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THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 5 2019
By Gary Davenport
The last game of Week 5 features a potentially classic matchup between two of the best players at their respective positions of the past decade-plus-cornerback Richard Sherman and the undefeated San Francisco 49ers against wide receiver Odell Beckham and the Cleveland Browns.
Here's the thing though-it's not going to happen. Both Beckham and Sherman line up on the left side of their respective formations, and Sherman's never been a guy who really strays from that spot to shadow opposing receivers.
As a matter of fact, rather than facing Sherman, Beckham will be taking on a cornerback making his first career start. That player is second-year pro Emmanuel Moseley, who Sherman thinks is more than capable of holding his own against arguably the most dangerous wideout in the game.
"It's all of it," Sherman said, via Jacob Hutchinson of KNBR Radio. "It's his feistiness, it's his decision-making, it's his press, it's his confidence, it's his movement his ability to move, his lateral quickness, his straight-line speed. He'd honestly tell you he's probably the fastest one on the team. And he knows Marquise [Goodwin] is on the team. And you can appreciate that. Obviously, I don't think he's beating Marquise, but you know, he'd tell you otherwise. He's a guy that that can play this game at a high level and I don't think he's going to shy away from any challenge."
Sherman's praise is well and good, and Moseley may well be fast. But if he was all that and a bag of chips, he'd already be starting. With Jarvis Landry in the concussion protocol (and facing Sherman even if he does play) the chances of Baker Mayfield targeting Beckham early and often in this game is approximately 347 percent.
Check that. 1,762 percent. Because math.
I'm not saying that Moseley is going to get smoked like a brisket. But the last time we saw OBJ on Monday Night Football, he had an 89-yard score.
That was all the way back in the olden days of Week 2.
Pass the Sweet Baby Ray's please.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Carolina Panthers (D.J. Chark vs. James Bradberry)Raise your hand if you predicted that rookie D.J. Chark would be on pace to top 1,200 receiving yards and score a dozen touchdowns catching passes from a backup quarterback for the Jacksonville freaking Jaguars in 2019.
Put your hand down, Karnac. Lying's a sin.
That Chark's scoring streak was halted last week in Denver carries something of an asterisk-he actually did catch a touchdown pass only to see the play called back by a penalty. Through the season's first month, Chark is the 10th-ranked fantasy wide receiver in both standard scoring and PPR formats.
In related news, fantasy football is weird.
However, as great as Chark's been, Week 5 could bring a speed bump. It's not just a matter of Carolina's league-best passing defense that's giving up less than 160 yards per game. Or that the Panthers are 23rd in PPR fantasy points allowed to wide receivers. In two shadow matchups this season, Bradberry has limited Houston's DeAndre Hopkins and Tampa's Mike Evans to a combined stat line of 9/102/0 stat line combined.
Even Gardner Minshew's mustache has limits.
New England Patriots at Washington Redskins (Josh Gordon vs. Josh Norman)Josh Norman was once considered one of the best cover cornerbacks in the NFL. When he arrived in Washington, the Redskins gave him a five-year, $75 million contract. As Neil Greenberg pointed out for the Washington Post, to say the returns on that investment have diminished of late is an understatement.
"Opposing quarterbacks have been in on the joke for a while," he said. "In 2017, Norman was targeted fewer than four times a game, but he's now seeing almost seven passes per contest. And quarterbacks targeting Norman have been getting more efficient with each passing season. In 2016, Norman's first year for the Redskins, he held opposing quarterbacks to a respectable 74.3 passer rating against. The next year, that number ballooned to 114.1. It remained steady in 2018 (114.2) but has increased again this season. (The one season he allowed a higher passer rating against was 2013, early in his career, when he played just seven games.)
The days when Norman was a cornerback to be avoided in fantasy football are long gone. If anything, the opposite's true now-the Patriots will more likely than not attack him over the top with Gordon. Well, at least until New England's up three touchdowns, which should be at about the 11-minute mark of the first quarter,
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints (Mike Evans vs. Marshon Lattimore)
Given that Evans and Lattimore play in the same division, there's quite a bit of familiarity here-and maybe even a little contempt. Over the past couple of years, Lattimore has usually shadowed Evans. As Luke Johnson wrote for the New Orleans Times-Picauyne, the results have been mixed.
"Lattimore got the best of the matchup in 2017, as Evans caught just six passes on 19 targets for 68 yards in two games against the Saints," Johnson said. "Last year, Evans went off for 147 yards in the season opener against New Orleans, then turned in a more modest 86-yard effort in Week 14."
This year though, the dynamic in Tampa is quite a bit different, in that an argument can be made that Evans isn't even the Buccaneers No. 1 receiver. If Lattimore does shadow Evans, then that means the ridiculously hot Chris Godwin will draw the imminently roastable Eli Apple.
Again, pass the Sweet Baby Ray's. And maybe a bib. Things could get sloppy.
Minnesota Vikings at New York Giants (Stefon Diggs vs. Janoris Jenkins)The Vikings have single-handedly quintupled the amount of drama in the state of Minnesota. Adam Thielen and Kirk Cousins are best buds or about to fight in the parking lot, depending on who you ask. Stefon Diggs hasn't asked for a trade but wouldn't say that he didn't ask his agent to. Amy Klobuchar challenged Kirk Cousins to a fight.
One of those might be made up.
But if ever there was a week for the Minnesota passing game to get right, this is it. The Giants are 25th in the NFL in pass defense, allowing just under 280 yards a game-after playing what's left of the Washington Redskins last week.
This is it. This is the big red button game for Diggs and Thielen. Jenkins, like Josh Norman, is MUCH more name than talent at this point. If Cousins can't have a day against this combo-platter of an iffy pass rush (on a good day) and leaky back end?
At least we can look forward to Klobuchar wiping the floor with the worst use of $28 million a season in NFL history.
Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers (Courtland Sutton vs. Casey Hayward)Courtland Sutton needs a hug.
Emmanuel Sanders is stuck in the same third circle of AFC West Hell that Sutton is, but he's a veteran player with a Super Bowl ring who's being mentioned daily in trade rumors. He might actually get to leave Denver.
Sutton's stuck-a talented young receiver on pace for 80-plus catches, 1,200-plus yards and eight scores on a terrible football team. He's the leading candidate to be this year's Tyler Boyd-if Tyler Boyd isn't this year's Tyler Boyd again.
This week, it'll be that much worse. Not only are the Broncos probably going to lose (and I say probably only because no one Chargers like the Chargers), but he faces a cornerback in Casey Hayward who has (as he often does) dominated Sutton to this point-four catches and no scores in two meetings.
Keenan Allen and Chris Harris will hook up in this game too, and I'd give them an entry of their own-but with the Bolts WR corps banged-up and Allen already among the most targeted wideouts in the NFL he's a must-start even if the Broncos give Harris help with a safety, an equipment manager and that dude who showed up to games in the 80s wearing nothing but a barrel.
Those were simpler times.
Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys (Jaire Alexander vs. Amari Cooper)Frankly, this matchup probably should have led this article off. But it's my article, my name isn't Frank and I'm a Browns homer. So there.
Come for the lousy analysis. Stay for the even lousier humor. That's how I roll.
Amari Cooper came back down to earth a bit in last week's low-scoring affair against the Saints, but his career numbers at AT&T Stadium are-let's go with robust. Jaire Alexander, on the other hand, is one of the better young corners in the game-a Star (get it? Star? Dallas? Am I trying too hard yet?) in the making. But as Ian Hartitz wrote at Rotoworld, the biggest factor in this matchup might have noting to do with either of them.
"The Packers' elite pass rush," Hartitz said, "could have a field day against a Cowboys offensive line that won't have the services of LT Tyron Smith (ankle, doubtful). The Cowboys have struggled to function as a top-tier offense without their stud LT in past years. This was most notable in 2017, when the Cowboys scored seven, nine, 12 and six points in four games that Smith played a combined three snaps in."
Green Bay's secondary is quite good. If last week's home loss to the Eagles was any indication, the run D is, um, not. It's a game that sets up well for a big day from Ezekiel Elliott, and quite possibly another so-so statistical outing for the Cowboys through the air.