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Fantasy Football: Week 13 WR/CB shadow matchups and biggest mismatches

New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore breaks up a touchdown pass thrown to Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Clause/The Daily Advertiser via USA TODAY NETWORK

  • Buccaneers WR Mike Evans and Saints CB Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) are expected to write another chapter in their rivalry on Monday night
  • Browns WR Amari Cooper is set up to feast against the Texans regardless of whether or not CB Derek Stingley Jr. (hamstring) is healthy enough to suit up
  • Ace Jets CB Sauce Garner has spent an overwhelming amount of his snaps as the defense’s left cornerback and isn’t expected to shadow Vikings WR Justin Jefferson
Estimated reading time: 30 minutes

Shadow matchups are when a defense assigns a particular cornerback to follow one specific wide receiver all over the field.

Of course, wide receivers often can overcome difficult one-on-one matchups thanks to good ole’ fashioned volume. It’s also rare that a cornerback follows a single receiver around the field for each and every route. This leads to situations where Jalen Ramsey “shuts down” Justin Jefferson in their direct coverage (3-25-0), but Jefferson’s full game line (8-116-0) reflects the reality that fantasy managers were still better off playing him.

What follows is a breakdown on:

  1. Which cornerbacks shadowed in Week 12
  2. Projected Week 13 shadow matchups
  3. Notes on why certain cornerbacks aren’t expected to shadow

Week 12 shadow results

The following eight defenses deployed at least one of their cornerbacks in shadow coverage last week. Note that receiving production refers to what the player achieved during the entire game, not just specifically in the referenced cornerbacks’ direct coverage:

Projected Week 13 shadow matchups

Bills WR Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis vs. Patriots CB Jonathan Jones and Jalen Mills 

Last season, now-Chargers CB JC Jackson shadowed Diggs in all three of their matchups, while Jalen Mills took then Bills No. 2 WR Emmanuel Sanders. While Bill Belichick has always been lauded for his ability to take away the opponent’s No. 1 option, Diggs has peeled off boom-worthy 7-85-1 and 9-145-3 performances in two of his five appearances against the Patriots since joining forces with Josh Allen.

Ultimately, Allen hasn’t had any trouble eviscerating this defense in recent matchups that haven’t included 50 mile per hour wind gusts:

  • Week 16, 2020: 320 pass yards-4 TD-0 INT
  • Week 13, 2021: 145-1-0 (wind game)
  • Week 16, 2021: 314-3-0
  • AFC Divisional Round, 2021: 308-5-0

Perhaps Belichick and the Patriots’ sixth-ranked scoring defense makes Allen look more like the youngster who struggled in his first four matchups against the Patriots, but then again they are only a week removed from giving up a 299-3-1 passing performance to *checks notes* Kirk Cousins.

Verdict: Fire up Diggs as his usual upside WR1 self, while Davis could flirt with the latter outcome of his typical boom-or-bust profile against the league’s eighth-best defense in fewest PPR points per game allowed to wide receivers.

Eagles WR A.J. Brown vs. Titans CB Kristian Fulton

This matchup isn’t a given, as Fulton has only tracked Terry McLaurin (5-76-0), Michael Pittman (6-58-0) and most recently Tee Higgins (7-114-1) this season. Note that the latter receiver’s touchdown catch didn’t come in Fulton’s direct coverage.

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