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Week 9 WR/CB mismatches and shadow coverages to leverage in DFS & fantasy football leagues

Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (13) runs with the ball after a catch against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 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.


New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts

Jets Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Keelan Cole 73 + 194 N/A 1.54 Xavier Rhodes 73 + 218 4.43 1.67
R Denzel Mims 75 + 215 4.38 1.6 Rock Ya-Sin 72 + 192 4.51 0.88
S Jamison Crowder 69 + 177 4.56 1.6 Kenny Moore II 69 + 190 N/A 1.7

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Mike White has fed the following players at least five targets during his seven quarters under center:

White’s 13.8% checkdown rate on the season is easily the highest in the league, as only Trevor Lawrence (11.5%) and Jared Goff (10.6%) are also above 10%. This has helped Carter rack up the 11th-most fantasy points as a receiver over the past two weeks among all players regardless of position. Only A.J. Brown (18) and Tyreek Hill (18) have more receptions than Carter (17) since Week 7.

The expected continued absence of Davis (hip) should continue to lead to a committee of sorts at wide receiver; six different players played between 24% and 70% of the group’s snaps last week. Crowder is the only one truly worthy of fantasy consideration; he’s my PPR WR34 on the week against the Colts’ 10th-ranked defense in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers.

Note that Cole had one of the best catches you’ll ever see not count during the Jets’ Week 8 win over the Bengals. One hand should equal two feet.

TE breakdown: Tyler Kroft and Ryan Griffin split time when both are healthy; neither is worthy of fantasy consideration this week.

Colts Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Ashton Dulin 73 + 215 N/A 0.64 Brandin Echols 71 + 178 N/A 1.36
R Michael Pittman Jr. 76 + 220 4.52 2.01 Bryce Hall 73 + 200 N/A 0.91
S Zach Pascal 74 + 219 4.55 0.92 Michael Carter II 71 + 190 N/A 0.97

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: All Michael Pittman has done over the past two months is ball out:

  • Week 2: PPR WR13
  • Week 3: WR32
  • Week 4: WR38
  • Week 5: WR14
  • Week 6: WR66
  • Week 7: WR8
  • Week 8: WR2

The numbers could be even bigger if Carson Wentz didn’t account for a league-high 252 yards gained from defensive pass interference penalties. The WR18 in PPR points per game, Pittman has earned weekly WR2 treatment as Carson Wentz’s No. 1 target. This is especially true with the likes of T.Y. Hilton (concussion) and Parris Campbell (foot, IR) not available.

Neither Ashton Dulin nor Zach Pascal are recommended fantasy options in a matchup that could feature plenty of Jonathan Taylor and the ground game if the Colts status as 10.5-point favorites means anything. This is especially true against a Jets secondary that has surprisingly held up quite well against the position, ranking fifth in fewest PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers through eight weeks.

TE breakdown: Sometimes Mo Alie-Cox scores a touchdown and life is good (Weeks 4, 6 and 7). Other times he doesn’t and finishes with fewer than 20 scoreless yards (Weeks 1, 2, 3 and 8). Ultimately, Alie-Cox will remain a touchdown-dependent TE2 as long as Jack Doyle is healthy enough to suit up.

Atlanta Falcons @ New Orleans Saints 

Falcons Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Tajae Sharpe 74 + 194 4.55 1.49 Marshon Lattimore 72 + 192 4.36 1.76
R Olamide Zaccheaus 68 + 190 N/A 0.74 Paulson Adebo 73 + 190 N/A 1.38
S Russell Gage 72 + 184 N/A 0.9 Chauncey Gardner-Johnson 72 + 208 4.48 1.46

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Calvin Ridley (personal) is out of the picture at the moment, leaving Tajae Sharpe, Olamide Zaccheaus and Russell Gage to lead the wide receiver room. The latter is the expected weekly leader despite last week’s target-less performance. Still, the goose-egg is a good reminder that nothing is certain for this group in a passing game that flows heavily through their running backs and “tight end.”

Try to find a better option this week. Gage (WR46) is the only one I have ranked inside my top-50 receivers on the week, and that honestly feels a bit high. Matt Ryan has failed to lead this offense to even 20 points in his last three matchups against the Falcons’ NFC South rival — and that was with his top receivers available.

Related content for you: NFL Week 9 predictions for every quarterback via Ian Hartitz

TE breakdown: The one man who might be capable of finding success against the Saints’ fourth-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to wide receivers is being called a tight end. Yes, Kyle Pitts is labeled a tight end by the NFL and fantasy football industry alike. Also yes, he’s lined up in the slot or out wide on 74% of his snaps and 83% of his routes. The man is being used as a wide receiver and should consider changing his position to reflect that in order to, you know, make more money.

Long story short, don’t sweat Pitts’ perceived bad matchup against the league’s sixth-best defense in fantasy points per game allowed to tight ends because he basically doesn’t even play that position. This doesn’t mean a shadow date with Marshon Lattimore is on the horizon, either; Lattimore has played just 20 total snaps in the slot all season and will likely stick to his spot at right corner.

The only tight ends I’d start ahead of Pitts this week: Travis Kelce, Darren Waller and Mark Andrews. Great day to be great.

Saints Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Marquez Callaway 74 + 204 4.55 1.55 Fabian Moreau 72 + 200 4.35 0.9
R Deonte Harris 66 + 170 N/A 3.08 A.J. Terrell 73 + 190 4.42 0.28
S Tre'Quan Smith 74 + 210 4.49 0.83 Richie Grant 72 + 194 N/A 1.52

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Michael Thomas (ankle, IR) won’t be returning this season. Further complicating matters is the absence of Jameis Winston (ACL, IR). Taysom Hill (concussion) is tentatively expected to clear the protocol by Sunday, but if not Trevor Siemian (who once *declined* a Pro Bowl invitation) will be under center.

The Saints already have the league’s most pass-adverse offense in non-garbage time situations. Last year Hill threw 23, 16, 37 and 38 passes in his four spot starts, honing in on Thomas for most of the time.

The Saints are keeping five receivers fairly heavily involved in this run-first offense. It’s already been hard enough to get anything resembling consistent fantasy value from anyone in this offense other than Alvin Kamara; don’t expect that to improve with Hill under center. Try to find a better option this week; Callaway is nothing more than a boom-or-bust WR4.

TE breakdown: Each of Adam Trautman, Garrett Griffin and Juwan Johnson are seeing consistent snaps at tight end; none are realistic fantasy options this week and beyond due to the lack of available volume.

Denver Broncos @ Dallas Cowboys 

Broncos Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Courtland Sutton 75 + 218 4.54 2.05 Trevon Diggs 74 + 207 N/A 1.81
R Tim Patrick 77 + 210 N/A 1.55 Anthony Brown 71 + 196 4.33 1.6
S Jerry Jeudy 73 + 192 4.45 2.36 Jourdan Lewis 70 + 195 4.54 0.88

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Week 8 marked the first time since Week 1 that the Broncos had their full arsenal of wide receivers and tight ends with the lone exception being K.J. Hamler (knee, IR). The result: Seven different players had between three and four targets.

This Broncos offense has scored just seven, 19, 24, 14 and 17 points over the past five weeks after putting at least 23 points on the scoreboard in each of their first three games. In Week 9, they're one of just seven offenses implied to score fewer than 20 points.

Sep 19, 2021; Jacksonville, Florida, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton (14) runs with the ball in the third quarter at TIAA Bank Field. Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Both Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton are plenty good enough to put up solid numbers with Teddy Bridgewater under center, but this sort of target distribution is problematic for the upside of everyone involved. The matchup isn’t one to fear: Dallas has allowed the eighth-most PPR points per game to opposing wide receiver rooms despite Trevon Diggs’ (ankle) season-long excellence; just realize both receivers carry a low floor as non-established top options.

However, it’d make sense if Bridgewater is forced to throw more than usual to keep up with Dak Prescott (calf) and company. Sutton (my PPR WR24) and Jeudy (WR31) would both be ranked a helluva lot higher with cemented alpha roles in a more efficient passing game, but beggars can’t be choosers in fantasy land.

TE breakdown: Noah Fant (covid, IR) is at risk of missing Sunday’s game. This would elevate Albert Okwuegbunam into starting duties after he returned to action in Week 8. If Fant is active, he’s more of a low-end TE1 play after Albert O played a rather robust 49% of the offense’s snaps in Week 8 and saw three targets. If Fant is inactive, fire up Okwuegbunam as a low-end TE1 himself thanks to his demonstrated solid receiving ability; this isn’t a block-first backup tight end we’re talking about here.

Cowboys Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L CeeDee Lamb 74 + 191 4.5 2.43 Ronald Darby 71 + 193 4.38 1.59
R Amari Cooper 73 + 210 4.42 1.93 Patrick Surtain II 74 + 202 N/A 1
S Cedrick Wilson 74 + 197 4.55 1.53 Bryce Callahan 69 + 188 N/A 0.98

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Dak Prescott (calf) is tentatively expected to return to action this week. Cooper Rush will draw another start under center if not.

Either way: Good luck covering these outside receivers. Both CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper have largely done nothing other than ball out all year. The second-year talent in particular already looks the part as one of the league’s next-big things at the position:

  • Lamb PFF receiving grade: 84.0 (No. 6 among 71 qualified receivers)
  • Yards per reception: 15.6 (No. 12)
  • Yards after the catch per reception: 5.7 (No. 14)
  • Yards per route run: 2.43 (No. 9)

However, Lamb’s excellence shouldn’t distract from the reality that Cooper has functioned as one of the position’s most productive players since having a star put on his helmet back in Week 9, 2018. Overall, Cooper ranks among the league’s top-eight receivers in receptions (262, No. 5), receiving yards (3,523, No. 5) and receiving scores (24, tied for No. 8) during his time with the Cowboys.

This week’s matchup against the Broncos’ top-10 defense in fewest PPR points per game allowed to receivers isn’t a cake walk by any stretch, but Lamb and Cooper have earned WR2 treatment at worst regardless of the matchup at this point. Fire up both with confidence inside of a Cowboys offense implied to score the third-most points of Week 9.

Cedrick Wilson makes at least one dope play a week and looks like the Cowboys’ future No. 3 receiver. Of course, that job will return to Michael Gallup (calf, IR) as soon as he’s good enough to go. Wilson has more than three targets in just two games this season and isn’t anything more than a low-floor WR5, while I’d rather wait a week to start Gallup in order to make sure he’s ready to assume his usual workload.

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.

TE breakdown: Dalton Schultz continues to work well ahead of Blake Jarwin in terms of snaps and targets alike, but I’d lean toward avoiding the Broncos’ third-ranked defense in PPR points per game allowed to tight ends if possible. Don’t get it twisted: Schultz is my TE7 on the week and capable of scoring during any given matchup with Prescott under center; the matchup is simply enough of a tiebreaker to put him behind the likes of Mike Gesicki and Dallas Goedert among others.

New England Patriots @ Carolina Panthers 

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