THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 13 2019
This is a week about giving thanks. In fantasy football, it's also one of the biggest weeks of the year-the final week of the fantasy regular season. For quite a few fantasy owners, that means the playoffs have already essentially started. Win in Week 13, and you move on to play in Week 14.
Lose, and….well, the Christmas lights aren't going to hang themselves.
There's pressure galore on fantasy owners this week to get a win. And in that regard, many aren't thankful even a little that arguably the NFL's best wide receiver will spend Sunday being covering by arguably the league's best cornerback.
That will be the case in Houston, where DeAndre Hopkins of the Texans and New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore will meet for the third time. It marks Hopkins fifth career matchup with the Pats, and per the Boston Herald Patriots head coach Bill Belichick knows his pass defense will have its hands full at Reliant Stadium.
"I think he defines an NFL receiver," Belichick said. "If you open 'NFL receiver' in the dictionary, put his picture next to it. He gets open, he catches the ball. Doesn't matter what the route is, doesn't matter what the coverage is, doesn't matter where the ball's thrown or what the situation - 1st and 10, 4th and goal - he's very, very productive. And he has such a variety of skills and routes, he can really do it all."
This actually marks the fifth time that Hopkins has faced the Patriots in his career, and he's yet to find the end zone. But in two previous meetings with Gilmore, "Nuk" has 15 catches for 154 yards. It's a tough matchup, to be sure. But Hopkins will still get his targets.
And one could argue he's overdue for a touchdown against the Pats.
Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers (Jarvis Landry vs. Joe Haden)
Given everything that happened a couple of weeks ago at the end of the meeting between these two teams in Cleveland, there's no shortage of subplots heading into Sunday's rematch. One is an improved Cleveland offense, which quarterback Baker Mayfield attributed to having more success pushing the ball vertically while speaking with the Cleveland Plain-Dealer.
"It's the way we've been calling the plays, the way we've been lining up, making it tough for teams and they have to play it different than they were in the beginning of the season,' he said. "Everybody's been playing well, O-line been giving him time to throw the ball, running backs chip on their way out, they're blocking, they're making plays. Everybody's just making plays. Hopefully we just keep that rolling.'
If the Steelers defend the Browns the same way they did in Week 11, Joe Haden will match up with Jarvis Landry, while Odell Beckham will draw Steven Nelson. However, given Landry's propensity for lining up in the slot it's not hard for the Browns to scheme Landry off the former Brown-two weeks ago Landry had a respectable 4/43/1 stat line in a 21-7 Browns win.
Washington Redskins at Carolina Panthers (Terry McLaurin vs. James Bradberry)
Terry McLaurin got off to a fantastic start to the 2019 season, topping 100 yards twice and scoring five touchdowns over the first five games of his NFL career. But since then things have cooled off. Actually, as Ian Hartitz wrote at Rotoworld, McLaurin's stuck in a deep freeze-and the thaw's not likely to come in Week 13.
"The rookie has posted 4-39-0, 3-69-0 and 5-72-0 lines in three full games with Dwayne Haskins under center since Week 9," he said. "Overall, McLaurin hasn't surpassed 75 yards in a game or scored a touchdown since Week 6. This week's matchup certainly isn't anyone's idea of a get-right spot, as Bradberry has consistently at least made life difficult for the NFC South's plethora of dominant No. 1 WRs this season. Michael Thomas got the better of the Panthers' No. 1 CB in Week 12, but Bradberry previously had a claim to winning each of his previous four shadow matchups."
If it makes you feel any better, in at least one league I have to start McLaurin in Week 13 bad matchup or no-because in my infinite wisdom I decided to fade Kenny Golladay of the Detroit Lions this week. In related news, I need a drink.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Jacksonville Jaguars (Mike Evans vs. A.J. Bouye)
It's been another disappointing season in Tampa. But it's also been another big season for Evans, who eclipsed 1,000 yards last week for the sixth time in as many seasons in the NFL-a feat only he and the great Randy Moss have accomplished. Evans told ESPN's Jenna Laine that it meant a lot to match the feat of his boyhood idol.
"It means a lot. I put in a lot of work. It wasn't easy," Evans said. "He was definitely my favorite receiver growing up. He was a freak of nature and so exciting to watch -- to be in the same sentence as him is amazing."
Bouye's a good NFL cornerback. Maybe even a really good NFL quarterback. But while he's paid like a great corner, he hasn't played like one-especially since the Jaguars sent Jalen Ramsey packing. If there's a concern with Evans in Week 13, it's that Jameis Winston might choose the easier pickings of Chris Godwin vs. youngster Tre Herndon.
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (Jalen Ransey vs. Christian Kirk)
I could flip this script here and bring up the matchup between Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson and Rams wideout Brandin Cooks, but given how Jared Goff's been playing that just feels mean.
Cue Cooper Kupp owners nodding slowly. Maybe weeping a little.
Not that Jalen Ramsey's having the best week ever, either. He didn't play badly against the Baltimore Ravens (unlike most of his teammates), but the kerfuffle with Marcus Peters during last week's beatdown wasn't the best look.
On some level, Christian Kirk has to just be happy he doesn't have to play San Francisco anymore. In two games out of the last three, the Niners held Kirk to eight catches for 49 yards. In the matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sandwiched in between those outings, Kirk caught six passes for 138 yards and three touchdowns.
Kirk's had a good year-he's averaging nine targets per contest, is a top-25 PPR wide receiver on a points per game basis and has clearly emerged as Kyler Murray's go-to guy in the passing game. That last part's both blessing and curse, though-a desperate Rams team is no doubt going to focus a lot of defensive attention on the young receiver.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (Casey Hayward vs. Courtland Sutton)
In the early part of the 2019 season, there wasn't a lot going right for the Denver Broncos. But the play of second-year wideout Courtland Sutton was a bright spot. However, with Brandon Allen now taking snaps under center (at the moment) for the Broncos, David Latham of Last Word on Pro Football is willing to flip the switch to dark on Sutton, too.
"Sutton is a highly talented receiver," Latham opined, "but it's hard to trust the wide receiver with Denver's uncertainty at quarterback. Brandon Allen was a disaster in Week 12, as he connected with Sutton on only one of his eight targets. Allen isn't a good quarterback, and the Broncos could turn things over to second-round rookie Drew Lock before long. Lock looked terrible in the preseason and might not be able to get Sutton the ball on a reliable basis. When factoring in that Sutton is also battling an ankle injury, you're probably best leaving him on your bench."
The man has a point-especially in Week 13. I'll spare you my usual gushing about Casey Hayward (it's a holiday weekend and I'm in a good mood-you're welcome), but there's a reason why 12 weeks into the 2019 season only two teams are surrendering fewer PPR fantasy points to wide receivers than the Chargers.
That reason is Casey Hayward.
Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos (Mike Williams vs. Chris Harris)
Harris has taken on a new role this season-that of mentor to young corner Davontae Harris (no relation-I think). Per Aric DiLalla of the team's website, the veteran's been impressed that the young corner's confidence hasn't been shaken by the struggles that come with learning the position in the NFL.
"Usually a lot of young kids just break and [it] just breaks their confidence," Harris said. "He still has confidence. He's still ready to go out there and challenge people and try to improve as much as possible. The kid's hungry. He asks 1,000 questions and he's been coming over to my house a couple times a week, so we're just trying to get better together."
When these teams met for the first time this season in Los Angeles, Chris Harris spent most of the game on Williams and not Keenan Allen, which is a bit odd given that Harris is a relative rarity among big(ger)-name corners-he's not averse to moving inside. What's even more odd is that Williams got more than twice as many targets in that game as Allen, who is the fourth-most targeted receiver in the NFL this year.
Of course, the Chargers also crapped the bed in that game, so I'm guessing there won't be a ton of repetition of that game script Sunday. The 6/74/0 stat line Williams had in that game is probably the best-case in Round 2.