THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 12 2020
THE SHADOW KNOWS: Week 12
It's a big week both for NFL teams and fantasy managers as the playoff push hits high gear, And as folks across America try to shake off the tryptophan and put down the pie (you will have to pry my pie from my cold, dead fingers, pal) the Sunday night showcase game features two rivals from the NFC North.
It's a matchup that features the top two teams in the division—the Green Bay Packers remain in first place despite losing last week in Indianapolis, largely because the reeling Chicago Bears dropped four straight going into their bye. It also features one of the league's most heavily targeted wideouts in Chicago's Allen Robinson and one of the NFL's best cornerbacks in Green Bay's Jaire Alexander.
Alexander and the Green Bay defensive backs recently received a locker room visit from Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, and Alexander told ESPN's Rob Demovsky that he has long tried to style some aspects of his game after the seven-time Pro Bowler.
"Darrell Green is super-fast," Alexander said. "He's been playing for a really long time, and that's like the goal to play for a really long time. Just to be as good, or even better, that's a milestone, you know, that all the great players want to achieve. I'm not falling nothing short of that."
Alexander has been nothing short of outstanding in 2020—a 57.8 percent completion percentage allowed, one touchdown surrendered and a passer rating against of just 71.2. You can't sit Robinson—he's fifth in the league in targets and 16th in PPR fantasy points among wide receivers.
But between the probable switch at quarterback back to Mitchell Trubisky this week and likely shadow coverage from Alexander, Robinson's Week 12 value takes a substantial hit.
Arizona Cardinals at New England Patriots (DeAndre Hopkins vs. Stephon Gilmore)
It's been a rough year for both Stephon Gilmore and the New England Patriots—the latter appears headed toward missing the playoffs, while the former has battled injuries and spent time on the COVID-19 list. But as Matthew Freedman wrote for the Action Network, Gilmore is still more than capable of giving Cardinals receiver DeAndre Hopkins a run for his money Sunday.
"In his three-plus years with the Patriots, Gilmore has held receivers to a 51.3% catch rate and 6.6 yards per target, so he’s still a corner to be feared, but he’s no longer the best cornerback in the game," Freedman said. "Even so, he’s still good enough to slow Hopkins, who has been something of an up-and-down producer this year. Against Xavien Howard and the Dolphins in Week 9, Hopkins was just 3-30-0 receiving on three targets. The next week against Tre’Davious White and the Bills, he was 7-127-1 on 12. Hopkins could go off against Gilmore, but I think it’s likelier that we see one of his more muted performances this week."
Gilmore landed on the injury report again this week, but he hinted that if he plays, he'll shadow Hopkins. It's worth noting (per Freedman) that in just one game has Gilmore allowed more than 25 yards directly in his coverage—but that was in the matchup with Seattle where DK Metcalf ripped Gilmore's still-beating heart from his chest and showed it to him.
New York Giants at Cincinnati Bengals (James Bradberry vs. Tee Higgins)
It's been a banner season for rookie wide receivers in the NFL, and Tee Higgins of the Bengals has done his part—43 catches, 629 yards, four scores and a WR26 ranking through 11 weeks in PPR leagues. However, with Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow out for the season, Samantha Previte of the New York Post doesn't expect Higgins' fantasy managers to have much to be thankful for from here out.
"All of the Bengals’ pass catchers will be impacted to some degree by the change at quarterback after 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow suffered a torn ACL and major structural damage in Week 11," she said. "Brandon Allen will get the start for the Bengals, which isn’t likely to bode well for Higgins, who was having a breakout rookie season. Higgins caught three of ten targets for 26 yards last week and is nothing more than a deep league flex play moving forward."
As if Burrow's disastrous injury wasn't problem enough, it's entirely possible that Higgins will draw coverage from James Bradberry of the Giants, who has allowed less than 58 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed with a passer rating against of just 72.0.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (Marcus Peters vs. Chase Claypool)
As Dave Bryan wrote at Steelers Depot, there isn't a player in the NFL average more yards per defensive pass interference penalty this year than Claypool, who has already become one of the league's most dangerous downfield threats. But Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said the youngster is working on turning more of those penalties into declined ones.
“Well, we’d rather have a touchdown, obviously, and I reiterate that to him, Roethlisberger said. “The penalty is nice, but we’ll take the touchdown. And he’s working through fighting through guys holding onto him, because he’s such a big body and strong and runs. And he’s understanding that you don’t want to just get the penalty, you want to try and get the touchdown, too. So, he’s going to keep growing in that area because he’s special down the field.”
Claypool will face one of his stiffer tests of his first NFL season Sunday against Peters, who has a passer rating against of less than 85 this season and (in theory) has the size and physicality to hang with Claypool. But the rookie has become a Metcalf-ian fantasy must-start—a receiver capable of earning a decent day's fantasy points on one long pass.
San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams (Deebo Samuel vs. Jalen Ramsey)
Deebo Samuel hasn't played since Week 7, and his reward for finally getting back onto the field is a matchup with arguably the league's best cornerback in Ramsey. Per the Los Angeles Times, Rams defensive coordinator Brandon Staley credited Ramsey's versatility this year with helping Los Angeles field one of the best defenses in the NFL.
“Jalen’s flexibility provides us a lot of flexibility,” Staley said. “It’s not easy to move around, and when you’re essentially playing two full positions within a game and having full command over it — I think that’s as impressive as anything he’s done physically, is what he’s been doing mentally.”
Ramsey is occasionally tasked with shadowing No. 1 receivers, but that usually occurs against bigger wideouts like DK Metcalf and Mike Evans. That likely won't be the case against Samuel, but seeing Ramsey much of the day is just one more strike against a banged -up pass-catcher who will be catching worm-burners from Nick Mullens.
Seattle Seahawks at Philadelphia Eagles (DK Metcalf vs. Darius Slay)
It hasn't been a great season for the 3-6-1 Philadelphia Eagles. And at first glance those struggles seem to extend to veteran cornerback Darius Slay, who has been all but invisible in the big play column. But as the veteran corner told 94WIP Radio in Philadelphia this week, it's hard to make plays when opposing quarterbacks don't throw at you.
“Honestly, I don’t get targeted much, in my opinion, to make a lot of plays Slay told Marks & Reese. That’s the hard part about being a consistent corner, the fact that you cannot relax. For example, last week, I played almost three and a half quarters of solid game, and one play there it is, now I feel like I had a bad game. That was the only real ball caught on me. That’s the kind of play I usually step up and make, because that’s why my name is Big Play.”
Now, Russell Wilson isn't shy about targeting just about anyone. But with Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf at his disposal, Wilson can afford not to force it toward an elite cornerback. Metcalf has squared off against a who's who at the position over the past several weeks, and partly as a result he's been targeted five or fewer times in three of the last five games. Metcalf has week-winning upside no matter the matchup—but there's a fantasy floor here too now.