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The Shadow Knows 2016 week 11
By Gary Davenport
Generally speaking, I’m an “always start your studs” type of guy.
The whole point of this article is to illustrate which wide receivers are matching up with the best of the best at the cornerback position. But the next time I recommend sitting A.J. Green of the Cincinnati Bengals or Julio Jones of the Atlanta Falcons will be the first time.
You just don’t do it – no matter the matchup.
But that isn’t to say there’s never an instance where a corner/wideout matchup gives me considerable pause.
As Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press wrote, Arizona head coach Bruce Arians wasn’t even a little shy about how he intends to defend Stefon Diggs when the Cardinals travel to face the Minnesota Vikings Sunday.
“Put Patrick Peterson on him and hope that works,” Arians said.
Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford thinks Diggs will still get his in Week 11.
“Obviously, Patrick is a great player; he’s one of the best cornerbacks in the league,” said Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford. “But I think Diggs is a really good receiver, as well. So, when a team does choose to match their best cover corner against our best receiver, then I think it’s going to be a great matchup. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
It’s awfully hard to sit a player who has caught 13 passes in each of the last two games. But it’s worth pointing out that Peterson has yet to allow five catches or 75 receiving yards in a game this year, and he hadn’t allowed a touchdown until last week.
If he really does shadow Diggs all day, it ain’t gonna be another 13-grab afternoon.
Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers (at CLE – Joe Haden)
As Haden told Matthew Florjancic of WKYC, the Browns have gotten tired of losing. “It is tough,” Haden said. “It is super tough. We don’t play these games to lose. We don’t prepare during the week to lose, but it sucks. “This is my job. This is what I do. I play ball. I am a professional football player, and at the end of the day, I am going to come in every week and try to do my job at the best of my ability. I feel like I am one of the best corners in the league, so every week, I have to lock down receivers. That is my job. That is what I do, so no matter what is going on elsewhere, I have to do my job, and that is what I plan to do every single week.”
THE SHADOW SAYS: Against the Browns last year, Brown had 23 catches for 324 yards and three touchdowns – in two game. Not only do I not care if Haden spends the entire game covering Brown, I wouldn’t care if all Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were. If you have ever considered sitting Antonio Brown you should just trade him to me and save yourself those sorts of tough calls.
Michael Crabtree, Oakland Raiders (vs. HOU – Jonathan Joseph)
Kevin Bollard of 247 Sports singled out Crabtree as a player the Raiders need to step up his game in Monday night’s Mexico City standoff. “Crabtree cannot afford to go missing against the Texans, who have the NFL's third best pass defense (196.8 yards allowed per game),” he wrote. “If Houston successfully shuts down the run, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr will need both of his top two receivers to be at their best. Amari Cooper has had a consistent impact all season. Crabtree's team-high receiving touchdown total (6) and average output (five receptions and 66 yards per game) make it seem like he is a consistent secondary performer, but his production has primarily come in explosive bursts.”
THE SHADOW SAYS: Crabtree may be hard-pressed to burst out (get it? Burst? HA! I kill me!) against Joseph, who is averaging just over 40 receiving yards allowed per game and hasn’t allowed a touchdown this season. Frankly the same argument could be made regarding Amari Cooper and rising young cornerback A.J. Bouye, but Bouye missed Week 10 and isn’t a sure bet to play. Even if he does, it’s Cooper who should have the easier time getting open.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at KC – Marcus Peters)
Per Danny Kelly of The Ringer, Week 10 was a perfect microcosm for the good and bad that comes with Peters. “On Sunday against the Panthers,” Kelly said, “Peters gave up a season-high seven completions, 121 yards, and a touchdown in coverage, but made the biggest play of the game with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 17. After Kelvin Benjamin made a catch at the Panthers’ 29-yard line, Peters ran up to the receiver, and, as he said after the game, ‘I took it from him. You know how you go to the store, and you want something, and your mama tells you you can’t have it?’”
THE SHADOW SAYS: Given Peters’ penchant for catching interceptions and Jameis Winston’s penchant for tossing them, it isn’t hard to imagine Peters picking up another INT Sunday. However, there isn’t a wide receiver in the NFL who is targeted more than Evans, regardless of who is covering him. And since the Chiefs rarely assign Peters to a specific receiver, the Bucs can always more Evans around in search of a more favorable matchup.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (vs. WAS – Josh Norman)
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers told Liz Clarke of The Washington Post he’ll be mindful of where Norman is Sunday. “He’s one of those guys you have to think about the kind of routes you feel comfortable throwing his direction,” Rodgers said. “Obviously he’s got very good instincts, all the intangibles you could want. He’s a ball hawk; he’s around the football a lot. He’s one of those lockdown guys. There’s only a couple in the league like that.”
The respect is mutual. “Anytime you’re facing him, you got to work a little harder,” Norman said. “[There’s] definitely a cerebral assassin in that guy. Always got to be on our Ps and Qs when you face an elite like that.”
THE SHADOW SAYS: Matt Harmon of NFL.com thinks it will be Jordy Nelson who sees the most of Norman Sunday. “Norman primarily lines up at left corner (61 percent),” Harmon said, “and Nelson takes the majority of his snaps (49 percent) at right wide receiver. On a few occasions Norman has shadowed top receivers on their outside snaps, including Terrelle Pryor, Odell Beckham, Marvin Jones and A.J. Green. However, he rarely travels into the slot as evidenced by last week's game against Stefon Diggs. The Vikings star collected 11 of his 13 catches from the slot and was only saw Norman's coverage on two plays. If Nelson does draw Norman in coverage, it would set up Davante Adams and even Randall Cobb for big games.”
Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (at DET – Darius Slay)
As Jonathan Stone of Fantasy Pros wrote, it’s been a rough year for fantasy owners who invested an early pick in Robinson in 2016. “We’ve seen how low the floor for Robinson really is when Bortles is struggling and not connecting with him on those deep passes that we saw all last season,” he said. “In case you were wondering, last season Robinson had 31 receptions for 20+ yards and this season he has a measly five. Robinson also has the worst ranked WR schedule for ROS including matchups against Denver, Minnesota, and Houston in Weeks 13-15. This is definitely a cause for concern.”
THE SHADOW SAYS: The good news for Robinson owners is that since the Jaguars switched offensive coordinators Robinson’s numbers have been trending up. The bad news is that this week Robinson faces a cornerback in Darius Slay who has quietly been a top-10 performer at his position this year per the player grades at Pro Football Focus. Slay has missed time recently with a hamstring injury, so I wouldn’t call this a terrible matchup. I wouldn’t call it a plus one either though.
Gary Davenport is a Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks, an NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, a Contributing Writer at Rotoworld and a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Gary was the winner of the 2015 FSWA award for Print Article of the Year.