THE SHADOW KNOWS week 1 2017

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport You might not have heard, but the 2017 NFL season started.

No, really. It did. The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots played a game that counted and everything.

Another season of the NFL means another year of fantasy football. The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat. The sleepless nights and heavy drinking as you agonize over lineup decisions.

You really shouldn’t do that, you know. It’s bad for you.

I’m here to help with those decisions, at least where wide receivers are concerned. For the second straight season, “The Shadow Knows” will be looking at some of the bigger names at the wide receiver spot who will be getting the shadow treatment from their similarly elite counterparts at the cornerback position.

Usually, I’m a big proponent of the philosophies of “always start your studs” and “don’t get cute.” Especially early in the season. But there are exceptions to both of those rules – even in a week where the surprise cancellation of a game has left us with two teams on a Week 1 bye.

I’ve said it many times this week, but I’ll say it again. Stay safe, Florida.

Besides, it isn’t up to me whether you should start (or sit) any of the receivers I feature in this piece anyway. That decision (as always) is up to you. It’s your team.

I’m just here to help you make an educated decision by providing a little information – and maybe point out a player or two who could be set for a big game while a teammate gets a blanket party.

Your liver can thank me later.

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers (at DEN – Aqib Talib)

As Robert Mays wrote for The Ringer, Keenan Allen allowed that Aqib Talib can be a tough cornerback to match up with. “[Broncos cornerback] Aqib Talib is overly aggressive, to the point where if he gets his hands on you, you’re pretty much dead,” Allen says. “I don’t want Talib to touch me.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Talib’s a great cornerback, to be sure. But the thing is, I don’t know that the Broncos will even bother to shadow Allen – because Chris Harris was every bit as good as Talib was in 2016. I know that fantasy owners are eager to see Allen back in action, and the idea of sitting him sounds like crazy talk. But the “No Fly Zone” is no joke, especially where the outside corners are concerned. Expectations need to be tempered.

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (vs. NYG – Janoris Jenkins)

Per James Kratch of, Giants receiver Sterling Shepard said it’s hardly a secret why Janoris Jenkins totally dominated two meetings with Dez Bryant and the Dallas Cowboys in 2016. "Be him," Shepard said when asked how Jenkins has been so successful against Bryant. "Physical, and he's got a good eye for the ball. He finds the ball. I think that's what a lot of DBs don't do. It's kind of hard for them to track the ball sometimes. That's why they're on the defensive side of the ball. Jackrabbit has a great eye for the ball, and great timing to go up and go and make it contested."

THE SHADOW SAYS: If you really want to, it’s fair to put half on asterisk on their meetings last year, since one of those games against the Giants was Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott’s first career start. But that doesn’t change the fact that in 120 minutes of action against the G-Men last year Dez Bryant had two catches for 18 yards…total.

That is not a typo.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (vs. JAX – A.J. Bouye)

While speaking with Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, Bouye credited his practice time against Hopkins with helping him land a fat free agent deal with the Jaguars. "It helped out a lot, definitely, going against one of the best receivers in the league," Bouye said. "He had plays on me, I made plays on him. One thing I tried to do was see what I could do better. I'd ask him that and I just took it a day at time, not really focusing on the negatives, just trying to make myself better as a player to help the team win. I'm appreciative for the coaches never giving up on me and giving me an opportunity to go on scout team and to follow him."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Second-year pro Jalen Ramsey isn’t dog food, but given Bouye’s familiarity with “Nuk” I’m guessing the two will see a lot of one another in Sunday’s AFC South matchup. One big season isn’t enough for me to pronounce Bouye an automatic consideration in coverage for fantasy owners, but it was a really good year – and the Texans don’t exactly have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles (at WAS – Josh Norman)

As Dave Zangaro reported for CSN Philadelphia, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson went back and studied film of Jeffery vs. Norman leading up to Sunday’s NFC East tilt. "I just wanted to go back and, No. 1, see him against Josh Norman," Pederson said. "I think it's important to see how he played, good or bad. How did Josh play him? I think you can learn a lot from that. And then just watch the type of routes he was running. There's good and bad on the film. It's not all the positives; it's not a highlight film, by no means. It's the good and the bad. Alshon won his share and Josh won his share. It's a good battle. I think those two have a lot of respect for each other and it's great competition. I just wanted to see how he handled a little pressure in those situations."

THE SHADOW SAYS: I’d love to be able to tell you Jeffery’s career numbers against Norman, but my research department quit (it turns out they expected to be paid). I can tell you, however, that after a rocky start to last year Norman improved steadily as the season wore on – in part because the Redskins wisely decided to have him shadow the opponent’s best receiver. In Jeffery’s first game that counts for the Eagles, it’s hardly the ideal debut situation, although I still expect he’ll be targeted quite a bit.

Jordy Nelson, WR, Green Bay Packers (vs. SEA – Richard Sherman)

As Sean Wagner-McGough of CBS Sports pointed out, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers will have their hands full with a healthy “Legion of Boom” in Sunday’s marquee matchup. “The Packers gameplan can't be as simple as ignoring Sherman's side of the field,” he said. “They tried that in 2014 and it didn't work out well for their offense, as Rodgers went 23 of 33 for 189 yards, a touchdown, a pick, and an 81.5 passer rating in a 20-point loss. It turns out, cutting a field in half just isn't a smart strategy.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: The $64 question for owners of Nelson and Davante Adams this week is which receiver will draw Sherman in coverage. The most likely answer is both – depending on how the Packers line up. And for what’s it worth it may not matter – in their last meeting with the Seahawks both Adams (4/104/1) and Nelson (6/41/2) had big games. It’s Aaron Rodgers at Lambeau – you GOTTA start ‘em.

Golden Tate, Detroit Lions (vs. AZ – Patrick Peterson)

Cardinals cornerback Justin Bethel told ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss that he expects a busy day in coverage against the Lions as Detroit stays away from teammate Patrick Peterson. “I’d like to think and say I’m ready,” Bethel said. “I’m excited. Preseason’s over. Live bullets now. Everything counts. I’m excited to go out there and I’m looking forward to the opportunity I’m about to have.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: The bad news is that Peterson, who did an excellent job of shutting down opposing receivers in “shadow” coverage in 2016 (maybe the best in the NFL given the level of competition he faced week in and week out) is expected to be on Tate Sunday in Motown. The good news is that leaves Bethel on Marvin Jones, who is one of my favorite under-the-radar fantasy plays at wide receiver in Week 1.

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (at MIN – Xavier Rhodes)

Rhodes admitted to Matthew Coller of ESPN 1500 in Minneapolis that he knows he’ll have his hands full with Thomas and Drew Brees Monday night in Minnesota. “Him and Drew have great, great communication,” Rhodes said. “It’s awesome. Drew knows that once a guy is on top, him and Michael Thomas know they’re going to throw back shoulder. Those guys’ communication is unbelievable. We have to be in tight coverage. Drew Brees is going to make tough throws and Michael Thomas is good at adjusting to the ball.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Rhodes is a very good young cornerback, but not quite so good that I’d knock the No. 1 receiver for the NFL’s most pass-heavy team (I’ll believe a balanced offense when I see it) down much. However, Brees will throw to the guy who’s open too – and that could make Ted “Not Being Covered by Xavier Rhodes” Ginn a nice Week 1 sleeper at wideout.

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.