The Shadow Knows Week 10 2018

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport Can you feel that? The increase in pressure? Do you hear the dramatic music? Are the hairs on your arms standing up? What about your back.

Oh hush. Everyone knows they're there.

It's stretch run time in fantasy football.

Unless you have a team that's 7-2 or better (kiss my freckled butt) or worse than 3-6 (you have both my condolences and understanding), we've hit the point of the season where every week's matchups take on added importance. Victories get you one step closer to the postseason or a first-round playoff bye. Losses get you one step closer to just playing out the string and trying to figure out where everything went so horribly wrong.

Tequila helps with the latter—or so I've heard.

At this crucial juncture of the season, every lineup decision and fantasy point counts (yes, I know that they do every week. Can I finish? I'm trying to build suspense here). Every bit of information and data that can help you make those decisions is all the more crucial.

And here you are, reading this.

Didn't see that twist coming, didya?

Let's get down to the productive part of this column (I hope) with a look at some of the bigger CB vs. WR matchups of Week 10.

As always, a panic level of 1 means there's nothing to worry about, while a panic level of 5 means jump out the nearest window.

NOTE: Don't jump out the nearest window. Especially on the second floor or higher. Gravity hurts.

Arizona Cardinals vs. Kansas City Chiefs (Patrick Peterson vs. Tyreek Hill)

Per Kevin Patra of, it's no sure bet that Sammy Watkins will play on Sunday in Kansas City. "Watkins was dealing with pain in his foot after Sunday's win in Cleveland and underwent an MRI, per a source informed of the situation," he said. "While the injury isn't expected to be serious, it could affect his status for Week 10. The Chiefs, who held Watkins out of practice Wednesday, could take the cautious approach with Watkins to ensure he's healthy for the stretch run and the playoffs. K.C. has a Week 12 bye coming after a trip to Mexico in Week 11 versus the high-flying Los Angeles Rams."

It looks like Watkins is the doubtful side of questionable for Week 10, and that's an injury that could impact much more than just his fantasy owners. Normally, Peterson would line up on Watkins' side of the field, which means Hill would duck Peterson for much of the game. If Watkins sits though, it's not hard to imagine Steve Wilks flipping Peterson and putting him on Hill.

Panic Level: 2 (Hill may get an extra target or two, but if he gets Peterson too that's not a good trade-off)

Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Josh Norman vs. Mike Evans)

Evans is coming off one of the poorer games of his career—despite 10 targets last week against the Carolina Panthers he had just one catch. While speaking with Eduardo Encina of the Tampa Bay Times, Evans credited Panthers corner James Bradberry. "I've played him like four times in my career," Evans said. "He's a really good player. I like his game a lot, really physical. He definitely got the better of me this matchup. His rookie year (in 2016), when I first played against him, he was really physical. He was very excited when we were playing the game, always asking me questions and stuff like that. I like his game a lot."

Evans may catch a break on Sunday at home, as it looks like Washington's top cornerback will miss the game with a pulled hammy. For the record, I'm talking about Quinton Dunbar, not Norman. Whether it's Norman (who is more name than game at this point) or one of Washington's young reserves Sunday, Evans has a very good chance at getting things back on track.

Panic Level: 1 (Neither Norman or Greg Stroman is anything to worry about fantasy-wise)

Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts (Jalen Ramsey vs, TY Hilton)

Ian Hartitz of Action Sports Network offered this assessment of this AFC South showdown. "The Jaguars deployed Ramsey in shadow coverage against Hilton in each of the teams’ matchups in 2017, and the Jaguars’ No. 1 corner even spent an average of seven snaps in the slot," he said. Hilton was largely held in check during these matchups with Jacoby Brissett under center, although he did slip away for a 40-yard touchdown."

Now, there's one major caveat regarding the five catches for 78 yards and a score that Hilton piled up in two meetings with the Jaguars last year—Andrew luck didn't play in either game. That uptick in quarterback play is a major plus for Hilton's fantasy prospects, but the prospect of being shadowed by Ramsey—even in a year when the brash young cornerback has scuffled a bit—is cause for legitimate concern.

Panic Level: 3 (You're obviously starting Hilton, but temper your expectations a notch or two—the Jags are 32nd in fantasy points per game given up to receivers)

Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (Tyler Lockett vs. Marcus Peters)

Per ESPN's Lindsay Thiry, Peters didn't appreciate Saints coach Sean Payton saying after last week's game that New Orleans thought the matchup between Peters and Michael Thomas was one they could exploit. "Tell Sean Payton to keep talking that sh-t. We going to see him soon, you feel me?" Peters said. "Because I like what he was saying on the sidelines too. So, tell him to keep talking that sh-t. I hope he see me soon, you feel me? Then we going to have a good lil', nice lil' bowl of gumbo together."

Of course, Peters may also have been mad because he spent 60 minutes at the Superdome getting absolutely roasted by Thomas to the tune of 12 catches for a franchise-record 211 yards. It's the nadir of what's been a miserable first season in LA—the "elite corner" the Rams traded for has been abused with regularity by opposing receivers on a weekly basis.

Panic Level: 1 (Marcus Peters has been well and truly awful this year. Nothing to fear there)

Miami Dolphins at Green Bay Packers (Xavien Howard vs. Davante Adams)

Howard has seen his fair share of the NFL's best receivers this year, with generally positive results. He told Safid Deen of the Orlando Sun-Sentinel that he's well aware he'll have his hands full with Adams Sunday. “The thing that I’ve seen is the guy is smooth in routes,” Howard said. "I think he has a little speed to him. He has a little sauce to him, too. I have to do what’s best for me. My job is to try to keep the receiver in front of me, so that’s what I’m going to do this week.”

Howard's biggest struggles of the season came a couple of weeks ago against DeAndre Hopkins and the Houston Texans—and there are similarities between that situation and this one. Like Hopkins, Adams is an elite talent—one of the NFL's best receivers. And just like with "Nuk" there's little doubt that Aaron Rodgers is going to throw at Adams (and Howard) a lot.
Panic Level: 1 (Miami is 24th in FPPG allowed to WR. But it's Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay needs a win)

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (Amari Cooper vs. Ronald Darby)

As Kate Hairopoulos reported for the Dallas Morning News, Cooper is readying himself for his second game with the Cowboys—and first in the rivalry with the Eagles—to be a doozy. "They say it's a huge rivalry," Cooper said. "Obviously I don't know too much about it. But guys are definitely pumped up. They say it gets crazy over there in Philly when they play the Cowboys."

Cooper had a decent first outing with a star on his hat—five catches for 58 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Tennessee Titans. And in theory it would be Jalen Mills, and not Darby, who would line up on Cooper's side of the field. But Darby is far and away Philly's best player in coverage, and Cooper is far and away the Cowboys most dangerous pass-catcher. Shadow coverage almost makes too much sense to happen here.

Panic Level: 4 (Two points for Darby, and another two for the sad state of the Dallas passing game)

Dallas Cowboys at Philadelphia Eagles (Byron Jones vs. Golden Tate)

Cooper isn't the only wide receiver playing in this rivalry for the first time. After coming over via trade during Philly's bye week, Tate is taking the field in Cowboys vs. Eagles for the first time as well. "I've read my social media," he told Hairopolous, "so our fans have expressed passionate dislike of the Cowboys. It's going to be a great game. I'm happy that my first game gets to be at home against such an intense opponent."

Tate isn't just drawing an intense opponent—he's getting one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL most casual fans don't know about in Jones. Jones has the second-highest coverage grade of any cornerback in the NFL this year at Pro Football Focus, has allowed less than half of the passes thrown at him to be completed and hasn't allowed a touchdown in coverage this season. The Cowboys are also dead last in the NFC in PPR fantasy points allowed to wide receivers in 2018.

Panic Level: 4
(First game with new team, terrible matchup—Tate's no more than a WR3 this week)