Wide Receivers With the Best and Worst Cornerback Matchups in Week 17
Exploiting key matchups is one of the best ways to give your fantasy team an edge over your opponent. Poor cornerback play should be exploited whenever possible, as even subpar receivers can produce in positive situations, while elite receivers can hand in career games.
These mismatches can be found in every game on every team if you dig deep enough. Here’s a look at the wide receivers with the best and worst matchups in Week 17.
Matchups to Target
All Julio Jones needed was Calvin Ridley out of the picture. Without his teammate over the last two weeks, Jones has seen 35 targets as the only dynamic option in the Atlanta Falcons' passing game. That level of volume will obviously make anyone a stud, and he's turned it into 23 catches, 300 yards, and two scores.
Julio Jones was not even a finalist for the NFL 100 list
If only he played in the 40s-80s
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) December 22, 2019
Matt Ryan seems comfortable throwing to only Jones these days, which makes this matchup easy to target. Jones' 41.7 percent target share over the last two games should continue against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have allowed the most targets, receptions, and yards to receivers this season.
According to oddsFire, this game has a total of 48.5, which is already high. Given these explosive offenses and poor defenses, 74 percent of bets and 68 percent of money is on the total going over that mark, as well. This game should be a shootout, and Jones should get his fair share of volume.
In his career against the Bucs, Jones averages 117.5 yards per game. Look for him to exceed that in this game environment thanks to his recent volume.
Sterling Shepard vs. Ronald Darby
Despite missing six games this season, Sterling Shepard leads all New York Giants receivers in catches. And since his return from a concussion in Week 12, he's seen eight targets per game and has topped 100 yards or scored in three of those five games. Shepard has clearly been operating as the Giants' top receiver despite Darius Slayton finding his way to the end zone more often.
Danny Dimes to Sterling Shepard for a Giants TD!!! He’s back! pic.twitter.com/XU5W1czgiM
— Bobby Skinner (@BobbySkinner_) December 22, 2019
It's always safer to look at targets, especially against the Philadelphia Eagles secondary that ranks 20th in Adjusted Defensive Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills have been a liability this season, allowing the sixth-most receiving yards to wide receivers. Slayton posted the big game on them in Week 14, but follow the volume and roll with the Giants' alpha receiver.
Amari Cooper vs. Quinton Dunbar
If you told me that Amari Cooper would see 12 targets against the Philadelphia Eagles' secondary, I would have assumed he dropped 200 yards and two scores on them. Instead, he caught four balls for just 24 yards.
Amari Cooper seemed to question the coaching staff for his ineffectiveness. When I asked his explanation, Cooper talked about all the short routes he ran and then said, “I feel like the go ball was a good route to run tonight and we didn’t really get to it.’’
— Ed Werder (@WerderEdESPN) December 23, 2019
Cooper is not the same player outside of the Dallas Cowboys' home turf. In home games this season, he's averaging 6.9 receptions and 111 yards. On the road, those figures drop by more than half, as he's seeing 3.4 receptions and just 40 yards per game.
Thankfully, the Cowboys' finale is at home, and it's against a team that is even worse against the pass than the Eagles are. Washington ranks 29th in schedule-adjusted pass defense and just allowed Giants receivers to rack up 227 yards and two scores on them.
It's also encouraging that Cooper saw 12 targets, so his poor box score wasn't for a lack of effort in getting him the ball. Look for Dak Prescott to do the same in a must-win game against a poor secondary.
DeAndre Hopkins vs. LeShaun Sims
After missing a stretch of games, LeShaun Sims returned to the starting lineup for the Tennessee Titans and has been greeted by DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas. Neither of those matchups went well, as both Hopkins and Thomas topped 100 receiving yards versus him and Logan Ryan.
Hopkins gets a rematch against this duo, as Adoree' Jackson hasn't given any indication that he's close to playing. Will Fuller is also unlikely to suit up with his hamstring injury, so Hopkins should see a massive target share.
Deshaun Watson doesn't play well without Fuller, as Fuller's speed draws safety attention and opens up the rest of the field. But that shouldn't matter for Hopkins, as he'll just operate closer to the line of scrimmage and garner extra targets. Look for Hopkins to bounce back from a bad Week 16 outing and crush his division rival.
Matchups to Avoid
Robby Anderson vs. Tre'Davious White
Robby Anderson is having a repeat of his 2018 season. After being wildly inconsistent in the first half of the year, he's been steady over his last five games, hitting 60 yards or scoring in each of them. He's also done that against the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers, both of whom rank in the top five of Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play.
#Jets don’t have a ton of internal free agents to pay because they simply haven’t drafted well enough
There is no reason to not keep Sam Darnold’s best weapon in Robby Anderson
— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) December 22, 2019
While that is encouraging, Anderson's matchup with the Buffalo Bills doesn't get any easier. They rank seventh against the pass when adjusted for strength of schedule, and they also use their ace cornerback, Tre'Davious White, to shadow opposing alpha receivers. According to PlayerProfiler, White has allowed 130 total yards in his coverage over the last four weeks.
Anderson should see plenty of White this weekend, so we shouldn't expect his successful outings to continue. He put up only three receptions for 23 yards in Week 1 against this defense, and a repeat performance is far more likely in this matchup.
DeVante Parker vs. Stephon Gilmore
It may have taken the duration of his rookie contract, but DeVante Parker finally broke out in the NFL. After 111 yards and two scores against the Cincinnati Bengals, Parker has surpassed 1,000 receiving yards and hit nine touchdowns for the Miami Dolphins this season. While he earned a new contract with his performance this year, he should have gotten a Pro Bowl nod, as well.
Parker's fifth year has been a revelation, but it will likely not end well against the New England Patriots. They rank first in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play and have taken away top receivers with the All-Pro play of Stephon Gilmore. Gilmore played a hand in Parker's Week 2 goose-egg as Parker failed to convert his seven targets into a single reception.
Lowest passer rating allowed in coverage since 2017:
1. Tre'Davious White (57.9)
2. Stephon Gilmore (62.4) pic.twitter.com/RuaoyVwMGH
— PFF (@PFF) December 19, 2019
Parker's massive volume (15 targets last week) always puts him in play, but his floor is obviously zero catches. It was a nice ride, but he should be on your bench in Week 17.
Jarvis Landry vs. Darqueze Dennard
The Bengals have been bad against the pass all season, ranking 31st in Adjusted Defensive Passing NEP per play, but somehow they are good against receivers. They have allowed the third-fewest receptions, the 13th-fewest yards, and the ninth-fewest touchdowns to wide outs this season.
It truly is a mystery.
Their slot cornerback, Darqueze Dennard, has been solid in coverage. In his eight healthy games in 2019, he hasn't allowed more than 51 receiving yards or a single touchdown in his coverage. Dennard also limited Jarvis Landry to just four receptions in Week 14, so the Cleveland Browns' slot receiver could struggle again to find production in this matchup.