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Week 16 WR/CB mismatches and shadow coverages to leverage in DFS & fantasy football leagues

Glendale, Arizona, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp (10) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Week 16 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.

SF @ TEN | CLE @ GB | IND @ ARZ | TB @ CAR | LAC @ HOUBAL @ CIN | NYG @ PHI | JAX @ NYJ | LAR @ MIN | BUF @ NEDET @ ATL | CHI @ SEA | DEN @ LV | PIT @ KC | WFT @ DAL | MIA @ NO

San Francisco 49ers @ Tennessee Titans 

49ers Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Deebo Samuel 71 + 214 4.48 2.82 Kristian Fulton 72 + 200 4.46 0.77
R Brandon Aiyuk 73 + 206 4.5 1.49 Chris Jones 72 + 200 4.57 0.89
S Jauan Jennings 75 + 208 4.72 1.06 Buster Skrine 69 + 185 N/A 0.98

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Deebo Samuel continues to tell regression to go straight to hell each and every week as a rusher; he’s ripped off rushing lines of 5 carries-36 rush yards-1 rush TD, 8-79-1, 6-66-2, 8-37-1 and 6-29-1 in his past five games. The fact that Samuel is averaging 6.9 yards per carry *in style* is even more incredible.

Of course, this sort of efficiency and touchdown scoring is unsustainable unless Samuel made some sort of deal with a higher power that we don’t know about. The good news is Samuels’ four receptions in Week 15 were more than he had in Weeks 11-14 combined; Kyle Shanahan has consistently kept his stud weapon involved in some way, shape or form in each and every week this season.

Continue to fire up Samuel as a rock solid WR2 in fantasy land, while Brandon Aiyuk should also be in far more starting lineups than not against the Titans’ 31st-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers. Last week’s 1 reception-36 receiving yards-0 receiving TD dud marked the first time since Week 10 that Aiyuk finished with fewer than 55 receiving yards; these sort of duds are occasionally on the table for each of Samuel, Aiyuk and George Kittle when the league’s third-most run-heavy offense in non-garbage time situations is able to build an early lead.

TE breakdown: Kittle has peeled off 9-181-2, 13-15-1 and 6-93-0 receiving lines over the past three weeks, only allowing five targets to hit the ground along the way. I maintain that Kittle would be planet Earth’s starting tight end if the aliens were to invade the planet and force us to play a single football game to defend humanity. Obviously Kittle is locked in as a top-three option at the position regardless of the matchup; just realize that each of Mark Andrews, Travis Kelce and Kittle rank among the top-12 highest-scoring receivers and tight ends in PPR points per game, so teams lucky enough to have more than one on their roster need to start both. Even if there’s a fire.

Titans Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L A.J. Brown 72 + 226 N/A 2.27 Josh Norman 72 + 200 4.61 1.3
R Julio Jones 75 + 220 4.34 1.89 Ambry Thomas 72 + 183 N/A 2.78
S Chester Rogers 72 + 184 N/A 1.01 K'Waun Williams 69 + 185 N/A 0.9

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: A.J. Brown (chest, IR) has had his practice window activated and is eligible to suit up this Thursday night. The additional return of Julio Jones (hamstring) could actually give this passing game some semblance of upside for the first time in a minute.

While the latter receiver shouldn’t be trusted as anything more than a low-end WR4 in fantasy land due to the seemingly constant high risk of re-aggravation, AJB will immediately be back on the WR2 map if healthy enough to suit up; frustration over his performance this season has been more about availability as opposed to on-field performance. Just six wide receivers have averaged more yards per route run than the third-year stud among 66 players with at least 50 targets this season:

Emmanuel Moseley is the 49ers’ only cornerback ranked within PFF’s top-75 players at the position in terms of coverage grade; don’t be afraid to go back to the well with one of the league’s most-electric talents when fully healthy. Brown is firmly inside my top-24 receivers on the week; just be sure to monitor the news cycle on Thursday to make sure limited snaps aren’t a possibility.

TE breakdown: The Titans regularly keep each of Geoff Swaim, MyCole Pruitt and Anthony Firkser involved; none are realistic fantasy options with this sort of split usage.

Cleveland Browns @ Green Bay Packers

Browns Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Donovan Peoples-Jones 74 + 208 4.48 1.58 Rasul Douglas 74 + 209 4.59 0.85
R Rashard Higgins 73 + 198 4.64 0.87 Eric Stokes 73 + 185 N/A 1.02
S Demetric Felton 70 + 200 N/A 2.12 Chandon Sullivan 71 + 194 4.6 0.93

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: The Packers aren’t expected to have Jaire Alexander (AC joint, IR) back for at least another week. This is especially good news for de facto No. 1 outside receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones; just realize he’s only posted two top-30 PPR finishes all season long.

There simply hasn’t been any meat on the bone for any wide receiver involved in this offense. The following metrics denote Browns wide receiver ranks through 15 weeks of action:

  • Targets: 206 (tied for No. 30)
  • Receptions: 128 (No. 30)
  • Receiving yards: 1,660 (No. 30)
  • Receiving touchdowns: 6 (No. 31)
  • Percentage of catchable balls caught: 88.3% (No. 16)

None of Peoples-Jones, Rashard Higgins, Jarvis Landry or early season Odell Beckham “suck”; they’ve largely had less opportunity for production than any other group in the league, while Baker Mayfield’s endless array of injuries has plummeted his effectiveness all season long. Overall, Browns wide receivers have received the fourth-lowest catchable ball rate when considered open or wide open; only the Bears, Panthers and Saints have been worse.

Try to avoid starting any pass-catcher from this offense if you can help it; Landry (if healthy) and DPJ are nothing more than “hate yourself” WR4 type plays. The Browns are implied to score a rather pathetic 18.75 points; only the Texans (8) have more games with 14 or fewer points than the Browns (7).

TE breakdown: Any of Austin Hooper (covid, IR), David Njoku or Harrison Bryant would be legit TE1 options with a full-time role; unfortunately their persistent committee renders each as non-recommended fantasy options. However, Njoku did play 100% of the offense’s snaps with Hooper sidelined on Monday night; he’s a legit upside TE2 option if the Browns’ high-priced starter is once again not healthy enough to suit up. Neither Hooper nor Njoku would be more than low-ceiling TE2 types if everyone involved is active.

Packers Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Davante Adams 73 + 215 4.56 2.72 Greedy Williams 74 + 185 4.37 1.29
R Juwann Winfree 75 + 215 N/A 0.7 Denzel Ward 71 + 190 4.32 0.79
S Allen Lazard 77 + 227 4.55 0.93 M.J. Stewart 71 + 200 4.54 1.27

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Davante Adams is always a candidate to simply take over a game, but he could be leaned on more than ever this week with Marquez Valdes-Scantling (covid, IR) potentially sidelined. Aaron Rodgers always seems capable of enabling his BFF to great heights regardless of how much attention the defense seems to be paying to the man; it truly is incredible to see the sort of efficiency numbers Adams is capable of maintaining despite functioning as his offense’s clear-cut No. 1 option:

  • PFF receiving grade: 92.3 (No. 1 among 115 wide receivers with at least 25 targets)
  • Yards per route run: 2.72 (No. 5)
  • Percentage of catchable passes caught: 97% (No. 2)

The Browns boast PFF’s fifth-best secondary in team coverage grade; this is hardly a smash spot for anybody involved. Still, it’s hard to not rank Adams as the week’s overall WR1 with a better chance to rack up double-digit targets than ever; don’t be surprised if his four-game streak with either 100 yards and/or a touchdown reaches five after this Saturday.

Allen Lazard is also a viable fantasy option this week due to the likelihood that he works as the clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver ahead of Equanimeous St. Brown. Hell, he was a better ball away against the Ravens from scoring a touchdown in his second straight game. The Browns have been far worse at defending receivers aligned out of the slot (26th in yards per attempt allowed) compared to out wide (10th); fire up Lazard as a low-end WR3 that is a sneaky-solid FLEX if MVS is ultimately sidelined.

Related content for you: Fantasy Football: Week 16 Snaps & Efficiency Report for all 32 NFL backfields via Ian Hartitz

TE breakdown: Packers tight ends will occasionally produce some solid performance because, you know, Rodgers is their quarterback, but none are recommended fantasy options with each of Josiah Deguara, Marcedes Lewis and Tyler Davis forming a three-player committee while splitting snaps and targets alike.

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