The Shadow Knows 2016 week 8

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport DeAndre Hopkins needs a hug.
The Houston Texans wide receiver was widely considered the fourth-best fantasy option at his position in 2016 after a year in which he caught 111 passes, topped 1,500 yards and found the end zone 11 times. He was a first round pick in 99 percent of fantasy drafts last summer.

After his five catches for 36 yards against the Denver Broncos last Monday night, Hopkins is rapidly shaping up as the season’s biggest wide receiver bust. He’s gone over the 100-yard mark once in seven games. Hopkins has only three touchdowns this year. And the 24-year-old ranks 24th at his position in PPR scoring systems halfway through the season.
Still, Steven Ruiz of USA Today insists that all is not lost. “This is the week Hopkins owners have been waiting for,” Ruiz wrote. “Sure, Brock Osweiler hasn’t been very good at supplying the Texans wideout with catchable passes, but the Lions pass defense has been atrocious. If Hopkins doesn’t go off this week, it’s time to move on.”

The Detroit pass defense has indeed struggled. But their top cornerback (Darius Slay) has actually played well. To this point in the season Slay has allowed only 55 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed, and the fourth-year pro has received a top-10 grade at his position so far in 2016 from Pro Football Focus.

However, before Hopkins owners reach for the tequila, there’s room for hope that Ruiz is right on. As Kyle Meinke of wrote, Slay missed practice again on Thursday with an injured hamstring, and it looks unlikely he’ll be able to play in Week 8.

That means Johnson Bademosi on Hopkins and the makings of a desperately-needed big game – if, that is, Osweiler can get Hopkins the ball without one-hopping it.

Here’s a look around Week 8 at the rest of the NFL’s top cornerbacks, their matchups and how those matchups affect this week’s fantasy landscape.

Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (at ATL – Desmond Trufant)
As Freddie Boston of Fansided opined, Jordy Nelson’s Week 7 disappearing act was no aberration. “Nelson, at 31 with a surgically repaired knee, has lost a step and is a shell of the player he was two years ago,” he said. “Back in July, I wrote that “it’s easy to assume Nelson’s return will establish equilibrium on offense, but there’s a legitimate possibility he struggles to grab the bar once set so high.” Those fears have translated into reality, significantly dropping his fantasy value.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: With Nelson, well, a shadow of his former self – and Adams coming off a career game against the Bears – it wouldn’t be a stunner if it’s Adams or Randall Cobb (and not Nelson) who draws Trufant in coverage. Dan Quinn is a defensive coach, and he watches the same tape we do. Given how much time Cobb spends in the slot (and the fact he’s dinged up) it may be Adams who suffers the most. Don’t get your hopes up too high after last week’s explosion.

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers (vs. AZ – Patrick Peterson)
Peterson told Josh Weinfuss of ESPN he’s trying to get acclimated to playing with the rib injury he suffered last Sunday night. “I just have to get comfortable with the injury on both sides because I don’t know where I’ll be,” Peterson said. “So today was the first day out there with the injury, but for the most part [it] felt pretty good and I’ll be ready to go Sunday. Probably the most challenging thing about it is trusting that it’ll be OK in a game when I have to press.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Where Peterson is probably going to be Sunday is across the line of scrimmage from the Panthers’ No. 1 receiver. I’s possible that Peterson’s ribs could hinder him and allow Benjamin to get off the line of scrimmage cleaner than he otherwise would of. I’m not as concerned about the matchup as I would be if Peterson was 100 percent. In fact, the bigger worry may be Benjamin’s sporadic involvement in the Carolina passing game this season.

Travis Benjamin, San Diego Chargers (at DEN – Aqib Talib)
According to Rotowire, Talib is one of a number of Broncos defenders iffy for Week 8 who missed practice Wednesday and Thursday. “Talib's availability for Sunday's tilt against the Chargers could be in jeopardy after he missed practice Wednesday and Thursday,” they said. “His participation will be monitored for the remainder of the week. Kayvon Webster likely will see additional reps at cornerback if Talib is absent.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Talib is reportedly battling a lower back injury that he played through in shutting down Hopkins on Monday night. Benjamin’s fantasy owners will no doubt be hoping Talib doesn’t make an appearance at practice Friday either – two weeks ago in San Diego Benjamin managed only three catches for 17 yards, and he’s nicked up in his own right. If Talib’s a go, Benjamin’s going to be a hard player to start in fantasy leagues.

Brandin Cooks, New Orleans Saints (vs. SEA – Richard Sherman)
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll admitted (per John Hendrix of SB Nation) that the Saints WR corps poses a challenge to Sherman and the “Legion of Boom” in Week 8. “They’re really tough, like they’ve been in the past so effective throwing the football and attacking people. They have such a great background and history doing it, they are great at it. Between Sean (Payton) and Drew (Brees) putting it together, it makes it very difficult. They have good weapons and they use them really well,” said Carroll.

THE SHADOW SAYS: Unfortunately, if the Saints use their typical configuration of wide receivers (Cooks on the right side, rookie Mike Thomas on the left side and Willie Snead in the slot), it’s Cooks who is going to draw Sherman most of Sunday afternoon. It’s possible Payton will gameplan to get Cooks off Sherman at times during the game, and Cooks is hard to sit, but the streaky fantasy option carries more than a little risk in Week 8.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (vs. WAS – Josh Norman)
Norman was knocked unconscious last week against the Detroit Lions, but after making the flight to London with the team Norman told Liz Clarke of the Washington Post that he has every intention of playing against the Bengals. “If I get to get out there, I’m gonna put everything I got into it,” Norman said. “That’s what good players do. Great players want to come out and see the great players rise up to the challenge.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Norman still has to clear the final stage of the NFL’s concussion protocol, but if the Redskins weren’t confident Norman would do so he never would have made the flight across the Pond. Having Norman across from him robs Green of what would have been a fantastic matchup with Bashaud “Burn Ward” Breeland, but you aren’t even thinking about sitting fantasy’s top receiver at this point in the season no matter who’s covering him.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (vs. KC – Marcus Peters)
After watching the New Orleans Saints essentially avoid Peters last week, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid told the team’s website (via SB Nation) that Peters is quickly developing a reputation as one of the NFL’s best corners. “I mean that’s a respect thing for Marcus,” Reid said via quotes from the Chiefs. “That doesn’t mean you can let down, obviously. I remember with Deion Sanders, that’s kind of how those things rolled. You kind of stayed away from him and went over to the other side. So, I’ve seen that before.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: The Saints may have decided to avoid Peters, but it’s highly unlikely that the Colts will follow suit given that Hilton ranks fourth in the National Football League with 68 targets. We’ve seen teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers attack Peters and have success this season – the youngster is great at making big plays, but the chances he takes in trying to make them makes him susceptible to being burned as well.

Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears (vs. MIN – Xavier Rhodes)
Rhodes lost some time earlier this season to injury, but since re-joining the Vikings he’s made up for that lost time in a big way. Still, despite having success against the likes of Odell Beckham of the New York Giants and DeAndre Hopkins, Rhodes told Ben Goessling of ESPN he isn’t sure if he’ll be shadowing Jeffery in Week 8. "That's not up to me," Rhodes said. "That's up to the coaches. Whatever the coaches tell me to do, that's what I do."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Rhodes gave up a touchdown to Hopkins, but he held Hopkins and Beckham to eight catches for 79 yards in the two games combined. That’s pretty impressive. The re-insertion of Jay Cutler at quarterback can only serve to help bolster Jeffery’s fantasy prospects, but between a sputtering Bears offense and a tough coverage matchup Jeffery’s not more than a so-so fantasy WR2 in Week 8.