THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 12 2021
Sometimes it only takes a quick glance at the NFL schedule to see what the week's marquee matchup will be. But since the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions have already played, we'll have to settle here for the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers meeting at Lambeau Field.
Kidding aside, why the hell did Roger Goodell try to murder my appetite with that dog of a game? It didn't work, but it was still uncalled for.
These teams met last year in the playoffs, with Green Bay earning a 32-18 win. In that game, Packers wide receiver Davante Adams was targeted 10 times by Aaron Rodgers, hauling in nine of those for 66 yards and a touchdown. As Ryan Wood and Kassidy Hill of Packers News wrote, Adams made a point of saying that he doesn't view this rematch as any different than any other game-and that he doesn't view it as a mano y mano battle with Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey.
"I plan on having something special every week for whoever we're playing," Adams said. "I'm not really looking at it as the heavyweight bout that everybody did last year. In that game, we had a limited amount of opportunities where we were able to go one-on-one. Obviously, we move around a lot, so that's part of it. And their idea of stopping me definitely isn't just to go one-on-one, clearly. Because that didn't happen a whole lot in the game. So, whatever it is, it's all of us versus their defense. It's not going to be the Davante Adams, Jalen Ramsey show. I would love if that is the way it was, but that's just not the way defenses have shown they're going to play us."
Frankly, it wouldn't really matter if Adams was going to be shadowed by Ramsey. Though 11 weeks, there have only been three wide receivers in the league who have been targeted more this season than Adams. The same number of pass-catchers have more receptions than Adams' 72. Only two have more yards than the 979 Adams has amassed.
Tough matchup or no, banged up toeterback (see what I did there?) or not, if Adams is active, he starts.
Be thankful you have him.
Carolina Panthers at Miami Dolphins (D.J. Moore vs. Byron Jones)
Back in 2020, the Dolphins made Byron Jones the NFL's highest-paid cornerback at the time, inking him to a five-year, $82.5 million pact after a career year in Dallas. To say the deal hasn't worked out is an understatement-Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski recently went so far as to call it the worst deal on Miami's entire roster.
"Jones became one of the league's best cornerbacks while working in Rod Marinelli's Cover 2-inspired scheme with the Dallas Cowboys," he said. When he reached free agency in 2020, the Miami Dolphins made him the game's highest-paid cornerback (for about six months). The deal became problematic on two fronts. First, Jones entered a new system and hasn't been the same player. Second, his deal created tension with Miami's standout corner, Xavien Howard, who was a first-team All-Pro in 2020. Howard wanted a reworked deal commensurate with his performance, asked for a trade this offseason and engaged in a short-lived holdout. Eventually, the two sides worked out their differences. Still, Jones has cap hits of $16 million or more over each of the next three seasons if the Dolphins decide to move forward with him."
Both Jones and Howard have been mostly awful-the Dolphins have surrendered the most fantasy points to receivers in the AFC. That's the good news with Carolina's D.J. Moore. The bad news is that he has a quarterback in Cam Newton who is better at HB dive plays than throwing a slant pass.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (DeVonta Smith vs. James Bradberry)
Despite pre-draft concerns about his size (or lack thereof), DeVonta Smith has been the real deal as a rookie for the Philadelphia Eagles-46 catches for 664 yards and four scores. With the Eagles headed to Met Life Stadium to battle the Giants Sunday, New York head coach Joe Judge was effusive in his praise of the 2020 Heisman trophy winner.
"I think this guy is everything everyone thought he was going to be in the draft, to be honest with you," Judge said, via Mike Kaye of NJ.com. "I think his attitude and his football instincts are what make him a great player. Throughout the draft process, I think probably the biggest concern or knock you heard - whether it's a lot of scouts, internally, externally, wherever - it's just a concern over, is this guy's size going to be a factor? And I think obviously it hasn't been a factor in high school, or a factor in the SEC, it's not a factor in the NFL. I think this guy comes from the right tree in terms of how he's been trained to think, and competitively, I think it's showing up."
New York's James Bradberry is an excellent NFL cornerback. But this is the type of receiver he has been known to struggle against-undersized speedsters who can turn on a dime. The bigger concern for Smith this week is the same as any other of late. The Eagles ran the ball a whopping 50 times last week, and Smith hasn't been targeted more than six times in a game since Week 7.
Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots (A.J. Brown vs. J.C. Jackson)
New England Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson doesn't get the notoriety that some of the NFL's other elite cornerbacks do. But as Darren Hartwell wrote for NBC Spots, there's no doubt that given his level of play Jackson deserves to be mentioned among the game's very best.
"Jackson's 22 career interceptions are tied with Hall of Fame cornerback Mike Haynes for the most by any Patriots player through four seasons, per ESPN Stats & Info," Hartwell said. "So, if Jackson gets one pick in his next eight games, he'll break Haynes' record. Jackson leads the NFL in interceptions since he entered the league in 2018, two ahead of first-team All-Pro Xavien Howard."
Tennessee Titans wideout A.J. Brown may not even play in Sunday's big AFC showdown, as he's nursing a chest injury. But even if he's out there the likelihood he'll have a big game isn't high. Per Football Outsiders, the Patriots rank second in the NFL in coverage against the opposing No. 1 receiver, and you can bet the rent that Jackson will have safety help from Devin McCourty over the top. Bill Belichick does not let an opponents' top weapon beat the Pats. He just doesn't.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Indianapolis Colts (Mike Evans vs. Xavier Rhodes)
The Indianapolis Colts are one of the more talked-about teams in the NFL right now, and it isn't just because of "Hard Knocks"-after drilling the Bills in Buffalo last week, the Colts are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. However, as Jaleel Grandberry wrote for Horseshoe Heroes, things haven't gone as well for Colts cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
"Rhodes has only appeared in seven of the Colts' 10 games and has been a liability in coverage when he's been on the field," he wrote. "In his seven outings, Rhodes has been targeted 36 times, allowing 25 catches for 402 yards and three touchdowns. For comparison, in 16 games last season, Rhodes was targeted 81 times and allowed only 42 completions for 563 yards and 5 touchdowns. Unless he has a miracle turnaround, he will blow past that in the next seven games."
This isn't a guaranteed smash spot for Mike Evans, who is battling a back injury he picked up in last week's win over the New York Giants. But if Evans is active Sunday in Indianapolis, he could rack up top-20 fantasy production even if his snaps are scaled back-the Colts have surrendered the sixth-most PPR points per game to receivers this year.