THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 13 2020
The introduction to this column is essentially turning into a DK Metcalf lovefest.
Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, Metcalf squared off against yet another big-name cornerback in Darius Slay. And as has been the result with just about everyone whose name was not Jalen Ramsey, Metcalf went ballistic-10 catches on 13 targets for 177 yards.
Per Dave Zangaro of CBS Sports Philadelphia, Slay didn't mince words when asked about his performance.
"I would say this is by far the worst game I have ever played in the league," said Slay,. "I truly lost every 50/50 ball. I was probably O-for. I have never been that, but I say props to him, he played his ass off today, and I have to get better."
However, Eagles DC Jim Schwartz was a lot less critical, stating that leaving Slay on an island was the plan all along.
"We put a real, real big hat on Slay in that game because we gave him no help," Schwartz said. "And I would like to say, with a player like that, never once during the week did he ask where his help was going to come from, never once during the game did he say, 'I need some help.' He just kept going out there and battling."
With 1,039 receiving yards this season, Metcalf now leads the NFL in that category ahead of a visit this week from another premier cornerback in James Bradberry of the New York Giants. The 27-year-old Bradberry, who joined the Giants in free agency this year, has been as advertised for Big Blue-he has set career lows in completion percentage (58.5) and yards per completion (10.5) this season and has a passer rating against of just 72.5.
At 6'1" and 212 pounds, Bradberry has shown in the past that he's capable of hanging with bigger receivers like Mike Evans. But Metcalf isn't just long and strong. He also runs like a deer.
There has only been one cornerback this season capable of making fantasy managers even the least bit worried about Metcalf's prospects in a given week.
Bradberry's good. Really good. But he ain't that guy.
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (Jalen Ramsey vs. DeAndre Hopkins)
Sunday's NFC West matchup in Glendale features a "shadow" matchup in the truest sense of the word-one of the NFL's most dangerous wide receivers in Arizona's DeAndre Hopkins vs. perhaps the best cornerback in the league in Jalen Ramsey of the Rams. The two also just so happen to have squared off over half a dozen times dating back to their days together in the AFC South.
As Matthew Freedman wrote for the Action Network, Ramsey has for the most part held his own in those meetings. But perhaps of even more concern to Hopkins' fantasy managers is his diminishing target value of late.
"Hopkins' volume has diminished as the season has progressed," he said. "In the first month of the season, Hopkins had a 34% market share of team targets. Over the past month, he has had a mark of 23%. And now he faces his former AFC South nemesis in Ramsey. On ridiculously heavy volume, Hopkins has been good but not great (against Ramsey). In two games, he has absolutely taken it to Ramsey. Other times, though, Ramsey has more than held his own. Overall, Ramsey has allowed Hopkins just 6.6 yards per target with a 54.7% catch rate on 7.6 targets per game in his coverage."
You can't sit "Nuk" obviously, But the odds of a huge game in Week 13 aren't great.
Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (Robert Woods vs. Patrick Peterson)
In a decade in the NFL, Patrick Peterson has done quite a lot-including eight trips to the Pro Bowl. But at 30, Peterson is on the downslope of his career. As Kyle Odegard wrote for the team's website, Arizona defensive coordinator Vance Joseph said that Peterson more than compensates for any physical decline though with his increased experience and knowledge of the game.
"Once they get into their eighth, ninth, tenth year, the physical tools always diminish," Joseph said. "Guys like Patrick, and all the great ones I've been around, those guys adjust by playing with their brains. You can't play beyond eight, nine years at corner in this league only on physical tools. Most guys after the combine, their 40 time and jumping ability go downhill."
The cold hard reality is that while Peterson is still a solid boundary corner, he's not close to the dominant player we saw three or four years ago. This isn't to say that Peterson's coverage might not cost Woods a target or three (and his target share hasn't been ideal this year anyway), but it's not enough to downgrade Woods significantly.
If you want something to worry about with Woods, his name is Jared Goff.
Philadelphia Eagles at Green Bay Packers (Darius Slay vs. Davante Adams)
As I mentioned in the intro for this week's column, Slay was brutally honest about allowing all those catches and yards to Metcalf in Week 12. And when I say the three-time Pro Bowler was brutally honest, I am not exaggerating even a little bit.
"It was a great battle. I won't say it was difficult. I lost every 50/50 ball today," Slay said, via Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk. "I am usually on the other side of that. Today, I am on the other side of it. I let the team down. I told the defense, that game was on me. I have to play better, but props to DK for giving me the good work. We are competing every play, but I lost every 50/50 ball and I have to be better."
The good news for Slay is that the Packers don't have the sort of secondary options at receiver the Seahawks do, so Slay will probably get safety help from Jalen Mills. The bad news is that Adams is the second of four straight brutal matchups for Slay in coverage. In any event, Adams is eighth in the league in targets, despite playing at least two fewer games than any of the players ahead of him. He's one of just three wideouts averaging 11 or more targets per game.
It doesn't much matter who he faces in coverage. You start Adams every week.
New England Patriots at Los Angeles Chargers (Stephon Gilmore vs. Keenan Allen)
tephon Gilmore is doing something this year for the first time in his career. This isn't Gilmore's first year shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers at times, but it's the first season that he has followed those wideouts into the slot. That sets up a Week 13 date for Gilmore with Keenan Allen of the Chargers, and Gilmore admitted to Sean McGuire of NESN that he expects to have his hands full for the second week in a row after taking on DeAndre Hopkins a week ago.
"Each week it changes. Different type of receivers," Gilmore said. "They've got Keenan Allen, Mike Williams making plays for them. They have a great quarterback. So, it's a big challenge for us. Those guys are making plays in the passing game, so I'm looking forward to those opportunities of going against those guys."
Through 12 weeks this season, Allen isn't just the most-targeted wide receiver in the NFL-he has a dozen more targets than the next-closest receiver. Gilmore's time in the slot this year has been up-and-down, and given how much time Allen spends there, he remains a high-end fantasy WR1 despite the presence of the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year.
Baltimore Ravens at Dallas Cowboys (Marcus Peters vs. Dallas Cowboys)
There hasn't been a lot for the Dallas Cowboys to cheer about in 2020. Dak Prescott's season-ending injury sent the team into a death-spiral that hit a new low in a Thanksgiving Day beatdown at the hands of the Washington Football Team. But as Kristi Scales reported for the Dallas Morning News, veteran wide receiver Amari Cooper is quietly having the best season of his career.
"Cooper currently leads the team in receptions (71) and receiving yards (848). He is on pace for 103 catches and 1,233 receiving yards," Scales said. Only two Cowboys have ever topped 100 catches in a single season: Michael Irvin (111 in 1995) and Jason Witten (110 in 2012). If he stays on his current pace, Cooper would make the Cowboys' 100-catch club a trio. During Irvin's and Witten's respective 100-catch seasons, Irvin had 77 catches and Witten had 82 through 11 games. As for receiving yards, if Cooper remains on track for more than 1,200, he would set a new career-high, topping last year's personal best of 1,189 receiving yards."
Cooper has been the unquestioned No. 1 receiver for the Cowboys with Andy Dalton under center, although he hasn't had 10 targets in a game since Week 6. Drawing a Pro Bowl corner in coverage in Week 13 isn't ideal (or close to it), and the Ravens are allowing the seventh-fewest PPR fantasy points to receivers. Cooper is going to be in lineups, but expectations need to be tempered.