The Shadow Knows Week 9 2017

By Gary Davenport
Gary Davenport For the past decade or so, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been a perennial punching bag. A tomato can of a football team. The punchline to any number of jokes – several of which I told.

But in 2017, the Jaguars are no joke – especially on defense. Through eight weeks, Jacksonville’s “Teal Curtain” pass defense is No. 1 in the National Football League, allowing just 161.7 yards per game. The Jaguars have allowed just four touchdowns through the air all season long. And no team in the NFL is allowing fewer PPR fantasy points per game to the wide receiver position. In fact, Jacksonville’s pass defense is so good that Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post recommended the unthinkable in Week 9.

Benching Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green. “It’s always tough benching a first-round pick, but you may have better options on your roster this week because few wideouts have had success against the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary in 2017,” he said. The Jags have the No. 1-rated pass defense per Football Outsiders, the No. 1 pass-coverage unit per Pro Football Focus, and are allowing just 40.3 yards to a team’s No. 1 option at receiver. Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been the only wideout to surpass the 100-yard mark against Jacksonville this season, but he did so without a touchdown. DeAndre Hopkins of the Houston Texans scored, but was held to just 55 yards receiving. Overall, the Jaguars are allowing wide receivers on average to score a league-low 6.4 fantasy points per game in point-per-reception, or PPR, leagues.”

It goes without saying that Green is not an “average” wide receiver. And with six teams on a bye this week sitting him is easier said than done. But know going in that Green will more likely than not have a game that will leave his fantasy owners seeing red.

Now that my bad pun quota’s filled, here’s a look at the best of the rest of the NFL’s premier wideout vs. cornerback matchups in Week 9.

Doug Baldwin, Seattle Seahawks (vs. WAS – Josh Norman) Norman is healthy again after battling a rib injury earlier this season – he played all 68 snaps in last week’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys. Ben Renner of Emerald City Swagger expects some game-planning this week to make sure Baldwin sees as little of him as possible. “Star cornerback Josh Norman and edge rusher Ryan Kerrigan are both healthy for Washington,” he wrote, “providing matchup problems for the Seahawks still-adjusting offensive line and wide receivers. D.J. Swearinger, the best safety Washington has had since the late Sean Taylor, will also play. Expect Darrell Bevell to move go-to guys like Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett around to avoid coverage by Norman, who will primarily stick to his side of the field, much like how the Seahawks keep Richard Sherman on one side.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Norman helped hold Dez Bryant in check (4/38/0) last week, although the weather was also a big factor – while Baldwin was out-pointed by both Lockett and Paul Richardson in Seattle’s wild win over the Houston Texans. Bevell will likely make some effort to move Baldwin off Norman, but it’s also possible that just like last week Russell Wilson will just target his other wideouts more. It’s not panic-time for Baldwin owners, but it’s far from an ideal fantasy matchup.

Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys (vs. KCC – Marcus Peters) With the Ezekiel Elliott saga seemingly reaching a six-week siesta of a summary (alliteration – gotta love it), Christopher Harris of the Washington Post believes that now is the time for Bryant and Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to shine. “I expect to see Dallas become more of a passing team: Prescott is a preternaturally calm QB who hasn’t yet come across an NFL situation he couldn’t master, and Bryant is a star,” Harris said. “It’s asking a lot to get these guys for reasonable prices in a fantasy trade right now, but in some leagues the Cowboys passing game may still be undervalued.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: If nothing else, the scheduling gods cut the Cowboys a bit of a break in their first game sans-Zeke. For as good as the Chiefs have been this year, they rank 30th in the NFL in total defense and 28th against the pass. Peters took a fumble to the house in last week’s win over the Denver Broncos, and it’s that penchant for big plays that has made him one of the NFL’s most talked-about young corners. But only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have allowed more fantasy points per game to wide receivers this year than the Chiefs. Bryant’s a must-start.

Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (at NOS – Marshon Lattimore) Evans didn’t hold back in his assessment of the disappointing Buccaneers while speaking with Bonnie Mott of Bucs Wire. “I wish I knew why we weren’t starting fast and finishing fast,” Evans said. “I don’t know what it is. Like I said before the season, on paper we are an amazing team, but we’re just not as good as we thought we were, so we’ve just got to pick it up. The good thing about it [is] we have nine games left.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: While the 2-5 Buccaneers have failed to meet expectations, the 5-2 Saints have done the opposite – in part because of the play of their first-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. This isn’t to say that a lot wasn’t expected of Marshon Lattimore, but not many expected the former Ohio State star to be the highest graded corner in the NFL in coverage per Pro Football Focus.

Do you still start Evans? Yes. But are the Saints days of having a marshmallow-soft pass defense that fantasy owners looked forward to facing over? It would appear also yes.

Alshon Jeffery, Philadelphia Eagles (vs. DEN – Chris Harris) After drooping their third game in a row last week to Kansas City, Harris admitted to Nick Kosmider of the Denver Post that he isn’t at all happy with how the Broncos are playing. “There’s high tension, man,” Harris said. “We’re not winning. We’re not taking care of the football. We’re giving the games away. It’s hard. We spotted them seven points again. We do things where they get on the board first and they’re scoring on defense. … It’s hard to win when you don’t score, when you don’t outscore the other team. We’ve got to score.”

THE SHADOW SAYS: Things aren’t going to get any easier for the Broncos this week with Brock Osweiler under center on the road against the team with the best record in the NFL. However, while I expect the Philadelphia Eagles to win the game, it isn’t going to be an easy day for Jeffery or fellow Eagles wideout Nelson Agholor. The Broncos aren’t good, but the “No Fly Zone” remains very much in effect – Denver ranks sixth in the NFL in pass defense, and 29th in fantasy points surrendered to wideouts – despite ZERO help from their offense.

Gary Davenport is a Senior Staff Writer at Fantasy Sharks, an NFL and Fantasy Football Analyst at Bleacher Report, a Contributing Writer at Rotoworld and a Contributing Author and Associate Editor at Football Diehards. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Gary was the winner of the 2015 FSWA award for Print Article of the Year.