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Week 13 WR/CB mismatches and shadow coverages to leverage in DFS & fantasy football leagues

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) runs in the fourth quarter against the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Week 13 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.


Dallas Cowboys @ New Orleans Saints

Cowboys Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L CeeDee Lamb 74 + 191 N/A 2.28 Marshon Lattimore 72 + 192 4.36 1.85
R Michael Gallup 73 + 198 4.51 1.49 Paulson Adebo 73 + 190 N/A 1.48
S Noah Brown 74 + 225 N/A 1.16 P.J. Williams 72 + 196 4.57 0.59

Projected shadow matchups: CeeDee Lamb 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.

Lamb missed Week 12 while in the concussion protocol, but now could be leaned on more than ever with both Amari Cooper (covid, IR) and Cedrick Wilson (ankle) looking iffy for Sunday. The good news is recent reports seem to be in favor of Cooper suiting up. This Saints defense could have all kinds of trouble against Dak Prescott if they can’t improve on their rather terrible pass rush; fire up Lamb as a top-10 option at the position against the league’s sixth-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers.

Michael Gallup is a low-end WR2 when Cooper is sidelined and a higher-end WR3 when he’s not. It’s always tough to rank more than 15 or so receivers ahead of Cooper when he’s good to go. Ultimately, having anyone from the league’s second-ranked scoring offense is generally good for fantasy business.

TE breakdown: Dalton Schultz uncoincidentally has a whopping 15 targets over the past two weeks with Cooper sidelined; his role has consistently boomed this season when the Cowboys have been without one of their big-three receivers. Credit to the Saints for functioning as a top-10 defense in fantasy production allowed to tight ends all year long, but there’s too much scoring potential here to fade the fourth-year talent. Schultz is my TE8 on the week ahead of guys like Pat Freiermuth, Mike Gesicki and Dallas Goedert among others.

Saints Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Marquez Callaway 74 + 204 4.55 1.3 Trevon Diggs 74 + 207 N/A 1.78
R Deonte Harris 66 + 170 N/A 2.6 Anthony Brown 71 + 196 4.33 1.42
S Tre'Quan Smith 74 + 210 4.49 1.2 Jourdan Lewis 70 + 195 4.54 1.26

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport has reported that Taysom Hill (foot) is taking first-team reps in practice and expected to start on Thursday night barring a setback.

Hill at least put up some numbers resembling that of a solid quarterback during his four starts last season.

  • PFF passing grade: 68.9 (No. 29 among 44 qualified quarterbacks)
  • Big-time throw rate: 2.5% (tied for No. 40)
  • Turnover-worthy throw rate: 4.5% (tied for No. 34)
  • Yards per attempt: 7.7 (tied for No. 11)
  • Adjusted completion rate: 82.6% (No. 1)

Let’s be clear: Hill didn’t accomplish any of this in style. Still, Hill’s penchant for taking off and running on his own made him a fantasy darling of sorts during his 3-1 stint as the Saints’ starter.

The problem is that Michael Thomas was largely the only usable receiver during Hill’s stint under center. It seems likely that Tre’Quan Smith assumes that role, although not a given. Try to avoid starting any of these receivers for at least a week; it’s largely anyone’s guess as to 1.) who will be featured, and 2.) how much this offense will pass anyway.

Fire up Hill and Alvin Kamara with confidence in fantasy land. Otherwise: meh.

TE breakdown: The Saints are using three tight ends in part-time roles in the absence of Adam Trautman (knee, IR); none are recommended fantasy options.

Indianapolis Colts @ Houston Texans

Colts Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L T.Y. Hilton 70 + 183 4.34 1.31 Desmond King II 70 + 200 N/A 1.66
R Michael Pittman Jr. 76 + 220 4.52 1.89 Terrance Mitchell 71 + 191 4.63 1.08
S Zach Pascal 74 + 219 4.55 0.83 Tavierre Thomas 70 + 205 N/A 0.38

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Michael Pittman finally got back to getting some high-level targets last week, but unfortunately caught just four of his 10 opportunities for 53 scoreless yards. The opportunities were truly there: Pittman had the third-most unrealized air yards of any player in Week 12. He’s ranked outside fantasy’s top-30 receivers in three consecutive weeks after ripping off three straight top-12 finishes from Weeks 7-9.

Maybe comeback szn will be in the air this Sunday against one of the league’s worst deep ball defenses. Overall, this Texans defense ranks dead last in yards per attempt allowed on passes thrown at least 20 yards downfield this season. It’d make sense if Jonathan Taylor is able to instill his will on the ground, but Carson Wentz and company have a good chance of making their downfield opportunities count in a major way this week. I’m going back to the well with Pittman; he’s my PPR WR21 this week against a group of cornerbacks that don’t have the size attributes to truly match up with him in contested-catch situations.

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (11) pulls in a pass in front of New York Jets cornerback Bryce Hall (37) to score a touchdown Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, during a game against the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

It’s fair to say T.Y. Hilton owns the Texans. People forget he once wore a clown mask to a playoff matchup against the Colts’ AFC South rival. Does this mean you should start Hilton, who has gained more than 30 yards in a game just once this season, with all the confidence in the world this week? No, but sometimes it’s fun to reminisce. Hilton is my PPR WR45 on the week.

Zach Pascal hasn’t scored since Week 2 and has yet to crack 60 yards in a game on the season; he’s not a realistic fantasy option.

TE breakdown: Don’t be fooled by Jack Doyle’s 6-81-1 receiving line from Week 12, as the Colts continued to keep Mo Alie-Cox and (to a lesser extent) Kylen Granson plenty involved. Doyle and Alie-Cox alike are nothing more than borderline touchdown-dependent TE2 types; I’d rather roll the dice with someone with a true full-time role (like James O’Shaughnessy) on the ole waiver wire.

Texans Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Brandin Cooks 70 + 183 4.33 1.89 Xavier Rhodes 73 + 218 4.43 1.66
R Nico Collins 76 + 218 N/A 1.16 Rock Ya-Sin 72 + 192 4.51 0.71
S Danny Amendola 71 + 190 4.58 1.05 Kenny Moore II 69 + 190 N/A 1.32

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Cooks has functioned as the PPR WR22, WR8, WR23, WR75 and most-recently WR24 with Tyrod Taylor under center this season. He hasn’t seen his usual gaudy target numbers in recent weeks, but that’s probably more of a carryover effect from Tyrod Taylor throwing just 50 combined passes over the last two weeks than anything. Don’t expect the Texans to have the same sort of positive/neutral game script they experienced against the Titans and Jets in this week’s matchup; they’re currently nine point underdogs to Jonathan Taylor and company.

Related content for you: Fantasy Football: Week 13 Snaps & Efficiency Report for all 32 NFL backfields via ian hartitz

Cooks pieced up this secondary to the tune of a 9-89-0 performance back in Week 6 and should spend most of his day across from Xavier Rhodes, who has left plenty of open roads (see what I did there) this season on his way to grading out as just PFF’s 87th-ranked cornerback in coverage grade among 122 qualified players. Fire up Cooks as the low-end WR2 he’s largely been all season; otherwise try to avoid everyone else involved with the Texans’ league-worst scoring offense.

TE breakdown: The Texans briefly seemed to be giving Pharaoh Brown a full-time role, but that was gone by Week 13. Fantasy football is supposed to be fun, do you really want to play a Texans tight end?

Minnesota Vikings @ Detroit Lions 

Vikings Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Justin Jefferson 73 + 202 4.43 2.53 Amani Oruwariye 73 + 205 4.47 1.13
R Adam Thielen 74 + 200 N/A 1.62 Ifeatu Melifonwu 75 + 213 N/A 4.1
S K.J. Osborn 72 + 205 N/A 1.2 Will Harris 74 + 207 4.41 0.9

Projected shadow matchups: Justin Jefferson vs. Amani Oruwariye, Adam Thielen vs. Ifeatu Melifonwu

WR/CB breakdown: Jefferson and Thielen have an argument as the league’s single-best one-two punch in terms of top weapons in the passing game. No duo has more combined touchdowns (16) than the Vikings’ pair of stud receivers, while their combined marks in receptions and receiving yards come in at a plenty respectable fourth and third.

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