The Shadow Knows 2016 week 9

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport Sometimes the matchups are just fun to watch.
Such will be the case Sunday night when the Denver Broncos travel to Oakland to meet the Raiders with first place in the AFC West on the line. It’s a game that features an MVP candidate in Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. Arguably the league’s best one-two punch at wideout in Oakland’s Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. And a similarly potent duo on the other side in Denver’s Aqib Talib and Chris Harris.

Except that it might not after all. As Aric DiLalla of the Broncos website reported, Talib missed practice Thursday so he could travel to get a second opinion on his injured back. The trip prompted a cryptic comment from Denver head coach Gary Kubiak.

“We’ll be evaluating when he gets back tonight,” Kubiak said. “We talked to the people in California and we’ll see where we’re at tomorrow. But it’s a day-to-day situation, and we just thought it’d be best to get another opinion.”

“I got good vibes [about Talib's California trip] from what ‘Greek’ [Head Athletic Trainer Steve Antonopulos] told me on the field a while ago from the visit,” Kubiak continued. “But I know there are some people that have got to get together and talk this through and make sure we know exactly where he’s at.”

Bradley Roby was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week after notching a pick-six playing in Talib’s stead last week, but make no mistake – assuming Cooper draws Harris in coverage, Crabtree’s fantasy owners have a much better shot at a fat stat line if Talib sits out. Both receivers do, in fact.

Here’s a look around the NFL at the status of matchups involving the rest of the league’s biggest names at cornerback as we head into week 9.

It’s a light week – no Patrick Peterson or Josh Norman to worry about. For once the bye comes in handy.

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers (at LA – Trumaine Johnson)
After missing the Rams’ last two games with an ankle injury, it appears Johnson is nearing a return to action. As a matter of fact, Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times reported that the only reason Johnson was limited in practice Wednesday was that the coaching staff wouldn’t let him do more. “He wanted more,” head coach Jeff Fisher said. “That’ll give you some idea, so that’s encouraging.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Having Johnson, who is one of the NFL’s more underrated young cover men, back would be a big boost for the Los Angeles secondary. What it isn’t is good news for Benjamin, whose production and targets have been all over the map in 2016. It’s been hard enough to gauge Benjamin’s value in games that looked like plus matchups. This does not, which isn’t going to help lessen the heartburn Benjamin’s been giving fantasy owners in 2016.

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (at CLE – Joe Haden)
After toasting the Philadelphia Eagles (again) for four grabs and 113 yards with a score in his return to the lineup, Bryant told David Helman of the team’s website he has extra motivation when Dallas plays their NFC East rivals. “I think it was the Malcolm Jenkins incident. He busted my lip two years ago, and it bothered me,” Bryant said. “I don’t know. In my mind, it’s over with – but I guess, when I see them … y’know?”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Haden also made a return from injury last week against the New York Jets, limiting Brandon Marshall to a so-so four catches for 68 yards in a Cleveland loss. Bryant’s 113 yards last week were a season high, and his touchdown was only the second he’s scored this year. I’m not overly worried about Haden, but I’m also not overly stoked about Bryant in Dallas’ ball-control offense – especially if-when they get staked to a lead.

Marvin Jones, Detroit Lions (at MIN – Xavier Rhodes)
Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that he’s pleased with Rhodes’ versatility as a player. “We have evidence that [Rhodes] can play both sides and that’s always a good thing,” Zimmer told reporters a day after Minnesota’s 24-10 win. “You see guys do it in practice, but you never really know. I don’t know why but corners tend to get comfortable playing one side or the other. The way they break and do things, they tend to get comfortable. So if you have evidence they can do it I think it allows to do things.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Rhodes has been in and out of the Vikings’ lineup this year, but when on the field he’s easily been the team’s best corner. Only Aqib Talib of the Broncos has a lower passer rating against this season. Over the first three games of 2016, Jones averaged almost 10 targets a game. Over his last three, that number has dropped to less than six. Drawing Rhodes in coverage isn’t going to reverse that trend.

Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers (vs. IND – Vontae Davis)
It was good to see Nelson finally get off the mat with last week’s 4/94/1 stat line after making just one catch the week before. But as Ty Schalter wrote for the Washington Post, this week’s matchup with the Colts isn’t quite what it appears. “Despite ranking in the bottom five teams in scoring defense (28.8 points per game), passer rating allowed (103.1) and adjusted net yards per attempt (7.8),” Schalter said, “the Colts are actually tied with the Patriots for the sixth-stingiest defense when it comes to wideout fantasy points.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: However, Nelson’s matchup would improve quite a bit if the Colts are without Davis, who is in the NFL’s concussion protocol. Davis practiced on a limited basis Thursday, and tentatively appears on track to play Sunday in Green Bay. Assuming he does, the Packers could still scheme to get Nelson off Davis (who plays almost exclusively on the right side), but Schalter’s concerns where Nelson is concerned would carry more weight.

Allen Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars (at KC – Marcus Peters)
While we’re on the subject of high-end fantasy receivers who are advised sits after woefully disappointing seasons, here’s what Michael Fabiano of had to say about Robinson in Week 9. “As someone who has Robinson in two leagues,” he wrote, “I hope this has a reverse jinx effect and he goes off against the Chiefs. But let's face the facts. He's averaging fewer than eight fantasy points a game (in standard scoring) this season, and has hasn't scored a touchdown in his last three games. Oh, and playing at Arrowhead Stadium is no walk in the park.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: But wait, it gets better! In addition to the dumpster fire that is the Jaguars offense heading to one of the most hostile places to play in the NFL, Robinson will spend Sunday covered by the NFL leader in interceptions. Peters can actually be had with play action or pump fakes because he’s so aggressive, but taking advantage of those weaknesses requires a competent quarterback. The Jags have Blake Bortles, who will probably put one right in Peters’ lap just because he can.

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.