By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


The most interesting duel between cornerback and wide receiver in Week 5 just so happens to take place in the final game of Week 5. It also just so happens to involve a pair of players who used to be teammates.

When the Green Bay Packers travel to Allegiant Stadium to face the Las Vegas Raiders Monday night, it will mark the first time that Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander and Raiders wide receiver Davante Adams will meet on the field as adversaries. However, the two spent many a practice lined up opposite one another in Titletown, and while speaking to reporters Adams said he believes all those reps helped turn Alexander into one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks.

“I won’t say I had nothing to do with it, but I didn’t create that monster, but he definitely turned into one,” Adams told reporters, via Bill Huber of Packer Central. “It’s always good to see a player, especially a highly touted player like that, get drafted in the first round and then realize his potential and live up to it. It’s fun to see and it’s definitely going to be fun to play against him.”

For his part, Alexander was also complimentary of his former teammate.

“He was always real helpful in that way,” Alexander said. “He would tell me what he liked that I did, or maybe what I can get better at, which is why I respect him. You know, lining up against me, I mean, c’mon, that’s not easy. So, for him to come and give me pointers, I respected that about him.”

This battle may be lacking in animosity, but it won’t be lacking in drama. It’s also not lacking in bumps in bruises. Both Adams (shoulder) and Alexander (back) are on the injury report, but both are expected to play.

Alexander is indeed one of the best cover corners in the league. But Adams is probably the most bulletproof wideout in the game. The matchup doesn’t matter. The quarterback doesn’t matter. The coverage doesn’t matter. He gets a ton of targets and catches a ton of passes—period.

Alexander will make him work for it. But if he’s out there, Adams will get his. He almost always does.


New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots (Chris Olave vs. J.C. Jackson)

Who says you can’t go home again? After letting cornerback J.C. Jackson bolt New England for a fat free-agent deal with the Chargers (see what I did there?) in 2022, the Patriots re-acquired Jackson this week for a swap of Day 3 picks. Per ESPN’s Seth Walder, it was essentially a no-risk move for a reeling Patriots secondary that has been besieged by injuries.

“This deal is absolutely a swing worth taking for New England,” he said. “It cost very little, and they're putting a player back in circumstances in which he previously thrived. I don't know if it was a difference in schematics, comfort, luck or anything else that led to Jackson's severe drop-off in play, but the Patriots now get a chance to find out whether they can get back the old Jackson. He's still only 27 years old. If he returns to being even an average player, he would fill a critical void and could be a turnover generator during the remainder of the season.”

The upside for the Pats is that he already knows the scheme in New England, and no player in the NFL has more interceptions since 2019 than Jackson. The downside is that his time in Los Angeles was essentially a disastrous mix of injuries and poor play.

There’s a genuine chance that Jackson plays quite a bit against the Saints—the Patriots are desperate for cornerback help, and his familiarity with the defense makes this something of an exception where traded players are concerned. But right now Jackson is more name than nuisance for fantasy managers. Maybe he can recapture past glories, but it’s not going to be in Week 5. Worry more about Derek Carr’s bum shoulder and the overall sad state of the Saints offense—that’s a bigger issue for Olave than the coverage he’ll see in Week 5. 


Kansas City Chiefs at Minnesota Vikings (L’Jarius Sneed vs. Justin Jefferson)

Speaking of wide receivers who always get theirs, in news that should surprise exactly zero people, Justin Jefferson entered Week 5 as the NFL’s No. 1 wide receiver in terms of yardage with 543. In the eyes of most, Jefferson is the NFL’s gold standard at wide receiver, and while speaking to reporters Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said there’s good reason for that.

"First off, Justin Jefferson, he's great. His talent to recognize coverages and I think what people really don't understand is how physical he is catching the football," Mahomes said. "If you watch the games, man, he'll go over there and get it. He'll put his body on the line. You can tell he loves competing, he loves winning. I think that's what makes a lot of great players in this league and that's why he's had so much success so early in his career."

Heading into Week 5, Jefferson also leads all wide receivers in fantasy points—he has yet to play a game where he has recorded less than 24 in PPR scoring systems, which would be mind-boggling except it’s Justin Jefferson. At this point you may be wondering at what point I’m going to discuss Sneed’s coverage acumen or his excellent passer rating against of 60.0. 

But to be brutally honest, does it matter who’s covering Jefferson? Has it ever? 


New York Jets at Denver Broncos (Garrett Wilson vs. Patrick Surtain II)

It has been a bumpy month for Broncos cornerback Patrick Surtain—after holding his own against the likes of Davante Adams of the Raiders and Terry McLaurin of the Commanders, Surtain was roasted the past two weeks against the Miami Dolphins and Chicago Bears. Now trade rumors are swirling around the young corner, and fantasy pundits like Jamey Eisenberg of CBS Sports are advising managers to roll out Garrett Wilson of the Jets without hesitation this week.

Zach Wilson looked much improved in Week 4 against Kansas City, which led to Garrett Wilson getting 14 targets for nine catches and 60 yards,” Eisenberg said. “He also almost had a touchdown, and hopefully the two will connect in the end zone this week against the Broncos. Denver has allowed at least one receiver to score 16.4 PPR points each week, and six receivers have scored at least 12.6 PPR points. I'd consider that the floor for Wilson in Week 5, but he has a much higher ceiling in this matchup.”

Granted, the fat stat lines posted by Miami’s Tyreek Hill (9/157/1) and Chicago’s D.J. Moore (8/131/1) were not entirely Surtain’s fault. They may not even have been mostly his fault. But Surtain’s current passer rating against of 99.4 is easily the highest of his career. The coverage in Denver isn’t nearly as big a concern for Wilson’s fantasy managers as Zach Wilson remembering he’s, well, Zach Wilson.


New York Jets at Denver Broncos (Ahmad Gardner vs. Courtland Sutton)

Not much has gone right for the New York Jets in 2023—when Aaron Rodgers tore his Achilles in the season opener, the Jets’ season was essentially wrecked. But while all the excitement in New York evaporated in a moment, the New York defense remains a formidable unit-largely because the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year prowls the back end.

He looked like prime Richard Sherman in the 2022 season, his rookie year,” Henry McKenna of Fox Sports wrote in naming Gardner the NFL’s best cornerback. “Gardner needed no time to acclimate to the NFL. He perched himself on the left side of Jets coach Robert Saleh's defense and rarely lets anything come that way. Last year, he deserved contention for Defensive Player of the Year Award, not just Defensive Rookie of the Year.”

Statistically speaking, Gardner’s first month of his second season has gone a bit like Surtain’s—his completion percentage against and passer rating against are both much higher than a year ago. But Gardner has also only been targeted 16 times in four games—opposing quarterbacks tend to avoid him where possible. Courtland Sutton has quietly found the end zone three times in four games this year, but assuming Jerry Jeudy (knee) plays, it’s not a stretch to imagine him being Denver top target Sunday while Sutton spends Week 5 wearing a green blanket.


Dallas Cowboys at San Francisco 49ers (Stephon Gilmore vs. Brandon Aiyuk)


Sunday night brings with it the biggest game of Week 5 and arguably the biggest game of the 2023 season to date—a Santa Clara showdown between two NFC heavyweights with great defenses. The Dallas defense is short a key piece though after cornerback Trevon Diggs suffered a season-ending ACL tear. That injury has ramped up the pressure on veteran Stephon Gilmore to anchor the Dallas secondary at 32. Gilmore told ESPN’s Todd Archer that relies on his technique and experience to compensate for any step he may have lost.

“I just think if you prepare -- you study formations, you know angles and stuff like that -- you don’t really have to panic,” he said. “You just really dig into your technique, and you rely on that -- and for the most part, it’s going to be right. I think I've always been that way -- being patient, being the technician, always knowing where the receiver’s going and not panicking really. That’s my thing. And I think that comes to our advantage, being patient and not panicking throughout the route.”

The problem for Gilmore and the Cowboys Sunday isn’t Aiyuk—in fact, if Gilmore does spend most of the game on the fourth-year pro, it’s a potentially substantial downgrade for the Niners wideout. The problem is that San Francisco still has Deebo Samuel moving all over the formation. The best running back in the NFL In Christian McCaffrey. One of the league’s best tight ends in George Kittle. And a quarterback in Brock Purdy more than capable of spreading the ball around.

Gary Davenport is a two-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association Football Writer of the Year. Follow him on Twitter at @IDPSharks.