The Steelers passing game is set up for success at home against the Falcons' injury-riddled defense.
Week 5 has an incredible eight projected shadow matchups around the league.
The Jaguars and Rams passing attacks have plenty of upside this week in their respective great matchups.
I’ll be breaking down the top wide receiver/cornerback matchups every week throughout the 2018 NFL season.
Here’s a data-driven analysis of Week 5’s best passing-game matchup, three potential shadow matchups and five potential non-shadow matchups. Then we’ll round it out with a quick look at plus and minus matchups.
Visit the FantasyLabs NFL page for more weekly breakdowns. You can also view all of this week’s WR/CB matchups using the Matchups tool.
Ben Roethlisberger leads the league with 1,414 passing yards and is averaging a career-high 353.5 yards per game. The offense has heavily featured receivers Antonio Brown and Juju Smith-Schuster, but auxiliary pass-game options Vance McDonald and James Conner have also been heavily involved:
Brown: 13.3 targets per game, 38% air yard market share, five red-zone targets
Smith-Schuster: 12.3 targets per game, 22% air yard market share, 13 red-zone targets
Rookie James Washington is only averaging 3.7 targets per game, but his team-high average target depth of 17.4 yards makes him a weekly high-upside dart throw.
The only concern in the Steelers passing game concerns AB’s less-than-dominant performance after four weeks. The standard for the league’s best receiver is certainly higher than most, but Brown has objectively had his worst start since he became a full-time starter in 2012:
Of course, a home matchup against a banged-up Falcons defense might be just what AB needs to resume his status as the best receiver alive. Per our NFL Trends tool, Brown has averaged a position-high 27.6 DraftKings points per game with a +6.4 Plus/Minus and 67% Consistency Rating at home since 2014.
The Falcons’ injury-riddled defense has allowed 80 points over its last eight quarters. They’re without starting safeties Ricardo Allen (Achilles, injured reserve) and Keanu Neal (knee, IR), along with stud linebacker Deion Jones (foot, IR), for the foreseeable future. They accordingly changed up their coverage schemes in Week 4 against the Bengals.
Desmond Trufant played 11 snaps in the slot in Weeks 1-3 combined.
Trufant played 53 snaps (75%) in the slot in Week 4.
Robert Alford didn’t play a single snap at left cornerback in Weeks 1-3.
Alford shadowed lined up as the left cornerback on nine snaps in Week 4.
The Falcons’ decision to ask Alford and Trufant to shadow A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd, respectively, means we can expect Alford to shadow AB, and Trufant to follow Smith-Schuster.
Both Green (4-78-1) and Boyd (11-100-0) proved plenty capable of winning these matchups, and the Steelers’ more-talented options are certainly capable of doing the same.
Still, consider exposing your fantasy lineups to lesser-owned options on the Steelers offense that might not have the full attention of the Falcons’ 30th-ranked scoring defense.
The Week 5 Shadow Club
Not many cornerbacks are consistently asked to travel with the opposition’s No. 1 wide receiver, but we can expect at least six cornerbacks (in addition to the aforementioned pair of Falcons cornerbacks) to regularly line up across from their opponent’s top receiver in Week 5.
Titans WR Corey Davis vs. Bills CB Tre’Davious White
Davis’ Week 4 breakout consisted of nine receptions, 161 yards and a game-winning touchdown in overtime against the defending Super Bowl champions. Last season’s No. 5 overall pick is the Titan’s undisputed No. 1 pass-game target and racked up a career-high 15 targets last week. Davis is tied with Julio Jones for the highest target share in the league (32%).
The only problem for Davis is the Bills possess a cornerback far superior to anyone the Eagles currently employ. White has played at least 20 snaps at both left and right cornerback in only five games over the past two seasons, but he’s largely won those matchups against the opposition’s No. 1 receiver.
The good news for Davis (22% slot rate) is he should see most of his slot snaps outside of White’s shadow (4%). The cheaper and likely lesser-owned Taywan Taylor is a potential leverage play in DFS, but there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot of upside in a matchup featuring the week’s lowest over/under.
Packers WR Davante Adams vs. Lions CB Darius Slay
The Lions treated Jordy Nelson as the Packers’ No. 1 receiver during their only matchup last season, with both Adams and Slay active, but Adams didn’t exactly dominate anyway with seven catches and just 53 scoreless yards.
Of course, this came without Aaron Rodgers under center. The all-world quarterback has thrown multiple touchdowns in five consecutive games against the Lions, including eight combined scores in 2016 alone. Adams was the recipient of three of those scores …
… although he’s yet to surpass 80 yards in seven career games against the Lions.
PFF’s No. 9 overall cornerback has allowed the 10th-lowest quarterback rating on throws into his coverage this season and is plenty capable of extending Adams’ streak of games without 100 yards to nine. Still, the Packers’ pass offense as a whole is set up well against the league’s 28th-ranked defense in DVOA against the pass. There are plenty of other capable mouths to feed such as Jimmy Graham and talented rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling — even if Geronimo Allison (concussion) and Randall Cobb (hamstring) don’t suit up.
Panthers WR Devin Funchess vs. Giants CB Janoris Jenkins
Welp, it turns out Jenkins was capable of covering Michael Thomas. I stand before you all humbled and mistaken. Of course, the Giants sacrificed extra rush defense by routinely offering their No. 1 cornerback safety help over the top during last week’s matchup against the Saints, but Jenkins still deserves plenty of credit for holding the league’s premiere receiver in Weeks 1-3 to a pedestrian 4-47-0 line on just four targets.
It remains to be seen if the Giants will choose to devote as much attention to Funchess in Week 5. The Panthers’ undisputed No. 1 wide receiver has been a major factor with tight end Greg Olsen (foot, out) sidelined throughout his career:
The pass-game pecking order in target share beyond Christian McCaffrey (28%) and Devin Funchess (22%) remains unclear, as Torrey Smith (16%), Jarius Wright (14%) and D.J. Moore (5%) have not established meaningful roles in the offense. Curtis Samuel (illness) is expected to make his season debut Sunday and further muddle up the depth chart.
Bengals WR A.J. Green vs. Dolphins CB Xavien Howard
Green has five touchdowns in four games this season and has at least eight targets in 10 of 11 games dating back to last season. Life will continue to be good for Andy Dalton’s receivers as long as the Red Rocket Rifle continues to average a career-high 299.3 yards per game and 7.0 TD rate.
The only cornerback seemingly capable of taking Green completely out of a game is Jalen Ramsey (literally). The league’s best receivers possess the target share and ability to win even the toughest shadow matchups, which is what Green has to deal with in Week 5.
The Dolphins have the No. 1 defense in DVOA vs. No. 1 WRs this season
CB Xavien Howard in 3 career shadow matchups: Brandin Cooks: 1-38-0 (7) Julio Jones: 6-72-0 (7) Amari Cooper: 2-17-0 (5)
Howard had more interceptions (4) vs. Cooks/Cooper than they had catches (3)
Howard joins Slay as the league’s only cornerbacks with at least seven interceptions since 2017.
Three games isn’t a large enough sample size to anoint Howard as the next-great shadow corner, but the 6-foot, 201-pound athlete offers a rare combination of size and ball skills that is a handful for any receiver to deal with. Tyler Boyd, who has a team-high 36 targets, is once again positioned for success against a defense’s below-average complementary corners.
Raiders WR Amari Cooper vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward
Cooper has alternated 100-plus yard performances with complete duds through four weeks, as he continues to hardly receive the workload of a true No. 1 receiver. Overall, Jared Cook has out-targeted Cooper 35-30 overall (and 8-4 in the red zone).
History also isn’t really on Cooper’s side in this matchup. While he’s racked up three career games with 100-plus yards and a touchdown against the Chargers, Hayward effectively erased Cooper in 2017. Per PFF’s Jeff Ratcliffe, Cooper caught just two-of-five targets for 18-scoreless yards in two games while under the shadow of the Chargers’ No. 1 cornerback.
The Chargers’ 21st-ranked defense in overall DVOA hasn’t quite met preseason expectations, and it’ll continue to be without Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa (foot) for the foreseeable future. Still, the Raiders’ 26th-ranked offense in overall DVOA isn’t a cup of tea, either, and the Chargers boast more than enough secondary depth to make this a difficult matchup for everyone involved in the Raiders’ passing game.
Eagles WR Alshon Jeffery vs. Vikings CB Xavier Rhodes
Jeffery and Rhodes have regularly faced off for the better part of the last half decade. Like any WR/CB matchup, Jeffery hasn’t been tracked by Rhodes during his entire time on the field, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s largely dominated the rivalry in nine career meetings:
Alshon Jeffery vs. Xavier Rhodes and the Vikings over the years:
Jeffery’s 105 yards last week marked the first time he surpassed the century mark since Week 1 of 2016, but we probably shouldn’t expect a throwback 2013-esque performance this Sunday considering the current state of the Eagles offense.
This is far from an ideal matchup for Jeffery even before considering just exactly where he sits in Carson Wentz’s pecking order: Zach Ertz (14) and Nelson Agholor (12) out-targeted Jeffery (nine) last week vs. the Titans.
Potential Non-Shadow Matchups
Steelers CB Joe Haden: Haden has only shadowed DeAndre Hopkins since joining the Steelers. Julio Jones is worthy of this treatment, but recent brilliance from his Falcons teammates could produce another stationary scheme from Pittsburgh. Calvin Ridley leads the league with six receiving touchdowns, and Mohamed Sanu’s 111 receiving yards in last week’s #RevengeGame marked the first time he cleared the century mark since 2014. Jones hasn’t scored a touchdown in a career-long nine straight regular-season games.
Jaguars CB Jalen Ramsey: Ramsey and A.J. Bouye are plenty deserving of their statuses as elite cornerbacks, but they’ve typically not shadowed against well-rounded offenses. Tyreek Hill should avoid each for plenty of snaps considering he has lined up in the backfield or slot on 41% of his offensive snaps this season. Reduced DFS ownership seems certain for the Chiefs in a (difficult) home matchup vs. a defense that’s allowed 40-plus points twice since last December. Sammy Watkins (hamstring) is questionable.
Ravens CB Jimmy Smith: The Ravens’ No. 1 cornerback is back after serving a four-game suspension to start the season. The Ravens have asked cornerback Brandon Carr to shadow in a league-high four games this season, so he could wind up spending plenty of time in the slot vs. Cleveland’s Jarvis Landry. Landry has converted 37 career targets against the Ravens into 180 scoreless yards. The Browns’ No. 1 receiver leads the team with 19 targets in six-plus quarters of action with Baker Mayfield, but rookie Antonio Callaway (14) isn’t far behind.
Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson: The Cardinals have asked Peterson to move all over the field this season, but the all-world cornerback has ultimately seen only nine targets, with 89% of them coming in zone coverage (per The Quant Edge). Even without Peterson shadowing, it’s tough to get behind either Marquise Goodwin (quad, questionable) or Pierre Garcon with 49ers quarterback C.J. Beathard focusing his efforts on ex-college teammate George Kittle. Trent Taylor will man the slot in 3-WR sets with Dante Pettis (knee, out) sidelined.
Saints CB Marshon Lattimore: Lattimore rebounded from his brutal Week 1 effort vs. Mike Evans with solid showings against Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr., but his shadow services likely won’t be needed against a Redskins offense that features its running backs and tight ends more than its receivers. The Saints utilized Lattimore as their right cornerback when he didn’t shadow in Week 2, so Paul Richardson is projected see the most of Ken Crawley and P.J. Williams — two of PFF’s bottom-seven cornerbacks.
Redskins CB Josh Norman: The Redskins have by and large kept Norman at left cornerback since 2017. This means the Saints should be free to match Thomas up with Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau as they please. Dunbar deserves some respect as PFF’s No. 7 overall cornerback after four weeks, but this is a prime potential bounce-back spot for Thomas at home after he only received four targets last week. Thomas has averaged 8.7 receptions, 105 yards and 0.8 touchdowns during his last 10 games indoors.
Potential Plus Matchups
Jaguars WRs Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief and Dede Westbrook vs. Chiefs
The Chiefs rank among the league’s bottom eight defenses in scoring, pass DVOA, pass yards allowed and 20-plus yard completions allowed after four weeks. They’ve allowed 16.9 PPG at Arrowhead compared to 22.9 on the road since 2015, but could have their hands full with a fairly lethal group of Jaguars pass catchers. Westbrook should see the most of No. 1 corner Kendall Fuller, but he’s also emerged as Blake Bortles’ go-to target after four weeks.
Westbrook: 28 targets, 20% air yard share 2.4 yards per route run
Cole: 24 targets, 23% share, 1.5 YPRR
Moncrief: 22 targets, 35% share, 1.3 YPRR
Lions WRs Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay vs. Packers
Stafford is one of 12 quarterbacks averaging at least 300 passing yards per game this season (min. two starts). The Lions have heavily involved each of their three receivers this season. Tate (26%) leads Golladay (20%) and Jones (17%) in overall target share, but the reverse order holds true in air-yard market share, as Jones (33%) and Golladay (32%) have been featured downfield more than Tate (24%). History is on their side entering Week 5’s rivalry game against Green Bay:
Matt Stafford last 6 games against the Packers:
323 yards-3 TDs-0 INT 361-2-0 347-2-1 385-3-1 220-2-0 242-2-1
Green Bay at home since 2015: 19 PPG allowed On the road: 26.6 PPG allowed
The Packers have allowed 60 points vs. Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith compared to just 23 against Mitchell Trubisky and Josh Allen this season.
Seahawks WR Doug Baldwin vs. Rams
The Seahawks didn’t waste any time getting Baldwin back into action last Sunday, as he received seven targets and played 76% of snaps. Up next is a Rams secondary that has mostly played well against enemy slot receivers:
Adam Thielen: 8 receptions-135 yards-1 TD (12 targets)
Keenan Allen: 3-44-0 (7)
Larry Fitzgerald: 3-28-0 (5)
Seth Roberts: 1-11-0 (2)
Still, last week’s poor performance against the Vikings was undoubtedly influenced by the absence of Aqib Talib (ankle, IR) and a hobbled Marcus Peters (calf). Baldwin is just $5,000 on DraftKings, but carries top-seven projected ownership. Consider pivoting to Tyler Lockett ($4,600 and 2-4% projected ownership), who had six targets last week and led all receivers with 94% snaps played.
Giants WRs Odell Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard vs. Panthers
OBJ didn’t score a touchdown during the first four weeks of the 2016 season, and he proceeded to find the end zone eight times in his next seven games. Sunday will mark his first game against the Panthers since his infamous war with Josh Norman back in 2015, but this time he’ll face a secondary without a cornerback graded among PFF’s top 50 corners this season. Sterling Shepard (back, questionable) has at least seven targets in five of his last six games and will remain in play during tight end Evan Engram’s absence.
Rams WRs Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp vs. Seahawks
Jared Goff has kept Cooks (26%), Woods (24%) and Kupp (23%) nearly equally involved as far as target share is concerned, and they’ve responded by each posting top-15 rates in yards per route run through four weeks. It’s probably not wise to fade the Rams offense in any matchup until further notice. Up next is a Seahawks defense that simply hasn’t been the same unit when Earl Thomas (ankle, IR) is sidelined over the past three seasons.
Seahawks yards per pass attempt allowed with and without Earl Thomas
Vikings WRs Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen vs. Eagles
Neither Diggs (8-70-0) nor Thielen (3-28-0) managed to get a whole lot going in last year’s blowout loss in the NFC championship game. Still, this Eagles defense has largely been unable to slow down anybody this season:
Julio Jones: 10 receptions-169 yards-0 TDs (19 targets)
Corey Davis: 9-161-1 (15)
DeSean Jackson: 4-129-1 (4)
Mike Evans: 10-83-1 (12)
Taywan Taylor: 7-77-0 (9)
Chris Godwin: 5-56-1 (6)
T.Y. Hilton: 5-50-0 (10)
The Eagles join the Saints and Steelers as the only defenses to allow 800-plus yards to wide receivers this season.
Diggs has bucked his historically unfriendly road splits through four weeks, while Thielen joins Isaac Bruce and Randy Moss as the only receivers over the past 25 years with at least 100 yards in each game during Weeks 1-4.
Potential Minus Matchups
Broncos WRs Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Courtland Sutton vs. Jets
The Jets largely dominated opposing running games during the past three seasons thanks to excellent play from their loaded defensive line. However, the losses of Sheldon Richardson and Mo Wilkerson, along with the additions of Morris Claiborne and Trumaine Johnson, have transformed the Jets defense into one better against than the pass than the run. Overall, New York ranks second in DVOA against the pass but just 16th against the run in 2018. Sanders is the only Broncos’ receiver with a plus matchup, as he’ll see plenty of slot corner Buster Skrine — PFF’s 11th-worst cornerback out of 110 qualified players.
Jets WR Quincy Enunwa vs. Broncos
Enunwa is locked in as the Jets’ No. 1 receiver considering he’s one of just 10 receivers with a target share of at least 28%. Still, another tough matchup awaits against ace slot corner Chris Harris Jr., who has by and large worked as the league’s best nickel corner for the last six years.
Broncos CB Chris Harris Jr. is the best slot corner in the league.
Rank in snaps per reception allowed in slot coverage by year:
Not helping matters is uneven play from Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold through four weeks. Growing pains were expected for the league’s youngest starting quarterback, but Darnold presently ranks among the bottom 10 quarterbacks in adjusted yards per attempt, completion rate and touchdown rate.
Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Cowboys
Converted safety Byron Jones has thrived in his new role at corner, as PFF has graded Jones as the league’s best overall cornerback this season. The 6-1, 200-pound freak athlete has given up just seven receptions and 51 scoreless yards on 16 targets this season in mostly press-jam coverage:
Of course, Hopkins is capable of winning any matchup, and Jones has stuck to the right cornerback spot on 74% of his snaps this season. The larger issue for the Texans offense is the potential absence of Will Fuller, as Deshaun Watson has averaged 9.5 yards per attempt with Fuller compared to 6.0 without.