THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 6 2019
The first Sunday game of the Week 6 slate takes place across the Atlantic in London, and while a 9:30 AM Eastern tilt between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers may not turn everyone's gears on this side of the ocean, the game features a pair of interesting matchups between elite wide receivers and high-end cornerbacks.
First, there's the latest meeting between a pair of big bodies in Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and James Bradberry of the Carolina Panthers. Evans is trying to wash off the stink off last week's goose-egg against the New Orleans Saints, but as Taylor Smith of NumberFire reported, in what's become a regular event of late between the two it's been Bradberry who had had the upper hand.
"Bradberry started shadowing Mike Evans at the start of the 2017 season," Smith said. "In the five matchups since then, Evans has caught less than half of his targets, has not scored a touchdown and averages less than 60 yards per game. Bradberry is the real deal, and his big frame matches up perfectly with Evans. Evans was also held without a catch on three targets against Marshon Lattimore, so we know what good shadow coverage can do to him. He could always smash with one big play, but his floor is obviously zero."
Bradberry and Evans have already locked horns once in 2019. In that 20-14 win by the Buccaneers in Week 2, Evans actually had one of his better efforts against Bradberry, notching four grabs for 61 yards. But even that OK effort in PPR scoring came on eight targets.
Meanwhile, as he's done with regularity during a breakout 2019, Chris Godwin feasted on the other side against speedy Panthers cornerback Donte Jackson. Godwin was targeted just one more time than Evans, but the third-year pro exploded for eight receptions for 121 yards and a score.
Fantasy football's No. 1 overall PPR wide receiver in 2019 should be just fine in Week 6.
I know-that's just the kind of hard-hitting analysis that makes this article worth….something.
Philadelphia Eagles at Minnesota Vikings (Alshon Jeffery vs. Xavier Rhodes)
One of the bigger games of Week 6 takes place in the Twin Cities between two 3-2 teams attempting to establish themselves as legitimate powers in the NFC. The visiting Eagles are trying to keep the pressure on the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East. The Minnesota Vikings can't afford to fall any farther behind the Green Bay Packers in the NFC North.
One of the bigger matchups inside the matchup is between Rhodes (who is one of the better shadow corners in the league) and Jeffery (who is easily the best wideout the Eagles have with DeSean Jackson on the shelf). In the opinion of Evan Macy of the Philly Voice, it's not a matchup that sets up well for Jeffery.
"The absence of DeSean Jackson (out until at least next week with an abdomen strain), has trickled down to effect the Eagles' wide receivers - all of whom have performed inconsistently without the deep threat over the top," he said. "Jeffery has a tough Week 6 battle ahead against Xavier Rhodes. Keep Jeffery benched if you have the option."
Given that it's an Eagles beat writer making the recommendation, I'm not inclined to argue with him.
New Orleans Saints at Jacksonville Jaguars (Marshon Lattimore vs. D.J. Chark)
That D.J. Chark is even being mentioned as a wide receiver worth of shadow coverage from Lattimore is testimony to just how well the young wide receiver has played this season. Chark's 27/485/5 stat line through five weeks slots the rookie fifth among wideouts in PPR fantasy points. That he's done that on just 37 targets-which ranks outside the top 20 among NFL receivers in 2019-is just nuts.
Much was written and said (including in this column) about Marshon Lattimore's struggles earlier this season-he looked nothing like the young corner who won Defensive Rookie of the Year honors back in 2017. But Lattimore has picked it up and then some of late-he shut Mike Evans down to the tune of an oh-fer on just three targets.
Obviously, you're starting Chark-his per-target efficiency this season is absolutely ridiculous. But Lattimore's playing well and Gardner Minshew (long may he reign) hasn't been at all averse to spreading the ball around and finding the open guy. It wouldn't be a surprise if Chark comes back to earth a little bit in Week 6.
Which means he'll catch three scores, because mustache something something.
Seattle Seahawks at Cleveland Browns (Tyler Lockett vs. Denzel Ward)
The Cleveland Browns have a host of problems five weeks into the season. I'd list them all here, but I'm a Browns fan and that don't need that sort of emotional trauma without access to a fully-stocked liquor cabinet. Frankly, the secondary has been pretty low on the list-Travis Carrie and Terrance Mitchell are capable veteran cornerbacks who have done surprisingly well filling in for Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams.
Still, it was good to see Ward and Williams back on the practice field this week, and it looks like both are trending toward playing Sunday when the 4-1 Seattle Seahawks visit the Factory of Sadness. The last thing Cleveland needs is to head into the bye 2-4 with two weeks to think about the impending Week 8 trip to Gillette Stadium to face the Patriots.
That said, even if Ward plays and is close to 100 percent, it's not a significant hit to Lockett's value-or at least no more so than the lack of target volume that gives fantasy owners heartburn on a weekly basis. There's a long layoff for the second-year corner. The fact that Lockett plays a lot more in the slot than Ward. And the whole Russell Wilson standing on his head this season thing.
Houston Texans at Kansas City Chiefs (DeAndre Hopkins vs. Bashaud Breeland)
No, seriously. Stop laughing.
Breeland's long been a favorite of the IDP crowd because he was a sure tackler who in coverage was, um…he was a sure tackler. But it now appears that Breeland's biggest problem may have been being mired in the fifth circle of football hell that is the Washington Redskins. Whether it was last year in Green Bay or over his first five games in KC, Breeland's been much better in coverage the past couple of seasons than he ever was in DC.
Per Hartitz, Breeland's been good enough that the Chiefs have actually placed him in shadow coverage some of late. The results would cause IDP kooks to do a full Adam Gase-Breeland hung a combined 9/83/1 line on Tyrell Williams and T.Y. Hilton.
Granted, we're talking about Nuk Hopkins here-so it's entirely possible that he'll just blow past Breeland like he's standing still. He's open when he isn't. But as we saw last week, Hopkins isn't the lock for a massive target share that some elite receivers are. He's already had as many games with less than 10 targets in 2019 as he had in 2017, and only one fewer than in all of last year.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (Tyler Boyd vs. Marlon Humphrey)
The Cincinnati Bengals haven't won a game in 2019. The Baltimore Ravens are in first place in the AFC North despite giving up more yards per play than any team in the NFL that isn't the Miami Dolphins (who-let's face it-are barely in the NFL). So, at first glance, while this looks like a game Baltimore will win, it also has the look of a game where Boyd would have a good stat line.
However, as Ian Hartitz pointed out at Rotoworld, Humphrey's done pretty well this season when asked to trail an opponent's best wideout-and his isn't afraid to follow Boyd into the slot.
"Humphrey has performed admirably as a shadow CB this season, limiting Sammy Watkins (5-64-0), Odell Beckham Jr. (2-20-0) and JuJu Smith-Schuster (7-75-1) over the last three weeks," Hartitz said. "Humphrey helped make up for the meh performance in coverage last week with what turned out to be a game-winning forced fumble on JuJu in overtime. The Ravens' No. 1 CB is expected to follow Boyd into the slot after doing so on 44% of his snaps in Week 5."
Boyd's target volume alone is enough to merit a start here-he's the only viable passing-game weapon Andy Dalton has at this point. But the matchup isn't as tasty as it first appears.