The Shadow Knows Week 15 2017

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport Antonio Brown is having a remarkable season. A season so good that there's MVP buzz surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers star.

However, there isn't a wideout in the NFL who has had a more impressive season that DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans.

Despite catching passes from such superstars as Tom Savage and T.J. Yates this season, Hopkins has piled up 88 catches for 1,233 yards and a league-leading 11 touchdowns.

Only Brown has more PPR fantasy points among receivers.
Hopkins admitted to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle that playing musical quarterbacks in Houston has been a challenge for him this season.

"That's not easy, but that's how I was raised, to work and come out and don't make any excuses no matter who's throwing you the ball because you see other guys, statistically, when their quarterback goes down, whatever they're doing, their stats go down," Hopkins said. "I can't be that guy because I've had to play with multiple quarterbacks my whole career, so I know how to adjust on the fly."

"Nuk" gets an even bigger challenge in Week 15 – the Jacksonville Jaguars and their NFL-best pass defense. No team in the NFL has allowed fewer fantasy points per game to wide receivers this season, and cornerbacks A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey have made a habit of putting the clamps on just about every receiver they've faced whose name doesn't rhyme with Antonio Brown.

Plus, there's the matter of the mysterious toe injury that caused him to miss practice Thursday. It may be nothing, but in 2017 any time the words "Houston Texans" and "injury" appear in the same sentence fantasy owners get queasy.

However, while Hopkins didn't have a great game against Jacksonville in Week 1, he did have a good one – seven catches for 55 yards and a score.

If he plays and can back that number up in the rematch, it will be a nice early Christmas gift for his fantasy owners.

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers (at KCC – Marcus Peters)

Per Ricky Henne of the Chargers website, Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton was quick to offer props to Allen. "Keenan has always been a tough guy to cover," Henne said. "He’s highly competitive, tough minded, goes in to make the tough catches (and) a good route runner. Understands leverages. He’s just a really good football player. Certainly, when you’re on the run he’s on right here with the 100-yard games and 10 catches and touchdowns, when you have six for 100 or seven or eight, you went downhill, (that) says you’re on a pretty good run. But he’s just a good football player and anytime you have a dynamic player like that, that is performing consistently, one, forces a lot of attention from everybody, and then two, certainly from their standpoint, opens up other players.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Peters will start this week after serving a one-week suspension for being a chucklehead, but to be brutally honest The Shadow doesn't know if that hurts Allen or helps him. Peters has regressed in his second season. He's in love with making big plays as opposed to making plays. And that's a big part of the reason the Chiefs have surrendered the most fantasy points in the AFC to wide receivers in 2017.

Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (vs. LAR – Trumaine Johnson)

Baldwin admitted to Andrew Carlin of Seahawks Wire that it can be hard to look at a big game such as this week's matchup with the Rams as just another day at the office. “No, it’s not easy,” Baldwin said. “If it was easy, then everybody would do this. I think humans in general, we have a hard time getting past our mistakes, getting past things that don’t go our way but as competitors, as football players, as professionals in this sport, we have to do that because that is our job.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: The Rams head into this game short-handed in the secondary, as L.A. lost Kayvon Webster to a ruptured Achilles last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Baldwin was quiet when these teams met back in Week 5, but a combination of the higher stakes, the friendlier venue and a hole in the secondary the Seahawks can move Baldwin opposite of would appear to offer a good opportunity at a better stat line this time around.

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. ATL – Desmond Trufant)

According to Mike Chicester of Pro Football Focus, there isn't a better press corner in all of the NFL than Trufant – at least in 2017. "Trufant has seen 20 targets when he’s lined up in press coverage this season," he said, "and he’s logged one interception and five pass breakups, for a playmaker index (total number of interceptions and pass breakups divided by targets in coverage) of 30.0 percent. That figure is good for first among cornerbacks with at least 15 targets in press coverage."

THE SHADOW SAYS: That's a two-dollar way of saying that, in theory at least, Trufant's the sort of physical cornerback who can sometimes give Evans problems, as one of the latter's favorite tricks is using his size to body up smaller defensive backs. Evans has been a disappointment for fantasy owners in 2017, but it's worth pointing out he posted a respectable 6/78/0 stat line against the Falcons in Week 12 – and that was with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback.

Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals (at WAS – Josh Norman)

Norman made news this week with complaints about his role in D.C. – complaints that head coach Jay Gruden downplayed while speaking with the Associated Press. "He's a corner, that's what position he plays," Gruden said. "The majority of NFL teams have two or three really good receivers, and a lot of times you start trying to run around and matching with one guy, then everybody else has to get set on their guys and it creates confusion."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Norman isn't an exception in this regard. For the most part, he's the rule – the only elite cornerback who has shadowed No. 1 receivers week-in and week-out in 2017 is Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals. And the Redskins have actually defended wideouts fairly well in 2017 – the team is 24th in fantasy points allowed to the position. But if you're worried about Norman's effect on Fitz, have a glass of egg nog and chill.
Then think about the effect of Blaine Gabbert on Fitzgerald and spike the hell out of said egg nog.

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals (at MIN – Xavier Rhodes)

Per Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Week 14 may have been the low point of a low 2017 season for Green. "He caught only five of the 12 targets thrown his way Sunday," Dehner said, "including five of those hitting some part of his body, whether his hand, shoulder or even his face. He was partially responsible for two turnovers: an interception that buzzed off his hand and a fumble in which he let the ball out before going out of bounds. This comes six days after he couldn’t hold on to two passes in his own end to secure first downs that could have helped salt away a critical win against the Steelers. His catch rate sits at 54.6 percent of targets, a career low. And a significant dip from the previous two seasons."

THE SHADOW SAYS: At first glance, Green's 65/950/8 line for the season and WR11 ranking doesn’t seem so bad. Maybe not what fantasy owners were hoping for, but close enough that he isn't a "bust" by any stretch. But well over half those yards came before Cincy's Week 6 bye, and Green has all of one 100-yard game since then. The Vikings aren't a terrible wide receiver matchup (21st in fantasy points allowed), but the reality is that the Bengals offense is hot garbage right now. In a must-win week, Green's probably going to need a score to avoid leaving a bad taste in many mouths.
One that won't be forgotten come draft season in 2018.

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. LAC – Casey Hayward)

As Hill closes in on his first 1,000-yard season, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid praised the second-year pro while speaking with Adam Teicher of ESPN. "It’s more than just running fast," Reid said. "We have a lot of fast players in the National Football League, but it’s more than that. It’s his ability to track the ball, set things up when the ball is in the air, to maintain your speed. Other guys, when the ball is in the air, that inside arm drops. It cuts their speed down three quarters, and defensive backs can catch back up and roll. He’s able to maintain his speed through these routes, and it’s not always on the ultimate angle that we’re asking him to do it on so he’s really got to drive the chin to the shoulder, keep the arm at the square and run fast. All those things, those fundamentals, he’s very good at that."

THE SHADOW SAYS: There's no denying Hill's talent. Or that he's been productive for fantasy owners in 2017 – he's sixth in PPR fantasy points among wide receivers, ahead of the likes of Green and Julio Jones. The Chargers have been stingy through the air – the team ranks third in the NFL in pass defense and 25th in PPR fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. And Casey Hayward may well be the most underrated cornerback in the NFL – his passer rating against in 2017 is less than 50. But Hayward's dinged up and Hill went for 5/77/1 when these teams met back in September.
At home, you just have to dance with who brought you to the Ball – and hope he can boogie.

Gary Davenport is a Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks, an NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, a Contributing Writer at Rotoworld and a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Gary was the winner of the 2015 FSWA award for Print Article of the Year.