The Shadow Knows Week 3 2022

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


Well, last week's latest installment of the rivalry between Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans and New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore didn't disappoint-if you like some boxing with your football.

The second-half fracas between the duo earned Evans a one-game suspension, but Saints head coach Dennis Allen told reporters that he also had a talk with his cornerback about not doing things that could jeopardize his availability for future contests.

"He and I had a conversation. He understands. He understands that he can't retaliate and that's something that teams in this league are going to continue to try him on," Allen said. "A lot of the instances that I can think of, it's generally been a retaliation deal."

Thanks to that bit of WWE meets NFL, we won't be seeing Mike Evans and Jaire Alexander of the Green Bay Packers battle in Tampa. But Lattimore will bon the field for the Saints when they try to rebound from last week's loss to the Buccaneers in Carolina against Baker Mayfield, D.J. Moore and the Panthers.

Despite quarterback play the past two years in Charlotte that hasn't exactly been stellar, it's a matchup in which Moore has thrived the past couple of years. In Moore's last four matchups with the Saints, he has posted at least 15 PPR points three times, 20 PPR points twice and 25 PPR points once.

He also hasn't gotten in any fistfights. So there's that.

Philadelphia Eagles at Washington Commanders (Darius Slay vs. Terry McLaurin)

Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay is the NFC's reigning Defensive Player of the Week after a masterful performance against Justin Jefferson and the Minnesota Vikings that included a pair of interceptions and a career-high five passes defensed. The veteran cornerback told Zach Berman of The Athletic that Monday's showing was just a matter of an elite player rising to the occasion.

"If I see the ball, I get the ball," Slay said. "I want the rock. The rock gets you a lot of money. "The great players rise in that moment," Slay said. "I'm like, 'All right, Slay. Go out and execute.'"

It was an outing that made a big impression on new teammate A.J. Brown as well.

"I think Justin Jefferson had one catch and (Slay) had two, "Brown told reporters, referring to Jefferson's production with Slay as the closest player in coverage. "That's a big stat."

Slay has also generally risen to the occasion when asked to cover Washington's Terry McLaurin in the past. In five meetings with McLaurin, Slay has never allowed 75 yards in coverage, and McLaurin scored in just one of the contests. It's not all doom and gloom for "Scarry Terry" though-he posted at least a dozen PPR points in three of those outings.


Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins (Stefon Diggs vs. Xavien Howard)

So, it would appear that Stefon Diggs is pretty good at exploding the whole catching footballs thing. After exploding for 12 catches for 148 yards and three scores against the Titans in Week 2, Diggs already has 20 receptions for 270 yards and four touchdowns this season. However, as ESPN's Mike Clay wrote, Diggs is going to have to earn his numbers in Sunday's big AFC East showdown.

"Howard shadowed in Weeks 1 (DeVante Parker) and 2 (Rashod Bateman), and he has also shadowed Diggs in each of the past three meetings between these teams," he said. "Diggs' receiving lines in those three games were as follows: 7-76-0 on eight targets (Week 17, 2020), 4-60-1 on eight targets (Week 2, 2021) and 5-40-1 on six targets (Week 8, 2021). Howard is a great corner and perhaps limited Diggs' ceiling a bit (max 16.0 points), but he obviously hasn't been able to shut him down completely."

Of course, it goes without saying that anyone who would even consider sitting Diggs should either be drug-tested or find another hobby. And Howard can be had-Bateman got behind him for a 75-yard score in last week's shootout with the Ravens. But it won't be a huge surprise if Diggs posts a stat line this week that doesn't single-handedly carry fantasy teams to victory.


Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings (Jeff Okudah vs. Justin Jefferson)

There's no denying that Justin Jefferson of the Vikings is one of the absolute best wide receivers in the league. But against Darius Slay and the Eagles last week, Jefferson was held mostly in check-six catches on 12 targets for 48 yards. However, per Viti Chirco of All Lions, that down game could be bad news for the Lions, as the only thing Jefferson likes more than playing Detroit is playing them coming off a down game.

"Jefferson has been nearly unstoppable in his career vs. the Lions," he said. "In four games against Detroit, he's produced 30 receptions for 503 yards and a score. Those 30 catches and 503 receiving yards are both career-high marks for Jefferson against an opponent. Additionally, a season ago, the play-making wideout recorded two games with north of 100 receiving yards against Detroit, including a career-best 11 receptions and 182 yards in Week 13 at Ford Field. And, a week prior to his monstrous performance against the Lions, he had caught just four balls and had recorded no scores against the San Francisco 49ers."

It's possible that it wont even be Okudah on Jefferson Sunday, as Amani Oruwariye (back) is back at practice and would likely draw Jefferson in coverage if he's able to play. Frankly, given Jefferson's history against the Lions and with the game being in Minnesota, it's probably not going to make even a little difference who covers him.


Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (Rashod Bateman vs. Jalen Mills)

When the Ravens bid goodbye to Marquise Brown in the offseason, it cast a cloud of doubt over the Ravens wide receiver corps-a question of who would step up as the team's No. 1 wideout. Over the first two weeks of the season, Rashod Bateman has done his level best to answer that question-in emphatic fashion. And as the NFL's Next Gen Stats team wrote, he has become one of the league's most dangerous deep threats while doing it.

"Serving as the perfect complement to TE Mark Andrews," they said, "Bateman has gained 163 receiving yards when aligned wide this season, good for fifth most in the NFL. The second-year receiver has shown savvy route-running ability, averaging the sixth-most separation at the time of throw on his routes this season while still getting downfield (13.9 yards average route depth, ninth among 77 WRs with 40-plus routes run). Bateman showed off his blazing speed on his 75-yard catch-and-run TD against the Dolphins in Week 2, reaching a top speed of 21.48 mph, the fastest speed by any ball-carrier on a play from scrimmage this season."

There isn't a better defensive coordinator in the NFL at scheming a secondary than Bill Belichick. But two games into the season the Patriots are just a middling matchup for opposing wide receivers in terms of fantasy points allowed, and Bateman just posted a 4/108/1 stat line against Xavien Howard and the Dolphins. With due respect to Jalen Mills, he's not Xavien Howard.


Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (Cooper Kupp vs. Byron Murphy)

Arizona Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy may not be a household name, but the fourth-year pro turned in arguably the best coverage performance of the season last week in Las Vegas-Davante Adams had just two catches for 12 yards (and a score) in the overtime thriller. It was a showing that surprised plenty of people-but not Cardinals safety Budda Baker.

"It's great to know your teammate, your peer, you little brother wants that matchup," Baker said, via Darren Urban of the Cardinals' website. "He's mad when he doesn't get that matchup. You want guys who want to go up against the best that want to travel. We want those type of corners on this defense. In this league corners make good money for a reason."

As well as Murphy played last week, he's going from the frying pan to the fire this week. Through two weeks, Cooper Kupp of the Rams leads the league in receptions, ranks third in receiving yards and is tied for second in touchdown catches. Murphy has the experience in the slot to follow Kupp inside. But he doesn't have the superpowers necessary to keep Kupp from going all Copper Kupp.


Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals (Jalen Ramsey vs. Marquise Brown)

It has been something of a roller-coaster so far this season for Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey-he was beaten badly in coverage in Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills, but bounced back with a game-sealing interception last week against the Falcons. Per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, Ramsey's confidence in his ability to make a play when needed never wavered.

"When I'm in position to make a play, and I know the team needs it, I can step up to the occasion and make a play," Ramsey said. "I always ask for the 'hard down'. I always ask to be in the position that is tough for us … I like being put in those situations because I feel like if I can stand up and make a play, it can make a big impact for the team."

Ramsey's coverage numbers this year aren't great (his passer rating against is over 30 points higher than last year) and he has already allowed two touchdowns in coverage after surrendering just three in all of 2021. But we're still talking about one of the best cover corners in the game, and the last time the Rams and Cardinals faced off Los Angeles completely stymied the Arizona offense. This isn't a disastrous matchup for Brown (Ramsey doesn't shadow much more often than he does), but it's not a good one, either.


Atlanta Falcons at Seattle Seahawks (A.J. Terrell vs. DK Metcalf)

Sunday's meeting between the Seahawks and Falcons in Seattle may feature a pair of bad teams, but it also features a pair of the leagues brightest young stars at their respective positions in Seahawks wideout DK Metcalf and Atlanta cornerback A.J. Terrell. The problem, as Matt Urben from Falcons Wire pointed out, is that neither youngster has really gotten going in 2022.

"Terrell received plenty of well-deserved praise over the offseason, but even he would tell you this hasn't been his best two-game stretch. Atlanta's No. 1 cornerback has drawn another tough assignment in trying to stop DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett in Week 3. Metcalf has yet to get going this season - 11 catches for 71 receiving yards - but, like Kyle Pitts, he's a tremendous talent who's overdue for a breakout game. Terrell needs to make sure that doesn't happen on Sunday."

Terrell has already allowed as many touchdowns in coverage two games into the 2022 season as he allowed all of last year, and given his struggles this appears to be a matchup where Metcalf could get his season untracked. But the issue here isn't coverage. It's the limitations of Geno Smith as Seattle's quarterback-limitations that make it hard to trust Metcalf in fantasy leagues.