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 Week 5 matchups, 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 adjusts to a per-game basis in order to avoid distortion due to bye weeks.
Kansas City is struggling against wide receivers this season, having allowed the fourth-most fantasy points over expected to the position. The Chiefs have faced only 66 WR targets (sixth fewest) but have allowed the fifth-highest catch rate (70%) and sixth-highest YPA (9.9) to the position.
The Chiefs have slowed the slot well (third-fewest points allowed) but haven’t shown well against the perimeter (fourth-most allowed). This week, that bodes well for Diggs (80% perimeter) and Sanders (74%). The duo will see plenty of Hughes and Ward (or Baker if Ward isn’t back from injury). Upgrade Diggs and Sanders, but Cole Beasley isn’t as appealing against L’Jarius Sneed in the slot.
Pittsburgh’s defense has been very good in recent years, but the offseason departures of key talent, including corners Steven Nelson and Mike Hilton, has led to struggles against wide receivers. The Steelers have allowed the fifth-most fantasy points to the position (sixth most over expected), including the sixth most to the perimeter and second most to the slot. They rank top eight in receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns allowed to wideouts. Courtland Sutton (84% perimeter) and Patrick (76%) will see some of Haden (who has played well), but also plenty of struggling Cameron Sutton and Pierre. Kendall Hinton stepped into the slot in place of injured Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler last week, but he can’t be trusted in lineups even in a plus matchup against Cameron Sutton.
Tennessee’s struggles against the pass have carried over from last season. The Titans have allowed the second-most fantasy points to wide receivers (fifth most over expected), including the ninth most against the perimeter and third most to the slot. They’ve surrendered the most receiving yards (944) and touchdowns (eight) to the position and sit fifth in yards per target allowed (9.9). Tennessee hasn’t struggled against right perimeter receivers (ninth-fewest points allowed), which is Jenkins’ primary side of the field, but has against the left side (most allowed), which is Fulton’s side.
That’s notable because Jones aligns at right perimeter receiver 44% of the time. We can upgrade him because he’ll see plenty of Fulton and Jackson, but we shouldn’t go overboard. Shenault (82% slot) gets a big boost inside against Jackson. Austin (75% perimeter) is no more than a deep sleeper, as he stepped in as injured DJ Chark’s replacement last week.
The Buccaneers continue to get overloaded with pass attempts by opponents (league-high 184), and it has led to a ton of production by opposing wide receivers. They’ve surrendered the most fantasy points to the position (11th most over expected), including the most to the perimeter and 13th most to the slot. They rank no better than third in targets, receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns allowed to wideouts.
As if that’s not bad enough, injuries are starting to add up. Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting both missed Week 4, and Davis left the game early with an injury. If the trio is out against Miami, Sherman (who played 98% of the snaps in his Tampa Bay debut), Cockrell (slot) and Pierre Desir are next up. The Miami offense is struggling, but Parker and Waddle are well positioned for plenty of volume this week and can be upgraded.
The Lions have allowed the 12th-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season, but a major reason is a lack of volume. Detroit has faced the fewest WR routes and fourth-fewest WR targets. In fact, the Lions have allowed the 12th-most fantasy points over expected. Detroit is allowing 17.3 yards per reception and 11.5 yards per target to the position, both of which are worst in the league. So, while it’s possible Thielen and Jefferson lose some volume while Minnesota is ahead this week, their efficiency should get an uptick. Thielen (76% perimeter) and Jefferson (63%) will see Oruwariye and Price when aligned out wide and the rookie Parker when in the slot. Both can be upgraded.
The Falcons have a talented young corner in Terrell — a 2020 first-round pick — but they’ve nonetheless struggled against wide receivers this season. They’ve allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to the position (second most over expected), including the third most to the perimeter.
They’ve especially struggled against left receivers (second-most points allowed), which is where Davis aligns 45% of the time. He gets the biggest boost, but Moore (if he’s back from injury) is in a good spot on the other side, as well. Oliver has played well in the slot this season but left Sunday’s game injured, so if he’s out, we’ll give a boost to Jamison Crowder (72% slot) against rookie Avery Williams.
Other notable upgrades:
The Jets’ inexperienced cornerback room was supposed to be an advantage for opposing wide receivers this season, but at least so far, the opposite is true. Under Robert Saleh’s leadership, New York has allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers (fourth fewest over expected), as well as the fewest to perimeter receivers. The Jets rank top 10 in receiving yards, touchdowns and yards per target allowed to wideouts.
Granted, the schedule hasn’t been tough (Panthers, Patriots, Broncos and A.J. Brown/Julio Jones-less Titans), but Atlanta isn’t exactly overloaded with WR standouts behind Ridley. Ridley is obviously a must-start player, but New York’s early-season success suggests we should limit expectations. He aligns outside 80% of the time and will see a lot of Hall and Echols (or, if he’s out due to injury, Javelin Guidry) on the perimeter. If Gage returns from injury, he’ll primarily face the rookie Carter in the slot.
McLaurin is the No. 6-scoring fantasy wide receiver this season, but he’ll have a challenge on his hands against probable Lattimore shadow coverage this week. Lattimore doesn’t always shadow, but he usually does against clear No. 1 perimeter receivers and that, of course, is the scenario this week. Lattimore shadowed Davante Adams in Week 1 and in eight games last season. Even when shadowing, Lattimore generally won’t travel to the slot, so McLaurin (27% slot) will dodge him and face off with CJ Gardner-Johnson occasionally. McLaurin is at risk of a down game (you may recall Adams’ quiet Week 1), but should still be in lineups.
When these teams met in Week 5 last season, Bradberry shadowed Cooper on 18 of his 25 routes, including 18 of 20 on the perimeter. Cooper managed only an 8-yard catch against Cooper and ended the game with 23 yards on four targets. Bradberry didn’t shadow full time in their Week 17 meeting but was on Cooper for 21 routes. Cooper posted a 3-17-0 receiving line on three targets on those plays and was held to a 6-41-0 line on nine targets in the game.
Bradberry obviously did a nice job on Dallas’ top receiver, and it’s logical to expect these two to match up often again this week. Bradberry has shadowed Terry McLaurin, Calvin Ridley and Marquez Callaway already this season and is playing well. So is Adoree’ Jackson on the other side of the field and, if Bradberry is on Cooper, he’ll face off with CeeDee Lamb. The Giants’ defense has underachieved this season, but their terrific CB duo should make life harder than usual for Dallas’ top perimeter targets.
Trevon and his brother Stefon Diggs have both caught at least one pass in every game this season. That’s hardly a surprise for Stefon, a wide receiver, but is incredible for Trevon, a cornerback. Diggs, who has five INTs in four games, has also done well in coverage, shadowing Mike Evans, Keenan Allen and DJ Moore, while also holding DeVonta Smith in check.
Golladay posted his first top-25 fantasy week as a member of the Giants in Week 4, but he’s handling only a 19% target share and is now in a tough spot against probable Diggs shadow coverage. Golladay has aligned out wide on 83% of his routes, and Diggs shadowed Evans, Allen and Moore on nearly all of their perimeter routes. Golladay should be downgraded and Darius Slayton (if he’s back from injury) upgraded against Anthony Brown on the other side.
Other notable downgrades:
Other potential shadow scenarios
If you have Tyreek Hill on your roster and you’re worried about Tre’Davious White’s shadow coverage, don’t be. The Chiefs and Bills met twice last season, and White was on Hill on only 10 of his 63 routes. Hill was targeted on five of those plays and caught four passes for 38 yards. You rarely see Hill in this column, and the reason for it (other than the fact that he’s all but uncoverable) is that he moves around the formation so often that’s it’s very hard for defenses to match up with him. And that will again be the case this week. White did shadow Travis Kelce on 14 of his 16 perimeter routes during the two games but didn’t cover him at all otherwise, so there’s not much to be concerned about there either.
The Rams’ Jalen Ramsey shadowed the Seahawks’ DK Metcalf in all three games between the teams last season. Metcalf posted receiving lines of 2-28-0 (four targets) and 6-59-0 (eight targets) in the two regular-season games. He went off for a 5-96-2 line (11 targets) in the playoff game, though one of the scores was on a broken play and the other in garbage time.
Despite all of this, it’s not a certainty that Ramsey will shadow Metcalf in Week 5. Ramsey also shadowed DeAndre Hopkins twice last season but did not last week, nor did he shadow during Weeks 1-3. The Rams seem to like Ramsey solely in the star position this season and trust Darious Williams (who primarily covered Hopkins last week) and David Long outside. While it would make sense to put Ramsey on Metcalf full time, one of Metcalf (19% slot) or Tyler Lockett (30%) will be in the slot roughly half the time in this game, so Ramsey will still see them quite a bit in coverage.
Is it possible Metcalf draws the shadow? Yes, so we should consider that when making DFS decisions, but we also don’t want to overreact as it’s far from a lock. Lower expectations for both Metcalf and Lockett, but both should, of course, be locked into lineups.