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Week 16 WR/CB Matchups: D.K. Metcalf vs. Jalen Ramsey, Patriots Without Gilmore & More

Week 16 WR/CB Matchups: D.K. Metcalf vs. Jalen Ramsey, Patriots Without Gilmore & More article feature image

Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: DK Metcalf and Jalen Ramsey

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 NFL Week 16 WR/CB matchups, especially shadow situations.

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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.

Let’s start with this week’s featured matchup and then run through all the potential shadow matchups, the most notable upgrades and downgrades and the injury situations to monitor.

WR/CB Injury Updates

UPDATE (Fri. 12/25): I have made updates based on injury reports for the week. Here are some changes and key situations to note.

Wide Receivers: OUT

  • Browns WRs Jarvis Landry (COVID-19), Rashard Higgins (COVID-19), Donovan Peoples-Jones (COVID-19) & KhaDarel Hodge (COVID-19) are OUT.
  • Chargers WR Keenan Allen (hamstring) is projected OUT.
  • Saints WRs Michael Thomas (ankle, IR), Tre’Quan Smith (ankle) & Deonte Harris (neck, IR) are OUT.
  • Falcons WR Julio Jones (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Football Team WR Terry McLaurin (ankle) is projected OUT.
  • Lions WRs Kenny Golladay (hip) is OUT.
  • 49ers WR Deebo Samuel (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Bengals WR Tyler Boyd (concussion) is OUT.
  • Jaguars WR Collin Johnson (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Giants WR Golden Tate (calf) is OUT.
  • Dolphins WRs DeVante Parker (leg) is OUT.
  • Titans WRs Adam Humphries (concussion, IR) & Kalif Raymond (COVID-19) are OUT.

Wide Receivers: IN

  • Bills WRs Stefon Diggs (foot) & John Brown (ankle, IR) are projected IN.
  • Bears WR Allen Robinson (hamstring) is projected IN.
  • Ravens WRs Marquise Brown (knee) & Dez Bryant (thigh) are tentatively projected IN.
  • Raiders WRs Henry Ruggs III (COVID-19) & Hunter Renfrow (concussion) are IN.
  • Eagles WR Jalen Reagor (ankle) is IN.
  • Saints WR Marquez Callaway (knee, IR) is IN.
  • Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (groin) is IN.
  • Dolphins WR Jakeem Grant (leg) is IN.

Cornerbacks: OUT

  • Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore (knee, IR) is OUT.
  • Ravens CBs Jimmy Smith (groin) & Marcus Peters (calf) are projected OUT.
  • Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis (groin) is projected OUT.
  • 49ers CB Richard Sherman (calf) is OUT.
  • Falcons CB Darqueze Dennard (quad) is OUT.
  • Bears CBs Buster Skrine (concussion) & Jaylon Johnson (shoulder) are OUT.
  • Cardinals CB Dre Kirkpatrick (hamstring/calf) is tentatively projected OUT.
  • Eagles CBs Avonte Maddox (knee, IR) & Kevon Seymour (knee) are OUT.
  • Panthers CB Troy Pride Jr. (groin) is OUT.
  • Texans CB Phillip Gaines (knee/shoulder) is projected OUT.
  • Jets CBs Brian Poole (knee, IR) & Javelin Guidry (knee) are projected OUT.
  • Vikings CBs Mike Hughes (neck, IR) & Kris Boyd (shoulder, IR) are OUT.
  • Broncos CBs A.J. Bouye (suspension), Bryce Callahan (foot, IR), Essang Bassey (knee, IR) & Duke Dawson Jr. (knee, IR) are OUT.
  • Seahawks CB Quinton Dunbar (knee, IR) & Tre Flowers (hamstring, IR) are OUT.
  • Lions CBs Desmond Trufant (hamstring, IR) & Jeff Okudah (shoulder, IR) are projected OUT.
  • Jaguars CBs C.J. Henderson (groin, IR), Sidney Jones (Achilles) & D.J. Hayden (hamstring, IR) are projected OUT.

Cornerbacks: IN

  • Giants CBs James Bradberry (COVID-19) & Darnay Holmes (knee) are projected IN.
  • Eagles CB Darius Slay (concussion) is projected IN.
  • Vikings CB Cameron Dantzler (foot) is IN.
  • Lions CB Darryl Roberts (hip) is projected IN.
  • Bengals CB Darius Phillips (knee) is IN.
  • Raiders CB Damon Arnette (concussion/neck) is IN.
  • Bears CB Duke Shelley (knee/foot) is projected IN.

Jump To: WR/CB Matchup Matrix

WR/CB Matchup of the Week

Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf vs. Rams CB Jalen Ramsey

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

In just his second NFL season, Metcalf has transformed himself into a star.

For the year, he’s Nos. 3 & 4 with 1,894 air yards and yards after catch (AirYAC) and 1,223 yards receiving.

AirYAC is a leading indicator of fantasy production and can be found in the RotoViz NFL Player Statistical Summary.

But dating back to last year, he hasn’t done all that well against bigger cornerbacks with above-average speed (i.e., Ramsey and Patrick Peterson).

  • Week 14, 2019 (vs. Ramsey & LAR): 6-78-0, six targets
  • Week 16, 2019 (vs. Peterson & ARI): 0-0-0, one target
  • Week 7, 2020 (vs. Peterson & ARI): 2-23-0, five targets
  • Week 10, 2020 (vs. Ramsey & LAR): 2-28-0, four targets
  • Week 11, 2020 (vs. Peterson & ARI): 3-46-1, five targets

Against the Cowboys in Week 1, Ramsey had a tough matchup and allowed 8-81-0 receiving on nine targets. On top of that, he was beat deep for a long reception toward the end of the game that was called back by a questionable pass interference.

By the eyes and the numbers, it was a bad performance.

Since then, however, Ramsey has allowed just 4.3 yards per target on a 44.4% catch rate and 3.75 targets per game.

Opposing quarterbacks want no part of Ramsey in 2020.

Action: Large downgrade for Metcalf

Potential Week 16 Shadow Matchups

Here are the shadow matchups I’m projecting.

Projected Week 16 shadow matchups:

– Metcalf vs. Ramsey 🔥🔥🔥
– Perriman vs. Ward 👎
– Cooks vs. W. Jackson 🤷‍♂️
– McLaurin vs. Jackson 👍
– Diggs vs. Jackson 🔥🔥
– Byrd vs. White 💀

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 21, 2020

Jets WR Breshad Perriman vs. Browns CB Denzel Ward

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

There’s a case to be made that rookie receiver Denzel Mims — and not veteran Breshad Perriman — is the No. 1 option on the Jets. Since his NFL debut in Week 7, Mims has more than held his own.

  • Denzel Mims (7 games): 342 yards | 728 AirYAC | 0.59 WOPR
  • Breshad Perriman (7 games): 330 yards | 599 AirYAC | 0.49 WOPR

WOPR (Weighted Opportunity Rating) is a stat created by Josh Hermsmeyer. It combines market shares of targets and air yards and is available at

But Perriman has been the bigger playmaker of the two.

  • Breshad Perriman (7 games): 10.3 yards per target | 3 touchdowns
  • Denzel Mims (7 games): 8.3 yards per target | zero touchdowns

And last week the Rams chose to have cornerback Jalen Ramsey shadow Perriman — so he’s probably the real No. 1 receiver.

As such, I expect he will draw shadow coverage from Ward, who has tailed opposing No. 1 receivers in each of his past three games.

One of the NFL’s best young corners, Ward is yet to have a subpar season since entering the league in 2018 (based on PFF coverage grades).

  • 2018: 83.6
  • 2019: 72.7
  • 2020: 76.4

For his career, Ward has allowed just 6.0 yards per target on a 51.6% catch rate.

Action: Large downgrade for Perriman

Texans WR Brandin Cooks vs. Bengals CB William Jackson III

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Note: This was published before the Bengals play in the Week 15 Monday Night Football game. 

In his nine games since the firing of head coach Bill O’Brien, Cooks is 53-705-3 receiving on a team-high 72 targets.

He’s not an elite receiver, but Cooks has a fair shot to finish the year with his fifth 1,000-yard campaign in six seasons.

But his matchup is tough.

In Weeks 11-14, the Bengals deployed Jackson in shadow coverage against Terry McLaurin, Darius Slayton, DeVante Parker and Amari Cooper, so they’ll likely put him on Cooks.

Although Jackson has just three career interceptions, he has been a decidedly above-average cornerback for three of his four NFL seasons (based on PFF coverage grades).

  • 2017: 90.4
  • 2018: 72.9
  • 2019: 55.2
  • 2020: 74.1

For his career, Jackson has allowed a catch rate of just 52.5%.

Action: Moderate downgrade for Cooks

Football Team WR Terry McLaurin vs. Panthers CB Donte Jackson

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

UPDATE (Fri. 12/25): McLaurin (ankle) is officially doubtful to play and projected OUT.

The Panthers this year have occasionally used Jackson in shadow coverage: Last week, he spent much of the game on Packers wide receiver Davante Adams, and I could see him tailing McLaurin this week.

Not that it will matter.

For his career, Jackson has allowed 9.3 yards per target.

McLaurin is No. 6 in the league with 123.8 AirYAC per game.

Action: Small upgrade for McLaurin

Bills WR Stefon Diggs vs. Patriots CB J.C. Jackson

Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. ET on Monday | TV: ESPN/ABC

This is a tentative matchup. Diggs (foot) suffered an injury in Week 15, but it is reportedly minor, and since the Bills played on Saturday afternoon, Diggs has an extra day to recover.

Also, cornerback Stephon Gilmore (knee) is out for the season with a partially-torn quad. In Gilmore’s absence in Weeks 8-10, Jackson functioned as the top corner for the Patriots, and I expect him to reprise that role again in Week 16.

Although he has long played in Gilmore’s shadow, Jackson is a strong defender. For his career, he has allowed just 6.3 yards per target with a 51.0% catch rate.

His outstanding career 5:16 TD:INT ratio speaks to how much of a true ballhawk Jackson is.

Diggs was 6-92-0 receiving on nine targets against the Patriots in Week 8, spending much of the game matched up with Jackson, but with his injury I think it’s fair to expect significantly less from him this week on the road.

Action: Large downgrade for Diggs

Patriots WR Damiere Byrd vs. Bills CB Tre’Davious White

Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. ET on Monday | TV: ESPN/ABC

Does it even matter?

A 2019 All-Pro defender, White has had an inconsistent season. On the one hand, he has allowed a problematic 8.8 yards per target. On the other hand, he has shadowed opposing No. 1 receivers almost every week and allowed only four targets per game. His 79.8 PFF coverage grade this year speaks to his overall talent and play.

For his career, White has a 56.0% catch rate allowed.

Over the past month, Byrd is 13-121-0 receiving on 23 targets.

Action: Large downgrade for Byrd

Week 16 Shadow Borderline

There are a few cornerbacks this week with uncertain shadow situations.

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday | TV: FOX/NFL

Lattimore has played across the formation in each of the past three weeks, but the Vikings have two alpha receivers in Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, so the Saints might play Lattimore at his customary right corner spot, where he will match up mostly with Jefferson.

Since moving from the slot to the perimeter in Week 3, Jefferson is the No. 1 wide receiver in the league with 1,112 yards receiving.

Lattimore is a wildly inconsistent cover man who can shut down an All-Pro receiver one week and then fold against a one-dimensional journeyman the next week. His skill must be respected, but since last year he has 10 touchdowns allowed to just two interceptions.

Action: No change for Jefferson

Ravens WR Marquise Brown vs. Giants CB James Bradberry

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Bradberry (COVID-19) was out last week, but I tentatively expect him back for Week 15. A physical, press-man defender, Bradberry is the type of cornerback who matches up best against big-bodied receivers, but the Giants haven’t shied away from putting him on small speedsters this year.

At the same time, I don’t think the Giants will want Bradberry on Brown for the entire game, so I could see him playing mostly at left corner, where he will still face Brown most.

After his embarrassing catchless performance in Week 11, Brown is 17-272-3 receiving in four games.

But Bradberry has allowed just 6.1 yards per target with a 55.7% catch rate. With his 78.4 PFF coverage grade, Bradberry is having the best season of his career.

Action: Large downgrade for Brown

Broncos WR Tim Patrick vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward Jr.

Kickoff: 4:04 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

One could argue that rookie Jerry Jeudy is the No. 1 receiver for the Broncos, but he has actually been outplayed by Patrick since the latter returned from injury in Week 9.

  • Tim Patrick (7 games): 23-303-4 receiving | 8.0 yards per target
  • Jerry Jeudy (7 games): 18-296-1 receiving | 6.7 yards per target

Because of how even the two perimeter receivers are, I could see the Chargers simply putting Hayward at his customary left corner spot, where he will happen to match up most with Patrick.

Hayward entered the season ranked as PFF’s No. 3 cornerback, and he has allowed a catch rate of just 52.4% since joining the Chargers in 2016.

This year, Hayward’s catch rate allowed is only 48.0%.

Action: Large downgrade for Patrick

Notable Wide Receiver Upgrades

Here are a couple advantageous matchups that should not be ignored.

Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Jaguars CB Greg Mabin

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

Robinson is No. 5 in the league with 9.5 targets per game and is easily pacing to surpass last year’s 98-1,147-7 receiving campaign.

Mabin is an undrafted journeyman third-stringer allowing 10.5 yards per target this year on a unit that ranks No. 31 with 26.9% pass-defense DVOA (per Football Outsiders).

Action: Large upgrade for Robinson

Bengals WR Tee Higgins vs. Texans CB Keion Crossen

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Note: This was published before the Bengals play in the Week 15 Monday Night Football game. 

Higgins has team-high marks with 743 yards receiving, five touchdowns and 1,260 AirYAC since his Week 3 breakout.

Crossen is a third-year seventh-round third-stringer with an 83.3% catch rate allowed for his career.

Action: Large upgrade for Higgins

Notable Wide Receiver Downgrades

Here are a couple disadvantageous matchups to keep in mind.

Cardinals WR Christian Kirk vs. 49ers CB Richard Sherman

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday | TV: PRIME VIDEO

UPDATE (Fri. 12/25): Sherman (calf) is OUT.

Kirk is just 18-145-0 receiving on 29 targets over the past six weeks.

Sherman was the No. 2 cornerback last year with a 90.5 PFF coverage grade, and since returning from injury in Week 12, he has allowed just 6.5 yards per target.

Action: Large downgrade for Kirk

Giants WR Sterling Shepard vs. Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Shepard is one of the most boring players I’ve ever watched, and he’s just 41-391-1 receiving in eight games since returning from injury in Week 7.

Humphrey was an All-Pro pass defender last year and has allowed 6.5 yards per target this year.

Action: Large downgrade for Shepard

WR/CB Injuries to Monitor

I take a cautious approach to players I think are likely to be questionable at best. If they look probable to play by the weekend, I will include them in the WR/CB matrix.

Here are the injury situations I’m monitoring and projecting early in the week.

Wide Receivers: OUT

  • NA

Wide Receivers: IN

  • NA

Cornerbacks: OUT

  • NA

Cornerbacks: IN

  • NA

NFL Week 16 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 916-720-33 (56.0%) 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.

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