The Shadow Knows Week 14 2018

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


I'm about to impart some insider knowledge on you, intrepid reader. The sort of specialized, highly technical information that's the reason why Football Diehards tasks me with writing this piece each week.

The fantasy playoffs have begun.

I know. You're blown away by this revelation.

Kidding aside, no one knows why they picked me to write this-including me.

Seriously, you know as well as I do that this time of year the pressure ratchets up that much higher. Each matchup is a mini-season all its own. Whether this is the final week of your regular season and you're fighting for a seat at the table or the playoffs have already begun, the mission is clear.

Get a win, and you'll live to play another day. Lose, and it's curtains for another year.

If you have a bye this week and are just reading this for kicks shut your cakehole. No one likes a braggart.

Oh, and thanks for reading!

At this time of year, every lineup decision matters all the more. Every point could be the difference between playing next week and the end of the year.

In other words, knowing which pre-eminent wideouts could be adversely affected by matchups with shutdown corners might be helpful or something.

Me. Helpful.

Turns out there really is a first time for everything

For these last few editions of The Shadow Knows, we're going to double the size of the Panic Meter, to from 1 to 10.

After all, every little bit counts.



New York Giants at Washington Redskins (Odell Beckham vs. Josh Norman)

Per ESPN's Jordan Ranaan, Beckham isn't ready to give up on the playoffs just yet. But if that pipe dream doesn't pan out, he's prepared to take as many teams with him as possible. "At this point, we can only focus on Washington. There is no 'what if.' We're going out there to win," Beckham said. "If our season is over, I'm making sure somebody else is coming home with us. That is the goal. The goal is to win all these games and see what happens, but if not, you have a tough game to play against us for the last four games."

With Quinton Dunbar done for the year, it will all but certainly fall to Norman to shadow Beckham most of this game. That's not especially good news-Julio Jones (7/122/1) and DeAndre Hopkins (5/56/1) have both had big days this year with Norman on them, and the Redskins lead the NFL in yardage allowed to No. 1 receivers this season-almost 90 a game.

Panic Level: 1 (Beckham had eight catches for 136 yards against the Redskins in Week 8





New Orleans Saints at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Marshon Lattimore vs. Mike Evans)

When these two met in New Orleans back in Week 1, Evans had a huge game. And while Lattimore's level of play has improved since then, he admitted to Nick Underhill of the Advocate that he hasn't been as consistent as during his DROY season of a year ago. "I feel like my rookie year; I don't know, I just played more freely," Lattimore said. "And now it's just like trying to overthink too much and just things like that, where I just need to go back to just being me. But it's gonna come."

Frankly, there wasn't a receiver for the Buccaneers who didn't have a good game in Tampa's 48-40 upset of the Saints back in Week 1, with Evans going off to the seven catches for 147 yards and a score. That was with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center, but it's not hard to imagine Evans having a good game against a Saints team allowing the most PPR fantasy points to wide receivers this year.

The flip side of Lattimore on Evans is Eli Apple on Chris Godwin, which could mean good things for Tampa's No. 2. Apple is-ungood in coverage.

Panic Level: 3 (Only because Lattimore held Evans to 6/68/0 in two games last season)





Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (Byron Jones vs. Alshon Jeffery)

According to Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News, Jones is trying his best to downplay his new status as one of PFF's highest-rated cornerbacks-and the notoriety his play this year has brought. "It's impossible to ignore it because your friends send it. Your mom, she doesn't even know what it is, but she's sending it," Jones said. "I just call them and say, 'Hey, I appreciate it. I thank you. But I still got games left.' I'm trying to just focus on finishing the season as strong as I can. Now it's time to create some turnovers. I left some throughout the season on the field, but I'm still trying to grow every day."

I know that the last thing Jeffery's fantasy owners want to hear is more bad news about a player who hasn't scored or had 50 receiving yards in a game since Week 7. But if you watched Jones put the clamps on Mike Thomas of the Saints in Week 13, you know this Panic Meter is just this side of red-lining-when these teams met in Week 10 Jones held Jeffery to a pedestrian four catches for 48 yards.

Panic Level: 8 (Paging Golden Tate. Mr. Tate, please pick up the green courtesy phone)





Baltimore Ravens at Kansas City Chiefs (Jimmy Smith vs. Tyreek Hill)

Smith appears to be rounding back into pre-injury form just in time for Baltimore's biggest game of the year, and defensive coordinator Don "Wink" Martindale told Edward Lee of the Baltimore Sun that both he and Smith's teammates have noticed it. "He stood up a couple weeks ago and spoke to the defense," Martindale said. "We do that on Saturday nights, and a different player will speak, and he even acknowledged that - where he was at physically and mentally and where he was going to go. He's followed with what he said, and I think we're getting the dividends from him now."

Obviously, Hill's a must-start. But last week's 1/13/0 stat line in the first game post-Kareem Hunt and a matchup with a Ravens team that's dead last in PPR fantasy points allowed to wide receivers have his fantasy owners sweating. It should-the Chiefs will try to scheme Hill off Smith, but no matter who is on the speedster you can bet they'll have help-especially if the Chiefs can't get the run game going again.

Panic Level: 5 (He'll have more than one catch, but he could also be held in relative check)





Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals (Kenny Golladay vs. Patrick Peterson

The Cardinals are not a good team, but Peterson's having yet another great season-he's the eighth-ranked quarterback at Pro Football Focus through 13 weeks. PFF's Nathan Jahnke passed along this stat, which gives you an idea of just how consistently excellent Peterson has been. "Peterson has allowed 80 or fewer receiving yards in each of his last 67 games dating back to 2014," Jahnke wrote, "which is the longest streak we've seen from a defensive player in the 13 years we have data for."

Peterson could have his hands full keeping that streak alive Sunday against Golladay, who is the third-most targeted wide receiver in the NFL (with 45) since Week 10. It's a safe bet Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter (giggity) will try to scheme Golladay open by moving him around-especially into the slot where Peterson rarely plays.

Panic Level: 3 (Pat Peterson is no joke, but Golladay will get his. He's all Stafford has left at this point)





Los Angeles Rams at Chicago Bears (Brandin Cooks/Robert Woods vs. Kyle Fuller/Prince Amukamara)

As Brad Biggs wrote for the Chicago Tribune, only one NFL team has more cap space wrapped in their starting corners than the Bears-and the team's getting a very nice ROI. "While they're 11th in passing yards allowed," Biggs said, "they're No. 1 in opponent passer rating (78.3) and No. 3 in yards per attempt (6.7). Certainly, the pressure the front seven is generating is a big reason for the secondary's success. They work hand in hand. The Bears have been playing well in the back end, and that's reflected by more than their NFL-leading 20 interceptions."

This week's visit from the soaring Rams represents the stiffest test of the season for the Chicago defense. The flip side of that coin is that a Bears defense that ranks 27th in fantasy points allowed to wide receivers may represent the stiffest test the Rams receivers have faced in a good long while too. Add in some very un-LA weather in Chicago Sunday, and the NFL's two best offenses get absolutely putrid matchups for Round 1 of the fantasy playoffs.

Panic Level: 5 (Gotta start them both. Also need to be prepared for a below-average scoring day)





Minnesota Vikings at Seattle Seahawks (Xavier Rhodes vs. Tyler Lockett)

As Doug Farrar reported for Seahawks Wire, Lockett has made Russell Wilson look good this year-really good. "Per Pro Football Focus' charting metrics," he said, "when Russell Wilson throws to Lockett this season, the fourth-year receiver is gifting his quarterback with a perfect passer rating of 158.3. Basically, when you throw to Lockett, very little goes wrong. Lockett has 44 catches on 51 targets for 713 yards, nine touchdowns, 26 first downs, and no drops."

Lockett made an appearance here last week as well, making me look simultaneously wrong (with 52 yards and a touchdown) and right (by doing that on one catch) for advising caution with the fourth-year veteran. Well, here we go again-Lockett will spend most of Monday night's game matched up with Rhodes, who plays as much shadow coverage as any corner in the NFL.

Panic Level: 7 (Lockett hasn't had more than six targets in a game since Week 2)