The Shadow Knows Week 5 2017

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport It isn’t very often that one of the most intriguing matchups in a week of NFL action involves the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It’s been that kind of year so far.

Still, where matchups between cornerbacks and wide receivers go, that’s certainly the case in Week 5, when Antonio Brown and the Pittsburgh Steelers play host to Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye and the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense.

You heard that right. The Jags are tops in the NFL, at just 147 yards a game allowed.

In one corner, we have Brown. Not only is he arguably the league’s best wide receiver, but he’s likely on a mission this week after drawing criticism for last week’s sideline outburst from head coach Mike Tomlin.

"I didn’t see it on Sunday, I heard about it,” Tomlin told Sam Quinn of 247 Sports. “He’s a competitor, but he has to control it. If he does not, it can work against him, it can work against us. It doesn’t need to happen. It shouldn’t happen moving forward. This isn't his first rodeo. Be a professional."

In the other corner, we have Bouye and Ramsey – perhaps the best tandem at cornerback east of the “No Fly Zone.” Ramsey is allowing a passer rating against of less than 25. Bouye’s is just over 35. That’s two corners with a passer rating against of less than 40.

As ESPN’s Michael DiRocco reported, Ramsey wasn’t shy in offering his opinion of just how good the Jacksonville secondary is. “A.J. is the best corner in the league, so it’s kind of like pick your poison,” Ramsey said. “Who are you going to throw it at? Are you going to throw it at the best corner in the league or are you going to throw it at [the] second-best or one of the top five corners in the league?

Obviously if you own Brown in fantasy football you’re starting him. But this is a uniquely difficult challenge. If you scheme Brown off one top-five cornerback you land him squarely in the crosshairs of another.

Simply put, AB is going to have to earn every catch at Heinz Field on Sunday.

Keenan Allen, Los Angeles Chargers (at NYG – Janoris Jenkins)
Despite ranking inside the NFL’s top 10 in catches (19), Allen sits outside the top 40 in yards after catch. "I'm most definitely trying to attack the YAC (yards after catch)," Allen told Eric Williams of ESPN. "It's being a baller. Once you get the ball you have to turn into a punt returner or runner, and just go at it."

THE SHADOW SAYS: I hate to be the one to break it to Allen, but this doesn’t feel like the week he starts racking the YAC. The Giants are every bit as desperate as the 0-4 Chargers – likely more so, given the bigger expectations on Big Blue this season. And with Jenkins upgraded to a full participant in practice Thursday, one of the more physical corners in the NFL will be as healthy as he’s been in a while.
This might be another Tyrell Williams week.

Kelvin Benjamin, Carolina Panthers (at DET – Darius Slay)
Head coach Ron Rivera told ESPN’s David Newton that he thinks last week’s big game is just the tip of the iceberg for Benjamin in 2017. “Right now, our quarterback [Cam Newton] is improving daily, weekly, as was shown by this past Sunday,” Newton said. “As he continues to get stronger and stronger in our system, it’s going to show with the success we could have potentially with our receivers, our tight ends, our backs.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: It was supposedly going to be hard to throw on New England this year, but Benjamin and the Panthers were just the latest team to scorch the Pats. The sledding should be a bit tougher this week in Motown. Not only has Slay intercepted a par of passes already, but his passer rating against is south of 50 and he’s yet to give up a touchdown in coverage this season.

DeAndre Hopkins, Houston Texans (vs. KCC – Marcus Peters)
As Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle wrote, DeAndre Hopkins is loving life with his new quarterback. "I feel like a rookie," Hopkins said. "When you’ve got a guy like Deshaun out there that’s doing things that I haven’t done since I’ve been in college in that offense, just scrambling with a quarterback that can make plays after the play is considered dead. It’s a good feeling just knowing you have a guy that’s going to keep plays continued. A guy like Deshaun, it’s the same offense but still, we have to do what he does best.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: I’m an IDP (individual defensive players, for those not hip to the lingo) guy, and as one I like Peters in this game. But it isn’t because I expect him to shut “Nuk” down. It’s because he’s a big play corner facing a rookie quarterback who is going to target Hopkins at least a dozen times. Peters may well have a pick-six in this game. It won’t matter. Hopkins will still get his.

Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. ARZ – Patrick Peterson)
Per Aaron Kasinitz of Penn Live, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz said that he isn’t going to necessarily shy away from targeting Patrick Peterson Sunday. "We definitely emphasize staying aggressive," Wentz said. "Much like some of the other corners we've played, though, you know where he's at. You definitely have a respect for a guy like that. I mean, he's shown it year and year out, and you put on the tape, and the guy is a heck of a football player. I have a lot of respect for [Peterson], but we're not going to necessarily fear him. We don't like to fear anyone around here."

THE SHADOW SAYS: Wentz might not be sweating Peterson (at least publicly), but Jeffery’s fantasy owners likely should be. More than any other cornerback in the National Football League, Peterson is a true “shadow” corner who will follow an opponent’s top wideout all over the field. In Week 4, Peterson limited Pierre Garcon to four catches for 36 yards. The week before, he held Dez Bryant to two grabs for 12 yards, although one was a touchdown.

Sammy Watkins, Los Angeles Rams (vs. SEA – Richard Sherman)
Matt Lutovsky of The Sporting News isn’t feeling Watkins’ matchup with Sherman and the Seahawks in Week 5. “Watkins hasn't done much outside of a big Week 3 against the 49ers, getting just two targets apiece in Weeks 2 and 4,” he said. This week, he figures to see a lot of Richard Sherman, which will likely keep him down again. There's always upside with someone like Watkins, but the risk here is pretty high, as well.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Neither are we (and be “we” I mean me and the voices in my head). Consider it a combination of factors. Sherman predominantly stays on the right side of the field, so in theory the Rams could move Watkins around if they were intent on feeding him the ball. To date though they’ve shown little indication they’re willing to alter their game plan to target a specific receiver. They appear more content to simply throw to the guy who is open – and in Week 5 that’s going to be Cooper Kupp.