THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 3 2021
There's little question what the marquee matchup of Week 3 is. On Sunday afternoon at SoFi Stadium, the NFL's highest-scoring offense in 2021 will face the NFL's stingiest defense from 2020 in a potential NFC Championship Game preview when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers square off with the Los Angeles Rams.
There are any number of fascinating matchups within the matchup in this game, but the most intriguing is arguably the league's best man cornerback in Jalen Ramsey of the Rams versus the most consistently productive wide receiver in the game in Tampa's Mike Evans.
These teams met in 2020 as well, with the Rams beating the Bucs by a field goal in Tampa. As Scott Smith reported for the Buccaneers website, Ramsey shadowed Evans most of that game-and the results were less than encouraging for fantasy managers.
"When the Bucs and Rams met last November," Smith said, "Los Angeles assigned Ramsey to shadow Mike Evans, and Evans finished the game with four catches for 40 yards. That's actually pretty good! The Rams frequently use Ramsey in this way on an opponent's top receiver, and the results are usually pretty dramatic. For instance, Ramsey shadowed Seattle's DK Metcalf in Week 10 last year and held the explosive receiver without a catch. He only allowed the Cardinals' DeAndre Hopkins to haul in five passes in two games last season, as well. This is precisely why Ramsey's interception totals - 12 in five-plus seasons, just one in each of the last two years - seem underwhelming. He simply dissuades opposing quarterbacks from throwing in his direction."
Ramsey's ability to shut down opposing receivers would appear to open the door for a bigger night for Chris Godwin, who will likely spend most of the night in the slot (and away from Rams corner Darious Williams). But with Antonio Brown on the COVID-19 list and unlikely to play, the Rams will probably devote extra attention to Godwin while Ramsey isolates on Evans. The Tampa wideouts are both must-starts, but they are going to have to earn it in Week 3.
Maybe Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski will catch three scores this week instead of his usual (yawn) two.
Los Angeles Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs (Keenan Allen vs. L'Jarius Sneed)
Kansas City cornerback L'Jarius Sneed is arguably the best player in the league at his position that most casual fans have never heard of-Sneed allowed a passer rating against of less than 55 last year and is so good that opposing quarterbacks have targeted him all of three times in two games this season. But as Ian Hartitz wrote at Pro Football Focus, Sneed is all but certainly gonna get thrown at in Week 3.
"One of just three receivers to gain at least 100 yards in both Week 1 and 2, Allen has racked up at least 10 targets in 11 of his 13 non-injury-shortened games with Justin Herbert under center," he said. "Even the non-qualified games produced seven and eight targets; the Chargers passing game still flows through Allen first and foremost."
It's possible we'll see that rare dip in targets in Week 3, and this matchup is a downgrade for his fantasy value. But the Chargers are going to have to throw the ball against an angry Chiefs team, so Allen is still a solid bet for at least WR2 numbers. If Herbert does shy away from Sneed, it could also mean that the Mike Williams breakout tour continues and/or tight end Jared Cook has himself a day.
Washington Football Team at Buffalo Bills (Terry McLaurin vs. Tre'Davious White)
Terry McLaurin is coming off a big WR vs. CB "win"-he piled up 11 catches for 107 yards and a score in last week's win over the New York Giants despite spending most of the game being covered by James Bradberry. As Bryan Manning wrote for Washington Wire, McLaurin knows that things won't get any easier this week against Buffalo's Tre'Davious White.
"He can play press-man, his press-man technique is very patient," McLaurin said. "He does a really good job of cutting off the receivers when they get into the stems of their routes. He's strong when he's in press coverage with his game. He can run with pretty much any receiver out there, which makes it really tough. So, when he's playing off, he does a really good job of reading the receiver's body language. So if you're taking any false steps, you're leaning any routes, he's going to jump it."
There's little question that McLaurin will get his in the way of targets-Taylor Heinicke threw at him 14 times against the Giants. But there's also little question that Buffalo has been tough against the pass this season. The Bills are second in the league at 161 passing yards allowed per game, and Buffalo ranks 22nd in PPR points surrendered to wide receivers.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams (Carlton Davis vs. Robert Woods)
While Jalen Ramsey gets all the headlines, it was Carlton Davis who got a ring as the top corner for the Buccaneers last year. Per Mark Inabinett of AL.com, the next thing on his agenda is upping is Q score a bit by shutting down opposing wide receivers-including Robert Woods of the Rams this week.
"I'm just going to keep being me," Davis said. "Keep locking it down. Keep doing what I do. Unfortunately, I can't control what the media, who they want to promote or who they like. But if you take the numbers, if you take the stats, take the film -- I'm second to none. Second to none, so I'm going to keep holding it down, playing for my teammates, playing for the city and keep doing what I do. However it shakes out is however it shakes out.
With that said, in last season's meeting with Davis and the Bucs, both Woods (12/130/1) and Cooper Kupp (11/145/0) went off on the Tampa secondary. It's a different year with a different quarterback, but Matt Stafford and Kupp's bromance is a bigger threat to Woods' Week 3 fantasy value than Davis, talented though he may be.
New York Giants at Atlanta Falcons (James Bradberry vs. Calvin Ridley)
The Shadow Knows has already mentioned that Giants cornerback James Bradberry had a game to forget last week against Terry McLaurin. But as Giants head coach Joe Judge told reporters earlier this week (via Scott Thompson of Yahoo Sports), things aren't going to get any easier this week when he faces Calvin Ridley of the Atlanta Falcons.
"Ridley's as good as they come," Judge said. "He's savvy, runs great routes, has good hands. He's very quick at going upfield. He has agility in open space to make you miss if you're not a good, sound tackler. Fundamentals in the open space will be key against this guy."
Much like the Atlanta offense as a whole, Ridley has started slow this season-a 12/114/1 line on 16 targets to open the season. However, like McLaurin, Ridley is a less big-bodied, physical receiver than a quick, savvy route-runner. Those are the types of receivers Bradberry sometimes struggles with, and Ridley has had success against him in the past. The bigger issue for Ridley may be a lack of complimentary receivers to draw bracket coverage away from him.
Seattle Seahawks at Minnesota Vikings (DK Metcalf vs. Patrick Peterson)
While Tyler Lockett has gone absolutely ballistic to start the season, DK Metcalf has been relatively disappointing for fantasy managers-10 catches for 113 yards and a score through two games. As Brady Henderson wrote for ESPN, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said that Metcalf's biggest issue early in the year might be an overabundance of exuberance.
"He was really jacked for both games, early in them, and tried too much to have an impact," Carroll said. "He's finding his way. He's so prepared to go for it and he's finding his way. He had a couple of penalties that were costly because he was going overboard a little bit."
It's worth pointing out that Metcalf has had six catches for 75 yards and a score against Peterson's former team in Arizona-in four career games. But that has less to do with Peterson's coverage than a lack of coverage. After watching the Minnesota secondary get absolutely cooked in two games this season, any opposing receiver is a plus start against the Vikings.
And if Lockett draws Bashaud Breeland most of Sunday? Oh good lord.
Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys (Darius Slay vs. CeeDee Lamb)
Through two games this season, there isn't a wide receiver in the NFL who has been targeted more than CeeDee Lamb of the Dallas Cowboys. And with Amari Cooper nursing a rib injury, Dalton Del Don of Yahoo Sports believes that Lamb will be more than just a WR1 in Week 3-he predicted the second-year pro will be the WR1.
"Given that Lamb saw 15 targets on the opening slate, I wouldn't be shocked if he sees close to 20 against the Eagles," he said. "He's averaging 7.5 yards after the catch per reception and the Eagles showed some susceptible moments when trying to tackle Deebo Samuel in the open field last week. Philadelphia will also play without star pass rusher Brandon Graham this week and going forward."
To be fair, Slay has played better this year after getting roasted so much in 2020 that he was almost traded to Arby's. But with Michael Gallup already on IR and Cooper limited at best, Lamb is going to be thrown at early and often. Slay could have a relatively solid outing and Lamb still post top-10 numbers. Del Don may well be right.