Fantasy football Week 12 shadow report: Key WR/CB matchups

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By utilizing our play-by-play data, we’re able to identify defense schemes and where each wide receiver and cornerback lines up on each play. By tracking these WR/CB matchups, including potential shadow situations, we can offer the best projections, rankings, sit/start decisions and fantasy advice each week. Fantasy football is a weekly game, so knowing the matchups can also help you make the best waiver wire pickups.

Down below are the receivers with the best and worst matchups this week, as well as the corresponding fantasy impact.

To view the primary defenders the top three wide receivers for each team will see this weekend, be sure to check out our weekly WR vs. CB Cheat sheet.

Note that, unless otherwise noted, references to where teams rank in statistical categories adjust to a per-game basis in order to avoid distortion due to bye weeks.

Advantageous Matchups

Buccaneers’ Mike Evans and Antonio Brown/Tyler Johnson vs. Colts’ Xavier Rhodes and Rock Ya-Sin

The Colts are playing well lately, but struggles with injuries and effectiveness at perimeter corner have led to the utilization of a rotation with Rhodes, Ya-Sin and Isaiah Rodgers. Indianapolis has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to wideouts this season (sixth most over expected), including the fifth most to the perimeter. Wide receivers have scored a league-high 17 touchdowns against them. Evans (62% perimeter) will see the Colts’ perimeter trio on over half his routes this week, though he aligns inside quite a bit and will draw Moore (one of the game’s better slot corners) a bit. Brown, if he returns from injury, aligns outside 82% of the time and can be upgraded. If he’s out, the same goes for Tyler Johnson (72% perimeter). Led by Moore, the Colts have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to the slot over the past month, so Chris Godwin (69% slot) should not be upgraded.

Jets’ Elijah Moore and Corey Davis vs. Texans’ Desmond King and Terrance Mitchell

The Texans are doing their best to slow opposing passing games by deploying a ton of two-high shells, but it simply hasn’t worked out. Houston is allowing the most fantasy points to perimeter receivers this season, as well as the third-most fantasy points overall over the past eight weeks. King and Mitchell are Houston’s perimeter corners for the time being, which sets up Davis (76% perimeter) and Moore (72%) with a terrific Week 12 matchup. Both can be upgraded. Slot man Jamison Crowder doesn’t need to be upgraded, as Tavierre Thomas has played well. (Houston has allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to the slot.)

49ers’ Deebo Samuel vs. Vikings’ Bashaud Breeland

If you’ve watched the 49ers this season, especially over the past two weeks, you know that Samuel isn’t deployed like a typical wide receiver. He aligns all over the field, including the backfield, which sometimes makes it tough to identify who he’ll see most often in coverage. Samuel has aligned at right perimeter receiver 41% of the time, though, which sets him up in a great spot against Breeland (93% left perimeter corner). Minnesota has allowed the third-most fantasy points, second-most yards and third-most touchdowns to wide receivers this season, but it’s worse lately. The Vikings have allowed the most fantasy points to the position over the past month, including the sixth most to the perimeter and the fourth most to Breeland’s side of the field. Samuel will draw Breeland and Minnesota slot man Mackensie Alexander (the Vikings are also allowing the most fantasy points to the slot over the past month) on roughly 70% of his routes, which more than offsets his occasional route against standout Patrick Peterson. Upgrade Samuel. Brandon Aiyuk, by the way, will see all three Minnesota corners, but will draw Peterson roughly 40% of the time, so his matchup can be considered neutral or slightly positive.

Texans’ Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins vs. Jets’ Michael Carter II, Bryce Hall and Isaiah Dunn

After placing sixth-round rookie Brandon Echols on injured reserve last week, the Jets are currently rolling with 2020 fifth-round pick Hall and undrafted rookie Dunn on the perimeter with fifth-round rookie Carter in the slot. It hasn’t gone very well as of late, as the Jets have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers over the past eight weeks (fifth most over expected), as well as the ninth most to the perimeter and second most to the slot. New York is allowing 9.3 yards per target to wideouts, which is second worst. The numbers are similar or worse over the past four weeks. Cooks (68% perimeter) and Collins (83%) have mostly lined up outside this season, but both were in the slot more than usual last week as the team utilized Chris Conley more, at Danny Amendola’s expense. Both Cooks and Collins will see plenty of all three of New York’s young corners and can be upgraded.

Chargers’ Keenan Allen vs. Broncos’ Kyle Fuller (Slot)

Fuller appeared to be a sharp offseason add by Denver, but the move hasn’t worked out. The veteran corner initially lost his starting job on the outside, but when slot man Bryce Callahan was placed on IR, Fuller was asked to replace him inside. Fuller hasn’t done that much throughout his career, and it’s a longshot that his play will pick up drastically in the new role. Denver hasn’t been atrocious against the slot (12th-most fantasy points allowed over the past eight weeks, and past month), but Fuller’s struggles coupled with Allen’s massive recent usage (above a 33% target share in four straight games) sets up Justin Herbert’s favorite target for a big game. Allen (64% slot) can be upgraded, whereas it’s more of a neutral matchup for Mike Williams against Ronald Darby and Patrick Surtain II on the perimeter.

Other notable upgrades:

Falcons’ Tajae Sharpe, Russell Gage and Olamide Zaccheaus vs. Jaguars’ Tyson Campbell, Rudy Ford and Shaquill Griffin

Panthers’ Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr. and DJ Moore vs. Dolphins’ Byron Jones, Justin Coleman and Xavien Howard

Bengals’ Tyler Boyd vs. Steelers’ Tre Norwood or Arthur Maulet (Slot)

Tough Matchups

Bills’ Stefon Diggs vs. Saints’ Marshon Lattimore (Shadow)

This is an interesting one. On one hand, the Saints are getting pummeled by wide receivers this season, allowing the ninth-most fantasy points (most over expected over the past month), including the sixth most to the perimeter and 10th most to the slot. Only four defenses have allowed more receiving yards to the position. On the other, we know Lattimore is one of the league’s top corners and is likely to shadow Diggs (80% perimeter) on most of his routes. Lattimore has shadowed in five games this season with pretty good results. Those showdowns were against Davante Adams (5-56-0 receiving line in the game), Terry McLaurin (4-46-0), DK Metcalf (2-96-1), Mike Evans (2-48-1) and DeVonta Smith (4-61-0). That works out to 11.9 fantasy points per game against some of the league’s top wide receiver talents. Expectations should be lowered a bit for Diggs on Thanksgiving, whereas Cole Beasley (vs. PJ Williams in the slot) and Emmanuel Sanders (vs. Paulson Adebo and Bradley Roby) are in a much better spot.

Eagles’ DeVonta Smith vs. Giants’ James Bradberry (Shadow) Eagles’ Jalen Reagor vs. Giants’ Adoree’ Jackson

The Eagles and Giants are set to face off this week in what will be the first game between the teams since the “Nate Sudfeld game” in Week 17 last season that knocked New York out of the playoffs. The Giants will look for some revenge this week, and one part of the process will be slowing Smith, who has aligned outside on 88% of his routes. That sets the rookie up with probable shadow coverage courtesy of Bradberry, who has already traveled with Terry McLaurin (11-107-1 receiving line in the game), Calvin Ridley (8-61-0), Marquez Callaway (2-74-0) and, to some extent, Mike Evans (6-73-1) this season. Those lines are obviously pretty good, though Bradberry has played well overall and the Giants have been better than average against the perimeter over the past month, not to mention allowing the sixth-fewest fantasy points over expected to the position this season. New York is allowing 7.2 yards per target to wide receivers, which is fifth lowest. There’s no need to panic on Smith, but it’s a tougher matchup than usual. With Bradberry on Smith, Reagor will see a ton of Jackson and should be avoided as usual. Quez Watkins (75% slot) has emerged as the Eagles No. 2 wide receiver and makes for a deep sleeper against Darnay Holmes (New York has allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to the slot this season).

Giants’ Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard and Kadarius Toney vs. Eagles’ Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay

Despite getting beat up a bit in garbage time against the Saints last week, the Eagles still have some pretty impressive numbers against wide receivers this season. Philadelphia has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points overall (fifth-fewest over expected), including the second fewest to the perimeter and eighth fewest to the slot. Darius Slay has been Philadelphia’s best corner, and that shows up statistically, as the Eagles have allowed the fewest fantasy points to his side of the field. Slay has shadowed four times this season and could travel this week, though it’s tough to say who the Eagles would identify as the Giants’ top perimeter target (Toney and Shepard spend plenty of time in the slot). It’s possible Golladay (82% perimeter) draws Slay, which would lower his prospects further in what is already a tough matchup. New York’s wideouts should be downgraded across the board.

Titans’ A.J. Brown vs. Patriots’ J.C. Jackson (Shadow)

Brown left Tennessee’s Week 11 game with an injury, but if he’s able to play this week, he can expect to see a ton of New England No. 1 corner Jackson. Jackson has shadowed Mike Evans (7-75-0 receiving line in the game), Brandin Cooks (3-23-0), Donovan Peoples-Jones (1-16-0), DeVante Parker (4-81-0) and Kyle Pitts (3-29-0) either full- or part-time this season. Brown has aligned on the perimeter 65% of the time and he can expect to see Jackson on those plays this week. Brown does align inside about a third of the time and Jackson likely won’t follow him, but Myles Bryant has played well and the Patriots have allowed the fifth-fewest fantasy points to the slot this season. That’s on top of allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers overall, as well as the fourth fewest to the perimeter. Lower expectations for Brown.

Other notable downgrades:

Saints’ Marquez Callaway, Tre’Quan Smith and Deonte Harris vs. Bills’ Levi Wallace, Taron Johnson and Tre’Davious White

Dolphins’ Mack Hollins, Jaylen Waddle and Albert Wilson vs. Panthers’ Donte Jackson, A.J. Bouye and Stephon Gilmore

Raiders’ Hunter Renfrow vs. Cowboys’ Jourdan Lewis (Slot)

Browns’ Jarvis Landry vs. Ravens’ Tavon Young (Slot)

Cowboys’ Cedrick Wilson vs. Raiders’ Nate Hobbs (Slot)

Broncos’ Jerry Jeudy vs. Chargers’ Chris Harris Jr. (Slot)

Other potential shadow situations

Steelers’ Diontae Johnson vs. Bengals’ Chidobe Awuzie (Shadow)

This is the second meeting of the season between these teams, but the WR/CB matchups look very different. Johnson missed the Week 3 game, JuJu Smith-Schuster (now on IR) was active and Awuzie left injured early on. Awuzie has shadowed Justin Jefferson (5-71-0 receiving line in the game), Allen Robinson (2-24-1), Davante Adams (11-206-1) and Marquise Brown (5-80-1) this season, so we should expect him to travel with the Steelers’ clear No. 1 receiver this week. Awuzie (96% perimeter) won’t travel to the slot, but that’s irrelevant here, as Johnson has aligned outside 91% of the time. Granted, the wide receivers he’s shadowed have fared very well, but Awuzie has played extremely well this season, and Cincinnati has allowed the sixth-fewest fantasy points to his side of the field. We don’t need to move the needle much for the heavily targeted Johnson, but we should increase expectations for Chase Claypool, who will likely draw the shadow from struggling Eli Apple on the other side.

Packers’ Davante Adams vs. Rams’ Jalen Ramsey

Ramsey hasn’t shadowed full-time in a single game this season, but did so part-time against DeAndre Hopkins, DK Metcalf and A.J. Brown. We should expect something similar against Adams this week. Ramsey shadowed Adams on 16 of his 31 routes (16/18 perimeter, 0/10 slot) when these teams met in the playoffs last season, but Adams had little trouble, posting a 9-66-1 receiving line on 10 targets in the game. These two will face off a bit this weekend, but Ramsey’s 2021 usage suggests he won’t come close to shadowing full-time, so there’s no need to downgrade Adams.

Source: ESPN

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