By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport

The New England Patriots defense is playing at an absolutely ridiculous level-the Pats lead the NFL in a plethora from statistical categories, from total yards to takeaways. And while that defense is playing well in every way and at every level, the engine that's made it go in 2019 is a secondary that leads the AFC in passing yards allowed at just 148.5.

It's a back end loaded with talent. All three of New England's starting cornerbacks (Stephon Gilmore, Jonathan Jones and Jason McCourty) rank inside the top 15 at their position at Pro Football Focus. It's Gilmore who will draw coverage against Odell Beckham Jr. when the Cleveland Browns visit Gillette Stadium Sunday. But as Nicole Yang wrote for the Boston Globe, you aren't going to hear Gilmore talking any smack about the highest profile WR-vs.-CB matchup of Week 8.

"He just really goes about his business,' teammate Joejuan Williams said. "He does his job on the practice field, on the game field, on and off the field. He's all about the business. He's one of the elite players at his position, so at the end of the day, he don't got nothing to say, really.'

Well, since Gilmore doesn't want to say it-the Shadow will. The 29-year-old is the best cover corner in the NFL-a player who regularly gets the best of the league's biggest names at wide receiver. Beckham isn't the kind of player you ever bench, but he's also not come close to producing at the level fantasy owners expected in 2019.

Throw in a road matchup against Gilmore and a Patriots team that ranks dead last in PPR fantasy points allowed to wide receivers, and what you get ain't pretty.

The best hope-and I'm not kidding here-may well be for the Browns to fall way behind, allowing Beckham to pile up some garbage-time numbers against soft coverage in the second half.

ARIZONA CARDINALS AT NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (Patrick Peterson vs. Michael Thomas)

Paterson played his first game of the 2019 season in last week's win over the New York Giants. And what a game it was-seven tackles, a game-sealing sack and a forced fumble. But if that game against New York was the undercard, Sunday's trip to New Orleans is the main event-a tilt with the NFL's leading receiver by a wide margin in Michael Thomas.

Peterson will have his hands full with Thomas. But as Matthew Freedman wrote for Fantasy Labs, the reverse is true as well.

"Given that the Cardinals moved him across the formation in Week 7 and had rookie cornerback Byron Murphy shadow Julio Jones in Week 6, it's probable that they won't hesitate to match Peterson up with Thomas as often as possible whenever he's lined up on the outside," he said. "Last week, on 49 coverage snaps and four targets, Peterson held Giants receivers to a scoreless 39 yards. Thomas is great, but in his shadow matchups last season - especially against big-bodied receivers - Peterson proved himself to be every bit as good as his reputation. Thomas has had eight-plus receptions every week this year but one - but against Peterson, he might have a rare struggle-filled game."

There is a caveat to this though-that "on the outside" part. Peterson has very rarely moved inside to cover the slot over his career, so the Saints can scheme Thomas off Peterson relatively easily.


The Indianapolis Colts have weathered the retirement of Andrew Luck quite a bit better than just about anyone expected, but it hasn't all been sunshine and puppies from a fantasy perspective-wide receiver T.Y. Hilton is averaging 29.5 fewer receiving yards per game than a year ago. Per Ian Hartitz of Rotoworld, this isn't likely to be the week he breaks out.

"Hilton has scored five touchdowns in as many games this season," Hartitz said. "The "problem" is that he's failed to reach 100 yards in a game, and the Colts' long-time No. 1 WR's average of eight targets per game is fewer than he saw in any of his Andrew Luck seasons except for his rookie year back in 2012. A likely shadow date with one of the best CBs in the league is hardly a get-right spot, although you should continue to fire up the PPR WR23 with confidence as a low-end WR2."

If you're looking for bright spots, here's a couple. Hilton's actually averaging slightly more PPR fantasy points this year than in 2018. And Tyreek Hill was able to get behind Harris for a long score (from Matt Moore, no less) in Week 7.

LOS ANGELES CHARGERS AT CHICAGO BEARS (Casey Hayward vs. Allen Robinson)

From an offensive standpoint, the Chicago Bears have been…ungood. This is a team that has eschewed moving the ball incrementally for moving it excrementally. But amidst all the stinky poo, Allen Robinson's actually been pretty solid-he's inside the top 15 in PPR fantasy points among wide receivers.

"Robinson is having a great season and it feels under the radar," Adam Ronis wrote at Sports Illustrated. While the Bears offense has been putrid, Robinson is producing consistent numbers despite the bad quarterback play. It's something Robinson has done throughout his career. In 2015 with Blake Bortles at quarterback, Robinson had 80 receptions for 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has at least seven targets in every game and his lowest game in PPR is 8.1 points. He has at least six receptions in five of six games and has 41 receptions for 464 yards and three touchdowns. Look to acquire him because he will be cheaper than a lot of name brand receivers."

Casey Hayward is a very good veteran cornerback stranded on an awful team in Los Angeles. But if Robinson can post a 10/87/1 line against Marshon Lattimore and the New Orleans Saints, he should do just fine as a fantasy WR2 against the Bolts.

NEW YORK GIANTS AT DETROIT LIONS (Golden Tate vs. Justin Coleman)

Justin Coleman is starting look like the next Casey Hayward-in that the Lions signed him to a relatively modest $36 million contract that he's out-playing by a sizable margin. As Dave Birkett wrote for the Detroit Free Press, Coleman's breakout hasn't gone unnoticed by the elder statesman in the Motor City secondary.

"He's playing (bleeping) awesome," Slay said. "He ain't playing well, that's an understatement. He's playing (bleeping) awesome. Fam is doing what he's supposed to be doing out here, that's why he's one of the best in that slot position and he's going to continue to keep balling like that, too."

It's possible that Sterling Shepard will make it back for this game, but whoever it is playing in the slot against the Lions is more likely than not in for a long day. That said, Tate's robust target share (almost nine a game with the Giants) could be enough to salvage at least WR3 value.

DETROIT LIONS AT NEW YORK GIANTS (Marvin Jones vs. Janoris Jenkins)

Maybe you haven't heard (or are blocking it out because he was on your bench), but Marvin Jones had himself a week against the Minnesota Vikings-10 catches, 93 yards and four touchdowns.

Is that good? It sounds good.

Yossef Magazzinich of Rotoballer believes that while matching that stat line may be a tall order, Jones could have another big game Sunday at home against Big Blue.

"Kenny Golladay was covered very well for the entire afternoon in Week 7, so fantasy owners shouldn't expect the season-high 13 targets Jones saw in that game to happen again soon, but nevertheless a good performance should be in the cards for the veteran wide receiver," he wrote. "Lions running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) was recently placed on IR, which could benefit Jones as the Lions may decide to focus more on the passing game. Fantasy owners can fire Jones up as a high-end WR3 in this one."

Want another reason to be stoked about Jones? Janoris Jenkins is a shadow of his former self, allowing over half the passes thrown his way to be completed with three scores given up on the season.


Of course, the dominant story in Kansas City this week is the dislocated kneecap and uncertain status of MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes. But as Mike Spofford reported for the Packers website, whether it's Mahomes or Matt Moore under center Green Bay DC Mike Pettine is still plenty worried about Hill's game-breaking speed.

"I don't think you can simulate it (in practice), unless you let the receivers line up five yards offsides and go from there," he said. "That's one of the reasons he has the production he does. You practice all week against it and then it's significant faster than what you've prepared for. I've never seen anybody on an NFL field faster than that before. We have a plan; we're working it this week. It's certainly something we have to be aware of, because he's made a significant number of explosive plays."

Alexander's a very good young corner, and the Packers haven't been especially kind to opposing receivers not named Amari Cooper this season (gotta love garbage time). But the quarterback situation is a much larger issue for Hill's fantasy prospects than the cornerback covering him.