By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


If you like fireworks, then you’re going to love Sunday night.

Because the fourth of July is coming early.

Sunday night’s matchup between the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles is loaded with star power at the wide receiver and cornerback positions. The visiting Dolphins sport arguably the most lethal combination of vertical threats in the game in Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle. The Eagles duo of A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith aren’t far behind.

Both teams have big names at cornerback as well, whether it’s Xavien Howard in Miami or Darius Slay and James Bradberry in Philly. But Howard and Slay are both banged up, with the latter missing last week’s loss to the Jets with a knee injury. Slay is hopeful he’ll return Sunday, but he told The Philadelphia Inquirer he’s been doing his best to help out youngsters Josh Jobe and Eli Ricks.

“Just coaching them up and just trying to help them see it from how I see it out there on the field,” Slay said. “Just try to give them pointers, help them out a little bit. Anything I could possibly do. That was really what it is. Defense playing very good, man. We’ve just got to continue to keep building off that.”

Bradberry, who has been a boundary corner throughout most of his career, has spent quite a bit of time of late in the slot. Eagles defensive coordinator Sean Desai admitted to reporters that while that may not be an ideal deployment, it’s something the team will do in the right matchup.

“Every week we look at our matchups and try to put our guys in the best position,” he said, “whether that means in the coming weeks he becomes more of a (slot) corner, then that's what we'll do.”

The Eagles may have a pair of high-priced big names at corner, but from a results standpoint things have been less than ideal—Philadelphia is 20th in the league in pass defense and sixth in PPR points per game allowed to wide receivers. Howard and the Dolphins aren’t lighting the world on fire, either—19th in pass defense and 10th in PPR points per game given up to wideouts.

Buckle up kids. There’s gonna be some points scored Sunday night.

Like, all of them. Ever.


Atlanta Falcons at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (A.J. Terrell vs. Mike Evans)

Tampa wide receiver Mike Evans has been on quite the ride to start the 2023 season, He started red-hot with new quarterback Baker Mayfield, scoring touchdowns in the season’s first three games. Over the last two, however, a cold front has set in—seven catches for 89 yards total. While talking to reporters, Mayfield insisted that all is well, and this was just a temporary bump in the proverbial road.

“First thing I’ll say – I’m not worried about Mike,” Mayfield said. “When it comes to certain drops, you can go the same way with my stuff, certain missed throws. I’m not worried about it. We’ll get it fixed. The physical stuff – we’ll get that corrected. It’s never about hitting the panic button. It’s still instilling confidence. The ball is always going to come his way. I’m still going to find ways to get him the ball.”

At his best, Evans can win one-on-one against any cornerback in the NFL. But he’s going to have his hands full in Week 7. After struggling somewhat in a 2022 season in which he surrendered six touchdowns, A.J. Terrell has stepped up his play considerably this year—just 209 yards and one touchdown allowed in coverage. As “Mano a Mano” battles between receiver and cornerback go, this might be the best of Week 7.


Detroit Lions at Baltimore Ravens (Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. Marlon Humphrey)

The first-place Ravens only recently got their best cornerback on the field—Marlon Humphrey missed the first month of the 2023 season with a foot injury. But while Humphrey is back now, while talking to reporters all he wanted to discuss was third-year pro Brandon Stephens, who has assumed slot duties for the Ravens this season.

"I feel like Brandon Stephens is playing at a Pro Bowl level," Humphrey said. "For the years in the past, we all knew the ability that he had. It was showing in practice, and it wasn't always showing in the games. This year he's really taking off. "To some, it might be a surprise but to the people internally, he was always coaches in that fashion. He was always talked about in high regard, so it's really good to see that showing up on the field day in and day out. Brandon Stephens is really high-level football."

There’s a reason why Stephens is getting mentioned in a blurb (Blob? It’s a big blurb. Blorb? Nah.) ostensibly about Humphrey—both will see quite a bit of St. Brown this week. The Ravens are 25th in PPR points allowed to wide receivers this season, but the Detroit offense (and Jared Goff and St. Brown in particular) are rolling right now. The Lions are a top-five NFL team right now.

I wrote that. On purpose. And I still half-think I should be drug-tested for it.

It’s been a season.


Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts (Denzel Ward vs. Michael Pittman)

The Cleveland Browns have been besieged by injuries on offense, but the defense has been the best in the NFL in a number of statistical categories. Pro Bowl cornerback Denzel Ward told reporters recently that he knew the Cleveland secondary had the talent to shut opponents down—especially in Jim Schwartz’s defense that emphasizes man coverage.

“You can have a lot of talent, but you just got to bring it together and bring all those pieces together. So that's what we're doing and focusing on making it happen,” he said. "I would definitely say that man-to-man is a strength of ours. We got a lot of talent in the room and a lot of guys that could do a lot of things, but I'll definitely say man-to-man is one of our pluses."

The Cleveland pass defense is the best in the league—there just isn’t a weak spot, the team is allowing a league-low 121.4 passing yards per game (in 2023) and giving up the fewest PPR points per game to wide receivers by a wide margin. The Colts aren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard with Gardner Minshew under center, and while Pittman has been productive this year the odds of a dud week in Week 7 are…significant.


Green Bay Packers at Denver Broncos (Christian Watson vs. Patrick Surtain)

There’s not a lot going right for the Denver Broncos this year—again. Most pundits expect the Broncos to start shopping assets ahead of the trade deadline. But the Broncos have already publicly made it clear that cornerback Patrick Surtain is off the trade block—possibly because he’s considered by many in the NFL the league’s No.1 cornerback.

"Complete corner: physical, technical, versatile," one high-ranking NFL official said about Surtain, per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. "He's a true matchup guy vs. the best players. Premium ability on press or off coverage. Outstanding open-field tackler. Solid ball skills. Plays with confidence. Really, really smart. And plays disciplined so he doesn't give anything away."

Surtain’s 2023 numbers aren’t quite as good as his stellar rookie season, but they are both rock-solid and consistent with 2022—a completion percentage against just over 60 and a passer rating against just over 85 despite facing No. 1 wideouts on a weekly basis. He’s a problem for Green Bay’s Christian Watson in his own right. Combined with Jordan Love’s struggles throwing the ball last time out? Watson’s a boom/bust WR3. At best.


Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks (Marquise Brown vs. Devon Witherspoon)

Last year, the Seahawks seemingly hit the jackpot in the defensive backfield when they selected Tariq Woolen in the fifth round. But while Woolen is experiencing a bit of a sophomore slump, the Seattle secondary is that much better in 2023. Because after holding Cincinnati’s Ja’Marr Chase in check last week, rookie Devon Witherspoon is most assuredly in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation.

“He is the definition of a confident player who does not second-guess his instincts,” Josh Edwards of CBS Sports wrote. “The first-round pick is just as capable carrying a route downfield as he is flashing downfield and breaking up a play in the flat. Witherspoon is already among the best in the NFL at his position. On the year, he has broken up 17.2% of passes when serving as the primary defender in coverage. Opponents have completed less than 50% of pass attempts in his direction for a total of 128 yards, according to TruMedia.”

With all that said, in terms of fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, the Seahawks haven’t exactly been stingy—in fact, no team in the league has surrendered more PPR points per game to the position. Witherspoon is immensely talented. Woolen will likely get back on track. But if Brown can produce with Josh Dobbs at quarterback against teams like the surprisingly stingy Los Angeles Rams, he’ll likely be fine here.

Gary Davenport is a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. Follow him on Twitter (not calling it X, so there) at @IDPSharks