight from this group last week; it’s hard to make much happen when your offense totals just 107 yards through the air.

Brandin Cooks (30%) joins Deebo Samuel (30%), Cooper Kupp (30%) and Davante Adams (31%) as the league’s only players with at least 30% of their team’s targets. He’s tied with Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith with a league-high 45% air yard share. Cooks has functioned as the PPR WR22, WR8, WR23 and most-recently WR75 with Tyrod Taylor under center this season. He’s underwhelmed relative to his workload, but who can blame the veteran field-stretching talent considering the overall state of the Texans organization. Ultimately, Cooks is a WR2 who possesses a WR1 workload; he’s my WR22 this week ahead of guys like DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle and Mike Williams.

Cooks remains the only recommended start in this offense. He could find plenty of success against Isaiah Dunn, who ranks 112th in PFF coverage grade among 166 qualified players at the position.

TE breakdown: Pharaoh Brown worked as the Texans’ lead tight end in Week 11, as Jordan Akins was a healthy scratch. Brown’s 84% snap rate and four targets are the stuff that low-priced DFS punts are made out of, but he’s not a recommended season-long option unless we see similar usage for a more prolonged stretch.

Los Angeles Chargers @ Denver Broncos

Chargers Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Mike Williams 76 + 220 N/A 1.96 Ronald Darby 71 + 193 4.38 1.46
R Josh Palmer 74 + 210 N/A 1.29 Patrick Surtain II 74 + 202 N/A 1.19
S Keenan Allen 74 + 211 4.58 1.95 Kyle Fuller 71 + 190 4.4 1.32

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Justin Herbert has been nothing short of unstoppable when throwing the ball at least 20 yards downfield this season:

  • PFF passing grade: 96.5 (No. 3 among 44 qualified quarterbacks)
  • QB rating: 135.4 (No. 1)
  • Yards per attempt: 17 (No. 6)
  • Adjusted completion rate: 56.7% (No. 5)

The problem: Herbert has attempted just two passes at least 20 yards downfield over the past three weeks of action. Note that he averaged four such throws per game in Weeks 1-6. Overall, Herbert joins Matt Ryan, Daniel Jones and Jimmy Garoppolo as the league’s only four quarterbacks to throw a pass at least 20 yards downfield on fewer than eight percent of their attempts.

This strategy has been just fine for Keenan Allen; he’s ripped off PPR WR14, WR3, WR9 and WR14 finishes over the last four weeks on target totals of 11, 13, 11 and 13. Meanwhile, Mike Williams has posted just WR79, WR46, WR45 and WR10 finishes on five, five, six and six targets. Don’t be fooled by the latter performance; Williams was largely an afterthought after the first drive with the exception being a broken-coverage induced 53-yard score.

Allen is my WR6 this week, while Williams comes in at WR24 and honestly that feels a little high. It seems pretty clear this offense is at its best featuring Williams at something close to a similar level as Allen, but Joe Lombardi is running this offense, not fantasy managers. Adjust accordingly and realize that we have a month’s worth of targets indicating Allen is the clear-cut No. 1 option ahead of Williams at this point. Williams holds the sort of size (5 inch) and weight (27 pound) advantages over Ronald Darby that certainly seem exploitable, but there's not much the guy can do with just four to six opportunities per game.

TE breakdown: Alone, any of Donald Parham, Jared Cook and maybe even Stephen Anderson could function as a weekly fantasy TE1. However, none played more than half of the offense’s snaps in Week 11, as all three continued to split reps and targets alike. Gun to my head, I’d pick Parham as the top scorer, but there’s not a gun to my head, we’re just discussing fantasy options, so try to avoid playing any party involved.

Broncos Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Tim Patrick 77 + 210 N/A 1.56 Asante Samuel Jr. 70 + 184 N/A 1.2
R Courtland Sutton 75 + 218 4.54 1.78 Michael Davis 74 + 196 N/A 1.05
S Jerry Jeudy 73 + 192 N/A 2.17 Chris Harris Jr. 70 + 199 N/A 1.36

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Teddy Bridgewater fed the following players at least five targets in the Broncos’ four games with a healthy Jerry Jeudy:

Jeudy hasn’t reached 75 yards in a game or found the end zone just yet, but he’s cemented as the No. 1 pass-game option in this offense. Fire him up as an upside WR3 who should have bigger days ahead. This Chargers might rank third in fewest PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers, but this secondary has been flamed by the likes of Diontae Johnson (7-101-1), Chase Claypool (5-93-0), Justin Jefferson (9-143-0) and DeVonta Smith (5-116-1) over the past three weeks. Don’t be surprised if Jeudy has a similar stat line to add to the list by this time next week.

Credit to Patrick and Sutton for getting paid; neither is anything more than a boom-or-bust WR3 at best at this point. I still give Sutton (my WR36) the slight advantage over Patrick (WR44); either way, it’s tough to expect more than one fantasy-relevant receiver from a passing game that hasn’t reached 250 yards in a game since Week 6.

TE breakdown: Fant simply doesn’t have a high enough ceiling to warrant locked in top-10 treatment whenever Albert O is also active. He’s my TE13 on the week behind guys like Dan Arnold, Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert and Dawson Knox among other players at the position who also don’t have to share their tight end room’s snaps and targets.

PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart is a fantasy football tool that you can use to help you set the best lineups. You can toggle between showing the Matchup Advantage column against all projected coverage, or the individual defenders.

Minnesota Vikings @ San Francisco 49ers

Vikings Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Justin Jefferson 73 + 202 4.43 2.29 Josh Norman 72 + 200 4.61 1.37
R Adam Thielen 74 + 200 N/A 1.53 Emmanuel Moseley 71 + 184 N/A 1.09
S K.J. Osborn 72 + 205 N/A 1.31 K'Waun Williams 69 + 185 N/A 1.06

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Pick a stat, any stat: Justin Jefferson is one of the best wide receivers alive.

  • PFF receiving grade: 86.1 (No. 4 among 96 wide receivers with at least 25 targets)
  • Yards per reception: 15 (No. 20)
  • Yards per route run: 2.53 (No. 6)
  • QB rating when targeted: 129.2 (No. 7)

The WR5 in PPR points per game, Jefferson earned every-week WR1 treatment regardless of the matchup a long time ago.

The same is true to a lesser extent for Adam Thielen, who simply keeps outperforming expectations. Just four wide receivers have scored more than 30 fantasy points above expectation this season:

Both Jefferson (my WR5) and Thielen (WR18) should be started in fantasy lineups of all shapes and sizes ahead of this sneaky shootout. Only Buccaneers-Colts (52.5) and Raiders-Cowboys (51) have a higher game total than Vikings-49ers (49) this week.

K.J. Osborn hasn’t scored or surpassed 20 yards in a game since Week 6; he’s not a realistic fantasy option while struggling to play even 50% of the offense’s snaps on a weekly basis.

TE breakdown: Tyler Conklin is locked in as a weekly touchdown-dependent TE2. He’s even carved out a decent little floor for himself, catching at least three passes in all but two games this season. Don’t get carried away — Conklin has yet to reach 75 yards in a game — but the Vikings’ every-down tight end continues to be an underrated streamer option who I’d start ahead of guys like Evan Engram, Cole Kmet and C.J. Uzomah among others this week.

49ers Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Brandon Aiyuk 73 + 206 4.5 1.05 Patrick Peterson 73 + 203 4.31 1.19
R Deebo Samuel 71 + 214 4.48 3.46 Bashaud Breeland 71 + 195 4.62 1.87
S Jauan Jennings 75 + 208 4.72 0.94 Mackensie Alexander 70 + 192 N/A 1.3

Projected shadow matchups: Brandon Aiyuk vs. Patrick Peterson

WR/CB breakdown: Aiyuk has had quite the two halves of the 2021 season so far:

  • Weeks 1-7: 9 receptions-96 yards-1 TD, PPR WR94
  • Weeks 8-11: 20-245-2, WR13

Those samples include some untimely bye weeks that skew the fantasy rankings; either way, it’s clear that Aiyuk is firmly back on the fantasy radar as a recommended start more weeks than not.

This is especially true this week against Peterson, who shadowed for the first time against Davante Adams (7-115-2) in Week 11. Note that neither of Adams’ touchdowns came in Peterson’s direct coverage because the ex-Cardinals corner has spent just four snaps in the slot all season; either way, this is another reason why to not auto-fade wide receivers because of perceived difficult shadow matchups.

Obviously “difficult” doesn’t belong in the same sentence as Peterson these days. He’s allowed 22 of 35 targets into his coverage to be caught for 305 yards and a pair of scores this season. Peterson might be the Vikings’ “best” cornerback, but he grades out as just PFF’s 66th-best corner in coverage among 122 qualified players.

Nov 15, 2021; Santa Clara, California, USA; San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk (11) runs with the ball after making a catch against the Los Angeles Rams in the second quarter at Levi's Stadium. Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Aiyuk is my PPR WR28 on the week just behind Elijah Moore and Tee Higgins, but ahead of Hunter Renfrow, Jerry Jeudy and Jakobi Meyers.

Oh yeah: Deebo Samuel. The NFL’s league-leader in yards per route run saw his league-best 11 game streak with at least 50 receiving yards snapped last week, but Kyle Shanahan’s commitment to keeping him involved on the ground has made Samuel as matchup proof as any receiver in the league. Overall, Samuel has lined up as a true running back on 16 snaps over the past two weeks, returning 5-36-1 and 8-79-1 rushing lines against the Rams and Jaguars. How good has Deebo been as a rusher since entering the league in 2019? Well, he ranks first in missed tackles forced per carry (0.39) among 201 players with at least 25 rush attempts. Kings stay kings. Continue to treat him as a top-five fantasy wide receiver, even if there’s a fire.

TE breakdown: George Kittle has turned in PPR TE1, TE5 and TE8 finishes in his last three games since returning from injury. No tight end is averaging more yards per route run than Kittle (2.18); the only reason he hasn’t made a stiffer challenge for Travis Kelce’s overall TE1 crown over the years is because of health and volume. Credit to the Vikings for allowing the league’s fourth-fewest PPR points per game to the position, but Kittle comes in as my TE2 this week behind only Darren Waller. Matchups don’t matter as much when you’re the league’s best real life player at the position.

Los Angeles Rams @ Green Bay Packers

Rams Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Odell Beckham Jr. 71 + 198 4.43 1.36 Kevin King 75 + 200 4.43 1.25
R Van Jefferson 74 + 197 N/A 1.48 Eric Stokes 73 + 185 N/A 1.05
S Cooper Kupp 74 + 208 2.62 3.06 Chandon Sullivan 71 + 194 4.6 0.93

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Cooper Kupp has at least nine targets in every game this season. Only once has he finished with fewer than seven receptions *and* 90 receiving yards in a game. That’s good for a whopping nine games with that criteria; no other player in the league has more than four such performances. Hell, only 2014 Antonio Brown (12), 2015 Julio Jones (11), 2019 Michael Thomas (11), 2002 Marvin Harrison (10) and 1995 Michael Irvin (10) have him beat in the history of the NFL. Kupp is the overall WR1 on the week and figures to battle it out with Jonathan Taylor for fantasy MVP honors the rest of the year.

And now for the elephant in the room: Odell Beckham, who is seemingly already being blamed for the Rams’ rough Week 10 performance. Note that OBJ caught two of his three targets for 18 yards in just 15 snaps of action.

The Rams need Beckham to show off the sort of ability to get open deep that he demonstrated earlier in the season. Matthew Stafford simply hasn’t been able to connect with his receivers on the deep ball in recent weeks:

  • Weeks 1-8: 18 for 33 on deep balls, 13 big-time throws, 1 turnover-worthy play
  • Weeks 9-10: 0 for 7 on deep balls, 1 big-time throw, 4 turnover-worthy plays

This receiver room no longer has the likes of Robert Woods (knee, IR), DeSean Jackson (Raiders) or TuTu Atwell (shoulder, IR). OBJ might just be the key that unlocks the great version of this offense.

It’s tough to tell if Beckham will immediately be slotted into a starting role in Week 12; I give Van Jefferson (my WR37) the nod over Beckham (WR39) this week, but the latter receiver has the most boom potential moving forward. The Packers deserve credit for allowing the seventh-fewest PPR points per game to opposing wide receiver groups, although the Vikings demonstrated in Week 11 that this secondary can be had by the right group of receivers.

TE breakdown: Tyler Higbee hasn’t finished as better than the PPR TE8 in a single week this season. The TE17 in PPR points per game, Higbee has been a bit unlucky relative to his status as the TE12 in expected PPR points per game. Still, this passing game clearly prefers to flow through the wide receivers; Higbee is a touchdown-dependent TE2 at this point in an offense that has scored just 26 points over the past two games after reaching that total in all but one contest from Weeks 1-8.

Packers Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Davante Adams 73 + 215 4.56 2.82 Jalen Ramsey 73 + 208 4.41 0.97
R Marquez Valdes-Scantling 76 + 206 4.37 1.11 Darious Williams 69 + 187 N/A 0.92
S Randall Cobb 70 + 192 4.46 1.28 Robert Rochell 74 + 195 N/A 1.28

Projected shadow matchups: Davante Adams vs. Jalen Ramsey

WR/CB breakdown: Ramsey has been deployed in shadow coverage against just three receivers over the past two seasons:

Note that not all of that production came in Ramsey’s direct coverage; no shadow matchup occurs on every snap of the game, and offenses can regularly scheme its receivers into success through motion and other tricks.

Either way: Adams remains a top-tier fantasy receiver who shouldn’t be downgraded more than a point or two because of this matchup. Get your popcorn ready.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling provided some field-stretching goodness last week and figures to again play a near full-time role with Allen Lazard (shoulder). The enhanced role should also be a given for Randall Cobb, who played a season-high 76% of the offense’s snaps last week. Ultimately, expecting consistent high-end production from anyone other than Adams is probably wishful thinking, but MVS and Cobb are both solid enough FLEX options in the WR4 range while Lazard is out of the picture.

TE breakdown: The Packers are rotating four different tight ends in the absence of Robert Tontyan (ACL, IR); none are recommended fantasy options this week.

Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens

Browns Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Rashard Higgins 73 + 198 4.64 0.95 Marlon Humphrey 72 + 197 4.41 1.32
R Ja'Marcus Bradley 73 + 195 N/A 1.92 Chris Westry 76 + 197 N/A 2.78
S Jarvis Landry 71 + 196 4.77 1.65 Tavon Young 69 + 185 4.46 1.06

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Baker Mayfield continues to play through all sorts of injuries, but sheesh man. Nobody has a lower catchable pass rate when their wide receivers are considered open or wide open than the Browns. Only six offenses have failed to feed their wide receivers a catchable pass rate of at least 70% overall: Panthers (69%), Browns (69%), Football Team (68%), Jaguars (68%), Bears (66%) and Saints (66%).

Poor Jarvis Landry hasn’t reached 75 yards or found the end zone as a receiver in a game all season. Sheesh.

Remember when everyone blamed Mayfield’s problems on OBJ? Where is that same crowd when confronted with the reality that Mayfield has suffered severe declines in completion rate (-7%) and yards per attempt (-1.15) in his last four games with Landry compared to his previous four contests without?

Ultimately, Mayfield is 25th in PFF passing grade, 23rd in QB rating and 23rd in adjusted completion rate among 37 qualified quarterbacks this season; it’s tough to point the blame anywhere else when he’s worked behind PFF’s ninth-ranked offensive line in team pass-blocking grade.

Regardless: None of these Browns receivers are realistic fantasy options in anything other than the deepest of leagues. Rashard Higgins has one game with more than 30 yards this season, Donovan Peoples-Jones (groin) is banged up and I honestly didn’t know who Ja'Marcus Bradley was before I started writing this article.

TE breakdown: None of Austin Hooper, David Njoku or Harrison Bryant are anything more than low-end TE2 options at best due to this passing game’s brutal combination of low volume and meh efficiency.

Ravens Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Rashod Bateman 74 + 210 N/A 1.83 Denzel Ward 71 + 190 4.32 0.9
R Sammy Watkins 73 + 211 4.43 1.82 Greedy Williams 74 + 185 N/A 1.42
S Devin Duvernay 71 + 210 4.39 0.73 Greg Newsome II 73 + 190 N/A 1.17

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Lamar Jackson (illness) is tentatively expected to return to action this week. Hopefully he’ll be joined by Marquise Brown (thigh).

Jackson has fed the following players at least five targets in four games with Bateman active:

Hollywood has busted on three occasions this season; otherwise the speedy third-year talent has done nothing other than post top-20 fantasy finishes. Still cemented as Jackson’s No. 1 pass-game option, Brown continues to warrant weekly upside WR2 treatment.

Bateman settled in nicely as a rock solid WR3 with Jackson under center, posting WR59, WR33, WR34 and WR23 between Weeks 6-10. He’s my WR33 on the week ahead of guys like Corey Davis and Courtland Sutton.

This Browns secondary is fairly loaded when fully healthy; both Denzel Ward (No. 7) and Greedy Williams (No. 17) rank inside of PFF’s top-20 cornerbacks in coverage grade. Here’s to hoping this Sunday night matchup is as entertaining as the last time these two squads met in Week 14 last season.

TE breakdown: Even the absence of Jackson didn’t stop Mark Andrews from finishing as a top-five scorer at the position. The only players I have ranked higher at the position this week: Darren Waller and George Kittle. That’s it. Even in the weird event that you have two of those three tight ends on your roster, find a way to start both. Andrews has posted 4-31-1, 6-93-2, 5-58-2 and 5-78-0 receiving lines in his last four appearances against this defense.

Seattle Seahawks at Washington Football Team

Seahawks Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L D.K. Metcalf 75 + 229 4.33 2.34 Kendall Fuller 71 + 198 N/A 1.27
R Tyler Lockett 70 + 182 4.4 2.08 William Jackson III 72 + 196 4.37 0.9
S Freddie Swain 72 + 199 4.46 0.78 Landon Collins 72 + 222 4.53 1.26

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: The before and after injury versions of Russell Wilson tell quite the story:

  • Before injury: 88.8 PFF passing grade, 11 big-time throws, 0 turnover-worthy plays, 9.6 yards per attempt
  • After injury: 43.8 PFF passing grade, 1 big-time throw, 3 turnover-worthy plays, 5.8 yards per attempt

The Seahawks have scored 13 total points since their Week 9 bye and have won one game (against the Jaguars) since Week 4. To say this team is in panic mode would be a massive understatement.

Maybe, just maybe, this week’s matchup against the Football Team will provide the sort of get-right spot Wilson and company badly need.

  • Yards per attempt allowed: 7.69 (No. 24)
  • Explosive pass play rate allowed: 16.5% (No. 26)
  • QB rating allowed: 112.1 (No. 30)

If you have D.K. Metcalf or Tyler Lockett: Start them and just realize it’s going to be a more frustrating experience than usual with Russ not displaying his usual top-five goodness.

TE breakdown: Gerald Everett has just one top-12 finish on the season, and that came in Week 10 during arguably Wilson’s single-worst game of his career. Clearly this passing game is designed to go through Metcalf and Lockett ahead of all else; Everett is only in the middle of the TE2 grid thanks to the reality that he’s made the most out of his opportunities all season long. Overall, no tight end has averaged more broken tackles per touch than Everett (0.3) through 11 weeks of action.

Football Team Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Terry McLaurin 72 + 208 4.35 1.81 Blessuan Austin 73 + 195 N/A 1.32
R DeAndre Carter 68 + 190 N/A 1.42 Sidney Jones 72 + 181 4.47 1.75
S Adam Humphries 71 + 195 N/A 0.87 Ugo Amadi 69 + 201 4.51 1.3

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Terry McLaurin leads the NFL in contested targets, contested catches and contested target catch rate. He’s clearly a stud No. 1 receiver, but this sort of role marginalizes what the third-year talent is truly capable of achieving. This is apparent by looking at his per-week production:

  • Week 1: PPR WR56
  • Week 2: WR3
  • Week 3: WR45
  • Week 4: WR4
  • Week 5: WR50
  • Week 6: WR60
  • Week 7: WR5
  • Week 8: WR62
  • Week 9: Bye
  • Week 10: WR33
  • Week 11: WR9

McLaurin is a boom-or-bust WR2 at this point. Credit to Taylor Heinicke for putting forward arguably the best two-game stretch of his career against the Buccaneers and Panthers, but we’ve seen the floor here before. McLaurin should be in fantasy lineups of most shapes and sizes; just realize he’d be ranked far higher than my WR14 if we could have more confidence in the player under center.

Neither DeAndre Carter nor Adam Humphries are recommended options due to volume concerns. The same is true for Curtis Samuel (groin) if he happens to be able to return to action.

TE breakdown: John Bates was the latest Football Team tight end to immediately gain an every-down role upon being named starter. However, Logan Thomas (hamstring) has been designated to return off injured reserve and looks to be on track to suit up Sunday. Wait a week before starting Thomas with confidence; it’s not a guarantee he’ll immediately be back to his usual every-down role. Still, tight end needy teams should stash Thomas when possible; he’ll be back to functioning as a weekly borderline TE1 once back to his usual role.


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