Week 15 WR/CB Matchups: Calvin Ridley vs. Carlton Davis, Shadow Grades & More

Week 15 WR/CB Matchups: Calvin Ridley vs. Carlton Davis, Shadow Grades & More article feature image

Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Carlton Davis.

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 15 WR/CB matchups, especially shadow situations.

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 (Sun. 12/20): I have made updates based on injury reports for the week. Here are some changes and key situations to note.

Wide Receivers: OUT

  • Saints WR Michael Thomas (ankle) is OUT.
  • Falcons WR Julio Jones (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Lions WRs Kenny Golladay (hip) is OUT.
  • 49ers WR Deebo Samuel (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Dolphins WRs DeVante Parker (leg) & Jakeem Grant (leg) are OUT.
  • Bills WR John Brown (ankle, IR) is OUT.
  • Titans WR Adam Humphries (concussion, IR) is OUT.
  • Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III (COVID-19) is OUT.

Wide Receivers: IN

  • Ravens WRs Marquise Brown (COVID-19), Miles Boykin (COVID-19), James Proche (COVID-19) & Dez Bryant (COVID-19) are projected IN.
  • Panthers WRs D.J. Moore (ankle/COVID-19) & Curtis Samuel (hamstring) are IN & projected IN.
  • Texans WR Brandin Cooks (neck/foot) is IN.
  • Jets WR Jamison Crowder (calf) is projected IN.
  • Saints WR Deonte Harris (neck) is projected IN.
  • Browns WR KhaDarel Hodge (hamstring) is projected IN.
  • Chargers WRs Keenan Allen (hamstring) & Mike Williams (back) are IN.

Cornerbacks: OUT

  • Eagles CBs Darius Slay (concussion) & Avonte Maddox (knee) are OUT.
  • Giants CBs James Bradberry (COVID-19) & Darnay Holmes (knee) are OUT.
  • Ravens CBs Jimmy Smith (groin) & Marcus Peters (calf) are OUT & projected OUT.
  • Broncos CBs A.J. Bouye (suspension), Bryce Callahan (foot, IR), Essang Bassey (knee, IR) & Duke Dawson Jr. (knee, IR) are OUT.
  • Lions CBs Desmond Trufant (hamstring, IR), Jeff Okudah (shoulder, IR) & Darryl Roberts (hip) are OUT.
  • Bears CBs Buster Skrine (concussion) & Jaylon Johnson (shoulder) are OUT.
  • Texans CB Phillip Gaines (knee/shoulder) is OUT.
  • Falcons CB Darqueze Dennard (quad) is OUT.
  • Cowboys CB Rashard Robinson (knee) is projected OUT.
  • Seahawks CB Quinton Dunbar (knee, IR) & Tre Flowers (hamstring, IR) are projected OUT.
  • Vikings CBs Mike Hughes (neck, IR) & Mark Fields II (chest, IR) are projected OUT.
  • Jaguars CBs C.J. Henderson (groin, IR), Sidney Jones (Achilles), Tre Herndon (COVID-19) & D.J. Hayden (hamstring, IR) are OUT.
  • Jets CB Brian Poole (knee, IR) is projected OUT.
  • Titans CB Kristian Fulton (knee) is OUT.
  • Raiders CBs Damon Arnette (concussion/neck) & Nevin Lawson (illness) are OUT.

Cornerbacks: IN

  • Titans CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee) is IN.
  • 49ers CBs K’Waun Williams (ankle) & Emmanuel Moseley (hamstring) are IN.
  • Browns CBs Denzel Ward (calf) & Kevin Johnson (groin) are projected IN.
  • Steelers CB Joe Haden (concussion) is projected IN.
  • Ravens CB Tramon Williams (thigh) is tentatively projected IN.
  • Buccaneers CB Jamel Dean (concussion/groin) is IN.
  • Cowboys CBs Chidobe Awuzie (COVID-19), Trevon Diggs (foot, IR) & Anthony Brown (ribs) are projected IN.
  • Jaguars CB Greg Mabin (hamstring) & Chris Claybrooks (shoulder, IR) are IN.

Jump To: WR/CB Matchup Matrix

WR/CB Matchup of the Week

Falcons WR Calvin Ridley vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis

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

If Julio Jones plays in Week 15, there's a chance that Davis will shadow him. But I'm skeptical that Jones (hamstring) will play. He has been in and out of the lineup all year, and he didn't manage even a single limited practice last week.

With a 4-9 record, the Falcons might simply choose to let Jones take the rest of the season off and heal up for 2021.

Even if Jones returns, Davis might still shadow Ridley. In Week 13, the Saints used No. 1 cornerback Marshon Lattimore on Ridley, not Jones. Given how well he has played this year, opposing teams might consider Ridley the top receiver for the Falcons: He's No. 2 in the league with 149.9 air yards and yards after the catch (AirYAC) per game.

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

In his five career games without Jones, Ridley has gone off for an average of 102.2 yards on 10.8 targets, and in his 16 games with eight-plus targets, he has been a dominator.

Calvin Ridley in 16 career games with 8+ targets:

7 receptions-146 yards-3 TDs

Total: 109-1,679-15
Average: 6.8-105-0.9

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 14, 2020

If Jones is out, Ridley is likely to get more than his fair share of targets.

The matchup, though, won't be friendly.

For the first half of the season, Davis looked like an All-Pro defender, but he was exploited in Weeks 9-12 with 13.7 yards per target on a 78.8% catch rate.

Much of that damage, however, was inflicted on him in Week 12 by Tyreek Hill, against whom he was especially outmatched as a bigger-bodied physical corner. The Bucs never should have put him on Hill in one-on-one coverage.

Coming off the bye, Davis returned to form last week against Vikings duo Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen, allowing just five yards on four targets in his coverage, once again looking like one of the league's best cover men.

In a slate with few marquee matchups, Ridley-Davis is the week's top WR/CB showdown.

Action:Moderate downgrade for Ridley (after accounting for the large upgrade he should get without Jones)

Potential Week 15 Shadow Matchups

Here are the shadow matchups I’m projecting.

Not the spiciest WR/CB shadow matchups for Week 15, but here's what I'm projecting:

– Ridley vs. Davis 🔥🔥
– Agholor vs. Hayward 👎
– A-Rob vs. Dantzler 🤷‍♂️
– Hopkins vs. Slay 🚀
– Diontae vs. W. Jackson ❓

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 15, 2020

Raiders WR Nelson Agholor vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward Jr.

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday | TV: FOX/NFL

Since becoming a regular contributor in three-wide sets in Week 3,  Agholor is the Raiders' No. 1 wide receiver with 36-593-6 receiving and 1,048 AirYAC.

Last week, he was 5-100-1, and he has averaged 10 targets per game over the past two weeks.

But his matchup is tough. True, Agholor had a 45-yard touchdown against the Chargers in Week 9 while spending much of the game in Hayward's shadow, but he had just three targets that day.

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 47.8%.

Action:Large downgrade for Agholor

Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Vikings CB Cameron Dantzler

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

Robinson was one of my highlighted rocket receivers last week …

Week 14 WR/CB Autotweet:

– A.J. Brown vs. Tre Herndon 🚀🚀🚀
– Chris Godwin vs. Jeff Gladney 🚀🚀🚀
– Allen Robinson vs. Vernon Hargreaves III 🚀🚀🚀
– Curtis Samuel vs. Duke Dawson Jr. 🚀🚀🚀
– Keke Coutee vs. Duke Shelley 🚀🚀🚀


— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 13, 2020

… and he performed as desired with 9-123-1 receiving on 13 targets.

Outlier that he is, Robinson is easily pacing to surpass last year’s 98-1,147-7 receiving campaign.

And I'm eager to see him in this matchup with Dantzler. Or, rather, I'm eager to see how Dantzler does against him.

The Vikings have used Dantzler in shadow coverage since he returned from injury in Week 11.

Dantzler intrigues me. The third-round rookie looked like one of the worst corners in the league in his first four starts, as he allowed 27-316-4 receiving on 37 targets.

But since returning from injury, he has looked like an entirely different player.

Over the past four weeks — while defending Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, D.J. Chark and Mike Evans for most of his snaps — Dantzler has held opposing receivers to just 4.4 yards per target with a 38.1% catch rate.

Despite how bad he looked to start the year, I no longer think Dantzler is a liability.

Action:No change for Robinson

Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Eagles CB Darius Slay

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

UPDATE (Sat. 12/19):Slay (concussion) is out.

Slay (head) suffered an injury in Week 14 and missed the second half of the Eagles' win over the Saints, so he's far from certain to suit up this week. But as of writing (Monday afternoon), I'm tentatively projecting him to play.

A longtime shadow corner for the Lions, Slay was one of the league’s most reliable cover men for over half a decade in Detroit.

  • 2014: 70.0 PFF coverage grade | 7.0 yards per target
  • 2015: 77.0 PFF coverage grade | 8.5 yards per target
  • 2016: 80.2 PFF coverage grade | 6.8 yards per target
  • 2017: 80.0 PFF coverage grade | 6.8 yards per target
  • 2018: 78.2 PFF coverage grade | 6.2 yards per target

He was especially strong in 2016-18, a period highlighted by a 2017 All-Pro campaign during which he had league-high marks with eight interceptions and 26 passes defensed.

But Slay struggled in head coach Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme in 2019 and although he flashed early in the 2020 season, he has underwhelmed in his first year with the Eagles.

The past few weeks have been especially brutal for Slay, as he has faced D.K. Metcalf, Davante Adams and Michael Thomas in shadow coverage and allowed 20-313-2 receiving on 24 targets.

I expect more of the same this week with Hopkins, who is No. 5 in the league with 1,155 yards receiving and was 9-136-0 on 11 targets last week.

Action:No change for Hopkins

Steelers WR Diontae Johnson vs. Bengals CB William Jackson III

Kickoff: 7:15 p.m. ET on Monday | TV: ESPN

Over the past four weeks, the Bengals have deployed No. 1 corner Jackson in shadow coverage against Terry McLaurin, Darius Slayton, DeVante Parker and Amari Cooper, so they'll likely put him on Johnson.

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's coverage grades).

  • 2017 (14 games): 90.4
  • 2018 (16 games): 72.9
  • 2019 (14 games): 55.2
  • 2020 (12 games): 74.1

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

Johnson has talent and is No. 6 in the league with 9.4 targets per game, but he was benched for a large portion of last week for drops and has been highly inefficient with just 6.1 yards per target this year.

Action:Moderate downgrade for Johnson

Week 15 Shadow Borderline

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

Broncos WR Tim Patrick vs. Bills CB Tre'Davious White

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

Although most people would assume that rookie Jerry Jeudy is the No. 1 receiver for the Broncos, he has actually been outplayed by Patrick since the latter returned from injury in Week 9.

  • Tim Patrick (six games): 20-289-4 receiving | 8.5 yards per target
  • Jerry Jeudy (six games): 17-277-1 receiving | 7.1 yards per target

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

A 2019 All-Pro defender, White has had an inconsistent season. On the one hand, he has allowed a problematic 9.1 yards per target. On the other hand, he has shadowed opposing No. 1 receivers almost every week and allowed only 4.3 targets per game. His 75.9 PFF coverage grade this year speaks to his overall talent and play.

For his career, White has a 56.3% catch rate allowed.

Action:Large downgrade for Patrick

Jets WR Breshad Perriman vs. Rams CB Jalen Ramsey

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

I expect wide receiver Denzel Mims (personal) to return to action this week but even though the rookie is No. 9 in the league with 118.3 AirYAC per game, he has been outproduced by Perriman in their four games together.

  • Breshad Perriman (four games): 12-256-3 receiving | 11.1 yards per target
  • Denzel Mims (four games): 13-240-0 receiving | 9.2 yards per target

At the same time, I doubt that Ramsey will outright shadow Perriman, because the rookie is arguably the No. 1 receiver — and can an 0-13 team really even claim to have a top receiver?

I expect that for Week 15, the Rams will give Ramsey the game off from shadow coverage and play him primarily at left corner, where he will see Perriman most.

Against the Cowboys in Week 1, Ramsey had a tough matchup and allowed a line of 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 4.0 yards per target on a 44.2% catch rate and 3.9 targets per game.

Opposing quarterbacks want no part of Ramsey in 2020.

Action:Large downgrade for Perriman

Giants WR Darius Slayton vs. Browns CB Terrance Mitchell

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: NBC

Note:I am writing this before the Browns play in the Week 14 Monday Night Football game. 

UPDATE (Fri. 12/18):No. 1 cornerback Denzel Ward (calf) seems likely to return to action, and I expect him to shadow Slayton. Action: Large downgrade for Slayton

Without No. 1 cornerback Denzel Ward (calf), as well as 2019 starter Greedy Williams (shoulder, IR), the Browns have recently used Mitchell in shadow coverage. But he's hardly a shutdown defender, and teams have opted to have their top corner on Slayton, not actual No. 1 receiver Sterling Shepard, who is more of a slot-ish option even on the perimeter.

A seventh-year, seventh-round journeyman, Mitchell is actually not a bad player. In not one season has he had a PFF coverage grade lower than 60, and for his career he has allowed a manageable 7.2 yards per target with a 54.2% catch rate.

But Mitchell also has never been the top corner on his team.

As for Slayton, he is just 17-223-0 receiving on 31 targets in seven games since Shepard returned from injury in Week 7.

Given all of this, I'm simply projecting Mitchell to play at his traditional right corner spot, where he'll match up mainly with Slayton, and I'm moving on with my life.

In the words of Bert Cooper, “Who cares?”

Action:No change for Slayton

Notable Wide Receiver Upgrades

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

Colts WR T.Y. Hilton vs. Texans CBs Keion Crossen (& Vernon Hargreaves III)

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

UPDATE (Fri. 12/18):Cornerback Phillip Gaines (knee/shoulder) is out, so Crossen will start in his place.

Before Hilton's Week 13 game against the Texans, I tweeted this …

In Hilton's 7 games vs. BOB's Texans without a backup-level quarterback (without Matt Hasselbeck & Jacoby Brissett), he has averaged:

– 9.6 targets
– 6.1 receptions
– 119.4 yards
– 0.29 touchdowns
– 19.8 PPR points
– 13.7 standard points

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 3, 2020

… and then he had a season-best 8-110-1 receiving on 11 targets.

Crossen is a third-year, seventh-round third-stringer with an 83.3% catch rate allowed for his career. Hargreaves has yielded 9.1 yards per target since entering the league in 2016.

Action:Large upgrade for Hilton

Titans WR A.J. Brown vs. Lions CB Darryl Roberts

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

UPDATE (Sat. 12/19):Roberts (hip) is out with an injury, so third-stringer Mike Ford might start in his place. Good luck. Action: Large upgrade for Brown

Brown has an NFL-best 11.4 yards per target since his 2019 rookie season and nine touchdowns receiving in 11 games this year.

Roberts used to start for the Jets, which just about says everything.

Action:Large upgrade for Brown

Notable Wide Receiver Downgrades

Here are a couple of disadvantageous matchups to keep in mind.

Cowboys WR Amari Cooper vs. 49ers CB Richard Sherman

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

Cooper is just 58 yards away from racking up his fifth 1,000-yard season in six years, but over the past six games, he has significantly trailed No. 2 receiver Michael Gallup in target share (24% vs. 19%) and AirYAC (574 vs. 492).

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 5.3 yards per target on a 50% catch rate.

Action:Large downgrade for Cooper

Jaguars WR Keelan Cole vs. Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey

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

Note:I am writing this before the Ravens play in the Week 14 Monday Night Football game. 

UPDATE (Sat. 12/19):Cornerback Jimmy Smith (groin) is out, so Humphrey will probably play on the perimeter while Tramon Williams plays in the slot. Action: Small downgrade for Cole

Cole was a team-best 7-67-1 receiving on 12 targets last week, but he has a target share of only 15% for the year.

Humphrey was an All-Pro slot defender last year, and he has allowed just 6.2 yards per target this year.

Action:Large downgrade for Cole

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 15 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 885-701-36 (55.8%) 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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