Fantasy football is all about the matchups, especially when it comes to wide receivers versus corner backs. Remember when fantasy matchup analysis used to be “Team A gives up the most fantasy points to wide receivers”? Well, we’ve moved from analog to digital and now look at matchups on an individual level. Each week, I dig through the actually coverage tendencies for all 32 NFL teams and compile this information in the WR/CB Matchup Chart, which is released on Thursday mornings.
Week 6 matchup upgrades
Julio Jones vs. Miami – Jones returns from bye and should be good to go after suffering a hip injury in Week 5. The standout receiver draws an extremely favorable matchup in this contest, with primary coverage coming from Xavien Howard, who is allowing 72 percent of his targets to be caught this season. It should be noted that game script could work against Jones in this one, as the Falcons are heavy favorites. That said, he’s a good bet to do damage in the first half.
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Devin Funchess vs. Philadelphia – Over the last two weeks, Funchess has out-targeted teammate Kelvin Benjamin 17-10 and has found the end zone three times. Funchess is a solid WR2 play this week with a plus matchup on Thursday night. He’ll line up most frequently against Jalen Mills, who leads all cornerbacks with 54 targets thrown into his coverage. That’s an almost impossible average of 10.8 per game. In other words, expect the volume to continue for Funchess this week.
T.Y. Hilton vs. Tennessee – Jacoby Brissett connected with Hilton on multiple deep balls last week, and Hilton topped 100 yards for the second time in the last three games. There’s a good chance he goes big again this week with a favorable matchup on tap against Adoree’ Jackson. The rookie corner is being targeted on 20 percent of his covered routes and current sits tied for eighth among corners with 33 targets. Hilton has the potential to go off in this one.
Adam Thielen/Stefon Diggs vs. Green Bay – Both Vikings get an upgrade against the Packers this week. Diggs is dealing with a groin injury, but he’s a must-start if he’s able to suit up. Diggs will see primary coverage from Damarious Randall, who has been targeted on 21 percent of his covered routes since the start of last season. Thielen also draws a favorable matchup against Quinten Rollins out of the slot. Rollins allowed all five of his targets to be caught last week for 41 yards and a touchdown.
Other matchup upgrades: Another week, and another good matchup for Larry Fitzgerald. The veteran has been inconsistent this season, but he’s a recommended play with primary coverage coming from Robert McClain. … Antonio Brown is coming off a massive workload last week, and the volume should continue with a favorable matchup against Terrance Mitchell up next. … Will Fuller has scored four times in the last two weeks, and could find pay dirt again in this week’s contest. He’ll see primary coverage from Jamar Taylor, who has allowed two touchdowns and is allowing a catch on 79 percent of balls thrown into his coverage. … Keenan Allen is being targets on 27 percent of his routes, and that volume should continue against T.J. Carrie this week. … Tyreek Hill offers one of the highest fantasy ceilings at the wide receiver position. Better yet, he gets a plus matchup against Artie Burns this week. … It’s been a frustrating season for Golden Tate owners, but don’t let that sway you from starting him this week. He gets a matchup boost against the suspect Saints secondary in a potential shootout.
Mike Evans vs. Arizona – Patrick Peterson is the only cornerback in the NFL to shadow every week this season. That’s going to continue this week against Evans. While the matchup is far from ideal, fantasy owners shouldn’t sit Evans. He’ll be in Peterson’s shadow for most of the game, but we’re typically seeing him shadow on 75 percent of routes. Expect Jameis Winston to take advantage of those 25 percent of routes in which Evans is not in Peterson’s coverage.
Demaryius Thomas vs. NY Giants – We don’t expect Thomas to be shadowed this week, but he’s likely to see his share of Janoris Jenkins on Sunday night. Jenkins has held opposing receivers to just 12 catches on 27 targets in 2017. It isn’t a complete wash for Thomas owners, as he’ll also see coverage from Eli Apple, but Thomas is more of a WR2 option this week.
Jordy Nelson vs. Minnesota – This is a tough scenario for Nelson owners. The star receiver enters the week nursing a hamstring injury and also draws a tough matchup against Xavier Rhodes. We expect Rhodes to shadow Nelson, which could limit his volume. That’s not to say that Nelson should be benched in fantasy lineups. He remains an elite red zone asset, but his fantasy owners should temper expectations.
Brandin Cooks vs. NY Jets – Really? Against the Jets? Yes, this is actually a downgrade for Cooks this week, as he projects to see shadow coverage from Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys castoff has shadowed in each of the last four games. While he isn’t a shut-down corner, he’s playing well enough for Tom Brady to avoid his coverage and instead pick on Darryl Roberts and Buster Skrine. That means good things for Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola this week.
Michael Crabtree vs. LA Chargers – With Amari Cooper fading, Crabtree is now the top fantasy wide receiver in Oakland. Fantasy owners should continue firing him up as a starter, but it’s worth noting that Crabtree is likely to draw Casey Hayward’s shadow. Hayward has a done a good job this season with just 53 percent of his targets being caught, but he did surrender two scores to the Giants last week.
Sammy Watkins vs. Jacksonville – Watkins is coming off a fantasy goose egg and is nearly impossible to trust in a brutal matchup this week against the Jags. He’ll see coverage from both Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye in this one. Ramsey has been fantastic this season, allowing a catch on just 38 percent of his covered routes. Bouye put on a clinic last week with just one catch surrendered on eight targets. Watkins is a hard fade this week.
Other matchup downgrades: Ricardo Louis appears to be the wideout in Cleveland right now, but he’s a fade in a tough matchup against Johnathan Joseph this week. … It’s a good idea to keep Marqise Lee on the bench this week. The Jags receiver gets an unfavorable matchup against Trumaine Johnson. … You shouldn’t sit Michael Thomas this week, but you should be aware that he’s likely to see shadow coverage from Darius Slay. … Don’t get cute and start any of the Giants wideouts against the Denver secondary. … It’s also advisable to fade the Jets receivers. While the Patriots have surrendered a ton of passing yards this season, the Jets wideouts are overmatched against Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore.
BONUS – Tight end matchups
We’re extremely excited to unleash our brand new Tight End Matchups Chart on the fantasy industry. You can use this tool just like the WR/CB tool to help you find matchups to exploit and to avoid for your tight ends each week.
Kyle Rudolph vs. Green Bay – Rudolph got back in our fantasy good graces last week with a touchdown, and he’s worth starting again in this contest. The Packers use multiple players to cover tight ends, but we’ve seen a lot of Josh Jones in coverage on the position this season. Jones is being targeted on 18 percent of his routes covered, which is the third-highest number on this week’s Tight End Matchup chart. Rudolph is a good bet to keep rolling.
Jesse James vs. Kansas City – James is a stream option in the right matchup, but this isn’t that matchup. The Chiefs tend to use Daniel Sorensen to cover tight ends. Sorensen has done a solid job filling in for Eric Berry this season, and has allowed just 0.06 fantasy points per route covered. That’s among the lowest in this week’s tight end matchups.