THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 7 2020
One of the biggest games on the Week 7 slate takes place in Los Angeles, where the 4-2 Rams will host the 5-1 Chicago Bears. Because of course the Bears have only lost one games despite ranking 28th in the league in total offense and 27th in scoring.
It is 2020, after all.
Where the passing game is concerned, most of what offense the Bears have generated has gone through Allen Robinson. Six weeks into the season, there isn't a more targeted receiver in the NFL than Robinson, who has been thrown at 66 times. The 27-year-old has turned those targets into 40 receptions for 474 yards and two touchdowns-numbers that land him ninth at his position in PPR fantasy points.
When a wideout gets thrown at more than anyone else in the league and he ranks inside the top-10 in fantasy points, he's going to be rolled out every week. But as Matthew Freedman wrote for the Action Network, this week's tilt with the Rams brings a meeting with Pro Bowler Jalen Ramsey-and more than a few red flags.
"(Robinson) is 32-367-2 on 48 targets over the past month," he said. "The quarterback switch from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles has reinvigorated him. This week, though, our expectations for Robinson should be held in check. When the Bears and Rams played last year in Week 11, Robinson was just 4-15-0 on six targets. Ramsey faced him on 57.1% of his routes and held him to zero catches on two targets. Given that he made his NFL bones as a rookie by going against Robinson every day in practice with the 2016 Jaguars, it wouldn't be surprising to see Ramsey force the receiver into his worst performance so far with Foles under center."
Cheery start to the week, isn't it?
You obviously can't sit a player who is averaging 11 targets and 16.6 fPPR fantasy points per game no matter who is covering him. But that latter number actually ranks outside the top -15 among receivers. Add in a matchup last year that produced an admittedly ugly result, and a WR3 Week 6 for Robinson appears more realistic an expectation than a top-10 one.
Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans (Davante Adams vs. Bradley Roby)
The Green Bay Packers got star wideout Davante Adams back last week just in time to get blasted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but despite a modest 6/61/0 stat line fantasy managers were still overjoyed to get Davante Adams back into lineups. However, Dalton Del Don of Yahoo Sports cautioned that we could be headed to another blah week for Adams (and a potential breakout for Marques Valdez-Scantling) as a result of the shadow coverage of Bradley Roby.
"Valdes-Scantling has his faults, but he's in a sneaky spot to finish as a top-25 fantasy WR in Week 7 and is an intriguing boom (and admittedly bust) DFS pick," he said. "MVS ranked top-10 in air yards last week despite Davante Adams' return, and Sunday's matchup has the highest over/under (56.5 points) of the week featuring two offenses ranked top-six in yards per play and two defenses ranked bottom-six in DVOA. With Bradley Roby shadowing Adams (and Robert Tonyan banged up) in a high-scoring game, MVS should be looking at an opportunity for a big Week 7."
However, before you start getting panic-sweats about another dud from Adams, consider this-Roby will indeed likely shadow Adams, but he hasn't been great at it. For the season, Roby has allowed 71 percent of the passes thrown in his direction, has surrendered three touchdowns this season and has a passer rating against in excess of 100.
Green Bay Packers at Houston Texans (Jaire Alexander vs. Will Fuller)
Sunday's meeting between the Packers and Texans faces an interesting battle on both sides. In addition to Roby covering Adams, third-year pro Jaire Alexander will likely shadow red-hot Texans wideout Will Fuller, who has scored in four straight games and posted six grabs for 123 yards last week against the Tennessee Titans. As Jason Schandl reported for FanDuel, Alexander has really come into his own this season as a true "shutdown" corner.
"According to Pro Football Focus," he said, "Alexander has given up just 14 receptions on 181 coverage snaps this season. His coverage grade of 90.6 is by far the best of his career and ranks No. 2 among all corners. He also has the league's best overall grade (also 90.6) at the position."
Against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 4, Alexander shadowed Calvin Ridley on 23 of 27 routes run. Two weeks later against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Alexander was on Evans for 19 of 24 routes. Both times, combined, he didn't allow a catch.
In other words, ouch. Brandin Cooks' recent hot streak might live on one more week.
Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals (DK Metcalf vs. Patrick Peterson)
Through five games this season, DK Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks has been arguably the best receiver in the NFL. His 496 receiving yards rank inside the top-10 in the NFL. His 22.5 yards a catch leads the NFL by a wide margin. He's seventh in PPR fantasy points overall and second in points per game among wide receivers. As the great Gil Brandt wrote at NFL.com, he's, um, rather good.
"As SI.com pointed out," Brandt said, "Metcalf is one of three players in NFL history -- joining Randy Moss and Charlie Brown -- to record 80-plus catches, 1,350-plus receiving yards, 12-plus TD catches and 17-plus yards per catch in his first 21 NFL games. At the rate Metcalf is going, delivering clutch, game-winning grabs like he did in a Week 5 thriller against the Vikings, he might just have a chance to join Moss someday in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
If there's one wide receiver in the NFL right now who is matchup-proof, it's Metcalf-his size/speed combo is the kind that just doesn't come along every day. Patrick Peterson's play has improved relative to last year's backslide (his passer rating against in 2020 is under 80 after nearly hitting 100 in 2019) , but he's not anywhere near the kind of matchup downgrade it would take to knock Metcalf off his WR1 pedestal.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Los Angeles Chargers (DJ Chark vs. Casey Hayward)
For a game that involves two teams that have combined for all of two wins, Sunday's tilt between the Jaguars and Chargers actually has the potential to swing more than a few fantasy matchups. And the biggest question of the week (according to Mike Tagliere of Fantasy Pros) is whether Jacksonville's No. 1 wide receiver (who is nursing a sore ankle) sees the Chargers No. 1 corner in overage.
"(Chark) played 57-of-64 snaps against the Lions and saw a season-high 14 targets; I think he's healthy," Tagliere said. "Unfortunately, those targets amounted to just 7/45/0, so maybe his ankle affected his effectiveness, though he should've had an easy touchdown where Minshew overthrew him. The bad news this week is that he's going to see Casey Hayward in coverage, which is one of the toughest cornerbacks in the league. Despite covering some of the top receivers in the league, he's allowed just 16-of-32 passing for 216 yards and a touchdown in his coverage."
However, as Tagliere also pointed out, the Chargers have been inconsistent about deploying Hayward in shadow coverage in 2020. It's just as possible that rookie Laviska Shenault sees Hayward in coverage the majority of the snaps. Any issues with Chark in Week 7 have more to do with his flipper than who he may or may not line up against.
San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots (Brandon Aiyuk vs. Stephon Gilmore)
While Deebo Samuel was sidelined, fantasy managers got a prolonged look at the tantalizing athletic potential that Brandon Aiyuk brings to the table in San Francisco-and the vapors (rightfully) ensued. But as Brandon Niles wrote at 4for4.com, since Samuel got back the shine has come off the rookie from Arizona State.
"Aiyuk had a touchdown last week - his third in the last four games - but he only caught two passes for 12 yards and didn't supplement his receiving production with a long rush, as he's done in two games this year," Niles said. "Aiyuk's targets coming down as Deebo Samuel and George Kittle look completely healthy isn't a good sign, but he's still a high-upside player given his playmaking ability. This week, Aiyuk faces a Patriots defense that ranks 15th in aFPA to opposing wide receivers. Aiyuk is a boom-bust option who fantasy owners may want to sit until he shows he can put up consistent numbers, and most importantly, consistent targets with a healthy lineup around him."
If you need one final reason to consider fading Aiyuk in Week 7, it's Gilmore. While he hasn't played at the Defensive Player of the Year level he did in 2019, Gilmore is still pretty danged good. The 30-year-old's shadow assignments are much rarer than just playing his side of the field, and if that holds it will be Aiyuk who will see Gilmore most of the game.