THE SHADOW KNOWS week 2 2017

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport There are certain constants in life. Death. Taxes. Politicians lying. The New England Patriots being a good football team (they are, you know). The Cleveland Browns being a bad one.
And Antonio Brown getting his.

While fantasy studs left and right were falling flat on their faces in Week 1, the Steelers star was showing what Brown could do for you with an 11-catch, 182-yard effort against the aforementioned Browns.

In Week 2 Pittsburgh plays host to the surging Minnesota Vikings and cornerback Xavier Rhodes. The two grew up together in Miami, attended the same high school and train together in the offseason. But Rhodes told Chris Tomasson of the Twin Cities Pioneer-Press that come Sunday the friendship will be on hold for a few hours.

“When we were younger, you always have those moments when you want to be an NFL player, and to be able to accomplish that and to be able to line up against each other and be labeled one of the best at each position, it’s a blessing,” Rhodes said. “We’re both looking forward to (Sunday).”

We’ll see how chummy Rhodes feels about Brown after the game. The Pittsburgh offense is a whole different animal at Heinz Field, and Brown is about as close as it comes to an uncoverable receiver in the NFL.

If I need to tell you to roll him out in Week 2, then perhaps you should consider another hobby – maybe something involving yarn.

Now let’s crochet our way around the league to look at who will be squaring off against the NFL’s top cover men in Week 2.

Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (at ATL – Desmond Trufant)
In news that should surprise absolutely no one, Atlanta Falcons cornerback Desmond Trufant told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that there’s “extra pressure” on the defensive backs this weekend – courtesy of one Aaron Rodgers.

"They've got great chemistry between the quarterback and receivers," Trufant said. "It's a challenge. We've got to come with it."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Adams was relatively quiet in last week’s win over the Packers at Lambeau, in large part because he spent more time being covered by Richard Sherman since he doesn’t generally move around a lot.

That could well be the case again Sunday in Atlanta with Trufant, and while Adams caught 12 passes in the first meeting with the Falcons last year and found the end zone in the NFC Championship Game, Adams also had only 90 receiving yards in the two games combined.

A second straight solid showing from Randall Cobb could be in the cards.

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (at DEN –Aqib Talib/Chris Harris)
Matt Kelley of Yahoo Sports believes smart fantasy owners will stay away from Dez Bryant in Week 2. “About to turn 29,” he said, “Dez Bryant has become match-up sensitive. Looking back to last season, Bryant struggled against big, physical shadow corners. His struggles continued in week 1 securing two receptions for 43 yards on a team-high nine targets. Bryant still high-points the football in the red zone better than any receiver in the NFL, and he should score double-digit touchdowns this season. Unfortunately, Bryant’s underwhelming 2016 efficiency followed him into 2017, exacerbated by NFL schedule makers who set up the Cowboys to face a gauntlet of suffocating pass defenses early this season.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: He’s right. Bryant faces a Murderer’s row of elite cornerbacks, and as bad as his showing was last week in Big D it might actually be worse this week in Denver. Bryant will likely spend most of the game locked up on Aqib Talib, who is arguably the most physical cornerback in football. And if they slide him across the formation, Chris Harris isn’t exactly cat food. This feels like a game where the Dallas offense will run through the run. The Dez Disappointment Tour moves on.

Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers (at SEA – Pierre Garcon)
As Kevin Patra of reported, after a matchup between the Washington Redskins and Seahawks back in 2014 where replays showed Garcon pulling Sherman’s hair in an effort to get open, Sherman didn’t pull any punches. "Yeah, Pierre did a few things," Sherman said. "When you can't get open, you got to do whatever you can. The crowd is acting like I'm holding him. Obviously, the TV copy you can see what happened. "Pierre doesn't matter in this league. I mean exactly what I said."

Tell us how you really feel, Richard.

THE SHADOW SAYS: There’s good news and bad news where Garcon is concerned in Week 2. The good news is that in theory Garcon should spend most of the game being covered by either Jeremy Lane or rookie Shaq Griffin – in Week 1 Garcon lined up mostly on the left side of the formation (opposite where Sherman would be). The bad news is I don’t know if it matters – the Niners offense was all kinds of out of sorts a week ago and the Seahawks are going to be seething after a loss at Green Bay.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (vs. ARZ – Patrick Peterson)
After leading the NFL in receiving, Hilton had a relatively quiet Week 1. He was the Colts’ most targeted receiver in a blowout loss to the Los Angeles Rams, but that didn’t mean a whole lot – three catches on seven looks for 57 yards with a lost fumble. The numbers fit in pretty well with his averages in 10 career starts entering 2017 without Andrew Luck in the lineup. In those 10 games, Hilton’s per catch average was the same as with No. 12 (15.6 yards), but his yards per game dropped from 77.2 to 60.9 and he’s caught just two scores. But hey, Jacoby Brissett can’t be worse than Tolzien, so….optimism?

THE SHADOW SAYS: In a word – no. As if the dumpster fire that is the Indy passing game isn’t problem enough, this week the Colts get one of the few teams in the NFL will actively use their top cornerback as a “shadow” with regularity. For reasons known only to God and his psychiatrist, Bruce Arians decided to have Peterson shadow Marvin Jones (and not Golden Tate) in Week 1. Hilton’s an even more obvious pick than Tate was, which leaves Hilton an even less appealing fantasy start.

Terrelle Pryor, Washington Redskins (at LAR – Trumaine Johnson)
Per ESPN’s John Keim, Pryor was the first to admit his Redskins debut did not go as planned. “I put this game on myself,” Pryor said. “I definitely let my teammates down. I’ll hold my chin up high and work harder. But I don’t like that. Right now, I’m shooting myself in the foot from dropping that ball. I’m real pissed at myself now. You guys can beat me up on that.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Pryor’s stat line (six catches, 66 yards) wasn’t terrible from a fantasy perspective – especially in PPR formats. But that was against a depleted Philadelphia Eagles secondary at home. This week it’s a road tilt against Johnson and a Rams defense that looked phenomenal in Week 1. Granted, that was against the Indianapolis Tolziens, but it’s hard to see this as a better matchup than what Pryor had a week ago.

Golden Tate, Detroit Lions (at NYG – Janoris Jenkins)
After limiting him to just two grabs for 43 yards (his third straight slow game against the Giants) Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant gave New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins some props – sort of. “It was fun, it’s always fun,’’ Bryant told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. “I’m looking forward to playing him again. I feel like he got lucky. He caught some big breaks and that’s how it goes.’’

Jenkins, for his part, let his play do the talking. When asked about his third straight clamp job on Bryant, Jenkins said simply, “No comment.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Before you start freaking out about Tate’s fantasy prospects, chill. Odds are pretty good that it won’t be Jenkins who Tate draws in coverage, as it’s more a matter of who lines up where than the G-Men moving “Jackrabbit” around. In their game against the Giants last December, Tate hauled in eight catches for 122 yards. On the other hand, Marvin Jones had three grabs for 41 yards.

Guess which one Jenkins covered.

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints (vs. NEP – Stephon Gilmore)
As Nick Underhill reported for the New Orleans Advocate, Saints wideout Ted Ginn knows that he and Thomas will have their hands full with New England’s talented cornerback duo of Gilmore and Malcolm Butler. “It’s a great duo,” said Ginn Jr. "They've got a lot of range to them. They play the ball pretty good. You have to be real fine in your routes to be able to get open.”

Thomas isn’t sweating it too much though. “I’ve gone against a lot of great DBs and talented corners,” Thomas said. “I’m just taking day by day and executing at a high level and getting done in practice and taking it out there on Sunday.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Frankly, Thomas might be onto something – at least if last week’s loss to the Chiefs was any indication. Alex Smith spent much of the Thursday night opener torching that vaunted secondary. They’ll be better in Week 2 – it’s the Patriots. But it’s also Drew Brees and the Saints in the Drewdome. If there’s a concern with Thomas in my eyes, it’s this – the Pats are masters at taking away an opponent’s biggest weapon. It gives me pause that Thomas will see more than a little bracket coverage with help from Devin McCourty.