By utilizing our play-by-play data, we’re able to identify defensive schemes and where each wide receiver and cornerback lines up on every 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.
The Lions have one of the league’s shakiest cornerback units on paper, so it might surprise you to learn that they’ve allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season, including the 10th fewest to the perimeter and third fewest to the slot. However, a closer look shows that they’ve actually allowed the seventh-most fantasy points over expected to the position. Why?
They’ve faced very little volume, including the fewest WR routes (371), fifth-fewest targets (82) and ninth-fewest end zone targets (four). Detroit is allowing 16.2 yards per receptions and 11.2 yards per target to the position, both of which are worst in the league. The Bengals’ wide receivers, meanwhile, rank seventh in the NFL in combined fantasy points. Oruwariye (who shadowed Justin Jefferson last week) and undrafted rookie Jacobs will work the perimeter against Chase and Higgins, with another undrafted rookie, Parker, facing off in the slot against Boyd. Upgrade all three Bengals wideouts.
The Titans’ have allowed the most receiving yards and fantasy points to wide receivers this season, as well as the third-most touchdowns (eight) and sixth-highest yards per target (9.7). Jenkins hasn’t allowed much on his side (Tennessee has surrendered the third-fewest fantasy points to right perimeter receivers), but Fulton has struggled (fourth most allowed to left perimeter receivers) and was actually replaced by rookie Farley in Week 5. Sanders (75% perimeter) and Diggs (80%) will see a fairly even share of Jenkins and Fulton/Farley and can be upgraded a bit. Beasley (90% slot) is coming off a Week 5 dud, but he’s in a good spot against Jackson. Tennessee has allowed the second-most fantasy points to the slot.
Metcalf and Lockett won’t have Russell Wilson for the next few weeks, but perhaps they’ll be bailed out a bit this week by a good matchup. Pittsburgh has allowed the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers (fifth most over expected), including the fourth most to the perimeter and fifth most to the slot. Haden has been decent on his side, but Pierre, a 2020 undrafted free-agent signing, has struggled, with the Steelers allowing the most fantasy points to left perimeter receivers. Metcalf (79% perimeter) and Lockett (65%) will primarily work against Haden and Pierre (Metcalf will see Pierre more than Lockett will) this week and should be upgraded.
As if being without Wilson isn’t enough, Seattle also needs to solve its pass defense issues. Seattle is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to wide receivers (eighth most over expected), including the fourth most to the slot. Seattle has already benched Tre Flowers and promoted Jones, but so far, so bad on that front. The Seahawks have allowed 194-plus yards to wideouts in four straight games and 48-plus fantasy points to the position in three straight outings. Only the Titans have allowed more yardage to the position. Johnson (91% perimeter) and Claypool (81%) will work against Reed and Jones this week, with Washington (if back from a groin injury) and Ray-Ray McCloud the best bets to replace injured JuJu Smith-Schuster in the slot. Upgrade the Steelers’ wideouts across the board.
I know what you’re thinking — this can’t be right and belongs in the “tough matchups” section. A few weeks ago, it might have been, but we can’t ignore what has gone on with the Miami defense this season. The Dolphins are allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to wide receivers (second most over expected), including the sixth most to the perimeter and ninth most to the slot. Granted, a ton of the production came last week against Tampa Bay (82 fantasy points), but most of that damage came against Howard (who shadowed Antonio Brown) and Jones (who shadowed Mike Evans). Also, Miami allowed 259 yards to Raiders wideouts in Week 3. Howard and Jones are two of the game’s highest-paid corners, so perhaps they’ll get back on track and make this matchup upgrade look silly, but the recent struggles make it hard to ignore. Jones and Shenault disappointed in Week 5 but remain on the flex radar this week.
Other notable upgrades:
The Bills’ defense faced what might go down as its toughest challenge of the season last week, and the unit certainly got the job done. Kansas City wide receivers were targeted 30 times against the Bills but were limited to 169 yards and one touchdown in Buffalo’s comfortable victory. The Bills have now faced the ninth-most wide receiver targets this season but have allowed the fewest yards (558) and fantasy points (123), as well as the lowest yards per target (5.1) and catch rate (57%) to the position. White is, of course, a big part of the success, and he has been tasked with shadowing Terry McLaurin, Brandin Cooks and Travis Kelce over the past three weeks. This week, we should expect him to be glued to Brown when he’s working from the perimeter. Brown does align in the slot quite a bit (37% of the time this season), so he’ll dodge White about one-third of the time, but Buffalo has allowed the seventh-fewest fantasy points to the slot, so Brown certainly won’t have a walk in the park against Taron Johnson. Lower expectations for Brown this week.
Sutton’s fantasy production has been all over the map this season (two top-10 weeks, but single-digit points in his other three outings), but he has done enough to warrant weekly WR3 consideration. He’ll be a tougher start than usual this week with the strong possibility of Hayward shadow coverage on the docket. Hayward has not shadowed the past two weeks (Chargers, Bears), but did part time against Sammy Watkins in Week 1, a majority of the time against Chase Claypool in Week 2 and on all of Jaylen Waddle’s perimeter routes in Week 3. Hayward does not travel to the slot, but Sutton doesn’t much either (15%), so these two figure to face off on most plays this week. Note that the Raiders are allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers this season (second fewest over expected) and the third fewest to the perimeter, so even if Hayward doesn’t shadow, Sutton’s outlook is still concerning. He should be downgraded, and the same applies to Tim Patrick (76% perimeter).
Adams has been targeted on an enormous 38% of his routes this season and is basically matchup proof, but we nonetheless need to acknowledge that he could draw shadow coverage from underrated second-year corner Johnson this week. Chicago has faced only one team with a clear No. 1 wideout who aligns primarily on the perimeter this season, and Johnson shadowed Odell Beckham Jr. in that game. Granted, Johnson was out, but Kyle Fuller shadowed Adams when these two teams met in Week 17 last season. Johnson has played well this season, and the former second-round pick has the look of a 2021 breakout player. He’s aligned at right corner on 91% of his coverage snaps, and Chicago has allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to that slot. Perhaps Adams will come back to earth a bit in this matchup, but he, of course, is always an elite play.
Aside of getting completely annihilated by Tyreek Hill in Week 4, the Eagles’ zone-heavy defense has been terrific against wide receivers this season. In fact, they’ve allowed no more than 17 targets to a WR unit in any game this season and kept the Falcons, 49ers, Cowboys and Panthers WRs below 11 receptions and 126 yards, with a total of two TDs during the four games. The Eagles have, in turn, allowed the fourth-fewest fantasy points to wide receivers, including the fewest to the perimeter. Slay has aligned at left corner 82% of the time, and Philadelphia is allowing the fewest fantasy points to that slot. Evans (62% perimeter) and especially Brown (83%) will see a ton of Slay and Nelson, who are both playing well, and expectations should be held in check a bit. Note that the Eagles did shadow for the first time in Week 5 (Slay vs. DJ Moore and Nelson vs. Robby Anderson), but it’s not clear whether they will this week considering Tampa Bay has three standouts at the position. Evans, Brown and Chris Godwin (69% slot) are all lineup locks right now, but keep this matchup in mind when setting your Showdown Captain lineups on Thursday.
Other notable downgrades:
Other potential shadow scenarios:
Patriots’ J.C. Jackson has shadowed DeVante Parker (part time), Mike Evans and Brandin Cooks this season, so he might travel with the Cowboys’ Amari Cooper (or perhaps CeeDee Lamb) this week. Regardless, New England has been pretty good in terms of slowing wide receivers regardless of route location (ninth fewest overall, fifth fewest to perimeter, seventh fewest to slot), so we don’t need to adjust much for this matchup, other than perhaps a slight downgrade across the board.