THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 11 2019
In more than a few cases, where showdowns between the NFL's best cornerbacks and receivers are concerned, Week 11 is defined as much by the matchups that aren't happening as the ones that are. Whether it's banged-up ball-catchers or dinged-up defenders, injuries have taken a toll at both the cornerback and wide receiver positions in 2019.
In Indianapolis on Sunday, there would have been an interesting post-Jalen Ramsey trade meeting between Indy's T.Y. Hilton and Jacksonville's A.J. Bouye. The battle of initials. But Hilton's missed the last two games with a calf injury, and it looks like he'll be a spectator when the Jaguars and Colts play on Sunday.
In Arizona, Patrick Peterson of the Cardinals might have had a shot at redemption after getting roasted by San Francisco 49ers wideout Emmanuel Sanders in Week 9 for seven catches for 112 yards and a score. But after leaving last Monday's loss to the Seattle Seahawks early with a rib injury, Sanders didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday and appears headed toward sitting Week 11 out.
Then there's Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, who was already staring at the fifth circle of football hell otherwise known as facing Stephon Gilmore and a New England Patriots defense that ranks dead last in PPR fantasy points allowed to wide receivers this season.
Spoiler alert-he's hurt too. Jeffery has missed practice this week with an ankle injury. Jeffery's the doubtful side of questionable against the Pats.
It's not just the wide receivers nursing injuries. This week's tilt between the Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers might have featured a double-dip of shadow-goodness-James Bradberry vs. Julio Jones and Donte Jackson vs. Calvin Ridley. But both Panthers cover men have missed time of late and neither is in any way a sure bet to take the field Sunday.
But wait, there's more! This week's lede probably would have been New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore renewing his rivalry with Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans. The saying that familiarity breeds contempt was all but made for this pair-see the donnybrook in 2017 that got Evans ejected.
Lattimore pulled his hammy last week against the Falcons, and barring a miracle Evans will have to go after him on the Saints bench for there to be any extracurriculars.
Oh, and because we're piling on, even if Sanders could play in San Francisco there's no guarantee that Peterson would-his calf has an ouchie, too.
As a matter of fact, a pretty good argument can be made that the biggest matchup between a cornerback and wide receiver in Week 11 is itself borne at least in part by an injury.
Minnesota Vikings at Denver Broncos (Stefon Diggs vs. Chris Harris Jr.)
Were Adam Thielen healthy, he would probably draw Harris in coverage-Vic Fangio has shown an increased willingness in recent weeks to have Harris shadow No. 1 receivers. But if frogs had wings, they wouldn't bump their butts when they hop, and in a week where everyone's hurt Thielen's expected to be sidelined again.
However, Fangio told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk that he doesn't see Thielen's loss as a big hindrance to the Minnesota offense.
"The guy [Bisi] Johnson that's been playing for him kind of looks like he's been studying Thielen and trying to be 'Thielen the Second,' and kind of looks like him on tape," Fangio said.
The Vikings have kept on rolling without Thielen-Minnesota has won five of their last six, including an impressive win over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 10. But with Thielen out Diggs is getting bracket coverage all game every game. It may not be hurting the Vikes, but it's killing Diggs' fantasy value-he has just four catches for 53 yards over the last two games combined.
Dallas Cowboys at Detroit Lions (Amari Cooper vs. Darius Slay)
Slay's a veteran cornerback who has both won and lost battles against the best pass-catchers in the NFL over the better part of the last decade. When he pays a wide receiver a compliment, it's genuine. And while speaking with Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Slay singled Amari Cooper out (along with Keenan Allen of the Los Angeles Chargers) as the most difficult wideouts in the NFL to deal with off the line of scrimmage.
"I might give nods to (Cooper as the best) just cause he's a lot more explosive than all of them, just cause of the fact that he can run," Slay. "He came out as a 4.3 guy (in the 40). Keenan's got quick instincts, but he's a guy that can be quick off the line of scrimmage and quicker downfield, and he's a little bit bigger than some of them. Overall, they're all kind of like the same, but he's very, very, very great off the line of scrimmage, so got to have great patience with him."
Slay is no joke as matchups go, but given the rip that Cooper's been on it's hard to imagine a scenario where he isn't a must-start. Despite nursing a sore knee, Cooper's been targeted 21 times, reeling in 15 for 227 yards and two scores.
Chicago Bears at Los Angeles Rams (Allen Robinson vs. Jalen Ramsey)
I have a dirty secret to tell.
No, not that kind. Wow Get your mind out of the gutter. We're talking about football here.
When writing this column every week, I secretly root for the cornerbacks. I'm a defense guy. Built my rep in the fantasy football industry on IDP, in part because I've always enjoyed a great pass rush or a stifling secondary more than offenses just moving up and down the field at will.
I'm old. Get off my lawn.
The point to all that rambling is that in Week 11 I get to do something that's become pretty rare-rain all over a wide receiver's fantasy parade. Or at least finish it off-Mitchell Trubisky's done a pretty good job soaking the hopes of most people in 2019.
Allen Robinson's been the exception to the miserable rule in Chicago-the one halfway reliable fantasy option in a Windy City nightmare. But as Ian Hartitz wrote at Rotoworld, Jalen Ramsey will likely wash the rest of those hopes away.
"A-Rob rebounded from his 1-6-0 dude in Week 9 by catching 6-of-9 targets for 86 yards against Darius Slay and company last week," he wrote. "The Bears' undisputed No. 1 WR has shown off a tantalizing combination of route-running ability and after-the-catch goodness all season, but this is anyone's idea of a brutal spot. Approach Robinson as more of an upside WR3 that will likely need to win with volume in his matchup against one of the single-best CBs in the league."
Maybe Trubisky will bail us out.
Or I'll win Poweball.
Or Godzilla will chew the roof off my crib, roast me in blue fire, and then eat my skinny, bitter a**.
Truth be told, my money's on the lizard.
Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers (Tyreek Hill vs. Casey Hayward)
All hope of defense being played in this game? HA!
As Adam Teicher wrote for ESPN, Chiefs quarterback Matt Moore will be the first to admit that having a wide receiver with Tyreek Hill's natural ability will make any signal-caller look good.
"There aren't many guys out there like him," Moore said. "I've played with some good ones, but he's different. To know he can track down any ball and use his speed and his talents to get open the way he does, it's a nice feeling knowing you've got him out there."
Hill kept producing with Patrick Mahomes on the shelf, running under ducksnorts from Moore and then taking off for touchdowns. He had 11 catches for 157 yards and a score in Mahomes' first game back last week.
And as good as Casey Hayward is, Hill has seven touchdowns in six career games against the Chargers.