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Week 15 WR/CB Matchups You Need To Know (Fantasy Football)

by Mike Tagliere | @MikeTagliereNFL | Featured Writer
Dec 15, 2017

DeAndre Hopkins and Jalen Ramsey will be one of the better duels in football over the next few years

There are times during the year where we don’t know exactly what’s going to happen in coverage. A team may decide they want to shadow an opposing No. 1 wide receiver and there may be times where they decide that there’s too much risk in leaving the No. 2 wideout unattended. Fortunately for you, we’ve been paying attention and know what most team will do at this point of the season.

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Not that it means that wide receiver will automatically be shut-down even if they do shadow, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. When people say, “start your studs,” it’s a very loose term because we cannot definitively define what a “stud” actually is. With that being said, there are certain wide receivers who fall into that territory this week that fantasy owners are considering benching. Let me walk you through these tough matchups and let you know how you should handle them. Not just that, but we’ll also talk about matchups to exploit, whether it be season-long or DFS, I’ve got you covered.

Matchups to Exploit

Julio Jones vs. Ryan Smith/Bobby McClain
This one comes down to the status of Vernon Hargreaves, who has been out since Week 10. It really doesn’t matter all that much, as both Smith and McClain aren’t equipped from a talent standpoint to handle someone like Jones. McClain stands at 5-feet-9 inches tall, while Smith has allowed five touchdowns on just 51 targets in his coverage. If you don’t recall what happened the last time Jones played against them, he tallied 253 yards and two touchdowns. Knowing that he scored in both matchups against them last year, the Bucs clearly have no clue how to take him out of the game.

Dez Bryant vs. Dexter McDonald/Sean Smith
This is a matchup that Bryant has probably circled on the calendar, as he’s been facing shutdown cornerbacks for so long, the Raiders don’t have someone on the roster to do that. The combination of McDonald and Smith haven’t seen very many targets in coverage (for whatever reason), but have allowed slightly over a 105 QB Rating when targeted. So, seeing that they’ve only allowed the 20th-most fantasy points to wide receivers is kind of deceiving, as they’ve allowed the ninth-most points per target to them in standard leagues and the fourth-most in PPR leagues. Bryant needs to be played in all formats.

Chris Hogan vs. Coty Sensabaugh
It’s unsure at this point whether or not Joe Haden will play, though I’m not expecting him to. Even if he did, he’s coming off a broken leg and a multi-week absence. In his place is Sensabaugh, a 5-foot-11 cornerback who has allowed a 104.4 quarterback rating throughout his career. It’s why you’ve seen the Steelers defense go from one that didn’t allow a wide receiver to record more than 61 yards in the first seven weeks, to one that’s allowed eight wide receivers to eclipse 70 yards over their last six games. Hogan has his legs under him after last week’s game, and needs to be back in lineups this week.

Mohamed Sanu vs. Vernon Hargreaves
Similar to the aforementioned Jones, Sanu doesn’t really have a bad matchup, no matter which cornerback plays. Hargreaves has been out since Week 10, and has been bad when on the field, allowing a 65 percent completion rate with 13.4 yards per reception. He’s also the only cornerback in the NFL who allowed more than 848 yards in coverage last year… he allowed 1,065 of them. If he sits, it would knock McClain into the slot and Smith out to cover Jones. McCain was with the Panthers last year as their slot cornerback, but was benched as the season went on, leading him to sign with the Bucs. They have no choice but to start him.

Jamison Crowder vs. Tyrann Mathieu
This would’ve been a matchup to be afraid of a few years ago, but not anymore. The Cardinals will be traveling across the country to play in Washington, and Mathieu isn’t the same player he once was, and has now allowed a 71 percent catch rate in his coverage over the last two years. Combine that with the fact that Crowder has seen an average of 9.2 targets over the last six weeks, and you have a matchup to target. With Josh Doctson being blanketed by Patrick Peterson, it’s likely that Crowder’s target share remains strong.

Matchups to Worry About

Robby Anderson vs. Marshon Lattimore
It’s not just Bryce Petty you have to worry about, Anderson owners. Nope, the biggest concern is on the other side of the field. Lattimore has been a lockdown cornerback in this, his first NFL season, and even returned off his ankle injury to hold Julio Jones to ‘just’ five catches for 98 yards. He’s also yet to allow a touchdown, but has intercepted three balls. When quarterbacks spike the ball into the turf, it gives them a 39.6 rating. When throwing at Lattimore, quarterbacks have just a 45.3 rating. He’s pretty dang good, making me want to bench Anderson for a safer option.

Josh Doctson vs. Patrick Peterson
You don’t ever want to actively target wide receivers going up against Peterson, so seeing him slated to cover your wide receiver, it’ll often end in heartache. Not just the fact that Peterson can cover with the best of them, he won’t have to cover for more than a second or two, considering the Cardinals should get plenty of pressure on Kirk Cousins, forcing him to get the ball out quick. Peterson has allowed just a 46 percent catch rate in his coverage, and that’s while defending the best of the best wideouts. Doctson isn’t quite there yet, so feel free to leave him on benches this week.

A.J. Green vs. Xavier Rhodes
The matchup that has everyone talking, Green vs. Rhodes. I want to take a second to say that Green is the elite. He is the one who teams will gameplan against. He is the one they’ll say, “let someone else beat us.” Regardless of how you feel about Rhodes, and I think he’s a top-three cornerback in the game, Green is better. That’s something we get caught up in, thinking, “oh man, this cornerback is tough… we need to avoid him.” While that’s the case with most players, Green is one of the exceptions to the rule. If you put him in single-man coverage, he’s going to win more often than not. Rhodes is great, but he’s also allowed three touchdowns in his coverage over the last three games. Unless you have three top-12 wide receivers on your team outside of Green, you shouldn’t bench him.

Tyreek Hill vs. Casey Hayward
This one should be interesting, because playing man coverage against Hill can get extremely dicey. The Chargers may decide to run zone against them, because of how high of a level Trevor Williams is playing at, meaning Hill would see both of them in coverage. Hayward and Williams have combined to allow an extremely-low 45.2 percent completion rate in coverage, while allowing just four touchdowns on 124 targets. On top of that, Hill hasn’t performed at home this year, though that may be coincidence. He did total 77 yards and a touchdown against them earlier in the season, but will lightning strike twice?

DeAndre Hopkins vs. Jalen Ramsey
We’ve seen this matchup before, back in Week 1 when Hopkins finished with 55 yards and a touchdown, though it took him a massive 16 targets to get there. That was also back when Deshaun Watson and Tom Savage were still active, and they both played a half in that game. It seems all but certain that T.J. Yates will start for the Texans this week, adding another layer of risk. The Jaguars haven’t used Ramsey in shadow coverage every game, either. So, Hopkins will likely face off against his old teammate A.J. Bouye as well, who has arguably played as well as Ramsey this year. Combined, they’ve allowed a 45 percent catch rate with just two touchdowns. He’s impossible to bench, but similar to A.J. Green, just lower your expectations a bit.

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Mike Tagliere is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeTagliereNFL.

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