THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 7 2021
THE SHADOW KNOWS: Week 7
It's not unheard of for an NFL player to get a massive payday and then see his level of play fall off. That has not been the case with New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. As a matter of fact, since signing a five-year, $97.6 million extension just before the season, Lattimore has played as well as any corner in the NFL-and he has done so despite a cast on one hand due to a broken thumb.
As Mike Triplett reported for ESPN, new Saints secondary coach Kris Richard has been greatly impressed by Lattimore, who earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors in Week 5 after holding Washington wideout Terry McLaurin to a 4/46/0 line while tallying six passes defensed-tied for the most by any player in the last 15 years.
"He's had an incredible focus this year," Richard said. "It's a testament to his preparation and essentially his love for the game. He goes out there, he's got a lot of faith in who he is as a player and his ability. And he loves ball. So, it's not a surprise."
Lattimore has already held his own against the likes of McLaurin and Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers this year, but he's heading into a brutal two-fer-Monday's date with DK Metcalf and the Seattle Seahawks followed by Mike Evans and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But Lattimore said he wouldn't have it any other way-he wants to shadow No. 1 receivers.
"Yeah, I like that way better. Way better. Lock in on somebody and do my job," Lattimore said.
As well as Lattimore is playing, Metcalf is usually about as matchup-proof as wide receivers get-even if the coverage is perfect, he's such a freak of nature that he'll just snatch the ball from the air. But in addition to facing PFF's third-ranked corner in Week 7's last game, Metcalf will also be catching passes from Geno "King of the Green Room" Smith.
It's that last part that is the bigger concern for Metcalf's fantasy managers this week.
Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens (Ja'Marr Chase vs. Marlon Humphrey)
Over the first six games of his professional career, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase has caught 27 passes for 553 yards and five touchdowns-the second-most yards by a rookie wideout over his first six games since the AFL-NFL merger. Per Ryan Mink of the Ravens website, cornerback Marlon Humphrey said that part of the reason for that success is that Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow trusts bot his arm and his receivers.
"He'll stay in there and take a hit. He's not one of those quarterbacks that are scared to get hit," Humphrey said. "The other thing is that when he throws the football deep, he lets it fly. … He's very confident. That's one of the things I've seen since college. Joe's just one of those quarterbacks that picks his guy over yours. He does that very often."
Burrow and Chase have picked up right where the pair left off at LSU, and to say that a victory in Baltimore would be a statement win for the 4-2 Bengals is an understatement. This is the stiffest test of the season for the Bengals, but Chase has been so productive as a pro that he has a become a no-brainer start and borderline WR1.
Carolina Panthers at New York Giants (D.J. Moore vs. James Bradberry)
New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry spent the first four years of his career in Carolina-and two seasons with Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore as his teammate. Per the Giants website, Bradberry said that time together has given him respect for Moore's game-and maybe an insight or two about how to defend him.
"I think his explosiveness. He's very fast and quick," Bradberry said. "Two, he's able to judge the ball well down the field. Also, he's a very good runner after the catch. I'm not sure what his stats are, but I know when I played with him, he was very good at catching the ball on slants and creating explosive plays off of that. I've been against him before, and of course I watch film on him now. I think I know him."
Bradberry is no stranger to shadow matchups over his first six seasons in the NFL. But much like the Giants as a whole, the 2021 season hasn't been especially kind to him-he's allowing over 70 percent of the passes thrown in his direction to be completed with a passer rating against of 105.0. Only four receivers in the league have more targets than Moore's 40 this season-he'll be just fine.
Philadelphia Eagles at Las Vegas Raiders (DeVonta Smith vs. Casey Hayward)
The Las Vegas Raiders are one of the bigger surprises of the 2021 season-with a win at home against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Vegas will take sole possession of first place in the AFC West, despite the sudden dismissal of head coach Jon Gruden. As Bill Williamson wrote for SB Nation, veteran cornerback Casey Hayward deserves quite a bit of the credit for that hot start-at least where the Raiders defense is concerned.
"Hayward was considered a nice depth piece for the Raiders," Williamson said. "He has, however, become so much more. According to Pro Football Focus, Hayward leads all NFL cornerbacks in snaps in coverage without allowing a touchdown through the first six weeks of the season. That's lock-down cornerback production. Hayward, 32, is playing like it is the prime of his career in his 10th NFL season. What a great, bargain free-agent pickup he has been."
Hayward has indeed turned back the proverbial clock-he's allowing less than 43 percent of the passes thrown his way to be completed with a ridiculous passer rating against of 51.3. When you combine that impressive level of play with the depressing state of the barely-passable Eagles passing game, you are left with Smith as a risky WR3 play-in a six-team bye week where you have little recourse but to start him and hope.