The Shadow Knows Week 7 2022

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport


It was just a matter of time. Despite something of a slow start to the season, it was a foregone conclusion that sooner or later, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase was going to go off. And last week in his New Orleans homecoming, Chase did just that-seven catches, 132 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

There were multiple reasons for Chase's sluggish start. One of those had nothing to do with Chase. Or the Bengals. Teams are playing Cincinnati different defensively in 2022. Using a lot of two-deep safety looks in an effort to cut down on big plays over the top. It's working, too-the Bengals aren't hitting chunk plays through the air with the frequency they did a year ago.

However, as William McFadden reported for the Falcoholic, just as defenses have adjusted to the Bengals, Cincinnati has adjusted to that adjustment-by using more short, quick hits to Chase.

"Teams are actively trying to limit Chase downfield," he said, "so the Bengals have also expanded his usage. After an average depth of target of 12.6 yards as a rookie, he currently sits at 8.9 yards. His yards before catch per reception has dropped from about 10 yards last year to just 6.2 this year, but Chase's 1.8 yards after catch above expected shows how dangerous he is with the ball in his hands. And now, the Bengals are getting him the ball quicker."

This week the Bengals will play host to the Atlanta Falcons, which means a matchup between Chase and third-year cornerback A.J. Terrell. Terrell started the season sluggishly, but in recent weeks he has looked more like the young star-in-the-making we saw last year, holding his own against the likes of Amari Cooper of the Browns and Mike Evans of the Buccaneers.

Terrell is nursing a sore hammy, but he's tentatively expected to play after practicing Wednesday and Thursday. Even if Terrell was 100 percent Chase would be a locked-in WR1 after posting 14/182/2 the past two weeks. But with Terrell nicked up and so many elite wideouts on a bye in week 7, Chase is a top-five fantasy option.

Atlanta Falcons at Cincinnati Bengals (Drake London vs. Chidobe Awuzie)

The Atlanta Falcons turned more than a few heads back in April when the team made USC's Drake London the first wide receiver selected in the 2022 draft. But over the first six weeks of his first season, London has justified Atlanta's confidence in him. Falcons wide receivers coach T.J. Yates told Michael Rothstein of ESPN the team never once doubted he would.

"At this level, sometimes you either have it or you don't," Yates said. "And he definitely does. "He's got some wiggle to him for a bigger guy. Compared to the rest of the receiver room he's got 20, 30 pounds on the rest of those guys and he's got route ability, which is one of the reasons we wanted him here, for that versatility aspect."

However, while London has admittedly played well so far, he faces a Week 7 test that is stiffer than most realize. The Cincinnati Bengals are a bottom-10 fantasy matchup for wide receivers in 2022, and a big part of the reason why is the play of Awuzie, who is one of the more underrated cover corners in the league. This isn't to say that you should sit the rookie-but his matchup is a legit downgrade.


Cleveland Browns at Baltimore Ravens (Amari Cooper vs. Marcus Peters)

Over the first few weeks of the 2022 season, the Baltimore pass defense struggled mightily-lowlighted by the 470 passing yards and six touchdowns the team surrendered to the Miami Dolphins in Week 2. However, in recent weeks that pass defense has improved, with Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald crediting the leadership that veteran corner Marcus Peters provides on the back end.

"He's awesome in the meeting rooms; he sits right here, right in front of me when we're talking to the team, and he brings great energy," he said, via Kevin Oestreicher of Ravens Wire. "He's such a great competitor. He just loves being out there and accepts the challenge and brings great energy to the sideline. And shoot, I think his football IQ is second to none, as well. I'm glad he's with us. I'm glad he's with us. We've had a lot of great times, and he's made, obviously, some phenomenal plays to help us win a lot of games around here."

That Peters missed the entire 2021 season helps explain his slow start, but the 29-year-old has rallied since-his 54.2 completion percentage against and 85.2 passer rating against for the season are respectable, if unspectacular. Cooper has been as advertised in his first season in Cleveland, but between a worse-than-it-looks coverage matchup and Jacoby Brissett Brissett-ness the past few weeks, Cooper is more middling WR2 than potential WR1 in Week 7.




Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Carolina Panthers (Mike Evans vs. Donte Jackson)

By just about any objective measure, Mike Evans is the greatest offensive player (non-quarterback category) the Buccaneers have ever had-he holds several team records and is the only wide receiver in NFL history to eclipse 1,000 yards in each of his first seven season. But Evans is also a team player, so even in defeat last week he told reporters that it was good to see Tampa's wideout corps mostly healthy after battling one injury after another this season.

"It is great to see all your guys healthy," said Evans. "I love my receivers, it is good to see them out there. We all go into battle with each other. I wish we could have gotten the [win] today, we fell short. We'll rest up, recover, watch the film, make the corrections and come back even stronger."

The Buccaneers were shocked by the one-win Steelers last week, and Evans' usage was equally surprising-just four targets for the second time this season. However, there are reasons to be hopeful about this week's trip to face the Carolina Tankers. The last time Evans got just four targets, he followed it up with an 8/103/2 line against the Chiefs. And in his last three meetings against Donte Jackson and the Tomato Cans dating back to 2020, Evans has 19 catches for 270 yards and four scores.




Houston Texans at Las Vegas Raiders (Derek Stingley Jr. vs. Davante Adams)

For all the talk about how great the 2022 class has been at wide receiver, the class at cornerback has been just as good-maybe better. Derek Stingley of the Texans was the first player at his position drafted, and while he's had some growing pains, the youngster has mostly lived up to the hype. For his part, former LSU teammate Ja'Marr Chase isn't the least bit surprised.

"He's just an all-around playmaker," Chase said, via. "He can make plays on the ball in the air. I feel like that's one of the best things he does. ... I don't know if he's guessing it, but just his knowledge of the game is pretty high to say he was that young. He knew his routes coming in. ... He was definitely well developed already."

Stingley has had his moments. But he also gave up a combined 14 catches for 242 yards to Mike Williams of the Chargers and Courtland Sutton of the Broncos. Both of those wide receivers are talented big-bodies who excel at high-pointing the ball and winning contested catches. Davante Adams does that at an elite level-in addition to everything else. Coming off the bye and beyond desperate for a win, this screams smash spot for Adams.




Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Chargers (Tariq Woolen vs. Mike Williams)

Tariq Woolen wasn't the first cornerback drafted in 2022. Or the second. Or the fifth. But six weeks into the 2022 season, he looks like the steal of the draft at his position. He's tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with four. His passer rating against is a ridiculous 35.4. And after his performance against the Arizona Cardinals last week, Woolen drew a rave review from a gut who knows a thing or two about playing the position in Seattle.

"He's playing silly right now, it doesn't even make sense," Richard Sherman said of Woolen Monday on The Richard Sherman Podcast. "Four interceptions in four games ... Looking like the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He runs a 4.2 (40-yard dash), there's nobody that's gonna outrun him. He's jumping up in the air, he's got long arms, he's got good hands, he's gonna bring it down."

Woolen is a unicorn-a 6'4" corner with 4.26 speed. What's been amazing is how quickly a cornerback his size is changing directions, and the instincts and growth he has shown in such a short time in the NFL. A month ago, this matchup would have looked like a "rookie corner rule" feast for Mike Williams. But now, with Williams coming off a clunker against Patrick Surtain and the Broncos, it has the look of a significant downgrade against a corner Williams can't jump-ball all game long.




Pittsburgh Steelers at Miami Dolphins (Diontae Johnson vs. Xavien Howard)

With 27 career interceptions, Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard is five short of setting a new franchise record for cornerbacks and eight off the pace for the overall franchise record. However, as Cameron Wolfe wrote for, despite status as arguably the best corner in team history, first-year Dolphins' cornerbacks coach Sam Madison said he's been impressed by Howard's willingness to listen and be coached.

"When new coaches come in, a lot of guys, especially the best players, shy away from them," Madison said before the season. "But X is absorbing everything we teach, helping the young guys. Main thing I tell X is just keep getting the ball. The rest will take care of itself. Sometimes it's that simple. Believe and trust your instincts -- you can't teach that. Just go turn the football over. Continue to play the way that X plays. We're going to allow him to do that."

Maybe Howard should stop listening-due in part to injuries, he has yet to record an interception this year and is having his worst season in recent memory-his passer rating against is a whopping 135.1, and he has been roasted by the likes of Rashod Bateman and Tee Higgins. Long story short, the Dolphins are a defense to target, not fear-the bigger concern for fantasy managers of Steelers wideouts is iffy quarterback play.