THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 6 2020
To say that the Dallas Cowboys are reeling is the mother of all understatements.
The 2020 season had already started in rough fashion for the Cowboys, who opened the season 1-3-largely due to a defense that couldn't stop anyone. As it turns out, that leaky defense is the least of Dallas' problems
When quarterback Dak Prescott crumpled to the ground at AT&T Stadium last week with a shattered ankle, any realistic chance the Cowboys had of turning their season around and making a deep playoff run disappeared. However, Dallas defensive end Demarcus Ware did his best to pretend that wasn't the case, telling CBS Sports that he thinks longtime Cincinnati Bengals starter Andy Dalton can step up and lead the Cowboys to a win Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals.
"He's one of those guys where somebody's gotten hurt and that second-string guy goes in and balls out," Ware said, "We wish (Dak) well, you're praying for him, but now you've got another guy who can still get the job done in Andy Dalton. "He's gonna be throwing that football. Andy Dalton has to be the new leader."
As backups go, you could do a lot worse than a three-time Pro Bowler who has 133 career starts and five trips to the playoffs under his belt. But there's no denying that the change at quarterback adversely impacts the fantasy value of Cowboys wideouts Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and CeeDee Lamb. After all, Prescott was averaging a gaudy 422.5 passing yards per game heading into Week 5.
Dalton ain't doing that.
Against the Cardinals, it's Cooper who will draw eight-time Pro Bowler Patrick Peterson in coverage most of the afternoon. But at this point in his storied career, Peterson is more name than force between the lines. The insertion of Dalton under center (and the uncertainty it raises about Cooper's target share) is a larger fantasy concern than a cornerback whose best days as a player are probably behind him.
Houston Texans at Tennessee Titans (Bradley Roby vs. A.J. Brown)
Brown made his return to the Titans lineup last week and didn't waster any time making an impact, peeling off seven receptions for 82 yards and a score against the Buffalo Bills. Mike Tagliere of Fantasy Pros expects the good times to keep rolling this week despite shadow coverage from Houston's No. 1 cornerback in Bradley Roby.
"He's surely going to draw Bradley Roby in coverage, as he's been shadowing opposing No. 1 receivers," Tagliere said. "That's been a bit of hit-and-miss, as he limited D.J. Chark to just 3/16/0 on four targets last week but allowed Adam Thielen to work the secondary for 8/114/1 on 10 targets the prior week. Roby is far from a shutdown cornerback, though he can be limiting at times. The downside for Brown is that they don't move him around a lot or into the slot, which is where Roby struggles in coverage. As a whole, the Texans have allowed 1.96 PPR points per target to wide receivers, which ranks as the seventh-most in the league, including a massive 71.3 percent completion-rate. Brown hasn't ever been the type to see a dozen targets or anything, so the high catch-rate matters."
Roby is a good cornerback, but he's not a great one-he's allowed over 70 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed and has a passer rating against of nearly 105. With both Corey Davis and Adam Humphries still on the COVID-19 list, Brown should see a hefty target share in Nashville Sunday. Start him with confidence.
Washington Football Team at New York Giants (Terry McLaurin vs. James Bradberry)
New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry played for Ron Rivera in Carolina for the first four seasons of his NFL career. Per the Giants website, ahead of this week's reunion as opponents Rivera had some very complimentary things to say about the lanky cornerback.
"He's a big, physical corner," Rivera said. "That's what we needed in Carolina to be able to be competitive in the division because if you look at who he played against, [Saints WR] Michael Thomas, [Buccaneers WR] Mike Evans, he played against those kinds of guys, [Falcons WR] Julio Jones, [Falcons WR] Calvin Ridley. This guy competed at the highest level against the highest level players, and so he's just one of those guys that came to work and was physical and was dependable. Sure, he might've gotten beaten once in a while but man, he would come back, line up and he would be physical. And he's a guy that I knew would get a good opportunity and really I think he's a guy that the more he works at it, the more reps he gets, the better and better he keeps getting."
Bradberry has been a bright spot for the Giants this year-allowing just a 56.7 completion percentage and a passer rating against under 85. But the bigger concern with McLaurin (as evidenced by last week's miserable 3/26/0 stat line) at this point is the disastrous situation under center in the nation's capital.
Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Jaire Alexander vs. Mike Evans)
In many respects, the Buccaneers have been their own worst enemy in 2020-the team is tied for the league lead in accepted penalties and leads the NFL in penalty yardage. As wide receiver Mike Evans told Eduardo Encina of the Tampa Bay Times, that has to stop for the Buccaneers to make a run at being the first team to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium.
"We definitely have to be better if we want to be a championship team, which we're capable of being," Evans said. "We have to eliminate these penalties. It's been like that since Day 1 since I've been here. We have to change that around if we want to be champions, and I think we can do that. We've just got to hold each other accountable, and make an effort on Sunday (against the Packers) to do that."
It's been a weird year for Evans, who has less than 45 receiving yards in three of five games but has scored a touchdown in every contest this season. That nose for the end zone alone makes Evans a must-start in fantasy, but in addition to a tough fantasy matchup with one of the league's better young corners in Green Bay's Jaire Alexander the return of Buccaneers wideout Chris Godwin could eat into Evans' target share.
Green Bay Packers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Davante Adams vs. Carlton Davis)
The absence of Davante Adams hasn't stopped the Green Bay Packers from racking up wins, but the team has sorely missed its top wide receiver. It's not a sure bet that Adams will be back in action Sunday in Tampa, but head coach Matt LaFleur told ESPN that the Pack is cautiously optimistic Adams will be back in Week 6.
"We'll just see how his body responds," LaFleur said. "I know 'Te has done everything in his power, just like he did two weeks ago before we played Atlanta. He's always doing whatever he can to get out on the field to play with his teammates because he knows he's an important part of what we're trying to get done here. He's a great player, and I love the way he approaches everything."
Fantasy managers want Adams back on the field just as badly as the Packers, and of course if he's active he should be in starting lineups. But it's worth noting that third-year pro Carlton Davis (who is himself nicked up) of the Buccaneers has quietly been solid in shadow coverage, limiting Allen Robinson of the Bears and Michael Thomas of the Saints to 12 catches for 107 yards on 21 targets.
Baltimore Ravens at Philadelphia Eagles (Marquise Brown vs. Darius Slay)
After something of a slow start, Marquise Brown's production has picked up of late-10 catches on 18 targets for 163 yards and a score over the last two weeks. As Aaron Kasinitz reported for Penn Live, offensive coordinator Greg Roman said getting Brown on track will come with doing the same with the vertical passing game.
"We have to start hitting on some of our downfield throws," Roman said. "When you run the ball a lot, you definitely need to be able to attack the intermediate and downfield parts of the field. And that's something that - really, [like] everything we're doing right now - is a work in progress. So, guys are working hard. We've hit all those passes before, and we'll hit them again. We just have to get into a rhythm."
The issue here isn't Brown, who leads the Ravens with a 27 percent share. It's not Slay, either-he's an excellent cornerback and appears to be on track to be cleared from the concussion protocol, but he's not a value-killer in and of himself. The biggest problem with Brown's fantasy value this year has been Lamar Jackson, whose deep-ball accuracy has been spotty. That makes Brown a boom/bust WR2 pick, although one with a sky-high fantasy ceiling.
Kansas City Chiefs at Buffalo Bills (Tyreek Hill vs. Tre'Davious White)
White's value to the Bills has never been more clear than last week against the Titans. With the fourth-year veteran on the sideline with a back injury, Ryan Tannehill carved up the Bills secondary like a Christmas ham. Per the team's website, Bills defensive coordinator didn't mince words when discussing White-he's an elite cornerback and arguably the team's best defender.
"To be elite you've got to be able to cover," Bills assistant head coach/defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "That's pretty important in our league and that's what those guys get paid to do. Be able to play man-to-man coverage. And then the smarts that come along with that. Usually those guys that are really elite, they're hard workers, very talented skill-wise. The part that gets left out is that they're really smart players."
White was able to practice in a limited fashion Thursday and Friday, and he looks to be on track to return for one of the biggest games of Week 6. Even with White out there, Tyreek Hill is an every-week must-start who can blow a stat line wide open with one touch. If White isn't on the field Monday at Orchard Park, then Hill has a good shot at racking up approximately all the yards ever.