The Shadow Knows 2016 week 13

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport One yard. One reception. One fantasy point.

This is the time of year where that can make the difference between a trip to the playoffs and an unceremonious end to another fantasy campaign. From setting lineups again next week and sullenly beginning Christmas chores.

For those teams either just inside or just outside the playoff fringe, every lineup decision is critical. And that, in turn, makes every bit of information available to fantasy owners valuable.

Like, say, an article detailing which wide receivers have matchups with the NFL’s top cornerbacks in Week 13.

That could be helpful, right?

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers (at SEA – Richard Sherman)
Benjamin has been battling a shoulder injury of late, but teammate Greg Olsen told Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer he doesn’t think the injury has been a substantial hindrance to the third-year pro. “Obviously, the last couple of weeks he’s been dealing a little bit with that shoulder. You can kind of tell in the game on Sunday it was bothering him,” Olsen said. “He’s been catching the ball as well as he ever has. I think he’s running good. He’s playing physical. He’s playing big. So I think he’s done a good job.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: The shoulder isn’t expected to keep Benjamin from playing in Seattle Sunday night, and for all the hand-wringing about him this year Benjamin’s reception and yardage numbers aren’t far off his rookie pace. However, facing Sherman and an angry Seattle defense coming off an embarrassing loss to Tampa and looking for payback for last year’s Divisional Round loss is not a combination that fills one with confidence – especially given how hit-or-miss the Panthers offense has been in 2016.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (vs. WAS – Josh Norman)
As Liz Clarke of the Washington Post wrote, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden indicated on Sunday Josh Norman may do something that Josh Norman doesn’t do – play the slot. “He could in certain situations, there’s no doubt about it,” Gruden said. “We have guys that can hopefully man up against him and make some plays, but it’s going to start with the pass rush,” Gruden said. “If Carson [Palmer] has all day to throw and gives [Fitzgerald] time to do double moves and stem you inside and vertical and then get back out or break it back across, I don’t care how big you are or how fast you are, it’s going to be hard.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Since Gruden won’t, I’ll go ahead and doubt it for him. It took the Redskins weeks to get it through their heads to have Norman shadow top wideouts at all – and that’s a move that makes sense. Tasking a corner who isn’t used to playing inside with doing so is not – unless you like the idea of said cornerback getting abused all afternoon long. This smacks of coachspeak – I’m rolling out Fitz as I usually would.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (at NYJ – Darrelle Revis)
While speaking to Laura Albanese of Newsday, Revis refuted a report earlier this week that he was “done” after this season. “No, no. I think just because we’re not having a good year these allegations come out,” Revis said. “There’s nothing I can control. I still have a lot of football to play, and looking forward to it as well. I still love the game. I think that’s why I’m still playing the game, just the love for it. I understand the position we’re in as a team right now. And I’m the target. That comes with the territory.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: I mention this only because for most of the 2016 campaign it’s looked like Revis was already done. Once one of the NFL’s most feared cover men, if Revis gets roasted one more time this season he might as well don a monocle and top hat and call himself Planter’s. Unless the Ghost of Revis Past shows up on Monday night, I like Hilton’s chances of getting behind the Jets defense for a long one – and that’s with Hilton nicked up.

DeSean Jackson, Washington Redskins (at AZ – Patrick Peterson)
Despite dealing with a “painful” knee injury, Peterson told ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss that he has every intention of being on the field this Sunday. “It’s hurting right now,” Peterson said. Can’t put too much pressure on it. We’ll let the team doctor figure it out, but it is painful. My guys know if I can walk, nine times out of 10 I’m going to try to get on the field, because my guys look to me to make those plays, grind it out. Those things trickle through the team.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: At first glance, the notion of a hobbled Peterson (assuming he plays at all) would seem good news for Jackson’s fantasy prospects. And it is – to a point. However, on deep throws or plays out of the slot Jackson will also have to contend with Tyrann Mathieu. That isn’t to say I don’t like D-Jax in Week 13 – only that Peterson’s balky knee doesn’t significantly change how much.

Julio Jones, Atlanta Falcons (vs. KC – Marcus Peters)
Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn told Andrew Hirsh of the team’s website he expects Jones will have his hands full with Peters on Sunday. “The ball skills are there for sure. That’s so easy to see,” Quinn said. “So, a defender who can track the ball in the air and play it like a receiver when it’s in the air like Marcus can do, that’s a really significant attribute to have. And I think that’s probably allows him to be the ball-hawk that he is.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Oh, someone’s going to have their hands full all right – and it ain’t Julio Jones. Yes, Demaryius Thomas of the Broncos had a relatively quiet game much of last week opposite Peters. But that had a lot more to do with Emmanuel Sanders being wide open all night than it did with Peters locking Thomas down. I’ve said it before in this column, and I’ll say it again – it just doesn’t matter who’s covering Jones. Sitting him in a must-win game would be kooky talk.

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (vs. HOU – A.J. Bouye)
Bouye confessed to Pro Football Weekly that he’s well aware the Texans secondary is going to have their hands full with Aaron Rodgers and Co. Sunday afternoon. “He's got great composure. Nothing rattles him,” Bouye said. “He's always looking to make a play. On top of that, he doesn't make many mistakes, and when you have a quarterback like that who makes big plays but doesn't make many mistakes for his team, that helps out. For us, we've got to play with good technique and just be disciplined the whole game.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Bouye has quietly become one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL no one has heard of in 2016, and if everyone lines up where they usually do then he’ll draw Nelson in coverage the majority of the afternoon. The place to attack the Houston secondary is in the slot – where both Nelson and Davante Adams have spent less than 25 percent of their snaps this year. If ever there was a week that set up well for Randall Cobb, this is it.

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (vs. DEN – Aqib Talib)
Chris Towers of CBS Sports isn’t spreading the warm and fuzzies where Robinson is concerned in Week 13. “It looked like he was finally turning his season around when he hauled in 22 passes for 253 yards and a pair of scores from Week 8 through 10,” Towers said, “but he has come crashing back down since, with just five catches for 42 yards in the last two games. And now he has to face the Broncos, who have been the best defense in the league against opposing wide receivers this season. They got Aqib Talib back last week and held the Chiefs' wide receivers to just 88 yards,”

THE SHADOW SAYS: It’s awfully hard to argue with him. Per Pro Football Focus there hasn’t been a better cornerback in the NFL this year than Talib, and with Allen Hurns looking unlikely to play the Broncos may well roll safety help to Robinson’s side of the field too. Look at the bright side – if you spent an early pick on Robinson odds are you won’t have to worry about any of this crap after Week 13 anyway. It could be worse – you could have taken Todd Gurley the round before too.

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (vs. DET – Darius Slay)
Never let it be said that Detroit head coach Jim Caldwell isn’t aware of the obvious. As he told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, that Brees fella throwing the ball in New Orleans is pretty good. "You better be able to play defense well across the board, because he spreads it around quite a bit," Caldwell said. "And he’s accurate as the day is long. You can tell by his numbers he’s difficult to manage, he’s difficult to handle.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Given that Michael Thomas has been far and away the Saints most productive wideout over the last month, it’s a good bet it’s Thomas who will draw Slay in coverage Sunday. That will leave Brandin “Babycry” Cooks to be covered by the motley crew that comprises the rest of the Detroit secondary. After Cooks’ hissyfit about not being thrown to last week, the squeaky wheel will be easy to grease in Week 13 – likely at Thomas’ expense.