The Shadow Knows 2016 week 7

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport Always start your studs.
I’ll confess that’s a fantasy axiom I’ve never been a huge fan. Even if there are a precious few exceptions to that rule, there are exceptions. Never say never. Only a Sith deals in absolutes. So on and so forth.

However, the exceptions to that rule really are few and far between, and for good reason. Over the first half of last week’s matchup between the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks, fantasy owners of Julio Jones may have thought they were seeing one unfold.

Then the Atlanta offense started to click in the third quarter – to the tune of three touchdowns in that frame. And by the time the game ended on a controversial non-call on Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, Jones had posted a very respectable seven grabs for 139 yards and a touchdown.

It isn’t 300 receiving yards, but it ain’t dog food neither

The moral of that story is clear – most of the time, bad matchup or no, all you can do is roll your star receiver out there and hope for the best.

However, as I said there are exceptions to that rule, and we’ll kick off this week’s edition of The Shadow Knows with a situation that might just qualify in Week 7.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (at DEN – Aqib Talib)
As ESPN’s Jeff Legwold wrote, Talib has faced a who’s who of wide receivers already this season. “So, yeah, man, every week we get one of those guys," Talib said. “I don’t know if they sat down and said, 'Let’s get them all of those receivers in a row.' But they did and now another one."

Talib’s teammate Chris Harris gave Hopkins props while speaking with Legwold. “He’s tough," Harris said. “He’s quick, knows where to get to, and when the ball is in the air, man, he can get it even if you’re in the right spot. You have to be on your game and you can’t show him the same thing over and over. You have to bring something different."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Over the past two weeks, Talib has held Julio Jones and San Diego’s Travis Benjamin to well below average stat lines. Add in that Hopkins’ numbers are already way down compared to last year thanks to Brock Osweiler’s struggles and that Hopkins landed on the injury report Thursday with a hamstring problem and you have the makings of a dicey fantasy play in Week 7.

Odell Beckham, New York Giants (at LAR – Trumaine Johnson)
Giants OC Mike Sullivan told Howie Kussoy of the New York Post he’s confidant Beckham’s sore hip won’t keep him off the field in London. “We’re very optimistic, we’re very hopeful,” Sullivan said. “We’ll wait and see how it transpires. He’s been really focused and doing as much as he’s been able to do this week. … He’s been very focused in terms of assignments, and things that we’re going to want to do from a pass-game standpoint. He’s in tune, he’s focused, he’s determined and again we’re hoping for the best.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: That sore hip is just about the only thing that could keep Beckham out of fantasy lineups in Week 7. Yes, Johnson’s a solid young corner – there’s a reason the Rams slapped the franchise tag on him last season, and the 26-year-old has allowed just one touchdown catch this year. Still, it’s Odell Beckham – the same Beckham who just threw up 40+ fantasy points in PPR scoring systems a week ago.

UPDATE (10/21/2016): Things look that much better for Beckham. The high-ankle sprain that sidelined Johnson in Week 6 will do so Sunday in London, leaving Troy Hill and E.J. Gaines the unenviable task of covering ODB.

Travis Benjamin, San Diego Chargers (at ATL – Desmond Trufant)
Coming off his worst outing of the season (three catches, 17 yards, lost fumble), Benjamin missed practice Wednesday with a knee issue. However, Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune tweeted Thursday the fifth-year veteran should be a go at the Georgia Dome Sunday. “Benjamin (knee) on field for start of today's practice,” Gehlken said. “Barring setback, expectation is he'll play Sunday in Atlanta.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: This is a bit of a running (or limping, as the case may be) theme in this week’s piece – a number of wideouts enter matchups with high-end cornerbacks this week nicked up. In Benajmin’s case, it only adds to the concerns given that he’s a good bet to have Trufant in his pocket all day long. I wouldn’t trust him as more than a middling fantasy WR3.

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints (at KC – Marcus Peters)
Last week Cooks became the first player in NFL history with two 85+ yard catches in the first five games of the season. As he told Herbie Teope of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “I turn it into a track meet," Cooks said. "It feels like you get the baton handed off to you and you just run. On the track, you're not looking around, you're just going. So, that's what I feel like is my vision."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Just as he did last year as a rookie, Peters is leading the National Football League in interceptions with five. There’s a flip side to that coin, however – Peters tendency to swing for the fences and try for the big play leaves him susceptible to play-fakes and double moves. Not only would I start Brandin Cooks as usual in Week 7, but I like his chances of turning Peters’ aggressiveness against him and peeling off a long one.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (vs. SEA – Richard Sherman)
In advance of Sunday night’s big NFC West showdown, Sherman told the team’s website he has the utmost respect for Fitzgerald. “He’s a great professional,” Sherman said. “He’s a pro’s pro. He goes out there every day and works hard, plays hard, plays between the whistle, tries to help his team win. You’ve got to respect the guy. He does a great job in the community with his philanthropy and I have a ton of respect for that.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Luckily for Fitz’s fantasy owners, given how much he moves around the formation and the amount of time he spends in the slot (where Sherman very rarely plays) it’s unlikely that he’ll be shadowed by the Pro Bowler. The bigger negative effect may be on speedster John Brown, who isn’t likely to get behind the Seattle defense for a long one in this game.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. CLE – Joe Haden)
As Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote, the groin injury that kept Haden off the field in Week 6 is still an issue for the 27-year-old. "If you can't run with A.J. then you can't run with your team,' said Haden. "It's just something that we're working on and trying to get right. Just for me, I want to be out there (but) that's kind of where the frustration comes from.'

Coach Hue Jackson indicated Haden’s status will be updated later in the week. "It's very challenging,' said Jackson. ”But I'm going to have him run. If he can't run, he won't be able to play. We have to know for sure. I will not dress a guy who I think cannot contribute to our football team in some positive capacity."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Haden sitting would obviously be a boon to Green’s fantasy prospects on Sunday. In fact, it’s a YUUGE boost. Haden missed both the matchups with Green and the Bengals last year, but back in 2014 he did about as good a job on Green as anyone ever has. In two meetings that season, Green managed just eight catches for 71 yards with zero scores.

Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions (vs. WAS – Josh Norman)
Mike Jones of the Washington Post highlighted Jones vs. Norman as one of Sunday’s key matchups. “The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Jones holds the size advantage over Norman,” Jones says, “but look for Washington’s shutdown corner to try to play a physical game and disrupt Jones’s timing off the line in an attempt to neutralize him. Meanwhile, fellow wide receivers Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin will also command plenty of attention from Washington’s defense — especially defensive backs Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: How this matchup impacts Jones (and his fantasy owners) boils down to how the Redskins decide to deploy Norman. After sticking to the left side earlier in the season the Redskins have let Norman “shadow” star receivers like Odell Beckham. The best guess here is that Norman and Jones spend a lot of time together Sunday. It’s good news for Golden Tate’s fantasy owners, but it bumps Jones down a fair amount.