Bills vs. Colts WR/CB Matchups: What To Expect From Stefon Diggs, T.Y. Hilton and More During Wild Card Weekend
Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images. Pictured: Stefon Diggs
Wide receiver-cornerback showdowns might be the most important individual matchups in football.
In this piece, I leverage snap data from Pro Football Focus (PFF) to project Wild Card Weekend WR/CB matchups for the Bills-Colts game.
For more, see the FantasyLabs Matchups page, where we provide basic and advanced data — including fantasy and red-zone performance — for each offensive skill-position player based on his matchup.
As we get more clarity during the week on the injury status of receivers and corners, I will update my WR/CB projections.
Buffalo Bills (-7.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts (52 Over/Under)
Kickoff: 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday | TV: CBS
Bills Wide Receivers
UPDATE (Fri. 1/8): WR Stefon Diggs (oblique) missed Wednesday practice but had a limited session on Thursday and is expected to play through his questionable tag. WR Cole Beasley (knee) missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday but saw limited work on Thursday and is questionable. I’m conservatively projecting him out, but he now has a chance to play.
In his first year with the Bills, Stefon Diggs finished as the league leader with 1,535 yards, 127 receptions and 166 targets.
I used to be a Diggs denier. I was wrong.
John Brown has missed seven full games this year and was injured or hampered in two other games. He has dealt with a variety issues (knee, ankle, COVID-19).
But Brown returned to action in Week 17 and looked like his typical self with 4-72-1 receiving on four targets.
In his seven healthy games this year, Brown is 33-458-3 receiving on 46 targets. Although he is now the No. 2 receiver to Diggs, Brown is still every bit the player who had a career-best campaign last year with the Bills.
Slot receiver Cole Beasley (knee) suffered an injury in Week 16, missed Week 17 and is uncertain for Wild Card Weekend. If Beasley is unable to play, rookie dynamo Gabriel Davis will fill in for him.
A 21-year-old upside fourth-rounder, Davis was monstrously undervalued as a prospect. With 35-599-7 receiving on 62 targets as a rookie backup, Davis is more than capable of playing alongside Diggs and Brown in three-wide sets.
Davis looks like a future 1,000-yard receiver.
UPDATE (Fri. 1/8): CB Rock Ya-Sin (concussion) is out.
For the entire season, the Colts have deployed their cornerbacks in a set fashion: Xavier Rhodes plays at right corner, Rock Ya-Sin at left corner, Kenny Moore II in the slot and T.J. Carrie fills in as needed if one of the starters is out.
But last week, with Ya-Sin (concussion) out, Rhodes lined up on both sides of the formation, most often matched up with the big-bodied Chris Conley, whom the Colts evidently identified as the No. 1 receiver for the Jags with D.J. Chark (shin) out.
It wasn’t a great performance for Rhodes, who allowed 5-57-1 receiving on six targets.
In so many ways, Diggs is not Conley, and I doubt we will see the Colts use Rhodes in shadow coverage again this week, even if Ya-Sin remains out.
The Colts rank No. 6 with a 76.8 PFF coverage grade, and Rhodes and Moore are above-average veterans, but if Ya-Sin misses this weekend, Carrie will be an exploitable downgrade within the Colts defense.
It’s unfortunate for him that he’s likely to match up most with Diggs.
Colts Wide Receivers
Veteran T.Y. Hilton was plagued by a hamstring injury early in the season and then a groin injury in the middle of the campaign, but in the six games since Week 12 — when he was finally removed from the injury report — Hilton is 27-435-5 receiving on 43 targets.
Hilton is back.
Rookie Michael Pittman Jr. and slot receiver Zach Pascal are fine players, but Hilton is the driver of the Colts passing attack. Since Hilton’s Week 12 reemergence, Pittman has averaged 33.5 yards receiving per game; Pascal, 40.8.
No. 1 Tre’Davious White got a much-needed rest in Week 17, but I expect to see him return to shadow Hilton this weekend. While White typically matches up with bigger-bodied No. 1 receivers, he hasn’t shied away from small-and-fast field stretchers like Hilton.
A 2019 All-Pro defender, White has had an inconsistent season. On the one hand, he has allowed a mediocre-at-best 8.8 yards per target. On the other hand, he has shadowed opposing No. 1 receivers almost every week and allowed only 3.9 targets in his coverage per game. His 77.9 PFF coverage grade this year speaks to his overall talent and play.
For his career, White has a 55.8% catch rate allowed. He represents a very tough matchup for Hilton.
With White on Hilton, we will likely see Levi Wallace on Pittman and Taron Johnson on Pascal for most of the game.
Wallace is an above-average cover man, but Johnson is a liability in the slot. Since last year, he has allowed a 74.7% catch rate. Pascal will have an edge over Johnson in this matchup.
Wide Receiver Upgrades & Downgrades
- Stefon Diggs: Moderate upgrade
- John Brown: Small downgrade
- Gabriel Davis: Small downgrade
- T.Y. Hilton: Large downgrade
- Michal Pittman: Small downgrade
- Zach Pascal: Moderate upgrade
Bills & Colts WR/CB Injuries
- Bills WR Stefon Diggs (oblique) is projected IN.
- Bills WR Cole Beasley (knee) is projected OUT.
- Colts CB Rock Ya-Sin (concussion) is OUT.
Bills-Colts WR/CB Matrix
Pos = left, right or slot WR or CB
Projected shadow matchups are CAPITALIZED
WR Exp = Wide Receiver Expectation: I rank from 3 to -3 how much I think we should adjust expectations for wide receivers based on matchups. 3: Large upgrade. 2: Medium upgrade. 1: Small upgrade. 0: No change. -1: Small downgrade. -2: Medium downgrade. -3: Large downgrade.
Thanks to Scott Barrett for providing me with some of PFF’s historical data.
Matthew Freedman is 966-750-36 (56.3%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.
The Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, Freedman is commonly called the Oracle & the Labyrinthian.