By using 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.
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 to avoid distortion due to bye weeks.
Texans’ Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins vs. Colts’ Xavier Rhodes, Kenny Moore II and Rock Ya-Sin
Indianapolis continues to struggle against boundary wide receivers, having allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to the perimeter this season, including the fourth most over the past eight weeks. Wide receivers have scored a league-high 17 touchdowns, and nine wideouts have reached 18 fantasy points against the Colts. Cooks (68% perimeter) and rookie Collins (84%) stand to benefit most from facing off with the perimeter rotation of Rhodes, Ya-Sin and Isaiah Rodgers. When these teams met in Week 6, Cooks posted a 9-89-0 receiving line on 13 targets, with most of that damage coming on 22 routes against Rhodes and Ya-Sin. He should be upgraded, whereas Collins is an option only as a DFS punt.
Colts’ T.Y. Hilton and Michael Pittman Jr. vs. Texans’ Desmond King and Terrance Mitchell
On the other side of that game, we have Houston’s struggling perimeter defense. The Texans are allowing the third-most fantasy points to perimeter receivers this season, as well as the fifth-most points overall over the past eight weeks. Pittman (79% perimeter) and Hilton (82%) are the boundary receivers for the Colts, which means they’ll face off often with struggling and oft-targeted King and Mitchell this week. The Colts didn’t run many pass plays when these teams met in Week 6, but Hilton (4-80-0 receiving line on four targets) had a decent game, Parris Campbell caught a 51-yard touchdown and Pittman was limited to a 2-35-0 line on three targets. Despite Pittman’s dud in that game (and boom/bust production this season), he and Hilton can both be upgraded this week.
Eagles’ DeVonta Smith, Quez Watkins and Jalen Reagor vs. Jets’ Bryce Hall, Michael Carter II and Javelin Guidry
The Jets’ cornerback adjustments continued in Week 12 as they benched undrafted rookie Isaiah Dunn and promoted undrafted second-year player Guidry to the starting lineup. Guidry joined 2020 fifth-round pick Hall on the perimeter, with fifth-round rookie Carter manning the slot as usual. The results haven’t been good for this group of late. Over the past eight weeks, the Jets have allowed the fourth-most fantasy points to wide receivers (fifth most over expected), as well as the sixth most to the perimeter and second most to the slot. Youngsters Reagor and Watkins have shown not to be reliable fantasy options, but first-round rookie Smith stands to benefit. Jalen Hurts’ top target aligns outside 89% of the time, so he’ll see a fair share of Hall and Guidry this week. He should obviously be upgraded.
Buccaneers’ Mike Evans and Chris Godwin vs. Falcons’ Fabian Moreau and Darren Hall
When these teams met in Week 2, Evans (5-75-2 receiving line on nine targets), Godwin (4-62-1 on five targets) and Rob Gronkowski (4-39-2 on six targets) had big games, though Antonio Brown (1-17-0 on three targets) was held in check. I mention this first because it aligns almost exactly with what you’d expected based on Atlanta’s cornerback deployment. A.J. Terrell is one of the league’s best corners, and he aligns opposite of where Brown has set up shop on 48% of his routes this season. On the other hand, Evans is aligned at the left perimeter or in the slot 77% of the time, and Godwin is in those positions on 83% of his routes. Evans and Godwin will work against Moreau and Hall on those plays, and both have struggled. The Falcons have allowed the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season (eighth most over expected), as well as the eighth most to the perimeter. They’ve been worse lately, which has included allowing the seventh-most points to the slot. Terrell hasn’t shadowed at all this season, so Evans is set up with the best matchup and gets the biggest upgrade.
Other notable upgrades:
Ravens’ Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay and Marquise Brown vs. Steelers’ Cameron Sutton, Arthur Maulet and Joe Haden
Steelers’ Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool vs. Ravens’ Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett
Broncos’ Jerry Jeudy vs. Chiefs’ L’Jarius Sneed (slot)
Dolphins’ Jaylen Waddle vs. Giants’ Darnay Holmes (slot)
Vikings’ Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn and Adam Thielen vs. Lions’ Amani Oruwariye, Jerry Jacobs and Will Harris
Lions’ Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. Vikings’ Mackensie Alexander (slot)
Bills’ Stefon Diggs vs. Patriots’ J.C. Jackson (Shadow)
Bills’ Emmanuel Sanders vs. Patriots’ Jalen Mills
Bills’ Cole Beasley vs. Patriots’ Myles Bryant (Slot)
This will mark the first meeting between these teams this season, but Jackson shadowed Diggs in both 2020 games, which gives us an idea of what to expect. In the Week 8 game, Jackson was on Diggs on 15 of his 18 routes. Diggs posted a 6-92-0 receiving line on eight targets on those plays, which covered 100% of his receiving production in the game. In Week 16, Diggs went for 3-85-2 on five targets against Jackson (19 routes) and totaled a 9-145-3 receiving line on 11 targets in the game. Needless to say, Jackson had no answers for Diggs, but that might not matter much this season. New England has been substantially better defensively and has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers overall and to the perimeter, as well as the third fewest to the slot. The Patriots have allowed the fewest fantasy points in all three of those categories over the past four weeks. 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 and is likely to follow Diggs around on, at least, his perimeter routes, which is where Diggs aligns 80% of the time. Diggs is too good to bench, but this is obviously one of his hardest matchups of the season. Sanders and Beasley should also be downgraded and make for less reliable flex options.
Cardinals’ DeAndre Hopkins vs. Bears’ Jaylon Johnson
Sometimes matchups are as simple as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and that’s the case for Hopkins this week. Arizona’s top receiver aligns wide to the left 79% of the time. Chicago’s strength against wide receivers happens to be that exact spot, with the Bears having allowed the second-fewest fantasy points to left perimeter receivers. The reason is obvious: That’s where top corner Jaylon Johnson has aligned on 87% of his coverage snaps. Johnson has played well, whereas his fellow cornerbacks have not (ninth-most fantasy points overall to wide receivers). In fact, Chicago benched Kindle Vildor and slot Duke Shelley on Thanksgiving, replacing them with Artie Burns and Xavier Crawford, respectively. Hopkins’ targets might take a hit this week, whereas A.J. Green is set up nicely against Burns and Christian Kirk (and Rondale Moore) will benefit against Crawford.
Jets’ Elijah Moore, Jamison Crowder and Corey Davis vs. Eagles’ Steven Nelson, Avonte Maddox and Darius Slay
Philadelphia has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season (fifth fewest over expected), including the second fewest to the perimeter. The Eagles continue to allow the fewest fantasy points to right perimeter receivers, which is top corner Slay’s primary side. Philadelphia has faced the fewest WR targets, but strong efficiency has led to the second-fewest receptions and yardage allowed, as well. Moore (72% perimeter) lines up all over the formation and will see a fairly equal share of Slay, Nelson and slot man Maddox. Davis (76% perimeter) is in a similar position if he returns from injury. If not, Keelan Cole gets the downgrade. Expectations for Crowder (80% slot) should also be lowered as the Eagles have allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to the slot.
Chargers’ Mike Williams vs. Bengals’ Chidobe Awuzie (Shadow) Chargers’ Keenan Allen vs. Bengals’ Mike Hilton (Slot)
Awuzie has shadowed Justin Jefferson (5-71-0 receiving line in the game), Allen Robinson (2-24-1), Davante Adams (11-206-1), Marquise Brown (5-80-1) and Diontae Johnson (9-95-0) this season. The production of those receivers has been good, though note that Johnson had a 2-26-0 line on 20 routes against Awuzie before Cincinnati rested its starters in Sunday’s blowout. Also, Awuzie has played well overall this season, and that shows up in the numbers, as the Bengals have allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to his side of the field, compared with the fourth most to the right perimeter. Williams aligns outside 82% of the time, so these two figure to see plenty of each other this week. Allen (65% slot) also has a tough matchup with Hilton playing well inside for the Bengals. That said, don’t be shocked if Jalen Guyton or rookie Josh Palmer sees more work than usual with Eli Apple as the primary opposition for those two.
Other notable downgrades:
Bengals’ Tyler Boyd vs. Chargers’ Chris Harris Jr. (slot)
Jaguars’ Laviska Shenault Jr. vs. Rams’ Jalen Ramsey (slot)
Patriots’ Jakobi Meyers vs. Bills’ Taron Johnson (slot)
Saints’ Tre’Quan Smith vs. Cowboys’ Jourdan Lewis (slot)
WFTs’ Curtis Samuel vs. Raiders’ Nate Hobbs (slot)
Bears’ Allen Robinson vs. Cardinals’ Byron Murphy (slot)
Other potential shadow situations
Cowboys’ Amari Cooper vs. Saints’ Marshon Lattimore (Shadow)
Lattimore has shadowed in five games this season, but he surprisingly did not against Stefon Diggs on Thanksgiving, which means it’s not a lock that he will against Cooper (fresh off the COVID list) this week. If he does shadow, it will be a challenge for Cooper. Lattimore’s early-season showdowns came 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.
These two have met twice previously. Lattimore shadowed Cooper on 25 of his 32 routes in a Week 4 2019 game. Cooper posted a 5-48-0 receiving line on eight targets. In 2018, Lattimore shadowed Cooper on 28 of his 32 routes and Cooper posted a 8-76-0 receiving line on eight targets. There’s reasonable doubt whether Lattimore will shadow, so there’s no need to move the needle on Cooper, especially since New Orleans has allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season (third most over expected), as well as the fourth most to the perimeter and 10th most to the slot. CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup can be upgraded, by the way.