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The Shadow Knows Week 12 2017
By Gary Davenport
THE SHADOW KNOWS
It’s Thanksgiving Week (or I guess I should say was, since as your read this many of you are either shaking off Thursday’s food coma or lapsing into a new one from leftovers – seriously, put…the…pie…down.
And among the things the Jacksonville Jaguars are thankful for in 2017, their league-best pass defense has to be at or near the top of the list.
Through 11 weeks this season, the “Teal Curtain” is allowing just 162 yards a game through the air. Jacksonville’s secondary, anchored by cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, has given up just seven touchdown passes (best in the NFL) and logged 13 interceptions (third-best in the league).
For his part, Ramsey’s been known to talk some smack—he was ejected earlier this season for goading A.J. Green into a fight. But while talking to 1010XL Radio in Jacksonville, Ramsey was effusive in his praise for Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals, who he Jags will host on Sunday.
“Ever since the schedule came out, I’m not going to lie, I’ve been looking forward to this one,” Ramsey said, via Alfie Crow of SB Nation. “Just because he’s a legend, easily going to be a Hall of Famer when his career is done, which I don’t know when that will be because he’s still at the top of his game if you ask me. Haven’t started my preparation for him yet, but I definitely know I’m excited for it. I’m going to anticipate following him during the game and getting some good action. Hopefully at the end of the game he will respect the type of player I am.”
Generally speaking, I don’t advise sitting superstar receivers, no matter the matchup. But with the bye weeks passed fantasy owners have more options available in Week 12. And be they superstar or scrub Ramsey and the Jaguars have put the clamps on just about wideout they’ve faced in 2017 not named Antonio Brown.
Here’s a look around the NFL at some of the bigger matchups between cornerbacks and wide receivers in Week 12.
PUT DOWN THE DAMN PIE!!!
Amari Cooper, Oakland Raiders (vs. DEN – Aqib Talib)
Michael Beller of Sports Illustrated believes that Cooper should be glued to fantasy benches in Week 12. “Cooper has played five games against the Broncos in his career,” Beller said. “In those five games, he has 16 catches on 36 targets for 151 yards and one touchdown. That translates to 4.22 points per game in standard leagues, and 7.42 points per game in PPR formats. You already know those are terrible numbers, but allow me to give you some more context. Brice Butler is averaging 4.24 points per game in standard-scoring leagues this season, while Albert Wilson sits at 7.39 points per game in PPR leagues. Would you even think about starting Butler or Wilson this week? That’s what Cooper has been in five career games against the Broncos. He should be firmly on your bench.”
THE SHADOW SAYS: As bad as all that sounds, believe it or not it’s actually gets worse. Cooper’s running mate Michael Crabtree hasn’t been one bit better against the Broncos, with seven catches for 74 yards combined over Oakland’s last three tilts with the Broncos. Neither Cooper or Crabtree has more than 56 yards receiving in a game against the Broncos dating back to 2016, and in the last four meetings between the AFC West rivals the pair have combined for a single touchdown.
Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at ATL – Desmond Trufant)
Evans admitted to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times that getting used to catching passes from backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t been without its difficulties. "Throughout practice, ‘Fitz’ plays a little different," Evans said. "More of a vet. He’ll do more funky things. His ball is a little different, so we’ve just got to get used to it in practice. The spin in different. … I can’t explain it. Sometimes he throws a perfect spiral. Sometimes it comes different. The spin is different on most guys. Some throw it harder, some with a little more touch."
THE SAHDOW SAYS: Frankly, it’s that change at quarterback that’s the bigger worry with Evans than facing Trufant in coverage. In two games against the Falcons last year, Evans exploded for 16 receptions for 249 yards and three touchdowns. But over the past three weeks, with Jameis Winston on the shelf, Evans hasn’t caught more than five passes in a game or found the end zone – numbers that are as indigestion-inducing as Aunt Ida’s mystery stuffing.
Devante Parker, Miami Dolphins (at NEP – Malcolm Butler)
After heaping praise on Parker earlier this summer, Dolphins OC Clyde Christensen was singing a different tune about him after a disastrous outing in Week 11. “I thought he looked like a guy who wanted to be great,” Christensen told Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. “(But) there’s nothing worse than being a receiver and having some nagging injury that you just don’t feel great. I haven’t changed my opinion of a guy who can be a really, really fine player, and he is still doing some things really well. … but I think sometimes with those guys who are speed guys and outside guys, that you get a nagging thing and even if it’s little, you just don’t feel 100 percent. I’d say that that’s the reason.”
THE SHADOW SAYS: It wasn’t that long ago that this matchup might have set up well for a bounceback from Parker. Butler struggled in coverage earlier in the season, and Parker appears to be Jay Cutler’s favorite target in the Miami passing game. But Cutler is in the NFL’s concussion protocol after taking a shot against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, and Matt Moore looks much more likely to seek out Jarvis Landry.
I’m just full of good news, huh?
Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (at LAR – Trumaine Johnson)
The Saints’ new-found offensive balance hasn’t really hurt Thomas’ yardage and catch numbers this year, and the second-year wideout recently drew praise from an important source. "I have to credit his mindset. I've never seen a guy so intense in every situation, in every competitive situation," quarterback Drew Brees told ESPN’s Mike Triplett. "He makes every route that he runs game-like. And if you're someone who’s trying to cover him, it's just like he flips a switch and he is trying to dominate you.
"You can't really teach that, you know. I mean, that's just there. He's got just this competitive drive that is very, very rare."
THE SHADOW SAYS: Thomas’ fantasy owners have plenty to be thankful for in 2017, even if he only has two touchdowns this season after tallying nine a year ago. You aren’t going to sit Thomas in Week 12, but there’s at least some risk of a letdown week – and it has very little to do with Trumaine Johnson. The Rams entered Week 12 10th in the NFL in pass defense but just 28th against the run.
In other words, Brees probably isn’t going to be chucking the ball all over the Coliseum Sunday, and that might depress Thomas’ production a bit.
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.