The Shadow Knows Week 13 2022

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport

Any time the New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers meet, there's no question who will lead off The Shadow Knows. Because where matchups between cornerbacks and wide receivers go, nothing beats Marshon Lattimore vs. Mike Evans.

Now, as the Buccaneers prepare to host the Saints on Monday night, Tampa head coach Todd Bowles said that Lattimore vs. Evans is simply a matter of two ultracompetitive men who are among the best players in the league at their respective positions trying their best to help their team win.

"Well, they're both competitive," Bowles said, via the Tampa Bay Times. "They both want to be great. Mike is very competitive. Marshon is very competitive. They both want to be the best in the league, and when you get two guys going at it like that, bringing out the best in each other, you've just got to make sure it's clean. They're both physical. Anytime you get somebody up there against Mike that's physical, he's going to try to be physical right back. It's part of the game."

That part about making sure it's clean is where truth peeks through the coachspeak. This is a rivalry in the truest and nastiest sense. Two players who aren't just great at what they do. From every indication, they genuinely do not like one another. At all.

Back in 2017, after Lattimore shoved then-Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston, Evans came flying in and blindsided him, earning a one-game suspension in the process. In the first meeting between the two teams this year, after Lattimore jawed at Tom Brady and gave Tampa running back Leonard Fournette a push, Evans once again came charging in to ignite a brouhaha-and once again he was suspended.

However, while Evans leads the rivalry in suspensions, that's just about the only facet he leads it in. Evans and Lattimore have faced one another 11 times. Of those 11 meetings, Evans has eclipsed 100 receiving yards all of once-and that was back in 2018. Evans has been held under 20 yards more times (five) than he has found the end zone (four).

If there's a silver lining for Evans, it's that Lattimore hasn't played since Week 5 due to an abdominal injury. He's practicing and tentatively expected to play Monday, but nearly a two-month layoff can't be ignored. However, neither can the fact that Lattimore has essentially dominated this rivalry and shut down Evans more effectively than any other cornerback in the NFL.

It's a significant downgrade for a wide receiver already in the midst of a statistical slump.

Tennessee Titans at Philadelphia Eagles (Treylon Burks vs. Darius Slay)

After the Titans traded A.J. Brown to the Eagles and then used a first-round pick Burks, there was immense pressure on the rookie to quickly become Tennessee's No. 1 receiver. It has taken a little while, but Burks appears to be finding his footing as a pro-and per ESPN's Turron Davenport Titans wide receivers coach Rob Moore said the key was to not try to be the next A.J. Brown.

"He has to be the best version of Treylon," receivers coach Rob Moore said, "and we're starting to see what that looks like. He's not a guy that lacks confidence. When you have a player with the traits that he has -- amazing play strength and can catch the football, good top-end speed -- when you put it all together, he has a chance to go out there each week and have a heckuva day."

To his credit, Burks has put together a pair of big games-a 7/111/0 line against Green Bay two weeks ago followed by a 4/70/0 line with a touchdown on a fumble recovery. Both outings also came against teams that rank outside the top 20 in PPR points per game allowed to wide receivers this season. But Slay, James Bradberry and the Eagles is Burks' toughest test yet, so fantasy managers would be wise to temper expectations.


New York Jets at Minnesota Vikings (Ahmad Gardner vs. Justin Jefferson)

The Jets have been one of 2022's biggest success stories, in part because of a defense that ranks eighth against the pass at 197.5 yards per game. The selection of Cincinnati's Ahmad Gardner in the first round of the 2022 draft has contributed to that success, and per ESPN former Jets great Darrelle Revis is a big believer in the youngster's talent.

"When you come in as a rookie, you want the elite players you're playing against to respect you, and the only way you do that is be a playmaker," Revis said. "I think Sauce has the word 'playmaker' written all over him. I think he has the potential to carry the torch on to be a great cornerback for the New York Jets. I think his ceiling is very high. I think he has all the tangibles. I think he has all the potential to continue to grow into a great player, a great corner, and a great leader as he represents the New York Jets."

Gardner has been outstanding as a rookie-his completion percentage against is under 52 percent, his passer rating against is less than 60 and he has allowed just one touchdown this season. But Sunday he faces the most prolific wide receiver the NFL has ever seen over his first three seasons. If he somehow manages to contain Jefferson, just hand him the Defensive Rookie of the Year trophy and be done with it.




Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys (Michael Pittman vs. Trevon Diggs)

After the Colts lost at home to the Steelers last week, Indy wideout Michael Pittman offered an assessment of his evening that was equal parts brutally candid and refreshing, telling reporters that he played "like dogs**t" in the first half. However, Colts quarterback Matt Ryan made it clear that he saw things a bit differently.

"He sets a standard for himself that is higher than anybody's standard for him," Ryan said. "I don't believe he played like dogs**t. I think he did some things that really gave us a chance to win that ball game. Part of who he is is chasing that improvement and trying to be the absolute best he can be. I tell these young guys all the time: You can't always beat yourself up. There's a time and a place to take a deep breath: It's OK, let's get back to work. So, it's trying to help him understand those things as a young player."

Pittman is catching a career-high 71.8 percent of his targets and is on pace surpass 1,000 receiving yards for a second consecutive season. But he has just two touchdowns and is averaging a career-low 10 yards a grab. This week's matchup with Trevon Diggs and the Cowboys won't make things any easier-Diggs isn't making the splash plays he did as a rookie, but as a whole he's been a tougher out in coverage.




Indianapolis Colts at Dallas Cowboys (Stephon Gilmore vs. CeeDee Lamb)

It has been a bumpy year for the Indianapolis Colts. Former head coach Frank Reich was fired in-season. Quarterback Matt Ryan was benched and then reinstated as starter. And the playoffs have become more pipe dream than legitimate aspiration. But as Kevin Hickey wrote for Colts Wire, in the midst of all that turmoil cornerback Stephon Gilmore has quietly had an outstanding season in his first year with the Colts.

"The veteran cornerback has shown no signs of decline and has been a massive impact player in the secondary for the Colts," he said. "And according to CBS Sports, he's seen the most targets in primary coverage (61) without allowing a passing touchdown. According to Pro Football Focus, Gilmore has allowed a 59.3% completion rate in coverage and a 75.6 passer rating this season. Both are top-10 numbers among cornerbacks with at least 50 targets."

Gilmore has played as well as any corner in the NFL this season, but fantasy managers with shares of Lamb don't need to bang the big red button just yet. Lamb was relatively quiet in the Cowboys' blowout win over the Vikings two weeks ago, but in two of his past three games he's received double-digit targets and topped 100 yards. Add in the significant time Lamb spends in the slot (where Gilmore won't follow), and he should be fine.




Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams (DK Metcalf vs. Jalen Ramsey)

The Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams are living out two very different stories in 2022. By most estimations, the 6-5 Seahawks have exceeded expectations. By all estimations, the Rams have completely imploded. And in the midst of arguably the worst season following a Super Bowl victory in the history of the NFL, Chris Daniel of Turf Show Times offered up a depressing assessment-in addition to all the Rams' other issues, Jalen Ramsey really isn't Jalen Ramsey anymore.

"Unfortunately," he wrote, "Ramsey is not 'that guy' anymore. He's still very good, and he's certainly the best defensive back on the Rams' roster by a large margin. But no one fears throwing at Ramsey anymore and teams are having success going after him. What's the last memory you have of Jalen Ramsey being dominant?"

Ramsey's passer rating against has eclipsed 100 for the first time in his career. After allowing five touchdowns in coverage in the last two seasons combined, Ramsey has allowed four in 11 games this year. Some are publicly questioning whether Ramsey might try to force his way off a bad team the way he did in Jacksonville. And he has been continually roasted over the top down the middle of the field. Last year, the Rams ranked outside the top-20 in PPR points per game allowed to wide receivers. In 2022, the Rams rank ninth.





Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders (Asante Samuel Jr. vs, Davante Adams)

The Las Vegas Raiders have finally established a bit of positive momentum, winning two straight overtime affairs. Quite a bit of the credit for that success goes to wide receiver Davante Adams, who has been on an absolutely torrid pace the past month. While speaking to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Adams said that part of his recent rampage has been born of a focus on doing damage after the catch.

"I've kind of tapped into a new level," Adams said. "I think last year was really where I turned it up and started to be more aware of that, especially with the way I'm covered. It's not easy to get into space. So, making a couple people miss that are in my proximity has proven to be something that helps me out in my game."

Adams has already seen rookie cornerback Asante Samuel and the Chargers once this year-in the season opener, he parlayed a whopping 17 targets into 10 catches, 141 yards and a touchdown. Samuel has admittedly improved as a player since that trial by fire, but that 10/141/1 line from Adams isn't that far off his average over the last month.

News flash-Davante Adams will get his.