THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 3 2019
JuJu Smith-Schuster needs a hug-and so do the folks who spent a high fantasy draft pick on him.
The loss of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback to a season-ending elbow injury was a huge blow for a team with aspirations of getting back to the playoffs in 2019. However, Smith-Schuster told Joshua Axelrod of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he's confident he and backup Mason Rudolph can quickly build chemistry and win some football games together.
As a receiver, we work with our quarterbacks each and every day," he said. "Whether it's Ben [Roethlisberger] or Mason ... You could see on Sunday we had a little bit of it. We just want to show the world we can be more. We got to stay positive and have to work with the guys on our field in our locker room. It was unfortunate for our best player to go down ... but he'll be around helping and supporting us. Mason Rudolph is going to help us win a lot of games moving forward."
Glad he's confident that Pittsburgh's season wasn't wrecked. But he's also wrong.
And Smith-Schuster's fantasy value was wrecked right alongside it.
There's no question that JuJu's talented-he just became the youngest wideout in NFL history to hit 2,500 receiving yards in his career. But he did that catching passes from a Hall of Fame quarterback-not a second-year Day 2 pick preparing to make his first career start. Never mind that Rudolph and James Washington played together in college. Or that opponents have that many more reasons now to bracket Smith-Schuster in coverage-starting this week when he'll see a lot of Richard Sherman in San Francisco.
It's great to keep hope alive. But the reality is Smith-Schuster's a WR2 now-and he's apt to be a high-variance one at that.
Oakland Raiders at Minnesota Vikings (Tyrell Williams vs. Xavier Rhodes)
Williams has been solid for both the Raiders and fantasy owners through two games, with 11 catches for 151 yards and touchdowns in both contests. However, as Taylor Smith wrote for NumberFire, the 27-year-old is going to have his hands full with Rhodes in Minnesota.
"Tyrell the Gazelle has been prancing in the end zone for two straight weeks, but he's about to run into Xavier Rhodes," Smith said. "While Rhodes struggled to contain Davante Adams last week, Williams isn't on the same level as the Green Bay Packers' superstar receiver. Unless the Oakland Raiders bump up his slot snaps against the Minnesota Vikings, Williams will have a long day."
Williams is also nursing a hip injury, although indications are that he's going to play. Add in that Rhodes has held his own against first Julio Jones and then Adams the past two weeks (he averaged 69 yards allowed a game) and this feels quite a bit like the week that Williams cools off.
Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers (Chris Harris vs. Davante Adams)
The Broncos and Packers are at opposite ends of the NFL spectrum right now, despite that fact that neither has exactly played lights-out football-especially on offense. The Broncos head to Green Bay fresh off an absolutely crushing loss at home to the Bears, but Harris told Aric DiLalla of the Broncos website that he sees a silver lining to a dark cloud.
"I think the mindset in the locker room is [that] the team is different," Harris said Tuesday. "I think guys were definitely upset that we lost that game, but I think that's going to make us hungrier. It's going to make us continue to want to get better and practice harder. My job is to continue to show great effort every day on the practice field, lead by example by the way I practice every day and prepare and hopefully the guys still follow."
His optimism may be misplaced, but so would blaming Harris for Denver's struggles-he remains one of the league's more underrated cover men. But as certain as death and taxes is the fact that Aaron Rodgers is going to target Adams early and often. This is the week that Adams gets score No. 1 for the season. Bank it.
Miami Dolphins at Dallas Cowboys (Xavien Howard vs. Amari Cooper)
Cooper and Howard have actually squared off recently-a Week 3 matchup in 2018 in which Cooper had the same number of catches as Howard had interceptions. Per Alain Poupart of the Dolphins website, Howard's looking forward to the prospect of a rematch with the now-Dallas Cowboy.
"You consider yourself as one of the best cornerbacks, you want to shadow the best receivers they have," Howard said. "That's what I consider myself, as one of the top cornerbacks, and I want to go against the best receiver on the team. I had a nice game against him last year. I'm looking forward. I feel like he's got a lot of confidence this year and he's playing at a high level this year also. I just wish the best for him. I'm just ready for the next man up."
Howard is in the most unenviable position of any player in the NFL-the best player left on the quite possibly the worst team in the history of ever. His success against Cooper was when he was still in Oakland and Howard wasn't at ground zero of a dumpster fire. Be more worried about Dallas getting up big without Cooper finding the end zone than anything Howard might do in coverage.
Poor guy needs a hug. Seriously.
New York Giants at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Janoris Jenkins vs. Mike Evans)
True story-on a radio appearance in Phoenix this week, a listener asked if he should trade Evans and Chris Carson to get Antonio Brown. That's where we're at with the panic level in some circles after the slow start Evans is off to.
Take a breath, relax and hear out the sage words of Rotoworld's ian Hartitz.
"Evans is a prime buy-low candidate after missing a pair of touchdowns by mere inches during the Buccaneers' Week 2 win over the Panthers," Hartitz wrote. "He possesses a massive size advantage over Jenkins, who has lost each of his shadow matchups against Amari Cooper (6/106/1) and John Brown (7/72/0) to start the season. Note that Smokey was overthrown by Josh Allen on what would've been a 50-plus yard touchdown as well."
If Evans is quiet again in Week 3, all those panic attacks will be more justified.
Houston Texans at Los Angeles Chargers (DeAndre Hopkins vs. Casey Hayward)
It will never cease to amaze me how underrated Casey Hayward is as a football player. Rarely gets mentioned among the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Wound up in L.A. (and out of Green Bay…oops) on a larcenous contract worth just over $5 million a year. As Bolts defensive backs coach Ron Milus told Daniel Popper of the Athletic, to truly appreciate Hayward you have to watch him work.
"He's smart," Milus said. "He doesn't always try to get his hands on them at the line of scrimmage, but at the end of the day, he tries to stay in front of a guy. So, he's got the quickness to stay in front of people. Ideally, you want a guy that's over six feet with long arms and all that kind of stuff. That really ain't Casey, and we get that. But his ability to have patience at the line of scrimmage, stay in front of a guy and probably more importantly, knowing the angles of how to cut people off, that's what he's been able to do for us."
Great though Hayward may be (I need both hands to count the bigger names he's better than), this week Hayward's outta luck, because he gets Nuk. There isn't a receiver in the NFL today with the resume of roasting supposedly elite cover men that Hopkins has. He wins one-on-one battles for no reason save his sheer Nuk-ness.
There's a reason Deshaun Watson just chucks it in his general direction. A lot.
Los Angeles Rams at Cleveland Browns (Marcus Peters vs. Odell Beckham)
Peters didn't just enter the 2019 season with a reputation (and salary) of one of the best corners in football. He also entered it looking for a new deal. But the mercurial 26-year-old told ESPN's Lindsay Thiry he has bigger goals this year than a raise.
"I'm just here to play football," he said. "The rest of that stuff will take care of [itself] when it's time. I feel that you just keep coming and you do what you need to do and everything will get taken care of. We've got bigger goals, really."
His agent would be proud.
Player-speak aside, Peters is a better draw for Beckham than Aqib Talib-the younger Rams corner has been known to give up big plays in an effort to make one of his own. Never mind that on occasion it really doesn't matter how well OBJ is covered-he's open even if he ain't. The biggest concern here is a Cleveland offense that has run in fits and starts.
As a Browns fan, I'll say no more on that subject.
It's too depressing.