The Shadow Knows Week 14 2017

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport Not too long ago, the Los Angeles Chargers were toast. Losers of their first four games, the Bolts were written off entirely in the AFC West.

Now, as the Chargers prepare to welcome in the Washington Redskins, they are 6-6 and tied for first place in the division – in no small part due to the exploits of wide receiver Keenan Allen.

Allen is making a strong case for Comeback Player of the Year honors, with 77 catches for 1.032 yards and five touchdowns in 2017. Over the last three weeks he's been on a ridiculous tear.

And Rich Tandler of NBC Sports Washington believes that tear merits a change in defensive strategy by the visitors from the nation's capital.

"One of the reasons for the Chargers’ hot streak," Tandler said, " is the emergence of Keenan Allen as not just a good player but a great one. In the last three games, all Chargers wins are by an average of three touchdowns. Allen has 33 receptions for 436 yards and four touchdowns. He is the first player in NFL history to have at least 10 receptions, 100 yards, and one touchdown in three straight games. The Redskins haven’t had Josh Norman follow a receiver from side to side, but they might want to consider matching their best corner on the 6-2 Allen."

Tandler's point is valid, but I doubt the Redskins are going to make a defensive sea change this late in a season where very few teams (one, really) are using their top corner to shadow the opponent's top target. Besides, Allen and Norman will likely spend the majority of the game opposite one another anyway.

Obviously, Allen's a must-start as the fantasy playoffs get underway. But this will be Allen's stiffest coverage test in some time, and just as obviously he can't maintain his pace from the last few games.

I won't go so far as to call a let-down from Allen in Week 14. But a regression closer to the mean is a real possibility.

Robby Anderson, New York Jets (at DEN – Chris Harris)

Anderson told Rich Cimini of ESPN that he and teammate Jermaine Kearse never forget that both went undrafted. "We talk about it all the time," Anderson said. "He always tells me, 'Bro, the cream will rise to the top.' It motivates me to see how far he's gone with his career, being so successful even though he wasn't drafted. He keeps that chip on his shoulder like I do. He keeps reminding me of the fact that they slept on me, so wake 'em up."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Anderson and Kearse are arguably the hottest receiving duo in the NFL right now, but this might finally be the week that the former cools off. It isn't just a matter of the trip to Denver to face a "No Fly Zone" defense that ranks 30th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers this season. Anderson also suffered a hamstring injury in practice this week that casts even more shadows over his prospects in Week 14.

Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (at JAX – A.J. Bouye)

Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post believes Baldwin rates a spot on fantasy benches in Week 14. "Quarterback Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are playing great, but you don’t go against Jacksonville’s pass defense," he said. "They are allowing a league-low 65.6 passer rating against and just one receiver, Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown, has topped the 100-yard mark against them this year. Just four wideouts have caught a touchdown pass against them with none doing it more than once."

THE SHADOW SAYS: I'd love to be able to disagree with him. No one wants to consider sitting their top receiver in a must-win game, and for many fantasy owners it won't be a consideration at all. But the numbers don't lie – the Jaguars have spent most of the season putting the clamps on opposing wideouts and rank dead last in the league in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers by a fairly significant margin.

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. DET – Darius Slay)

Not to go all wet blanket or anything, but it's time for more "bench" talk, this time from Bill Dubiel of Metro US. "Evans hasn't broken the 100-yard mark in any game this season," Dubiel said, "and has six or more catches in just four of the 13 games the Bucs have played (seven catches is his season high). While it certainly doesn't help that Jameis Winston has been out or playing at less than 100 percent, all that matters for fantasy players is statistical production--no matter where the blame lies, it's tough to trust Evans anymore. He'll likely draw the Lions standout corner Darius Slay in coverage in Week 14, which gives even more reason to bench Evans."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Optimism time! Yes, Evans did little last week against the Green Bay Packers (two catches for 33 yards), but in the two games prior he posted a combined 11 catches for 170 yards – numbers that aren't terrible considering he didn't have Winston. As to Slay, the Lions are actually a slightly above-average matchup for wide receivers (15th in PPR fantasy points allowed), and this is a Detroit secondary that made Mike Wallace and the Baltimore Ravens passing game look good last week.

Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles (at LAR – Trumaine Johnson)

Per Zach Berman of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said that extending Jeffery's contract recently was a no-brainer. “You go back to the offseason, he was one of the guys we targeted in free agency and wanted him in here and got him in here," he said. "And then watching him work and he and Carson getting more and more comfortable with each other. And then just having these guys around Carson for many years to come, I think is so important for the progression of the offense, but also the progress and the success that those two can have.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Jeffery's been a big part of the Eagles' success in 2017, and he's been a top-20 PPR fantasy option through 13 weeks. He would also appear to be in the clear Sunday in Los Angeles, as on paper it's Nelson Agholor who would draw L.A.'s top cornerback in Trumaine Johnson. The thing is, it can be argued that Kayvon Webster, and not Johnson, has been the Rams' top corner. And they aren't 25th in fantasy points allowed to receivers this late in the year by accident. Caveat Emptor.