10 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 8
The German language may seem coarse and ugly to many ears, but to those of us who look beyond its guttural tones and harsh consonants, we see a truly romantic language, a language of poetry.
German has so many words for ephemeral concepts that are difficult to capture in English, whether we’re discussing Schadenfreude (that feeling of pleasure when someone who isn’t you goofs up), Zeitgeist (the spirit of the time), Wanderlust (yearning for travel), or many other beautiful notions. One of my favorite, poignantly beautiful notions is that of Weltschmerz, which means literally “world-pain”, but translates to something like “world-weariness” -- the feeling of existence crushing down upon you, like Atlas holding up the earth on his back.
I don’t know about you, but the idea of Weltschmerz resonates very clearly with me in regards to yet another season plagued by injuries to fantasy wide receivers, tough matchups, and the now-brutal bye week gauntlet. It feels like fantasy fortunes are teetering on our shoulders as we set lineups this week.
But you don’t have to bear that burden alone. This column is here to help you pick apart your wide receiver matchups and find the best ones to relieve you of your existential stress.
Which cornerback matchups will allow your fantasy wide receivers to create Gesamtkunstwerke -- total works of art -- in Week 8?
Five Lineup Locks
Jordan Matthews vs. Orlando Scandrick -- The Dallas Cowboys have had defensive woes forever, it seems, and opposing offenses roll around in their Schadenfreude every time they get to face “America’s Team”. This week is no different for the Philadelphia Eagles’ Jordan Matthews, who plies his trade out of the slot, but dwarfs slot cornerback Orlando Scandrick by five inches and 15 pounds. Scandrick has allowed the highest fantasy points per coverage snap (per Pro Football Focus) of Week 8 starting cornerbacks. Don’t fear his 15 percent target rate, either -- the Eagles’ passing attack won’t be too daunted to throw to their best receiver.
Brandon LaFell vs. Bashaud Breeland -- Early games overseas are always a toss-up, but I think the Cincinnati Bengals will have the better of this matchup in London on Sunday. Washington cornerback Bashaud Breeland has to deal with Brandon LaFell, and while they’re a physically even comparison, Breeland has been taken advantage of in recent matchups, giving up 3 of 4 targets for 42 yards to Marvin Jones last week alone. He is allowing the ninth-most fantasy points per coverage snap and the Washington secondary as a whole ranks in the bottom quarter of the league in numberFire’s schedule-adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play analytic.
Doug Baldwin vs. De'Vante Harris -- De'Vante Harris of the New Orleans Saints is another low-targeted slot corner in the spotlight this week, and he draws the start against top Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin. The Seattle passing attack has regressed, and Baldwin has averaged just 50 yards on six targets per game over his last three outings, but this matchup should put them right again. New Orleans ranks fourth-worst in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, and Harris himself is giving up the 10th-most fantasy points among Week 8 starting cornerbacks.
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Johnson Bademosi -- There was much debate about Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Twitter today, and whether or not his likely cover man -- top Detroit Lions cornerback Darius Slay -- was statistically one of the easier matchups for wideouts this season. That point is now moot, as Slay is inactive for Week 8. His replacement, Johnson Bademosi, is definitely a cake matchup for Nuk: he’s allowing the third-most fantasy points per target among Week 8 starters. While his fantasy points allowed per snap is low, this is because he hasn’t played enough to be targeted on more than 10 percent of his routes covered. Hopkins has no worries: the Lions’ defense as a whole ranks dead last in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play this year.
Julio Jones vs. Ladarius Gunter -- Another locked-in superstar wide receiver gets to go against an NFC North backup cornerback in this matchup. Top-tier passing attack for the Atlanta Falcons? Check. Injured Green Bay Packers secondary leads to fourth cornerback thrust into starting role? Check. High-octane shootout game script in the making? Check. Ladarius Gunter should get worked over hard in this one by Julio Jones, as he’s allowing the 24th-most fantasy points per coverage snap this year. The only reason Gunter survived his matchup with Alshon Jeffery last week was the injury to the opposing quarterback; Matt Ryan is much better than either Brian Hoyer or Matt Barkley.
Five Good Stocks
Chris Hogan vs. Ronald Darby -- The New England Patriots’ Chris Hogan gets targeted surprisingly little, with just an 11 percent target rate on his routes. Still, a matchup against Buffalo Bills’ cornerback Ronald Darby (very good, but getting exposed) is good, as Darby allows the fourth-most fantasy points per snap among Week 8 starters. Buffalo’s pass defense is nothing to fear; they rank 14th in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Robby Anderson vs. Jamar Taylor -- He’s a deep-league play or Hail Mary option only, but New York Jets wide receiver Robby Anderson is doing some good things in relief of Eric Decker as the second outside receiver in this offense. He’s getting open and running good routes, but the athletically-gifted Anderson needs to catch better. He should get open this week too, against the Cleveland Browns’ Jamar Taylor, allowing the fifth-most fantasy points per snap among cornerbacks.
Anquan Boldin vs. Kareem Jackson -- The Lions’ Anquan Boldin has gone from reliable flex play in fantasy to super-unsexy deep option as the years have gone on, but I still like him this week against the Texans’ Kareem Jackson. Jackson is letting up the eighth-most fantasy points per snap among Week 8 starters, and has been targeted at a solid 20 percent rate.
Mohamed Sanu vs. Micah Hyde -- Start all your Falcons! Micah Hyde is normally a solid safety for the Packers, but he’s been called back into slot corner duty, due to the dearth of healthy cornerback options that Green Bay has. He’s been targeted 22 percent of the time and is allowing the 17th-most fantasy points per snap. Mohamed Sanu might be inconsistent, but this is a perfect game script to use him in.
Tyreek Hill vs. Patrick Robinson -- I still don’t know why the Kansas City Chiefs won’t use Tyreek Hill more in their passing game. Sure, they are regressing in passing volume all around, but he’s produced a whopping 1.03 fantasy points per route run this year. Against Indianapolis Colts cornerback Patrick Robinson, he could see a reasonable amount of targets; Robinson is allowing the 15th-most fantasy routes per coverage snap, and the Colts rank second-to-last in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
Two Smoking Craters
Alshon Jeffery vs. Xavier Rhodes -- Minnesota Vikings’ top young cornerback Xavier Rhodes’ last three victims: Nelson Agholor, DeAndre Hopkins, and Odell Beckham. The three combined for 10 catches on 24 targets for 89 receiving yards and a touchdown when covered by Rhodes, who has the 14th-lowest fantasy points allowed per coverage snap. Alshon Jeffery has looked out of sync with the Chicago Bears’ offense, and quarterback Jay Cutler is just returning from injury. No thanks.
San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos -- Whichever of Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, or Dontrelle Inman the Denver cornerbacks -- Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, and Bradley Roby -- take this week, we don’t care. All of them have awful matchups, as all three cornerbacks are in the bottom 20 of fantasy points allowed per coverage snap this season. The Denver secondary ranks second in the NFL in adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play; bench your Chargers this week.