THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 4 2020
When you're the defending Super Bowl champs, every opponent gives you their best shot. You're the team everyone wants to beat. And you have to face a first-place schedule.
After dismantling a 14-win Ravens team in Baltimore last week, the 2020 Kansas City Chiefs don't appear even slightly interested in any of that.
Still, Week 4 brings with it another test in a home date with the New England Patriots-and that means matching up against Bill Belichick and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore. At first glance, one would think that Gilmore would shadow one of the NFL's most dangerous receivers in Tyreek Hill.
One would be wrong.
As Mike Tagliere wrote at Fantasy Pros, Hill had quite a bit of success earlier in his career against the Pats. And while things have improved since the Patriots started doubling Hill (while having Gilmore shadow Sammy Watkins), there's reason to think that another scorch-fest could be in order Sunday.
"The Patriots had major troubles with Hill in their first two meetings," Tagliere said, "when he totaled 7/133/1 and 7/142/3 but have since got a grip on him. Over the last two meetings they've held him to 1/42/0 and 6/62/0, which is much more in line with what we've come to expect from them. However, this is not the same defense and they've been struggling to contain receivers through three weeks, particularly those who are in the slot often. Tyler Lockett caught 7-of-8 targets for 67 yards and a touchdown, while Hunter Renfrow caught 6-of-9 targets for 84 yards and a touchdown last week. Jonathan Jones has been covering the slot for the most part, a cornerback who's allowed over a 100.0 QB Rating in his coverage since the start of last year. The Chiefs have had Hill in the slot almost 60 percent of the time this year, which makes him even more difficult to bracket in coverage."
Hill has been )by his standards, at least) good but not great in 2020-he's yet to have a 100-yard game. But it goes without staying you have to start the 26-year-old. Watkins in another story-per Matthew Freedman of the Action Network, in their last three meetings Watkins has just five catches for 85 yards on 13 targets while being covered by his former teammate in Buffalo.
New Orleans Saints at Detroit Lions (Marshon Lattimore vs. Kenny Golladay)
Golladay made his 2020 debut last week against the Arizona Cardinals, and all things considered he played well-six catches for 57 yards and a score on seven targets. Still, as Benjamin Raven of MLive reported, Golladay admitted that the hamstring injury that cost him the first two games of the year still isn't fully healed.
"Definitely, definitely feeling a lot better. Wouldn't say it's 100%; I really wouldn't even put a percentage on it, I just know I'm not, you know, 100%," Golladay said. "Like I said, I'm going to do everything I can."
Against the Cardinals, Golladay was on the field for about 71 percent of the team's snaps-and while it was good to see him back on the field with so many other star receivers banged up, it was also pretty clear that he's not totally himself yet. Add in a tough matchup with a corner in Marson Lattimore of the Saints who has had more than a little success against physical receivers over his time in the NFL, and Golladay's Week 4 prospects land more in lower-end WR2 territory.
Los Angeles Chargers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Casey Hayward vs. Mike Evans)
Mile Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers isn't piling up the yardage so far this season-just 108 yards in three games. But with four touchdowns already this year, the big-bodied wideout has shown how dangerous he is in the red zone. As teammate Carlton Davis told Rick stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, that's no surprise to people who "cover" him in practice every day.
"Mike is one of the most unstoppable receivers in our league right now, in my opinion,' Davis said. "There's a couple ways you can play him, but you'd definitely have to have a double down there on Mike, especially in the red zone area. He's just that much of a threat, obviously. But yeah, it's pretty hard to stop him because he's one of those receivers that can run any route in the route tree, and do it easily. You would have to depend on coverage to help you out there.'
Casey Hayward is an excellent corner-one capable of at least slowing Evans down. But with Chris Godwin out with a hamstring injury and Chargers corner Chris Harris on injured reserve, Evans should both get a huge target share and can avoid Hayward by kicking inside to the slot. Evans is a locked-in WR1 in Week 4.
Seattle Seahawks at Miami Dolphins (DK Metcalf vs. Xavien Howar
d) So, um, the Seattle Seahawks passing attack is pretty good.
Russell Wilson has been the NFL's best player over the first three weeks of the season, but a good portion of that success is attributable to DK Metcalf. Through three games, Metcalf has averaged well over 20 yards a catch and scored three times. It would have been four if he were more patient about showing off. Per ESPN 710 Radio in Seattle, head coach Pete Carroll wasn't shy about his feelings regarding Metcalf's Week 4 gaffe against the Dallas Cowboys.
"The play that happened earlier in the game was a horrible play for us," he said. "It goes against everything we believe in and DK knew it and all that. It's one of the harder lessons he'll have to learn, but it's a lesson for all of us … It was unfortunate because it was such a significant play for us, but I don't think that's ever going to happen again to any of us, so let's learn that lesson, win a game and get better for it."
There's a reason why Xavien Howard makes over $15 million a season. But after watching Metcalf roast Stephon Gilmore a couple weeks ago, it's becoming clear that if Wilson puts the ball in the right spot, it really doesn't matter who is covering Metcalf.
Baltimore Ravens at Washington Football Team (Marcus Peters vs. Terry McLaurin)
Geographically speaking, the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Football Team are close together. But in terms of level of play, the two couldn't be farther apart. Still, as JP Finlay wrote at NBC Sports Washington, it isn't all doom and gloom on Washington's offense.
At least they have Terry McLaurin.
"Through three games this year McLaurin ranks 7th among NFL wideouts with 16 catches for 269 yards and one touchdown," he said. "He's averaging nearly 17 yards-per-catch. And that's happening with arguably the worst quarterback play in the NFL. McLaurin is the ultimate team-first guy. He's not the type to talk about statistics or his ability to create after the catch, but that doesn't mean it's not happening."
McLaurin is 14th in PPR fantasy points among wide receivers through three games-with opposing defenses doing everything they can to stop him. But the Ravens defense has done well against the pass outside last week's loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, and the difference between Patrick Mahomes and Dwayne Haskins is…significant.
Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers (Patrick Peterson vs. D.J. Moore)
So far this season, D.J. Moore has been outshined (and outpointed) in Carolina by his new teammate Robby Anderson. But according to Tim Capurso of Rotoballer, this could set up as the week that Moore starts turning things around against the Arizona Cardinals.
"No team has allowed fewer fantasy points to the wide receiver position than the Cardinals, though fellow number-one wideouts Terry McLaurin and Kenny Golladay were able to post good numbers against this defense," he wrote. "Moore is of a similar talent level to those two and commands a whopping 49.4% of his team's targeted air yards, which ranks second in the league. The second-year pro also ranks 11th in the league in targets, so he's seeing ample opportunity."
There's a reason why No. 1 receivers have had some success against the Redbirds in 2020-and its name is Patrick Paterson. With the exception of shutting down DK Metcalf in Week 16 last year, Peterson has lost more battles with elite wideouts than he has won of late-including a passer rating against of almost 115 in 2020.
New York Giants at Los Angeles Rams (Darius Slayton vs. Jalen Ramsey)
Not much has gone right for the Giants in 2020-Saquon Barkley is out for the season, Daniel Jones has struggled and the offense has looked abjectly terrible. However, former Giants great Eli Manning told Tyler Henry of Giants Wire that he's been impressed with the play of second-year wideout Darius Slayton.
"I've been impressed with Darius, early last year when he came in, he had a hamstring (injury,) so he missed some time. But, once he got going, he played really well," Manning said. "He can really run; he can stretch the field. He's a tall guy where he can go up and make tough catches and contested catches. He has the ability. You know sometimes you get really fast guys, their intermediate routes aren't as good, that's not the case with Darius."
The problem in Week 4 isn't Slayton. It's that Jones has been an inaccurate mess. And that no other Giants pass-catcher has done anything to encourage opposing defenses not to bracket Slayton all day long. And that Ramsey will all but certainly follow New York's only viable weapon offensively around all day.
Slayton is a blah WR3/4 in Week 4-and that might be pushing it.
Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers (Calvin Ridley vs. Jaire Alexander)
Julio Jones might be the No. 1 receiver on the depth chart in Atlanta, but it's Calvin Ridley who has been the No. 1 receiver in all of fantasy football through three weeks. And as Matt Harmon wrote at Yahoo Sports, it may be time (at least from a fantasy perspective) to come to grips with the passing of the torch in Hotlanta.
As an aside, I have never met someone from Atlanta who didn't hate "Hotlanta" as a nickname.
"He's getting used like a real alpha receiver," Harmon said. "Ridley ranks sixth among wide receivers with a 27.8 percent share of Atlanta's passing targets. He is the only player in the NFL with 10-plus targets and most importantly, he's converting them. Ridley is the lone player to gain 100-plus yards through the air in every game this year. The offense is going to him in crucial situations, as he's tied for second among offensive players for targets inside the 10-yard line. He's run just 3.3 routes per game from the slot. There aren't many layup targets here to faux-fill the box score."
Jaire Alexander has shown flashes of elite coverage ability in his three-year career. Jones might be back after missing time with a hamstring injury. Blah blah blah.
Ridley's status as fantasy's top wideout isn't a fluke. And it may well hold through the end of the year.