THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 16 2020
THE SHADOW KNOWS: Week 16
In just his second NFL season, DK Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks is already a star.
Metcalf was one of seven Seahawks players who was named to the Pro Bowl this week, and with good reason-Metcalf has piled up 74 catches for 1,223 yards (third in the NFL) and 10 touchdowns. His 16.5 yards per catch ranks third among receivers with 50-plus receptions, and Metcalf is presently fifth among all wideouts in PPR fantasy points.
As good as the former Ole Miss star has been in the NFL, teammate Greg Olsen believes that Metcalf is only just getting started.
"He's a special type of player, Olsen said. And there's so much room for growth. He's probably just scratching the surface, and that's a scary thought."
However, while Metcalf has had his way with quite a few big-name cornerbacks, there's one game this season in which he was more-or-less shut down. Back in Week 10, Jalen Ramsey of the Rams held Metcalf to two catches for 28 yards on four targets. It was Metcalf's second-lowest fantasy output of the 2020 season.
On some level. It's not surprising-Ramsey is a Pro Bowler in his own right, and he's playing as well as any cornerback in the league in 2020. He is also one of the few corners in the game who is big and physical enough to hang in there in jump-ball situations with the 6'4", 229-pound Metcalf.
It rather goes without saying that fantasy managers aren't sitting a top-five wide receiver in championship week. But this matchup is legitimately about as bad as it gets for Metcalf, and it drops both his fantasy ceiling and floor lower than it would normally be.
Now here's a look at some of the other big-time WR vs. CB matchups around the NFL this week.
Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints (Justin Jefferson vs. Marshon Lattimore)
Justin Jefferson was ridiculously productive last year at LSU, hauling in 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 scores. His numbers in Minnesota haven't been quite as gaudy, but as Albert Breer wrote for Sports Illustrated, Jefferson has made enough of an impact to thrust himself squarely into the Offensive Rookie of the Year conversation.
"The Vikings' star is eighth in the league in receiving yards (1,182), tied for 15th in receiving touchdowns (seven), and 22nd in catches (77)," Breer said. "He's got a good shot at breaking Randy Moss's rookie record of 1,313 yards over the next two weeks. And he filled a hole the Vikings desperately needed someone to step into, having traded Stefon Diggs in the offseason."
Marshon Lattimore of the New Orleans Saints has a DROY award of his own on the mantle. But Lattimore's third NFL season has been an up-and-down affair-the former Ohio State star has a passer rating against of 108.0 and has allowed more touchdown passes this year than in his first two NFL seasons combined.
San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals (Richard Sherman vs. DeAndre Hopkins)
As the 2020 season winds down, so might be Richard Sherman's time with the Niners-the team is up against the salary cap next year. Per 49ers Webzone, the veteran defensive back allowed that not only could he be playing in a different town next year, but it could be at a new position as well.
"At some point, everybody makes the transition to safety if you're smart enough to play that game," Sherman said in 2018. "I'll probably do that in a couple of years or whenever the team needs (me to do so). A lot of times, in this game, playing corner, you see the whole field, but you really only see like half the field. At free safety, you get to see the whole field. You get to make an impact. You always see where the ball goes."
Sherman has played a handful of snaps at free safety this season, but what he hasn't done is flip sides of the field or shadow opposing No. 1 receivers. That means that it will be Christian Kirk (and not DeAndre Hopkins) who will see Sherman in coverage most of the time on Saturday. That doesn't do Kirk's marginal fantasy value any favors, but it does eliminate any concerns about the coverage the league's receiving yards leader will see this week.
Carolina Panthers at Washington Football Team (DJ Moore vs. Kendall Fuller)
The Panthers have a pair of 1,000-yard wide receivers this season, as both DJ Moore and Robby Anderson have sailed past that benchmark in 2020. Moore is also coming off a big game last week against Green Bay, although as Mike Tagliere wrote at Fantasy Pros, posting another big stat line this week won't be an easy task.
"It is worth noting that Washington has allowed five 20-point PPR performances by wide receivers, and all of them were the opponent's No. 1 wide receiver who was targeted at least eight times," Tagliere said. "Outside of those five wide receivers, just eight others have been able to finish as top-36 receivers, so there's quite a steep drop-off. Moore plays 80 percent of his snaps on the perimeter, which means he'll see a mix of Kendall Fuller and Ronald Darby in coverage, though Fuller is his primary matchup. He's played extremely well this year while allowing just 7.15 yards per target in his coverage, though he has allowed a touchdown every 11.8 targets, so he hasn't been perfect, either. This is a tough matchup."
Fifteen weeks into the season, there are only two teams in the league (the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs) that have given up fewer PPR points to wide receivers this year than Washington. With Robby Anderson set to spend more time being covered by veteran Ronald Darby, this may be a week where Anderson takes a turn as Carolina's top option in the passing game.
Indianapolis Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (Xavier Rhodes vs. Chase Claypool)
Over the second half of the season, Chase Claypool's production has dropped quite a bit-he has just eight catches for 107 yards over the past three games combined. The rookie from Notre dame has also seen his playing time scaled back, although head coach Mike Tomlin told Steelers Depot that the reduction in snaps isn't because the youngster has tired late in the season.
"I'm not acknowledging that he has [hit the rookie wall] but I'm acknowledging that there's a potential for that," Tomlin said. "One of the ways you help a young man through that is you reduce his number of snaps. Which is what you see us doing."
Stopping a receiver from hitting the rookie wall by pulling him off the field entirely is an, um, interesting approach-although after three straight losses, it's likely all hands on deck against the Indianapolis Colts. At any rate, it's getting harder to trust Claypool as anything more than a high-variance WR3-especially going against a Colts defense that ranks in the bottom-10 in some scoring systems in points allowed to wide receivers.
Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers (A.J. Brown vs. Jaire Alexander)
Sunday's NFC West showdown in Seattle isn't the only big game between playoff contenders in Week 16-the 11-3 Packers and 10-4 Titans will mix it up at Lambeau Field on Sunday night. That means a matchup between two more Pro Bowlers in Tennessee's A.J. Brown and Green Bay's Jaire Alexander-a matchup that Freddie Boston of Lombardi Ave thinks is a key to the home team getting a win.
"Don't be surprised if we see Jaire Alexander matched up with Brown a lot on Sunday night," Boston said. "It makes sense. Brown is Tennessee's best receiver, so Pettine should put Green Bay's top cornerback on him as often as possible. While Brown is tough to cover in the red zone - he has six touchdowns inside the 20-yard line this season - he is also a threat after the catch. Brown has 376 yards after the catch, including 73- and 69-yard touchdowns he took the house as he sprinted past defenders. As well as needing to be strong up front to limit Henry on the ground, the combination of Alexander and Kevin King will both need to be on top of their games to stop Tannehill connecting with Brown and (Corey) Davis for big plays."
Brown is having a great season to be sure-he's ninth in PPR points per game among wide receivers. But the lanky speedster will have his hands full with Alexander and the Packers. Alexander has allowed less than 55 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed, has a passer rating against of just 71.3 and is surrendering less than 30 receiving yards a game in 2020.