Originally posted: December 28, 2017
This column is an early-week look at what WRs are looking better or worse than usual against their secondary counterparts. Few NFL teams use true shadow coverage anymore, but if a team does, or is employing a different strategy this week in particular, we’ll note it here.
For the most part, we’re not going to mention the truly great players (it’s always a good idea to play Antonio Brown), unless the situation is so bad that a stud should be an obvious cash-game play.
We also finish up with some sneaky TE and RB plays in the passing game.
NOTE: There are multiple slates this week. We have no Thursday Night Football, two Saturday games (December 23), a full slate of Christmas Eve games, and two Monday night games (Christmas Day). I will note if the game is not on the main Sunday slate.
AJ Green vs. Ravens CBs
The Ravens are playing with a ton of motivation, given there’s still a slight chance they don’t make the playoffs, but they’re also shorthanded in the secondary after the injury to top CB Jimmy Smith, having given up a monster game to Antonio Brown in Week 14 (11/213 on 18 targets), and then a strong game for TY Hilton last week (6/100… great for Hilton given how this year has mostly gone for him). Green’s season has been a bit disappointing, but he still posted 6/81 receiving on 10 targets last week in a tough matchup and an upset of the Lions, and historically he has crushed the Ravens to the tune of nearly 90 yards and a TD per game in his career. The Bengals are dead, but they showed last week that they haven’t quit, contrary to what I thought prior to that game. Green is over 1000 yards yet again in his career, and it doesn’t appear he is going to go quietly into the off-season with this matchup against their divisional rival.
TY Hilton vs. Texans CBs
For the most part this season, Hilton has been either absolutely dominant or completely useless, with little in between. One of the teams he crushed? These Texans of course, for 5/175/2 on 9 targets back in Week 9. In his career, Hilton has averaged over 100 yards per game against Houston (11 games), and he’s now topped 100 yards and scored in each of his last two meetings with them after a bit of a lull for a couple of seasons. The Texan secondary has been one I’ve targeted all season in this column, and I’m not stopping now. Hilton has cash and GPP appeal.
Jamison Crowder vs. Giants CBs
Crowder has come alive a bit of late, including last week against Denver and slot CB Chris Harris, catching all 4 of his targets for 47 yards and a TD. This week he gets to take on a Giant defense that mixes it up with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Darryl Morris in the slot. Crowder finished as the WR6 in his last meeting with the Giants back in Week 12, posting 7/141/1 on 10 targets, and the Giants have been absolutely crushed by slot WRs of late, notably Nelson Agholor and Larry Fitzgerald the last two weeks. Crowder is an excellent buy at his price, especially as QB Kirk Cousins is playing for his future in the league and has plenty of motivation.
Dede Westbrook and Allen Hurns vs. Titans CBs
This is a situation that must be monitored – the Jaguars are locked into the #3 seed in the AFC, and as of now there is no information as to what Doug Marrone may do with his starters. One thing I definitely believe is he’ll make sure the injured Marqise Lee isn’t playing this week, and it could be a great week to get more seasoning for the rookie Westbrook and the veteran Hurns, who could be returning from a long-term ankle injury. The question is if rookie Keelan Cole will play – Cole has been a revelation in both reality and fantasy the last month plus, and is a critical piece for the Jaguars as they move into the playoffs. Again, keep an eye on Marrone’s comments this week – is Blake Bortles playing? is Cole playing? etc. – but it’s a potentially interesting week to use Westbrook or Hurns against an exploitable secondary.
Corey Davis and Rishard Matthews vs. Jaguars CBs
This is where Jaguar coach Doug Marrone’s comments this week will be critical. If he plans on resting starters with the Jaguars locked into the AFC’s #3 seed, one would presume resting defensive starters would be more appealing for the Jags than resting offensive starters, given the Jags ain’t going anywhere in the playoffs without their defense playing elite football. If they do choose to rest Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye – a huge “if” – this becomes a very interesting spot for a passing offense that has struggled all year. The Titans are in a must-win spot to make the playoffs, and you could make the argument that Jaguars would benefit from playing them in the postseason. Meanwhile, Davis, in particular, is coming off the strongest game of his rookie season, catching 6 passes for 91 yards on 9 targets against the Rams last week. Matthews has been more consistent than any other Titan receiver this year, though Eric Decker(6/71 on 10 targets) had the better game last week. Again, this play is not justifiable if the Jaguars plan on playing their starters, but I also believe they’ll want to especially sit Ramsey, given he’s been banged up of late.
Marquise Goodwin vs. Rams CBs
There is some talk that the Rams – who cannot get a bye in the NFC playoffs – may choose to be conservative with their starters in Week 17. Meanwhile, Jimmy Garoppolo and Kyle Shanahan are running the NFL’s hottest offense together, an offense that put up 37 points on arguably the best defense in the NFL last week – Jacksonville (the Niners scored 44, but one TD was a pick-six). Goodwin posted just 3/37 on 6 targets, as you might have expected against that elite secondary, but he’s got a much better draw here in Week 17, especially if the Rams aren’t going all-out. He posted 2/62 on 5 targets against the Rams back in Week 3, but that was two 49er QBs and a lifetime ago in football terms. I would expect Jimmy G to go right back to peppering Goodwin with targets this week – since Garoppolo took over as the Niners’ starting QB in Week 13, Goodwins 39 targets tie him for 5th among WRs. I’m going back to him after a predictable down game last week.
Dez Bryant vs. Eagles CBs
I don’t blame you if you’re rolling your eyes at this one – Dez has been brutally bad the last few weeks, while Dak Prescott hasn’t been a whole lot better. But I think there’s a very good chance the Eagles rest their defensive starters in this game. I’m not so sure they have the luxury to do so with their offense, mind you, but their defense should at least be able to rest some key players (especially along the defensive line, as the Eagles ain’t winning crap without their pass rush). The Eagles may want CBs Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills, and Rasul Douglas to get more reps, but if they do rest some of their key D-Linemen, Prescott should have time to throw the ball (the Eagles also may activate rookie CB Sidney Jones for his NFL debut). Even in great matchups, Dez has proven time and time again that he’s not someone you can throw out there in cash games, but GPP players could make the argument that Dallas will want to have something positive to show as they head into their off-season.
NOT SO GOOD…
Chiefs WRs vs. Broncos CBs
Normally, a Week 17 “starters rest” scenario creates some buying opportunities for DFS, but I’d argue that this is not the scenario to do so, at least at WR for Kansas City. The Chiefs are locked into the AFC’s #4 seed, and coach Andy Reid has historically been very willing to rest his starters when locked into seeding. That should mean more snaps this week for the likes of Demarcus Robinson and Jehuu Chesson. But against a Bronco defense that will likely be firing on all cylinders – and potentially against rookie QB Patrick Mahomes – we’d rather go somewhere else for value.
Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper vs. Chargers CBs
Against the Chargers earlier in the year in a 17-16 loss, Crabtree and Cooper combined for 11/80/1 on 16 targets – obviously not terrible, but not something the Chargers are going to leave thinking was unacceptable. The Chargers are in a must-win situation, and the Raider offense has been shaky all year. Last week against the Eagles, their WRs were a total non-factor – Crabtree was held catchless, while Cooper scored a 63-yard TD when CB Jalen Mills bit on a double-move, but was ineffective otherwise. Mostly, QB Derek Carr has been miserably bad. This obviously is not a spot to be targeting this week with some good values elsewhere.
SNEAKY TIGHT END PLAYS
Vernon Davis vs. Giants
Vernon absolutely laid an egg in this very spot on Thanksgiving, taking the easiest TE matchup in the NFL only to put up maybe one of the most bizarre goose eggs of the entire NFL season against the Giants. But he’s now been targeted 15 times in the last three games, and he scored a TD against Denver last week in what amounted to a very impressive performance for Kirk Cousins. I expect some DFS players to hold a grudge here, which could keep Vernon’s ownership down despite the glorious matchup, but I’m also willing to call the 0 he put up in Week 12 a fluke, as he’s now played better in recent weeks (2 TDs over the last three games).
Vance McDonald vs. Browns
McDonald was surprisingly extremely involved in Week 16 against the Texans on Christmas Day, seeing 5 targets and catching 4 passes for 52 yards, while presumed top TE target Jesse James was held catchless on 1 target. The Steelers still have plenty to play for in Week 17 – a win coupled with a Patriot loss would clinch the #1 overall seed in the AFC – and as unlikely as the Patriots losing to the Jets may be, the two teams both play at 1 PM on Sunday and McDonald has the nuts matchup against Cleveland. The good news about McDonald for those going cheap at the TE position is the fact that he isn’t likely to be one of the starters “rested” in the event the Steelers view the #1 seed as unattainable by some point during the game in Week 17.
Demetrius Harris vs. Broncos
The Broncos have been a great matchup for TEs all year, and there’s a chance to get some serious value here because the Chiefs are almost certain to rest QB Alex Smith and TE Travis Kelce if Andy Reid’s history holds true. That would leave Harris to exploit this matchup for, presumably, rookie QB Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes and Harris have a connection from their time together in the preseason, as they hooked up for a TD, so you could be doing a lot worse in Week 17 if you’re bargain hunting for the TE position.
Source: Fantasy Guru
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