The Shadow Knows Week 4 2017

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport It’s not all that often that you get a double-dip of big-name cornerback vs. similarly renowned wide receivers in the same game. But that’s the case on Sunday in the Mile High City, when Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree of the Oakland Raiders travel to face Aqib Talib, Chris Harris and the “No Fly Zone” defense of the Denver Broncos.

Oakland head coach Jack Del Rio allowed to Michael Wagaman of the San Francisco Chronicle that the Oakland offense will have its hands full Sunday.

“They’re really good,” said Del Rio. “They’re gifted. Aqib and Chris (Harris Jr.), (Bradley) Roby has really come on. I think those three guys are as good as any three in the league. Very talented. A good pass rush in front of them and they’re real sticky. It’s going to be a big challenge for us.”

There’s also no shortage of bad blood between the two teams. In last year’s regular season finale (a Denver win that cost the Raiders the AFC West title) Talib reached out and literally snatched Crabtree’s gold chain right off his neck.

Sadly for fantasy owners, the Broncos did most of the snatching where last season was concerned. Cooper did catch one touchdown during the team’s two meetings, but he managed just 10 catches for 95 yards in the two games combined. Crabtree was even quieter, making just seven grabs for 74 yards.

Granted, Derek Carr didn’t play in the second game, but expectations should likely be tempered where the Oakland pass-catchers are concerned in Week 4.

Here’s a look at the best of the rest of the wideout/corner showdowns this week.

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (vs. LAR – Trumaine Johnson)

After being limited to just two catches last week for the second time in three games and with only 11 catches for 114 yards on the season, there’s been more than a little grumbling about Dez Bryant’s slow start this season. But the 28-year-old told Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he’s amused by all the proclamations of his demise.

“That’s funny to me,” said Bryant. “It doesn’t bother me because I know I am.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Bryant may think it’s funny, but his fantasy owners aren’t laughing. Bryant was targeted just twice last week against the Cardinals, and he’s on pace to come up short of 1,000 receiving yards for the third straight season. Part of those struggles stem from facing the likes of Patrick Peterson and Janoris Jenkins in coverage, and things don’t get any easier this week against Trumaine Johnson, who has allowed a passer rating against of just over 65.

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (vs. NYG – Janoris Jenkins)

Xavier Rhodes and the Minnesota Vikings did a pretty good job of holding Evans in check last week, limiting Tampa’s star wideout to seven catches for 67 yards. Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins told Paul Schwartz of the New Post he’s looking to put up a similar effort – including a takeaway or two.

“(Jameis Winston) can be prone to (interceptions),” Jenkins said. “They’re explosive on the outside, they got some big threats as receivers, and Jameis is gonna try to force the ball and get it up any way he can.

Jenkins also told James Kratch of that despite New York’s 0-3 start he feels like the team established some momentum last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. "I just feel like everybody's got a sense of urgency around here now. I think we woke up. Just ready and excited to see us go on Sunday," Jenkins said. "You see more energy. Everybody knows what's at stake. Everybody's moving around and just trying to find a way."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Jenkins established some momentum of his own last week, helping to hold Alshon Jeffery to four catches for 56 yards. Jenkins is one of the few corners in the NFL who has the physicality to body up Evans, and while the Tampa wideout is an obvious fantasy must-start he’s going to need his “A” game and then some to post a big stat line in Week 4.

Pierre Garcon, San Francisco 49ers (at AZ – Patrick Peterson)

Garcon exploded for seven catches for 142 yards in last week’s wild loss to the Los Angeles Rams, but Ladd Biro wrote for the Dallas Morning News that fantasy owners looking for a repeat are setting themselves up to be disappointed.

“Garcon had his best game in years last week against the Rams, but don’t expect to see that again any time soon,” Biro said. “Not only is Brian Hoyer still under center, but Patrick Peterson will be blanketing Garcon throughout this game. Seattle held him to 26 yards on three catches in Week 2, which sounds about right for this week.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Three grabs for 26 yards might be a bit lowball, but if Biro’s off it isn’t by much. More than any corner in the NFL Peterson spends his Sunday’s in the opposing team’s best receiver’s hip pocket, and last week he stymied Dez Bryant to the tune of two catches for 15 yards.

OK, so that was a Monday – but you get the gist. Garcon’s a shaky fantasy play this week.

Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs (vs. WAS – Josh Norman)

In Ike Taylor’s newest cornerback rankings at, Washington’s Josh Norman has now moved into the top spot.

“What an outing by the Redskins' defense in the team's upset win over Oakland,” Taylor said. “The Raiders' offense was completely out of sorts, as Derek Carr's favorite targets (Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree) had one catch apiece. Norman, who lined up 11 times against Cooper and five against Crabtree, allowed just one catch for seven yards (to Crabtree), letting his dominant performance be known after the contest. Washington's CB1 has yet to give up a touchdown this season, but will face another tough opponent in Week 4, when Washington heads to Kansas City. The focus for Norman, who's vulnerable on deep routes, will be keeping the sunroof closed on the Chiefs' Ferrari (Tyreek Hill).”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Norman’s vulnerability to being beaten over the top isn’t the only reason to think that Hill could be just fine in Week 4. The Redskins have gone back to their defensive strategy from early in 2016, when Norman stayed primarily on one side of the field rather than shadowing the opponent’s top wideout. That should make it easier for the Chiefs to scheme Hill into matchups with Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller.

T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis Colts (at SEA – Richard Sherman)

The last time T.Y. Hilton faced the Seahawks, he torched the “Legion of Boom” for five catches for a whopping 140 yards and two touchdowns. That was back in 2013, when he told Jarrett Bell of USA Today that Seahawks corner Brandon Browner really shouldn’t have shot his mouth off before the game.

"Browner said I'm light as (expletive)," Hilton said. "He made me hit the light switch that nobody's seen. He made that decision. So they should blame him. Richard Sherman? He wouldn't even look me in the eye. Not at all. The whole time."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Hilton flipped a similar switch last week against the Cleveland Browns, lighting them up for seven catches for 153 yards and a score. That’s not going to be an easy feat to duplicate Sunday, however. The Seahawks are 24th in PPR fantasy allowed to wide receivers this year, and while Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett looked good last week there’s a slight difference between Seattle’s defense and the Clowns.

Gary Davenport is a Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks, an NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, a Contributing Writer at Rotoworld and a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Gary was the winner of the 2015 FSWA award for Print Article of the Year.