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The Shadow Knows Week 16 2017
By Gary Davenport
Sometimes in both the NFL and fantasy football, you have to be willing to change things up a bit late in the game - to alter your startegery late in the game in an effort to get the W.
That's what we're going to do with the "The Shadow Knows" in this most important of weeks. Rather than highlighting just a handful of the biggest wideout/cornerback matchups, The Shadow is going to hit them all - or at least all of them that could possibly matter to fantasy owners in a title game.
As a matter of fact, I'm even adding an extra wrinkle - the "Shadow Confidence Factor." On a scale of 1 to 10 I'll rate these matchups…if I expect a wide receiver to feast, he gets a 10. If I figure clamp-city's coming, that player will get a 1. Most will fall somewhere in-between.
No sizzle. Just steak. With a side of snark.
Let's get after it!
Indianapolis Colts at Baltimore Ravens - TY Hilton (IND) vs. Marlon Humphrey (BAL)Humphrey's been up-and-down since entering the starting lineup - Antonio Brown abused him a couple weeks ago, but he held Josh Gordon more or less in check last week. Jacoby Brissett's a bigger concern for Hilton that Humphrey.
SHADOW CONFIDENCE FACTOR: 3.7 (Just don't trust Hilton in a must-win game. His role in the offense has been spotty at best, and Jacoby Brissett, um, sucks.)
Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers - Jordy Nelson (GBP) vs. Xavier Rhodes (MIN)With Aaron Rodgers on injured reserve and Davante Adams out with a concussion, it stands to reason nelson would see more looks. But Nelson hasn't had a single 100-yard game this season, and the Vikings are 22nd in PPR fantasy points allowed to receivers this season.
SHADOW CONFIDENCE FACTOR: 2.3 (I'd sooner start Randall Cobb, and I'm not kidding even a little. Nelson's been the invisible man this year, and Rhodes is one of the five best cover corners in the NFL. Cobb in the slot is where the points will be.)
Detroit Lions at Cincinnati Bengals - A.J. Green (CIN) vs. Darius Slay (DET)Slay picked off a pair of passes last week against the Chicago Bears and has seven for the season. The Bengals, on the other hand, appear to have quit, and Green hasn't had 100 receiving yards in a game since Week 10. He does have eight touchdowns this season, and with 20 more receiving yards he'll hit 1,000 for the year.
SHADOW CONFIDENCE FACTOR: 7.2 (I'm going to regret this, but the Lions are winning ugly, and Slay, while talented, can be had - especially by bigger, physical receivers. Green tops 100 yards in this one and finds the end zone as the Bengals crush Detroit's playoff hopes.)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers - Mike Evans (TBB) vs. James Bradberry (CAR)Evans had his best game in some time last week against the Atlanta Falcons, hauling in five passes for 79 yards and a score. This week Evans squares off with a Panthers defense that ranks 11th in pass defense, but who has also allowed the sixth-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers.
SHADOW CONFIDENCE FACTOR: 8.4 (I'm sorely tempted to jack this number even higher. With DeSean Jackson looking unlikely to play, Evans could be set for a ridonkulous target load against the Panthers against two beatable corners in Bradberry and Daryl Worley. But the Panthers will likely bracket Evans with safety help much of the game, which could mean more work for Cameron Brate underneath.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints - Julio Jones (ATL) vs. Marshon Lattimore (NOS)Per Joel Erickson of the New Orleans Advocate, Lattimore is looking forward to locking horns with Jones again, "I'm trying to go out there and beat him," Lattimore said. "That's my mentality. To win. It's Julio, but he straps up just like I do, he does everything just like I do, he's a man just like I'm a man. I've got to try to go out there and beat him up."
SHADOW CONFIDENCE FACTOR: 8.5 (Lattimore's played well - well enough that he may well win Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. But back in Week 14 Jones caught five passes for 98 yards and came close on a few more passes. Lattimore's good - but Julio's better. Saints win this game, Julio can still help you bring home a championship this week.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints - Michael Thomas (NOS) vs. Desmond Trufant (ATL)As Josh Katzenstein reported for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Thomas in 2017 has been Drew Brees' favorite receiver - ever. "With 136 targets this season, Thomas has been the intended receiver on 28.5 percent of Brees' passes this season," he said. "Before this year, Brees had targeted just two Saints players -- Graham and Marques Colston -- more than 20 percent of the time over the course of a season, and neither of them came close to Thomas' rate."
SHADOW CONFIDENCE FACTOR: 21.4 (In the first meeting between these teams in Week 14, Thomas caught 10 passes for 117 yards and a touchdown. The Shadow rests his case.)
Denver Broncos at Washington Redskins - Jamison Crowder (WAS) vs. Aqib Talib (DEN)Much like the Washington offense as a whole, Crowder's numbers have taken a drop in 2017 relative to last season. He has a puncher's chance at besting his career highs in catches (67) and yards (847) in 2017, but unless Crowder scores five times over the next two weeks he isn't going to match last season's seven touchdowns. And now he gets the "No Fly Zone" and Aqib Talib.
SHADOW CONFIDENCE FACTOR: 4.0 (The Redskins can (and will) get Crowder off Talib by lining him up in the slot against Bradley Roby. But that doesn't change the fact that Washington's offense has scuffled in recent weeks. Or the fact that the Broncos are dead last in the National Football League in PPR fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. Crowder's a so-so WR3 in Week 16 - at best.
Denver Broncos at Washington Redskins - Demaryius Thomas (DEN) vs. Josh Norman (WAS)Norman admitted to Matthew Parras of the Washington Times that this year's down season has worn on him. "I'm just trying to get this franchise back to its glory days," Norman said. "There's so many great people that come through here, so many legacies. … Man, they're so proud, they're so proud. To let these guys down, it's gut wrenching to me. It's hard to take and swallow a pill [of not making the playoffs] because you kind of feel their pain."
SHADOW CONFIDENCE FACTOR: 4.2 (Thomas' fantasy owners may be feeling that pain in Week 16 - unless the Broncos move Thomas to get him off Norman. It's a perfect storm - the possibility of both no Emmanuel Sanders to draw coverage away and Paxton "Air Mail" Lynch at quarterback combined with one of the NFL's best shutdown guys in Norman. If Sanders sits and Lynch starts, I'd seriously consider sitting Thomas if you have any kind of viable Plan B.
Jacksonville Jaguars at San Francisco 49ers - Marqise Goodwin (SFO) vs. Jalen Ramsey (JAX)Per ESPN's Nick Wagoner, Goodwin's second-half outburst this year has impressed head coach Kyle Shanahan. "I've been real impressed with 'Quise because as you guys can all see in this second half of the year, especially with Pierre [Garcon] down, he's really taken a lot on his shoulders," he said. "He's been through a lot, and he's responded well. You guys see it on the field. We see it in practice throughout the week. He's turned into a true pro, and he's playing like a legit starter."
SHADOW CONFIDENCE FACTOR: 1.2 (Goodwin's been a late-season godsend for WR-needy teams, with 24 catches for 319 yards over the last three weeks. But this is the week CinderGoodwin turns back into a pumpkin. The Jacksonville secondary is scary good - first in the National Football League in pass defense and 31st in fantasy points given up to wide receivers. Garbage time is just about Goodwin's only hope - if this game stays close he won't hit 50 yards.
Oakland Raiders at Philadelphia Eagles - Michael Crabtree (OAK) vs. Ronald Darby (PHI)Matt Lombardo of NJ.com listed Darby vs. Crabtree as a matchup to watch Monday night. "Darby will likely be tasked with containing Raiders' top receiver Michael Crabtree, who enters with 56 catches for 601 yards and eight touchdowns, while averaging 10.7 yards per catch," Lombardo said. "Darby's speed should be an asset against Crabtree, and the cornerback should be plenty motivated to prove that a subpar performance against the Giants was more a fluke than a harbinger of things to come in the playoffs."
SHADOW CONFIDENCE FACTOR: 7.4 (Darby's bad game against the Giants would be easier to write off had he not struggled more often than not since his return from injury. This is a matchup that sets up well for Crabtree. With Amari Cooper nursing a sore ankle (and a bruised ego after an awful season) Crabtree is the No. 1 target for Derek Carr in the passing game heading into a matchup where the odds of Oakland trailing are deliciously high. Crabtree is going to put some fantasy teams over the top and into the promised land in the last game of Week 16.
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
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.