The Shadow Knows Week 16 2022

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport

It's Christmas time, and all over the place folks are hoping that they receive that most special of gifts from Santa Claus. NFL teams may be filled with millionaires, but those players are no different. However, what those players want does differ.

The Philadelphia Eagles want a healthy Jalen Hurts for the playoffs. The New York Jets want a quarterback who plays half as well as Hurts. The Indianapolis Colts want to White Elephant the Jets' gift. And the Los Angeles Chargers jus win to continue their recent winning streak and make the playoffs.

It's no coincidence that the Chargers' recent success coincided with the return of wide receiver Mike Williams-the 6'4", 218-pounder adds a vertical element to the Bolts' passing game that was sorely missing, and Williams might be the best contested-catch wideout in the NFL. Per ESPN, Williams said for his part those 50/50 balls are just a matter of wanting it more than the other guy.

"For me, I just try to make a play. That's the main thing," Williams said. "Just take advantage of every opportunity that I get with balls down the field. Obviously, big plays can help the momentum of the team and the offense shorten the field. My main thing is just, if the ball is in the air and the quarterback gives me an opportunity, just take advantage of it. I've been able to do that so far, so I just have to continue to just be about that."

At first glance, Williams' Week 16 matchup with Stephon Gilmore and the Colts looks to be a tough one. The Colts have allowed the seventh-fewest PPR points to wide receivers, and Gilmore has made a habit of taking on the top perimeter receiver for opposing teams.

But last week against the Minnesota Vikings, Gilmore and the Colts were absolutely roasted-and not just by Justin Jefferson. This isn't to say that Williams shouldn't be downgraded a little .

But all Williams should be downgraded is a little.


Buffalo Bills at Chicago Bears (Stefon Diggs vs. Jaylon Johnson)

It's hardly unusual for elite wide receivers to want the ball, and Diggs is certainly no exception-he was visibly upset with a lack of targets last week against the Miami Dolphins. However, as Diggs told Katherine Fitzgerald of the Buffalo News, just because he wants to provide a spark offensively doesn't mean he's disgruntled or a distraction.

"I feel like I'm an emotional player. But you know, I try not to make it so it's detrimental to my team," Diggs said. "If I'm saying something on the sideline, I feel like it's warranted, and I feel like it's different. It's coming from a place of either we're not doing what we're supposed to do, or I want to do better. As a receiver you want the ball. I'd be more worried if a receiver didn't want the ball in comparison to a guy that does want the ball."

Diggs will more likely than not be unhappy about his usage in Week 16 as well, but it has nothing to do with his role in the offense. Or the coverage he'll see from Jaylon Johnson, who shadowed A.J. Brown of the Eagles last week. It's a matter of factors outside anyone's control-namely the abysmal weather forecast for Chicago on Sunday. Diggs is essentially impossible to sit. But making hay in 30 MPH winds, frigid cold and potentially driving snow won't be easy.




Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (Trevon Diggs vs. A.J. Brown)

As was alluded to in the intro, the Eagles are just trying to tread water right now-to hang on to the NFC's No. 1 seed until Hurts' bad shoulder heals. Losing the highest-scoring quarterback in fantasy was a blow to be sure, but as Chris Towers wrote for CBS Sports, Gardner Minshew is hardly a death knell for A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith.

"Hurts' injury, well, hurts the Eagles offense," Towers said. "There's no question about it. The Eagles have built so much of what they do around his dual-threat abilities, and they'll lose an explosive element without that. But Gardner Minshew is a pretty solid passer in his own right, and I don't think we're going to see too much of a decline for the Eagles star wide receivers. I won't go so far as to say it's good for them, because I don't think losing your starting quarterback is ever a good thing. However, the Eagles will likely be a bit more pass-heavy with Minshew, and he's good enough to get the ball to his very good receivers."

Assuming that Trevon Diggs (illness) plays, Brown will see the tougher coverage matchup. But Diggs hasn't shadowed much this season, and the rest of the Dallas secondary is an injury-ravaged mess. If you want to ding Brown a bit with Minshew under center fine. But the Cowboys pass defense has backslid over the past month.




Washington Commanders at San Francisco 49ers (Terry McLaurin vs. Charvarius Ward)

There has been no shortage said and written about the officiating at the end of last week's game between the Giants and Commanders-specifically the illegal formation penalty called on wide receiver Terry McLaurin. That's because video showed McLaurin asking an official if he close enough to the line of scrimmage, and McLaurin's postgame assertion that said official told him he was.

"I felt like I was on the ball the entire time," McLaurin said. "If you look through the game, I lined up there pretty much every play. I checked to see if I was good the first time and he was like, 'Move up a little bit.' So when I moved up, I checked to see if I was good, and he said I was good. I'm not trying to get fined."

Eve if you believe it was a terrible call, at this point McLaurin needs to shake it off and focus on Week 16-because he's going to need his "A" game against the 49ers in San Francisco. McLaurin has shown the ability to smash even against the best cornerbacks, but Charvarius Ward has quietly ben playing at an elite level, more than holding his own against the likes of Mike Evans and DK Metcalf. It's a tough enough matchup to drop McLaurin a few spots.




Green Bay Packers at Miami Dolphins (Christian Watson vs. Xavien Howard)

Watson was one of the hottest wide receivers in the league heading into last week, but he came back to earth somewhat in the Packers win over the Los Angeles Rams. However, despite the likelihood that he'll draw Pro Bowler Xavien Howard in coverage this week, Yahoo's Lawrence Jackson advised getting Watson right back in the starting lineup.

"Watson's amazing touchdown streak came to an end and he put up somewhat of a dud in Week 15 with four receptions for 46 yards," he said. "In that game, he didn't make his first catch until the third quarter, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Romeo Doubs is back in the fold and while that takes away some production, that'll hurt Allen Lazard more than Watson. Aaron Rodgers made it a point to feed Watson late in the game. The Dolphins' defense has given up seven touchdown passes in their last three games and in two of those they've let up over 300 passing yards. The Dolphins' secondary has been banged up over the past couple of weeks and that only heightens the optimism for Watson. Get ready for the bounce back."

Howard may be a big name, but his performance hasn't matched his reputation. Perhaps due in part to a tumultuous year off the field, Howard's completion percentage against and passer rating against are both up significantly relative to the 2021 season. The Dolphins aren't a great fantasy matchup for wide receivers, but they aren't a bad one either.




Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Arizona Cardinals (Carlton Davis vs. DeAndre Hopkins)

When things are breaking the right way, DeAndre Hopkins has the ability to be not just a WR1 but the WR1 in a given week. However, as has been the case for the Cardinals as a team this year, very few things are breaking the right way-in addition to facing a quality cornerback this week in Tampa's Carlton Davis, Ryan Newman of Fantasy Pros wrote that the Buccaneers are a rough schematic fit defensively for Hopkins.

"Hopkins sees a jump from 36% target share to 51% when facing a blitz," Newman wrote. "As the Buccaneers blitz 5+ 8 percentage points less than the league average, we likely won't see any 'scheme-based boost' for Hopkins here. Not AS important, but still worth noting: Hopkins also comes in with bottom 10% "physical advantages" due to "on-paper" speed and height disadvantages. We have enough of a sample to know "physical disadvantages" don't really stop Hopkins, but when you consider the scheme disadvantage and the marginal effectiveness compared to other wide receivers, we're fading him again this week."

Frankly, the matchup is the least of Hopkins' concerns in Week 16. It was bad enough when Kyler Murray suffered a season-ending ACL tear. But now Colt McCoy is sidelined as well, leaving Trace McSorley as Arizona's starting quarterback this week against the Buccaneers. That, more than anything, is a major downgrade for Hopkins' fantasy value.