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Week 8 WR/CB mismatches and shadow coverages to leverage in DFS & fantasy football leagues

Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., turns the corner on a Miami defender at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021, during second half of a 27-17 Colts win at the Miami Dolphins. 100321 Coltsmiami 047 Jw

Week 8 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.

GB @ ARZ | PIT @ CLE | CAR @ ATL | MIA @ BUF | SF @ CHITEN @ IND | CIN @ NYJ | PHI @ DET | LAR @ HOU | JAX @ SEANE @ LAC | TB @ NO |
WFT @ DEN | DAL @ MIN
NYG @ KC

Green Bay PackersArizona Cardinals 

Packers Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Marquez Valdes-Scantling 76 + 206 4.37 1.03 Marco Wilson 73 + 191 N/A 1.61
R Equanimeous St. Brown 77 + 214 4.48 0 Robert Alford 70 + 186 N/A 0.62
S Randall Cobb 70 + 192 4.46 1.46 Byron Murphy Jr. 71 + 190 4.55 1.52

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Davante Adams and Allen Lazard are both on the injured reserve list due to covid. Not great, Bob.

The expectation is that Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring, IR) is activated by Thursday night, although it’d make sense if Randall Cobb is the rather undisputed No. 1 option either way from a pure usage perspective. The 31-year-old slot receiver played a season-high 62% of the Packers’ snaps in Week 7 and certainly seems to have the highest trust level with Aaron Rodgers at this point. The matchup against the Cardinals’ top-five defense in yards per attempt and explosive pass play rate allowed to slot receivers isn’t ideal, but it’s hard to bust too badly as Rodgers’ No. 1 receiver.

Both Cobb (my PPR WR35) and MVS (WR45) are worthy streaming options on the week, although the true beneficiary of Adams’ absence might just be Aaron Jones. The Packers’ stud running back has ripped off PPR RB1, RB15, RB7, RB1, RB31, RB7 and RB1 weekly finishes in seven games with Adams either sidelined or hurt early since 2019.

Entering 2021, only Nyheim Hines and Austin Ekeler averaged more yards per route run than Jones when aligned in the slot or out wide. There simply aren’t many linebackers capable of hanging with A-aron in space.

Jones deserves to be squeezed inside the week’s top-five backs thanks to the potential for all sorts of receiver work.

TE breakdown: Robert Tonyan set season-high marks in receptions (4) and receiving yards (63) last week while scoring his second touchdown of the year. Yes, the Cardinals have allowed the fewest PPR points per game to opposing tight ends this season. Also yes, they have faced the Titans, Vikings, Jaguars, Rams, 49ers (with George Kittle out), Browns and Texans this season. Don’t let a rather fluky small sample distract you from the fact Tonyan is locked in as a touchdown-dependent TE1 on Thursday night; I’d start him ahead of guys like Ricky Seals-Jones, C.J. Uzomah and Evan Engram with confidence.

Cardinals Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L DeAndre Hopkins 73 + 212 4.57 1.7 Eric Stokes 73 + 185 N/A 1.09
R A.J. Green 76 + 210 4.48 1.82 Rasul Douglas 74 + 209 4.59 0.51
S Christian Kirk 71 + 200 4.47 2.24 Chandon Sullivan 71 + 194 4.6 1

Projected shadow matchups: DeAndre Hopkins vs. Eric Stokes

WR/CB breakdown: Kyler Murray has thrown at least 35 passes in a game just once all season; he reached or surpassed that mark in 10 of 16 games in 2020. This has prevented Hopkins from truly balling out to the best of his abilities despite his status as the offense’s clear-cut No. 1 pass-game option holding true:

Don’t be surprised if Thursday night is the breakout Nuk fantasy investors have been waiting for. Stokes didn’t really come close to slowing down either Terry McLaurin (7-122-1) or Ja’Marr Chase (6-159-1) during his only two shadow dates this season; the ceiling is the roof for Hopkins if ample volume comes to fruition. He should continue to be started in fantasy leagues of all shapes and sizes.

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Kirk (WR31 in PPR points per game), Green (WR42) and Moore (WR56) have each flashed throughout the season, but the reality that there is only one ball to go around has limited each of their respective upsides. Fire up Kirk and AJG has low-end WR3 options, while Moore is unfortunately not a recommended start due to his silly-low touch floor. It should be illegal to feed Moore five or fewer targets in a game, yet Kliff Kingsbury has done so in all but two games this season.

TE breakdown: Ertz’s arrival in Arizona started with a bang, as he caught three of his five targets for 66 yards and a score. Don’t expect the ex-Eagles veteran to score a 47-yard touchdown every week, but at a minimum he’s already established as a top-five pass-catcher inside of the league’s fourth-ranked scoring offense. Hell, Kingsbury even gave Ertz a jet sweep near the goal line last week. Confidently start Ertz as a top-12 option; just realize the same volume problems impacting all these receivers apply to him as well.

Carolina Panthers @ Atlanta Falcons 

Panthers Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L D.J. Moore 71 + 215 4.42 2.1 Fabian Moreau 72 + 200 4.35 1.02
R Robby Anderson 75 + 190 N/A 0.76 A.J. Terrell 73 + 190 4.42 0.33
S Shi Smith 70 + 190 N/A 0.87 Richie Grant 72 + 194 N/A 1.59

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: One way to figure out which receivers are getting rather empty air yards is to quantify which incompletions were simply the quarterback’s fault. The following list denotes the top-five receivers in “Sheesh yards,” or air yards stemming from an incompletion that were deemed to be the quarterback’s fault:

  1. Marquise Brown (340)
  2. Courtland Sutton (315)
  3. D.J. Moore (290)
  4. Davante Adams (243)
  5. Robby Anderson (235)

Moore has double-digit targets in all but two games this season; he’s receiving the sort of high-end volume that can make up for a dropoff in efficiency. The WR13 in PPR points per game but WR4 in expected fantasy points per game, Moore continues to deserve WR1 treatment regardless of the matchup. Don’t be surprised if he breaks out in a big way against the Falcons’ third-worst defense in explosive pass play rate allowed to receivers.

Related content for you: The Fantasy Football Utilization Report: Week 8 waiver, trade and drop candidates via Dwain McFarland

And then there’s Anderson, who has posted 5-46-0, 2-30-0, 3-11-1 and 3-14-0 receiving lines on 11, seven, 11 and nine targets over the past four weeks. Only Elijah Moore has a lower rate of catchable targets than Anderson. It’s safe to say Sam Darnold’s decline has been the primary culprit here:

  • Week 1: 79.5 PFF passing grade (No. 10 among qualified QBs)
  • Week 2: 71.1 (No. 16)
  • Week 3: 76.3 (No. 13)
  • Week 4: 54.7 (No. 27)
  • Week 5: 44.8 (No. 33)
  • Week 6: 56.2 (No. 24)
  • Week 7: 44.3 (No. 26 pre-MNF)

Anderson is getting too much volume to bust forever, and it’s probably not going anywhere as long as Terrace Marshall (concussion) and Christian McCaffrey (hamstring, IR) remain sidelined. Still, he’s impossible to trust as more than a boom-or-bust WR4 at this point. The present edition of Darnold has a worse PFF grade than he did in two of his three seasons with the Jets; it’d make sense if this passing game only enables one consist high-end fantasy option.

TE breakdown: Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble remain equally involved enough in this offense to effectively cancel each other out in fantasy land. Neither will be recommended starts unless one is forced to miss time.

Falcons Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Calvin Ridley 73 + 190 4.43 1.43 Donte Jackson 70 + 180 4.32 1.07
R Tajae Sharpe 74 + 194 4.55 1.18 Keith Taylor 75 + 195 N/A 1.35
S Russell Gage 72 + 184 N/A 1.13 A.J. Bouye 72 + 191 N/A 1.32

Projected shadow matchups: Calvin Ridley vs. Donte Jackson

WR/CB breakdown: Only Robby Anderson has more fantasy points below expectation than Ridley this season. The Falcons’ No. 1 receiver is the WR2 in expected PPR points per game but just the WR27 on a per-game basis in reality.

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.

Perhaps a shadow matchup against Jackson will help lift Ridley back to 2020 heights. He’s traveled with the opponent’s No. 1 receiver on four occasions this season:

I’m continuing to stick with Ridley as an upside WR1; he remains one of the best buy-low candidates in all of fantasy, particularly with Matt Ryan playing far better ball as of late:

  • Week 1: 59.7 PFF passing grade, Falcons scored 6 points
  • Week 2: 66.4 PFF passing grade, 25 points
  • Week 3: 51.8 PFF passing grade, 17 points
  • Week 4: 89.8 PFF passing grade, 30 points
  • Week 5: 88.7 PFF passing grade, 27 points
  • Week 6: Bye
  • Week 7: 89.5 PFF passing grade, 30 points

Neither Tajae Sharpe nor Russell Gage are recommended starts as the likely No. 4 options in this passing game behind Ridley, TE Kyle Pitts and RB/WR Cordarrelle Patterson. Check out my Week 8 backfield breakdown for more information on Patterson’s fantasy stock.

TE breakdown: Pitts is my overall TE2 on the week. He flashed repeatedly in Week 7, making arguably the single-best catch of the week before putting the Falcons in position to kick the game-winning field goal by beating starting Dolphins CB Xavien Howard one-on-one down the sideline. The 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 4 overall pick has racked up the sixth-most receiving yards of any rookie since 2010 in the first seven weeks of the season.

And yet, I’m annoyed. Pitts has lined up as a traditional tight end on just 27 percent of his snaps this season, getting just seven total targets as an inline player. He’s a wide receiver that is being called a tight end, probably so the Falcons can save money on his future second contract. Does it really matter what position he plays? No, but let’s be careful about ripping down Mike Ditka records, or comparing Pitts to guys like Rob Gronkowski, when the rookie is essentially playing a completely different position. Obviously continue to take advantage of the fantasy industry’s lackadaisical attitude toward “tight ends” that play wide receiver; just please spare me with the ridiculous historical footnotes.

Tennessee Titans @ Indianapolis Colts 

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