Buccaneers vs. Washington WR/CB Matchups: Chris Godwin Gets Upgrade In Wild Card Round
Getty Images. Pictured: Chris Godwin, Jimmy Moreland
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 Buccaneers-Washington 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.
Washington Football Team (+8.5) vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (45.5 O/U)
Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. ET on Saturday | TV: NBC
Football Team Wide Receivers
UPDATE (Fri. 1/8): WR Terry McLaurin (ankle) is technically questionable but fully expected to play. QB Alex Smith (calf) is questionable. I tentatively expect him to play, but he is far from certain to suit up.
There is really only one wide receiver in Washington, and you know who he is.
Throughout his two-year career, Terry McLaurin has had three head coaches and five quarterbacks — and he has still produced. After a 58-919-7 receiving campaign in 14 games last year, McLaurin broke out fully in 2020 with 87-1,118-4 on 134 targets in 15 games.
Among all wide receivers, McLaurin was No. 6 this year with 123.8 air yards and yards after catch (AirYAC) per game.
AirYAC is a leading indicator of fantasy production and can be found in the RotoViz NFL Player Statistical Summary.
McLaurin is already 25 years old, so he’s not precisely a young up-and-comer, but few players enter their third NFL seasons with 2,037 yards receiving. He’s undoubtedly a special player.
As for Steven Sims and Cam Sims … meh.
They both have some playmaking ability — theoretically. Steven Sims had six all-purpose touchdowns last year, and Cam Sims has a career mark of 9.9 yards per target.
But up until last week, Steven Sims was in a timeshare for slot snaps with Isaiah Wright, and Cam Sims is just 29-438-0 receiving on 45 targets in his 10 games since becoming a fulltime player in Week 7.
For the Footballers, it’s McLaurin, and that’s pretty much it.
UPDATE (Fri. 1/8): CB Carlton Davis (groin) missed practice on Tuesday but got in a full session on Thursday. As a result, I expect Davis to play through his questionable designation and shadow McLaurin throughout the game. If Davis returns, CB Sean Murphy-Bunting will shift back into the slot and CB Ross Cockrell will be on the sideline.
With Davis, the WR/CB matchups we should see most will likely be McLaurin vs. Davis, C. Sims vs. Jamel Dean and S. Sims vs. Murphy-Bunting.
The Bucs defense is No. 5 with a -5.4% pass DVOA, so the unit is objectively good — but No. 1 cornerback Carlton Davis (groin) has missed the past two games.
He got in two limited practices last week, so perhaps he’ll suit up against Washington, but I’m skeptical. And even if he plays, Davis almost certainly won’t perform with 100% ability — last week’s doubtful designation suggests that he wasn’t close to returning to action in Week 17.
A physical corner with shadow success against big-bodied No. 1 receivers, Davis if inactive will be missed. His matchup with McLaurin would have been great to watch.
Fortunately for the Bucs, No. 2 cornerback Jamel Dean is a strong replacement.
Without Davis, Dean has played almost exclusively at right corner, where he will naturally match up most with McLaurin.
Across his two-year career, Dean has impressed.
- 2019 (13 games): 6.2 yards per target | 48.9% catch rate allowed
- 2020 (14 games): 5.0 yard per target | 63.1% catch rate allowed
As much as any corner can, Dean should challenge McLaurin.
With Davis out, slot cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting has shifted to left corner and backup Ross Cockrell has played in the slot.
Although Cockrell is just the No. 4 corner, he’s a perpetually underappreciated journeyman who has been a solidly above-average defender for almost every year of his career.
- 2014 (Bills): 68.4 PFF coverage grade
- 2015 (Steelers): 73.5 PFF coverage grade
- 2016 (Steelers): 70.1 PFF coverage grade
- 2017 (Giants): 74.1 PFF coverage grade
- 2018 (Panthers): Injured
- 2019 (Panthers): 61.3 PFF coverage grade
- 2020 (Buccaneers): 74.2 PFF coverage grade
Even though he’s a backup, Cockrell won’t be a liability in the slot.
Murphy-Bunting is another matter. He has been his best this year in the slot but over the past six weeks, he has been forced to play on the perimeter because of injuries to Dean and then Davis.
Since Week 11, Murphy-Bunting has allowed 9.0 yards per target on 6.8 targets per game as primarily a boundary corner. On the outside, he is a liability.
Against the seldom-used Cam Sims, Murphy-Bunting is unlikely to be exposed in a significant way but on the limited snaps that McLaurin lines up opposite left corner, the Bucs will be vulnerable.
Buccaneers Wide Receivers
UPDATE (Fri. 1/8): WR Mike Evans (knee) practiced on a limited basis on Thursday and seems likely to play through his questionable tag. If Evans plays, WR Scotty Miller will resume his role as a rotational receiver.
After a slow start to the season, Mike Evans balled out in the final month of the season with 22-393-2 receiving. He hit the 1,000-yard threshold yet again in Week 17, becoming the only player in NFL history to open his career with seven such receiving campaigns.
The HOF is tweeting about Mike Evans 👀 https://t.co/S9E1wIDYMW
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) January 3, 2021
But Evans (knee) also suffered an injury last week. The team, as of writing, believes that Evans avoided ligament damage and merely hyperextended his knee, but with one less day than usual to recover between games, Evans is uncertain to play on Wild Card Weekend.
But the Bucs still have slot receiver Chris Godwin, Mr. Big Chest Antonio Brown and speedy backup Scotty Miller, who has 9.5 yards per target this year.
Even without Evans, the Bucs still have one of the league’s best receiver units.
Football Team Cornerbacks
UPDATE (Fri. 1/8): WR Mike Evans (knee) is cautiously expected to play. If he does, he will likely match up most with No. 1 CB Kendall Fuller.
No matter how you look at it, Washington is one of the best teams in the league against the pass. The Footballers are No. 2 with an 83.4 PFF coverage grade and -18.0% pass-defense DVOA.
Opposing receiver units are No. 28 against them with 2,321 yards and No. 31 with 10 touchdowns receiving.
Without question, a large part of its success is due to the defensive line. Washington is No. 5 with an 81.4 PFF pass-rush grade and No. 7 with a 7.9% adjusted sack rate.
It helps the guys on the back end when edge rushers Chase Young, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan and interior defenders Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Tim Settle apply steady pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
But the cornerbacks also deserve their share of the credit.
A slot corner for the first four years of his career, Kendall Fuller has successfully transitioned to the perimeter in 2020, allowing just 6.3 yards per target on a 52.9% catch rate.
At right corner, Fuller should have little trouble with Miller.
And Ronald Darby had a bounceback campaign in his first year with Washington. In 2019 with the Eagles, Darby had the worst season of his career. In 2020, he has had one of his best.
- 2019 (11 games): 62.9% catch rate | 10.7 yards per target allowed
- 2020 (16 games): 54.3% catch rate | 7.9 yards per target allowed
Darby isn’t an elite cover man, but he should provide some resistance at left corner to Brown.
And in the slot second-year seventh-rounder Jimmy Moreland has found his way.
Moreland forfeits too many receptions — his 71.8% catch rate allowed is a subpar mark. And he has just one career interception. His ballhawking instinctiveness is almost nonexistent.
But he keeps everything in front of him and doesn’t surrender big plays. Moreland has allowed just 6.2 yards per target this year and no touchdowns. He’s not a net negative, and considering that he allowed 8.5 yards per target last year on an 82.5% catch rate, that’s impressive.
Moreland is unlikely to slow Godwin down in the slot, but he’s also not a liability in coverage.
Wide Receiver Upgrades & Downgrades
- Terry McLaurin: Moderate downgrade
- Cam Sims: Moderate downgrade
- Steven Sims: Small upgrade
- Mike Evans: Moderate downgrade
- Chris Godwin: No change
- Antonio Brown: Small downgrade
Football Team & Buccaneers WR/CB Injuries
- Football Team WR Terry McLaurin (ankle) is projected IN.
- Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (knee) is tentatively projected IN.
- Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis (groin) is projected IN.
Bucs-WFT 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.