THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 13 2021
There is no shortage of games in Week 13 with major postseason implications. But the biggest game of the week is undoubtedly the final one-a battle for first place in the AFC East between the visiting New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills.
It's a game that features two of the NFL's best defenses and a number in interesting matchups. But the most fascinating game within the game on Monday night is a battle between one of the NFL's most dangerous wide receivers in Buffalo's Stefon Diggs and the AFC's interception leader in New England cornerback J.C. Jackson.
In two meetings between the Bills and Patriots last year, Diggs went completely ballistic-15 catches, 237 yards and three scores. One of those touchdowns was a long one in which Diggs turned to Jackson and offer a little, um, feedback, and Jackson told Doug Farrar of Touchdown Wire that he has tried to use that roasting as motivation.
"I learned from it that each play, you can't take any reps off," Jackson said. "You can't fall asleep; you've got to be alert and ready every play when you're playing a receiver like that. He's a playmaker, he comes back to the ball better than any receiver in the league. He's got great hands. You've got to almost be perfect when you're guarding somebody like that. You've got to almost have perfect coverage in man-to-man."
Jackson is having a fantastic season-he has seven interceptions (after tallying nine last year) and 16 passes defended with a ridiculous passer rating against of just 36.4.
But while Diggs hasn't posted the sorts of numbers in 2021 that he did a year ago and this is a bad fantasy matchup on paper, Diggs showed last season that he is perfect capable of blowing up against any opponent-Jackson and the Pats included.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Jets (Darius Slay vs. Elijah Moore)
The New York Jets have had precious few things to cheer about during another dismal season. But the play of rookie Elijah Moore has been a bright spot-Moore ranks second on the team in catches, leads New York in receiving yards and is tied for the team lead in touchdowns. And yet, as Tommy Garrett wrote for Pro Football Network, starting the youngster this week is a dicey proposition.
"I hate this," Garrett said, "and the part that worries me the most is I saw it coming. I stated last week I was worried Zach Wilson might ruin Elijah Moore, and we were going to be wishing we had Joe Flacco back in our lives. Well, guess what? Apparently, we aren't allowed to have nice things, as Moore saw a massive drop-off in Week 12. While he did see 8 targets, he had just 4 receptions for 46 yards, totaling 9.3 fantasy points. That's a massive dip for the guy who was the No. 1 WR in PPR scoring from Weeks 8-11. The workload remains a positive, but the quality of targets has declined with Wilson."
If Wilson's atrocious play under center isn't enough to make you reconsider starting Moore, consider this-with Corey Davis looking unlikely to play Sunday with a groin injury, Moore will probably draw Darius Slay in coverage. Slay and the Eagles haven't made life easy on opposing wide receivers this season-only two teams are allowing fewer PPR points per game to the position to Philly.
Los Angeles Chargers at Cincinnati Bengals (Mike Williams vs. Chidobe Awuzie)
When the NFL's top cornerbacks are discussed, Chidobe Awuzie of the Cincinnati Bengals isn't mentioned all that often. But the fifth year veteran has earned a top-10 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus, and he told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he thinks he can be that much more impactful if he can make a big play or three.
"I feel like I was touching the ball a lot more in the earlier games," Awuzie said. "I've had less opportunities in the last two games. But just finding a way to make an impact and be on top of my film a little bit more. I'm a film junkie but I think there's still another level I can go to, to where now we're all as a defense, as a secondary, speaking the same language."
That Mike Williams of the Chargers will draw Awuzie in coverage Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium isn't ideal-on the other side of the Cincy defense is the eminently cookable Eli Apple. But the bigger problem for Williams in Week 13 is the one he has had for weeks-target volume. After earning 22 targets over the first two games of the season, Williams has had just one more double-digit target game since, and he has topped six targets just once since Week 5.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (Marlon Humphrey vs. Diontae Johnson)
There aren't two teams playing in Week 13 who dislike one another more than the Ravens and Steelers. The big AFC North showdown means another showdown between Steelers wideout Diontae Johnson and Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey of the Ravens. Johnson gave due credit to his Week 13 opponent, while making it clear that he wants to face the opposing team's best in the secondary.
"I like to see who I'm going up against. Who they got," Johnson said. "Who travels. Whether they play right or left. I like to know who the backups are as well in case one of them go down, I know what to expect. (Humphrey is a) great player. Can't take nothing from him. But if he follows me, if that's how they play the game out, it'll be a competitive matchup. I'm ready regardless."
It's possible that Humphrey won't even play-he didn't practice Wednesday or Thursday with an illness. But provided he does it's a matchup where Johnson was held to just nine catches for 52 yards in two games in 2020. However, at worst Johnson has to be viewed as a higher end WR3 given his gaudy target share-through 12 weeks Johnson is sixth in the league with 109 targets.
Washington Football Team at Las Vegas Raiders (Terry McLaurin vs. Casey Hayward)
Of the many offseason moves the Raiders made in the offseason, signing veteran cornerback Casey Hayward to a one-year deal wasn't regarded as one of the bigger ones. But as Paul Gutierrez reported for ESPN, Raiders defensive backs coach Ron Milus praised the veteran presence that Hayward has provided on the back end of the Vegas defense.
"What he is, is a true pro and he's someone they can bounce stuff off of," said Milus, "Plus, he leads by example. Now, it's not always example; he'll tell them, 'Hey, that's not quite how we do it.' But Casey is a pro and I think that's what he brings to the table. The young guys have a chance to look at a guy ... that [has] done it before, and this is how you get it done."
Hayward has been more than just a mentor-he has spent much of the season as one of PFF's highest-graded corners and he has yet to allow a touchdown in coverage this season. Facing Washington's Terry McLaurin is a stiff challenge for both players. But the biggest worry for McLaurin in Week 13 is the same as it has been for most of the season-rather than being hit in stride, McLaurin regularly has to fight for 50/50 balls or reach for passes that have been overthrown.
Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs (Kyle Fuller vs. Tyreek Hill)
Hill doesn't usually get mentioned much in this space, for a couple of reasons. First, he's Tyreek freaking Hill, so what the hell does it matter who is covering him? Second, most of the league's slot corners have about as much chance of slowing Hill down as I do. However, as Kyle Yates wrote for Fantasy Pros, Hill hasn't been quite the force of nature in 2021 that we have come to expect.
"Did you know that Hill has more finishes this year outside of the top-12 than he does inside it? In his 11 games this season, Hill has cracked the top-12 just five times and hasn't necessarily brought as much consistency as we once thought was a sure thing," Yates said. "He still obviously comes with week-winning upside in every single matchup, so we're never considering sitting the speedy wideout, but it's interesting to note that he's not exactly as consistent as we might think. Looking ahead to Week 13, the Broncos are middle of the pack when it comes to slowing down opposing WRs and they'll almost assuredly have a plan in place for containing Hill."
Fuller is a capable veteran corner who has been named to a pair of Pro Bowls during his time in Chicago, but unless Denver's "plan" involves sabotaging Hill's ride so he can't get to the stadium we aren't buying any containment. The list of wide receivers I would start over Hill this week is short. As in one name. And if you have Hill and Cooper Kupp on your roster, then I hate you. Really. I do.