The Shadow Knows Week 11

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


You may not have heard, but the final game of Week 11 is rather a big one. In front of what is certain to be a ridiculously raucous crowd at Arrowhead Stadium, the teams who faced off in the last Super Bowl will do battle when the 7-2 Kansas City Chiefs battle the 8-1 Philadelphia Eagles.

No sweatpants allowed during the ManningCast for this one, folks.

There are a dozen games within the games here—Philly’s vaunted pass-rush vs. the Kansas City offensive line. The Chiefs’ no-name wideout corps against a Philly secondary that has been surprisingly beatable this season.

But one of the biggest is the brouhaha between Chiefs cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown, who is having the best season of any wideout in the NFL not named Tyreek Hill. Of course, Sneed is also having the best season of his four-year career, and Chiefs safety Justin Reid told reporters that the team is confident lining Sneed up opposite anyone.

“We put LJ on whoever’s the best receiver,” Reid said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Calvin Ridley, Justin Jefferson, whoever. He goes out and plays his game, man. I know those guys see the tape. He’s aggressive. He’s physical. He’s an old-school corner that you don’t see anymore. He puts his hands on people and that throws guys off.”

To be clear, the way Brown’s playing he’s going to get his with Captain America covering him, although expectations may need to be lowered a tad. However, there could be a silver lining there, too—with Jaylen Watson covering DeVonta Smith on the other side, Nick Sirianni may scheme up a plan that attacks the weak link in the NFL’s fifth-ranked pass defense—and paves the way for a big game from the Eagles’ No. 2 wide receiver.


Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns (Joey Porter vs. Amari Cooper)

As a whole, the Steelers pass defense isn’t good—Pittsburgh is 27th in the league against the pass and fifth in PPR points per game allowed to wide receivers. But a light is shining through the darkness—rookie Joey Porter Jr. has emerged as easily the team’s best corner, and two weeks ago against the Tennessee Titans, Porter went to head coach Mike Tomlin with a request.

He wanted to shadow DeAndre Hopkins.

"On Tuesday, I went to Coach T (Tomlin) and told him, 'I want 10,' " Porter Jr. said, via NFL Network. "That's what I was looking for. I don't really hide from nothing, so I was like, 'That's the matchup I want, that's the matchup I need.' (Coach) didn't really say yes on Tuesday. He was like, 'We going to think about it' because they was like, 'That's kind of crazy.' But throughout the week, they was like, 'Alright, we going to let you get 10 on some reps in,' and then throughout the game, it was like 'you just go where 10 is at.' "

Porter allowed one catch for 17 yards on five targets in that game, so it’s a safe bet that he’ll be seeing a lot of Amari Cooper in Cleveland on Sunday. As if that isn’t bad enough news for Cooper managers, with Deshaun Watson out for the season, rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson will start under center for the Browns. In Thompson-Robinson’s lone start this season, Cooper was targeted six times—and caught one pass for 16 yards.


New York Jets at Buffalo Bills (Sauce Gardner vs. Stefon Diggs)

To say that things are not going especially well in Buffalo right now is an understatement—the Bills are a .500 football team that just fired its offensive coordinator after three losses in four games. And now, after his brother put quarterback Josh Allen on blast on social media, wide receiver Stefon Diggs is once again being forced to answer questions about whether or not he’s happy in Buffalo after his visible frustration with how last season ended.

"I really sat down and kind of everybody here around training camp and felt like I nipped it in the bud as to how I felt or what I was feeling," Diggs said. "But here we are again. Here we are revisiting a topic about how I feel. I play with confidence. I go in with confidence. I prepare each and every week. I've always been a professional. I've never really said anything about being unhappy or any instance of that. So, when you're drawing conclusions as to stuff I've never said, that's what kind of troubles me because it kind of throws a wrench in it. It kind of creates chaos where I haven't created.”

The Jets stunned the Bills back in Week 1, but even while facing coverage from Sauce Gardner much of that game, Diggs caught 10 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. The Bills quite simply cannot afford to lose this game, and if Buffalo is going to get back on track it’s going to take more than the three catches for 34 yards that Diggs posted a week ago against the Denver Broncos.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers (Carlton Davis vs. Brandon Aiyuk)

There was a time not that long ago when Carlton Davis was being talked about as one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. As Tyler Dunne wrote for Go Long before the season, fellow Buccaneers corner Zyon McCollum said that Davis’ technique, while unconventional, is a sight to behold on the practice field.

“He’ll lift both feet off the ground into his wide stance,” McCollum says, “and then he’ll shift his hands out — and you won’t think his hands are moving — but he’s able to mirror guys. So, he’ll crowd the line of scrimmage and the only thing going through his head is: ‘Put my hands on him. Punch the receiver.’ It’s so weird because a rookie like me will see that and say, ‘I’m going to try to do exactly what that was.’ And then you do it and the receiver is using a wide release and getting around you. I’ve never seen anybody in the league use the technique that he uses. He’s going off of passion, grit and athleticism.”

The problem for Davis is that in 2023 (partly due to injury) passion, grit and athleticism aren’t getting it done even a little. Of his six seasons in the league, this is easily Davis’ worst, whether it’s completion percentage against, passer rating against or just about any other stat you can think of. Now a dinged-up Davis will be charged with covering a wide receiver in Aiyuk who is making a case to be included among the best in the league at his position. The Bucs are fifth in PPR points per game allowed to wide receivers this season—Davis isn’t a cornerback to be feared. Not in 2023.


Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos (Justin Jefferson vs. Patrick Surtain II)

The Minnesota Vikings are in the midst of one of the wilder winning streaks in recent memory. That the team has won five in a row is one thing. That they have done so without the NFL’s best wide receiver for the entire stretch and the team’s starting quarterback for the last two games is just off the chain. There’s at least some optimism that Jefferson could return Sunday against the Broncos, but the young receiver made it clear to reporters that at day’s end the decision whether or not to return to the field is ultimately his.

"I'm the main person that's going to make the decision at the end of the day. I'm the person that's going out there running. I'm the person that's going out there and putting my body on the line to win games and do things for this organization. I know how I feel, I know how my hamstring is feeling," Jefferson said. "Of course we're going to weigh in on all the different opinions and what everyone has to say, but at the end of the day I'm the one that's going out there and putting my body on the line."

Frankly, I debated including Jefferson. First, it doesn’t really sound like he’ll play. Second, I don’t want to jinx it because like every other fantasy manager with a share of him, Dear God I need him back out there. The thing is, even if Jefferson does play, it’s going to be coming off a long layoff facing arguably the best cover cornerback in the NFL. I’d love to say that Jefferson is going to go 7/125/2 in prime time. But the odds that happens aren’t good.


Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (Devon Witherspoon vs. Puka Nacua)

The Seattle Seahawks have hit the jackpot the past two years in the draft at cornerback. In 2022, it was Day 3 gem Tariq Woolen. This year, it was first-round star-in-the-making Devon Witherspoon. The former Illinois star didn’t play in the season opener—and Rams coach Sean McVay admitted to reporters he’s glad for that.

“Yeah, I was glad he didn’t play against us in the opener,” McVay said. “He is a baller. He’s really impressive. He’s got great position versatility. You can see he’s got a great concept trigger, plays with toughness. You see why he was picked where he was. Then just the competitiveness, the nature at which he plays the game. I’ve been really impressed with him, and I’ve been really impressed with them as a whole. You just see they’ve gotten better, and I think that’s the sign of a really good team. He’s a guy that’s gotten better as he’s accumulated experience. He can play outside, and he certainly has made a big presence at the nickel spot.”

McVay moves Puka Nacua and Cooper Kupp around so much that trying to shadow them would give opposing defenses vertigo. And at first glance, Seattle’s ranking of 19th in PPR points per game allowed to wide receivers this year might not appear too bad. But over the last month, only two teams have surrendered fewer fantasy points per game to wide receivers.

Gary Davenport is a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. Follow him on Twitter @IDPSharks