THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 9 2019
There isn't much I don't hate about London games.
I know that many fans welcome the UK games that start at 9:30 AM ET, as this week's tilt between the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars will. But as someone who covers the league full-time and is already "on" from the moment the 1 PM games start until the Sunday night game ends (and then some), the last thing I need is for the day to become that much longer-never mind that when the London games started, I lived in Arizona. Getting up at 6 AM is great for some people. I am not one of those people.
Yes, the first 100 words of this piece have been all about me. Deal with it.
The London games have been known to get weird. And sloppy. The big time-change (and the jet lag that comes with it) can be very real concerns. And if there's one team in the league that should be at least a little used to it, it's the Londonville Jaguars, who play a game in the UK every year and are eventually going to relocate there.
It's gonna happen. The only question at this point is when.
Add it all together, and it's cause for absolutely zero concern about the prospects of Texans wideout DeAndre Hopkins in Week 9.
For starters, Hopkins' target share (and production) has spiked in a big way of late. Of his 81 targets on the season, almost 46 percent have come over the last three weeks. So has almost 44 percent of Nuk's yardage.
The Will Fuller injury has been a factor. So has Deshaun Watson remembering that DeAndre Hopkins is open whether he's open or not.
The days of the Jaguars having the league's best secondary are also done. Partly that's due to the Jalen Ramsey trade, but the Jaguars pass defense had fallen off before that. This isn't to say that A.J. Bouye (who will as likely as not shadow Hopkins, while youngster Tre Herndon covers Kenny Stills) isn't a good corner. There's a reason he makes $13.5 million a season-or at least there was when the Jags signed him.
But there isn't a team in the NFL that has been scorched more by opposing No. 1 wide receivers in 2019. Not one.
Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills (Terry McLaurin vs. Tre'Davious White)
At first glance, it would appear that "Scary Terry" McLaurin will duck Buffalo Bills corner Tre'Davious White this weekend. The third-round rookie, who has been a rare bright spot in a dark year for Washington, generally lines up on the opposite side of the field from the best cover man for one of the NFL's best pass defenses.
But this is the Redskins, so all joy and happiness must die a horrible death.
"White hasn't shadowed a single WR all season," Ian Hartitz of Rotoworld wrote, "but the Bills did align him as the defense's right CB on 29 snaps in Week 8 after he spent 100% of his outside snaps as the left CB in Weeks 1-7. It wouldn't be shocking to see Buffalo attempt to take the Redskins' only consistently-competent weapon away with their best defensive player."
The Redskins also look likely to start Dwayne Haskins at quarterback Sunday, and while Haskins and McLaurin enjoyed great success together at Ohio State, this…um…isn't Ohio State.
Detroit Lions at Oakland Raiders (Darius Slay vs. Tyrell Williams)
It's been an eventful week for Slay, who was mentioned in more than a few trade rumors as the deadline neared. As Dave Birkett reported for the Detroit Free Press, Slay had quite possibly the best answer ever given in regards to how to deal with such a dilemma.
"I wouldn't mind playing my whole career here," Slay said. "Who wouldn't want to just play on one team? But it's a whole business. Can't have your hopes up. I didn't care if they did, that's the thing. The whole point of time, Y'all don't understand it that I didn't care if I did. It is what it is. It's a whole business. All I was doing here is playing ball, trying to win games. I don't care. I'm a millionaire, dude."
Darius Slay knows what's up.
Slay's also banged up though-much like most of the Detroit secondary. Williams has lived off scoring touchdowns despite a relatively small target share (he hasn't had eight in a game yet this year). It's simple-if Slay plays, Williams fantasy value drops dramatically. If the veteran millionaire can't go, all is right in that particular silver and black corner of the universe.
Green Bay Packers at Los Angeles Chargers (Davante Adams vs. Casey Hayward)
For the Green Bay Packers, the return to practice of wide receiver Davante Adams is welcome news-the Pack's kept on winning without the sixth-year veteran, but there's zero doubt the Green Bay passing game is exponentially more dangerous with Adams on the field.
For fantasy owners, the news is that much bigger-most of them didn't have the luxury of getting good stat lines from nobody receivers because Aaron Rodgers went all Aaron Rodgers.
Sigh…now it's Debbie Downer time.
At the risk of being labeled a Casey Hayward fanboy (again), he's a really good cover corner. Since the beginning of the 2018 season, Hayward's allowed three touchdowns and one 100-yard game to opposing No. 1 receivers-and one of the scores was in the Week 13 meeting last year where Antonio Brown lit him up.
Even if Adams plays, he's not going to be 100 percent-that's not how turf toe works. Even if he was, it'd be a tough matchup. He's a must-start if he plays, but if Adams has anything close to a WR1 stat line it's going to be much more exception than rule.
And the legend of the discount double-check will grow that much more.
Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos (Denzel Ward vs. Courtland Sutton)
Over the first eight weeks of the 2019 season, Courtland Sutton has lived up to his draft slot--with a little left over. His 39 catches for 636 yards and three scores ranks inside the top-15 wide receiver in PPR fantasy points. Sutton's 16.3 yards per catch ranks inside the top-10 in the NFL among wideouts with 30 or more catches.
It was fun while it lasted.
This isn't to say that the matchup with Denzel Ward is a killer. Ward's an excellent young cornerback, but last week's loss to the New England Patriots was the first time he'd played since Week 2. There's still some rust to be knocked off there.
But Ward's frankly the least of Sutton's problems. Emmanuel Sanders is putting up 100-yard games (and winning while doing so) in San Francisco now. Joe Flacco is hurt, which means that Brandon Allen will start Sunday under center for the Broncos against the Browns.
If you're wondering who Brandon Allen is, join the club. Although he was drafted in the sixth round just like Tom Brady, so….
Granted, that was in 2016 by another team and he wouldn't be playing if Drew Lock was healthy. But still…SIXTH ROUND!
Sutton's going to be bracketed. His quarterback situation somehow got worse. That whole top-15 thing?
It was fun while it lasted.
Cleveland Browns at Denver Broncos (Odell Beckham vs. Chris Harris)
At least the Courtland Sutton thing was fun for a while this year. The flip side of this mile-high matchup (with the exception of one game in New York) has just been depressing.
Beckham's first half-season in Cleveland has been a massive disappointment, but he insisted to Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com that he and Baker Mayfield can still turn it around.
"You can go through the whole week of practice and catch 30 balls and then get to the game and you don't have the same thing that's going on (in games)," Beckham said. "It comes from that experience, and the more games we have together the better we'll be. But it's time for us to turn it on. ... (Mayfield) is a phenomenal player and I just want to be able to help him in every which way I can.'
Vic Fangio has been more willing to use Chris Harris to shadow opposing No. 1 receivers in 2019 than his predecessors were, which doesn't make this matchup any easier for Beckham. But targets and erratic play from his quarterback are much bigger problems for OBJ this year than any cornerback-even one as good as Harris.
As it turns out, hope is a dangerous thing in Cleveland.
Dallas Cowboys at New York Giants (Amari Cooper vs. Janoris Jenkins)
There was a time when Janoris Jenkins was one of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. He was named to the Pro Bowl as recently as 2016. He's being paid almost $15 million by the New York Giants in 2019. He even earned a nickname…"Jackrabbit."
The problem is that of late, that jackrabbit keeps getting jacked up.
Jenkins has four interceptions this year, which ties a career-best the 31-year-old set all the way back in his rookie season. But part of the reason for that is that much like when Jenkins first entered the NFL, opposing quarterbacks aren't at all reluctant to go at him.
Then there's the matter of his history with Amari Cooper. When the pair met back in Week 1, Cooper roasted Jenkins to the tune of six grabs for over 100 yards and a score. That big game, however, comes with a potentially bigger caveat.
It was in Dallas-as was
just about every big game he's had since joining the Cowboys.
At AT&T Stadium, Cooper has six games with over 100 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. In three of those contests, Cooper eclipsed 150 yards. In two, he topped 200. His average stat line at home is seven catches for 118 yards and a touchdown.
On the road though, Cooper's never (since joining the Cowboys) had more than six catches or topped 75 receiving yards. He has two scores as a Cowboy away from Jerruh World.
Declining corner meets terrible splits. Something has to give. Maybe.